“Oh captain! My Captain!” The 2015 Mayan Summer Olympics

It’s been a while since I saw The Dead Poets Society, a Robbin Williams movie that propagated the importance of literature, and hence love and fraternity. Saturday’s Maya Olympics, the first Maya Event I’ve attended, induced in me, flashbacks from this incredible movie.

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Members teamed up to compete against each other for a host of wittily conceived literary games. Drawing a direct parallel in my mind, to the science students who got together to share their enjoyment of literature, in The Dead Poets Society. Although the fact that there were about fifteen of us present at 12pm on a summer quarter Saturday at Drexel Park, might prove our devotion to be stronger than the kids in the movie.

It started with the slightly simpler stuff – a game involving writing the best haiku from a limited set of words, with several words being sacrificed (eliminated) after each round. With the sun shining bright above their shoulders, and blue and red ribbons dictating their allegiance to either team, the Mayan teammates came together to create skillful witticisms. Then the selected team members stood up and recited the phrases they had come up with, and were judged by an impartial preselected judge, decorated in both blue and red ribbons (a parallel to Robin Williams in the movie). Team allegiance it seemed, didn’t curb one’s ability to appreciate a good play on words.

This was followed by an activity which was bequeathed “The best Shakespearean insults.” The two freshmen in charge of the entire event, including its conception, had taped Shakespearean words/phrases on two distinct poles, about twenty passes away from either team’s turf. In what I perceived to be a witty slight to the notion that creative people tended to have diminished physical prowess, each team member was required to run to their team’s specific pole, select a word/phrase, and run back. This demonstrating both physical and creative prowess by selecting the best word possible to compile their teams insulting Shakespearean sentence. Not only were the teams judged on who compiled the sentence first, but also the best composition. Needless to say, the entire ordeal was delightfully captivating.

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This was followed by a much needed cookie and water break. However, even whilst reenergizing, in what appeared to be an effort to respect the ancient Greek belief that creativity possesses the beholder, instead of being inherited by him or her, the Mayans kept their creative juices flowing. The break time competition was one in which we Mayans held no allegiance to a team, but competed against all their peers, in an exercise of creative mediocrity. “Worst analogy possible” – we dubbed it. Even in her effort towards literary penury, “the dragonfly was as magnificent as a dragon and as flightiest as a fly” exclaimed one student. Maybe the Greeks were right after all.

This was followed by the most complex, and intense competition planned for the day. Following suit from the beloved game of Apples to Apples, the teams wrote down specific choices on a set of blank cue cards, and attempted to match them in the funniest way possible to the prewritten cue cards read aloud by the judge. It was intense, as all our creative efforts were based towards winning an entire bucket full of water balloons. Collecting 6 for every win, and wagering some, hoarding water balloons became the main objective.

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It seemed inevitable that the red team would win. But my comments might be influenced by bias due to my own participation. What we did with the water balloons need not be explained. But a little cheeky pity for the freshman who lost his team points for being the wettest member, was definitely in order.
It was my first event as one of the Mayans, and ironically my last year here. Yet the entire time I felt like one of those school boys in the movie, delving into an appreciation for words, even with my limited understanding of them. Though I must regretfully admit that I do not remember all the names of the Mayans who attended (there were quite a few new ones like me), it seemed we unanimously embodied the aspirations cast by Robbie Williams in his movie. “For the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

For those of you who like art of any sort, you’re doing yourself an injustice if you haven’t seen the movie. For those of you who like art and are at Drexel, you’re probably limiting yourself, like I had, by not becoming a Mayan.

To see more photos, click here!

Theodore Kim