King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press

By Michael Oriard | Go to book overview

Introduction

In 1932, a book titled King Football indicted the big-time intercollegiate sport for commercialism, anti-intellectualism, distorted priorities, fraud, hypocrisy—the full range of charges currently in the air. The author was Reed Harris, who had been the editor of Columbia University’s campus newspaper until March of that year, when the administration expelled him for his attacks on various university practices including its sponsorship of a big-time football team. Harris was reinstated on appeal (after a student strike and intervention by the Civil Liberties Union) but declined the privilege and wrote King Football instead.

A few years later, another radical critic, James Wechsler, appropriated Harris’s title for discussing the sport in his own book about student militancy and administrative repression. Wechsler was sympathetic to football players, who toiled for little pay, but he despised the institutionalized game as a reactionary force on campus.1 For Harris and Wechsler, “King Football” was a vulgar, bloated, mead-swilling pretender.

For the editors of the pulp magazine Sport Story, welcoming the 1932 season with a hearty “Hail, King Football!” His Majesty was a jolly and benign ruler, presiding over three months of festivity. This was the majority viewpoint. An article in 1933 in the Literary Digest by the New York Sun’s George Trevor worried about how “King Football” was faring in the Depression. The following season, a six-column cartoon in the Portland Oregonian captured the merry monarch in all his gaiety—“Here Comes King Football, the Popular Old Rascal, to Demand the Attention That Is His Due This Time of Year”—as did the program for the Ohio State–NYU game in 1936.

By 1938, “King Football” was among the clichés of the sport satirized by a writer in the Atlantic Monthly, but the sportive monarch easily survived such mockery. An editorial in the 1939 inaugural issue of Football News joyfully proclaimed, “At this time of year we look to King Football to wear the crown in his royal manner.” A history of the sport in a magazine published by the Dow Chemical Company in 1947 had the title “King Football.” His Highness still ruled as late as 1963, when a history of the high school sport celebrated the rise of “King Football in Texas.”2

-1-

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King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly & the Daily Press
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • I - In the Kingdom of Football 21
  • 1 - Reading, Watching, & Listening to Football 23
  • 2 - Local Football 65
  • 3 - Who Cares about Reform? 101
  • 4 - Players’ or Coaches’ Whose Game Is It? 126
  • 5 - Gridiron, U.S.a 162
  • 6 - Sanctioning Savagery 199
  • II - What We Think about When We Think about Football 223
  • 7 - Class? 225
  • 8 - Ethnicity 255
  • 9 - Race 283
  • 10 - Masculinity 328
  • Epilogue- Into the Age of Television 364
  • Appendix A - Football Films, 1920–1960 371
  • Appendix B - Football Covers on the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, 1920–1960 374
  • Appendix C - Football Fiction in the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, 1920–1960 378
  • Notes 383
  • Bibliography 435
  • Index 471
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