I'm trying to find out the title and author of a short story I read around 30–35 years ago. It was featured in a collection that I think were all by the same author. It was written from the perspective of a fan of (American) football who told how the games he watched got more and more violent until the teams stopped using a ball and just fought on the pitch. The story eventually went on to detail how the fans became involved and ended up taking the place of the teams.

I always thought it may have been written by either Harry Harrison or Robert Silverberg, but I may be mistaken.

  • Sorry - should have anticipated that. It was probably around 30 - 35 years ago. If it helps, there was another story in the collection that had a kind-of Benjamin Button theme about a guy who was ageing backwards. Nov 9, 2017 at 4:23
  • I've read it as well. IIRC the police and courts initially go all out trying to prosecute fighting fans, then a study shows a massive drop happens in violent crimes in the cities on match days because all the thugs are in the stadiums. The media put two scores out, on field results and off field results that tell how many fans on each side get killed or severely injured
    – Danny Mc G
    Nov 9, 2017 at 4:27
  • That's the one! Nov 9, 2017 at 4:41
  • There are various age-reversing stories available at tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MerlinSickness
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9, 2017 at 4:47
  • 2
    Note that American football is played on a field between two teams led by coaches. There are no pitches, and sides and managers both mean something different from regular football. I wonder if this could have been partial inspiration for Blood Bowl, a tabletop (and now video) game made by the U.K. based Games Workshop. Nov 9, 2017 at 12:47

1 Answer 1


It might be "The National Pastime" by Norman Spinrad (ISFDB link)

In the long-winded and somewhat renowned “The National Pastime,” Norman Spinrad goes into painstaking detail describing – from the point of view of the cynical and failed filmmaker who invents the game as a means of advancing his career with a television company – Combat Football.

It should be no surprise that Spinrad takes a Progressive approach in his critique of the violence inherent in sport. His over-the-top game taps the animal nature of an unthinking population. Whatever the story’s politics – they take a back seat to some of the more illogical or implausible features of the new game.

For one thing, the wildly popular Combat Football includes only six nationalized teams, none of which have a home city. They tour the country for the best venues, and are organized based on demographic identity:

“This way, we got a team for the spades, a team for the frustrated Middle Americans, a team for the hippies and kids, a team for the spics, a team for the faggots, and a team for the motorcycle nuts and violence freaks.”
-- From “The National Pastime,” by Norman Spinrad

Even less logically, fan casualties and fatalities are included in the statistics, with numbers soaring into the hundreds per game. They are played in stadiums without security. The plays are portrayed somewhat realistically as akin to American football, but the key play consistently seems to be a punch in the mouth.

  • 2
    Thanks guys - it is definitely the Spinrad story and the collection/anthology was actually "Nova 3" - which was edited by Harry Harrison. What a relief! This has been bugging the hell out of me for ages! Nov 9, 2017 at 5:09
  • @ShaneLeonard: Thank you. Do you remember which story was the reverse-aging one?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:37
  • If the other were accepted, this would be a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/107238/…, but it's not.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:37
  • 1
    @FuzzyBoots The reverse aging one was "The Weed of Time" in a Spinrad anthology "No Direction Home"
    – bknights
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:06

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