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Coach Knox on Numbering


To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

I have read with interest your editorial on the subject of numbering the Harvard football players in the forthcoming big games, and believe that you may be interested in learning some of the objections to your suggestions.

As a player, critic, scout and deeply interested spectator, I have followed football continuously for a long period of time. I very early learned and have frequently been distinctly re-impressed with the fact that an onlooker cannot take his eyes off the field of play for even a brief time without missing some very interesting proceeding on the field of play. I am certain in my own mind that anyone who attended a game and was compelled to rely upon a program in order to determine who had made some unusual play on the field would discard the program inside of five minutes after the game started, because the spectator would have discovered that, during the time he was endeavoring to locate some number and the name of some player, the ball would have moved on the field and he would have missed enough to make him give up in disgust any attempt to check up on the progress of the ball with the aid of the program. In short, I do not believe that the suggestion is valuable from the standpoint even of the spectator.

Secondly, the cry which has reached you comes very largely from the newspapers. This is purely a selfish cry resulting from the fact that the vast majority of newspapers call upon writers who are only partly qualified to handle the subject. They are men whose normal field is baseball, boxing, golf, or some other un-allied subject. The newspapers seem unwilling to bear the expense of securing expert writers and sending them to various preliminary games which will qualify them to write an accurate account of the proceedings in a big game. I see no reason why anyone should cater to the parsimonious or unscientific methods of the newspapers regardless of how loud they may howl. Some of the stronger exponents of the suggestion are teams who are urging it for distinctly selfish reasons. What heed, in turn, should be given them?

A careful analysis of the situation should convince anyone that it is not possible for any coaching staff to develop a brand new offense annually which is sound, scientific and efficient. The general development of football will be retarded, if each year must find the work of the previous year thrown into the discard and an attempt made to start anew. Every team in the country has a running play in which the fullback carries the ball through some point in the line. It is not every team, however, that has so far perfected the play of the other ten men that the fullback can gain consistently at one or any point in the line. In other words, it is the finer points which have been perfected only as a result of long experience and deep thought which give any real assurance of success. Why, may I ask, should any team be put in a position of aiding its opponents, either to duplicate a perfected offense, or find a defense against it, when it is only superior work in the minutest details which attain the desired results. I have talked with inumerable coaches and football players identified with Harvard opponents of the past, who endeavored to describe various plays which Harvard has used, only to find that continual close attention on their part hall left them still in the dark as to the very vital details of what made a play successful.

I think, without boasting, that the Harvard football record of the past ten years has attained sufficient success to earn for those, who have given their time and thought to its development, all reasonable protection, and I do not believe that it is necessary for Harvard, in order to be good sportsmen, to discard the results of this ceaseless effort. A football play cannot be patented but I see no reason why the product of the brain should not be given all reasonable safe-guards.

Therefore, if the suggestion to number players is distinctly doubtful on the practical side,--is largely the result of suggestions from sources that need but slight attention, and is definitely against the best interests of the best teams, why should Harvard, adopt a plan which means a tremendous amount lost and a very little gained. JAMES L. KNOX '98. November 4, 1920.

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