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The New York Times, January 30, 1882 p. 3:|
FOOT-BALL IN ENGLANDITS POPULARITY GROWING IN SPITE OF OPPOSITION.
YOUNG BUSINESS MEN VERY FOND OF IT--THOUSANDS OF THEM OUT EVERY SATURDAY AFTERNOON--
RUGBY RULES AND ASSOCIATION RULES.
From the London Times.
Not one of our national games has met with so much opposition as foot-ball; not one, except, perhaps, lawn-tennis, has grown so much in popularity during the last few years.
It has been held up to censure as rough and brutalizing. It would be curious to know with what feelings those who join in the chorus of disapproval regard sports and pastimes infinitely more wastful of human life. Where foot-ball claims one, the bathing season and the hunting-field claim a hundred victims.
In spite, however, or protests, the game has made surprising strides in popular favor. Five-and-twenty years ago no one thought of prolonging foot-ball playing beyond his boyhood. It was a game fit for boys alone, for they alone were sufficiently active, sufficiently sound of wind, sufficiently indifferent to "hacks," tumbles, and collisions with other human bodies.
Now all that is altered, and it is recognized that a robust man on this side of 30 has, like a boy, superfluous energy of which he must regularly get rid by vigorous, perhaps violent, exercise.
All forms of athletics are a reaction against the unnerving influences of modern civilization; and if foot-ball seems to give too ample play to the combativeness inherent in our animal nature, it must be remembered how it also tempers roughness with good-nature and chivalry. We may affirm with safety that nowhere so much as in the foot-ball field is the exhibition of personal courage and personal skill so closely united with courtesy and regard for opponents.
The main supporter of London foot-ball is the young business man. To a week of work more or less sedentary and monotonous he finds a wholesome corrective in a game which exercises every muscle in his body and sends his blood coursing through his veins with excitement.
Saturday is the great day of the week for foot-ball players, and a rough calculation would indicate that on every Saturday afternoon during the season from 30,000 to 40,000 men and boys are engaging in the game, of whom nearly one-fourth are players residing in and around London.
Proceeding to divide the players into those who play the Association and those who play the Rugby Union rules, it may be conjectured that there are about double as many of the latter as of the former. This superiority of numbers may be attributed to the larger number of public schools which adopt the Rugby Union rules, and, in some degree, perhaps, to the greater excitement of the Rugby Union game.
If played by two crack teams, indeed, nothing can be more fascinating to watch than the Association game. The final round of the Association Challenge Cup ties, for instance, produces a wonderful exhibition of combined skill in which the players seem to use their feet with as much natural precision as they would use their hands, reminding us of those painters who, by whim or compulsion, have successfully wielded the brush with their toes instead of their fingers.
It is marvelous to watch the fluctuations in such a game. Now the ball is at one end of the field, now at the other. The 11 players are divided into "wings," centres, half-backs, and backs.
A "wing," selected for that post for his speed, may have got possession of the ball and dribbled it past hs opponents. Having arrived near the goal line, but being, from the nature of his post, some way from the goal, he "middles" it to one of the "centres," who has meanwhile been running parallel to him.
The "centre" attempts to steer it between the posts, but he has delayed too long. One of the opposite backs, or perhaps the goal-keeper, charges him, and in an instant the ball is flying to another part of the field, whence it arrives by dint of repeated "passng" toward the other goal.
This "passing" is, perhaps, the most distinctive feature of the Association play of to-day as compared with that of some 10 years back. To be practiced effectively it requires a highly trained team, and it is the one thing which marks a first-rate Association eleven.
As there are only a few such players and a few such teams, an ordinary association game is a rather tame affair to those who are looking on. The players do not preserve their places; they play selfishly, each for himself, with no method, and present the appearance of a crowd running after a ball with no incidents of interest save that every now and then a point is registered.
In Rugby Union foot-ball, on the other hand, something is always happening, even in a secondary match, to rivet the attention of the spectator. Now that the endless scrimmages of the old days have been put to an end by the legislation of the Rugby Union, the game is fast and its phases varying.
The liberty of using the hands, denied to Association players, breaks the monotony of unvaried kicking with the feet; it renders possible the "drop kick," certainly the most picturesque mode of kicking a foot-ball, and makes "punting" of much greater frequency.
Then there is the scrimmage, tight and loose, running with the ball, with its incidents of "handing off" and "collaring," besides the "dribbling" which is common to both styles of the game.
The preference of the ordinary spectator for the Rugby Union rules is shown conclusively if two matches, one under Rugby Union, the other under Association rules, are carried on simultaneously at no great distance from one another...
But the sharpest contrast between foot-ball as played with the round ball and the same as played with the oval Rugby ball is also, in the eyes of outsiders, the most serious... Unfortunately, the series of petty casualites is, though at rare intervals, broken by a fatal accident, such as that which lately happened at Middleton...
But Rugby Union foot-ball has not for its object the infliction of injury... "Hacking," "tripping," and mauling in the field of play have, as the committee of the Union pointed out to the coroner who presided at the inquest on the occasion of the recent fatal accident at Middleton, disappeared altogther; and the greatest triumph of the milder code was when, only a few years ago, Rugby School itself abandoned its ancient traditions...