Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Coming Soon

TigerBlog mentioned "The Sting" last week when he was talking about Robert Redford, and there it was, like magic, on Turner Classic Movies Saturday night at 8.

So what did TB do? He watched it again.

TigerBlog wishes he had a way of knowing exactly how many times he's watched certain shows or movies. Is it possible that he's watching something at least 100 times? At least 50 times? What has he seen the most?

On his iTunes, it's easy. There's a counter that tells you how many times you've heard a song. In TB's case, "Do You Hear The People Sing" is No. 1, having played 332 times. As an aside, of the top 10, four are by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and of the top 50, only three - all by Train - are from this century.

As for movies and shows? Well, he's seen a lot of them enough times to have memorized them. What has he seen the most? For a movie, he'd guess "Rocky." Or "Casablanca." For a TV show? Maybe old episodes of the "Odd Couple?"

How many times has he seen "The Sting?" The only answer he can come up with is "a lot."

He's seen it enough to know basically every line in the movie. He knows exactly when his favorite parts are going to come up. He's seen it so many times that he realizes that if the guy playing the Fed was really a con man who was supposed to fool Snyder, the local cop, then he wouldn't have done some of the things he did when Snyder wasn't around.

TB's favorite line in the movie belongs to Paul Newman, whose natural cool just overwhelms the movie. As you know, TB considers Paul Newman one of the three coolest actors of all time, along with Steve McQueen and James Garner.

Anyway, TB's favorite line is when Lonnegan is walking through the train station in New York and Newman and Redford are watching him for the first time. Redford, in his toughest bravado, sneers "he's not as tough as he thinks."

Newman, sounding a lot like Princeton women's track and field coach Peter Farrell, says matter-of-factly "neither are we."

"The Sting" won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1973 and six other Oscars, none of which was for an acting category. Still, it also has great characters and great performances, even beyond the two stars. Eileen Brennan is great. Ray Walston is really great. Harold Gould is really, really great.

It is a series of great scenes that tie together at the end perfectly. TigerBlog has never met a person who saw the movie who saw the end coming, which is a the whole point of a movie about con men, right?

So that was Saturday.

As for Sunday night, TB watched the final of the Copa America between Chile and Argentina. TigerBlog's short assessment is that it was as wild a 0-0 game as you'll ever see.

The first half was all about the ref, who was handing out cards of yellow and red like they were Halloween candy. The second half was about not making the killer mistake off of a counter for Argentina and for not allowing Lionel Messi to use the extra space on the field to create a layup for Chile.

Not that this would ever happen, but international soccer desperately needs a replay ref to decide not goals or offsides but cards. Yellows and reds have a major impact on events like Copa America or even the World Cup, and an official who can see the replay can tell if a card is deserved or not. In the game Sunday night, almost all of the card calls were wrong, and replay showed that instantly. 

In the end, it went to penalty kicks, which TigerBlog hates. It's an awful way to decide a major championship. If the teams knew they couldn't win without actually scoring, then the way the game is played would be different and someone would score. Plus, maybe they could take a few players off the field for the overtimes, opening up more scoring chances.

Chile ended up winning, 4-2, and one of the Argentine misses came from Messi, who later said he was done with international soccer. TB doubts it.

The game drew 82,000 fans to Met Life Stadium. TigerBlog was actually at Giants Stadium when nearly that many would go watch the New York Cosmos play in the 1970s.

TB has been to one international soccer game in his life, and that was in Costa Rica, back in 2012, when the Princeton men's lacrosse team was there. It was a World Cup qualifier between Los Ticos and El Salvador, and it was, in a word, wild. In three words, it was very, very wild.

So that was Saturday and Sunday night's TV watching.

As for Princeton Athletics, TigerBlog could go into big detail about it, but he'll actually wait til later in the week.

Just now that something big is coming for Friday, and let's leave it at that for now ...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Melissa And Ron

Melissa Meccage and Ron Celestin are leaving Princeton Athletics.

Between them, they have given 35 years of coaching to Princeton, Melissa for 14 with the field hockey team, Ron for 21 with the women's soccer team.

After Kristen Holmes-Winn announced that she was leaving her job as head field hockey coach, TigerBlog mentioned that there are certain accomplishments that separate the greatest of the great coaches from those who have been elite. To TigerBlog, as he said last week, that means having accomplished something that nobody else ever has.

Usually, this means the head coach. In some cases, though, the assistant coach has been such an integral part of the program for so long that it counts for them as well.

In the case of both Melissa Meccage and Ron Celestin, that is definitely true.

In Melissa's case, the 2012 NCAA championship is on her resume. In Ron's case, he has the 2004 Final Four on his.

It's not easy to be a longtime assistant coach, especially under a high-profile, wildly successful head coach like Holmes-Winn or Julie Shackford, for whom Celestin worked for 20 of his 21 years at Princeton. For starters, you get almost no credit for the program's success; that goes to the head coach. You absolutely need to check your ego at the door, or you cannot be successful.

When TigerBlog started to think about Ron and Melissa, he started thinking about the greatest assistant coaches Princeton Athletics has ever had, or at least in the nearly 30 years that TigerBlog has been paying attention.

Melissa Meccage and Ron Celestin are both easily in the top 10, maybe both in the top five.

The best? TigerBlog will go with longtime men's lacrosse assistant David Metzbower. After Metz, though, these two are up there with anyone.

Let's start with Melissa Meccage.

Melissa was a college field hockey teammate of Holmes-Winn at Iowa, and she was a member of her staff for all 244 games Holmes-Winn would coach at Princeton. Together, the two would win 12 Ivy League titles and 13 years, reach the NCAA quarterfinals seven times and of course win that 2012 NCAA title.

No other Ivy League field hockey team has ever won an NCAA title. It is one of the signature accomplishments in the history of Princeton women's athletics.

When TigerBlog thinks about Melissa, he thinks about her as a person, not as a coach. And if he had to pick one word to describe her, that word would be "genuine."

TigerBlog can't remember too many times that he ever saw Melissa where she wasn't smiling. And when she asked how he was doing, or how his kids were doing, clearly she wanted to know.

In fact, Melissa did as much as anyone to encourage Miss TigerBlog when she was first playing field hockey - and sports in general. Since then, she has often asked about MTB, and in a way that has always been, well, genuine.

Melissa is leaving coaching to work with her husband Jeremy on their sports travel business, Zag Sports. TigerBlog may have lost track, but he thinks they have four kids.

She will be missed at Princeton. Her work with the field hockey program for 13 seasons speaks for itself, which is good, because she would never think of taking the credit for the success. More than that, she's been a great representative of the University and the department, with her personality, her likeability, her demeanor.

Like TB said, she's just a genuinely good person.

And Ron Celestin?

The one word TigerBlog would use to describe him is "strong." He is one of the strongest people TigerBlog has ever met.

Not in physical strength. No, Ron Celestin is wispy, rail thin.

No, TigerBlog means strength of character. Ron is one of those rare people who never changes, never wavers from who he is, never cuts any corners, never lowers his expectations of those around the program while at the same time giving those same people his full and unconditional support.

TigerBlog actually met Ron before either workers at the University. TigerBlog was covering high school sports; Ron was the very successful coach at Princeton High School.

Since then, TB has watched Ron and his wife Annette's two kids - he knows for a fact Ron and Annette have two, Chantal and C.C. - grow up from little kids to high school to college He's been to their house many times, and they have been to his.

In all the time he's known Ron, TB has always marveled at him. Ron is a funny man. He likes to laugh, softly. For that matter, he also speaks softly.

He's one of the greatest family men TB has ever known. And by family, TigerBlog means Ron's own family, and the extended family that has been Princeton women's soccer in his 21 years.

During that time, he's been part of seven Ivy League titles and nine NCAA tournaments. The most recent of each was a year ago, in Sean Driscoll's first year as head coach, when Ron gave the program much-needed stability and continuity after Shackford left. 

TigerBlog has wanted so many times to tell Ron how much he admires him, but the time was never right.

So maybe now, as he's leaving Princeton to become the associate head coach at Northeastern, this is finally the right time.

TigerBlog hasn't met too many better people in his life than Ron Celestin. He's excited for his long-time friend for his new career challenge.

On the other hand, he'll miss him.

So will Princeton Athletics.

Ron Celestin and Melissa Meccage. They are two of the best coaches Princeton Athletics has had - even if they did so far away from the spotlight.

Friday, June 24, 2016

One Hundred People, And Nobody Said "Robert Duvall?"

TigerBlog thinks "Family Feud" has its share of funny moments, though he would hardly say he's a big fan.

Actually, given where he started yesterday, it makes him wonder if he'd rather watch "Finding Nemo" or "Family Feud." He thinks he'd go with "Nemo."

His main problem with "Family Feud" is that there is no correct answer. There isn't a question with six possible factual outcomes. No, there's a question and then 100 random people gave their opinion, and that's what the contestants have to come up with.

The best part is that it can be funny. Steve Harvey is pretty good. John O'Hurley is probably the best at it.

The show was on the TV in the outer office the other day, and the question was "what talk show host is the funniest?" When the contestant said "Jim Belushi," O'Hurley's response was "he must be running something out of his house."

His funniest moment was from the time when the question was "name something that changes colors," and a contestant answered "zebras." O'Hurley laughed and said "I don't know how they do it. Black to white to black to white."

Maybe you had to be there.

One time when TB was watching, the question was something like "name a place you'd see a lifeguard." This was during the round at the end, and the first person said "the beach," which gave the team 50 points. The next one said "the pool," but by the time they got around to that, the team had already gone over 200 points. TB would assume "pool" would be worth 50 points also, but alas, he'll never know. Still, what third answer could there have been?

Anyway, the most recent time TB saw the show, the only question he saw was "name an actor whose first name is Robert." The first answer was "Redford." The second was "DeNiro."

There were six more answers, and nobody got any of them. When they were finally all turned over, TigerBlog was stunned to find that not one person had said the obvious: "Duvall."

How in the world was this possible? Okay, you want to put him third on that list? That's fine. You want to put him first, above Redford and DeNiro? TigerBlog is okay with that too.

But not at all? Plus behind six other Roberts, most whom TB can't remember right now (Mitchum was one, so was Conrad)?

What's up with that?

TigerBlog wondered if Robert Duvall watches "Family Feud," and if so, was his pissed off by the slight? Amused?

Robert Duvall, of course, was Tom Hagan in "The Godfather." And he was "The Great Santini." Ever see it? No? It's great.

Actually, Duvall lost the Best Actor Oscar that year (1980) to DeNiro, who won for "Raging Bull," which somehow TigerBlog wasn't crazy about, even thought you'd figure it was right in his wheelhouse.

DeNiro has actually won two Academy Awards, with a win as Vito Corleone in "The Godfather Part II." Redford? He has one win. Do you know for what? Directing "Ordinary People," which is about as depressing a movie as you'll ever see, though it is really well done.

Redford was nominated once for Best Actor, for "The Sting" in 1973. That is one of the best movies ever made. But what about Paul Newman? He was better, but didn't get nominated.

Redford wasn't nominated for "All the President's Men?" Or "Downhill Racer?" Do you see a young Robert Redford as a member of the U.S. ski team? TigerBlog has been skiing once in his life; he would need a pretty good incentive to do it again.

Duvall did win an Academy Award for Best Actor two years after the loss to DeNiro for Tender Mercies. TigerBlog has never seen it.

He did see "Apocalypse Now," a movie in which Duvall earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for playing a surfing Colonel who could have fought 10 Vietnam Wars and never had a scratch. He was the one who said the famous line: "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning." What you might not know is that he didn't follow that up by saying "It smells like victory." There was some other stuff in the middle. It's like "Casablanca," where Humphrey Bogart never says "play it again Sam."

Duvall lost out to Melvyn Douglas, who was the old rich guy in "Being There." That's another really good movie.

You can argue that Duvall could have won for any of those roles. You cannot argue that he isn't one of the best eight actors ever named Robert.

That's what's wrong with "Family Feud."

Anyway, what's TigerBlog's point?

He doesn't have one. It's two weeks after the end of the 2015-16 academic year and nine weeks to the day before the start of the 2016-17 one. There can't always be a point at this time of year.

This will still be a big week for one cross section of Princeton athletes though.

It's the start of the U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming, and Princeton will be well, well represented in Nebraska. From TB's colleague Craig Sachson's story:
Seventeen members of the PUCSDT family — past, present and future — will meet in Omaha, Neb., at the end of the month to compete in one of the most prestigious swimming events in the world, the U.S. Olympic Trials.
The Trials, which singlehandedly determines the U.S. squad that will head to the 2016 Rio Games, will be held June 26-July 3 in the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The seventeen Princeton swimmers, which range from 2014 First-Team All-America honoree Lisa Boyce '14 to five incoming Tigers, have earned Trials cuts in a total of 30 different events.
Five Princetonians have won Olympic medals; the last to do so was Nelson Diebel, who won a pair of golds at the 1992 Games.

Actually, you can click HERE to see the whole thing.

There are viewing parties planned as well. The details are in the story.

In the meantime, TigerBlog will go back to trying to figure out how nobody said Duvall. Robert Duvall? Hello?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

There's A Snake In My Boot

TigerBlog liked "Finding Nemo."

He didn't love it. Among other things, he thought Dory was annoying.

Maybe he's being harsh to "Nemo." For one thing, Marlin's voice was done by Albert Brooks, who is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorites. Maybe he holds it against "Nemo" that the movie played on an endless loop in the local pediatrician's office and it conjures up memories of being bombarded by germs from all sides.

Whatever, the best line in the movie was definitely "For a clown fish, you're not very funny."

So now "Finding Dory" is out. TB probably won't see it, though it appears he's in the minority there, as the movie earned $136.2 million in its first weekend.

Now that he thinks about it, TB still hasn't seen "Toy Story 3," which he knows he has to watch one of these days. He loved, loved, loved "Toy Story." He didn't love "Toy Story 2," though he did like it more than "Finding Nemo."

Toys who come to life when nobody is looking? Genius. His favorite line in the first two movies? "Did the hat look good? Tell me the hat looked good."

Don't know that one? Watch it HERE. That's pretty good stuff, huh?

Woody, the Tom Hanks character in "Toy Story," didn't speak unless only the toys were around, but he did have a drawstring on his back with his voice recorded on it. At one point, the other toys make fun of him about it because of how high-tech Buzz Lightyear is.

And what did Woody's voicebox say?

"There's a snake in my boot."

If TigerBlog had a snake in his boot, he wouldn't have reacted as calmly as Woody did, that's for sure.

TigerBlog is okay with most insects. He prefers to keep them outside, but when one happens to wander by, it's not the end of the world. Mice bother him a little. Well, maybe more than just a little.

But snakes are a whole other matter. It's not the snakes per se. It's the concept of something slithering along the ground, built to blend in to the scenery.

Have you ever been walking along a path somewhere and saw a snake moving toward you? Freaky, right? Even worse is when you thought it was a stick and it turned out to be a snake. Freakier.

TigerBlog had a meeting yesterday with Zack Rosenberg, who is the GM for Princeton Athletics with IMG Sports Marketing. Before the meeting began, Zack told TB to do a search for "Fort Collins rattlesnake wedding."

So of course, TB did. TB isn't sure how meetings operate where you are, but here at Princeton Athletics, there's always time to check out a story about rattlesnakes and weddings.

Anyway, the bride and groom were taking pictures outdoors before the reception when, you guessed it, a rattlesnake came along and bit the groom. As it turns out, the groom was fine and was able to go to the reception.

Why does Zack care about this? He was at the wedding. The bride is a friend of his wife's.

That's considered good luck, right? When the groom is bitten by a snake?

A rattlesnake who bit the groom at a wedding that was 2,000 miles away from here but was attended by Princeton's corporate marketing guy is a pretty good story.

What else is there for Princeton Athletics this week?

Well, Diana Matheson will be back at the Olympic Games, playing again for Canada in women's soccer. Matheson, who stands a shade under five-feet tall, scored the goal four years ago that gave the Canadians a bronze medal.

Matheson exploded onto the Princeton scene in 2004, when she helped lead Princeton to the Final Four. She graduated in 2008, having been the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year and a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection.

She's been a long-time member of the Canadian national team, having played in multiple World Cups and now Olympics. Matheson might not have been the most prolific goal scorer Princeton ever had, but no player TB has ever seen play soccer here (male or female) could control a game like she could.

The Princeton Olympic field keeps growing. So far, it includes Matheson and Ashleigh Johnson from women's water polo. The U.S. field hockey team has not yet been officially named, but it will have a strong Princeton contingent on it. Kat Holmes will fence.

In rowing, Gevvie Stone ’07 (open), Kate Bertko ’06 (open) and Glenn Ochal ’08 (heavyweight) have already qualified for the Olympics in their respective boats. Stone is in the US single, Bertko is in the US lightweight pair, and Ochal is in the US men’s eight. They had to win their respective qualifying races to earn their spot, which they have done.

There will possibly be other Princeton alums who qualify.

The USA Olympic Track and Field Trials are July 1-10. Princeton's best chance for the U.S. team comes from the steeplechase, with Donn Cabral (who finished eighth four years ago). At the same time, Princeton could have multiple representatives from other countries.

In addition, there will be 17 Princeton swimmers who will compete at the U.S. Trials beginning Sunday.

Princeton had a great contingent at the London Games four years ago. This year is off to a good start.

The Summer Olympics begin in Rio on Aug. 5 and run through the 21st. Goprincetontigers.com and TigerBlog will have all kinds of stuff as the Games approach and as Princetonians begin to compete.

Still, that's a few weeks away. For now it's a little slower around here, which means it's not always easy to fill space.

On that note, HERE'S another great part from Toy Story.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Fathers' Day

It took TigerBlog 3:35 to drive from Richmond to the Virginia-Maryland state line Sunday afternoon.

That's 3:35, as in three-hours, thirty-five minutes. Normally, that's about a two-hour drive.

TigerBlog takes that back. There's probably no normal time to make that trip. It seems like it's a relatively high traffic area pretty much whenever.

Of course, this was this past Sunday, which was also a picture-perfect nearly-summer day. And it was also Fathers' Day.

TigerBlog knew the traffic was going to be bad. He also knew he wouldn't mind. After all, it was Fathers' Day, and his only passenger was Miss TigerBlog, who had played in a lacrosse tournament in Richmond all weekend.

What better way could there have been to spend the day? 

By the time they got home, more than seven hours had gone by since they'd first started their ride. It was the end of a weekend in which it was just TB and MTB, and it had been something of an adventure.

When TigerBlog thinks about his years at Princeton, he thinks back to epic games, epic trips, epic experiences, epic people - and epic traffic. Most of the worst traffic he's experienced in his life was either going to or coming from Princeton sporting events.

Off the top of his head, there was the time it took him seven hours to get to Brown during a Papal visit that shut down most roads in New York City and Westchester County. Actually, for about 12 or so years, TigerBlog developed a pretty good fall Friday routine - say he'd leave by noon to miss the traffic on the way to wherever Princeton was playing, leave around 2 or 3 and get stuck for hours on I-95.

What else? He can remember dropping Tom McCarthy off right by the entrance of Madison Square Garden and watching him sprint into the building carrying radio equipment so he could get on the air in time for the Holiday Festival after yet another massive traffic jam.

Even rural roads haven't been immune. You know what's fun? Having Interstate 91 closed due an accident at 11 at night in southern Vermont after a Princeton-at-Dartmouth men's basketball game. And TB can't tell you how many times he's come to a complete stop on 81 between Scranton and the Whitney Point exit, on his way to Cornell.

The toughest place to judge how to get to has always been Hofstra. It is 76 miles from Princeton to Hofstra. It can take an hour and a half. Or, as was the case for one women's basketball game TigerBlog went to at Hofstra, five hours.

Actually, the toughest place to get to now is Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. If TB wants to go see a 7:00 lacrosse game there, what time should he leave? If he leaves at 4, he'll probably miss the face-off. If he leaves at noon, he'll miss the traffic, but get there four or five hours before the game starts.

For all the times TB has gone to Dartmouth and Cornell, he's never gotten trapped by a major snowstorm. There was one ride home from Dartmouth that took until nearly dawn because of a blizzard, but the snow didn't start falling until Connecticut.

He did have one trip to Penn for a Princeton-Penn men's basketball game during the Kit Mueller years on a night that, 25 years later, TB still can't believe the game wasn't cancelled by the snow. That's the one time that TB thought he'd never get there, but he did just in time for tip-off.

Almost all of the travel that TB does is going north of Princeton, though not all. One of his worst traffic experiences was going to a men's lacrosse game at the University of Virginia, when he sat for a long time on 495 in Maryland, in the Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville area, which is actually a pretty special little strip of highway to him. He'd been stuck in traffic there before, back when MotherBlog lived off Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase. On the way to UVa, it added probably two hours to his trip.

As for this past weekend, as TB said, it was an adventure.

There was traffic on the way down Friday, and there was even more than that in Virginia Thursday. Apparently, there were massive storms in the area, and much of the Richmond area was left without power - including the hotel where TB was going to stay. He was able to make a reservation at another hotel in Williamsburg, which was fine, because TB and MTB wanted to go see William & Mary, and so they drove an hour to the hotel - only to get a call when they were a mile away saying that while yes, they did have a reservation, they happened to not have any rooms available.

They did a lot of driving over the weekend, and that meant a lot of time together.

What did they talk about? The Civil War, as they drove past old plantations, including one that belonged to President John Tyler, on the way from Williamsburg back to Richmond.

They talked about "Gone With The Wind." She asked him about the plot to "Fiddler on the Roof." They talked about music, and why TB's is so much better than hers. TB would ask her who sang a particular song. Eventually she learned to guess "Bruce Springsteen," though in one shocking moment, she actually knew that the correct answer was "Bon Jovi."

TigerBlog even tried to explain disco to Miss TigerBlog, without much luck. He couldn't even get her to dance while they sat in traffic to "Disco Inferno."

They talked about lacrosse. They talked about colleges. They talked about TBJ and Jingles, MTB's cat. And really, all kinds of things.

She talked about Snapchat. She tried desperately to get the perfect picture of her pony tail about to fall over her face. They spent a lot of time trying to decide where to stop to eat.

Usually massive traffic is a pain. Or more than a pain. It makes you want to scream and honk you horn and try a different lane or a different road.

This time, it wasn't so bad.

Miss TigerBlog will be 16 soon. She needs her dad less and less these days, and when she does, it's usually for money or rides. She's finished school last week, which left her dad to realize that now she's going to be a junior in high school. Two more years, and she'll be in college.

College? MTB? As she likes to say in moments of bewilderment, "what the heck?"

Usually, MTB falls asleep in about five minutes when she gets in a car. This time, she was awake almost the entire time. Usually, MTB is a one-word-answer girl, with a grunted "yah" or "good" to everything.

This time, though, she was chatty. And laughing.

Maybe because it was Fathers' Day?

When they got back, she sent him a text message that basically said so. She thanked him for taking her down there for the weekend and for spending his Fathers' Day with her.

TigerBlog doesn't expect his almost 16-year-old daughter to have nearly his perspective on the world. Not even close.

But this time, even she knew that she had been part of a pretty special day.
As Fathers' Days go, this is one TB will never forget.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Legacy Of Kristen Holmes-Winn

Kristen Holmes-Winn announced yesterday that she is leaving her position as Princeton's field hockey coach.

Holmes-Winn spent 13 years in charge of Tiger field hockey. To say that she dominated would be underselling it.

Her 13-year run saw her go 164-80 overall, with an astonishing 86-5 Ivy League record. She won 12 Ivy League championships - including each of the last 11 years - and reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals seven times.

Her best season was the 2012 season, when she led the Tigers to a 21-1 record and the NCAA championship. Princeton outscored its seven Ivy opponents 45-1 that year. That's 45-1.

Kristen will be leaving Princeton to pursue something that has been a passion of hers. She will be heading to work for a company called WHOOP, for whom she will serve as Vice President of Performance Science and Optimization.

So what is her legacy?

What is any coach's legacy? How do you compare apples and oranges and grapes and everything else?

TigerBlog has asked this question before, but who was a better basketball coach, John Wooden or Pete Carril? Yes, John Wooden won 10 NCAA titles at UCLA. Carril won none at Princeton.

But is that a fair comparison? Wooden had every advantage at UCLA. What would Wooden have done at Princeton in the 29 years that Carril coached here? He wouldn't have won a national championship, that's for sure.

And that's just basketball.

How do you compare a field hockey coach to a basketball coach to a soccer coach to a lacrosse coach?

Well, here's the way TigerBlog thinks about it. Have you done something in your sport that nobody else has ever done?

That separates you. And once it's on your resume, it's never taken off.

For Holmes-Winn, it's the NCAA championship. No other Ivy League field hockey coach has ever done that.

The 2011 season was actually a great coaching job for her as well. Princeton played that year without four players who took off to train for the 2012 Olympics - and she still won the Ivy title. And then won its first NCAA game.

The 2012 team played 22 games and scored at least three goals in 18 of them. For that matter, the Tigers scored at least five in 11 of them.

Come NCAA tournament time, Princeton actually had to play in the play-in game. That was 6-0 over Lafayette. Then 5-0 over Drexel. Then 5-2 over Virginia to reach the Final Four, which that year was played in Norfolk.

While there, Princeton ended the ACC's 11-year reign as NCAA champ, and did so the hard way, defeating Maryland and North Carolina, both by 3-2 scores.

And with that, Kristen Holmes-Winn vaulted herself into a league of her own, field hockey-wise.

Where does it rank?

There's no doubt that Kristen Holmes-Winn is one of the very best coaches Princeton Athletics has ever had. She is the best field hockey coach in Ivy history, TigerBlog would say, beating out her predecessor, Beth Bozman, who was a TB favorite.

Kristen gets the nod by having won the NCAA title. When you put that on your resume, the discussion changes forever.

Like TB said, did you do something no one else has ever done? You did? Then you vault to the top.

Because of its success, Princeton field hockey became quite an event to see during Kristen's tenure, especially after the NCAA title and the opening of Bedford Field. Game days drew great, knowledgeable crowds, drawn by a winning team and a great setting.

Beyond all of that, there is Kristen herself. She has long been one of the faces of Princeton Athletics and a leader in the department. And one of the driving forces in helping grow the game in the area - including for a certain Miss TigerBlog, whom Kristen really encouraged from the earliest days she played. 

When TigerBlog first heard that Kristen was leaving, for some reason he wasn't completely shocked. Coaching is a tough business. Probably what's most interesting is that so many coaches actually stay with it as long as they do.

And it's really not that surprising that she's chosen to go into what can be called performance science. She has been very passionate about it for a long time, and it seems like a logical step in her career.

So now she is leaving Princeton.

She came in as a novice coach. This was her first head coaching assignment. She was taking over from Bozman, who was herself one of the most successful female coaches Princeton had ever had to that point.

It's safe to say that she was up to the challenge.

Her record speaks for itself. And if it doesn't, her NCAA title screams it.

Kristen Holmes-Winn. A legacy that is unmatched.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rooting Interest

TigerBlog really wanted the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA championship last night.

Or did he?

On the one hand, he really wanted to see LeBron James bring an NBA title to a city that hadn't won a major professional championship since 1964. James, of course, is something of a native son, having been born and raised in Akron.

What could be better?

Maybe it's a Midwest-California thing too. Cleveland, it would appear, needed it more.

On the other hand, Cleveland fired Dave Blatt in midseason. Blatt had been the head coach, and he is a Princeton grad.

So how could anyone with Princeton ties still root for the Cavs?

On the other other hand, Blatt was at Princeton during TigerBlog's conflicted Princeton-Penn era.

BrotherBlog went to Penn before TB did, so Penn was always the favored team back then. Silly, right?

The poster child for Princeton basketball player that Penn fans couldn't stand back then was, of all people, Howard Levy. Of course, Howard was actually the poster child for running an offense through a center who could contribute in all phases of the game.

In other words, he was way too advanced for the Penn fans.

TigerBlog often thinks back to his days as a Penn fan. He would never have imagined at the time that he would actually end up watching Penn for four years and the Princeton for 30 more after that.

He can still remember his first Princeton-Penn game at the Palestra, back in his freshman year. He marveled at the building, not really comprehending the significance of the rivarly.

He remembers vividly the "sit down Pete" chants that came from the Penn students. TB had no idea who Pete Carril was back then, let alone any remotest clue of what role Carril would come to play in his professional life.

As he thinks about it, he wonders how many people have ever done as big a 180 on such an intense rivalry. Is it just TigerBlog and Leo Durocher, who went from managing the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants. That was unheard of back then.

Durocher, by the way, won 738 games with the Dodgers and 637 with the Giants. Those teams don't like each other now. Back when they were both in New York, they hated each other passionately.

As for Princeton-Penn, what really surprised TigerBlog back in the 1980s was how quickly his allegiance shifted. He went from loyal Penn student and fan to, hey, who were those Quaker guys anyway.

The person who was most amazed by this was Chuck Yrigoyen, who back then was the director of communications at the Ivy League office. He routinely questioned TB about what team he was rooting for, as if he kept expecting to get a different answer than "Princeton of course."

Chuck is now the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Division III league. TB is pretty sure that 1996 was the last time Chuck asked him about the Ivy rivalry.

Anyway, back at the NBA Finals, Blatt clearly got the short end of the stick from the Cavs. Does that mean a Princeton person can't root for Cleveland after that?

TigerBlog has always liked watching LeBron. TB has always been amazed by James and how he became such a greater passer. Why would he ever have had to pass the ball, when he could just take it directly to the basket against anyone he ever played against when he was growing up?

He also seems like a pretty good guy, right? For someone who has that much fame and money, he comes across as somewhat grounded. Maybe he isn't, but at least he seems genuine. 

James is the second-best player TigerBlog has ever seen. Michael Jordan is the first. People a little older than TB can say Bill Russell maybe, or Oscar Robertson or Jerry West.

TigerBlog will go with Jordan over anyone. If you were too young to see him play, you can't imagine how off the charts great he was.

TB doesn't understand why so many people criticize James. What player has ever done more with a supporting cast that was almost always outmatched by the top team of the year?

Maybe if Jordan had played in the time of Twitter and limitless sports commentary, people would have jumped all over him too. On the other hand, what could you possibly have said about Jordan?

Last night was Game 7 between the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors. It was a weird series, with the first six games all decided by double figures, mostly in blowouts.

Game 7 was different. It was tight throughout, and it seemed like it was tied at 89-89 for the longest time. The biggest play in that stretch? James with an incredible out-of-nowhere block on a fast break that seemed like it would give the Warriors the lead.

In the end, Kyrie Irving dropped in the big three, and James did everything, with the third triple-double in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

When it ended, James dropped to the floor, tears in his eyes. It was obvious that he realized the enormity of what he had done, for the city of Cleveland. Nothing since 1964. All kinds of heartbreak. Even the heartbreak of losing James to Miami and seeing him win two titles there.

So now he was back. And he brought his team back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship, delivering to his city in a way that maybe no professional athlete has ever done before.

It was one of the most emotional moments TB has ever seen from a professional athlete. TB actually thought that the corporate nature of the NBA would preclude anyone from ever having such a moment, to be honest. It was a great moment, a beautiful moment for a team, a player and a city.

On the other hand, to hell with them. They fired the Princeton guy.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ashleigh To The Olympics

Somewhere in the basement, TigerBlog believes, is the rocking horse that Miss TigerBlog used to call Cinnamon.

TB is pretty sure it's down there. He hasn't checked on it in years. Maybe somewhere along the line, when TB wasn't looking, Cinnamon made his way to a better place. Or the curb.

MTB's relationship with Cinnamon didn't last long, but there was a time when he was a big part of her daily routine. It was so long ago, of course, that MTB probably doesn't even remember.

Still, as far as pure unfiltered joy goes, it's hard to beat the joy that Miss TigerBlog got from riding on Cinnamon. He was your basic no-frills, no-high tech, old-fashioned rocking horse.

In fact, TB cannot remember where he came from in the first place. He was a gift from someone, TB supposes. Or someone's old rocking horse. Maybe he wasn't even named Cinnamon in the first place.

These days, MTB is a lot closer to driving a car than she is riding a rocking horse. Like, a lot, lot closer.

It dawned on TigerBlog that his daughter is less than two months away from being eligible to get her driver's permit. After that, she'll be able to take her driver's test six months later.

Rocking horse one day. Car the next. Well, maybe not the next. But relatively quickly. Is that scary or what?

TigerBlog taught TigerBlog Jr. to drive in a big parking lot, one that cut between fields where he first played lacrosse. As scary moments go, the first time that TBJ put the car in drive, went the length of the parking lot and then made his first right turn is way up there.

And now TB has to do it again?

The first thing the nearly six-foot tall MTB will probably have to do when she gets behind the wheel for the first time will be to move the seat back.

What kind of driver will she be? Well, she has driven a golf cart before and shown pretty good competence at that, but it was awhile ago.

She has already made it clear that she has no interest in driving TBJ's car. It has way too many miles on it for her. For that matter, she doesn't really want to drive TigerBlog's car either.

About two weeks after MTB can get her permit, the fall season kicks off at Princeton. If TigerBlog is counting correctly, then there are now 10 weeks without any athletic events.

Is 10 weeks a long time? TB isn't sure.

Back when TigerBlog was first starting out in the newspaper business, he always figured that when he got to this time of year, he'd think about what he wanted to do and go get a "real" job. Then the summer would go by, and it would be time to start up again, and TB would say "okay, one more year."

Nearly 30 have gone by since then.

The 2015-16 academic year for Princeton ended with the NCAA track and field championships last weekend. That makes this the first weekend in awhile without any athletic events.

In fact, going back to last August, there have only been a handful of weekends without any events. There was Christmas weekend. And there were first-semester exams.

And that was it.

Just because the academic year is over, it doesn't mean the news stops though. There's always something going on with Princeton Athletics. Every summer, TB always thinks there won't be anything new on the website. Every summer, there's always something.

Princeton Athletics gets about 90% of its web traffic during the academic year, but that still means around a million page views for the summer. There has to be something for all those people to see.

One piece of news that came up yesterday was surprising only in the fact that TB assumed it had been decided long ago.

Princeton's Ashleigh Johnson was officially named to the U.S. Olympic water polo team. Hadn't that already happened?

Johnson, who is one of the top players in the world, took this year off from school to train for the Olympics. She has dominated the sport collegiately and internationally, and the U.S. team is a strong contender for a gold medal.

TigerBlog has said this many times before, but Ashleigh Johnson may very well be the greatest female athlete in Princeton history. If you've never seen her play, you're missing out on something special.

There are some tuneups for the U.S. team between now and the start of the Olympics, which will actually begin for the U.S. water polo team on Aug. 9 against Spain.

That's a few weeks before Princeton plays its first athletic events of 2016-17. And before MTB will first drive a car.

The Olympics. MTB behind the wheel. A new academic year.

They'll all be here quickly.

Only one of them really frightens TigerBlog.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Head Coach Matt Madalon

Matt Madalon has everything under control.

Whatever it is, he seems to have it all figured out. The more there is to do, the more he smiles, chuckles and makes you feel like none of this is a problem. He's on it.

He's also calm. He speaks with a very deep voice, so maybe that masks any kind of stress he happens to be feeling. Or maybe he's just really good at dealing with stressful situation.

He also cares. About people. About his players. About the program. Not in a "what can you do to help me" kind of way. In a genuine way, one that extends well beyond the playing field. 

He's also tough. You'd call him "old school" if he happened to be, well, older. Whatever his age, he's a no-B.S. type of guy. The caring that TB mentioned in the last paragraph may extend way beyond the playing field, but he's deadly serious about what goes on on the field.

He's also funny. He laughs easily and makes those around him laugh at the same rate.

And he loves lacrosse. Especially Princeton lacrosse.

Matt Madalon officially became the head coach of Princeton men's lacrosse yesterday. He has spent the last two-plus months as the interim head coach, having taken over for the final five games of the 2016 season.

TigerBlog has known him since the first day he showed up here, three years ago, to become offensive coordinator. He impressed TB from Day 1, and nothing that has happened since makes TigerBlog change that first impression.

He became the interim head coach on April 6, and he guided Princeton through some trying waters for the rest of the season. Along the way, basically anyone affiliated with the program or the department who came in contact with him saw what TigerBlog knew all along.

TigerBlog has spent hours and hours talking to Madalon through the years. He knows his stuff. He knows people. He has a real plan for the program moving forward.

Matt Madalon is the 11th head coach in the history of Princeton men's lacrosse. Of the first 10, eight won at least 50% of their games and six won at least 60%.

Princeton has an all-time record in men's lacrosse of 669-468-19. There have been six NCAA championships and six more USILA national championships before there was an NCAA tournament. There have been 27 Ivy League titles.

Clearly this is one of the most successful lacrosse programs in the history of the sport. Some of TigerBlog's favorite people of all time have played lacrosse at Princeton, and he has been fortunate to have been there to see so many of the greatest moments the team has known.

So when Madalon was named the head coach, he wanted to let some of those who love the program so much know what kind of guy they have here.

When Madalon became the interim head coach, it reminded TigerBlog a bit of when John Thompson III became the head men's basketball coach in September 2000. It wasn't quite the same thing - Princeton was 2-6 in the lacrosse season when Madalon took over, while the basketball team hadn't started practicing yet for the 2000-01 season.

But there was something about the situation last April that definitely conjured up the situation with JT3. Like Madalon, he was being thrown into the fire, and like Madalon, he had to immediately right a ship. In Thompson's case, it was due to the departure from the program of the former head coach (Bill Carmody) and top assistant (Joe Scott), as well as the top two players (Chris Young, Spencer Gloger).

Thompson led Princeton to the 2000-01 Ivy League championship and then two more in the next three years before leaving for Georgetown, where has been to eight more NCAA tournaments.

The point of the story isn't how it turned out, though.

No, the point of the story is that during that whole time back in the late summer and fall of 2000, John Thompson III never once seemed frazzled. TigerBlog expected him to be bouncing off of walls, overwhelmed by the looming start of practice and the chaos of trying to stabilize an unsettled program.

There was none of that. There was just a calm young coach who knew what he had to do and went about doing it. It was impossible not to be impressed by him.

That's how it was with Madalon this past April.

TigerBlog expected the same thing he expected from Thompson, and again that's not what he found. Instead, Madalon was calm and confident, and above all else, like Thompson, he was very much in charge.

Like Thompson nearly 16 years earlier, it was impossible not to be impressed by him.

Madalon is now the head coach. The program is in his hands, and TigerBlog for one thinks he has an incredibly bright future ahead.

That's his hope for him anyway. But this isn't based on hope. It's based on getting to know him pretty well these last three years.

Because of that, TigerBlog can say that Princeton got itself a really good one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Devin Cannady, From Africa

TigerBlog was going to go back and look up Devin Cannady's stats from last basketball season and compare them to those of the other top freshmen in the league.

Then he figured why bother.

Whatever his stats were, and however they compared to anyone else, there is no way anyone can convince TigerBlog that Cannady wasn't the best freshman in the league a year ago.

Sure, it was a good year for first-year players. And there were a few who put up big numbers and who established themselves as real up-and-coming higher-echelon players in the Ivy League.

Cannady, though, is different. He has the skill, and he has the quality. He is a star.

If you saw the end of the Princeton-Columbia game at Columbia, you know that.

TigerBlog wrote this after that game:
The result - an improbable 88-83 win for the Tigers, in a game in which they trailed by five with 29 seconds left in regulation and then trailed by seven in the overtime - was one of the most exciting Princeton basketball games in awhile.
Cannady was ridiculous. The freshman from Indiana took over the game in a way that not a lot of players can, and he did it at what was the most critical moment of the Tiger season. To date, at least.

It actually didn't take very long for Cannady to announce his presence with Princeton basketball. He scored 17 points in 23 minutes in Game 1 against Rider, and he did so with a manner that couldn't help but be noticed.

In fact, as TigerBlog watched Cannady play this season, he thought of a former Princeton basketball player. And baseball player, for that matter.

Cannady reminds TB a lot of Will Venable. Yes, he became a longtime Major League Baseball player.

But back at Princeton, he didn't play baseball as a freshman, in the 2001-02 academic year. Back then, he was a basketball player, and he, like Cannady, had a way of showing himself to be the best player on the court, whatever anyone's stats were. You could just tell by watching him play. He was the best player on the court. Didn't matter who else was playing.

And, like Cannady, when the stakes were raised and the competition was better, Venable stood out that much more. So yeah, to TigerBlog, it's a good comparison.

TigerBlog worked with Cannady on a few videos in advance of some of the Ivy weekends this year, and his demeanor carries off the court, much like Venable's did as well.

Why bring up Devin Cannady now?

Because TigerBlog read what Cannady wrote about his experience this summer in Africa. It was on goprincetontigers.com yesterday, and it gives an insight into the young man that you can't get from watching him play.

Or can you?

Pete Carril, for instance, always said that you can't separate the player from the person. In Cannady's case, that clearly appears to be the case.

So this isn't quite a Guest TB. But these are Devin Cannady's words. And they are impressive:

Dear Tiger Nation,
Welcome to the first of several updates from me, rising sophomore Devin Cannady, as I walk you through the daily activities and experiences that I encounter during my eight weeks studying abroad in Africa. With this being my first time stepping foot outside of the Americas, I’d like to take you back to the moment that made this trip a reality. As an incoming freshman, I intended on going down the same route as the rest of my teammates by taking Spanish 101 to fulfill my language requirement. However, a random conversation with an upperclassman in Wu Dining Hall during my inaugural Frosh Week led me to this spot in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was reading a book written in Swahili, a language I had never seen or heard before. We discussed the language, as well as the culture, which he described as being interesting to study whether you had prior knowledge of it or not. Obviously, I ended up taking the course, and I give this student credit for sparking an interest that I would have otherwise been completely oblivious of having.

So, I’m here in Tanzania to learn even more outside of the classroom. My schedule over the span of these eight weeks abroad will include studying two semesters worth of Swahili: 105 and 107. This expedited version of these courses runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tanzanian time (2-5 a.m. Eastern) for the entirety of the program. Additionally, I will be teaching some English as well as helping out at an orphanage for about 10 hours per week. I’m joined by four of my Swahili classmates and 14 other Princeton students who are here learning about Tanzanian history. The remainder of our time is spent immersed in the Tanzanian culture, experiencing their unique ways of transportation, how they value money, or simply the way in which they greet each other. We won’t be in full scholastic mode all of the time though, as we have two amazing trips scheduled during our time here including a safari through the Ngorongoro Game Park for four days as well as a trip to Zanzibar for three days.

If this first week was any indication as to what the rest will be like, I know I’ll be able to call it life-changing when it’s through. It started when I landed in Tanzania and the thick air hit me like a brick wall. Passport patrol seemed unorganized and frantic, and when they got to me and started speaking in Swahili I drew a blank when searching for the right vocabulary. Great start. But once I reunited with the likes of my professor and classmates I relaxed just a bit, and I was even more assured to see a familiar face at the airport. Murshid Mudricat is a member of the Tanzanian Men’s Basketball National Team and we had been in contact via Facebook for the weeks leading up to my visit. In my first week, I spent a majority of my time outside of class travelling with Murshid to the courts where the best players in Tanzania play. It takes over an hour and a half each way to reach the courts. A regular day would consist of going to class on a local bus with the rest of the Princeton students, eating lunch at the University of Dar es Salaam cafeterias (where a meal that is hard for an average person to finish costs only the equivalent of $1.50), traveling back to the hotel on a bus, visiting the mall across the street to connect to the rest of the world since our hotel's Wi-Fi doesn't work, then going to the courts with Murshid and returning around 10:30. I am enjoying this challenge because I have been studying and learning Swahili much better being immersed in the culture rather than when I was in class for 50 minutes a day, four days a week on campus.

Being a part of a different culture, especially one that I knew nothing about coming into college has been good for me. I can now appreciate a culture that I, along with many others, hadn't previously known about. What I have learned and come to appreciate in my first week over here is that the majority of these people want the same things we want and many things that we take for granted in the states. Jobs in the legitimate workplace, money to eat a sufficient meal, and the basic necessity of running water are a luxury we have in the states. I’ve noticed that those who I’ve tried speaking to who do not know English tend to be carrying a greater burden than those who do know the language.
I think it took me the entire week to fully get acclimated to the time difference and pace of lifestyle here. One thing I know is that the food they serve here for roughly $2 is as good and healthier even than what I would be eating if I were at home. As I said in the opening, none of this would have been possible had I followed the “norm” of taking Spanish with my fellow teammates, the same way our fellow upperclassmen took Spanish. There are plenty of opportunities down that path in the same way that there are opportunities to study abroad by taking one of the many languages Princeton has to offer, but there is a beauty in stepping out and doing something different. I recall the time when I told people of my decision to study Swahili, and the response was usually laughter. Most people questioned why I would do something so random, saying the decision was unwise of me to make. I have realized that people are not comfortable with what is unknown, and that doing what is popular doesn’t mean it is the best path. Paving my own path through the study of Swahili has single-handedly been the greatest decision of my Princeton career so far, and I am glad to share this journey with you.
Until next time,
Devin Cannady