Andy Griffith, alias Will Stockdale in No Time for Sergeants, alias Sheriff Andy Taylor, alias Matlock, lived about 15 miles from where I grew up and my mother and father actually spent the night at his home.
Andy vaulted into prominence with a comedy record the title of which was “What It Was, Was Football.” The record was based on a country boy (Andy) from a hick town, who wound up at a football game at the University of North Carolina and describing what he saw.
I am a college football fan, but football today is far different from what “was” football when Andy visited Keenan stadium and I played in high school.
I’ll start with my first game when my coach knocked a referee cold as a cucumber in the middle of the field. Next year my coach’s successor made a shoe string game saving tackle on a fan trying to do the same thing. The reason I include this is the fact that the fan my coach tackled then was his own father.
The only reason there was not “a” fight at every game was that there were two or more fights. Winning had a double meaning, game and fight – not necessarily in that order.
Biting was common place. Our entire offensive line had to have tetanus shots after we played Andy’s home town. No real man wore a face mask, and “liming” (taking a handful of lime used to mark off the field and rubbing it an opponent’s eyes) was deemed inventive.
Bounty’s were more plentiful on Friday night than they were in Tombstone and Dodge City on Saturday. Depending on the value of the opponent’s player, a “drag-off,” could move the “targeter’s” academic standing from failing to passing, or from passing to honor roll.
The farther back you go the “better” it gets. Our school won a state championship with 6 players over 25 years old.
University of Georgia students and fans actually turned a train car on its side filled with George Tech fans. Clemson cheerleaders captured the South Carolina gamecock during the game and wrung its neck, then tossed it into the South Carolina student section.
Where did all this come from? When did it start? When American football morphed from English Rugby late in the 19th century the idea was to channel the natural aggression of males in the direction of a game and away from society in general. This was called the “OJ Theory.” Hazing was not only permitted but it was required.
Fields were flooded when faster teams came to town. Referees not only “wore” convict suits but they “were” convicts. Tickets were free – and coaches were poor. Yes, what it was, was football.