Monday, December 7, 2020

The GM

Who is the professional athlete whom you've watched who would have the highest universal approval rating among the team's fans?

For that matter, among the opposing team's fans? 

TigerBlog has been trying to think. If you'd asked him this 40 years ago, he would have said Julius Erving. Who didn't like Dr. J? He was exciting to walk. He played with flair. He played with joy. He was a winner. He came across as a really likable guy.

As an aside, when TB was doing student radio at Penn, he made arrangements with the 76ers PR staff to tape a halftime interview with Julius Erving. Back then, the Sixers practiced at Temple, and on the day the staff arranged, TB headed over to McGonigle Hall along with another student broadcaster to meet with the Doctor.

It's been awhile now since TB has felt awed or intimidated around any athlete, but back then, as a college student, he definitely was star-struck. His biggest memory from that day is sitting in the stands, interviewing one of the most famous athletes in the world, and then having him hang out for a few minutes afterwards having a casual conversation.

Any time TB saw Erving on TV after that, his first thought was of what a really nice guy he'd been to him that day.

Is there a more contemporary athlete? 

TB might have said Peyton Manning perhaps? He'd say maybe Eli Manning, but there were too many people who were critical of Eli's play in later years. That has to be part of it.

In fact here would be the criteria:

* great athlete (actually more than simply great)
* plays with obvious love for the game
* seems quite likeable
* you root for him or her even if they aren't on your team

The likeability part lets out Michael Jordan, who would get perfect scores on everything other than likeability.

So what athlete best fits all that? TB knows the clear winner:

Usain Bolt.

Who could ever root against him? 

So how does this apply to Princeton? Well same question, restricted to Princeton Athletes. 

Suppose you graded on a scale of 1-25 for each of the four categories. Your average Princeton athlete would score in the high 80s to low 90s (don't say "grade inflation).

Who would get perfect scores? 

TigerBlog thinks of a group of maybe 10 or so that he's seen in the last 30 or so years. And if you needed to then sort out the ones with a perfect score, who would be at the top?

TB has written this many times before. The most beloved Princeton athlete he's seen here has been Chris Young, the basketball/baseball player. 

Maybe it's because there's a sense of "what if" with Young, with the way he zoomed in to the Princeton landscape and was gone after two years. Maybe it's because in many ways he's a larger-than-life figure, with his 6-10ish height.

Maybe it's his personality and the way he was so engaging with the fans. For TB, Young will always be the Princeton athlete who always had time for every fan, whether they were little kids or whether they had graduated from Princeton in the 1940s.

Maybe it's all of those things.

Either way, as a Princeton athlete, Chris Young was something of a mythical figure, someone who seemed almost too good to be true. It made him so easy to root for as a Tiger, and that has never stopped in his post-graduate years.

TigerBlog remembers going to watch Young pitch against the Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws in his first professional season. He remembers getting the MLB package on Direct TV to be able to watch Young when he came up with the Texas Rangers.

Mostly he remembers rooting hard for Young in the 2015 World Series, when Young was the fourth starter for the Kansas City Royals, who won the Series over the Mets four games to one. Young was the winning pitcher in Game 1, with three riveting innings in a game that went 14 innings.

The news came last week that Young, who pitched for 13 years in the Major Leagues and had been working in the MLB front office, was now the general manager of the Texas Rangers. Young has been living in Dallas, so it works out well for him, his wife Liz (a  former Princeton women's soccer player) and their three children.

And for Princeton fans? They're now Texas Ranger fans.

Once again, Chris Young is impossible to root against.

1 comment:

George Clark said...

A Chris Young highlight for me was the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu in his first season. The Tigers swept three games to win the title. Young went head-to-head with Texas center Chris Mihm, clearly outplaying the Lonhorn big man who went on to a long and productive NBA career. Young, a Texan himself, enjoyed this win a great deal.