News & Publications
The College Magazine - Summer 2008
IN LOVE WITH CROQUET
I've secretly smuggled a book to every football game my family has ever taken me to, raising my head only sporadically to say things like, "when they jump on each other—is that good?" Usually around that point, the man sitting next to me spills a plate of nachos on me, possibly out of rage. I fare no better when it comes to understanding the rules of croquet.
This is not for lack of trying on the part of the members of the croquet team, who have gallantly attempted to explain it to me. But they start rambling about wickets and driving the ball into the ground, and I get distracted, and end up asking them what their costumes are going to be for the match this year. My total lack of understanding of the rules of the game has proved advantageous, at least during freshman year. I heard wild cheers from the audience and assumed we'd won. We hadn't. I went around congratulating everyone. No one had the heart to correct me until the next day.
That does not in any way change the fact that croquet day is the best day of the year. In fact, croquet is the perfect sporting event for a group of people who don't particularly care for sports. Much of our bookishness at St. John's may stem at least in part from our inability to compete with our peers on the soccer field. While students at other schools remember their winning touchdown, Johnnies remember striking out at T-ball.
Which makes it even more amazing that we're good at croquet. In fact, we're the top ranked team in the country. My assuming we'd won was a fair assumption, considering the fact that we usually do. As a result, we've occasionally taken to having the victory party the night before croquet. And the party is almost as amazing as croquet day itself. The big band music plays hard and fast. And everyone is united in a single, bloodthirsty, Machiavellian desire to beat the Navy—though the bloodthirstiness, to be fair, is tempered by Cole Porter and strawberries and champagne.
For one week in the spring, we have a bitter school rival. We chant things about how we will "sweep" by winning every round of croquet. I learned after freshman year that when members of the croquet team come up to you and scream "how are we like a broom?" the correct answer is to scream back "we sweep!" and not to meekly reply "we remove debris?" We enact in essence, the rituals seen on most Big Ten campuses that rarely make their way to quaint little St. John's.
Because in a way, beating the tough guys at Navy at any sport seems to make up for the fact that were always picked last for dodgeball. Watching the Johnnies sweep on the croquet field, we feel, as we rarely do, like wild Spartan warriors. Just for a little while though, before we go back to reading our T. S. Eliot for language class.
So, if you haven't yet made it, venture to Annapolis for croquet. You'll be glad you did. And nobody will judge you for bringing a book.
Jennifer Wright (A08), a wry observer of life at St. John's, offered this tribute to croquet, her favorite time of the year, after her last match as a student.