Skip to main content

It's November. Know what that means? Thanksgiving Dinner (complete with Grandmother's own recipe Yorkshire Puddings, as an Old World twist), Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and...football! For a transplanted Scot, this took a LOT of getting used to. After all, I played rugby (Union Rules) in High School, in College, and even a bit afterwards - "Remember! Be a Blood Donor - Play Rugby!" (car sticker on my old, battered VW).

The huge, armored denizens of any NFL field are barely recognizable to me as distant 'cousins' of the game that the Reverend William Webb Ellis founded in 1823, when he picked up a football (soccer in this country) at Rugby School, and ran with it. Although, I must admit that I could turn some of these 'wide receivers' into decent 'wing three-quarters' with a bit of coaching! The 'stop-start' nature of the American game reminds me more of Rugby League (the 'junior' code, with 13 players-a-side, which I never played) rather than the faster moving, fairly continuous Rugby Union code (15-a-side, and the game I bled for!)

Since I am surrounded at work by New England Patriots fans - of the most enthusiastic sort - I must admit to having picked up SOME of the rudiments of the game (although I cannot understand this obsession with beating New York). I have managed to avoid going down to Foxborough so far, as I don't feel much like freezing to death on the bleachers. Never the less, I SHALL watch some football on Thanksgiving, as I feel it is now part of the American way, so I should participate.

Now, to the real reason for the diary.....as I was driving along one day, I caught sight of what appeared to a mis-shapen boulder by the side of the road in the town of Wellesley. Stopping, and pulling out the trusty Nikon was the work of seconds. The inscription on this monument was a little faded in parts, and the 'half-football' had lost almost all of its color, but it was still intensely interesting.

"TO COMMEMORATE THE CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATION'S OLDEST HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RIVALRY, BETWEEN WELLESLEY & NEEDHAM. FIRST PLAYED ON THIS SITE THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 30TH, 1882. WELLESLEY 4, NEEDHAM 0
AND TO HONOR DR ARTHUR J OLDHAM, WELLESLEY CAPTAIN, WHO ORGANIZED THE FIRST GAME.   OCTOBER 31, 1982"

So, it all started here, 'Friday Night Lights', huge High School stadia in the South, TV coverage, for goodness sake. There are many anecdotes in 'The History of Wellesley High School’s Red Raiders 1882-1965', by Ed Powers, about that first game. However, the game nearly didn't happen as there were major problems; no budget for uniforms, or much more importantly, a game ball ! There was also more than a hint of rivalry, as on Oct 23, 1880, West Needham had voted to secede from Needham, and become the town later named as Wellesley. Swiftly, a subscription was taken up, (organized by the Principal of Wellesley's Gamaliel Bradford High School) and the sum of $3.50 raised. A ball was purchased and the game was on. I should like to point out that, at this time, the Wellesley and Needham teams were playing just as William Webb Ellis did - with a round ball! Standard dress for the teams was a thin shirt, bicycle 'knickers', and stockings. Wellesley's Captain, Arthur Oldham, was a wiry, slight player, but blessed with blazing speed, although even he was having second thoughts as many of the Needham seniors appeared to be grown men, when they rode up on their 'ordinary' cycles (the 'ordinary', sometimes known as the 'penny farthing', was rather like - in today's terms - someone arriving in a Porsche!)

Despite the Wellesley team being short two players - and Arthur Oldham's brother John being sent to scour the crowd for replacements - Wellesley held on to win by a 4 - 0 score; and so, a tradition was born, and spawned a host of imitators around the country. The memorial stone is, as you can see, partially hidden under a stand of mature trees, and the game is now played, in alternate years, at the 'Raiders' field in Wellesley, or the 'Rockets' field at Needham High School.

American Football - I may never understand the finer points, and I am very disturbed by the level of brain injuries which are now being revealed in players, but I understand that this game is truly a part of American culture.

Have a splendid Thanksgiving!

http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk
http://shortfinals.wordpress.com

Originally posted to shortfinals on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 09:03 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site