Monday, September 21, 2009

And Now, A Few Thoughts From A TigerBlog Alum

Note - TigerBlog has offered several of the alums from TigerBlog HQ the opportunity to have the floor for a day. One, TigerBlog-Baltimore, said he would be providing an entry; we wait here anxiously for his words (and the two tennis guides he still owes us). One alum did take us up on our offer, and he has filed this report from his experiences at the Florida-Tennessee football game this past Saturday. TigerBlog returns tomorrow, when he will rip Jerry Jones and relate it back to Princeton athletics.

As a former TigerBlog HQ intern, TigerBlog-Alum had many opportunities to be involved in the game-day operations of sports many people would find obscure. For example, as an undergrad at that Big Ten school in the middle of Pennsylvania, TB-Alum was never exposed to events like water polo, squash or women’s ice hockey unless he read about the results of the school’s club team in the student newspaper. TB-Alum’s alma mater definitely had a football team, but the concept of sprint football was totally foreign.

TB-Alum credits his experience in working with such sports at Princeton as a big factor in landing a full-time gig at the University of Florida after his time at HQ ended. TigerBlog-Alum spent a few great years in Gainesville before getting married and moving back north in 2002. Now living outside of Philadelphia and out of the sports information business, TigerBlog-Alum still likes to remain close to sports. You can find him sitting in the Princeton Stadium press box on home football Saturdays, typing away on the official statistics computer, still lending a helping hand to his former colleagues.

Not last Saturday, however. TigerBlog-Alum had the opportunity to head back to Florida for the Gators’ big game against Tennessee (with many thanks to Mrs. TigerBlog-Alum and Little TigerBlog-Alum for the cool Father’s Day gift). It was the first Gator football game TB-Alum had seen in person since the ’01 season. After staffing countless games, this was one of the rare opportunities he’s had had to watch a game as a fan (admittedly, it is quite a refreshing experience to vocalize during a game … remember, in the press box, cheering for either team will not be tolerated).

So, there was TB-Alum, with one of his best friends, Mike (himself the recipient of the same cool Father’s Day gift from his wife and daughters), sitting in section 34, Row, 33, Seats 19 and 20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field. All the while, 956 miles north on I-95, Princeton was opening its season against The Citadel. It made TB-Alum ponder … aside from the game itself, what are there the differences between a football game day in the SEC and a game day in the Ivy League?

Clearly, economies of scale drive the bus when it comes to the size of everything. Princeton drew nearly 8,000 Saturday. Florida expanded its stadium in 2003 with a new press box, suites and club levels. Saturday’s game drew a record of 90,894 fans, mostly clad in blue shirts to support the Gators.

Princeton offers parking in its lots on a first-come, first-served basis for a small fee. Reserved spots take on a different theme at Florida. Those who provide the highest level of support to the Gator Booster Club are able to reserve the same spot for every game. While walking through the parking lot at Florida, TigerBlog-Alum passed George Steinbrenner’s own personal spot (it was empty as of 45 minutes before kickoff). TigerBlog-Alum doesn’t know the exact amount paid for that spot, but the odds of it being more than a couple bucks are pretty good.

Those who didn’t have reserved parking had to park off campus in a satellite lot and either walk or be shuttled to campus. Of course, there is always the opportunity to pay a local resident (or a fraternity) a nominal fee and park on their lawn. But TigerBlog-Alum decided against the damage waiver at the rental car counter, so he erred on the side of caution.

From a press coverage perspective, Princeton distributed about 70 credentials for the game against The Citadel, which itself traveled from South Carolina with its radio team, two reporters and its sports information director. The game was televised by Verizon Fios TV in the local area.

For the Florida vs. Tennessee game, CBS televised it to a national audience in high definition. There were approximately 600 credentials distributed, 40 of which went to newspapers and photographers from Tennessee. The Volunteer athletic department traveling party consisted of the athletic director, several of his direct-reports and three sports information staffers.

Typically during a Princeton game, TigerBlog HQ staff (including statisticians like TB-Alum) will take up four or five seats along the second row of the press box. In all, Princeton football SID Craig Sachson has about 10 people helping him with various duties throughout the day. The Princeton game-day stat crew sits close to the media and is available to answer questions when something comes up. To his credit, Sachson has his finger on the pulse of every game and knows exactly when any player is about to hit a milestone, so the crew can focus on its task at hand.

It’s slightly different at Florida. The seven-person statistics crew at Florida sits in its own suite and has to wear headphones to hear each other speak. It may sound excessive, but trust TB-Alum, with an open-air press box and the loudest crowd in college football, that sort of technology is a must. The rest of the 20-member sports information staff is scattered throughout the press level answering questions, running stats, researching game notes, preparing for postgame duties, etc. It is quite a production at both places and both sports information offices do a fantastic job of coordinating them.

Florida boasts 19 intercollegiate sports (women’s lacrosse debuts in the spring) to Princeton’s 38 varsity programs. As one could imagine, hosting a football game that draws more than 90,000 people to campus is a traffic-crippling concept. Thus, the days surrounding the big game are when other sports take the spotlight. Friday night was when the cross country teams’ hosted their only home meet of the season (the men finishing first of 18 teams and the women finished first of 23 teams), while the women’s soccer team hosted rival Florida State on Friday night, falling in overtime in a battle of Top 10 teams, and Eastern Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, a 5-1 Gator victory. Those were just the other varsity sporting events on campus that weekend. There were also club sports, plenty of tailgate opportunities to go with eating and drinking establishments that were open well in to the evening for fans to enjoy.

Yes, there are differences in the size of the productions of football games at Princeton and Florida. But no matter the announced attendance in the box score, the field is still 100 yards between goal lines, the ball is still a prolate spheroid, and coaches still run to set up the pass and pass to set up the run. No matter the scale, college football is a great American tradition played by student-athletes that love the competition. This is true whether you cheer for the Boys of Old Nassau or the Boys of Old Florida – and TigerBlog-Alum is proud to say that he’s a fan of both.

1 comment:

marclucero said...

I want an email alert when TB Alum Baltimore makes his guest blog.

all the best DR. No doubt Court Suzanne Lenglen downstairs at Jadwin misses your battles.

ps cant wait for the media guides myself