Around the middle of Hilary term every year, the observant among you will have noticed a bizarre increase in strange Facebook profile pictures, sports players walking around from head to toe in stash and college friends avoiding the bar proclaiming that they are on a drinking ban. Why is this, I hear you cry? Because the Varsity Games are fast approaching and we want to do everything we can to ‘SHOE THE TABS’!! Competition with Cambridge touches every level of the game including practices which have come to be called ‘pre-Varsity rituals’, as let’s face it: common sense dictates that for team sports, a group of people who get on and know each other well will undoubtedly perform better on the day.

Every sport has a different way of going about team bonding. Some eat together every night the week before, some get together in the evening to discuss tactics and others impose a sex ban in the run up to the big day. Many teams try to create a talking point by targeting the one medium they know everyone has access to: Facebook. This happens a lot for advertising plays, events or general awareness. Remember, for example, when a message thread was passed around girl friends guiding them through a sometimes elaborate set of instructions as to what to post as their status? This was all to promote breast cancer awareness and to get men talking about a mysterious phenomenon sweeping across Facebook. The same happens in the run up to Varsity. Teams decide on a theme, let’s say Pokemon characters, and change their profile pictures to something noticeable and eye catching. There is also an element of psyching out Cambridge, sending out a warning that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to unite ourselves against the evil Tabs.

On the day itself, war paint is not uncommon. Pump up music blasts from a boom box on the sidelines and vicious death stares are exchanged as the captains approach the referee to do the toss. Old school friends who find themselves on opposing sides savagely throw aside any loyalty. Besides, these friends will have sold each other out by making sure their own team is familiar with the friend’s every weakness, ready to be exploited. The starting whistle blows; which team will come out stronger?