Preseason LSFL?

That’s right, sports fans. Your eyes do not deceive. This fall, for the first time in recorded history, Preseason law school football will come to Sydney Lewis Hall. Believe it or not, this is what passes for big news in the wide world of our Law School Football League (LSFL).

As you may have gathered from my “first day of class” post, intramural sports are a pretty big deal at W&L Law, and, year-in, year-out, intramural football always seems to be the biggest. Maybe it’s because it’s the first competition of the year. Or maybe it’s just because it’s the best. Either way, if you visit our campus on a Friday in the fall, you will find a staggering number of students talking about not Torts or Contracts or Criminal Law but, rather, football. Yes, football.

It’s a little hard to describe. You arrive at law school flush with incipient excitement about the classes you’ll take, the people you’ll meet, the friends you’ll make, the great professors you’ll have, and, next thing you know, you’re spending most of your Friday diagramming plays and discussing strategy for your upcoming Law School Football League game. Tis a peculiar transmogrification to be sure.

Before I came to law school here, I had no idea about LSFL. No one told me about the many hours I would spend brainstorming team names, contemplating uniform designs or discussing offensive/defensive philosophy. Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that, while our law school does not have a ultra-competitive academic culture, intramural football at W&L Law is no laughing matter.

However, even if you don’t play, law school football (or perhaps more specifically, the weekly, fall ritual of football every Friday on the law school lawn) is one of the best examples of the collegial culture that makes our law school so distinctive. At 4:00 p.m. on an autumnal Friday, you will find 90% of our student body on the lawn either watching or playing intramural football. It’s just a really nice way to spend a couple hours with your classmates after a long week of classes.

Upon hearing about the addition of preseason games to the LSFL schedule, I contacted Pat O’Brien, the reigning Sports Czar (the upper-level student in charge of organizing and managing the law school’s intramural program, an offering that includes football, floor hockey, basketball, softball and occasionally dodgeball) to discuss this change.

After six years of observing our law school’s sporting culture, I have noticed that there is often a great deal of reluctance to meaningfully alter any aspect of these competitions. That is, of course, unless the amendment in question serves the interest of the third year teams, in which case, such changes are likely deemed “necessary” and “essential.” However, Pat’s preseason idea seems to have been warmly embraced by all teams (regardless of year) and largely free from the hegemonic impulses so typical of these czarist edicts.

When asked why he decided to make this change, Pat commented, “For years now we have been trying to figure out how to integrate the transfers into the 2L class. The preseason was instituted to help get transfers onto these 2L teams. The transfers can come out, when the games aren’t official, hang out and hopefully find a good fit. Also, it will be an opportunity to experiment with some rule changes that have been called for by students.  We will see how they play out and whether we want to adopt them. Finally it will serve to help shake the rust off the teams currently in existence and allow the 1Ls to form teams before the first week of the season, and see how the game is played.”

Our students certainly work hard, but, at W&L Law, we think it is more than possible to enjoy a high quality of life and a fairly balanced lifestyle during your three years of legal study. Law school football is a great example of this balance. But don’t take our word for it. As Pat reflected, “I would say football on the lawn is very reflective of W&L. I view this school as a very collegial and to a certain extent a family. We go out every Friday and blow off some steam by focusing on a game.  Also the sense of honor is very much at hand in these games, there are no refs, rather each student is expected to be honest with one another and play the game fairly.”

For years now we have been trying to figure out how to integrate the transfers into the 2L class. The creation of Transferred Intent has hindered this effort as the transfers would play on a team composed entirely of transfers and never gel with their class.  When I was a 1L,  a 3L transfer, Teddy Arnold had been elected the class’ Vice President and the best explanation for clear integration into the class was that he had joined a 2L team right off the bat.  The preseason was instituted to help get transfers onto these 2L teams. The transfers can come out, when the games aren’t official, hang out and hopefully find a good fit.
Also, it will be an opportunity to experiment with some rule changes that have been called for by students.  We will see how they play out and whether we want to adopt them.
Finally it will serve to help shake the rust off the teams currently in existence and allow the 1Ls to form teams before the first week of the season, and see how the game is played.
2) How will it work? When does it start?
I am still ironing that out, but I am going to see what the current level of interest is, and if most teams are planning to show up, I will assigned game times for established teams and let things go from there.
3) How have the teams responded to this change?
So far, people have been very positive and are looking forward to getting out there.
4) Do you think this intramural football tradition  is in any way reflective of what W&L Law is all about?
I would say football on the lawn is very reflective of W & L. I view this school as a very collegial and to a certain extent a family.  We go out every Friday and blow off some steam by focusing on a game.  Also the sense of honor is very much at hand in these games, there are no refs, rather each student is expected to be honest with one another and play the game fairly.

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