50 Years Ago, We Were Already Terrified Of What Football Was Becoming

Photos by Jon Schoonmaker.

The National Football Team of Washington began its summer training camp yesterday, which–if you haven’t been paying attention to the Deflategate headlines of the last six months–means that football season is now, still, in full swing. Cue up that Hank Williams Jr. and get ready for some pigskin fun.

Fifty years ago, we celebrated the new season with a November 1965 story headlined “Lions–14, Christians–0.” The gist: football is “a return to the gladiatorial games of ancient Rome.”

Decades before concussions and player safety were at the forefront of conversation about the game, writer Bob Myers worried over the sport’s becoming “a socially fashionable war game.”

“What does the future hold?,” Myers wrote. “The fans now come to see each other and to watch the spectacle, lost in a vicarious view of Vietnam.”

One caption, accompanying a picture of a man who’s probably just suffered a concussion, reads, “Although the swords, shields, bucklers, draggers, cast nets, tridents, and other weapons of the ancient ‘Games’ have not yet been revived, the Sunday Gladiators give the crowd what they came to see.”

Other choice gladitorial captions, accompanying photos by Jon Schoonmaker:

“In visored helmet, warrior Casares goes into the fray.”

“QB Shiner tries to get rid of the ball…and who can blame him.”

“Via Stadium intercom, Shiner gets upstairs report on the carnage below.”

Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith (@harrisondsmith on Twitter) has contributed to the Washington Post and Chicago magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].