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

October 22, 2003:

How bad is Princeton Football?
Like Detroit, the Tigers have a chance to rebound

Earlier this year, the Detroit Tigers appeared certain to lose more than 120 games and unseat the 1962 New York Mets as the worst team in baseball history.

Their season provided the moments and milestones of a legendary loser. Centerfielder Alex Sanchez attempted to steal home in the first inning of a 0-0 game against Kansas City with the Tigers' clean-up batter at the plate. He was, of course, caught. Pitcher Mike Maroth lost more than 20 games, the first hurler in more than two decades to drop so many decisions.

The '62 Mets had comparably comical stories. They were nine and a half games out of first place after playing only nine games. In April of the '62 season, the Mets traded a player to be named later for the Cleveland Indians' Harry Chiti. Just under two months later, the Mets sent Chiti back to Cleveland — as the player to be named later.

These teams were bad. Really, really, really bad.

This year's Princeton football team is also bad. Its 0-4 start is the worst in a history that spans more than 125 years. A history that puts the team's all-time record well in the black (750-338-50). A history that includes the first intercollegiate football game.

That this team now has the worst start is a fact. It cannot be changed. Is it the worst team ever? I don't think so. Even bad teams are capable of winning in difficult circumstances. The Detroit Tigers lost 119 games this season, but they avoided the single-season loss record by winning their last two decisions against the playoff-bound Minnesota Twins.

I think the Princeton Tigers will rebound, too. No, I don't think they're set to smack the Ivy League around and finish 6-4. I think they'll likely finish 3-7. Not good, by any means. Not even respectable. But they'll lose fighting, win with grace, and be far from the worst team ever.

It's unfair that the Tigers are even winless right now. The Columbia loss — Columbia's first win here in 45 years — was a dicey one, and even the visitors will admit it. The Tigers had a 20-0 lead after one quarter. Yet that long, wobbly pass, found a home in Wade Fletcher's hands as time expired.

So who will the Tigers beat?

Not Harvard, Penn, or Yale — they've all started the season with four consecutive victories and look tough to handle. But there are three games that Princeton should win.

Brown, October 18, away. The P-Nut would bet his entire collection of Cosby episodes on it. The Tigers know how to get their offense in gear, as the first quarter against Columbia showed. Unfortunately, in last week's slaughter against Colgate, Princeton rushed for just four yards in a half. The Tigers just need to go out and put together good football. They're due for some breaks.

Cornell, on November 1 at home. Cornell has beaten the Tigers three times in the last four seasons, but this still looks like an opportunity for a Princeton win. The Big Red is 1-3 and 0-2 in the Ivy.

Dartmouth, away, on November 22. There is simply no way the Tigers can go all the way without a win when they face the Big Green in the last game of the season. Dartmouth has allowed 17 touchdowns through four games. At the very least, these Tigers will be 1-9.

And hey, I'm picking Detroit for the pennant next year.


Nate Sellyn '04 is an English major writing a creative thesis, and thus actively looking for employment. Seriously. You can reach him at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU