Fifty years ago, the American Football League (AFL) was formed. The San Diego Chargers, my favorite team, was one of the eight teams in the AFL. With the tradition and history of the AFL being celebrated this season, I took a look at some changes in football over the last 50 years.
I asked plenty of people questions: sportswriters; sportscasters; and my grandfathers (they have seen plenty of changes since they are both over 70 years old). The five main changes that people told me about were: TV; training methods and diet; uniforms; defensive rules and passing changes.
Television has changed the way people have watched football games. Before the 1960’s, people could watch regional broadcasts, listen to the game on the radio or check the story in the paper the next day. With technology, you can watch it live all over the world or record it to watch it later. TV has also increased the number of fans.
Training for the season has really changed in the last 50 years. Most players didn’t stay too active during the off season in the 1950’s. Today, every team has lots of training camps and different ideas on how to prepare (stay in shape) before the season starts. Lifting weights and resistance training with big rubber bands and/or parachutes are just a couple of training methods I learned about.
Uniforms have made history, too. Early NFL players didn’t have as many pads and early helmets were made of leather. Take a tour of some old football pictures. Most players might be missing a tooth or two in their smile. Mouthpieces have helped save plenty of teeth over the years. Footwear has also evolved. Many different shoes companies give players and fans hundreds of choices on what to wear. Logos and names of teams and players added to the jerseys have allowed fans to identify their favorites while watching TV or looking at pictures.
The defensive rules on holding the wide receivers or tight ends have increased the passing game to all-time highs. Players are also much faster and stronger because of training stuff that I mentioned earlier. All of this has really pushed scoring up, too.
The American Football League started in 1959 with the San Diego Chargers, Houston Oilers, Buffalo Bills, Boston Patriots, Oakland Raiders, New York Titans, Denver Broncos, and the Dallas Texans. Miami and Cincinnati later joined the AFL teams. For the first eleven years, the AFL and NFL played separate schedules and had two different drafts. They did play a championship game, starting in 1967, that later became the Super Bowl. The two leagues finally merged in 1970.
Everyone that is a football fan knows who LT is in today’s game. But, 50 years in the making, some Chargers stand out. Do you know who Lance Alworth is? How about Ernie Ladd, John Hadl, Dan Fouts, and Kellen Winslow? They all made their mark in Chargers’ history and three have reached the Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
- Next time, I’ll take a look at training camp and what to expect for this season. Let’s hope San Diego celebrates 50 years of history with a playoff run!