Football might not be quiiiite as stat-obsessed as baseball, but fans still can spend endless hours recalling the minutiae of a game played 25 years ago on an unusually cold Sunday in December.
Can you even call yourself a fan if you don’t know your gridiron trivia? Let’s line up on the 20 and get ready to play.
1. If you think American football can see some brutal hits, you should have seen it in the 1900s, when games featured phalanxes of brutish players locking arms and running full force at each other wearing only the padding their mothers gave them. Players not only were routinely injured, some were killed. After Stanford and Cal both replaced their football programs with rugby, the gentler sport, and other colleges threatened to do the same, one man stepped forward to save football, bringing college officials together and setting some stricter rules against maiming and killing opponents. Who was this man?
a) Knute Rockne
b) Vince Lombardi
c) Teddy Roosevelt
d) Harvard president Charles Eliot
2. Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park was the San Francisco 49ers’ first home. The Oakland Raiders also played its first four games there. But before pro football anointed the field, high school football games were played there, including one memorable one in 1928 between cross-town rivals, San Francisco Polytechnic and Lowell. What put this game in the record books?
a) The game never officially ended. Fog swept onto the field, making it impossible for players and referees to see what was going on. After five hours, the game was suspended, but never completed.
b) It saw the highest attendance for a high school game ever, with 50,000 in the stands.
c) It was the first high school night game played under newly installed lights.
d) The game was called after 17 overtimes failed to break the 7-7 tie.
3. What did Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman James Lawrence Marshall do in a 1964 game with the Niners that immortalized him?
a) After recovering a fumble, a confused Marshall ran 66 yards the wrong way and scored a safety for the Niners.
b) He left at halftime with one of the cheerleaders and announced days later he was giving up football.
c) When a bad case of flu swept through the Vikings locker room, it was left short of available players. Marshall became the first player to play both defense and offense in the same game and kick a field goal.
d) He asked to be traded to the Niners in the middle of the game.
4. The National Football League is often referred to as the No Fun League, and there’s good reason for that. The sport has a lot of rules, and some are rather obscure. Take the one concerning the coin toss that makes it possible for a team to lose the flip if they do what?
a) Fail to call the flip — the prerogative of the visiting team — and supply the ceremonial coin.
b) Don’t line up on the field in time.
c) Argue the call.
d) Don’t show proper respect to the referees.
1. c) Teddy Roosevelt saved football, for which we are all grateful. Roosevelt appreciated the intensity of the game, but when 19 players died and 137 were injured in 1905, colleges began dropping the sport, including Stanford and Cal, deciding rugby was less violent. Harvard president Charles Eliot warned that Harvard could be next, prompting Roosevelt to step in, promising in a letter to a friend that he hoped to “minimize the danger” without making it “too ladylike.”
2. b) The 1928 game between San Francisco Polytechnic and Lowell saw the highest attendance for a high school game ever, with 50,000 in attendance.
3. a) After recovering a fumble, a confused Vikings’ defensive end James Lawrence Marshall ran 66 yards the wrong way and scored a safety for the Niners.
4. b) Failing to have players line up at midfield for the coin flip to start the game or for overtime can cause the team to lose the coin toss.