Web Exclusives:On the Campus...

February 21, 2001:
My version of Princeton basketball

By Emily Johnson '01

The day before my only in-class final, I found myself on a Dillon basketball court playing six on six with another girl, two six-footers and many, many Asians. The play on the court was heated. There were some casualties involving elbows and knees and one lost contact lens. Jon, a very large music major, stood in front of the basket and easily picked off the rebounds. Jake, a Nordic Minnesotan, practically set the ball in the hoop. I think Bernard actually tackled someone. For two and a half hours we played in randomly chosen teams. We played according to height. We played engineers vs. AB's.

I've lost track of who won each game - although I'm sure it was my team. This was only my second time playing basketball, but no one minded since girls are not held to the same wuss standards that boys are, and I even made a couple of baskets. Anyway, none of us are athletic powerhouses, though Jake is lithe, Alex ran cross-country in high school, Steve "lifts," and Brian is quite the tough squash partner. But none of us will make the Prince sports pages. None of us even read the sports pages.

This basketball game has become a tradition now. We send out an e-mail, and players show up in trickles, most just in from the E-quad, some fit and others wheezing after a brief run. I've known most of them since freshman year in Butler College. We've warmed up to each other's weirdnesses, gone apple picking together and carved pumpkins, had a few drinks, and set each other up on blind dates. We've played hearts and badminton and CDs. We watched the final Seinfeld episode together in Bernard's room. Steve and I bought matching boxer shorts at Banana Republic. (I wear mine to play basketball.)

About five of the regulars are electrical engineers. When not on the court they field mega-offers from financial, consulting, and technical firms. They are wooed by fruit baskets and Ghiardelli chocolate and nice hotel rooms. They are experts at wiring up a bread board. I sometimes find it odd that I know about 20 of 30 electrical engineers and three of 200 English majors. Maybe it's so I can get my ultimate revenge during art history study sessions with the mathematically inclined. Maybe it's so on the basketball court, I can get caught up in that, darnit-you-are-NOT-getting-this-ball-away-from-me attitude which I somehow feel is absent from the English department.

We basketball amateurs are not the Princeton students who got Princeton ranked in the Sports Illustrated list of jock schools. We are not the die-hard fans of Princeton basketball who booed Chris Young '02 for "selling out." We are the intramural contingent. We are the gym regulars who usually embarrass ourselves while showing off to each other. We are the basketball team that, no matter how hard we run or how cleanly we pass, or how tall Jon is, would still be crushed by Princeton's back-up, freshmen junior varsity. But who really cares. Did I mention I made a couple of baskets in my second game ever? Princeton Varsity, bring it on.

You can reach Emily Johnson at edj@princeton.edu