Wednesday, March 23, 2011

With Violet Eyes To Die For

Elizabeth Taylor, in case you didn't hear, died today at the age of 79.

She was a little before TigerBlog's time, though he certainly has seen enough of her movies through the years to appreciate that she was more than just her looks and body and propensity to get married, divorced and married again.

For much of the 1950s and ’60s, she was the heavyweight champ of Hollywood actresses, with no real competition out there at all. She burst onto the scene at the age of 12 when she was in National Velvet, which made her an international star, and she would go on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress, as the rather-troubled Gloria in BUtterfield 8 and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

She also played the title role in "Cleopatra," for which she earned $1 million - and the first of her two marriages to Richard Burton.

If TigerBlog had to name his two favorite Liz Taylor movies, he'd go with "Giant," set in the Texas oil fields (it was James Dean's third and last movie, and "A Place In The Sun," starring TB favorite Montgomery Clift.

By the time TB was watching TV on a regular basis, Taylor was mostly known for having been a huge star in her day, for her turbulent personal life and for her philanthropic activities.

There was also a Doonesbury strip from Jan. 11, 1979, that referred to her time married to John Warner, a senator from Virginia, and used the phrase "a tad overweight but with violet eyes to die for" to describe her.

Her healthy declined through the years, and she finally passed away earlier today. Her death marks the end of a career that will be nearly impossible in this day and age to duplicate.

Nearly to the end, Taylor's was a familiar face on television, mostly in commercials that made her look exceedingly glamorous.

That wasn't quite the look the NCAA was looking for when it came up with its "Still Think We're A Bunch Of Dumb Jocks?" campaign.

If you missed the commercials during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, they show various former college athletes going through strenuous workout regimens, as they drip sweat throughout.

The voiceovers talk about the successes that college athletes have in terms of graduation rates, academic achievement and overall educational accomplishment, especially compared to non-athletes.

From the NCAA's website:
“NCAA student-athletes, particularly African-American males, are graduating at a higher percentage than their counterparts in the general student body in almost every category,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “In a 10-year timeframe that begins after high school, nearly 90 percent of student-athletes graduate. I am thrilled to share these facts with the world through our PSAs.”

TigerBlog has said this before, and he'll say it again: Whoever came up with "there are nearly 400,000 student-athletes, and almost all of us will be going pro in something other than sports" is a total genius.

The latest NCAA spot builds on that and makes it more to the point, which is that stereotypes notwithstanding, participation in college athletics overwhelmingly leads to staying in school, graduating and doing well post-graduation.

There is a perception that all of college athletics mirrors that of BCS football and big-time Division I men's basketball. Yes, those are by far the most visible sports on the college landscape, and they certainly are the ones that generate all of the revenue.

Unfortunately, much of the public's views of what college athletics is stems from those two sports. The result is that all college athletes are lumped together, with the idea that they're only on campus to pursue pro careers, that they all drop out once their eligibility is exhausted, that they aren't real students, that they didn't earn their way into school, that they are taking classes that lead to maintaining eligibility and not to being challenged, that they are segregated from the rest of the students on campus.

Certainly there are examples where this is the case. But it's such a small percentage of what college athletics is all about.

At Princeton, there are 38 varsity teams and nearly 1,000 athletes, or roughly 20 percent of the undergraduate population. The stereotypes that the athletes here fight against aren't that they're going to leave to pro but go to the question of why a school like Princeton would have Division I athletics in the first place.

The answers aren't that simple. For instance, if you were starting the Ivy League today, you probably wouldn't have Division I teams.

But Ivy League athletics started two centuries ago, and the amount of history and tradition coupled with the amazing successes that the teams continue to have and the example that they set across college athletics can never be minimized or taken away.

And of course, there's the reality that athletic success can bring a campus together in a way that nothing else can match. Don't believe TigerBlog? Ask anyone who saw Douglas Davis on campus last week.

Of course, all of the good about college athletics will never be enough for some people, and hey, they're certainly entitled to their opinion.

But that's also why spots like the NCAA's "Still Think We're A Bunch of Dumb Jocks" are so important, and why it's so important that they're done correctly.

Here at Princeton, there are roughly 1,000 athletes, and most of them will be going pro in something other than sports.

And before they do, they'll be some of the greatest examples of what makes Princeton University such a special place.


Unknown said...

TigerBlog needs a "like" button so we can press it a million times.

BMcD said...

TB could also post daily blog links on Facebook and probably rack up lots of Likes and bring in more readers, and TB's blog should be read by all Tiger sports fans!