Selected Modern Chinese Essays: Reflections on the Sports Meet

By Hu Shih

After entering an American University, I watched, for the first time, an intercollegiate football match on the campus. Unlike the football we now play in China, American football is a very tough game. Though admission cost as much as two US dollars per person, yet there was a large attendance of several thousand. At each critical moment, the stadium would be echoing with the spectators’ chorus of wild yells for their own athletic heroes. Whenever a player of their side was injured and helped out of the football field, they would also yell by way of saluting and comforting him. At first I just couldn’t get used to the rough play and deafening roar, inwardly calling it an inhuman modern version of the bloody fights of men with men or with wild animals in the arena of the Roman amphitheater.

Among the yelling crowds were not only young boys and girls, but also many hoary-headed old professors. I was very surprised to see my professor of botany, who happened to sit nearby, also shouting frantically.

I went to watch football several times. The third time, however, found me rising to my feet in spite of myself to join my fellow students in cheering like mad.

Can I have been assimilated into the barbarous modern version of the ancient Roman practice? No. The fact is, I gradually threw away the “old-age mentality” that I’d brought with me from China. I became rejuvenated.

Now, after spending five years teaching at Peking University, I’ve been assimilated into the “scholarly dignity” of my students, so that my erstwhile “old-age mentality” has revived by and large.

Today I was very happy to hear that Peking University was about to schedule a sports meet. That reminds me of how twelve years ago I joined the football crowds in giving loud yells. I’m looking forward very eagerly to the new opportunity for me to regain some of my youthful spirit. I hope all my students will be present at the playing field to taste the joy of youthfulness and temporarily leave behind their “scholarly dignity” in the classroom or dormitory.