News   Money   Entertainment   Kids   Family Check e-mail
United Rentals - Click Here!

Outside the Lines

Rites and Wrongs

Athlete hazing on the rise

Athletes call it leadership

A victim calls it abuse

Problems in youth hockey

States creating hazing laws


Sports hazing incidents since 1980

Message board: What do you think about athlete hazing?


 OutSide The Lines
Derek Manning says initiation is a form of senior leadership.
Standard | Cable Modem

 OutSide the Lines
D.J. Newsom says that initiation helps bring a team together socially.

 OutSide the Lines
Manning (center) says freshmen are intimidated because they think they're going to jump on tacks.
Standard | Cable Modem

Tuesday, June 3
They call it leadership
By Tom Farrey

QUINCY, Ill. -- The chant is designed to induce fear, and that is precisely the emotion that the freshman soccer player wears on his face as he enters a room packed with veteran teammates, who are urging him to step on a chair above a sheet of thumb tacks on the floor.

Quincy's Initiation
 Amid chants of "bloody feet," a leap of faith onto what appear to be tacks.
avi: 856 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Urged on by veterans, a shot and beer go down easy.
avi: 880 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 Spraying down a freshman with Lysol and deodorant in what players call a "Mexican bath."
avi: 684 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 The electric razor comes out, making lines on a scalp.
avi: 893 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

 One lucky freshman gets to wear a woman's thong.
avi: 893 k
RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1

"Bloody feet! Bloody feet!"

The idea of this specific initiation act came to the Quincy University seniors last year. Make the newcomers think they have to jump onto a bunch of tacks with their bare feet -- the ultimate sacrifice, for no body part is as treasured to a soccer player as his feet.

A blindfold is placed on the freshman, who stands on top of the chair. The chanting begins again.

"Do you trust us? Do you trust us?"

The atmosphere is collegial, but unnerving. The freshman player answers dutifully, "I trust you!" but then, impulsively, tries to pull down the blindfold and sneak a peak and what he is about to leap onto. The veterans quickly stop him, and encourage him to jump.

He screws up the courage and lands on ... popcorn.

Another bond, with another newcomer, has been forged.

"If you think there are tacks on the floor and everybody wants you to step on them," senior midfielder Doug Hilbert said, "you're going to have to trust that there aren't tacks there -- or that we're going to catch you or something."

After one of the drunken freshmen was caught later that night streaking across campus, Hilbert and other Quincy soccer players were punished by their coach for their actions. But to this day they don't regret putting together the initiation event -- so much so that they shared video of the night's activities from last fall with Outside the Lines and

In that video, they say, there is truth. About the good time everyone had. About the magic of veterans coming together with freshmen in a loud, cramped mess of beer and music and silly commands. About the value of what experts call hazing, but they call initiation.

"I really don't think they see our side of initiation," said Derek Manning, a senior midfielder. "I mean, they think we're just trying to punish the freshmen, but really (we're) trying to gain a little more respect and bring all of us together. We would never try to harm one of the freshmen.

"It's all pretty much positive, I think."

The Quincy players aren't alone in that respect. Hazing is as ancient as Plato, who observed the behavior in college-age students in the fourth century B.C. It is as Christian as Martin Luther, who contended throughout his life that hazing made men out of boys. It is as known around the world as Nelson Mandela, who as a teenager went through a painful circumcision as a tribal rite of passage (which, say psychologists, is a nice way of saying hazing).

Hazing has been a fixture in sports culture for centuries. German dueling societies used to mark initiates with a schmisse -- a facial badge of honor carved into their cheeks with a blade. In England, cricket players engaged in an activity called fagging, in which younger players would do the chores of veterans, accept physical abuse, and provide them money.

"The process of causing young males to endure pain and suffering, either physical or psychological, is a very old process," said Rutgers anthropologist Lionel Tiger, who coined the term "male bonding" in the late 1960s. "It goes back to the military and warrior groups in countless cultures, and the Greeks, and people who were first in this country, and in West Africa. It's wherever you look."

Why the need to abuse the youngest members of an organization? Why the need to induce embarrassment, fear or, worse, terrible pain? The answers vary from group to group, and for individuals within those groups. Said Tiger, "Some of it, I suspect, is simple sadism. Characters enjoy hurting other people, particularly if they've been hurt themselves when they were younger."

However, for others, such as the Quincy soccer veterans, some larger purpose is at work. The "Bloody Feet" exercise, they say, is designed to build trust with the freshmen players, who unlike the seniors must live in dorms and therefore rarely have a chance to interact socially with the upperclassmen.

Online and on television, explore the issue of hazing in sports this week as the Emmy Award-winning Outside the Lines presents "Rites and Wrongs," a show and companion Internet series on the topic.

The one-hour show, originally shown on Tuesday, re-airs Thursday at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. Pacific) on ESPN and then again on Saturday, April 22 at noon ET.

The five-day online series runs through Friday and features original articles, polls and a message board that allows you to join in the debate.

At other times during the Quincy initiation, selected freshmen were asked to drink shots, wear women's underwear, streak across campus, and allow their heads to be shaved. The seniors, who said all of their activities were voluntary and that some freshmen chose not to participate, insist there was even a purpose to what they called a "Mexican bath," in which the veterans sprayed down a freshman with Lysol and deodorant.

They say it moderates the egos of cockier newcomers. "Some of the freshmen are on scholarship and some of the freshmen are not, and we don't want the scholarship players thinking that they're better than everyone else," said Scott Rogles, a senior midfielder. "It brings everyone down to the same level."

Creating a sense of equality among members is especially important in sports, where teamwork, even today, still wins games. The Quincy players who spoke to say they believe they were a better team in part because of the chemistry, communication and respect they developed off the field in social settings, including the initiation.

There's no verifiable evidence that hazing makes winning teams. Quincy, in fact, had a worse record last year than the season before, when they went to the NCAA Division II tournament and no one had yet thought up the "bloody feet" ritual. But the theory espoused by the Quincy players makes sense to Tiger, who also sees the need to test teammates before they are in a competition situation.

"Say you're going into a dangerous situation, like an opposing team's arena," he said. "Or say you're in the military and you're going across the hill. You don't have time to do a psychological investigation of the person next to you. You want to do it beforehand. The hazing is a usually a preliminary test before it gets dangerous."

At Quincy, the players even found value in their punishment, which required that they wake at the crack of dawn for three miles of running, twice a week for a month.

"It brought the team together at 7 o'clock in the morning," Manning said. "Another bonding."

Tom Farrey is a senior writer with and can be reached at

Copyright ©2002 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site.