Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Whammy

TigerBlog could fill a week's worth of entries with funny things that he heard Pete Carril said, on the record and off, rated G all the way through NC-17.

Despite the fact that Bill Carmody was only the head coach here for four years, he hardly was lacking in his own funny comments, which also ran the same ratings gamut.

Carmody, especially, was also very superstitious. And he was a big believer in a concept he called "The Whammy."

Basically, it's the same thing as a jinx. If you write, for instance, that Brian Earl has been in double figures in five straight games, you're ensuring that he won't get there in the next one.

TB heard Carmody say the word "whammy" so much that he incorporated it into the game notes, as in this 1998 entry: "The whammy - Princeton is 10-0 in the Ivy League and has won every game by double figures." Princeton, of course, went on to go 14-0 in the league that year and won 13 of those 14 by double figures.

Anyway, TigerBlog could hear Carmody's cautionary tone when he went to Penn's website yesterday and found the lead story with a headline that said: "Fall Frenzy For Penn's Athletic Teams."

The basic point of the story is that Penn is having a good fall. Heading into this weekend, Penn has five teams in first place in their league: football (tied with Brown), sprint football, men's soccer (tied with Princeton), women's soccer (tied with Columbia) and women's volleyball (tied with Princeton).

TigerBlog, in fact, was going to write a similar story last week but instead thought of Carmody. And Gary Walters, who also believes in the whammy, though not quite by that name. Instead, the Princeton Athletic Director believes in managing expectations.

You will notice that most of those Penn teams are tied for the lead, including two with Princeton. The football team at Penn is tied with Brown, whom it hosts this weekend. Men's soccer still has to play the other three top teams in the league, two of whom (Brown and Princeton) are ranked in the Top 25. The women's soccer team is tied for first, but it is really a four-team race with Penn, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton.

On the other hand, the story was a good, positive one for the Quakers, and with big home games this weekend around Homecoming in West Philadelphia, such a story can generate some pretty good excitement.

So the question then becomes, how should athletic communications offices handle such situations?

Is it okay to point out how well your teams are doing, or is that only putting extra pressure on them, setting them up to fail and giving the opponents additional motivation?

Is it okay to state the facts about where teams are in the standings, or is it better to be low-key until championships are actually won?

It's something TB has wrestled with a lot here.

As the Penn story was being written, Princeton has seven fall teams very much in the championship mix. Still, TB was hesitant to write about last week and still is, for that matter, because none of those teams has won a championship yet.

And even if, say, two or three do, if you write a story that says seven teams have a great shot at winning their league, then it appears that overall you've come up short in the end.

Back in the pre-internet days, TigerBlog was pretty sure that no Princeton athletes read the Trenton Times or any other local paper every day and therefore really didn't know much about what was being said about them.

Today, where each of Princeton's 38 sports and each of every other school's however many teams have their own page on the school's website, TB is pretty sure that every Princeton athlete and every opposing athlete reads everything.

TB also has said that he doesn't think that anything he or anyone else writes can actually influence the outcome of a game (if it could, then sports info people should be paid more), there is something to the fact that athletes and coaches take it personally if they read something that slights their team.

In general, TB likes to err on the side of caution, largely to avoid having a game end only to hear a player on the other team say something like "I read on Princeton's webpage how great they were and wanted to knock them down a little."

So good luck to Penn in its quest for championships this fall. If nothing else, there are some great races in Ivy League sports that are just heading to stretch run.

And hey, wondering whether or not to really pump up your teams during their own runs towards championships?

It's not a bad problem to have.

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