The Strange Sports Scene

The Strange Sports Scene

Despite the Rutgers bowl victory last night and the reigning-Super Bowl-champion Giants` spot at the top of the NFC East, New Jersey still isn`t quite recognized as a sports powerhouse. Princeton, even less so. (No offense, eggheads.)

But a look at the long list of sports figures who made their way to the Princeton Sports Symposium earlier this month tells a different story.

In addition to famous faces such as ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci, Princeton grads Mark Shapiro (`89), executive vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Indians, and Caroline Lind (`06), U.S. rower and Olympic gold medalist, were part of the series of discussions about sports media and management. Current student and gold-medalist speedskater Joey Cheek (`11) sat alongside Lind during a talk about the Olympic games.

In the midst of such a recession, the world of sports occupies a funny place in our lives. Sports should seem less important, but they also seem to be a needed escape. The economy may have taken down some mighty CEOs, but the top athletes are still making record-setting salary deals. (Detroit can`t catch a break in either the business world or sports world, it would seem.)

The odd circumstance is reflected in some of the quotes to come out of the Princeton event. Sports agent Ron Shapiro, founder of Shapiro Negotiations Institute, had this to say: Ive seen it all economically over the past 50 years, and I dont think Ive seen anything quite like this. The guys who bought naming rights to the big stadiums are trying to figure out if any people are going to be working at their companies next year.

Bill Susetka, chief marketing officer of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, posed the question, “How does a company sign an athlete for ten million dollars then ask the federal government for a bailout? It defies the PR and logic sense of whats going on in the world right now.

A lot of things are defying logic these days. But, to be honest, I`d rather be gushing about a David Tyree catch than a reckless CEO falling from grace (and wealth). And the newspaper`s sports section seems to be the only part capable of occasionally bringing a smile to my face. So maybe those millions are well spent. (Except for yours, Stephon Marbury.)

Here`s hoping for some economic stability in 2009… and for those real-life sports dramas and heart-pounding final-second shots to continue give us something to cheer (or cry) about that has nothing to do with putting food on the table or money in the bank.

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