VAZQUEZ: Not your grandfather’s Bladderball

At around half-past four this Saturday a beloved tradition that was banned 29 years ago made a resurgence for the second time in the last three years: bladderball made a comeback. But unlike the hour-long game that brought traffic to a halt in fall 2009, the game lasted an underwhelming 11 minutes.

Bladderball, for the uninitiated, dates back to the 1950s, and is traditionally played after the Yale-Dartmouth game. It was banned in 1982 following numerous incidents in which students were injured, cars trampled and the Branford dining hall vandalized by a group of Saybrugians in 1976. The administration made a necessary decision because the game had in fact gotten out of control.

The bladderball of today is not the raucous mob of yesteryear. When a student fell or tripped, the group was conscientious enough to stop and help them back up. Yalies that were unyielding and set on taking back a piece of the ball to their respective college courtyards stopped when they saw that they were heading in the direction of traffic. Students carefully tried to keep the entire event fun without causing too much of a disturbance.

The administration attempted to quell any chance of the resurgence of the game, but it failed. The reappearance of bladderball and the defiance of close to 300 students who waited for about half an hour could be seen as a referendum on the part of Yalies to a decline in college-centered events and parties. Bladderball is but one of such casualties; another memorable one (or in the case of every class now enrolled at Yale, a forgotten one) is Casino Night, which was aptly replaced with Prohibition.

Another example: The newly imposed rules on tailgates at football games have led to citations and cast a general malaise over our bright college years. If this crackdown continues, it could result in the decline of an activity integral to the birthplace of American football.

Not all of the traditions of old have inherent value, but it is evident that bladderball is one that the student body is interested in maintaining; as a result, it should be worked out in a manner such that students, administrators and New Haven residents are all satisfied. As long as student interest exists, bladderball will endure.

Administrators, student representatives and city officials should begin a dialogue to create a new version of the game in which certain streets could be closed and precautions taken to ensure a fun, safe, officially recognized game.

But would this eliminate the spontaneity behind the game? In making it “official,” much of its chaotic appeal could be lost. The rules should always be determined by the student body. In order to avoid a situation like the gridlock that occurred two years ago on Elm Street, we must broker a middle ground.

Christian Vazquez is a junior in Branford College and a former Yale Daily News Production & Design editor. Contact him at christian.vazquez@yale.edu.

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