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We publish today a short resume of the majority and minority reports of the Committee from the Board of Overseers on the condition and conduct of athletics at Harvard. The report of the majority is open to criticism. Many of the facts therein detailed are undoubtedly true, but it is difficult to understand how a fair-minded body of men could have clamly and deliberately drawn such an exaggerated conclusion as the recommendation of the entire abolishion of intercollegiate contests. This conclusion is not justified by the premises, as any candid observer of both sides of the question must allow. The report says, for example, that athletics have tended to become the ruling passion at Harvard and that they have grown to this enormous degree of importance in the last twenty-five years. The committee has been misled here by the fact that athletics is the one thing in which the college as a whole can take an interest. There is little enough college feeling here as it is; and what little there is must have an outlet somewhere. We do not believe that athletics have increased and grown in any greater proportion than the University itself; nor do we believe that college duties are shirked because of interest in athletics to a much greater degree than they would be shirked supposing there were no athletics at all. If the committee will take a deeper glance into the past twenty-five years and compare the two athletic systems they will probably see that, after all, the present system is the best. We hear no longer of "town and gown" fights, of practical jokes played upon professors and Cambridge citizens, and of other childish exhibitions of animal spirits. The men who train for athletic teams are, as a rule, the best students; they acquire habits of steadiness and sobriety which we cannot always look for in the average non-athletic man. But is it likely that men will train with such care and regularity if they are to look forward to no intercollegiate contests? The question answers itself.
The committee seems to be of the opinion that football ought to be prohibited at all events, as being the most dangerous and brutalizing of all sports. It is true that men are occasionally injured seriously on the football field; but for that reason are we to cultivate effeminate dispositions and weak bodies? We hold that the game of football is a manly, invigorating, and ennobling sport. It teaches self-control, coolness at critical moments, quickness of motion, and gives a man that pluck and grit under difficulties that must always be of service in after life. The assertion is made that those who are training for some athletic team are "entitled to the preference in the gymnasium and elsewhere" and that those who have only good health in view are "Crowded out and become discouraged." We venture to say that anyone who could make such an assertion as that can never have visited the Hemenway gymnasium on a winter afternoon, or have seen one of the many "scrub matches in baseball and football, which take place every year.
We have not space to enter into more detailed criticism of the report, but these few points have struck us as being the most important. The majority, in recommending the abolishion of intercollegiate contests, have aimed a blow at Harvard interests, which, if it takes effect, will have a material influence over the coming welfare of the university. The minority have recommended a milder course-the abolition of all intercollegiate contests save with Yale or other colleges within New England. Whether this would be a wise measure or not, it is difficult to decide at the present moment. It is certainly taking a fairer, more impartial view of the case. We believe in a discreet control of athletics at Harvard; like everything else, they should be conducted with moderation. But abolition is not the proper remedy, and never will be, as long as manly, healthy Americans are gathered in a great university like this. If such treatment is tried, and as long as it is tried, other colleges will be the gainers, and Harvard the loser. Our first duty is to become men, after that let us become scholars.
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