It’s late on a Tuesday night, and there are hordes of students arrayed in colorful attire across campus, chanting and singing various catchy tunes – and they all seem to be streaming in the same direction. “What’s this?” you might ask. “A party that Security hasn’t broken up yet?” But no, these first-years and upperclassmen are banding together with their respective entries, athletic teams and friends to take part in a long-standing Winter Study tradition: broomball!
While some maintain that broomball was invented here in the Purple Bubble, its history is actually quite lengthy and storied. It originated in none other than our frosty northern neighbor, Canada. In fact, the plethora of historians concerning themselves with the study of broomball speculate that travelers from Iceland brought broomball to the mainland around the 10th century, when it was a type of warfare between neighboring villages that could often result in fatalities during play.
Some would argue that this intensity of ancient days is rivaled today by Eph tourneys, which Schuyler Hall ’10 and Dominique Rodriguez ’12 oversee. “The game is only 20 minutes long, so it seems a shame to stop the game for any reason. So you pretty much let everything go, that’s what I do,” Rodriguez said. For the inquisitive, “letting everything go” entails turning a blind eye to minor rule breaking such as light body-checks, kicking the ball or goalies returning the ball with an over-hand toss.
However, sometimes the fun and games get a little too rambunctious: Injuries have been known to occur during our beloved broomball season. “We’ve had one person break their wrist and a bunch of sprains,” Hall said – as of Friday, that is. “A lot of people just don’t know how to fall, so you put that with speed and potential drunkenness, and bad things happen.” Rodriguez quipped, “Being drunk is the worst way to play broomball.”
Agility on the ice is a tactic that not only victory-hungry first-years, but also seasoned upperclassmen should employ for success. A motley assortment of twenty squads, the upperclassmen broomball league is made up of athletic teams such as men’s lacrosse and crew, as well as student groups such as Williams Catholic (who epically battled the Men’s rugby team last week, resulting in a tie) and the Williams Christian Fellowship. This rich cross-section of students competes in very much the same way as first-years, with a four-bracket, five-team per-bracket tournament.
For those upperclassmen who aren’t privileged to be in the upperclassmen broomball league and a bit fuzzy on broomball technicalities, the first-year tournament consists of teams from each entry competing in preliminary games in their residence hall, with winning teams moving on to play for the freshman title.
Structure notwithstanding, the stakes for the the first-year and upperclass leagues differ dramatically: While the victorious upperclassmen team will win one piece of equipment that was broken during the tournament and T-shirts, first-years stand to gain not just $150 for their entry funds – but also eternal glory.
Accordingly, first-year pregame rituals and team motivation are crucial parts of broomball. Chris Picardo ’13 of Sage A revealed a few words of wisdom about broomball and his entry’s tactics. “We jump around in a circle, chant ‘Rage A’ and generally intimidate all other entries,” he said.
A team uniform is also a staple of first-year success in the tournament, according to Picardo, as he showed off Sage A’s broomball uniform, a bright yellow t-shirt that says “Powerbottoms: generating most of the power since 1793” above a graphic of a burly bear. “The Powerbottoms mascot is a reference to our coming-from-behind, as underdogs, you know,” Picardo said. What are his team’s aspirations? “Victory. I mean, I don’t think Tim is going to be happy unless we win it all. And everyone knows you don’t want to get in the way of an angry Tim Lengel,” Picardo said, referring to Sage A’s Junior Advisor (JA) Tim Lengel ’11.
Team spirit also plays a large role in motivating first-year teams, as Willy E JA Will Harron ’11 pointed out. “I don’t know exactly what it is that gives them their spirit, which animates them as we go into each game,” Harron said. “All I know is that it’s a potent combination of entry spirit and the great fun of winter study, the ability to go out there and go crazy for a night on the ice.” Harron does not agree with Picardo on the topic of team uniforms. “It’s not the clothes that make the team. It’s the spirit and the playing ability, and we’ve got both of those,” he said. “Needless to say, we’re winning.”
In the end, the true winners in broomball are those who experience the game themselves, hopefully having a bit of fun in the process. When asked why he volunteered his time again to organize the tournament, Hall gave a warming response. “I wanted to ensure it was successful because it’s such an important part of the freshman experience, and because a lot of upperclassmen enjoy it also,” he said. Of course, team chants, uniforms and rivalries are important too.