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As soon as he gracefully could—which, of course, was not until the season had ended—Arthur switched sports. "I decided to go out for something interesting," he says, "something that would help make a name for me in the college community. I decided it should be a specialized sort of sport, and I chose swimming." It was shortly after this decision that Arthur received the following letter from a girl—a different girl, one whom he had dated casually during the fall—whom I shall call Alice:
Arthur had had his second bitter taste of what it feels like to be a Down sportsman.
When spring came, Arthur made another decision—another disastrous one, as it turned out. He decided to take up golf. "Nobody told me that nobody plays golf," he says. "I was really out of things then. My morale was at its lowest ebb."
Reflecting recently on his unsuccessful freshman year, Arthur said, "My big mistake was in the winter term. Instead of swimming I should have tried something exciting, like skiing." In this remark, unfortunately, Arthur reveals himself to be a person who is strangely Down-sport-prone. Skiing, which was an Up sport once, is definitely a Down sport now. It is Down for Reason 3—too popular with too many people. The downward swing was signaled a few years ago when skiing buffs, in order to find room to ski, had to turn their backs to the wintry slopes of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and head west to places like Aspen, and the valleys Sun and Squaw. On eastern campuses the first small, sour looks at skiing as a sport were taken as recently as two years ago. Last year skiing plunged drastically out of fashion at several colleges. It even dropped somewhat at Dartmouth. This year it is predicted that the drop will be even more severe.
A more satisfactory winter sport for Arthur to have chosen would have been, oddly enough, wrestling. Wrestling, which by every rule should be a Down sport, is coming up. The reason for its climb appears to be that, unlike the television variety, college wrestling is supported by a small but extremely earnest and intense group of young men. It has its ardent devotees among the girls, too. "I always insist that my date take me to the wrestling matches!!!!" writes a Connecticut College for Women girl with a fondness for emphasis points and underscoring. "To me, it is an utterly fascinating sport, utterly mental!!! It's the only sport that involves me. It does to me what Tennessee Williams does to me in the theater!!!"
Now let us consider the career of Bradley B., a contemporary of Arthur A., who entered College Y at the same time—in the fall of last year. Bradley showed right off that he was Up-directed: during the fall term he went out for no sports at all. "I figured I would use that time," he says, "to get the lay of the land, and," he adds significantly, "to size things up." By the time the first snowflakes were in the air, however, he had decided, for his winter sport, "to play a little squash." In the manner of a true squash player, and the true Up sportsman, he speaks disparagingly of his prowess as a racquetman. "I did it mostly to keep in shape," he says with a shrug. In the spring, of course, he "played a little tennis" for the same reason. As Up sports, squash and tennis are extremely hard to beat. They have the breezy, casual air about them that is so important. They are suffused with an aura of easygoing good-fellowship and good manners. (As a North Shore Long Island lady has said, "I'm always delighted to throw the house open to the young men who come up to the club for Tennis Week—even if I don't know them. Of course, I'd hardly want to throw the house open to a group of golfers. That would be quite, quite different.") A member of Amherst's tennis squad has said, "The nice thing about the racket sports is they look easy to play but aren't; that keeps the duffers out of the game." Bradley B., in a thoughtful moment, said recently, "I would say tennis is a more important sport than squash. You play it in the spring, which is the most important time of year to make a good impression if you're looking for invitations to June coming-out parties."
A few years ago Bradley's counterpart might have become an oarsman for the college crew and have achieved the same level of Upness. Today, crew is an unwise choice. It is another of those sports that have been sliding down the Up list but in this case no one is quite sure why. The disintegration of the Yale-Harvard Regatta as a social event may be one reason. (What was a chic affair in the '20s has gradually turned into a general traffic jam that ties up all roadways, railways and riverways around New London, Conn. "Too many alumni have been getting into the act," explains a Yale senior.) Whatever the reason, crew is a good sport to shun for the time being, as Bradley B. was astute enough to realize. (At this writing, incidentally, Bradley B.'s future is assured. He is at present taking his time weighing a clutch of fraternity bids; he is the inamorata of all the best that Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Bennington, Sarah Lawrence and a couple of junior colleges have to offer; and he is "playing a little soccer to keep in shape for the Christmas parties.")
Another spring sport that, like crew, has suffered from overcrowding is Rugby. And Rugby, alas, is going down before it had a chance to get very far up. For one thing, Rugby failed to get an official athletic department stamp at a number of colleges and so remained in a kind of dim half-world of sports. For another thing, on most campuses, Rugby players were seldom asked to learn how to play Rugby—the major requirement of the game had been the ability to muster round-trip plane fare to Bermuda for College Week. For many years College Week was cozy and gay and giggly. Then, slowly, the tiny Atlantic archipelago that had been the traditional glamour capital of Rugby began noticing great annual increases in the number of Rugby and non-Rugby players. Soon College Week became more crowded than the Yale-Harvard Regatta, more wild-eyed than Derby Day, Yale's famous (and now defunct) rite of spring. Today, College Week sits in the middle of Bermuda's sunny season like a drunk at a tea party. "I've gone to my last College Week," says a Princeton sophomore. "You can't believe what it's like. The hotels are all filled, so guys sleep under rocks on the beach. If you're lucky enough to have a room you're expected to share it with 20 other guys. The bar at the Elbow Beach Club is packed three people deep and filled with armed security guards who try to keep order. And the girls! College girls don't go there any more. My blind date was a CPA from Chicago. For my money, the whole Rugby thing has gone way, way down."
Still, Rugby seems to deserve a place on the prestige scale a notch above football. Mike Grean, Yale '59, who took up Rugby when a leg injury forced him to drop out of the varsity football team in his senior year, and became quite an accomplished player, says: "Yes, when I quit football for Rugby I noticed that my stock on campus immediately went up. It didn't go up much, of course—just enough for me to notice it. I could hold my head a little higher." Former Fullback Grean, who was a co-captain of his high school team, adds: "Of course, I missed football. But the extra little boost of prestige I got from playing Rugby almost made up for it."