The Eccentric Philosophers vs. The Warrior Engineers
June 14, 2011 12:00 PM   Subscribe

It's not surprising that a college like St. John's College isn't big on intramural sports (Where I learned To Read, Where Plato is Your ProfessorTutor). What may be surprising is that the small college has bested the Naval Academy in 24 of the last 29 championships for the sport it does participate in.

The match is a major spectacle, drawing thousands of spectators every year all decked out in their finest. The match starts with the Naval Academy Trident Brass Band and some swing dancing. There's plenty of booze at the Annapolis event, but "the [middies], for their part, perennially vow to remain sober throughout the five-game match; they sometimes keep that pledge well into the second game."

For your viewing pleasure:
A retrospective: 27 years of pictures from the match
Middie Meets Johnnie
Watch the crowd form and the grass get destroyed - 12 hours condensed into just under 3 minutes. (no sound)
posted by stoneweaver (53 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I actually stayed over at St John's when I was looking for a college to apply to. It had a really weird vibe, at least to me. Though I had a really good time hanging out at the coffee shop downtown with a bunch of people who were equally as nerdy as me.
posted by empath at 12:04 PM on June 14, 2011


febbies rule
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


My question is this: Why am I paying for the Navy to have a croquet team?
posted by cmoj at 12:09 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would rather pay for a million croquet mallets than a single tomahawk missile.
posted by empath at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [24 favorites]


I fully support this genteel silliness. Especially when it comes with booze and sharp cardigans.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2011


@empath, you most certainly would be able to, given the well-known exchange rate for Tomahawks to Mallets.
posted by joedanger at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes. I very nearly attended St. John's because of the sheer novelty of going to a school whose three varsity sports were crew, fencing and croquet. That, and the chants:

Their midshipmen march by us singing chants about SJC such as:

"I wanna study Aristotle.
I'm a left-wing kind of guy.
I wear socks with my sandals.
All my shirts are tie-dyed.

I don't carry pens to class.
I don't want a real degree.
Don't wanna take no written tests.
So I came to SJC."

...and we respond with gems like:

"I wanna study weapons systems.
I wanna wear a nifty hat.
I wanna march in unison,
'Cause I don't know where it's at.

I can't go out with my classmates,
I wanna dress like an ice-cream man.
I couldn't get into West Point,
So I row a boat for Uncle Sam.

'Oh say can you see?'
Penned by Francis Scott Key.
He went to SJC.
Navy sucks. Q.E.D."


...and then we visited American University the next day, and I was all "OH MY GOD HOW COULD I GO TO A SCHOOL HALF THE SIZE OF MY GRADUATING CLASS."
posted by Madamina at 12:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Croquet is the only sport I have ever (even minorly) excelled in. It is also marvellous fun.
posted by jb at 12:17 PM on June 14, 2011


I would rather pay for a million croquet mallets than a single tomahawk missile.

Although you could, certainly, kill a great number of people with croquet mallets you'd need a correspondingly greater investment in manpower and logistics. Given the natural requirement to kill people in more or less random locations, in unpredictable locations and unknown conditions, a Tomahawk missile is probably the better investment in the long run.

Now then, certainly I can appreciate your enthusiasm, and obviously I salute your murderous intent -- who wouldn't enjoy an army of mallet-wielding murderers?

...but missiles can be really cost-effective when you look at the full picture, and if you paint a cardigan pattern on them it's almost as visually appealing.
posted by aramaic at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


I would rather pay for a million croquet mallets than a single tomahawk missile.

Ever had a croquet mallet thrown at you?
posted by Skeptic at 12:18 PM on June 14, 2011


That should be "intervarsity," not "intramural," methinks.
posted by valkyryn at 12:19 PM on June 14, 2011


I've seen croquet mallets kill people in more or less random locations, unpredictable locations, and unknown conditions.



Some things you can never forget.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why am I paying for the Navy to have a croquet team?

Son, we live in a world that has wickets. And those wickets have to be conquered by men with mallets. Who's gonna do it? You? You, cmoj? The Naval Academy Croquet Team has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom (no maritime pun intended). You weep for the stake and curse the ball that passes through the wickets. You have that luxury. You that the luxury of not knowing what I know: That the striking of the stake by the ball, while tragic, probably saves lives. And the existence of the Naval Academy Croquet Team, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want the Naval Academy Croquet Team on that field. You need them on that field. We use words like "wicket," "stake," and "mallet." We use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline (no pun intended - you're going to have to wait in line if you want some delicious punch). I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain croquet to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very croquet victories that the Naval Academy Croquet Team provides, then questions the manner in which it provides it. I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way, maybe stopping by the punch bowl on your way out and tipping your hat politely at the nice people who came out to see the croquet match. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a mallet and stand at a wicket. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think your tax dollars should pay the Navy to do.
posted by The World Famous at 12:25 PM on June 14, 2011 [46 favorites]


That should be "intervarsity," not "intramural," methinks.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if I've gotten that detail wrong. Us Johnnies aren't really known for our sporting knowledge. (Note: I was very careful about choosing sources I am in no way affiliated with.) What's the difference between the two?
posted by stoneweaver at 12:25 PM on June 14, 2011


Shouldn't it be "game" not "sport" as well?
posted by karmiolz at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2011


Shouldn't it be "game" not "sport" as well?

Nah. "Game" is the thing you shoot at. "Sport" is the reason you shoot it.
posted by The World Famous at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why do both teams seem to be wearing the same uniform? A joke?
posted by Mid at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2011


A friend of mine went there. Married a classmate. Very warm, good people, but a little...bookish.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:32 PM on June 14, 2011


It's worth noting that the captains of the croquet teams are known as the Imperial Wicket.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:42 PM on June 14, 2011


It's worth noting that the captains of the croquet teams are known as the Imperial Wicket.

It's also worth noting that the Ewoks' eventual conversion to the Dark Side is not canon.
posted by The World Famous at 12:44 PM on June 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


The World Famous, I love it haha.
posted by karmiolz at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2011


The World Famous' fathom pun (intended or not) is today's best of the web.
posted by tayknight at 12:58 PM on June 14, 2011


My question is this: Why am I paying for the Navy to have a croquet team?

The croquet team is not an official team, so you're "paying" for it the same way your "paying" for a group of people getting Pell grants to watch TV in the student lounge.
posted by dirigibleman at 1:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I was 16, that is what I thought, hoped and wished university would be.

So you're going to teach me 8 lectures about one guy, and the book he wrote isn't even on the reading list? WTF guys, this is higher education. Teach me.
posted by mnfn at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Whooo! Suck it, you Navy twerps!"
"Mr. Johnson?"
"Yes, captain?"
"Prepare the Tomahawk missiles."
"Aye-aye."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2011


Ah yes, Cool Papa Bell. I remember fondly the glad occasion when Captain Aubrey finally saw fit to use the Tomahawk missiles.
posted by The World Famous at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2011


A million croquet mallets can easily outprice a Tomahawk missile.

As For St. John's, both people I know who went there are .. interesting.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2011


Next year is my 10 year reunion (or 9.5 if you're one of the secret obsolete January Freshman) and while I have been loath to return the last few years I'm just about ready to wade into the pretentious mass of pale nerds and even (barf) swing dance a little.

I'm interested in what folks mean by these veiled comments about Johnnies... is "interesting" code for "crazy homeschooled hippies" or "neo-con crypto-facists" or some combination of the two?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:33 PM on June 14, 2011


I'm interested in what folks mean by these veiled comments about Johnnies... is "interesting" code for "crazy homeschooled hippies" or "neo-con crypto-facists" or some combination of the two?

Definitely some combination of the two. Sort of like the kid in the Mel Gibson movie Man Without a Face (an underappreciated neocon classic), but on drugs. Austere and wayward at the same time. Good people, though.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:42 PM on June 14, 2011


I said "both people", but come to think, I know six Johnnies. All fit the mould mentioned above.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2011


Do people actually use the word "intervarsity" any more? I mean, it's not like we pronounce "university" as "univarsity".
posted by madcaptenor at 2:57 PM on June 14, 2011


Hey, I just started dating a guy who went to St. John's! Although now I feel like I should be more wary...
posted by sarahsynonymous at 3:00 PM on June 14, 2011


That should be "intervarsity," not "intramural," methinks.

The more common (American) word is "interscholastic."

(I'm guessing "intervarsity" is the standard UK counterpart.)

"Intramural" ("within the walls") generally refers to sports/matches conducted with teams all from the same school.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:01 PM on June 14, 2011


I remember fondly the glad occasion when Captain Aubrey finally saw fit to use the Tomahawk missiles.

It would certainly have made those O'Brian books more interesting.

I tried, man, I really tried after seeing the excellent movie.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:05 PM on June 14, 2011


The more common (American) word is "interscholastic."

Or, in this case, "intercollegiate."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:06 PM on June 14, 2011


My question is this: Why am I paying for the Navy to have a croquet team?

As dirigibleman pointed out, the croquet team is a club, not an official athletic team. If it were, you'd still only be paying a miniscule amount for the team. The vast majority of the USNA athletics budget is funded through ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, TV rights, and the Naval Academy Athletic Association charitable foundation. Only about 10% comes from the government.
posted by weebil at 3:19 PM on June 14, 2011


I was expecting the grass to get totally destroyed, but I hardly noticed any major damage.
posted by Drama Penguin at 3:42 PM on June 14, 2011


sarahsynonymous: Hey, I just started dating a guy who went to St. John's! Although now I feel like I should be more wary...

Just don't bring up Robert Fagels' translation of The Odyssey. It might send him into a seething rage.
posted by joedan at 3:51 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


My question is this: Why am I paying for the Navy to have a croquet team?

The same reason that your state taxes pay for your state universities to have all those extra frills like chess clubs and rugby teams. I know it's a federal college instead of state college, but the principle is the same. Unless you object to your state taxes being used in universities for funding kids knocking balls around with mallets. I won't even tell you that the Naval Academy has a fencing team too . . .

USNA '08 here, and sadly I only got to go to one croquet game between USNA1 and SJC. It was a wonderful atmosphere (and we won!), made even better by me wandering up to a porch where a very large bespectacled man with a cigar and a glass of scotch saw me in my white uniform and shouted at me!

"Hey, midshipman, come on up here. Would you like a glass of scotch?"
"Sorry, sir; on duty and all."
"Well, I can understand that. How about a cigar."
". . . Alright."

As it turned out, he was a Naval Academy graduate that later on did his masters at SJC and so was on both sides of the isle (which happens a lot for returning teachers). He really enjoyed both schools and told me that some day I might think about the same. I stood there in my whites, smoking a cigar, and just absorbing the free-for-all garden party feel that showed that both crowds were having so much fun doing a college thing that showed both schools really loved those old quaint habits.

I knew quite a few SJCers, both current and graduate, and I was always startled by how conservative their academic curriculum was. I mean, talk about old dead white guys, they study Copernicus. Additionally, it was a very rigid program of study that didn't really have a lot of deviation. As an English major at the Naval Academy, I felt that we had a much more liberal and flexible curriculum when it came to the humanities where I took courses about John Milton and Graphic Novels2 in the same semester. Not that I wouldn't go back to St. John's if I had the chance, as I think I would really enjoy rolling up my sleeves and getting some good ol' education for my graduate level work. Perhaps in the future.

Notes:
1. Naval Academy students or midshipmen are properly called "mids" if you wish to shorten it. We loath the term "middies".
2. I'm sure that cmoj would object to his/her tax dollars going to let me study Maus and V for Vendetta.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The thing that gets me is that the Naval Academy (and presumably many of the other service academies) also has cheerleaders.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:18 PM on June 14, 2011


Why would they not?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:41 PM on June 14, 2011


Just don't bring up Robert Fagels' translation of The Odyssey. It might send him into a seething rage.

Fagels was selected by my class (Annapolis 1999) to be our commencement speaker. He was very flattered and gave a lovely speech.

Seriously, be careful discussing us like some weird alien life form--there are an awful lot of us on Metafilter.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:51 PM on June 14, 2011


I'm sure that cmoj would object to his/her tax dollars going to let me study Maus and V for Vendetta.

That, I actively approve of. This is obviously not actually on my list of things the military spends money on that I care about. you've got to admit it's pretty dissonant that the Navy has a croquet team. Is there a lawn darts team? Monopoly? Pog?
posted by cmoj at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2011


The lawn darts discipline is no longer covered at USNA, but rather falls under the purview of Fire Control School for both officers and ratings. Monopoly is now an exclusive practice of the US Navy War College. Marines play pogs.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The two schools have more in common than most people would realize at first blush, for instance the current President of the Santa Fe Campus is Michael P. Peters, a west point graduate, retired colonel, and former Executive Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:31 PM on June 14, 2011


That, I actively approve of. This is obviously not actually on my list of things the military spends money on that I care about. you've got to admit it's pretty dissonant that the Navy has a croquet team. Is there a lawn darts team? Monopoly? Pog?

You do realize that this isn't Navy in the sense of the whole service but Navy as in the United States Naval Academy, a four year college, that despite all the uniforms and wackiness has most of the same things that a regular college does, which includes sports teams and game clubs. I mean, it's college; you get bored.

Note: while at the Academy, one Lieutenant made a "Strategy and Tactics Club" which was really just an unofficial ECA where we went to his house and played Risk, Twilight of the Imperium, miniature games, and other things like that. It was a very good time and I still talk to him from time to time.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:29 PM on June 14, 2011


best four years of my life, in many ways. especially the year we stole the naval academy's goat mascot and it stayed at our house through the match.
posted by buffalo at 10:44 PM on June 14, 2011


i actually was not involved (cough), we were simply in for the match from the santa fe campus ...
posted by buffalo at 10:53 PM on June 14, 2011


I had no idea there were so many johnnies on metafilter! Or that so many other people had such weird impressions of us.

/SF JF '09
posted by Aubergine at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess you should all start addressing me as Mr. Avenue?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:40 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


My dad was a member of the first class of the New Program. He didn't graduate because of something Scott Buchanan said about "everyone is responsible for all injustice everywhere." So he went up to Canada to enlist in the CRAF. As he was passing through Detroit on 12/7/41, he changed his mind and enlisted in the USAF.

Buchanan later expanded these thoughts in an essay titled, "11 Propositions About Justice, Consent and Guilt."

If you want a taste, look up Scott Buchanan's So Reason Can Rule: Reflections on Law & Politics.
posted by warbaby at 6:44 AM on June 15, 2011


hydropsyche: Seriously, be careful discussing us like some weird alien life form--there are an awful lot of us on Metafilter.

Indeed there are--I'm one of them. :)

For the record, I'm actually a big fan of Fagels' translations of Homer. Sure, the it's not as proximate to the Greek as Lattimore or even Fitzgerald, but I'm ok with sacrificing proximity for the sake of readability.
posted by joedan at 8:25 AM on June 15, 2011


Seriously, be careful discussing us like some weird alien life form--there are an awful lot of us on Metafilter.

But there are an awful lot more of us who didn't go there or somewhere like it. But if my comments sounded prurient, then I apologize.

And I do love me some croquet, honest.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 2:02 PM on June 15, 2011


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