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A condition, which took twelve hundred years to develop in Greek athletics, has arisen in our own "athletic period" in half a century. The tramp athlete, "fixing" of officials, pot hunters, were not unknown in Hellas. At last the professional trainer appeared and with him the training table and the specialist. To take care of them and the crowds who wanted to see them, huge stadiums were built. The whole system became commercialized.
The parallel has been indicated by Dr. Joseph E. Raycroft, physical director at Princeton. His article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly suggests three new points of attack; the inerant coach whose ethical standards are not always high; the training table, the only aristocratic element in otherwise democratic conditions; and, finally, too long a period of eligibility. The first of these admits of no dispute, and the second is too much a matter of circumstances to warrant any definite conclusions. But the third is perhaps the most interesting suggestion that has been added to the accumulating ideas on a troublesome subject.
The mark to which many have pointed is that emphasis should be shifted from the ideal of victory to the ideal of sport for its own sake, with participation by the greatest possible number, Dr. Raycroft's third point appears to be directly in line with this mark. If a man is permitted to play in intercollegiate competition for only one year, the number of men required for "varsity" teams will be increased and with greater incentive, there will be a proportionate rise in the number of candidates for teams.
But it is evident on further thought, that such a proposal does not change the fundamental fault, intercollegiate victory is still the goal; the innovation would simply give a few more men a chance to share the laurels. That in itself is an advantage; but with keener competition for the teams, the over emphasis on sports would become even more pronounced. The solution when it finally comes, will need to go deeper than anything which affects merely the make-up of the "varsity" team. It must provide men with some incentive to play even without the slightest expectation of intercollegiate glory.
But even if this one point is not valid Dr. Raycroft's article is full of thoughtful suggestions, and it is written in the spirit of earnest investigation which will eventually find the right result "Participation in sports and games," he says, "furnishes the principal, if not the only practical training in ethics that exists in our modern educational system." With this remark in mind, it is evident that athletics are worth all possible of torts to save them.
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