When we got here, we all heard the rules about sport at St Andrews. No hazing, no initiation ceremonies, nothing of the sort ever happens here, oh no.
But as the days and weeks passed, we began to hear rumours (or perhaps even experienced for ourselves) that perhaps this rule was not so fastidiously followed. So I decided to find out – not just for myself, but for The Stand and for the student body of this university – about sports traditions and initiations at St Andrews. This is what I discovered.
My first step: emails. I found the SaintSport website, and sent out ambiguously-worded after ambiguously-worded email, asking about ‘traditions’. You know how it is. Not wanting to scare people off with the dreaded ‘I’ word (i.e. initiation). Gotta at least try to make them think I’m not after one thing.
But I got nothing. Every team I was in touch with replied to me, said they were happy to answer my questions, directed me to further people who might help me, were lovely and kind and all that. However, slowly but surely, the trails went cold. First men’s lacrosse, then women’s lacrosse, and finally even rugby shut me out. My questions, open as can be, were answered vaguely, with lots of phrases like ‘no pressure’ and ‘mentoring younger members’, as if those words meant anything. I padded every email with verbose promises of anonymity, of total confidence, of a lack of direct criticism in this article.
No dice. Not one single, juicy detail was spilled by a single official member of a sports team. Disappointing. So I had to turn to other means.
I waylaid athletic friends, at breakfast, over coffee, peppering them with questions they couldn’t avoid. At first, more disappointment. I found out that in jujitsu, for example, the team goes out to the pub thrice weekly, fostering a supportive environment of friends. There’s a Sensei who will demonstrate take-down moves on unsuspecting freshers, apparently even in the streets. But that is as dramatic as the club gets: Even their shit-talking is done so lovingly and with nachos.
This story, unlike the emails I got from certain sports bigwigs, actually seemed believable. Good on you, jujitsu, and thank you for your honesty.
Another friend of mine, a little squirrel in the boys’ football team, was also honest – but more interestingly so. He told me about the pub tradition of ‘donkeys’ and ‘dirty pints’. Apparently, after trainings and on Wednesdays, every member will pitch in a few quid, which will go towards a random concoction of drinks. The example given by my informant included milk and beer, at which point he shook his head in disgust and elaborated no further. The ‘donkey’, a player who did something stupid that day or got with a member of the girls’ team, then has to down this drink.
That’s all. I know – I, too, expected something more from this article. I wanted to be able to write this, full of confessions of all the awful initiation rites that you hear rumours of but you’re never quite sure are true.
Alas, I do not feel that I can make any sort of judgement about sports initiations at St Andrews, as I had originally intended. I did consider making up information, but I’m far too ethical. Perhaps my conclusion here is thus: Sports teams at St Andrews are either (unbelievably) virtuous, or are very good at hiding their more distasteful sides.