Every Wednesday during football season, the Williams College Sideline Quarterback Club meets for lunch at the Log. The club, which first met on Sept. 29, 1948 during the 66th year of football at the College, is one of the nation’s oldest football booster clubs. According to the club’s website, its mission “has always been to provide continued support of the Williams football program, encourage an enjoyable relationship among members and contribute to scholarships of direct benefit to deserving athletes from the area attending Williams.” The club works toward this goal by selling $135 memberships, which entitle members to the weekly lunch at the Log, “support the Club’s scholarship efforts and cover the cost of one player’s ticket to the annual team banquet.”
The lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. until no later than 1:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. Many of the members are local shop owners, so the meetings intentionally do not run too long. I arrived this past Wednesday at 11:20 a.m. and was let in for free when I mentioned I was from the Record, even though there is normally a $12 guest fee. The dining room quickly filled and friendly conversation buzzed. Conversations among the mostly septuagenarian crowd of alumni, professors and townspeople consisted of excited chatter about the upcoming basketball season, the ubiquitous, “How are your grandkids doing?” and of course, analysis of the football team.
At noon, club president and former Head Coach of Men’s Lacrosse Renzie Lamb stood up and shouted, “Sit down, I’m startin’!” After a brief introduction, Lamb called for the introduction of guests, which was followed by the saying of grace. In the early days of the club, a minister spoke at each meeting, but the club no longer has a minister, so grace is read from one of the club’s most important artifacts: the Sinclair Hart ’44 prayer book. Lamb acknowledges that grace is a little antiquated, but that “for this group, for this generation, grace is where it is.” This was the Class of 2014’s luncheon – all of the seniors on the football team were invited (14 of 18 attended) – so the traditional “A Prayer for Seniors” was read. President Falk was also in attendance and gave a brief speech in which he highlighted how proud he was of the men’s Nov. 2 effort against Wesleyan (a 16-14 Cardinals’ victory). A NESCAC report was read after Falk spoke, which announced that punter and kicker Joe Mallock ’14 would be the first Eph of the season to be awarded NESCAC Player of the Week. Because this was the seniors’ luncheon, Lamb asked them all to speak “for the last time in front of the town and school,” which they all did, dutifully announcing their names and majors. Head Coach Aaron Kelton then conducted a quick Q-and-A before turning the meeting over to the board of directors.
The Sideline Quarterback Club has a very organized hierarchy. There are four officers (president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer) and 12 directors (divided into three groups), all of whom have two-year terms. Members of the board have different self-assigned tasks, such as organizing the tailgates or making signs. Lamb, who has been a club member since 1968, was elected president in 2007 and has ruled with an iron fist. In his time as president, there has only been one addition to the board. The people who run for positions on the board are, according to Lamb, “people I like.” (“Don’t think this is a democracy,” he jokingly warned.) At the meeting, the directors gave scouting reports of Amherst and Williams. Jim Parkinson, the team doctor and graduate of the Amherst class of 1967 gave his prediction of the game, as he does every year. This year, he forecasted “from my heart, 17-14 Williams” to much hollering and applause.
As the meeting neared its conclusion, I began to understand how important this club and this team who were at the Log that day. As Lamb said to me, “Your generation doesn’t do clubs … but the average age in here is, I’m saying 70 because they’re club people. They grew up with the fireplace and the leather chair.” Partly because of its location in such a small town, this club has become one of Williamstown’s most important institutions. The Club has also become a “good way to integrate students with the town … because that is what they want; they want more from the students,” according to Lamb.
Additionally, Williams football is a way of life for the members. Dick Quinn, who is from Williamstown but attended Holy Cross and now works for Sports Information, shared with me his knowledge of Williams-Amherst football games. He thoroughly recounted stories of many of the most exciting Williams-Amherst games: in 1989 there was “the greatest tackle ever made” and in 1997 he remembers promising, “if we win, I’ll jump naked out of the press box.” These games are more than just college students on a field to the members of the club.
At 1 p.m., the meeting ended with the collective recitation of the club poem: “If you want to be happy for an hour, get intoxicated; if you want to be happy for three days, get married; if you want to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it; if you want to be happy forever, beat Amherst.”