FROM THE EDITOR
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From the Editor
That Old Sportin’ Life
The traditional approach to sports at Reed was to shun them at all costs.
At least, that’s one way of looking at it. For almost a century, Reed was renowned for a studious disregard for athletic competition. Our first president, William Trufant Foster, inveighed against the “three great vices” of higher education: football, fraternities and frivolity. Students earned PE credit for raking leaves. When the football team of ’57 scored the first touchdown of the season, it was actually booed. Something about the obsession with winning, the pom-pom jubilation, the existential pointlessness of chasing a ball around a field, just seemed to rub Reedies the wrong way.
This was certainly true for me. A classic geek in high school, I was proudly allergic to sports when I arrived at Reed. I clung to my cackhandedness in spite of the valiant efforts of Jerry Barta [coach, 1956–88] who used to drive me and other hopeless cases to a bowling alley in Sellwood, where we heaved gutter balls at the imperious pins for a frame or two before recovering from our exertions with beer and Marlboros.
But this image of sports at Reed is a caricature at best. Almost from its founding, the college imposed a graduation requirement of six quarters of PE. (And the registrar brooks no tomfoolery on this, as scofflaws find to their regret.)
More to the point, Reed boasts an incredible (if unorthodox) athletic tradition. The legends of rugby—particularly women’s rugby—could fill an entire volume. Crew. Baseball. March Madness. Renn Fayre Softball. Juggling. Ultimate Frisbee. The Ski Cabin. In one form or another, sports are deeply woven into the fabric of our history, albeit not always in their conventional forms. (We skip lightly over naked croquet.)
In fact, students today are more involved in athletics at Reed than ever before (see Finding Balance), and surely this is a good thing. After all, there’s a lot more to sports than winning. Sports teach us discipline, preparation, teamwork, and—if we’re lucky enough to have a coach like Jerry—grace. They strengthen the body, sharpen the focus, and revive the spirit. It was the singleminded obsession with sports, rather than sports themselves, that Foster objected to. And we now have scientific evidence to support what Juvenal knew all along, that the foundation of a productive life is a sound mind in a healthy body.
It took me many years to figure this out—I am glad today’s students are getting nudges, gentle and otherwise, in the same direction.
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