The twelfth annual debate between Harvard and Princeton, held in Sanders Theatre last evening, was after long deliberation of the judges awarded to Princeton. The Princeton team, from choice, supported the affirmative of the question; "Resolved, That intercollegiate football in America is a detriment rather than a benefit." Harvard defended the negative.
The Princeton team won by its argument, which appealed more to the judges than the audience, although it was delivered in comparatively poor form. The Harvard team, with unusually good form, and even dramatic presentation failed to impress the judges with the weight of their evidence, and placed too much emphasis on the benefit of football to the ideals of the spectators rather than of the players.
Princeton relied on statistics of physical injuries, and assertions of mental and ethical harm. Harvard refuted with the testimony of old football players given in the two most authoritative investigations, and emphasized the importance of a clean outlet for surplus animal spirits, the executive ability to "do" things, and the striving toward an ideal.
The most forcible speaker of the evening was A. Fox 3L., whose delivery, restrained and finished, yet moved the audience by an immense persuasive "drive. In strong contrast, P. McClanahan of Princeton, though hesitating and ragged in his sentences, used weighty testimony and persuasion, rapidly and humorously. W. M. Shohl of Harvard seemed superior in delivery to T. S. Clark of Princeton, but was equally matched in argument. The rebuttal speeches brought out G. J. Hirsch at his best in a forcible and clear cut speech, which was met by K. M. McEwen for the affirmative with greater weight of argument, a delivery slightly less finished, and equal conviction.
The Main Speeches.
K. M. McEwen opened the debate for the affirmative. We are considering intercollegiate football in a broad sense, he said, and the first objection to the present game is that it is unserviceable to college men as a means of healthy exercise. It should be the object of ever intercollegiate sport to offer an opportunity for beneficial physical development. Judged by this standard intercollegiate football fails to be a benefit to the vast majority, and is a positive detriment to the others. Less than one tenth of the college men today engage in the game, and to the other nine-tenth; its offers no opportunity for exercise. The reason for this small percentage of players lies in the fact that the game necessitates a special course of training if the player is to enjoy a fair degree of personal safety. This training obliges him to spend one-third of his entire time for one-fourth of the college year.
From this physical standpoint, then, our conclusion is that the very nature of the present game of football prevents nineteenths of the students of America colleges from participating in it, so that it can be of no physical benefit to then. They cannot undergo a course of training for football that excludes them from all other activities, study included, for a quarter of the whole college year, and they dare not play at all without such training, or they expose themselves to physical danger to the extent of foolhardiness.
G. J. Hirsch opened the debate for the negative. The question of the debate this evening, he said, is worded in the broadest possible terms. When we say intercollegiate football in America we do not mean intercollegiate football this year, nor last year, nor the year before; nor do we mean in any one locality more than another. We are not considering football at Harvard, nor at Princeton, nor at any special university or college. By intercollegiate football is meant an institution, a noble and blood-stirring institution, which takes its form in football contests between the colleges of America. It has been a gradual growth from insignificant contests to the great game of today, in which keen and friendly rivals struggle for supremacy. We must, therefore, as must the gentlemen from Princeton, spread out this institution, examine it on all sides and in all lights, find in it all those qualities which are vital, and determine its essential characteristics, whether they be good or bad. And when we have examined this institution called intercollegiate football both in the light of adverse criticism and in the light of praise and have determined its characteristics, we must balance off those that are good against those evil. It is the object of the negative to show the wholesome and ennobling qualities of this greatest of American games. We believe and all who have had any experience in football, whether as spectators or competitors, cannot fail to agree--that there are distinct benefits in this institution of intercollegiate football in America. In defense of this view we offer three distinct contentions.
In the first place we contend that the presence of intercollegiate football in college life offers, more than any other undergraduate activity, a clean and whole-some interest for the student, giving rise to a pure atmosphere in college life that would otherwise be lacking. We contend that as a consequence of the presence of this institution there is created more than from any other cause a wholesome outlet for the surplus energy of the student; that it has completely solved that problem which has harassed faculties since American colleges began. In the second place we contend that this intercollegiate game develops individual efficiency--that it teaches a man to undertake great things and carry them through to success. Our third contention is perhaps the greatest of all. It is that intercollegiate football fosters and develops in a man a spirit of loyalty for an ideal, his college, which is one of the greatest forces in the upbuilding of mainly character.
But let us return to the first point. In the days when our grandfathers were undergraduates it was a well-night insolvable problem in the administration of our colleges how to provide a wholesome outlet for the surplus energy of the vigorous young student. In Europe today the student whiles away his idle hours in drinking and duelling bouts, while even in England riots between town and gown are frequent occurrences. The overflow of student vigor in America has formerly taken the form of such college pranks as ragging of signs, gate lifting, and hazing. Those disorders have now practically disappeared from American college life, and the cause of their disappearance, in the opinion of such men as Professor Adams of Wisconsin and Dean Briggs of Harvard, has been the rise of athletics, which rise is due for the most part to the great American game, intercollegiate football.
P. McClanahan continued for the affirmative. My colleague has shown, he said, that the great mass of students cannot take part in the game, and I will show that the game is detrimental to those who do participate; first, to the player's general health; second to his intellectual development. Violent training, necessary to so violent a game, causes physical exhaustion and does lasting injury to circulation digestion, and nutrition. Muscle gained at the sacrifice of the vital organs is worse than useless. Then fatalities are a part of the price paid for the sport. In spite of precautionary training numerous and serious accidents have resulted. Statistics show that at Harvard, Columbia and Princeton one-quarter of the players are injured, more or less permanently.
In the second place the present game and training is detrimental to the player's mental activity. This is of vital importance. A Harvard publication says that men during the season do next to nothing in their studies, President Eliot says that the distractions of the game grow greater every year, and a prominent member of this year's Harvard team says that for the past two years University football has played havoc with his studies. Twenty-one colleges in Iowa and Illinois have passed a resolution to the effect that American football as now played is not suitable for educational institutions. This testimony proves that either study or football must be sacrificed.
A. Fox was the second speaker for the negative. We have already stated, he said, that our defense of intercollegiate football in America is cast in three specific contentions. My colleague has clearly pointed out to you the first of these contentions--how intercollegiate football forms a wholesome interest which operates as a safety value for the surplus energies of the student body. The second of our main contentions is one of more lasting effect. Intercollegiate football develops individual and lasting efficiency among its players. This is perhaps less extensive in its benefits than our first contention, for it does not reach so large a number of men, but is nevertheless more important, for after all the players should be the first to be considered. Football, more than any other activity commonly open to undergraduates of today, develops a man's executive ability. It is the game that teaches a man to do things, to plan, to succeed. In short, football is invaluable training for a man in preparation for the great struggle of the outside world.
T. S. Clark concluded the argument for the affirmative. My colleagues have shown, he said, that football demands extreme and excessive methods and fosters a spirit that calls for success at any price. We have already shown that it is responsible for physical harm and mental mediocrity. Finally it remains to prove that the immoderate desire to win demands success at the sacrifice of honor and fair play. There is a distinct tendency today towards unfair, and brutal playing, and this unfits football for a place among college sports. Unfair methods are profitable towards victory, and there is every incentive to their use. The close formations and mass plays make it possible for a player to violate the rules and escape detection, and such opportunities are often augmented by the leniency of officials and spectators, and by inadequate punishment of offenses. The men who play the game are between nineteen and twenty-five years of age and their ethical ideas are not firmly developed. So strong are the temptations and so inadequate the punishments that brutal instincts are aroused in a man not morally vicious. Is not this effect positively detrimental? Then opponents may play unfairly and a player feels in duty bound to retaliate. The results of this tendency are manifest on every side. Do not think that we are attacking the characters of college football players, for they are often victims of a vicious system which they feel forced to support. The fact remains that the game is responsible for a condition which fails to foster manly virtues, and which is a detriment to the development of honor and self-control.
Football is detrimental to the physical welfare of those engaged in it; it fosters mental mediocrity; it lowers the ethical standards of all those concerned. Does it pay?