Thursday, March 24, 2011

All Things Being Equal

As TigerBlog remembers the sweater, it was definitely something out of the early 1990s. It was black, and it had all kinds of color to the front.

When the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game was on ESPN Classic the other night, TigerBlog could see the sweater looking back at him from behind the Kentucky bench. TB was there covering the game for the newspaper, and he saw what is widely considered the greatest college basketball game ever played from a seat that put him almost in the middle of the Wildcat huddle, basically able to hear every word Rick Pitino said all night.

All while wearing what now would be considered a ghastly black sweater.

TigerBlog still gets rolled eyes and strange looks from people when he tells them that, if all sports were judged equally, then the 2009 national squash championship match between Princeton and Trinity would be considered among the greatest, if not the greatest, collegiate championship event of all-time.

In that match, Princeton fell just short of ending Trinity's winning streak, which had reached 202 at that point. The match took more than six tense hours in Jadwin Gym, and the team in control seemed to go back-and-forth every minute of those six hours.

Duke-Kentucky ends up on ESPN Classic. Trinity-Princeton gets rolled eyes.

Why? Because long ago, basketball became a mainstream sport, while most of the general sporting public doesn't know what squash is and has never seen it.

When TB worked at the newspaper, he found maybe the only person he's ever seen who looked at every sport as exactly equal, and that was Harvey Yavener. To Yav, a big squash match was equal to a big basketball game, and to some extent, it was that logic that led Yav to pass on Duke-Kentucky and send TB in the first place.

At Princeton, the mandate has always been to treat every sport equally, and for the most part, that's how it's done around here.

For instance, a look at the top seven stories on at this moment shows that tennis, rowing, basketball, lacrosse, track and field, fencing and golf are all represented. No decision is ever made to feature one sport over another.

Of course, not everything is completely equal. For instance, Princeton only charges admission for five sports - football, men's and women's basketball, men's hockey and men's lacrosse, and almost all of the in-game promotions are centered around those five.

And back when media guides were produced, some sports had much bigger ones than others. And the football game program isn't quite the same as the one for, say, soccer or baseball or track and field.

Still, things around here at more egalitarian than they are at many places, and that's one of the best parts of working here. As TB loves to say, the football coach doesn't run the University.

And hey, let's pretend for a minute that everything is equal. In that case, today's bury-the-lead question is: In which sport is the Ivy League strongest nationally?

The usual answers are sports like squash and lacrosse and rowing, which make up the majority of the national championships Princeton has won during its current 40-year streak of having at least one team or individual win one.

TB will put men's soccer out there as well, with four teams having made the tournament a year ago and two of them having advanced to the quarterfinals.

Some others are as well, including wrestling and hockey.

One sport that gets overlooked, though, is fencing. Ivy League fencing is up there with any other sport.

As TB writes, the NCAA championships are just getting underway at Ohio State. Two things jumped out at TB from the release on

"In the final USFCA poll released Tuesday, March 22, the Ivy League champion Princeton women's team was ranked second behind Notre Dame, which received top billing in both polls. The Princeton men's team was ranked sixth. All seven Ivy League women's teams were ranked or receiving votes, as were five of the six Ivy men's programs."

and ...

"Princeton has had a Top 10 national finish in 18 straight trips to the finals."

TigerBlog will be the first to admit that he doesn't know much about fencing. Still, he has great respect for how competitive the Ivy League is and what a great job Zoltan Dudas and his staff have done of bringing Princeton back to the sport's elite.

Princeton has qualified the maximum number of fencers (12) that a school can, and it should be an interesting weekend in Columbus.

No, it'll never make ESPN Classic, and yes, the NCAA basketball tournaments, especially the men's, will completely eclipse the fencing as far as the public is concerned.

But in the Ivy League, it's different, and so fencing will have its share of the spotlight this weekend.

As it should be. It's part of why the Ivy League is a unique place.


CAZ said...

I remember that sweater. Wasn't that when everyone was going through a Cosby Show phase?

Glenn Adams '63 said...

Congrats to the Tiger fencing team, which finished 4th nationally. If they didn't combine the men's and women's points in determining the National Champion, our Tiger women's fencing team would have won a National Championship, since their point total topped even overall national champion Notre Dame. What a shame that we are deprived of what would have been yet another national championship! Do they combine men's and women's finishes to determine a national champion in any other college sport? Glenn Adams '63