Peter Curtin: Does 'Yeats' Rhyme With 'Cleats'?

The big football player strides in. Years of knocking other people over, beating them down the sideline, and winning have given him the habit of exuding confidence. He's sure of everything he does.

But Crimson tight end Peter Curtin says, "I'm not really sure if playing football is good for me. It encourages some unhealthy attitudes."

Don't get the wrong idea. Curtin was a high school star in three sports and has gone on to form, along with Pat McInally, the most potent pass-receiving duo of any Ivy squad. He's knocked over more people than most, and won almost all the time.

Different Kind of Star

But Curtin not only catches passes well, he is introspective and intellectual. He's a different kind of football star. He'd just as soon talk about the meter of a poem as the yard on a football field. His copy of Yeats' Collected Poems every bit as important to him as Coach Joe Restic's playbook.


"I'm suspicious of people who say that football is 'good for the boy' or that it 'inspires patriotism'," says Curtin. "Sports are basically meaningless in themselves." "I'm glad that the Harvard student body shows a healthy skepticism towards athletes," he added. "Down at Princeton last weekend, there were 'Beat Harvard' signs everywhere. It would be nice if people acted that way around here, but I'm not sure that it's really right."

But a man who has played football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse at Harvard must find some significant value in sports.

"Sports are a lot of fun," he says. "They give you an opportunity to test yourself. A football game is a test of strength, endurance, mental preparation, and will."

"And I like the guys a lot. I'm different from most of the people on the team, though. There's a group of guys who form the center of the team. They accept me, but I wonder if they would be so ready to accept me if I wasn't first string," he says.

Football for Curtin is a personal experience. "The crowd's not important to me. I'd enjoy it just as much if we went out there in two weeks and played Yale in front of six people. It would still be a great game," he said.

The introspective Curtin questions his own motives for playing the game at all. "I suppose that part of the reason I enjoy sports is that I've usually succeeded. It probably wouldn't be fun to test yourself like this if you lost every time."

This year has been a bit of a disappointment for Curtin. In a pre-season scrimmage against Brown, he tore a tendon in his right hand and was sidelined for the first six weeks of the season.

87 Yards Against Tigers

But in his first time out, Curtin caught seven passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns last week against Princeton. Coach Restic didn't name him "Player of the Week."

"That's okay. Milt (Holt) got the award, and he played a fantastic game. I got a real feeling of accomplishment out of scoring two touchdowns, so I'm satisfied. Milt deserves it."

Curtin has only two games left in his Harvard career, and he wants to make the most of them. His hard luck followed him to Princeton last week, and he slightly injured his shoulder.

He didn't practice yesterday, but he went down to watch the team work out. As he left his room in Mather House for the stadium, Curtin threw a book of Yeats into a denim satchel.