The Quiet Yalie Who Invented American Football

As a Player and Coach, Walter Camp Rewrote Rugby’s Rules to Create a Sport Fit for America

American football is the all-but-official sport of the United States. But for all the media coverage it draws, the origin story of football gets missed. How did this game become compelling enough to hold the United States in its thrall? The answer lies in the career of Walter Camp, whom contemporaries called the “father of American football.”

Camp worked on the game his entire adult life, a devotion that began in the second decade after the Civil War. On November 13, 1875, standing on the sidelines as a high school …

Why Samoans Are So Overrepresented in the NFL

It All Started in Hawaiʻi on Oahu's North Shore, Where Plantation Managers and Mormon Elders Nurtured Generations of Football Stars

Long before Oahu’s North Shore became a global hot spot for football, it was a pu`uhonua, a refuge under the protection of priests. Fugitives and villagers escaping the carnage of …

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

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 …

When Black Texans Gathered Under “Thursday Night Lights”

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

Zócalo’s editors are diving into our archives and throwing it back to some of our favorite pieces. This week: Michael Hurd, director of the Texas Institute for the Preservation …

To Black Athletes, Donald Trump Is Playing the Dozens

This Time, the Age-Old Game of Exchanging Insults Will Have No Winner

President Donald Trump did not say, “Yo’ mama!” in front of a partisan Huntsville, Alabama audience. But he might as well have because that is what athletes heard directed at …

In California, Pro Football Is for Losers

As Big Cities Shed the NFL, Only Smaller, Poorer Cities Are Desperate Enough to Host Teams

No one can know for sure whether any of California’s four National Football League teams—the 49ers, Raiders, Rams, and Chargers—will emerge as big winners in the new season.

But we already …