The difference can't be seen in statistics or words. It can only be seen during the game. Take the "Final Four" of the basketball series, played down at the Malkin Athletic Center, a.k.a. the MAC. The players bound up and down the court, sweat rolling down their faces. The fans stand on the sides. Their incessant screaming and cheering is interrupted only when a basket is made, at which point they wave their fists and bark in unison like dogs.
Sweat rolls down the players' backs onto their jerseys, which bear nicknames like "Slime," "Spuds," or "Schooner." Inside the Harvard seal is printed a "KICK ASS" instead of the normal "VE RI TAS". The game--intramural basketball; and the spirit--pure freshman.
Upperclassmen viewing the scene shake their heads in wonder, for they remember freshman intramurals quite differently. Empty courts, with teams just barely making the required number of players. Teams winning by forfeits rather than skill. No fans. No jerseys. No spirit.
No Keith Light. Light, a freshman proctor, has invigorated the freshman intramural program in the past two years since he took over the program, adding new life to the traditionally lackluster league. Light has used a many-pronged approach to inject excitement, enthusiasm and exercise into the frosh program.
Upperclassmen who were involved with the program when they were freshmen and have remained as referees, marvel at the changes. "I could never get anybody to play anything," recalls Jill M. Goodstein '89, a former intramural representative. But this year, she says, participation is "widespread."
Lawrence F. Levin '89, a former participant and referee, says, "There are people who don't play but come to cheer for their friends. That was unheard of when I was a freshman."
And that is only the half of it. In the last two years, participation has increased substantially, Light says. "Every single dorm has had participation, and almost every entry has," he says. Light estimates that one-third to one-half of freshmen have joined in on at least one game. "We're hoping to increase that," the Canaday D proctor says.
Several proctors have started competing, as well as Dean of Freshmen Henry C. Moses, who raced in the Charles River Run. Jokes Light, "He finished first in the Deans' Division."
Light has restructured the program in the past few years, changing the composition of teams, creating a new basketball program, and modifying the touch football program. He has increased publicity, broadened the range of sports and introduced some creative "incentives to participate." And from most reports, these innovations have injected new life into the program.
For one thing, as the number of participants has been increasing, the number of forfeits has been declining. "There have been a few, but they have been drastically reduced. Last year there were even fewer," Light says.
In an attempt to encourage participation, Light has started posting results and games in the Freshman Union, as well as advertising games in the Yard Bulletin. Andrew R. Barnard '89, who oversees the referee program, says that the present program "is much more organized and publicized" than the one he played in two years ago. Barnard says the Union bulletin board alone "makes people a lot more excited."
Light has also introduced what he calls "other incentives to participate." For the first time, freshmen can choose a nickname for their teams. And from the looks of it, some dorms spend more time thinking of a creative name than practicing. The sporting monikers include the Holworthy East Dudemeisters, the Matthews South Funk Inspectors, the Grays Middle Wine and Cheese, the Holworthy We-Bads, the Thayer North Pretty Maids and, of course, the Mower Lawn Mowers.
Free uniforms in the form of t-shirts also encourage participation. Dorms can submit original T-shirt designs for their teams and Light will fund and provide the jerseys as soon as possible.
"We had more fun with our name and drawing up the T-shirt than we do with losing," says Canaday C intramural representative Craig Katz '91.
Light has also attempted to increase participation by moving games from weekdays to Fridays and Sundays and abandoning the "razzle-dazzle" house intramural rules, which allow multiple passes per down. As Coley B. Bullesfeld '89 describes it, house football is more like "Ultimate Football", while freshman intramurals are more like real football.