Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Week, Another Chance

FatherBlog has talked about the 1951 National League race between the Giants and Dodgers more than any other sporting event that TigerBlog can remember. As for TB, he rooted hard for the Red Sox to hold off the Yankees in 1978, though it wasn't to be.

Maybe the best race TB can remember was in 1993, when the Braves outdid the Giants by a single game, as Atlanta won 104 games and San Francisco won 103.

For those who don't remember, before 1969 there were no divisions in Major League Baseball, just a National League and an American League, and the winner of each played in the World Series. From 1969 until 1993, there were two divisions in each league, so the division winners played each other to see who would play in the World Series.

The first year of the wild card would have been 1994, except a strike wiped out the last six weeks of the regular season and the postseason. That was essentially the end of the line for the Montreal Expos, who had a six game lead on the Braves when the strike came. The Expos, who would have definitely won the 1994 World Series, never really recovered; today they are the Washington Nationals.

The idea of the wild card was to have as many teams as possible remain in contention through the end of the year. Plus, with expansion, there was a need for more than two divisions.

Still, there was something much better about when teams had to win their division. The 2010 Yankees-Rays race is a clear example of that, as neither team tried to win the AL East, which ultimately went to the Rays. Still, would you take the Rays over the Yankees to win the AL at this point? Maybe, maybe not. Other than possibly an extra home game, there is no reward for winning the division.

The NL race between the Padres and Giants for the West title was tempered by the fact that the one that didn't win still had a shot at the wild card. As it turned out, the Padres took the Giants to the wire before losing yesterday, and Atlanta's win over Philadelphia yesterday gave the Braves the wild card.

If you go back to the first two weeks of the Major League Baseball season, you will see that the San Diego Padres lost two of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies and the Atlanta Braves. At the time, who even noticed?

Now that the season has ended, any game would have been the difference between postseason or no postseason for the Padres. Some rainy night in April, or an extra inning game in July, or some day-game-after-night-game in August - any one game made the difference.

It's hard to think in terms of that over the course of a 162-game season. Some old-time manager - TB thinks it was Leo Durocher - used to say that you start out with 50 wins and 50 losses and that the rest of the games will determine your season, but he never said how you know if the game you just lost was one of your predetermined 50 or one of the determining games.

That's the nature of baseball. Football, on the other hand, is a much different animal.

TigerBlog has always been struck by the difference between playing yesterday, today, tomorrow and so on versus playing once a week.

There is no sport that can compare to football in terms of the disparity of the ratio of practice time to playing time, and the result is that in football, every game is like it's own mini-season, regardless of whether or not it's for first place or last place.

To TigerBlog, it's that way of thinking that would sustain him if he played for Princeton's sprint football team. Every week offers another chance, another opportunity for that mini-season to be a success.

Of course, not all weeks are created equal, and this one certainly isn't like many of the others for the Tigers.

The Princeton sprint football team has lost 26 straight games overall and 66 straight to its league opponents. The only win for Princeton since 1999 came in 2005 against VMI, who put together a club team to play two games that year.

This Friday night, Princeton will play its fourth straight home game. Before looking ahead, let's look back at the first three games of this year, compared to similar scores of last year:

vs. Cornell - lost, 44-0
vs. Penn - lost 57-7 and 91-13
vs. Mansfield - lost 33-0 and 26-14

vs. Cornell - lost 33-12
vs. Penn - lost 48-12
vs. Mansfield - lost 10-6

In other words, the scores this year are much closer than they were a year ago and in most recent years.

And then there's this week. Coming up Friday at 7 on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, Princeton will host Post, a first-year program in the CSFL. Post is not C.W. Post or any other school; it's a college in Waterbury, Conn., and judging by its website, everyone who goes there likes everyone else and has a lot of fun.

Post, nicknamed the Eagles, is playing four games in its first year, much like Mansfield did a few years ago. For schools that don't want to get into the cost of fielding a heavyweight team, sprint might start to catch on - it's much easier to run operationally, and it brings to the school full tuition-paying students.

The Eagles are 0-2, with losses of 42-12 to Penn and 22-14 to Cornell the last two weekends. After playing Princeton, Post will be off for two weeks before taking on Mansfield. TB assumes the service academies will join the schedule next year.

Princeton will come into the game with a reasonable degree of confidence after its results so far this year. The close game against Cornell should make Post feel that it has a chance as well.

The Eagles have 42 players on their roster, 41 of whom are freshmen or sophomores and one of whom is a junior. Most of the team comes from Connecticut, but the roster does include players from as far away as Florida, Idaho and Tennessee.

If nothing else, it shapes up as the most interesting sprint football game in awhile. Call it the biggest game of this mini-season for the Tigers.


Anonymous said...

Am I correct in thinking that Princeton's sprint football team is 100% composed of walk-on's, that the team consists solely of whichever random guys show up every season, with nobody having been contacted in high school (no recruiting, not even without any preference in the admissions department) -- while our conference opponents have some limited degree of recruiting of high school players, even though the entire team of course is not recruited per the "heavyweight" team?

If so, that would seem to be a pretty big disadvantage. Even if our opponents can only recruit one or two players a year, assuring a team of one bona fide quarterback and a couple of skill position players every year seems to be a pretty big head start.

Anonymous said...

would not Crew teams have a higher practice/training ratio to actual 'competition time' than football?

Princeton OAC said...

TigerBlog cannot comment on the admissions practices of other sprint football schools. Part of Princeton's disadvantage does come from having a significantly smaller undergraduate population compared to Penn and Cornell. The service academies have their own inherent edges as well.

As for rowing, yes, it probably does exceed football, though it is in some ways apples and oranges.