Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lady TigerBlog Sees All

The NCAA women’s lacrosse selection show will be held on Sunday, May 3 between 10-11 p.m., on CSTV. Since Inside Lacrosse has not included a bracketology report for the women’s tournament, we charged Lady TigerBlog with predicting what the selection committee will decide.

Here is her report:

So far, five automatic bids have been awarded. Maryland (ACC), UMASS (A-10), Notre Dame (BIG EAST), Penn (Ivy) and Colgate (Patriot). Fairfield and Sacred Heart will be in the play-in game on Saturday, May 2.

Drum roll please….

1. Northwestern
16. Fairfield/Sacred Heart
Although the American Lacrosse Conference does not receive an automatic bid, the four-time national champion Northwestern should already have the No. 1 seed locked. The Wildcats are 17-0, are ranked No. 1 in both national polls and is No. 1 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings. Because the bottom few seeds are all in the Northeast and would all have to fly to Evanston, TB thinks it will be the winner of the play-in game headed West.

2. Maryland
Maryland (Princeton’s opponent this Saturday) is also undefeated with an 18-0 record and ranked No. 2 in both polls and in the RPI. The Terps won the ACC Tournament for an automatic bid. Maryland took a 16-4 win over the Minutewomen in late February.

3. Penn
14. Colgate
Ivy League champion Penn has just one loss (to Northwestern) and is third in both polls. The Quakers are fourth in the RPI, but were the national runner-up in 2008. Colgate gets the autobid for the Patriot League, and has a 14-4 record. It wouldn’t be a far trip for the Raiders who are used to traveling to Pennsylvania to play league opponents Lehigh, Lafayette and Bucknell. The teams faced each other last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, with Penn's coming away with a 16-7 victory.

4. Duke
13. William & Mary
After Duke’s upset of UNC in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils moved up in the rankings. Duke holds down the No. 4 position in both polls, and has the fifth-best RPI. The team is 13-5 overall. Lady TigerBlog predicts that William & Mary will win the CAA to get this slot. W&M is 10-5 and ranked No. 20 in one poll and receiving votes in another. The Tribe ranks No. 19 in the RPI. Duke posted an 18-11 win over William & Mary in late February.

5. UNC
12. Vanderbilt
Deciding the No. 5 and 6 seeds between UNC and Princeton was a toss up for LTB. It came down to travel…and the fact that Princeton played Vanderbilt last season in the tournament. In that case, give the No. 5 seed to North Carolina. UNC was upset by Duke in the ACC Tournament, 14-4. The Tar Heels have the third-best RPI and are ranked No. 5/6 in the national polls. LTB gives Vanderbilt the final at-large bid, assuming Boston University wins the America East and William & Mary take the CAA crown. Vandy is 9-5 overall, 12th in the RPI and No. 11/12 in the polls. UNC opened the 2009 season with a 14-13 overtime win over Vanderbilt.

6. Princeton
11. Boston University
As mentioned above, give the Tigers the No. 6 seed. The team is No. 5/7 in the polls and 10th in the RPI. The win over No. 16 Loyola last night may help, but the Tigers still have to contend with an undefeated Terrapin squad on Saturday. LTB predicts Boston University will win the America East. The Terriers are 13-3, and No. 10/12 in the polls and 13th in the RPI. The two teams have never met before.

7. Notre Dame
10. Virginia
Notre Dame received the autobid for the BIG EAST, winning the tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Irish are 14-4 and ranked No. 6 in the national polls and in the RPI. Virginia is an at-large selection with an 11-7 mark and in the No. 9/10 slots in the national polls. The Cavaliers are ninth in the RPI.

8. Georgetown
9. Syracuse
Although the teams are in same conference, theyseem about equal. The regular season game between the teams was decided after four overtimes with Georgetown winning, 11-10. Georgetown fell to Notre Dame in the BIG EAST championship as the No. 1 seed, after Notre Dame upset the No. 2 seed Syracuse.

That's the end of Lady TigerBlog's report. Not a bad effort.

If her predictions are correct, then Princeton will be one of seven, eight or nine schools with a team in both the men's and women's lacrosse tournaments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Treatise Upon Thunder

So if you go to and enter the word "bracketology," it'll give you a bunch of other suggestions as the word you're looking for isn't really a word. The first choice is "brontology," which is defined as "a treatise upon thunder." TigerBlog has no idea what that means and chooses not to attempt to use it in a sentence.

Going to the much more reasonable, the definition becomes "the study of thunder." This leaves TB to wonder if there are professional brontologists out there.

Back to bracketology, who cares if it's a real word or not. As TigerBlog mentioned Monday, everyone knows what bracketology is, and in many ways, the sporting public likes the subject more than the actual NCAA tournament games that follow.

All of that brings us to the little brother of the original bracketology, the one about the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament that Inside Lacrosse put out today on its Website.

According to this version, Princeton will host Maryland in the first round as the fourth seed. The winner would be sent to the quarterfinal at Navy to play the winner of UMBC and fifth-seeded North Carolina.

Cornell, as the eighth seed at home against UMass, and Brown, unseeded and at No. 7 Notre Dame, are also in the field. Duke earns the No. 1 seed, according to IL.

So what are we to make of this? Seeding for a 16-team has to be infinitely easier than seeding for a 65-team men's basketball tournament. The history of the selections makes the criteria well-known, and the NCAA released the RPI yesterday (Princeton, who fell to seventh, was actually hurt by a 14-7 win over Dartmouth).

Are the IL folks onto something here? They could be, but it doesn't matter. If they get only 15 of 16 right, the one they get wrong trickles down to the whole bracket. In the case of men's lacrosse, there are issues related to travel that impact the bracket, and the eight unseeded teams are matched up by geography and other factors, so it's not like No. 1 plays No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15, etc.

Princeton's seed will be affected for the negative with a loss to Brown this weekend, while a win would add one more quality win to the resume. Either way, it appears that the three Ivy schools can feel pretty comfortable about their postseason status, which makes this weekend's game at Class of 1952 Stadium different from last year's between the teams in Providence, after which neither team got in the tournament.

Will it really be Princeton vs. Maryland next weekend at Class of 1952 Stadium? Maybe. Maybe not.

Either way, it doesn't change this fact: TigerBlog was probably not the only lacrosse fan interested in checking out IL this morning to see what was in store for his favorite team in an imaginary bracket.

TigerBlog hasn't quite figured out yet why seeing something that has no impact on the actual final tournament field holds such an allure, though he's pretty sure it has something to do with one of his deepest beliefs: People believe everything they read.

Or maybe there's more to it than that. Maybe TB needs someone smarter to explain it to him.

Is there a brontologist in the house?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts For Late August, er, April

A guy named Vinnie used to work here in the Office of Athletic Communications, and no, this isn't a joke.

Anyway, the OAC didn't used to have working air conditioning, and during one particularly brutal summer stretch, Vinnie called OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration) to complain that it was about a million degrees here. When they suggested starting with his department head, Vinnie replied: "I'd ask him, but I can't chisel the ice off his door from his room air conditioner."

Times have changed since then. Here it is in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave for April, and the air conditioning has been turned on here on the balcony level of Jadwin Gym. This wasn't the case yesterday or over the weekend, which made the OAC and the other offices on the balcony oppressively hot. By contrast, today is an extraordinarily pleasant one here.

Ah, but as the temperatures soar above 90, it's important to remember that it's still the spring here. Spring sports are reaching the end of their schedules, though some have a chance to make their springs roll closer to summer:

* the baseball team is at Cornell tomorrow in a one-game playoff for the Gehrig Division championship. In a deja vu deal, the Tigers were just there Sunday for two games, and they came agonizingly close to winning it until a two-run eighth for the Big Red forced the one-game playoff. So, back on the buses the Tigers go, heading back to Ithaca for nine more innings. For the winner there is a trip to Hanover for the weekend to take on Dartmouth in the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series. The Big Green went 16-4 in the league in the regular season to win the Rolfe Division by a game over Brown at 15-5, while Princeton and Cornell tied at 10-10 each. Dartmouth went 4-0 against Cornell/Princeton during a weekend earlier this month, winning each game by at least three runs. The winner of tomorrow's game, though, will have some momentum, as well as rested pitchers, for the ILCS. The team with the better regular-season record doesn't always win the ILCS.

* speaking of Gehrig and Rolfe, have many players on Princeton, Cornell and Dartmouth can identify who Gehrig and Rolfe were? The divisions were named for Lou Gehrig, who played at Columbia before becoming one of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history with the Yankees, and Red Rolfe, Gehrig's Yankee teammate who played at Dartmouth and then returned to Dartmouth as athletic director after his Major League playing and managing career. Ask any current college baseball player who the "Pride of the Yankees" was, and they're likely to say Derek Jeter. As long as they don't say A-Rod, then it's probably okay.

* the women's tennis team find out its NCAA tournament assignment today. Selections are on ESPNEWS at 5:20 this afternoon.

* the women's lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA tournament, but first there is the last home regular season game tomorrow night against Loyola followed by a game at Maryland Saturday. NCAA women's lacrosse selections are Sunday evening at 8. The first-round will be on Mothers' Day.

* the men's lacrosse team plays its Ivy League "co-championship" game Saturday against Brown at Class of 1952 Stadium at 1 as the winner will share the league title with Cornell. Should Brown win, it would earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; should Princeton win, Cornell would get the automatic bid. Even without the bid, it's likely that all three Ivy schools will be in the field of 16 when it is announced Sunday at 9 on ESPNU. This is a contrast to last year, when Princeton and Brown played a "co-championship" game in Providence that saw the Bears win, the final goal of the game scored by Princeton goalie Alex Hewit and neither team make the NCAA tournament.

* the Ivy League championships in men's and women's track and field will be decided at Heps on May 9-10 at Penn. The Ivy League championships for men's rowing will be decided at Eastern Sprints on May 10 in Worcester, while women's open Ivy rowing will be decided on May 17 in Camden.

* finally, a story about sportsmanship that has nothing to do with Princeton. TigerBlog Jr. was playing lacrosse (5/6 grade level) last Saturday in a tournament, and after the first game, which TBJ's team won 4-2, the players were going through the handshake line. The best player on the other team was No. 10, a big attackman. No. 10 had a difficult time against TBJ's team's best defender (a big kid named Matt Anderson). As the two reached each other in a line that otherwise included the requisite "good game, good game, good game" pounding of gloves, No. 10 suddenly stopped and said to Matt: "You are really good." Matt said to him: "You are a tough player." Then they shook hands, as opposed to just bumping gloves against each other. Hopefully these 11- or 12-year-old kids won't give in to the constant barrage of images of chest-pounding me-ism that surrounds them.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What Can The OAC Learn From Mel Kiper?

There is nothing that is forced on the national sporting public quite like the NFL draft. Here is something that probably generates more text than any other single sporting entity with the possible exception of NCAA men's basketball tournament selections.

Notice the use of the word "entity" and not "event," as neither of these is actually what you would consider a sporting event, meaning a real game.

No, the draft, and the NCAA tournament, are about the lead-up to an event. How many mock drafts did you see last week, last month? How many lists of players whose "stock is rising" and "stock is falling?" Or lists of "all-time busts" or "all-time sleepers?"

It's like the NCAA tournament, to a certain extent, with its bracketology and last four in and last four out and bracket this and bracket that. There are people whose full-time professions are to know everything about the draft (or tournament). They go on TV and the Web all year long, and the sporting public is supposed to gobble this stuff up like it's gospel, and at the end of the day, what do they really know?

At least in the NCAA tournament you're talking about teams you've heard of. For the NFL draft, does any random sportswriter really know if Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, the second pick in the draft, is really better than Arizona's Eben Britton, who went 39th to Jacksonville in the second round? TigerBlog watches his fair share of college football and never heard of either one before the draft, but TB can tell you that they're both 6' 6" and 309 pounds and that they both have exactly the same chance of being great NFL players. And yet the fact that almost none of these reporters have ever heard of these guys either until they read about them in some draft guide prevents them from writing about them with great authority.

The personnel people, who are paid huge amounts of money to know this stuff, get as many picks wrong as they do right. Of the last eight NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year, only one, Julius Peppers in 2002, was picked higher than 10th (Peppers, by the way, destroyed Princeton in the opening round of the 2001 NCAA basketball tournament in the Superdome in New Orleans). Two of the eight were second-round picks. What happened to the 40 or so defensive players picked higher than these guys?

Now that TigerBlog got that out of his system, he can get to the main point, which is that the lead-up to the NFL draft far exceeds the event itself. In many ways, the NCAA tournament is becoming anti-climactic after the months of build-up as well.

In other words, it seems like interest in greater in reading out something before it happens. Once it happens, fans appear to move quickly on to the next event rather than focusing on a review of what just happened.

Back here in the Office of Athletic Communications, this raises the question of what Princeton fans want to read. Are they more interested in game stories or a preview of the next game? And if you knew those answers, what would you do differently?

Checking page views for men's lacrosse for the month of April shows that only three of the top 10 most-viewed entries were game recaps, while four were preview stories, one was a feature, one was Greg Seaman's video of the trip to Syracuse and one was an Ivy League Player of the Week story.

TigerBlog is sure that the times they are a-changin' when it comes to athletic communications. The profession bears little resemblance to the one of 15 years ago, and TB wants to see Princeton be out front as it continues to evolve. Being on top of what people want to read/see/view/etc. is a huge part of it, and there are lessons to learn from the coverage of events like the NFL draft.

For this, we say "thank you, Mel Kiper."

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Princeton Wins; Carril Quits"

TigerBlog spent 11 years in the newspaper business, and he rarely if ever found anyone who understood that the person who wrote the story and the person who wrote the headline were two different people. TB has endless memories of people who said that they didn't like the headline, which was actually written by a copy editor who never left the desk.

TB also spent his newspaper summers primarily on the desk, as well as some other nights though the years. The editing system at the Trenton Times back then factored in the size of the headline and how many columns it was supposed to be and then spit back to you whether it was too long, too short or just right. If it didn't fit, you had to constantly adjust the headline until it was right (or close enough). The worst were one column headlines, where nothing creative ever worked. TB has memories of sitting in front of the screen for what seemed like hours trying to get something clever. It either came to you in a flash or wasn't going to happen.

Looking back on those days, TigerBlog can remember some of the better efforts at headlines. For instance, there was the night that then-Phils centerfielder Lenny Dykstra had to fly back from Pittsburgh for an emergency appendectomy. TB came up with a headline of: "Dykstra's Appendix Out At Home," which went over six columns and fit exactly on the first try. The same was true of a headline the day the Eagles brought in two potential placekickers when their incumbent was struggling: "Eagle Kicking Circus Auditions Two New Clowns." Again, six columns and a perfect fit.

OAC Emeritus Director Kurt Kehl, now the Vice President of Communications for the Washington Capitals, was a big fan of headlines that made reference to the picture that accompanied them, something Sports Illustrated did well. TB wrote a feature on Darrell Oliveira, a dominant and somewhat underrated defensive end on the 1995 Ivy League champion football team, and the story talked about how Oliveira's grandfather had taught him to read from the street signs they saw while driving around New Bedford, Mass. The story included a picture of Oliveira as he deflected a pass in Palmer Stadium. The headline: "No Passing."

The Trenton Times headline on the game story from the 1996 Ivy League men's basketball playoff game between Princeton and Penn is a classic: "Princeton Wins; Carril Quits."

Headline writing for the Web is infinitely easier, as the length isn't as important. TigerBlog also believed in his newspaper days that all headlines on college and especially high school stories should include an athlete's name, and that is something that has carried over to for the most part.

Why all of this talk of headlines? TigerBlog has always been fascinated by the idea that every college or pro sporting event gets summed up somewhere (newspaper, Web site, etc.) by a simple headline that it many ways tells the whole story.

Princeton plays baseball this weekend against Cornell, a team with which it is tied for the Gehrig Division lead. Take today's doubleheader, for instance. The teams are going to play for five, six, seven hours. When they're done, it'll be able to be condensed to something like:
"Princeton Sweeps Cornell, On Verge Of Division Title" or "Cornell Sweeps Princeton, On Verge Of Division Title" or "Princeton, Cornell Split, Still Tied For Lead."

TigerBlog also thinks there's a large segment of readers of newspapers and Websites who don't read past the headline. This blog tries to have headlines that leave you a bit confused as to what the story is about, so you'll want to read on.

Event headlines, though, are different. They're clear and consise and fascinating.

So what's it going to be this weekend? "Kovler Scores Four As Tigers Roll" or "Dartmouth Tops Princeton For Second Straight Year?" "Aboff Leads Women's Golf To Ivy Title" or "Princeton Second At Ivy Championships?"

TigerBlog's best headline was after Ryan Boyle scored with four seconds left in the 2002 NCAA quarterfinals against Georgetown. Headline? "Final 0:04."

Not bad, right?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two Not-So-Blind Mice

So there were two visitors this morning to TigerBlog HQ. A mother mouse, and her baby friend. TigerBlog has been working in this building for more than 20 years, and these are the first two mice he can remember actually in the office. There have been other visitors through the years, including cockroaches bigger than the two mice who visited this morning.

The mice received varying degrees of welcome by those who saw them, including a shriek or two as they were escorted out of the building. One suggestion was made to use TigerCam to film the little guys and the reactions they inspired by those who saw them.

Ah, TigerCam. TigerBlog. TigerZone. TigerVision. TigerText. TB can't remember the first time someone came up with the idea to take two words, condense them into one and capitalize the first letter of the second word. Maybe it was "SportsCenter?"

Anyway, for those who haven't noticed, the Office of Athletic Communications has invested in a flip camera and has started to create some videos. Lacking a name for the project, we jokingly came up with "TigerCam," which fits with everything else we do. In an attempt to find something more original, TigerBlog asked men's lacrosse player Greg Seaman to come up with a name when he took it to film his team's trip to Giants Stadium to play Syracuse. He thought for a second and said "TigerCam." So much for something different.

TigerCam has spent the last three weekends on the road, first with men's lacrosse and then with women's tennis and men's lightweight rowing. There's also a video account of the spring football game available.

The OAC has also created Princeton's own youtube channel to house the video.

There are some initial problems with TigerCam, some of which involves the quality of the audio. We're working on ways to improve the product. In the meantime, TigerCam is off to a good start. And keep checking back for more offerings.

* * *

A Princeton alum has pitched seven scoreless innings in the Major Leagues each of the last two days. TigerBlog isn't sure how often that's happened for any school anywhere.

It started Tuesday, when Ross Ohlendorf went seven for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a win over the Marlins to end their seven-game winning streak. Ohlendorf is 1-2, but he's pitched great twice and okay the third time. He went six-plus in his first start (vs. the Cardinals) and was charged with two earned runs, both of which scored after he came out.

Chris Young went seven scoreless against the Giants yesterday for a no-decision in a game that his San Diego Padres would lose 1-0 in 10 innings. Young can't really complain about not gettting a win, after he was rocked by the Phils Friday night in a game the Padres came back to win.

Young has already been an all-star and has established himself as one of the best in the National League when healthy. Ohlendorf, whose 3.00 ERA is actually better than Young's 3.42, was traded from the Yankees to the Pirates, which has enabled him to be a starter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Dreamed A Dream...

So you've probably seen Susan Boyle somewhere on the internet and her brilliant version of Fantine's haunting "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables.

On the day when Princeton's all-time winningest coach, Glenn Nelson, prepares for what could be the final match of his brilliant career — and will definitely be the final home match of his career — is it possible to dream the dream that this could be the most magical ending ever?

First of all, some parameters. This dream is that Princeton reaches its first EIVA championship match in 11 years. The one of winning that title — at the expense of reigning NCAA and all-but-1998 EIVA champion Penn State — might be as wild a dream as the one Dorothy had during a bad storm in Kansas.

But is getting there, from the sixth seed, such an impossibility? Can this team take Nelson on one more wild ride?

It starts tonight at 7 p.m. in Dillon Gym. Princeton has to host an extra postseason match because it didn't earn one of the top four seeds in the EIVA playoffs. It's a fair punishment for a team that just didn't get the job done at home throughout the middle of the season. This team — a senior-laden one — knows it.

So we start with Rutgers-Newark, the Hay Division champion after last Friday's win over Harvard (not too many other sports where Princeton misses a Harvard matchup because of Rutgers-Newark). The Scarlet Raiders are a well-coached, scrappy team, but Princeton beat them in four sets earlier this season and went on to lose three of its next four home matches; in other words, the team wasn't exactly playing its best ball.

A Princeton win would send the team to Saint Francis for the EIVA quarterfinal round. The Red Flash has been among that second tier of league teams for a while (Tier 1 is Penn State), but Princeton has matched up very well with the Flash this season. In two matches, Princeton has actually won more overall points than Saint Francis (262-253); both teams won a 3-2 decision on the road. Princeton hasn't won too many road matches, but the Tigers are coming off a big road win at George Mason last weekend and have already won at Saint Francis.

Would they be the favorite? No. Would they be a big underdog? No.

So let's say Princeton pulls off that one. Now the Tigers would get the important first EIVA semifinal match. What makes it important? Here's a hint... the second one involves a certain Blue and White team. The first semifinal would send Princeton against Juniata, which has its best team in years and deservedly earned the second seed. But the last time the Tigers played Juniata, they lost in five sets and were in two that they lost. The only other meeting was the EIVA opener for both teams.

How would either team react with a shot at the championship match on the line? With four seniors and two juniors on the roster, you'd have to at least give Princeton a shot.

Would they be the favorite? No. Would they be a big underdog? No.

Princeton, led by Glenn Nelson, defeated Penn State en route to the 1998 EIVA championship. It's the only time Happy Valley didn't house the league title in men's volleyball.

So could Nelson's final match be one more EIVA title match against Penn State. The road is long and filled with obstacles, but it's manageable. Three big-time efforts could land the Tigers in that magical position, in the championship match against the ultimate Goliath.

Would they be the favorite? No. Would they be a big underdog?

As Fantine sang, "I dreamed a dream in times gone by..."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's Up, Doc?

Bugs Bunny got his big break when Elmer Fudd selected him for his vaudeville show over a bunch of other struggling out-of-work cartoon characters. At first, Bugs was the straight man, answering Elmer's riddles with I-don't-knows before Elmer delivered the punchline. Finally, one day Bugs turned the tables on Elmer, squirting him in the face with seltzer water, and the rest of course is history.

As this week marks the 71st anniversary of the first appearance by Bugs Bunny in a cartoon, TigerBloog offers this riddle:

"What has Princeton Athletics done 16 times that every other Ivy League school has combined to do four times?"

We'll get to the answer shortly. First, here's a hint: It has to do with winning Ivy League championships.

The Ivy title that the women's tennis team won this past weekend was the eighth by a Princeton team this academic year, along with men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's squash, women's soccer and men's swimming and diving.

It was also the 367th Ivy title in school history, dating to 1956. Princeton teams have won the most all-time, followed by 340 for Harvard and then a big drop to Cornell's 187. In this decade, Princeton teams have won 104, followed by Harvard with 65 and Cornell with 55.

The all-time record is 14 Ivy titles in one academic year, which Princeton has done twice (1999-2000, 2000-01) and Harvard has done once (2004-05). Princeton won its first four Ivy League titles in the 1956-57 year, and it's clear that one of the biggest reasons that Princeton has built its huge lead in Ivy titles is the success of its women's teams.

To answer the riddle, Princeton teams have won at least 10 Ivy League titles in an academic year on 16 separate occasions, while the rest of the league combined has done it four times (in the interest of full disclosure, Harvard has done it all four times).

To get to 10 this academic year, Princeton obviously needs two more. There are still 10 Ivy championships to be determined, though Princeton doesn't have a legitimate (or in some cases mathematical) shot at all 10. Still, teams like men's lightweight crew, women's golf, men's and women's outdoor track and field and baseball are in varying degrees of shape to win their championship. Men's lacrosse can still get a share, with some help from Brown this weekend against Cornell and wins over Dartmouth and Brown.

TigerBlog looks at the list of all-time Ivy League championships by school and realizes how lucky Princeton is to have these numbers. TB also realizes it's easy to take it for granted that Princeton will always have this kind of success, but the reality is that a great deal of hard work beginning with the coaching staff and going across the entire department goes into making it happen.

It never gets old watching teams win Ivy League championships. Actually, it's like watching Bugs Bunny. TigerBlog could watch "Racketeer Rabbit" every day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Boomtown Rats

Some pretty good songs have been written with the word "Monday" in the title. You had "Manic Monday," by the Bangles. Actually written by Prince, the song was the first hit for the Bangles. Somewhere around 1986 or so. It's very, very classic 1980s.

It's okay. You can admit you like the Carpenters. Nobody's going to hold it against you. "Rainy Days and Mondays." Or both, as we have here at TigerBlog HQ today.

Then there's "Monday, Monday," by the Mommas and the Poppas. Maybe a little before TigerBlog's time, though TB did like listening to Saturday Night Oldies out of Binghamton on the ride back from Cornell.

And how could TigerBlog leave out "Come Monday," by Jimmy Buffett? "Come Monday, it'll be all right ..."

The song "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, which featured the lyrics "tell me why, I don't like Mondays," was actually about a school shooting in San Diego, something largely unheard of back then. In fact, there were radio stations who wouldn't play the song because of the subject matter (a subject in the news again as today is the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings).

Still, for anyone around TigerBlog's age, that song takes you back to high school in the late 1970s and quite ironically to a time of innocence.

Anyway, now that we've established that today is in fact Monday, here are some links and thoughts for you to start your work week:

* our guy Manish Mehta, formerly an intern here in the Office of Athletic Communications and now a great feature writer for the Star-Ledger, had this piece on retiring volleyball coach Glenn Nelson. Manish was the volleyball contact when he was here, and he caught up with some of the great men's players from that time.

* the NCAA has a certification process that the University and Department of Athletics recently completed, and the result was obviously full certification. From the official University announcement: "The purpose of the NCAA certification program is to help ensure the integrity of member institutions' athletics operations. Princeton's process involved a yearlong, campus-wide effort that began in fall 2007 and included the preparation of a self-study covering governance and commitment to rules compliance, academic integrity, equity, and student-athlete well-being."

* if you missed it, the women's tennis team won the Ivy League championship with wins over Cornell and Columbia this weekend. The Tigers earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; the draw will be announced next Tuesday, April 28. For the record, that's eight Ivy League championships this year for Princeton teams, as women's tennis joined: women's soccer, field hockey, women's cross country, men's cross country, men's squash, women's squash and men's swimming and diving.

* the new men's lacrosse rankings are out for both the media poll and coaches' poll, and Princeton has dropped to fifth and fourth. The Tigers have Dartmouth and Brown at home to end the regular season and can still get a share of the Ivy title (if Brown beats Cornell this week and Princeton wins out), but there is no mathematical possibility that Princeton can get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Still, the Tigers and their strong RPI, strength of schedule and three Top 10 wins, are in good shape for the postseason.

* the women's lacrosse team showed you something by bouncing back from a tough defeat against Penn to travel to Hanover, N.H., three days later and beat a Dartmouth team that took Penn to overtime by 10 goals (14-4). Like the men, the women are in good shape for a high NCAA tournament seed.

* the baseball team enters the final weekend of Ivy League games in basically a best-of-five situation against Cornell for the Gehrig Division title. The teams, who are currently tied for first in the division, play four times (two Friday here, two Sunday in Ithaca). If they split those four, then a one-game playoff would be held to determine who advances to the Ivy League Championship Series. The site of that playoff game? Well, good question, since a split would leave the teams with the exact same record in the division and against the other division. The other wrinkle about a split is that Columbia, two games back, would make it a three-way tie Princeton and Cornell split, and Columbia takes all four games in their series with Penn.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Who Needs Tickets?

TigerBlog's day started with an email from a former colleague. It read:

"A friend of mine went to the first game in the new Yankee Stadium. Beer - $11. Yankees lose 10-2. Priceless."

As an aside, remember how much beer used to be at Veterans' Stadium 26 summers ago?

Anyway, with apologies to Yankees' fans (and really, how can anyone root for the Yankees?), the email made TB laugh. And then it brought to mind what has been a long-standing issue for Princeton Athletics.

Who, or what, is our competition for fans?

Have you noticed how empty many sports venues are these days? The NCAA basketball tournament had available seats everywhere. The NBA? Major League Baseball? The prime seats, the ones most visible on TV, are always dotted by emptiness.

There are obvious reasons for this: a shaky economy, outrageous ticket prices, out-of-touch professional athletes, oversaturation of the product on television and many more.

All of this brings us back to Princeton. We spend hours and hours in marketing meetings trying to figure out what the best way to attract fans is. We wonder often about why people don't come. Is it because they know about it and are not interested? Don't know about it? Have misconceptions about prices of tickets, accessibility, cordiality, location?

Of course, we have no way of knowing. That's why Princeton Athletics has gone down so many different paths from a marketing standpoint. We've had slogans, messages, formats, plans, points of emphasis, everything else.

We also have no discernible way of determining whether or not our efforts have been successful. We draw fairly well in comparison to many University events, unbelievably well in some cases. We sort of operate on the idea that we should be attracting more people, but maybe that's not the case.

Anyway, the question of the day is who, or what, is our competition. Take football. We're certainly not going against the Jets, Giants or Eagles, or even Rutgers, for that matter. You can buy season tickets for Princeton football for what it costs to PARK at Giants Stadium for one game. You can bring a family of 10 to a Princeton game for less than the cost of a Rutgers ticket. You can buy season tickets from now until the Earth basically stops spinning on its axis for what it costs for some personal seat licenses (which Princeton emphatically does not have, though TigerBlog once received an email asking how much as PSL for football was).

Are we even selling football? Or are we selling a family experience? Are people coming more if the team is winning than if it's losing? This is the No. 1 belief that people have, but every single statistic over the last 25 years shows that there is absolutely no correlation between winning and attendance for Princeton football (though not for other sports).

Are we going against the movies? The aquarium? Birthday parties? Youth sports? Each one of those raises different issues. Is the time of game the most important determinant of whether or not fans will come? If you play a football game Saturday at 1 and all of Mercer County/Bucks County/Somerset County is playing Pop Warner football or youth soccer or fall baseball or fall lacrosse, then nobody can make it. But maybe they can three hours later? But then will the older alumni like it?

And, of course, you can do all the planning you want. When it rains (or worse, when the forecast is for rain but no rain comes) on game day, where does that leave you?

There have been games that TigerBlog has gone to where he has expected huge attendance but no one showed up. There have been games where TB thought he'd be the only one in the building, and there have been huge throngs. The 2004 NCAA women's soccer tournament games, with little marketing attached, drew overflow crowds to the old Lourie-Love Field. Princeton hockey is now a tough ticket. Lacrosse continues to draw outstanding crowds, even in awful weather.

The bottom line is that Princeton University is providing very high quality college athletics for either free (in the case of 33 sports) or for very, very, very reasonable prices, especially by comparison to other athletic choices.

To those who take advantage of what we're offering, we thank you.

For those who don't, what are you waiting for? Do you really want to spend $11 on a beer?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Who's Making All That Racket?

This season, the Princeton tennis teams are making more of it.

It's been a busy spring this year, as it is every year and every season in a 38-sport athletic program, but the tennis teams have earned a little more notice this season than in recent ones.

A year ago, the men's team finished 9-11 overall and 1-6 in the Ivy League, ending the season on a six-match losing streak that was capped with the team's first on-the-court loss to Cornell since 1949.

Fast forward a year, and the Tigers (11-8 overall, 3-2 Ivy) are entering the final week of the Ivy season still with league title hopes alive. They'll look to start a new streak against Cornell Friday in Ithaca, and will try to defeat Columbia for the first time since 2003 Sunday at the Lenz Tennis Center (or on Jadwin Gym's indoor courts if the weather is uncooperative). Two wins won't get them a share of the Ivy title on its own -- Brown will have to lose one of its last three in order for that to happen -- but it's a nice turnaround for a team that ended last season on such a downer.

In recognition of last weekend's sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, the men are ranked 71st nationally in Division I by the ITA, which does weekly rankings of the top 75 teams. Only once this season, after wins over No. 60 Utah and No. 70 Purdue on the spring break trip, has Princeton been ranked (it was No. 73 then).

The Tiger men are competing with a lineup that will return mostly intact next season, except at the top. No. 1 singles player Peter Capkovic, the 2008 Ivy League Player of the Year, and No. 2 Alex Vuckovic are both seniors and team to form Princeton's No. 1 doubles pair.

The women (16-7, 4-1) would win their first Ivy League title since 2000 with no help by defeating Cornell and Columbia this weekend. The home match against Cornell is Friday, followed by the trip to Manhattan Sunday. Princeton's women haven't lost to Cornell since 1996 and have won the last three against Columbia.

While the men have peeked into the rankings, the women have been there all spring, currently checking in at No. 46 as one of three ranked Ivies (Yale is currently No. 44 and Brown is No. 58). The Tiger women are tied with those two schools at 4-1 in the league but hold the tiebreaker for the NCAA automatic bid over Brown, though not over Yale. Princeton will need Yale to lose either to Harvard or Dartmouth this weekend, even with two wins, in order to be assured of advancing to their first NCAA tournament since 2000.

Last season, Princeton was 13-7 overall and 5-2 in the Ivy and has been over .500 in the league every year since 2004, but the Tigers haven't won as many matches in the Ivy as the six they could after this weekend since a perfect 7-0 Ivy season in 2000.

The women's team has no seniors in its regular starting lineup in singles or doubles. All three freshmen, including Lauren McHale, Hilary Bartlett and Rachel Saiontz, are regular starters, setting the team up for successful seasons ahead.

(You can also see the women's tennis team through the lens of TigerCam, which followed the Tigers to Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend, here)

But before looking ahead to what the Tiger teams might return next season, there's still much to be decided this season. You'll have one last chance to check out who's making all that racket this weekend over at Lenz.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Story Time With Peter Farrell

TigerBlog has worked down the hall from women's cross country and track and field coach Peter Farrell for 15 years.

TB and Farrell got off to a rocky start. While the exact circumstances are a bit fuzzy, TigerBlog sort of remembers a disagreement over the OAC copy of the Star-Ledger. Of course, that is all ancient history.

Since then, TigerBlog has gotten to see Farrell for what he is: equal parts philosopher, big-picture thinker, loyal Princeton icon, Springsteen fan and great storyteller. Oh, and he's also continued to churn out Ivy League championship teams, and his current women's cross country team is among the best in the country and may be the best in Ivy League history.

For today, let's focus on the storytelling. Farrell is a master of stopping in the doorway and launching into a quick anecdote about a former athlete or common aquaintance or any number of subjects. Still, after 15 years, TigerBlog figured he'd heard them all. That was before a five-minute span yesterday afternoon when Farrell outdid himself.

"My brother won a bronze," Farrell started.

"A bronze what?" TB asked.

"A bronze medal. In the Olympics."

From there, the stories began while the skeptics at TigerBlog HQ did some fact checking.

It started out with a simple google search for "Tom Farrell," who indeed won the bronze medal in the 800 meters at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, four years after finishing fifth in Tokyo.

Could Peter name his brother's birthday (listed on an Olympic site)? Yes, he could (though he could not properly identify his height in centimeters, which was also listed).

"We were brothers separated by a war," Farrell said, explaining that his father had fought in World War II and that his older brother had been born before he left. The senior Farrell was part of the first American unit to liberate Rome.

Then Farrell went on to talk about his brother's Olympic experiences. It started in 1964, when Tom Farrell had just finished a heat in his race and was "warming down" under the stadium when he ran into Bob Hayes, who was looking somewhat despondent. Hayes, for those who don't know, was one of the great sprinters of all time and one of the great deep threats as a receiver in NFL history. Hayes played for the Dallas Cowboys, and when Farrell asked TB if he knew about Hayes, TB responded that as a Giants fan even back then, he already hated the Cowboys (still does) and that Hayes was one of the first players he hated as well, since he routinely torched the Giants.

Back in Japan in 1964, though, when Tom Farrell asked Hayes what was wrong, Hayes told him about how he had to run the 100-meter final in 10 minutes and only had one track shoe with him. What size are you, Farrell asked, and when Hayes told him he was size 9, Farrell gave him his shoes, which coincidentally were the same size. Hayes then went out and won the race while tying the world record of 10.0. In Farrell's shoes.

Princeton's Farrell went on to explain that:
1) Hayes had a pre-race ritual where he would put on his shoes but not tie them and stretch his toes out in the shoes to get a good feel
2) Hayes had been rooming with "Smokin' Joe," who is boxer Joe Frazier, at the Olympics. Frazier, the night before, had asked Hayes if he had any gum, and Hayes, half asleep, said that there was gum in his bag. Frazier then took one of Hayes' track shoes out of his bag but never put it back in, and somehow the shoe got kicked under the bed. In the morning, Hayes grabbed his bag and left for the stadium without noticing.
3) in the modern world, Hayes would have had "19 different pairs of free track shoes and 19 different people assigned to carry them." He also would never have a roommate in the Olympic Village. In Tokyo in 1964, though, he and Frazier were roommates because they were both "Southern black kids."
4) the shoes that Hayes wore are still to this day on his mother's shelf
5) years later, Hayes wrote an autobiography that verified every word of his brother's story

"When Hayes died [in 2002], I was listening to Mike and Mad Dog on WFAN," Farrell said. "They were talking about him. I wanted to call up and tell that story."

Farrell did one better. He told TigerBlog. In typical Farrell fashion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alava Shalom, Harry Kalas

TigerBlog spent the summer of 1983 working as a vendor at Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia. It was a pretty good job for a college student. You'd have to get to the stadium (can't really call it a ballpark) around 4-4:30 or so for a night game and put your vendor number on a list (TB's number was 098).

The first number on the list would be given the first choice of what to sell and and at which stadium location and so on down until the last one in. Once the limit of, say, hot dog vendors behind home plate was reached, then the next vendor had to choose something else. You'd then go in, get your vendor uniform, and go off to your assignment for the night. The way it worked was that you'd buy a quantity of what you were going to sell and then sell it; when you were done, you'd make a certain profit per tray/order/etc. Beer was by far the best item to sell, as back then it went for $1.80/cup and everyone let you keep the extra 20 cents. That turned into an additional $4 per tray and made a big difference. On a good night, you could make $100 through the seventh inning. Soda was $1.25/cup, and nobody let you keep the three quarters. TigerBlog does have awful memories of spilling soda or beer through the tops of the cups down into his socks as he walked up the huge ramps of the old stadium.

For those who don't rememeber, the 1983 Phillies actually made it to the World Series, so it was a good summer to be there every night.

Anyway, TigerBlog could tell you vendor stories all day, including the time that Phillies pitcher Charlie Hudson got us out of watching a David Bowie concert or the time Tug McGraw spent an inning as a vendor or the nightmare that was cotton candy, but none of that is really the point.

Today's point has to do with what happened between the time you'd sign in and the time about an hour later that they'd start calling numbers. The vendor gate was located under the stadium, near where the players and media parked and where the visiting team bus dropped off the other team. Okay, TB will tell one more story - Mario Soto was the Cincinnati Reds' ace and the favorite player of Evan Weiss, then a vendor who used to drive TigerBlog from West Philadelphia to the stadium every day in his VW and today a doctor in Philadelphia. All season, Weiss waited for the Reds to arrive so he could get Soto's autograph, and then finally the day was there. Weiss waited for Soto to get off the bus and went up to him and asked for his autograph, only to have Soto walk by without stopping. Talk about being crushed.

Anyway, every day, Harry Kalas would pull in, get out of his car and walk past the vendors into the stadium. And every day, every single day without fail, he'd stop and chat for a few moments, always laughing, always in a good mood, always talking about how the Phils were going to win that night.

Harry Kalas, who passed away Monday at the age of 73, was obviously the long-time voice of the Phils, and he was also known for his work with NFL Films. TigerBlog remembers three Princeton events that Kalas did, one football game and two basketball games. He seemed to know Pete Carril from earlier games, before TB's time.

In dealing with Kalas on those limited occasions, TigerBlog had the image of all those summer nights in the Veterans' Stadium parking lot confirmed. Kalas was a man of humor, of charm, of professionalism. He was all the things you've read about him today from those who knew him much, much better than TB.

TigerBlog's last dealing with Kalas came in the Citizens' Bank Stadium press box, when TB stopped in to thank Tom McCarthy for leaving tickets for the game. It was just after the final out, and TB walked in to the press box with TigerBlog Jr., whom McCarthy quickly grabbed and introduced to Kalas. "Hello," Kalas said in that distinct voice, shaking TB Jr.'s hand, "it's nice to meet you."

Oh, one more vending story. Each vendor was given a red hat with the company logo on it. The first time Kalas came by, TigerBlog asked him for an autograph. With nothing else to give him, TB gave him the red hat, which Kalas signed happily.

To this day, Harry Kalas remains the only person TigerBlog has ever asked for an autograph.

Monday, April 13, 2009

We're No. 1?

It's been almost 51 weeks since the Princeton men's lacrosse team left for Dartmouth for the second-to-last game of the 2008 season. The Tigers had just knocked off Cornell and needed a win in either of their last two games to win at least a share of the Ivy title and earn the Ivy's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

And then? Thud. Followed by thud. Princeton lost to Dartmouth and then lost to Brown the following week to finish 2008 7-6 overall and 4-2 in the Ivy, good for third place. The Tigers missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time in the last 19 years.

Fast forward to this morning, and Princeton is the No. 1 team in both the USILA coaches' poll and the Inside Lacrosse media poll, the program's first No. 1 ranking since the final regular season poll of 2001. Of course, the first game for Princeton as No. 1 won't be easy, as the Tigers head to Ithaca to take on Cornell (ranked No. 4 in one poll and No. 5 in the other). Again, this game matches the last two Ivy unbeatens, with Cornell at 4-0 and Princeton at 3-0. Brown has one league loss, while Harvard has two; those two meet Wednesday in Cambridge.

So how did the Tigers get from where they were at the end of 2008 to where they sit this morning? And more importantly, does it really matter?

Let's start with the first part. Princeton has gotten from where it was to where it because of five reasons:
1) the trip to Spain/Ireland last June, which got the bad taste of the end of the 2008 season out of the team's collective mouths
2) the infusion of a talented freshman class (more on this in a second)
3) the willingness of the coaching staff to adapt after many years, which has led to a loosening of the offensive reigns
4) an eight-member senior class who all make significant contributions; this includes Josh Lesko, who went from being a pretty good offensive midfielder to one of the best defensive midfielders in the country
5) a starting attack and first midfield unit that features six players who have all raised their games significantly from last year, especially midfielders Mark Kovler and Rich Sgalardi

Most of that list speaks for itself. The trip to Europe, for instance, enabled Princeton to get back on the field, play some good games against a tough opponent (the English national team), travel as a team and basically recharge.

As for the freshman class, it's been an interesting situation. Princeton's Class of 2012 came in with great hype, as nine players made the Inside Lacrosse list of the top 100 recruits, including eight of the top 50. Right now, Princeton uses basically two freshmen, goalie Tyler Fiorito and defenseman Chad Wiedmaier. Those two have been ridiculously good, especially in big spots. Longstick midfielder John Cunningham was on his way to having the same kind of impact before he broke his jaw in mid-March. Beyond them, Princeton has seen Alex Capretta play a limited role in the second midfield. The rest of the class hasn't played much, due to injury (A Mike Grossman, M Mike Chanenchuk) and the fact that the same group of 20 players has dominated the playing time.

Princeton got to No. 1 by virtue of its three Top 10 wins and five Top 20 wins. The Tigers won back-to-back 10-9 games last week, against a Penn team (in overtime) that would go out and knock off then-No. 11 Brown in Providence in its next game and Harvard. Tommy Davis scored the game-winner against Penn; Wiedmaier and Fiorito preserved the win over Harvard when each made a huge play in the final 35 seconds.

The real question is whether or not being No. 1 right now matters. You could make a much better case that Princeton deserves to be ranked No. 1 today than you could that Princeton is the NCAA tournament favorite.

Virginia was No. 1 for most of the season (Syracuse was in one poll for two weeks before falling to UVA) before a loss to Duke Saturday. For much of the season, it seemed like those two were the class of Division I until Princeton chopped down Syracuse in the Big City Classic and then Duke polished of the Cavs. Looking ahead a few weeks, the tournament could see any of these teams in the Final Four:
* Virginia - still obviously loaded, but has played a bunch of close games
* Syracuse - defending champ, lots of tournament experience, always plays best in May
* Notre Dame - undefeated, but getting little respect because of schedule; doesn't mean the Irish aren't good, though
* Cornell - an offensive machine; when the D plays well, no team in the country is better
* Hofstra - the only team to defeat Princeton, the Pride have only one loss as well, to Hopkins
* UMBC - Princeton saw the Retrievers early, but UMBC hasn't lost since
* Hopkins - do you want to count them out? Ever?
* Duke - not what they were talent-wise in recent years, but confident after beating UVa and emerging through a tough schedule

Could someone come from nowhere beyond those teams? Sure. North Carolina. Navy. How about Brown, if the Bears get in, with their senior goalie? Maybe Maryland.

In other words, being No. 1 right now is nice, but it's no guarantee of anything for Princeton. The Tigers came into the season ranked 12th in both polls but have spent much of the time in the Top 5. There's no doubt that Princeton is the surprise team so far, from where it was at the end of last year to now. Princeton is also a lock to be in the tournament, no matter what happens in its last three games.

So enjoy being No. 1 now. It's an amazing accomplishment for a team that has answered all challenges to date.

The biggest ones start now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Make It A Good One, Strap

A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar .. ah, never mind.

You're not supposed to talk about religion and politics, especially in a secular blog like this one. Today's subject, though, is in fact religion. Politics will have to wait for another day.

Specifically, let's talk about the Ivy League baseball and softball schedule, which sees Easter Sunday doubleheaders for all eight teams. Is this right?

The answer is a simple "yes." What else is the league to do? For starters, the Ivy League is another secular institution. For another, the league can't get into the business of scheduling around religious holidays, because the potential to offend one religion over another skyrockets. To ask the league to decide which holidays - and by extension which religions - are more worthy of respect would be a disaster.

Now, if it's possible to schedule around major holidays, ones that fall during the week, so be it. Rearranging the whole league schedule on the weekends is not practical. In fact, the Ivy League tried to do this years ago by playing baseball and softball on the Friday/Saturday of Easter weekend but gave up on that.

TigerBlog remembers Easter weekend of 2000. Bill Tierney scheduled Cornell on Saturday and Syracuse on Sunday for the weekend of April 22 and 23, not realizing that the 23rd was Easter (which has to fall between March 22 and April 25, by the way). So what happened? Princeton lost 17-4 for the worst loss Tierney has ever had as Princeton head coach, but at the same time, a crowd of 4,743 (at the time the largest crowd in Class of 1952 Stadium history; now the fifth-largest) attended the game.

Former Princeton basketball player (and numerous others) Ahmed El-Nokali often played during Ramadan after fasting all day. There was also the Yom Kippur Saturday when TigerBlog attended services across the street from Brown Stadium with one of the members of the Brown team in his uniform pregame.

The point is that religion and Ivy League sports exist independently, which is how it should be. About the only religious holiday that TigerBlog cannot remember an Ivy sporting event on is Christmas (which is also a federal holiday). And TB feels that if ESPN wanted to do an Ivy basketball or hockey game on Dec. 25, it would happen.

As Norman Dale said: "God wants you on the court."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Real Madness in March

It’s seems that the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been getting some flack lately for having been a dud of a tournament. North Carolina’s blowout of Michigan State in the championship game probably didn’t help that. While the men’s basketball tournament has gone on with games on network television and under the scrutiny of ESPN and all of its empire, the NCAA men’s hockey tournament has gone fairly unnoticed to the mainstream media. Most of the game’s were on ESPNU, and the media giant and cable companies do not always get along when it comes to carriage rights for the channel.

That’s too bad, because this year’s tournament has been nothing short of incredible. We all know about what happened in Princeton’s first-round game with Minnesota-Duluth, but that was just the start of what was an unbelievable first weekend of the tournament.

The tournament started on Friday afternoon in Bridgeport when Air Force, a four-seed, knocked off Michigan, a one-seed, and probably the school with the richest college hockey history and tradition (with no offense to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Boston College or anyone else). Air Force was making its third-straight trip to the tournament and had dropped heartbreakers in each of the previous two years. The third time was a charm and despite being outshot 43-13, the Falcons moved on.

The second game to get going was the first game in Minneapolis between first-seed Denver and fourth-seed Miami. TigerBlog got to see this one in person and it was not close. Miami dominated from start to finish and advanced. Two games played, two of the top-four team ousted.

Game three takes place back in Bridgeport and pits Yale and Vermont in a match-up of former ECAC foes. Yale had a great season, winning the ECAC regular season and playoff championships and climbing all the way to being the fifth overall seed in the tournament. Vermont comes into the game after losing in the Hockey East quarterfinals and not even making it to Boston. So what happens, Vermont wins handily. Three games, three teams wearing dark jerseys advance.

The fourth game of the tournament takes us back to Minneapolis. We all know what happened. Two late goals by Duluth force overtime and the Bulldogs advance. Still stings a bit.

On to Saturday. Two Frozen Four berths are on the line and two regionals get underway.

The day starts in Manchester, N.H., with third-seeded New Hampshire facing second-seeded North Dakota. TigerBlog is tuned in to ESPN2 and the game is back-and-forth but when the Sioux score midway through the third to go up 5-3, TigerBlog thinks its over. But a UNH goal two minutes later, then the Wildcats tied it with .01 seconds left in regulation (we thought .08 seconds was bad), and it’s headed to overtime. UNH carries the momentum right into the overtime session and 45 seconds in it is over. The lower seed advances for the fourth time in five games.

Meanwhile Princeton’s ECAC brethren Cornell is facing Northeastern in another 2-3 game in Grand Rapids, Mich. Northeastern is leading throughout, but… here comes Cornell. The Big Red tie it with four minutes left and Evan Barlow wins it with 18 seconds left. Another low seed wins.

Back to Manchester for the nightcap, it’s Boston University, the top overall seed for the tournament and Ohio State. This one isn’t close, BU wins 8-3 and sends Ohio State home, interestingly enough, on the same airplane that Princeton flew home from Minnesota on earlier that day.

One more first-round game left on the docket in Grand Rapids between the tournament’s second-seed Notre Dame and the last team in the tournament, CHA-champion Bemidji State. Once again, it isn’t close, 5-1 Bemidji State. Talk about upsets, in a sense the Beavers were the 16th-ranked team in the field, but looking at RPI, the Beavers ranked 37th in the nation. Once again, another low seed moves on. Six of eight low seeds win in the first round.

The first Frozen Four bid was awarded in Minneapolis and went to Miami as the Redhawks defeated Duluth 2-1. It was an exciting game and Miami advances to its first Frozen Four. Interestingly, Miami, a four-seed that lost in its conference quarterfinals, advances to the Frozen Four. Last year, Miami was a one-seed and one of the top teams in the nation all year and didn’t make it the Frozen Four.

As the Miami game ends, the Vermont-Air Force game, also for a Frozen Four berth might be over. The teams are milling around as the referees are looking over the video replay of a shot that may have gone into the Air Force goal six minutes of game time ago. After an exhaustive replay, the game is over. Dan Lawson’s shot went through the Air Force net. The refs got it right, but the rule is that a play can not be ruled until the next whistle, which came six minutes later. Can you imagine the situation if Air Force had scored? TigerBlog once saw New Jersey Devils Ken Daneyko (36 goals in 1,283 NHL games) lose a goal this way.

So, Day 2 is down and two teams are on to D.C. Both teams lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournaments at home, but are a win away from the National Championship game.

The opening weekend wraps on Sunday with two games and two more Frozen Four berths.

The first goes to BU. Not a surprise in that the tournament’s top seed advances, but BU gets a power-play goal with 15 seconds left in regulation to win 2-1. The second goes to Bemidji State. Cornell scores first, but Bemidji turns it on in the third and their Cinderella run continues on to Washington.

So, the Frozen Four is set and starts today. At 5 p.m., the first semifinal gets underway with Bemidji State facing Miami. It continues at 8:30 p.m., with Vermont and Boston University.

These games air on ESPN2, so hopefully those who were unable to watch the earlier rounds will be able to enjoy college hockey this weekend. Hopefully the tournament also continues at the pace and level that it did two weekends ago.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Three Things

1) Games when Chris Young pitches for the San Diego Padres almost always start at 10 pm, so nobody short of Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley is actually watching him. If you're like most Princeton fans, you check the Web the next day to see how he did. To find out, you have to access a site such as or so and then scroll all the way down to the last scores of the night. If it's a night like last night, when the score says the Padres defeated the Dodgers 4-2, you have to go to the box score and find out if Young got the win or not (in this case, he did). So why do all this? Easy. It's TigerBlog's contention that Chris Young is the most beloved Princeton athlete of the last 20 years (at least). There are many reasons for this. He's literally larger than life. He's about as good a person as you'll ever talk to. He's never forgotten his Princeton roots. He has something of a "tragic hero" mystique because of what he might have done had he played his junior and senior years. And he's ultra-successful, which has a way of attracting people.

2) Transactions in this morning's paper offered two items with Princeton ties. First, South Carolina guard Devan Downey announced he was declaring for the NBA draft. Princeton fans remember Downey for the 22 points he scored in South Carolina's win at Jadwin Gym earlier this year. Also, the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse announced that they were placing Christian Cook on waivers. TigerBlog remembers standing on Finney Field when Cook was a freshman reserve for Princeton and watching him run off the field after a change of possession. Afterwards, TB mentioned to BT (Princeton coach Bill Tierney) how fast Cook was; Tierney's casual response was that Cook was definitely going to be a first-team All-America at some point. Tierney turned out to be right, as Cook became first-team All-America as a senior in 1998. Cook's lacrosse career includes three NCAA titles, as well as aWorld Championship with Team USA and an MLL championship with the Bayhawks. Cook, always with his horn-rimmed glasses, is also one of the nicest players to come through the program.

3) TigerBlog was back in Franklin Field Tuesday night for Princeton's 10-9 overtime win over Penn in a game that turned out to be shockingly close. Perhaps Princeton was looking past Penn to Harvard and Cornell or was still celebrating its win over Syracuse from last Saturday. Perhaps some letdown was natural, and that, coupled with how perfectly Penn executed its game plan of winning face-offs and taking the air out of the ball, resulted in a tense game that ended with Tommy Davis' fourth goal of the night. The winning goal was actually the result of a great feed from Jack McBride, who is much more of a finisher than playmaker. Going into Franklin Field for lacrosse always takes TB back to the first lacrosse game he ever saw, a Penn-Brown game in the early ’80s. The Penn coach then was Tony Seaman, whose son Greg is a senior tri-captain on this year's team (and just took TigerCam to Giants Stadium and came back with this video). And, of course, TigerBlog will be much, much older before he forgets the 2007 visit to Franklin Field for men's lacrosse, when two raccoons joined him in the radio booth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

That's Madness? - And Other Thoughts

A few thoughts ...

* Well, the NCAA men's basketball tournament just ended with a championship game that was over by the first media timeout. And that game may just make the women's championship game tonight look like a barnburner. The entire men's tournament featured 64 games, of which exactly one can be called great - the regional final between Pitt and Villanova. TigerBlog thinks this is a by-product of oversaturation. It seems like every college basketball game all year is on TV, and after awhile it all starts to look the same. The entire season becomes even more meaningless when you factor in the tournament hype itself. It won't be long before the first "bracketology" for 2010 is out, and the amount of time that ridiculously overexposed media types spend discussing potential No. 1 seeds and bubble teams and Cinderellas has come to exceed the amount of time the tournament is actually played. In other words, a great event - maybe the best annual event on the American sports scene other than the Super Bowl - isn't quite what it used to be and gives no indication that it realizes there's a problem. What does any of this have to do with Princeton? Not much, other than a word of caution to the men's lacrosse tournament to be careful not to make these same mistakes and a hope that the Ivy League doesn't abandon its policy of not having postseason conference basketball tournaments, which would destroy the uniqueness of the Ivy League regular season and by extension February Friday and Saturday nights in Jadwin Gym.

* Speaking of overexposed media types and items that have nothing to do with Princeton, when will the people behind televised sports realize that the events themselves are what attract viewers, not the announcers?

* Okay, getting back to Princeton, after a pretty light home card last weekend, there are 15 events on campus this weekend (not to mention the teams that are on the road). Keep in mind that we're approaching what figure to be the last four home dates for retiring men's volleyball coach Glenn Nelson, including three this week (beginning tonight at 7 against NJIT). There is also tennis, track, lacrosse, rowing, baseball and softball at home this weekend, including a lacrosse doubleheader against Harvard Saturday (women at noon, men at 3) and a pair of softball/baseball doubleheaders against Columbia (including one for Easter Sunday).

* Spring football is continuing as well, with the annual spring game set for Saturday April 18 at Princeton Stadium.

* The Ivy baseball standings are pretty interesting now that intra-division play is finished. Yale is in last place in the Rolfe Division with a 4-4 league record; that same record has Columbia in first place in the Gehrig Division. Princeton and Cornell are off to 2-6 starts, but both are only two games back of Columbia with 12 to play (beginning for Princeton with four this weekend against the Lions). Dartmouth is 8-0 in the Rolfe, followed by 7-1 Brown.

* Inside Lacrosse named Tyler Fiorito its Division I Player of the Week. Interestingly, Fiorito did not make the Team of the Week, but two of his teammates did: D Chad Wiedmaier and M Rich Sgalardi. Wiedmaier was also named the top freshman in the country, while Fiorito ranked fourth on that list.

* Craig Haley, formerly of the Trenton Times, offers links to instructional pieces from three Princeton coaches: a video with Scott Bradley on baseball and articles with Bill Tierney on lacrosse and Julie Shackford on soccer.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The End Of Civilization, But For A Good Cause

TigerBlog has long believed that contemporary civilization is threatened as much by an erosion of human interaction as it is by crazy people with weapons of all kinds.

Little by little, human beings continue to drift down the path of not actually needing to speak to/see/debate/rely on another actual human being in any number of ways. Eventually, TB fears, we will have retreated in a world where no one ever actually leaves the house.

All of this is why TigerBlog has been very slow to jump on the livestats bandwagon. Yes, it is a great tool for bringing game action directly to fans in a "real-time" fashion (as an aside, TigerBlog hates the term "real-time"). Why, TB has long wondered, would we want to be responsible for having people huddle in front of their computers, desperately waiting for it to refresh, to see if the score has changed?

Slowly, though, TB has realized that you can't fight some things, including in this case livestats.

And so there was TigerBlog yesterday, following Princeton-Harvard baseball and softball via livestats. The softball doubleheader was standard enough, as was the first game of the baseball doubleheader. Little did TB know what the second game had in store.

The first look saw Harvard up 8-0. Oh well. Game over. About two hours later, it was time to get the final. Only it was 8-6 Harvard in the ninth. Then it was 8-8.

With that comeback in the books, TB figured to check later on the final. Only it still wasn't final. It was actually in the 13th inning, still tied at 8-8.

The livestats uses graphics, with little red men for Princeton and little blue men for Harvard in this case. The little baseball players are only slightly less freaky looking than the ones used to play Wii baseball, except in this case, Princeton had two little red guys on with only one out. Pause. Pause. Pause. "Refresh already," TB was screaming to himself. "Refresh."

Eventually, it refreshed enough to reveal that it had become 10-8 Princeton. Surely, this would have to stand up.

So, it wasn't until a few hours later that it dawned on TB to check the final. What? It was 13-12 Harvard? In 17 innings?

A look at the final livestats update showed that there had been 52 hits in the game. Could that be the NCAA record for a game? Off to and the record book, which was dowloaded onto the laptop. A quick look at the pdf version showed that Princeton-Harvard now ranks sixth for the most hits ever in a Division I baseball game.

And where did this leave the Tigers in the Ivy League? Off to for the answer. Still plenty of baseball left for Princeton and a legitimate chance to win the division.

And that was it. What would have been impossible a few years ago became simple. Follow the game, despite no radio or TV coverage. See where this fit in historically. And where it left Princeton in the short run.

How great is it to have all of this access to information, all without any delay of any kind?

Of course, TigerBlog never had to talk to another human being. But oh well.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wrong Again

TigerBlog used to live in the neighborhood where Mercer County Waterfront Park now stands and was there to see the construction first hand. While the rest of the local sports world was going ga-ga over the prospect of minor league baseball in Trenton, TB was one of three people who said it would never work. The others? Harvey Yavener and Mark Eckel, then TB's colleagues at the Trenton Times.

Okay, so we were wrong.

On the eve of the first Big City Classic lacrosse festival, it appears that TigerBlog might be on the verge of being wrong again.

The Big City Classic is a tripleheader being held at Giants Stadium tomorrow. It begins with the top-ranked team in the country, Virginia, in an ACC game against No. 10 North Carolina. No. 5 Princeton then plays No. 2 (and defending NCAA champion) Syracuse at 2:30, followed by the nightcap with No. 7 Hofstra against Delaware. Three games with six teams, including five in the Top 10, over an eight-hour stretch in the first college lacrosse games at Giants Stadium.

When it was first proposed, TigerBlog heard the Inside Lacrosse sponsors suggesting a crowd upwards of 20,000 and was skeptical. As it turns out, the presale went past 17,000 at the beginning of this week. With the weather cooperating, a strong walk-up would push the crowd to near 30,000.

For Princeton, the game against Syracuse will be its second this season in an NFL stadium, as the Tigers played Johns Hopkins at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in another IL event, the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic.

The games against Syracuse and Hopkins would have been home games for Princeton had they not been moved off-campus. That decision left the home non-league schedule with Canisius, Manhattan and Albany; no offense to those schools, but clearly Syracuse and Hopkins are bigger draws. In fact, the five top attendance games in Class of 1952 Stadium history were for games against either Syracuse or Hopkins.

Still, the decision to move them can't be argued with. It's part of the growth of the sport, one that saw the 2001 NCAA championship game between Syracuse and Princeton draw 21,286 to Rutgers Stadium and now has a regular-season event ready to easily eclipse that number eight years later. And that doesn't even take into account the Final Four, which will more than double the 2001 total.

For the athletes, the thrill of playing in an NFL stadium in front of a crowd this size against top competition is a great experience. The same is true for the fans who watch it.

Speaking of Princeton-Syracuse, the two have combined to win 15 of the last 21 NCAA championships. Princeton is 25-5 against all other teams in the NCAA tournament and 4-6 against Syracuse. The Orange, since 1992, are 6-4 in the NCAA tournament against Princeton (obviously) and 30-6 against everyone else.

The two have played epic games through the years, including four NCAA finals, three NCAA semifinals and of course a four-overtime game that the Tigers won 15-14 on Josh Sims' goal in the Carrier Dome 10 years ago this month.

This time around, the teams combine to average 26.4 goals and 87.6 shots per game. Princeton actually averages more shots than Syracuse (44.2-43.4), which has to be the first time the teams have played when that has been true.

A key for Princeton is to avoid penalties. Syracuse ranks first in the country, converting two-third of its extra-man opportunities. Princeton ranks 56th out of 57 teams in man-down defense.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

For You, Muh-NISH

For those who read the Star-Ledger, you might recognize the byline "M.A. Mehta" from his coverage of Rutgers women's basketball, Georgetown men's basketball (for any reason at all) and outstanding feature writing (TigerBlog does not say this casually; M.A. is one of the best sportswriters TB has ever read).

What you might not know is that M.A. Mehta is actually Manish Mehta (pronounced "mah-NEESH" by the rest of the world and "muh-NISH" by Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson). Before he was ever M.A. the sportswriter, Manish was simply Manish, a member of the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications staff.

Back in those days, Manish was the volleyball contact, a distinction that earned him a trip to the 1999 NCAA men's final four in Hawaii. As is the case with anyone who came in contact with retiring coach Glenn Nelson, Manish was immediately drawn to him.

Now that Nelson has announced his retirement, Manish sent an email looking for funny Glenn Nelson stories for a feature that he wants to write. TigerBlog (this TigerBlog, not the TigerBlog who has spent way more time around Glenn) responded that most of the ones he had weren't fit for print in the Star-Ledger, but TB would try to come up with something.

As an aside, the first thought TB had about Nelson is that despite the fact that he walks with a limp, he still moves faster all the time than perhaps anyone TB has ever been around. But that's not what Manish was after.

So, here are this TigerBlog's two best printable Glenn Nelson stories:

One, ironically, has to do with when Manish was the volleyball contact. Back then, computer stats were new to sports information, and the volleyball version of the stat program is by far the toughest. Seeing that Manish was struggling with the program, Nelson called timeout. Why? So his sports information guy could get caught up.

The second story has to do with Nelson and his long, long, long-time tennis partner, Pete Carril. When Carril left to become an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, Nelson badgered him for years to get him some Kings gear. Finally, one day, years later, Carril showed up with a bag in hand for Nelson. The next day, Nelson saw Carril again on the balcony in Jadwin and said: "Hey, Coach. You know those Kings shorts you gave me yesterday? Your wallet was in the back pocket." He then flipped Carril his wallet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Sidd Finch

TigerBlog was a senior in West Philadelphia when Sidd Finch burst onto the scene 24 years ago today. Finch was the phenom of all phenoms, and he'd just been signed by the New York Mets. There was a big article in Sports Illustrated and everything.

Finch wore one hiking boot when he pitched and was a big fan of Eastern philosophy. His fastball topped out at 168 mph, and he could pitch every day. Baseball was never going to be the same.

TigerBlog believed every word in the story. Everyone did. Why not? It was in Sports Illustrated, for crying out loud.

It was only later – days later – that it became known that it was a hoax. The first letter of every word in the subhead (He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga) spelled out "Happy April Fools Day."

Now, nearly a quarter-century later, it remains one of the great April Fools Day pranks of all-time – and a great learning lesson for TigerBlog. And, with a little bit of 21st century perspective, it has become something of a symbol of modern athletics and society as a whole.

Lesson No. 1, of course, is that people believe everything they read. It doesn't matter where they read it. It doesn't matter what it says. If it's written someplace where others can read it, it must be true.

All of this brings us to today, April Fools Day 2009. TigerBlog thought it would be a good idea to put something up today either here or on in the Sidd Finch tradition. It's not an original thought; TB has wanted to do this for years on

It would have to be something so over-the-top that there's no way anyone would believe it - except everyone would, because they read it on That's what made the Sidd Finch story so great. Seriously, who could throw 168 mph? Who would pitch with a boot on one foot? Who could throw that hard every day? Nobody. It's impossible. Yet an entire country believed it, simply because of where it was written, not what it said.

So what would be the Princeton equivalent? It would have to be good. Sure, if we put up a release that, say, Sydney Johnson was taking over at Memphis for John Calipari or Chris Sailer was leaving Princeton to start a women's lacrosse program at Rider or Princeton was going to build a 5,000-seat basketball-only arena that connects to Jadwin Gym, someone would believe it for a minute, figure out it was April 1st and then say "that wasn't very clever."

No, to do it right, we'd have to come up with something way past that. What could we put on our Website that would be so beyond the pale that it would exceed any rational level of believability, but everyone who read it would believe it anyway? Something worthy of Sidd Finch.

And then TigerBlog realizes the answer is nothing. Today, in the world we live in, nothing exceeds any rational level of believability. Look around at sports, at media, at politics, at entertaininment. What wouldn't you believe now? What would come up on your favorite information source Website today that would make you say "no way. Get out of here?" Nothing, right?

So, thanks to the 21st century for ruining April Fools Day. And we'll just have to stick to putting up information that's all true on our Website.

Like the story coming later today about how, after 125 years, Princeton is changing its school colors from orange and black to teal, silver and black, in hopes of generating new marketing and merchandising opportunities. Seriously.