Pigs, chickens, and football!

Seattle is busy watching the Seahawks right now — and boy! — do I know I’m home! We’re not big football fans, so I suggested to Alene that we skip going for a beer/cider this evening — and instead find something fun with a football theme to share.

The following is an excerpt from something she wrote a couple of years ago — concerning the origins of the game of football……

“Tell me, dear Fig,” began Icon. “What do you remember about the art of stealing a pig?”

“Excuse me?” said Fig. “I’m not in the habit of stealing pigs.”

“Oh, knock it off,” insisted Icon. “Everyone has occasion to steal a pig every few dozen lives. Well, a little baby pig, anyway. If people never stole pigs, we would never have football.”

Fig folded his arms and surveyed Icon with a doubtful look.

“Well, let’s suppose you did need to steal a pig,” suggested Icon. “How would you go about it?”

“Break into a barnyard and take a pig, or piglet?” said Fig, shrugging his hands.

“Well, that’s a start,” said Icon, pretending to be unimpressed. “But what do piglets do when you disturb them?”

“They squeal,” said Fig.


“They wriggle?”

“Yes,” said Icon. “They wriggle and squeal. So why is that a problem?”

“Because the farmer will hear the noise and investigate?”

“Well, yeah,” agreed Icon. “But what do YOU also need to be doing?”

Fig struggled a little to get on board with Icon’s line of questioning, but suddenly the light bulb went on.

“Oh!” he cried. “I need to be able to run with it. Run fast and get away before I’m discovered.”

“Good,” said Icon. “Now how do you run fast with a wriggling, squealing piglet? Do you carry it both hands out in front of you?”

“Uh, no,” said Fig. “That would be very difficult.”

“Of course it would,” declared Icon. “So, what do you do? You tuck the little squirt under one arm, gripping it tightly, and grip its snout closed with your hand — ideally the hand of the arm your holding it with, so that your other arm is free to balance you. Then you run as fast you can to get off the farmer’s property. And that, my dear Fig, is the premise for the game of football.”

“But what happens to the piglet?” asked Fig.

Icon sighed.

“Well, if you’re fast on your feet you get to keep it,” he explained. “That stands up under most common law in the very early days. So, if you keep pigs, it behooves you to keep close watch on your livestock and always be ready to give chase to a thief running off with a piglet — or a chicken. The same method applies with the theft of a chicken.”

Fig made to cut in, but Icon ignored him.

“Anyway, if you are alerted to someone attempting to steal a piglet, or chicken, you give chase, and if you catch the thieving SOB, the best way to grab him is with a tackle to his lower legs. As the thief is brought to the ground, he is usually tricked into letting go of the piglet, or chicken, and it is then free to run for home. But as one gains experience with the theft of piglets, or chickens, a thief learns to outwit the farmer. One way is to bring a few brothers or friends along, and pass the piglet, or chicken, along to one of them just before being caught. This part is easier done with a piglet, which is why some storytellers omit mentioning the chicken at all — but I do it for the sake of completeness. Then the farmer counters by having all available males, and adventurous females, give chase and attempt to anticipate to whom the thief will pass the piglet, or chicken, if tackled. Another strategy deployed by thieves of piglets, or chickens, is to learn to hold onto the piglet, or chicken, when tackled to the ground and lie on top of it while the rest of the team engages the farmer and his team, keeping them busy and buying time for the thief to get to his feet and run that piglet, or chicken, to safety over the boundary line. Sounds like football to me!”

“Except you probably wouldn’t throw a piglet very far!” Fig protested.

“Or a chicken, for that matter,” Icon added. “The refinements of throwing and kicking the prize come later, once the game has moved beyond the simple theft of farm animals. But you’ve got to admit: the major elements of the game of football are there.”


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