Core Decorum: Soccer and Socrates

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The broken turf of the rugby pitch, the soggy mess of a turf destroyed by the cleats of countless Crusaders, filled like a Dantean malebolge with potential festering staph-infections and the anticipation of torn ligaments. This, my friends, is the scene of the University of Dallas’ current crusade: intramural soccer.

Now lest you think I speak too highly of this gallant sport, that I sing its praises too highly or that I put its participants on a pedestal too tall, let us first examine how nobly it fits into the UD tradition, and how it is, in some ways, the physical summation of the Core.

“Let all be present at the games prepar’d,” Aeneas commanded. And, indeed, what book within the Lit Trad curriculum does not have evil being fought with physical strength? Whether your sport of choice is chasing whales (although you shouldn’t do this anymore since it is illegal and mean to whales) or raising your eyelids aggressively at tea, such as in Mansfield Park, our English curriculum is filled with examples of brawn and bravery, sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike characters.

Intramural soccer also proclaims the religious nature of UD. There is something inherently holy about sports. Aeneas and the early Romans recognized it, making it a point to establish “yearly games [to] spread the gods’ renown.”

Later Romans, like St. Paul, also recognized the importance of sports as a sign of Christian life.

“Run so as to win,” St. Paul demanded, telling us: “I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached, to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 27).

Even philosopher kings acknowledged the role of sports in the properly ordered city, for Socrates knew the remarkable shame of a weak body.  Even that pop icon of Irving, G. K. Chesterton, weighs in on the subject, indicating that he may “entertain a private suspicion that physical sports were much more really effective and beneficent when they were not taken quite so seriously.”

The ties between intramural soccer and Western Tradition are potentially inexhaustible, yet a reader’s patience is not always as limitless. Yet, I could not bring myself to conclude without an acknowledgment of the unsung heroes of the intramural soccer season: the fans. Through mosquito attacks, mud pits, cold and wind, there are almost always a few brave souls who support their classmates, encouraging them to continue the struggle. Or just by heckling the other team. Or singing in morose and dirge-like fashion “Amazing Grace,” which apparently is sometimes mistaken for UD’s “fight” song.

A UD student is not made to sit and study all the time. One must find a cause, a passion, a sport to believe in and a reason to run around in circles.

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