If you go back almost eighty years, you might recognize a football game. But it has changed more than baseball; our other big American sport. As of 1933, coaches could not call plays. If a sub was sent into the game, he could not speak in the huddle. Substitution was allowed, but it was very limited. Once a player came out, he couldn’t return until the next quarter. Many men played all 60 minutes.
The forward pass was legal and had been a tactic for at least 20 years after Notre dame beat army in 1913. But the rules committees enacted rules that discouraged the aerial game. The passer had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage. A team was only allowed one incompletion during a drive. And an incomplete pass thrown in the end zone resulted in a touchback for the other team. Single wing tactics reigned supreme. It was like the Wildcat that some teams use for a change of pace.
In 1933, at the depths of the Depression, Veteran’s Day fell on a Saturday. Michigan beat Iowa 10-6 that day. The Wolverines were on their way to the national championship. A few hundred miles to the south and west of Ann Arbor, a young announcer in Davenport was recreating the game for Hawkeye fans. He was reading the play by play off the teletype. His name was Ronald Reagan. Michigan did not allow broadcasters at the Big House, so he stayed home. Had he gone to the game, his path might have crossed that of a benchwarmer from Grand Rapids. The sub would later be a standout center, but the Wolverines had a senior named Chuck Bernard. The world knows that benchwarmer better as Gerald Ford. Ford and Reagan’s paths did cross on the campaign trail in 1976, but they might have crossed that day 43 years earlier.