In this week's paper:
Books bygone: Time for a Game that can be Played Indoors
“We decided that there should be a game that could be played indoors in the evening and during the winter season. … I tried to modify some of the existing games… but failed.” Since all team sports use “some kind of ball,” it became apparent that, “If the offense didn’t have an opportunity to run with the ball, there would be no necessity for tackling and we would thus eliminate roughness” which was undesirable in an indoor game.
So wrote Dr. James A. Naismith about the game he created in 1891 for the Springfield, Mass Y.M.C.A. Eliminating running in a game designed for “mature individuals who did not desire physical development” but rather “some enjoyable form of entertainment” was just the first step. To minimize “severe driving” of the ball, the goal was made horizontal and placed above the heads of the defenders to “avoid having the defense congregate around the ball.” In the first games, the goals were “a couple of old peach baskets, hanging one at each end of the gym.”
Naithsmith’s story about the origin of basketball is recounted in “Encyclopedia of Sports” (1944). It appears in its entirety along with a copy of the original 13 rules that “were posted on the bulletin board of the gym at Springfield before the game was actually played.” (Hint: Never bat the ball with your fists. That’s a foul. Make three fouls in a row and that counts as a goal for the other side!) As late as 1937, 12 of the 13 original rules were still on the books. I’ll be paying close attention over the next couple of weeks to see if I can spot any new rule changes!
The story of basketball-- the only major sport of American origin-- is but one of many sports featured in this book bygone. Some such as dog-sledding, iceboat racing, and yachting we in rural Mississippi have little opportunity in which to engage. Others such as cock fighting, fox hunting, and bull fighting we’d do well to avoid on humanitarian grounds. I do note that there are chapters devoted to rifle, pistol and revolver and shooting, and trapshooting. We can do those as well participate in the games of Corn Husking (most ears husked wins), Log Rolling (last man or woman standing on the log in the river wins), and Tug O’ War (pull the opposing team over the line and your team wins).
This book has over 600 pages of sports history, rules, famous players, and records and is a veritable gold mine for those who love sports trivia. Rather surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of attention to sports and the fairer sex. Turning again to basketball, girls started playing in “a rather furtive way about 35 years ago, in an era when ladies who participated in combative sports were regarded as ‘tomboys,’ and no approval was given to such conduct.” Despite this, as many as 1,000,000 girls in “every city and hamlet in the nation” enjoyed the game in 1944!
If you love sports, check out this book bygone! And good luck with your NCAA brackets!
“Encyclopedia of Sports Revised and Enlarged.” Frank G. Menke. A.S. Barnes and Company, New York. 1944. Available at MSU Mitchell Memorial Library and online books sellers.