Routine handles grief

Published 2:34 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2007

So many words have been written and said about the Virginia Tech tragedy that I hesitate to add a few more because there is a large risk that those words will be redundant.

The only comment I add is that I think it entirely appropriate that the Virginia Tech baseball team went ahead and played their scheduled games against Miami Friday and Saturday. I held the same opinion when the Bluffton (Ohio) College baseball team played games shortly after several team members died in the Atlanta bus accident.

It doesn’t matter if the occasion is a sports event, choir concert, band concert or other organized activity, getting back to one’s regular routine has long been known to be one of the best ways to handle grief. Many of you readers saw the movie “We Are Marshall” which was a great story of how that University insisted on continuing its football program after the entire team, coaches, and many supporters were killed in a plane crash.

Email newsletter signup

Thanks to Davy Nelson and his book, loaned to me by Andy Pressgrove, I continue to find interesting facts about the history of college football. Since the book, “Anatomy of a Game,” is written from the perspective of rules history, it is of particular interest to me. I mentioned recently that helmets were not required equipment until 1939. Once helmets became widely available it is doubtful that many players failed to don headgear when they played defense.

During the era of my dad’s time at Colgate, helmets were made of floppy leather and lined with felt padding. Somehow he was able to keep the helmet he wore at Colgate and I played around with it while a child in Knoxville until it somehow disappeared. By the time I started watching Tennessee play, about the time of World War II, helmets were still leather, but the crown was usually made of hard fibre of some kind. The suspension was crossed webbing inside the helmet and offered only modest protection from injury or pain.

World War II saw the West Point (Army) team introduce the plastic headgear, which look much like the helmets in use today. Though the early plastic helmets offered more protection than the leather headgear, the suspension remained about the same as had existed for many years. Sometime in the 1970s litigation had invaded the arena of football and all but four helmet manufacturers were put out of business. During that time there was a strong move on the Rules Committee to outlaw the face mask, which had been mandatory since the late 1950s. The face mask was thought to be the culprit in many head and neck injuries because of the leverage it provided when players collided. As time moved on, the helmet design evolved to the present time, when interior padding and suspension improved and head and neck injuries diminished to today’s lower rate.

And, that’s official.

AL GRANING is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Hee can be reached by e-mail at