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The 2017 and 2018 Houston Astros sign-stealing controversy was notable for teammates banging on trash cans to send batters messages about expected pitches they would receive. Though deceitful, this was not the first incident of noises made on the sidelines to inform players on the field of the pending action. 

Gallaudet College (now University) was a congressionally chartered school for the deaf, which President Abraham Lincoln approved in 1864. The school’s football team had an innovative way to signal the snap count to the deaf players. First, a large drum would be beaten on the sidelines, allowing the players to feel the vibrations. Eventually, this system gave way to a “silent count” method. But, the college proudly touts another innovation in sports communication: the huddle.

In the 1890s, Gallaudet’s quarterback Paul Hubbard would have his offensive team closely circle one another to discuss plays and not have the opposing team, another deaf squad, see the signing amongst the offense. This practice was allegedly the birth of the huddle, a communication tool utilized practically between every play on today’s gridiron. So, while we indulge in the NFL playoffs during these next few weekends, let us remember how the deaf community influenced such a vital communication practice in the sports arena.

We also invite you to huddle. Join us this Sunday, January 23, for our annual congregation meeting. Following our 9:00 AM spoken half-hour liturgy and our traditional 10:00 AM liturgy, which we also invite you to attend, we will gather or huddle to discuss our congregation’s future ministry. After the huddle, we will “break” and take the line of scrimmage for the next play for our Lord!