Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football

Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football

Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football

Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football

Synopsis

This book is a bio-cultural examination of John William Heisman, his times, and his many contributions to the development of intercollegiate football in America. In singling out his many contributions to the development of football (in particular, his championing of the forward pass), this book not only tells the story of Heisman's life but also reveals him in relationship to his time. This is the story of how an indigenous American public ritual--the Big Game--came about and how college football developed into the complex, problematic, and highly structured big business that it is today.

Excerpt

Lack of recognition has epitomized the football heritage of John William Heisman. Ever since his death in 1936 and the resultant naming of the Heisman Trophy in tribute to his many athletic accomplishments and contributions to the development of intercollegiate football, the identity of Heisman-the-man appears to have been increasingly obscured by the popular reception of the trophy itself. Indeed, in developing into something of a public relations media event for the organization that sponsors the award annually, the Heisman Trophy soon evolved into an image more directly associated with the player who is presented with it each year than with the person who originally inspired it. Consequently, the passing years have revealed that the public in general and the winners of the trophy in particular possess little or no knowledge about the person whom it honors. Mike Garrett, the University of Southern California halfback who won the Heisman in 1965, was actually echoing the sentiments of many other recipients before and since when he rather pointedly remarked: " The award's wonderful. But who's Heisman?"

One of the primary reasons for such anonymity is that during his lifetime Heisman posed as a man of many faces. Educated in law, he tried his hand at such varied callings as acting, writing, teaching, real estate, and business, although he found his greatest success in coaching athletics. Consequently, the personal idiosyncracies, even the contradictions attendant to his multifarious professional interests and private pursuits, have served to obscure the dominant features of his personalitv, resulting in a diffused, enigmatic, mostly misunderstood image of the man. Not only was he an intensely private person, but on occasion he could be highly volatile and even melodramatic in his dealings with the press, the public, and his players. He was a scholarly . . .

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