Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time Well Spent

TigerBlog's first trip to Palmer Stadium was back in the 1984 season, when he was doing student radio for Penn.

Princeton and Penn had played an epic game in 1983, a 28-27 Penn win that featured at the time the longest play in Princeton history (a 95-yard touchdown pass from Doug Butler to Derek Graham) and a sack on a two-point conversion attempt that would have won the game after Princeton scored a touchdown in the final seconds on a fourth down. Chuck Yrigoyen, who was then the sports information director for Princeton and who now is the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, said that the 1983 Princeton-Penn game was the best he'd ever seen.

The intro to the 1984 game included the final call from the game the year before, when the play-by-play announcer was a kid from St. Louis named Sandy Friedman. TB remembers what Friedman - now a lawyer - said after the call of the sack, which was by a player named Dave Smith: "How about that defense Jon Hock?"

For those who don't know, Jon Hock is now an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has done several pieces for ESPN, including the famous one about Sebastian Telfair's senior year of high school on Coney Island entitled "Through the Fire."

Hock, who started his career at NFL Films, also did a documentary for the ESPN "30 For 30" series entitled "The Best That Never Was," about former Oklahoma running back Marcus DuPree and his life as one of the most highly recruited football players of all time through his struggles after a devastating knee injury.

That 1984 Princeton-Penn game was the first Princeton football game that TB saw, after he missed the 1983 game to cover a high school game. If he had to guess, he'd say it was, oh, Council Rock vs. Pennsbury or maybe Ewing-Steinert?

Since then, TB estimates he's seen about 165 or so Princeton football games. He began to cover them basically full-time when the current Tiger head coach was the center.

The only two sports he's seen more than football are men's lacrosse and men's basketball.

In men's lacrosse, TigerBlog has seen every game since the second game of the 2004 season, a 14-5 loss at Hopkins that TB skipped to be at Dartmouth when the men's basketball team wrapped up the Ivy League championship. In counting up the total just now, TB realizes that he's seen exactly 100 straight Princeton men's lacrosse games.

TB's first Princeton men's lacrosse game was the 1990 game against Bucknell on Finney Field. In all, TB would estimate that he's seen around 275 men's lacrosse games.

In men's basketball, the number is probably around 450.

As an aside, looking at those numbers, TB wonders how many people have seen more Princeton football, men's basketball and/or men's lacrosse games than he has. It's probably a higher number than TB would guess, though if you factor out coaches (Pete Carril, Bill Tierney) and Princeton alums, then TB might be near the top.

Bill Carmody was the head coach for 117 games at Princeton (92-25, a .787 winning percentage that ranks second in program history to J. Hill Zahn's .800 with a 36-9 record from 1921-23); TB saw 116 of those games, missing only the 1998 game at UNC-Wilmington because of a conflict with the final football game of the season.

The one game that TB missed was also the only one of Gabe Lewullis' career that TB did not see, and of course, it was the game where Lewullis had his career high of 30 points.

The most recent Princeton game was the one in which Kareem Maddox scored 30 points in the Tigers' 86-77 win over Siena Sunday.

Princeton is now 2-0 at home, and both have been thoroughly entertaining games, with overtime wins over Rutgers and Siena.

TB tried to think of times he'd seen a Princeton player reach 30 points in a game, and he came up with all of the correct ones:
* Noah Savage (now the radio color commentator) had 35 against Brown in 2008
* Judson Wallace had 31 against Holy Cross in 2003
* Chris Young had 30 against Harvard in 2000 despite leaving very early after needing stitches
* Spencer Gloger scored 34 against UAB in 1999, making 10 threes along the way
* Steve Goodrich with 33 against Penn at the Palestra in 1998; Goodrich went 10 for 12 from the field in that game and missed his first two shots of the night
* Rick Hielscher with 34 on 16 of 20 shooting at Dartmouth in 1995 on a night when the rest of the team went 8 for 39
* Kit Mueller with 32 against Harvard in 1990

In each of those games, TB came away thinking that it was so effortless of these guys to reach 30 that it seemed like it should be a normal night for them. Certainly Maddox looked the other night like he could have scored 100 against Siena if he'd needed to. And yet, in the last 20 years, it's only happened eight times by a Princeton player.

But hey, that's the beauty of going to all these games. You never know when something unique is going to happen.

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