My feet are ticklish.
This is not a sentence I expected to write in the nation’s Oldest College Daily. Then again, nor did I expect to slide my tingling bare feet across a sudsy tarp in my college courtyard — until, with the sun pouring onto the Hopper quad on Sunday afternoon, it just seemed irresistible.
The occasion, of course, was broomball. As an intramural sport, broomball falls in the winter season, played on the ice of Ingalls Rink. As a lifestyle, broomball is a year-round endeavor.
In its traditional form, the sport involves risk-seeking college students sliding across the ice in sneakers batting a small ball around with paddles towards goals in a loose mimicry of hockey. In Sunday’s iteration, broomball meant dumping a 5-gallon bucket of water (filled up at a first-floor shower) and dish soap onto a tarp and whacking a ball with duck-taped Swiffers. The result was little friction and much fun — and a bizarre sensation on my feet.
It may sound like a ridiculous proposition to run (if you call it running) around with cleaning supplies. It was indeed ridiculous. It was even more ridiculous to be involved in the special trip to Home Depot to purchase the equipment for the jerry-rigged ice rink. But intramurals are upon us, and this felt like an appropriate inauguration.
Four years ago, I would have been surprised that I would be thinking about intramurals at all. As I showed up to sparsely attended games in my first weeks of college, many of which ended in forfeit, demoralization set in quickly. My college — soon to be renamed Grace Hopper — had the enthusiasm for intramurals of a Monday morning section.
Our college was notoriously bad at intramurals, so much so that the front page of this paper ran a story titled “Uncertain future for Hopper IMs” speculating whether “the change in the namesake of their residential college” was a “chance to reverse its historically low performance in intramural sports.” I saved the article for its sheer preposterousness.
In retrospect, it was prescient. The name change, of course, did not spark renewed participation, but the people and student leadership of Hopper did. It took the sort of crazed commitment that caused someone to buy a tarp and throw dish soap on it to effect the transformation.
To be clear, I am not talking about myself; I only rode in the passenger seat and helped fill the bucket with water. But I think there is something to glean from Hopper’s rise from the cellar of the Tyng Cup standings to last year’s second-place finish.
As the famous line from “Field of Dreams” goes, “if you build it, they will come.” Even if “it” is a warm-weather ice rink. Culture changes happen fast with so much turnover each year. The Calhoun I entered four years ago is unrecognizable in many ways to the Hopper I will graduate from next May. It took just two other people to turn a tableau of two strange seniors into a spirited game of two-on-two, which became a game of three-on-three.
For all of Kevin Costner’s glory, I think the first half of his conditional phrase gets undue attention. All of our lives, we have been encouraged and rewarded for “building it”: starting clubs, making websites, writing papers, doing research — whatever it is that made you stick out to the admissions folks on Hillhouse Avenue. There is much value, I contend, in the other half of the Field of Dreams mantra: coming.
Believe it or not, I have written about broomball before in these hallowed pages, and I harped on “Showing Up” in that column, too. We do not all have to hop in a car to go to Home Depot or spend our free time calculating just how many points in the standings are needed to vault ahead in the Tyng cup; Yale actually pays people to do those things. But we forfeit a unique opportunity when we stay on the sidelines.
For seniors on the brink of feeling washed up, take a leap of faith into soapy water. For fresh-faced first years, baptize yourselves in the rejuvenating bath of casual competition. For those in between: Make the choice to come.
Perhaps sports don’t do it for you, but we can all adopt the broomball lifestyle. When life gives you Swiffers, turn them into hockey sticks. Whatever you do, don’t let ticklish feet stop you.
Steven Rome | firstname.lastname@example.org