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

For an alternative view of the seven-week rule, see President Tilghman's President's Page in February 26, 2003, issue.

November 19, 2003:

P-Nut waves the polo pennant

OK, I'll admit it. Just like my elementary school teacher Paul O'Donnell, the P-Nut plays favorites. Big time. I've got teams that I cheer for, and teams that I cheer against. None of the latter at Princeton, of course. Outside the Nassau walls? Yankees. Braves. Rangers. Leafs. Spurs. Kings. Raptors. Hate 'em all. Makes me sick to watch them even when they're losing.

Enough negativity, though. There are teams that I love, and loving a sports team — as my readers should well know — is the purest kind of love. Teams never cheat on you, never lie, and they usually schedule at least a few dozen nights together every year. Sure, it's a long distance relationship for a few months, and there are times — with Montreal teams especially — when they just aren't the lovers they used to be. In the end, though, the teams you love may be the best partners you'll ever have.

What's that? You want to know who my boys are? My best friends for life? OK, if you insist, I'll spend just a minute describing the greatest sports franchises that ever existed.

The Montreal Canadiens — That's right, the most winning franchise in professional sports history. When it's cold in heaven, God wears a Habs jersey. They've won the Stanley Cup 23 times. To live in Montreal is to become a Canadiens fan, and, once imbued, nothing can remove that fervor. Sure, they aren't a dominant team right now. Jose Theodore is inconsistent in goal, despite being just two years removed from an M.V.P. season, and Saku Koivu is the only player on the team who can hit the broad side of a barn. Yet the Canadiens have never gone an entire decade without winning a Cup, and I don't expect that trend to change. Hey, we've got six seasons to turn it around. Not that we won't win this year.

The Montreal Expos — I know, laugh it up. I'll just say two things. First, I've been to a lot of live sporting events. I saw the Habs win the Cup, in Montreal, in 1993. I watched Canada defeat Russia in the World Championships. I witnessed the Yankees drubbing the A's in the ALCS. Yet I have never, not once, heard fans louder than the 20,000 that packed the Olympic Stadium during this year's wild card race. Second, and most important, on August 11, 1994, the Expos had a record of 74-40, the best in baseball. Moises Alou, Larry Walker, and Marquis Grissom played in the outfield, and starting pitchers Jeff Fassero, Pedro Martinez, and Ken Hill set up the undefeatable bullpen combination of Mel Rojas and John Wetteland. What happened? Strike. America was afraid, and you called off your own national pastime. We'll never know what might have happened, as the great Expos fire sale began before the following season.

So those are my squads. I've got a favorite at Princeton too, though. You may not know it, because they aren't exactly a traditional college squad, but they're a Final Four contender. In fact, when you read this column, their fate will have already been decided. From November 14 to 16, Princeton Men's Water Polo travels to the Eastern Championships. I'll be cheering, and I'll tell you why: simply, it's a great game to watch. Sure, I'm a close friend of about 90 percent of the players. Maybe I've even lived with them. Really, though, it's the sport itself.

I'd never seen a water polo game before I came to Princeton. I mean, hey, if there's water in Canada, you play hockey on it. The game knocked the pants off me. I never thought a game involving swimming could be so... fast. I've heard plenty of comparisons for water polo, from football to handball. In the end, though, I'd say it's most like soccer. Nothing is more important than possession, and there's always at least one breathtaking play in a game.

Princeton will likely face Navy in the final this week. Want intrigue? This'll be the fifth time 21-3 Princeton has faced the Midshipmen this season. Fifth! Their last meeting came in the Southern Championships, where Princeton pulled off a 10-7 victory. The catch? Navy is responsible for one of those three losses, an October 19 home defeat. The Tigers will also have to go through St. Francis, who handed the Tigers their first loss of the season on October 2. So, like a good Mighty Ducks movie, there will be high sports drama this weekend. The P-Nut is going down to Navy to watch. He may cry.

When you read this, it'll all be over. But check the score, and know that no matter what happened, you missed a great show by my favorite Princeton team.


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU