Football and the Professional


The "professionalizing" of football is not a new thing, but this fall has found such an increased activity that the question of its future is a topic of considerable moment. No amateur sport has created so much discussion upon its entrance into the professional field as American football. Started only about fifty years ago, the sport has grown from one which attracted only a few undergraduates, both as players and spectators, to one which brings out from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five candidates for the varsity team in the biggest colleges of America, and spectators in such numbers that many of the big games are unable to fill the applications despite the fact that their fields accommodate from 50,000 to 80,000 persons. With this increased demand the price of tickets has advanced from around 50 cents to $2 and $3 per ticket--and when in the hands of speculators to vastly more.

Under these conditions it is not surprising that some of those persons who are always looking for a chance to commercialize a popular thing should have turned their attention to football. They are working on the theory that if college football will attract between 50,000 and 80,000 persons at from $2 to $3 apiece, games played by professional players who have made fine records on the college field will draw attendances which will net them good returns on their investments. They point to professional baseball as an example.

Many claim that the game is not adaptable to professionals, because much of the interest in football is centered around the college and school atmosphere, so that when the college sentiment is removed, much of the keen rivalry, both from the viewpoint of the spectator and the player, has been removed. They also believe that the player has not the same interest in the game when playing for money as he has when playing for the glory of his Alma Mater. That there is considerable ground for this opinion, especially as regards the last-named feature, seems certain. A number of players who are now on professional teams and were stars on their college elevens have stated that they now play the game with a different spirit. The "society" feature which leads people who never sat in a college classroom to pay heavily for seats at the fashionable games would necessarily be absent from professional contests. But perhaps a different class might be attracted in equal numbers.

What influence the professional game may have on the college game remains to be seen. Some claim that it will injure its standing, while others maintain that it will be an aid to keeping interest up. Just now the college game appears to have gone beyond the control of the educational authorities, and there is a clamor in some quarters to curb the sport and place it on a rational basis. The subject is receiving considerable attention at Harvard University, and the daily paper of that college has even suggested that the professional game will do much to accomplish this end.

American football is unquestionably a great game. It appeals to the American spectator as no other game appears capable of doing. It must, from its very nature, retain a majority of the features which have made it so popular in college and school circles if it is to be popular in the professional world, and it is on the ability of professional promoters to make it do this that their success will depend. In Great Britain professional soccer has proved wonderfully successful drawing crowds of from 75,000 to 100,000; but the two games are of an entirely different nature, and one cannot judge the future of American professional football from what has taken place in the professional soccer world, especially as soccer has not, as yet, been able to meet with any great success in the United States. --Christian Science Monitor.