You may have read the recent story about the professional football rookie who wouldn’t carry the shoulder pads of a veteran player after practice. The rookie took heat for not doing something that’s part of the hazing process which is a component of a rookie’s initiation. That hazing can also include being forced to sing your college alma mater’s song and has been reported to include physical punishment like running blindfolded through a gauntlet of veteran players hitting you with bags of coins. Sounds like fun.
That got me to thinking about the two times in my life I’ve gone through hazing.
The first time I was hazed was a classic setting: fraternity pledgeship. The semester of pledgeship included physical punishment, humiliation, and outright servitude. Among other things, we’d have to clean the fraternity house and we’d each be assigned to clean the room of an “active.” We would act as human alarm clocks, waking up actives according to a wake-up board and regularly had to take part in ”line-ups.” During these line-ups, we were berated individually or as a group for real or fabricated transgressions before a mob of hooting actives. It all culminated in an old-fashioned “hell week” which was beyond gross, stupid, demeaning, and ugly. I’ll spare you the details.
I got what the whole process was aimed at: instilling cohesion in the group, forcing you to learn about the fraternity, and making you feel that if you were going through something that awful, the pay-off must somehow be worth it. Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe I actually put up with it. Youth is not an absolute defense, but then again I was only 18.
Was it worth it? Definitely. But not for the reasons you might think. The main benefit was that it prepared me for the next instance of hazing–one which should have made the first look like tea time at the Drake. More on that next time.