Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good For Them

TigerBlog was told something yesterday that he didn't realize about the Super Bowl.

In the last 10 years, there have been four AFC teams who have reached the big game: the Patriots, the Colts, the Steelers and the Raiders.

In the same time frame, the NFC has had 10 different representatives. That's right; there have been 10 different NFC teams in the last 10 years.

TB will give you a few paragraphs to list them.

He'll spot you the Green Bay Packers, who will play the Steelers a week from Sunday in Dallas. For those who don't know, the next three Super Bowl sites after this year are Indianapolis, New Orleans and the Meadowlands, in February 2014. Judging by the way this winter has gone, TB is pretty sure the NFL is glad that this isn't the year for an outdoor stadium in the Northeast.

Yesterday, TB and TigerBlog Jr. listened to Mike Francesa's annual Super Bowl trivia game, in which people have to answer four mostly unanswerable questions to win a trip to the game in Texas. The way to win is to listen all day and hear the questions that other people get right and hope to piece that together four times to win.

TB did learn some things that he never realized, such as the fact that Kerry Collins has thrown the most passes in Super Bowl history without having a touchdown. And that Don Shula went to John Carroll.

He was also shocked that one contestant, when asked to name the four quarterbacks who had started in the Super Bowl for the Giants, came up with Collins, Eli Manning and Jeff Hostetler - but not Phil Simms.

Anyway, the NFC representatives (year the game was played, not the year for the season played):
2011 - Green Bay
2010 - New Orleans
2009 - Arizona
2008 - New York
2007 - Chicago
2006 - Seattle
2005 - Eagles
2004 - Panthers
2003 - Buccaneers
2002 - Rams

That leaves six teams with a chance to extend the streak next year - the Cowboys, Vikings, Lions, 49ers, Redskins and Falcons. Of those six, three have a realistic chance - the Vikings, Cowboys and Falcons.

The Super Bowl is the single biggest thing in American sports, though TB knows many people who prefer the last two weekends from a purely football standpoint, with four games and then two and with little associated hype, at least compared to what will go on between now and kickoff.

There is a huge difference between professional sports and college sports, obviously, and it extends to all pieces of the two, from on-the-field to player procurement to the business side and everything else. About the only thing they have in common is the way that they have carved out important places in the American public psyche.

There is, TB feels, a misconception on the part of the average fan as to what college sports are all about. Most people know college sports only for big-time football and men's basketball, and through this there is the idea that college athletics serve mostly as a minor league farm system for the NBA and NFL.

The reality, as most people know, is that almost nobody makes it all the way to the professional ranks, which makes the NCAA slogan of "Almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports" something of pure genius.

TB hates the term student-athlete; there are no "student-musicians" or "student-debaters" or "student-artists." Still, almost all of college athletics exists within this framework, whatever you want to call it, across a wide range of sports and divisions.

Almost every kid plays a youth sport at one point in time, but about 80% of those never play in high school. The chances of going from high school to college aren't easy either.

About five percent of high school football players will play in college; fewer than two percent play in the pros. The numbers are lower for men's basketball (they're highest for hockey and baseball).

TigerBlog has always wondered what percentage of football and basketball players at major Division I program realize that they're never going to play in the pros and are using their scholarships to get an education that otherwise might not be available to them. TB also wonders what percentage are under the mistaken belief that they are a lock for a big paycheck, when the reality is that they aren't.

There can't be many, if any, Princeton athletes who have ever come here thinking about using this as a springboard to a pro career. That's not to say it's impossible, because it's been done many, many times in a variety of sports.

Princeton has long had good representation in the pro ranks, including not only what has traditionally been known as the big four (hockey, baseball, basketball, football) but also now in soccer and lacrosse.

What TB is saying is that those who come here are doing so with an eye not just on what their professional future might be.

For instance, TB read a story today about how Cam Newton, who recently quarterbacked Auburn to a dubious BCS national championship, is now in California working out for the combine. TB leaves everyone to draw their own conclusions about the educational value Newton saw at Auburn.

At Princeton - and at many other points in the Ivy League and across the college athletic landscape - athletes have a much more balanced experience than that. When a Princeton athlete does land the huge professional contract, it's something unique.

Of course, it's happened twice in recent days.

Chris Young, who played two years of basketball and baseball at Princeton and left every Princeton fan with a huge what-if, signed with the Mets for $1 million guaranteed and incentives that should push it up at least to $2 or $3 million and possibly to as much as $4.5 million.

For Young, even without the extra incentives, his career earnings now stand at $16.125 million.

Ross Ohlendorf is having an arbitration hearing with the Pirates. He has asked for $2.025 million; the club has offered $1.4 million; this means that he'll either get one of those from an arbitrator or some settled amount before the hearing that is in between the two.

Add it up, and Young has $16 million for 48 career wins, and Ohlendorf is going to earn a 400 percent raise minimum, to at least $1.4 million, for going 1-11 a year ago.

Of course, Young's career winning percentage is nearly 60%, and he'd probably have around 80-90 career wins had it not been for injuries. When healthy, he's been a dominant starting pitcher.

And Ohlendorf has also shown potential stardom in his young career, though he too was hurt much of last year. Also, pitching for the Pirates is not easy.

TB is happy for both of them.

Chris Young is as fine a person as TB has ever met. TB has never met Ohlendorf, but from everything he's seen, heard and read about him, he's up there with Young.

So good for both of them.

It doesn't happen often for Princeton athletes, but it does happen. It's part of what makes this place so special.

1 comment:

Brett said...

I was once having a discussion with a 5-foot-8 kid who wasn't seeing much playing time at an Ivy school and his future came up. He actually started his response with, "If I don't make it to the NBA..."

I laughed, thinking he was surely joking, but he was not. He then cited two or three guys in the NBA who gave him hope that he, too, might make it. Turns out that one of the names he mentioned was a guy with whom I went to college. This guy was a 'tough-as-nails" guard who hit clutch shot after clutch shot in college, leading us to two NCAA appearances, once to the Elite Eight.

It was then I realized that most every college basketball player in the country envisioned the one-in-a-billion shot that they had to making it to the NBA as something closer to one-in-four.

But, hey, good for them.