Tooke's Take: April 4, 2000

Perpetual Madness
A Princeton Basketball Fan's Obsessive Search for Scores

By Wes Tooke '98 (email:

MALIBU, CA-Exhibit A in the pathetic life of a wandering sports fan. It's 5:30 P.M. on a Tuesday in southern California-the tail end of a beautiful spring day-and the sun is just beginning to set over the ocean. Any sane person would be sitting on the pristine beach and feeling grateful for the opportunity to spend such a perfect day in paradise.

Instead, however, I'm huddled over a computer screen in a nearly dark room only 250 yards from the breaking waves. Every 10 seconds or so I click the refresh button on my Web browser. The page I keep reloading contains only one item-the Penn-Princeton basketball score-yet I greet every tiny change with either a pleased mumble or a soft groan.

In this era of instant gratification and high-technology thrills, it seems impossible that a person could find such satisfaction in a pair of numbers. Yet these are the trials that most Ivy League basketball fans are forced to endure. National radio and television coverage of Ivy games ranges from spotty to nonexistent, so the Internet has become the one reliable source for instantaneous scores.

In the absence of moving pictures, I'm left to imagine the action. Maybe the latest Princeton field goal came on a graceful hook shot by Chris Young '02. Perhaps C.J. Chapman '01 split the defense and sliced to the basket for a textbook backdoor layup. Maybe the ball bounced off the head of a Penn defender and settled neatly through the basket. I have no way of knowing.

Someday in the near future-provided that I learn to use my computer for more than word processing and e-mail-I might be able to watch the game live on my computer using streaming video. After all, Princeton is already using the Web to broadcast radio coverage of its football games. For now, however, the other fans and I are stuck with two options-either settle for the refresh button or hope the game is on television.

In the case of the Penn-Princeton game, the contest actually was on television, but it was on DirecTV-several classes above standard cable service. I could have gone to a sports bar, but I've learned through bitter experience that convincing a bar to switch the television from a random Big-10 game to the Ivies is an exhausting process that requires truly delicate negotiating tactics. And since I possess neither the wile of Machiavelli nor the commanding presence of Stalin, I only make the attempt when the game is of earth-shattering importance.

On the few occasions when I have decided to throw myself on the mercy of a bar, I've noticed that the response usually fits into one of three general categories. They are:

1) Who?

2) Why?

3) We're not that kind of bar.

I have noticed, however, that when Princeton is playing in a national tournament, my question usually earns an entirely different response. Not only are the other bar patrons willing to switch to the Princeton game, they will usually be actively rooting for the Tigers by the second half. Something in the American fondness for the underdog must overcome the barflies' natural aversion to Ivy League schools.

I have to admit that sometimes when I'm missing an especially spectacular sunset I wonder why I'm hunched over a computer screen or negotiating in a dank bar. At those moments I occasionally ask myself why I can't just settle for getting the game score in the paper the next day. My well-adjusted friends do it. But then I remember that I'm being very foolish-for what could possibly be more important than the epic battles between good and evil that occur every time Penn and Princeton meet to play basketball?

-Wes Tooke '98

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