Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nice Hat

Did you see the SportsCenter commercial with Jorge Posada and David Ortiz?

No? In this commercial, Posada and Ortiz are sitting with an ESPN personality and discussing Posada's new hat, which isn't broken in. Obviously, Posada's hat is a Yankees' hat, and Ortiz obviously is a Boston Red Sox legend.

Ortiz tries the hat on, so he now has on his Red Sox uniform with a Yankee hat. Just then, the Red Sox mascot walks by.

When TB first saw it, his first thought was: "That's hilarious."

His second thought was: "How could Ortiz agree to do that?"

The SportsCenter commercials have always bothered TB somewhat. They are, to be sure, very, very creative.

On the other hand, there are two problems with them. First, they completely destroy the line between the ESPN on-air people and the athletes who are in the commercials. If Posada and Ortiz - and numerous others - are in these commercials, how can the people at ESPN objectively cover them during the bad times?

Second, the over-exposure of the ESPN anchors is too much. When TB was in the newspaper business, he loved the anonymity of it. TB could stand in the bagel place and see someone who was reading his story, and that person would have no idea that TB was the one who wrote it.

Today, all that is different. Today, it seems the goal of every media person is to be on TV and be on TV as much as possible. As a result, they achieve "celebrity," which, of course, appears to be the goal of the entire country these days.

Getting back to the Posada/Ortiz commercial, the question of how Ortiz could agree to do that is based on the idea that the Yankees and Red Sox are supposed to have as bitter a rivalry as any two teams in sports. And yet here is Ortiz, who along with Tom Brady is the most beloved athlete in New England for the last 20 years or so, on ESPN with a Yankees hat on? While wearing a Red Sox uniform?

Yes it supposed to be in fun, but isn't there a line that has to be drawn? Especially if the rivalry is as bitter as it's made out to be?

The answer is that in modern American professional sports, the rivalries and such mean more to the fans than they do to the players. Professional athletes in the major professional sports these days are more like members of an exclusive club, one that's not open to the overwhelming majority of society. That they compete against each other is irrelevant.

It's because of the money, of course. You think Otis Sistrunk would have worn a Kansas City Chiefs' hat while joking around with Willie Lanier back in the 1970s? You think the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants would have made such a commercial?

No chance. No, if you want to see real rivalries these days, you have to look beyond the pro ranks.

TigerBlog spent the last two Saturdays seeing this first-hand, in both cases in men's lacrosse. Two weeks ago in Cambridge, it was Princeton-Harvard, in a rivalry that dates to 1881.

For those who don't know, Princeton and Harvard didn't exactly get along in the early days. There was a time when Princeton and Harvard hated each other so much that they dropped all athletic contests between the schools for a 15-year stretch spanning the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th.

Princeton and Harvard play in 37 sports each year (Harvard does not have sprint football), and each one of those games takes on an extra meaning for the people who are competing in them and for the people who are watching them.

This past weekend - and possibly this coming one - featured Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse. TB has written in the past that this specific matchup is now the Ivy League's best single-sport rivalry, and he saw nothing last week to dispel that notion.

Even if Princeton-Cornell isn't the best these days, it's way up there. Harvard-Yale football and Princeton-Penn men's basketball are by far the two greatest rivalries in Ivy history, but TB says it's Cornell-Princeton men's lacrosse today.

There's something a little different when you're playing a real rival or when you're watching your team play against a real rival.

Unfortunately for pro sports, the money has ruined it.

For college sports, especially in the Ivy League, it's impossible to ruin. These rivalries have too much history and are so ingrained in the people who care about them.

As for Ortiz and Posada, well, TB was at Little Miss TigerBlog's lacrosse tournament Sunday when he saw a woman wearing a Cornell men's lacrosse hat.

The money does not exist that would have gotten TB to wear it.



So as an undergrad at Penn, could you have ever seen yourself wearing a Princeton Basketball cap?

Princeton OAC said...

No chance. Now TB has nothing that says "Penn" on it and a ton of Princeton stuff.