Take: April 4, 2000
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:
3) We're not that kind
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