Impending Death
By Tim Butterfield '12, Staff Writer
Intramural sports at the College are exactly what they should be at this fine institution. That is to say, they provide each and every student with the opportunity to participate in an activity that offers a glimpse of competition at its highest level. Intramural softballers aren’t going to enter the big leagues after college, but they will have dabbled in an activity that opens their eyes to what the main stage is truly like. And, because Amherst plays host to all of this excitement, you can be sure that all sorts of diverse people will show up.

The intramural basketball playoffs are coming up soon, so that’s on the minds of most of us recreational Globetrotters. The squad I play for has done pretty well this season, so I’m definitely hoping we can continue to play solid basketball. After all, our team named itself “Death” at the season’s start because death is one of the few things in this world that can’t be defeated. Opponents may run from us and narrowly evade destruction, but in the end, everyone must succumb to Death. So I guess the teams that have defeated us must be comprised of miracle-workers. How typical of Amherst to accept a few of those.

All joking aside, however, it cannot be overlooked how effectively organized the IM basketball league has been this winter. Gone are the days when teams and referees could be absent from scheduled games and not suffer any consequences. Now, teams that repeatedly forfeit games due to absences are booted straight out of the league, and my experience as an IM official has enlightened me of the fact that no-show referees are fired on the spot. As a competitor who takes intramurals semi-seriously, I really appreciate the consistent effort that is being made to guarantee the best and most involved experience possible for the athletes.

We’re students here at Amherst because we all want to receive the best education available and, in our opinions, a liberal arts instruction is ideal for this goal. We may want to be doctors or cartoonists or steamboat captains, but we acknowledge the significance of dabbling in a little bit of everything. I’m not an artistic person but I’ve taken art classes here, and I’ve heard of an Amherst pre-med student writing a thesis on poetry. Similarly, intramurals sports provide another medium through which the pursuit of building a well-rounded personality can be successful. We can play intermediate or advanced IM basketball without ever fathoming reaching the professional level. Even most of our varsity players compete day in and day out without giving a post-collegiate NBA career any realistic thought. But all these athletes still take the game as seriously as they want to and have access to the finest instruction around.

Amherst prides itself on having such a diverse student body, and I’m proud to be a part of that group. It’s such a neat thing to see people of all age, race, background and personality in the same classrooms, dormitories and social functions as me.

Team Death has all types of diversity on the roster. I play each game with folks from Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and every region of the United States. We’ve got guys and girls, studs and amateurs. Our tallest defenseman is an aspiring writer of video game plots and our foul-machine is a geology major from Delaware. Our scrappiest guy happens to be the shortest in stature, and our team captain, who didn’t score a single point during his junior high basketball season, can be counted on to hit one half-court shot each game. Our smoothest ball-handler is a Spanish language assistant with a high-arching three-point shot, and I am in constant awe of the shooting form of our most experienced player — The Student’s very own editor-in-chief.

Needless to say, the joy of competition and escaping the academic world with a few friends is simply fun to do. It’s a time to bring out those rusty talents that haven’t been applied since high school sports seasons. It’s an opportunity to trash-talk teammates and opponents alike. If for no reason other than to stay fit or tan in the spring, playing intramural sports is worthwhile.

Last spring, I played IM softball in one league and refereed in the other. At one game I was officiating, the football team was playing against the hockey team. These were big guys with competitive attitudes developed over years of playing bone-shattering sports. Sure, they were swinging for the fences and pushing each other off the bases, but they were quite obviously having a blast. As official as I was supposed to be, I couldn’t help but chuckle along with those guys as they intentionally threw at each other in slow-pitch style. Their goofy antics brought a smile to my face, and I found myself laughing uncontrollably as both teams gave one particular player one hell of a hard time for being the only person without a hit by the end of the game. This player was by far the biggest and strongest individual on the field, and, oh yeah, he’d spent several years playing for a Minor League baseball team after high school; so the opposing outfielders moved several hundred feet back and caught every home run as a routine flyout.

Those guys were the hard-core intramural players, and even they spent most of the afternoon goofing around. They were having as much fun as any other IM team, regardless of their skill levels or past athletic experience.

Basketball is wrapping up now and then come the springtime sports. Softball, golf and tennis will be up next on the IM calendar. My advice to you is this: find a group of friends and sign up to play intramurals. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like to compete in a sport, and you can choose to bring it to as high a level as you’d like.

Issue 19, Submitted 2010-03-24 20:16:53