The Oberlin Review

In the Locker Room with Jackson Meredith and John Crittenden

This week, the Review caught up with Jackson Meredith and John Crittenden, senior members of the Billy Goats Gruff, the men’s rugby team. Meredith, majoring in Politics and Law and Society, and Crittenden, majoring in Politics and History, discussed the unique blend of naked laps and taxidermied goat heads that comprises men’s rugby culture at Oberlin. The Gruffs can be seen Saturday at 1 p.m. on North Fields as they face Ohio Northern University.

Madeleine O'Meara, Sports Editor

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Why did you decide to play rugby at Oberlin?

Jackson Meredith: Well, I played rugby in high school for four years. We had a really good team. I didn’t think I was going to play at Oberlin because it was a college sport and I didn’t know if I would have time, but my hallmate, Avery Harrison [OC ’10], came to my door on the first day [of practice] and was like, “Hey man, let’s do it.” And I’ve been playing since then.

John Crittenden: I actually also played in high school for three years and was planning on playing. I was approached by Joe Sheeran [OC ’12], on the Facebook page and he was recruiting people. Then I met up with him and some other rugby players the first night of orientation, so I pretty much immediately knew that’s what I was doing.

Do you feel that rugby culture is different from varsity sports culture at Oberlin and mainstream sports culture in general?

JM: Yes. Since rugby’s a club sport, it’s a lot more relaxed than varsity sports. Friends I have that [play] varsity sports have a much greater time commitment [and] not as much leeway for missing games or practices. The rugby team… we take what we can get. If you show up we’re happy with that. Also, after the games we hang out with the other teams for a couple hours and get to know them.

JC: I think besides the time commitment thing, which is pretty obvious, the camaraderie between teams is pretty evident. I think that’s something unique to rugby.

Tell me a little more about the rugby mascot and how that figures into the team identity.

JM: Well, back in 2006 when the team was started again, the people who were on the team narrowed it down to two mascots. They voted for it, [and] the two mascots were [going to be] either the Oberlin College Billy Goats Gruff, which we are now, or the Oberlin College Fighting Fairies. The Gruffs won by one vote. So we were almost the Fighting Fairies. Then, a couple years ago, some senior guys on the team went out to the middle of Ohio and bought a taxidermied goat head, [which they] named Wilbur. That’s our actual mascot, so we have that going for us.

So how do you decide who gets the goat head?

JM: Usually it’s the senior members of the team.

JC: Anyone who has a nice house will end up getting it. Wilbur’s kind of picky, he needs to have adequate living space.

JM: It’s also an award. The Spirit of the Game award, which is just the person who is an all-around good guy, a good academic and is good at rugby.

JC: Someone who personifies the spirit of the Gruffs.

What are some other traditions and rituals that your team has?

JC: Well before games we have a cheer that we always do. We used to have someone who would come out and play bagpipes. What’s the song?

JM: “Scotland the Brave.”

JC: Yeah, “Scotland the Brave.” But we don’t really have somebody to do that anymore, so we just sort of hum it. And we have a chant to get people fired up.

JM: Other rugby traditions — there’s something called a zulu, which is [when] you score your first try [of] your [college] career, you have to run a naked lap at the end of the game.

In front of everyone?

JM: Yeah.

Do you run it with other people who have also scored their first try?

JC: Yeah, you try to get a nice group.

What has been a favorite rugby moment?

JM: When I got to the team we were really, really bad. Abysmal — didn’t even come close to winning a game. Slowly, we moved up and started taking things more seriously, and about two years ago, we really turned the team around. We changed the way practices were run [and] what it was like to be on the team, and since then we’ve had winning seasons. That’s a really good part for me.

JC: It’s hard for me to pick out a specific moment because [everything] kind of blends together and I’ve enjoyed all of it, but I think beating Kenyon [College] for the first time last year has been one of my favorites.

JM: Yeah, they’re our rivals. Before that, the closest we’d come to beating them was losing 10–45.

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