Let Athletes Be Frustrated, Please

by Taylor Mascetta

Opinions Editor

I’m tired. 

When I first arrived at Fordham, I could not wait to wear the F crest on my chest and compete for our track and field team. Now, I’ve lost an entire year of competition due to the pandemic, and the future of upcoming races remains unclear. It’s been really hard to see other teams compete across the country, while I’m still sitting and waiting around for an opportunity.

Could I be experiencing something a lot worse? Absolutely. My family, friends and I have thankfully stayed healthy for the most part, and I am so grateful for that. But I am absolutely terrified of my collegiate sports career going down the drain thanks to COVID, especially with no clear sign of returning anytime soon.

Things came to a head when Fordham’s Rose Hill campus shut down for two weeks on Valentine’s Day after it crossed one hundred positive cases. As of Thursday, February 25, 5.54% of the campus’s population has tested positive, with 246 active cases within the community. 

I’m not arguing against a campus-wide shutdown. COVID is spreading like wildfire, and something had to be done to stop the spread. However, with my track season hanging in the balance, I’m a little frustrated that Fordham seemed to prioritize the shutdown of athletics while providing no safe alternatives for on-campus training, especially with many teams’ conference championships just around the corner. 

Barstool Fordham brought up an interesting point on their Twitter after Fordham announced the shutdown of all practices. “Athletes are the only people impacted by this and they get tested weekly…@FordhamWBB has a chance to win the conference but now can’t play/practice until right before the A10s. Interesting to say the least when the rest of the student body isn’t remotely affected by this.” 

I admit that Barstool Fordham should not have invalidated the feelings of the rest of Fordham’s community. Everyone has lost something with this shutdown, whether it’s the ability to meet in-person for classes or work on-campus jobs. However, the first half personally hits close to home. With a majority of classes and club meetings online already, Fordham athletes have lost the one thing that keeps them going through the pandemic. 

I’ve personally seen a general sentiment around campus that blames Fordham’s athletes for the rise in cases. I’ve scrolled through posts online that accuse athletes of being the only ones not wearing their masks and tampering with their results, all while calling us out for expressing our frustration with everything going on. I know that everyone has lost something during this pandemic, but why take it out on us?

Are there athletes that break protocols? Of course. But why target just athletes for these actions, rather than calling out the whole Fordham community? All we want is to compete again, and a majority of us take the pandemic extremely seriously to do so. 

I just have to ask: why is getting on and off-campus virtually unregulated? Students could still go wherever they wanted even after the shutdown first occurred. If the entire campus has nothing going on, who wouldn’t want to go into the other boroughs or leave the state? I understand wanting to escape campus – trust me, I feel the exact same way – but cases are skyrocketing. 

Why can’t we hold small, organized clusters to practice outside? I understand not practicing indoors at the moment, but would a small group of three or four negative athletes shooting hoops or running some laps on the Lombardi track really cause an outbreak? 

Also, why is the turf completely closed off? It’s spaced out and outside. Where can the soccer, football, and baseball players prepare for their respective seasons now? All of these closures will just push athletes to explore off-campus for a place to simply practice, which is the last thing we should be doing in the midst of a campus-wide shutdown. 

Take Fordham Women’s Basketball as an example. These ladies have been kicking ass this season, with an 11-3 record overall and an 8-2 record in A10 conference play. They’ve been isolated on campus for nearly six months and have not had a single positive case. Let me say that again – out of 1,400 tests, not a single one of them has been positive. 

Now, they’re prohibited from even going on the road to play the final games of the season, and their chance to win another A10 title has fallen into jeopardy. The girls know what to do to uphold protocols, and they have strong travel plans and doctors’ approval to back this up. They deserve the chance to play. 

The team posted a petition to allow them to keep playing under protocols, and it’s heartbreaking. “It has absolutely broken our hearts to have given everything to our University and administration for the past six months, only to see it all stripped from us for reasons we have absolutely no control over.” 

On the bright side, Fordham did announce that practices could resume on February 28, but even that remains tentative. In the meantime, all I can do is wait. And I’ve been waiting for the chance to run since last March, and I fear that we still have a long way to go.

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