Boys Will Be Boys at McGill

In the football community in Canada, this was a small bombshell—they shut it down. Administrators at McGill shut down the entire football season over a hazing incident, apparently a long-standing tradition, that went public this year because one kid refused to take it lying down. (Or on all fours, more accurately.) And the ol’ jock wishes he knew more about it, because mixed feelings are jabbing at me rather unkindly, a sort of mental “Dr. Broom” (I presume).

Cynics might say, “McGill football, big deal, they get killed most weeks anyway” which is, as cynicism usually is, about as far from the point as it could be. It matters to young men; to some of them, the freshman that went home is a coward and a villain and thank-god-he’s-not-on-our-team (if they still had a team, that is). Initiation rituals are a bonding thing for a team. They are also a frequent outlet for sadism and interpersonal tyranny, so who knows which was pre-eminent at McGill? The school’s leadership decided that the former wasn’t a good enough reason to risk the latter, not to mention immorality and stains on the ivy-and-dignity image of the university.

Sometimes it’s embarrassing to love football. Sometimes I’m a little sheepish about understanding, at least a little, about what such a primitive ritual might mean to that particular crew. I remember ninth-grade initiation, when such things were still possible, and the perverse thrill of going through the “Ghost Walk”, a slide down a basement corridor a foot deep in rotting vegetables and other unidentifiable ooze. Being pelted by the football players with special glee tickled me, because they knew who I was. I felt good to have endured, to have come out with the smile on my face that said “Hey, that wasn’t so bad!”

So I get it. But I also get why a young man would refuse to “get it”, and know that it would have taken another kind of courage to say NO to getting probed by “Doctor Broom”. I wonder if he’ll ever play football again — the kid, not the Broom. I wonder if McGill will.