Thinking maybe I was being offered some huge scholarship, or perhaps an opportunity to speak at a conference of these Illustrious Eight, I ripped off the seal. Imagine my surprise at reading the following:
“Dear Mr. Rohatgi,
It has come to the attention of this Council that you have been writing for The Crimson for four years, and in that time have averaged almost one story every two weeks. You have shown a dedication to this extra-curricular activity, and at the same time managed to maintain a solid academic transcript as well as participate in other activities and have a social life.
However, the Council feels that The Crimson has been too intense an experience for you, and thus orders you to cease all Crimson-related activities for seven weeks. The Council has a paternalistic attitude towards you, Mr. Rohatgi, and has determined that these seven weeks will be the best way for you to explore other Harvard opportunities.”
Needless to say, I was shocked, but what could I do? Seven weeks without working on the paper? That’s a long time to be absent, and I worried that I might lose some of my writing skills and ability to generate coherent ideas for the paper.
At the same time, I was anxiously excited about the sudden helping of free time. After all, this same Ivy Council had determined that the Ivy League’s athletes also needed seven weeks off from conditioning and training during the off-season. Clearly, this seven-week period was the perfect length in which to try to experience the “Harvard” I had missed. After all, if the men’s hockey team was going to forgo ice time and a chance to keep in shape during the off-season so they could all try to join Hasty Pudding Theatricals, then surely I could immerse myself in a new activity for seven weeks.
But which one? I assumed you needed some musical background to join the Mozart Society Orchestra, and I felt out of place at a meeting of the Harvard Society of Black Scientists. I needed to find an activity which was low-key, and that placed an emphasis on rest and relaxation.
Then it hit me. Join a Harvard varsity athletic team! How hard could it be? Hell, the Ivy League gives them seven weeks off and keeps reducing spots for athletic recruits. I figured joining the nationally-ranked men’s tennis team would provide a nice diversionary seven weeks off from hard work.
I was prohibited from writing for The Crimson, of course, so I couldn’t keep a detailed reporter’s notebook of my seven weeks on the team. But I did keep a little daily journal, so that I could share my experience. Some of the highlights:
Day 1: Wake up from nap at 5 p.m. and head over to Beren Tennis Center. Seems like practice has already been going strong for three hours. Oops. Promise Coach David Fish ’72 that I’ll be on time tomorrow.
Day 2: Get on the courts finally. Apparently, I’m 50 pounds overweight for a nationally competitive program. My 40-yard dash time of 8.6 seconds is described as “slower than a snail floating on a stream of molasses.”
Day 10: Coach asks us about our classes. I thought a nationally-ranked tennis team would be full of jocks with too much intensity for classes. I’m the only one without a coherent answer.
Day 25: Team heads to inner-city Boston to volunteer coach urban youths.
Day 28: The weekend! I ask teammates when we’re throwing that party where we only invite athletes and keep out the bookworm Lamont-bound students. Quizzical looks all around, followed by isolation.
Day 31: We have a match! We play Oklahoma, ranked No. 22 at the time. They have all scholarships athletes from Eastern European countries, and I thought I overheard one of the Sooners discussing his recent 25th birthday party. I don’t get to play, but Coach lets me keep score.
Day 42: Well, here’s the home stretch! Last week! The team is starting to like me, and I’m really getting into a groove with my forehand. And I’m getting into shape. Just a few more months of conditioning…
Day 46: One of the juniors on the team gives us flyers for a PBHA program he’s involved with.
Day 49: Last day. Coincidentally, the team has to start its seven-week dead period today as well. I feel bad for that freshman who was just starting to make his mark, and could probably have used some extra instruction. Oh well, at least he has an education to fall back on.
I returned to The Crimson a better man, I suppose, though I did injure my typing fingers since I hadn’t kept them in typing shape. Looking back, I’m glad the Ivy Presidents put me on that seven-week hiatus so I could re-enter the Harvard I had so clearly been ignoring due to my journalistic segregationist tendencies.
It was a good time—so much enjoyment, so much learning, so much socializing.
So much bullshit.
—Staff writer Rahul Rohatgi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.