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Westhem: Stanford lives and breathes “intellectual brutality”


I wrote earlier this year that I would never study abroad during fall quarter because I am a diehard college football fan, and it would kill me to have to watch home games at the crack of dawn via some questionable live-streaming site in some foreign country. And yet, I find myself guilty of not flying back to campus for the Notre Dame game. Trust me, it was painful watching from home, so I got my due punishment.

The benefit of watching a broadcast from home was hearing what the analysts had to say about Stanford football. It was basically nothing but positives, which made me that much more proud of my school. The other benefit that I gained from watching at home was hearing the broadcasters mention Stanford’s key to success as being “intellectual brutality.” This is apparently on the team’s warm-up jerseys, and Stanford football has been deemed the “Home of Intellectual Brutality” for a while now — I was just a little late to catch on.

I love this, and it’s accurate not only for football but for all of Stanford. It goes along with Stanford’s tagline of #NerdNation. Everything that student-athletes and non-athletes do at Stanford is done with intellectual brutality.

To go to class, go to practice, spend hours in the training room, study, compete at the highest level and then find enough time to sleep and recover requires immense intellectual brutality. Mental and physical toughness go hand in hand for athletes at Stanford, and they have to have the smarts and straight brute force to power through and achieve both.

On the flip side, to power through a CS assignment into the early hours of the morning, or spend five nights a week at The Daily to produce the paper you’re reading or to balance classes with an on-campus job while heading different organizations also requires intellectual brutality and the perseverance to work through anything.

Intellectual brutality doesn’t just define Stanford football; it defines the hard work and brains of the whole institution, and I love and appreciate the fact that the football team was what brought this saying about and exemplifies it every Saturday on the field.

It was the intellectual brutality of this year’s senior class that helped push Stanford football to be “among the elite,” as head coach David Shaw recently stated. Those seniors entered a program that had just earned a winning record for the first time in eight seasons and had many opportunities ahead of them to turn Stanford football into something special.

And they took advantage. Those 26 seniors will leave Stanford with a fourth consecutive 10-win season, a 26-1 home record and a chance at a fourth BCS bowl. The thing about Stanford football players is they’re not just tough and athletic; they’re also smart, meaning coaches can throw any number of plays at them and they can handle them, no matter the complexity. And that combination of intellect and skill is what has made Stanford so successful — on the field and all around campus.

Coaches, too, bring this to their respective sports. Look at women’s basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer. She just earned her 900th victory and became only the fifth women’s basketball coach to ever achieve that mark — and she’s far from slowing down.

It took intellectual brutality for her to have created such a consistently great program from nothing back in 1985. And it takes intellectual brutality to tackle each season as a new opportunity to win, to constantly strive to be the best in women’s basketball and to push a team to do so — her players, without a doubt, demonstrate that same toughness mentally and physically to keep up with the demands of such a coach.

Stanford football might have just created a new tagline for the university with “intellectual brutality” to complement the older standard of “#NerdNation.”  When senior running back Tyler Gaffney, fifth-year senior linebacker Shayne Skov and senior linebacker A.J. Tarpley walked into the Oregon post-game press conference with taped up glasses after dismantling the mighty Ducks — Skov still with his intimidating eye-black still on — they epitomized both sayings.

Ashley Westhem is trying to petition the Axe and Palm to develop a new, hearty “Intellectual Brutality” burger. Give her ideas for some good sides at [email protected]

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Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.