Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn nsellyn@princeton.edu


October 9 , 2002:

Again, playing in PAW's corner:
Nate Sellyn vs. Every Major Sport, Part 2

 

So you've seen examples of my ineptitude at three of the five major sports. What's left?

Basketball

Ok, I played basketball throughout high school, and was good enough to not embarrass myself. Eventually, however, at some point during my senior year, my father reminded me that, unfortunately, "White Jews can't jump." I do round up a mean fantasy basketball team, though. Interested for this season? Contact me. No, seriously. Please?

Football

Sprint football is a unique sport. It was created for smaller players whom, due to the emphasis on size in the standard varsity football program, normally wouldn't be able to play the game at a college level.  All participants must weigh 165 pounds or less to compete, but this is the sole fashion in which Sprint differs from normal NCAA football. The game is, true to its name, fast, and the hits are just as hard as those doled out by its larger brother.

Sprint football has a storied tradition at Princeton, one that includes nine league titles earned through almost seventy years of competition.

Recently, however, Princeton Sprint football has been stuck in somewhat of a funk. What kind of funk? They haven't won a league game since October 1st, 1999. They have won only one game of any sort since then — their Alumni Game, in 2000. Last season they lost by an average of thirty points, and completed a point-after attempt on only one of their seven touchdowns.

So they are in a little funk. It was at the start of last season when I stepped in, ready for both my first attempt at being a Princeton athlete, and my ever first football experience.

I'm Canadian, remember? We play hockey. So, yes, I'd never played football before. When my roommate called me during the summer and asked if I wanted to try Sprint, however, I couldn't have been more ready to accept. All I had to do was show up, and they'd let me be a football player at a Division I school! I bought a copy of Howie Long's 'Football for Dummies,' and told as many girls as possible about my sudden bout of masculinity.

I made the team, because everyone does. Sprint football's biggest obstacle is their lack of a talent pool— they can't recruit, they don't win, and thus they have no way to draw good players into the fold. So I made the cut, and they dropped me in at wide receiver, because although I didn't know how to play football, I had running in a straight line down.

Of course, the lack of any football knowledge whatsoever did haunt me a little during the two days I had the courage to attend practice—.

Incident 1

(Nate, running back towards the bench after what he imagines to be a spectacular catch — reception? — is palming the football and performing a Rod Stewart inspired celebration dance.)

Coach: Sellyn, what the hell do you think you're doing?

Nate: Um— nothing, sir.

Coach (Smacking football out of Nate's limp grip): After eighteen years of football, it's a crying shame that you don't know how to hold the thing. Like a baby, son! Hold it like a baby!

Nate (Thinking he has never held a football before, or, for that matter, very many babies): Yessir!

Incident 2

(Team is in huddle, being chastised for general poor play.)

Coach: Come on guys! When I yell Razorjet-9-2-Bluehawk, you had better know what the heck I'm talking about!

(Nate begins to cry softly into his helmet, which fits far too roughly. I have sensitive skin.)

So after those two days, I realized a few things about Sprint football. First of all, Head Coach Keith Wadsworth is quite possibly the kindest football coach in existence. Of course, I've never had a football coach before, so there's no real basis for that, but he is without question a much better human being than any football coaches from the movies.

Secondly, the guys who play Sprint are not only skilled, but also incredibly dedicated. I was severely lacking in both these areas. Thus, two days after my first practice, I prepared to call Coach Wadsworth and quit. I imagined the call would go something like this:

Nate: Hi, Coach Wads, I've got some bad news.

Coach Wadsworth: Whatever it is, Nate, I'll fix it. You know much I need you out there. You're the soul of Princeton football— not to mention one of the best athletes I've ever coached. Plus, you're a pretty handsome guy.

Nate: Thanks Coach Wads, but I've been thinking— I just can't put the time in you deserve.

(Long pause, marked only by Coach Wadsworth's sniffling.)

Coach Wadsworth: You're quitting?

Nate: I think I have to.

Coach Wadsworth (Sobbing): Noooooo! Please? We need you! I need you!

Of course, it went more like this:

Coach Wadsworth: Hello, Keith Wadsworth:

Nate: Hi Coach, it's Nate.

Coach Wadsworth: Hey Nate, what's up?

Nate: Um, well, I've been thinking—maybe—

Coach Wadsworth: You don't wanna play, huh? I can't say I'm too surprised. Drop off your playbook tomorrow, ok, we don't have that many of 'em.

(Click.)

I think he says it best — I'm much better suited to write about sports than play them.

 

You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU