We’re all familiar with the glorious tales of our Ephs between the lines, dominating the NESCAC, conquering the Jeffs and stockpiling championships and Directors’ Cups. However, there’s a side to athletics that receives less coverage, a side that reveals the camaraderie of the team and the hilarity that ensues after too much time spent together on buses and in locker rooms.
Here we recount tales of harrowing travels, long nights beneath crumbling roofs of Motel 6s and the checkered past of a beloved stuffed animal named “T-bear.”
Isaac Nicholson ’11, former co-captain of the men’s track team wrote a blog about the team’s adventures over spring break last year in Santa Monica, Calif. “I started the blog as part of the expedition program hosted by the Alumni Office,” Nicholson said. “They do it every spring break for all types of groups—sports, a capella, etc.—so the alumni can keep track of the adventures of current Williams students. It ended up being a total blast.”
Nicholson’s blog includes stories about an extensive search for a five-pound burrito in downtown Los Angeles, meeting three-time Olympic sprint medalist Shawn Crawford and rubbing shoulders, or rather, sharing workout equipment, with Hollywood’s finest: “Just across the room wearing a black beanie and a gray hooded sweatshirt, with his earphones plugged in and not interested in anyone else is the G-Unit man himself, Mr. 50 Cent!” Nicholson wrote of the team’s workouts in Gold’s Gym.
While travel can be quite the adventure, for some teams, the destination provides more challenges. Elizabeth Dorr ’12, co-captain of the sailing team, explained that the team often has to procure its own accommodations.
She remembered a particularly frightening stay at Dartmouth last season. “We stayed in a basement room of a frat house that had no windows, only furniture hand built out of two-by-fours and a large Calvin and Hobbes mural on the wall,” Dorr said. Despite the alarming décor, Dorr’s greatest complaint about the arrangement concerned hygiene. “We didn’t find the bathroom there until early the next morning. It was brutal,” she said.
Accommodations are not necessarily nicer for varsity teams, as Emily Baratta ’14, a member of the volleyball team, attested. “Last year when we went to Hamilton we stayed at a very sketchy motel,” she said. “It was so gross that our assistant coach Joel Williams nicknamed it the ‘Murder Me Inn.’ It was a really creepy motel, with no elevator.”
After surviving the night, the team was prepared to escape to its game but was thwarted by antiquated transportation. “It was so cold that one of the van engines wouldn’t start,” Baratta said. “Luckily, the cross-country team had a jumper cable and started the van. After our game, the van wouldn’t start again. The football team was there, so one of their parents had to jump it. On the way back to campus, we wanted to get lunch but we knew if we turned the car off it wouldn’t start. So we all jumped out with the car still running, and our coach drove around in circles while we got food.”
While some teams have surprising adventures in their travels, other teams create mischief of their own. One such team is field hockey, which always has quite an interesting team photo. “Alix [Barrale ’93, head coach,] always likes us to try to dress like nerds, such as wearing our skirts too high with our shirts tucked in,” co-captain Margie Fulton ’12 said. “However, Kris Dufour will never let us get away with it. Some years he just doesn’t post the photo or makes us adjust our uniforms.”
“This year, Alix emailed us before the picture telling us to all wear glasses and act like it was normal, so that Kris wouldn’t catch us,” Fulton said. “Chris [Mason, assistant coach,] brought about seven pairs of extra glasses, including sunglasses for Alix’s son Asher.” While Dufour might have caught on, the photo made it online.
Men’s cross-country has also invited a host of capers from other teams with its beloved T-bear. In the 1970s, the men won a stuffed bear as a prize and the bear became “an unofficial mascot for the team,” according to Max Heninger ’14, a member of the team. “Early on, MIT decided to steal the bear to take our good luck from us,” Heninger said. “They put a ‘T’ on his chest, which gave him the nickname ‘T-bear’ and also started a tradition of other teams stealing the bear.”
Since that fateful theft, teams ranging from Amherst to Bowdoin have stolen the bear, usually leaving behind a patch or distinguishing mark on the bear. The team has made admirable efforts to protect T-bear over the years and has ultimately gone to great lengths to retrieve him when its protection inevitably fails. “One of our strongest efforts came against Wesleyan, I think around 2008,” Heninger said. “They made a ridiculous demand that they didn’t think we’d come through with, saying they would only return the bear if we produced a live cow.”
Undeterred by Wesleyan’s outrageous exaction and determined to protect T-bear’s honor, the men drove to Middleton, Conn., to rescue the stuffed animal. “We acquired a cow from a farmer through legitimate means, placed him in a pick-up truck and presented the cow to Wesleyan to bring T-bear back home,” Heninger boasted.
While the team has exhibited such devotion to T-bear’s security against other schools, its avid protection of the stuffed animal has also sparked shenanigans with the College’s Nordic ski team led, by Nordic skier Casey Jones ’13. “A friend and I decided that it would be funny to try to steal T-bear because the [cross-country team] get[s] pretty intense about it,” Jones said.
Jones and two other friends determined that T-bear was stored in the dorm of one of the team members. Equipped with a Maglite and dark clothing, they knocked on the runner’s door one night around one a.m., pretending to be one of his friends. “We opened the door and shined the Maglite in his face,” Jones said. “Then we tackled him and pinned him to his bed while we found the bear. When he saw me with the bear, he realized what was going on and started to panic.“
Jones and one of his accomplices sprinted from the room with T-bear and almost made it to safety when the third member of their party accidently led the runner to the room where they were hiding. “[The runner] called up the whole cross-country team, and they all showed up outside the building and circled it,” Jones said. “It was a hostage crisis. We considered throwing [T-bear] out the window, but they had the place circled. So we ran into this random guy’s room and hid it there for a couple hours.”
The cross-country team then posted threatening poems demanding the return of T-bear on the Nordic skiers’ doors. “We decided we had to counter, so we made a ransom video – it has a dance number in it,” Jones said. “We told them they had to shave their left eyebrows by the race [that weekend]. The race came, they didn’t shave their eyebrows off.”
Indeed, the cross-country team had other plans. While the Nordic skiers were running the 5k race as a team workout, the cross-country team stole T-bear back, and he remains in the team’s protective custody today.
Additional reporting by Lily Nienstedt and Anne Longobardo, Record staff