Friday, September 13, 2019

Weekend Schedule

While it was great to hear Tone Loc (real name - Anthony Terrell Smith) sing "Wild Thing" on the 80s channel yesterday morning, the best part of Sirius for TigerBlog by far is E Street Radio.

Second place, by the way, goes to the Broadway channel.

The best part of E Street Radio is easily that twice a day, the station plays a full Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert. Springsteen's concerts far surpass any others that TB has ever seen, and the energy still pours through even in the recorded versions.

What's fascinating is how these concerts have changed through the years. The station will play concerts from any decade, and it seems like The Boss got stronger through the years, not weaker. TB has no idea how he still has a voice left after all of these shows.

Also, there are some songs that he's played live before they were released on albums. In fact, TB heard a concert earlier this week from 1978 during which Springsteen played "Independence Day," despite the fact that it wasn't on an album until two years later, when "The River" was released.

The concert from 1978 featured a story that Springsteen told that TB had never before heard. Springsteen, who is still an epic storyteller during his shows, was finishing up "Incident on 57th Street" when he started telling a story about how he traveled into the Arizona desert and came upon a house with a sign that said it was a place of "peace, love, justice and no mercy," and that the owner pointed him down a dirt road with a sign that said "Thunder Road."

Then he played what is without question one of TB's two favorite songs ever (the other is "Born To Run").

Before TB gets into the weekend in Princeton athletics, he also wants to say something about the Temple-Maine field hockey controversy. By now you've heard about this: the teams were playing on a neutral site at Kent State and were scoreless after one overtime when they were told the game had to be stopped because of fireworks for the football game on the next field.

This was at 10:30 or so in the morning, mind you.

The idea that a Division I field hockey game had to be stopped for this reason is appalling of course, and the optics for Kent State have been terrible. TigerBlog has one question though - who is actually to blame for the fiasco.

If Temple and Maine agreed to play a game at Kent State and nobody from Kent State told them they had to be off the field at a certain time, regardless of the game situation, then Kent State deserves more blame than it's received. That's a terrible way to treat two teams of college athletes who come to your school.

On the other hand, if Kent State did tell them in advance and the teams agreed to play the game at that time anyway, knowing full well that there was a time that the game had to end and therefore that it was possible for the exact situation that unfolded to happen, well, then it's not Kent State's fault.

Simple, right? TB would be curious as to which of those two things happened.

Okay, meanwhile back at Princeton, the weekend will include a pair of home matchups for the field hockey team against nationally ranked opponents, beginning today at 4 against No. 20 Albany. Then it'll be No. 17 Penn State here Sunday.

Princeton is ranked No. 5 in this week's poll, which is probably where you should be if you lose to No. 1 by a goal and beat No. 10 by a goal, right?

The other two Princeton teams home this weekend are the women's tennis team, which hosts an invitational all weekend, and the men's water polo team, which is doing the same.

The men's water polo team has four games this weekend, and three of those are against Top 15 teams, beginning tonight against No. 13 UC San Diego at 6:15. Up next would be unranked Johns Hopkins tomorrow (10:30), No. 14 Bucknell tomorrow (6) and then No. 15 George Washington Sunday (3:30).

Princeton, by the way, is ranked 12th. It figures to be a very competitive weekend at DeNunzio.

If you're interested in the entire schedule for the weekend, you can find it HERE.

And, of course, come tomorrow at 5, there will be exactly one week until the opening kickoff for the football team, who takes on Butler next Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Best Tiger Team Ever

The best college football team that TigerBlog ever saw was the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

That team was dominant in every way, reaching 40 points nine times and, perhaps most extraordinarily, reaching 60 points in five separate games. Yup, those Cornhuskers were the best - right until Miami beat them in the Orange Bowl 31-30.

You might be familiar with that game. Nebraska got behind early and made a huge run late, scoring a touchdown with less than a minute to go to make it 31-30.

Back in those days, there was no playoff of any kind - and no overtime - and the national champion was determined by the polls. Had Nebraska kicked the extra point, it would have been a tie, and the Huskers almost surely would have been voted national champion.

Instead, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne went for perfection, and for the two-point conversion and the win. Unfortunately for the best team ever, the play didn't work, and Miami won the game.

What would you have done?

Anyway, Miami jumped from fifth to first in both major polls, and Nebraska had to settle for second. That Nebraska team is still the best TB has seen though.

In conjunction with the 150th anniversary of college football, ESPN put up a story the other day listing the 150 best teams in the history of the sport. TB noticed that five of the top 10 are from this century, including last year's Clemson team at No. 5.

The No. 1 team was the 1971 Nebraska team, one that defeated Oklahoma 35-31 in what was called by many the best game of the 20th century. TB watched it on TV.

As for the 1983 Huskers? Their one-point loss relegated them to 36th place.

Princeton of course played in the first college football game, against Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869. There is one Princeton team on ESPN's list, and that team is a little surprising to TigerBlog.

It's not the 1950 or 1951 teams that went unbeaten and were led by 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier. TB assumed the 1951 team would be there.

Instead, it was the 1933 Tigers, who were ranked as the 140th best team in college football history, right behind the 1920 Cal Bears and right ahead of the 1941 Minnesota Golden Gophers. TB assumes massive arguments broke out when it came to separating those three.

Whether or not that actually happened, the ranking suggests that whoever was involved in this process thought the 1933 team was the greatest in Princeton history. Here's ESPN's writeup:

140. 1933 Princeton (9-0)
Titles: None (Michigan won CFRA, HAF, NCF)
Coach: Fritz Crisler
Led by: G Jac Weller, B Pepper Constable
What to know: In 1932, Crisler's first class of recruits at Princeton included 30 prep team captains. A year later, those sophomores anchored a team that gave up eight points all season and beat Columbia, the Rose Bowl winner, 20-0 (Princeton didn't go to bowls at that time). In three seasons through 1935, Crisler's first class went 25-1.

If you were going to choose one Princeton team to include in this, which would it be?

The best Princeton team TB has seen was last year's 10-0 team. The historian in him knows that the unbeaten 1964 team was also dominant, with four straight shutouts in midseason, and the 1922 "Team Of Destiny" was equally unbeaten (and national champion) and had a hugely dramatic 21-18 win at powerhouse Chicago to bolster its resume.

And of course, there are those 1950 and 1951 teams. Maybe having the Heisman winner pushes 1951 over the top?

The 1935 team won the national championship while going 9-0, and only two teams stayed within seven points of the Tigers that year. Which two? Penn, whom Princeton beat 7-6 in the opener, and, of all schools, Williams, whom Princeton beat 14-7 in Week 2.

So why 1933?

Well, those Tigers did give up only eight points all year, and none of those eight came in the first seven weeks of the season. Even when Princeton did give up points, they didn't really matter, as the Tigers beat Rutgers 26-6 in Week 8 and Yale 27-2 in Week 9.

There was also that 20-0 win over Rose Bowl-champ Columbia that ESPN referenced. And a 45-0 win over Williams.

Interestingly, Princeton also played seven of its nine games in Palmer Stadium that year, with the only road games at Brown and Yale.

Anyway, that's who ESPN picked as the best Princeton team ever.

TB might not have gone with that one, but as he went through the scores from that year, he was struck by one thought - how cool would it have been to see what a gameday in 1933 was like?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

18 Years Later

Today is Day 1 of classes for the fall semester at Princeton.

It's also the last first day of fall classes under the traditional academic calendar, the one with exams after Christmas. He's not sure if the new calendar will mean the fall semester will start earlier next year, but it still will be a radical change for the University, all of whose 90,000-plus alums took their exams after the holidays.

TigerBlog wishes every Princeton student good luck this semester and beyond. He also seconds the advice that women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer offered at freshman athlete orientation Monday morning, when she told the Class of 2023 to dive in academically and athletically and ease in socially. That's about the best advice they're going to get.

On almost any other day, TigerBlog would expand on the first day of classes and freshman athlete orientation. Today is not just any other day though, so "good luck" will have to do.

There are, in fact, two days during the year that are off-limits for the normal subjects. Those two days are the anniversary in February in which TB's colleague Lorin Maurer was killed in a plane crash and today, Sept. 11.

Those two days have much in common.

They were both surreal days, on which time seemed to freeze, so that the emotions of the moment could be properly absorbed for all time. They were both, more than anything else, days of extraordinary shock and sadness.

And they're both days that TB will continue to write about, largely out of respect for those who died on those two days and how he wants to, in his small way, make sure that they are remembered.

When TigerBlog was entering the bios for the freshmen football players, he noticed that there was one player who was born on Sept. 12, 2001, or one day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Within another year, pretty much the entire class will have been born after 9/11, and a few short years after that, no Princeton students will have been alive on the day of those attacks.

Even those who were alive were too young to remember what happened that day. They were infants, babies, toddlers, maybe in preschool, but that's about it.

Each year on this day, TigerBlog will replay the words he's written about 9/11 in the past, because they capture exactly what it is he wants to say:

TigerBlog can remember every detail of that awful day 18 years ago today.

He remembers most of the details of the day after, 18 years ago tomorrow.

He wishes that he could remember the day before, back to Sept. 10, 2001. He wishes he could remember what he was thinking on that day, what his world was like on that day, because that world changed forever on Sept. 11 and has never come back.

Each year since Sept. 11, 2001, TigerBlog has gotten an uneasy feeling in the hours before the next anniversary. This year is no different.

The date is enough to bring it all rushing back.

TigerBlog has gone through this pretty much each year he's been doing this. It's important though. It's important not to let what happened on that day ever fade in importance.

The only day in American history that can compare with Sept. 11, 2001, is Dec. 7, 1941. That's the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.

Yes, there have been battles in wars that have featured unimaginable death totals. Nearly 10 times more American soldiers were killed in the Battle of Normandy (the entire battle, not just D-Day) in World War II than died on 9/11.

As for 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, though, those were direct attacks on America, not overseas (yes, Hawaii was not yet a state in 1941).

Now, nearly 78 years after the Pearl Harbor attack, the day Dec. 7 still lives, as FDR said it would, in infamy. It just doesn't haunt the national consciousness the way 9/11 does.

Part of that is because the vast majority of Americans who were alive 78 years ago no longer are. The other, though, is that it would take less than four years for the U.S. and its Allies to defeat the Axis powers.

The aftermath of 9/11 has not been anything quite so tidy. There are still military operations as a direct result of 9/11, and even though Al Qaeda never launched another massive attack in this country, the threat is still there.

Like TigerBlog said, the world of Sept. 10 vanished and has never come back. In so many ways.

TigerBlog knows people who saw 9/11 from so many different angles. Everyone has a story to tell from that day.

TB has friends who were on airplanes at the time of the attacks and landed nowhere near New York, as all flights were immediately grounded. They had to try to rent cars to drive home, including one who was on a flight to Newark that landed instead in Nashville, from where he drove home.

He knows another who landed at Newark around the time that the flight that would crash in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against the hijackers was leaving and saw the Towers burning as she drove down the New Jersey Turnpike.

He knows another who was unaware of the attacks until, after being told about them, looked out the window at home on Long Island and saw the smoke from the Twin Towers. FatherBlog was in his office in midtown, four or so miles from ground zero.

Princeton had more than its share of graduates, a lot of them athletes, who were in one of the towers at the time.

As for TigerBlog, he was dropping off TigerBlog Jr. at the University League Nursery School, on the far side of the parking lot outside Jadwin. It was the most perfect weather day, crystal clear, sunshine, no humidity, not a cloud to be found.

TB dropped TBJ off at the school, and the woman who was the office manager said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

TigerBlog walked outside, looked up, and thought "how in the world did that happen?" By the time he got to Jadwin, he found out how.

Most of that day was spent huddled around the only television around, the one in the athletic training room in Caldwell Field House. It was a day where people spoke very little, where everyone had dazed looks on their faces.

By mid-afternoon, he went back to get TBJ at the nursery school. He can still see the children, swinging on the swings, playing in a sandbox, oblivious - happily oblivious - to what had happened to the innocence of the world outside that playground.

Later that night, after it was dark, TigerBlog walked outside to the end of his driveway and looked up. There were no planes in the sky. They'd all been grounded. TB remembers it vividly, the sight of the stars, without planes, above a world of confusion, angst, uncertainty, fear.

Those were TB's memories. They come rushing back each year on this day, and they bring with them all of those emotions all over again. It's important that it does. This isn't a day that should ever fade from anyone's memory.

Miss TigerBlog was 1 at the time. She's a Princeton sophomore now. All of those children from the playground have grown up. They need to understand what happened.

The next day, TigerBlog was able to track down former Princeton football captain Dan Swingos, who had been in the second tower but managed to get out. He told TigerBlog a wild story of survival, and luck, one shared by so many others who'd been there at the time.

TigerBlog tells this story each year. He'll continue to do so.

He'll also continue to remember all of the people who were lost that day, the ones who didn't get out, or the ones on the planes.

It's a group that includes John Schroeder, a member of the 1992 men's lacrosse team that won the first of the program's six NCAA championships. He'd been in the World Trade Center and did not get out.

Anytime that TigerBlog has been around the men's lacrosse Class of 1992, no matter what the occasion or celebration, they remember their teammate. They talk about him. They include him in whatever they're doing. They keep his memory alive.

It's been 18 years now.

It seems like yesterday. The memories are vivid, for TigerBlog and everyone else.

And those lost - like John Schroeder - are still missed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

No. 1, Again

TigerBlog forgot to mention one really funny moment from the U.S. Open men's final that he watched Sunday.

Actually, it was during the post-match interviews. If you saw the match, you know that those interviews took place more than five hours after the start between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, a match won by Nadal in five amazing sets.

When it ended, there was a tribute on the stadium videoboard to Nadal and his now-19 Grand Slam wins. Then there were interviews with the players, and Medvedev, just 23 and playing in his first Grand Slam final, essentially said this: "I was watching the videoboard and thinking that if would have won, what would they have shown?"

Medvedev was really impressive during the match, never giving up at all, even down two sets and a break and appearing to be finished. He was even more impressive after, with his composure, humor and humility when he apologized for his unsportsmanlike behavior earlier in the tournament.

He can be TB's new favorite tennis player.

Medvedev is now the fourth-ranked tennis player in the world. Princeton? No. 1 again.

The annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of America's best colleges and universities was released yesterday, and once again Princeton is ranked No. 1. It's an annual thing around here - now nine straight years - but it's also one that should never be taken for granted.

Princeton was ranked No. 1 in best in the categories of National Universities, Best Value and Best Undergraduate Teaching. That's a really good trifecta.

Here's part of what the magazine has to say about Princeton:
Princeton students have the flexibility to shape dynamic academic programs and independent projects that prepare them for leadership and lifelong learning. Through its groundbreaking financial aid program, Princeton ensures that all qualified students who are accepted can afford to attend the University.

Those are good starting spots for a university.

TigerBlog was asked yesterday what he likes most about working here, and he said the same thing he always does. It's the people, especially the athletes.

While that's true, the University itself also plays into it. This has been a great place to come to work every day, knowing that it's a place of excellence, one with a reputation literally around the world for being an extraordinarily special institution.

TigerBlog's alma mater, Penn, is sixth. Or, as TB looks at it, six times lower than his long-time employer.

While not quite ranked No. 1, the fifth-ranked Princeton field hockey team had itself a pretty good weekend to kick off its season.

Princeton opened its season with a pair of games in Chapel Hill, first against No. 1 UNC and then against No. 10 Wake Forest. Princeton split, falling 4-3 to Carolina after building a 3-1 lead and then defeating Wake 2-1 in OT after trailing 1-0 early.

The game against Wake Forest featured a rarity in field hockey, and it came at a huge moment.

The Demon Deacons scored first, early in the second quarter. It took TB a little time to realize that field hockey was now playing four 15-minute quarters, as opposed to two halves.

It was 1-0 at the half before Hannah Davey tied it for the Tigers in the third. It stayed 1-1 into overtime - and fortunately for the Tigers, there was no football game on the adjacent field that required fireworks (see Temple-Maine at Kent State for more details).

Princeton would win on Ali McCarthy's goal six minutes into the second 7v7 OT period. The key moment came one overtime earlier, though, when Tiger goalie Grace Baylis made a sprawling save on something that is usually automatic to keep the game going.

As usual, Princeton is shying away from no one, with a schedule that includes seven of the other top 10 teams in the country. The next five games are all non-league games against Top 25 teams, beginning this weekend with visits from No. 22 Albany and No. 9 Penn State.

Princeton is in Year 4 under Carla Tagliente. In her first three years she has a pair of Final Four appearances. There was nothing from this past weekend to suggest that a third would be unrealistic.

That's for later in the year though. In the meantime, if you're looking for a game that moves at a lightning pace at a beautiful venue, come check out the Tigers on Bedford Field.

Monday, September 9, 2019


You didn't need a schedule to be able to tell that yesterday was opening day for the NFL season.

Everywhere you looked, people were wearing jerseys from NFL teams. TigerBlog saw all kinds of people wear all kinds of jerseys, from current players to, among others, Drew Bledsoe and Randall Cunningham.

In his entire life, TB has only owned one jersey, and that was as Giants' No. 56 back when he was in college. If you have to ask who No. 56 on the Giants was back then, well, then you need to do a search for "Greatest NFL Defensive Player Ever" and you'll figure it out. 

He didn't seen anyone in an Oakland Raiders Antonio Brown jersey. He did wonder how many such jerseys had been sold and what the people who bought them were thinking after Brown played exactly zero games in his Raiders' career.

It's also a shame that TB couldn't, um, monetize his first thought when he saw the news that Brown had been released by the Raiders. That thought? The only team that would take him would be the Patriots. Oh well.

And why is it always the wide receivers who are the prima donnas? Brown. Odell Beckham Jr. Terrell Owens. Randy Moss. The list goes on.

What is about being an NFL wide receiver?

TB's rooting interest for the year is mostly with the Princeton alums who are on NFL rosters, a group that swelled by one when Chad Kanoff was signed by the Lions over the weekend.

The Lions, of course, opened their season with the Cardinals, who just happened to the team that Kanoff had been with since the beginning of last season. Anything goes in the NFL, right?

Was Kanoff able to make a difference with his knowledge of the Cards' offense? Well, the game ended in a 27-27 tie, who who knows.

TigerBlog can root for Detroit, not only because of Kanoff but also because of former Roper Trophy winner John Mack, a lifelong - and long suffering - Lions fan. He deserves a Super Bowl.

TB's Super Bowl pick for this year would be the Chiefs and the Eagles. He would have said that even before both teams won their openers.

TB's favorite team for much of his life has been the Giants, but he's not as high on the team as he used to be. Plus they were terrible yesterday in a 35-17 loss to Princeton alum Jason Garrett's Dallas Cowboys. TB is interested to see how long it takes Giants' fans to clamor for Eli Manning to be benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, the first-round pick they all booed a few months ago.

His main hope for the NFL season is to see two former Princeton wide receivers (and non-prima donnas) Stephen Carlson and Jesper Horsted be activated from their respective practice squads (the Browns and Bears) and catch regular season passes as they play a new position, tight end.

By the way, the U.S. Open final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, won by Nadal in five sets despite an amazing run from two sets down by Medvedev, was better than any NFL game.

The current Princeton football team is a little less than two weeks away from beginning its 150th season, something the Tigers will do on Sept. 21 at home against Butler (kickoff at 5).  The Bulldogs will be playing their fourth game when they come to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, after opening with a 57-10 loss to FCS No. 1 North Dakota State and then defeating Indiana Wesleyan in overtime this week before hosting Taylor this coming Saturday.

The 150th celebration of college football is already underway around the country. It's especially significant around here, as Princeton and Rutgers celebrate their roles as the two teams that played in the first game ever, back on Nov. 6, 1869.

About the midway point between the two schools would be South Brunswick, which means that Von Thun's Farm in South Brunswick would be a good place for both teams to be recognized. And that's exactly what is going on this fall.

If you're a fan of corn mazes, then Von Thun's would be a good stopping spot. The farm annually has a themed corn maze, and this year's is the 150th celebration.
 “Since our farm is less than 10 miles from both Rutgers and Princeton Universities, it seemed fitting for our 2019 corn maze – celebrating 150 years of college football – to honor the two institutions that
started this American tradition,” explained Timothy Von Thun, fifth generation farmer at Von Thun’s, in a release.

The corn maze opens Sept. 21, which means you can check it out before you come to Princeton-Butler. In the meantime, there's one open Saturday before the start of the 10-week Ivy football season.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The First Busy Weekend

It was staff photo day yesterday here at Princeton Athletics.

Each year, the Princeton Department of Athletics gets a big staff photo taken in the stands at Princeton Stadium, and yesterday was the 2019-20 edition of that event. The picture is down to a bit of science by now, with the same two women who run the show and know exactly how to set up such a photo.

TigerBlog actually recruited them a few years ago. One of them, Sue, is the mother of three children, including a son, Christian, who was friends with TigerBlog Jr. from kindergarten or so. He just graduated from Penn State and is in the process of becoming an athletic trainer.

Sue is the one who arranges everyone, making sure the picture is balanced with the correct number of people on each side. She's sort of the drill sergeant of the operation.

The photographer is named Dawn. She's the sister of a guy named Paul, who coached TBJ in lacrosse in fifth and sixth grade. Dawn was the one who always took the individual and team pictures of the kids in the lacrosse league back then - she probably still does it - and when TB needed someone to take a department staff photo, he reached up to her.

Unlike most years, the picture from yesterday was taken on a day when the sun wasn't directly overheard and beating down on everyone as the temperature soared near 100 and the humidity reached highly uncomfortable levels. It was actually pretty nice out.

From the time TB got to the stands until the picture was taken, about three minutes elapsed. That's efficiency from Sue and Dawn.

One thing TB marvels at with this picture each year is how much turnover there is from year to year. It might not seem like much, but when you go back to the picture from just a few years ago, you're struck by just how many new faces there are in the new one.

Anywhere, here's Dawn's picture from yesterday:
Instructions were to wear either orange or black. Seems like everyone got the message

The annual photo follows the annual welcome back staff meeting, which this year included a video that had some of the department members discuss what they did this summer. It appears that a few of TB's colleagues have become pretty good at kickball.

And with that, the new year can officially kick into high gear.

Princeton's women's soccer team played its third game of the year last night, and this one was a bit different than any other game every played in the history of Princeton Athletics, dating back to the first baseball game in 1864.

That sounds pretty overstated, no? How was it different?

Well, the game was aired live on NBC Sports Philadelphia + as part of Princeton's expanded partnership with the regional network. And, unlike any other game ever played before at Princeton, the broadcast originated out of the brand-new HG Levine Broadcast Center in Jadwin Gym and then was sent to a TV station to be shown. Cool, no?

It was the first of many games to follow the same production. You can read more about it HERE.

This weekend is the first one of the year with a substantial number of events, including two that are in North Carolina.

The field hockey team is in Chapel Hill to open its season against No. 1 North Carolina. It's another year where the Tigers duck no one, with a schedule that includes seven of the preseason top 10 teams (and Princeton's ranked fifth, so there were only nine available to play), with a stop at No. 10 Wake Forest Sunday.

The field hockey game at UNC starts at 5. One hour earlier, the defending Ivy champion men's soccer team kicks off its season at Duke.

By the time Sunday rolls around, the women's volleyball team, the men's water polo team and the men's and women's cross country teams will all have started their seasons as well. And the women's soccer team will have played again, Saturday night at 8, at home against No. 23 Rutgers.

The men's water polo team, by the way, takes on UCLA and Stanford this weekend at Navy. Those are both top three teams.

Anyway, it's the first busy weekend of the year for Princeton Athletics. And, like the game that was produced out of the broadcast center for TV, it'll hardly be the last.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Deadline To Meet

TigerBlog has no time to write today.

He has a big deadline coming up. It's the football yearbook, which will be given away (for free) at all five home football games.

It's a little different than it's been in years past. The football game program forever has been one program for one game, with a mix of change pages that were different each week and constant pages that were the same for the entire season.

Now it'll be one yearbook for all five home games, and then a roster card with lineups, rosters, schedules and stats for each individual game.

This means that once the initial 64-page (plus covers) yearbook is done, the game program will be finished for the entire season.

If you're a Princeton football fan, that doesn't really mean much. If you're someone who worked in the Office of Athletic Communications in the 1990s, that probably makes you laugh.

If you're Craig Sachson, that probably makes you laugh and makes you a little nutty.

Craig was the football contact here for the last 17 years before leaving the University in the spring. For all 17 of those years, Craig designed, wrote, laid out, produced and did pretty much everything else that goes into making a 64-page football game program five or six times a year.

It was a really, really involved process. And now, in the first year that he's gone, it's all been changed.

It's still a pretty time-consuming endeavor, but it's also going to be done for the year this week. It's not going to be nearly what it was for all of the years that Craig did it.

Of course, with something that will be constant for the course of the season, there is the fear that something will be wrong and unchangeable. For instance, every Princeton football player's head shot is in the publication. What if TB forgot one? What if one of the pictures isn't who it's supposed to be?

That's happened before, back in the days of media guides. TigerBlog, in his first go-round as football contact, accidentally swapped the head shots of the two newest, youngest coaches on the staff. It took awhile for them to grasp that they were stuck with it for the entire season.

TB is sorry about that still.

Here's another question - would you include program records in a book that doesn't change at all once the season starts?

Say those records are listed and then someone breaks a record in Week 1? For the next four games after that, the information will be incorrect. On the other hand, if you're at at the game and you see that someone is having a huge day, you might want to be able to check to see if he's getting close to a record.

Then again, if you're following the livestats while you're at the game, then you're probably tech-savvy enough to check out the records on the webpage too. But then maybe you don't want to keep opening a bunch of different windows?

TigerBlog is very deadline driven. He's always worked that way.

It goes back to his time in the newspaper business, he supposes. One of the best things about the newspaper business is that you could never really be more than one day behind, right?

On the other hand, every day was it's own new challenge, with one deadline and then another and then another.

It's sort of been the same way his entire time here. He knows when things are due, and he gets them done by then. He also doesn't really stress over deadlines, which is good, because who wants that?

The deadlines for the football game program were always Tuesday mornings. Back in the old days, that meant doing the football game program for hours and hours every Monday, often well into the night and then early morning, even until dawn every now and then.

Technology back then was not the same. Things that are incredibly easy to do now took a lot of time then, especially placing pictures into documents and packaging final products. Now that takes seconds.

TB still has a fondness for those days, though. There was a real sense of accomplishment from putting that kind of time into something and then being pleased with the final product.

The yearbook is the latest evolution of the game program. It's also one of the last things that still gets printed. It's taking awhile, but it's been something that's been fun to do. 

But you'll have to excuse TB now, though. He has to get back to it.

Unfortunately, he won't be able to write today.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Jadwin Flashback

So New Year's Day is January 1. Everyone knows that.

There aren't too many days on the calendar that feel like a new beginning, though, like the Tuesday after Labor Day, which of course was yesterday. The summer is essentially over, at least the summer vacation part, and a new school year is either starting or ramping up for pretty much every kid in the country, with corresponding effect on their parents.

TigerBlog always began school after Labor Day, as he recalls. His kids always started school the week before it.

As he rode his bike yesterday morning, he saw kids at bus stops, all in shorts, all with that "why does summer have to be over and school starting again" look on their faces.

They looked like they were middle school kids. 

TB received a text message the other day from his colleague Warren Croxton with a YouTube link to a Princeton men's basketball game from 1999. Or at least that's how it was labeled. He also mentioned that he was in sixth grade when that game was played.

TB replied that he'd been in sixth grade in the early 1970s. He has no memory of it.

Perhaps one day he was at the bus stop and he saw some guy ride his bike past as he thought "why does summer have to be over and school starting again?"

Meanwhile, back at the video, the game was labeled as 1999 but was actually played in 2000, between Princeton and Xavier at Jadwin Gym. It was part of John Thompson III's first season as Tiger head coach, a season that ended with an Ivy title and NCAA appearance.

Princeton and Xavier have played four times. The first one was in the 1989-90 season, a year in which Princeton played 27 games (going 20-7 and winning the second of what would be four-straight Ivy titles). TigerBlog was at, by his memory, 21 of those 27 games. The game against Xavier (part of a tournament in San Francisco) was one that he missed.

It was also the first game at Princeton for Sean Jackson, who would go on to become the 1992 Ivy League Player of the Year. Jackson missed the first six games of that season with what TB remembers was a broken finger (TB also thought it was more than six games, but hey, it was nearly 30 years ago).

TB was at the other three meetings, which were all played within a 37-game stretch that spanned the 1999 NIT quarterfinals, a regular-season meeting in the 1999-2000 season in Cincinnati and the game in 2000 at Jadwin.

Xavier had won the first two of those games, 65-58 in the NIT (after Princeton had a double-figure lead and TB thought they were headed to Madison Square Garden) and then 58-54 at the old, old, old Cincinnati Gardens.

The third game in the series saw Xavier come into Jadwin with a 5-1 record, not to mention three future NBA draft choices, including future two-time all-star and 15-year vet David West.

Princeton, still sorting out the pieces after massive turnover between players and coaches from the year before, was 2-3 heading into that game. Xavier was a huge favorite.

Instead, it turned into a 58-52 Princeton win, almost reversing the score of a year ago. West finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, by the way.

Princeton had three players in double figures, led by Mike Bechtold with 16. Nate Walton and Ahmed El-Nokali had 10 each.

TB would watch pretty much the entire game. It certainly brought back memories, with some nostalgia for a game from just about 20 years ago from a really magical season that was a lot of fun to be a part of, in his way at least.

Also, he was struck by some of the familiar faces who are still part of game nights at Jadwin, including PA announcer Bill Bromberg and photographer Beverly Schaefer, both of whom could be seen and/or heard during the telecast. At the same time, Jadwin looks like a completely different place these days, with so many changes that have made it a much better place to see a game.

The game was played on Dec. 9, or just about three weeks away from New Year's Day. What a silly time for the calendar to flip over, and, as you know it was done randomly then anyway.

No, the Tuesday after Labor Day is a way better day to have New Year's Day than January 1.

This could be TB's new cause - to get the New Year's holiday officially changed to the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Who's in charge of the calendar anyway? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Pro Tigers

Among his new responsibilities as the football contact, TigerBlog also inherited his former colleague Craig Sachson's vote in the weekly STATS FCS Top 25 poll.

There was a preseason poll a few weeks ago, and then this past weekend was the first weekend with enough games to warrant a new poll. This was also the toughest week of voting, since a lot of FBS teams schedule FCS teams for the openers, so a lot of the better FCS teams opened with losses.

One thing TB has always hated about polls is when two ranked teams play each other, the team ranked a little lower loses in a close fashion and then that team plummets in the poll. This past weekend there was one FCS Top 25 matchup, between North Carolina A&T, No. 20 in the preseason, defeated Elon, No. 21 in the preseason, 24-21.

Seems like Elon should be ranked just behind NC A&T, right? TB left them separated by one spot.

Of course, if you're voting in the FCS poll, it's always a good idea to start with North Dakota State and go from there. The top five teams in the poll seem fairly clear, with North Dakota State followed by South Dakota State, James Madison, Eastern Washington and UC Davis is basically any order.

Princeton opens its season two weeks from Saturday, when it hosts Butler. The Bulldogs played their first game this past Saturday, when they lost to North Dakota State 57-10.

Princeton was ranked 24th in the preseason poll. Two other Ivy League schools, Dartmouth and Yale, were receiving votes.

Now that it's September, it's just a little more than two months until the Tigers face both of those teams, on back-to-back Saturdays. The first of them will be the Dartmouth game at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, and then it's Yale at Princeton on Nov. 16. 

This weekend was the start of a new year of Princeton Athletics, as the women's soccer team defeated St. Joe's 1-0 and lost to Boston College 2-1. Princeton and BC are perennial NCAA tournament teams, and the Eagles are now 4-0 already.

TigerBlog was mostly focused this weekend on two Princeton Athletics stories.

The first was NFL cuts.

Princeton had six players in NFL camps heading into Saturday's 4 pm deadline for teams to get from 90 players to 53. That's a brutal situation all around, with minute differences separating the last few players yet with the difference between making it and not making it so drastic.

John Lovett, the two-time Bushnell Cup winner, was already on injured reserve with Kansas City, which gives him something of a redshirt year. The Chiefs were very high on Lovett and the versatility and intensity that he displayed at Princeton, and he was probably a lock to make the 53-man roster had he not hurt his shoulder.

As for the other five, they all got cut on Saturday, which probably was to be expected. The flip side of the NFL cut downs is that a lot changes after the deadline passes.

Seth DeValve, in his fourth NFL season, was cut by Cleveland, the only team he'd played for, and then picked up fairly quickly by Jacksonville. Record-setting Princeton wide receivers-turned-NFL tight ends Jesper Horsted (Chicago) and Stephen Carlson (Cleveland) were cut Saturday and then signed to the practice squads for their teams.

Horsted made a huge late run to almost get onto the 53-man roster. He made two great catches in the final preseason game and had eight catches in the last two games, not to mention a HEADLINE STORY on the Bears' website.

That's a pretty good picture no?

The two players who also got cut were quarterback Chad Kanoff and defensive lineman Caraun Reid, both of whom have excellent chances of finding a new team as the season starts to unfold.

The other big story from this weekend was the continuing evolution of Mike Ford into an important piece for the New York Yankees. The former Ivy League Pitcher and Player of the Year reached double figures in home runs in a very dramatic way Saturday, when he gave the team a 5-4 win over Oakland with a pinch hit home run in the bottom of the ninth:

Ford now has 10 home runs in 110 at-bats, which would be around 45 in 500 at-bats.

More importantly, a player who can come off the bench with lefthanded power is a huge asset in the postseason. Maybe he's played his way onto that roster.

That could possibly get TB to even root for the Yankees. He can add them to the list, with the Browns, Bears, Jags and Chiefs. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

It's Game Day

It's Game Day.

For the first time in the 2019-20 academic year, a Princeton team will compete in an athletic event. The opening kickoff will come from the women's soccer team, the two-time defending Ivy League champion and preseason pick to win again, as the Tigers head to Philadelphia to take on St. Joe's at 5.

The women's soccer game is the start of more than nine months of games and events as 37 teams and 1,000 athletes will compete more than 700 times. Some will win championships and make postseason runs, and, as is one of TigerBlog's favorite parts of Princeton Athletics each year, it won't always be the same teams doing so year after year.

In a remarkable run of success, Princeton has averaged 11.8 Ivy League championships the last five years, 11.4 the last 10 and 11.1 the last 20. Of course, as TB has often said, none of this is Princeton's birthright, and so none of this can ever be taken for granted.

To put it visually, there's THIS, the last scene from the movie "Patton," which speaks directly to what TB just said.

TB can assure you that nobody at Princeton ever expects to achieve this kind of success. It's a constant reinvention of what works, what needs to improve and what can be abandoned, all under the unwavering commitment to a set of core ethics called "Education Through Athletics" that values the entire undergraduate experience for the athletes who wear the Princeton uniforms.

It'll be hard for Princeton to match the success from last fall, which was just incredible. Princeton had four Ivy League championship teams in the fall of 2018, including its first unbeaten football team in 54 years.
The field hockey team didn't win the league title, but it still made a run to the NCAA Final Four, for the second time in three years.

The field hockey, men's soccer and women's soccer teams and women's volleyball team are all preseason favorites to win the Ivy championship this year. Will they? Remains to be seen, of course, but it's a nice thing for a team in the month of August.

As for cross country, Princeton is in the national top 25 for both men (21) and women (23) in the preseason.

Recapping, that's four preseason Ivy favorites and two top 25 teams.

The football team will be trying to do something it's only done once before - put together back-to-back perfect seasons. The only time it happened was in 1950 and 1951, when Dick Kazmaier was leading the team.

This is the 150th season of Princeton football. If you take off the 1800s and the World War I seasons of 1917 and 1918 (when the Tigers were a combined 3-0), Princeton has had perfect seasons in 1903, 1922, 1933, 1935, 1950, 1951, 1964 and 2018.

Here are the records for the following seasons:
1904: 8-2
1923: 3-3-1
1934: 7-1
1936: 4-2-2
1951: 9-0
1952: 8-1
1965: 8-1
2019 ???

In other words, in the other seven "year after" seasons, Princeton averaged 1.43 losses.

What will 2019 hold? You'll have to wait three more weeks for the opener, as it starts when Butler comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium on Sept. 21.

Ah, but for Princeton sports in general?

When last we saw competing Tigers, it was back in early June at the NCAA track and field championships. The last game between a Princeton team and another team was on May 18, when the women's lacrosse team fell in the NCAA quarterfinals to Boston College.  

In many ways, today is the most exciting day on the Princeton calendar.

There's so much that goes into fielding 37 varsity teams, for coaches and athletic staff as well, not to mention the athletes themselves. There are so many details that go into the entire process that it's important to always keep in mind what the actual goal is - using athletics to provide an extension of the overall educational experience.

Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, always stresses that in addition to all of the work that goes into this, it should also be fun. And the most fun that TB has in his job is watching the athletes he's gotten to know - and the ones he hasn't - compete.

And it all starts today.

Good luck to all the Tigers this year.

They're clearly the best part of TigerBlog's job.