‘Vomit Drinking and Hospitalisation’ – make sure you’re not being short changed on initiation fun
I’ll put my cards on the table first. I’m not part of a sports team. I’m the girl who dabbled in a bit of secondary school netball, joined the football team to prove a point and managed to come in the top ten in cross country by taking a shortcut through a fish and chip shop. All in all, hardly the CV of a well-rounded sportsperson. So perhaps, I hear you shouting from the sidelines, I should hang up my boots before I even start to wade into a subject that need not concern me. But since when has that been any fun?
And ‘fun’ is apparently what’s going on in the warped world of initiations. I’ve heard the trope. ‘It’s an exciting way to get to know each other’; ‘it creates bonds that a few pints at the local would never be able to simulate’; ‘initiations break down boundaries in the team’. And you know what, I have no doubt that initiations could do this. If only they just tried a teeny bit harder not to encroach on Itchy and Scratchy’s patch of casual sadism.
We’re not talking about a few drunken confession games that produce the kind of nicknames that might make your Gran keel over. The influx of the hazing phenomenon from the United States has dragged things into much darker waters. In the national press, reports have ranged from the degrading – University of Gloucestershire students throwing up with plastic bags on their heads – to the fatal – 18 year old Alex Doji died choking on his own vomit in 2003. And this is only the stuff that gets leaked. One of the major problems is the oaths of secrecy students are frequently sworn to. When I’ve tried to poke my nose around as a sports outsider, the reception has not exactly been one of open arms. Shifty sideways glances with incomprehensible murmurs would make you think I’d enquired into the activities of Russia’s FSB. In Putin’s living room.
However, glimpses into the bizarre and brutal trials of some of UCL’s sports teams have been offered up. One student, (surprisingly they didn’t want to be named) described rituals of group vomit drinking and a ‘fun’ trip that deteriorated into the tears of virtually all participants. And the boys of one team were hardly subtle as they strode out in freezing temperatures, scantily clad in bikinis and lard. Hilarious, you might chuckle, until you realise that the punch line was a prolonged hospitalisation of one of its members.
So why do we still allow this to go on? Why do first years blindly follow the merciless instructions of senior students who see it as their duty to break every ounce of self confidence in their fellow team mates? I know enough people who’d gladly join up to sports teams if only they didn’t feel they were also signing away their basic human rights. Clearly we’re not talking about all sports teams and I’m sure many initiations pass without incident. But for every fresher that’s left cleaning their tears and vomit off fancy dress, there’s still a hell of a way to go in eradicating this accepted practice of degradation.