Changes to Beer Bike '12 need further alterations
Let's get one thing straight: You can't kill Beer Bike. Even if the administration, Rice Program Council and the entire Beer Bike Committee put their heads together and actually tried, they'd be hard-pressed to destroy what has been described as Christmas, New Year's and (insert all things good here) all rolled into one. So looking back, it seems a little ludicrous that everyone following the Beer Bike planning process, myself included, acted as though they were canceling Beer Bike altogether every time even the smallest of changes was proposed. As we saw last weekend, Beer Bike was a roaring success, even if it was slightly diminished by the altered form.
As one of Hanszen College's Beer Bike coordinators for the last semester, I would love nothing more than to take full credit for all the fun Hanszenites had on Saturday morning (and let the record reflect that we had, without a doubt, the best Beer Bike experience of all the colleges). But I know it actually didn't have too much to do with me. It's all about expectations. We all expected to have a blast on Beer Bike day, so we did. As long as that expectation remains, we're fine and can stop losing our minds about changes that aren't really a big deal in the end.
All that being said, I do feel that the criticisms of this year's changes, while blown out of proportion, were justified and ultimately correct. Last year's new Beer Bike format was close to perfect, with a single balloon fight preceded by an epic cheer battle. This year's further tweaks were unnecessary and may have detracted slightly from the overall experience.
For example, the earlier start time of this year's parade/balloon fight, which was so hotly contested, did nothing good for Rice students. The earlier parade time meant that college festivities were shortened. The only way to heal the shortened time was to start earlier because the half-hour loss of drinking time (which, in the mind of drinkers on Beer Bike morning, equates to about two hours) would likely have resulted in more and faster alcohol consumption to make up for lost time.
We coordinators didn't want to encourage unsafe drinking practices, especially since skyrocketing Emergency Medical Services calls really could kill Beer Bike. So we chose the earlier start time, but this was not without consequences. The food and beverages normally provided to Hanszenites, such as bagels, Kalache Factory food, donuts, and coffee, did not arrive until the normal start time, 6 a.m., because food places only open so early. This meant that for at least half an hour, students were drinking with only chips and cheese puffs as food options, and who wants to eat those things so early in the morning? The normal start time would have been a much safer and more enjoyable option.
The earlier parade start time also meant that our time at Hanszen before the races felt cut short. Those in favor of the earlier start time had suggested that normally on Beer Bike morning there is a lull at the end of morning activities in which people are merely standing around waiting for the parade to start. Not so at Hanszen. We were still going strong; people were having a great time, upperclassmen and underclassmen were bonding, and Hanszen alumni were still arriving to reunite with fellow Hanszenites when we began to gather to leave for the balloon fight. Another half hour to enjoy ourselves would have been most welcome.
Unfortunately, we had to start earlier for one reason: The new balloon fight/parade format consisted of two balloon fights rather than one. This is the change that most upset the Hanszen students who were paying attention. It must be acknowledged that this change was purely a student initiative. It was proposed by the Beer Bike Parade Committee, and Beer Bike committee heads then went to their colleges, gauged responses to this proposal and voted yea or nay accordingly.
When it came time to vote, nine colleges (plus Martel) were in favor of the two-fight format and only one (my own college) was against it. So whether or not we liked the new format, we have no one to blame for it but ourselves. I personally did not like it. Perhaps I am alone in this, and if so then I'm happy that we have found a format that pleases students more than ever. But somehow I don't think I was the only one dissatisfied with the parade.
The argument for this new two-balloon-stop format was two-fold: First was the fact that the Beer Bike Committee wanted to herd students as close to the track as possible, to encourage people to go to the races rather than return to their colleges and fall asleep. Second, many colleges missed the annual cheer battle last year because there was no real parade.
I do admit that the second battle probably boosted attendance at the races. But there are surely better ways to get people to the intramural fields and subsequently the track than a second balloon fight. I understand wanting to revive the parade and actually think a parade would be a great way to get people to the track. But this was not the way to make the parade happen.
Regarding the cheer battle, I distinctly remember standing in Founder's Court cheering at several other colleges while waiting for the balloon fight to start last year, so it can't be said that there was no cheering. But perhaps that didn't count as the cheer battle - perhaps some colleges just arrived late to the fight and missed that part.
In any case, this year our Beer Bike Parade Committee deemed a parade necessary and felt that the best way to have a parade would be to have two balloon fights and lead students in a cheer battle from one field to the next. Unfortunately, that plan seemed to fall flat. After the first fight, students were exhausted. Many did not seem thrilled about a second fight and there was certainly none of the envisioned yelling and excitement as students trudged from Founder's Court over to the intramural fields for the second half of the fight. We threw balloons at each other because they were there, not because we really wanted to have another fight.
Overall, the new format this year felt like a swing and a miss. In future years, I would encourage Beer Bike committees to not fix what isn't broken. But even if change becomes necessary, it's not the end of the world. Beer Bike has been and will be fun no matter what.
Nupur Jain is a Hanszen College junior.
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