Baden Powell worries about football spectators’ morals in 1908

Baden Powell who played football at Charterhouse School as goal keeper, posted his thoughts in the marvellously titled book ; Scouting for Boys .
One of the causes of the downfall of Rome was that the people, being fed by the State to the extent of three-quarters of the population, ceased to have any responsibility for themselves or their children, and consequently became a nation of unemployed wasters. They frequented the circuses, where paid performers appeared before them in the arena, much as we see the crowds now flocking to look on at paid players playing football. Football in itself is a grand game for developing a lad physically and also morally, for he learns to play with good temper and unselfishness, to play in his place and “play the game” and these are the best of training for any game of life. But it is a vicious game when it draws crowds of lads away from playing the game themselves to be merely onlookers at a few paid performers. I yield to no one in enjoyment of the sight of those splendid specimens of our race, trained to perfection, and playing faultlessly; but my heart sickens at the reverse of the medal – thousands of boys and young men, pale, narrow-chested, hunched-up, miserable specimens, smoking endless cigarettes, numbers of them betting, all of them learning to be hysterical as they groan or cheer in panic unison with their neighbours – the worst sound of all being the hysterical scream of laughter that greets any little trip or fall of a player. One wonders whether this can be the same nation which had gained for itself the reputation of being a stolid, pipe-sucking manhood, unmoved by panic or excitement, and reliable in the tightest of places. Get the lads away from this – teach them to be manly, to play the game whatever it may be, and not be merely onlookers and loafers.

Page 297 Scouting for Boys 1908

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