"Rationally, football as a game really sucks," Quincy House athletic secretary and intramural tackle football coach Gary Bravo commented in the Dillon locker room after his squad played Leverett to a scoreless tie. "But the irrational part of me loves it. I guess it's power--you go out and knock people over." Bravo paused for a few reflective seconds before a strange gleam glossed over his eyes and he added, "I really get into sacking the quarterback.
Like Gary Bravo, over 100 students reserve Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during the fall to don full football gear for their respective Houses in a fiercely competitive intramural program. Spend an afternoon rapping with the players and coaches involved, and you'll find more than 100 reasons for the motivation behind their participation.
"Some of my players settle for intramural football because they might be premed, for instance, and can't afford to invest time playing varsity," said Mather coach Dave Richardson. But Richardson's argument doesn't merely revolve around the problem of a time commitment, an obstacle mentioned by many of the players interviewed for the Journal yesterday at Webster Field.
"There's a lot of politics involved in the Harvard varsity football program," Richardson asserted before defending champion Eliot House victimized his team. "The system here doesn't run purely on talent; you'll often find discontented guys with a lot of ability, who never got a real shot on the varsity level, playing intramurals because they know deep down inside that it's their last shot at organized ball."
The intensity with which players regard their team varies from House to House. Winthrop, which fields by far the largest squad (37 players compared to Mather's 17) had a training meal before yesterday's game with Kirkland, in keeping with the spirited attitude that has brought the Strauss Cup (symbolic of the overall intramural champ) to their halls for two consecutive years.
That spirit is evident in the actions of quarterback Brian Towne, who quickly stripped his tackle gear, ran over to the touch football field, and threw four touchdowns in a 32-6 triumph. "It's a big, happy family at Winthrop," says athletic secretary Lou Marczuk. "I know that sounds corny, but it's true--people in the House are psyched up when it comes to intramurals," he adds, recalling the senior tutor who cut his class short in order to run in the cross-country race.
Kirkland mentor Mike Faught calls a meeting the night before each game to discuss strategy and hear scouting reports from his assistants. "We like to know what other teams are doing, what their tendencies are in critical yardage situations, and how their personnel stacks up," said Faught, who played freshman football after a brilliant career as a high school quarterback in Connecticut.
Faught and Eliot coach Steve Berger are interested in coaching football. Berger (who played alongside varsity gridders Steve Potsyman and Mike Kiepura at nationally second-ranked Glenbrook North H.S.) says the freshman football program at Harvard turned him off, so he took a year off from school to help coach at his old high school.
"It's a definite learning experience for me," Faught said, "I made a lot of dumb mistakes in our first game, but I'm progressing in terms of analyzing strategy in different situations. It's a super feeling to have guys go out and execute plays the way I wrote them down," the varsity lacrosse stalwart added.
Spectator attendance at the games has declined, according to Harvard intramural director Floyd Wilson, who supervises the contests. That doesn't matter to Adams House resident Tony Richardson, who plays for Mather. "I'm not out here for the glory, that's for sure, but I have utilized tackle football to foster comraderie with a great bunch of characters."
By the way, this reporter competes as a scrub for Eliot. My reason? Well, I always wanted to see my picture in the Yale game football program.