BY GREG SKIDMORE
With the World Series over, the attention of sports fans has now turned to intercollegiate and interscholastic sports. High school playoffs. Midnight Madness. Conference championships. Aside from playing for one’s country, perhaps the greatest source of pride for an athlete is representing his or her school in athletic competition. Duke versus North Carolina in basketball. Ohio State versus Michigan in football. Phillips Exeter versus Deerfield in yachting. So many of us were shaped by inter-school athletics – why should it stop in law school? An all law school sports league… one can only imagine the pride…. – Cambridge, MA (AP)
In the final weekend of competition, the Harvard Law Gunners finished a disappointing third in the Lexis Presents the Westlaw Cup, brought to you by Bar/Bri. For the first time, Cornell won the multi-sport competition and took home the coveted Golden Gavel. But for Harvard, a disappointing fifth-place finish in crew erased any hope that the Gunners would take home the gilded trophy – marking the fifth straight year HLS has come up short.
The blame for the disappointing season seems to be directed largely at the co-ed basketball team, which lost all 10 of its games, each by double-digits. Many seemed to indicate that Harvard never stood a chance in competition, citing its controversial “grade-on” policy for selecting a portion of the roster. Throughout the season, basketball captain Victor Raja defended the policy. “We stand by our procedure,” Raja said. “It’s important not only to have players with skills, but also those who arbitrarily do well on a few first-year exams.”
The Gunners were also hurt by not having a full complement of women on its roster, often leaving the team shorthanded late in the game. Over the years, many have speculated that the tryouts for the team were biased towards men. “We do not think the tryout was biased, just because it includes a facial hair component,” said one Gunners player. “It just seems that less women are trying out.” The Gunners were quick to point out, though, that they had exactly 3.8 minorities on the squad, conforming to the team’s affirmative action policy.
No matter the composition of the roster, fans agree that the team was severely hindered by its lack of team chemistry. “We could get nothing done in the huddle,” said team coach Kay Gunn. “I couldn’t even call a play, because all 12 Gunners were talking at once. They didn’t say anything useful, but did hear a lot of discussion about ex post and ex ante.”
Flag football also proved a low point for the Harvard Law squad. Despite the support of the Alliance for Independent Cheerleaders, the team was unable to crack the win column. Ten minutes into the first game, Gunners player Aaron Gant accidentally tackled Columbia player Reggie Kuhtid while reaching for his flag. The game was immediately halted so that Kuhtid could file a tort claim for battery, IIED and pain and suffering. The Harvard player considered disputing the lawsuit, but then thought better of it. “Kuhtid was right,” said Gant. “After all, I made an unintentional mistake. Although this is a physical game involving a risk of injury, I should pay for all of his injuries.” Bolstered by the monetary settlement, Columbia prevailed 42-14. Unfortunately, this marked the high point of the football season, as Harvard was forced to forfeit the remainder of its games due to its controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on steroid use.
The Harvard Law tennis team also came up short in its three matches, falling victim to both poor play and history. It was agreed that twenty years ago, referees deliberately made a number of bad calls so that Harvard would win and Michigan would lose. Thus, the teams agreed that reparations were in order. The officials gave the Michigan team new rackets and dictated that Harvard would be penalized three games in each set, although this in no way changed the outcome of the previous contest.
The lone bright spot for Harvard Law this year was the softball team, which cruised to a 12-1 record and first place in the standings. Some have openly questioned, though, if the team’s success has come at the expense of academics. The players have increasingly come under fire for loading their schedules with classes such as Analytical Methods and Federal Litigation (“Torts for Sports”). Faculty have also claimed that the frequent road trips have caused the team to miss a great deal of class. “That is true,” said captain Don Atendclas. “Last week, I was gone all week and missed the only two classes that I would not have skipped anyway.” But Atendclas was skeptical of the faculty’s contention that this was a problem, stating that the players’ grades have gone up as a result of missing so much class. The players also cited the experience they have gained on the field. During one game, play was halted after a disputed call at first base, and the umpire allowed both teams fifteen minutes to make oral arguments.
The team’s success has not gone unnoticed, as a number of law firm scouts began appearing at the games. “The salaries for first-years softball players has gone through the roof,” said Atendclas. “It’s true, we have no more softball skills as any other team. But we are at Harvard – these firms will be lucky to snag us.” The team also noted that a number of Circuit Court softball teams are recruiting Harvard players. But these teams do not send scouts to watch the games, instead choosing to make their selections based solely on the printed box score.
For Cornell, though, the season was nothing short of magical, as the school took home the Westlaw Cup for the first time, unseating four-time champion Virginia. Cornell captain Cole Dashel said the entire campus donned snow suits and came out to celebrate the win. “This isn’t for my resume,” Dashel said. “This is for pride. But can I put it on my resume?”
Greg Skidmore is a 3L who thinks he could star on the Harvard Law curling team. You can read more about real sports and the law at http://sports-law.blogspot.com.