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Rutgers College, now Rutgers University, was a ring-leader in the inauguration of intercollegiate football. Back in 1875 or thereabouts she, with Yale and Princeton, arranged the first intercollegiate football schedule. She is also the home of that deathless hymn, "I'd Die for Dear Old Rutgers!" We seem to see a connection.
Critics of intercollegiate football are fond of stressing the commercialism that the enormous popularity of the game has injected into college athletic. But we have never seen it properly blamed for the extravagant sentimentality which is associated with the thing called college spirit. How could one die for dear old Rutgers except in an intercollegiate football game? Baseball, track, ping-pong, checkers--these hardly call for the lethal effort. One doesn't feel like debating or swimming "for God, for Country and for Yale." It is intercollegiate football alone that brings the rah, rah business so close to tears and mush.
This is not a minor indictment. The spirit of play can be ruined quite as easily with cheap heroics as with money, and with consequences in the way of false standards equally harmful to the boys involved. For while bribes and subsidies will debauch the few who play, the do-or-die stuff makes eternal sophomores not only out of the few who play but also out of the many who applaud. What was George F. Babbitt but an eternal sophomore?
Every spring at Harvard, a quarter century ago, it was the custom for a large number of baseball nines, informally organized, to play an elimination series for the Leiter Cup. We hope this Leiter Cup Series is still a popular fixture, for we can think of no other in undergraduate sport, with so much to recommend it. In the first place, it coaxed into fancy baseball suits and out onto the diamonds more than 200 men who would never have tried for 'varsity or class nines. Secondly, it didn't confuse it summons to play with appeals to college or class loyalty or duty to Alma Mater even unto death. Each nine represented only itself and each player on it played only for the excitement and fun of baseball among friends. There were no professional coaches to curse into you the seriousness of your effort, nor vast galleries of rooting college mates and fair hero worshipers to wipe out your sense of values. Their absence was reflected in the names of the various nines--Dew Drops, Rubber Neeks, Jumbos, Lobsters, Boiler Makers, Minced Chickens, Fussers, Rounders, High Balls, Wash Bottles, Dropped Eggs, etc., etc. It is hard to be a hero with such a name across your chest.
We recommend to Dr. Angell or Yale, and other college executives on the point of revolt, football fixtures similar to the Leiter Cup Series as a substitute for intercollegiate football. These would automatically restore football from its present degradation as a science to its former glory as a game. They would rob it of commercialism and heroics and give it informality, gayety and humor. They would transform it from the life work of a few to the play of the many. Minced Chickens would be an appropriate name for almost any football team Or how about Dropped Eggs? --Judge, October 31.
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