A Blind Eye to Sports

8 11 2009

As anyone who doesn’t live under an Ithacan rock knows, Cornell had its much-publicized and anticipated match against Harvard on the ice of Lynah Rink last night. Much to Cornell’s delight, the Big Red skated to an impressive victory over the Crimson, with a final score of 6-3.

I feel like I’m one of a handful of undergrads on this campus who really doesn’t give a damn.

Not that I don’t have respect for athletes at Cornell. I give them by full respect. It’s just that I have never followed sports, with the slight exception of cross country and track back in junior high and high school because I was on the team (and let’s be honest, they’re just not the same when it comes to skill or competitive spirit). I’m content to sit back and watch everyone else get excited, because I’m just disinterested in Cornell sports. I’m never sat all the way through a Cornell game in any sport.

So, unsurprisingly I never mention sports on this blog, unless there’s historical worth to mentioning it. Which I can briefly do now.

Back in the day of the university founding years, the big sport for students to follow was crew, aka rowing. A.D. White was a member of a rowing club during his own collegiate years at Yale (Bishop 33). The first boating clubs formed in 1871, and a regatta was held the following spring (if you could call it that). The first big victory came at Saratoga in 1875, much to the joy of the school and the town (story goes that A.D. White broke into McGraw Hall Tower and rang the chimes himself). Baseball and football were vague diversions, not even intercollegiate until 1874 (Bishop 134). Cornell actually had its own rules of football that no one cared about, so the university didn’t take a substantial interest in football until about 1886. The Cornell Atheltic Association formed in 1889 (296). The first athletic area, built in the same year, was off campus on what is now the site of Ithaca High School, and was called Percy Field after the donor’s son, who was at the time a student athlete at Cornell. Hockey was recognized in 1900, basketball a year later. Lacrosse started up in 1885, but was  like clothing fashions among students, coming back into and going out of style every few years.

Hockey was originally played on Beebe Lake. The idea of bringing it to Cornell came from a professor of engineering named Johnny Parson. Hecne, the establishment of the Johnny Parson Club. When the lake began to melt, the team would use the Ithaca city ice rink. The team won what might be its first intercollegiate championship in 1911 (417).

So, Bishop’s history of Cornell only mentions hockey twice, and was published in 1962, suggesting the sport was still on the periphery of athletics at that time. That was also the same year that underdog Cornell outplayed perennial powerhouse Harvard. Things started to get more interesting when the Harvard/Cornell hockey rivalry started to heat up in 1973 with Harvard’s tossing off a chicken at Cornell goalie Dave Elenbaas, as a knock against the Ag School (of course, nowadays we can depend on our alumni to knock the ag school). So Cornell students responded later that month by throwing fish onto the rink. As the decade wore on and Harvard’s program weakened, the Big Red wasn’t content to let things slide, so the rivalry has been intensified since the incident.

So that’s why Cornell-Harvard tickets can be so expensive, and why this one game is as close as Cornell gets to the storied rivalries of Big Ten schools. Some of us are more into it than others though.  




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