In the quest for house bragging rights and fabulous cash prizes, few competitions equal the Inter-House Council's homecoming tug of war. Saturday's chapter in the longstanding Chicago tradition featured houses from all over campus fielding teams of a maximum 14 residents, with an equal number of men and women pulling for each side.
While so many were able to pull themselves out of bed and arrive at Stagg Field in time for the 9:30 a.m. opening rounds, most houses were already headed back home in disappointment after less than a half hour. The stories of this year's tournament were some unprecedented performances from the smaller houses in Burton-Judson and a controversial first-place finish for Pierce's Henderson House.
Burton-Judson fielded teams from Vincent, Salisbury, Mathews, and Dodd-Mead, with Salisbury making it into the third round, Mathews clinching third place for the second consecutive year, and Dodd-Mead nearly winning it all before being forced to replay the final match against Henderson. As Dodd-Mead began its celebration after what they though was a successful round, IHC officials fielded complaints that the Dodd-Mead anchor had been illegally facing backwards during the pull.
After reviewing the instant replay on the digital camera of a Chicago Weekly photographer, the head official ruled against Dodd-Mead and asked the teams to replay the final round. Tired, deflated, and deprived of their prior advantage, the B-J champions couldn't compete against a well organized and well built Henderson squad, trading their $75 first prize for $50 and a sense of bitterness usually known only to Boston Red Sox fans.
"As I was pulling, I looked up and saw [the Dodd-Mead anchor's] full back," complained fourth-year Joe Anzalone. Anzalone, Henderson's front anchor as well as its veteran assistant resident head, was initially satisfied with second place, but upon hearing that someone had photographed the match with a digital camera, jumped at the chance for redemption.
"The house is happy. Last year we had three early losses, so we really turned it around this year," Anzalone said.
While happy with a place among the top three teams, several residents of Dodd-Mead felt robbed of victory.
"You should know that we're declaring war on [Henderson]," said one Dodd-Mead resident on the condition of anonymity.
Several Dodd-Mead residents who had seen the photograph on the digital camera claimed that the person accused of illegally facing backwards was not even participating in that particular tug. Even more contentious were suggestions that officials refused to stop the second tug even after a Dodd-Mead resident had been injured.
"We were tired, and one of our pullers got hurt in the middle of the second bout. If [Inter-House Council] is going to have these programs, then they've got to watch what's going on," said second-year Dodd-Mead resident Elena Schroeter.
IHC officials seemed convinced they had made the correct call. As members of third-place Mathews House stood by and watched the controversy unfold, some of them began to cry foul at the mention of a reply or outright disqualification.
"Don't make any more trouble than there already is," said one official just after the decision to reply had come down.
"We appreciate Mathews House's support," Schroeter said. "They even sent us a fruit basket."
According to Anzalone, the head official originally missed the alleged Dodd-Mead violations because he was concentrating on the outcome of the tug itself and forgot to check either team for disqualifying infractions.
"We will gladly accept $50," said first-year Dodd-Mead resident Nilsem Miller, "but we refuse to accept second place."