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I was in the first grade. It was the biggest game of the year, especially for a Miami sports fan: Monday Night Football at the Orange Bowl, featuring the Miami Dolphins versus the Chicago Bears.
The Fins were trying to defend their perfect ’72 season against the undefeated Bears. In a most exciting and rowdy showdown, Miami handed Chicago its first and only loss of the season. But, I never got to see the game. It was a school night.
And while first grade is nothing more than a blur to me now, if even that, I have not ever forgotten about that game. It will always remain a sore spot in my family.
Although the analogy is far from perfect, I do think the basic premise is very much similar to what happens here at Harvard. Unfortunately, the priorities of school create an ongoing “school night,” which keeps students from attending sporting events. And after four years of observing this, I felt the need to write my first and only column, in hopes of correctly, or at least alleviating, this terrible loss.
While I am not extremely opinionated on sports, except when it comes to Dan Marino’s place as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, I find myself very upset by the lack of attention and respect Harvard (both students and the administration) gives to athletics. And so I offer the following observations and advice.
While I certainly hope your college years are not a blur, I can guarantee that the paper, test or problem set that keeps you in today will be long forgotten tomorrow.
The few hours you spend watching a football game (other than Harvard-Yale) or tennis tournament will not lead to your academic downfall (and let’s be honest—you never end up writing that paper or doing that problem set when you plan anyway). However, what you will remember and regret is missing out on what I think is one of the best things about Harvard—the passion of your peers.
In four years, if there is one thing I am grateful that Harvard has given me, it is the privilege of watching this passion. I am humbled by this passion and incredibly inspired by it. And such is perhaps why I am so amazed by Harvard athletes, whose passion leads to countless hours of practice, competing and travelling for their sport, while still balancing the rigorous academics of this school.
It is a passion that has much less to do with the triumphant wins and heartbreaking losses, than with the commitment, determination and love of sport which these athletes show every day, all year round.
I have seen this passion every morning when I see the swim team or crew team eating breakfast after insanely early practices.
I see it later those same days, when these teams are again in the dining hall following afternoon practice.
I have seen it in the football players, who were back in Cambridge for preseason while I was still finishing summer classes.
I have seen it passing by the wrestling room door, propped open all hours of the day, seven days a week.
I have seen it in South Florida, where the baseball team played during everyone else’s spring break.
I have seen it in the football player who came dressed in wrestling attire to cheer on our grapplers; or in the wrestlers who spelled out H-A-R-V-A-R-D at the football games.
I have seen it in a road trip to Penn and Princeton, where our basketball team gave the powerhouses a run for their money.
I have seen it in the Olympic and professional performances of several Harvard athletes.
The list just goes on and on. It would be impossible to mention all the individuals and teams that have so admirably displayed this passion over my time here. Yet, I do want to take this opportunity to say how fun and inspiring it has been to watch them all.
And to the seniors, who have devoted so much of themselves to their sport and their teams, I salute you. And I hope that wherever life takes you upon graduation, you hold on to that passion. For in the end, that’s what life is all about.
As for the rest of the Harvard community, I urge you to embrace Harvard athletics.
Go cheer on your roommates and friends, and see what they spend so many hours of their days preparing for.
The passion you see on the field, on the mats, on the courts, on the diamond, on the rink or in the pool is probably one of the greatest things this school has to offer.
Don’t miss it because it’s a school night.
Go because it’s what your school is all about.
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