How the Forward Pass Saved Football

With football now dominated by rocket-armed quarterbacks and fleet-footed receivers, it’s hard to imagine the sport without the forward pass. Gambling, however, was illegal for nearly four decades after the sport was created. When the overtaking was finally cleared in 1906, to improve player safety, critics predicted it would dilute the rugged essence of the sport and drive fans away. But it had the opposite effect.

In the early years of football, footage was difficult to acquire; the points were even rarer. Wearing little padding and protective gear, players who used their bodies as rams suffered not only kicks, bites, and eye gashes, but also twisted thorns and cracked skulls.

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