Behind the Opening Kickoff
College football television viewers know Dave Revsine as an authority on the current state of the sport. What they don’t know is that, while not on the anchor desk, Revsine spent the last four years poring through microfilm and university archives, conducting original research on the game’s early days. What he learned about the critical period between 1890 and 1915 will surprise many fans and give all of us a deeper understanding of how football became America’s most popular—and controversial—sport.
It’s no secret that football today is haunted by the specter of life-threatening injuries and plagued by scandal, even among its most venerable personalities and institutions. At the college level, we often tie football’s tales of corruption and greed to its current popularity and revenue potential, assuming that those forces have tarnished what was once a pure game. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
As Revsine puts it: “Any modern-day football fans yearning for a return to a simpler, halcyon time when the game was enjoyed by well-mannered and cultured Ivy Leaguers should quickly disabuse themselves of that notion. There was no such time.” The reality he discovered was a game described in 1905, not today, as “a social obsession—this boy-killing, man-mutilating, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport.”
The Opening Kickoff is a remarkable and engaging account of the heroes, villains, successes, and scandals in the early years of this sport… a fascinating journey through an important time.”
In The Opening Kickoff, Dave Revsine tells the riveting story of the formative period of American football. It was a time that saw the game’s meteoric rise, fueled by overflow crowds, breathless newspaper coverage, and newfound superstars—including one of the most thrilling and mysterious the sport has ever seen. But it was also a period racked by physical brutality and controversy in academics, recruiting, and finances that, in combination, threatened football’s very existence.