Sports That Don't Get Enough Attention
Harvard Athletes Who Do Less Publicized Sports Don't Get a Lot of Fan Support
The glory of victory and the agony of defeat may be present in all sports, but that doesn't mean that the fans are.
Unlike the traditional sport giants like football and basketball, less publicized sports don't get the respect or support that they deserve, say many of their participants at Harvard.
The school offers 41 varsity sports, the most in the nation, several of which are nationally recognized. However, most Harvard students don't seem to care.
For women's rugby junior co-captain Rebecca Wallison, lack of interest in her sport hinges upon its foreign origins.
"Rugby's not an American sport," Wallison said. "I had never even seen a game until I was a freshman."
She also said that there is a lot of misconceptions about the sport itself--such as violence and excessive drinking.
Citing the tradition of a "drink up" where teams celebrate together with beverage and song post-game, Wallison said that she felt that players are inaccurately perceived as drinkers.
"We're really trying to be acknowledged as athletes, not as a marginal social group, like many see rugby players," she said.
The misconception of the rough nature of the sport is also a problem for Wallison. Although she acknowledged that it is a close contact sport, she said that rugby is not as rough as many believe.
"It's a gentlemen's sport," Wallison said. "Rugby's a game for people who want a close contact sport but don't want to carry it too far."
Similar to rugby, the international roots of fencing pose an obstacle to its support, said women's fencing co-captain Mallory Stewart.
She said that fencing has little recognition in the States, and is much more closely followed in Europe.
This fact makes the sport seem elitist to many people, Stewart said.
"If you don't know the rules, it can be very hard to follow," she said.
Captain of the men's fencing team Lee Scheffler agreed with the importance of knowing the rules in fencing.
"If someone has never seen fencing, it seems like two people are hitting each other without rhyme or reason," Scheffler said.
When asked about risk of injury due to equipment he said that there isn't any intrinsic danger in the sport that would deter people from supporting it.
"I can't see any reason why someone wouldn't like it," Scheffler said.
He said that there was something intrinsic in the sport that should make it popular--the ability to bet.
"Fencing is a great betting sport. There are so many different ways--point spreads, first points, final score," Scheffler said. "You can bet on hundreds of things."
Betting or not, Harvard golfers also complain about misconceptions surrounding their game.
Freshman men's golfer Stephen Ranere said that one of the biggest problems for golf is the commonly held belief that it's not a true athletic sport.
"I think that people like golf," Ranere said. "But they don't take it as a serious, competitive sport."
He said that many people don't think of the sport as being athletic and don't realize the talent golf requires.
"People don't understand the amount of skill golf demands," Ranere said. "It's more than just hitting a ball with a stick and walking around a course."
Ranere cited the inaccessibility of equipment and space to play the game as problem for its popularity.
"Every school has a basketball court or a soccer field--how many schools have golf courses?"
Women's golf captain Alexis Boyle offered a different view about the lack of support, saying that golf isn't really a spectator sport.
She said that golf isn't the type of sport that hinges upon audience support.
"It's very important to have close friends and family at the games, but it's not important to have a huge crowd," Boyle said.
She also said that specifically at Harvard, the newness of the team is a problem for their publicity, as the women's golf program is only three years old.
"I'm not even sure that people are aware that we're a varsity sport," Boyle said.