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Such a method of treating the subject is manifestly absurd. A question like this, involving as it does, the consideration of established facts, and depending on data, some of which, at least, are obtainable, though perhaps with difficulty, is not to be treated in a merely speculative way; and any such argument, which starts with the conjectural, and by a plausible chain of reasoning seeks to establish the possible, is, of course, to be cast out as inadmissible.
Ten or fifteen years ago, it might bave been said with truth, that the matter was still an open question, and that, whatever might be the case with Great Britain, athletic sports had not flourished long enough with us to enable a fair estimate to be made of their influence and effect. Since then, however, their growth in popularity, coupled with the fact that many have engaged in them who are now in their maturity, renders it possible for us to argue the case on its merits without straying from the solid ground of fact to ride our hobbies into the cloud land of theory.
Assuming, then, that athletics, as their most vehement opponents will undoubtedly be willing to admit, have become a national institution, our investigation branches into two heads :
1. Do athletic sports tend to benefit a man's physique and endow him with increased health and strength, or is there a greater danger of broken health and undermined constitution to him who enters into them, especially if this be at a comparatively early age, when the body cannot be said to have attained its full growth and development?
2. What is their influence on the intellect? Do they, even assuming that they impart health to the body, have a corresponding effect on the mind? Or does the cultivation of superior bodily strength incline to brutalize the mind, imbuing it with a tinge of the animal ?
The first is a question to be dealt with only on a basis of pure fact. The second admits, perhaps, of more latitude in theorizing, though here, of course, the less one gravitates toward pure speculation, the better.
The physical education of the present day, and the methods now employed for the development of the human frame, are often made to suffer by drawing a parallel to the physical culture of ancient Greece and Rome. One marked difference ought to be taken into account, and one which makes an honorable distinction in favor of modern athletics. With the ancients the prime object was the development of individual excellence, the encouragement of the victor only. The sole de. sign of their gymnastic training was to produce a body of stalwart youth, well versed in the arts of war. To the brute strength and physical courage derived from their pursuit of hardy sports, they attributed their boldness in warfare and their unquestioning obedience to command even in face of death. Homer, Virgil, and Horace all extol the benefits and delights of outdoor sports, and throughout the classics are scattered the praises of athletic exercises. They are lauded, however, only as they are thought to induce personal bravery and individual strength, while those who carped at them were wont to embody their objections in the inquiry whether the victorious athlete would prove a brave soldier. Euripides who spoke of field sports with contempt asked if
-"He who could wrestle well, or run,
Would be the man to fight his country's enemies." With us not merely pre-eminence is encouraged, and our physical culture has a far more comprehensive aim. To endure the exhaustive drains upon bis vitality which the physician, the lawyer, or the business man may have to undergo, perfect health rather than enormous strength is to be sought, and if it can be shown that the tendency of athletics is to cultivate the latter at the expense of the former, the present enthusiastic encouragement which is accorded them is to be depre . Yet, without attempting to deny that the object with ambitious young men is the acquirement of superior strength, that to gain it they are willing even to risk health, we think it can be shown that the two may be pursued in common, and both attained in the highest degree : that the possession of superabundant strength is not incompatible with the possession of superabundant health and vitality. The great trouble with those who begin a course of physical training is that they attempt too much. Which should be especially observed in any line of athletics is the adaptation of special kinds of exercises to individual capacity. What is healthful and invigorating for one may be dangerous for another. The liability to a sudden change in a person's habits is one of the most serious objections to athletics. Festina lente should be the motto of every man who undertakes a course of training. Gradual preparation, progressive development, is the object to be kept carefully in view. It is hardly fair when a headstrong young man trains foolishly and overtaxes himself to throw the whole blame on athletics. There are plenty who will assert that in the height of their preparation for some manly contest, they felt healthier, more buoyant and active than at any other time in their lives. The regular hours, the abstinence from luxuries, the plain and simple manner of living impart a glow to the skin, a clear brightness to the eye. Then it is that the athlete feels repaid for the exertions he has undergone and the sacrifices he has made. In athletics, as well as in the serious pursuits of life, attention to a specialty is the means for attaining excellence. The ambitious undergraduate, fond of the excitement of rivalry and competition, tries to row in his college boat at one season, play on the ball nine at another, and enter a foot race the day after a rough game of foot-ball. A frequent result is, at most, an acquirement of mediocrity in one or two things, and not infrequently he abandons all in his disappointment and falls back into physical idleness, when, if at the start he had taken up one line of sports and adhered to it, he might have perfected himself in that specialty.
No student need plead want of time as an excuse for not entering into some branch of athletics. And just here arises the mistake which the opponents of manly exercises are so wont to fall into. The cultivation of the mind is treated as antithetical to that of the body; whereas it is a one-sided development where either mental force or bodily strength is sought after at the expense of the other. The time consumed in the preparation for a university boat race is no more than the hardest student could and ought to give to his regular daily exercise. The dawdling walk of a mile or two with which many of our undergraduates content themselves, under the name of a “constitutional," is a farce which leaves the man no better off than before with the exception of having exchanged the close atmosphere of his study for the pure out-door air.
But the sluggish current of his blood has not been accelerated, nor the beat of his pulse quickened as if he had taken a halfhour's row or a twenty-minutes burst over a bard road at a brisk pace. Let him do this latter, day in and day out, and he will come back glowing with health and ready for his evening's reading with clear eyes and a cool head.
Yet we would not be understood to favor the pursuit of one kind of exercise to the absolute exclusion of every other kind. That would result in the development of one set of muscles to the neglect of others. One may take up a certain line of athletics and perfect himself in that specialty and at the same time ensure symmetrical development by other supplementary exercises. The pedestrian whose running or walking serves to strengthen the lower limbs, needs the use of the Indian clubs and parallel bars to enlarge the girth of bis chest and the measurements of his fore-arm and biceps, while the boating man will pull the lustier oar if he accustoms himself to a run or walk at regular periods. Enjoyment, too, sbould be sought for as well as mere forced activity.
"In what 'ere you sweat Indulge your taste. Some love the manly toils, The tennis some, and some the graceful dance.
He chooses best whose labor entertains
Armstrong's “ Art of Preserving Health."- Book III.
In boating, base ball, and the like, there is something more to be gained than mere listless exercise, and while to most natures there is a pleasing stimulus in competition, there is at the same time an element of sociability in those contests where the honors of victory are enhanced, or the mortifications of defeat lessened by sharing with one's fellows.
The interest which is excited by our annual university boat race arouses a proportionally increasing distrust in the physical effects of such a strain upon the constitutions of those who engage
in it, and it has long been thought by many a question of grave doubt whether the college oarsman is likely to last as well in the long run as his less athletic contemporary. Fortunately for the accuracy of our conclusions the very same question, depending on about the same conditions, has arisen in England in regard to the yearly aquatic struggle between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and for several years the discussion has, from time to time, received contributions in the form of pamphlets and reviews, upholding or decrying the boat race and its supporters. There too, was felt the impossibility of reaching a fair conclusion because of the absence of statistics from which to reason as data. In order to remedy this deficiency a Dr. Morgan, of Manchester, himself an old college "oar," collected whatever information lay within the scope of inquiry concerning the after health of all the 294 men who had rowed in the university races from 1829 to 1869. Of these only seventeen appeared to think that they had been in. jured by their exertions in training for and rowing in the race, and by several of these seventeen other causes are mentioned to which their ill bealth might equally well be attributed.
Diseases of the heart and lungs are those to which the oarsman is assumed to be especially exposed ; and whenever a rowing man dies from affections of these organs the paragraph which bewails his fate is pretty sure to close its threnody with a homily upon the fearful risks which the oarsman runs of untimely death or premature decay from consumption or aneurism of the heart. An examination of Dr. Morgan's work, however, is calculated to allay if not dispel any suchi gloomy fears. By a comparison of his elaborate and carefully collated statistics with the Reports of the British Registrar General, he arrives at the conclusion that "the rate of mortality from lung and heart diseases among rowing men is far lower than can be found in any Statistical Tables which ever were compiled.” While, in subversion of the theory that the strain to which the muscles of the heart are subjected in the protracted struggle of a four-mile race may produce an aneurism, he quotes the assertion of Dr. Niemeyer that “the healthy heart never ruptures." And surely it is in the power of every man to ascertain before beginning a course of training, as a precaution due to the cause of athletics, as well as for any private reason, whether those important organs, the heart and lungs, are in a healthy condition, fit to warrant his undertaking what no one denies is severe exertion.