Initiation is one thing and hazing is another entirely. Initiation is a right of passage meant to bring people together. More often than not, there is some embarrassment involved but no trauma and anyone who can take a joke is usually alright and welcomed into the community. Hazing, on the other hand, has fallen into serious disrepute, because it often goes too far, causing bodily harm and outright humiliation.
I was lucky in high school. My personal experience with initiation to the football team was pretty simple and a lot of fun. One day after practice the older members of the team dumped a few tubs of water on an already muddy part of the sidelines and the rookies had to sprint and slide through it. Later on, they hosted a rookie party at which rookies were required to bring females and had to funnel several beers while the rest of the team chanted motivational slogans. In both cases there was encouragement, nobody was forced to participate (but everyone did) and completion was followed with high-fives all around.
A few drinks and some mud was easy, fun and a decent team building exercise. Obviously the beer would be offensive to anyone against underage drinking, but they probably aren’t watching sports except croquet so this article isn’t for them. Initiation that is well intentioned can actually be fun, but there is a reason that aggressive and violent hazing has no place in sports anymore. Here is our list of hazing rituals that are outrageous, unpleasant and just plain weird. I’ll be including both categories of “weird but still funny” and “weird, unfortunate, downright wrong and illegal” and I’ll also provide a healthy mix of silly professional sports initiations that were ridiculous and amateur examples.
The Honorable Mentions
There have been some cool hazing/initiation pranks. Mike Alstott, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers former fullback, once removed the tires from a rookie’s car and hid them. Trindon Holliday was given a pink tricycle after he was drafted by the Houston Texans. Patrick O’Bryant had his brand new car filled with popcorn while at training camp with the Golden State Warriors. Finally, during training camp (when 49ers players rode to the stadium on bikes) Joe Montana hid their bikes in trees one day. It was clever. Hazing and initiation rituals are not harmful by nature, but the bad few out there have ruined it for the majority. Here is a list of the weird and awful.
15. Padres in Hooters Uniforms
This is a silly one to start with and its pretty innocent, but it is a bit weird. It was back in 2008 and during a flight from Denver to Washington, the rookies on the San Diego Padres’ squad were forced to wear the orange booty shorts and white tank tops normally reserved for the beautiful, busty women who provide beer and wings.
I can understand the idea of making rookies dress up like women, but why something that shows off so much skin? A housecoat or even just an unflattering dress would have done the trick. Who wants to see a baseball player in that?
“Talking out of turn? That’s a paddlin’. Lookin’ out the window? That’s a paddlin’. Staring at my sandals? That’s a paddlin’. Paddlin’ the school canoe? Oh, you better believe that’s a paddlin’.” Sorry for the esoteric reference from The Simpsons but it was the only quote I could think of that involved paddling.
As a method of initiation, paddling is absurd. It’s essentially saying “Hey rook, I’m going to make your ass hurt, HA HA!” See? Absurd.
A recent paddling controversy was that in Juneau, Alaska, in which some students were beaten with paddles and in some cases had bruises that lasted for weeks. Paddling has been a tradition for fraternities, sports teams and secret clubs for years, but it does cause significant injuries in some cases.
So a few new faces have joined your team and you’re hoping that they can develop into better athletes and help your team win. Who in their right mind thinks the best thing to do is to wail on them until they are injured. It happens and is among the weirdest things a team can do to new players.
A couple of schools have dealt with beating scandals. In Florida, Palm Harbor HS baseball team saw two freshmen brutally beaten on the team’s bus. Lowell High School in Massachusetts, had a beating controversy in which members of their hockey team were punched repeatedly and hung by their waists in the dressing room back in 1985.
12. Shoplifting – Duxbury High School
While most of the hazing methods discussed so far have been widespread instances that have been used by numerous teams, this seems to be an isolated incident. Duxbury High School is a school in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a small town just outside of Boston. The members of this high school’s baseball team had a tradition wherein young members of the team were required to enter a small convenience store wearing their uniforms and steal whatever they could get their hands on. The tradition was shut down for good in 1996.
I’m not referring to shaving of new players’ heads by the way, because the military does that and so it is somewhat understandable that a high school or college team could consider it something hardcore for them to do. But shaving of the body or pubic region moves into the realm of ridiculous and downright stupid. Who wants to touch their teammates like that and in those areas? Really? And does that type of touching really produce team cohesion? Not a chance! Keep your razors to yourself.
Brockton High School in Massachusetts and Kent State University in Ohio are two schools at which a track team and hockey team (respectively) were punished for stripping and shaving rookies.
10. The New Orleans Saints’ Gauntlet
When I ran the gauntlet it was fun and a training drill. Players lined up a couple of feet apart in lines and others had to run through them, shedding blocks and forcing our way through. Unfortunately, while this is a decent training exercise, there are multiple variations. Many years ago, the New Orleans Saints’ rookies were forced to run the gauntlet with pillowcases over their heads while veteran players hit them with sacks of quarters. Those can be heavy and players ended up with broken noses and bruised faces. Several didn’t play that week. In much the same way as beating players in a locker room or bus is counter-productive to cohesive intentions, harmful versions of the gauntlet can break a team.
It’s as weird to wail on rookies in this in this way as it is absurd and counterproductive. Who says, “hey let’s break these guys’ faces before the season even starts, they’ll do well this year for sure!” Now starting a bounty program, that’s a great way to bring players together!
9. L.A. Lakers: Baby Dolls in Strollers and Pink Backpacks
Admittedly, this is a funny one, but it’s also weird. Last year, rookie Tarik Black showed up to training camp with the Las Angeles Lakers was given a toy baby, a little stroller and a pink backpack to wear. I guess they were trying to make him look like a little girl showing up to the first day of kindergarten, but who really knows. He kept a smile on his face and took their abuse with good humor.
8. The Ol’ One-Sided Food Fight
Whether at the pro level or in high school, I’ll never understand why some athletes feel the need to cover rookies with condiments, eggs, or other foodstuff. It’s a waste, quite weird, but at the end of the day, I have a sense of humor and would find it funny no matter what side I was on, boys will be boys.
A few Tennessee Titans veterans tied Cary Williams and Lavelle Hawkins to a goalpost a few years ago and pelted them with water, flour and various condiments. Back in 1980, freshman hockey player J.T. Todd at the University of Michigan was not only stripped, shaved and left out in the winter cold, he was also pelted with eggs, jam and cologne, because they wouldn’t want him to freeze, be sticky, and smell bad. The eggs may have cancelled out the cologne.
7. Running with Anything Between One’s Buttocks
There is no nice or pleasant way to say this. There have been a few instances of young athletes having items, from cookies and other food items to random objects, wedged between their cheeks, and forced to run, with there being a punishment for the item falling out. This is sexual assault and, in most of the cases in question, the younger players involved were not cool with it.
Back in ’85, Paul McGaffigan of the Medford High School football team in Massachusetts was forced to run with crackers in there. The same happened to players from Watertown High School also in Massachusetts, but it was cookies and if they fell out the rookies were instructed to chow down.
6. Anything Involving Bodily Fluids
There is a big difference between something like a food fight (for example) and any hazing ritual that includes bodily fluids. There are tons of examples out there of initiation rights that include feces, urine and so on.
It’s funny when Ryan Reynolds’ character tricks a rival fraternity in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder into eating “tainted” donuts, but in real life, and with teammates, that is a great excuse to not bother with the rest of the season.
Back in the early 90’s a football rookie at Lodi High School in New Jersey was tied down, covered in feces and peanut butter by his “teammates.” Remember Watertown High School, mentioned in entry six (just above)? Well, before the rookies ran with cookies between their cheeks they were required to sit in urine.
5. Forced Nudity
If every member of a team is consenting and they want to have a naked team-building exercise, then more power to them. But the problem lies with forcing people who don’t want to be naked in front of each other to do so. It is absurd and among the stupidest things a team can do. First of all, it is a form of sexual assault, so there is the idea of criminal charges. Furthermore, if you don’t like seeing people of the same sex without their clothing, why force them to do it. If it’s unpleasant for all parties involved, it is completely asinine.
The Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League had a nudity hazing ritual in which young players were forced to stand naked with each other in the team’s bus bathroom. Back in 1988, in accordance with a school tradition, rookies for the Holmdel High School football team were forced to play a game of naked Twister.
4. Getting Rookies So Drunk They Die/Get Hospitalized
I made it clear in the intro that I have no problem with a few beers being funneled as long as some degree of care is taken to make sure nobody is so loaded that they need hospitalization. All too often with athletic hazing along with frat and sorority pledging, new people are fed such amounts of alcohol that they become ill or die. In some cases, everyone with them is also hammered, so the chances of a sick person getting medical treatment is practically zero. Take note, folks, there is a difference between a few beers between rookies and veterans and rectally funneling Bacardi 151. Doing this is stupid, if someone ends up in a hospital or morgue, eventually, questions will be asked.
Back in 1996, freshmen of UNC’s soccer team were hospitalized after being force-fed an obscene amount of booze. In 1998, several veteran athletes at New York’s Alfred University were expelled due to an alcohol-based hazing ritual.
3. The “Crab Boil”
Torture and team building are two different things. There have been a couple of reports of young athletes and certain fraternity pledges having their body parts exposed to boiling hot water. I could actually look past some of the other things on this list, like paddling and to a lesser extent taping someone to a flag pole or uprights, but pouring boiling water on a rookie or pledge is on another level of sadism and can cause serious damage.
I was unable to find any confirmed (by police reports, school reports, etc) instances of this happening on sports teams, but looking through Reddit and other forum sites, it is clear that it has happened. It is more common among fraternities.
2. Simulated Sex Acts
Remember in point two, about the act of pouring boiling water on pledges being pretty much torture? Well, similarly, any act that is remotely sexual in which members of teams engage as part of a hazing ritual is a sex crime. There have been reports of women’s teams forcing new members to perform with sex toys and even get into sexually suggestive situations with male athletes.
In 1997 and 1998, Kathleen Peay and Lizzie Murtie were victims of such rituals. Peay was forced to do some things involving bananas and pickles while a fresh-woman at the University of Oklahoma. Mutrie was a member of the gymnastics team at Essex High School in Vermont when she was forced to participate in a series of “mock sex acts” during a hazing ritual.
1. Full-on Butt Stuff
Again, there is no nice way of putting this while still getting the point across. We already spoke of rookies being forced to run with stuff between their cheeks, but in this entry, we’re talking sodomy. There are, unfortunately, a ton of cases of teammates forcing items, from shampoo bottles, to broom handles, to sharpies, inside younger teammates. Whatever you want to call it, whether rape, sexual assault or even hazing, it is all kinds of illegal. I’ve asked this before, but who the hell thinks this is a good idea?! I’m not anti-hazing overall, there are plenty of hazing rituals that everyone can laugh at, but rape isn’t one of them. Before anyone says “wait, Chris, this isn’t weird, it’s just awful,” yes it is awful, but it’s also weird to think this is a good idea and to want to have anything to do with a forced act like this.
McGill University in Montreal, Canada, had to deal with a sodomy scandal back in 2005. Ontario High School in Oregon, Sunnyside High School in Washington, Alexander High School in Ohio, Thorndale High School in Texas, Rancho Bernardo H.S. in California and Trumbull High School in Connecticut are other schools that have has hazing scandals in which team members were sodomized.
Most recently, Sayreville, New Jersey’s Sayreville War Memorial High School has been in the middle of a notorious hazing scandal in which young players were sodomized.
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