Comedian George Carlin once joked that “there are really only three sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Everything else is either a game or an activity.” By this rule, Columbia has a lot of varsity sports with which the late Mr. Carlin would take issue, but archery may be the most questionable of all.
Over the past few years I’ve covered a plethora of Columbia sports ranging from field hockey to baseball to lacrosse to wrestling. And, while I’ve deservingly criticized all of these teams at times, I’ve never once contemplated the very legitimacy of the sports themselves. However, a few weeks ago I was forced to do just that when my trusty sports editors decided that the section would now cover archery. Sure, archery can be competitive, but it fails on almost every level to deliver as an interesting sport to follow.
To call archery a low-profile sport at Columbia is generous. One sports writer and columnist quipped at a recent Spec Sports meeting that his own mother even laughed at his inexplicable decision to cover the archery beat. Having only ever tried archery at overnight camp several years ago, the section’s decision to cover the beat got me thinking about the long-lost team.
Archery is, essentially, exactly what most of us imagine—shooting an arrow from a bow at a target. Think Robin Hood with more rigid rules and sophisticated equipment. Teams compete either based on aggregate scores or as individual archers, depending on the type of tournament. Still with me? Then let’s continue…
The fact that Spectator regularly covers literally all men’s and women’s varsity sports except for archery is no accident. One must dig deep into the Spec archives to find the last time archery has received serious coverage (I was in sixth grade at the time).
This isn’t necessarily because the team has been bad (the reality is quite the opposite), but more because of its disconnect from Columbia. The archery team has competed in one tournament so far this season and is slated to participate in six more. Not only does the team compete infrequently, but most tournaments take place in different states. Columbia athletics are not known for having a rabid fan base, and the sport’s unfortunate off-campus nature makes it nearly impossible to follow seriously.
One columnist last year argued that Columbia should dismantle a sport such as baseball and focus our efforts on assembling a nationally competitive basketball team. While problematic for various reasons (e.g., the baseball team has actually been more successful than the basketball team recently), the idea makes some sense in theory. Columbia’s marquee sports like basketball, football, and baseball have, for the most part, experienced only mild success in recent years. Ironically, less watched sports like fencing, rowing, and archery have not only competed nationally, but have sent members to the Olympics. I’m not advocating cutting any varsity team, but investing more time and resources in headliner sports should continue to be a priority for the athletics department and for Spectator. Columbia archery could be the best team in the nation, but more people will still show up to a basketball game no matter how good the team is.
What a sport like archery lacks is the teamwork, aggressiveness, and heated match-ups that draws overly optimistic fans to consistently disappointing football games every season. Not only is Columbia archery for all intents and purposes unwatchable (yes, even if you wanted to watch it), but it simply lacks the rudimentary aspects of competitive sports. Call me cynical, but archery is irrevocably doomed never to excite Columbia fans. Archery is undoubtedly an art and finesse activity that takes tremendous practice to master. However, is it really a sport? Well, technically, yes it is. Scoring is objective, teams and archers compete, and there is a winner and a loser in every contest. However, I think it’s fair to say that any sport that can double as a method of big game hunting is a little difficult to take seriously. In a perfect world, all Columbia sports would receive ample Spec coverage, but despite its success, archery shouldn’t make the cut.