Four Hundred Years Of American Football

The deep history of American Football. Ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII, 400 years of pain and glory.

The inaugural collegiate football team at the University of Notre Dame in 1887. (Courtesy Notre Dame Archives)

The inaugural collegiate football team at the University of Notre Dame in 1887. (Courtesy Notre Dame Archives)

Super Bowl XLVIII  is bearing down on us now like a 300-pound linebacker plus Bruno Mars.  But my guest today, Susan Reyburn, is looking way past the Seahawks and Broncos, the trash talk and Bud Light commercials, to 400 years of American football history.  Yes, you heard right – 400 years.  They played football on the beach at Jamestown, she says.  Brought in the rules after the Civil War.  Saw two dozen players die on the field in 1909.  Integrated before baseball.  Blew up in the age of television.  This hour On Point:  400 years of American football history.

— Tom Ashbrook


Susan Reyburn, writer and editor for the Library of Congress. Author of “Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America’s Game.” Also co-author of “Baseball Americana,” “The Library of Congress World War II Companion” and author of “Women Who Dare: Amelia Earthart.”

Armen Keteyian, CBS News correspondent and lead correspondent for Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports.” Co-author of “The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football.” (@armenketeyian)

From Tom’s Reading List

ESPN: Unionization may fail but not a failure — “To succeed in the formation of a union, the players must convince the National Labor Relations Board that they are employees. It will not be easy. In addition to the numerous courts that have ruled that injured athletes are not eligible for medical benefits automatically available to employees, the players will face assertions from Northwestern and the NCAA that they are ‘student-athletes,’ a category invented to avoid any suggestion of employment.”

Wall Street Journal: 11 Minutes Of Action — “In other words, if you tally up everything that happens between the time the ball is snapped and the play is whistled dead by the officials, there’s barely enough time to prepare a hard-boiled egg. In fact, the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays. ”

International Business Times: Bonuses, Trademark Rights And Brand Value: What’s Really At Stake For The Players And The NFL?  — “The Super Bowl is nothing if not a game of superlatives. It’s often the most-watched television broadcast in any given year. It generates more tweets and it commands higher ad revenue than any other sporting event in the world. Calculating the average revenue from sponsorships, tickets and licensed merchandise, Forbes magazine in 2012 estimated the Super Bowl brand to be worth $470 million; no other game comes close.”

Read An Excerpt From “Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America’s Game” by Susan Reyburn

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