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Elena Kagan: The Football Files

(Photo courtesy: The Princetonian)

Some folks blog about themselves. Some folks blog about politics. Other folks blog about entertainment. Me? I blog about pretty much whatever comes by my desk.  And it helps an awful lot if it's about football.

Contrary to popular belief, I do hold political opinions. But honestly, when I learned that Elena Kagan was to be nominated by President Barack Obama to replace the retiring John Paul Stevens, I merely shrugged. A Columbia guy who went to Harvard Law picked a Princeton girl who went to Harvard Law to replace a University of Chicago guy who went to Northwestern Law. The balance of the court will be unchanged. The nomination will sail through the senate. Not much of a story there.

But when Newsweek released their Elena Kagan: Cub Reporter piece this week, I paid attention. It turns out that Kagan wrote several stories talking about the performance of the football team, which - as we all are aware - provides an essential window on her constitutional thoughts on interstate commerce, the right to bear arms, and gay marriage. (Heaven knows my blog postings do that - doesn't everybody's?)

So exactly what to Ms. Kagan's writings on football tell us about her? Prepare to be shocked and amazed - sort of - below the flip. (more)



The complete PDF of Ms. Kagan's Princetonian writings can be found in Newsweek from this handy PDF.  While some of the scans are extremely poor - I still can't figure out how Ms. Kagan feels about that vital 1979 clash with Yale - what emerges is a clear picture of a young lady who reports solidly on Princeton football.

Newsweek, however, has a different take:

Kagan wrote several sports stories throughout her career at ThePrincetonian, covering the football, hockey, basketball, tennis, and baseball teams. (Sorry, oppo researchers: no softball.) Here, she employs a rather snarky lede (she accuses the Tigers of "punting, in both senses of the word") as she taunts the Princeton team for their loss to Rutgers.

Huh? Here's the full text:

Punt, verb. 1. To kick a football dropped from the hands before it touches the ground. 2. (slang) To do poorly on some assigned task.

Punting, in both senses of the word, was the key to Saturday's Princeton/Rutgers football game as crucial mistakes on a punt snap and punt coverage helped to transform a 14-14 halftime time to a 38-14 Scarlet Knight rout.

Having written about a lot of college football games, I have no problem with her lead-in to the game. What's she supposed to say, the waterboys had a great day despite the 38-14 setback? She didn't try to feebly try to make the orange and black feel better about themselves; she accurately pointed out their punt coverage sucked, and it cost them the game.

It's hard to gauge how interested she was in Tiger football other than the fact that it was an assignment - she seems a lot more interested in the injustices of eating club selection and the results of Bill Bradley's election campaign than Tiger football.  But she did a good job at it.

Here's some more examples of the young Ms. Kagan's writings on football, and my hypothetical CNN talking-head analysis of each clip.

1978 football Outlook Includes Great Expectations
For the first time in a good many years, Princeton football fans may have something to cheer about this fall.

With a solid defense and a totally revamped offensive plan, the experienced Tiger team seems ready to put together its first winning season since 1970.

LFN's Take: Princeton was indeed pretty bad.  They had some pretty lean years in there, including 1973 where they went 1-8.
Olberr-LFN's Take: This heroic, learned woman clearly formed her views on Roe. v. Wade here: produce a "totally revamped offense" to the anti-abortion movement, while maintaining a "solid defense".  What a great pick.
Bill O'LFN's Take: I see this demon lady in her infancy, already twisting the legacy of coach Bob Casciola to push her tortured communist agenda.


Hungry Tigers Seek To Upset Rutgers
It has been four years since Princeton last won a football game against Rutgers, four years since it has even scored a touchdown against the Scarlet Knights.  And, with the end of an era rapidly approaching, the Tigers' chances for revenge are running out.

Saturday's game between the Tigers and the Scarlet Knights marks the next-to-last confrontation in the nation's oldest football series.  The contest will be the final one in Palmer Stadium.

On January 20th of this year the two universities announced that the series would be terminated following the 1980 game.

LFN's Take: It's a shame that Rutgers and Princeton abandoned the series in 1980.  It was not abundantly clear that the Ivy League was headed to I-AA at that time, but it was in the wind.
Olberr-LFN's Take: Oh, the humanity!  Her attention to detail is nothing short of astounding!
Bill O'LFN's Take: You can almost hear her glee when she says they're canceling the series.  Pinko.


As I See it
Dartmouth was one thing; Rutgers is a whole different ballgame.  I mean, really, a have dozen of those little green guys could probably fit in one scarlet football helmet.  Rutgers 20, Princeton 10.

LFN's Take: She was right.
Olberr-LFN's Take: She was right - on Rutgers winning the game, and everything else in her wondrous, wondrous life.
Bill O'LFN's Take: She obviously hates America.


Yale Captures Ivy League Championship
With the rain coming down Saturday on Palmer Stadium, the stands were dominated by the orange and black of the Princeton faithful's countless umbrellas.  But on the football field, the prevailing colors were blue and white.

The undefeated Yale squad extended its victory streak over the Tigers to 13 games with a 35-10 rout.
LFN's Take: Never easy to write a lead-in on a heartwrenching loss, but she does a good job of it.
Olberr-LFN's Take: It wasn't mentioned in the article, but I heard that George W. Bush was at the game and Kagan kneed him in the groin.
Bill O'LFN's Take: Did I mention I was an all-league punter?
Football Humiliates Penn, 21-0
Last week, newspaper clippings appeared on the Princeton football team's bulletin board which quoted from Penn coach Harris Gamble as saying the Tigers were "pussycats" and star fullback Denis Grosvenor as saying he looked forward to Saturday's game since he liked to "stomp on heads".

Stung by their comments, the Tigers destroyed a flat Quaker squad, 21-0, to record their first league victory.
LFN's Take: Nice work talking about a part of the game's history that might have gotten lost - Princeton was highly motivated by genuine "bulletin board" material.
Olberr-LFN's Take: My heart was stung by her brilliance as I read Kagan's writings as to how Princeton was stung by Penn's words.  It's not hard to see she's clearly using the game as an allegory on the need for harsher gun-control laws.
Bill O'LFN's Take: Harris Gamble is another un-American, commie liberal who has no business coaching at Penn or anywhere else.  Kagan and Gamble are destroying America.

================================================================

It's all silliness, of course.  The reporting of the games were done very well - she fulfilled her reporting duties very well.  It doesn't seem to be her main passion, but that's OK, and it's unlikely anything from the football write-ups will be brought up in the confirmation hearings.  (Attention senators: I have no problem if you choose to do so, however: just credit me.)

Finally, though, it's worth mentioning that the person who was Princeton university president at the time Kagan was reporting at the Daily Princetonian was none other than William Bowen, the infamous co-writer of the book The Game of Life, which was a stinging criticism of athletics at colleges.  It's funny how all roads in my life, from Supreme Court nominees to student newspapers, lead back in some way to football.

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