Friday, August 13, 2010

The Jets Stream

TigerBlog has never really known what to make out of the New York Jets. TB's favorite professional sports team is by far the Giants, and their win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years ago is probably his favorite non-Princeton, non-Miracle on Ice sporting event ever.

So where does that leave the Jets? Well, FatherBlog has always been a bigger Jets fan than Giants fan, and one of TB's earlier sports memories is watching the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Unlike, say, the Yankees, TB has never been able to work up a serious hate for the Jets, who were always second-class citizens in Giants Stadium all those years. At the same time, TB never really embraced the Jets as a second-favorite, and he could never figure out if he was rooting for or against the Jets when they played their big games (such as last year's AFC title game).

As for New York newspapers, again, it's not contest. TigerBlog's favorite is by far the New York Post, the greatest newspaper of them all. FatherBlog, who has worked his whole life in New York, brought the Post home every night, and young TB would read the sports stories every night and think "how great would it be to do that for a job?"

And so if all that's true, then why has TB read 10 times more about the Jets this preseason than he has about the Giants? And why has he read it in the Daily News, and not the Post?

Because TB likes to read what Manish Mehta has to say about the Jets, and to do so, he has to read the Daily News instead, where as a Jets' beat writer Mehta updates "The Jets Stream."

Manish, like TB, is a Penn alum. His resume showed up here one day looking for an internship in athletic communications, and as TB remembers, Manish choose working at Princeton over Brown.

From Day 1, a few things were clear about Manish: 1) he was an outstanding writer, 2) you were going to either love him or hate him, 3) he brought a large degree of humor to the office and 4) athletic communications wasn't going to be his thing long term.

After his two years here (back then, it was all two-year internships), Manish (whom John Thompson called "muh-NISH" rather than "muh-NEESH") worked at his alma mater briefly before heading into the newspaper business, first with a short-lived sports magazine of the Post and then with a very successful run at the Star-Ledger, where he covered among other assignments the Olympics, the NFL, Georgetown's run to the Final Four and Major League Baseball.

This year is his first with the Daily News, and he's stumbled on, among other things, the Jets' appearance on the HBO show "Hard Knocks" and the Darrelle Revis holdout.

Regarding the latter, the pressure on Manish to break stories and be ahead of every other outlet in a 24-hour cycle is relentless, and it's also not for everyone. Manish, though, seems to be doing well with it.

TB exchanged a few emails with Manish earlier this week, and it got TB to thinking about back to the days when he first started working here and how it was a never-ending search for interns. In fact, with the current level of stability that we have here, it's easy to forget how tough it was every year to bring in new people and train them, only to see them leave.

The structure of the office when TB arrived was this: a director (Kurt Kehl, who is now vice president of communications for the Washington Capitals), essentially an SID (that was TB) and three interns.

The internships went from August 1 until May 31 and then could be renewed for another year, for a maximum of two academic years. The positions paid very little (about $1,000/month, as TB recalls), though they did come with a little apartment in the Hibben-Magie compex (5T Magie). Of course, the apartment came with one stipulation - you had to live with the other interns.

At the same time, they were great entry-level positions, and they were also a springboard to full-time positions in sports information. Throughout the '90s, former Princeton interns worked at league schools Harvard, Yale, Penn and Cornell, as well as outside of the league at schools as varied as Florida, Georgia, Providence, Loyola, Johns Hopkins, New Haven and Muhlenberg.

As an aside, almost none of those people are still working in the athletic communications field.

The problem was that Princeton was investing the time and energy into training the entry-level people, and then all those other schools would get the benefit of plugging qualified people into their full-time positions.

Meanwhile, Princeton would have to go back to advertising in the NCAA News for a new group of interns. Depending on the year, it would be either one or two - and then they had to integrate with the existing group, not only at work but also at 5T.

Even with that, the OAC was able to adapt each year, largely because there were very few bad hires made. The people who didn't like it the most were the coaches, who had to have a different person with their team every year or two at the most. This led to almost no institutional memory, not to mention practical experience in gameday management and knowledge of what the program's expectations were.

Today, Princeton is lucky that the internship program went by the boards. This happened not as a department decision but rather a University-wide fair employment practices decision.

As a result, the OAC has had only one change in staff in the last six years. The result is that the level of content is far better than it could have been with constant turnover, and things like the video site have been possible.

TB loves the fact that the OAC staff has so much experience and ability; there really is no comparison with what is produced now and what used to be done, though emerging technologies deserve some of the credit as well.

Looking back, though, TB was lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a great group of interns through the years, some of whom he developed great friendships with that last to this day.

Including one with Manish. Just as the OAC has found its way, so too has Manish, who even as we speak is trying to figure out what Darrelle Revis is going to do for lunch.

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