Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Soccer Game That Probably Wasn't

The Christmas Truce of 1914

Christmas vacation has started for most public schools and colleges. Finally there is time to relax and pick up the blog again. I also have the time to watch one of my favorite news magazine shows on television, CBS Sunday Morning. This morning there was a segment on the Christmas Truce of 1914 (since we're now at the 100 year anniversary of the events of WWI).

You can click the link to read the whole story, or watch the video below. But along with the interesting anecdote about an event that occurred during the First World War, the more interesting thing for me was the way in which people remember it.

Here's the gist: during this time of year, military history buffs like to bring out the Christmas Truce that occurred spontaneously between British and German troops in 1914. The story goes that both sides were singing Christmas carols in their respective trenches and one side put up a tree, etc. With a verbal promise of "if you don't shoot, I won't either," troops from both sides met in the middle of "no man's land" and traded Christmas greetings. Before long, by popular belief, a friendly soccer game was started between teams from the units that were shooting at each other just hours before. The story has become mythologized, spawning multiple books, as well as movies.

There are two issues with that story. First, it is not an isolated event. Many enemies in many wars made temporary truces for reasons that range from clearing dead and wounded off of the field to celebrating a holiday. And second, while the associated Wiki article tells us that soccer games were played, the CBS story says that there is no evidence of a game of football during the truce of 1914.

That's one of the things you have to love about popular history. While we struggle for the facts, the truth is what people create for themselves. I really take pleasure in the story part of history, and I admit that sometimes you just have to say, "well, if it ain't true, it outta be." Enjoy.