If you don't like football, you don't belong in Massillon," said a local citizen. Massillon is a rugged steel town in northeastern Ohio with a population of only 31,000. Yet the high school football stadium seats 22,000, and on Friday nights in the fall, when the Massillon Tigers play at home, it is always filled. The players are town heroes, and the fortunes of the team dominate the thought and conversation of the townsfolk.
Massillon usually has the best high school football team in the state. It has been that way ever since Paul Brown became coach in 1932. Brown, since famous as coach of Ohio State University and founder and coach of the professional Cleveland Browns, was a Massillon boy. He built the team into a powerful machine. During his last six years as coach, the team won 58 games and lost only one.
There was no letdown in the intensity of the football program after Brown left at the end of the 1940 season. A Massillon boy is introduced to football at birth, when he is presented with a ball by the Booster Club (left). By fifth grade he is playing organized football. When he enters one of Massillon's three junior high schools, he learns the formations and plays that the high school varsity uses. In high school he gives up part of his summer to early practice, plus three hours a day in the fall. Each Monday he watches color films of the previous week's game and is graded by one of the 13 coaches in the Massillon school system on everything he did—right or wrong—in that game. Not many Massillon boys make the same mistake twice.
Like Pros and Collegians, Head Coach Leo Strang (left) consults aides. Strang has three coaches in booth, along with new gadget called defensive analyzation board. When button is pushed, the board helps determine which play should work against opponents. Advised of the machine's opinion, Strang sends a play into game with substitute.
Walkie-Talkie transmits instructions from superior to junior high Assistant Coach Bob Johnson, about to send a player into game. Massillon uses walkie-talkies instead of telephones at games away from home because phone wires were once cut. Johnson says the system works fine—though there is occasional interference from local cab company.
Proud fathers, bearing the numbers of their football-playing sons, parade in front of stands. Massillon games are highly organized but they also arc fun. Rockets are exploded after every Massillon touchdown. When the Tigers crushed Barberton 90-0 two years ago the rocket supply was exhausted. Tigers do not believe in "letting up" on opponents.
Among their souvenirs sit Katie and Maurie Basler, ardent Massillon Tiger rooters. On the walls of their den are pictures of past teams and individual heroes. Rugs, ashtrays, curtains, pillows and glasses are decorated with tigers. Basler is a leading member of the Side-liners. Each member of the group "adopts" a player each season and takes him to dinner and the movies the night before each game.
Practiced enthusiasm for Massillon is displayed by Sue Lehman, head cheerleader. Cheerleading at Massillon is as competitive as football. As many as 50 girls try out for seven assignments, and the winners rehearse all summer. Playing in Massillon's 80-piece band is no less arduous. Band members practice in the summer, four hours a day, five days a week. In the fall they cut down to 15 hours a week.
There's no time for tears in Massillon's football program. The young boy with the professional-looking helmet may privately wonder if football is really for him, but in Massillon he has little choice. He is expected to want to play football, just as Massillon always is expected to win—the bigger the score, the better. With his mother and father and the Boosters shouting encouragement from the sidelines, with a small army of coaches studying his actions and with a large mechanical board to suggest what play he should run, there is nothing the boy need decide for himself.
ROY DE CARAVA