WI: Teddy Roosevelt bans American Football in 1905, does Rugby take its place?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by sirjackalot, May 17, 2019.

  1. sirjackalot Active Member

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    In 1905, after a season that saw 18 college players killed and more than 150 seriously injured, Pressident Theodore Roosevelt demanded that game's rules be changed or he would ban it. Let's say instead of 18 players killed it's 36, and Roosevelt just bans the sport on all college campuses throughout the nation.

    How does that effect the sporting landscape in the USA? Does Rugby (which American Football is loosely based off of) take it's place? It is also somewhat popular on college campuses?

    Keep in mind that today, American Football is the most popular sport in the USA but it is also declining in youth participation because of its danger.
     
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  2. Curtain Jerker Well-Known Member

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    I think soccer, fueled by waves of immigrants playing it, is more likely than rugby to replace American football in such a scenario.
     
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  3. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    There is already a thread on this site (scroll down) about making soccer more popular and taking out American football is a very likely part of the path. Baseball became married to radio in the twenties and was unchallenged until television made the more fast-paced football more popular in the sixties. Soccer, though is played in roughly the same months as baseball, but there might not be a conflict because soccer can be played in a given stadium when the baseball team is on the road (half the time). Football has a short season, matching the collegiate and high school semester in the autumn. But if you butterfly it out before 1910, it never settles in to the schools. Soccer players are likely to be recruited in a more baseball like style with no relationship to school teams. So, it would be just another European tradition that crossed the Atlantic.
     
  4. Bluesock Banned

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    Rugby had already replaced football for a few years on the west coast until ww1. Had football been banned and the west coast colleges wouldn't have felt as isolated in playing rugby as more colleges would adopt Rugby. But you would also see other sports like Lacrosse gain support as a more American College game. Perhpas you will end up with a scenoria where Rugby is bigger on the West Coast and regularly plays tour games against teams from NZ, AUS and British Columbia and Lacrosse is stronger in the East. Soccer would be popular in the east as well but may not gain traiction as a college sport like Rugby and Lacrosse
     
  5. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Without football, the relationship between college and professional sports would be less, with basketball the primary sport because of the way it matches the school schedule.
     
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  6. Agra Well-Known Member

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    Either Baseball stays number 1 or it becomes Basketball.
     
  7. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Or Congress impeaches him with like 80% majorities in both houses?

    Is banning a sport even something a president could do? My guess is if he tries, and isn't impeached first, that the case goes to the SCOTUS, and he loses.
     
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  8. Lost the game Warren/Pete 2020

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    I sincerely doubt that the President's own party would turn on him for trying to regulate college sports.
     
  9. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    The potential issue with Rugby is whether or not it is seen as "almost" as violent as football. Certainly on the East Coast lacrosse could replace football as a fall sport. Given Roosevelt's "American" attitude I could see him promoting the "American" sport of lacrosse.
    HS & College:
    Fall: Lacrosse, Rugby, Soccer
    Winter: Basketball, Hockey (limited), Volleyball (limited)
    Spring: Baseball, Track & Field
    Pro:
    Fall: same as above soccer less likely
    Winter: Basketball, Hockey
    Spring/Summer: Baseball
     
  10. Thomas Jefferson Well-Known Member

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    Roosevelt didn't threaten to ban football, he negotiated changes to the rules to avert bans imposed by colleges (See here for details). It's likely that without college football teams, professional football would have continued with a more working-class reputation, similar to boxing IOTL. Basketball, which was just becoming popular, is a more likely replacement since it's much less violent than rugby.
     
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  11. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    He can't actually "ban" any sport. He can, though, issue an executive order to encourage (require?) the prosecution of death and serious injuries that result from entertainment spectacles. Perhaps it would have the effect of a ban and force colleges to cancel their football programs.
     
  12. Driftless Geezer

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    Different time and different mores. A public condemnation of a sport by the President, especially one nowhere near as popular in the early 20th Century as it would become, would be a hard blow. Couple that notion with TR's "manly" persona and support from other public heavyweights could swing public opinion away from gridiron football. I'd think the ideas @Slorek lists above would have been very likely alternatives.
     
  13. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Regulate =/= ban.
    Regulate? No of course they wouldn't. Ban a popular sport? They might well, especially if their constituents were upset.
     
  14. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Now, this i could see.
     
  15. Thomas Jefferson Well-Known Member

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    Any prosecution of a death resulting from a football game would be a purely state/local matter, a presidential order would have no effect beyond the bully pulpit.
     
  16. Bluesock Banned

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    The thing about Rugby is that it was considerbly less physical than football, due to the fact that it is a more free flowing game and in the early 1900's it was even less physical than it is today, there was even soccer style kicking among the forwards in the scrum and mauls back then. This was noted by many college administrators at the time, especially on the west coast. There was also the attraction of bringing in touring rugby teams from Oxford and Cambridge every few years which could add to the prestige of non Ivy league schools.
    I would be interested to see the develpoment of lacrosse. Is it a strictly amateur sport like Rugby? Could a proffesional league develop or would it remain an elitist sport?
    I envisage Rugby and Lacrosse as remaining extremely popular at college and high school level, getting the same crowds as college football but remaining strictly Amateur and not forming pro leagues until much later. Outside of college and high school there's the odd international touring team and maybe a California vs everyone else game.For Lacrosse an annual series against Canada will fill the gap.
    Without pro foorball baseball remains the main pro sport( maybe more potential for minor leagues to grow). However I feel like there is still a gap to be filled by a pro sport in Autumn. Soccer can take some of that but maybe other sports also get in?
    Basketball emerges earlier.
    Another trend which died quickly but effected the rest of the world was resistance to proffessionalism in sport. Perhaps the amateur trend will remain stronger in the US for much longer
     
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  17. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    TR had a very strong bully pulpit.
    Look a moment at the history of bans/regulations of entertainment venues. Circa 1901. The two most popular venues for the new silent movies were 1. the passion play of the last days of Jesus Christ and; 2. boxing matches. See, public boxing was illegal in many states, so the public in dry states flocked to see films made in boxing-legal states. As for the passion play, it was either improper or illegal for an actor to portray Jesus Christ on stage because Jesus was a perfect person and the actor was not. The films, though, could be retaken and edited to only portray Him in a proper manner, so they were allowed.

    I learned that by listening to NPR when I had a long drive home.
     
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  18. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    There have been professional lacrosse leagues OTL, including box lacrosse a "smaller" version played in a hockey rink - without the ice of course.
     
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  19. Driftless Geezer

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    FWIW, Jim Brown, the NFL great, was also a standout college Lacrosse player at Syracuse University.
     
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  20. TheMatthew25 Something, Something, On YouTube Now, Something.

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    Honestly though soccer and rugby would take either second and third place behind baseball.

    Rugby could be popular in the west coast while the east coast would be soccer. Central and Midwest is up to debate for me?

    Even if American Football is banned by governments, it would still be played by people anyways. Just not in colleges and universities. It would be a grassroots type sport. Something that still would be popular but not as big as those three.

    Maybe I went off topic but I am curious about this now and need some opinions.