Football: A Romance in Pictures

Black and white photograph of 2 football players shaking hands at the trophy stand.On Super Bowl Sunday, over 110-million Americans tune in to watch football’s grand championship game.  Fans cheer and grimace, drink and eat chili, spellbound by the contest for the sport’s supreme prize.

Black-and-white photograph of well-dressed men and women traipsing across an open field.
Enthusiasm envelops all of society, even presidents, plutocrats, and Paul McCartney.  Few can resist the drama of the grand finale.

Boys watching a football game hanging on a fence.
Only a fortunate few can afford to go to the game.

Ben Shahn, "Watching a football game, Star City, West Virginia" (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
That doesn’t stop all America from watching.

Watching a football game, Star City, West Virginia (Courtesy Library of Congress).
Even a crack in the fence can seem pretty wide.

For few things are as thrilling as a really good game.

The agony of suspense
The agony of suspense is deeply satisfying . . .

Rapt crowds in stands
the rapt suspense that grips and unites a vast company.

Young woman watching football in the sun (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Why do we love football so, anyway?

Costello kicking (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Is it that football players channel our aspirations, reminding us of the days when we, too, played?

a young boy holds a football under his arm.

Two boys on the sidelines in football helmets (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Touch football (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Does it bring back the happiness of childhood games?

Lone football player (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Or remind us of our first date in some way?

Red Grange (holding the ball) and Jim Zeller of the Chicago Bears (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The acrobatics, the shenanigans, the mock-murderous conflicts:

Football game (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
To society, they bring much-needed cartharsis.

Massillon Tigers, 1905 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The players, the fans, they all have their reasons.

High-school football players slump in attitudes of introspection and gloom.
Maybe we’ll figure out what it all means next season.

All images courtesy of the Library of Congress.
For further information, click the links below.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.

Florence and Margaret Make a Play for Freedom

American tennis player Florence Sutton, circa 1910 (Courtesy Library of Congress via the Commons on Flickr)

The athleticism of the women competing in the London Olympics—and their outfits—underscore how dramatically women’s dress and freedom have changed in the century since women like the American tennis great Florence Sutton began trail-blazing.

Sutton’s pioneering sportsmanship—and the achievements of other women in sports like golf and swimming—were striking indications of the liberties that Progressive Era women were intent on claiming.  Circa 1900, it was rare for a respectable woman to do anything but walk, ride, or ski, partly because women were expected to be so heavily clad and partly because they were never supposed to go out unaccompanied.

While poking around for more on Florence and early American sportswomen, I made a surprising discovery.  The first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal was Chicagoan Margaret Ives Abbott (1878-1955).  She won the Olympic competition in women’s golf in Paris in 1900.  Two years later, she became the wife of noted Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne.  Margaret was born in India, where her father had been a merchant, but was raised in Chicago, where her mother (also named Margaret Ives Abbott) wrote for the Trib and had a literary salon.

Apparently the Paris Olympics were run in an off-hand fashion, for during her lifetime Margaret was never fully aware of what she had won.  Only after her death did historians realize that her victory in what seemed to be just another golf tournament was actually part of the Olympic competition.  And she received a bowl, not a medal.

Image: Florence Sutton circa 1910, courtesy of the Library of Congress, from this source.

June 25, 2015:
Margaret Abbott’s granddaughter, Miranda Dunne Parry,
has kindly shared this recollection of Margaret, written by her father Philip Dunne
and published in
the August 1984 issue of Golf Digest.  Enjoy!

Library of Congress photograph
of the US international female tennis players in 1895.