Staff Writer Josh Tate tackles the enigmatic and mysterious game of squash by delving deep into the sweat-soaked guts of Dodge. He went in wondering what squash is and came out in a word, enlightened.
I should preface this by saying I’ve never been into sports. My father was a football player in high school and for about a week in college, but I never followed in his footsteps. I was far happier as a bookworm, but recently I’ve been wondering about different sports. Of the sports that I’ve pondered, there’s one that springs out to me. It’s a sport shrouded in mystery, clouded in secrecy and trepidation from those who are not in the know. Of course I’m talking about squash. So before you start running to Dodge with your racket and herbaceous gourds, sit back and let me tell you the rules.
Squash is an old game, originating as an alternative to the highly political game of Backgammon in the late 1500’s. It was a favorite of Shakespeare who popularized it with his famous tragedy “The Squashing of Caesar,” an anachronistic prequel to Julius Caesar. The rich tradition continued with writers such as Milton playing as spotter, T.S. Eliot as a world champion during the Great War (an inspiration for what would soon become his “Four Quartets”), and even Allen Ginsberg, who reportedly switched from SEAS to CC after reportedly being hit in the face with the almighty squash ball.
A regulation squash court is always 21.33 cubits long, 14 cubits wide, and 12.33 cubits tall constructed either with balsa or gopher wood according to tradition, but despite the sport’s rich history of literary figures, words are not allowed upon the squash court. In fact, up until 1973 each regulation court was required to have a notary present for contracts of silence to be officially filed. This rule was abolished by the squash council due to protests from the notary union regarding the lack of supply for notaries. However, this is the only rule in squash to ever be challenged.
The other rules are varied and would take tomes (which have painstakingly been written) to fully explain, but at its core the rules are fairly simple. Squash consists of two teams: the red and the green. Each team consists of three positions: the spotter, the king, and most importantly the squish. Of these, the most straight forward position on the team is the spotter whose position is to stand in the corner and count their breaths while blindfolded. Each breath that the spotter takes removes points from their team, necessitating large lung capacity in a spotter.
The king wields their “scepter.” The scepter is in this case a racket similar to a tennis racket, except it is made out of solid gold handles, or at least lead if gold proves too costly. The netting is made of a combination of premium red silk and the fibers of grape vines symbolizing both the royal tradition of squash mixed with the reality that we are “all but food for plants,” quote from Shakespeare himself. The goal of the king is to hit the “orb” (a 5 oz hunk of rubber) at the squish of the enemy team.
The squish runs across the back wall in suits (formerly made from silk, now padded with boiled leather and fox fur) of the color of their own team while the king knocks the ball back and forth in an attempt to hit the squish, who is required to weigh anywhere between 150-170 lbs and stand between 3.33 cubits and 3.86 cubits tall. This is of course no easy task considering the weight of the king’s “scepter” which oftentimes needs both hands to swing. However, Abraham Lincoln famously wielded a scepter with one hand due to copious training.
Points are earned from hitting the squish. Leg shots give 10 points, ankles and feet give 15 points, chest hits are 5 points, but a 25 point bonus if it hits the heart (embroidered in neon yellow on the breast), arms are worth 5 points, wrists, hands, and shoulders are given 12.5 points, and the head is worth 30. If one is able to hit both armpits, then one deducts 12 points from the other team while adding 4 to your own. After three quarters of thirteen minutes, the game ends, the breaths taken by each spotter are counted up, and the highest score wins. In the event of a tie, nobody wins! As the universe is deemed unfair.
And these are the basic rules of squash. The game is one time-tested and honored, and as such has spread far and wide amongst the Ivy League. Never since chess has a game captured the imagination of so few and made sense to virtually none. I hope that I have bestowed upon you the majesty of squash.
Header via Bwog Archives