Today's Tidbit... Archaic Football Terms
Football terminology comes and goes as the game evolves. My third book, Hut! Hut! Hike!, examines when and why several hundred football terms we use today entered the game. However, old-time football coaches and reporters used many other terms we no longer hear to describe players and teams. Here are a few archaic football terms.
Eleven or Football Eleven
We had football elevens before the invention of basketball, and reporters began calling basketball teams cagers and quintets. Elevens is among the greatest old-time football terms modern writers and broadcasters should resurrect. Sure, we have separate offenses, defenses, and specialists today, but the rules allow only eleven on the field at a time, so let's bring back this fabulous term.
Educated toe became familiar to football fans in the 1890s and saw occasional use into the 1970s, but we seldom hear it nowadays. Educated toes referred to kickers who made field goals and punters who dropped balls into coffin corners. The disappearance of educated toes coincided with soccer-style kickers replacing conventional kickers, but the term had probably worn out its welcome anyway.
Material or Football Material
Talent has long made up for poor coaching, technique, and execution, so the desire to acquire material has been part of football since the game began. Today, we watch schools using NIL money to attract talent, and a quick review of the article below (from 1904) would make you think the writer penned the article yesterday.
Regardless of how well-educated the toe is or the level of the material, old-time football teams needed players with sand. Players with sand had grit, toughness, intestinal fortitude, or guts. They gave their all on the gridiron for the greater glory of their Alma Mater, and even when undersized, they competed and often walked off the field victorious before falling into the arms of their best girl. Strike up the band for the man with sand!
More To Come
That's it for now, but I'll watch for other words that once saw everyday use and now sit in football's terminology dustbin. Until then, you're stuck with the language of the 2020s.
A reader let me know the lyrics to Illinois Loyalty include the word “sand.”
We're loyal to you, Illinois,
We're Orange and Blue, Illinois;
We'll back you to stand
'Gainst the best in the land,
For we know you have sand, Illinois,
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