Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Day Chariot Races

Quoting Charles Daggett, President of the Tournament of Roses Association of Pasadena in 1894-1895, and again in 1904-1905:

"By some it is advocated that an Eastern football team be brought out here to play in an exhibition game as the feature of the afternoon. This would cost over $1000, and unless the game was a contest, backed up by rivalrw [sic], resultant from an even match, it would be a farce. It is our hope that it may be found feasible to take the same amount of money which a football event would demand and devote it to a Roman chariot race.  The inducement of large cash prizes would be made, $500 or $600 being offered for first place, and this, I believe, would call forth the genuine article and would be a sight worth going many miles to see."

Needless to say, no one wanted to argue with a visionary like that. When President Daggett advocated chariot races back in 1903, chariot races were what he got.(One does whimsically wonder, though, what put the idea of chariot races into Mr. Daggett's honorable head.)

New Years Day Chariot Races began in 1904 at Tournament Park, part of Cal Tech. This thrrrilling picture is from the 1908 event. In 1905, motorcycle races were held as well--guess one thing leads to another. But chariot races, along with polo games, ostrich races, and other frivolities, amused spectators through 1915. Then it was foooball, always and forever.

For the record, a football game was played in 1902, between the Michigan Wolverines and Stanford, but it took fourteen years to get around to scheduling another Rose Bowl game--perhaps because the Wolverines trounced, I say trounced, the California team, 49-0. It was so bad that the Stanford team captain asked that the game be ended with eight minutes left on the clock.

That never happens in chariot racing, a much more civilized sport.

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