Carlisle vs. Army is more than the story of the legendary football game between two football powers in 1912. It’s the story of its 3 principal characters - Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner, and Dwight Eisenhower. Carlisle didn’t look at this as just any football game. It was their chance to avenge Army for the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, just 22 years before.
Along the way, the reader sees how brutal the game was in the early Twentieth Century without helmets or pads and how plays like the flying wing and blockers with linked arms taking out single defenders led to broken bones and head injuries. Anderson describes in detail the events that led to the deaths of several college football players in the era and the national outcry to ban or regulate the game.
Perhaps little has changed in the last 100 years of football. In 1912, Eisenhower’s game plan was to injure Jim Thorpe early in the game. Today, we read about bounties in the NFL. And the rash of injuries continues to alarm us - not from a lack of equipment, but from modern equipment used as weapons.
In Carlisle vs. Army Anderson provides an enlightening and entertaining picture of football in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.