Dear Harvard Men’s Soccer,
Firstly, I’m sorry about your season being cancelled. A collegiate soccer player myself, I know how much the game means, especially when the team is having a great season. It must be tough having to close the door so abruptly on what could’ve been a NCAA title run. I couldn’t imagine having to clear out the locker room and hang up my cleats for the year. The seniors must be devastated to end their career in that fashion. I know it’s one of the worst feelings in the world when you have to face an angry, disappointed coach. Going to classes is also probably hard, as classmates and teachers might look at you differently, or even… *gasp*…judge you. I really feel for you guys.
While I don’t know how long this “tradition” has been going on, I do know a lovely member of the Harvard Women’s Soccer team, recruiting class of 2006. Although she is an alumna of my same prep school, ironically, I met her halfway across the world in a little town of Tanzania. There, we briefly shared our passion for soccer and helping others. She spends a good amount of her year working with her fiancé at the school that I visited that summer. When I first read the New York Times article that announced the end of your season, I was saddened, shocked, and confused. But I thought of that 2006 recruit. She’s probably one of the most humble, cool, and accomplished people I have met. I thought that her name could be on one of your old “scouting reports” and was quickly disturbed by the idea.
I walked into my team’s locker room later that day, having forgotten all about this scandal. Your story had clearly already circulated, as the room was buzzing with conversation instead of the normal beats of our music playlist. Our senior captain brought up a valid point: over the many years, had not one player on your team thought that maybe this was a dumb, crude, or unethical practice? All it ever takes is one...
Okay, let’s say someone did think it was wrong. Maybe, a new freshman was surprised by this tradition when he showed up in August for preseason. Maybe, he was too afraid to voice his opinion to his new teammates and risk being out casted so early on. As a freshman myself, I don't know how comfortable I would've felt standing up to an upperclassmen. Maybe, one senior out of the senior class thought it was inappropriate, but didn’t want to go against the grain of the team and the custom that had been in existence for years. I do feel for those of you who felt uneasy about this practice. You guys are probably the ones that are most disappointed about the end of the season. But I do think you are all just as guilty for not having the courage to speak up and express to your teammates, (people who should be your closest friends), how this was a complete wrongdoing.
I then thought of my own women’s soccer team and our relationship to our men’s team. Our school is smaller than yours, which maybe fosters deeper relationships, but many of my friends are other athletes. We tend to lift each other up. We are each other’s greatest allies and supporters. My team won our conference championship this weekend, on the same day that our men's team lost their title in a heartbreaking game. Yet, they were the first to congratulate us and celebrate our victory. We might be on different teams, but we all work towards the same goals for the same name on the front of our jerseys. I could not even imagine how I would feel if our men’s team had subjected the players on my team to such vulgarity. I would never be able to look at those friends in the same light. As I sat at my locker, I then fully realized how truly gross and unacceptable I find your team. With that, I lost any remaining sympathy.
According to friends at Harvard, there seemed to have already been a divide between the “intellectual nerds” and athletes on campus, as “the school's [students] and recruits are very different people." Congratulations, because I’m sure your team just further parted your campus community. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an environment where students and student-athletes live in support of one another. My non-athlete friends come to my games, congratulate me on big wins, and give me notes when I have to miss class. We may just be D3 athletes, but our friends and fans support us just as much, if not more, than any of those big D1 studs. I hope that the remaining athletic teams on your campus can work towards this type of community with your student body. Sadly, it seems like your team will be left out, as you now appear to just be “assholes who deserve it”. That must really suck.
A women’s soccer player
P.S. To the Harvard Women’s Soccer Team: Congratulations on the Ivy League Championship and best of luck in the NCAA tournament. I do believe in a thing called sweet justice. As your 2012 women say, we are all #StrongerTogether.