Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spin Cycle

It was MotherBlog who really turned her younger son onto politics, way back when the orginal point of contention was the rise of Ronald Reagan. Let's just say that one of the two was for it, and the other was against it.

Ever since, TigerBlog has followed politics as closely as he has sports, and he's come to have his political versions of Princeton athletics one one end of the scale and the Yankees on the other.

Elections, of course, fascinate TB, especially since the mistakes that are made are so easy to spot. And election night? It's like watching the Super Bowl - especially in even-numbered years.

The day after the elections also makes for great theater, and there it was yesterday in all its glory.

On the one hand, TigerBlog read a column by a conservative he respects a lot that said that the mid-term elections were perfect for the Republicans and that it couldn't have worked out better for the GOP than to win the House and not win the Senate. The point - with some merit - is that President Obama cannot now spend the next two years positioning the Republicans as merely obstructionists.

On the other hand, TB saw on TV a liberal whom he respects a lot as well, who said that it was actually something a win for the Democrats, because he had heard so many prognostications that it would be much, much worse than it was.

Of course, TB didn't hear any conservatives before the election saying that it would be great to only win the House but not the Senate. And, at the same time, he never heard any liberals suggesting that losing around 65 House seats and six or seven Senate seats would be good, because it would be below the expectations that some on the other side had.

It's known as "spin," which is the art of taking something and turning it from its actual reality into something that favors the particular point of view the spinner happens to represent. At its most beautiful, like after yesterday's election, two completely opposite sides can take the same result and make it seem like nothing better could possibly have happened.

The ability to spin is a huge in the public relations world, where the best are called "Spin Doctors."

Here at Princeton, there is an organization of all of the communications offices - essentially PR offices - on campus, which is known as "The Spin Group."

It's an especially creative venture when done on the athletics communications scale, for a number of reasons. For starters, it's up to each school to tell the story of the game, and regardless of the outcome, the goal is to be as positive as possible about your own school.

Consider these two headlines:

1) Crimson Rushes Past Princeton In Wild 45-28 Football Showdown
2) Harvard Too Much For Princeton In 45-28 Football Road Victory

Or these two different leads after Princeton beat Penn 11-10 in overtime last season:
1) The Princeton men's lacrosse team has won 21 in a row over Penn, but the Quakers have sure given the Tigers a scare the last two years.
2) Jeff Froccaro made the huge plays, Chris McBride made the hidden play and Princeton broke Penn's heart again.

Maybe it's his newspaper background, but TigerBlog has never been a great spinner, largely because it's his belief that people can see right through it when you try to distort the truth.

Take the soccer doubleheader this weekend on Myslik Field at Princeton Stadium, for instance.

Princeton and Penn play in women's soccer at 4 and men's soccer at 7. While the other six schools have been eliminated in men's and women's soccer, Princeton and Penn will be playing for the championships.

As a reminder, the women's championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will go to Penn if the Quakers win or tie and to Princeton if Princeton wins. If either team wins the men's game, it would clinch the automatic bid and at least a share of the title; if they tie, then they'll be even heading into the final week, with Princeton at Yale and Penn home with Harvard.

For what it's worth, the Princeton-Yale game starts at 4, while Penn-Harvard is an hour later.

Anyway, by 6:30 or so on Saturday, either Penn or Princeton is going to be celebrating a women's soccer league championship and NCAA tournament berth, and the other isn't. Three hours later, one men's team will possibly have positioned itself to be the champion.

Check out the two game stories. The winners will use words like "victory" and "champion;" the losers will use words like "heart-breaking."

What do you expect from the team that doesn't win? To hear that they choked? It's never going to happen.

Not in the spin cycle.

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