As I walked into the SL Green StreetSquash Center on the corner of Lenox and 116th to watch the men’s and women’s squash teams open their seasons against George Washington, I began to wonder whether there were more people there or 100 blocks uptown, watching the football team attempt to avoid a 0-10 season as it took on Brown. If you haven’t heard yet, the team fell to the Bears 7-48.
As someone who had yet to see our squash teams play, I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. In fact, it really seemed like there wasn’t enough space between the two rows of courts on each side to fit all of the spectators. With the heat and the inability to move an inch without bumping into someone, the StreetSquash Center that serves as Columbia’s home turf was merely a little music and some dimmed lighting away from feeling exactly like a college bar—think Cannons. OK, I guess the public was a bit classier. The point is, however, that the teams have a loyal fan base and a healthy supporting crowd.
Better yet, both of our squash teams are actually good—the men’s and women’s teams are ranked No. 12 and No. 11 in the nation, and they put their abilities on full display as they obliterated the Colonials 9-0 and 7-2. And while we may not have big names on our team in such typical spectator sports as football and basketball, the men’s squash team features a legitimate star. Playing in the top position for the Lions, junior Ramit Tandon is already a member of the Professional Squash Association. At the end of last season, he held a collegiate ranking of No. 5 in the country and ranked No. 189 in the world, according to the World Squash Association. I mean, the dude has his own Wikipedia page.
Although one doesn’t typically think of squash as a big spectator sport, a closer examination proves quite the contrary. With constant action available and multiple matches happening concurrently on different courts to provide variety, squash has all of the ingredients for great spectatorship. While most students have been to at least one football game—yes, even at Columbia—I would venture that the majority have not attended a squash match, and thus haven’t had the opportunity to see the appeal.
And, although the venue isn’t directly on campus, it’s still much closer than the nearly 100-block trek to Baker Field that’s required to watch pretty much every other sport. It is even within realistic walking distance. Although many supporters of the Light Blue may still be a bit disillusioned with our sports programs given the performance of the football team and some issues with leadership, learning and getting excited about a novel and successful sport could be a great way to garner some Columbia pride.
Alexander Bernstein is a Columbia College sophomore. Contrarian Review runs biweekly.