Out of Left Field: Time for an upgrade

Williams College is a fantastic place. It’s tough to beat a top-notch liberal arts school that mixes kick-ass sports teams, world-class art and theater programs, smarter-than-Einstein professors and above all, some great people. Four years are winding down fast, and I can honestly say that I have absolutely no regrets about coming here.

That being said, nothing is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. In particular, certain aspects regarding athletics at Williams could use some serious fine-tuning. Student-athletes are getting cheated in a number of ways, considering the billions in endowment and the $35K a year in tuition that people pay. Just a few examples:

Both the softball and baseball teams play a substantial portion of their respective seasons over Spring Break, and obviously due to inclement weather, travel to California and Florida to do so. Yet both teams pay a ton of money for their trips. Even after various fundraising, every baseball player must spend $600, and that is not including meals. What that boils down to is that they are paying to play 42% of their season, including three NESCAC league games.

For a school that has money coming out of the kazoo, coughing up a few thousand dollars really is not that much. Is it right that these guys are actually paying to play a college sport? Granted we’re not Michigan or Duke, but do you think Coach K has to ask his players for checks every time they play on the road? At the very least, the school should pick up half of the tab or so. Giving such little monetary support makes no sense and is unfair, especially to those students that are not independently wealthy.

Equipment is another area that is downright embarrassing. Take one look at the clothing on the standard practice pin and try not to laugh. Those gray t-shirts have neck holes that George Costanza would have a tough time fitting into. The white shorts are not only stiffer than Jaypo’s hair after a Saturday night gelling, but are also dangerously short. Maybe girls like them that length, but seeing a few linemen wearing those things can add about five levels to your contact lens prescription.

Besides the standard issued pin, the practice pants that the football team wears are awful. Not only are they old, but they don’t allow nearly enough movement and flexibility that the game pants provide. It gets so bad that a handful of players wear their high school pants to practice just so they can move and run better.

Scotch and wine get better with age. But practice gear does not. It may seem like a trivial matter to outsiders, but most athletes certainly share the same sentiments. Minor upgrades to equipment certainly couldn’t hurt. We don’t need everyone to have their names on the back of practice jerseys, but how about replacing the shirts every two years instead of every ten? And why not order some inexpensive mesh shorts instead of the existing ones? They would be more comfortable, would not cost that much more, and still be durable enough to last a couple of seasons. Sorry, but the thought of sharing a jock strap with someone that wore it during the Reagan Administration is pretty nauseating.

Now on to a few problems with some of the facilities. First off, the stands at the football field are way too far away from the playing field. Not only is there the track, but then a good 15 feet of grass before the bleachers begin. This causes a couple of problems. On one hand, fans are removed from the action and can lose interest more easily because the action is seemingly a short car-ride away. This takes away any kind of impact on crowd noise or momentum that is vital to playing a sport like football on your home turf.

And don’t even start with the “locker room.” There’s nothing quite like being crammed into a small, poorly lit room with 70 sweaty guys and trying to make halftime adjustments for the Amherst game. But aside from the track and field equipment all over the place and the refreshing scent of mildew mixed with urine, it really is a cozy little nook.

Sticking with the Weston Field area, it might be a good idea to move the baseball field down to Cole. There is ample room, and it could help eliminate a couple of inconveniences. Drainage at Weston and Bobby Coombs is terrible and as a result of the constant snow, the baseball team is lucky to play more than four home games a season. Having it down at Cole may not only allow for more home games, but it would also be next to the softball and lacrosse fields. That way, on a Saturday afternoon in the spring, fans that want to see all the sports won’t have to trek across campus.

One more thing that needs to be addressed a.s.a.p.: the radio station equipment. Things have gotten so bad that the equipment is now too old to be described as ancient. Last week, the transmitter broke, resulting in the broadcasts for the NESCAC basketball tournament not being easily accessible to the whole community. The hoops team has a shot at the Final Four, but barring a miracle, those games won’t be available on WCFM either. The thought of that is pretty unnerving and this goes beyond sports. There are over 60 registered DJs on campus, and one would think that perhaps a few might even consider a career in radio.

Athletes could and should be getting first-class treatment here at Williams. Too bad they’re stuck flying coach.

TEEING OFF

Quote of the week, from new Denver Broncos quarterback and Arizona State alum Jake Plummer: “If I can do half of what John Elway did here then that would be fantastic. I kind of did some math – even though I went to A.S.U., I know how to add.”

My buddy Vern brought up an interesting point the other night. Now, I love Michael Jordan, but doesn’t it get annoying that he uses the phrase, “The game of basketball” as much as he does? Yes, Michael, we know it’s a game. Just saying basketball will be fine. These are the things that keep me up at night.

For those of you that want to laugh, rent the movie Summer Catch, because it contains one of the most unintentionally funny lines ever. Freddie Prinze Jr. is talking with his brother, and when he’s told to throw his curveball more, Prinze responds, in a serious yet dumbfounded tone: “But I throw way over 90!” Classic stuff.