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Published:October 11th, 2011 19:42 EST
Some Fun NFL History

Some Fun NFL History

By Donna Cavanagh

Sure, football is filled with rules and regulations that make even the most technical person shake his or her head in frustration. But it is also a sport that is filled with many traditions " traditions that have helped this game become one of the most popular sports in the world. To better appreciate the sport as it is played today, we must look back at its rich history and see understand the sport`s roots.

Why do people call the football the pig skin?

This is one of those terms that just grew out of a myth. Was the first football really made of  pig skin?  Well, yes, but only the covering.  Think of it as an M&M. Sure, there is a tough shell, but something mushy lies underneath and that mushy stuff in a football was  inflated pig bladder. I kid you not. Somewhere in Great Britain, many moons ago, someone came up with the idea to inflate a pig bladder to use as a ball in a game. 

 Well, allow me to be truly accurate. Some football historians say the first football was actually the decapitated head of Viking invaders, but for sport purposes, we will go with the pig bladder.  As one would expect, the pig bladder was sort of icky to handle, so the first football teams wrapped the bladder in cow and deer hide to keep everything from leaking out, but it was eventually the pig`s hide which proved to be the most durable of coverings. As for the shape of the ball " this was another accident.  The pig bladders were hard to inflate perfectly round so eventually, the lopsided shape became the norm.

Who invented the football helmet?

There is some controversy has to who invented the football helmet. Most football historians give credit to Naval Academy Midshipman, Joseph Mason Reeves who had a shoemaker create a protective covering for his head for games. A smart guy who later became an admiral, Reeves was apparently years ahead of his time worrying about head injuries.

Lafayette College disputes this historical account and says that in 1896, one of their players had a blacksmith make a harness to fit over his head and ears.  The plastic helmet in use today was first patented in 1939 by John Riddell, and Riddell continues to be the leader in helmets today.

We should hail the foresight of these men coming up with helmets. While their vision influenced the design of head safety gear for all sports from skiing to skateboarding to motorcycle riding, and their designs have saved thousands from injury and death, it must be pointed out that there was an unforeseen side effect to their determination to keep people`s brains from scrambling inside their heads: Helmet Hair.  Yes, this horrid condition has only recently come to light as more and more women take part in sports, and so far the cause to eliminate Helmet Hair has not   found too many supporters willing to fund research which is a shame for how much better would the world be if Helmet Hair were eliminated completely.

And if we are going to protect men`s brains, we need to know who invented the Athletic Supporter or Jock Strap?

It`s true that most men reach for a jock before they would reach for a helmet.  So, it only follows that we recognize the person who invented the most important protective gear ever  - the gear that literally guarantees the proliferation of the human species.  Well, that`s the speech that guys hear anyway.  Women " well, we just know better.  Okay,  in 1874, CF Bennett of Chicago invented the protective cup which was originally designed to protect one`s family jewels while bike riding.  A few years later, Bennett formed The Bike Company which is still a leader in private parts protection.  For awhile, the standard cups lost followers as more men went for contoured underwear, but then when science proved that if one keeps one`s boys to warm ( as the contoured underwear does), one could experience infertility a condition that the protective cup was trying to avoid in the first place. And now that designers like Calvin Klein have developed their own supporter line, the cup is back and popular again especially among football players at all levels..

Why is the football field called a Gridiron?

This is a simple one :The markings on the field resemble the markings on a grill that is used to cook food over a fire.  Really, how coincidental was it to have a game field that reminds men of barbecues? The gridiron gave way to the idea of cooking over a fire which some say gave way to cookouts which morphed into the sub-sport of football " the tailgate.

Cheerleaders?  Why?

Let`s face it: cheerleaders are just as much a part of the football landscape as beating up fans who wear opposing team jerseys to the home team stadium.  But many of us believe it was the Dallas Cowboys who first gave us the pro-team cheerleading squad, but that is not true. Dallas just gave us the first scantily dressed, look-like strippers quad, and that squad didn`t become famous until 1972. In fact, it was the Green Bay Packers, who hired local girls from area high schools in 1931 to come and cheer for them.   But who was the team who first organized their cheerleading squad:  the Baltimore Colts in 1954.

Not all NFL teams have cheerleader squads. Those who don`t are: The Steelers, Bears, Browns, Giants, Lions and Packers.

Now that you have learned some of the history of the game, upcoming lessons will teach you about penalties and plays and the correct cheers for all occasions.