DATELINE 1907 – Olympian Jim Thorpe’s Weaknesses and the Invention of the Halftime Show

in Nonfiction by
Jim Thorpe, circa 1907 (Photo by Pro Football Hall of Fame/NFL)
Jim Thorpe, circa 1907 (Photo by Pro Football Hall of Fame/NFL)

Five years in the future, The Carlisle Indians’ Jim Thorpe will win gold in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics. The King of Sweden will tell Jim, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Jim will reply, “Thanks, King!”

But in the ’07 game against Bucknell, the “greatest” had his worst kickoff return. Jim brushed aside tacklers like horseflies and headed for the goal line. In the last few yards, Jim eased up, got clipped by a diving player, did a face-plant and fumbled. Luckily, a teammate scooped the ball up and scored the touchdown.

Jim would go on to perform many greatests in track, football and baseball. But some of his  “greatests” are less well known.

  • JT’s greatest joke: Walking into a hotel, checking in as “Chief Jim,” and when asked, “Do you have a reservation?” JT would say, “Yes, sir, but it’s back in Oklahoma.”
  • JT’s greatest weakness: Honesty. While other college athletes used fake names when playing minor league baseball to protect their amateur status, JT used his own name, which led, after the Olympics, to him being declared a “professional,” and stripped of his Olympic medals.
  • JT’s greatest promotion: Forming an all-Indian football team, the Oorang Indians of the 1920s NFL, and inventing the halftime show, the first being Indian dances and hunting demonstrations with the Airedale dogs from the team’s sponsor, the Oorang Kennel.

Next: The Carlisle Indians Change the Game Forever

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Brian Meehl HeadshotBlowback 07 BookcoverBrian Meehl has published four novels with Random House: Out of Patience, Suck It Up, Suck It Up and Die,and You Don’t Know About Me. His books have garnered a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In a former incarnation, Meehl was a puppeteer on “Sesame Street” and in Jim Henson films, including “The Dark Crystal.” His transition from puppets to pen included writing for television shows such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Between the Lions,” for which he won three Emmys. Meehl lives in Connecticut and is writing Blowback ’63 and Blowback ’94. For more information about this author and his exciting books, please visit and/or

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