Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Night

This was an actual headline in this morning's New York Post: "Jeremy Lin inspires drink, food concoctions at New York restaurants."

This is the lead headline on as TigerBlog is writing: "Following His Lead - Jeremy Lin shared the spotlight, and the ball, in proving another point Wednesday night."

As TigerBlog drove into New York City yesterday afternoon, he listened to callers on the radio try to equate the Lin phenomenon with other events in the past - and this was on a political show. Over on the sports stations, it was all Lin, all the time.

At 4:10, there was an interview on WFAN with a spokesman from Time Warner Cable, who is locked in a dispute with MSG over the price of MSG's programming. As a result, MSG Network is unavailable in Manhattan if you have Time Warner, and the crux of the discussion was whether or not Jeremy Lin was going to force a conclusion to the dispute, because there might be rioting on the part of those who can't watch him on TV. Even without Time Warner's offering the games, MSG's ratings have skyrocketed since Lin began his current run.

At 4:30, there was an interview with Carmelo Anthony, who will return from injury in the next few days. About 90% of the questions related to whether or not Anthony feels like he can fit in with Lin.

If you google "Jeremy Lin," then you get 556,000,000 results in 0.14 seconds.

When Jeremy Lin hit the game-winning three-pointer against Toronto Monday night, the entire building exploded - and this was in Toronto.

When TB parked his car about 20 blocks south and four block east of where Lin would be playing last night, the attendant was wearing a Lin t-shirt.

As TB write this, Director of Athletics Gary Walters walked by, and he is wearing his Jeremy Lin jersey.

Right now, there is no bigger athlete in the world than Jeremy Lin. Think about it - when was the last time you heard the name Eli Manning. Or read a word about how the Giants won the Super Bowl 11 days ago?

Right now, it'd be hard to find two people on Earth who have a higher approval rating than Lin and Adele.

It's shocking, to say the least. What is it about Lin and his meteoric rise? Athletes have made an impact before, seemingly out of nowhere. Look at Victor Cruz with the Giants.

Why is Lin so special?

One, he went to Harvard. Two, he's Asian-American. Three, in basketball, the players are so visible, with faces not hidden by helmets. Four, he has been such a dominant player. He hasn't just been good; he has been Michael Jordan good for seven games now, all Knick wins. Five, he seems to be having so much fun out there. Six, he's not a huge jerk.

And seven, and most important, he seems like Everyman. It makes him so easy to root for and want to see succeed.

Regardless of the reasons, Lin is all anyone wants to talk about, and it was especially true in New York City, where TB overheard conversations about Lin, saw Lin t-shirts and jerseys and heard person after person say things like "it's been years since I've watched an NBA game, but I'll be watching tonight." Even without Time Warner.

TB was in New York to speak at a seminar in a sports management class at New York University. The class featured a mix of grad students and seniors, and it lasted from 6:20 until 8:50.

The professor is Connee Zotos, who had been the athletic director at Drew University for 12 years before returning to academia. TB met Zotos through the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey organization.

TB hopes the 15 students learned something from him. TB certainly learned from them.

TB was essentially talking about issues in marketing and communications in college athletics in general and Princeton specifically, with an emphasis on how it's all evolved in the last 20 years or so. Eventually, it became mostly a Q&A on anything and everything in college athletics, from marketing and communications to recruiting, conference realignments, NCAA rules, admissions and financial aid, the nightmare at Penn State, policing of social media and any number of other topics. Including, of course, Jeremy Lin.

The questions that TB was asked were fascinating, and they gave great insight into what the students were focusing on during the discussion and in general, beyond school.

The topic of Penn State and how Princeton would handle something similar was an important topic. So was the time spent on videostreaming and the money related to that.

As always, TB found some misconceptions about Princeton and Ivy League athletics. Specifically, there is the issue of tiering in college athletics, where sports are given varying degrees of institutional support depending on a bunch of factors. At Princeton, that is not the case.

A few times, TB asked general questions like "how many page views does get in a year" or "how much money does Princeton University allocate from its general funds budget for marketing," to see what the responses would be. He talked about "student-athlete experience," from Princeton's perspective and from the perspective of a BCS basketball player and how radically different those two definitions are.

As he articulated all this, it once again become crystal clear to him why he loves working at Princeton so much, how lucky he is to be here, how unique a place this is.

All in all, the seminar was a fascinating experience for TB, to see a group of students eager to here what he had to say. They scribbled notes at times, but mostly they just listened and engaged in dialogue, which is what TB was hoping would happen.

When TB sits at his desk and looks out across the track at the football stadium every day, handling that day's tasks, it's easy to forget that so much goes into running a Division I athletic program, especially one with 38 varsity sports and 1,000 athletes. How many subjects there are that can be discussed in detail, how many seminars could be devoted solely to how Princeton runs its program vs. how the rest of the league runs theirs vs. how the rest of Division I runs theirs.

At one point last night, TB looked up and noticed that most of the 2.5 hours had passed, in what seemed like seconds rather than minutes.

His hope is that the students had the same feeling.

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