Saturday, December 24, 2011

Football's Greatest Defeat

And we’re off! The College Football Bowl Season is now underway with 6 games completed and 29 to go. Yes, you heard it right: 35 college football bowl games. The last and grandest of them all being the BCS National Championship Game between (2) Alabama and (1) LSU on January 9th, 8:30 p.m. EST.

The bowl-game tradition began on New Year’s Day in 1902 when 8,000 spectators watched Michigan crush Stanford, 49-0, in the Tournament East-West football game, now known as the Rose Bowl Game.

Sixteen years later, the definition of the word “crushed” took on a whole new meaning when on October 7, 1916, the Cumberland College Bulldogs traveled to Grant Field (now known as Bobby Dodd Stadium) in Atlanta to clash with the Georgia Tech Engineers. It was the worst defeat in the history of the game of football—in sports history—as the GT Engineers not only “crushed” but shredded, whipped, and creamed the Bulldogs, 222-0.

That’s right folks. 222 in one game. A football game no less. To avoid a $3,000 fine for forfeiting, Cumberland sent 14 nobodys who didn't know how to play football down to Atlanta to face the worst defeat in sports history. Georgia Tech head coach, John Heisman (yes, the guy the trophy was named after) came out to avenge a 22—0 loss Georgia Tech suffered to Cumberland in a baseball game earlier in the year. Heisman aimed to punish the motley misfits from Cumberland by teaching them the meaning of “crushed”. Cumberland would not play football again until 1920.

Just as with Stanford in 1902, Cumberland in 1916, and many teams since, in each of the 35 bowl games this year there will be a winner and a loser; no more tie games (the tie game was eliminated in Division I-A under rules that went into effect with the 1996 regular season). One team will be forced to deal with the agony of defeat.

No one knows defeat better than George Allen, head football coach of the Cumberland College Bulldogs on October 7, 1916. But Allen did not let that defeat define his life just as we MUST not let our lives be defined by our defeats.

Allen went on to practice law in Mississippi and Indiana, afterwards engaging in various business ventures. In the 1920s he managed hotel properties in Washington, D.C., eventually drifting into politics and serving President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. He served as a member of the Board of Commissioners for the District of Columbia (1933-38, 1939–40) and treasurer and then secretary of the Democratic National Committee.

On behalf of the Red Cross, Allen made a number of trips to England and Europe where, in the 1940s, he and Dwight D. Eisenhower developed a friendship that grew over the ensuing years. Allen also served as a director of the War Damage Corporation, a government effort to provide insurance against war-related damage. He was an advisor to President Harry Truman, serving as manager of his vice-presidential campaign and accepting an appointment as director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1946. He was on the cover of Time magazine on August 12, 1946. Based on his experiences as a White House intimate, he wrote Presidents Who Have Known Me in 1950, and then wrote a revised edition in 1960.

The public library in Allen's home town of Booneville, Mississippi was renamed the George E. Allen Public Library in his honor.

"People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don't know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to." George E. Allen

Don’t Let Your Defeats Define Your Life

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