Hometown Tales Podcast

Monday, September 20, 2004


Some of you (I hope at least one or two of you) may have noticed that the Tale of the Week recently moved from its Sunday night posting to Mondays.This began two weeks ago, coinciding with the start of football season. Football: the sport that (like modern baseball) began in New Jersey.

The football you and I know: the game of modern gladiators, tailgate parties and salary caps, began as Futbol … soccer. Then in 1856, William Webb Ellis, a student at the Rugby School for Boy in England, did the unthinkable: he picked up a soccer ball, during a match, and ran with it. Thus the game of Rugby Football was born.

Around the same time, students at Princeton were playing a similar, but less organized game they called "Ballown". At Harvard, freshman and sophomores competed in a football-like game on the first Monday of each school year, a day known as Bloody Monday. Both versions were a bastardized version of British rugby. (That's what us Americans do, we get ideas like sports, rock & roll, reality television from our cousins across the pond and tweak it to suit our tastes.)

But in 1865, two New Jersey colleges began organizing a rugby-like game we know as Football. Princeton led the way in establishing some rudimentaryrules of the game. Also in that year, the football itself was patented for thevery first time. Rutgers College also established a set of rules in eighteen sixty seven, and with the relatively short distance between it and Princeton, a game was decided upon by both universities.

November 6th, 1869 Rutgers played Princeton in the first college football game on a plot of land where today's Rutgers gym stands in New Brunswick. Rutgers won six goals to 4. Today, that score would be equivalent to 42 to 28
(we'll pretend the kickers made all the extra points.)