Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Small World

Here's how small the world has gotten: TigerBlog sent a text message to former Princeton men's lacrosse manager Allison Binns the other day and within minutes got a response saying "I'm in Zanzibar."

Think about that. The world is tiny. A text message from New Jersey and a response from Zanzibar. In a few seconds.

Think about how mass communication has changed. TigerBlog was telling his friend Todd yesterday about how when TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog were in nursery school, it was his job to create the phone list for when the weather was bad. If school was closed, then someone would call TigerBlog and he in turn would start the phone calling chain from there.

Now if school is closed, TB gets a voicemail, email and text before he ever wakes up. Phone lists? Hah. What are those?

Todd countered with the idea that if a typhoon were to happen somewhere in a remote area of the Pacific, it would be international news in minutes. If the same thing happened 20 years ago, how would word ever spread?

TigerBlog has sort of wondered how basic news traveled as recently as 100-150 years ago? How did word get around, for instance, that a new President had been elected? Or how did vote tallies get sent on to where they were centrally counted?

TB would say it made it easier to cheat in elections, but in some ways it seems like it's never been easier. But hey, he digresses.

Actually, he isn't digressing, since he hasn't actually gotten to the point yet.

Oh yeah. Communication.

TigerBlog was watching the final between the U.S. and Canada at the World Lacrosse Championships when the broadcast crew began to interview Bill Tierney, the former Princeton men's lacrosse coach who is currently the head coach at Denver, where the tournament was held.

In addition to talking about how the game was going, Tierney also talked about how he had played in the over-60 division in the tournament. TB knew that Tierney was going to be doing this, since he had seen Tierney the week before the World Championships and Tierney had mentioned it.

TB wanted to ask Tierney how he did, so he texted him. A few moments after the interview, Tierney responded, saying he'd scored four goals in four games, the U.S. had won and he had sore Achilles.

Canada defeated the U.S. 8-5 in the final. The game was played at an excruciatingly slow pace, but it was perfect for the Canadians, who got the lead and sat on it. The rules had stalling warnings but no shot clock, and the U.S. defense could force the Canadians out of possession until it was way too late.

As an aside, Tierney said he would be shocked if there wasn't a shot clock in men's collegelacrosse next year and that he would welcome it. TigerBlog would be okay with it, though he has to be the only one who thinks that the current rules are pretty good, with the so-called invisible shot clock after a timer-on is declared by the refs. Maybe clarify the rules to have more uniformity to when the timer on is called.

Anyway, as of now, the Canadians have won the championship for the third time. The U.S. has won eight. Nobody has won any.

Also, nobody is getting all that close to winning one. The Iroquois are the third-best team, and they only lost to the Canadians by one the first time around. They then were hammered by the U.S. in pool play and by the Canadians in the semifinals.

Australia is the fourth best team, but there's no way the Australians are beating the U.S. and Canada. Israel, for that matter, almost got the Australians, falling 9-8 in the quarterfinals.

The dominance by two countries helps keep lacrosse out of the Olympics. On the other hand, the lacrosse world is growing significantly.

Tierney mentioned that when he coached the U.S. team  in 1998 - the Americans won - there were 11 nations who competed. This time, there were 38 teams in Denver.

Among them was Uganda, who not only became the first team from Africa to play in the World Championships but also won two games. The Ugandan offensive coordinator is Princeton alum Tom Schreiber, who described his guys as "truly amazing."

Clearly they were the rock stars of the tournament. Everywhere the Ugandans went, they were met by crowds who roared their approval. And why not? This was a country that didn't have lacrosse maybe three years ago, and here they were, playing and winning games in Denver.

The ESPN coverage of the event was tremendous.

Almost all of the U.S. games were on the TV networks, and many other games were on ESPN3. TigerBlog watched a few of those games on his phone.

It's how a sport grows.

And how the world gets smaller.

Monday, July 21, 2014

RIP, James Garner

Hendley was the new man in the "X" organization, an American surrounded on all sides by the British, save for two other countrymen.

Why three Americans were put here with all of the British officers wasn't exactly clear. Still, it worked out, at least in the short run, since Hendley - the scrounger - was exactly what the British needed for their escape - their "Great Escape," as it were.

Of course, in the end - after 50 of them were dead, 23 were returned and only three got away - it was Hendley who asked the obvious, yet almost completely unspoken question: Was it worth the price?

Hendley had guts, that's for sure. He took charge of the blind man. He stole a plane from a Nazi air base and flew it most of the way to Switzerland before he realized that he'd stolen a plane that didn't work. He survived the crash. He mourned his friend, the blind man, who couldn't see the ambush he was walking into until it was way too late, and even though, as he lie dying, all he said to Hendley was "thanks for getting me out."

The movie "The Great Escape" is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorites. It's a collection of tough guys who stand up to the Nazis and organize an incredible escape effort, only to realize that getting out of the camp and getting out of Germany were two different things.

It's also based on a true story, which means that there really were guys this tough in real life. And, in fact, there still are guys (and women) that tough, which gives TigerBlog hope for the world still.

Of all of the characters in "The Great Escape," TB's favorite has always been Hendley. Maybe it was the quiet, rational, realistic cool that Hendley had, instead of the overt bravado of some of the others.

Or maybe it was just the actor who played him, James Garner, who died over the weekend at the age of 86. When TB first heard the news, it struck him more than it does when most celebrities pass away.

For TB's money, the three coolest actors of all time are Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and James Garner. As of this weekend, all three are gone.

McQueen, MotherBlog's all-time favorite, lived to be only 50 before he died in 1980. His best role too was in "The Great Escape," where he played another American, Hilts, who is the king of the bravado cool. And the king of the cooler.

As for Garner, playing Hendley was the role TigerBlog remembers the most. It was hardly his only one.

He is most famous, probably, for playing Jim Rockford in "The Rockford Files." He was also a television star in "Maverick," and his movie credits surpass the 50 mark, including "Murphy's Romance," for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and "The Americanization of Emily," for which amazingly he was not.

TigerBlog loved Garner in "The Rockford Files" for many of the same reasons he loved him as Hendley, his quiet toughness, his ability to see everyone around him for what they were and for how grudgingly but forcefully he put up with the nuttiness around him.

For all of that, perhaps his best role came alongside Mariette Hartley in late 1970s and early 1980s Kodak commercials, where he was the henpecked husband and she was the relentless wife. There was an episode of "Barney Miller" where one of the side characters is talking about how the whole world is upside down, and to make his point, he says this: "Look at James Garner in 'The Great Escape.' Nazis couldn't build a prison big enough to hold him. And now he's gotta take lip from that snotty broad in those camera commercials. And she ain't even his wife."

Garner played off Hartley so perfectly while she did the same to him that it was impossible for the American viewer to believe they weren't actually husband and wife.

In reality, James Garner was married to the same women for 58 years, from the day in 1956 when they wed until the day he died. In fact (or at least according to Wikipedia), they had known each other for 14 days when they got married in 1956, and they never looked back.

Garner played a war hero in "The Great Escape." In real life, he was a soldier, wounded twice in the Korean War and earning two Purple Hearts. He turned to acting when he returned from the war, first in commercials, then on television and finally in movies.

He met his wife Lois at an Adlai Stevenson for President rally in 1956. Stevenson ran twice against Dwight Eisenhower and lost both times, in 1952 and again in 1956.

Stevenson was a Princeton grad, Class of 1922, which meant he graduated in the spring before the football season in which Princeton's Team of Destiny would go 9-0 and win the national championship. As part of that season, Princeton and Bill Roper defeated the University of Chicago - coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg 21-18 in Chicago in the first game ever broadcast on radio.

Does that count as enough of a reference to Princeton Athletics for today?

No? What if TigerBlog threw in that Erin McDermott, formerly the Executive Associate AD at Princeton, is now the Director of Athletics at Chicago? Is that enough?

What if threw in that John Mack, a 10-time Heptagonal champion, lives in Chicago and recently graduated from Northewestern Law School and passed the Illinois bar exam? Mack is also a former Roper Trophy winner, and the trophy is named for Bill Roper.

C'mon. That's like four paragraphs on Princeton Athletics.

Oh, here's another Princeton reference. TigerBlog didn't realize that Adlai Stevenson's father was Vice President of the United States under Grover Cleveland, who retired to Princeton and is actually buried in town.

Okay, one more. Yesterday TigerBlog was talking with a bunch of people when someone asked who the 14th President of the United States was. TigerBlog knew Lincoln was the 16th and that Buchanan preceded Lincoln. As he pieced it all together, he realized that the 14th was Franklin Pierce, and Franklin Pierce University plays sprint football now. Princeton is at Franklin Pierce on Oct. 3.

And that's all you get today. Give TB a break. It's not easy getting from James Garner to Princeton football.

And today is all about James Garner, one of TB's all-time favorites.

The world is a little less cool a place without him.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Think About Your Life, Pippin

TigerBlog and BrotherBlog share the same last name, and for that matter, the same last four letters of their first name.

Somewhere floating around in their cells, they have some genetic similarities. DNA and all that stuff.

For the most part, that's where it ends. The two have almost nothing in common, in almost any way. It's not that they don't get along. It's just that they are two completely different people.

This isn't a bad thing per se. Like TB said, it's not like they don't get along. Quite the opposite.

It's just that they don't have a lot of shared interests - or beliefs or temperaments or anything else. They probably wouldn't be friends if they weren't related, but hey, they are. And they each only have one sibling, so common sense would suggest that there's no reason to let a little thing like being nearly 180 degree opposites get in the way.

The result has been a lifetime for the two of them of reaching out to his brother's world, seeing what that world is all about, figuring out what makes the other tick. This has often taken both brothers way out of their comfort zones, and there have been really rocky moments. Still, it's been way worth it, since now, all these decades later, they have reached a place of what TigerBlog would consider to be a real understanding of each other. 

And it's also been a lifetime of finding areas of commonality. Places like the Music Box Theater, for instance.

Maybe it's because their parents introduced them to Broadway theater at a very young age. Maybe it's because each sees something in a musical production that appeals to something vastly different in each brother.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is a sign that they do in fact have at least one thing that they share for exactly the same reason. It's their genetic starting point, perhaps.

They both agreed that the current tenant of the Music Box is tremendous. "Pippin" is currently playing there, and both brothers raved about it.

TigerBlog has always loved "Pippin," which is among the most-performed musicals among high schools, which was in fact TB's introduction to the show long ago.

The part of the Lead Player was originally played on Broadway by Ben Vereen. TigerBlog remembers watching the Tony Awards on TV with his brother back in 1973 and seeing how Vereen ran down the aisle and did a flip onto the stage. TB has no idea why he remembers this; he just does.

The show itself is a mostly fictionalized account of the life of someone who may or may not have been Pippin the Short, an obscure eight century monarch. It is mostly a collection of breezy songs around a not exactly hard-hitting plot, yet there is something really endearing about it. And enduring.

Vereen's Tony Award was matched 40 years later by Patina Miller, making them the only two actors of different genders to win Tony Awards for the same role. For that matter, back in TB's high school days, Tara Meany played the Lead Player, showing that it could be either a male or female.

The current Lead Player is Ciara Renee, and she was extraordinary in the role as well. So was the one who played Pippin (Kyle Dean Massey), whose bio said he was on "The Good Wife" as well. Really the entire cast was great, especially the supporting players, who could sing, dance and perform the incredible circus acts and magic tricks that were built into this production.

The real show stopper was the only big name in the show - Annie Potts, who at the age of 61 plays Pippin's seductress/grandmother. She too sang and danced and did the circus stunts, and she did them effortlessly.

TigerBlog hasn't gone to many Broadway shows in the last few decades, but he really loves to do so. There are few experiences like spilling out of a theater at 10:30 or so and seeing just how alive the entire area is, with the people, the lights, the energy. It's incredible. It's rejuvenating. It's impossible to be tired, even as the hour gets later and later.

Meanwhile, back at BrotherBlog, TB doubts that his brother sees in the theater what TB does, which is a huge correlation between what it takes to be great at theater and what it takes to be great at sports.

Gary Walters, the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus, has talked extensively about the similarities between performing arts and athletics, even to point of suggesting that they because they are so similar, there should be academic credit given for athletics like there is for the performing arts. It's a radical view, but there is perhaps merit.

TigerBlog hasn't really given that much thought to it. What he does know is that athletics, like theater, require team efforts. They require those in starring roles, and those who have important supporting roles. There is also the need for those in the supporting roles to know that they are helping the team that way and be okay with not being in the starring roles.

The preparation for both is intense, done in private in advance of very public performances. They both take a serious toll physically and mentally, and as such, successful people in both fields need to take care of their minds and bodies at all times.

Nobody keeps score or wins or loses in theater, so the biggest different between the two comes in the area of competition. And yes, that's a huge part of what sports are all about.

Mostly, they take real, genuine talent to reach the highest level. Nobody on the stage at the Music Box could fake their way through it. They had to be the real deal. It's the same in sports. If you're not good enough, you get exposed.

TigerBlog would love it if TigerBlog Jr. would share his father's and uncle's love for musical theater. Maybe one day he'll get there. Miss TigerBlog is already all in on it, and she has loved her limited experience with seeing shows to date.

Meanwhile, it's another summer Friday here. A week ago, TigerBlog mentioned that there were eight weeks until the first games and 10 weeks until the first football game.

Now, in a blink of an eye, those numbers are seven and nine.

And if the curtain goes up in seven weeks, then rehearsals start in around five weeks. A few more blinks of the eye, and they'll be here.

Last week, TigerBlog told everyone to go enjoy the summer afternoon.

This week, his recommendation is to go see a show. Go see "Pippin." Or really any other one that's playing, like the one next door to "Pippin" - "Les Miserables." Or the one across the street, "The Elephant Man," starring Bradley Cooper.

Nah, scratch that. Go see a musical. TB isn't into plays.

When he left the theater, he was whistling, humming - "oh, it's time to start living. Time to take a little from this world we're given." It's from the interactive part of the song Potts sings.

It's what going to the theater is all about. Taking it with you when you leave.

TigerBlog gets it.

So does his brother.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yoo-Hoo, Mr. Pirate

TigerBlog was driving along I-95 the other day when he saw a fairly freakish sight.

There was a truck in front of him, far enough in front that he couldn't exactly see what was on the back of it but close enough that he could tell that it was one of those trucks that transports carnival rides. In this case, it was a pirate ship.

When TB was a kid, his favorite ride on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights was the pirate ship. It was the one that swung back and forth like a giant pendulum.

TigerBlog never loved the rides that went around and around, but he was okay with the up and down ones, like roller coasters and the pirate ship. It started out slowly and then picked up speed and height, with the added bonus that it looked out over the ocean.

Hurricane Sandy, of course, destroyed it - temporarily.

Anyway, it's been years and years - decades, actually - since TB has been on a pirate ship ride. He's fairly certain that even if he lives for 50 more years, he won't go on it again.

Still, the truck with the pirate ship did bring back some pretty good memories for TigerBlog.

And as he got closer to it, TB also started to get freaked out. See, there seemed to be a man on the back of the truck waving to the cars that went by. He was out there in the open, seemingly surfing on the bed of the truck while dodging the interstate traffic.

As he got closer, it got worse. It wasn't a real person, just a fake pirate, like a wax figure or something, one who was set up to wave to the passing cars. Except he was completely life-like, only about eight feet tall or so. Freaky. Yeah. Definitely.

As an aside, one of TigerBlog's favorite exchanges between Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam is when Sam is on a ship chasing after the rabbit, and Bugs yells "yoo-hoo, Mr. Pirate." When Sam still chases after him, Bugs says "are you still sore? What a nasty disposition." Hah. That always gets to TB.

Anyway, after TB had a few nightmares about the eight-foot-tall fake pirate, he got to thinking about the carnival world. Miss TigerBlog and her friend Wiki went to one such carnival a few weeks ago, and they had a great time - along with the hundreds of others who were jammed in.

And why wouldn't they be there? Who doesn't like a great carnival?

They're all over the country, and people like the people who run the pirate ship truck go all over the country to work at them. It becomes normal to them, TB supposes.

The nature of work is fascinating. Things that TB takes for granted in his job as standard everyday stuff is probably completely foreign to the pirate ship people, and vice versa.

TB's college friend Ed Mikus Jr. got a new job. He described it this way: "Primarily product support. We deliver tools to analyze mortgage backed securities and I focus on those bonds collateralized by commercial real estate."

TigerBlog has no idea what any of that means, other than he assumes it pays well.

As for TigerBlog's world, his job is very seasonal.

Right now, in the summer, the main staple of his job is missing. There are no games.

They'll be back soon (seven weeks from tomorrow). This is about a week shy of the midway point between the end of last year and the start of next year.

People ask TB all the time what he does in the summer without the games to worry about. Or if he has to work at all.

One of this summer's big projects is the redesign of goprincetontigers.com, the official website of Princeton Athletics. It has had the same basic look for the last nine or so years, which is fine in that it works.

The athletic website is the single best thing that happened in athletic communications in TigerBlog's time here - and really for any college anywhere.

Before there was an athletic website, the ability to communicate directly to those most interested - fans, alums, recruits, donors - was essentially nonexistent. Now? It's the easiest thing in the world.

The amount of content on the website is extraordinary. The problem is that over time, the website has clearly gotten a bit crowded.

Plus, a new look is good every now and then.

The goal is to make the site less busy and easier to navigate while giving priority space where it should be given.

The new site will be live with the start of the new academic year, which leaves another seven weeks to get it done. So far, the process has gone very well, and TigerBlog thinks that Princeton will be offering a very much improved product.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer. Go to a carnival.

Head onto the pirate ship ride, even if TigerBlog won't be there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Going Camping

There are six words that Miss TigerBlog says that make her father cringe: "Do you want to play Monopoly?"

There are any number of combinations of six words that a 14-year-old girl can say to her dad that are way, way, way worse than those six, of course. Those would make TigerBlog do way more than simply cringe.

It's not that playing board games with MTB isn't fun. It's not that TB doesn't want to hang around with her, even if, as is the case with the average early-teenage girl, she treats everything her father says as the absolute dumbest thing anyone in the history of the world has ever said and is 10 times more likely to roll her eyes at her dad than she is to smile at him.

That likelihood goes way up, by the way, when one of her friends is around. There's some equation that can actually calculate that, TB assumes. Or probably at least an app. "My father is so embarrassing" or something like that. It has to be out there.

Oh, and speaking of phones, have you ever spent time around a group of early-teen girls? They all have phones, and they all are always on them. At all times. If TB is driving MTB and her friends someplace, he will glance at them every now and then and see that everyone of them is on a phone.

What makes this sort of frustrating to TB is that he can't always get MTB to respond to his text messages or answer the phone when he calls. It's not like she can use the excuse of "I wasn't on my phone," since they're all on them all the time.

Despite the standard teenage girl stuff, MTB is a great kid. She's funny. She's smart. She's hard-working. She's personable. She's tall. She has a lot of friends. She plays multiple sports (field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, track and field) and one musical instrument (the cello).

Her friend Sonali's dad is an engineering professor at TigerBlog's alma mater, and MTB has gone with her friend and her friend's dad to a bunch of seminars, classes and workshops designed to introduce kids to engineering. MTB is on the record as saying she wants to study engineering there when it comes time for college, prompting TB to explain to her that Princeton has a good engineering school too.

At her best MTB has perfect comedic timing, and she also has the perfect foil in her brother. If TB had to equate them with a famous comedy duo, he'd go with Bugs and Daffy.

So it's not that he doesn't want to hang out with her. It's that playing Monopoly, TigerBlog has decided, is horrifically boring.

TigerBlog played Monopoly as a kid and then didn't play at all for decades until for some reason MTB became engrossed with the game. If TB looked on her phone, then he'd find next to the "my father is embarrassing" app another app, the Monopoly one, which enables her to play on her phone.

On a funny note, there's also a dice roller app that MTB uses because her game box no longer has its own dice in it.

There are all kinds of problems with playing Monopoly.

First, everyone seems to play by different rules. Then there's the issue of game strategy, which TB has never figured out. Buy up every property? Pass on some to build monopolies? What if you never get any?

Mostly, the problem is that the game can last forever, even long after it becomes apparent that one player is going to roll over the other.

Anyway, TB always feels like he's letting his daughter down if he says no to Monopoly. He needs to get her into a different game, maybe a good card game. Or chess and checkers. Something that doesn't take hours and hours.

Actually, TigerBlog thinks there are societal parallels to Monopoly. It used to be a fun, family-oriented game, TB supposes, and the fact that it took a long time to play was its charm. These days, everyone is too impatient and too focused on other things - like phones - to put that kind of time into something as low-tech as a board game.

TigerBlog is wrestling with this one. He doesn't want to contribute to the decline of American society, but he also doesn't want to get dragged into playing Monopoly all the time.

He doesn't have to worry about it tonight. He told MTB that he would practice field hockey with her this evening.

MTB has been playing all summer for her club team, called Mystx. She has school tryouts coming up, and she will also be heading to two camps, the first of which starts tomorrow here at Princeton.

Even by the standards of the overscheduled world of today's youth, MTB had a busy week last week. It began Thursday when she played field hockey and lacrosse and continued with more field hockey Friday and then more lacrosse over the weekend.

MTB has one bag that she uses for both sports, and she is constantly taking field hockey sticks out and putting lacrosse sticks in. TB often wonders if it's easy to keep track of the rules and subtleties of each sport, especially as she bounces back and forth between them so much.

MTB loves going to camp here, as TigerBlog Jr. used to as well.

TigerBlog thinks it's great for kids to stay in the dorms here and be exposed to a basic sample of what to expect from living at a college, even at young ages.

Princeton University hosts 64 sessions of summer camps across 18 sports, bringing a few thousand kids to this campus each summer. Each week in prime camp season there are any number of different sports represented, and TB can hear boys basketball going on behind him while he looks out across the track as another group is doing something.

In a little while, other groups will emerge to walk to lunch.

The camp life here is great. There are some day camps, but most are overnight.  The kids get to sleep in the dorms. Eat in the dining halls. Play their sport all day and night. Eat pizza. Meet other kids from around the country and in some cases the world.

It's a great experience for the kids involved. It's why the programs are so successful.

Some, like the younger group of boys playing basketball, are introductory. Others, for the high school kids, are competitive.

Either way, they're a huge part of the campus fabric in the summer.

There are way worse things for kids to be doing with their time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yeah Uganda

If you're going to be bored by the Major League Baseball All-Star game and not watch it - and recent rating trends suggest you won't unless you're older than TigerBlog - then there is a pretty good alternative.

And hey, the same goes if you need some good international competition now that the World Cup has ended.

Tonight at 7 Eastern (TigerBlog is pretty sure it's Eastern time) on ESPNU will be the pool play game between the United States and the Iroquois from the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver.

The U.S. is currently the only unbeaten team in the top division, while the Canadians and Iroquois both have one loss. The game is huge, because a win would give the U.S. the top seed and therefore a much easier route to the championship game.

The goal is to avoid the Canadians or Iroquois in the semifinals. Canada defeated the Iroquois 10-9 the other day in a game that was, uh, spirited, to say the least.

The Iroquois are about as exciting to watch as any team in sports right now. The team is led by the high-scoring Thompsons, as well as a few other big names from Syracuse. Together they run and gun, they score and they hit relentlessly. They will back away from no one ever.

The U.S. team defeated Canada 10-7 earlier in the event. The Australians are probably the fourth-best team, but there is a sizable gap from the top three to the fourth, even if the Aussies only lost 12-10 to the Iroquois.

Should the Iroquois beat the U.S., TB isn't sure what the tiebreaker would be to determine the top seed, since the top three would all have one loss and be 1-1 against each other.

Granted, TigerBlog is probably more into this tournament than the average person.

He was actually just watching Israel-Germany on ESPN3 in an elimination game in which Israel was up 8-0 in the second quarter. TB had to laugh when one of the German players flopped on a loose ball push and stayed down as replay after replay showed that nothing had happened to him.

And TB doubts that losing to Israel in the lacrosse tournament will take away some of the national joy in Germany now from winning the World Cup.

And TB isn't close to as into it as TigerBlog Jr., who has watched basically every game online, beginning with China vs. the Netherlands and Scotland vs. Thailand the other day.

China lost that game 19-4 but did come back to defeat Argentina 9-7 yesterday for China's first-ever win at the World Championships. And what a week Argentina is having, what with going 0-4 at the lacrosse tournament and losing the World Cup final.

Another team that won for the first time was Uganda, who defeated South Korea 10-9 in a thriller. The Ugandans trailed 9-4 at the end of the third quarter before outscoring the Koreans 6-0 in the fourth quarter.

It was 9-8 with less than a minute to go before Uganda scored with 44 seconds left to tie it. Patrick Oriana then won the face-off and scored the game-winner eight seconds later.

TigerBlog is a big fan of the Ugandan team, and not just because it's a great story. Lacrosse is very new to the country, brought there by the people at Fields of Growth. Just getting to Denver in the first place was an uncertainty almost to the end, but now the Ugandans are the first team from Africa to compete at the World Championships.

Then add to the fact that the team's offensive coordinator is Princeton alum Tom Schreiber, the three-time first-team All-America and two-time national midfielder of the year. And the winner of Princeton's Art Lane Award for contribution to sport and society and the national winner of the Senior Class Award, which recognizes the same types of contributions.

Schreiber was first connected to the Ugandan team through Fields of Growth, and he has embraced all aspects of the FOG program - the educational and economic development side, as well as the lacrosse side.

It's not surprising. That's how Schreiber is.

There haven't been too many lacrosse players, or athletes - or any students, for that matter - quite like Schreiber. He is one of the greatest players in Princeton lacrosse history, and he combines that with an almost too-good-to-be-true persona that has seen him give his time to so many different people, especially kids. 

And the Ugandans.

The team won't be advancing into the championship bracket. That doesn't matter in the slightest. 

Uganda got to Denver. That was Win No. 1.

Win No. 2 was even better.

There are three stories to these World Championships. One is the eventually winner. Two is the Iroquois and the excitement they've brought.

And three is the Ugandans. With Tom Schreiber in the middle of it.

Barring something ridiculous, he'll be at the 2018 championships as a player for the U.S. team. For now, he's there as a coach. A winning coach, for that matter.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gotze Goal

How'd you like to score the game-winning goal in the World Cup final when you're 22 years old? Barely 22, at that?

TigerBlog's sense is that Mario Gotze is having a pretty good today. Why wouldn't he? Gotze - at the old age of 22 years, one month and 11 days - scored the only goal in Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina in the World Cup final.

Gotze, who plays for Bayern Munich, probably will never have to pay for anything at the Hofbrauhaus - or for a wienerschnitzel anywhere - ever again.

The goal was a beautiful one. 

It took until the 113th minute for someone to score, though at least someone finally did, so that the World Cup wasn't decided by PKs. Gotze took a cross and, without ever letting the ball hit the ground, chested it and then left-footed it cleanly into the goal.

The cross came from Andre Schurrle, who will have to be content with winning the World Cup, since he won't get 1/1000th the adulation that Gotze will, but those are the breaks.

The difference between winning and losing in any round of any championship event can be extreme, and it's even more so in the World Cup.

For starters, the final is always going to be close, perhaps out of fear of making the crucial early mistake and digging a big hole.

Yesterday's game as the 19th World Cup final. Of those 19, there have been 11 decided by one goal (or tied and decided on PKs).

In fact, the goal that Gotze scored was nothing compared to the one four years ago, which came when Spain's Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute of another 1-0 win.

TigerBlog is seriously invested in some of his teams. He knows that he cannot imagine what it is like to be a German or Argentine soccer fan and watch that game.

Particularly striking to TB has been the pictures of fans weeping in the stands when their team loses. The Brazilians felt it early and often in the 7-1 loss to Germany, and the highlights of the game on the ESPN story are filled with sobbing Argentines.

TigerBlog has been pretty bummed after a few losses in his time here. As he has said, he can tell you easily what the most crushing Princeton loss he has experienced was.

It came in the second round of the 1998 NCAA men's basketball tournament, at what was then the Hartford Civic Center.

Princeton was 27-1 entering the game, having dispatched easily with UNLV in the first round. Awaiting was Michigan State, the fourth seed, while Princeton was seeded fifth, something that no Ivy League team has come close to matching.

Michigan State was two years away from winning the NCAA title, but the Spartans started four of the players who would start against two years later. It was 10-0 Michigan State before the Tigers rallied to tie it late in the second half, only to have Mateen Cleaves break Princeton's - and TB's - heart.

TigerBlog still feels bad that Princeton didn't get to the Sweet 16 that year. When Cornell got there in 2010, TB thought that should have been 1998 Princeton instead.

Still, he didn't weep.

Maybe it's not what American fans do. Maybe it's just that the passion of the World Cup is so intense that an American sports fan can't relate. Maybe, as into sports as Americans are, they just don't have that level of passion.

Anyway, the 2014 World Cup is over. The next one is in 2018, in Russia.

Qualifying begins in 2016.

TigerBlog is ready now.

After all, even if lacrosse is his favorite sport and he is an American, TB knows the best sporting event in the world when he sees it.

And the World Cup is it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The 11th of July

Well, it's a Friday in the summer, early summer really.

This Friday is a little different. TigerBlog, for the first time, checked to see exactly how many weeks there are between today and the first athletic events of the next academic year, in this case the 2014-15 one.

The answer is eight. It will be exactly eight weeks from today that Princeton has its first games. On that Friday, Princeton will do what it always does on Day 1 of a new year - have games in field hockey, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball.

Because the athletic year starts that day, that means you can add two more weeks until the first football game, which will be 10 weeks from tomorrow. TigerBlog won't be at that one, since it's in San Diego.

The home opener for the football season is a week later, when Davidson comes to town for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

If you're looking for a game to circle on your September calendar, how about the night before the Davidson football game, when the sprint football team hosts Post.

Why that game? It'll be the first home game for the team under head coach Sean Morey, who played in the NFL for a long time and who spent the last few years in the athletic department here as a general administrator, a position now held by former football and basketball player Isaac Serwanga.

Morey is now 100% invested in the sprint program, and TigerBlog is intrigued by whether or not Morey's abundant enthusiasm can translate into winning a game, something that has eluded the team for years.

The last four weeks before the start of an athletic year always seem to zoom by, at least to TB. July? That's the most leisurely month there is.

On this campus, it's all about summer camps, which roll on, one after the other. And vacations.

There is a vacation calendar in the OAC, and TigerBlog notices that almost nobody will be here next week. The same applies to the rest of the department.

Usually when TB walks down the hall and sees a door closed or a light off, he thinks "at a meeting." This time of year, it's more "on vacation."

People tend to count down to vacation more so than they do birthdays and Christmas. TB has heard a bunch of people say "two more days until vacation" or "out of here in another eight hours." He never hears that about holidays and birthdays.

Everyone who comes back from vacation says one of two things. Either it was great, or it was great - except the kids (little ones) were a challenge. But still great.

If you've never experienced taking little kids to the beach, well, then you should try it sometime. Forget the kids themselves. Just try getting all the stuff you need and then carrying it to the beach, even without the kids.

TigerBlog's kids are both beach people. Miss TigerBlog spent the early part of this week in Sea Isle City with her friend Amy. TigerBlog's role was limited to transport.

Still, when he got out of the car, he did take a minute to go onto the beach, smell the ocean. Ah, it was great.

Right now, TigerBlog's iTunes have reached what always makes him chuckle at this time of year. The song that happens to be in the random cue is "Silent Night," the version by Emmylou Harris. It's a great song for December.

For a Friday in July? TB usually skips over the Christmas songs at this time of year, but for some reason, he let that one play on, even if it's more the time of year for a song like, oh, "4th of July, Asbury Park," which with 207 plays ranks as the seventh most-played song on TB's iTunes.

But it's not the Fourth of July. It's the 11th of July.

And a slow summer Friday.

For some, it's the last day before vacation. For at least one member of the department, it's the last day before a wedding, as assistant football coach Eddy Morrissey will be heading down the aisle tomorow.

TigerBlog wishes him mazel tov.

He'll be back at work soon enough. Opening day will be here soon enough.

For the 11th of July, it's a time to relax and enjoy the summer.

So stop reading and head outside. Go to the beach. Go for a walk. Have a picnic. Tell your boss TB said it's okay.

Besides, he's done for today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Real World Championships Begin

The World Cup has found itself in a situation similar to where the NCAA men's basketball tournament often gets.

The opening rounds were better than the late rounds.

The group stage was filled with great game after great game, epic goal after epic goal. The knockout round? Not quite.

There have been 14 games played in the knockout round to date. Which of those 14 games was great? The Netherlands vs. Mexico? Costa Rica- Greece? Perhaps. The U.S.-Belgium game featured a great performance by Tim Howard and a dramatic ending.

The game that will be remembered the longest, barring a spectacular final, will be Germany's 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semifinals, though not because it was a great game.

The Netherlands came within a a few missed PKs of reaching the final without scoring a goal in the quarterfinal or semifinal. That would have been terrible.

Oh, and why go to PKs? It's an awful way to decide a game, for two reasons. First, there is the arbitrary nature of PKs. It would be like having a tied basketball game decided by a foul shooting contest. It has nothing to do with which team more deserves to win.

Second, and way bigger to TigerBlog, is the fact that teams can play to get to PKs and hope for the best. As much as TB was rooting for Costa Rica, it's hard to watch a team that is making almost no attempt to play offense, for fear of giving up the easy counter the other way.

If teams knew that they could not win and advance without actually scoring a goal, tactics would change radically, no? A team couldn't simply defend, which tilts the balance of a game, if it knew it eventually needed at least one to move on.

TB says that if a game is tied after 90 minutes (plus stoppage time; again, can time simply be kept on the scoreboard like in every other sporting event in the world?), then play sudden death overtime - and keep playing until someone scores. Eventually someone will.

Anyway, now that the opening act of a worldwide tournament is winding down, the real World Championship can begin.

TigerBlog is talking, of course, about the World Championships in men's lacrosse, an event way bigger than the soccer World Cup, obviously. The lacrosse tournament begins tonight in Denver.

Okay, TB doesn't really think it's bigger than the soccer version. Still, it should be a great tournament.

TB will go out on a limb and predict a final of the United States vs. Canada.

This is the 12th World Championship for men's lacrosse, which was first held in 1967 and then became a quadrennial event beginning in 1974. No country other than the U.S. (nine times) and Canada (twice) has ever won, and only twice (1982, 1994) has the final not been between those two (it was the U.S. vs. Australia both of those times).

There are nine divisions at the World Championships, and only the six teams in the top division are playing for the championship: the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, Japan and the Iroquois. If you want to keep an eye out for a sleeper, it's the Iroquois.

There is no Princeton representation on the U.S. team, for the first time since TigerBlog has been following the event. This figures to be a rarity, as the Ryan Boyle/Matt Striebel years have ended and the Tom Schreiber years (and possibly others, like Chad Wiedmaier) figure to begin in four years.

Schreiber will be in Denver for the tournament, working as an assistant coach with the Ugandan team. Uganda plays in a division with Ireland, France and Bermuda.

Costa Rica, whom Princeton played on its trip there in 2012, is in a division with the Czech Republic, Turkey and Poland.

Princeton also played the English team in Spain in 2008. TigerBlog was very impressed with the English and how they played, especially their knowledge of a game that none of them grew up playing. They were all just athletes, great ones, who hadn't quite made it professionally in soccer. 

Anyway, epending on placings in these divisions, there are crossover games at the end that lead to placings of 1-38. Some of the stories, like the Ugandan one, are already successes, just for what it took to get the novice program to Denver.

It starts tonight at 9 with the preliminary round game between the U.S. and Canada, a game that can be seen on ESPN2. There will be great coverage of the tournament on ESPNU and ESPN3.

The championship game will be at 9 Eastern time on Saturday, July 19.

And, in all likelihood, it'll be the U.S. and Canada.

TigerBlog will take the U.S. 16-13 in that game.

And he'll take Germany 2, Argentina 0, in that other championship game.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blowout

If you watched the Germany-Brazil World Cup semifinal game yesterday, you were probably expecting a tight, dramatic, one-goal-either-way struggle.

What you got was perhaps the most shocking sporting event played on a stage that big. Not shocking like a major upset, Miracle on Ice style.

No, shocking as in a total blowout of epic, never-to-be-seen-again proportions. It's impossible to fathom a World Cup semifinal game could be so one-sided, and yet there it was. Germany 7, Brazil 1.

It was shocking, and the world noticed. A record 35.7 million tweets about the game were sent, the most ever for any single sporting event. 

Soccer games aren't supposed to end up 7-1. Certainly World Cup games aren't.

Hey, NCAA men's soccer championship games aren't even blowouts like that. The last 12 NCAA finals have all been one-goal games (or tie games that were decided by penalty kicks), and the largest margin of victory in the 55-year history of the event is three goals, something that has happened three times.

So why would anyone expect the World Cup to have a semifinal game with a margin of victory twice that?

And why would anyone think it would be Brazil who would be on the humiliating end of the score, on its home field? It made no sense.

Certainly TigerBlog didn't get it. As he watched the carnage unfold in the first 29 minutes, when Germany scored five times. Five times? How does that happen in the World Cup?

And it's not just that Germany scored five goals in less than 30 minutes, including four of them in six minutes. It's how effortless it was. It was like the Germans were doing a warmup skeleton drill with no defense on the field.

That's how the ESPN announcers saw it. While play-by-play man Ian Darke (he's the best, by the way; TB would love to see him do NFL football) was trying to be polite about it, color man Steve McManaman cut right to the chase, using words like "amateur hour" and "embarrassing."

McManaman's best comment came when Brazilian sub Willian went into the game with the score 6-0 Germany, when the former English national team player said: "He looks thrilled to be going in. What did they tell him? 'Willian, it's 6-0, go score seven?'"

The most stunning part was that this was Brazil at home in the World Cup semifinals. TigerBlog has seen blowouts before; he just can't remember one of this magnitude at this significant an event with a team that might actually have been the favorite the one that got blown out. Yes, Brazil was missing Neymar, its best player.

But 7-1? Wow.

The average blowout gets out of control early. Perhaps the team getting blown out makes a little noise, but then another spurt puts the game way out of reach.

After that comes lots of garbage time. The team losing plays with a sense of frustration. The team winning has everything going its way. The refs just hope nobody does anything dumb.

Most times, a blowout falls under one of three circumstances - a total mismatch of talent, a nearly perfect performance by the winning team or a losing team that barely shows up. TB would put the Germany-Brazil game more on the last one than the second one.

When he thinks about Princeton and blowouts, most would fall into the first category. And usually they're easy to anticipate.

As for the ones that weren't necessarily obvious beforehand, TB was trying to think during the game yesterday as to which the most unexpected ones he's seen at Princeton were, on both ends of the coin. Luckily, by the way, he's seen way more blowout wins than losses.

Anyway, he came up with two.

First, on the losing end, he'll go with the last game of the 1999 men's basketball regular season. Princeton (11-2) trailed Penn (12-1) by a game when the teams met at Jadwin Gym, and in fact Penn's only loss in the league to that point was the 50-49 Princeton win at the Palestra after the Tigers had trailed 40-13 with 15 minutes left.

TB thought this game would be close, but he also figured on a Princeton win and a playoff for the NCAA tournament bid. Instead, Penn turned a three-point halftime lead into a 25-point win, 73-48.

It worked out okay for Princeton, though. That was the year the Tigers knocked off Georgetown (five guys played the whole game) and North Carolina State in the NIT before falling in the quarterfinals to Xavier.

As for a win? How about the 1997 NCAA men's lacrosse final?

Princeton had won three NCAA titles before that, and all three had come in overtime. This time, Princeton was unbeaten and the top seed, and the Tigers were playing Maryland, the No. 7 seed, who had beaten No. 2 UVa in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Syracuse 18-17 in the semifinal.

Princeton and Maryland were scoreless after seven minutes. It was 8-0 Princeton at the end of the first quarter.

That was somewhat stunning. It was eight perfect minutes for the Tigers, and it came in the NCAA final.

By the end it was 19-7, and Princeton spent the last five minutes passing the ball around rather than shooting. And again, this was the NCAA final.

Anyway, like he said, TigerBlog has seen plenty of blowouts involving Princeton teams, and he's seen the Tigers on both sides of them.

What has he concluded?

It's way better to be on the winning end than the losing end.

Just ask Brazil and Germany.