Yes, Burl Ives Played On The Only Unbeaten Football Team In Eastern Illinois Univ. History
If my life could have a narrator, undoubtedly it would be Burl Ives -- voice of Sam the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated classic is one of the Big Three holiday productions from the 1960s (A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), and is still my favorite. They should really stop making Christmas specials now. These are the only ones we need.
Rudolph was a lot more subversive than most people realized at the time -- teaching lessons like not caving to societal norms, and ridiculing the jock mentality. All of the characters on the Island of Misfit Toys are my spirit animals. And there's something so very comforting about an elf who can't make toys, and just wants to be a dentist. If parents in the '60's knew what they were watching there would have been riots -- but it was a cartoon so no one cared.
But it also had strains of traditional warmth: no song gets me in the Christmas mood like Ives' Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas, and Silver and Gold isn't bad either.
But this is a sports blog, so did you know: Burl Ives played football in high school and college? And that he was really good?
Ives played both ways on the line at Eastern Illinois University in 1927 through '29, and in 1928 the team went 7-0-1, winning the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It's still the only undefeated season the Panthers have ever had.
Ives had intended to pursue a coaching career, but ...
“I loved to play football. That was the big magnet which drew me to Charleston," he said. "When I saw all the heat that the poor men (the coaches) have to endure to exist, I said, ‘Well, that’s no life for me, so I think I’d better stick with the guitar.”
Ives dropped out of Eastern Illinois (then called Eastern Illinois Teachers College) his junior year, leaving his final class by slamming the door so hard behind him that it broke the glass. They later named a building after him.
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