Letters: December 25, 1996

Doug Lederman '84's article "Tigers on Top" (PAW, November 6) compels me to state why athletics at Princeton is so important.
At Princeton I twice earned soccer all-America honors, and I have since gone on to become a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. I am concerned by those who would see athletics either minimized at Princeton or eradicated. Team sports, when balanced against academics, can inspire an individual to achieve greatness in ways that academics alone may not. When one is a member of a team, many skills are learned and developed. Cooperation, compassion, teamwork, expanded awareness, acceptance, and health and fitness are just a few of the benefits derived by participation in sports.
No longer is the individual allowed to remain self-absorbed, constantly at the center of his or her own universe. By being on a team, people who may otherwise have no motivation to interact in either the classroom or society unite for a common goal on the field or court. One learns tolerance and appreciation for others who may have fewer athletic skills, but without whose presence the team itself couldn't exist.
Sports teaches that everyone has a role to play and that everyone is important. In one of our soccer games, when Princeton trailed Harvard by one goal late in the final period because four starters had suffered knee injuries, the "second string" won the game on pure willpower. There is a kind of synergy involved in such wins. The people on the field are not separate individuals, but are part of an indivisible unit bigger and more powerful than the sum of its parts.
An experience like this changes people forever. The mind has recorded the event, and now it shows the person what is possible in all avenues of life. What is learned through competition is transferable to all aspects of life, including academics. The true intellectual is the person who not only understands and masters the basics of a subject but who can then extract its hidden meanings and teach them to others. Competitition enables the mind to see what is possible and raises people to levels of greatness beyond what they might have thought possible.
Princeton's academics taught me to be a critical thinker, but Princeton's sports taught me to be a better human being. Because of what I know, I am able to provide better health care and inspire others to become better thinkers, better humans, and better members of society. I can't imagine what my Princeton experience would have been without sports. Although valid concerns exist over the balancing of academics and athletics, I pray that Princeton will always strive to do both well.
Linda S. DeBoer '86
Tucson, Ariz.

Lederman strives mightily and mostly successfully in covering all bases fairly in his article on Princeton athletics. Nonetheless, the weightiest and most convincing arguments that come through confirm the judgment that athletics now play too prominent a role in undergraduate life.
As a student at Princeton who was active in football, tennis, boxing, and squash, I know that varsity sports take an excessively large share of student time. They can also distort athletes' perspectives, as suggested by the comment from the captain of the water polo team that he never misses practice, but "will miss a class if I have to."
Edward T. Chase '41
New York, N.Y.

In his brief discussion of past athletic success, Mr. Lederman noted great football teams of the 1950s and 1960s but failed to mention the great teams of the 1930s. The 1933 team was undefeated and untied and was picked to go to the Rose Bowl. It didn't go because of the agreement among Harvard, Princeton, and Yale against postseason games. Instead, Columbia went, and beat Stanford. We had beaten Columbia 20-0. In that entire year, only eight points were scored against Princeton, 2 by Yale and 6 by Rutgers.
In 1935 the team was again undefeated and untied, and the press generally recognized it as the national champion. Columbia coach Lou Little called this team "the greatest in Princeton history." Sportswriter Bill Corum regarded it as "the best college team I ever saw," and in the view of Yale coach Ducky Pond it was "the strongest playing combination that has worn the Orange and the Black."
In its four years on campus, the Class of 1936 saw Princeton football lose only one game, and it contributed many players to the great 1933-35 teams. A leading sportswriter called us "the greatest class in all Princeton history and predicted we would "become a legend . . . as the years roll by."
Benn Jesser '36
President, Class of 1936
Nantucket, Mass.

I read with great pleasure Jeremy Caplan '97's article on the University Orchestra (On the Campus, October 9). As an undergraduate I found the many hours I spent playing cello in the orchestra and in my Music 213 quartet to be a refreshing escape from my academic grind as a pre-med and electrical engineer.
My life as an eye surgeon now leaves little time for organized musicmaking, but the cello is still an important part of my life, and I play whenever I get a chance. And while I appreciate PAW's updates on our athletic teams, I am thrilled to learn that teamwork, talent, and dedication off the playing field and in the rehearsal hall are keeping the spirit of music performance alive and well at Princeton.
George H. Tanaka '86
San Francisco, Calif.

In his letter of November 27, Alan G. Moore '71, M.D., states emphatically but incorrectly that medical science recognizes the so-called morning-after pill as an abortifacient (the termination of a pregnancy) and that pregnancy begins at conception, not implantation. Two authoritative scientific communities, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologogists (ACOG) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), contradict Dr. Moore's supposed facts. ACOG recently published a Practice Pattern on emergency contraceptive pills (the correct name for the morning-after pill) in which the mode of action is described as the prevention of pregnancy, not as an abortifacient. According to the NIH definition found in the code of federal regulations, pregnancy begins with implantation. Since emergency contraceptive pills are effective only prior to implantation, they cannot cause an abortion as defined by medical science. Moore is also incorrect when he claims that if pregnancy begins with implantation, there could be no ectopic pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition because implantation has occurred outside the uterus.
Jacqueline Koenig
James Trussell *75
Office of Population Research
Princeton, N.J.

Shame on Dr. Moore for mixing meanings. An implantation in the fallopian tube is an ectopic pregnancy, since the women's body has accepted the blastocyst (early embryo) and begun to nourish it. Many fertilized eggs fail to implant normally, and the real question is whether a non-implantation of the blastocyst represents an abortion. I think not. In my opinion, a pregnancy occurs only when the fertilized egg implants and is accepted by the woman's body, wherever this might occur, then begins to grow into a fetus.
Walter J. Gamble '53, M.D.
Brookline, Mass.

Dr. Moore asserts that Princeton should "let the woman decide if she wants to take care of the consequences of her actions of the night before." It is precisely because women have so little agency in deciding what to do "the night before" and "the morning after" that abortion has become a last resort. We would do better to stop considering women only in terms of "before" and "after" relative to men's actions and start listening to what they have to say about their own experiences with their bodies. To paraphrase Dr. Moore, we should also develop birth control for men to "take care of the consequences of [their] actions."
E. Cameron Scott '93
Ithaca, N.Y.

Professor Harold Kuhn *50's bias against Army ROTC is sad and infuriating (Letters, October 9). Our class-and other wartime classes-suffered heavy casualties serving our country in World War II. A number of those killed or wounded had been in ROTC. Is it Kuhn's contention that Princeton men and women are somehow above serving in our country's armed services? Or that Princeton should no longer pay even lip service to Woodrow Wilson's memorable phrase, "Princeton in the Nation's Service"? God help us!
Frank Schaffer '45
Former Chairman, Alumni Council
Greenwich, Conn.