My first bid night during my JI semester was such a memorable experience for me. I was anxious to see the curtain pulled back on this seemingly sophisticated organization run by 18 to 22 year-old assholes who, as far as I could tell, just liked to drink, haze, and make fun of each other — assholes I now called my brothers. The experience was equal parts enlightening, fun, terrifying, infuriating, and hilarious. After what I remember to be about four hours of heated, sometimes agonizing deliberation, we were looking at our spring pledge class on paper. It was a small class, about 13 in all. Solid kids. My biggest takeaway, though, is that I learned a lot about the newest members of my extended family that night. I also further grew to know the actives on a more personal level. One brother, in particular, sits at the forefront of my memory from my first bid drop.
He was the guy in our chapter who thought no one on the planet was deserving of his brotherhood, of his friendship, of his respect, or often times even of his acknowledgement. No one. A literal 18-year-old clone of Ronald Reagan could have walked through the door — certified genealogy certificate in hand — during rush with a 10 under each arm, and our blackball-slinging Cy Young would have come in high-and-inside with some 95+ MPH chin music. And any reciprocation in the neighborhood of a stern stare back would have resulted in the charging of the plate. Which is rare. If it was lawful and/or socially acceptable, our guy would have carried around a satchel filled with black marbles to pelt people he didn’t deem suitable for his presence, and who he thought needed to drop down a peg or two.
We’ll call him Phil for this story.
The following is a real, albeit paraphrased, conversation that took place between Phil, the guy in our chapter who wanted to blackball everyone, and a few other members of our chapter:
Phil: Yeah yeah, I’m cool.
Rush Chair: Great. Let’s get Round 1 under way. First potential new member up is Rick Studebaker.
(*puts headshot up on screen*)
Rush Chair (cont.): You guys remember him, right? He’s the short kid from Fort Worth that brought the baby oil to stripper night. He’s also buddies with Kyle. That right, Kyle?
Kyle: Yep, I know him from high school. Played second base for us. All district. Solid guy.
Rush Chair: Cool cool. There’s an endorsement from a trusted brother. Here comes the box, and remember, only blackball if you have a legitimate reason for it.
(*box is passed around*)
(*Rush Chair opens box, sees two blackballs inside*)
Rush Chair: Studebaker will move on to the second round. So, the two of you who don’t think he’s deserving of a bid, please speak up. Phil?
Phil: Yeah, um…this kid is a complete faggot. Huuuuuuuuuuuge fag.
Rush Chair: Jesus Christ, Phil. Did you even talk to the kid during any of our rush events?
Kyle: Phil didn’t even fucking go to any of our rush events.
Phil: Fuck you, yeah I did. He stood next to me at stripper night for a while. And this kid is gayer than AIDs.
Kyle: How is he gay? What did y’all talk about?
Phil: Pretty much just about how gay he is.
Rush Chair: He has a girlfriend, Phil. A high school sweetheart that goes to TCU. He talked extensively about her. You were right next to us.
Phil: Exactly. Huge faggot.
Kyle: Can we get Phil out of here?
Phil: Fine, you want a chapter full of homos? I’ll leave. But I’d rather stay and ball this Nancy so I can sleep in my room without having to keep one eye open.
Rush Chair: Jesus. There were two black balls in the box. Who else balled this kid?
Rush Chair: Anyone? Phil?
Phil: Okay, I put ‘em both in there, just in case you didn’t see one of them. I really don’t want this homo in my chapter. I was pretty sure, and correct me if I’m wrong, that when you guys gave me my bid that my job during these fucking things was to make sure no more homos were initiated. Just doin’ my job.
Kyle: He’s not gay!
Phil: What are you, his boyfriend?
Studebaker and his 12 other eventual pledges brothers earned their bids that night, but it came after an unnecessarily long and arduous process. It also came after feeding Phil enough alcohol to take down a baby elephant, and to the point where his negotiation and argumentative skills were highly compromised. That’s just Phil, though.
Another thing about Phil’s propensity to strive for extreme exclusivity among the chapter, and something that often didn’t sit well with other members of the active chapter, is that he even went so far as to attempt to blackball active members for a variety of minor to major friendship infractions, ranging from snagging the coldest beers from his ice chest to bumping uglies with his freshman sister. If it were up to him, the chapter would have been down to about seven members at the time. What a character.
I wouldn’t trade Blackball Phil for anyone.