Web Exclusives: Tooke's Take
a PAW web exclusive column by Wes Tooke '98 (email: cwtooke@princeton.edu)

March 13, 2002:

Off the rim
The basketball team inspires another rant . . .

Yale? I mean, seriously. Yale? Of all the 200-odd Division I men's basketball teams in the country, Princeton has to have its NCAA Tournament hopes ended by a bunch of purple-clad preppies who (worse yet) are going to outwork, outhustle, outmuscle, and just generally take us behind the outhouse to the tune of 76-60? Are you kidding me?

I hardly know where to begin. It's a one-game playoff against Yale at the Palestra for the right to play Penn for the automatic NCAA bid, and roughly 50 Princeton undergraduates bother to make the hour drive south to Philadelphia. Once again, are you kidding me?

I mean, what was the big conflict in Princeton, New Jersey, on a Thursday night? Were they screening back-to-back episodes of "Survivor" at the Student Center? Was Tiger Inn serving free milk and cookies? Did the Student Government enlist Yanni for a special one-night-only performance?

The game itself was even more pathetic than the undergraduate student body. Princeton managed to be down 37-25 at the half — a couple of years ago Yale used to think it had been a pretty good outing if they managed 37 points in a game. But being behind by 12 paled beside the fact that the boys-in-purple were outrebounding us 22 to 6. Once again (and I hate to belabor this point) we're talking about YALE. Not Kansas. Not Maryland. Not even Holy Cross or University of Nebraska-Cow Lick. $#*% Yale.

If I had been coach Thompson, I would have pulled a full Bob Knight in the locker room. I would have pounded the blackboard, strangled a power forward, and screamed: "Am I going to have to sit around here for the next nine months knowing that our season ended with a loss to Yale? I'm not going to let you people do that to me!" And when I let them out of the locker room and they promptly let the Yale lead swell to 48-30, I would have tossed a chair, gotten ejected, thrown a section of the bleachers, and then delivered a long, rambling, obscenity-laden post game rant.

But Thompson is a gentleman, and he stuck around to watch the whole game. And now we're faced with that impossible and timeless question: Can I root for Penn in the NCAA Tournament and still respect myself in the morning. I understand that I ought to root for the Ivy team — both to protect our automatic bid and to ensure higher seeds in the future — but rooting for Penn is like watching the history channel and hoping that the Nazis can break through at the Battle of the Bulge. It just goes against nature. Furthermore, it pains me just to watch a team as stupid as Penn. Talk about a waste of talent… we're talking about a squad that managed to annihilate Princeton twice (and they beat us as badly as one basketball team can beat another) yet managed to lose three (three!) games in the Ivy League.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are trotting off to the NIT to play a filthy Louisville program led by the insufferable Rick Pitino. (An aside to English majors: Has there ever been a worse book in world history than Pitino's screed on how to be a winner? Discuss.) But no matter how poorly that game — or any game after it goes — Tiger fans can console themselves with the fact that the last game of the season will not, in fact, be a loss to a team clad in purple. We can breathe again.

You can reach Wes at cwtooke@princeton.edu