If you just listened to the tongue-in-cheek slogans, you might be under 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 Romeros movie.
Even the Princeton Review joined the stereotyping last year, ranking Chicago 15th 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. Despite the grim reputation, the U of C has more than its fair share of intramural (IM) and club activities in a wide selection of sports.
Ranging from collegiate staples such as ultimate frisbee, flag football, and soccer to relative novelties like broomball and inner tube waterpolo (exactly what it sounds like), the Physical Education and Athletics department offers 35 different IM sports, most of which culminate in tournaments. Teams can represent houses and fraternities, and IM champions receive a coveted T-shirt.
At times such a lofty prize (estimated street value: $2) can bring out the worst in students—on at least one occasion last fall, the UCPD arrived on the scene to settle a flag football dispute—but more often than not, 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, which in the case of the immensely popular broomball means waiting in line outside the Ratner office the morning sign-ups open in order to get one of the few available slots.
Times have changed some since the golden days of the early 20th century, when shooting was a popular IM sport (as immortalized in the halls of Bartlett), but if you still like your IM athletics without the athleticism, fear not. Billiards, foosball, and golf are all alternatives, and for those who believe that it's never too early to prepare for retirement, there are IM options such as 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. There are 38 clubs in all, and 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 tournaments at other campuses. Others take a simpler approach. Gymnastics has no competitions and keeps all of its practices open, while the Velo club (cycling) mixes veteran 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.