Friday, August 28, 2015

Question No. 4

Well, the summer is over.

It's Game Day for Princeton Athletics, Game No. 1 of the 2015-16 academic year. It comes up later today on Myslik Field on Roberts Stadium, where Sean Driscoll coaches his first game for the Princeton women's soccer team as it hosts Howard.

Princeton has some great athletic venues, and Roberts Stadium is as good as any of them. It is entering its eighth season as the home of Princeton soccer, and it seemingly gets better every year.

TigerBlog's preferred place to watch is directly behind one of the goals, though there isn't a bad seat in the facility. And, of course, admission to all regular season men's and women's games is free, so how can you beat that?

The women's soccer team will play four home games in the next two weeks and five home games before the men have their first, on Sept. 19. The game tonight starts at 7, so that will be the official end of Princeton Athletics' summer vacation.

As such, TigerBlog better hurry up and answer the last of the five questions he said he was going to answer by the end of the summer. The last one, by the way, is No. 4, as he's already answered No. 5.

As a reminder, here was the original challenge:
Now that the academic year is over, just a word to encourage more of your feature stories which include your personal memories or historical compilations. Here are some unsolicited ideas: Greatest games or events you've witnessed, with and without regard to historical context
Happiest moments you've experienced due to Princeton sports
Weirdest fluke plays
Most improbable comebacks
Most inspiring student-athletes


TigerBlog has already answered four of them. You can read them HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

So the last one is the most improbable comebacks.

TigerBlog's friend Mark Eckel used to say that soccer games should be over when the first team scores. Every game would be 1-0. What if a team scores in the first minute? Game over. Like a first-round knockout in boxing.

His logic was that the team scoring first always wins. When Princeton head men's soccer coach Jim Barlow hear of this theory, he scoffed and mentioned that his team had won its most recent game 2-1 after giving up the first goal. "Greatest comeback in soccer history," Eckel called it.

In all seriousness, TigerBlog has seen some incredible comebacks at Princeton.

The thing about a great comeback is that in the moment, it hardly seems improbably or completely out of the ordinary. The game starts out one way and then shifts radically in the other direction, and suddenly the team that was up big is completely out of sorts because what had been going so easily now isn't anymore and the team that was down big has all kinds of confidence.

It's only until after the game is over that it is apparent that one team has done something incredible, something that can't be done every game. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to come back from being down big, and TigerBlog has seen a lot of cases where a team was down big, tied it and then went back down quickly and ultimately lost fairly big. That's what usually happens.

But in the moment? It seems so plausible because it's happening, and you forget how rare these comeback are.

The best of all of them is obviously the men's basketball game against Penn at the Palestra in 1999. As you might recall, Princeton led 3-0 on a Brian Earl three-pointer and then trailed by all of these scores:
* 29-3 after a 29-0 Penn run
* 33-9 at halftime
* 40-13 with 15 minutes left.

Final score? 50-49 Princeton.

So on this list, that would be No. 1. It's going to be hard to ever bounce that one off.

There are a few other great comebacks that come to mind though.

The most woefully overlooked great Princeton comeback ever has to be the men's basketball game at Penn State two years ago. Princeton trailed by 20 with 10 minutes to go and came back and won 81-79 in OT.

Princeton still trailed by 18 with six minutes left, down 60-42, and still pulled it out. The game has little historical significance, but then again, the 1999 game doesn't really either, as Princeton ended up losing the Ivy title to Penn that year.

In football, the best comeback TigerBlog has seen was also fairly recent, back in the 2012 season.

Princeton trailed Harvard 34-10 with 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Had you stopped and asked the first random million people you found at that moment and asked if Princeton had a chance, not one would have said yes.

Harvard, after all, had the longest active winning streak in the FCS at the time and had won 14 straight by double figures. This one seemed over.

Then Princeton came back, winning 39-34 on a 36-yard TD pass from Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds left.

What stands out to TigerBlog about that? Princeton scored twice and added two two-point conversions to make it 34-26 and then scored another touchdown with 2:27 to make it 34-32. The two-point conversion this time, though, was no good.

Had that two-point conversion attempt been good, it would have been 34-34, Princeton kickoff to Harvard, 2:27 left. In that scenario, Harvard almost surely would have won.

Why? Because the Crimson would have aggressively tried to score, not passively tried to run out the clock. Instead, Harvard punted near midfield on 4th-and-inches. Princeton got the ball back - and won.

So that's football and men's basketball.

Men's hockey?

Princeton, ranked 10th at the time, trailed fifth-ranked Cornell 1-0 in the final minute at Lynah Rink in February of 2009. Then Dan Bartlett scored with 36 seconds left to tie it. Then, 18 seconds later, Taylor Fedun won it.

Yeah, it wasn't a monstrous deficit, but it might as well have been 100-0, not 1-0, with less than a minute to go in that venue.

As for men's lacrosse, there have been a few. TigerBlog will give you two, consecutive games one week apart in 1998.

Princeton had won the 1996 and 1997 NCAA championships, and now in 1998 the Tigers had a dominant senior class, led by Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess and Chris Massey. A third straight NCAA title would stamp that group among the greatest ever to play the sport.

Playing Duke in the NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra, Princeton trailed 8-4 in the second quarter and looked on the verge of getting blown off of Long Island.

Then Trevor Tierney came in to replace Corey Popham in goal (don't worry, the story has a happy ending for Popham) and proceeded to make six saves and allow only one goal the rest of the way. Princeton 11, Duke 9 was the final.

That moved second-seeded Princeton into the semifinals against third-seeded Syracuse at Rutgers.

Again, Princeton trailed 8-4, this time in the third quarter. It was 9-6 at the end of three. It was 10-7 less than a minute into the fourth.

And who then scored two huge fourth-quarter goals for Princeton? Seamus Grooms, who had 16 career goals prior to that quarter. Seamus Grooms, who was the fourth roommate of Hess, Hubbard and Massey. Seamus Grooms, who saved Princeton's legacy.

Grooms scored with 12:42 left, making it 10-8. Then, after Hubbard made it 10-9, it was Grooms who tied it at 10-10.

The game-winner came from Josh Sims, and Princeton had won 11-10. Two days later, the Tigers hammered Maryland 15-5 to win that third straight championship. And Popham? He was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

So there you have it. The comebacks that TigerBlog most remembers.

He's sure he's missed a bunch.

As for women's teams, he can't think of a great one off the top of his head, so he's willing to be reminded of a few, if you have any.

And to whoever anonymously posted the comment in the first place, thanks. TigerBlog likes to take requests.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tramps Like Us

It was 40 years ago this week that the greatest album in the history of music was released.

TigerBlog speaks of course of "Born To Run," the third album for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, after "Greetings From Asbury Park" and "The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle."

Of TigerBlog's 10 favorite songs of all-time, four can be found on the album "Born to Run." Those four would be: "Thunder Road," "Backstreets," "Jungleland" and the title track, "Born to Run."

Music today, in a word, sucks. That's a little harsh. It's more like three words - pretty much sucks.

 At least TigerBlog Jr. likes the indie rock-type stuff, like Imagine Dragons and Of Monsters and Men, which is actually pretty good stuff.

TigerBlog cringes every time Miss TigerBlog turns on her music, which is almost all awful.

According to the Billboard Top 100, the top three songs in the country right now are:
1. "Cheerleader"
2. "Can't Feel My Face"
3. "Watch Me"

Sadly, because of Miss TigerBlog, TB has heard all of them more than he would have liked, which means more than once each.

Here are some lyrics from these songs:

Do the stanky leg (stank)
Do the stanky leg (stank stank)
Do the stanky leg (stank)
Do the stanky leg (stank stank)


and:

I can't feel my face when I'm with you
But I love it, but I love it, oh


and the even more cringe-worthy:

I think that I've found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her


Then there's this:

Remember all the movies, Terry
We'd go see
Trying to learn to walk like the heroes
We thought we had to be
Well after all this time
To find we're just like all the rest
Stranded in the park
And forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets

and:

Outside the street's on fire
In a real death waltz
Between what's flesh and what's fantasy
And the poets down here
Don't write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night
They reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded
Not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

and:

The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again

and of course:

The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight
but there's no place left to hide
Together Wendy we can live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Oh-oh, someday girl I don't know when
we're gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us
baby we were born to run

Ah, TigerBlog weeps for the youth today, the ones who didn't grow up in the 1970s, who didn't go to the record store and buy these things called "albums," especially the one called "Born To Run." TigerBlog grew up not far from where Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt did, and he took his SATs at the high school Springsteen attended.

It was impossible to grow up in TB's town without being a Springsteen fan back then, but really, it didn't really matter where you lived back then. There was nobody like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, especially, especially in concert.

The  "Born To Run" album was released on Aug. 25, 1975, so technically that would be 40 years and two days ago. It's the best album that's every been, and it's the best album that ever will be. With the stuff coming out today, the Boss has very little to worry about.

The balcony yesterday afternoon was filled with young men, large young men for the most part, who fumbled to put on shirts and ties and jackets and get their pictures taken. They were Princeton football freshmen, along with a handful of older players who wanted to get a new picture taken.

They were all born 20 years after "Born to Run" came out and, as they are the same age as TigerBlog Jr., they have lived lives deprived of quality musical selections.

They can't worry about that now. Not with today the first day of Princeton football practice.

Princeton, as it does every year, starts football practice late. Basically every other football-playing entity has already started, from Pop Warner through high school to the pros.

Now that it's here, it's a big grind.

It's three weeks of preseason, followed by 10 straight Saturdays of games.

TigerBlog has written almost since the beginning of TigerBlog that he would make some changes. At first, he was okay with the longtime Ivy rule of not going to the NCAA football playoffs, but he's changed his mind on that one.

Before he would do that, though, he'd start the preseason a week earlier (yes, there are costs involved) and then have each team in the league be off after Week 5.

This makes sense on every level, except the cost. First, the season would start a week earlier, so it wouldn't seem as late as it is. Second, that week is the perfect time for a break. Each team will have played two league games and all three of its non-league games and will have five league games left.

Then there's the idea that the 10 games, 10 weeks haul is rough on the body and mind. A week off in the middle is the perfect rest for both.

TigerBlog was in the weight room yesterday with assistant coach Andrew Aurich. Shortly after that would be the first team meeting - after the head shots.

TigerBlog is fascinated each November by the last practice of the year. It seems like the time just flies by, and it many ways it does.

But it is a 13-week - that's one quarter of the year - process, with a lot of practice and repetition for only 10 games. By the time the last practice rolls around, it's cold, it's dark, it's nearly Thanksgiving.

Yesterday in the weight room, TB was thinking about the first practice, to be held on a 90-degree summer day, before Labor Day. What do they think before it starts? What do they think in November, at the end?

Anyway, it's starting today. Opening day is Sept. 19 at Lafayette. The home opener is Sept. 26 against Lehigh. The Ivy opener is against the Al Bagnoli-led Columbia Lions a week later.

Tramps like us? Baby we were born to run.

And, hopefully, to stop the run. And born to throw. That too. With multiple quarterbacks.

Princeton football 2015. It's starting today.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Getting Ready

TigerBlog doesn't quite remember exactly what he did in his last few days before he left for college.

He's pretty sure he didn't do what he and TigerBlog Jr. were doing yesterday afternoon, when they were reviewing how to use StatCrew, something that TBJ hopes to be doing when he arrives at Sacred Heart University in a a few days.

StatCrew is the program that basically every college uses to do in-game stats. Being able to do StatCrew, something TBJ has done for years, is a fairly valuable skill for a college student, who can make himself a pretty valuable part of the school's athletic communiations office.

Back in 2010, TigerBlog wrote this:
Back when TigerBlog first covering Princeton in his newspaper days, the shift to computerizing stats was just happening, though not yet for in-game. Instead, then - and through TB's first year or two here in the OAC - stats at all games were still done by hand, with a group of four or five or so people armed with papers, charts, pencils, a typewriter (to type the play-by-play) and blank box scores to fill in. It would take at least 30 minutes after a game to have a finished box.

And this:
All of the programs work in the same manner. Games are set up with the opponents and their rosters, and then all statistical entering is done by uniform numbers, not by names. The programs are designed to anticipate everything that can happen off of a given situation, so if you enter, say, a shot in soccer, the program knows that the next thing for that shot has to be that it was a goal, was a save, went wide, hit the post, was blocked, etc. 

Anyway, as anyone in athletic communications knows, having a student who can do StatCrew is an awesome luxury. Princeton has been lucky in the last few years, with rowers Dave Mackasey and Pat Eble on the keyboard - both of whom could churn out game after game across basically any sport, all without ever changing their expression and in most instances, not even looking up from their sandwich.

And now the Princeton OAC has Anna Broome, who will be a sophomore this year. Anna went from watching a game to inputting a game in StatCrew in less than one period of a hockey game, which is pretty impressive.

TigerBlog's hope is that TBJ makes that kind of impact at Sacred Heart. And not just for the money.

TBJ has a few days left until he packs up and ship off to Connecticut. TigerBlog is laughing at the difference between what he took to Penn way back when and what TBJ is currently packing up in the living room.

TBJ, for instance, has a brand-new laptop. TigerBlog? He had a brand-new electric typewriter. In fact, back then, TB thought he was completely cutting edge, with his built-in correct-tape.

TigerBlog actually had this conversation, word-for-word, with his son about it:

TB: Do you know what a correct-tape was?
TBJ: You mean like Scotch tape?
TB: No.
TBJ: I'll Google it.
TB: Correct-tape was the tape you needed for a typewriter. If you had a typo, you would hit the back button and then hold down the key for the correct-tape. Then you'd type the incorrect letter again, and it would erase that letter. Then you'd have to type the correct key. Then you'd have to do this for every mistake you made.
TBJ: What are you, 100 years old?

What else will TBJ be taking? Oh yeah. To listen to music, he'll be bringing his phone. To listen to music, TigerBlog brought a large turntable with even larger speakers.

TBJ's dorm room is equipped with a microwave oven and a refrigerator. TigerBlog had a toaster oven and had to carry a tiny refrigerator with him.

TBJ is one of the last of his friends to go, even though it's still August. His friend Matthew left last week and started classes this week, and his first class was Introduction to Computers, which is what he intends to major in. Or intended to major in. After his first class, he texted his dad and said "I want to change my major."

This is not without precedent. TigerBlog's first class was a political science class, held in the University Museum across Spruce Street from Franklin Field. That was his intended major when he first started out. Then he changed to history.

TigerBlog didn't go to college until early September. Princeton doesn't start until mid-September, though it does have the Outdoor Action for incoming freshmen.

TigerBlog was the only person in his high school class who went to Penn. He didn't meet the people who would be his best friends until his junior year - though he met all of them within the same five-minute span on move-in day that year.

TBJ will benefit from being on the lacrosse team, which will give him an immediate sense of belonging and comaraderie.

There is a lot of time spent at Princeton talking about the value of college athletics, and all of it is true. College athletics teach all kinds of great lessons, things that TB has written about over and over - things like the educational value of athletics, like the ability to develop good time management skills, like the need to put the team ahead of the individual.

The one thing that often gets overlooked is the value of being part of a team in the first place. From the time they walk on campus, Princeton's athletes - and Sacred Heart's and everyone else's - are immediately part of something. They have an instant group of friends. They have an instant base.

For now, the incoming freshmen at Princeton - other than the fall athletes - still have some time to go before they come to New Jersey. They can spend it packing, buying what they need, figuring out what to leave home.

And, hopefully, at least one of them is brushing up on StatCrew.

You can never have enough of them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

17-0, And Donn Cabral

It's game week for Princeton Athletics.

The first athletic event of the 2015-16 season is this Friday night, when the women's soccer team hosts Howard on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. It'll be the first game as women's soccer coach at Princeton for Sean Driscoll.

Howard has already played two games this season, having opened this past weekend, as did most of Division I women's soccer. The quick version is that Howard split its two games, losing to Radford and defeating Hampton.

Or TigerBlog could give you a little more detail if you like.

Howard's loss to Radnor was 4-2. Howard's win over Hampton was 17-0.

Like you, TigerBlog thought the score was a misprint when he saw it. But no. The final was 17-0. That is, by the way, one off the NCAA record for goals in a game, something that has been done four times.

Hampton is a first-year program, one that has now lost 16-1 (to Canisius) and 17-0. Hampton has been outshot 114-2 in the two games.

TigerBlog doesn't really know what to say, other than to wish the Pirates good luck as they get their program off the ground. Hampton's first-year schedule includes a trip to play at Yale and Dartmouth, by the way.

Hampton added two sports for this academic year. The other one is men's lacrosse. Hampton is one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which means that adding women's soccer and especially men's lacrosse gives the school a pioneering role in the world of intercollegiate athletics.

As for Howard, the team that Princeton will face, the Bison were 13-9-1 overall and 9-1 in the SWAC a year ago. They then won the SWAC tournament but could not get the league's automatic bid, as it was the team's first year in the SWAC, since the MEAC - Howard's normal home - does not have women's soccer.

This year, TigerBlog believes, Howard would be good to go, as it were, if it could win the SWAC tournament. In the meantime, the Princeton-Howard game will be the first of the 2015-16 academic year.

By the time the NCAA track and field championships roll around in June to end the year, Princeton will have played more than 600 games and competed in a bunch of other multi-team competitions, bringing the total number of events to more than 700.

The 2016 NCAA track and field championships will precede by two months the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio August 5-21. In other words, a year from today, they'll be over.

Princeton fans are of course rooting for Donn Cabral to be on the U.S. team in Rio for the Games. Cabral competed in the 2012 Olympics in London and, yesterday, ran in the final of the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the World Championships in China. Presumably the majority of China was more preoccupied with its economy yesterday, but that's another story.

As for Cabral, he ran an 8:35.44 to win the steeplechase at the 2012 NCAA championships (by five seconds, by the way). He then finished eighth at the London Olympics in 8:25.91.

He ran an 8:13.37 to finish second at the U.S. outdoor championships in June, running a time that would have been the meet record had Evan Jager not run an 8:12.29.

Yesterday in Beijing, Cabral's time was 8:24.94, earning him 10th in the race. The top four spots all went to Kenyans.

TigerBlog would definitely be as a better consultant to the new Hampton men's lacrosse program than he would be as an analyst of steeplechase times. As such, he asked head men's track and field coach Fred Samara and director of track operations Mike Henderson why Cabral's times could vary so wildly from June to August, or from the 2012 NCAA championships to the Olympics.

The answer turned out to be pace. It's all about the pace that gets set in any given race.

So TigerBlog learned something new.

As TigerBlog said earlier and wrote yesterday, he's a huge fan of Cabral, one of the most likeable and easy-to-root-for Princeton Athletes TB has seen in nearly 30 years here. He'll definitely be rooting for him to get back to the Olympics and to reach the finals again. And improve on the eighth place finish in 2012 and 10th place finish this year.

He's not sure if Cabral, who is 26, would have another Olympic cycle in him. Maybe he would. TB doesn't know if 30 is old for the steeplechase.

In the meantime, there's the start of a new athletic year a few days away.

TB's prediction is that Howard doesn't match its goal total from its previous game. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Question No. 5

Spencer Stone. Anthony Sadler. Alex Skarlatos.

Do you know those names? If not, read them. Remember them.

They're heroes. Real live, real life heroes.

They're the three Americans - two servicemen and one student at Sacramento State, childhood friends all three - who got on a train in Amsterdam to go to Paris as anonymous tourists and got off as international heroes.

In a world that seems to embrace celebrity for the sake of celebrity, which values achieving notoriety regardless of what it takes to do so, these three are now known throughout the country and world for every possible right reason.

As a crazed person with an AK-47 came out of a restroom intent on killing as many innocent people as possible, these three ran towards the man with the gun and neutralized the situation without any loss of life, and only three injuries - one of which was to Stone.

Even after the gunman was neutralized, Stone - himself cut with a box cutter - went to perform first aid on one of the others who was injured.

Think about what might have happened if these three had cowered under their seats? The story would have been about fatalities, lots and lots of them.

What would TigerBlog have done in the same situation? He has no way of knowing for sure, but he has a hunch.

He does know that he hopes to never find out. He does know that people like Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos inspire awe in TB for their courage and their willingness to put themselves in danger to help strangers.

They are real heroes, in a world that desperately needs them.

They're real inspirations.

TigerBlog has spent some time this summer answering a series of questions that were asked - anonymously - by someone. The questions were from a comment left under a previous story.

Here is the comment:
Now that the academic year is over, just a word to encourage more of your feature stories which include your personal memories or historical compilations. Here are some unsolicited ideas: Greatest games or events you've witnessed, with and without regard to historical context
Happiest moments you've experienced due to Princeton sports
Weirdest fluke plays
Most improbable comebacks
Most inspiring student-athletes


TigerBlog has already answered the first three. You can read them HERE, HERE and HERE.

TigerBlog is skipping over No. 4 for right now and going to No. 5. Who are the most inspiring student-athletes he's seen at Princeton?

He'll get to No. 4 soon.

Let TigerBlog start out by saying that he's not equating disarming a crazed terrorist on a train with competing in sports at Princeton University. He's just talking about inspiration today.

And the answer to the question? Well, it's a bit of a wimpy one, but it's true:

There are too many of them to name.

It's the reason anyone works at a place like Princeton. It's to be around young men and women of the caliber of the ones who compete as Princeton Tigers.

They are, obviously, great players. They are, obviously, great students. They also are out in the community, working with kids and adults, those who are homeless, needy and less fortunate.

There have been so many times in his nearly 30 years around these athletes that TigerBlog has shaken his head and thought to himself "where do these people come from? How did they get like this?"

Yes, for some of them, it all comes easily. They were just born with some sort of mechanism that makes them exceptional athletically and academically. TigerBlog has encountered very few, though, who took it all for granted and were cavalier about it.

You want a few names of those who have really made TB think "who are these people?"

How about Justin Tortolani, Class of 1992? He's one of the best lacrosse players in Princeton history and was one of the keystones of a dynasty that won six NCAA titles in 10 years, the first of which came his senior year, four years after Princeton was 2-13.

Today he's Dr. Justin Tortolani, a pediatric surgeon in Baltimore who in addition to his regular work has done countless hours of free medical care in the city.

How about Donn Cabral, an NCAA champion in the steeplechase who has now been a finalist at both the Olympics (eighth in 2012) and now the World Championships (he runs tonight in Beijing in the final)? You want humble? Talk to Donn Cabral for a few minutes, and you'll figure it out.

How about the late Dick Kazmaier, a man who won the Heisman Trophy and who, in all the years TigerBlog spoke to him, never once talked about "I," only "we?"

How about John Thompson and Jason Garrett, two of the most successful coaches in their respective sports, and yet two men who dropped everything to be at Conte's one night because they were needed their to try to help a young man who has been devastated by an awful disease? Thompson and Garrett, by the way, have foundations that spend a lot of money and offer a lot of time to touch an awful lot of unfortunate people.

How about women's basketball players like Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley, who have so many academic and service honors that TigerBlog has lost track and yet still combined that with the drive on the court to help their team go 30-0 in the regular season a year ago?

How about Julia Ratcliffe, who is an NCAA champion and NCAA runner-up in the hammer throw and also the winner of the national scholar-athlete award for track and field as well?

Maybe most of all, there was Bob Callahan,  Princeton's longtime men's squash coach, who passed away nearly a year ago from a brain tumor at just 59 years of age? Nobody, anywhere, has ever fought a terminal disease with greater grace than Bob did.

To be honest, TigerBlog could go on forever naming current and former Princeton athletes whose accomplishments are jaw-dropping. Hey, there are all of the alums who have come back to coach at Princeton through the years. Or are in the military. Or have joined Teach for America or the Peace Corps or any number of other noble endeavors.

If you're looking for a place filled with inspirational people, Princeton Athletics is a good place to start.

Friday, August 21, 2015

BB, And WBB

Today is BrotherBlog's birthday.

TigerBlog bought him a really nice card in plenty of time to get it to Seattle in time. The only problem, really, is that it's still sitting here in TB's desk drawer.

Yeah, TigerBlog is starting to doubt that the card will make it to BB by the end of the day. So, uh, yeah, sorry about that one.

To make it up to him, TigerBlog will formally wish his brother happy birthday in this spot.

BrotherBlog is two years older than TigerBlog. They do have some commonalities, such as the fact that their first names actually rhyme. And they both love musical theater.

Beyond that, they don't really have much in common, other than a fraternal bond that will last forever.

BrotherBlog is a lawyer, something that TigerBlog once considered becoming, only to be derailed more than 30 years ago, when his friend Jack McCaffery - then a sportswriter for the Trenton Times - said "hey, you want to cover some high school football games?"

BrotherBlog is also a first-class cook, a frequent world traveler - with a trip to Australia on the horizon - a multi-lingual speaker and a generally adventurous sort.

He and his brother used to share a bedroom back in their old house, until TB was 14. TigerBlog has lived his entire life within a 50-mile radius of that room. BrotherBlog left there long ago and has never lived anywhere near there since.

At various parts of his life he has lived in Washington, D.C., Cape Cod and even China. He settled in Seattle long ago, in a city that has welcomed more than one nomadic soul and given them a permanent home. For BrotherBlog, these days that means teaching at the University of Washington Law School.

Today BB is another year older. TigerBlog wishes him happy birthday - and apologizes for forgetting to mail the card. On the bright side, TB already has a card for him for next year.

So that's BB.

Then there's WBB, as in women's basketball. This season will be "year after" for the Princeton women's basketball team.

In case you forgot:

* the Tigers went 30-0 in the regular season a year ago
* there was the first NCAA win in program history, with a win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round
* Princeton ended up ranked 13th, the highest ranking in Ivy League women's basketball history
* the 31-1 record was the best in Ivy League men's or women's history
* Princeton was the only undefeated team in Division I women's basketball during the regular season; Kentucky was the only undefeated men's team

There were all kinds of other accomplishments last season. And now that's over.

On the other hand, this coming season isn't devoid of reason for optimism, even with the graduation of Ivy Player of the Year Blake Dietrick. Princeton returns four starters from last year, as well as some of its top reserves, and what looks like a pretty strong recruiting class enters the mix.

The schedule for 2015-16 is up on goprincetontigers.com, and there are seven non-league home games, along with the seven league games. Princeton drew at least 1,500 for its last three home games last year, including nearly 2,100 for the last game.

There's a four-game homestand over an eight-day stretch beginning Dec. 6, as Michigan, Monmouth, Pitt and Fordham all come to Jadwin Gym. TigerBlog can never remember a Princeton basketball team that played four home games in eight days.

The Dec. 6 game is especially special, and not just because Michigan assistant coach Melanie Moore used to be an assistant coach at Princeton.

Nope, that game is also special because it'll be on ESPN2.

It's a very big moment for the Princeton women's basketball program. A year ago, Princeton defeated Michigan by 30 in Ann Arbor, and you know Michigan will clearly remember that.

And it'll be on ESPN2. Princeton's ESPN contract has had games almost exclusively on ESPNU, but this one is on ESPN2.

It shows how serious ESPN is about women's basketball and how hot an entity Princeton is right now.

Even though the first Princeton athletic event has yet to be played (though it will be a week from today), it'll be basketball season soon enough. The opener for the women is Nov. 13, at home against American. That's less than three months from now.

TigerBlog's cousin Janet's birthday is a few days after the women's basketball opener, and TB is pretty sure he'll forget to send her a card too.

As for BrotherBlog, have a happy birthday.

TB and his brother have gone down completely different paths, and yet they remain invested in each other's lives.

As TigerBlog thinks about it, that's something pretty nice.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Challenge Accepted

Mary Sutton is leaving for college today.

Mary, the daughter of Princeton's longtime ticket manager Stephanie Sutton, is off to Loyola, the one in Baltimore. She will run cross country and track and field there, as well as presumably go to classes and such.

TigerBlog wishes her well. She's three days older than TigerBlog Jr., and she was born two rooms over from where TBJ was, in the old hospital that used to be on Witherspoon Street. Because they were so close in age, they reached pretty much every milestone at the same time, including now going to college, something Mary will have beaten TBJ to by nine days.

TB wishes Mary the best as she heads to school. Like TBJ, she spent a lot of her youth on this campus, and like TBJ, Mary long ago lost track of just how athletic events she's seen here.

Mary won 12 varsity letters at Princeton High School, four each in cross country, basketball and track and field. Only one women's athlete in Princeton University history has ever won 12 letters - TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs to name her.

In the meantime, TigerBlog stumbled onto an article yesterday that asked 11 Huffington Post (okay, it was forwarded to TB) employees about their experiences as college athletes.

Of the 11, nine had glowingly positive things to say about their experiences. Two - including a former Harvard football player whose career was derailed by three straight years of torn ACLs - didn't have the same memories of their time playing in college.

Interestingly, none of the athletes said "I was a star and the team won championships" and that was why they had a good experience. No, they all talked about the things that are always talked about at Princeton Athletics - teammates, the educational value of athletics, the overall experience, the way it prepared them for life. 


The first of TigerBlog Jr.'s friends to leave for school is his best bud, Matthew Anderson, who heads to Chestnut Hill tomorrow. When Matthew went to orientation, the president of CHC told the incoming freshmen how excited the school is to be fielding a sprint football team and that its first game ever will be against Princeton. 

Matthew and TBJ first played lacrosse together in fourth grade, which was actually TBJ's third year of playing.

Back then, playing lacrosse meant Lower Bucks Lacrosse, a local youth organization for players in grades 1-8. At the time, there was a pretty good in-house competition and a few games against some of the other local organizations.

TigerBlog ran the first- and second-grade league  - that's what happens when you wear "Princeton Lacrosse" gear to registration, which back then was at the municipal building and not yet online - and coached a team starting in third grade. He remembers getting destroyed in the first outside game in third game and wondering just how far down the lacrosse food chain LBL was.

As it turned out, it wasn't very far down at all. It turned out that TB and his son had stumbled onto some of the best youth lacrosse in the country. 

In all, TBJ played high school, youth or club lacrosse with 29 kids/men who will be playing in college beginning in the next few days, ranging from the highest levels of Division I through DII and DIII. Two of his other teammates will be playing football instead of lacrosse. One will be playing soccer. 

And they're all heading out soon to get started.

Of that group of 29, six will be playing against Princeton this year: Connor Howell (Stony Brook), Jack Auteri (Dartmouth), Zach Drake (Lehigh), Matt Brown and Grant Toller (NJIT - secret's out, Princeton opens with NJIT this year) and Curtis Zappala (Maryland). TigerBlog will state for the record that of all the players TBJ played with, Curtis was the best one.

Oh, and speaking of Princeton, the answer to the trivia question is Emily Goodfellow, who lettered four times each in field hockey, squash and lacrosse.

Meanwhile, will all 29 have good experiences? No chance. For that matter will all 29 still be on rosters when they're seniors? Highly unlikely.

But still, right now, they're all off to find out what is in store for them.

As for TBJ, he leaves a week from Saturday for Sacred Heart University. His arm is still in a sling, six weeks after surgery to repair a labrum tear in his shoulder.

This makes move-in something of a challenge. The doctor and his physical therapist have told him he can start to wean himself from the sling but that he needs to be really careful about lifting his arm up and about carrying anything heavy.

So can he go move into college with no sling on his arm and not carry anything while his parents do all the work? He'll look like a spoiled jerky kid/man that nobody will like.

On the other hand, his definition of "wean yourself from sling" is "take sling off and burn it."

For all of the 29, the opportunity and desire to play college varsity lacrosse impacted - and in fact drove - the choice of school. This doesn't mean that this was the only factor or that academics played no role. That wouldn't be true.

But for serious and skilled athletes, there's nothing wrong with having that be a huge part of the college experience.

It's a grueling world to be a college athlete, that's for sure.

TigerBlog has tried to get TBJ to understand this. His dream has always been to play Division I lacrosse, and now he gets to live out his dream - but he has to understand what he's signed up for.

He's going to need to be able to balance the needs of academics with those of athletics (and in his case, rehab). It won't be easy. TB has said this a million time, but between school, sports and fun, he'll only have time for two. The ones who get in trouble will be the ones who choose the sports and fun piece above school.

On the other hand, athletes are by definition forced to learn to handle more than non-athletes, and they are forced to develop good habits or they have no chance of being successful.

TigerBlog has been contacting the incoming freshmen for the men's lacrosse team about bios and such. They're in the same place as the 29 kids TBJ played with, only they're coming here.

Like TBJ, they have no idea what to expect when they get here. There's no way to know it until you go through it, TigerBlog supposes.

And like TBJ, they're finishing up their summers with their old friends, getting ready to pack and head to school and wondering what their immediate futures hold.

Being a college athlete isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and physical and mental determination.

They all do it because they love it.

They all love the idea of being able to play their sport at the next level, whether it's Mary Sutton and running or all these lacrosse kids or the rest of the athletes coming here to play 38 different sports.

They're accepting the challenge. It's not for everyone. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Fool And A Villain - Even If He Was Right

TigerBlog hasn't even had a chance to hate the Little League World Series yet before the women's side (girls' side, actually) took over.

Did you see this story?

The Little League Softball World Series is currently ongoing in Portland. The round-robin pool play was supposed to have ended Monday before a special playoff game was mandated by Little League International, who has oversight of all this stuff.

And why was there the need for the playoff game?

Well, there was a team from Washington state, a team from North Carolina and a team from Iowa in the hunt for two spots in the next round. As the tiebreakers played out, the team from Iowa would be eliminated if Washington beat North Carolina or scored three or more runs in a loss and regardless of what happened, Washington was to have advanced.

Instead, Washington was no-hit by Carolina. A great accomplishment? Hardly.

Throwing a no-hitter is easier when the team getting no-hit is the team doing the no-hitting, as in having the coach say "hey, no hitting."

Washington wanted to eliminate Iowa, and so its coach had its players all swing at pitches in the dirt and bunt on two strikes. In other words, intentionally not get on base.

The result was an 8-0 North Carolina win, which eliminated Iowa, who said "hey, wait a minute." Little League Softball said there was nothing that could be done, and then Little League International stepped in, ordering Washington to play a special play-off game against Iowa.

The narrative is pretty obvious - slimy coach ruins it for kids.

It goes a little deeper though. If you read the comments under the story, you'll see half of them are going down that path and half are saying that the point is to win the tournament and it's not Washington's fault that the tiebreaking rules were written the way they were.

TigerBlog has seen some scenarios for things like the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments where a team entered a weekend knowing that there was a way to win and not reach the tournament or lose and reach the tournament, but TB cannot remember a single one where a team has ever gone into a game knowing that if it lost the game it would advance and that if it won it would not.

Besides, that's not what's happened here. Washington was saying that it didn't want to play Iowa, so let's eliminate Iowa and worry about everybody else.

That is the 100% absolute wrong message to send young athletes on every possible level. We're here to win the national championship but we're afraid of a team?

Absurd.

As it turned out, Washington lost the play-in game 3-2. Iowa advances. Lesson learned?

What is the lesson for the kids? Seriously. What can they take away from this experience?

They would have advanced had their coach not told them to throw a game. Now, as it turns out, they didn't advance.

So what are they supposed to make of that? Defy authority? Stand up to the coach?

TigerBlog isn't quite sure. He does know that the Washington coach looks like a compete villain and fool - other than the inarguable fact that, as it turns out, he was right about the Iowa team. But still a villain and fool.

What does this have to do with Princeton?

Not one thing.

But hey, it was an interesting little side note in the world of sports. And besides, TigerBlog gets to cash in the "what does this have to do with Princeton? Not one thing" card five times a year or so.

Back here in Princeton, one team is already here practicing, the women's soccer team. Opening day is a week from Friday. Egads.

Beginning tomorrow, a bunch of other teams will be here to start their preseasons. Eventually it'll be time for football practice, games and everything else.

The Little League World Series is usually a sign for TigerBlog that summer is really winding down and that fall sports are right around the corner. So is the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

And the NFL preseason. TigerBlog has hardly watched any of it to this point.

TB did talk to his friend Mike Tuberosa at Drexel the other day. He sighed when he pointed out that Drexel women's soccer has already scrimmaged twice and now opens Friday. As in the day after tomorrow.

Tuberosa - Tubes, as he is known - said that no month flies by like August. He's right about that.

In college athletics, August starts out as a simple, calm, easy-going part of summer. By the time it's over, it's back to business.

In between? There are some diversions.

Like a softball coach from Washington, one whose trip to the Little League Softball World Series didn't go exactly as he might have hoped.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Study What You Like

TigerBlog wrote about the Mets the other day - and then they went out and got swept.

Jim Barlow, Princeton's men's soccer coach, pointed that out to TigerBlog yesterday morning.

The Mets are an interesting team. They play in the largest market, and they're biggest rival is the Yankees, who have what appears to be unlimited money.

And yet the Mets are basically small-market, crippled, it appears, by the whole Bernie Madoff situation, from which the team's owners lost a ton of money. In fact, the Mets - the New York Mets - have the 21st-highest payroll in baseball.

That's just ahead of the San Diego Padres. Just behind the Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies. For that matter, the Mets' payroll is $12 million less than the Royals.

In other words, the Mets are basically a small-market team, or at least what you think of in terms of how a small-market team operates. The team is strapped for money and can't simply go out and write blank checks to get whoever is needed for the stretch drive.

On the other hand, small market teams are easy to root for, right? They're the gritty underdogs, or at least as much as a team from New York City can be.

Anyway, when TB got the email from Barlow about how the Mets had been swept, his response was that the Nationals were swept also, so the Mets ended the weekend still 4.5 games up.

The whole conversation reminded TB of what John Thompson used to say when he was Princeton's men's basketball coach. The goal, he'd say, was to finish each weekend in first place.

And that's what the Mets have done.

TigerBlog remembered what Thompson said because he heard him say it a million times. What he meant was for everyone to calm down if the team had lost a game during the previous weekend, because it's not the end of the world. Just be in first place every Monday and you'll be fine.

Of course, if you lose too many games, you won't be in first place one of these Mondays. But mostly what Thompson was saying was that he couldn't go back and change what happened last week, so just focus on the next week, the next game, the next possession even. He said that all the time too.

When you hear someone say something you like over and over, it sticks with you. It resonates. You file it away and use it when it applies, which is when you'll need it most.

Bill Tierney, for instance, would always say "when things are going poorly, stop and ask yourself what you do best and do that." There's a lot to that, and TigerBlog has referred back to that many times.

And then there was this one: "Study what you like." TigerBlog heard Clayton Marsh say that a bunch of times in Freshman Student Athlete Orientation.

Clayton Marsh has been Princeton's Deputy Dean of the College since 2011. Prior to that, he was a member of the Office of the General Counsel.

In addition to his current position, Marsh also serves as the Faculty Athletic Representative, a position that is basically what you think it would be. Clayton's role has been to be a liaison between the Department of Athletics - and especially the athletes - and the members of the faculty.

As such, few people impact the experience Princeton's athletes have as much as the Faculty Athletic Rep, which for the last few years has meant Clayton Marsh.

Clayton is a 1985 Princeton grad who was an English major. He got a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Columbia and then graduated from Michigan law school.

His days at Princeton will be winding down, though, as he is leaving his positions here to move to Arkansas and start a new independent school. The University's official story is HERE.

TigerBlog has always liked Clayton Marsh. He doesn't know him that well, but he's worked with him enough to know that he's everything Princeton's athletes have needed in an advocate. He's passionate, smart, personable, approachable and friendly.

Oh, and "Study What You Like?"
That was always Clayton's advice to the incoming freshmen. Find what you have a passion for and study that. You'll be more successful that way.

What he was saying was that you shouldn't study something that you think is going to make you more marketable when you graduate if you have no interest in it, because you'll be shortchanging your undergraduate education here, of which you only get one.

The late, great Marvin Bressler, someone else who said a lot of things that resonated with TigerBlog, used to say that the Faculty Fellows program, for which he was the original, was good because it gave the athletes an "adult" to talk to. Clayton has been an extension of that.
Sometimes the athletes need an adult they can talk to. Other times, they don't need an adult to talk to, because they have an adult talking FOR them and they don't even realize it.

Clayton Marsh has reached so many Princeton athletes in that way. They probably haven't even realized it.

Good luck to him in Arkansas. He's definitely left a mark in Central New Jersey.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ted Cruz ’92, Mark Milley ’80

You might have heard that there's a campaign underway for the U.S. Presidency.

This is a campaign unlike any other that TigerBlog can remember. Maybe this is just how elections are going to be from now on?

There are 17 Republicans - extra credit if you can name them all. There are three Democrats so far - at least three who are actually campaigning. Again, it might be just as tough to name all three, as one appears to have gotten a bit more publicity than the other two. And of course, there may be a fourth entrant on the Democrat side, one who may shake some things up if he gets in.

TigerBlog is a huge student of politics. He majored in U.S. history, political history at that, and he's been tuned in ever since.

MotherBlog was an even bigger political animal than TigerBlog, though they seemed to have slightly different perspectives on things.

Anyway, TB can never remember this many contenders on one side and, essentially, one anointed one on the other side, unless that anointed candidate was a sitting President looking for reelection.

The last three elections that came after a President had served two full terms were the elections of 2008, 1988 and 1960. In 2008, there were 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. In 1988, there were nine Republicans and 13 Democrats.

To show you how much times have changed, in 1960 there were three Republicans and five Democrats. How many of each can you name? Hint - two attended Princeton and one graduated from Princeton.

Anyway, the 2008 election and 1988 election, the two most contemporary ones, had crowded fields on both sides. This time, it seems that one party has not attracted too many contenders.

There's a long way to go between now and Election Day 2016, which will be Nov. 8. The fields will narrow to one on each side, and the one who comes out of the Republican field will hardly remember that there were 16 others who wanted to be the one who did.

For now, though, it's fascinating theater.

Oh, and in 1960, the fields shaped up this way:
Democrats - John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Adlai Stevenson (he's the Princeton alum), Hubert Humphrey and Wayne More
Republicans - Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller

If you got them all, that's pretty good.

Meanwhile, back at this current race, there is one Princeton alum in the field, Ted Cruz, Class of 1992. TigerBlog was already covering Princeton sports from the time Cruz arrived on campus, and TB wonders how many times they crossed paths - if ever - without any sense of the fact that he was a future Presidential candidate.

For that matter, how many athletic events did Ted Cruz go to as a Princeton student? What athletes was he friends with as an undergrad?

Here's TigerBlog's real question: If you're a liberal Princeton alum, what do you think of Ted Cruz?

On the one hand, he's a Conservative Republican. On the other hand, Princeton loyalty is a serious thing. Hmmm. What would that polling date reveal.?

Whoever wins the Presidency will be, of course, the next Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

There is a new Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, which brings with it a spot on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The newest member has been on the job only three days, and he too is a Princeton alum.

And, in this case, a former Princeton athlete.

General Mark Milley, Class of 1980, lettered in hockey while at Princeton. Now he is one of the most important members of the United States Military.

TigerBlog wondered what both of these men wrote their Senior Theses on, so he looked it up. If you're keeping score:
Ted Cruz - Clipping the Wings of Angels: The History and Theory behind the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the United States Constitution
Mark Milley - A Critical Analysis of Revolutionary Guerrilla Organization in Theory and Practice.

There have been two Princeton alums who have gone to become President of the United States: James Madison and Woodrow Wilson.

There have been a ton who have gotten as close as Cruz has already, only to fall short. A few have made it even further than this, including Stevenson, who was the Democrat nominee in 1952 and 1956, losing both times to Eisenhower.

And of course, Bill Bradley - maybe the best athlete in Princeton history but at least in the top two with Hobey Baker - made a serious run in 2000, coming in as the runner-up to Al Gore on the Democrat side.

Will Cruz still be in the Presidential mix when the primaries start to roll by? Will he make a serious run?

Will liberal Princetonians root for him?

Stay tuned.

It's going to get more and more fascinating.

Oh, and by the way, you do know where Donald Trump went to college, right?