Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meeting Time

When you make the list of TigerBlog's favorite things in the world, it's not long before you get to "beach."

There isn't much TB likes to do more than look out from the beach over the water, with the distinct sea smell splashing in his face. He hardly ever actually goes all the way into the water, preferring instead to walk just along the water's edge, so his feet get wet.

TigerBlog walked out of his hotel yesterday afternoon and headed down a path that led to a small beach, this one that faced out over the Long Island Sound. Visible in the distance was Long Island, most likely Orient Point, across the Sound, and it was easy to see the northern tip of Suffolk County on a crystal clear afternoon.

The tide was mild, and the beach behind the hotel was very narrow. At one point, TB walked out on a small jetty that extended a few feet off the shore, and it was from there that he could really smell the salt water.

It was a pristine setting, and TB appreciated the solitude.

It came after essentially nine hours of meetings with the sports information group, a subset of the larger Ivy League athletic meetings going on in Northern Connecticut.

TigerBlog always chuckles when he reads on a message board or hears someone say that the Ivy League is basically winging it when it comes to athletics, because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is a very well-regimented league, and great care is given to the process of formulating rules changes or adopting new policies.

Still, those policies aren't really what stood out to TB during the day of meetings yesterday.

Nope, instead it was the whole concept of having eight highly competitive entities gather together to think big picture - "for the good of the clan," as the late, great Dartmouth SID Kathy Slattery would always say - and yet with what appears to be great admiration and appreciation for what goes on on the other campuses in the league.

And yet, essentially, each school's mission is to outdo all of the others.

It's this seemingly incompatible dichotomy that is fascinating to TB. On the one hand, the field of intercollegiate athletics draws in those who are highly competitive. On the other hand, they all get along like they're old fraternity and sorority buddies.

In many ways, the people in the various departments - sports information, compliance, etc. - work with the people on the other campuses, even though they're separated by in many cases hundreds of miles. Getting together at meetings like this presents a rare opportunity to spend face-to-face time with people who are usually in constant contact by email.

The league personnel spend a great deal of time in meetings, but there's also some down time. Included in this was a dinner last night that brought the extended group together.

In the room were veterans whose time in the league goes back decades and newcomers who have been there for a few months or even weeks. There were athletic directors - and an army of people whose goal it is to become athletic directors.

The Ivy League office put together a game in which it asked everyone to give a fun fact, and all of these facts were put together onto an orange sheet of paper. The idea was to figure out whose fun fact was whose, and it led many in the room to try to find out which fact belonged where without giving up their own fact too easily.

TigerBlog didn't play along that much. Mostly he sat back and watched, saw people from vastly different backgrounds in vastly different stages of their careers interacting in a low-key, non-competitive setting, against a backdrop that suggested that the competitive nature of being in the same athletic conference never completely disappears.

The Ivy League has eight schools who have been competing against other since the earliest days of college athletics, and they continue to do so today, when college athletics has become a billion dollar industry.

It's the responsibility of those who were assembled around the room to balance the uniqueness of the league with the realities of modern-day sports. And, it appears to TB at least, that that's not something that those in charge take lightly at all.

Except this was a time to be lighthearted, and that's what was going on all around the room.

Lighthearted fun. A bunch of people eating and playing a small game.

And then back to the meetings, gatherings that ultimately fine tune the Ivy League athletic model.

Mostly work, a little play - all with a group of highly dedicated people.


Anonymous said...

You made what appears to be an illuminating Freudian slip when you observed, "people in the various departments work with the people on the other campuses, even though they're separated by in many cases hundreds of dollars."

Tommy Amaker would say, "please, you mean hundreds of thousands of dollars."

TigerBlog said...

Oops. TB did mean miles and corrected it. Wonder what those with advanced degrees in psychology would make of saying "dollars" instead of "miles."