At Dartmouth, 'jock' goes beyond beefcake stereotype

by Kelsey Blodget | 11/17/04 6:00am

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles profiling students who at first glance embody various Dartmouth stereotypes. In this piece, The Dartmouth examines the college jock.

Matt Battipaglia '05 stood on the football field surrounded by about 100 of his teammates Tuesday afternoon, shouting encouragement for Saturday's Princeton game. His speech, rife with swearing and fist shaking, seemed to do the trick. Amidst chants of "G-R-E-E-N," the players charged into practice.

Battipaglia, known to his teammates as "Batts" or "Meatball," is a 6-foot-3, 280-lb. offensive tackle who seems to embody the Dartmouth jock: lifting weights for an hour each day, practicing four times a week for three hours a day, and -- like many athletes -- going into the negative numbers on his Big Green meal plan.

Battipaglia's bulk is no doubt supported by his fondness for food. The football players affectionately call Monday, the only day of the week they get off from practice, "Chicken Day," since they celebrate by stuffing themselves on Food Court's ever-popular offering of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Battipaglia's teammates said Chicken Day was his favorite day of the week. The day is also marked by Battipaglia's traditional "Chicken Day Blitz," in which he recounts the previous weekend's highlights and gives out a "Hot Lips" award to whichever football player he spied making out in public.

Male bonding is a major component of the team's personality. After a big win or a grueling practice, teammates indulge in "shower games," in which players throw handfuls of soap on their teammates before they leave the room. The soapy players then have to return to take another shower, and the cycle continues.

Battipaglia said his teammates also sometimes clog the drains with paper towels after the team is finished showering, then pull up chairs and enjoy chips and Powerade while they watch the showers flood. However, he said he abstains from the activity and that his teammates make sure to unclog the drains before the water reaches the locker room.

After post-game parties, the players often drive to Fort Lou's truck stop in the wee hours of the morning for much-needed munchies.

"We all shout out, 'One, two, three Fort Lou's!' at four in the morning, and everyone still awake piles into the car," he said. "Whoever is still sober will shuttle us over there."

But while Battipaglia, a member of Gamma Delta Chi fraternity, may seem at first to fit the physical description of a jock, his personality often strays from the stereotype.

In Battipaglia's Topliff single, a huge Miller Lite Banner, a Bush-Cheney poster and Philadelphia Eagles paraphernalia are juxtaposed with family pictures taken on an Alaskan cruise in his dorm room.

In the Davis Varsity House sports center Tuesday afternoon before team meetings, where players watched film of Princeton's team to prepare for the next game, he stopped to chat with administrative assistant Michele Robinson, who players refer to as "the team mom."

"She makes us winter hats with our numbers on them," he said. "And if we're really homesick, we can always go to her."

Battipaglia, and several other players, also paused to sign a football helmet for Marshall Manning, an area 9-year-old with an inoperable brain tumor.

Teammate and freshman-year roommate Chris Dodds '05 described Battipaglia's sensitive side.

"We all saw him break down and cry once in Gamma Delt when some of his friends from high school visited," he said. "He was just so happy to see them."

When Battipaglia took an exchange term in Santa Barbara with his teammates his sophomore winter, he quit drinking alcohol for an entire month in order to follow the Atkins diet, losing 40 pounds.

An economics major, Battipaglia occasionally struggles with his courses but works hard to understand the material. This spring, he took classes at Drexel University near his hometown of Philadelphia for practice, even though he wouldn't receive credits for it at Dartmouth. He brought these skills to bear while working as an equity syndicate associate for investment banking firm Ryan Beck and Co. in Slorham Park, N.J. during Summer and Winter terms of his junior year.

Battipaglia said he doesn't think the jock stereotypes are fair.

"It's easy to say things from the outside," he said. "But they don't realize all the work we put into this. We're out here four days a week, four hours a day. This is my life."