Harvard's sports performance can't back up McGinn's boasts

For a man seemingly so convinced of Harvard’s unassailable supremacy, Timothy McGinn sounds a bit jealous.  Based on his recent column (Sports, “Facilities too Good to House Princeton,” Oct. 28) regarding Princeton’s athletic superiority, he appears to have a few misconceptions about the University.  Sitting a few seats away from him in Princeton Stadium’s beautiful press box last Saturday, I had the fortune (or, rather, misfortune) to overhear his boisterous running commentary on the game.  Suffice it to say that I found it rather ironic that he calls Princeton “haughty” and “oozing with pretension.”  Perhaps if McGinn wiped the clam chowder out of his eyes, he might have realized he was simply looking in the mirror.

Then again, I must say, I fully understand the roots of Mr. McGinn’s jealousy.  Harvard’s athletic incompetence has undoubtedly put a damper on his own sports reporting career.  I spotted Mr. McGinn enjoying the free lunch Princeton provides visiting writers, a scrumptious feast he no doubt wishes he could partake in more than once a season.  Even worse, Mr. McGinn has not had the chance to travel to Denver to cover the NCAA basketball tournament or to San Diego to cover a football game.  Quite a pity for Mr. McGinn.  I assure him, those trips were quite enjoyable.  Maybe I’ll send him a postcard from this year’s NCAA tournament.

McGinn seems at a loss to explain how Princeton athletics became so vastly superior.  Let me propose a theory.  As Mr. McGinn mentions, Harvard does in fact have an enormous endowment.  But money alone—if it is not well spent—does not assure championships.  Yes, Harvard’s misdirected spending very much resembles that of the, gasp, Yankees.  See, NCAA athletics are an undergraduate endeavor. Up in Cambridge, it’s the graduate students who get all the cash.  Once again, quite a pity for Mr. McGinn.

Indeed, it’s Princeton’s focus on undergraduates—and all the benefits that come with it—that is responsible for its five straight years of being the number one ranked undergraduate institution in the nation (Yes, I know, Harvard has finally tied Princeton this year.  But that doesn’t really make you feel better about those four years in second place, does it?).  More to the point, it’s those same benefits that have motivated many a high school student to send the little “Thanks, but no thanks” postcard Mr. McGinn mentions to the Harvard admissions office.  We have a name for those wise young souls: Princeton Tigers.

DAVID BAUMGARTEN

Princeton, N.J.

October 28