Be honest with yourself for a second: what do you really know about tennis and fencing, or even lacrosse and golf, for that matter?
While people who play the aforementioned sports obviously have a solid grasp on the concepts and rules, those not involved in them are oftentimes clueless.
If one ever gets into a conversation with someone from a sport that’s not in the limelight, there’s a chance that the term “unfairness” will come up. As it turns out, many people in those sports, including NCAA Division-I programs, are unhappy about the attention, or lack thereof, that they get.
“We train as much as the athletes [from other sports] and we have to commute to the city [for practice],” said Joanna Guy, who is currently serving as a team manager for the fencing team during her redshirt year. “In the media, gym time, everything, we just don’t get as much attention.”
“We don’t have enough fans and no one is there for us,” Monika Golebiewski, a St. John’s fencer, told a Torch reporter at this past weekend’s NYU Invitational.
But here’s the thing: those aren’t mainstream sports. Since people aren’t aware of what’s even going on in something like fencing, it’s difficult to blame people for being indifferent.
Lacrosse is a growing sport, and it’s even spawned a couple of relatively successful professional leagues, but to expect the general public to fully acknowledge the sport is not realistic. Baseball will always be baseball.
There’s another side to this coin, though. St. John’s fencing is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation, and it finished second in the NCAA Tournament last season. By that token, why should a program that can only be described as a powerhouse perform in front of 20 fans, mostly friends and parents? In fact, St. John’s has such an elite program that a few of its regular fencers (including Guy) are sitting out this season while they perform in preliminary competitions for a shot at being in the 2008 Olympics.
“We have Olympians on our team and no one recognizes us,” Guy said. “If we weren’t a good team I’d understand [the lack of attention].”
Unfortunately for Guy and co., fencing is not popular, and it won’t be any time soon. As such, can decent attendance even be expected?
At some point the line needs to be drawn, though. According to Guy, the fencing team has had practices cancelled this season and in the past because other teams needed to use the facility. “We’re the last team [the University] worries about, so we get cancelled a lot,” Guy said.
Whether or not fencing is popular, the fact of the matter is that some of these kids are world-class athletes. It is absolutely unacceptable that St. John’s cannot offer some of the best fencers in the world uninterrupted time in the gym.
There’s no question that the St. John’s fencing team is important to its respective sport. It certainly deserves respect and, above all else, time to train and stay sharp.
But until fencing becomes a revenue generator like, say, basketball (which far and away generates the most revenue of any sport at the University), it’s tough to say that the program should really be pushed by Athletic Communications, unfair or not.