Intramural sports. Most likely, you know next to nothing about them.
Intramurals play a key role at Columbia. They allow students to cut loose from the stressful academic environment once a week without involving a bar or a nightclub. They also allow students to try out sports that they’ve never had the chance to play—even oddball sports that aren’t NCAA-regulated, like handball or dodgeball. Many students simply haven’t had opportunities in their lives to show off their abilities to duck, dip, dive, and dodge.
But of course, as with any organization on campus, intramural sports have their issues. As a member of a rugged and dirty flag-football team, I saw those issues firsthand last Sunday. I had just come off a blowout (my team failed to score a touchdown), I was exhausted, and I was ready to go home. Upon exiting Wien Stadium, my team and I attempted to board a Columbia shuttle bus.
Much to our surprise, the driver informed us that the shuttle was reserved for varsity athletes only. Despite the fact that there were at least 20 seats open, the shuttle departed. It was the final shuttle returning to campus for the day, and it left us and many other intramural participants stranded. With low spirits we trekked 20 blocks south to the nearest subway station (the 1 train wasn’t running north of 137th), which itself was shut down due to maintenance issues. Eventually, we were rescued by the kindness of a random bus driver, who had spotted our group and had instantly known that we were lost.
My team could’ve been back to campus at a reasonable time had we been able to board that shuttle. If it gets full, fine—prioritize the varsity athletes. But if not, why keep us intramural athletes off? After all, we do attend the same school, and the shuttles run anyway—we’re just a few extra passengers.
I’m certainly not blaming the Columbia shuttle driver for doing her job, nor am I pointing a finger at Columbia athletics, but it is undoubtable that intramural sports get the short end of the stick thanks to the administration’s rules.
Many students may view intramurals as a subpar, bush-league playpen for non-varsity athletes. (It certainly helps you appreciate how talented our varsity athletes are compared to “normal people” when you try to replicate what they do in intramurals and fail miserably.) But for us it provides the thrill of competition that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. Where else am I going to get the opportunity to lay out a 6-foot-4, 200-pound Law School student? Certainly not in the dark and dreary halls of Butler.
Cheesy as it may sound, intramurals are excellent social gatherings. Through a random coincidence, my handball team acquired its greatest asset simply because the guy happened to be walking through Dodge, saw my team, and wanted to play.
Intramurals are completely student-run. Students are the players, coaches, managers, and even referees and league officials. They can choose to invest as much or as little time as they want into an intramural sport, giving them a freedom that many varsity athletes do not have.
Because of this, intramural teams actually ask very little of the Columbia administration, both financially and in terms of liability, other than providing field and court usage. Mind you, that usage is only requested late at night on the weekends. So why is it such a priority for the administration to separate the athletes and the non-athletes on a shuttle bus?
There probably isn’t a good answer to that question. Maybe it’s paranoia, or maybe the Columbia administration just doesn’t think it’s a good idea to mix the two groups. And sure, intramurals aren’t necessarily vital to a school’s academic success, but they offer plenty of benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when there’s such widespread involvement among one of the most stressed-out student bodies you’ll ever find.
Ryan Turner is a Columbia College sophomore. He is a former member of the men’s swimming and diving team. Blood, Sweat, and Cheers runs biweekly.