April 23, 2003

A Whole Lotta Rant: Disney, Basketball

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Ok, so it’s not the Super Bowl. It’s not even March Madness. But for an Ivy Leaguer, the Penn Relays might just be the next best thing.

The history of it is amazing. Five thousand people gathered on April 21 to see it … in 1895. Arguably the top collegiate track and field draw of its time, the Penn Relays weren’t just the typical race-of-the month. Instead they provided a new angle.

Relay racing had taken place before then, but it found its true roots in Philly. In 1893, the University of Pennsylvania started the concept of relays as a way to add to its annual Spring Handicap.

Jumping to the present day, the success of the event is unheralded. Roughly 22,000 high school, college and club athletes will hit the track this year and more than 100,000 people are expected to attend. More athletes have competed in the Penn Relays than any other track meet in the world. On the same page, the races are the second largest spectator meet, second only to the Olympics.

So let’s recap…

Thousands of athletes, six-digit attendance figures, and comprehensive media coverage — from the Penn website.

That’s right. Don’t go looking for recaps on ESPN.com and don’t expect to see anything in your local newspaper unless you’re reading the New York Times. Even then, the most you might find about the relays is possibly a few inches on a high school athlete.

The best coverage the races ever seemed to receive was in 1961, when they headlined the premiere of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Of course, that was the same year ABC showed the F.A. Cup Soccer Final from London. While the match was great — and produced some history with Len Chalmers breaking his leg, and then finishing the match — I’d bet money that no one in the U.S., outside of my Comm 376 professor, would be able to tell you who won the Cup Soccer Final this year (and that’s not even a fair generalization because my professor is actually German). I don’t think ABC has shown either since.

And don’t think they’ll start anytime soon. Tomorrow ABC will run soap operas during the day, talk shows during the afternoon, and bad comedies at night. Probably the only thing worth watching on ABC at all anymore is the Jimmy Kimmel show (did anyone catch the end of the “Fatchelor?”), and that’s mainly a personal attempt by me to try to glean some Bill Simmons humor. As for possibly covering Saturday’s races, don’t hold your breath. I already checked the TV listings and the only thing close to a track meet is the coast-to-coast show Allen Iverson is going to give the New Orleans Hornets.

Of course, after ripping on a professor and a major television network, you can probably see where the rest of this column is going. Two papers in 10 hours, a semester full of 9:05 Thursday quizzes, bad dates, and Earthquakes with exclamation points can only mean one thing … it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned rant.

The Mighty Ducks, a Disney owned team, swept the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Last October, another Disney-owned team, the Angels, won the World Series. Maybe it’s just the term paper I’m writing about Walt and his parks, but does anyone else smell a Disney conspiracy? At this rate, maybe they should take over the Washington Wizards. Then again, I don’t even think “the Magic of Disney” could save Kwame Brown’s chances of landing another contract.

Why is it that every time I see athletic director J. Andrew Noel at an event, he’s always wearing his long woolen overcoat and red scarf. The man even goes to lacrosse games like that, when he could just attend as a “dad” in jeans and a slightly faded Cornell sweatshirt. Jeeze Andy, you know I love the stuff you’ve been doing, but do you always have to be so stuffy? Props for making the trip to the Carrier Dome to watch your son take on Syracuse, but why did you do it with the coat, and scarf? Worst of all, you had to have one of those old-fashioned, red boxes of popcorn. It looked like FDR spending a day at the ballpark.

Speaking of Cornell travesties, someone recently vandalized a basketball hoop in Collegetown. While this may not seem significant, think again. The setup was one of those children’s hoops; four feet tall, blue and orange.

If the person who did it is reading this, I hope you are ashamed. Stealing from little kids should be a capital offense. I hope you live near the old Ward reactor and your reproductive system gets all messed up, because you just don’t deserve to have children of your own.

On the topic of basketball, am I the only one hoping that LeBron James falls flat on his face in the NBA? Sure, wishing failure on people you don’t even know is almost as bad as stealing from little kids, but what about when a point needs to be made? Most 18-year-olds aren’t even ready for college life (evident from the wide-eyed visitors that have taken over the campus these past two weeks), how can this kid deal with the pressure of the NBA? And when will I end a sentence with something other than a question mark?

And what’s the deal with koala bears? Are they in or are they out? I really don’t know.

And even if you don’t know either, you’ll still be great people in my minds, just for being able to read through my entire column. I didn’t think anyone outside of my editors ever read it until I was in class one day and some guy told me I was doing a good job. Now I constantly lock my door and sleep with the lights on, but I swear the two aren’t related.

Special thanks to Owen Bochner, Scott Jones and Alex Ip for making my first semester as an assistant editor painless. Also, huge thanks to John Nigro, who’s graphical knowledge has been an amazing help. The Sun won’t be the same without you.

Finally, thanks to Kristen Haunss, Alex Fineman, and Amanda Angel — three sports section seniors who have taught me everything I ever needed to know about the newspaper and then some.

Kristen, I’ll miss your sage advice about the Comm department and lacrosse. You always knew what the penalty signals were, and I really realized how important you have been this past Saturday. Cornell got the ball back and I didn’t have a clue what happened. Finally, some other guy explained it to me just so I would stop hyperventilating.

Alex, I’ll always be boggled by the fact that you almost always finished Monday’s paper by 1:30 a.m. or earlier. I don’t think I’ll ever match your speed, but I hope that I can at least grow to fill the editorial void you’re leaving at the paper. Here’s to the nine-toed hockey loving fiend — your photoshopping masterpieces will forever be legend.

Amanda … wow, I don’t even know where to begin. While I know you’ll never let me drive your car again, I can’t complain because of everything you’ve given to me and the sports section. You were the heart of the sports section and your efforts to always provide the best Cornell athletics coverage were second to none. Though there may be some mistakes next year, I’m sure it’ll be on something I was supposed to learn from Ip, because I’m keeping your lessons (and desker sheet) close to home.

Archived article by Matt Janiga