Break out the broomball!

By Tim Murphy

If you listen only to the tongue-in-check slogans, you might get the impression that most U of C students are unathletic, pocket-protector-donning bookworms who, on the rare occasions when they do escape from the Abu Ghraib-like confines of the Reg, troll across the quad with all the grace and dexterity of an extra in a George Romero movie.

Even the Princeton Review joined the stereotyping this year, ranking Chicago 14th in the “Intercollegiate Sports Unpopular or Nonexistent” category of their college survey. The lesson, as always: Don’t believe everything you see on the back of a T-shirt (except maybe the trolling thing). Despite the grim reputation, Chicago has more than a decent share of intramural and club activities.

“No matter the talent or competitive level, I believe intramurals offer a little something for everyone,” said Brian Bock, assistant director of athletics for intramural, recreational, and club sports.

Ranging from collegiate staples such as ultimate Frisbee, flag football, and soccer to relative novelties like broomball and inner tube water polo (exactly what it sounds like), the Physical Education and Athletics Department offers 37 IM sports, most of which culminate in tournaments. Teams can represent houses, fraternities, graduate student groups, or just groups of friends. Last year, a total of 6,154 students on 525 teams played 1,700 contests, all seeking the ultimate prize: a championship T-shirt.

At times such a lofty prize (estimated street value: $2) can bring out the worst in competitive students. More often than not though, the games are just good fun.

Most houses elect an IM sport representative at the beginning of the year who is charged with signing up teams; in the case of the immensely popular broomball, this means waiting in line outside the Ratner office the morning sign-ups open in order to snag one of the few available slots. The truly dedicated houses also try their hands at as many sports as possible, since the house that wins most throughout the year takes home the Maroon Cup.

Times have changed some since the golden days of the early 20th century, when shooting was a popular IM sport (as has been immortalized in the halls of Bartlett). But if you still like your IM athletics without the athleticism, fear not. Cornhole is making its debut this year, and for those who believe it’s never too early to prepare for retirement, there are IM options like bocce ball, backgammon, and Euchre. Floppy hats and ginger beer are not included with the registration fee.

Clubs provide more serious competition in an equally diverse range of sports. Competitors come from all over the University spectrum, with faculty, grad students, and first-years all potentially playing on the same teams.

For some clubs, like crew, commitment levels match varsity schedules, with early morning practices and tournament at other campuses. Others take a simpler approach. Gymnastic has no competitions and keeps all of its practices open, while the Velo club (cycling) mixes veteran and nationally-competitive racers with some who are just along for the ride.

So whether it’s hard-hitting club sports you fancy or laid-back intramurals, there is no shortage of athletic endeavors for you to partake in at the U of C—even after you’ve failed your swim test.