Every list of terms or dictionary should have at least one “Z” term. Here is mine for “Z.”

Zigged and Zagged

Those who read about professional football history know that the early days of the NFL had many teams that came and went. It took a some time before the NFL house was put in order by Commissioner Joe Carr who took office in 1921.

In the early days, teams from small markets sometimes were “traveling teams” in that they played most of their games away where they could draw better crowds in more populous areas. The Oorang Indians were a traveling team in the National Football League from LaRue, Ohio. The team was owned  by Walter Lingo who used it for two purposes that were near and dear to his heart: promoting his Oorang dog kennels, which bred Airedale Terriers, and featuring in exhibitions his love of the West and American Indians. The Oorang Indians players were all Native American with the famous Olympian Jim Thorpe as coach and one of its stars. Games would also be accompanied by a kind of wild west show. The team played  in the pros in 1922 and 1923.

During the 1923 season the Chicago Bears played the Oorang Indians at Cubs Park on a rain-soaked muddy, slippery field. Just 2 yards from the end zone, Jim Thorpe had the ball determined to crash through the line for a touchdown, but the ball popped out his hands into the grasp of George Halas. It happened so quickly that Halas sprung forward galloping down the field by himself. The Indians and Jim Thorpe played a rugged game. You might say that they had an aptitude for football! Once Thorpe saw Halas running past everyone he  did not dawdle, he groaned before he established his footing. In a split second an angry Jim Thorpe was after Halas on his way to pay dirt. Halas could hear Thorpe coming after him, and perhaps more frightening, he could sense Thorpe coming near as he made way downfield. When Halas felt Thorpe breathing down his neck, he zigged and got clear just in time. As Thorpe made up the distance, and was about to grab Halas, he zagged. Halas evaded Thorpe again. The greatest athlete in the first half of the 20th century was trying to catch his breath as he focused all his Olympic-class furiosity and speed at Halas. Thorpe leaped at Halas as he was about the cross the goal. Thorpe’s explosive tackle knocked Halas down but he managed to slide across the ground for a touchdown!

Football fans may not be aware of it, but Halas fumble recovery and run for a touchdown was a 98-yard record that would stand up in the NFL books until 1972.

Copyright 2022 by Sporting Chance Press.

Image: Illustration of Papa Bear by Bill Potter, Copyright 2020 by Sporting Chance Press.

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