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Let ESPNet Show Us the Way

What the Gell?!?

By Jeffrey N. Gell

Perhaps more than anything else, this address has shrunk the distance between school and home and made my year at Harvard bearable.

For 18 years before coming to Harvard, I lived in the land of Wolverines, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers. Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were my heroes in that magical year of 1984; later, I graduated to the Bad Boys and Hammertime bandwagons; today, I am a proud member of G.R.O.W. (Get Rid of Wayne), an underground organization seeking the ouster of the bumbling buffoon-cum-football coach Wayne "I Know my leg isn't broken, but I'm wearing this cast for good luck" Fontes.

The only problem was, for my first two years at Harvard, I could follow my teams closely only when they played Boston teams.

In the beginning, it was great to see my heroes playing in strange parks. Watching Cecil Fielder face a Roger Clemens fastball (in 1993, it still had some speed) in Fenway Park provided some excitement; similarly, Barry Sanders' finding holes in the Patriots' defensive line much to the chagrin of Bill Parcells and the Foxboro faithful provided some excitement.

As time went on, however, it became harder and harder to root for the home team. With baseball turnover the way it has been, by the beginning of the 1995 season, familiar names such as Mickey Tettleton and Tony Phillips were gone by the wayside; in came such stars as John Flaherty and Bobby Higginson.

I have nothing against these guys -- they may become stars some day. Unfortunately, it's hard to care too much about a bunch of nameless faces simply because they sport the Olde English D. And even that is not sacred anymore -- today's Tigers sport a new look, with a Tiger jumping from the regal D.

Even worse, I had to throw my hands in the air trying to follow Michigan basketball. As I graduated high school, I watched fellow Detroit Country Day alum Chris Webber and the rest of the Fab Five blow it in the NCAA finals again. Last spring, I suffered through watching a bunch of new hot shots stink up Dayton Arena in a firstround loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

But alas, I found a saving grace just as I began studying last spring for my macroeconomics final. A friend suggested to me that I should type "lynx" at the fas prompt and find all I needed to know. Sure enough, right before my eyes were reports about my home teams, news releases, scores and columns.

It was Valhalla.

I remember taking calculated study breaks every 15 minutes or so last spring to get the latest Tigers' score, get the 5-0 on the latest Toledo Mud Hen to be called up to the major league club and read about Michigan's new-and-improved more-fabulous freshman class.

Ignorance turned to expertise. A fan was reborn.

Last summer, while working here in Cambridge, I snuck away frequently to enter the world of ESPNet, following the Lions' training camp (and praying, secretly, for something to happen to Wayne Fontes), the Pistons' firing of Don Chaney and hiring of Doug Collins and the sad tale of Gary Moeller, the former Michigan football coach who had one bad night.

Everybody has diversions during exam time. Some run around the Yard naked; I check ESPNet every five minutes (scores are updated every minute) to get a blow-by-blow account of my teams. I remember the string of heartbreaking one-point losses by the Pistons and the seemingly never-ending streak of Red Wings' victories.

These days, I have my roommates hooked on ESPNet. Even better, I have discovered Netscape, which gives me ESPNet with pictures (even though, too often, they feature those really ugly jerseys of the expansion teams).

ESPNet several months ago realized they have a good thing going and decided to make users pay for things like team reports. Even without those team reports (being the good college student I am, I would never pay for anything), ESPNet satisfies.

Plus, I've just discovered

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