Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man

By Julie Des Jardins | Go to book overview

2
The Disillusionment of Afterlife, 1881–1887

FORTY-SIX MEN DROPPED OUT OF Camp’s Yale class by senior year, and another twenty joined it later, leaving 121 to graduate in the class of 1880. The transition out of college was daunting for some. One graduate described it as a “disillusionizing period,” when he passed out of an “ideal world” to enter “life as it is.” Yale professor Henry Beers noted that most of Camp’s cohort tried to handle the transition from college stoically: While daughters the same age were encouraged to remain dependent and connected to intimates they had always known, sons were supposed to embark on college afterlife with a sense of detachment and sober responsibility. “Young men of our race have a wholesome shame of making a fuss about their deeper feelings,” Beers reflected. They were encouraged to act assertively, rather than fall into deep, disabling reflection. The name of the game was “keep moving and mull over little.” One hoped to will success by ignoring the prospect of failure.1

But failure was imminent as many men walked away from a social universe in which they had known the rules only to suffer a disorienting sense of anonymity and flux. They were entering a world in which their new associates were not always pals, but rather competition for limited resources. In the Darwinist realm of business, they could not necessarily fall back on class rank or fraternity brothers who vouched for them. If

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