Football in 1903 was vastly different from the slick spectacle we watch every Sunday afternoon on TV in the fall. It was a brutal, nonstop war fought by young men and boys on muddy high school and college fields across America. Bloody faces, broken bones, concussions and the shockingly high risk of death were the main attraction for hometown fans. The level of violence nearly got the sport banned in 1902, were it not for the intervention of President Teddy Roosevelt.
In a well-researched true story, we learn how Coach Clayton Teetzel introduces the modern concepts of speed, intelligence and strategy to this brawlers’ game, and also instills character in his players. Creatively told in the voice of Fletcher Van Horn, the unlikely quarterback of his high-school football team, this inspiring story depicts the down-and-dirty details of how early football was played. At the same time, the culture of small-town life in turn-of-the-century America is displayed with unabashed honesty—the hopes, dreams and harsh realities of a community who pulled together while rooting for their team.
The story of how an undersized high school sophomore leads his team to victory is a classic tale of overcoming adversity and the triumph of the underdog. It is also a unique and masterfully told account of a time and a game few know—with tremendous appeal to both sports fans and history buffs. As Friday Night Lights did for modern high-school football, The Way We Played the Game establishes itself as the classic account of football’s crude beginnings.