Let's face it: Nerds are cool right now. All the glossy magazines are saying it, so it must be true. Thick eyeglasses adorn the hot bodies of billboard advertisements, knitwear sales are through the roof and a legion of engineers, technicians and analysts are getting more dates than ever (given that more might mean anything greater than none).
Today's nerds are not only growing in number, they are louder, stronger, and more politically involved. They even have their own spiritual leader in the most powerful man in the country (Mark Zuckerberg). Those fancy new phones and app and gadgets that we love so much? Made, designed, sold and advertised by nerds. If things carry on like this, the geek shall not just inherit the Earth, he will do so with the single press of a smartphone touchpad.
So if nerds are flexing their muscles (no offense intended) in every sphere of modern society, where do they fit into the sports world? While modern athletics have become ever-more technical, it is still very much the bastion of the jock.
The intellectually minded might have cheered silently when Jonah Hill's bespectacled character in "Moneyball" used his cranial power to apply sabermetrics to baseball, but the guy smashing the ball over the right-field wall was a physical specimen.
Traditional American sports have been a jock haven for too long to change. The nerd army needs something more cerebral, a contest that combines grace and class with mental fortitude, without needing the frame of a bodybuilder and the height of a giraffe.
A second look to Zuckerberg makes it abundantly clear: The answer is fencing. After all, that was his high school sport of choice, and he won the best-performer award during an inter-school tournament in New York. Perhaps that's where he got the idea of a Facebook poke.
Could fencing seriously ride the nerd phenomenon and enjoy a surge in popularity during next year's London Olympics?
Tim Morehouse thinks it can.
Morehouse, as the top men’s fencer in the United States, admittedly has a vested interest, but he also has a compelling argument. During a conversation with ThePostGame.com where he was challenged to explain why America should care about fencing, he used the lightning reflexes he used to win a team silver medal at the Beijing Olympics to reel off a litany of responses.
"You have to be both smart and athletic to be a good fencer," Morehouse says. "It appeals to very driven people. When people try the sport they fall in love with it. In terms of participation, you can't sit on the bench. You have to be the running back, the defense, the offense, and it leads to building responsibility."
Fencing's intrigue lies in its problem solving, a battle of strategy as much as physique which, in the best possible way, has an element of video game mentality about it. Yet it also has a long and romantic history that dates back centuries and has been featured in literature, one which holds great appeal for the thinking man or woman.
"Fencing has traditions that go back 500 years," says Morehouse, who grew up in the Bronx and now lives and trains in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. "All of Shakespeare's plays featured it. It is like martial arts with a sword. Bruce Lee did it.
"It has cool history. It is one of four original Olympic sports still competed today and the sport has its origins in dueling, when kings and nobility fought for their honor to first blood.
"But it is electronic now and one of the only 'wired sports.' No more danger of anyone getting stabbed -- it is like Laser Tag with swords. Hit your opponent and lights go off."
In recent times, fencing, especially in New York, has experienced a cultural boom. Designers have regularly used fencing-themed shoots, including one last month with Lindsay Lohan’s sister, Ali.
Morehouse himself has been involved in exhibitions with President Obama and actress Vivica Fox, crooner Neil Diamond is known to be a keen exponent of the sport, while fencing was also heavily featured in an episode of ABC comedy-drama The Modern Family.
Nobody wants to upset a man holding a sword, but it may be that Morehouse is one of those upwardly mobile modern-day nerds himself. He holds a master's degree in teaching from Pace University and writes an eloquent and amusing blog online.
He is at his most excitable when discussing the possibilities for progressing his sport, especially how 3D television could be a bigger plus for his discipline than for any other sport. “It could be amazing,” he says.
The United States team has high hopes for London. Morehouse is one of the favorites and Mariel Zagunis is aiming for a third straight gold in the women's individual saber. There is also the fascinating possibility that Ibtihaj Muhammed, a practicing female Muslim who competes in a Hijab, could qualify and take part in the Olympics during Ramadan.
Will the broadcasting decision-makers be able to see past Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and give fencing television time? If they do, it might be the greatest evidence yet that nerd culture has found its way into the last bastion of sports. And given the history and intrigue inherent in fencing, that could be worth sharing on Zuckerberg's platform.
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