Monday, July 23, 2018

Laxing At 3 AM

TigerBlog never really found out why the gold medal game of the FIL World Championship started at 10 am in Israel Saturday morning.

He thinks it might have something to do with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'av, which at one time he must have learned about in Hebrew school but whose significance he long ago forgot. As it turns out, TB (TigerBlog) had to relearn that TB (Tisha B'av) is considered the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, which is really saying something.

It's a day of fasting and mourning actually. It's a day of sadness, not of celebration, and because it began sundown on Saturday, the championship game needed be done by then. 

Of course, that doesn't really explain why it had to be played at 10 am. Maybe it was because of the combination of the holiday at sundown and the a desire to keep the game out of the stifling midday Israeli heat?

Whatever the reason, it does explain why TigerBlog was watching TV at 3 am Saturday.

His options were to watch the game live or to wait until noon and watch the replay and try to get that far without finding out who won. That, of course, would never have happened, and, of course, he would have watched it live whatever time it as played.

As it turned out, it was worth getting up in the middle of the night, since the United States and Canada played what will be remembered as one of the greatest - maybe even the greatest - lacrosse game ever played. As he thinks about, he's hard-pressed to come up with a game that can match the drama, the level of play and the prize at stake. Not even an NCAA championship game - even an overtime NCAA final, the way Princeton won four of its six - stacks up.

In the end, all that separated what are by far the two best teams in the world was a goal with one second left by Princeton great Tom Schreiber.

Final score: United States 9, Canada 8.

Schreiber's goal was his third of the day, along with an assist. It gave the USA its first lead since it had been 2-1, and it came after a controversial final five minutes that will only add to the lore of the game through the years. 

TigerBlog did decide not to put anything on goprincetontigers.com or Princeton men's lacrosse social media about the game until after the replay ended at 2 in the afternoon. Hey, if even one person managed to avoid seeing how it ended before getting to watch it, then it was worth it.

This game was played with ferocity for all 80 minutes, or more than 80 minutes, possibly. That's the best word to describe it. Ferocious.

If you wanted to see what ferocious lacrosse looks like, then watch the last few minutes of the third quarter, when Canada had the ball for an extended possession and never scored. Watch how hard the United States defended.

Ferocious had to share with controversial for the final five minutes though. And Princeton's two representatives, Schreiber and Zach Currier of Canada, were right in the middle of it all.

Canada took the lead with 5:17 to go, with the international running clock, and then Trevor Baptiste of the U.S. won the next face-off, briefly. Currier, though, attacked Baptiste's stick in a way that only Currier can, and in a blink the ball was in Currier's stick.

With the way the international game is played, it's possible that had Canada kept possession, the United States never would have gotten it back. There is no shot clock, only a stall warning that forces a team to keep it in the offensive box, which is much wider than it is in college. Canada probably would have tried to run the clock out and, with the way it could handle the ball, would likely have been successful.

Instead, just as quickly as Currier took it away from Baptiste, the officials took it away from Canada, calling an offsides infraction that by all accounts was incorrect. Now the Americans had the ball, tied it and won the face-off with three minutes left.

The closest Canada came to touching the ball again came when it was a loose behind the goal and there was a, well, ferocious chase for it. Currier at one point looked like he might have been pushed, but no call was made. Schreiber definitely was pushed down after that, giving possession back to the U.S.

TigerBlog Jr. was at the game. He also worked a lot of games at the tournament, and he would tell TB that the way the clock works, there was an official time kept by the box official and an unofficial time on the scoreboard. The scoreboard time was the time that was also on TV or the videostreams, and this explains why there always seemed to be a delay between when the clock would get to all zeroes and the play would actually stop.

This is what happened at the end of the championship game. The clock on TV kept jumping around in the final 10 seconds, as the U.S. took two shots that went high. Each time play stopped, the clock on TV - which was also on the scoreboard - added time back on.

Still, the official time in the box was correct, and it's why Schreiber's goal was legit. He made a great play, running off a screen from Ned Crotty and taking a soft feed from Rob Pannell before beating the great Dillon Ward with one second still to go.

If you're a lacrosse fan, then you had to love the game. TigerBlog was rooting for Schreiber and Currier, which made it somewhat difficult because one of them had to lose.

Of all of the great players that TigerBlog has ever seen play at Princeton, none has approached the game quite like Currier. In a game of ferocity nobody is more ferocious or competitive, yet he plays with what you could call grace at the same time. And he never, ever stops.

Forget just lacrosse. TB can't think of another athlete in any sport he's ever seen who plays harder all the time. The result is a player that you always want on your side.

And then there's Schreiber, who was named the top midfielder in the tournament and earned a spot on the All-World team. He may very well be the best player in the world right now, as both Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine have said, but that is not something that he considers.

He also is a graceful player, one who seems to glide as much as anything else. But don't think that he lacks ferocity, because he doesn't. He is the best passing midfielder TigerBlog has ever seen, and he is big and powerful as a scorer as well.

His second goal in the championship game, which tied the game at 7-7 in the fourth, was typical of him, where he caught the ball. He took a pass in the middle and, with very little time or very little arm extension, rocketed the ball into the goal. And he can do it with either hand. Most players need to step into a shot like that and have a full extension of their arms. Not Schreiber.

The game-winner was as much instinct as anything else. It was a great cut, and Pannell, with little time to spare, put it in a small window. Catch. Finish.

Gold medal. In epic fashion.

And so what if it was at 3 am? This game figured to be a great one, and it exceeded expectations.

In fact, it could be the greatest lacrosse game ever played.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Setting The Alarm

TigerBlog recently set up an account with ESPN+, which will be the new home for Ivy League live video content beginning with this academic year.

TB set it up last week to coincide with the start of the FIL World Lacrosse championships, which have been going on since July 12 in Netanya, Israel.
ESPN has made a very strong commitment to covering the tournament. It has sent its top four men's lacrosse announcers there for two weeks, along with everyone else related to the production.

It has put a lot of games on either ESPN2 or ESPNU, and not just the U.S. and Canada. The broadcasts have also tried to give a sense of Israel and the culture there, and Merav Savir, the Israeli sideline reporter has been great at that.

Savir also did some play-by-play, in Hebrew, during the U.S. win over England. It reminded TigerBlog of a time that a European history professor of his did part of a lecture in French. TB didn't know what he was saying then or what Savir was saying this time, but both were mesmerizing in their delivery.

It's sort of, TB presumes, the point of going to an opera that's in a different language.

TigerBlog has watched most of the games that have been televised. He's also watched a ton of the games on ESPN+.

It's a very good product. It's also inexpensive - $50 for a year gets you all of the Ivy League content and everything else that's on ESPN+, which will be a lot of options.

It's also very easy to navigate. And you have the ability to rewind the video.

There are 46 teams who have been competing in Israel, and after today, places three through 46 will have been decided.

TigerBlog has been particularly interested in the five Princetonians who have been playing in the tournament, though he has watched some pretty random games, you know, like Greece-New Zealand and Wales-Latvia.

Andrew Song, a rising sophomore longstick midfielder, has been great for China, with a goal, two assists and 32 ground balls, including10 ground balls yesterday in a win over Croatia. Song and China will play Chinese Taipei at 3:15 Israel time (8:15 am Eastern) for 41st place.

Austin deButts has been one of Argentina's best players. The Argentines had an early morning date with Belgium for 29th place.

Alistair Berven has been a starter on defense for England, and he has had a good tournament. England will play Japan tonight in Israel and this afternoon (at 2) in the Eastern time zone for fifth place.

The top six teams in the tournament qualify for the top division in 2022, when the tournament will be outside of Vancouver, and England and Japan have both qualified. So have Australia and the Iroquois, who will play today for third place.

The championship game, of course, will match the U.S. and Canada. There was never any doubt that these two teams would play for the title, and this will be the sixth straight time that the championship game will match the Americans and Canadians.

If there is one downside to the sport on the international level, it's that these two are so far ahead of everyone else so that there isn't much drama when it comes to who will be the last two standing.

On the other hand, the championship game figures to be a great one, especially if it can match what happened when the two met during pool play, when the U.S. got a late goal from Johns Hopkins alum Paul Rabil - who once scored in OT to beat Princeton - to win 11-10.

Canada was the champion four years ago, by the way.

The game matches Princeton grad against Princeton grad, with Tom Schreiber of the U.S. and Zach Currier of Canada. Schreiber defeated Currier last summer in the Major League Lacrosse championship game with his Ohio Machine against Currier's Denver Outlaws.

TigerBlog is pumped for the final, way more so than he would be for, say, any NBA playoff game. Or the World Series. Or even the Super Bowl.

There's one problem, though. The game starts at 10 am tomorrow in Israel. That would make it 3 am in the Eastern time zone.

Honestly, TB isn't sure why they're playing the game at 10 am in Israel. It doesn't really make much sense, after all the time put in to promoting and televising the tournament, to have the championship game be at 3 am where most of the people who would want to see it live.

Oh well.

TB will just have to set his alarm for this one. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Year In Review

Princeton Athletics rolled out the newest version of a Year In Review yesterday.

It's an Adobe Spark production that you can see by clicking HERE. If you're a Princeton fan, you're really going to like it.

The Year In Review was mostly the work of Brendan Van Ackeren, TigerBlog's colleague from the Princeton Varsity Club. It's a chronicle of the 2017-18 academic year, on the field and off, including initiatives in the science of performance, some new facility enhancements and the ongoing commitment to community service.

In reality the Year In Review could have been twice as long as the finished product was. There are a lot of stories to tell here each year, and this past academic year was no different.

Princeton won 11 Ivy League championships a year ago and finished 40th in Division I in the NACDA Directors' Cup, which is all about determining the best overall athletic departments based on how they do in NCAA championships.

Princeton, in fact, was the highest finishing team from a non-Power Five Conference. That by itself is extraordinary. Consider how much money the other 39 schools in the Top 40 spend on athletics each year.

The Office of Athletic Communications tracks a bunch of information each summer regarding the previous year, including the overall record of all of Princeton's teams combined. This only counts games where there are two teams, so not like huge golf tournaments or cross country races.

Princeton had 628 of those games in the 2017-18 academic year. Of those 628 games, there were 13 ties - four each for men's soccer, men's hockey and women's hockey and one for women's soccer. TigerBlog will get back to the women's soccer tie in a few seconds.

First, there is the matter of Princeton's overall record.

How many of those 628 games were wins? How about 373.

That's a winning percentage of just over 60 percent. That means that Princeton teams won six of every 10 games they played this past year, across all of its teams.

That's pretty impressive, no?

It's even more impressive when you consider the women's teams by themselves. Princeton's women's teams were 206-103-5, and you can do the math yourself.

But think about it. Princeton's women's teams won two of every three games they played a year ago. And eight Ivy League championships.

As for the women's soccer tie, that game came against North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton advanced on penalty kicks, but the game officially counts as a tie.

The next game doesn't. That's when Princeton beat North Carolina in overtime to reach the quarterfinals.

North Carolina, as you probably know, is the gold standard when it comes to women's soccer in the history of the sport on the collegiate level, with 21 NCAA championships. Princeton's win over the Tar Heels was extraordinary.

To get an even better idea of how great the year was, you could possibly make a case that the win over UNC and the women's soccer run to the NCAA quarterfinals wasn't the No. 1 moment by a Princeton team. There were other achievements that are in the conversation.

The triple crown in men's track and field, for instance. That was the eighth for the program, which is eight more than the other seven schools in the league combined have ever won. That's men's and women's combined, by the way, since the only other Ivy program ever to do it was Princeton's women, who did it twice.

There was a fifth-straight Ivy title in women's lacrosse. There was the great women's basketball season. There were other Ivy titles to choose from - and none of that includes what very well could be the No. 1 story for Princeton Athletics from the last academic year.

That would be the extraordinary run to the ECAC championship and NCAA tournament by the men's hockey team. That's going from last place to champions in two years.

Anyway, you can debate all you want which one you think is the biggest story. And in the meantime, enjoy the Year In Review. Brendan did a great job on it.

It won't be long before there's the start of a new academic year. For that matter, it won't be long until that academic year will have its own Year In Review and debate over what the top story of 2018-19 will be.

It's one of TB's favorite parts of working here. There's always going to be a big story that comes up, and there's no way of knowing which team is going to be the one to provide it in any given year.

A win over North Carolina in women's soccer in the NCAA Sweet 16? An ECAC title and NCAA appearance in men's hockey?

Would you have believed TigerBlog if he told you last year that the new year would feature both of those?

What about this coming year? Who knows, but it'll be exciting to find out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

18 More At Springdale

TigerBlog came away from last year's Friends of Princeton Lacrosse golf outing thinking that he was the worst golfer of all time.

He came away from this year's thinking that he was much less terrible than he'd been a year earlier. That's progress.

In fact, no less a golf expert than longtime men's lacrosse program member Bryce Chase told TigerBlog that TB's golf game, and TB quotes directly here, "isn't hopeless." Brycie, who turned 78 yesterday, is recovering nicely from his broken leg after a bike mishap, by the way.

TigerBlog hit way more good shots in Monday's event than he did last year. A year ago, his only good shots were irons, which he can fairly consistently hit straight and with reasonable distance.

This time around, TB had definite improvement in a few areas. This surprised him, since he hadn't swung a club in 52 weeks. In fact, the two water bottles he put in the bag last year were still there.

Despite that, he actually was okay at chipping with a wedge. And getting out of the sand traps, after a little advice from Bryce. He hit a few good fairway woods. He read the greens well on his putts.

Oh, don't think for a minute that he was actually good. Far from it.

He didn't win longest drive. In fact, he hit one shot with a three-wood all day, and it was a little dribbler off the tee. He didn't win closest to the pin, though on the hole with the closest to the pin contest, he was definitely closest to the tree closest to the pin.

It's just that he was, well, not hopeless.

Maybe he'd improve if he played more than once a year?

His playing partners this year were Bob Clark and Bill Prager, fathers of three former Princeton men's lacrosse players between them. Dan Clark and B.J. Prager graduated in 2002, while Matthew Prager graduated in 2005.

Bob and Bill are good golfers. They can actually hit woods off of tees, and hit the ball far and straight. They have a lot of experience, and they know how to approach shots and not just hit it and hope for the best.

TigerBlog was at every game that Clark and B.J. Prager played at Princeton and all but one that Matthew Prager played. It was pretty odd to hear Bill Prager talking about B.J.'s three kids, but then again, it's been 16 years since he graduated from college.

B.J. Prager scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the 2001 final, a 10-9 win over Syracuse for the sixth  NCAA title in program history. TigerBlog off the top of his head could tell you about a million things he remembers from that game, from the way the Tigers got out to a 3-0 lead after the first quarter after Syracuse had pushed Princeton around in three games (2000 and 2001 regular season and 2000 NCAA final) by a combined 43-19 all the way through Bill Tierney's emotional kneel on the field after winning a championship with his sons Trevor and Brendan.

Princeton led 3-0 after one and then 5-3 at the half. It grew to 8-4 after the third quarter and then, boom, Syracuse tied it at 8-8 in a blink of the fourth quarter. Princeton went ahead 9-8, but Syracuse would tie it with 16 seconds left.

Both teams had chances in the OT, but it was Prager who ended it with 41 seconds left, off a feed from Ryan Boyle.

For everything he remembered from that day at Rutgers, there's one thing he either never realized or forgot at some point: Prager scored the last four Princeton goals in the game.

Bill Prager certainly knew that. TB actually went back and looked it up, and it was true. One of those four, by the way, was assisted by Dan Clark.

The conversation over 18 holes included a lot of topics. Bill grew up on Long Island and was in the Air Force. Bob is a Philly guy originally who rowed and never played lacrosse.

They talked about kids. Golf. Usual stuff.

And of course the 2001 championship game came up. They talked about how nervous they were when Syracuse tied it. TigerBlog was confident that Princeton would figure out a way to win.

After their 18 holes were over, there was a reception and then dinner. Head coaches Chris Sailer and Matt Madalon and Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan spoke. The Academic-Athletic Fellows for the men's and women's teams were honored, and there was a special goodbye for Pat Moran, the men's Fellow who is leaving Princeton for Columbia.

These events, multiplied by 37 varsity teams and then by the entire University, are a huge part of what makes Princeton so special. It's the loyalty that is bred here and that lasts forever.

That level of loyalty is something that is unique to this school. And when you see it from the perspective that TigerBlog has at events like Mondays, you're able to appreciate it even more.

As for the golf? On TB's last hole, he found himself off the side of the green. He hit a soft wedge, and the ball looked all the world like it was headed into the hole. Instead, it rolled just past the cup, settling at that uncomfortable distance where it's just a little too far to pick up your ball. Plus, it was the 18th.

TigerBlog sized up his putt and, looking for a nice way to end the round, left it just short. Two putts.

But still, he'll take it. All in all, it was a great day at Springdale.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Let The Celebration Begin

So you're boarding a plane and you get to your row and nobody else is sitting there.

As an aside, this only applies if you're flying by yourself.

Anyway, you get to your row and nobody is there. Your first thought is that maybe, just maybe, you're going to have some unexpected roominess.

You sit and you keep an eye out. Is that person coming to sit here? No, not the mother and baby. Noooooo - yesssss, they're a few rows ahead.

Eventually, almost every time, someone ends up sitting next to you. And you're forced to nod hello and be polite, when all you wanted was for them to be anywhere else.

Ah, but those rare times when it's clear that the door is closed, the plane is pushing back and you're all by yourself for that flight. That's what happened for Miss TigerBlog ’22 Sunday evening on her flight to Paris.

She texted TigerBlog from the plane saying that nobody was sitting next to her, and this on an overnight flight to Paris. How lucky is that?

One possible explanation, of course, is that maybe the person who was supposed to be in Row 37 on the flight to Paris Sunday changed plans and went earlier, to be there in time for the World Cup final between France and Croatia.

BrotherBlog and Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog, got to Paris Thursday, in advance of their week-long role as tour guides. They've been to Paris often.

TigerBlog has been to 16 European countries, but never to England, France or Italy. Try to find someone else who can say that.

BrotherBlog originally suggested that MTB not go to France on July 14, which would be Bastille Day. Instead, she should wait and come Sunday, when things presumably would be calmer. Little did anyone suspect that the next day would turn out to be the day that France won its second World Cup, defeating Croatia 4-2.

As it was, she took a flight that got her there yesterday morning local time, so she missed the game and the party that followed. BB and Joe watched the first half of the game from the apartment they've rented and then went outside to be part of it during the second half. Here is BB's video from the streets:

It's quite a scene, no? As TigerBlog has said, there's nothing in American sports that can match the fan obsession that international soccer has.

TigerBlog watched BB's video and other videos he saw of the celebrating, and it got him wondering what the biggest celebrations on Princeton's campus have been after an athletic success.

He's not talking about bonfires or anything that's planned. He's talking about an impromptu party that broke out after someone had a really, really big win.

He's heard that it got pretty celebratory after Princeton's win over UCLA in 1996 in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but he was in Indianapolis, not Princeton, for that one. Still, he heard from a few people who were on campus then that it got pretty wild.

In addition he's also seen pictures after the men's basketball team defeated Providence to advance to the 1965 NCAA Final Four. There were players, including future Director of Athletics Gary Walters, on top of the bus with a huge crowd of students around it.

Are there others? There certainly has been no shortage of huge wins here.

Does anyone have any examples?

Maybe there were big parties after some of the bigger football wins. There are many who remember the great teams of the 1960s and others who go back to the 1950s and the Dick Kazmaier days.

How about the 1933 or 1935 national championship teams? Both of those seasons ended with huge wins at Yale, by scores of 27-2 in 1933 and 38-7 in 1935. What happened when the team got back to Princeton after those games?

TigerBlog has seen a lot of teams who have celebrated, in locker rooms and on fields and in buses on the way back. But something that galvanized the entire campus?

In the meantime, MTB walked into the tail end of the celebrations in Paris.

Hopefully she'll have a great week over there, and hopefully her tour guides won't lose her or anything.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Channel Flipping

Talk about genius television programming.

Put the Sylvester Stallone/Michael Caine epic "Victory" against the World Cup third-place game. Which is better? Sly and Michael Caine as Allied POWs who use a soccer game to escape from the Nazis or an actual soccer game that means nothing?

That was Saturday, when the movie was on opposite Belgium's 2-0 win over England in a game that TigerBlog still can't imagine was played in the first place.

He went with the movie instead of the game. Hey, Pele was great in it. 

As for Sunday, well, the TV choice was much tougher. The World Cup final on at the same time as the United States against Canada in the World Lacrosse championships?

What do you think TigerBlog did?

In all seriousness, did nobody at the lacrosse tournament realize that the marquee game of the round-robin stage was being played opposite the second half of the World Cup final? For that matter, he's still not sure why the final is being played at 10 am in Israel, which means 3 am in the Eastern time zone. 

Meanwhile, back at the World Cup, there are very few things in all of sports anywhere in the world like the World Cup final. The intensity of every minute of it is obvious, for the players and their fans. It's like the Super Bowl taken to another level.

TigerBlog's prediction of 2-0 Croatia didn't quite come to pass, though he had the Croatia with two part correct. He just wasn't counting on a 4-2 final, but that's how it turned out, as France outscored Croatia 2-1 in each half to win a second World Cup.

He'd give you more of his take on the game, but hey, he was watching lacrosse for most of the second half of the soccer game. Actually, he did a lot of flipping back and forth, though with way more time spent on lacrosse than soccer.

There are two tournaments within the World Championships. The first one consists of the teams that are playing for the championship or at least to get to the quarterfinals, a group that includes the main group plus teams like the hosts, Israel.

Then other tournament is the one where teams are playing for the experience. Those would be the majority of the 46 countries who are there.

TigerBlog didn't realize that Princeton actually had five players in Israel. He thought it was four - Zach Currier of Canada, Tom Schreiber of the U.S., Alistair Berven of England and Andrew Song of China.

Then, during one of the games on TV, the camera panned throughout the crowd to the other teams, many of whom were watching. And there, in with the Argentina team, was a familiar face, former Tiger captain Austin deButts.

As it turns out, Austin - a 2016 Princeton grad and a shortstick defensive middie - was playing with Argentina. He coached with the team in Denver in 2014, and now he's playing with them in Israel.

In fact, he's having a better summer internationally than Lionel Messi did. Argentina lost its opener to Sweden but then defeated Hungary and the Czech Republic, and deButts has scored four goals, including three yesterday against the Czechs in a 12-8 win.

TigerBlog watched that game on ESPN+ on his computer, by the way, while he flipped between the soccer and US-Canada games. The stick skills aren't quite there in the lower division games, but the effort certainly is.

Andrew Song, a rising sophomore longstick midfielder who has exceptional stick skills, had his first goal for China in Israel, as well as six ground balls, in a 13-12 loss to Turkey earlier yesterday.

The United States defeated Canada 11-10 in the first meeting between the two in what was a great, and very physical, game. They're almost surely headed to a rematch in the finals, and if you remember back to four years ago, the U.S. won the round robin game and then lost to Canada in the championship game.

Currier, by the way, did a lot of everything for Canada, including a big goal in transition and a lot of relentlessness everywhere on the field. Currier did as much as anyone to contribute to the intensity and physicality of the game.

Paul Carcaterra on the ESPN2 broadcast mentioned how it still bothers him that Currier wasn't first-team All-America in 2017; if Carcaterra thinks he's annoyed by that, he ought to ask TB how he feels.

Flipping back to soccer for a second, that game was actually outscoring the lacrosse game for awhile.

You have to give Croatia a lot of credit for not folding when France got up big, but the hole was just too deep. TB made sure he watched the last few minutes of soccer, which was during the second quarter of the lacrosse game.

The French seemed happy, though Croatia had an extraordinary run.

And with that, the World Cup is over.

TigerBlog loved the World Cup, even if he didn't watch much of the second half of the final. He'll miss having a bunch of games on every day during the group stage and then the drama of the knockout round.

He's also very glad that the final didn't come down to PKs.

In the meantime there is still most of a week left of the lacrosse tournament. TB will be surprised if it's not a Currier vs. Schreiber rematch in the final.

In fact, the U.S.-Canada has been the final each of the last five times, and it'll probably stay that way for awhile.

TigerBlog still thinks he'll be watching it live.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Happy Friday The 13th

Have you ever heard this word before: paraskevidekatriaphobia?

It looks like a random collection of letters. Apparently it's a real word.

It means a a fear of Friday the 13th. TigerBlog would more fear having to pronounce it than anything to do with Friday the 13th itself.

Today is Friday the 13th. It's the second and last one of 2018 (if you forgot, the other one was in April). If you're petrified, or even mildly uneasy, about Friday the 13th, then when you get through this one, you won't have to worry about another one until September of 2019.

Of course, not all Friday the 13ths are equal. This one is for a July weekend, and how can anyone get that uptight about a Friday in the summer?

We're just six weeks away from the start of the 2018-19 athletic year here. The first event, women's soccer at New Hampshire, is 42 days from today.

Opening kickoff for football is three weeks later, in Indiana against Butler. The home opener is 10 weeks from tomorrow, when Monmouth is on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

There are six home games for the Princeton football team in 2019. After the trip to Indiana, there are just three more away games - at Columbia, at Harvard and at Yale. Remember, this is the year the schedule has changed, so the season ends against Penn now.

That's all for later on though.

For this weekend you have the World Cup third-place game (England vs. Belgium) tomorrow and then the final Sunday (France vs. Croatia).

TigerBlog is predicting a 2-0 Croatia victory. He's actually fascinated by the third-place game and why they still have it, for one thing. Also, how hard will the teams play? Do they care?

They have to be crushed that they're not playing Sunday. The game itself means nothing. Will it just be going through the motions?

TigerBlog, as you know, is also interested in the World Championships of lacrosse, which are currently going on in Israel.

There were a ton of games yesterday, including the Ireland-China game TigerBlog was interested in that one because of Princeton rising sophomore Andrew Song, a longstick midfielder for the Tigers.

Ireland won 18-3, but Song and China get right back at it again today, against Denmark at 5:30 this afternoon in Israel or 10:30 this morning in the Eastern time zone. You can see that game on ESPN+,  which is also the new home for livestreaming of Ivy League events starting this fall, so you might as well get your subscription now.

TigerBlog Jr. worked at two games yesterday - Germany vs. South Korea and Mexico vs. Latvia. Germany won its game 19-5, with two goals and an assist from TBJ's Sacred Heart teammate Alex Weiss.

TB watched the Israel-Jamaica game on ESPNU and then the United States-Iroquois game on ESPN2 yesterday.

The first game was close for a quarter, though there was a sense that Israel was just better, which proved to be the case in an 11-3 win. As for the second game, there was a lot to that one.

The Iroquois had passport issues that caused the team to miss the 2010 event in England. This time around, the Iroquois were able to get there, but not until a few hours before the opening face-off against the U.S.

Despite sitting on a plane for 11 hours and then getting off and playing, the Iroquois had a 7-5 lead at the half. The U.S. team rallied, finally winning 17-9, and Princeton alum Tom Schreiber had a big goal during the 5-0 run that turned the game around in the third quarter. Schreiber finished with two goals and two assists.

Schreiber hasn't been his usual best-player-in-the-world self since he injured his knee during the indoor National Lacrosse League season, but he looked pretty good yesterday in terms of movement.

The U.S. pulled away against the Iroquois, who finished third four years ago. You have to give the team credit for the effort yesterday, and they'll be tough once they're full acclimated. Having said that, TigerBlog doesn't think they could beat either the U.S. or Canada in a semifinal game. 

The other two Princeton alums in Israel play today against each other, as Alistair Berven and England take on Zach Currier and Canada. That game is at 9 pm in Israel or 2 pm here.

There are a lot of chances to see Schreiber and Currier this weekend, including head-to-head Sunday at noon (Eastern) on ESPNU. The U.S. also is on ESPNU tomorrow at 7:30 am against Australia, followed by Canada-Scotland at 11 am Eastern on ESPNU.

At the same time, don't just spend your weekend watching soccer and lacrosse on TV.

Make sure you get outside too and do some summer weekend things.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Main Event

So the World Cup final will be France against Croatia.

Somewhat shockingly, England has still only made it to one championship game, back in 1966. TigerBlog would have guessed that the English would have been there a bunch of times in the early days at least.

The latest loss, 2-1 to Croatia in the semifinals, has to really sting the English. They scored early and seemed on the verge of adding two or three more, only to have the Croats tie it in the second half and win it in extra time. 

As for France, it is 1-1 in the finals, with a win over Brazil in 1998 and a loss to Italy in 2006. France won in 1998 in Paris, and England won in 1966 in London. France is the only team to win at home since 1978, and of course that won't happen this year, since the game will be in Russia.

TigerBlog was in Ireland in 2008 for the European championships. Ireland wasn't even in it that year and Dublin was nuts.

Can you imagine being in France or Croatia Sunday, or Monday if they win? Well, TB actually knows someone - three someones - who will be in Paris this weekend.

BrotherBlog and Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog, are headed there today. They'll be in Paris for the World Cup final.

Even BrotherBlog will have to be aware that some major sporting event is in progress.

They'll be joined there early Monday morning by Miss TigerBlog ’22, who will be spending a week in Paris with them. If France wins, the party will still be going when her flight touches down shortly after dawn. If France loses, well, there'll be a lot of hungover people anyway, TB presumes.

It's an international summer for TB's children. MTB was offered a graduation party or the trip to France; she chose very wisely.

As for TigerBlog Jr., he is in Israel. He's been there since June 24, and he'll be there until the end of the World Lacrosse Championships, which began yesterday with a game between Hong Kong and Luxembourg.

From the World Cup to the World Championships. If you're like TigerBlog, then you're glad the main event is finally here. 

TBJ is playing in a league separate from the World Championships but at the same site, in the Tel Aviv surburb/beach town of Netanya. He is also working at the championships, doing stats and helping out the ESPN people.

His first 10 days were spent touring, from Haifa in the north of the country, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and then south to the Negev Desert. He's sent a bunch of pictures, including his "selfie" on a mountain with Syria behind him and one of him and his group covered in mud from the Dead Sea.

Somewhat surprisingly, he's texted more from Israel than he does in an entire school year in Connecticut.

It's a great opportunity for him, of course. Travel. Night life. Lacrosse.

Princeton has four players who are competing in Israel, and they're on four different teams.

Andrew Song, a rising sophomore, is playing for China. The longstick midfielder had a dynamic freshman season for Princeton and is one of the main reasons for the optimism that surrounds the program.

Princeton, if you forgot, will enter the 2019 season with the longest winning streak in Division I, and it will do so with a deep corps of players who are rising sophomores and juniors who already have a ton of experience.

Song played his first game at 9:30 Israeli time this morning, which means 2:30 am Eastern time. TBJ has promised to get some pictures; TB will see if he follows through.

The other three Princeton players are all alums, and they're all in the top division. TBJ is supposed to get pictures of them too.

The final almost surely will be the U.S. and Canada, which would mean Tom Schreiber against Zach Currier. Alistair Berven, who graduated in 2017 with Currier, plays defense for England.

TigerBlog put a story on goprincetontigers.com that has the schedule broken down by each player. You can see it HERE.

There will be a lot of television coverage of this tournament, including this afternoon at 1:30 Eastern when the U.S. opens against the Iroquois, who solved their passport issues to get to Israel.

The championship game is a week from Saturday at 10 am Israel time. That's 3 am Eastern time.

TigerBlog will be awake.

Why wouldn't he be? The final of the biggest world championship event in sports this summer?

Okay, okay. He'll admit it. The World Cup is bigger.

And hey, he can love both.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Court Reporting

For TigerBlog, a normal "Court Report" has to do with Princeton women's basketball, not the United States Supreme Court.

Today, it'll be the latter.

Forget politics though. As you know, TigerBlog avoids all subjects political here.

He wants to talk law schools.

The eight current Supreme Court justices all attended either, egads, Harvard or Yale for law school. Brett Kavanaugh, nominated Monday night, went to Yale Law School.

If you're keeping score, that's five from Harvard law and three Yale law grads for right now. Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, then that would be 5-4 Harvard.

You'll notice TigerBlog had to be very specific about the language there, since Ruth Bader Ginsburg never graduated from Harvard law. Instead, she transferred to Columbia when her husband got a job in New York City, leaving her as a rare person to make law review at both Harvard and Columbia. 

Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement, went to Harvard Law School, as did Antonin Scalia, who passed away in 2016. You have to go back to before Scalia, to Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor, to find attendees of law schools other than Harvard and Yale who were named to the Supreme Court.

Those two, by the way, went to the same law school - Stanford.

John Paul Stevens is the third-longest tenured Justice in the history of the Court. Stevens, who was a justice for more than 34 years, went to Northwestern law school - which produced one-day Supreme Court Justice John Mack as well - and he retired in 2010 after Rehnquist died and O'Connor retired. That means that since 2010, every member of the Supreme Court, whether they are to the left or the right, has attended of either Harvard or Yale law.

Warren Burger was the Chief Justice when he retired in 1986. That's the last time someone was on the court who didn't graduate from Harvard, Yale, Columbia or Stanford. That includes 16 justices, and it would be 17 if Kavanaugh is confirmed.

Princeton, of course, does not have a law school; otherwise, the entire court would be made up of its grads.

As you probably know, three current Supreme Court Justices went to Princeton as undergrads - Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito. That's two Yalies (Alito and Sotomayor) and one Cantab (Kagan).

Going back a bit further, Alito is a graduate of Steinert High School, which is about 15 minutes from the Princeton campus in Hamilton.

Back in 2011, when Princeton played Kentucky in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in Orlando, the local paper asked each school for one non-basketball or athletic fact about the school. This request came to TigerBlog, who said that Princeton had three alums who were Supreme Court Justices. Kentucky's fact was that it had just set the world record for the largest tug-o'-war.

When it was printed, TigerBlog remembers some stereotyping that resulted, but that wasn't his intention. He just thought it was a great fact.

Back when the women's basketball team was unbeaten in the 2014-15 regular season, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan attended the team's NCAA loss at Maryland, after Barack Obama, himself a Harvard law grad, saw the NCAA win over Green Bay two days earlier.

Princeton played in the Cancun Challenge in that unbeaten season, defeating Wake Forest, Montana and Charlotte.

The 2018-19 Princeton women's basketball schedule has not yet been fully announced, but it's shaping up as another very challenging one. It's also shaping up as a team that's up to that challenge.

What was announced was Princeton's schedule for the next Cancun Challenge, which will be Thanksgiving weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Princeton will play three games in Mexico, beginning on Thanksgiving Day itself against DePaul, with games the following two days against Syracuse and Kansas State. Those are four schools used to playing in the NCAA tournament.

There will be a "Court Report" podcast that week. Perhaps TigerBlog should record it on site.

The tournament in Mexico will be a week after the end of the Ivy League football season. 

All of this Supreme Court stuff makes TB wonder if the Harvard-Yale game is a big one to the Justices. Only one of them - Chief Justice John Roberts (Harvard) - went undergrad at either of the schools. Kavanaugh went to Yale undergrad and law school.

Do the athletic teams matter to people who have graduate degrees, or do you only care about your undergraduate alma mater?

Or are most people like TigerBlog, who hopes his alma mater loses its season-ending football game this season.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Consolation Prize

TigerBlog read the story about Amir Bell's signing with an Italian professional team.

He especially liked two parts of the quote from the team's coach, Franco Ciani.

The first was this:
"Princeton has a very important program of both studies and athletics."

It's great that the athletic and educational reputation of Princeton extends around the world.

The other part of the quote was this:
"Princeton? Let's not forget that it was also Mason Rocca's college, not just any one."

Mason Rocca is on the short list of Princeton athletes who through no fault of their own never were able to fully realize their complete greatness here, though they certainly gave glimpses of it. On his best - healthiest - night, Rocca was the most physically dominant men's basketball player TigerBlog has seen here.

Unfortunately, as TigerBlog has said many times, Rocca didn't have enough of those healthy nights.

If Rocca is on that short list, by the way, so is Chris Young, the second most physically dominant men's basketball player TB has seen here. Young only got to play for two years because of the random fact that his 21st birthday came six days before June 1 after his sophomore year, which made him eligible for the Major League Baseball draft that year.

As a result, when he signed his baseball contract, he was then ineligible for basketball too in the Ivy League, cutting short a career that, had it lasted four full years, would have left him as clearly the second-best player in program history.

As for the best player in program history? That of course is Bill Bradley.

So remember yesterday when TigerBlog mentioned that Princeton fans were okay with a consolation game from 53 years ago? He was talking about the 1965 men's basketball third-place game, between Princeton and Wichita State.

After the teams lost their semifinal games to Michigan and UCLA, Princeton beat Wichita State 118-82 to finish third. Bradley scored 58 points, which remains the most ever scored in an NCAA Final Four game and the most ever scored by a Princeton player.

Bradley shot 22 for 29 from the field (there was no three-point line back then) and 14 for 15 from the line. He also had 17 rebounds and four assists.

Actually, the assist totals are sort of interesting. For one thing, assists weren't official kept until more than 10 years later. For another thing, in a game that featured exactly 200 points, there were 11 assists credited - only one by Wichita State.

Here's a good trivia question for you:

There have been 13 men's basketball games in Princeton history in which a player has had at least 15 made field goals in a game. The first time was back in 1932, when John Seibert did so against Ursinus.

Bradley himself did it eight times. That leaves four more. Geoff Petrie did it twice. Brian Taylor did it once.

That means only one player since 1972 has done so. Can you name him? Hint - TigerBlog was at Dartmouth the night he did it.

The 58 points, also obviously Bradley's career high, is a number that most Princeton fans know about. What's fascinated TigerBlog even more through the years is Bradley's career low.

In three years of varsity basketball at Princeton, as the focal point of every defense he faced, as the person around whom every opponent's practice centered for three years, Bradley never scored fewer than 16 points in a game.

That's just ridiculous.

Think about that. His worst night ever was 16 points.

Anyway, TigerBlog was thinking about the greatest individual performances in Princeton history, across any sport, and that 58-point game has to be up there. It's summer, so TB does have some time to think about something that can compare.

Kazmaier against Cornell in 1951?

And what about performances TB has actually seen since he's been at Princeton? The first name that popped into his mind wasn't one you might have guessed.

It was actually Donn Cabral, at Heps cross country or at the NCAA steeplechase finals.

Off the top of his head, he also comes up with Thomas Pauley's 10-strikeout performance in Game 3 of the 2003 Ivy League baseball championship series.

And, you know, about 10 different games from Zach Currier. Yeah, he'll spend a little more time on this one.

In the meantime, there's the trivia answer - Rick Hielscher, who was 16 for 20 against Dartmouth in 1995.