Revaluing Football

Protest against "overemphasis", upon football, ancient and often as unreasonable as the malady itself, has taken a new turn which may well prove decisive. For now it is the undergraduate who leads our way--the Harvard Crimson and the Yale News concurring. What should be a sport has become an arduous grind, endured by most of the players only because college loyalty demands the sacrifice as no less a luminary of the gridiron than George Owen declared of late in the Independent. What should be a strictly collegiate function has become a gigantic public spectacle, raising the young gentlemen engaged in it to the notoriety of gladiators and matadors. What should be strictly amateur in spirit has taken on strange aspects of professionalism: the season's gate receipts are welcomed as financing less sensational sports, sometimes even squash courts and swimming pools: and victory is sought as raising the college in prestige and in numbers, as swelling the flow of benefaction from opulent but otherwise uneducational graduates.

The remedies proposed editorially by the editors of the Harvard and Yale deilies strike at the root of the evil. The varsity football season is to be shortened. Instead of beginning with the fall term or before it, and continuing under a squad of coaches through daily prac tice games and weekly intervarsity matches, it is to be preceded by a "class championship" series. Training with the class team for contests of genuine sport will serve at once to put old varsity players in condition and to develop new material. Only when the class championship has been decided will the varsity squad assemble. During the weeks remaining, there will be a few intervarsity contests in preparation for the all-important finalmatch; but these will be so arranged that all idea of a "regional championship" will be eliminated. Neither Yale nor Harvard, Dartmouth nor Brown, Amherst nor Williams, will be known as the premier team of New England. This, it is hoped, will alternate the non-collegiate "sport" and indeed the "old grad," thereby lessening exaggerated publicity. Bowl and stadium will be more sparsely occupied but also more sportsmanlike. The system, in brief, is that long in vogue at the English universities, the "championship" of our four class teams taking the place of the "intercollegiate" series among the twenty odd colleges of Oxford or Cambridge.

It all looks well on paper--on the paper of the college dailies it looks, especially well. Yet even so it is possible that we are reckoning without our host. For better or worse there is, in point of fact, something more to American college football than the enjoyment of sports-manship. Undergraduates really believe that to be strong and manly--and successful--in athletics reflects credit on their alma mater and that the credit of their alma mater is somehow worth while. As nowhere else in modern life, they learn obedience, discipline, fortitude. Among the "moral substitutes for war" demanded by William James intervarsity athletics should rank high. It would be sad, if, in revaluing college spirit, we destroyed it.

Fortunately there seems to be no such danger. The most these molders of college opinion ask is that the football team be reduced to "the present status of the crew," meaning "good training and a correct balance of importance and pleasure." As to the "pleasure," the crew man might demur; but he will be one with undergraduate and old grad in the matter of "importance."  --New York Times

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