Harvard Remains Athletic Powerhouse

Better Days

Princeton had Brook Shields, Yale had Jodie Foster, and we only got the promise of Mayam Bialik, aka television's Blossom. (Before the start of this academic year, Mayam once again delayed entrance into Harvard.) Princeton had Bill Bradley, Yale had Calvin Hill, and we had ex-Blue Jay "great" Jeff Musselman.

(I'm from Los Angeles, so I can't yet count hockey in the same breath as football, basketball and baseball.)

But don't despair. What Harvard does offer, besides the all-important Harvard name that exponentially increases in importance the farther away from Harvard one travels, is the opportunity to enjoy athletics on an almost transcendental plane.

We're not very good at basketball? How about a men's and women's squash dynasty? Football might not be our game (yet), but you can bet our lacrosse and sailing teams will be competitive with anyone.

And what about the chance to participate in a real sport? While people at UCLA might be able to party with the O'Bannon brothers, people at Harvard can learn something far more important by getting up early and feeling the fun of sacrifice by rowing crew.

Feeling pugilistic? Then join the Harvard boxing club (which is open to everyone), and do more than hum the Rocky theme when thinking about boxing. And if the idea of hitting someone is (barely) too much for you, join the men's or women's Harvard rugby clubs (which are also open to everyone). Rugby, after all, is one of the fastest growing and most violent club sports at Northeastern colleges.

Some people even say that Harvard has no school spirit, but I think that misses the mark. Just look into a Chem 10 review session, and you'll see a whole lot of spirited students. And perhaps more importantly, if we have no school mascot to create school spirit, what do people expect? (A little known fact is that in 1986, the year that the San Francisco Giants introduced their new mascot "The Candlestick Crab" attendance went up over 10 percent at games.)

While I have focused on participatory sports, I did not mean to minimize the accomplishments of Harvard varsity sports. In 1994-1995, women's lightweight crew was crowned national champion for the third time in five years, the women's soccer team gained its first NCAA berth in a decade, the women's softball team earned its first-ever ECAC post-season berth and the women's basketball team came within a final-game loss of being the first women's Ivy League team to play in the NCAA Tournament.

And these are just a few of the recent Harvard sports accomplishments. Before college sports became a feeding ground for agents and sponsors and before Vinny Testaverde took surfing for credit, I hardly need to remind people that Harvard was a dominant player in amateur athletics.

This fact is lost on a lot of people, and perhaps its significance is mitigated over time. But that doesn't change what Harvard has become in terms of athletics--"a place where many people play many different sports as part of balanced lives," according to one recent graduate.

While it might be unfortunate that Sega is not as popular across Harvard as it is across Yale, Harvard's athletic creed has not been diminished recently. No matter what anyone says.