NEXT to the celebrated free week in Philadelphia, the dreariest thing in the world has got to be a game of women's field hockey. For one thing, there's altogether too much running about for what happens. If they'd cut the size of the field down to the length and breadth of my cucumber patch the excitement might be greatly augmented and some peppy moments might accrue. But we found a way to inject some hooraw into women's field hockey on a recent Saturday and we feel we've a fine idea for lifting intercollegiate athletics into the fun category. First, you need two granddaughters - sisters. One of these granddaughters needs to matriculate at Wheaton College down in Massachusetts and have a flair at hitting a ball with a stick. The other granddaughter needs the same flair and should enter Bates College here in Maine.
Then you schedule a game between these two colleges and notify the grandparents that they must attend. This game was monotonied at Bates, which is in Lewiston and are close enough for doddering old ancestors to get there without public aid.
The teams were warming up as we arrived and parked and amongst the two separate throngs on each end of the field we easily spotted our beloved granddaughters, both wearing the same number - 16. We had parked so we could watch the warm-ups and lunch, and now we lunched.
It was a lovely fallish day and we were early enough so we ate without haste, savoring roast beef sandwiches which were a kind of bonus. Well, the marketman had fixed us an oven roast a couple of weeks before, and it turned out to be a cut that had first voted for McKinley and was surly about it ever since. When we told the marketman we were unhappy with him, he said he would make it up to us, and he did. We had enjoyed his makeup the previous Sunday, and were now on the dividends.
The homemade yeast bread and other with-its complemented the excellence of the roast beef, and we were lingering with the cry-baby filled sugar cookies when others of our family arrived. The game commenced shortly.
It was a good game, and every minute seemed an hour. The granddaughters actually played against each other as well as on opposing teams so the excitement was intense. Every few minutes I would wake from my postprandial nap on a lawn chair from home and I would break out into an extensive silence.
I saw no reason to cheer for one side against the other. Wheaton scored first, and then after 167 years Bates scored. This particular game was made slightly different by a men's soccer game going on over the fence on an adjacent playing field. Now and then the soccer ball would be booted over the fence and the field hockey players didn't seem to know what to do with it. Thus the afternoon pleasantly whiled away.
The game ended 1-to-1. An overtime period was played with- out any scoring, and then they played a tedious, lingering sudden-death period and everything was still 1-to-1. It was a good way to leave our contest of the sisters.
But then came the fun. The joust was over, animosity could be cast aside, and the two teams exchanged endearments before coming off the field - making a run for some tables that had been set up under campus trees by the doting parents of our two granddaughters. The tables were easy to find - the girls followed their noses upwind to the roasting wieners, the two goalies on behind. There was a pot of beans. There was ample of everything.
And there in the golden afternoon of waning September the Wheaton and the Bates field hockey ladies faced off in a gustatory contest such as I never heard of in other intercollegiate competition. And this one did not have the galloping boredom of the 1-to-1 battle of the sticks. One of the coaches went to replenish her beans at the pot, and turned to announce sadly, ``It's empty!'' It certainly was - I saw one of the goalies empty it.
The Wheaton team was bused home after the collation - except for No. 16, who stayed to visit her sister, No. 16. The picnic things were packed up, and after our farewells, Marm and I drove home with the thought that we had seen higher education reach a new height of civilized accomplishment.
We had anticipated the grim duty of sitting through the doldrum of a game where prudence would keep us from taking sides, and found we could cheer for the hot dogs without offending either side. If colleges adopt the post-game picnic as policy, granddaughters or not, the future will brighten.