Friday, October 21, 2016

Harvard At Princeton Four Times

Harvard is at Princeton tomorrow. In four different sports.

All four Harvard teams come here unbeaten in the Ivy League. That'll get your attention, right?

You know who would have been all over this weekend? Harvey Yavener.

Way back when, Yav, as he is known, was the person who wrote more words about Princeton Athletics than anyone else in a given year. Or decade.

TigerBlog worked with Yav at the Trenton Times. It was Yav who taught TB many of the ins and outs of writing and working in sports that TB still values today.

Yav covered everyone and everything at Princeton, way more than football and basketball, even if he and Pete Carril were really close. Yav was the first male reporter TigerBlog ever met who had a real love of women's athletics and who appreciated women's athletes for their skill and determination.

He'd interview an athlete for an hour and write long, flowing pieces that hardly ever touched on what they did on the field. He'd write epic game stories that made the most mundane event seem like high drama.

As for Yav, he's been retired for awhile. He is one of TigerBlog's favorite people ever. TigerBlog wanted Yav to respect him when TB worked for him, even if Yav was, you'll pardon the expression, a big-time hard ass. That was Yav.

One day, though, Yav did tell TigerBlog that he loved him. It made TB smile back then, and it makes him smile now thinking about it, nearly 30 years later.

There were a lot of nights that Yav and TigerBlog went to one of Yav's favorite restaurants in Trenton, in the Chambersburg section, after their work was done, usually around midnight. Yav would order for both of them. They'd sit. They'd eat. They'd talk. About everything and anything. And then Yav would pay. TB's money was never any good when Yav was there.

Why mention Yav? Because he turned 87 yesterday. He's retired, and there isn't a Princeton athlete now who's ever heard of him. But there are legions of them out there who remember when it was their turn to be interviewed by him, even if they remember no other reporter to whom they ever spoke.

TigerBlog called him yesterday. He always does on his birthday. Hasn't missed one in a long time. It's always good to hear his voice, one that he's imitated a million times, a voice that was responsible at various times for some of the funniest, most instructional, most sarcastic, most absurd, most insightful, most genuine and even once most heartwarming things that TB has ever heard. 

So happy birthday to Yav. It's been awhile since he's been to this campus, but he would be loving this weekend here, that's for sure.

As incredible as this might seem, this weekend marks the start of women's hockey season.

The Tigers, who won the Ivy League and reached the NCAA tournament last year, open the season with a pair of games at Providence, tomorrow and Sunday, both at 2.

There's also a women's volleyball match tonight, as the Tigers host Penn. Princeton is 7-0 in the league, and only Penn has won a game off Princeton to date.

Mostly, though, this weekend is Harvard at Princeton weekend. The Crimson will send four teams to Princeton for games tomorrow - and all four teams are unbeaten in the Ivy League. Does that get your attention?

TB will start with the soccer doubleheader, with the women's game at 1 and the men's game at 4.

Princeton has had its struggles in the league, going a combined 1-4-2 between the two teams, who are a combined 14-5-0 outside the league.

Whether or not Princeton can get back into the league races is not the issue for tomorrow. Getting the opportunity to give Harvard its first league loss is. And, for the Princeton women, even if there will be no second-straight Ivy title, there is still a really strong shot at an at-large NCAA tournament bid, which makes every game huge.

Then there's the field hockey game.

Princeton has won 21 of the last 22 Ivy League field hockey titles. Under the direction of first-year head coach Carla Tagliente, Princeton is now 4-0 this year and has outscored its four opponents by a combined 18-1.

Harvard is also 4-0. Harvard has outscored its opponents 11-2, and both of those goals came from Penn, who lost to the Crimson 3-2.

Big game? Obviously.

There's another big game as well. That would be in football.

Princeton and Harvard are both 2-0, as is Penn, who plays Yale tonight. The football game on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium kicks off at 1.

The last two Princeton wins over Harvard, in 2012 and 2013, were among the best football games Princeton has played in the last 25 years or so.

The 2012 win saw the Tigers win 39-34 after trailing 34-10 with less than 12 minutes go. TigerBlog was there and still really isn't sure how Princeton pulled it off.

The game-winner came on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds to go.

In the complex world of how games evolve, Princeton need three touchdowns and three two-point conversions to tie the game. The first two TDs were followed by successful two-pointers, making it an eight-point game. The third TD, with 2:27 left, was followed by an unsuccessful attempt, leaving the Tigers down 34-32.

TB thought then and still thinks now that Princeton would have lost had it been successful on that last attempt. Why? Because Harvard tried to run out the clock and didn't. Had the Crimson needed points to win, it's more than 50-50 that it would have gone that way.

A year later, Princeton beat Harvard 51-48. Again, the game-winning points came on a pass from Epperly to Wilson.

The last two years have been all Harvard, with wins by 49-7 and 42-7. TigerBlog will say that tomorrow's game will be somewhere in between the greatest game ever played at Princeton Stadium and a blowout.

So those are the four games. Let's see how they play out.

Yav? He would have covered field hockey and then come to football, raving about the kid from Princeton he just interviewed.

Yeah. No doubt about that.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Just Thinking

TigerBlog was back at it yesterday, on the bike, on the towpath, once again taking advantage of the ridiculous weather.

TigerBlog is one of the friendly people on the towpath. He says "hello" or "good morning" to everyone he sees, or at the very least gives the head nod as he goes by. Most people return the gesture, though some don't. Of that group, most of them are listening to music. Some, TB assumes, are just not that nice.

As he rode yesterday morning, it was already in the 70s, which is higher than the average high of 65.

Unlike Tuesday's workout, TB was alone yesterday.

TB doesn't listen to music when he rides by himself. Every now and then he does find himself singing, maybe louder than he thinks. Yesterday he was singing "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles, for reasons he's not exactly sure of, other than it was really peaceful he supposes.

Sometimes, songs just pop into your head and stay there. For that matter, sometimes other things do as well.

Among the things TB thought of as he pedaled yesterday were:

* The new feature on the website is about to go live.

The first of the new "Achieve, Serve, Lead" series was about to go live on

The series will feature a different Princeton athlete each Wednesday, with the focus on the complete experience that the athletes have and what they bring to all three facets of that heading.

The first one in the series features Steffen Seitz, a back-up goalkeeper on the men's soccer team. Beyond just his athletic career, Seitz also teaches philosophy in prisons and has also tutored inmates one-on-one. He spoke about feeling an obligation to get out from just the Princeton community during his time here and make a difference where he could.

This is part of what he had to say: "Criminal justice reform might be the most pressing civil rights issue of our generation, because we imprison people at unprecedented rates, and while this is one way for me to get a new perspective on this broken system, it also gives me a chance to interact with people who I'd otherwise never interact with. Gives me the chance to help people and allows me to feel like I'm able to make a difference, which has been really rewarding for me personally."

You can see the entire first entry in the series HERE.

And you can come back each Wednesday for a new one. It's an important series, TB thinks, in the way it will personalize the things that are most important to Princeton Athletics. They're not just words on a page or on a banner. These are real people, young people, who do so much in their lives beyond just play a college sport.

* How can you swap out a real hip for a fake one so fast?

Remember the "Cool Field Hockey Moms" from earlier this fall? Well, one of them, Sue Hackman, needed hip replacement, and she had her surgery Monday. TigerBlog sends out get-well wishes.

How long do you think hip replacement surgery takes? TigerBlog assumed it took several hours. Nope. It took 45 minutes. That seemed fast to TB.

 * When is the story in the New York Times with Pete Carril in it coming out?

TigerBlog got an email earlier this week from a New York Times sportswriter who was doing a story about the Golden State Warriors and wanted to talk to Pete Carril. TigerBlog put him in touch with the legendary Princeton coach, who then confirmed that he'd spoken with the reporter and actually liked him.

As TB rode, he wondered if the story was out yet. It doesn't appear that it was.

He also started thinking about some of the funny things he's heard Carril say through the years. For whatever reason, two little anecdotes came to mind:

1) when told that one of his players had made the all-tournament team at an in-season tournament, Carril said "so did the guy he was guarding."
2) when a reporter asked him to comment when one his players had earned an academic award with a 3.8 grade point average, Carril said "he'd be better off with a 3.6 and more work on his jump shot."

Funny stuff. TigerBlog has no idea why he thought of them.

* Who could do a list of the top 10 moments in Gilmore Girls history and miss the obvious?

So the day after Thanksgiving will be more than a great shopping day. It'll be the day that the four new 90-minute episodes of "Gilmore Girls" is released on Netflix.

TigerBlog saw a list of the top 10 moments in the original seven seasons of the show, and it missed the three that TB would have on his list. The top one on the list he saw? The first kiss between Luke and Lorelei.

The actual best moment in the history of the show was the karaoke scene in the third-to-last episode, when Lorelei sings "I Will Always Love You" to Luke.

*Where is Princeton football in the FCS rankings?

Princeton hosts Harvard Saturday at 1 in a matchup of two of the three unbeaten Ivy League football teams. Both teams enter the game at 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the league.

TB was pretty sure Princeton wasn't ranked, but he wondered where the team was, if anywhere, in the receiving votes category.

As it turns out, the Tigers are others receiving vote, not votes. As in one. Harvard is 26th, one spot away from the Top 25, with 236 points, and two spots ahead of Sacred Heart, with 134. Penn has four points. Princeton has one, tied with Duquesne, Wagner, Eastern Kentucky and Southeastern Louisiana.

Does this matter for the game Saturday? Not a bit.

* Why was there the need for the electronic sign if there was already a stop sign?

There had recently been one of those electronic signs near the Grad College that basically read "all vehicles must stop at the stop sign."

Isn't that obvious?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

If you happened to have the good fortune to be outside in the greater Princeton metropolitan area yesterday morning, then you know that weather doesn't get much better than that.

It was in the 60s, no humidity, no wind. The sun warmed you without overwhelming you.

TigerBlog was outside for a morning workout, wearing his favorite combination of shorts and a light sweatshirt. In this case, it was the "NCAA Lacrosse" sweatshirt he got at the Final Four in Philadelphia a few years back. It is among the most comfortable items in TB's closet.

This was Oct. 18. That makes today Oct. 19, which means that TB will start out by wishing happy birthday to one of his favorite people at Princeton, assistant women's basketball coach Milena Flores.

TigerBlog can't remember the earliest he ever remembers seeing snow in this area. He does know that it snowed on Oct. 29, 2011.

It was on that day that Princeton hosted the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships and a football game against Cornell. There was supposed to be home men's and women's soccer and field hockey as well, but those got pushed back a day.

Why? Because four inches of snow fell in Princeton that day. Before Halloween.

If there's been an earlier snowfall, TB doesn't remember it. He does know that the snow that fell on that October Saturday was basically all of the snow that fell around here that fall and winter. The temperature rose quickly after that snowfall and it was all gone in a day or two.

Oh, but did it wreak havoc on the area that Saturday. It also made for some great snow pictures from the cross country race. And it destroyed attendance at the football game.

That was Oct. 29. Yesterday was Oct. 18, and about as far away from snow as you can get.

It was probably the same kind of weather that Rodgers and Hammerstein had when they came up with "Oh What A Beautiful Morning" for their show "Oklahoma."

The high temperature yesterday in Princeton was 82, which, by the way, was nine degrees off the record of 91, set in 1908. The low for the date was 26, in 1982. The average is 65.

It's been a pretty good week of weather around here. It was so nice Sunday that TigerBlog found himself at the beach. The one in New Jersey, not the one in, say, Hawaii.

After his workout, TigerBlog hustled to Jadwin Gym, arriving in the D Level conference room at 9:59, with one minute to spare for the weekly event meeting.

At some point in the meeting, someone mentioned Palmer Stadium, and it dawned on TigerBlog that of all the people in the room, only he and one other - Event Goddess Karen Malec - had ever been to Palmer Stadium.

If you don't remember, Palmer Stadium closed after the 1996 football season. It was torn down in March of 1997. Princeton Stadium (now Powers Field at Princeton Stadium) opened in 1998.

With how great the weather has been around here, it's hard to imagine that half of the football season has already come and gone. TigerBlog missed the football game last weekend to attend the men's lacrosse event in Baltimore.

As a result, he has seen only one of the first five games this season. The last time Princeton played a football season during which TB saw only one of the first five games was way back in 1989.

Princeton's goal for each football season is to get to this point in position to make noise in the Ivy race, and these Tigers have clearly done that.

Princeton is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Ivy League. That makes this Saturday's game against Harvard relatively huge, as the Crimson (and Penn) are also 2-0.

Another team that has set itself up for some meaningful moments down the stretch is the women's volleyball team.

A quick glance at the Ivy League standings tells you a lot of the story. Princeton is 7-0, followed by Yale and Columbia, who are both 5-2. Everyone else in the league is under .500, with Penn and Harvard both at 3-4, Cornell and Brown at 2-5 and Dartmouth at 1-6.

Princeton knows better than anyone how radically different the first trip through the league can be compared to the second. A year ago, Princeton went 3-4 in its first seven matches and then 7-0 the rest of the way, earning a share of the league championship.

Princeton lost the playoff game for the NCAA tournament bid to Harvard, and that game is the only blemish the Tigers have in their last 15 against Ivy opponents.

This year's team is more than just 7-0. It's 7-0 with six 3-0 victories. The only Ivy team to win a game off of Princeton was Penn, who pushed the Tigers to five games at the Palestra in the Ivy opener.

Those two get back together Friday night at Dillon Gym as Princeton makes the turn for home. TigerBlog has no idea what the Ivy record for 3-0 wins in a season is, but he has to think not many teams have won six by a 3-0 score in the first time through the league schedule.

Princeton is either hoping last year repeats itself (going 7-0 the rest of the way) or doesn't repeat itself (3-4 on one trip through the league; 7-0 on the other).

The forecast for Saturday here is a little more seasonable, with sunny skies and 56 degrees forecast for kickoff. The forecast for inside Dillon Gym Friday night is, in a word, loud. 

Yesterday morning? It was just perfect.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

William G. Tierney Field

Bill Tierney stood at a podium.

Behind him was the field that is named for him. Beyond that was the scoreboard with his name on it.

Displayed on that scoreboard still, more than an hour after the final whistle of the day this past Saturday, was the final score. Again, Bill Tierney's team had more goals than the other team, even on a day when the outcome didn't count.

Moments earlier, Bill's son Trevor, an All-America goalie who played for his father at Princeton and led him to the 2001 NCAA championship, had spoken.

"My father never wanted to have his name on a field at a training facility for players," Trevor said. "My father wanted to have his name on a training facility for referees."

That was funny.

Then Bill Tierney started to talk. TigerBlog will get back to what he had to say shortly.

TigerBlog has spent a lot of time around Bill Tierney in his lifetime. The first college lacrosse game TB ever saw was Penn-Brown when he was in college. The second was a 1990 Princeton game, in Tierney's third season as Tiger head coach. TB was with Tierney from then until 2009, when the coach left to take over the program at Denver.

The most emotional TB has ever seen Tierney was after the 2001 NCAA win, his sixth at Princeton, the only one he won or ever will win with both of his sons, Trevor and Brendan, on the team.

After B.J. Prager's game-winning goal in overtime brought down Syracuse 10-9, Princeton players, coaches and pretty much everyone on the sideline ran all over the Rutgers Stadium field, hugging, jumping on each other, dog-piling.

TigerBlog stood off to the side, taking it all in. He had plenty of first-hand experience with Tierney, and he knew that anything that had ever happened before that on a lacrosse field, including three other NCAA titles in overtime and two others that were won by 10 and 12 goals, Tierney's reaction was always the same. It was like he expected everything to play out exactly as it had.

That 2001 win was different, because it involved his sons. That time, Tierney dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands, weeping, overcome with the moment.

That was the most emotional that TB has ever seen Tierney, dating back to when he first met him, back in 1990.

The second most emotional? That was Saturday.

The setting was a little up I-83 from Baltimore, at the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters. Part of the new facility is a playing field, one that will be used for any number of events, including U.S. national team training and exhibitions and nearly 15 college games this coming spring.

The name of the facility? William G. Tierney Field.

Bill Tierney has won seven NCAA titles, with six at Princeton and a seventh at Denver. He has taken his teams to 14 Division I Final Fours. He built both programs from the ground up.

Princeton had never been to the NCAA tournament before Tierney got there and hadn't won an Ivy title in more than 20 years. Denver had reached one NCAA tournament and lost its only game prior to Tierney's arrival there in 2009.

He is, without question, the greatest lacrosse coach of all time.

The event Saturday brought his former team, Princeton, together with his current team, Denver. It was a fall scrimmage, which normally would mean no score, players in pinnies, a handful of spectators and a tailgate for each team after.

This wasn't that. Not in any way.

This was a celebration, of the facility, of the people whom Tierney has touched and especially of the coach himself.

For much of Saturday, it was business as usual for the man they all call simply "T." It was a fall scrimmage for his team, which is smarting after losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament a year ago and is primed for a big run this coming season, quite possibly to his eighth championship. It's what keeps him motivated, knowing there's always another season and another challenge to come.

There he was before the game as always, with his counterpart, in this case Princeton's new head coach, the eminently likeable Matt Madalon. Tierney has clearly bought into what Madalon is bringing to the Princeton program, and the two of them have built a solid bond in a short time, beginning with Madalon's call to Tierney as soon as he got the job.

If you don't know Bill Tierney, he's not exactly what you see on the sidelines during a game. His intensity on game days is legendary, and he hasn't really mellowed all that much through the years.

Away from the field, though, he's quiet. He speaks softly pretty much all the time. The worst thing he ever calls anyone is "knucklehead," and even then he means it with great fondness.

He has time for everyone who ever comes up to him to tell them their story, their connection to him through their coach, or maybe their uncle who played for Bill in high school, or maybe their cousin who played against him. Always - 100 percent of the time - Bill knows exactly who the person is, remembers every detail and comes back with some sort of compliment for the person in question.

In the lacrosse world, there are few bigger "celebrities," for lack of a better word, than Bill Tierney. And yet there is almost nobody more approachable.

Publicly, he is completely humble and modest, more so than he needs to be. He gives all the credit to his players and assistant coaches, as if he was just along for the ride, as if it's coincidence that NCAA championships have followed him.

Privately, he succeeds because he surrounds himself with the best people he can and then empowers them to do what they do.

More than anything else, TigerBlog can sum him up with two words: loyalty, and accountability. He has your back at all times - and he demands that you live up to your end of the deal. TigerBlog felt it as the athletic communications contact all those years. Imagine what the players feel.

His loyalty to his people is reciprocated. Once you're one of Bill Tierney's guys, you're one for life.

So there they were Saturday. His guys. Lots of them, from every stop of his coaching career, especially from Princeton.

This is what Princeton does. It celebrates better than any group TigerBlog has ever been around.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Tierney's first championship, also 10-9, also over Syracuse, also in overtime (that one on a goal from Andy Moe). The Class of 1992 was well-represented there Saturday, beginning with Ed Calkins, who helped spearhead the effort to name the field after Tierney in the first place.

There were others there too. And they came from all over. Chad Muir, one of the 1992 guys, came from Texas. Kurt Lunkenheimer, from 1999, came from Florida, just like Calkins. There were doctors. Lawyers. Financial leaders.

All back to support their college lacrosse coach.

And then, as TB said, Tierney began to speak. And again, he was emotional.

He talked about how blessed he's been in his life. Literally. Tierney always starts every postgame press conference by thanking "the Lord and his Blessed Mother," and he expanded on that to talk about how he doesn't understand why he's been chosen to be so fortunate in his life.

He thanked his family, all of whom were there (his wife Helen, his sons Trevor and Brendan and his daughters Courtney and Brianne).

He thanked his players. The coaches who worked with him, especially David Metzbower at Princeton and Matt Brown at Denver. He singled out Bryce Chase, his "best friend" at Princeton. He even mentioned TigerBlog and his counterpart at Denver, the amiable Niko Blankenship.

At the end, he said that he didn't want his tombstone to say how many national championships he'd won. He wanted it say that he loved all of his players.

It was heartwarming to watch. It was from the heart, and every word was genuine.

After Tierney was done, the party resumed. There was a ton of food, from both teams and from U.S. Lacrosse. As TB always says about lacrosse, somebody wins, somebody loses and everybody eats.

And there on the table under a tent were two small posterboards, and the invitation to write a note to the coach.

TigerBlog has written a lot about Bill Tierney in his life. He hasn't really written much to Bill Tierney.

So what would he write in two lines?

TigerBlog thought about all of what the sport of lacrosse has meant to him for the last 28 years. He thought about all of the great games and wins. He thought of all of the great people he's met in the sport, at Princeton, in the lacrosse media, from other schools, through his children's participation. And of course he thought about how special it's been to be around several generations of Princeton men's lacrosse players.

More than that, he thought about what lacrosse has meant for him as a father. It's been the bond that has connected him and his son more than anything else. It's the sport through which he has seen his daughter mature, athletically and as a person, from a little girl barely interested in playing to a confident, driven teenager who gained much of that perspective on the field.

And who introduced TigerBlog to all of this? Bill Tierney.

How different it all might be, TB thought as he stood there, had he not had the great fortune to cross paths with Tierney all those years ago.

So what did he write. He wrote this:

"Thank you for bringing the sport of lacrosse and everything that has come with it into my life. You're the best."

And he is. The best. On the field. On Tierney Field.

And anywhere else.

It's an honor to be one of his guys.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Black Cat And A Brown Win

How should TigerBlog refer to Jingles?

CatBlog? MeowBlog? The Official Pet of TigerBlog?

The last one isn't really accurate. Jingles is not TigerBlog's cat. He's Miss TigerBlog's cat.

TB is not a cat guy. He loves dogs. As he likes to say, his dream is to be the nice old retired man who is always walking his dog.

Cats? His only previous cat experience was way back when when he lived in Trenton in his friend Jim Chesko's house. Chesko had two cats, Cybil and Lola. Cybil was the friendly one. Lola was the really, really, really unfriendly one.

MTB uses words like "majestic" and "beautiful" and "perfect" to describe, uh, MeowBlog. He's a nice enough cat. He's a little more than a year old, and he's certainly made himself at home in that time.

And he is a good looking cat. TigerBlog's favorite picture of him is when MeowBlog is perched on top of the fridge, next to the Princeton lacrosse bobblehead.

You couldn't tell that Jingles was handsome by looking at him Saturday night around 9:30. That's because he was hidden under the couch, petrified when MTB came back from a formal event with eight friends, of which seven were girls and one was a boy named Kevin.

To Kevin's credit, he hung in there nicely with a room full of girls. TigerBlog probably wouldn't have done as well when he was 16.

Oh, and as for TB, he was banished from the couch, where he'd been flipping between Ohio State-Wisconsin and the baseball playoff game, to the couch in the other room, where eventually MeowBlog poked his head out.

Then he and TB said together on the couch, listening to the giggling from the other room. This went on forever, or at least until around 11 or so.

What happened to those little kids TB used to know, by the way? When did they grow up? 

It was the end of a fairly busy day for TigerBlog. He wasn't able to attend the Princeton-Brown football game (for reasons that he'll share tomorrow), which left Bill Bromberg to do the public address at Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

TB assumes Bill, the regular PA announcer for Princeton basketball and lacrosse, did a perfectly fine job. That's because TB didn't any complaints.

That could also be because when you win a big league game 31-7, like Princeton did against the Bears, nobody complains about the PA announcer.

TigerBlog followed the football game via Twitter. When he first checked, Princeton was up 14-0. That was in the first quarter.

It got to be 21-0 and then 28-0 at the break. The second half was cruise control, setting up a rather big game coming up this weekend, when Harvard comes to Powers Field.

Once again John Lovett was amazing. His numbers?

* 6 for 7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns passing
* 7 carries, 21 yards, one touchdown rushing
* 1  reception, 7 yards

Lovett wasn't alone in playing well.

Chad Kanoff was 16 for 23 for 185 yards and a TD. James Frusciante caught two touchdown passes, both from Lovett. Isaiah Barnes had four catches for 81 yards, including the TD from Kanoff.

For the first five games of the season Princeton is averaging 34.6 points per game and has been over 30 points in all four wins. The lone loss still saw Princeton score 28.

All of this takes the Tigers to next Saturday and the game against Harvard.

The Ivy League football season is at the exact halfway point. Each team has played all three of its non-league games and two of its seven Ivy games, and there is now a five-week sprint to the finish with four league games each weekend.

As an aside, TigerBlog would love to see a week off now for the league and then the five-week sprint after that.

Right now there are three 2-0 teams - Princeton, Harvard and Penn. There will be at most two after this Saturday, with the winner of the game at Princeton at 3-0, where Penn will be if it can get past Yale Friday night.

Cornell and Yale are both 1-1. Dartmouth, Columbia and Brown are all 0-2.

As another aside, Sacred Heart defeated Cornell 31-24 this weekend.

Princeton defeated Harvard is a pair of wild games in 2012 and 2013. Harvard has won the last two years, by 49-7 in 2014 at Princeton and 42-7 last year in Cambridge.

This year, TB suspects, will be a tad closer than the last two. Harvard will come in also at 4-1, after a 27-17 loss against Holy Cross Saturday.

On its most simplistic level, it'll be the No. 1 scoring defense team in the league (Harvard) against the No. 1 scoring offense team in the league (Princeton). Harvard is second in the league in scoring offense; Princeton is third in scoring defense.

Princeton and Harvard, at Princeton. With first place on the line. 

It's a pretty good way to start the second half of the season.

Friday, October 14, 2016

You Gotta Lovett

TigerBlog was riding his bike the other day when out of nowhere a song popped into his head.

And so he started singing, actually out loud. Did you ever do that? You're singing audibly, though you think nobody can hear you?

Anyway, this song got into his head, and so he was singing it as he rode. "A long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile ... "

Of course you know the song.

"So bye, bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry."

TigerBlog has written about "American Pie" before. In fact, he went into pretty depth about the song in January of 2011. Remember when TB wrote this?:
TigerBlog first heard the song back at Camp Toledo in the old, old days. For those who don't know, "American Pie" is maybe the most analyzed song in the history of American music, not to mention among the very best. 
It's a Don McLean song from 1971, one that starts "A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile." It's familiar chorus goes: "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. Them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this'll be the day that I die."
The meaning of the song is a mystery. Google "American Pie meaning" and 800,000 responses come up, lead by the website TigerBlog has heard interpretations that include references to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King and others.

Actually, that's a good question. How many people who read now were readers back in 2011? Certainly the audience has grown dramatically, but how many are still with TB from 2011, or even back to 2009 or 2008, when TB first started doing this?

Is there someone out there who has read every entry? Today is Entry No. 2,116. Whose read them all?

Anyway, TigerBlog digresses.

His point is that when he got back to his car and turned it on, the song on the radio was ... "American Pie."

It was spooky. Can TB see the future? Would you want to see the future even if you could?

Here's one prediction that TigerBlog is fairly certain will come true: Princeton will host Brown in football tomorrow. Kickoff is at 3.

It's Oct. 15, and it's the second home game of the year for Princeton. Michigan, by the way, played five straight home games to start the season before playing its first road game last week at Rutgers (it seemed to work out okay for the Wolverines).

For Princeton, it's the first of six straight Ivy League games to end the season, of which four are at home, including the game next week against Harvard.

Princeton is unbeaten in the league. Okay, it's 1-0, but it's still something-and-0.

There are three "something-and-0" teams in Ivy football. Harvard is 2-0. Princeton and Penn (who plays Columbia tomorrow) are both 1-0.

The direction of the Ivy League football season is still uncertain for the Tigers. Certainly it'll get more defined in the next two weeks, with Brown and Harvard at home.

Through four weeks, TigerBlog can marvel, though, at what John Lovett is doing.

Actually it goes back to last year. From the start of the 2015 season through now, Lovett has carried the ball 79 times. Of those 79 carries, 18 of them have gone for touchdowns.

That's extraordinary.

Lovett is third in the FCS in points per game at 13.5. The two players ahead of him are Chase Edmonds of Fordham and Corey Avery of Sam Houston State.

Edmonds has 105 carries and 12 rushing touchdowns. Avery has 60 rushing attempts and eight rushing touchdowns.

Lovett? This year he has 35 carries and nine rushing touchdowns.

Lovett is on pace for 22.5 rushing touchdowns this season.

The Princeton record for touchdowns in a season is 19, set by the great Keith Elias in 1993. You know how many rushing attempts he had that year? How about 305.

You know how many rushing attempts Lovett is on pace for this year? How about 87.5.

What TigerBlog doesn't have is a record of how many times Lovett has turned third-and-short or fourth-and-short into a first down, keeping a drive alive, keeping the ball away from the other team. Lovett is an extraordinary weapon.

And he's more than just a short yardage threat.

He's technically, actually, a quarterback. He is 19 for 30 for 149 yards and two touchdowns this year. The last two years combined he is 30 for 45 (that's 66.7 percent completions) for 243 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

Oh, and he's also the second-leading receiver on the team this year, with 10 catches for 103 yards this year. Last year, he caught 25 passes for 318 yards and another touchdown, which adds up to 35 catches, 421 yards and one touchdown.

Those numbers are insane. So is his impact on the Tigers offense, which is averaging 35.5 points per game.

Lovett alone is worth the (very low) admission price for Princeton football.

Princeton versus Brown. Kickoff at 3.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Merci, And Some Other Stuff Too

Miss TigerBlog was at the top of the driveway, in the driver's seat.

The driveway can be a little tricky, since if you go straight back from the top, you'll run over a bush on one side and then tear up the grass on the other. You need to turn the steering wheel to keep the car on the pavement.

So what did MTB do? She turned it basically all the way to one side, which took her directly into the path of the bush. Then she overcompensated, turning it all the way to the other side, putting her right on the grass, at about a 45-degree angle to the driveway.

At that point, TigerBlog pointed out to her that sometimes you need to make only slight adjustments to the wheel, not make massive turns. Even as he said it, he thought it sounded more profound than just advice about how to back a car out of the driveway.

For now, let's just leave it at that and move on to some Princeton stuff:

* TigerBlog speaks very little French.

One word he knows is "fromage," which means "cheese." Another is "merci," which means "thank you."

Mike Condon put an Instagram post up yesterday with one word across the front: "Merci."

Condon, a Princeton alum, was released by the Montreal Canadiens and then immediately picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins, for whom he will be the backup goalie. He was supposed to be the backup in Montreal last year, but injuries to Carey Price forced Condon into the starting spot.

He played well, great at times actually, including in the Winter Classic, when he led Montreal over Boston at Gillette Stadium. Condon grew up outside of Boston and was a lifelong Bruins fan. He finished the year with a record of 21-25-6, and that would have been better had Montreal not experienced offensive malaise for much of the year.

Considering that Condon figured to play a handful of games behind Price, his performance was admirable. And now he is on a new team, but not before he posted these words next to his picture:

Would like to take a moment to thank both the fans of @canadiensmtl and the organization itself. From top to bottom everything was pure class. 
After my senior year in college, I only had 8 wins. Despite that fact, the Habs were the ONLY team to offer me an NHL contract and I will never forget that.

I have nothing but respect an admiration for everyone associated with @canadiensmtl and want to say thanks for letting pursue my dream. It was an honor. - 39

How do you say "classy" in French?

* The women's volleyball team was 3-4 in its first trip through the Ivy League a year ago. It worked out just fine, as Princeton rolled from there, going 7-0 the rest of the way and earning a share of the championship.

This time, Princeton is off to a 5-0 start heading into a home weekend against Brown tomorrow (7) and Yale (Saturday at 5). 

Despite the good start, there's a long way to go until a possible repeat for the Tigers.

Princeton is 5-0, a game ahead of Columbia and Yale, both of whom are 4-1. Columbia defeated Yale 3-2 earlier this season; Princeton took a 3-0 win at Columbia this past weekend.

Every other team in the league has at least three losses. It's starting to shape up as a three-team race, but then again, a year ago at this time, nobody would have guessed Princeton was about to make the run it did.

Princeton is led by Cara Mattaliano, who was the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year last year and was the Ivy Player of the Week last week. Princeton has also had an incredible three players win Ivy Rookie of the Week - Jessie Harris this week, with Devon Peterkin and Maggie O'Connell earlier this season.

* TigerBlog will be outside of Baltimore Saturday. Why? Lacrosse, of course.

Princeton's men's lacrosse team, led by first-year head coach Matt Madalon, will be at the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md., to see the Tigers play their fall game. Face-off is at 2.

And who is the opponent?

The Denver Pioneers, coached by Bill Tierney. It may be a neutral site, but it's definitely home field advantage to Tierney. It's his field, after all. William G. Tierney Field.

Ed Calkins, a member of Tierney's 1992 NCAA championship team at Princeton and the U.S. Lacrosse Foundation Board chair, led the charge to build the field and name it for his coach. The game Saturday will be the first college game played on Tierney Field.

TigerBlog has wanted to see a Princeton-Denver game since Tierney left Princeton after the 2009 season. To date, it hasn't happened. This is just a fall scrimmage game, not an actual game, but it's close enough.

It'll be a big day for the Tigers, with events scheduled around the facility. And a chance to play Denver, a team that is loaded for 2017 - and has a chip on its shoulder after falling short of the Final Four a year ago.

In case you need reminding, Tierney won six NCAA championships at Princeton - in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001.

He then went to Denver, which had never won an NCAA tournament game prior to his arrival.

No problem. He has taken them to four Final Fours and the 2015 NCAA championship, Tierney's seventh.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Day Of Atonement

The holidays of TigerBlog's people came late this year.

As TB has said before, they never come on time. They're either early, or they're late. TigerBlog learned that as a kid, when every year, every time the Jewish holidays approached, some adult would say that they were early or they were late. Every year, without fail.

Today is Yom Kippur. It falls each year on the 10th day of the month of Tishrei, which varies from year to year on where it falls in either September or October. The earliest it can ever be is Sept. 14, and the latest is Oct. 14, so yes, it's a bit late this year.

It follows Rosh Hashanah by eight days in the Jewish High Holy Days. Yom Kippur is the most sacred day of the year for TB's people.

It means "Day Of Atonement," and it is basically what you'd think it is, a day of prayer and reflection to atone for one's sins of the previous year.

In addition to the prayer and reflection, Jews all over the world will be fasting for 24 hours as part of the atonement. No food. No drinks. For 24 hours.

It's a little different than Passover, during which for eight days Jews do not eat anything leavened, which essentially means no bread, pasta, cereal, that kind of stuff. It certainly brings up the question of which is tougher - one day without food or drink or eight days without dietary staples?

TigerBlog was asked by one of his goyish colleagues about what it's like to fast for 24 hours. Do you eat a huge meal beforehand? Nope, TB said. Just business as usual and then tough it out. You get a little hungry by the end.

Something that TB has also said before is that he is as Jewish as someone can be who has a son who graduated from a high school called Holy Ghost Prep and now attends a college called Sacred Heart. Still, he wouldn't dream of not fasting for his 24 hours for Yom Kippur.

As kids, TB, BrotherBlog and their cousins Paul and Janet would always see how long they could go before they'd eat. It was like a game.

As adults, it's much more serious. The Jewish religion is complex, with a lot of rules and traditions that TB won't pretend to know, but he does take this one very seriously. He likes to joke about it - have to get any last-minute sinning in before Yom Kippur, free to sin again after it - but the holiday is important to him.

Sandy Koufax did not pitch in the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur, something MotherBlog would say to guilt her younger son into almost anything at any time of year. "Sure, you can do that ... but Sandy Koufax didn't pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur."

TigerBlog has been a part of Princeton Athletic events on Yom Kippur, mostly football games, but he has not eaten or had anything to drink during any of them. He remembers one year when he went to services at Brown before a game at Brown Stadium and saw a member of the Brown team there in his football uniform.

That year, by the way, TigerBlog broke his fast at a Wendy's off I-95 at sundown on the way back from the game.

If you've been reading TigerBlog for a long time, then you've heard some of these stories before. That's okay. It's part of the tradition for TB, to think back about the years gone by and his memories of the Jewish holidays, as a kid and adult.

The Ivy League considers itself to be a secular league when it comes to scheduling for athletic events. There are games on the major holidays of all religions, and TigerBlog has seen Ivy League athletes who have balanced their place on a team with their religious beliefs for decades.

Certainly the league can't schedule around holidays. Where would the line be drawn? Well, it's sort of drawn around Christmas, but if Christmas fell on Ivy League basketball and hockey weekends, then, well, TB isn't sure what would be done.

TB will back tomorrow and Friday, talking about, among other subjects, the great start in the league for the women's volleyball team and the incredible John Lovett of the football team. And where he'll be Saturday.

But that's for the rest of the week.

Today is the holiest day for TB's people. He is fasting to atone for his sins.

It's not easy to go 24 hours without eating or drinking, but it's worth it.

Plus, it's not optional.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Fish Named TigerBlog

The heavy rain - and a small mechanical problem with a boat - kept TigerBlog from fulfilling a lifetime dream Sunday afternoon.

TigerBlog has never caught a fish. Ever. He's been fishing; he's just never got a fish.

You already know this if you've been reading TB for awhile. He's lamented his fate before.

He's told you the story about how Miss TigerBlog, when she was about four, caught a trout in the Schuykill River with her mother's father, an avid fisherman. She hooked the fish on her line and got so scared that she turned and ran. Rather than reeling the fish in, she dragged it out of the river and across the rocks as she sprinted the other way.

Eventually she stopped running. By then, he grandfather had simply picked the fish up off of the rocks and showed it her.

MTB wore a great hat while she fished. TB still has a picture of it.

TigerBlog does not have a picture of the fish MTB caught. He does have one of the fish TigerBlog Jr. caught that same day.
Their maternal grandfather, by the way, was named John Joseph Schauder, who among other things was a United States Marine and a nearly 40-year employee for the Philadelphia Electric Company. He passed away several years ago after fighting cancer the same way MotherBlog did - hard, but with humor and grace.

TBJ has caught a bunch of fish in his life. MTB hasn't been fishing again. To get her to go at the age of 16 would probably require a majority vote of her friends, via group text.

TigerBlog has also told you about his own experiences, including that one time, when he had a fish on the line, out of the water. He could see it. In another five seconds, the fish would be in the boat, and TB would finally have that picture of himself with the first fish he ever reeled in - only to have the fish wriggle off the line and dive back into the water, though not before he gave TB his middle fin on the way down.
Okay, TB made the last part up. But he did see the fish. There he was. And then he was gone.

He was pretty sure he was going to catch one Sunday. He was going with John McPhee, and between the two of them, they've caught a million fish in their lives (TigerBlog 0, Mr. McPhee 1,000,000).

In fact, McPhee had assured TigerBlog that he would be catching one, no problem, and that they were not coming back from the Delaware River until he had.

Instead, they never made it out of the starting gate. The pouring rain didn't help. Neither did the problem with the boat.

TigerBlog was looking forward to the fishing trip since McPhee agreed to take him, back in the spring or summer. That sort of made it a disappointing weekend.

On the other hand, it wasn't as bad as it must have been to be a Rutgers football fan.

TigerBlog and TigerBlog Jr. listened to the Rutgers-Michigan game on the radio Saturday night on the way back from Sacred Heart, for TBJ's lacrosse-practice-abbreviated fall break, which ended yesterday.

By now you know that Michigan defeated Rutgers 78-0 and that RU got one first down in the game. It didn't help the Rutgers cause that Ohio State defeated Rutgers 58-0 a week earlier, and you know Jim Harbaugh wanted to send a message to the Buckeyes with his team's performance.

Not that Michigan ran the score up. It was basically all running plays in the second half.

The Rutgers radio announcers, Chris Carlin and Ray Lucas, definitely wear their scarlet hearts on their sleeves. They actually were very impressive in this game, as they really did manage to keep things focused on positives while accepting the complete one-sided nature of the game.

The highlight of the broadcast, of course, was the commercial for the Battle of the Birthplace, an outdoor wrestling match at High Point Solutions Stadium between Rutgers and Princeton on Nov. 19. The commercial mentioned that you can meet Princeton head wrestling coach Chris Ayres and RU head coach Scott Goodale at a meet-and-greet at Moore's Tavern and Sports Bar in Freehold tonight in advance of the match.

The idea of having traditionally indoor events held outdoors in massive stadiums is not new. It's been happening with hockey for years.

TigerBlog isn't sure it's been done with college wrestling to this point. It'll be mid-November, which could mean weather anywhere from days like today (sunny, 60s) to snow.

TB's take on events like this is that they're great.

College athletics are about winning championships and competing and trying to be the best, but they're also about the experience. Things that are unique are things that really enhance that experience, and wrestling outdoors in a football stadium in November is certainly unique.

Rutgers wrestling has become a national power in recent years. Princeton wrestling isn't quite where Rutgers is, but it's still a factor on the national map.

A year ago, Princeton finished second in the Ivy League, losing only to Cornell. The Big Red have now won 14 straight Ivy League championships in wrestling, but Princeton will be aiming to end that streak again this year.

Ayres has built something really special here with the wrestling program. TigerBlog can see Ayres anytime, since the wrestling office is next to his on E level of Jadwin. You can meet him tonight, in Freehold, as the Battle of the Birthplace approaches.

Oh, and the fish? It'll have to wait. Maybe until the spring. Maybe longer.

But it doesn't matter.

There'll be another time.

Somewhere out there is a fish named TigerBlog. One day, TB will meet him.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Desk Top

TigerBlog really likes the desk in his office down on E level.

He had the same desk in his old office upstairs in Jadwin Gym for more than 20 years. It was an old metal one, probably from the first day that Jadwin Gym opened, back in the late 1960s.
It had a bunch of drawers, one of which had something wedged behind it that TigerBlog could never reach, meaning the drawer could never be 100 percent closed. TB banged his knee on that draw at least once a week.

Ah, but his new desk? He's not sure what kind of wood it is. He does know that it's big and sturdy and strong.

When he first got it, there was one of those pencil drawers, on which he continued to bang his knee. This time, though, that lasted about two or three days, after which he removed that drawer.

He has also succeeded in keeping his new desk fairly clean of clutter. The only things on it are a phone, a fan, a really old Princeton Lacrosse backpack and, usually, a bottle of Diet Pepsi Cherry or Diet Peach Snapple.

His old desk was covered in paper. In fact, probably only 25 percent of the desktop - the actual top of the desk, not a computer desktop - was visible.

His new one? He could lie down and take a nap on top of it. Maybe he should bring a pillow in, just in case.

The messiest desk TigerBlog ever saw was the desk of former College of New Jersey (it was Trenton State College at the time) Sports Information Director Pete Manetas. Pete's desk? TB isn't even sure there was a desk. It's possible all of the piles that were stacked up started on the floor.

The first project TigerBlog ever worked on at Princeton was a football media guide. He was constantly printing out updated pages to proofread, and all it did was make his desk a total mess.

Honestly, it never got any better.

It didn't help that he was constantly getting publications mailed to him from other schools or from media outlets. When he first started at Princeton, there was actually an Ivy League rule that each school had to mail two copies of all of its publications and football game programs to each of the other seven schools. Why?

There were also newspapers, memos, invoices, faxes, printing requests - there were lots of printing requests - all of which contributed to the deluge of paper all over the office. Any time he did try to clean it, or just throw everything out, it took about a week before it was back to its usual chaotic state.

These days? It's almost all electronic. Almost nothing comes in the mail. Almost nothing gets printed out. Almost no paper makes its way to TigerBlog, which in turn keeps his desk perfectly clutter-free.

One of the things that used to bring a lot of paper to TigerBlog was the football game program.

No task that TB has been involved with at Princeton was more arduous and time-consuming than the football game program when he first started out here, with the possible exception of the football media guide. Because of the technology at the time, it was a massively labor-intensive project, and it featured endless print outs of newer versions, which constantly needed to be read and re-read.

The current football game program will see PDFs of the pages that change from edition to edition emailed to TigerBlog from his colleague Craig Sachson, and TB will read them on his computer and then email any changes back to Craig. It's a process TB could never have dreamed of on all those Monday nights that turned into Tuesday mornings - like, 3 or 4 am Tuesdays - getting the old program done.

There will be one program this week and another next week, as Princeton will now host Brown Saturday and Harvard a week from Saturday in what will be a huge two-game stretch of this current season, which is reaches its midway point with the visit by the Bears.

Princeton defeated Georgetown 31-17 Saturday to improve to 3-1 overall. The only Ivy game to date was the win over Columbia a week before the Georgetown game.

This is the final weekend of non-Ivy games. By the end of Saturday, every team will have played two league games and its three non-league games.

And, if you've read TB before, you know that he would love to see the Ivy League have a week off after Week 5 and then finish with the five-week sprint to the finish. That's another story for another time.

Right now, Harvard is 2-0 in the league. Princeton and Penn are both 1-0. Everyone else has at least one loss, including Brown, which lost to Harvard 32-22 in its league opener. Brown lost its most recent game to Stetson, who is coached by former Princeton head coach Roger Hughes.

It's easy to look at the season in blocks. There's the first four weeks, with three out-of-conference games and Columbia, with the hopes of reaching this point of the season at 1-0 in the league. Then there's these two games, with the hopes of getting to late October and November with huge games to play.

That's where Princeton is now. The big goal is to reach November with a lot on the line.

Princeton has only played one home game to date this season. The last six weeks will see the Tigers home four times - the next two weeks, then at Cornell, home against Penn, at Yale and home against Dartmouth.

That means four more game programs to proofread.

Don't worry though. TB's desk will still be clutter-free.

Just how he likes it.