Thursday, October 17, 2013

Throwback Thursday: The Birth Of The NFL

Decatur Staleys head coach, George Halas, paces the sidelines during a game in the early years of professional football.

     93 years ago, one the greatest leagues in the history of sports was born. The year was 1920. Just to put in perspective of how long ago that was, women had just gained the right to vote, the president's name was Woodrow Wilson, gas cost $0.28/gallon, and the average yearly income in the United States was a little under $1,240.

     The league we now call the NFL, originally formed on August 20, 1920, as teams from the Ohio League & the New York Pro Football League - two loose & informal football associations that were active in the 1910's - formed the American Professional Football Conference (as it was called at the time). On September 17, 1920, a meeting was held by representatives of teams both from the Ohio League & the New York Pro Football League to put together a league containing 14 teams (the Akron Pros, Decatur Staleys, Buffalo All-Americans, Chicago Cardinals, Rock Island Independents, Dayton Triangles, Rochester Jeffersons, Canton Bulldogs, Detroit Heralds, Cleveland Tigers, Chicago Tigers, Hammond Pros, Columbus Panhandles, & the Muncie Flyers). The league name was also changed to the American Professional Football Association (APFA). There was no organised schedule, as you have to remember in 1920 it took two weeks to travel from New York City to Los Angeles, so traveling was something that the teams had a problem with. On top of that, most of the players had jobs outside of football, so getting the team together for games was often hard at times.

     However, all those hardships led up to the birth of the NFL, as on October 17, 1920, the Decatur Staleys played the Rochester Independents in the first ever American Professional Football Association game. The game would end 7-0, as the Decatur Staleys came out on top thanks to a touchdown by quaterback Jimmy Conzelman in the 2nd quarter. As the season progressed, teams were beginning to play more games than others. Each team had their own dynamic schedule to fit the needs of the oranization, since the APFA was still an informal association. The Decatur Staleys & the Canton Bullgos played the most games out of the 14 teams in the league (13) & the Muncie Flyers played the least (1). There was no playoff format back in 1920, and one wasn't put in place until 1932. The owners of the 14 APFA teams got together & voted the Akron Pros (8-0-3) as the champions for the inaugural season of 1920. According to Wikipedia, this is what the APFA standings looked like at the end of the 1920 season:

1920 APFA standings[15]
Akron Pros (1920 APFA Champions) 8031.0006–0–31517T2
Decatur Staleys1012.9095–1–216421T1
Buffalo All-Americans911.9004–1–125832T1
Chicago Cardinals621.7503–2–210129L1
Rock Island Independents622.7504–2–120149W1
Dayton Triangles522.7144–2–215054L1
Rochester Jeffersons632.6671–015657T1
Canton Bulldogs742.6364–3–120857W1
Detroit Heralds233.4001–35382T2
Cleveland Tigers242.3331–4–22846L1
Chicago Tigers251.2861–5–14963W1
Hammond Pros250.2860–341154L3
Columbus Panhandles262.2500–441121W1
Muncie Flyers010.0000–1045L1

     So as the Arizona Cardinals play the Seattle Seahawks tonight, keep in mind the origins of the game. I personally think it's pretty cool how different things were back then compared to how they are now in the NFL. The NFL has come a long way since that historical season 93 years ago, and I hope the NFL stays afloat for another good 93 years.

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