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Fondling College Football: An Introduction

The following is reprinted from ESPN College Football Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Game, edited by Michael MacCambridge

Count me as one of those with a sinful lust for college football. And yet I've never painted my face purple and white. Never worn a pig on my head. Never wheeled a two-ton smoker into a stadium parking lot and tried to barbecue a duplex. I've only occasionally contemplated whether life was more rewarding for a Cornhusker than it was for a Boilermaker, and rarely wondered what you'd get if you crossed a Hawkeye or a Buckeye with a Jayhawk or a Hokie. For that matter, what is a Hokie?

But I did marry a homecoming queen, which means I know as much about college football as the next person -- as long as the next person is not Darrell Royal or Bear Bryant. What I mainly know is that college football is the most emotional, hysterical, colorful, musical, thunderous, riveting, dramatic, historical, suspenseful and meaningful game that was ever developed by mankind and Walter Camp for passionate Americans and shapely, adorable cheerleaders. College football is the sport where 80,000 people show up to watch a Poll Bowl, half of them wearing one color, half of them wearing another color. This is important, because 80,000 people wearing any color never filled a stadium to watch a math quiz.

It's also the sport in which the 40,000 fans of the winning team will shout, "We're No. 1!" for the next several years, and the 40,000 fans on the losing side will drown themselves in tears and whiskey.

But as somebody once said -- it could have been Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State -- "When you're playing for the national championship, it's not a matter of life and death. It's more important than that."

I'm particularly happy that the game was deemed important enough to urge Michael MacCambridge to dream up this crowd-pleasing book and go about the business of assembling, editing, scrubbing, and window-cleaning it. Michael is, of course, a college football
junkie himself.

If you can't find whatever stat you're looking for in here, I suggest you run MacCambridge on a dive play at Tommy Nobis and Dick Butkus, or send him on a crossing pattern over the middle between, say, Ronnie Lott and Jake Scott.

But without further adieu, let me list all the reasons why college football is the greatest game ever invented by mankind and Walter Camp for passionate Americans and shapely, adorable cheerleaders.

Not in any particular order, they are:

• Shapely, adorable cheerleaders.

• Fight songs. From "Wake up the echoes" to "Fight the team across the field" to "There is no place like Nebraska" to "Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave" to "We are the Aggies," and on into "Hail to the victors valiant, hail to the conquering heroes."

• College teams don't move, unlike NFL teams. The Crimson Tide, for example, has never left Tuscaloosa and relocated to Ann Arbor so the rich dwarf who owns the team can have more luxury boxes.

• The USC card section, one simmering Saturday afternoon in the LA Coliseum, spelling out, "FUCLA."

• Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

• The wire that Coach Earl "Red" Blaik received on Dec. 2, 1944, after the Black Knights of the Hudson had beaten Navy to complete a perfect season: "THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS. WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS. MACARTHUR."

• Grantland Rice sitting in the press box of the Polo Grounds that day in 1924 and typing, "Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army football team was swept over the precipice ... "

• The Michigan helmet.

• Bowl games before the contemptible BCS.

• In fact, bowl games before Poulan Weedeaters, which is to say before corporate sponsors.

• The glorious days when layouts of the All-America teams were plastered over the front pages of sport sections. Now, owing to misguided editors, you're lucky if you can find the All-America team on the agate page next to the bowling results.

• Granny, Damon, Ring, and all those ink-stained heroes of typewriter deadlines.

• Shapely, adorable collegiate showgirls.

• The words of Dr. George L. Cross, president of the University of Oklahoma, during the Sooners' 31-game wining streak from 1948 through 1950 (which is not to be confused with the Sooners' 47-game win streak from 1953 to 1957): "We want to build a university the football team can be proud of."

• "We'll fight 'em 'til hell freezes over, then fight 'em on the ice!" -- TCU Coach Dutch Meyer just before his 1938 national champs, led by "Slingshot" Davey O'Brien, met Carnegie Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

• USC's John McKay saying before a No. 1 showdown with UCLA in 1967: "Remember this, guys. No matter what happens today, there are 800 million Chinese who don't give a damn."

• "The Seven Blocks of Granite." That would be your Lombardi and them at Fordham.

• "Little Boy Blue." That would be your Albie Booth at Yale.

• "The Baby-Face Assassin." That would be your Bill Corbus at Stanford.

• "The Noblest Trojan of Them All." Your Morley Drury at USC.

• Darrell Royal saying, "Talk about X's and O's all you want to, but most football games are won by angry people."

• Bear Bryant saying, "Offense wins games, defense wins titles."

• Bear giving credit to "good Mamas and Papas."

• Bum Phillips saying, "Bear can take his'n and beat your'n, or he can take your'n and beat his'n."

• Barry Switzer saying, "I want to call my book 'Have You Peed in a Bottle for the Trainer Today?' but the publisher won't let me."

• Frank Broyles saying, "Luck follows speed."

• "The Team of Destiny."

• Whoever the guy was who described Woody Hayes' offense as "three yards and a cloud of dust."

• Whoever said, "Chic Harley built Ohio Stadium as surely as God gave us concrete."

• Shapely, adorable showgirls.

• "The Blond Blizzard."

• "Undefeated, untied, unscored upon -- and uninvited."

• "Kill, Bubba, kill!"

• "In Dodd we trust."

• "The Texas Aggie band has never lost a halftime."

• "A punt, a pass and a prayer."

• "A streak of fire, a breath of flame."

• "Old 98."

• Amos Alonzo Stagg.

• Touchdown Moses.

• "Tie one for the Gipper."

• The Stanford band.

• The Heisman Trophy.

Timeout. If the Heisman had started in 1889, for instance, the same year All-America teams originated, the winner undoubtedly would have been William Walter "Pudge" Heffelfinger, the Yale guard. He might have won the first three.

There could have been other multiple winners, such as T. Truxtun Hare at Penn, Charlie Daly, the brainy lad who made All-America quarterbacking both Harvard and Army; and certainly Willie Heston, the stud-muffin of Fielding H. "Hurry Up" Yost's point-a-minute teams at Michigan.

But having studied gridiron history as closely as I have the chicken fried steak, I will now choose all the deserving recipients from 1905, after Heston was gone, to 1935, the year Chicago's "One Man Gang," Jay Berwanger, received the first hunk of sculpture.

1905: Tom Shevlin, end, Yale
1906: Walter Eckersall, quarterback, Chicago
1907: Dwight "Tad" Jones, halfback, Yale
1908: George "Doc" Fenton, quarterback, LSU
1909: Ted Coy, fullback, Yale
1910: Earl Sprackling, quarterback, Brown
1911: Percy Wendell, halfback, Harvard
1912: Jim Thorpe, fullback, Carlisle
1913: Charley Brickley, halfback, Harvard
1914: Eddie Mahan, fullback, Harvard
1915: Charley Barrett, halfback, Cornell
1916: Elmer Oliphant, fullback, Army
1917: Joe Guyon, fullback, Georgia Tech
1918: Tom Davies, halfback, Pitt
1919: Chic Harley, halfback, Ohio State
1920: George Gipp, fullback, Notre Dame
1921: Bo McMillin, quarterback, Centre

1922: Brick Muller, end, California
1923: "Memphis Bill" Mallory, fullback, Yale
1924: Red Grange, halfback, Illinois
1925: Ernie Nevers, fullback, Stanford
1926: Benny Friedman, quarterback, Michigan
1927: Morley Drury, quarterback, USC
1928: Ken Strong, fullback, NYU
1929: Christian Keener "Red" Cagle, halfback, Army
1930: Marchy Schwartz, halfback, Notre Dame
1931: Gaius "Gus" Shaver, quarterback, USC
1932: Harry Newman, quarterback, Michigan
1933: Beattie Feathers, halfback, Tennessee
1934: Dixie Howell, halfback, Alabama

But back to the reasons why the greatest thing ever invented by mankind was the chicken fried steak -- I mean, college football:

• Great names. Names that couldn't fail. Doak Walker, Johnny Lujack, Duke Slater, Slade Cutter, Bulldog Turner, Tuffy Leemans, Cliff Battles, Choo Choo Justice, Billy Cannon, Bruiser Kinard, Ace Parker, Fats Henry, Ducky Pond, Kyle Rote.

• And Crazy Legs Hirsch, Rags Matthews, Brud Holland, Tank McLaren, Tex Coulter, Buzz Buivid, Whizzer White, Pug Lund, Donn Moomaw, Joe Montana, Rocket Ismail, Nile Kinnick, Tarzan White, Bad News Cafego, John "Hurry" Cain, Clint Frank, Scrapiron Hammon, Bochey Koch, Ken Strong.

• Not to mention USC's social register: Grenville Lansdell Jr., Ambrose Schindler, Orville Mohler, Francis Tappaan, Marshall Duffield, Garrett Arbelbide, Irvine "Cotton" Warburton, Ford Palmer, Landon Exley, Raymond Sparling, Lindon Crow, Carson Palmer and Gordon Gray.

• As names go, it was a better world when coaches were named Pop, Jock, Tiny, Dutch, Rock, Tad, Stub, Biff, Buck, Slip, Clipper, Fritz, Greasy, Paddy, Buff, Zupp, Doc, Tuss, Chick, Bernie, Babe and Matty.

• All I know is, they then became Bud, Bear, Pappy, Biggie, Red, Woody, Shug, Bo, Bennie, Wally and Duffy.

• And just as suddenly they became Darrell, Frank, John, Bob, Joe, Ara, Vince, Barry, Tom, Steve and Bobby.

• As luck would have it, I happened to be in the press box the day Roger Valdiserri, Notre Dame's SID at the time, changed a name. When he said, "O.J. doesn't stand for Orange Juice, it stands for, 'Oh, Jesus, there he goes again!'"

• Moving right along with names, what were the odds on linemen Adolph "Tar" Schwammel of Oregon State and Frank "Zud" Schammel of Iowa both making All-America in 1933.

• "THIS STONE COMMEMORATES THE EXPLOIT OF WILLIAM WEBB ELLIS WHO WITH A FINE DISREGARD FOR THE RULES OF FOOTBALL AS PLAYED IN HIS TIME FIRST TOOK THE BALL IN HIS ARMS AND RAN WITH IT, THUS ORIGINATING ... "

• Indian Jim Thorpe, Indian Joe Guyon, Indian Jack Jacobs.

• Bullet Bill Patterson of Baylor, Bullet Bill Osmanski of Holy Cross, Bullet Bill Dudley of Virginia.

• Game of the Week, Game of the Decade, Game of the Century.

• Tennessee's checkerboard end zone.

• The Big House.

• OU's Million Dollar Walk.

• Columbia's KF-79.

• Whose "dream backfield" is it, anyway? At Pitt it was Marshall Goldberg, Dick Cassiano, Johnny Chickerneo and Curly Stebbins. So, gentlemen, start your backfields.

• Around SMU, they'd shout Doak Walker, Kyle Rote, Paul Page and Dick McKissack.

• Army would recommend Glenn "Junior" Davis, Felix "Doc" Blanchard, Arnold Tucker and Tom "Shorty" McWilliams.

• Georgia Bulldogs might happily nominate Frankie Sinkwich, Charley Trippi, Lamar "Racehorse" Davis and
Ken Keuper.

• Cal's Old Blues still boast of Vic Bottari, Sam Chapman, Johnny Meek and Dave Anderson.

• OU Sooners are quite fond of Billy Vessels, Eddie Crowder, Buddy Leake and Buck McPhail, but are equally enthralled by Tommy McDonald, Clendon Thomas, Billy Pricer and Jimmy Harris.

• Longhorn geezers fancy "Cowboy" Jack Crain, "Pistol" Pete Layden, Noble Doss and Vern Martin, all on the cover of Life one week in 1941.

• Nebraskans are still saluting Bob Devaney's No. 1 collectors, Johnny Rodgers, Jerry Tagge, Jeff Kinney and Bill Olds, but certain Huskers may well prefer Tom Osborne's Triplets -- Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Irving Fryar.

• Alabama has this legendary Rose Bowl quartet of Pooley Hubert, Johnny Mack Brown, Grant Gillis and Red Barnes, as well as the incomparable Rose Bowl quartet of Dixie Howell, Riley Smith, Jimmy Angelich and Joe Demyanovich.

• Notre Dame has scads of horsemen to brag about, from Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Don Miller and Elmer Layden to Frank Carideo, Marchy Schwartz, Marty Brill and Moon Mullins to Johnny Lujack, Terry Brennan, Emil "Red" Sitko and Jim Mello.

• Thinking it's hard to top 1940's Battle of Dream Backfields, when Minnesota's George "Sonny" Franck, Bruce Smith, Bill Daley and Bob Sweiger won by a 7-6 eyelash over Michigan's Tom Harmon, Forest Evashevski, Bob Westfall and Paul Kromer.

• Gus Dorais to Knute Rockne. That started it. Then it wrought Benny Friedman to Bennie Oosterbaan, Dixie Howell to Don Hutson, "Slingin'" Sam Baugh to Walter Roach, Doyle Nave to Al Krueger, Gene Rossides to Bill Swiacki, "Sweet Bobby" Layne and Babe Parilli and "Dandy" Don Meredith to anybody with the same colored shirt, James Street to Cotton Speyrer, Jim Plunkett to Randy Vataha, Tom Clements to Dave Casper, Pat Haden to J. K. McKay, Steve Walsh to Michael Irvin and if you want to talk about Hail Marys, Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan.

• Favorite bumper stickers. The one that said, "I'D RATHER BE ON PROBATION THAN LOSE TO BAYLOR." And the one in Alabama after the Tide's surprising '92 national title that read, "WE STILL HAVEN'T PLAYED ANYBODY." And the one that some creative SMU sorority sisters came up with before a big game against Texas in the early 1980s, which said, "OUR MAIDS WENT TO UT."

• Old oaken little brown tailgate jugs.

But now it's the day of a big game -- huge -- and I'm on hand to cover it. Strolling the campus two hours before the kickoff. Soaking up the atmosphere. I'm a campus collector. Never met one I didn't like.

I admire the quad, the drag, the fountain, the bell tower, the statues, the trees, the sweep of lawns. I wonder what it would have been like to go to school here.
Would I have ever made it to class without a shapely adorable to follow? Maybe I'd have just sat on this bench under these trees with enough cigarettes and coffee to get me through four years.

Now it's an hour before the game and I'm up on the outdoor photo deck of the press box. I want to watch the stadium fill up, see the bands march in, watch the teams warm up. Absorb it, smell it, breathe it, put on my own game face.

Then it's moments before the opening kickoff. Bands are blaring. Both sides of the stadium are fraught with nerves, noise, frenzy. The two teams are down on the sideline, totally pumped, hopping about.

Only seconds before the kickoff now. The starting lineups are on the field -- poised, wired. The crowd is standing. The stadium shudders with a continuous roar.
The bell is about to ring for the opening round of a heavyweight championship fight. Gun's up for the Olympic 100. The Derby horses are in the gate at Churchill Downs. Sunday leaders at the Masters are heading for Amen Corner.

Yet here in this college football stadium, I'm enjoying my favorite moment in sports -- and even though I'm safely enclosed in the cynical calm of the press box, I'm on my feet.

I might add that my ankles are taped.

Dan Jenkins is one of America's most acclaimed sportswriters as well as a best-selling novelist.