THE question has more than once been asked, Why is it that the English surpass us in athletic sports? Various reasons have been assigned, among the most important of which are, the greater facilities for training, the high standard of English physique, and a hereditary excellence. All of these are undoubtedly true causes, although we may safely affirm that our opportunities at Harvard now equal, if they do not surpass, those of any English University; but the most telling cause of all is the greater amount of pluck among their athletes.
This quality, without which very few men become successful, would seem to be sadly deficient among us. Men will not enter unless they are pretty well convinced that they will get a prize; in other words, they are afraid of failing. Cases are common at every meeting where men withdraw at the last moment because some one whom they did not expect, has entered. To win one race at Harvard has been sufficient, in the past, to scare all other competitors out of the field for that event, and the result has been continual "walk-overs" for the lucky few. No doubt, it is unpleasant to lose in a contest, but there is almost as much satisfaction in losing pluckily a well-fought race as in winning it. Besides, the man who perseveres is bound, sooner or later, to come out creditably. Laziness and indifference have also a large share of influence in keeping men from entering. The former, at best, is unmanly, while as to the latter no one has a right to be indifferent to seeing his college take a second or third-rate position in athletic sports, if he can aid at all, and every one can aid by taking interest in these matters.
Every one recognizes that the most pleasing feature of our athletic sports is that they are the work of amateurs, and it may be predicted that wherever the professional element creeps in, their enthusiasm and interest will die out. A professional almost invariably becomes the tool of pool-makers and rowdies, and even under the most favorable circumstances he has great difficulty in keeping his integrity above suspicion. The amateur, on the other hand, is free from these annoyances; he is supposed to enter into athletics from a gentlemanly desire to excel in them, and he commands the interest of all those who like to witness contests where there is no doubt of the earnestness and honesty of the competitors. This has hitherto made our intercollegiate rowing and base-ball and foot-ball take such a prominent hold on the public interest. We have proved in the first two that gentlemen can equal, if not excel, those who turn pastime into a profession; and there is no reason why the same excellence should not be attained in every other branch of sport. Thus it is that we regret the action of the base-ball managers, this year, in consenting to play with another college nine, some of whose men are professionals. It establishes a precedent which, if followed up, will inevitably tend to lower the tone of all college organizations, and subject them to slurs similar to those cast on the honesty of professionals, while it offers no advantage to offset the harm it is sure to do. Whatever college resorts to the expedient of playing professionals on their team, should not expect to enter for an amateur championship. It is not too late to come to an understanding in the particular case referred to, and it is none too early for Harvard to set the example of adhering strictly to amateurs in the composition of college organizations.