P is a freshman at USC, and a good friend of mine. He attended a private school in New Jersey before coming to USC. He was on the swim team for 4 years.
If you did something stupid on the swim team, it was the ritual that you had to like, if five members of the swim team raised their hand, then you had to stand up and apologize and say, “I am sorry, I am stupid. My name is so and so.” And it would always be like the freshmen, the seniors would always make the freshmen because I mean, we would fuck up a lot. So if I spilled my chocolate milk at the table, immediately all the hands went up, like 20 Hands fly up in the air. And so I stand up on the chair. And like, basically, the whole dining hall is like, “who’s this freshman who’s standing up on a chair?” And I’m like, “I’m sorry, for spilling the chocolate. I am stupid.” You needed five, but sometimes the seniors would point to random kids in the dining room to be like, Hey, can you guys raise your hands? And if they raise their hands, then you’d have to apologize and be like, “I’m sorry. I’m stupid.” And so one time I was at the dining hall. And I was so sick of having to, like every day I was apologizing for something dumb. Like they really, they really tried to make you say “I’m stupid” every day. And so one time, there was this senior. He was sitting across from me and he was like, just a titan of man. You know, he had like, all these records and shit. And so I think the dining hall was serving veal. And this guy goes, “I can’t believe we’re eating like baby deer right now.” And I was like, “Baby deer? That’s venison. Dude, this is baby cows.” And he said, “What? You’re stupid dude. That’s a baby deer.” And I was like, “No, it’s not” and all the seniors are like it’s fucking baby deer. And then I was like, “oh, I’m googling this” and I showed them and they were like, “Oh.” And I immediately put my hands up and a lot of the other freshmen raised their hands, so I got the senior to go, “I’m stupid.” And I was like “Yes! I did it!”
This is a good example of just a ritual that happens every time there is something of note — in essence, a way to bond and almost have an inside joke within the team. The lack of involvement of other people speaks to the trend of this bond — the senior advantage over freshmen and the tendency to bully and make fun of them. Yet this is a case where it gets reversed — the tradition is not just one-sided, but it can be turned on its head, where the freshman that traditionally has to display an act of humiliation all the time gets to relish in the glory of reversing the way it normally happens. These traditions of power and power reversal are a major part of sports teams and close organizations in general, especially those emphasizing brotherhood.