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St. John's-Naval Academy Croquet Match is a Grand Lawn Party in Historic Annapolis
FOR RELEASE: January 16, 2009
CONTACT: Patricia Dempsey, 410-626-2539
Bring the whole family to the heart of historic Annapolis for the lawn party of the year. The 27th Annual Annapolis Cup—a croquet match between St. John's College and the U.S. Naval Academy—promises superb intercollegiate competition and a festive lawn party where watching the spectators is as much a sport as croquet.
"The spectators have become more of a spectacle than the game," says Leo Pickens, director of athletics at St. John's. Pickens is referring to the elaborate fashions worn by spectators, reminiscent of the stylish lawn parties depicted in books like The Great Gatsby. The festive atmosphere includes lavish picnics, nostalgic gowns and hats, serenades by the St. John's Freshman Chorus, and swing music provided by the Naval Academy's Trident Brass Band. The event draws about 1,500 spectators. Many are alumni who see it as a springtime reunion, Navy families who relish a chance to cheer for their team, and regional residents who enjoy an old-fashioned community event and a visit to historic Annapolis.
The Annapolis Cup brings together two starkly different institutions for an event that has "no parallel in intercollegiate sports," according to Sports Illustrated. At St. John's College, home to the great books program, students read and discuss seminal works of western civilization, and at the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen and women train for military careers. The annual croquet match allows Johnnies and Mids to establish a common ground.
The Johnnies play in uniforms—including camouflage khakis, even bare feet—that change each year and is kept secret until the opening of the match. The Mids adhere to the United States Croquet Association's code, wearing spotless white shirts, pants, sweaters and shoes, and change only their ties from year to year.
For both teams in this nine-wicket game, "the purest intercollegiate athletic event in America" according to Gentleman's Quarterly, the rules of play and sportsmanship are paramount. The Johnnies and Mids combine their competitive zeal with the genteel demeanor demanded by croquet's rules of etiquette including no audible swearing, or tantrum like displays such as throwing a mallet in protest of a referee's call.
Since the contest began more than two decades ago, the Johnnies have dominated most years winning 21 matches out of 26. Who will win this year? This year, the Johnnies and the Mids meet on the St. John's campus in a rivalry for the Annapolis Cup on April 19 at 1 p.m. This event is free.
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