Chapter Twelve: Command and Control

That pretty much marked the end of the sophomore fencing season, as the summer was rapidly approaching. I spent my summer at Brandeis University, working in a research lab via a special internship program--another three-month break from fencing. In an odd twist of fate, though, there was a weeklong fencing camp at Brandeis in early June--and Mike Kreidman was in it! 'Twas quite a surprise when I saw him out of the blue eating unidentifiable food at Sherman Hall. Just to add further unlikelyhoods to the summer, one of the other interns, Dan Greenwald--there were seventeen interns from just about all over the United States--was a fencer from Great Neck.

After getting home in August, the familiar pattern began again…Swordsmen, get back the ground I'd lost, psyche myself up for the season for months on end. The only kinks in the works were my college applications and Westinghouse Science Talent Search paper, which rather wholly distracted me for all of October and November. But, by the time the season started again, I was done with most of that and ready to make my last year on the team something to remember.

The only fencer we'd lost was Jung, and Jordan and I were certainly ready to step in and carry the foil team. We were finally two of the heavy hitters of the league--while neither of us might not have been particularly dominant, having both of us as a 1-2 punch was almost unstoppable. The only question was whom the 3rd spot would fall to. We were worried about the epee team, hoping and praying that Godoy's influence would rub off on the others. The good news was that no one had graduated off epee, so at least they'd all be experienced. We did have a name change--Adam Zacharias hadn't been re-elected president of his class, so his nickname went from "Mr. President" to "Ex-Prez".

Recruiting was extremely weak--not a single freshman joined. It seemed like this was happening inexplicably every other year, and from what I'd heard the pattern extended both before and after my four years. It was distressing, but frankly I couldn't have cared less how much rebuilding was needed after we were gone--this was our year, dammit, and we had waited long enough to get here.

Coach pulled his old routine of "Well, I'm not going to announce the captains until the season's practically over," to try to motivate Jordan and I to stay focused, but everyone pretty much ignored it. I was pushing for Craig to be named the third captain, but Jeff got the appointment instead. He deserved it, so I can't really be mad…it was a tough decision, and one I'm glad I didn't have to make. Jeff really didn't do much--either he was just a bad captain or he was deferring authority to Jordan and myself, I could never tell which.

The only bad thing about being a senior on the team was how utterly worthless some of the early practices could be. There's a fresh crop of beginners coming in every year, and they need to be trained from scratch. You can't really split up the team beyond a certain point, which means everyone has to sit there and relearn how to advance and retreat until the newer members are caught up. Everything kicks into high gear once the season matches start, but until then it was pure tedium. To further matters, whenever we split up into pairs Jordan and I were ordered to work with the worst members of the team. In the hopes that we could rescue them from sucking, I guess. I never quite understood this, because when the day is said and done the worst members of the team are still going to suck. I believe it would have been a lot more efficient to have us work with the skilled sophomores--just when the ability and willingness to learn is highest and they're advanced enough to start going over intermediate and advanced techniques. That's exactly what we did the second half of the season, in fact, once we got heavy into electrical fencing during practices and it was just a matter of taking who you wanted to work with aside for a while.

It was pretty obvious after the first few weeks that either Jason Ullman or Steven Lee was going inherit the 3rd foil spot. They started out pretty even in the beginning of the season, but Jason took the edge through hard work and practice (imagine that!) after that point. We held a few direct elimination-style bouts (15 points, three 3 minute periods) to declare an undisputed victor, and Jason came out on top after a few terrific matches.

I got stuck in the second foil position, with Jordan getting the top spot. It wasn't a move I was happy about, to say the least. I found it funny that our records that year (18-10) were exactly the same, and Coach would always remember how well Jordan did and never mention that I did just as well. I had pretty much proven a pattern of prejudice by this point (which I hope I've done a marginally impartial job of recreating here), and I really tried to put it out of my mind. I really did everything I could to avoid speaking with Coach at all at this point, because every time I did I just got more and more frustrated at how clueless he could be at times. He was very good at training beginners, but a decision-maker he was not. It wasn't uncommon that he asked for the recommendation of his captains (before, during, and after our tenure), completely ignore it, have his decision turn out to be the wrong one and then never apologize or even admit he was wrong.

I suppose I could have asked to sit down with Coach and complain about how I was being treated, but that's not the kind of person I am. I was raised, for better or for worse, to shut up and not to whine. I believe that things truly do work out, and that if I worked hard enough Coach would have no choice to make the right decision eventually. Same thing years later, with fraternity hazing…you just shut up and get through it, and then you're on the other side of the wall. That doesn't stop the hurting, though, and what Coach did really did hurt. I normally consider myself a pretty easygoing guy when it comes to stuff like this, but you try getting shitted on for three years in one of the few things you really love and see how resentful you get.

Up to RimRod's Fencing Autobiography
Back to RimRod at the Junior Olympics of Fencing
Forward to Chapter Thirteen: Hopping Mad and Mad Hopping

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