In spectator sports, the athletes get all the exercise and the spectators get all the rest. “Football is 22 people on the field who need rest and 22,000 people in the stands who need exercise” is a statement of uncertain origin. “Twenty-two boys on the field badly in need of rest, and 40,000 people in the stands badly in the need of exercise” was said in 1963 by Bud Wilkinson (1916-1994), the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma who served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Wilkinson popularized the saying, but didn’t coin it.
“We still have 50,000 people in the stands who need exercise, and 22 boys down on the field who need rest” was cited in print in 1959.
Wikipedia: Bud Wilkinson
Charles Burnham “Bud” Wilkinson (April 23, 1916 – February 9, 1994) was an American football player, coach, broadcaster, and politician. He served as the head football coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1947 to 1963, compiling a record of 145–29–4. His Oklahoma Sooners won three national championships (1950, 1955, and 1956) and 14 conference titles. Between 1953 and 1957, Wilkinson’s Oklahoma squads won 47 straight games, a record that still stands at the highest level of college football. After retiring from coaching following the 1963 season, Wilkinson entered into politics and, in 1965, became a broadcaster with ABC Sports. He returned to coaching in 1978, helming the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League for two seasons. Wilkinson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1969.
Wilkinson served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness from 1961 to 1964.
27 September 1956, Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner, “The Sports Highway” with Al Warden, pg. 10B, col. 1:
A Generation of Spectators
The major indictment of football today is that too few participate, according to Herman Hickman, former coach at Wake Forest, North Carolina State, West Point and Yale. Today’s subsidized varsity puts on a weekly show for the 99 per cent of the student body in the stands who need exercise.
22 July 1959, Boston (MA) Traveler, “Russian Trackmen Practice What We Preach” by Tim Horgan, pg. 33, col. 4:
“We still have 50,000 people in the stands who need exercise, and 22 boys down on the field who need rest.”
(State Commissioner of Education Owen B. Kiernan.—ed.)
1 July 1962, The Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), “‘The Soft American’ Needn’t Be A National Problem,” pg. 13, col. 3:
The vast difference between the physical quality of the athlete and the physical quality of the spectator was pointed out in an address by the President in April, when he quoted an acquaintance’s comment about a Harvard football game: “Twenty-two boys on the field badly in need of rest—and 40,000 people sitting in the stands badly in need of exercise.”
7 November 1962, The Vidette Messenger (Valparaiso, IN), , “County YMCA News-Views,” pg. 19, col. 1:
Some of you have seen the cartoon of a football stadium, with the caption, “Twenty-two boys on the field badly in need of rest, and 40,000 people in the stands badly in need of exercise.”
18 February 1963, Gastonia (NC) Gazette, “Wilkinson Speaks Out: ‘I Would Rather See Nation Fit Than Win Games,’” pg. 1, col. 1:
Another point in Wilkinson’s hard-hitting physical fitness talk as he described a Saturday afternoon at the football stadium: “Twenty-two boys on the field badly in need of rest, and 40,000 people in the stands badly in the need of exercise.”
1963? (A date of 1961-1963 is probable.—ed.)
Charles B. (Bud) Wilkinson, football coach at the University of Oklahoma and head of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, says our problem is largely one of soft living. (...) “Twenty-two boys on the field badly in need of rest, and 40,000 people in the stands badly in need of exercise.”
1 September 1965, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Time Out With Bud: Fitness Measure Is Low” by Bud Wilkinson, pg. 3B, col. 5:
A football game was once described as “22 on the field, badly in need of rest, and 40,000 in the stands, badly in need of exercise.”
3 January 1970, Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, WI), “Looking Back At Trends of 1960s,” pg. 21, col. 5:
(By Carl F. Henry, editor of Christianity Today)
Christianity has often been labeled a spectator sport. One wag went a step further by facetiously comparing the Church of the 1960s to a hard-fought football game: eleven men on the field who need a rest and fifty thousand in the stands who need the exercise.
30 December 1970, Star-News (Pasadena, CA), “Grand Marshal Billy Graham Says Top Peril in Mideast” by Dave Swaim, pg. 1, col. 3:
“In these worldwide problems we are too often spectators. The church reminds me of the crowd at a good football game. There are people watching in the stands who need exercise, while 22 men playing on the field need rest.”
Say It With Love
By Howard G. Hendricks
Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
Wilkinson said, “Certainly, I define football as 22 men on the field who desperately need rest and 50,000 people in the grandstand who desperately need exercise.”
How to Teach Adults Without Really Suffering
By Wesley Tracy
Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press
Bud Wilkinson, famed former coach of the Oklahoma University football Sooners, was asked during a speech in Dallas to describe football as a game. “The game of football,” he replied, “may be described as a game in which there are 22 men on the field who desperately need rest and about 40,000 people in the stands who desperately need exercise.”
11 October 1978, The Stars and Stripes (Europe), “Staying fit may add 20 years to life, Cooper says” by Mike Spear, pg. 8, col. 1:
Cooper’s (Dr. Kenneth Cooper—ed.) presentation was often humorous and he used football fans to point out one of the ironies of present-day America.
“It’s a situation where you’ve got 22 men on the field in desperate need of rest and 65,000 fans in the stands who desperately need exercise.”
17 September 1983, The News-Herald (Panama City, FL), “The Believing World” by Earl Bailey, pg. 13A, col. 1:
Bud Wilkinson, former football coach at the University of Oklahoma, was once asked what contribution modern football had made to physical fitness. His reply was, “Absolutely nothing.” He went on, “I define football as twenty-two men on the field who desperately need rest and fifty thousand people in the grandstand who desperately need exercise.”
The People Principle:
Transforming Laypersons Into Leaders
By Stan Toler
Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press
Football is 22 people on the field who desperately need rest and 22,000 people in the stands who desperately need exercise. — Bud Wilkinson
Healing is a Choice Workbook:
10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and Ten Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them
By Stephen Arterburn
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, nc.
AUTHOR PETER GILLQUIST DESCRIBES A FOOTBALL GAME AS “20,000 people in the stadium who desperately need exercise, watching 22 people on the field who desperately need rest!”