Navy croquet sobers up


The St. John’s College and Naval Academy annual croquet match, the country’s biggest collegiate event in the sport,  was just hit with some horrible news:  You can no longer bring your own alcohol to the match.

Under policies released this year, you will no longer be able to bring your own booze onto  St. John’s, the classically liberal school that hosts the event. Instead, you’ll have to buy your own beer, wine and champagne at a cash-only bar. And don’t think about sneaking in your own private stash: Bags and baskets are subject to search.

This is pretty major, since the rite of spring is more about the accompanying lawn party than the actual sport, which very few if any of the attendees actually know how to play anyway.

For the unfamiliar, here’s how it all works: People wear extravagant tweedish outfits, sundresses and floppy hats,  smoke tasty cigars and sip wine poured from bottles corked with real corks, champagne that costs at least $8 per bottle, beer that’s made in small batches and doesn’t come from cans and otherwise act sophisticated (unless you write for Scoop Deck and wear old jeans, a  band T-shirt and a Camel Bak filled with National Bohemian and sneak cucumber sandwiches from unsuspecting picnickers). Mids, Johnnies, their families, alumni, and men, women and children of all ages from Annapolis and elsewhere come, construct white lawn tents, set out giant spreads of food and make a day out of it. It’s Gatsby-esque.

Meanwhile, while the party continues, the nation’s premier collegiate croquet match goes on in the background. Midshipmen dressed in their white croquet uniforms — they kind of look like milkmen — usually get clobbered by the Johnnies, who unveil a new,  usually satirical, uniforms every ear. All the while, the players have their own caddies/butlers who follow them around, holding their drinks on silver platters, wiping the sweat off their brows. In terms of Navy athletics, it’s probably second only to the Army-Navy football game.

Maryland has a recent history banning outside alcohol from important sporting events. The Preakness, proudly the scuzziest of the three legs of the Triple Crown, enacted a similar policy. The people revolted.

Watch out, St. John’s — they may come after you with mallets in hand.


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  1. Hmmm Yes beer thats made in small batches… yes very small batches… that’s how it is at the croquet match. Not drunk enough to be fireman carried back to the hall by your friends wearing checkered pants and flopped on the floor so they can continue drinking very small batches of beer…. yes very small.

  2. former competitor on

    If you do not give people the chance to act like adults, they are required to act like children. I don’t think I want future Naval Officers to act like children, so please give them the opportunity to be responsible adults and choose for themselves.

  3. This totally undermines St. John’s long-time strategy of serving the Middies alcoholic drinks while drinking “virgin” drinks made to look like the same that the Middies were drinking.

  4. Croquet is about the match, music, dancing, eating and drinking on the lawn. Over the years, it has instead become a big Drunkfest. The public drunkenness and underage drinking at this event has been out of control. St. John’s isn’t banning booze totally. Beer, wine and Champaign will be sold to legal age citizens.

  5. The St. John’s College and Naval Academy annual croquet match…

    Geez – how much of my tax dollars are paying for this crap?

  6. Hokie, zero or close to it. It is hosted by St. Johns and attendance is purely voluntary on liberty. Johnnie, the underage drinking was entirely among the St. John’s attendees. This is nothing but a ploy for the college to capitalize on a popular event.

  7. John – my tax dollars pay for USNA, so that’s probably a bit of an understatement. By the way, this tradition only goes back to 1982…

    Didn’t the USNA superintendent say say a couple years back that mids need to buckle down and act/look like they are supporting a nation at war? A croquet match doesn’t exactly convey that image.

    You’d never see something silly like this at say West Point.

  8. Hokie are you serious? “You’d never see something silly like this at say West Point.” Have you spent any time (I mean a day, not a degree)at a service academy? There is no institution with more traditions(silly or sacred, depending on your perspective) than the military, and those traditions are especially concentrated at academies.

  9. Cammie – it’s very interesting to me that you used the word ‘sacred’.

    Why is it that merging the service academies (the perennial ‘sacred cows’) is not being seriously considered?

    If we’re trying to build a Joint Force, and save hundreds of billions of dollars, it seems to me that officer ascension would be the place to start.

  10. My two roommates and I have lived in Annapolis 3 years, this event used to be our favorite day of the Spring and one reasons we LOVE living in Annapolis. Sadly, we will be boycotting the event this year due to this ban. Such a shame, hope they change their minds!

  11. Yeah, I said silly or sacred, depending on your perspective. I don’t care about the traditions. I am not a service academy grad. Some people do.
    However, your idea tells me that not only do you have an agenda, you haven’t spent a lot of time around the military–the amount of money expended on service academies is a drop in the bucket. I can name 20 cuts, off the top of my head, that would make an exponentially greater savings to our defense budget. That’s not sentimentality on my part, it’s common sense from an actual understanding of how the NDAA’s are written.

  12. Sobering up? Maybe I’ve missed the “big story”, but did somebody repeal the 7 miles limit within which Midshipmen are not allowed to imbibe? I’d have thought that would be front page on “Shipmate”!

  13. Hokie_1997,
    I am curious how much of my Virginia Tax Dollars are wasted with exponentially greater nonsense in Blacksburg (at least they are not dog-fighting with the Johnnies), but I am not obsessing over it like you seem to want to on this issue.

    The event in 1982 was intended to improve relations between the two historic institutions that had soured somewhat during the Vietnam War. It has since taken on a life of its own, and still serves the same purpose.

    The picnic was the part of the whole allure and is still allowed, but searching picnic baskets so you can scalp people of their money at a concession will likely detract from the event. We shall see if attendance drops over time.

  14. Vick went to jail for crimes committed after he was a student – so I don’t see what that has to do with anything that we’re talking about.

    Maybe if USNA should focus less on affirmative action and croquet matches, and a bit more on producing quality naval officers.

  15. Bruce-

    You must have missed it and it must have happened a long time ago, for when I was there from 2001-2005 that ban wasn’t even in the Brigade’s cultural memory. The only alcohol ban was/is for plebes anywhere.

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