What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Explore : FOOTBALL

Identities

How the NFL and American Politicians Politicized (and Helped Merchandise) Pro Football

In the '60s and '70s, Gridiron Fans Like Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy Embraced the Sport That Wanted Their Attention

By Jesse Berrett
July 5, 2018

In January 1942, as the United States committed itself fully to World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt decided that baseball, then the national pastime, should sustain civilian morale during the lengthy struggle ahead. He implored its commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, to make sure the games went on, despite worldwide armed conflict. And so they did. Professional baseball players, Roosevelt argued, “are a definite recreational asset.”

Roosevelt did not extend that consideration to professional football players, whose sport did not register …

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Identities

When Black Texans Gathered Under “Thursday Night Lights”

Why the Lone Star State Has Forgotten Its Proud Tradition of African-American High School Football

By Michael Hurd
October 19, 2017

I had only been in and out of Houston since leaving our Sunnyside neighborhood on the city’s southeast side, in 1968, to begin eight years of Air Force service. Whenever I returned, I made only casual note of neighborhood and city changes, such as the sad state of the mom-and-pop “candy store” where we used to hang out after school, now boarded up, or a new skyscraper for a Houston skyline dotted with cranes, or another congested freeway opened to …

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Identities

When I Say “Dallas” … You Think “Cowboys!”

How Football Helped the “City of Hate” Recover From JFK's Assassination

By Christian McPhate
January 24, 2017

Watching my Dallas Cowboys fall to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday on the last play of the game in an instant classic of an NFC Divisional Playoff, I couldn’t help but think back to my grandfather.

The first time I recall watching the ‘boys play, in the 1970s, I was knee high to him, paying more attention to the gun case where he kept his Purple Heart and the loot he’d collected from dead Nazis. As the men in …

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Identities

The Day Football Changed Forever

Twenty-Five Years Ago, a Little-Known Coach of a Tiny College Team Unveiled a Gridiron Revolution

By S.C. Gwynne
September 20, 2016

Saturday, August 31, 1991. It was Labor Day weekend, the very definition of a sleepy, late-summer day in that simple, pre-digital world. H.W. Bush was president, the Gulf War was five months gone. The biggest news was that Kyrgyzstan had declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Precisely nothing was happening.

Well, not quite nothing.

In the gently swelling cornfields of southeastern Iowa bordering the Norman Rockwell-brushed town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa Wesleyan College, a 500-student school that had been a showcase …

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