With football season starting up again, millions of Americans are spending their Sundays on
the couch, downing pizza and Bud Lights, and complaining about their fantasy teams. But instead of just watching the game, you could be coming up with the next great innovation to change your favorite sport for the better. This year’s NFL kickoff got us thinking about all the important sports inventions throughout history, and how they impacted their respective game forever.
The Football Helmet
Realizing the need for heightened safety in the game of football, Gerry E. Morgan and the John T. Riddell Company of Chicago developed a molded plastic helmet in 1939, with a web suspension that was adjustable for each player. The company sold the patent rights to the US Army, and the helmet was so effective, D-Day soldiers actually went into battle wearing football helmets underneath their steel helmets. When the Army later won the national collegiate football championship wearing these helmets in 1944, other colleges took note, and football helmets soon became commonplace.
The Catcher’s Mitt
Today, playing baseball without a catcher’s mitt seems insane, but back in the late 1800s when the game first rose to popularity, it wasn’t such a foregone conclusion. Due to the beating a catcher’s bare hands took during a game, it often required three or four catchers to finish a game. Clearly, this was a problem that needed to be resolved. In 1875, William McGunnigle of Massachusetts wore a pair of bricklayer’s gloves in a game against Harvard. This spurred other players to wear heavily padded gloves as well, and by 1890, Spalding had developed several models of catcher’s mitts.
The Golf Tee
Imagine driving a golf ball entrenched in grass, or from a little mound of sand. Well, that’s what golfers had to do in the early 1900s, before the advent of the tee. When Dr. William Lowell of New Jersey took up golf in 1921, he was frustrated by the lack of a platform off of which to strike the ball. Using his dental tools, he whittled the world’s first golf tee. His sons saw commercial potential in the invention, and in 1924 he received a patent. He packaged them in boxes of 18 that sold for a quarter, but they really hit their stride when US Open champion Walter Hagen started using them. By 1929, 70 million tees had sold worldwide.
While all these inventions are now ubiquitous in their given sports, and it’s difficult to imagine the game without them, that wasn’t always the case. It’s important to remember that all great inventions start as the solution to a problem. The success of the football helmet, catcher’s mitt, and golf tee, is because they addressed key problems, and made their given sports safer and more enjoyable. So consider your favorite sport. Have you always had a “far-fetched” idea on how to make it better? Can you make it safer or more practical? Remember, something as small as a golf tee might seem too small to make a real difference, yet end up changing the game forever.
If you have a game-changing idea, let us know by submitting it here. We can help you make it a reality.