Friday, August 26, 2016

Opening Night

So Hope Solo earned a six-month suspension from U.S. Soccer for calling Sweden "cowards" after the loss in PKs at the Olympics earlier this month.

TigerBlog has a problem with this.

He's always had a problem with stuff like this. He had a problem when John Rocker was suspended by Major League Baseball for his rather repugnant comments in Sports Illustrated back in 1999 or so.

What's TB's problem? Is he condoning such speech?

No, but he's defending the right of people to be jerks if they so choose.

By all accounts, Hope Solo isn't a very nice person. There's certainly enough on-field and off-field evidence to suggest that's the case.

Had a Princeton athlete called an opponent "cowards" after a tough loss - either to reporters or through his or her own social media - TigerBlog would have cringed. He would have done more than cringe, actually. 

What would have happened next? TB isn't sure. There is a difference, though, between a college athlete who has a responsibility to represent a university and an athletic department and its values and a professional athlete like Solo.

But TigerBlog still has a problem, and it's this: Who gets to decide where the line gets drawn?

What if, instead of saying that the Swedes were "cowards," Solo had said "I have no respect for the way Sweden played the game." Then what? Suspension?

There was nothing profane about what Solo said. She didn't use any curse words. She didn't threaten anyone.

Was she suspended because nobody likes her and U.S. Soccer is trying to turn the page from her? If that's the case, is the governing body of soccer in this country ready to suspend for six months the next player - perhaps a very popular one - who ventures down a path of saying something critical and insulting without ever dropping f-bombs and saying "If I see that so-and-so again I will kill them."

Then what? Who knows? On the other hand, TB knows the realities of the world today.

The lesson for Princeton athletes is to be very, very careful what you say or what you write before you hit "send." It's the lesson that TB and colleagues stress each year. The penalties can be severe in this day and age - and everything out there is public and permanent.

What does TB tell them? He quotes his former Office of Athletic Communications colleague John Cornell, who said that they should know that before they hit that pesky send button, they need to know that what they say is going to be seen by "their parents, coaches, teammates, officials, opponents, friends and the person on the admissions board of the medical school they're dying to get into and the hiring manager at their dream job."

Another Princeton Athletic year begins today, as the women's soccer team hosts Fordham at 7. The page turns on the wild success of last year - 14 Ivy titles, another non-Ivy title, a 33rd-place finish in the Directors' Cup - and a new blank canvas awaits.

That last sentence is a bit more formal than TigerBlog usually offers, but it wasn't bad.

Anyway, TB heads into 2016-17 hoping that the lessons John Cornell first put forward will be adhered to by all of Princeton's athletes, coaches and staff.

Enough of that. It's game day.

The first game of the new year is always exciting. This year, the women's soccer team has the entire stage to itself.

Princeton went 14-4-1 a year ago, including a 6-0-1 run through the Ivy League, in Sean Driscoll's first year as Tiger head coach. Princeton won the outright Ivy title and then a first-round NCAA tournament game against Boston College.

The big story for Princeton this year revolves around the 1-2 scoring punch of Tyler Lussi and Mimi Asom.

Lussi scored 15 goals last year to earn Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight year. Asom scored 12, earning her the Ivy Rookie of the Year award.

How many other times has Princeton women's soccer had two players score at least 12 goals in the same season? That would be one other time, back in the magical 2004 NCAA Final Four season, when Esmeralda Negron had 20 and Emily Behncke had 13.

Speaking of Negron, she enters the 2016 season as the all-time leading goal scorer and point scorer in Princeton soccer history. That includes the men and the women.

Negron scored 47 goals and had 112 points in her career. Lussi enters tonight's game with 43 goals and 98 points, meaning she has a pretty good chance to break Negron's records.

Of course Asom is waiting her turn to make a run at the record book herself. Her 12 goals last year put her two ahead of where Lussi was after her freshman year.

Princeton women's soccer is more than just those two, of course, but they are not to be missed. Lussi is more of a finesse scorer like Negron. Asom is more of a power shooter like Behncke.

Princeton will be home again Sunday, also at 7, against Villanova. That game will be televised on ESPNU. As nuts as it seems, Princeton will have played 25 percent of its home schedule by Aug. 28.

So get out to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium this weekend.

It's free. And well worth the time.

And if you can't? Well, enjoy the last weekend of August doing whatever it is you're doing.

Don't worry. TigerBlog won't call you names.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

As The Summer Winds Down

When TigerBlog heard there'd been a devastating earthquake in Italy, his first thought was of the Princeton men's basketball team, who is touring the country on its international trip.

TB emailed his colleague Andrew Borders, who is with the team. The Tigers were in Rome Monday and then left for Florence, which was about 90 miles away from the epicenter.

That seems sort of close, but Andrew reported that he didn't feel it, didn't hear it, wasn't awakened by it.

The earthquake itself was awful, with nearly 160 fatalities. The mayor of one of the hardest hit locations said that the town essentially ceased to exist. That is scary, horrible stuff. TigerBlog can't imagine it, a town of people asleep one minute and the next minute everything is gone.

Safely in Florence, the Tigers toured the city yesterday, including a stop in a museum to see Michelangelo's "David." You can read about Princeton's day in Italy HERE.

As for the women, they are in Australia, where two of the players offered their thoughts on the early stages of the trip. One of them, Taylor Brown, signed her entry "TB;" TigerBlog is okay with that.

If you want to read what the other "TB" said, and what Gabrielle Rush said, click HERE.

Closer to home, yesterday was the first day of Princeton football practice. Opening day is a mere 23 days away.

TigerBlog has yet to watch one down of NFL preseason football this summer. The Olympics probably explain that.

Princeton opens Sept. 17 at home against Lafayette before heading on the road for three straight weeks, at Lehigh, at Columbia and at Georgetown. Then it's home for Brown and Harvard, at Cornell, home for Penn, at Yale and home for Dartmouth.

TigerBlog isn't quite ready for fall just yet. The weather here, though, seems to be hinting that the end of summer is approaching.

In fact, TB would say there have been about five days all summer in which the weather was absolutely perfect, and the beginning of this week accounted for three of them. The rest of the time the average temperature has been about what it takes to bake pizza, and that kind of weather returns starting today.

Because of that, TigerBlog isn't ready to talk about football just yet.

On the other hand, there is a little more than 24 hours until the first Princeton athletic event of the year, a women's soccer game against Fordham tomorrow night at 7. The second event will be women's soccer against Villanova Sunday at 7 in the first of Princeton's ESPNU's events of the 2016-17 academic year.

Every time a new year is about to start, TigerBlog thinks back to his years in the newspaper business. He was little more than a kid back then. Each year would go by, and when it came to the end, TB would tell himself the same thing - one more year, and then it's time to get a "real" job.

This year will be 33 years since his first trip around the academic calendar as a sportswriter, which was just a prelude to working here at Princeton. He's not 100 percent sure when he gave up on getting a "real" job and he's not really sure what that "real" job might have been.

He does know it wouldn't have been as much fun as the one he stuck with, and he would have missed out on so many great experiences and meeting so many great people.

TB has also told this story several times before, but when he was in the newspaper business, the president of The College of New Jersey (then Trenton State College) was a man named Harold Eickoff. Each year there was a kickoff luncheon for boosters and the local media and others, and TB would always go. And Dr. Eickoff would always make the same statement - "I predict that this year all Trenton State teams will go undefeated."

Also at this time of year, he thinks back to the summer before his first year in the Office of Athletic Communications. TB started on July 1, and it seemed like the next two months took forever, before athletic events actually began. He remembers having a conversation with then-baseball coach Tom O'Connell, who recently passed away, about how he liked his new job and all and how anxious he was for the games to start.

That's the lure of working in sports. The games. The athletes. The coaches.

Anyone can work in an office.

Working in sports is different. TigerBlog can't tell you how many times he's heard from a friend or someone he's just met who says "you get to go to games for a living?"

Yes. TB does.

And they start again tomorrow.

Summer is not quite over, but it's getting there. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Called For Traveling

TigerBlog has been lucky in his life to have had the opportunity to travel, both in this country and internationally. Much of it, especially in this country, has been with Princeton Athletics.

He's been to Europe five times. By his count, he's been to 16 European countries, and none of them are England, France or Italy.

Unless the airport counts. Does it?

TigerBlog was in Paris as a stopover on the way to Tel Aviv. He was in Rome as a go-between on his way from Turkey to Greece. That was in 1974, when Turkey and Greece were fighting a way over Cyprus, which made the direct flight from Istanbul to Athens cancelled.

Anyway, those were the only times he was in France or Italy. And never, not even a layover, in England.

So does that count?

There was a time when TigerBlog's only time being in Kentucky was when Princeton played at Xavier (twice, in the 1999 NIT and in the 1999-2000 regular season) in Cincinnati. If you don't already know it, the Cincinnati airport is actually in Northern Kentucky.

TigerBlog wasn't sure that counted as being in Kentucky, at least until the Tigers played at Louisville in the 2002 NIT.

One trip that TB has never made is the one to Australia. It seems sort of far, and the thought of a plane ride that long is a tad daunting.

As TigerBlog writes this, the Princeton men's basketball team is definitely in Italy and the women's basketball team is definitely in Australia.

The NCAA allows teams to take an oversees trip once every four years, and many Princeton teams through the years have been fortunate enough to take advantage of the opportunity. The two basketball teams are the latest to be far from home.

The men's team left over the weekend for Italy. You can see how the first few days in Rome went HERE.

The women's team left Monday for Australia. You can see what they were thinking about the trip by clicking HERE.

The first person TB thought of when he saw the men's basketball team was going to Rome was Devin Cannady. Hopefully you read the stories that Cannady wrote for goprincetontigers.com about his summer in Tanzania.

Anyway, TB wondered if Cannady went from Africa to the U.S. and then to Europe or if he met the team in Italy. The answer is summed up in three words: frequent flier miles.

The two trips are similar. The teams will travel, see the sights, have some cultural and educational experiences - and play basketball.

Each team will have the opportunity to play some high quality opponents while overseas, and they'll also benefit from pre-trip practices and practices while on the road.

The teams are in somewhat different places as the 2016-17 season looms ahead, but both have the exact same goal - to get to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton's women proved a year ago that an Ivy League team can get into the NCAA tournament without the league's automatic bid and made the Ivy League a two-bid league for the first time ever, for men's or women's basketball.

Princeton women's basketball is riding a huge wave of success, with six NCAA tournaments in the last seven years. This coming season, though, will be different.

The Tigers built the first stage of that success on 1,000-point scorers like Niveen Rasheed, Lauren Edwards, Addie Micir and Devona Allgood and then the second stage of that run on the next wave of 1,000-point scorers, like Blake Dietrick, Alex Wheatley and Michelle Miller. All of those players are gone, as are Annie Tarakchian and Amanda Berntsen, who started with Wheatley and Miller a year ago.

This will be a completely rebuilt Princeton women's team, and that makes for an exciting challenge for Courtney Banghart and her staff. Of course, the expectations don't change, and neither do the goals.

Princeton's men also reached the postseason last year, playing a really entertaining first round NIT game at Virginia Tech before falling 86-81 in overtime. Every player who played for Princeton in that game is back this year, as is a strong recruiting class and big man Hans Brase, who missed last year with a knee injury.

TigerBlog has watched a lot of Princeton basketball in his life. He can tell you that last year's team was one of the most exciting to watch, and this year's will be even more so. And with Cannady Princeton has a you-don't-want-to-turn-away player who can do anything at any given moment.

The huge difference this year in Ivy basketball, of course, is the advent of the league tournament. The top four teams will advance to the event, which will be held at the Palestra, and the winners will get the automatic bid, though the regular season winner will be the official league champion.

The tournament will be held March 10 and 11. That's seven months away.

Basketball season, though, has sort of started for Princeton's two teams - with a few away games.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Drive Time

TigerBlog pulled the car into the park, drove over to the side and switched seats with Miss TigerBlog.

About two hours earlier they had arrived at the motor vehicle office. About an hour earlier they had left, complete with MTB's learner's permit.

And now it was time.

MTB got behind the wheel - and moved the seat all the way back. Then TigerBlog started at the beginning, you know, with how to put the key in the ignition, how to start the car, how to put the car into drive.

TigerBlog's first memory of learning to drive is that he was surprised that when he took his foot off the brake that the car moved without having to hit the gas. He passed those words of advice on to TigerBlog Jr. when he first learned to drive and now with MTB.

MTB turned the car on and then put it in to drive. Then she took her foot off the brake. The car moved about 10 feet forward, and then she put her foot back on the brake. Actually, she almost put her foot all the way to the floorboard, since the car, which never really went any faster than, say, a bicycle or even a walker, slammed to a major stop.

The park has a pretty wide roadway, and it was basically empty, which is why TB chose it for MTB's debut. Much like her brother three years ago, she drove around the park for about a half hour, practicing lefts and rights, and then went out on the road for the first time.

She did okay, though she was a bit afraid of going too fast. It led to this actual conversation:
MTB: how fast is the speed limit here?
TB: 35.
MTB: how fast am I going?
TB: Eight.

She's actually come a long way in a short time. It's been four days now, and she's gotten much better.

She is struggling with the same three things that her brother did when he first started:

1) she stays closer to the side of the road because she's afraid of being too close to the cars coming towards her
2) she makes 90-degree right turns
3) when she makes left turns when there is no stop sign or light, she basically stops midway through the turn before accelerating

Still, she'll get there. And she's finally figured out how to stay closer to the speed limit. In fact, she even made it all the way up to 50 in a 45 zone for awhile.

She has to drive a minimum of 65 hours before she can take her road test. She also has to wait at least six months, which means she can't get her actual license until February. By then she'll be just fine, unless it snows or something on the day she has to take the test.

Then comes the huge, and unsolvable, math problem: if two children both want a car and there's only one car to give them, what does TigerBlog do? That's for way down the road, though.

For now, it's late August. It's game week for Princeton Athletics 2016-17.

The women's soccer team hosts Fordham Friday and Villanova Sunday, both with 7 p.m. starts. The Villanova game will be on ESPNU.

It's the first two chances of the year to see Princeton teams play, and the first of 16 home soccer games this year between the men's and women's teams.

The Princeton women are the defending Ivy League champion after last year's 6-0-1 run through the league. The Tigers, who defeated Boston College in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, return their two dynamic scorers from a year ago, senior Tyler Lussi and sophomore Mimi Asom. Lussi figures to smash Esmeralda Negron's career records for goals and points - by a woman or man - and then Asom figures to take a run at whatever records Lussi's leaves. 

Because of the Olympics, TigerBlog never got around to mentioning one last thing from 2015-16.

Princeton played 621 games last year. This only counts events last year when Princeton played one other team, not things like cross country meets or track meets and the like.

Princeton finished last year with a total record of 371-242-8, or a winning percentage of .604, which, by the way, is really, really good. No wonder Princeton won 14 Ivy titles and 15 league titles.

It's also one more win than the previous year, when Princeton went 370-249-12. A little quick math shows that Princeton played 631 games in 2014-15, or 10 more than this past academic year.

If you want to add those two together, by the way, then Princeton teams are 741-491-20 in Mollie Marcoux Samaan's first two years as Ford Family Director of Athletics.

The overall record this past year is phenomenal. The record of Princeton's women's team was off the charts.

Princeton women went 204-101-3 a year ago. That's a winning percentage of .667. That's two-thirds. That two of every three times out.

No wonder Princeton women won 10 Ivy League titles a year ago, marking the first time one school had reached double figures in a single gender.

So that was last year. This year's record is 0-0.

At least for a few more days.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Goodbye, Rio

There's something wrong with TigerBlog's TV.

There's no Olympics on it anymore. This can't be right, can it? When he clicked on the streaming menu, there were no live events. No track? No swimming? No horse-dancing?

Anyway, TB is on hold with the cable company. Surely they'll be able to fix the problem.

What? They're over? No way. That was quick.

It seems like only yesterday that NBC was gushing over Michael Phelps and showing his mother, girlfriend and baby more than they would dare show any non-American in the pool. Ah, those were the days.

The U.S. won 46 gold medals and 121 total medals in Rio. The next best totals were 27 golds (Great Britain) and 70 total medals (China).

Of the 121 medals (it's actually more people who won them, since each team medal counts as one), there were three won by Princetonians, one of each, to be exact.

The bronze medal was won by Diana Matheson as part of the Canadian women's soccer team. For Matheson, it was the second bronze of her career, after winning the same medal in 2012 in London.

Matheson is now 32. Her international career preceded her enrollment at Princeton in 2004, so she is quite the veteran. Earning two Olympic bronze medals is extraordinary, especially since Canada has not had great success in Summer Olympic team sports through the decades. In fact the 2012 medal was the first by a Canadian team in the Summer Games since basketball in 1936.

The silver medal went to the incredible Gevvie Stone, who coupled Olympic training with medical school. Stone won silver in the single sculls rowing, which is basically 2,000 meters of burning muscles with nobody out there to help ease the burden. She had finished seventh four years ago in London.

Even beyond her accomplishment, Stone became an instant all-time TigerBlog favorite by posting a comment under the blog that TB wrote about her medal:
"Wow" to your article TB. Thank you! I'm very proud to be a tiger!!! And, I gained a ton from my four years in the wonderful orange bubble!

How cool is that?

Proud to be a Tiger. It's a bond that lasts forever, and it's why every Princeton alum everywhere was pulling for her n her race.

The gold belongs to Ashleigh Johnson, the goalie on the women's water polo team and possibly the best women's water polo player in the world. She certainly dominated at the Olympics, and if you dominate there, then you certainly can make a case for being the best.

Her honors certainly back it up. She was named the outstanding goalie at the tournament. Her team was unbeaten. And she was this amazing force on the back line that allowed her teammates to play with incredible margin for error.

Johnson joins Bill Bradley as Princeton athletes who will have won gold medals at the Olympics and then returned to compete for Princeton. TB is pretty sure Nelson Diebel did not swim for Princeton again after winning two goals in Barcelona in 1992, though he has to double check that.

As for Johnson, she brought incredible publicity to Princeton and Princeton water polo. She had an endless amount of attention from the international media, and she backed it up in the pool. She was a great ambassador for Princeton and for what Princeton Athletics strives to be, which is a place where people can reach their highest athletic goals without having to sacrifice any part of their educational opportunity.

Johnson will be back in DeNunzio Pool this spring with the Tigers. That is absolute can't-miss stuff for sports fans of all kinds, not just Princeton fans or water polo fans.

And with that, the Rio Olympics are over.

Ah, but TigerBlog still has a few thoughts:

* TigerBlog was crushed by the disqualification of assistant men's cross country coach Robby Andrews in the 1,500 semifinal. It was a really close call, and it could have gone either way. Andrews was boxed in with nowhere to go, and it did look like he was forced across the line. It made watching the 1,500 final tough, since Andrews would have been right there for a medal, along with gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz, who ran a great race. Still, the time was slow, and Andrews is a great finisher.

* It seemed like the DQs in the track and field races were almost random. The one that really flabbergasted TigerBlog was when American Paul Chelimo finished with the silver medal in the 5,000 meters, only to be DQd - and then reinstated. What possibly changed? The tape was still the tape. Why was he possibly DQd in the first place? He never should have been, and TB is glad he got his medal back. And Chelimo also handled himself flawlessly when he was told he was DQd - on live TV during an NBC postgame race, no less. It seemed like an unnecessary attempt to create drama by NBC, but Chelimo handled it gracefully.

* TigerBlog lost track of how different events he watched. One he liked a lot was the rhythmic gymnastics. It seems much more graceful than the regular gymnastics, and the way the competitors are able to incorporate the ribbons or the hoops or the other things they use is really impressive - and athletic. The whole event made TB wonder how those gymnasts get involved in the rhythmic side as opposed to the more mainstream one.

* Other (non-mainstream) events TB liked a lot - trampoline, kayak and canoe, all of the rowing, midnight beach volleyball (especially how the fans got into it), synchronized diving, synchronized swimming (though not as much as the diving), team handball, field hockey (men's and women's). And of course, horse dancing (a.k.a, dressage).

* Sports that are wildly out of place in the Olympics - golf and tennis.

* Sports that drew great ratings that TB hardly watched - regular gymnastics, basketball (men's and women's), men's soccer, women's soccer (minus Matheson).

* If Carmelo Anthony really wants to impress TigerBlog, he'll do it in the NBA playoffs, not in the Olympics. Sorry, but winning the Olympics is not a great accomplishment for a team of NBA stars.

* His favorite non-Princeton athletes in the Games were Usain Bolt and Katie Ledecky. There is something about seeing incredible greatness take things to another level. That's what those two did. TigerBlog actually wonders what percentage of American sports fans were rooting for Bolt and Jamaica when he took the baton for the final leg of the 4x100 relay. His sense is it's a high percentage. Oh, and the U.S. had never DQd in a 4x100 men's relay in Olympic history until three Olympics ago, and now the U.S. has done so three straight times, while Bolt and Jamaica won each time. Is there a mental thing there?

* Dartmouth grad Abbey D'Agostino didn't win a medal or reach the women's 5,000 final, but she came away from Rio as an international symbol of sportsmanship, determination and grit. After an unfortunate spill, she first helped the New Zealand runner over whom she had fallen to her feet and exhorted her to finish and then hobbled around the track for more than four more laps to finish herself. It turned out she had a torn ACL, torn meniscus and strained MCL.

* As for Ryan Lochte, is it that hard to imagine that he and some of his teammates went out, got drunk and found trouble?

* Did you see the Japanese woman wrestler who won a gold? When her coach came out to celebrate, she took him to the mat and pinned him - and then carried him around on her shoulders. Now that was pure joy.

* The ability to watch events live through the NBC streaming made the packaged primetime coverage look even sillier. The streaming is the best advancement in Olympic coverage that TB can remember, especially since the explosion of social media makes it nearly impossible not to find out who already had won before the night's coverage began. This will be even bigger in the next three Olympics, all of which are in Asia - the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in China.

* And speaking of TV, what percentage of the millions of people who watched gymnastics, track and field and swimming will watch any of those sports on television again at any point of the next four years? Less than one? It's a fascinating dynamic for TigerBlog. Those sports come into the main focus of the Olympics and then basically disappear, only to come back again in four more years as the feature sports of the next Games.

So that's about it for these Olympics.

It was a great run for Princeton in Rio, where 11 former and two current Tigers took their best shot against the rest of the world. Their presence, and the rest of a wildly entertaining Summer Games, made this one of the best two weeks of sports in a long time.

And now? Olympic withdrawal.

But that's okay. You know what this week is?

Game week for Princeton Athletics, whose first event of 2016-17 is this Friday.

Friday, August 19, 2016

As The Olympics Near Their End

TigerBlog interrupts the Olympics to talk about the passing of John McLaughlin.

Did you ever see "The McLaughlin Group?" John McLaughlin, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 89, was the moderator of the show. He was famous for saying "Bye, Bye" in a deep, elongated way at the end of each show, and for saying "Issue No. 1" or "Issue No. 2" and so on - always with great excitement - prior to each segment.

The format would have two commentators from the left and two others from the right, and McLaughlin would be in the middle as the moderator. It remains TigerBlog's favorite political show ever - and TigerBlog loves to watch political shows.

TB didn't know that McLaughlin at one time had been a Jesuit priest. If anything, the way he would whip his panelists into a frenzy was quite non-clergy-like.

TigerBlog was introduced to the show by MotherBlog, who loved a good political spat each weekend. She and TB would watch together sometimes, or watch separately and then check in by phone, but there weren't too many weekends that would go by without some conversation - and mostly disagreement - about "The McLaughlin Group" and the issues that were discussed.

When TB saw McLaughlin had died, it took him back to all those times he had entertained him and his mother. And clearly many others - if entertain is the right word - as last week's show was the first in 34 years that the moderator had missed.

And now, back to the Olympics, though TB will stay on the subject of commentators to start.

For many Olympics sports, there isn't regular TV coverage any other time. As such, the scramble is to find a color commentator who knows the game, and so usually the result is a recent former player with limited broadcasting experience - and it shows.

You know who is a great announcer? Ato Boldon, who is one of the track and field color commentators.

Boldon won four Olympic medals - a silver and three bronze - as a sprinter for Trinidad and Tobago. He brings that background to the Games, and he does an outstanding job of blending the mechanics of racing with what it's like to be a competitor on that stage. He stays calm almost all the time, so that when he does get excited, you know it's something important, as opposed to swimming color commentator Rowdy Gaines, who gets excited on every race.

Boldon was at his best yesterday. He started in the morning, when the leadoff runner for the Dominican Republic's relay team false-started, DQing the whole team. TigerBlog immediately wondered what the other three runners were thinking, and Boldon then basically said that if that had happened to him, there would be some fisticuffs in the locker room. The way he said it was perfect.

Then he showed the other side of his work with his call of Usain Bolt's win in the 200. Boldon laid out the ground work for the event, talked about why Bolt was so good and then got excited without having to scream or make it seem forced when Bolt won. 

The track coverage has been excellent. Dan Hicks sets the stage and then gets out of the way, letting either his color commentators - including Princeton alum Craig Masback, who is also very good - say their piece or letting the moment speak for itself.

The Olympics are winding down now.

Hey, the biggest sporting event of the weekend isn't even in Rio. It's in Kennesaw, Ga., where the Ohio Machine will play the Denver Outlaws in the Major League Lacrosse championship game. Ohio's Tom Schreiber, a three-time first-team All-America at Princeton, was named the MLL Most Valuable Player yesterday.

For now, though, it's still about the Olympics.

It was a tough night for assistant cross country coach Robby Andrews, who would have reached the 1,500 final had he not been DQd for stepping out of the track as he tried to pass on the inside in the final 50 meters. Did he get bumped? Did he do the bumping?

What really stinks for Andrews is that so many athletes have been given a second chance by falling - including a runner in Andrews' 1,500 semifinal - but Andrews was just bounced for getting tangled up and having to step across the line. Had he sprawled across the infield, he might still be running.

Today is a huge day for Princeton, as Diana Matheson plays for her second straight bronze medal and Ashleigh Johnson goes for gold.

Matheson will play for the Canadian women's soccer team against host Brazil in the bronze medal game at noon. It was Matheson who scored the goal four years ago against France to give the Canadians a 1-0 win in the bronze medal game in London, and now she's back playing for another one.

Her role has diminished a bit as she is now in her 30s, and it's possible this is her final game in either the Olympics or World Cup. She is, though, one of the best international players Canada has ever produced - not to mention one of the main reasons Princeton reached the 2004 NCAA Final Four in women's soccer.

As for Johnson, she and the U.S. team go for water polo gold at 2:30 against Italy. Both teams are 5-0 in these Olympic Games.

Johnson has become an international force as the U.S. goalie, and she will go from this back to being Princeton's goalie for her senior year. Should the U.S. women beat Italy, TigerBlog believes that Johnson would join rower Caroline Lind as Princeton women who have won gold medals (something Lind has done twice).

By the time TigerBlog sits down to write again, the Olympics will be over. TigerBlog has watched a ton of the coverage, rooting for the Princeton athletes, of course, and some others.

There have been some great storylines and great performances. There have been those who had the highest of highs and others who become nothing but a punchline. For instance, it's hard to imagine the Games could have gone much better for Katie Ledecky or much worse for Ryan Lochte.

TB will miss having all the different events to watch.

Of course, there's still today. Matheson at noon. Johnson at 2:30. One with a medal from four years ago, trying to match that. The other knowing she has her first medal and wanting to make it gold.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Medal For Ashleigh Johnson, History For Donn Cabral

Ashleigh Johnson's day started on "The Today Show" and ended with an Olympic medal.

That's not too bad of a day, right?

The remaining question for Johnson is what color her medal will be? She won't find that out until tomorrow, when her U.S. women's water polo team takes on Italy in the gold medal game.

Win and it's gold. Lose and it's silver.

Oh, if you want to see "The Today Show" piece, you can click HERE.

And if you want a much more in-depth view on Johnson, including quotes from her Princeton coach Luis Nicolao, then you'll want to go to the Sports Illustrated podcast HERE

So far, nobody has beaten either of the two teams in the final, both of whom are 5-0 after going unbeaten in group play and then winning two knockout games.

The game with the most pressure is the semifinal. A win there assures a medal and allows a team to focus on winning a championship. A loss and a team has to regroup quickly, understanding that the shot at gold is gone and that another loss means that even the bronze has slipped away. That means going from the euphoria of the medal round to out of it in seemingly no time.

Actually, even worse than that is when you lose the semifinal and there's an upset on the other side, and suddenly you're playing a gold medal favorite for the bronze medal.

The U.S. defeated Hungary 14-10 in the semifinal yesterday. It wasn't the best performance the Americans have ever had, possibly due to the whole semifinal mental thing. There wasn't really any time in the game, though, where it seemed like the team was in any trouble.

Johnson has been one of the leaders for the U.S. team, which won the gold medal four years ago as well. She will go from Rio back to Princeton, where she will play as a senior this coming academic year.

Not to get ahead of anything, but TigerBlog thinks that Princeton has only had two athletes ever win a gold medal at the Olympics and then come back to compete for the Tigers. One was Bill Bradley in basketball in 1964. The other was Robert Garrett, who won two gold medals in track at the first modern Olympics in 1896.

That means that Johnson, should the U.S. win tomorrow, would be the first female gold medalist ever to come back to compete for the Tigers. Unless TB is forgetting someone. 

No matter what, it'll be a must for any sports fan to get to DeNunzio this spring to see Johnson play.

Johnson's medal, silver or gold, will be the second for Princeton in Rio. The first was the silver won by Gevvie Stone in women's singles sculls.

There is one other possible medal for Princeton, and that will be in women's soccer, where Diana Matheson and Canada will play Brazil in the bronze medal game. Matheson has already won a bronze medal, four years ago in London, over France 1-0 on a goal Matheson scored just before the final whistle.

Donn Cabral didn't win a medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, though Evan Jager did (the silver), becoming the first American since 1984 to win a medal in the event.

Cabral finished 10th, no ninth, no eighth - crossing the line 10th and then moving up one spot and then another when two other runners were disqualified after the fact, including the bronze medalist.

One way to look at it is that Cabral didn't win a medal. The other way to look at it is that Cabral now has two top eight Olympic steeplechase finishes, making him one of the greatest American steeplechasers of all time.

How many American steeplechasers have finished in the top eight in two different Olympics? How about six. Cabral, Jager, Brian Diemer (1984, 1992), Henry Marsh (1984, 1988), George Young (1964, 1968) and Glen Dawson (1932, 1936).

If you look all-time, there have been 22 times in which an American steeplechaser has finished in the top eight at the Olympics. Of those 22, there were 13 who did it between 1920 and 1948 and four others who did it between 1952 and 1968.

So yes, Cabral is one of the greatest American steeplechasers of all time. And he's only 26. Will he be back in four years?

Robby Andrews and Priscilla Frederick, assistant coaches at Princeton, compete today, Andrews in the 1,500 semifinals and Frederick in the high jump. The gold medal water polo game and the bronze medal women's soccer games are tomorrow. The finals for the men's 1,500 and women's high jump are Saturday.

Lastly, TigerBlog wants to say one more thing about Abbey D'Agostino and Usain Bolt.

It turns out D'Agostino has a completely torn ACL, a torn meniscus and a strained MCL and yet she got up and ran more than four laps after getting hurt in the women's 5,000 the other day. It brought her international headlines, including the front page of the New York Post.

TigerBlog wonders how much worse D'Agostino's knee got in those four laps. He also thinks she probably doesn't care, because she was determined to finish no matter what.

That whole incident, with D'Agostino and New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin on the track, helping each other up and then both finishing, is one of the most heartwarming moments TB can remember in a sporting event. It actually is more than that.

As for Bolt, has any champion athlete ever made competing look like more fun than he does? Has any heavy favorite ever been easier to root for than Bolt?

On top of that, Bolt is completely respectful of everyone and everything around him. He knows he's the show. He knows he's the one everyone wants to see. He knows that most of the people who race against him would love to get their picture with him.

Did you see him getting interviewed after his 200 semifinal last night? Not on TV. Off the track, when he was talking to a few reporters at once. You couldn't hear what anyone was saying, but the interviewers were all laughing.

Even beyond that, he earlier cut an interview short because a national anthem was playing during a medal ceremony for a different event. That's mostly unheard of in 2016.

It's a reminder that in this day of me-first, notice-me, in-it-for-the-obscene-money, let-me-stare-down-my-opponent-when-I've-done-the-simplest-things, no-taunt-is-unacceptable that there still exists something that used to be called "sportsmanship" before it started to be destroyed little by little.

And yet it's still out there. And because of that, there's hope for the entire sports world.

Courtesy of a Dartmouth grad. And an Jamaican sprinting legend.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Orange And Black In Rio, With A Little Green Mixed In

If you saw Abbey D'Agostino win the Ivy League Heps cross country title by 40 seconds on the West Windsor Fields three years ago, then you know what she's capable of when she's at her best.

If you watched the Olympic women's 5,000-meter semifinal yesterday morning, you saw what D'Agostino is capable of when she's at her worst.

Actually, the one where she was at her worst might be the more impressive.

D'Agostino, a Dartmouth grad and seven-time NCAA champion, was near the back of the field with nearly five laps to go in the 5,000 race when New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin tripped. D'Agostino had nowhere to go and fell herself.

Keep in mind, these two women had never met before yesterday. Also keep in mind, the most famous Olympic collision in history, the one between Mary Decker Slaney and Zola Budd, led to some serious acrimony between the two, especially Decker Slaney, whose reputation as an American sweetheart never recovered from the incident.

This was nothing like that one from 32 years ago in Los Angeles.

First D'Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet and demanded that she finish the race. Then D'Agostino, more than four laps from the finish, started to finish the race herself.

And then, clearly injured, she went down again. At first it looked to TigerBlog that she was just trying to squirm off the track before the other runners came all the way around.

But that's not what happened. No. D'Agostino got up and started hobbling around the track. And kept going. Lap after lap. Even after she was passed by the other runners.

Eventually, she got the finish line - last in her heat. And then she left the track, in a wheelchair.

Shortly after came the news that D'Agostino and Hamblin had appealed and were advanced to the final.

There's a really strong possibility that D'Agostino won't be healthy in time for the final. Still, what she did yesterday will be remembered as one of the great moments of these Olympic Games. It was, without question, a beautiful moment, one that even the most cynical observer couldn't help but love.

Shortly after D'Agostino and Hamblin added their wonderful stamp on the Olympics, Princeton assistant cross country coach Robby Andrews cruised into the semifinals of the 1,500-meters. The semifinal will be tomorrow night.

The Olympics are winding down, but there are still some huge moments left for Princeton.

The first one is this morning. If you're reading this before 9:33 am, then you can see Ashleigh Johnson and the U.S. women's water polo team  on the Today Show.

Johnson and the U.S. team take on Hungary at 11:20 in the semifinals. The Americans are unbeaten in this tournament, including an 11-6 win over Hungary this past Saturday. A second win over Hungary would guarantee the Americans of at least a silver medal.

Johnson has been one of the dominant athletes in these Olympics. She didn't allow a goal in three quarters against Brazil in the quarterfinal, and she has thrown a blanket over every team the U.S. has played.

The other Princetonian who competes today is Donn Cabral, who runs in the final of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 10:50 this morning.

There are 15 competitors in the steeplechase final, and Cabral had the third-best qualifying time of any of them. Of course, each of the three qualifying races had its own pace and personality, so it's hard to compare one to the others. And the other American runners won each of the first two, whereas Cabral came in third in his.

Still, this appears to be a fairly wide-open race. And with the way Cabral can finish, it'll be hard to count him out.

It'll be interesting to see what his plan is.

Four years ago in London, he went out quickly and led for much of the final before finishing eighth. Will he do that again? He was in 10th place with less than two laps left in the preliminary and made a big charge. He was in fifth place with less than 200 meters left at the Olympic Trials and finished third to make the team.

Reaching the final of the steeplechase in consecutive Olympic Games is a rarity for American runners. Henry Marsh was the last to do it, in 1984 and 1988 (and 1976, and he might have in 1980 were it not for the boycott). Cabral and his teammate Evan Jager, who finished sixth in London, have now matched Marsh's accomplishment.

The U.S. has won only five medals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, dating back to when the event premiered, in 1920. The most recent U.S. Olympic medalist in the event was Brian Diemer - in 1984.

And now all three Americans have a shot.

TigerBlog would love to see Cabral win a medal. How incredible would that be?

Princeton continues to do well in Rio, and Tiger athletes will be there from before the Opening Ceremonies all the way until just before the Closing Ceremonies. If you're a Princeton Athletic fan, you can't complain at all about how many Tigers have been there and how well spaced out their events have been.

If you're a Dartmouth fan? You can be bursting with pride today over what your own alum, Abbey D'Agostino did.

Princeton fans can also be amazed by D'Agostino.

TigerBlog certainly is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back To The Final For Donn Cabral

TigerBlog saw a kid in his neighborhood the other day who was on a skateboard while walking his dog.

It made TB think that it could be an Olympic event. Skateboard dog walking. Would it really be different than some of the others? How about the Olympic horse dancing? If that can be in the Olympics, why not skateboard dog walking?

TB isn't sure how some of these events become Olympic events. He's not knocking the skill it takes to excel at them. He's questioning how some "sports" become Olympic events and others do not.

Like synchronized swimming. Or the equestrian events. Or even rifle. And so many others.

Are these "sports?" Are the competitor "athletes?" What if ballet wanted to be an Olympic event? What if cheerleading did?

Who makes these decisions and why?

Take the equestrian events, which date back to the earliest days of the modern Olympics. According to the rules, in Olympic horse dancing - also known as dressage - "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."

That's great. It's actually very artistic to watch. But how is it "sport?" Oh, and how do they ship the horses from wherever they are to Rio?

TigerBlog has watched more of these Olympics than any other, he's pretty sure. He's probably watched more different events than he has in any other Olympics as well.

Did you see the end of the women's open water race yesterday? The course is 10 kilometers, and much of the talk leading up to the race was about the quality of the water. It led to this first sentence in the AP story:
"The sewage-filled waters off Copacabana weren't much of an issue for the open water swimmers."

The real story was that, after nearly two hours of swimming, the silver and bronze came down to a bit of a wrestling match between the French and Italian competitors. In this race, it's not about swimming through the finish line. It's about slapping the touch pad. And the French swimmer was DQ'd for going over the back of the Italian - even though TigerBlog isn't sure where she was supposed to go, as she was being boxed out.

If TigerBlog watched only one event these Olympics, though, it would have been the steeplechase. The one with humans, not horses.

The reason is that Donn Cabral, Princeton Class of 2012, was competing in the steeplechase for the second-straight Olympics. Cabral reached the final in London four years, finishing eighth overall.

Would he do it again? Reach the final for the second time?

TigerBlog is on record as saying that he roots for few athletes more than Donn Cabral. It stems from Cabral's time at Princeton, when he won the NCAA steeplechase title as a senior. Actually from before then, back to when he won Heps cross country as a junior in incredibly impressive fashion. And from all the times TB saw Cabral train on Weaver Track.

Cabral earned a return to the Olympic Games by rallying on the final lap at the Trials. Now that he was in Rio, he was in the third of three heats.

To qualify, he needed to be in the top three of his heat or have one of the six best times among non-automatic qualifiers. There was one American in each heat, and when Hilary Bor and Evan Jager each won the first two heats, it seemed like a good omen for Cabral.

As his heat reached the end of Lap 1, Cabral was in 10th. TigerBlog, though, had no doubt that Cabral was going to reach the final. In fact, at no point during the race was TB worried.

Eventually, Cabral began to move up. Seventh. Sixth. Eventually to third, where he eased across the line.

His heat had the three fastest times. Four years ago, he qualified with the 10th fastest time and finished eighth. This year, he has the third-best time heading into the final, which, by the way, is tomorrow morning at 10:50.

This tweet came out from the Princeton track and cross country account:

It had more than 50 likes in about five minutes. Why? Because Cabral is one of the most popular Princeton athletes in the time TigerBlog has been following the Tigers.

Can he win a medal? It'll be tough. But it's doable.

Ashleigh Johnson figures to come home with a medal from Rio, but the women's water polo goalie will be disappointed if it's not gold. She's certainly doing her part: Johnson didn't allow a goal in the first three quarters of a 13-3 win over Brazil in the quarterfinals yesterday.

By the way, if you've watched Johnson play in these Games, then you can't wait to see her back in DeNunzio Pool as a senior this coming spring. And, if you've watched, you've also noticed that 1) she's unbelievable and 2) the one word that the TV announcers most use when talking about her is "wingspan."

Up next will be Hungary, who defeated Australia in a shootout to reach tomorrow's semifinal. TigerBlog had never seen a water polo shootout, but it reminds TB that he hates deciding games with shootouts or PKs or anything. Just keep playing until someone scores. They will at some point. 

It was a big Princeton day in Rio, and the events were staggered so that it went Cabral, field hockey quarterfinal, water polo quarterfinal.

Unfortunately for Princeton fans, the field hockey game was a heartbreaker. The U.S., who had won its first four games in pool play, lost to Great Britain 2-1 Saturday to finish second in the group. That set up the quarterfinal against Germany, who knocked out the Americans 2-1 after scoring two first half goals and then holding on.

As a result, Princeton alums Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey had their hopes for a medal derailed. Still, to go from 12th out of 12 to reaching the quarterfinals is a huge step in four years, and those three have been a giant part of the rise of American field hockey.

So Princeton's remaining Olympic competitors are now Cabral, Johnson and Diana Matheson, who plays today at 3 in the women's soccer semifinals for Canada against Germany. A win assures the Canadians of a medal better than the bronze that Matheson won four years ago.

Oh, and assistant track and field coaches Robby Andrews and Priscilla Frederick. Andrews is up today at 9:30 in the 1,500 first round, while Frederick high jumps Thursday.

TigerBlog marveled yesterday at the accomplishment of silver medalist Gevvie Stone in the women's single sculls.

He marvels today at Donn Cabral, who is back in the Olympic steeplechase final.

Marvel at Donn Cabral again. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Silver For Gevvie

There are two kinds of great sporting events.

The first is filled with drama as the outcome isn't decided until the very last second. That would be Usain Bolt's win in the 100 last night at the Olympics in Rio.

The second is when there is a performance - team or individual - that is simply legendary.

That one would be the other night with Katie Ledecky in the 800 freestyle. You probably saw it, and you probably know exactly what TB means.

TigerBlog will get back to Ledecky in a minute. And Bolt later in the week, though he will say that Bolt seems to be one of the most likeable athletes of all time. And one of the best.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, now that the swimming is over at the Olympics, TB has a few last comments.

First, Michael Phelps actually comes across as a pretty good, gracious sportsman. As someone so astutely told TigerBlog recently, it's not his fault the media gushes over him. That's actually what tortures TB about the whole Phelps phenomenon.

Yeah. Yeah. He has a mother. And a baby. Is there no one in the TV truck to say "maybe we've shown his mother enough?" And what in the world would lead someone trying to be a credible reporter to ask Phelps "what do you want Boomer to know about his father as he grows up?"

It's not Phelps' fault.

Second, TigerBlog's favorite American male swimmer is Nathan Adrian. He seems like a happy sort. And he looks like Sam Gravitte of Princeton's men's lacrosse team.

Lastly, there is Ledecky.

She won the 800 by 12 seconds, which by the way, is more than two seconds longer than it took Bolt to win the 100 last night. So yeah, 12 seconds. That's an eternity. And this is against the best swimmers in the world. They weren't even in the picture on TV when Ledecky touched the wall.

She destroyed the world record. She swam to a quick lead and then just kept getting stronger and stronger.

By the middle of the race, it was clear that this was something special. By the end, it was one of the greatest performances TigerBlog had ever seen from any athlete in any setting.

Phelps won five gold medals in Rio. Ledecky won four.

Phelps now has 23 Olympic gold medals, as well as three silvers and two bronze. He won a silver medal (in a three-way tie for second) in the 100 butterfly, and afterwards he was very respectful and very humble. It was great to see.

For some athletes, nothing short of gold is okay. For others, any medal will mean the fulfillment of a lifetime's dream.

TigerBlog has seen athlete after athlete in Rio who reacts to second or third in the same way as first. Yes, getting to the Olympics in the first place is huge. Yes, making it to a final is even bigger, and that's an accomplishment that will last a lifetime, regardless of where they finish.

But getting a medal? That pushes it over the top. And really, it's any medal.

Princeton has sent 13 athletes to the Games in Rio. Of those 13, six are left competing, and five will be competing today.

It starts around 9:30 this morning, when Donn Cabral runs in the 3,000 meter steeplechase heats. Four years ago in London Cabral reached the final, finishing eighth. That wasn't good enough for a medal, but that was still an amazing feat.

Next up will be the field hockey quarterfinals, as the U.S. - with Princeton alums Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey - against the Germans, starting at 11:30. It wraps up with Ashleigh Johnson and the U.S. women's water polo team against Brazil in the quarterfinals at 1:10. All of that is Eastern Time, by the way.

Tomorrow will see Diana Matheson and the Canadian women's soccer team against Germany in the semifinals. Brazil and Sweden will play in the other semifinal.

As for the rest of the Princeton contingent, they have finished their competition in Rio. So far, Princeton has one medal in the bank.

And it came from Gevvie Stone.

TigerBlog saw the race twice, once in the morning and then again when it was replayed later on. The live streaming, by the way, continues to be one of the very, very best parts of the Olympics.

Stone won silver in the women's single sculls rowing. That's 2,000 meters, with nobody out there but you.

Australia's Kimberly Brennan was the winner. Stone made a huge push at the end to close the gap on Brennan and pull away from the rest of the field to finish solidly in second.

Stone's story is a great one.

She was a member of that incredible Princeton women's open boat in 2006 that crushed everyone to win the NCAA title and has since produced four Olympians and three medalists - Stone, along with two-time gold medalist Caroline Lind and silver medalist Andreanna Morin (Kate Bertko was the fourth Olympian).

Stone comes from a rowing family, as her mother rowed in the 1976 Olympics and her father would have rowed in 1980 had it not been for the boycott.

Gevvie Stone barely missed making the U.S. team in 2008 and then qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London, where she finished seventh, winning the B final.

This time, she was back, but she was back as Dr. Gevvie Stone, having finished her studies at Tufts University medical school. And in this, her final Olympic run, she came back with silver.

Can you imagine the feeling? This is a grueling event. Just you and your boat. And 2,000 meters that at some point must feel like 2,000 miles.

TigerBlog can't imagine how many actual miles Stone has rowed as a competitor. And how many training sessions she had, how many times her muscles had to be burning, how many times she had to think "is this really worth it?"

And contrast that with what she must have been feeling for the final 200 meters, 100 meters, 50 meters in Saturday's race. And what must have gone through her head as she strained to reach the finish line.

She was all smiles in the medal ceremony. Why wouldn't she be?

Her performance in Rio is one of the great Olympic moments Princeton has ever had. To win a medal in that race?

And to have someone do it who was an NCAA champ and who continued to train for the Olympics while becoming a doctor?

Does anyone who has ever competed at Princeton more encapsulate what Princeton Athletics strives for than Gevvie Stone.

NCAA champ. Doctor. Olympic silver medalist.

There's not much more to say about her, other than "wow."

And congratulations.