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John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era
Unformatted Document Text:  O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the Depression Era athletic director was a kindred spirit. In their personal correspondence, they reviled the Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal and socialism. In 1932, for example, Griffith gloated to St. John over voters’ rejection of Iowa Senator Smith Brookhart who, Griffith said, had been “hurling implications at our present capitalistic and economic system and by implication at least advocating the redistribution of wealth.” 68 Griffith and the New Deal Griffith’s disdain for Roosevelt ran deeper than mere political differences. To the Major, Roosevelt represented a dangerous drift toward socialism. In the fall of 1932, anticipating the voters’ rejection of the pro-business Herbert Hoover and coming on the heels of the second Carnegie Bulletin on athletics, Griffith began to speak out against the specter of “socialized athletics.” The ferocity with which Griffith countered any hint of reining in college sports by means of regulation may have helped to create a climate in which bigger, more commercialized spectacles would become acceptable. In a 1932 speech, he drew upon his own martial experience, declaring that American soldiers who had prevailed in the World War were not “afraid of big things:” “We emerged from the War toughened in mind and body and heart. We were not afraid of anything then. We were not afraid of big stadia, big crowds, big spectacles…football exemplified many of the attributes of fighting and working…[but] the American people listened to the prophets of senility and softness and worried for fear their boys would be overworked or for fear they would not be paid for entertaining others…then we became frightened at the thought and sight of large stadia, of large crowds and of large gate receipts.” 69 Griffith did not merely extol the virtue of competition. He positioned the collegiate gridiron as a training ground for corporate capitalism. Writing to the Big Ten athletic directors in 1933, he declared that “our athletics are highly competitive, that the Communists do not believe in competition and therefore do not believe in football, and that in a socialized state our sports, as 19

Authors: O'Toole, Kathleen.
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O’Toole/John L. Griffith and the Commercialization of College Football Broadcasts in the 
Depression Era 
athletic director was a kindred spirit. In their personal correspondence, they reviled the Franklin 
Roosevelt, the New Deal and socialism. In 1932, for example, Griffith gloated to St. John over 
voters’ rejection of Iowa Senator Smith Brookhart who, Griffith said, had been “hurling 
implications at our present capitalistic and economic system and by implication at least 
advocating the redistribution of wealth.” 
Griffith and the New Deal
Griffith’s disdain for Roosevelt ran deeper than mere political differences. To the Major, 
Roosevelt represented a dangerous drift toward socialism. In the fall of 1932, anticipating the 
voters’ rejection of the pro-business Herbert Hoover and coming on the heels of the second 
Carnegie Bulletin on athletics, Griffith began to speak out against the specter of “socialized 
athletics.”  The ferocity with which Griffith countered any hint of reining in college sports by 
means of regulation may have helped to create a climate in which bigger, more commercialized 
spectacles would become acceptable.  In a 1932 speech, he drew upon his own martial 
experience, declaring that American soldiers who had prevailed in the World War were not 
“afraid of big things:”
“We emerged from the War toughened in mind and body and heart. We were not afraid of 
anything then. We were not afraid of big stadia, big crowds, big spectacles…football exemplified 
many of the attributes of fighting and working…[but] the American people listened to the 
prophets of senility and softness and worried for fear their boys would be overworked or for fear 
they would not be paid for entertaining others…then we became frightened at the thought and 
sight of large stadia, of large crowds and of large gate receipts.”
Griffith did not merely extol the virtue of competition. He positioned the collegiate gridiron as a 
training ground for corporate capitalism. Writing to the Big Ten athletic directors in 1933, he 
declared that “our athletics are highly competitive, that the Communists do not believe in 
competition and therefore do not believe in football, and that in a socialized state our sports, as 
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