Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The North Coast

Here on Oregon's North Coast, TigerBlog can't help but notice one thing.

Almost nobody wears a college t-shirt.

At the Jersey Shore, where TB has spent most of his life's beach time, it's a common sight to see one college t-shirt or hat or shorts or whatever after another. The number of colleges represented is enormous.

Here, there are basically four colleges that have their name out there. Washington State, Washington, Oregon State and the one that has about 75% of the representation, Oregon.

Even for the last few days, when TB was in Seattle, he saw almost nothing other than those four schools. Hey, Washington State has its own store in the mall that has the monorail to the Space Needle on its top floor. Washington, similarly, has one on Fourth Avenue, just down from Pike Street.

In the city, almost everything is those two schools. TB saw way more people wearing Washington and Washington State gear than he has seen here at the beach, and he saw almost nothing from any other school. Maybe there was one Seattle University sweatshirt.

And here in Oregon, he saw one "CWU" sweatshirt, which he assumes was Central Washington.

It's a little less than a four-hour drive from Seattle to the North Coast, most of which is spent on I-5. The trip starts out in Seattle and goes past Tacoma, Olympia and then a bunch of other small towns, until exit 36, which cuts across the Columbia River into Oregon, offering an amazing view of the logging industry along the way.

Eventually, the ride heads into beach towns like Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach, which is notable for the giant rock - Haystack Rock - that is anchored just off the shoreline.

What is absent from the ride is a sign for a college, except for a handful of community colleges.

It's a vastly different animal than TB usually sees back home, where there are colleges everywhere. What it does, other than offer beach-goers a wildly varied number of t-shirts to wear, is create tons of opponents for schools.

Out here, that doesn't appear to be the case. There is huge distance that separates teams in conferences, something that impacted scheduling long ago and something that now forces teams to fly to almost every game.

Scheduling long ago?

Any idea what the most-played rivalry is in the history of men's college basketball? Let's get back to that in a second.

Let's start with the record for most consecutive years having played. Here are the top five:

1. Princeton vs. Yale and Columbia vs. Yale (112 straight years)
3. Princeton vs. Penn (111 straight years)
4. Columbia vs. Penn and Cornell vs. Penn (110 straight years)

In other words, the five rivalries that have played for the most consecutive years feature Ivy League opponents. You have to go to the No. 6 spot on that list to find non-Ivy schools (Maine and New Hampshire 108 straight years) .

Princeton has played Columbia 229 times in men's basketball and has not played any other team more. The Tigers have played Penn and Yale 228 times each.

Meanwhile, back at the record for most games played against another opponent. Here are your top five:

1. Oregon vs. Oregon State (339 times)
2. Oregon vs. Washington (298 times)
3. Oregon State vs. Washington (293 times)
4. Oregon State vs. Washington State (288 times)
5. Oregon vs. Washington State (285 times)

The top five is comprised of just the four schools seen on the beaches around here.

Think about that. Princeton and Penn first played in 1903, the same year that Oregon and Oregon State did. And yet Oregon and Oregon State have played 111 more games against each other than Princeton and Penn have in that same time.

That's extraordinary, no? Especially considering that Princeton and Penn have played at least twice every season since 1903.

So what's the reason?

Lack of opponents within driving distance.

TigerBlog has been to about a billion Ivy League athletic events in his life. He's never flown to a single one. He's been to every campus so many times that he long ago lost track of how often it was.

And he's driven every time.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, that's just not an option.

Maybe that's why Ivy League schools have so many teams and so many other leagues don't. Maybe it just comes down to how prohibitively expensive it is to get from one campus to another in those other leagues and how easy it is in the Ivy League.

When schools like Princeton and Harvard and Penn and Yale began playing each other in one sport, other sports saw how easy it was to get there and began to field teams of their own. Oregon and Oregon State, say, never had that option.

TB never thought of it in those terms before.

Anyway, the Pacific Ocean is pretty cold up here, but the beaches are pristine and the scenic beauty is everywhere, with mountains to the east and the ocean to the west, something that is always difficult to remember.

As for TB, he was wearing a Princeton lacrosse sweatshirt today.

He'll be back with more Princeton stuff tomorrow.

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