Flames of the Torch

Questioning the culture of St. John’s students has caused problems in the past, but once again there is cause for such inquiry. Fans of the St. John’s men’s basketball team are in question this time, as they caused the Red Storm to receive a technical foul during their game against Duke at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, after members of the crowd threw debris onto the court.

After a disappointing first half, St. John’s started to come back in the second half. Just when things started to get interesting, a t-shirt flew onto the court from the student section, resulting in a warning. Later, as Duke’s Gerald Henderson was on the line, another two t-shirts landed on the court, despite the warning.

Duke is the epitome of class in college basketball, and head coach Mike Krzyewski is perhaps the classiest man in the sport.

For St. John’s fans to throw t-shirts onto the court, both at their own players and at the opposing team’s players, was a sign of disrespect to Duke, to St. John’s, and, most importantly, to themselves. For such a lack of class to be displayed not only on their home court but in front of an important name in college basketball is an embarrassment to the entire University.

St. John’s is the 7th winningest program (Duke is the 4th), and although they were playing poorly during the competition, they were losing gracefully, or about as gracefully as St. John’s men’s basketball could lose to Duke. The reaction of the fans cost the team not only a chance at gaining the lead, but also their dignity.

The University has, in recent years, struggled with their identity, especially where it concerns the basketball program. It is at once a team with a storied tradition as well as a brand new team, being forced to start from scratch and build its own tradition from the ground up. And while coach Norm Roberts has spent his two years at the helm working hard to rebuild the program, it has not yet reached its potential. It remains a conflicted team, being both old and new, legendary and unknown.

Students are also contradictory. Considered apathetic, they do in fact take action, although, as in this case, it tends to be negative. The actions of the students involved were far from what was expected of them, and even farther from what would be considered accepted behavior. Rather than actively participating in political organizations or joining other meaningful groups, they choose to disgrace their University with acts of insolence. And disgrace St. John’s they did.

Shown on CBS, millions of viewers were able to witness the fans’ faux pas. And while outsiders generally look at St. John’s as a prestigious university, this recent look at the student body will surely change their opinions. Rather than looking at SJU as a school with pride and tradition, they will look at the University as one that is sorely lacking in class.

At a university that emphasizes community, individuals need to be more accountable, as the unfortunate acts of the few often define the character of the whole.