Friday, May 28, 2010

Oh Brother

BrotherBlog isn't a bad guy, even if he is a lawyer. He does something with the Washington State Legislature's House Democratic Caucus. It's not a political appointment, and he's busiest when the legislature is in session.

Unlike his more moderate brother, BB leans a little to the left.

TigerBlog is proud of his brother, who made a big career change in his 30s, going from his work with terminally ill children and their parents into the law, where he felt he could better serve as their advocate.

And, okay, he got a little bit away from that when he started working for a giant law firm defending a major corporation against law suits. Still, his new legal path seems a bit more in line with his original intent. Plus, he also teaches at the University of Washington Law School.

So, what's not to be proud of, right?

Of course, there aren't websites out there ripping his decisions (at least TB isn't aware of them), questioning his workplace strategies, wondering if he should have his current job and on and on.

And he's not out there teaching his classes or writing his legal briefs in front of, quite literally, the entire world.

And so TB can't really relate to what Scott Bradley is going through these days.

Scott Bradley is Princeton's ultra-successful baseball coach. Himself a former college star at North Carolina, Bradley played nearly 10 years in the Major Leagues, and he caught Randy Johnson's no-hitter while with the Seattle Mariners.

Hey, he even has his own page on Wikipedia.

These days, though, his level of fame pales in comparison to two, and possibly three, members of his immediate family.

Bradley has two brothers, both of whom will be spending the next few weeks far away from the family's home state of New Jersey. On the other side of the world, for that matter. All the way to South Africa and the 2010 World Cup.

Jeff Bradley is a senior writer for ESPN the Magazine who formerly wrote for Sports Illustrated; he will be covering the World Cup games there for ESPN and his blog.

And then there is Scott's other brother, and nephew. Bob Bradley is the head coach of the U.S. men's national team; Bob's son Michael is a midfielder on the team.

By now, the story of the U.S. team and its connections to Princeton is well known. Bob Bradley, of course, played at Princeton and then coached the team here to great success, including a run to the 1993 NCAA Final Four. Bradley also coached Jim Barlow, the current Princeton men's coach. Barlow coaches the U.S. U-15 national team, and he coached several members of the team that will play in South Africa.

None of that is what this is about.

This is about the Princeton baseball coach and how he wandered into HQ yesterday and talked about how his brother was about to coach the U.S. team in the world's biggest sporting event. And how his nephew is one of the team's keys to having a successful run.

After Scott Bradley left, TB started thinking about what that must be like. Here is your brother, whose every move is being scrutinized by the media, by fans posting comments under that scrutinization, even by TB, who asked Scott Bradley why Brian Ching didn't make the team.

Scott Bradley won't be making the trip to South Africa. Too far. Too expensive.

So he'll sit in front of his television and watch, like the rest of the world, to see what kind of performance the U.S. team puts forward. As TB said a week ago, the stakes are enormous for Bob Bradley. The reward can be immense.

Imagine watching your brother go through something like that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Senior Citizens

Tonight Princeton Athletics will host its 13th annual senior awards gathering, officially titled the Princeton Varsity Club Banquet.

TigerBlog will be making his 12th straight appearance after missing out on the first one. TB didn't get invited to that one.

To those who go every year, time can be measured from banquet to banquet. As in, "How is it possible that a whole year has gone by and we're at another banquet?"

The majority of the people there are the senior athletes and their parents, and they only go once. Since TB and the others who work here go every year, it's hard to think of the banquet in terms of only going one time and what it's like to the majority of the audience.

The night begins with a cocktail hour (or hour and 15 minutes, before everyone is finally under the tent to begin the formal part). There is dinner, and then the department hands out its major awards.

There is the Citizen Athlete Award, which goes to an alum who has had a distinguished career professionally and in service to society. This year's winner is John Rogers, the head of Ariel Investments and a former men's basketball captain.

There is the Marvin Bressler Award, named for the former sociology professor whose mentoring of a young Gary Walters during his time as Princeton's point guard in the 1960s led to the formation of the Academic Athletic Fellows program when Walters became AD here. The award, for a member of the University community who has followed Bressler's example and done a great deal for the current athletes, is given this year to Hal Feiveson of the Woodrow Wilson School.

If warranted, the PVC also presents special recognition awards.

There are also four awards for the seniors. The first is the Class of 1916 Cup, given to the senior athlete with the highest GPA. The second is the undergrad version of the Citizen Athlete Award, known as the Art Lane Award.

The final two are for the top male and female athletes in the class, the Roper Trophy and the von Kienbusch Award.

One of the highlights, at least TigerBlog hopes, is the video at the end. The video, which this year runs for nearly 18 minutes, has two parts.

It begins with live action shots of Princeton teams and athletes, mostly artistic looks from practice or "behind the scenes" rather than simply highlights. This is followed by an action shot of every senior athlete.

All of this, of course, is set to music.

The video was originally done by the OAC's first publications person, a man named Mike Zulla, who married former von Kienbusch Award-winning fencer Caitlin Rich.

Back in the dark ages, Zulla had to take an actual photograph of as many senior athletes as he could find and then scan them all. Once he had the scans, he had to put them on some sort of storage device (probably a zip disc) and then take them to a video store, where someone there would create the video and then give it back to Zulla on, of all things, a VHS tape.

Once Zulla left (a long time ago), TigerBlog and his then-video partner Greg Busch would put it together in I-Movie, probably version 1.0.

To say that it was an arduous, frustrating process would be an understatement. I-Movie was ridiculously slow back then, especially as the file got bigger and bigger. It would freeze every other time it would save, and it would take weeks to put the final version together.

Now, TB works off I-Movie version version 8.0.4, which makes doing the video about a million times easier.

Jeff Taylor, an amiable 20-something, does the first part; TB does the part with all the senior pictures. One day, TB is pretty sure, there will be a "Jeff Taylor Mode" of I-Movie, in which all video instantly shifts to being shown from the ground up, focusing on feet, shoes, anything like that and then panning out to see the bigger picture. Also, in Jeff Taylor Mode, all videos end with a panoramic view of a crew rowing through the picture, leaving only its wake in the water as the piece fades to black.

The hardest parts these days are making sure there's a picture of every athlete and that everyone's name is spelled correctly. Once that's done, the rest is fairly simple.

Of course, there is the chore of picking the music. TigerBlog operates under the theory of: "TB's video, TB's music." With the banquet tonight, TB still has to add two more songs and output the whole thing, which will take awhile. Still, it's nothing like the old days.

TB has no doubt the video will be ready, and he has no doubt that this banquet, like the others that have preceded it, will be a good celebration for the graduating athletes.

There is the part of the banquet that nobody can control.

There is a pretty good chance of thunderstorms.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scott Bacigalupo, Hall-of-Famer

TigerBlog flipped on the TV at about 5:40 yesterday afternoon hoping to catch a few minutes of PTI.

Instead, he found a commercial, which of course means changing the channel to see what else is out there. He made it one channel over, to ESPN Classic, which was showing of all games the 1989 Princeton-Georgetown NCAA tournament game.

Every time TB watches that game, he's left with the same thoughts: 1) Princeton had the game won, 2) the offense that now has been copied and spread through all levels of basketball was still unique to Princeton back then, 3) Pete Carril was wearing the blue sweater he always wore back then, a sweater with a little hole from a cigar that happened to be in the exact spot that the orange basketball was on the white Princeton shirt he wore underneath it, giving off the impression that the basketball was on the sweater, 4) Kit Mueller was a great player, 5) those uniforms remain TB's favorite that Princeton has had and 6) that group of players was the first that TB got to know here.

Watching that game had already taken TB back to 1989 and the years that followed shortly afterwards, and so the email he received around the same time announcing Scott Bacigalupo's selection to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame fit right into the moment.

If Kit and the rest of that group had been the first Princeton basketball players TB had gotten to know, then Bacigalupo was part of the first group of lacrosse players.

TB's association with Princeton lacrosse dates back to Bacigalupo's senior year at St. Paul's in Baltimore. The 1990 season was the first one in which Princeton played in the NCAA tournament, and it was clear that the program was on the rise.

And, for that entire spring, all anyone could talk about was the incoming class, led by two can't miss prospects.

The first was Kevin Lowe, an attackman who would go on to become the all-time leading scorer in Princeton history with 247 career points. Lowe, one of the greatest feeders of all-time, was part of the 2009 class at the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

The other was Bacigalupo, whose Hall-of-Fame selection was probably inevitable ever since he walked on campus, or at the very latest when he made 15 saves in a 15-10 win over Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field on March 2, 1991, in his first appearance as a Princeton player.

He would go on to start all 60 games Princeton played in his career, the only goalie in school history to do so (current goalie Tyler Fiorito has started every game his first two years). Princeton would go 52-8 in those 60 games while winning the 1992 and 1994 NCAA championships, both of which saw Bacigalupo earn Most Outstanding Player honors.

When Cornell's Max Siebald (Class of 2009) became the first four-time first-team All-Ivy League men's lacrosse selection, TigerBlog thought there should have been a giant asterisk next to his name. Not to take anything away from Siebald, who clearly deserved all four honors, but it was Bacigalupo who should have been the first four-time first-teamer.

Bacigalupo was a first-team selection three times - as a freshman, sophomore and junior. His senior year? Second team. Why? Because one coach, in an effort to get his player to be first-team, did not vote for Bacigalupo as first- or second-team.

And what ended up happening a few weeks later? Bacigalupo, the second-team All-Ivy League goalie, was named the Division I National Player of the Year.

Bacigalupo probably got over that a long time ago. TigerBlog? No.

Lacrosse was a new sport to TigerBlog when he first watched those Bacigalupo-Lowe teams play. TB's first "favorite player" was attackman Justin Tortolani, who predated the other two by two seasons at Princeton and who today is one of the top pediatric surgeons in the country.

It was obvious from the start that Bacigalupo and Lowe were something special, even to TB's untrained eye. TB was impressed with Lowe's ability to see the field and make ridiculous passes and the calm demeanor he carried with him at all times.

As for Bacigalupo, TB always thought of him as having a big dog guarding the front door of a house. He could bite, but his bark was usually enough to scare away the average shooter.

Bacigalupo could make saves, he could carry the ball, he could trigger fast breaks. More than any of that, though, and with apologies to everyone else in that group, it was clearly his team. He played with charisma. He was in charge at all times, and everyone knew it.

Princeton has had a goalie make 15 or more saves in an NCAA tournament game 11 times, and five of those 11 were from Bacigalupo. He made 19 saves against North Carolina in the 1992 semifinals on a 100-degree day in Philadelphia, and he made 15 more in the final against Syracuse two days later, when the temperature had dropped about 50 degrees.

Princeton went 7-2 in NCAA games during his career and he was spectacular in all of them, even the two he lost. He made 17 saves against Syracuse in the 1993 semifinals, and that was nothing compared to his 20 saves against Towson in the 1991 quarterfinals at Palmer Stadium.

Towson would win that game 14-13 in three overtimes, scoring off the face-off to start the third OT. After that game, Bacigalupo vowed that he would never lose another overtime game - and he didn't, going 5-0 in OT after that, including the 1992 and 1994 finals.

As TB wrote when it was Lowe's turn last year, TB was still at the newspaper for the 1992 and 1994 championships. In his preview for the 1994 final, TB wrote that Princeton would win and that Lowe and Bacigalupo would both be in the Hall of Fame.

Certainly there are others on the way in the near future. Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess and Ryan Boyle are total locks to get there. Some others, such as Chris Massey, Matt Striebel and Trevor Tierney, have a shot.

For Lowe and Bacigalupo, there was never any doubt.

These two are among the greatest of the greatest, and it was obvious from Day 1.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Write Stuff

The first time TigerBlog tried his hand at speechwriting was back in the mid-1990s or so. It was just before the department Christmas party, and Gary Walters asked TB to come up with some joke gifts for coaches he could read.

The goal was to be funny; somewhere between the way it was written and the way it was spoken, that didn't quite happen. About halfway through, as the jokes were falling all over the place, Gary paused and threw TigerBlog under the bus, saying that it was TB who wrote them.

Looking back on that now makes TB laugh, even though he has no idea what he wrote and whether or not it was funny at all.

Since then, TB has written a bunch of speeches for other people, mostly for Walters. It's something TB spent much of yesterday working on, Gary's speech for the upcoming Princeton Varsity Club banquet.

Writing words that are to be read by someone else is different than basically any other kind of writing.

TB's favorite thing to write is, of course, TigerBlog, followed closely by 3,000-word features on either Pete Carril or the Princeton men's lacrosse program.

TigerBlog isn't sure when he first started to learn to write. His high school English teacher his sophomore year, Mr. Ridley, taught TB all about grammar, which would be along with the typing he learned from Mrs. Jacobson his freshman year the two best skills TB learned in school.

His English teacher senior year, Mrs. Danielson, was pretty good about teaching things like structure and having an intro paragraph and a conclusion. Prior to that, TB is pretty sure his stuff was a bunch of unorganized thoughts, though grammatically correct.

TigerBlog was hired in the newspaper business with no background in writing, and he remembers the first story he ever wrote, back in Sept. 1983. He was sent to cover a high school football game between Pennington and Academy of the New Church, a game Pennington won 22-0 after leading 6-0 at the half. It was Pennington's 18th straight win, a school record.

TB remembers going back from the school in Bryn Athyn, Pa., to the Trenton Times building on Perry Street, sitting down in front of a word processor and thinking "now what?"

Newspaper stories are not measured in words or pages or anything. They're measured in inches, as in the number of column inches they'll take up. TB became an expert at the 15-inch game story, something that he could write in his sleep after doing it so often.

And really, what could be duller? A few sentences of an intro. The score. A quote from a player on the winning team. Some play-by-play. Quote from the losing team. More play-by-play. Quote from the winning coach. Last sentence that takes you back to the first thought.

And there you have basically every story TB wrote about a high school game from 1983-1988.

Eventually, TB figured out that there were other ways to write, ways that might be of more interest. One of the best parts of writing for the web is that space isn't an issue. You don't have to cut your feature down to fit the space in the paper or the program or wherever. You write until you're done.

Maybe that's why he likes the blog and the features so much. You can develop thoughts at your own pace, and you're done when you're done.

He still writes a lot of game stories, and he hopefully has figured out how to make them more interesting than back when it was, say, Ewing-Hamilton boys' basketball.

But speechwriting? That's a whole different animal.

Much of what TB writes for others to read are the PA announcements for games here. The number one thing to remember is that the announcer will be reading the words and not necessarily concentrating on what they say, so the result is that it has to be written exactly how it is to come out over the mic.

Then there's the writing of an actual speech.

The PVC banquet is Thursday night. Gary has traditionally written his own closing remarks, and TB writes the intro and basically everything else - with some help from the PVC for some things specific to what they want said. Gary will take the original version of the script and make any changes to it that he wants.

It's not an easy thing to do. Gary has his own style and way of saying things, and it varies from the way TB would do it.

And then there's the delivery. TB might write a sentence or paragraph a certain way and hear it in his mind as he does; Gary might be the emphasis on different spots.

At the banquet itself, TB finds himself anticipating what comes next, and he can obviously tell when Gary goes off-script and starts to ad lib. It's a fascinating experience, to hear what you've written come out of someone else's mouth.

In some ways, it must be like songwriting. The Princeton Varsity Club banquet - music by Gary Walters, lyrics by TigerBlog.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Karen Malec's Saturday

Of all the dull household tasks that people have to deal with, the two that have never really bothered TigerBlog are doing the dishes and doing the laundry.

Maybe it's a cleanliness thing. Who knows.

Of the two, TB's favorite is easily the laundry. There's a great deal of satisfaction that comes with knowing that all of the clothes have been washed, dried and folded.

For the record, TB is not a big fan of separating out his clothes, and basically everthing he owns can go in the dryer.

Of course, doing TB's laundry isn't that complicated. Perhaps it's because he's not a suit-and-tie guy, unlike FatherBlog, who would wear a sportcoat to the beach.

Instead, most of TB's clothes have the words "Princeton Athletics" on them, unless they say "Princeton Lacrosse" or "Princeton Water Polo." Ever since Princeton signed its deal with Nike several years ago, the attire at Princeton events has been a selection of white or black with orange trim, the aforementioned words and a swoosh.

Almost all of the Nike stuff has been white or black. The varieties have been great, with long-sleeved and short-sleeved stuff, any number of jackets and fleeces, cottons and dri-fits and enough t-shirts to wear a different one every day.

As far as TB can remember, there's only been one orange garment, and that's the bright orange "Princeton Athletics" dri-fit.

If you were in Princeton Stadium Saturday for the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals, you might have noticed an army of people wearing those orange shirts. Why? Because Karen Malec said to, that's why.

And who is Karen Malec? If you're the average Princeton fan - and certainly one of the 8,000-plus who were in the building Saturday - then the odds are good that the name is not familiar.

Princeton athletics is filled with people who work hard and do this hard work far away from the spotlight.

The NCAA quarterfinals are a perfect example. Anywhere you looked Saturday, you saw something that was the product of months of work on somebody's part, all designed to look like it took no effort at all.

What is TB talking about? How about:

* lockerroom and teamrooms. Princeton Stadium has only two team rooms, but four teams needed a place to dress, shower and meet pre-game, halftime and postgame.
* merchandise.
* concessions.
* credentials.
* seating. Did you notice one side was closed off? How did that decision get made?
* the field. There was a stencil of "2010 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships" on the field, and it didn't get there by itself.
* television. ESPN had issues with its generator for the first game, and eventually the feed from the videoboard was tied into the ESPN truck. Again, this didn't just happen.
* game stats.
* press conferences.

On and on the list could go. There were hundreds of details that needed to be taken care of, and while the number of people who did this was large, the person of ultimate responsibility was Malec, Princeton's head of event management.

Of course, she was ably assisted, as always, by Steve Kanaby. And there you have it. Malec and Kanaby - Princeton's entire athletic events staff.

Hosting the quarterfinals began with a bid that Malec and Kanaby submitted a long time ago. The bid itself is a complex document with any number of issues that have to be sorted out before the school knows if it's even going to get the games in the end.

Then, once Princeton was selected as a host, the process of months and months of planning - internally and with the NCAA began. Malec had to find hotels for four teams and officials, food for the VIP area, volunteers to work all over the stadium (TB is pretty sure Malec put her husband and son to work), a way to hang a 90-foot banner, a place for the team buses to park, a rooom for the pre-tournmament meeting, and on and on and on - including finding orange shirts for those who were working and didn't have them.

The quarterfinals are somewhat smaller than the Final Four, but the Final Four naturally draws much greater help. Almost every detail for the quarterfinal round fell to Malec.

TigerBlog arrived at around 11:10 for the games Saturday, after TigerBlog Jr.'s first-round playoff game in the morning (we won). He could afford to be late. Yes, he had a lot of responsibilities, but they were all under control and he had great help from the rest of the OAC and a few volunteers.

Besides, TB's role was nothing compared with what Malec and Kanaby had to do.

TB has no idea what time Malec got there. He does know that when he was leaving, at about 7:30, he looked across Princeton Stadium and saw Malec and a bunch of others doing what? Yes, picking up the garbage.

And, oh by the way, this all came after Malec and Kanaby were there for a month's worth of huge track and field meets, as well as all the other athletic events on the Princeton campus.

If you attended the games Saturday, you probably didn't give any thought to the planning that went into it. You didn't have to, because everything went so smoothly.

The truth is that Karen Malec - and Steve Kanaby - were responsible for just how smooth it all was.

If there had been problems, you would have gone up to one of the people in the orange shirts, demanding to know who was in charge. Then you would have known her name.

The fact that 8,000 people went home without knowing who Karen Malec is shows just who Karen Malec is - and the job she and Kanaby do.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quarter Century

TigerBlog Jr. had a lacrosse tournament in South Jersey last Saturday, and Princeton wasn't scheduled to play in the NCAA tournament until Sunday.

As Saturday was also the day of TigerBlog's 25th college reunion, things couldn't have worked out more perfectly. TBJ's tournament was in Moorestown, which is eight miles from Philadelphia, and so TB decided to venture over the Ben Franklin Bridge and check out what was going on in West Philadelphia.

By late afternoon, TB stood outside the bookstore on the Penn campus, attending his 25th reunion with TBJ and TBJ's friend Matt, your basic 13-year-old with size 13 shoes.

Specifically, TB stopped by to see his best friends from college, Ed Mikus Jr., Charlie Frohman and Paul Glay-zuh, as the many people from New York that TB knew would say his name.

Before everyone left, TB saw a few other people from his class, none of whom he recognized. Every now and then, Charlie would say "yeah, we saw so-and-so; you remember him," and TB would think "no."

A few days later, it dawned on TB that it was 25 years to the day from when he graduated from college. Twenty-five years. A quarter-century.

TB was okay turning 30. He was okay turning 40. He suspects he'll be okay turning 50. Somehow, the idea of having been out of college for 25 years was a little much.

TB ended up at Penn because BrotherBlog went there and it was basically the only college TB knew. Penn was one of two schools TB applied to (the other was Boston University), and he was going to apply to a few others when he got his likely letter from Penn. Knowing that he basically had a guarantee of admission, TB took the money that FatherBlog gave him for the remaining applications and bought records with them.

As an aside, "records" were black vinyl-type things that went on something called a "record player." They spun in circles while the "needle" was put on top of them, and the result was music.

When TB first went to Penn, he figured that he would end up as a lawyer (BrotherBlog actually did go down that career path). Instead, his junior year, the brother of current University of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, with whom TB had a work-study job copying and collating reading assignments in the psychology department, got TB a job at the Trenton Times covering high school football.

That started TB down his actual career path, which has taken him to 11 years in the newspaper business and more than that in the athletic communications business.

Standing outside the Penn bookstore, TB was surrounded by guys who worked in business, venture capital, law, finance, medicine - all kinds of stuff foreign to TB's world.

On graduation day back 25 years ago, TB probably never imagined he'd spend more time in his life on Princeton's campus than he did on Penn's campus. And yet that's how it turned out.

While at his 25th, TB was asked by a few people to compare Princeton and Penn. He thought back to the time that he interviewed then-Penn president Sheldon Hackney, who had been the Princeton provost (just like the current Penn president, Amy Gutmann). When TB asked Hackney the difference, he said that Penn was an exciting, vibrant urban community and that Princeton was "bucolic."

He was trying to be funny. The differences between the two, though, are very real.

For starters, TigerBlog had no chance of being admitted to Princeton, but hey, let's forget that for a minute.

And yes, there are physical differences between Penn, located in West Philly, and Princeton, located in suburbia. And the student bodies are different, at least from what TB has seen in his two decades on this campus compared with experiences as a Penn undergrad.

But none of that is what leaps out at TB.

Princeton alums love Princeton. Penn alums have an affection for their alma mater, but it doesn't approach what Princeton alums feel.

Except for one time when he was making fun of some writers from the Daily Pennsylvanian, TB has never referred to himself by his class year. For that matter, none of the Penn alums that TB knows have done so. Also, TB has never used the word "classmate" to describe the people in his year.

At Princeton, those are staples for all alums. It's a great source of pride, one that supersedes anything TB has ever seen (or felt) for Penn.

Reunions at Princeton will be held beginning next week. The number of people who flood this campus will dwarf the number who were in West Philadelphia last weekend. In 25 years, TB has gone to Penn reunions twice - his 20th (because Princeton did not make the NCAA lacrosse tournament) and 25th (because TBJ was in South Jersey and Princeton played on Sunday).

There's something extraordinary about the way Princeton as an institution is revered by those who went here. TB can understand it from having been here so long only to a certain point, having never actually been a Princeton student.

And yet there he was, at his 25th reunion at a school at which he had a wonderful time and made some lifelong friends.

Was he wearing a red-and-blue striped shirt? A Penn fedora? Any of the stuff you'll see all over this campus next week?

Nope. He wore a Princeton hat.

TB loved the irony.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Needs Access?

Back at the 1996 NCAA men's basketball tournament, or at least TigerBlog is pretty sure it was the 1996 tournament, then-OAC staffer Vinnie DiCarlo was standing on the court the day before the games, when the teams have open practices.

DiCarlo was wearing his all-access pass, when one of the fans in the stands asked him what his pass meant.

"It means," Vinnie said, "that I have access to all."

TigerBlog has been to, by his count, a lot of NCAA tournaments, mostly in basketball and lacrosse. Back when he was a novice at the experience, he was fascinated that he had a pass of any kind and the access that goes with it.

There's something special about having access, all or otherwise, at an NCAA event. The entire crowd goes one way; you get to go another, through the secret door or on the magic elevator. It's like the media version of getting one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets.

TigerBlog has saved several of the credentials he's gotten through the years, as do many people who get them. For what reason? Who knows.

The NCAA quarterfinals for men's lacrosse are here Saturday, with Notre Dame against Maryland at noon and North Carolina against Duke at 2:30. TB's role in this event includes being the media coordinator, which includes putting together the credentials.

For the regular lacrosse season, TB made one kind of pass. It had a picture of a game from last year at Class of 1952 Stadium, and it said "Princeton men's lacrosse 2010."

These passes were used as season, single-game, photo, anything. One pass fits all.

For Saturday's event, TigerBlog has passes labeled "media," "photo," "medical," "official," "VIP," "ESPN," "team bench," "participant" and of course the granddaddy of them all, "all-access."

What's the difference between, say, participant and team bench? Well, each team has a certain number of players who can be in uniform, and they get participant passes to get into the stadium. During the game, of course, they're in uniform. The team bench passes are for coaches, equipment people, non-dressed players, etc.

Of course, each team also gets two medical passes, for a doctor and trainer.

And VIP? That's for the hospitality area. Unlike the other passes, a VIP one doesn't get you into the stadium, only into the hospitality area. VIPs also need to have a ticket to the game.

TigerBlog's philosophy on credentials is to keep it as simple as possible, as the lacrosse passes for the regular season suggest.

TB's experience with the National Football League suggests that the league doesn't share that philosophy, what with the "limited access" and "temporary access" passes. The NFL has so many different kinds of passes that they print up poster boards that have pictures of each pass on them so that the security people can keep them all straight.

In past years, TB tried to have more complicated credentialing for regular season football, until it dawned on him one day what the point of all these passes is: to give you access to certain areas and not to others.

On a regular Princeton football Saturday, there's no need to have, say, a difference between a photo pass and a media pass. It's not like access will become restricted from any place in the stadium anyway.

Then there's the whole issue of enforcement.

Two weeks ago, TB had an all-access pass for the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament at Cornell. TB was there for the semifinals Friday and the final Sunday, and he went everywhere on Schoellkopf Field. At no point did he display his credential or get asked to show it.

The same is true for any Princeton event here. Maybe it's TB's authoritative way of carrying himself. Or the "Princeton Athletics" shirts that the staff here wears.Ti

The event here Saturday will be a little different, and the NCAA championships will be even tighter to get around.

Also back in 1996 - TB is sure about this one - TB worked for the University communications office when then-President Bill Clinton spoke on campus at graduation. TB was a liaison for the national press corps, and part of his job involved helping issue credentials.

This time, credentials were a must, and nobody was walking one inch past the line where they were supposed to be.

Unlike an NCAA championship event, the people doing the checking carried very, very big guns.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

24 Straight

Everywhere TigerBlog looks on the Princeton campus this week, he sees signs of the coming of Reunions.

Except Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, of course, where there are signs of the coming of the World Cup.

The class year signs are up. Beautification projects are obvious. It happens every year at this time, as the only event that outdraws football on this campus (TB believes) is right around the corner.

As amazing as it seems, the athletic year at Princeton is basically over. There are some track and field athletes still competing, and there are still the national rowing championships. Hilary Bartlett and Taylor Marable are playing in the NCAA women's tennis doubles tournament.

Beyond that, it's all over for 2009-10. And it's officially over for Ivy League competition, which ended this past weekend with a first-place and two second-place finishes at the Eastern Sprints.

With the end of Ivy League competition, the 2009-10 Ivy League unofficial all-sports points standings are also finalized. For those who have forgotten from TB's other 9,000 mentions of these standings, points are awarded based on Ivy finish, with eight points for first, seven for second, etc. In the event of ties in places, the teams involved split the points.

For the record, here are the results:

1. Princeton 205.5
2. Harvard 173
3. Cornell 152.5
4. Yale 144
5. Penn 140.5
6. Columbia 120.5
7. Dartmouth 119
8. Brown 117

If you're interested in championships won, it goes:
1. Princeton 12
2. Cornell 7
3. Harvard/Penn/Yale 4
6. Columbia 3
7. Dartmouth/Brown 1

If you want to go back to the points, Princeton also won for the men and for the women and won each of the three seasons individually.

The year is the 24th straight in which Princeton has won the Ivy's unofficial all-sports points championship. The 205.5 points eclipsed last year's total of 205 and was Princeton's highest since the 1998-99 academic year.

The standings measure athletic success from top to bottom, so it's not just about how many championships are won. The closest Princeton has come to not winning in recent years came in 2004-05, when Harvard won 14 Ivy titles to five for Princeton. Still, the Tigers won, although by 2.5 points.

Princeton's 12 championships this year marked the 19th time that the program has reached double figures in Ivy wins in an academic year. Harvard, the only other leagues school to accomplish this, has done it five times.

What's most amazing to TB is that Princeton has this success without relying on the same programs over and over to win league titles. This year, for instance, Princeton won 12 Ivy titles without winning a single one in perennial powers men's and women's squash, baseball, softball, women's lacrosse and women's soccer and despite losing the men's cross country title by one point.

In the last three years alone, 20 of the 33 teams that compete in Ivy League sports have won at least one championship. This year, like last year, 25 of 33 teams finished in first, second or third.

With Reunions about to start and the end of the 2009-10 athletic year not too far away, Princeton's coaches and athletes can take a minute to be proud of their accomplishments.

And then they can start to look ahead to 2010-11.

As TB always says, just because there have been 24 straight doesn't mean that 25 is a lock.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Princeton Woman And A Cornell Guy?

One of TigerBlog's favorite television shows of all time is "Taxi," which for those who've never heard of it was a comedy about cab drivers in New York City.

"Taxi" ran from 1978-83, and it holds the rare distinction of having been picked up by one network (NBC) after it was canceled by another (ABC).

As an aside, the opening theme for the show was actually a piece called "Angela," which was played by TB's high school jazz band as well and for which TB had a trumpet solo. A few months ago, TB received an mp4 version of the high school jazz band version from his friend Corey; TB has no idea how Corey came up with this.

One of the reasons that TB loved the show "Taxi" so much was that it had some of the greatest characters in American TV sitcom history. Alex Rieger, Elaine Nardo, Bobby Wheeler, Tony Banta - these were epic characters, and they weren't even in the show's top three. Those three would be Reverend Jim and the two greatest, Latka Gravas (played by the late Andy Kaufman) and Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito's breakthrough-to-stardom role after "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest).

For veteran "Taxi" fans, it's hard to beat the episode "Memories of Cab 804," especially the part with Tom Selleck.

Great characters are what make a great TV show, especially a sitcom, and the characters from "Taxi" are among the best TB has ever seen. What? You want others?

Oscar and Felix. Fish, Yemana and Harris. Kramer. Norm. Cliff (Huxtable and Clavin). Dan Fielding. Of course Archie and the Meathead. Dr. Johnny Fever. Venus Flytrap. The Beaver. Henry Blake. Richie Cunningham. Kevin Arnold. Buddy and Sally. Ted Baxter. Bob Newhart from any of his shows. There are dozens.

The one who leaps out at TB from contemporary times is Dwight Schrute, from the NBC show "The Office." As much as the show is about Michael, it's really Dwight who has made it a classic.

He is the perfect sitcom character, one who will say anything crazy and off the wall and make it funny. He alone makes the show worth watching.

As an aside, "The Office" runs Thursdays at 9, and while TB has seen every episode of the show, he has almost never watched it on a Thursday at 9. Instead, he's watched almost all of them Friday on his computer. This isn't something you could have done with, say, "Happy Days." If you missed one, you had to wait until the repeats in the summer.

Anyway, what does "The Office" have to do with Princeton? Until last week, TB had no idea.

As it turns out, the answer is plenty.

Last week, TigerBlog got a voicemail from someone named Derek who works on the Jay Leno show. His message said that a former Princeton field hockey player from 1998 was going to be on the show that night, and they were hoping to get a picture of her.

As another aside, TB once had a call transferred to him, and when he picked it up, the voice on the other end said he was calling for Bill Cosby and could TigerBlog hold for Mr. Cosby. In the next second, the unmistakable voice of Bill Cosby was on the phone, explaining how he wanted to wear a Princeton sweatshirt on his show and to the Penn-Princeton basketball game, which he would attend with Penn alum Ed Rendell.

It didn't say why she was going to be on, and TB had no idea. When he called back, he found out that the person was the woman who plays Erin the receptionist on "The Office."

TigerBlog has had a lot of phone calls through the years from people (potential employers, even potential boyfriends/girlfriends) who were checking to see if the person that recently said they were a Princeton athlete really was. One of the these calls started out as "I met a guy in a bar last night, and he said he was a fencing All-America at Princeton." It turned out not to be true.

TB has also heard David Duchovny say that he played basketball and baseball at Princeton. He may have been on the jayvee teams, for which no records exist, but he definitely was not a varsity player in either.

So, when Derek from Leno's show said that Erin, whose real name is Ellie Kemper, played field hockey at Princeton, TB's reaction was "no way; how would TB not already know that?"

Turns out, this time it was true. Erin/Ellie in fact was on the field hockey team in 1998. That season, in which Princeton reached the NCAA final, was her only one on the team, as she gave up the sport to concentrate on theater.

On the show, Erin is sort of in and out of love with Andy Bernard. While they're currently on the outs, TB is pretty sure that they'll work it out eventually and probably get married.

Andy, of course, is a proud Cornell alum. Erin is a Princeton alum.

TB will be on the bride's side of that marriage.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hard To Stomach

Joe Pesci won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Tommy in "Goodfellas." Maybe one day over the summer, TigerBlog can give you his 100 favorite moments from the movie.

When he came up on stage to receive his award, Pesci delivered a five-word acceptance speech. TigerBlog has always remembered it as "this is my great honor," though a quick search suggests it was "this is my great privilege."

Either way, the same search confirms that it was the shortest acceptance speech in Oscar history.

TigerBlog has heard hundreds of coaches and athletes say thousands and thousands of words, maybe even millions of words, and yet he rarely has heard a situation summed up as concisely and perfectly in about the number of words that Pesci used as he did yesterday afternoon after Princeton's 8-5 loss to Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, when Tiger head coach Chris Bates sighed and said this:

"The finality is hard to stomach."

That's how it works in the NCAA tournament, in any team sport. One and done, and it's rarely compassionate about it.

And so, the quarterfinals come to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium this Saturday, with Maryland against Notre Dame and North Carolina against Duke. This is the fourth time that Princeton Stadium has hosted the quarterfinals, and Princeton has not reached them in any of those years; in the last 21 years, Princeton is 16 for 17 in reaching the quarterfinals in years that Princeton Stadium has not hosted.

In Princeton's case this year, the draw wasn't all that kind. Notre Dame, while coming in merely 7-6 on the year, was once ranked as high as second nationally and was clearly a team with talent.

Its giant goalie, 6-5, 255-pound Scott Rodgers, was healthy after a hamstring problem all year, and longstick midfielder Andrew Irving, eight inches smaller than Rodgers, was all over the field. Midfielder David Earl had a five-goal afternoon, and Princeton was unable to make its usual fourth-quarter comeback.

And so the first year for Bates ends at 11-5, with a share of the Ivy League championship and the championship of the first-ever Ivy League tournament.

Bates was still being asked yesterday about taking over for Bill Tierney, almost an entire year after being hired and at the conclusion of his first season. Bates chuckled at the question and then said that he's looking forward to not being asked about it again.

The transition from Tierney to Bates has been so smooth that TB didn't really think much about the fact that a year ago at this time, Tierney was still the Princeton coach. In fact, a bigger issue for Princeton this year was the graduation of eight seniors from 2009, all of whom were big contributors for at least three years. Tierney or Bates, that was going to make 2010 a transitional season anyway.

In fact, with the coaching change, the loss of the 2009 seniors and the reliance on freshmen and sophomores basically everywhere, it was a pretty good year for Princeton.

The reality of Princeton lacrosse is that the program is positioned fairly well right now. For starters, everyone long ago adjusted to the new coaching staff. For another, Princeton will return an army of players for next year and beyond, including all seven of its All-Ivy picks, including four first-team All-Ivy players.

It's always tough for the seniors when the senior snaps shut like that, and TB spent some of the game watching the seniors on each team, knowing that it would over for half of them.

As for the rest of the NCAA tournament, the biggest story of course was Army's two-overtime win over two-time defending champion Syracuse. The biggest cheers you heard when Army scored might have come from Ithaca, as Cornell now avoids its nemesis Syracuse in the quarterfinals in favor of Army, a team the Red has beaten five years in a row (though the last three have been by one goal each, including overtime earlier this year).

The last three weekends for Princeton and Cornell show how wildly emotions swing in college athletics. Back on May 1 (in 90 degree weather), Cornell defeated Princeton 10-9 to force the tie for the Ivy title. Then, eight days later, it was Princeton who was flying high after defeating Cornell in the Ivy final. Now, one week after that, Princeton is done with its season, while Cornell is the favorite in its quarterfinal game.

After the Princeton game, TB was at the reception the parents had for the players. Watching Bates speak and interact, it's obvious that it's his show now.

He spoke in the postgame interview about doing it his way at Princeton, and it's clear that that is the case. He's not Tierney, he's not trying to be, and he doesn't need to be. He's doing pretty well being Chris Bates.

The other thing that was obvious was that he and the rest of those who will be back next year can't wait to get started again. It's an amazing situation, coming off four months of practicing and playing and yet wanting to start over immediately.

It's what comes from having it all there and then over in a flash, with no way to get it back.

That can be very hard to stomach.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Sunday Sprint

TigerBlog was fascinated by last night’s Cavs-Celtics game and all of its implications. After 48 hours of the all-hands-on-deck media watch of the King, could Lebron inspire him to match his Game 5 performance in Detroit three years ago? Would we, as the ads like to claim, witness another historic night?

Somewhere between Bron-Bron’s first and ninth turnover, TB had a pretty good hunch the answer was no.

TB feels like the only true NBA fan left between New York City and Philadelphia — a fact that could quickly change come free agency this summer. While it is somewhat stunning to think that Lebron is out of the playoffs and the hated Celtics aren’t, there is something comforting in knowing that the individual could not beat the team.

Outside of a few exceptions, sports are traditionally centered around the team philosophy. Even some individual-based ones like track and swimming still honor the team ultimately; Princeton won four Ivy League titles in an eight-day stretch this past winter to prove that very fact.

But there may not be another sport that is as dependent on the team philosophy as rowing.

Eight rowers. One coxswain. One boat. One rhythmic motion.

For 2,000 meters, each member of the boat must be in absolute harmony with everybody else to achieve peak speed. The slightest of errors, be it at 300 or 1800 meters, can cost two to three seconds.

Two to three seconds will cost somebody the Ivy League title Sunday.

When current heavyweight coach Greg Hughes was leading the Princeton lightweights, he talked at length about the excitement of the Eastern Sprints (each team competes for the Eastern title Sunday, while all but women’s lightweight crew also competes for the Ivy League title). It is a day when all slates are clean, and an Ivy League title is only 4,000 meters away.

The day is fairly simple. All of the Eastern conference (EARC for men, EAWRC for women) crews are seeded into heats. There are the varsity eight heats, which determine the top champions, but also competitions for other J.V. and freshman boats. With only a few exceptions, a team needs a certain finish in a heat to qualify for a grand final.

That’s the first half of the 4,000 meters. You don’t need to be perfect, but you better be pretty good.

In the late afternoon or early evening, the six boats left standing (rowing?) will line up side-by-side. Between them and the Eastern and Ivy title is 2,000 meters of water. In that moment, eight rowers, each of whom spent countless hours on an erg preparing for these next few minutes, know that perfection is mandatory.

There has been plenty of talk (and there will be plenty more) that the overwhelming pressure of the series was what hurt Lebron most. But that was pressure spread over seven games in one of a possible four series. For these rowers, many of whom will never compete at a higher level than this, the pressure is condensed into seven minutes on one day.

And that’s not just for Princeton rowers. You don’t think the student-athletes at Harvard, Yale, Navy and Penn want to win just as badly? They will feel the same pressure too.

In many sports, you can analyze matchups and get a sense of how things should go. How has this line handled a blitzing defense? How does that point guard react in a press? Does this wrestler prefer to ride or be on his feet?

On Sunday, Harvard’s crew can’t go into a left-wing lock against Princeton. Yale can’t go into a four corners offense if it leads Cornell. Every team gets eight oars and 2,000 meters of open water to figure out a winner.

It is one of the great days of sport in the Ivy League, and it has the chance to be an incredible one for Princeton. Each of the Tigers’ four varsity crews has a good chance to make its own grand final, and three are seeded in their respective top two heading into the weekend. Lightweight rivalries (the men with Harvard, the women with Wisconsin) will be the story of those two championship regattas.

The heavyweight men, seeded fifth, are looking to bounce back from a disappointing effort last season and possibly stun some of the top ranked boats in the national polls, including Brown and Harvard.

And the open women, possibly the best story at Princeton this spring, are looking to punctuate a storybook regular season with its first EAWRC title since 2006. The Tiger women are ranked second nationally and have three boats with very real chances to win their respective finals. But with recent national powers like Brown and Yale lurking, they know that nothing is assured.

All we know is the 2010 Eastern rowing championships are Sunday, and thrills are most definitely assured.

And maybe Lebron will stop by to watch.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

World Stage

TigerBlog Jr. was told that the United States national team was practicing in Princeton prior to the World Cup, and his first response was that he wanted to go watch. When told it was closed to the public, he shrugged.

Then he started to run down some of the names of the players who'd be there: Ryan Boyle, Doc, Paul Rabil, and a few others.

TigerBlog pointed out to TBJ that this was the other World Cup.

TBJ figured it was the U.S. men's lacrosse team who would be on campus, practicing before the World Championships in Manchester, England, this July. Instead, TB steered him back to the correct team, the U.S. soccer team that will be here next week in advance of the World Cup.

Even TigerBlog will admit that the soccer event is bigger than the lacrosse event. Hey, TB is looking forward to the World Cup, which begins next month in South Africa.

The list of preliminary rosters for 31 of the 32 teams was released yesterday. Not shockingly, the only country not to release its roster is North Korea.

Of the 30 names on the U.S. team, TB recognized more than half. This is way up from the number of U.S. players he could name on previous World Cup teams, and this is largely due to: 1) the Fox Soccer Channel, 2) the great job of marketing that soccer has done in the last few years and 3) the fact that soccer is, as TB has said before, a perfect TV sport.

TB was even up on most of the Champions' League stuff, though that one semifinal game where the one team needed to a tie to advance and then went a man-down on a red card early and just packed it in for 70 minutes was soccer at its worst.

Also, TB isn't quite over what happened to Ireland in the final qualifying playoff stage, when an obvious handball by Thierry Henry of France wasn't called, knocking the Irish out.

And TB didn't understand why Conor Casey wasn't on the list for the U.S. team, which still has to be trimmed to 23. Casey was the one who scored the big goals in the final qualifier.

Speaking of trimming the roster to 23, how tough will it be for the seven who don't make the list?

Maybe one reason TB is so into the U.S. team is that it has such strong Princeton connections. It was great to read the wire story and all the other stories online that mentioned how the U.S. would be practicing here all next week.

The reason why, of course, is Bob Bradley, who played at Princeton and who coached the Tigers through the early-1990s, when TB covered a bunch of games for the newspaper, including Princeton's run to the 1993 Final Four.

Bradley coached current Princeton head coach Jim Barlow when Barlow played here in the late 1980s. Bradley's brother Scott is the baseball coach at Princeton.

Bradley left Princeton to take a risk on the new professional soccer league in this country, Major League Soccer, back in 1995, and he would end up being the head coach for three different MLS teams. Eventually, this path led him to the U.S. national team after the 2006 World Cup didn't quite work out for the Americans.

Now who knows what the immediate future holds for him and his team. The Americans start out against England and have a group, unlike four years ago, from which they will be reasonably expected to advance, with games against Slovenia and Algeria after England.

The team showed a year ago at the Confederation's Cup that it could beat the very best teams in the world.

If the U.S. can make a similar run in the World Cup, maybe even get to the semifinals, then Bradley will have stamped himself as one of the hottest coaches in the world. That accomplishment would be one of the great coaching achievements in the history of American sports.

On the other hand, not advancing out of the group four years ago cost Bruce Arena his job as U.S. head coach.

And it sort of starts here, with training camp next week. Closed, of course, to the public.

TB isn't sure about the lacrosse practices.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Dead Poet

TigerBlog got an email the other day, an email from an address that began with "deadpoet."

It always takes TB a second to remember whose email that is, especially when the message itself doesn't say so. Then it comes to him: deadpoet is Paul Franklin.

Specifically, the dead poet asked if we had "a flat space and an outlet" for him to use for a few hours Tuesday morning.

TB's response was: "Are you going to come here and do your ironing?"

Franklin, for those who don't know, is a writer for the Home News-Tribune, a local newspaper in Somerset County.

As it turned out, Franklin was going to be on campus, and he needed a place to work for a little while. While he was here, he said that it had been years since he'd covered anything at Princeton. What was it, he tried to remember. Oh yeah. It was the day Sydney Johnson was hired as men's basketball coach.

Johnson, of course, will be entering his fourth year at Princeton.

There was a time when Franklin or someone else from the Home News-Tribune (Bob Nobleman? Tara Finnegan?) would be here several times per week. Hey, when TB was in the newspaper business, back in his Trenton Times days, he was in this office at least three times per week.

That's how sportswriting was back then. You'd hang around the places you covered, and you'd get to know the people. There was no web, no email, no cell phone, nothing like that.

It was all face-to-face. And, of course, without the web, the people who worked in athletic communications needed to have those kinds of relationships with the local writers to get coverage of their programs.

TB can't remember the last time, before yesterday, that a local sportswriter just stopped in to hang out and talk to the people here. The coaches. The athletic director. Athletes. Administrators. Just to put a face to the name in the paper and to earn some trust and credibility.

When TB first started here, there were sportswriters around all the time. People like Chris Thorne from the Star-Ledger. Brian Dohn and Rich Fisher from the Trentonian. The Home News people. And of course, the granddaddy of them all, Harvey Yavener from the Trenton Times.

Of course, when TigerBlog first got into the newspaper business in the mid-1980s, it was still thriving. By the time TB started here, it was all about to change.

Today that whole profession is different, changed completely and forever by the web.

So far TB has received way more requests for credentials for the NCAA lacrosse tournament (opening round and quarterfinals) from websites than from printed publications. Everything is about a website, a blog, etc.

In many ways, it's for the better. The amount of information available has skyrocketed. This information goes directly to those who want it. Nobody has a monopoly on reporting. There are any number of points of view, any number of approaches.

It's great for consumers. How many websites do you go to everyday? How many other choices are there?

At the same time, it's a shame for what sportswriting has become. At its top levels, sportswriters are now way more about getting on TV and radio (and screaming when they get there) than they are about writing good stories. On the local level, everything is about high school sports, because Mommy and Daddy will always buy the paper when their kid's name/picture are in it.

Back when TB was a sportswriter, there were few better jobs out there. Maybe you didn't get rich. Maybe you didn't drive the nicest car.

But you had a great job, one that you had a great time doing.

TB continues to be a big fan of the new direction that athletic communications is going. Still, every now and then, when a Paul Franklin wanders in, TB gets a little wistful for the old days, back to a time when it was all about the ink, and not about the web.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Unofficially Speaking

TigerBlog first met Brett Hoover back when Hoover was working at Penn in, what, 1990 or so? Looking back on it, TB can't remember where Hoover went after that, or, for that matter, when he resurfaced as the head of communications for the Ivy League.

TB and Hoover agreed on many, many issues in their shared profession, and TB was sorry to see Hoover leave the Ivy office a few years back.

Hoover had the perfect mentality to work at a conference office, which is way different from being on a campus (even though the Ivy office is actually on this campus). Hoover was a firm believer in promoting all things Ivy League, and he did a great job in building up the Ivy League website, especially with historical information.

He also is an outstanding writer, a point proven by his extraordinary piece on racial unrest centered around the 1970 Heptagonal track and field outdoor championships. You're not going to find too many better stories anywhere this week.

Not that TB and Hoover saw eye-to-eye on everything. Politics was one area where they didn't quite agree, what with Hoover being on the far left and TigerBlog being a moderate.

And, of course, there was the Ivy League's all-sports points championship. Hoover insisted that there was no such thing, since the Ivy League didn't recognize it. He didn't like when TB would write about such an honor, because to him it didn't exist.

Eventually, TB and Hoover agreed that TB would insert the word "unofficial" in there somewhere, and as a result it became the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship.

Hoover also did concede that it would only come to officially exist after a team other than Princeton won it, but that won't be this year.

The three rowing championships that will be determined this weekend at Eastern Sprints (women's lightweight is not an official Ivy sport) are the last three Ivy League championships up for grabs this year. The outdoor track and field championships that went to Cornell last weekend were the 29th and 30th league titles awarded this academic year.

And the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship, the one that doesn't really exist, will once again be won by Princeton, this time for the 24th year in a row.

For those who don't remember, the points are awarded based on Ivy League finish. If you win a championship, you get eight points; if you're second, you get seven, and so on.

If a sport has fewer than eight teams competing, the winner still gets eight points. If there is a tie at a spot, the points are split, so that two teams who tie for second get 6.5 points each.

Heading into the rowing championships, Princeton has 183.5 points, 27.5 points ahead of second-place Harvard. Since Harvard can get at most 24 more points by winning all three boats, Princeton has clinched the championship again.

On the men's side, Princeton has 88 points, 15 ahead of second-place Cornell. The women have 95.5 points, 10.5 points ahead of second-place Harvard.

Princeton has won 11 Ivy League titles, while Cornell is second with seven.

Anyway, that's 24 straight years of having what could be mathematically called the best overall athletic program in the Ivy League. That's not too bad of an accomplishment.

As TB always says when he writes about this, the fact that Princeton has won 24 years in a row doesn't mean that a 25th is guaranteed. The other schools are out there trying just as hard, and there is going to come a day when someone else wins.

Probably, anyway. On the other hand, it hasn't happened in nearly a quarter-century.

Think about it. When the streak started, no current Princeton athlete was born.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sorry, But It's More Lacrosse Talk

With apologies to the person who left the comment after Friday's entry about there being more sports than lacrosse, today we offer more on, well, lacrosse.

Before we get to today's point, TigerBlog feels the need to respond to the idea that he writes about lacrosse more than other sports. The answer is that while lacrosse probably does get more than its share of space here, TB is mindful not to overdo it. And in the last two weeks, he's written about among others track and field, tennis and crew, and there'll be more on other sports in the next few days.

And, the main site,, would never favor one sport over the others. Here at TigerBlog, it's not as easy to balance it out all the time, and if that's a problem, TB apologizes.

Today, though, is all about lacrosse. Specifically, the question is whether or not the Ivy League tournaments were a good idea or a bad idea.

The logic for having the tournaments was mostly to help the league's chances of getting additional teams in the NCAA tournament. As it turned out, only one women's team (Penn) and two men's teams (Princeton and Cornell) made the fields when they were announced last night.

A year ago, without the Ivy tournaments, there were three men's teams (Princeton, Cornell, Brown) and two women's teams (Penn, Princeton) in the tournament.

On the women's side, Dartmouth is the highest ranked team not to make the tournament. The Big Green finished the season by losing to Princeton, beating Cornell in the opening round of the Ivy tournament, losing the Ivy final to Penn and then losing the regular-season finale 17-6 to No. 1 Maryland.

Did losing the Ivy final to Penn help or hurt Dartmouth? Would the Big Green have had a better chance had there been no Ivy tournament? Playing Cornell a second time didn't help Dartmouth, and having an extra loss to Penn might have helped in terms of strength of schedule.

Also, Princeton and Cornell, the other two teams in the Ivy tournament, weren't bubble teams. They needed to win the tournament outright to get in, because both were below .500. In a normal year of Ivy women's lacrosse, both of those teams would have been in contention for NCAA spots, which would have meant the tournament would have worked

On the men's side, Yale and Brown came into the tournament with an opportunity to play their way in (especially Yale), possibly with just a semifinal win. In both cases, they lost.

Had Yale beaten Princeton, it's probably that the Bulldogs would have been in, as well as Princeton and Cornell. Of course, that's something that we'll never know.

There is more to the tournament format than just whether or not more teams got into the NCAAs, though.

For starters, there's the whole question of economics, something TB won't begin to try to answer here.

Beyond that, though, there is the student-athlete experience factor. In this regard, the tournament was a gigantic success, at least on the men's side.

Before the tournament ever happened, the idea of the tournament completely energized the regular season, in ways that wouldn't happen if there was a tournament in basketball. With a double round-robin in basketball, the delineation from top to bottom becomes clearer, and there is much greater separation in the standings. Maybe an Ivy basketball tournament with only the top four men's and women's teams would be okay, but not with all eight.

In lacrosse, the result of the tournament was that six of the seven teams were alive for a spot in the top four through the final Saturday of the regular season, which, for TB's money, was the single greatest regular-season day of Ivy League men's lacrosse ever. Three one goals games, one in overtime. Had any gone the other way, the resulting effect on the field would have been dramatic.

And then there was the event itself. For Princeton's women, the Ivy tournament was the tournament experience for this year, with no NCAA bid out there.

For the men, the players were completely energized by playing in the tournament format. Yale and Princeton played a great game, and the Bulldogs nearly came all the way back to win it.

And then there was the final. TB has seen a ton of great Princeton men's lacrosse games in May, six of which have ended with a national championship trophy.

There was something different about this one, though. This was a fascinating battle of one team that always starts quickly and imposes its will on the other and another who has shown time and again that it can come from way back. Only this time, Princeton made it all the way back and won the game in overtime.

In other words, from a student-athlete experience standpoint, the tournament was a total success.

So, was it worth it? Depends on your point of view, it appears.

And coming tomorrow to TigerBlog? No lacrosse.


Friday, May 7, 2010

A Re-Laxing Weekend

The scouting report says that their top attackman is a great finisher who also sees the field, their big middie has a hard shot, their defense is very aggressive and their goalie makes saves, outlets the ball and generally takes charge of that entire side of the field.

TigerBlog is talking about the Lower Bucks-Central Bucks game Saturday morning for first place in the Southeast Pennsylvania Youth Lacrosse Association 7/8 grade Northern Division. Lower Bucks-Central Bucks. Now there's a rivalry.

What, you were thinking Ivy League tournament?

For the second time in five years, the sport of men's lacrosse is making national news for reasons it would prefer not to. TigerBlog has read a great deal about the current case, including an extraordinary piece on a website called

On what would be considered the more mainstream sites, such as, every update to the story brings with it hundreds or thousands of reader comments. And, of course, many of the comments are from people who don't follow lacrosse closely, and almost all of those rip the lacrosse stereotype of spoiled rich kids from elite prep schools.

Lower Bucks has 18 players on its roster. Central Bucks probably has about the same. Of that group of nearly 40 kids, odds are good that none will become a Division I college player. But who knows? Maybe one will.

And then multiply that out by all of the leagues like Lower Bucks and Central Bucks that didn't exist anymore, and clearly the landscape of the sport is changing, at least at the youth and high school level.

The Lower Bucks and Central Bucks kids aren't poor, but they're hardly rich. For the most part they'll end up as public high school kids, just like the tens of thousands of other youth players around the country just like them.

Eventually, lacrosse on the college level will get away from the stereotype. And, who knows, maybe there will start to be a movement to grow the sport nationally with an expansion of the number of Division I teams, perhaps something that will one day trace its origin to Bill Tierney's move to Denver.

In the meantime, in the face of the horrible tragedy for which there are no words that can accurately sum up how sad it all is, college lacrosse hits its best time, with the end of the conference tournaments, the NCAA selections and then the tournament itself.

For the first time, there is an Ivy League tournament, won by the Penn women a week ago and kicking off today at 5 with the Princeton-Yale game at Cornell. The host school will face Brown at 8; the winners play Sunday at noon.

The tournament determines only the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The four teams competing have already shared the league title, and nothing this weekend will change that designation.

All in all, fans of Ivy lacrosse couldn't ask for more.

You have Princeton and Cornell, whose NCAA positions seem safe, and Yale and Brown, who probably need a win or even two to get in.

You have a very young Princeton team and a very, very young Yale team in a rematch of a game from March 27 that was tied 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6 before Princeton freshman Jeff Froccaro scored with 37 seconds left to win it.

You have Brown vs. Cornell in a game that Brown won two weeks ago, on the same field to boot. And down the road, in Sunday's final?

Any of the matchups are fascinating, but the one Princeton fans are hoping to see is one between their team and Cornell, after last weekend's dramatic and, for the Orange and Black fans, completely frustrating 10-9 win by the Big Red.

Of course, much of the lacrosse selections depend on RPI and quality wins. Could it be better for a team, mathematically at least, to lose? It's possible (but not something TB is going to get into here).

Stuck in the middle of the Ivy tournament is the 7/8 grade game. TB will watch both events with great interest and fascination.

In Ithaca, he'll see the best of what the sport has to offer, high quality Division I lacrosse played by nationally ranked teams in rivalries that date back a long time, in the case of Princeton-Yale to 1882, played by athletes who are also students at some of the nation's finest colleges. They play for teams that have great history and great presents, having battled each other in tremendous games this year and in recent years.

And in the youth game, he'll see a reminder that the game can be played with innocence, by kids who probably will never get to play in events like the college conference tournaments, by kids who are a walking monument to the game's evolution.

Go Princeton.

And Lower Bucks.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Right On Track

TigerBlog used to work at the Trenton Times with a guy named Geoff Howell, who wisely left the newspaper business to become a lawyer.

Back then, and TB would guess to this day, Howell held the distinction of being the only person TB ever met who had seen every movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, dating to 1928 when "Wings" was the first to be so honored.

TB used to be a bigger fan of the Academy Awards, back when he used to go see just about every movie. There are two decisions that have always bothered TigerBlog.

For starters, how in the world could "Shakespeare In Love" win over "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998? "Saving Private Ryan" isn't exactly filled with laughs and a love story, but it may just be the best movie ever made.

Then there was 1981, when "Chariots of Fire" beat "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

As an aside, TigerBlog and BrotherBlog went to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark" back in December 1980, when they were visiting Aunt Frannie and Uncle Maurice in Florida. As a further aside, Uncle Maurice at one point was the mayor of South Palm Beach.

Anyway, when TB and BB were leaving the theater, the people behind them were ripping the movie. One of them said: "That was SO unrealistic." TB believes to this day, 30 years later, he has never heard a comment that missed the point by so much.

Not that "Chariots of Fire" was a bad movie. In fact, it was quite good. TB just felt "Raiders of the Lost Ark" took it to another level.

Maybe that's why TB never got into track and field the way he did some other sports. Or maybe it's that he can't really run that fast.

Princeton has 38 varsity teams who play 16 different sports (if TB is counting right). One of the best parts of working here is observing the different approaches each sport has to building its team, running its team, preparing its team and ultimately competing.

Track and field is one that an outsider can't really understand without a good deal of educating. Still, TB has a great deal of respect for what goes into it.

Through the years, the OAC has had more student workers from the track programs than from every other sport combined. This includes John Mack, who got his start working in intercollegiate athletics here at HQ and now is an Associate Athletic Director at Northwestern.

Not to mention a 10-time Heptagonal champion, something that is not easy to be.

Of course, the 2010 outdoor Heps come to Weaver Track and Field Stadium this weekend, beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. with the men's hammer throw and continuing until Sunday at 4:45 with the women's and men's 4x400 relays.

The Princeton women are trying to complete the "triple crown" of winning Heps in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field, something that has happened once in program history, back in 1980-81.

As for the men, they're going for their second straight after winning Heps indoors this past winter. Outdoors of late it's been all Cornell, which has won the last seven titles; five times in that stretch Princeton was the runner-up.

Heps itself is one of the best annual events on the Ivy League athletic calendar. Any time all eight schools gather for one event is special, and the track meet is a two-day collage of races, jumps and throws with eight distinct colors mixed together.

It's certainly worth the trip.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lots And Lots

To get to work, FatherBlog has to go through the Lincoln Tunnel every day. If he takes the bus, he has to go through the Port Authority building and walk a few blocks to his office.

He's actually one of the lucky ones. He lives not far from the tunnel on the New Jersey side, which means he's not dealing with the N.J. Turnpike or, way worse, anything that involves Long Island.

Here at HQ, we have a different take on the morning commute. One of the two traffic lights that TB has to deal with to get here can get a little backed up, and each morning people invariably cut through a strip mall to avoid the light.

TigerBlog once had a summer job in New York City. To get there, he would take a bus that would drop him off at 51st and Lexington, and he would walk from there to the office at 68th and Park. As an aside, something else for which there does not exist enough money to get TB to do is work in New York City.

Let's not talk about the actual commute, though. Let's talk instead about parking.

At Princeton, parking has become a huge deal, as more and more parking lots disappear in favor of construction. The impressive new chemistry building, for instance, is almost finished; it was built on what used to be Lot 15 by the armory.

Back in the Palmer Stadium days, TigerBlog used to drive his car into Lot 15 and then under the press box. Fortunately, the stadium did not collapse on his car, which as it turns out, could have happened.

Lot 15 was a big deal for those here at Jadwin, since you could drive through Lot 15 and then park right in front of the building if you had some short term reason to do so. When Lot 15 closed, it wiped out some key football parking spaces, as well as that access to the front of Jadwin.

Now, Lot 20 has gone the way of Lot 15. For those not well-versed in the campus parking map, Lot 20 is the one by Class of 1952 Stadium.

With that lot now out of operation, parking for lacrosse, field hockey and soccer games is more difficult. Lot 17 is the little lot by the tennis courts, and those spaces were reserved mostly for handicapped parking, as well as game officials and such. The majority of fans coming to the lacrosse game this past weekend - and to future events - had to park in Lots 16 and 23, on the other side of the circle.

For the record, while there is immeasurable joy in pulling up to the barricaded parking area and flashing a pass or mentioning your name to the guard and having the seas part just for you, TigerBlog gave up his space in Lot 17 and walked from Lot 16. Or was it 23?

Because Lot 20 was mostly used for parking on work days by University staff, those spaces had to be replaced. Most of the people who used to park there were relocated to Lot 21, the big lot by Jadwin Gym where athletic department staff parks each day.

The result is that Lot 21 gets pretty full pretty quickly. Even Lot 21A, the part of the lot off to the left that is reserved for athletics, is usually pretty crowded, even when Public Safety comes out to ticket those who don't belong.

Every time TB has to park all the way out in Lot 21, even close to FitzRandolph, he thinks of FatherBlog and laughs. On the one hand, it's inconvenient. On the other hand, it's still easier than the walk that 99% of the American work force has each day.

Through the years, there have been some spots around here that have become natural meeting places, but none of them have anything on Lot 21.

TB and women's track and field coach Peter Farrell often joke about how you can tell a lot about people based on how long they're willing to wait for you when you pull into the lot.

And then there are the conversations from parking lot to building, which range from the "how are you? what's new?" type to any number of subjects.

Today, for instance, TB walked in with another member of the OAC, the one who is the big NBA fan. TB asked him for his predictions on the playoffs (Lakers over Magic), where LeBron would be playing next year (Cleveland) and whom the Knicks would end up with (Joe Johnson).

It's, what, a three-minute walk from Lot 21 to the building? People will wait five, 10 minutes for someone to make that three-minute walk with at the end of the day.

Why? Because when you add up all those three-minute walks with the various people who work here, they become a huge part of the fabric of day-to-day life at Princeton athletics.

Years from now, the people who have worked here will remember the great games and the great coaches and athletes first.

The walks from the parking lot won't be at the top of the list, but they'll be close.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nice Hat

Did you see the SportsCenter commercial with Jorge Posada and David Ortiz?

No? In this commercial, Posada and Ortiz are sitting with an ESPN personality and discussing Posada's new hat, which isn't broken in. Obviously, Posada's hat is a Yankees' hat, and Ortiz obviously is a Boston Red Sox legend.

Ortiz tries the hat on, so he now has on his Red Sox uniform with a Yankee hat. Just then, the Red Sox mascot walks by.

When TB first saw it, his first thought was: "That's hilarious."

His second thought was: "How could Ortiz agree to do that?"

The SportsCenter commercials have always bothered TB somewhat. They are, to be sure, very, very creative.

On the other hand, there are two problems with them. First, they completely destroy the line between the ESPN on-air people and the athletes who are in the commercials. If Posada and Ortiz - and numerous others - are in these commercials, how can the people at ESPN objectively cover them during the bad times?

Second, the over-exposure of the ESPN anchors is too much. When TB was in the newspaper business, he loved the anonymity of it. TB could stand in the bagel place and see someone who was reading his story, and that person would have no idea that TB was the one who wrote it.

Today, all that is different. Today, it seems the goal of every media person is to be on TV and be on TV as much as possible. As a result, they achieve "celebrity," which, of course, appears to be the goal of the entire country these days.

Getting back to the Posada/Ortiz commercial, the question of how Ortiz could agree to do that is based on the idea that the Yankees and Red Sox are supposed to have as bitter a rivalry as any two teams in sports. And yet here is Ortiz, who along with Tom Brady is the most beloved athlete in New England for the last 20 years or so, on ESPN with a Yankees hat on? While wearing a Red Sox uniform?

Yes it supposed to be in fun, but isn't there a line that has to be drawn? Especially if the rivalry is as bitter as it's made out to be?

The answer is that in modern American professional sports, the rivalries and such mean more to the fans than they do to the players. Professional athletes in the major professional sports these days are more like members of an exclusive club, one that's not open to the overwhelming majority of society. That they compete against each other is irrelevant.

It's because of the money, of course. You think Otis Sistrunk would have worn a Kansas City Chiefs' hat while joking around with Willie Lanier back in the 1970s? You think the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants would have made such a commercial?

No chance. No, if you want to see real rivalries these days, you have to look beyond the pro ranks.

TigerBlog spent the last two Saturdays seeing this first-hand, in both cases in men's lacrosse. Two weeks ago in Cambridge, it was Princeton-Harvard, in a rivalry that dates to 1881.

For those who don't know, Princeton and Harvard didn't exactly get along in the early days. There was a time when Princeton and Harvard hated each other so much that they dropped all athletic contests between the schools for a 15-year stretch spanning the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th.

Princeton and Harvard play in 37 sports each year (Harvard does not have sprint football), and each one of those games takes on an extra meaning for the people who are competing in them and for the people who are watching them.

This past weekend - and possibly this coming one - featured Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse. TB has written in the past that this specific matchup is now the Ivy League's best single-sport rivalry, and he saw nothing last week to dispel that notion.

Even if Princeton-Cornell isn't the best these days, it's way up there. Harvard-Yale football and Princeton-Penn men's basketball are by far the two greatest rivalries in Ivy history, but TB says it's Cornell-Princeton men's lacrosse today.

There's something a little different when you're playing a real rival or when you're watching your team play against a real rival.

Unfortunately for pro sports, the money has ruined it.

For college sports, especially in the Ivy League, it's impossible to ruin. These rivalries have too much history and are so ingrained in the people who care about them.

As for Ortiz and Posada, well, TB was at Little Miss TigerBlog's lacrosse tournament Sunday when he saw a woman wearing a Cornell men's lacrosse hat.

The money does not exist that would have gotten TB to wear it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

175:32 of 180

Back in 2004, TigerBlog was the women's soccer contact during the team's run to the the NCAA Final Four. The key moment of the season, as far as TB is concerned, came when Princeton defeated Harvard during the Ivy season.

Before the game, TB wrote this in his game notes:
The ninth-ranked Princeton women's soccer team takes on Harvard - and some history - Saturday evening (7) at Lourie-Love Field. The Tigers are 5-18-1 all-time against the Crimson and haven't defeated Harvard at home in 12 years.

He also added this:
Princeton is 0-4-0 at home against Harvard under Julie Shackford. Princeton has not scored a goal in any of those four games.

About an hour before the game, TigerBlog was cornered in, of all places, the men's room at Class of 1952 Stadium (Lourie-Love Field had no bathrooms, and TB isn't a huge fan of the port-o-johns) by the father of one of the players, who informed TB that if Princeton lost, it would be because of what TB wrote. His implication was that the players had read that and it had them psyched out.

TB thought about that through the game, as Princeton completely outplayed Harvard, allowed one transition goal early in the second half and looked like it was going to lose 1-0. Then, with 41 seconds left in regulation, Emily Behncke finally got Princeton on the board, and then after Emily Vogelzang stopped a breakaway in overtime, Esmeralda Negron gave the Tigers the 2-1 win.

The whole time the game was unfolding, TB kept wondering if it was his fault that Princeton wasn't scoring. Had he, indeed, psyched out the Princeton players?

TB flashed back to that episode in the first five minutes of the Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse game this past Saturday.

TigerBlog's pregame story (they're not game notes anymore) for the game referred to Princeton's struggles in the early moments against Cornell. And then what happened? History repeated itself.

Cornell won the opening face-off and scored on its first possession. It was 3-0 after five minutes and 4-0 after the first quarter.

In the last three Princeton-Cornell games (the one this weekend and the two last year), Cornell has outscored Princeton 8-0 in the first five minutes of the games combined and then had Princeton outscore Cornell 20-18 in the combined final 55 minutes.

Still, those first five were too much to overcome, as Princeton never tied the Big Red at any point of the three games. Cornell, in the 180 minutes of the three games, had the lead for 175:32. The games were tied for 4:28; Princeton never led.

Think about that. Cornell had the lead for 175:32 of 180 minutes. That's staggering.

You can go back further in history and find that Cornell gets off to a fast start every time against Princeton. In fact, you have to go back to 2004 to find a game where Cornell did not score first - and early in the game, at that.

So why does it happen? Is it TB's fault? Are the players psyched out by reading about this stuff?

TB can't imagine that it's the case. If anything, TB's belief is the opposite, that players who read that information are motivated to change it.

Whatever the reason, the game Saturday ended what has to be the single greatest regular-season day in Ivy League men's lacrosse history. There were three games with eight possible scenarios to affect the championship race and the field for the first Ivy League tournament.

And did you see the results? Yale beat Harvard 9-8. Brown beat Dartmouth 10-9, in overtime to boot. Had those games gone the other way, then Harvard and Dartmouth would have made the tournament field.

Then it was Princeton-Cornell. If the stat about how Cornell has had the lead for 175:32 of the 180 minutes of the last three games isn't wild enough, how about this for Princeton from Saturday:

Princeton had two separate scoring droughts of more than 20 minutes (20:40 to start the game and then 20:38 from the second to the fourth quarters) and then scored six goals in a 7:52 span of the fourth. Princeton had a chance to tie it at the end, which considering it was 9-3 after three quarters is amazing.

When the day was over, it was three one-goal games and a four-way tie for the league championship for the first time ever.

So where does it leave the Tigers? The NCAA tournament brackets are being debated on laxpower and Inside Lacrosse, but it seems that Princeton is secure in the field of 16. Getting a first round home game? That might depend on this weekend's Ivy tournament, to be held at Cornell, who won the tiebreaker.

Princeton plays Yale Friday at 5, followed by Cornell-Brown at 8. The final is Sunday at noon. The winner receives the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; the four-way tie for the title stands.

TigerBlog is rooting for two things to come out of this. First, he'd love to see a Princeton-Cornell rematch, just to see if it'll happen again.

And second? Well, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but how about a first-round NCAA tournament game with the ECAC champ at Princeton.