This is a response to an article by former Elon College baseball player Chris Papst in which Papst defends the spirit behind the ritual known as hazing.
(Papst’s piece is not a very good read, but since this is an open letter to him it’ll make more sense if you do read it.)
Quick summary: As a freshman college baseball player, Papst was hog-tied, sprayed with cold water and driven around in the back of a truck for 20 minutes in chilly winter weather. Then he was taken to a windowless room and made to sit with his feet in ice water until he correctly answered three questions. He was blindfolded during all of this. This brought his team together, he claims.
Papst wrote that it is unfortunate that today’s youth won’t live through that type of experience, and that it taught him an important lesson (though he doesn’t specifically point out what this lesson was).
When I signed on to Facebook this week and saw a bunch of people sharing an article and making all kinds of perturbed comments about it, I assumed it was just some idiot writing a column about gay marriage being an abomination or whatever. So I was surprised when I read your headline: “Hazing isn’t all bad — it can bring teammates together.”
I felt compelled to click on it because, well, I was intrigued at what your reasoning might be to publish something advocating what amounts to subjecting kids to group bullying in the interest of comradeship.
I finished it, stared at my computer screen for a little bit and then asked myself, The hell is wrong with this guy?
Hazing is wrong and it doesn’t serve a positive purpose. Adults should know that, and kids should be taught it by them.
Hazing, to me, does not include making the young guys carry the shoulder pads or clean up the balls after practice, or having the underclassmen do something fun, like sing a karaoke song at a party (just don’t be a douche and chastise the kid on the team who has a crippling anxiety of unathletic public perfomances). That doesn’t count as hazing. It counts as the youngest, newest players doing normal things the upperclassmen don’t have to, because the older guys are expected to do things the younger teammates aren’t. Namely, provide leadership and guidance so the team can win more games. I don’t see how spraying another person with a hose is going to do that.
The summer before my first year of college, my freshman basketball teammates and I went to campus for a week to run a camp with the upper classmen. We stayed at their apartments, and no hazing was involved whatsoever.
It was an exciting week. Most of the guys on my team were great, and once the school year started they continued to hang out with us, always being nice and showing us how to juggle academics, athletics and the occasional kegger where real live girls would show up.
Never once during my career there did I or any of my fellow freshmen experience any hazing. And even though I was on the team for less than a year, I formed a bond with some of those guys that has lasted. I’m still close with a few of them, one of whom is visiting me from 10 hours away next week, just because we haven’t hung out for a while.
That’s because you don’t need to be hazed to follow in the footsteps of the older guys, or to fit in, or to bond as a team. To bond as a team, you hang out together, maybe eat some meals as a group and play the sport you all love. You don’t need to share an icy pedicure.
And you don’t need initiation onto an athletic team, because your initiation should be nothing more than your coach deciding you’re good enough to be a part of the roster.
Apparently when you were hazed at Elon, you became “one” with your teammates. By being hogtied. Then you transferred to Pitt, where there was no “right [sic] of initiation.” You said the team lacked a certain bond.
Who are you? I thought the only person who would write about hog tying as a positive life-altering experience would be the lady who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. Did you have Stockholm Syndrome? Would you similarly argue that there were rampant feuds amongst the Lakers when Kobe and Shaq were playing there because they hadn’t taken time out of their schedule to get together and teabag the rookies?
Maybe your team at Pitt just wasn’t compatible. Maybe they just didn’t like each other. Torturing the freshmen wouldn’t have changed that.
I used to be a jock, and I was kind of a dick. Part of the reason I played sports was because I wanted to fit in with the cool kids, the kids who were athletes. I probably lied to myself about that for years, but now I can admit that it’s true. Kids will do all kinds of things just to fit in, and that breaks my heart; sometimes the ones who don’t — children who don’t spend all their time trying to fit in — turn out the best.
To assimilate and gain acceptance with the hazing upperclassmen, I might not have taken a stand. I may have let them do to me the things you experienced that could’ve given me pneumonia and totally disrupted my own training and in turn sidetracked the ultimate goal of the team.
But come on. Grow the fuck up and confess to yourself you did it for these reasons: to fit in, to keep from disrupting the team dynamic, to get the older players to like or respect you. That’s fine. Just don’t continue to argue into your 30s that hazing was a positive experience that taught you some sort of life lesson.
Note: the graphic in the masthead of this piece is the image printed on anti-hazing magnets available at MissionMade.com for $.50.
For more from Scott…