For Fear of a Large Man

by Kyle B. Teamey | 10/27/97 6:00am

There was, when I was a freshman, a man known as "House" at Dartmouth. I never actually knew him, just saw him working at Full Fare from time to time. I never actually knew his name either. He was simply House, the largest human being my friends and I had ever seen. In our minds, he was a legend. A giant from the football team. In our overawed (freshman) minds, it seemed he must have been 7 feet tall and weighed 400 pounds. Often seen, but poorly understood, he was universally feared. All this because genetic chance had made him large.

Last fall, as fate would have it, a number of similarly large individuals, '99's on the football team, joined my fraternity. It was then that I began to realize what it means to be a person of above average size, and what it means to be a football player at Dartmouth. I began to see my own biases and prejudices for the first time and appreciate those of others. I want to take this opportunity to debunk a few myths and maybe even create a little understanding between the average student and the average member of the offensive line.

The first falsehood regards intelligence. It is a very widely held belief that smarts and size are mutually exclusive properties, as though the larger a person is, the dumber they are. Based on this assumption, football players must be the slowest (witted) people on campus. Of course, if that line of reasoning is correct, there should be a lot more coxswains winning the Nobel Prize. Like all stereotypes, it is just plain wrong. Intellect, and lack thereof, comes in all sizes and shapes.

The next problem large people face is the intimidation factor. You have to admit that when you stand next to someone a head taller than you who weighs 100 more pounds than you, it is a bit intimidating. And to be sure, if you are with a group of lineman, it is easy to feel ill at ease, especially if you don't know any of them. I guess it's a law of the jungle sort of reaction: we feel uncomfortable when confronted by large strangers. It's not wet-your-pants-cuz-you're-next-to-Charlie-Manson scary, though, and why should it be? These are not violent killers hellbent on crushing you, they're your classmates and fellow human beings. Regular people, in a larger packaging. The current House, the largest person I currently know, is also one of the kindest and most down to earth people I have ever met, all 6'5" and 290 pounds of him. I just had to take the time to get to know him.

Over the last couple years, I have known a good number of individuals who were set on joining my fraternity, only to renege and join other houses. Their universal reason, football players. They generally didn't know many ball players, they just didn't want to be associated with them. And though this may have been an excuse used to veil other factors in their decision, it still highlights prejudices we collectively hold on this campus. When it comes time to join a fraternity, Dartmouth men are willing to join houses associated with baseball, hockey, lacrosse, the marching band, crew, and rugby, but not football. While it is true that some individuals at the now defunct Beta performed infamous acts that severely tainted the college's view of that house, why should all football players be associated with these mistakes forever onwards?

I am happy to have football players in my fraternity. They have not only added a lot to my house, they have become friends. However, I have also come to the conclusion that I'm glad not be a football player. I could not handle the sacrifices and energy required to practice six hours a day, six days a week. My pride would not be able to deal with the burden of constantly having my intelligence questioned, or being told I was at Dartmouth simply because of my physique. And above all, I could not cope with others being intimidated by my looks to the point that they had trouble approaching me as a friend. I should hope that at a school such as Dartmouth we would be able to recognize our discriminatory thoughts and purge ourselves of them. If we denounce racism, sexism and homophobia only to discriminate against a group because of their size, we are the worst sort of hypocrites. So the next time you see a group of large athletes moving your way, I ask that you to do what they do for you, think of them not as giants or football players, but as people.