Web Exclusives: The Varsity Typewriter
a PAW web exclusive column by Patrick Sullivan '02 (email: pas@princeton.edu)

January 30, 2002:
The sporting season
Is it time for basketball or time for the Nude Olympics

By Patrick Sullivan '02

When a sports columnist finds himself far removed from the events he should be covering, writing a worthwhile commentary on the small world of Princeton sports proves difficult. Thanks to a much-needed sojourn to frigid northern Illinois for the Christmas holiday, this sports writer finds himself in the unique — and awkward — position of not having attended a noteworthy Tiger sporting event since early December.

Since I cannot write about a single sporting event for an entire column, I thought that I would use my forum as a written version of "sport shorts," commenting on various, unrelated athletic issues. Consider it my grab bag of disparate opinions that don't warrant their own column.

Hardly Noteworthy

The men's basketball game on January 5 pitted the Tigers against Holy Cross University, an erstwhile respectable basketball team plagued by a mediocre 6-9 record and an equally abysmal 38 percent shooting average on the season. However, despite every attempt by the Crusaders to lose this particular basketball game — they shot a freezing 26 percent from the field — Princeton's lackluster performance made the game much closer than it should have been, ending in a narrow 52-50 Tiger victory.

Without sophomore guard Ed Persia's 10 points, all in the last 10 minutes of the second period, the game's outcome might have favored the hapless Crusaders. A friend of mine remarked to me during the game that "football teams put up these kinds of numbers." While certainly an exaggeration, my skepticism makes me wonder if this particular Tiger squad possesses the offensive talent to repeat as Ivy League champions. While I've written highly of Princeton's patient offense in previous columns, averaging 60 points per contest hardly seems adequate compared to Penn's run-and-gun, higher production offense (74 points per game, on average).

Hell Froze Over

While on Christmas break, I spent too much time not working on my thesis. Instead, I logged countless hours in front of the television, deliberately ignoring the entire bag of books sitting in the corner of my room about Winston Churchill and World War II. The more Chicago sports I watched, the more certain I became of the clichéd phrase, "hell freezing over." Who'd have thought that the Chicago Bears would run away with an NFC Central title, a 13-3 season, a potential Rookie of the Year (Anthony Thomas), a first-round playoff bye and home field advantage? Since when have "da Bears" been a top-ranked football team? 1985 is when.

More important, who are these guys wearing the Chicago Bulls uniforms? I am a Jordan-era Bulls fan. I can remember precisely every Finals game of that team's impressive six championships in the 1990s. Over break, I watched my fill of Jordan-esque moments: he reached 30,000 career points, led his team on a nine game winning streak, and even put together back-to-back 51 and 45-point performances. But to my utter disbelief, I watched a game where he played against the Bulls.

So while unrelated to Princeton athletics, hell officially froze over recently: The Bears and Bulls traded roles as the worst and best teams in Chicago. And Michael Jordan wears a blue uniform. What next, the Cubs in the Pennant?

Nude What?

I wonder if President Tilghman reads my column.

As I write this column, the first snowflakes are beginning to fall on Princeton's bucolic campus. Snow makes this campus even more striking, I think. And the first snowfall remains particularly anticipated, by sophomores and Public Safety officials alike. Although the Nude Olympics have been banned for two years now, my class — 2002 — was the last class on campus that actually witnessed this mysterious nude party.

Our parents all received former President Shapiro's dire warnings of expulsion, should any of us be caught "in the buff." We first heard the horror stories of Public Safety officers armed with video cameras, prepared to tape any violations, in hopes of "easily identifying perpetrators." But despite these warnings, along with the falling flakes each winter one hears hushed whispers of renegade runners planning nude routes across campus, maximized of course for visibility and ease of escape, once Public Safety gives chase.

When I witnessed the Nude Olympics (contrary to what my mother thinks, I did not participate), I can honestly say that I was shocked. Not by the nudity or inebriation, but the hilarity — and strangely, the camaraderie — of the entire situation. Only at Princeton, where some of the brightest, most motivated students come to study, can you find an entire class (the sophomores traditionally start the Olympics) so willing to throw aside their modesty, don nothing but hats, gloves, and the occasionally well-placed scarf, and celebrate a ridiculous tradition.

President Tilghman, have no fears, I am not lending my weighty endorsement to the Nude Olympics. I agree that it presents too many dangers and liabilities for the university. But something I've learned in four years at Princeton is that traditions have funny ways of continuing. So if this snow accumulates enough, maybe you shouldn't look out the window of One Nassau Hall . . .

You can reach Patrick at pas@princeton.edu.