« PreviousContinue »
THOUGHTS SUGGESTED BY THE EVENTS OF THE LAST
BY ALSTON ELLIS.
We are a pleasure seeking people, and in the chase for what we call happiness, are restive under wholesome restraint and do not like to have any duty held up before us as an admonition to a change of policy. We read the poet's statement that happiness is our being's end and aim, and devote too much time in grasping whatever goes before, evading our outstretched hand and luring us on into the paths of idleness and, mayhap, moral degradation. If a man is known by the company he keeps, he can also be guaged, morally, by the pleasures he seeks. Life must have some periods of recreation, some surcease from toil, anxiety, and nervous strain. It matters much, however, to one's moral well-being, how the mind is trained to view and define pleasure. The popular idea of pleasure is frequently connected with acts that smack of moral delinquency. Some can have no real zest for a pleasure that is found wholly without the domain of sin. Our children are left unaided by their elders in
the selection of their amusements and sports. Youthful excesses are winked at and excused by the plea that boys will be boys. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, we are told. Yes, and all play and no work makes Jack a fool. Rightly to blend mental and physical effort, on the part of the young, seems, in the light of events, to be a problem incapable of solution. There are pleasures that are universally recognized to be harmless and innocent, but our young people are not induced by their home and school training to seek and find therein the wholesome bodily recreation which their animality craves. The harmful sports, apparently because they are such, make the strongest appeal to the animal part of life, and the young are permitted to rush headlong into them with the approval of their elders, or but a mild protest from that quarter. The harmful sports are those that incite to idleness, those that demoralize and brutalize, and those that are secured and enjoyed at the expense of other peo
ple's just rights.
Of these the game of football, as it is practiced to-day, easily holds first rank. Basket ball comes as a good second. These are the college games that demoralize educational effort and loosen the moral fiber of those who participate in them. To excuse them under the plea that they afford proper physical development, is to war against sense and set at naught the teachings of experience. Five deaths within a month, on the "gridiron”, is not a strong argument in favor of the physical development theory under which football practices are winked at. The list of the wounded is not given. The sporting club is the idler's heaven. The sporting tendency is at war with habits of economy and industry. If "manliness" is cultivated in the contests of brute strength, we are in sore need of a new definition of the term. Thomas Hughes wrote a helpful book on “The Manliness of Christ." Comment is unnecessary. The athletic club brings into college life that which wrecks just and necessary discipline and fathers sports that promote indecency, brutality, and cruelty. The members of the football team will not hesitate to stand in the presence of one another with naked bodies. When they put off their clothes they divest themselves of all sense of modesty and propriety. A selfrespecting man would be reluctant to show his naked body to a community of prairie dogs. These young men are kept in college at great pecuniary sacrifice to their parents, and any just recognition of what they owe to those at home would impel them to make the most of the opportunities which surround them. If there is abuse here, public sentiment, rather than law, must apply the remedy. It is more important that public sentiment should frown down football than that law should prohibit it.
The press is a strong molder of public sentiment, but it is also a moneymaking agency. It will not always educate aright, if it must do so at a pecuniary loss. There is hope, however, in the reflection that a newspaper will rarely put itself in the way of a strong, resolute, righteous tide of public sentiment.
The football enthusiasts have filled the columns of the press with reports of games and pictures of participants. Yielding to what was supposed to be a strong demand, from a not inconsiderable part of the reading public, newspaper managers have devoted more and more space to reports of football exploits; but, even in so doing, they have recognized the eternal fitness of things by placing these reports in the columns given up to news of the prize rings, race course, and other events so keenly enjoyed by those who inhabit the "sporting world."
There is a manifest tendency on the part of parents and others interested to look more closely into the morale of the football craze. The noisy acclaim from certain quarters, which greets the feats of the athlete on the "gridiron” does not make inaudible that voice of warning that is reaching, with effect, the ears of sensible people. An earnest protest against the dangerous and brutal concomitants of the game, is met by an editorial in one of our papers, in which it is stated that "just now there seems to be a certain milk and water condemnation of football.” That "milk and water” is becoming stronger, and football advocates have been forced within a defensive line that is daily contracting in length and dwindling in height.
It is quoted that some one said long ago that England's battles were won on the playgrounds of Eton and Harrow. Then follows the invincible logic that our battles must be won on the "grid
iron." The time when brute force de- called athletics. He becomes manly by cided battles has gone by. A boy, neglecting duty and spending unprofitarmed with a repeating rifle, could stand ably the money his old gray-haired his ground unscathed against the onset mother earned for his college support of Achilles and Hector combined. It over the washtub and ironing board or was not much effort for David to slay by taking service as nurse or domestic Goliath. The mightiest pullback, hold- in some neighbor's family. The "unback, or catchback of the football team, expected that happens” generally has with all his budding honors thick upon its origin in reasonableness. The one him, with bandaged limbs and bathed in mind, as this account is given, sealed in arnica, would be no match, physic- his devotion to sport, not by the sacrially, for a reasonably strong and agile fice of life, but by the fracture of two foe. Besides, it must not be forgotten ribs, and was carried to his room where that he is thrice armed who has his he lay three weeks without attending quarrel just; and there is not much jus- a college exercise. His mother from tice, manliness, or decency in the aver- the steams of the washtub hastened to age football conglomeration.
his bedside. I looked at her wrinkled, The only way to give promise of do- tcar-stained face and heard her say with ing great things hereafter is to begin choked utterance, “Doctor, I'd do anythe performance of something worthy thing for him." What sacrifice, think now. Fulfillment does not always step you, would her son the long-haired close enough to the footprints of prom- exponent of football and a believer in ise. The young man who neglects his "gridiron" ethics make for the college duties for the "constant practice”, warm-hearted, devoted, self-sacrificing the “incessant practice”, required of a being who gave him existence and member of the football team is not the watched
his helpless infancy? one who can be relied on to fight his "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it country's battles when duty calls him is to have a thankless child!” A deto her defence. The student who knows voted sister secures a position in the naught of filial obedience and respect, public schools and sets apart half her is not likely to make patriotic sacrifices earnings to the college support of her for the public good, or show himself a brother. With the rest of her salary respecter of lawful authority, hereafter. she supports herself and her widowed "As the twig is bent, the tree's in- mother. For more than two years that clined." The thoughtless, selfish fel- brother has frittered away time and low who uses his parents' money, ob- money at college. In the front of the tained by the sweat of their faces, not football team and at the tail of his in making the most of the educational class, he is cultivating the manliness opportunities about him, but in foster- that seems inseparably connected with ing a sporting spirit that is the pro- certain phases of college athletics. moter of idleness and lawlessness and These are not isolated or exaggerated at war with all noble and generous im- instances of the effects of the game of pulses is giving no evidence of future football in demoralizing college work service to those of his own household, and loosening the moral fiber of stuto struggling humanity within his dents. Devotion to the game is reach, or to the state in her time of trial indication of lessened interest in legiti
mate college work. Lawless tendenA student fails in class standing, ow- cies, easily suppressed before, become ing to his senseless devotion to so- active and unblushing under the "col
lege spirit awakened by the organiza- ever reluctant he may be to give testition of an athletic association and the mony. The thought of many students nondescript uniforming of a football is centered more in the doings of the team. The library reading ceases al- football team than in their lessons. The together or degenerates into a revel in coming contest is the chief topic of the sporting columns of the newspa- conversation in college halls, and it pers, spiced with admiring study of the takes a week of animated talk to exbrutalized countenances of distin- plain the cause of a defeat. The games guished sports and toughs. The work succeed each other in rapid succession. of the college literary societies "One woe doth tread upon another's which is, at least, of equal importance heel so fast they follow.” The excitewith any one line of scheduled college ment incident to one contest has not exercises is given but little attention, subsided when another event of still the sporting tendency deadening all in- more absorbing interest is announced. terest in forensic exercises. The college So it goes on, from term to term, paper, the exponent of student life and throughout the college year, and the thought, holds existence by a slender cost is seen in neglected opportunity, and constantly weakening thread. The poor scholarship, idle propensity, and reader looks in vain for thought-sug- a low ideal of attainment and duty. gesting contributions but is confronted The game of football is not without with columns of sporting news, re- its worthy apologists worthy, at ported in bad English and bristling least, in that their high positions in sowith terms and phrases that suggest ciety or public service give force to plagairism from "the thieves' lingo.” statements which from other sources
The athletic association, which, un- would be laughed to scorn. Some der proper organization and control, noted heads of colleges and universimight do so much for the physical well- ties damn football with faint praise; being of the whole student body, is others more boldly range themselves dominated by a few restless, lawless under the banner carried by the spirits in whom the animal propensi- “bruisers” and “rooters” that take posties are thoroughly developed, and its session of the "gridiron” and its enadvantages - if under existing condi- vironment. Public officials turn their tions it can be said to have any
backs on official duty and dignity to monopolized by just those persons who, enjoy a sport whose brutal features physically, have least need of them. A ought to be as obnoxious to them as select few, chosen for their capacity to the contests of the prize ring or the exert brute force, represent the ath- sickening scenes of the arena in a bull letic association in the only sport or fight tournament. A President finds exercise for which thought is exerted relaxation from official responsibility or provision made, and the other mem- in witnessing, under proper chaperonbers of the organization are crowded age, an unusually exciting and closely into the ranks of the “rooters”, with contested football game in Cincinnati. privilege to pay expenses and cheer the A prospective candidate for that high contestants with spirited howls and in- office dons a “sweater" and evokes cessant clamor.
tumultuous applause from "the boys”, by That legitimate college work can go giving the "pigskin” a vigorous kick on properly under such conditions is as the opening act of a game which impossible, and the fact is well known was but another advance in the work to every educator of experience, how- of demoralizing college life. How pub
lic men, with respectable antecedents, misnomer - between teams representwill lower their dignity in the hope of ing Baldwin University and Heidelberg spreading political sails before a favor- University, the one at Berea, the other ing breeze! Said a well-known politi- at Tiffin, Ohio. I quote some sentencian and office-holder: “If the risk of ces from a report whose reading would football can be lessened, I would favor glut as insatiate an appetite for blood it , but in any event I believe in foot and bruises as that of the chancellor of ball.” The amount of faith some peo- Syracuse University. Evidently the ple can have, on occasion, in ignoble “general epidemic of reform", which things is one of the marvels of the the chancellor-clergyman looks upon times. The only response that comes with such misgiving is not strongly in back to the mild suggestion of the pop- evidence in northern Ohio. "Capt. ularity-courting college presidents and Reed, of Keene, Ohio, has concussion public officials that the football game of the brain and is still unconscious. be freed from some of its brutality and Fullback Young, coach for Baldwin, is danger, is the reply, curt and to the suffering from injuries to the head and point: "The rules are not in need of is still delirious. The Baldwin men modification: they are now practically claim that the Tiffin team put in a perfect."
‘ringer' on the second half, who, after What are an old mother's tears, a sis- throwing Reed down jumped upon his ter's fond hopes, or human lives, to head. He repeated the performance in "sports” in search of manliness or poli- the case of Young. Reed remained unticians in quest of office? Thistle or conscious and was carried to the train eider down sifted gently on a
in that condition. After a search of dile's back would make more impress several hours, Young was found wanthan the entreaties of mothers and sis- dering about in an alley and taken to ters upon the brutal natures of profes- a hospital.” sional sports or the cool, calculating In view of such events is it strange dispositions of the average place that President Elliott of Harvard, in his seekers.
approval of football as an agency for Rev. Dr. James R. Day, a Methodist developing “manliness”, should modclergyman, and chancellor of Syracuse ify his usual transports by using the University, New York, approves of the following language? "Everybody can "gridiron” because "a man who goes not play football. (Evidently not, withthrough a season of being trodden up- out the design is to give the surgeon, on and knocked down deserves fairly a the coroner, or the undertaker diploma in the art of self-control.” all combined a fast-increasing and Sometimes the diploma takes the form lucrative business.) It is only the of a funeral notice. The fortitude of strong and well-built men who can exsome people in bearing the knock- pect to play the game with any degree downs and drag-outs of others, is, at of success.” times, very touching.
Such a statement smacks of truth and In the next column to that in which gives the lie to the assertion that footthe Rev. Dr. expresses his willingness ball exercises, in educational instituto see college students "developed" by tions, is needed to invigorate the physgames that contain "necessary ele- ical organism of students whom overments of roughness and danger" we attention to study is hurrying to prefind an account of a football contest mature graves. the word game in such connection is a An excerpt from a report of a