This is the space in the paper in which you are usually amazed by my sense of wit and humor. And in the coming weeks, that shall continue (okay, okay, if you need your comedy fix, look no further than Nate Newton, former offensive lineman of the Dallas Cowboys, who was arrested with 213 POUNDS of marijuana last week. In a press release, a calm Newton said that he was simply making his weekly delivery to Afroman. No wonder Nate can’t control his weight. Dude has the Munchies 24/7). But for now, let me take this opportunity to throw in my two cents on a rather serious issue.
Over the past couple of years, athletics has been the subject of a great debate at our school. Do we place too much emphasis upon athletics? Do athletes unfairly get admitted for their athletic ability when they otherwise wouldn’t? Do athletes “dominate” the school? I will admit that I am not qualified to fully answer these questions, but I will say this: It simply doesn’t get any better than Saturday afternoon at Weston Field.
In case you passed out by halftime, the resilient Ephs capped off a perfect season by erasing a 10-point halftime deficit and defeating the Lord Jeffs of Amherst in overtime, 23-20. The atmosphere was electric as students, alumni, parents, friends and family rushed the field immediately after the winning touchdown. This is what athletics are all about. This is the good stuff.
Sure, the reality of the situation is that we are all here, first and foremost, to receive a first-rate education. And athletics are certainly no more important than classes. But what makes athletics special is that they provide an opportunity that cannot be matched in the classroom. I like reading Wordsworth’s poetry as much as the next guy, but you learn more about yourself, more about life, in those two hours in the gym, on the field, on the rink or track, than you do in any class. And I don’t think I am naÃ¯ve to assert that, in many ways, these are the lessons that truly matter.
In this sense, athletics are co-curricular, not extra-curricular. Any athlete will tell you that their given sport is more demanding (and rewarding) than the hardest of their classes. What class can you take in which you meet every day for two hours for four to five months a year for four years? That class does not exist. Don’t get me wrong, classes provide wonderful opportunities for extremely positive experiences, but they can’t replicate what happened on Saturday.
Saturday afternoon was an experience unlike any experience in the classroom. And sure, it is nice to win, but losing, fortunately for the lowly Lord Jeffs, does not diminish the experience. The beauty of Saturday lies in its inherent wholeness, the completion of a journey that started several months ago.
And this experience does not end with the players. Anyone who rushed that field felt an enormous amount of pride, a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves. You could see it in their faces.
Saturday was special. No one wanted to leave the field. Not family or friends, not athletes or non-athletes. Not when all of the hugs and congratulations had been extended. Not when it started to get really cold. People wanted to savor the moment, make it last as long as possible, and who could blame them? It was a good time to be an Eph.
I had the pleasure of watching a good portion of the game standing next to Mr. Fontes, father of captain Dave Fontes ’02, who was playing the game with a cast that rendered his left arm virtually useless. As he urged the Ephs on, there was a distinct, passionate look on his face â€“ a look I will never forget. He knew that this was the last time he would be watching his son play organized football, and I’ll be damned if there was a prouder person in the stands. It was like kissing your girlfriend goodbye for the last time. You hate to see her go, but you slowly come to the realization that, no matter what, the one thing no one will be able to take from you is the memories you have formed.
Yeah, Mr. Fontes was proud that his son had a good career, that he was a captain. But more than anything, he was proud of the experience football has given his son, of the opportunities athletics have provided. It was a special moment. It was the good stuff.