Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Perfect Coverage

What? It's 10 a.m. and there's no World Cup on? What in the world is TigerBlog going to do (other than actually work)?

TigerBlog has been fascinated by the tournament so far. To watch it is to see an event that is at once completely riveting and at the same time completely flawed.

Of course, some of the excitement is gone now that the U.S. team is out. TB, like everyone else, hoped the U.S. would beat Ghana and Uruguay and get to the semifinals, which would also mean at minimum a spot in the third-place game.

As an aside, TB was in the supermarket after the U.S. lost, and he saw a woman in a Ghana jersey. A Ghana jersey? TB asked her if she'd been wearing her U.S. jersey and had to trade it with someone else after the game, and she replied that she'd just gotten back from Ghana the day before.

Meanwhile, back at the World Cup, who knows what might have happened had England's second goal been allowed to stand. Or if Mexico could have kept Argentina off the board awhile longer.

Teams spend years preparing for the tournament and, other than the defending champ and host country, go through a grueling, gut-wrenching qualifying process. When they get to the main event, they're faced with three games to navigate get through to the knockout round.

And yet during those three games, top players are often disqualified because they've accumulated two yellow cards, which are given out like Halloween candy by refs who seem to be taken in by some of the worst acting anywhere. Or, even worse, teams have to play with 10 men against 11 because a ref gave a red card, again usually for nothing.

To casual fans, the two biggest issues in soccer are the lack of scoring and the endless flopping.

TB is okay with the scoring situation, except he'd like to see the goals that are scored actually count. As for the flopping, these players are, as an AP article said "rolling around on the ground as if mortally wounded one second and back at full speed the next." And refs are falling for it. And the results are having a huge impact on the legitimacy of the games.

FIFA needs to address these issues, and the governing body for soccer worldwide seems to be reluctant to do so. Hey, they don't even want the refs to explain what the calls were, let alone justify them.

And still, TB can't get enough of it. Why? Well, it's not because it's the premiere sporting event in the world. The other premiere sporting event is the Olympics, and TB can take it or leave it when it comes to those games.

So why is it? Why has TB gotten so into it?

It took a little while, but TB finally figured out why: It's because the television coverage has been nearly perfect. At the very least, TB is pretty sure that the television coverage of this World Cup has been better than that of any other sporting event he's ever seen.

And as such, it enhances it for the viewer - even a casual one like TB - rather than destroys it for the viewer.

The formula has been this:

in-game announcers who let the games breathe

+ those same announcers who are actually giving thoughtful commentary on the games rather than promoting the next event

+ studio announcers who aren't shilling for the coaches, players or other announcers

+ those same in-studio commentators who are making really great points without ever 1) cracking up because one of them said something that was on the fringes of being funny and 2) using the words "break down"

+ two-hour windows to see the games

+ no artificial media timeouts

+ no ridiculous overuses of technology

+ games that aren't starting at 9:30 p.m. to maximize viewers (maybe they would if the games were in the Western Hemisphere, but still it's been great to see them during the day)

= perfect TV coverage.

Simple, no?

And yet it's everything that usual American television sports are not. In fact, if you look at a World Cup telecast and contrast it with any major U.S. sports production, the differences will leap out at you immediately.

There are also lessons in there for Princeton athletics, especially in the area of event management.

American sports on TV all follow a formula, and in many ways, it's so contrary to what you would do if you used a little common sense. They try to be hip. They all talk all over each other. The event is often secondary behind the egos of the TV people. Or maybe it's further down the list than secondary, behind things like cross-promotion and sensory overload.

And then, when one network does so, the others copy.

The same is true in many ways with the way sporting events are put on. How many events do you go to where you are bombarded by loud music, by vulgarity from the stands, by start times engineered for TV, by all sorts of things that are so contrary to what your common sense would tell you do if you starting from scratch.

Some of it is unavoidable, as sporting events now - especially in pro sports and big-time college football and basketball - are there for revenue generation as much as anything else.

But every now and then, something comes along and screams at you that there's a better way to do things.

It's important to take a step back and listen to that message when you can. Whether you're thinking about televising the World Cup - or getting ready for a new athletic year at Princeton.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Congrats, Velga

TigerBlog's day began with an email from a woman named Velga Stokes, whom TB knows only from sitting in a few meetings here and there through the years.

Velga currently works for OIT, and she has been part of a group called "Spin," which is made up of people from all the different communications offices here on campus.

The point of Velga's email, sent to the entire Spin group, was that she was retiring from the University. Prior to working at OIT, she also worked at the Woodrow Wilson School and the Provost's office.

What TB didn't realize about Velga is that she has been at the University for a long time. How long? According to her email, how about 42 years and 11 months?

That would take her back to the summer of 1967 as a start date, or a few weeks after Gary Walters graduated from Princeton. Walters, of course, is now the Director of Athletics.

TigerBlog has no idea if Velga is a sports fan or how many athletic events she's attended here through the years, if any.

Still, TB does know her to be a nice, funny, happy person who always brought a smile to any meeting. And so, as she is leaving the University at this time, TB can put her tenure here into some athletic context.

For instance, she came to Princeton when there were 18 varsity teams; she leaves it when there are 38.

Of course, the biggest reason for the fact that sports teams have more than doubled during her time is because Velga came here before there were women students. In fact, she was here for two full years before women were admitted.

Her email mentions how much Princeton has changed in her time here, and of course the addition of women has to be the No. 1 thing that has happened while she's worked here. Still, TB can't help but wonder what Princeton looked like to a young Latvian-American woman starting her career at an all-male elite college; it's an experience that certainly makes her a pioneer for many who have followed in her footsteps.

In the 43 academic years that followed, she worked at a school that won 337 Ivy League championships, or 50 more than the 287 that Harvard won for the next highest total and 165 more than the 172 that Penn won for the third-highest.

In 41 of those 43 year, including each of the final 39, Princeton teams won at least one team or individual national championship.

She was here for the tenure of four University presidents, including the current president, Shirley Tilghman, the first woman to hold the position.

For that matter, she's been here for eight head football coaches, six men's lacrosse and hockey coaches and nine women's basketball coaches.

There have been five men's basketball coaches during her time. For a little better perspective, keep in mind that she started at Princeton within a few weeks of when Pete Carril did.

Think about that. She has been at Princeton since shortly after Gary Walters graduated and right around when Pete Carril was hired.

You figure someone like that has earned a little time off.

So congratulations to Velga Stokes. She's one of the people who has kept this University running for all these years.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Golf is not TigerBlog's best thing. Or favorite thing, for that matter.

Back in the pre-TigerBlog Jr./Little Miss TigerBlog days, TB used to play at Springdale in the afternoons every now and then. TB is pretty sure that if you were University staff, you could go after 4 on weekdays and play as many holes as you could before dark for something like $14.

Eventually, TB became good enough that he could shoot under 100, though not by much. As an aside, he once played in a foursome in which one of the golfers made a hole-in-one and then remarked: "This is really going to help my score."

Once TBJ and LMTB came along, time and money - the two things you need to be good at golf - became scarcer, or at least redirected. As such, TB hasn't played in years and years.

In fact, the last time he played was at Ivy League football media day, circa 2002, at Yale's golf course. TB's last shot came on, he believes, the 17th, a par three.

It was about a million degrees out, and TB hit an eight-iron. On his follow through, the club flew out of his hands and helicoptered its way to the left, while the ball went, actually, straight.

Simultaneously, the ball landed on the green while the club landed in the lake next to the hole on the left. TB has never hit a golf shot since; he didn't even putt out on that hole or play the 18th.

He's okay with it. Squash? You can play for 45 minutes and have a great workout. Golf? It takes more than four hours and costs a ton of money. Maybe if a course could be four holes, TB would play again.

Anyway, that's TB's background in golf.

He also remembers one time two or three years ago that he went to the Frist Campus Center for lunch and ran into Amy Bond, the women's golf coach, and Bond joined TB for lunch. That was really the only time that TB had an extended conversation with Bond, who left last week to go to Florida State to become the head coach for the Seminoles.

Bond, from the one time eating lunch and the other times of saying "hi, how are you?" at department meetings, seemed like a nice enough person. TB wishes her well.

Certainly you can't blame her for wanting to take the Florida State job. After all, the Seminoles finished 10th at the NCAA championships this past spring, and the school is her alma mater.

And, in the world of college athletics, that happens all the time. Coaches leave one place to return home to coach at their alma mater.

Why, at Princeton it alone, it's happened, well ... never before?

TigerBlog has tried to find another example of when a Princeton head coach has left to take the head coaching job at the school he or she attended. And the answer is? Well, TB can't find or think of one before Bond did so.

He also has the feeling he's wrong and that he's overlooking something obvious.

If it's never happened before, it's because such a large percentage of Princeton head coaches through the years have either 1) attended Princeton or 2) built a program at Princeton that exceeds what they could have done at their alma mater.

Still, it has to have happened at some point, right?

TB thought Fritz Crisler, who went from coaching football at Princeton to Michigan in 1937, might have been an Ann Arbor alum, but he actually went to Chicago. As an aside, he graduated in 1921, which means he did not play in the 1922 Princeton-Chicago game, one of the most famous in school history.

In men's basketball, Princeton's coaching lineage back to the 1940s goes like this: Sydney Johnson (Princeton), Joe Scott (Princeton), John Thompson (Princeton), Bill Carmody (Union), Pete Carril (Lafayette), Butch van Breda Kolff (Princeton), Jake McCandless (Princeton), Cappy Cappon (Michigan). None of the non-Princetontians went to their alma mater - though Cappon came from his, becoming the head coach at Princeton after being an assistant coach and administrator at Michigan.

TB can't be sure of every coach in Princeton history and where he/she went to school. Still, he went sport-by-sport and didn't see any who left here to go back to their alma mater.

Was Amy Bond the first?

Friday, June 25, 2010


As the marathon tennis match entered Day 3 yesterday, TigerBlog found himself rooting for the guy who ended up winning, even though he'd never heard of either one of them before. Why? Because he was an American, that's why.

As it turned out, the American guy turned out to a pretty good guy, at least from the post-match interview, when he said that he knew he'd be remembered for this match but didn't want this match to define his career. Plus, he was extraordinarily gracious to his opponent.

TB's World Cup experience has been defined by rooting first for the Americans and then for the countries he likes and against those he doesn't like (with a bit of pity reserved for the North Koreans).

It's been a stark contrast to the Olympics, when TB doesn't get as caught up in the jingoism of the event.

Usually on such issues, he goes back to what Marvin Bressler, professor emeritus of sociology, said about the Stanley Cup Finals in the 1970s, when the Flyers were winning back-to-back times: "Why should I care if our Canadians can beat their Canadians?"

One of the great dynamics of sports is why people root for the teams they root for and against the ones they root against. TB's favorite professional sports team, for instance, is the Giants, a team he's rooted for since he was a little kid because he grew up in a New Jersey suburb.

But that doesn't seem to be the common denominator for rooting for an NFL team. Ask someone which NFL team is his/her favorite, and you'll get all kinds of answers. If that person has a favorite baseball, hockey or basketball team, it's more likely that it is because of where they grew up.

On the college level, fans usually fall into two groups - alums, and those who live around the school. That's easy to understand.

But internationally? It often transcends the games themselves and becomes more of "our way of life against their way of life."

None of this ever comes down to "hey, the guys on that team are really good guys, while the guys on that team are jerks, so let's root for the nice guys," because nobody usually knows any of these people. For this World Cup, people from Princeton have a more direct connection, but that it really, really rare.

And so, who could ever shrug their shoulders at a great opportunity to chant "USA, USA," whether it's in a sports bar or at a soccer camp at Northwestern University.

C'mon, how cute was that?

TigerBlog was directed to the video by Northwestern's John Mack, a Princeton alum and former Roper Trophy winner who is coming to grips with the fact that current Princeton athletes were little kids when he competed.

Had it just been a story about how the campers watched the game, it would have had about 1% of the impact that it has with the video.

And when TB watched the video for the first time, he was taken back a year - and he was amazed that it's only been a year since the big topic around here was the decision to go from doing printed media guides to a focus more on video.

Now, a year and about 500 videos later, the only shocking thing to TB is that Princeton did media guides for as along as it did. And that people still want to do them.

In the last athletic year, the switch from media guides - or abandonment of media guides, as Bradley Director of Athletics Michael Cross would say - in favor of video could not have gone smoother.

Here at HQ, we have a record book for the updated records, results, letterwinners, etc., for every sport. There is a printed-out version that sits on a shelf behind TB's desk, as well as online versions for all sports.

The other day, when TB was going through trying to find out how many years in a row Princeton has actually had a team or individual national champ, he used the record books. The online ones, not the printed one. It never even dawned on his to use the printed one.

That's the world of today. Everything's online, and the more video the better.

Especially the ones where little kids in Chicago chant "USA, USA."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All In A Day's Work

The Princeton-Penn Ivy League men's basketball playoff game in 1996 was played on a Saturday night, followed the next day by the NCAA selection show.

The day after that, a Monday, was a pretty busy one for TigerBlog, who did the NCAA tournament guide while handling a ton of media requests to talk to Pete Carril, who had announced his retirement after the win over Penn. On top of all the basketball stuff, TB also had a men's lacrosse game coming up at Virginia that weekend, though he did get considerable help with that sport from then-student Nate Ewell.

When TigerBlog thinks back to his time here, he can think of a lot of late nights, a lot of time-consuming projects, a lot of days with little or no free time.

One of TB's favorite things about the newspaper business is that, with very few exceptions, you can never be more than one day behind in work. Here in the world of athletic communications, projects can bunch up if you're not careful, and you can find yourself struggling to get everything done.

FatherBlog, well into his 70s, continues to work every day. He summed up his philosophy this way: "You can always play golf; you can't always work."

TB isn't 100% sure what that means, though he's pretty sure FatherBlog has never once swung a golf club. Still, the main point is that it has something to do with work ethic.

As long as TB can remember, FB has stressed the importance of getting up each morning and going to work. MotherBlog's philosophy towards staying home from school when sick was this: "Go to school; it'll take your mind off being sick" and "ignore it and it'll go away." And she was a nurse.

There are people who work harder in the world, way harder, than people in athletic communications. Still, we do produce a huge quantity of work - and we then make it public, for all the world to see.

TB has never bought into the idea that working more hours is necessarily a good thing. In fact, it's often a bad thing, an indication of bad time management or lack of focus.

For the people who work here at HQ, there are no time clocks. TB's rule is this: Get your work done. In fact, if this were a rigid shop with defined times to be here and times to leave, with a set amount of time for lunch, then TB is pretty sure we'd get a fraction of the work done that we do.

Still, when TB looks back on his years here, he knows that he - and the others in the OAC - have put in an effort that they can be proud of, and the record is a strong one.

And that's why TB doesn't feel too badly about days like yesterday, when aside from writing about web traffic and updating some lacrosse bios, he didn't exactly get a lot done.

How could he, considering what was going on on his old TV. TigerBlog, as he faces his computer, sits with his back to a very, very beat-up TV set, one that he's pretty sure dates to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The remote has long since vanished, so TB has to - gasp - walk over to the TV to change the channel.

Anyway, for the last two weeks, World Cup soccer has basically played all day, though TB has hardly noticed it most of the time. This was not the case yesterday.

And put it this way: When the U.S. soccer team scores after the 90th minute to advance out of the group stage and that might not have been the biggest sports story from the old TV, well, that's quite a day.

Let's go back to the beginning. The U.S. game against Algeria started at 10, the same time as England-Slovenia. The U.S. needed a win to advance for sure or a tie to advance if Slovenia tied or beat England, but it became obvious early on when England scored that the U.S. wasn't going to be getting any help.

Then came another disallowed goal, for another apparently bad call. When is the World Cup going to realize it has a huge problem with its officials, who 1) seem to be taken in by some of the worst acting ever, 2) give out yellow cards (and even red cards) for little or nothing and then see some key players knocked out of the next game for no reason at all and 3) disallow goals as if they're waving off a basket due to continuation.

Soccer needs to use replay to confirm goals and to confirm (or change after the fact) yellow cards (or lose the rule where a second yellow card knocks you out of the next game), and no World Cup red card should be given without checking replay first as well. If you think that this would be a logistical problem, ask Australia how it worked out for the Socceroos without replay.

Anyway, as everyone knows, the U.S. finally broke through on Landon Donovan's goal in the 91st minute, giving the Americans first place in the group and knocking out Slovenia in what had to be an unreal heartbreak for that country.

And then SportsCenter came on, and it mentioned something about a marathon tennis match. Marathon? They hadn't seen anything yet.

It quickly became apparent to the world that what John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were doing at Wimbledon was pretty wild. So TB left the TV on to see what would happen there.

Except the only things that kept happening were this: Isner and Mahut kept holding serve, and everyone who walked by the door ducked in to see if it was still going on.

The tennis match continued on and on, until it was time for the next World Cup games. TB was rooting for Germany to either win or lose and therefore avoid the Americans in the Round of 16, and that's what ended up happening.

TigerBlog Jr. had a summer lacrosse game last night, so TB had to pick him up from camp a little early. As such, he left at halftime of the second soccer games. Nearly an hour passed before TB was able to get back to the TV, just in time to see Germany finish off Ghana - but not eliminate the African nation, as Australia beat Serbia but not by enough.

For the U.S. team, the draw isn't easy, but it could be way worse. If TB has it right, it's a Sweet 16 match with Ghana, with the winner to play the winner of Uruguay-South Korea for a semifinal berth.

And the tennis match? Well, it was still going, eventually reaching 59-59 in the fifth set before darkness came. TigerBlog doesn't quite get it. Are these two the greatest servers in history? Neither can come up with a break?

59-59? It took more than seven hours to play that fifth set, and it wasn't even completed. The two have to come back today.

Let's just say that Isner and Mahut worked a little harder than TB did yesterday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Traffic

The first session of the Princeton men's lacrosse camp is wrapping up today. Camps are a pretty involved endeavor for coaches, so TigerBlog will forgive Chris Bates for not getting him the list of incoming freshmen.

TigerBlog has meant to put up the story about the Class of 2014, which will join a team next spring that will have seven returning starters, as well as 18 of the 23 players who played in the NCAA tournament game against Notre Dame.

If you look at, you'll see that the stories are up about most of the new classes that will be coming to Princeton in the fall. They're mixed in with stories about end-of-year academic honors, Princeton athletes who are competing for national teams and such in the summer and other similar types of news.

When your No. 1 product is a college athletics website, the summer is never going to be your peak traffic months. The reason of course is obvious: no games.

As the summer goes along, web numbers drop off dramatically, as is to be expected.

As an aside, would anyone like to guess the day with the highest web traffic on in the past year? TB will give the answer in a few paragraphs.

In general, web traffic numbers were way up this year, largely due to the investment in multi-media, such as the videos on, the weekly podcasts and even TigerBlog. This, in addition to the existing content on the web page, drove numbers near 1.5 million per month during much of the year.

And now it's the summer. Officially, for that matter.

The challenge in the summer is to keep the content on the web page fresh with new stories on a daily basis. The worst thing you can do when you have people in the habit of checking out your page is not to give them a reason to do so, and the No. 1 way of doing that would be to allow a day to go by without having the lead story change.

There are many possibilities for the summer, including the kind of stories TB mentioned above, as well as the non-athletic pursuits of the athletes, any personnel changes and on and on.

One source of content is 2010-11 team schedules, many of which are now being officially confirmed and finalized. Of course, the football schedule is one of the ones that isn't quite done, as television may impact playing dates and times.

And, as is always the case, there's the question of what the right time is to start home football games. Is it 1? 3? 6? Later? Does it matter if all of the games start at different times? How is attendance impacted by start time?

Oh, and back to the question about the day with the most web traffic, any guesses?

The answer is: it depends.

Are you counting page views or unique visitors?

TigerBlog would have guessed it'd be during one of the two overlaps of seasons, and he would have been right both times.

The day with the most unique visitors (14,823) was March 6, a day that featured, among other events, the women's basketball team's Ivy-clinching win at Harvard and the men's lacrosse team's win over Johns Hopkins at the Face-Off Classic.

The day with the most page views (with 117,213) was Oct. 31. The football and soccer teams played Cornell that day, men's hockey had just started and Heps cross country was the day before.

As for this week, well, Monday saw 3,313 unique visitors and 12,487 page views.

Those don't compete with the usual in-season numbers, but they're still consistent. And those are our most loyal readers.

The challenge for the summer is to give them a reason to keep coming back.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

That's Perfect

Yesterday was Day 1 for the summer camp at Dillon Gym, unless you're Little Miss TigerBlog, in which case today is Day 1, since school didn't end until yesterday. As for TigerBlog Jr., Day 1 of his final year at the camp will have to wait until tomorrow, as a fantasy football draft got in the way today.

The Dillon camp, run by the people over at Campus Rec, is a great place for kids in the summer.

When TigerBlog was a kid, he spent six summers at sleepaway camp, first at a place called Camp Toledo and then another called Camp Echo. While TB has great memories of his time there, he wouldn't want to send his own kids away for eight weeks at a time; the Dillon camp has been a perfect alternative.

This will be the third summer that the head counselor at the camp will be Craig Schwartz, who is a middle school phys ed teacher in South Brunswick. Craig has the perfect personality to run a camp for 6-13 year olds, since he rarely appears to get frazzled and can usually be found playing whatever game happens to be going on at the time.

This is the second incarnation between Craig and TigerBlog. Back a long, long time ago, in what TB thinks may actually be a previous life, TB coached Schwartz in baseball in high school and American Legion in West Windsor. Schwartz was a power-hitting catcher who went on to have a very successful baseball career at the College of New Jersey.

TB coached in the Mercer County American Legion League for eight summers, with some pretty good teams and some pretty bad ones. He had the opportunity to coach some great players, as well as some pretty interesting characters during his tenure. Would he do it again if he had it to do all over again? Uh, well, er, maybe.

TB noticed in the paper the other day that a kid named James Pugliese pitched a perfect game for Hamilton Post 31, getting all 21 batters he faced in a 1-0 win. Along the way, he had 12 strikeouts.

The story noted that it was the first perfect game in the MCALL since 1981, when Greg Meszaros threw one for Broad Street Park.

That note made TB chuckle. Greg Meszaros works here at Princeton in the Office of Information Technology, and his wife Kim is the administrative assistant to Director of Athletics Gary Walters. Greg Meszaros went from Hamilton High and Broad Street Park to pitch at Rider; he and his family are regulars at basically all Princeton athletic contests and are as likely to be tailgating at a soccer game as a football game.

Kim mentioned yesterday that Greg will be presenting Pugliese with a plaque commemorating his accomplishment.

The follow up story in today's paper mentioned something that also struck close to home for TB, the fact that it was only probable that there hadn't been another MCALL perfect game between the one that Meszaros pitched 29 years ago and the one from this past weekend. In other words, the records aren't complete.

Now, as far as the perfect game goes, had there been one since Meszaros', someone would have come forward by now to remind everyone. TB saw many no-hitters in the MCALL, including four by a player he coached, Tim Rumer, who went from Princeton High to Duke to Major League spring training appearances with the Yankees and Rangers. Rumer once pitched a no-hitter while going 6 for 6 and hitting for the cycle, but he never pitched a perfect game.

Another TB player, Mark McKenzie, once had the official scorer make a bad decision on a ground ball in the first inning, calling a sure error a hit. That would be the only baserunner McKenzie allowed in the game.

Anyway, the point is that there are so many possible records that are unable to be looked up because the historical information just isn't there. That is something that we see here at Princeton all the time.

For instance, recently named men's lacrosse tri-captain John Cunningham scored five goals last season as a longstick. Is that the most ever by a longstick at Princeton? Maybe. Probably, actually.

TB has season-by-season stats going back into the 1980s and then stats for about a third of the years going back to the 1940s. Before that, there's nothing. TB knows who the longsticks were going back to the 1980s, but not before. So is Cunningham's accomplishment a record? There's no way to find out.

Records like points in a season or yards in a game or goals in a career are all there. It's the Cunningham type records that are hard to find out. And the "last time it happened" types.

When was the last time Princeton beat the No. 1 team in the country in whatever sport? Or when was the last time someone had a goal in 10 straight games in whatever sport? Or

TigerBlog knows the answer to some of those, simply because he's been around so long.

One way around the problem is to credit the player with the record and see if someone offers a correction, but that's not exactly the right way to do things.

And so, some accomplishments are lost to time, forever.

As for Princeton baseball, Ross Ohlendorf was once one out away from a perfect game, only to lose that - and then the game on a steal of home two batters later.

Has there ever been a perfect game in Princeton baseball history. Nope.

At least, we don't think so.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Darke Side

Before TigerBlog ever wrote a story about Princeton athletics, he found himself behind the microphone for a football game between Princeton and Penn on WXPN, the Penn student station. For the record, it was the 1984 game at Palmer Stadium, and TB is pretty sure it was his first time in the old horseshoe stadium.

Since then, TB has done hundreds of games on the radio (and a handful on TV) between Princeton football, basketball and lacrosse. He's had the opportunity to do NCAA tournament basketball and NCAA championship games for men's and women's lacrosse.

For much of the time that TB was doing men's basketball, his partner on-air was Tom McCarthy, who today is the lead man on TV for the Philadelphia Phillies. McCarthy also does, among other assignments, NFL football on Westwood One radio. Clearly, Boog has made it big.

TigerBlog has never understood why the biggest time announcers get paid so much money, because there is no correlation - at least in TB's mind - between who is doing the event and the size of the audience. If a correlation does exist, it's how many people don't watch because of who the announcer is, not the other way around.

It's the game itself people tune in to see, and they don't have any control over who is announcing it. Nobody, TB believes, looks at the menu of available games to watch and then chooses because of the announcers.

And some of the top announcers have become insufferable to listen to. It's become all about them, all about their schtick, rather than about the game.

In many ways, contemporary announcing has become a contest to see who can be the most clever, the most hip, the hottest, the one to say the most controversial thing.

American announcing, at least.

That's not McCarthy's style. He continues to be the same as he was when he was doing Princeton games. Well-prepared. Fair. Impartial. Content to be the narrator rather than the protagonist.

It's why he remains TB's favorite announcer. His second favorite? That's easy.

Ian Darke.

For those who don't know, Darke is one of the top English soccer announcers, and he currently is doing games on ESPN from the World Cup.

TigerBlog has watched a great deal of the World Cup games so far, and he has made a bunch of observations.

For starters, France has completely melted down. Though the French can mathematically move on, it's unlikely to happen. TB isn't sad about this, after the way France got in with the handball that wasn't called against Thierry Henry against Ireland.

And the rule where a second yellow card knocks you out of the next game is awful, because yellow cards are often given for dubious infractions.

Beyond that, soccer continues to be a great TV sport. It has a great deal to do with the fact that the games are going to be played in a window less than two hours with no commercials during the play itself.

Contrast that with a college basketball game that will have nine official media timeouts - and that's before any team has taken one.

Or with the seventh game of the NBA Finals, which went 2:47. Or a Major League Baseball game, which is more likely to go past three hours than it is to go less than 2:15. Or college football, which on network TV can drag on close to four hours.

Then there's the coaching. Most American sports are overcoached completely, and in many cases - the NFL, college basketball - it's as much about the coaches as it is about the players.

At the World Cup, the players play. There aren't 20 coaches on the sidelines. It's, well, refreshing to watch.

Of course, there are issues with the officiating, most notably with Koman Coulibaly, the ref of the U.S.-Slovenia match. As an aside, TB believes that Coulibaly bears a striking resemblance to James Jones (Yale's men's basketball coach) and Joe Jones (former Columbia coach). TB doesn't need to go into what happened at the end of the U.S. game; he'll only say that the team will have no excuses should it fail to advance and that finishing second in the group could be better than finishing first, depending on who finishes 1-2 in Germany-Serbia-Australia-Ghana group.

Mostly though, TB has loved the announcing from the World Cup, especially Darke. During the Cameroon-Denmark game, Darke said: "Cameroon is attempting to assert its authority on the proceedings." Later on, when a Danish player made a run down the sideline, Darke called him "ambitious."

The best part is how understated he - and the other British announcers - are. They call the game, and they let the game be the story.

And the level of preparation? It's astonishing. Think about it. These guys have had to learn 32 different teams, which means memorizing the names/numbers of hundreds of players, many with difficult pronunciations.

That's how TigerBlog tries to do it for Princeton games. Be prepared. Be understated. Be impartial. Don't be the show. Let the game stand on its own.

After watching the World Cup, it's going to be tough to readjust to American sports, a world without the likes of Ian Darke.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spoon And Hank

The skies threatened Wednesday morning, so the annual department end-of-year picnic/barbecue was moved inside the boathouse.

The athletic year includes three times when the entire department gets together socially. The first is after the staff welcome back meeting in September. The second is the Christmas party (or holiday party, if the word "Christmas" scares you; it does not scare TigerBlog). The third is the end-of-year BBQ.

A few years ago, the tradition of having a department softball game seemed to fade away, possibly because of the time that John Cornell, who now is the head of marketing at the College of Coastal Georgia, took a line drive off the bat of Associate AD Chris Brock right off his face.

Departmental gatherings are always interesting for TigerBlog. On the one hand, the Department of Athletics is a fairly small, close-knit unit, while on the other hand, there are so many fragmented sub-sections of the department spread out between Jadwin, Dillon, the boathouse, the grounds crew building and elsewhere that there are large numbers of people in the department that TB goes days and weeks without seeing.

The man of the hour at yesterday's gathering has been known in these parts for the last 25 years simply as "Spoon," which is a shortened version of his last name, Witherspoon. Jeremiah Witherspoon spent 25 years working on the equipment staff here at Princeton, until his retirement this past year.

And so there was Spoon yesterday, uncomfortably the center of attention as he received a few gifts (he'll make best use of the Princeton golf bag) and several impromptu salutes from coaches who'd known him here for years and even before that as Princeton undergraduates.

Spoon was then asked to say a few words, and he spoke emotionally about the great honor he had to work here and the great young people he got to meet.

It's what everyone says when asked to talk about what it's meant to them to work at Princeton athletics. Always, without fail, they start with the honor of working at this University and the great young people they get to meet, work with and hopefully help.

Spoon is one of those people that everyone likes. In his 25 years here, he was probably in a bad mood every now and then, but he never showed it. Instead, it was always a joke, a warm hello, a question about how the family was doing, something like that. Always in genuine fashion.

When athletes come to Princeton, or any other school, TigerBlog assumes they are doing so because - athletically at least - they like the coaches, felt the current players were a nice group, have an idea that they'd fit in well on the team.

It's unlikely that too many of them give any thought to who is in charge of washing their uniforms or cutting the grass on the field or taping their ankles or writing the story on the website or any of the other things that surround a program. And yet when they get here, those people become tremendously important to them and to their experience in college.

To that end, a person like Spoon was in perfect position to impact a great number of athletes in his 25 years. Clearly, he did.

Another person who had a similar time at Princeton was the former head equipment manager, Hank Towns, who came to the luncheon to see his old friend and colleague.

Hank left Princeton after the 2003-04 academic year. TB put Hank's picture on the final football game program of the 2003 season, and TB still has a framed version of it on his wall in his office. This should give a sense of how much TB has always liked Hank, dating back nearly 30 years now.

Hank hasn't been around much in the six years since he's retired. When he does come to an event, he is treated as royalty, as he was at Wednesday's indoor picnic.

TB has always been fascinated by the contrast between Hank and the athletes he worked with and how those athletes from whatever background they came from cherish the time they spent with him.

Hank went to Trenton High and then to Grambling, where he played football for Eddie Robinson. He worked at Princeton with kids who in many cases came from backgrounds of privilege, and all of the Princeton undergraduates were living out the opportunity to attend one of the world's top institutions and play the sport of their choice there at the same time.

And yet Hank was always there to keep them grounded. As was Spoon.

You could fill the boathouse dozens of times over with people who came to Princeton and learned a ton from people like Spoon and Hank. It's one of the great by-products of the athletic experience at a place like this.

TB thought about that Wednesday, as he stood in the back next to Hank, listening to Spoon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mr. Mayor

Princeton, for those who don't know, is located in Mercer County. Actually, Princeton itself is really two different municipalities, Princeton Township and Princeton Borough.

Back when TigerBlog was in the newspaper business covering Princeton University, he had to put either "Princeton Township" or "Princeton Borough" in the dateline. It was understood that of Princeton's athletic facilities, the only one that was in the borough was Baker Rink. Of course, who knows if that was really true.

The two Princetons share Mercer County with such municipalities as Hopewell, Pennington, West Windsor, Hamilton, Lawrenceville and Ewing, as well as the New Jersey state capital, Trenton.

TB's introduction to the world of sports media was covering high school sports, mostly in Mercer County. One winter day in the early 1980s, TB was sent to cover the New Jersey high school wrestling championships, which at the time were held in Jadwin Gym (and TB believes it was the first time he ever walked into the building; little did he know how familiar he'd become with it).

Mercer County, to that point at least, had never produced a New Jersey individual wrestling state champion (TB isn't 100% sure, but he thinks that Lawrence High finally gave the county one). TB's assignment was to write about a wrestler from Trenton High who was undefeated to that point. Eventually, TB recalls, he reached the semifinals before losing.

That wrestler, who also was a standout in football and baseball, was named Tony Mack, who this week was elected the mayor of Trenton. Mack will take office on July 1, and he will succeed Douglas Palmer, who has been the Trenton mayor for the last 20 years.

Mack went from Trenton High to Howard University, where TB believes he played football and wrestled, though he could be wrong about that. According to Mack's website, he has a master's from FDU and is working on his Ph.D.

TigerBlog has always thought the jump from athletics to politics was a natural one, with the way both reward qualities such as leadership, teammwork and the ability to work best in the public eye.

As an aside, with the way politics is going today, they both also require a shower when the day's work is done.

Going back in history, several U.S. Presidents were college athletes, though they were mostly Republicans. In fact, John Kennedy, who swam at Harvard, is the only Democratic President ever to play a college sport. Barack Obama, of course, is a dedicated basketball player and golfer today, even as he serves as President, though he didn't play in college.

On the Republican side, you have to go back to Herbert Hoover to find one who wasn't a college athlete. George Bush (the 43rd President) played rugby at Yale; his father played baseball at the same school. Ronald Reagan was a football and baseball player at Eureka College, while Richard Nixon played football and basketball at Whittier College.

Perhaps the two best President-Athletes were football players Gerald Ford (Michigan) and Dwight Eisenhower (Army). Even Hoover served as manager for the football and basketball teams at Stanford, and legend has it that he chased down former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison after Harrison entered a Stanford game without paying.

Princeton has produced two U.S. Presidents - James Madison and Woodrow Wilson - neither of whom was a varsity athlete. In fairness to Madison, Princeton didn't have athletics in the 18th century.

As for Wilson, he played baseball at Davidson before coming to Princeton, and he was the football coach at Wesleyan from 1888-90, compiling a record of 12-20-1.

Princeton athletes have gone on to many positions in politics. Blair Lee, who was one of the earliest Princeton football players in the 1800s, became a U.S. Senator from Maryland, for instance.

Among the contemporary notables is Robert Ehrlich, a former football player who became the Governor of Maryland.

And, of course, any discussion of this subject has to include the greatest Princeton athlete of all time, Bill Bradley, who served three terms as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey and made a serious run in 2000 for the White House.

All of this brings us back to Mack. If you'd asked TB at the time if Mack would go on to be elected mayor of Trenton, TB would have said "why not?" Of course, at the time, who knew what direction Mack's life would go in, and there was no way to predict that he would become the mayor nearly 30 years later.

And what about current Princeton athletes? Is there a future in politics, as a Senator or Governor or member of the House of Representatives or even the White House ahead for one or more of them? And if so, which one?

TB could make a guess or two - he's always thought former men's basketball player Matt Henshon was a natural for high office - but that's not the point.

It'd be great to turn on the TV on some Jan. 20 in the future, see the new U.S. President take the oath of office and think "TB remembers when he or she played at Princeton."

Whoever it would be.

So good luck and congratulations to Tony Mack. And hopefully, there's a Princeton athlete or two who will make it big, "in the nation's service."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

24? Try 39

When TigerBlog first started working at Princeton, he read something that said that the Tigers had at least one team or individual national champion and had won the Ivy League's all-sports points championship for a certain number of years. Both numbers, coincidentally, were the same.

So, every time Princeton has either won the points championship or won a national championship in each successive year, TB has simply added another number to the previous year's.

When the men's lightweight rowing team won the national championship earlier this month, it kept the streak alive for 2009-10. Last year was 23 straight, so that made it 24 straight.

At least that's what TB thought. So he went with it, talking about how impressive it was for the school to have at least one champion each of those years.

Now, two weeks later, the streak just got a little more impressive.

It started Monday, when Gary Walters asked TB to put together a list of who had won the national championships for each year of the streak. It's actually something that TB should have done awhile ago and always thought about doing.

In retrospect, he should have done it years ago.

TB started by writing down each of the last 24 years and then started filling in the championships from each year, which he got out of the record books for each sport. Eventually, he filled in every year going back 24 years, which would be the year 1987.

Only he noticed that in 1986, the men's lightweight rowing team won the national title. As did Demer Holleran in women's squash.

And back it went from there. 1985? Men's heavyweight rowing. 1984? Women's squash.

In fact, TB was able to go all the way back to 1972, when Wendy Zaharko won the women's squash individual national championship.

Instead of a 24-year streak, it's actually a 39-year streak. That's 39 straight years with at least one team or individual national champion.

Twice during that streak, Princeton had four teams win a national title. On the other hand, there were four years when Princeton had no team national champion but did have a single individual win.

From 1972 until 1984, Princeton had a team or individual (or both) in squash win the national title. Between 1992 and 2003, Princeton won nine NCAA lacrosse championships (six for the men, three for the women).

And yes, all of these national titles have occurred in either rowing, squash, fencing, lacrosse, swimming and diving or track and field. As TB said when he thought it was 24, though, it's still impressive.

What about next year? Who knows. The streak has to end at some point. Still, there will be no shortage of contenders.

If Princeton does get one, it'll be 40 straight years, not 25.

The Ivy League all-sports championship? If Princeton can win again, that'd be 25.

Well, at least TB has always thought so.

Maybe he should go look that up also.

While he does that, here's the complete list of Princeton national champions from 1972-2010:

2010 – men’s lightweight rowing
2009 – men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
2008 – women’s squash
2007 – women’s squash
2006 – women’s open rowing (1st varsity 8), Yasser El Halaby (squash),
2005 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2004 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2003 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2002 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Tora Harris (indoor and outdoor high jump)
2001 – women’s lightweight rowing, men’s lacrosse, Soren Thompson (epee fencing), David Yik (men’s squash
2000 – women’s lightweight rowing, Eva Petchnigg (foil fencing), Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash
1999 – women’s squash, women’s lightweight rowing, Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash)
1998 – men’s lacrosse, men’s heavweight rowing, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
1997 – men’s lacrosse, Katherine Johnson (women’s squash)
1996 – men’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, men’s heavyweight rowing, Max Pekarev (saber fencing)
1995 – women’s open rowing
1994 – men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s open rowing, Harald Winkmann (epee fencing)
1993 – men’s squash, women’s open rowing
1992 – men’s lacrosse
1991 – women’s squash
1990 – women’s open rowing, men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Leroy Kim, Erik Osborn)
1989 – men’s lightweight rowing , women’s squash, Demer Holleran (women’s squash), Jeff Stanley (men’s squash), men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Rich Korhammer, Rob Musslewhite)
1988 – men’s lightweight rowing, Jeff Stanley (men’s squash)
1987 – Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1986 – men’s lightweight rowing, Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1985 – men’s heavyweight rowing
1984 – women’s squash
1983 – women’s squash
1982 – men’s squash
1981 – women’s squash, John Nimik (men’s squash)
1980 – women’s squash
1979 – women’s squash
1978 - women’s squash
1977 – men’s squash
1976 – women’s squash, Nancy Gengler (women’s squash)
1975 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1974 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1973 – women’s squash, Cathy Corcione (100 butterfly, 100 free), 200-yard freestyle relay (Cathy Corcione, Jane Fremon, Barb Franks, Carol Brown)
1972 – Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash), Charlie Campbell (200-yard backstroke)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Those Annoying Vuvuzelas

TigerBlog rarely goes anywhere without his hand sanitizer. He prefers Germ-X, though the CVS store brand isn't bad either. And of course there is Purell, the granddaddy of them all.

Clearly, TigerBlog's biggest objection to the vuvuzelas that are currently sounding like locusts during World Cup telecasts isn't the incessant noise. Nope. It's the fact that, at least according to Wikipedia, the vuvuzelas are known to spread flu and cold germs on a much larger scale than simply sneezing and coughing.

TigerBlog is okay with the idea that the people who run the World Cup are allowing the vuvuzelas to continue to be blown at the event. For one thing, they are part of the local tradition. And for another, TB isn't sitting in the stadium getting someone else's spit on the back of his neck.

Plus, if you watch one game for 15 minutes, you don't even hear the horns anymore.

As an aside, the vuvuzelas would never fly at a Princeton event, or any other college event for that matter. Jeremy Hartigan, the head of Cornell athletic communications, made this announcement at the Ivy League softball championship series: "The use of artificial noisemakers is prohibited by NCAA rules, so stop doing it."

Scott Bradley, the Princeton baseball coach, is the brother of U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley. Scott is hoping that Bob doesn't bring any vuvuzelas home for his nephews.

At the risk of beating the subject to death, TigerBlog once again will say that there has never been a comparable moment in Princeton athletic history as having an alum and former head coach lead the U.S. national team at the World Cup. Princeton has produced Olympic coaches, professional coaches, major college coaches and the like, but it has never had a coach with this level of international renown - and scrutiny.

The positive impact on Princeton - and Princeton soccer - that Bradley's position has had began the minute he was named national team coach. It skyrocketed when the Americans held their training camp at Princeton before the World Cup, and it's reached an even higher level now that play has begun.

As everyone knows by now, the U.S. team opened the World Cup with a 1-1 tie with England. The U.S. gave up an early goal, which TB felt gave them more time to get even as opposed to being the end of the game, and the Americans got some help from the English goalkeeper to do just that.

TigerBlog feels badly for English 'keeper Robert Green, who will only be able to live that moment down if 1) England wins the group and 2) he does something spectacular later in the tournament, such as a big stop on a penalty kick to help his team advance

Of course, England has never won a World Cup knockout game that has gone to penalty kicks. And how does TB know this? He heard the announcer on the Ivory Coast-Portugal game say it.

TB loves the difference between the American announcers - TB's favorite is Alexi Lalas, who says what's on his mind rather than just saying that everyone is great - and their British counterpart. The Brits sound like American baseball announcers in the 1930s and 1940s, while the Americans need to have an "edge" while "breaking down" the games.

The British use words like "tragedy" and "catastrophe" to describe big swings in the action. They use the word "unhappily" all the time; how many NFL games this season will have the word "unhappily" used be an announcer?

Getting back to Green and his misplay, TB thought that The Register had a great piece on the situation.

It wasn't only the videos in the piece, which are hilarious, especially the one with the uncle and the boy who reenact the goal (five minutes after it happened, by the way). It's also the point it makes about how the world has changed, that instead of reading what sportswriters in newspapers wrote, the world was able to get immediate feedback on blogs and from videos and from blogs with embedded video.

Next up for the Americans is Slovenia Friday morning. Scott Bradley is worried about how well the Slovenians defend, or at least that's what he said when he stopped in to watch Ivory Coast-Portugal for a few minutes.

The pressure on the Americans in that game will be enormous, since Slovenia already has three points from beating Algeria. And, of course, you want to win the group, since you'll probably avoid Germany in the knockout round if you do.

TigerBlog would have rooted for America anyway. With Bob Bradley as the U.S. coach, though, it's a combination of rooting for America - and Princeton.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Big Ivy 8

TigerBlog thinks it was Chuck Yrigoyen, then with the Ivy League and now the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, who came up with the idea of changing the official name of the conference that Princeton is in to either "The Big Ivy" or "The Great Ivy."

Ultimately, that name was expanded to "The Great Big Ivy 8." Jokingly, of course.

TigerBlog always thinks to that exchange when the subject of conference realignments in college athletics comes up. While chaos reigns all around, there is no place more stable than the Great Big Ivy 8.

Let's see if TB has it all straight.

Nebraska has decided after 103 years of affiliation with the same basic core group of schools that it is clearly a much better fit for the Big 10, while Colorado has decided it would rather be the easternmost team in the Pac-10 rather than the westernmost team in the Big 12.

Texas, apparently loving its role as kingmaker, is at the center of the rest of what will happen. Will the Big 12 survive? Will Texas bolt with Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10? Texas A&M feels it's a better fit for the SEC, so will the Aggies go that way?

And where does that leave Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri? And Iowa State?

And what about Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville? Will they end up in a supersized Big 10? If so, what happens to the Big East? Will Army and Navy end up in the Big East, at least for football?

And why is all of this happening? Why are schools willing to walk away from existing stability and decades-old rivalries and conferences?

Money, of course.

The Big 10 has hit it big with its TV network. The SEC just signed a mind-boggling TV contract. The Pac-10 is on the verge of going the Big 10 route.

As an aside, you can blame the Yankees for all this if you want, as they were the first to create their own network, which they then used to completely distort the entire economic balance of Major League Baseball.

TigerBlog can't believe how easily all of these schools are willing to change everything, all to pursue the last dollar out there. Is that what college athletics are about?

In the case of Nebraska, the school has said that it had to act before Missouri, which openly lobbied for the Big 10, did. This would be the same Big 10 that is trying to get to the minimum number of 12, which would allow it a football championship game.

All of this is driven by football, which is where the dollars are. The problem, as TB always says, is that college athletics may appear on the outside to be all about big-time football and men's basketball, but in reality there are, as the NCAA so rightfully boasts, a few hundred thousand athletes who are going pro in something other than sports.

The conference realignment is based on football, but it's going to affect so many athletes in so many other sports. In an age where most schools are trying to figure out ways to save money, most of these schools will now have fly their, say, cross country teams and soccer teams, all over the country for every away league competition.

Then there's the Ivy League, which has been an official athletic conference (since 1954) for a lot less time than the Big 10 (1899), SEC (1932), Pac-10 (1915), Big 12 (1907).

There are eight Ivy League schools, and there are going to be eight Ivy League schools no matter what else happens around them in college athletics. The stability is, quite frankly, reassuring, given that people at schools like Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State - not to mention every non-football playing Big East school - have no idea what to expect in the near future. The idea of staying as a "BCS" school isn't set in stone for all of those schools.

Beyond just knowing what league you're in, though, the great beauty of the Ivy League is that football (and men's basketball) don't drive the entire mechanism. In many ways, that's what TB's favorite part of being part of the league is.

Yes, football outdraws every other sport on campus, and yes, basketball gets to play in the premiere NCAA tournament for men and women if they win the league.

But the emphasis here is on broad-based athletic participation. The football coach doesn't make millions and millions of dollars per year, and the entire University doesn't revolve around one athletic program.

It is, after all, supposed to be college sports, not professional sports.

Here at the Great Big Ivy 8, it seems like that message still resonates. Hopefully the rest of college athletics won't completely lose it soul.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good Luck, Bob

You may have heard that the World Cup starts today.

Of the 32 countries who made it into the field, TigerBlog has been to 10, which is nearly a third of them. Unless you don't count France, since TB was only in the Paris airport as a stopover between New York and Tel Aviv.

In case you care, here are the other nine countries he's been to: the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Denmark and Greece.

If he had to pick one of the other countries to go to, he'd probably take Australia, though sitting for that long on a plane isn't exactly enticing. And if TB went to Australia, he'd probably stop off in New Zealand as well.

The last country of the 32 he'd want to go to? No offense to what are probably some fine restaurants in downtown Pyongyang, but TB will pass on North Korea.

TigerBlog thinks that Spain will win the World Cup, defeating either England or the Netherlands in the final (he'd be higher on the Netherlands if Arjen Robben's hamstring was fine); the fourth team in TB's final four will be Brazil. For the record, both TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog have been to Brazil.

TB was in Spain and Ireland during the 2008 European championships, and unless you've experienced something like that first hand, you can't possibly imagine just how wild a scene that is. Even in Ireland, who wasn't in the tournament, it was hard to find someone who wasn't completely passionate about it.

In the United States, soccer is something of an afterthought as far as major sports go, even though it has come a long way in the last 20 years or so. And, as an aside, TB would be picking the U.S. team win the World Cup if all of the best American athletes played soccer instead of football, basketball and lacrosse.

Anyway, by now the connection between Princeton and the U.S. team is well-known. Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach, played at Princeton and then coached here, taking the Tigers to the 1993 Final Four. One of his assistant coaches is Jesse Marsch, who also played here; the team had its pre-World Cup training camp at Roberts Stadium.

There have been a ton of stories written about Bradley in the last few weeks, and each of them is great publicity for Princeton University and Princeton soccer. One of the better ones was on earlier this week.

These stories all paint Bradley as driven, and they all talk about his life as a kid and then at Princeton. In almost all of them, there have been quotes by Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley (Bob's brother) and soccer coach Jim Barlow (who played for Bradley here and coaches the U.S. U-15 team).

If you want the contrarian view, there's always Rich Fisher's story in the Trentonian. And the comment at the bottom? Sort of harsh, no?

It's been 30 years since Bradley played at Princeton, and in that time, he's risen to become the national team coach for the world's biggest sporting event.

Is there a current Princeton athlete who will follow in Bradley's path? Will a current Princeton soccer player coach the U.S. team one day? Or be an NFL head coach in the Super Bowl? Or win the Stanley Cup from behind the bench? Who knows?

But Bradley has made it that far. Princeton has produced a lot of athletes who have gone into careers in coaching - and there are eight of them who are currently head coaches at their alma mater.

College basketball alone features any number of Princeton alums who are now coaches; it's a profession that has long been attractive to former Tigers.

But to have one of your own coach the U.S. national team at the World Cup? That's something unique, something special.

Every time TB sees Bradley on TV, he thinks back to his time covering Bradley's Princeton teams during his newspaper days and in his early days working here.

There was always something very special about Bob Bradley, but who could have ever predicted that the World Cup was in his future? Hey, if Major League Soccer had flopped - something Bradley had no control over - then Bradley might have ended up back in college coaching, and he probably never would have made it to the level he has.

Or, for that matter, had Jurgen Klinsmann taken the U.S. job, then where would Bradley be now?

None of that will be the issue tomorrow, when the U.S. takes on England to start its World Cup run. Bradley will be the man leading the way, and if you're a Princeton fan, you're pulling extra hard for the Americans.

After all, one of Princeton's own is leading them.

Good luck, Bob. We're all rooting for you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Donn's Year

TigerBlog was going to write the 2009-10 Princeton Athletics Year in Review the other day when this fact dawned on him: The year isn't over yet.

It won't end for Princeton Athletics until the last of Princeton's six competitors at the NCAA track and field championships in Oregon is finished. The latest that could be would be Saturday.

If TB is reading the calendar correctly, Saturday is June 12. The first athletic events of the 2009-10 season were back on Sept. 4, when the men's and women's soccer teams opened their seasons.

And, of course, it won't be all that long - a little more than two months from now - that the fall athletes will return to campus to begin preparations for the 2010-11 school year.

Princeton has more than 1,000 student-athletes, yet there is still quite a bit of drama left for the six who are still competing.

Princeton actually sent seven athletes to the track and field championships; it is the highest total Princeton has ever had qualify for the NCAAs.

Sophomore Donn Cabral ran the fastest time in qualifying in the steeplechase, and Cabral figures to go head-to-head with Matt Hughes of Louisville (fastest time in the season, second-fastest in qualifying, whereas Cabral had run the second-fastest time in the country prior to the championships) in tomorrow night's final.

TigerBlog has always thought the steeplechase was an interesting event, though his exposure to it was usually limited to seeing it in the Olympics. When TB walks around the Weaver Track on his way to the football stadium or the other side of campus, he often stops at the water jump for the steeplechase and thinks about how much it would stink to trip on the top of the hurdle and fall into the water.

Beyond that, TB never thought about the origins of the event. Before he went to Wikipedia a few minutes ago, he would have guessed - and been right - that there was some sort of British tradition to the steeplechase.

Cabral's time of 8:42.84 in the NCAA qualifying would have been, at least according to Wikipedia, the world record as late as 1955. Today, the world record is 7:53.63, nearly a minute faster than it was 55 years ago.

Cabral's year has been an interesting one, and it gives a pretty good insight into the physical nature of being a collegiate runner.

When you think of the physical toll playing sports can take on an athlete, you usually start with something like football or hockey. In reality, it's probably as demanding to be a distance runner as anything else an athlete can do.

Cabral's year, for instance, started way back in the fall in cross country season. The Glastonbury, Conn., native finished sixth at the Heptagonal championships, which was probably the toughest team moment of the year for any Princeton team, as the Tigers finished second in the league by one point to Columbia, which means that any one place change would have made the difference.

The indoor season saw him finish second at Heps in both the 3,000 and the 5,000 as Princeton won the men's (and women's) indoor team championships.

At outdoor Heps, where Princeton's men finished second, Cabral won a grueling individual double of the steeplechase and the 10,000, becoming the first Ivy athlete ever to win those two events at a single Heps.

He then ran a school record 8:35.60 at the NCAA regionals two weeks ago, giving him the second-fastest collegiate time and the sixth-fastest time overall in the country this year.

And now he has a good a chance as anyone to win the NCAA title. Should he be successful, he would be just the third outdoor individual champ in Princeton history, after legendary Tiger athletes William Bonthron (who won the 1934 mile) and Tora Harris (who won the 2002 high jump).

How many miles do you think he's run in training for these successes, and how hard has he had to push himself to achieve all this? Think that's easy?

While Cabral's year won't be over when even when the NCAAs end, as he has qualified for the U.S. championships as well, Princeton's 2009-10 athletics year ends with this weekend.

Writing the year in review? It'll have to wait until next week, because the lead may still not have happened yet, even after more than ninth months of competition.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taxi Driver

To FatherBlog, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who live or work in New York City, and hicks.

TigerBlog has never really shared his father's love of the Big Apple, and TB in fact avoids going into the City as much as possible. Still, if he could be guaranteed of being in the Cash Cab, then he'd change his position.

For those who don't know, Cash Cab is a game show on the Discovery Channel. The premise is that a cab driver picks up unsuspecting passengers, informs them that they're on a game show and then takes them to their destination while asking them general knowledge questions.

Depending on the how smart the contestants are, they can win a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars before they get to the end of their ride. Or, if you get three questions wrong, you are let off wherever the cab is at that moment.

It's a fun show, and TB watches it every now and then.

One of those times was the other day, when there were two Princeton-related questions asked, and the two questions had direct ties to two men who are quite possibly the two greatest athletes in Princeton history.

The first was this one: "What novel was narrated by a character named Nick?"

The second was this: "What former New York Knick served three terms in the U.S. Senate?"

As an aside, there really is no such thing as a "hard" question on shows like Cash Cab or Jeopardy. There are only questions you know the answer to and questions you don't.

The answer to the first one, of course, is "The Great Gatsby," written by Princeton's own F. Scott Fitzgerald, Class of 1917. Nick is Gatsby's neighbor and the cousin of Daisy Buchanan; for those who didn't pay attention in high school, Daisy doesn't exactly end up having a great effect on Gatsby, for whom it doesn't really end well.

Daisy was married to Tom Buchanan, and Nick would describe them this way:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, leaving others to clean up the mess they had made."

For the record, TB wrote that from memory. He could probably write down at least 50% of the book from memory, from the first line:
"In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."

... to the last line:

"and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Fitzgerald, as mentioned above, was a 1917 graduate of Princeton, which placed him three years behind Hobey Baker. Fitzgerald was so in awe of Baker that in another of his novels, "This Side of Paradise," he named his main character Amory Blaine, after Baker's full name of Hobart Amory Hare Baker.

He also has another character in the novel, Allenby, who is Princeton's football captain: "There at the head of the white platoon marched Allenby, the football captain, slim and defiant, as if aware that this year the hopes of the college rested on him, that his hundred-and-sixty pounds were expected to dodge to victory through the heavy blue and crimson lines."

Clearly, he's talking about Hobey Baker, who played football and hockey at Princeton. TigerBlog has read (and written) a great deal about Baker, whose story is familiar as well: one of the great early college athletes, no professional sports, turned to flying, flew in World War I, died in a plane crash shortly after the war ended - possibly of his own doing.

Of everything that TB has ever seen about Baker, the best description was this, which has always stuck with TB: "Baker is the most romantic figure in the history of American college sports."

It's a great way to describe him. Romantic. As in something out of a novel, which, in the case of "This Side of Paradise," he is.

As for the other question, clearly Bill Bradley is the former Knick who went on to the U.S. Senate. Bradley scored 2,503 points in his Princeton career, playing only three varsity seasons with no three-point line. Since his graduation, the closest any player has come is Kit Mueller and his 1,546 career points, nearly 1,000 fewer.

TigerBlog grew up watching Bradley's Knicks teams, and he's still waiting for the team to win another NBA championship since the two that Bradley helped the team to in 1970 and 1973. Still, given his employer for the last 16 years, TB thinks of Princeton first when he thinks of Bradley.

Every now and then, TB stumbles across the basketball record book or any record book, and it makes him think of what Bradley did to Princeton's. It is possible that one day someone will come along and challenge some of his records, but TB would have to think it is unlikely.

As a reminder:

* Bradley is first all-time at Princeton in points and rebounds.
* Bradley had 11 games of at least 40 points; no other player in school history has ever scored at least 40 points in a game
* he still holds the record for most points scored in a Final Four game, with 58 against Wichita State in the 1965 consolation game
* he has the three highest single-season point totals and scoring average totals in school history

TB could go on and on with Bradley's records. Perhaps TB's favorite note about Bradley is that his career low, not career high but career low, was 16 points.

And there it was, the two Princeton references on the single episode of Cash Cab.

TB would have gotten both right, and who knows, maybe he would reach his destination with fewer than three strikes.

But would he take the video challenge for double of nothing? Who knows.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Wizard Of Ours

It had to be, what?, the fall of 1995 or maybe the winter of 1996, the day that Bill Carmody excitedly peaked his head into TigerBlog's office at said these words:

"The greatest college basketball player of all-time is using one of the urinals in our men's room."

TigerBlog knew in an instant what player Carmody was talking about. Sure enough, TB ventured into the bathroom, and there stood Bill Walton, whose son Nate would be a freshman at Princeton for the 1996-97 season.

As an aside, Nate Walton would miss one season due to injury and then become a first-team All-Ivy center in 2000-01, when John Thompson led an underdog Princeton team to the Ivy League title in his first season as head coach. It is TB's belief that Walton was robbed of the Ivy League Player of the Year award that year.

For anyone who is TB's age or older, the list of the greatest college basketball players of all-time begins with Bill Walton - or possibly David Thompson, the North Carolina State star whose team beat Walton's UCLA team 80-77 in two overtimes in the 1974 NCAA semifinals in what would be considered the greatest college basketball game ever had ESPN existed back then.

Walton - Bill, not Nate - was part of a UCLA dynasty that saw the Bruins win 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. Walton was part of an 88-game UCLA winning streak, one that ended with a loss at Notre Dame.

TigerBlog, like most kids in his age-group who were into sports, watched many of those great UCLA games on TV (which wasn't oversaturated with college basketball back then) and thinks back at them as being among the first sporting events he can remember seeing. TB clearly remembers watching the UCLA-N.C. State game at the house of his Aunt Regina and Uncle Larry, and he remembers seeing UCLA as it desperately tried to get a shot to fall in the final seconds of its loss to Notre Dame to end its long streak.

UCLA's coach through those years was of course John Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood" who passed away last weekend at the age of 99. Wooden's history is familiar: the Indiana roots, the 10 national championships, the great teams, the attention to detail, the intensity, the persona, all of it. And, in the interest of full disclosure, the questions that might not have been asked about a UCLA booster's involvement in recruiting those great players.

When Wooden passed away, ESPN Classic immediately went to a Wooden marathon, and TB remembered watching many of those games when they were originally on.

But none of that was what TB thought about when the news about Wooden hit. Nope, TB's first thought was actually a question:

Was John Wooden a better coach than Pete Carril.

Wooden spent 27 years at UCLA, going 620-147 with the aforementioned 10 NCAA championships. Wooden, for those who don't know, also coached for two years at what was then called Indiana Teachers' College and is today known as Indiana State; Wooden was 44-15 in those two years before taking over at UCLA for the 1948-49 season.

Carril spent 29 years as the Princeton head coach, going 514-261 with no NCAA titles. He did win 13 Ivy League championships and take his team to 11 NCAA tournaments, and Princeton under Carril won the 1975 NIT.

So how is this even a debate? Well, TB thinks it's actually a great question. Does the coach make the program, or does the program make the coach?

UCLA back then had all kinds of advantages, beyond just whatever shady dealings there were to bring by far the best players to Westwood. Wooden won five of his 10 championships with either Walton or Lew Alcindor (who became Kareem Abdul Jabbar, for those who don't know) as his big man, for instance.

Back then, the Bruins needed to win only four games to win the NCAA title. The field was also truly regionalized, and the West was by far the weakest area. As such UCLA basically had an easy path to the Final Four each year.

And yes, for much of that time, only one team per league could make the NCAA field, so UCLA could have been derailed in its conference. But the Pacific Coast League (later the Pac 8, now the Pac 10, and soon the Pac 25) wasn't nearly as tough as the ACC, which routinely had two or three of the top five teams in the country.

Carril, on the other hand, had almost no shot of a national championship here at Princeton. And yet he endured for 29 seasons; only one other Princeton men's basketball coach (Cappy Cappon) lasted here for more than eight, and Cappon 1) coached five years, took off for three and then came back for 15 more and 2) died in the middle of his 20th season.

It seems almost ludicrous to suggest that Carril could be a better coach than Wooden based on their resumes, but that's not what TB is talking about here. No, he's talking about basketball coaching ability only.

In other words, had they switched places, what would their teams have looked like?

And this isn't limited to Carril and Wooden. Look at any number of Princeton's successful coaches versus their counterparts who routinely win national championships. Susan Teeter. Rob Orr. Peter Farrell and Fred Samara. Would they win national championships if they had the advantages of some of the top national programs? Of course they would.

Look at women's soccer. Anson Dorrance, the head coach at North Carolina, has won 20 of the 28 NCAA women's soccer championships awarded and has won nearly 95% of his games in 31 years. What if he switched places with Princeton coach Julie Shackford? Would anything be different for the two programs? If anything, Shackford would be more successful at UNC then Dorrance would be here.

So getting back to Wooden and Carril, the two went head-to-head twice, with two UCLA wins, both in years that the Bruins won national titles. The first was a 16-point UCLA win in the 1968 Holiday Festival.

The second was a year later, when the teams played at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. Sidney Wicks hit a jump shot in the final seconds to give the Bruins a 76-75 win, despite 28 points from Geoff Petrie and 25 from John Hummer.

So who was better, Pete Carril or John Wooden? The fact that the question can even be asked says a lot about Carril.

"One day, I'll be dead," Carril once said. "Two guys will walk by my grave, and one will say to the other 'poor guy never won a national championship,' and I won't hear a word they say."

His point? Coaching is coaching, and stats don't necessarily tell you who is the best at it.

Monday, June 7, 2010


TigerBlog was going through his Saturday routine - which can be summed up in two words: "youth lacrosse" - when he received a text message from Craig Sachson, Princeton's rowing contact.

The message said simply "24."

It took TB less than a second to figure out what Sachson was talking about. His message - 24 - was an indication that Princeton's men's lightweight rowing team had won the IRA national championship.

Sure enough, that was in fact the case
. For the record, Princeton broke the Cooper River course record with a time of 5:36.07, nearly one full second better than runner-up Navy.

For Princeton, it was the second straight men's lightweight national championship, accomplished with a boat that had only two seniors in it. One of them, Jack Leonard, shared the 2010 Roper Trophy as one of the top senior male athletes.

The win was a great one for the lightweight rowers themselves, and for first-year head coach Marty Crotty. Back in 1998, Crotty was one of the best rowers in the national championship heavyweight boat, making him one of the few people to win a national championship as a coach and athlete. That list is even shorter when you narrow it to doing it at the same school.

In fact, how long is that list at Princeton? Well, Crotty has now done it. Greg Hughes, who won two national champions as a lightweight rower and then coached the lightweight men to last year's national championship has done it.

Who else? Bob Callahan has done it in men's squash. Emily Goodfellow did it in women's squash.

TB thinks that's the whole list. Is he forgetting anyone?

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, the "24" text message. Sachson's point in the message was that the lightweights had won and therefore extended Princeton's streak of having at least one team or individual national champion to 24 straight years.

This time, it went pretty close to the wire. The only athletes left to compete for the 2009-10 academic year are track-and-field athletes at the NCAA finals, where an individual championship is a possibility but not exactly a sure thing.

Much has been made here about the streak of winning the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship each of the last 24 years, and not as much has been said about having a national champ each year.

Still, it's a remarkable accomplishment for any school, especially a non-scholarship school. Yes, you could point out the obvious, that Princeton's national championship streak is confined to six sports, and Princeton starts out with a huge advantage in two of those.

The sports that make up the streak are rowing, squash, swimming, fencing, track and field and lacrosse. For a few years, the individual championships of Yasser El Halaby kept it going all by themselves.

Rowing and squash are smaller communities, as are fencing and lacrosse, for that matter. And Princeton should be ultra-competitive in those sports, given its tradition, facilities and expectations.

Still, to go 24 straight years without having one in which everyone came up a little short is remarkable. To be able to have at least one team or individual national champion for that long is an amazing streak.

So congratulations to the men's lightweight rowers.

And thanks to them, for bringing Princeton to 24 - and counting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Any Other Questions For The Student-Athletes?

When TigerBlog arrived at Lot D for the men's lacrosse championships last weekend, the first two people he saw were Chuck and Eddie Timanus, who were getting out of their own car.

"Which one of you drove?" TigerBlog asked. The question drew chuckles for the Timanuses.

For those who don't know, Eddie Timanus is blind. Hasn't been able to see since he was 3.

TB would use a lot of words to describe Eddie; "handicapped" isn't one of them. Eddie Timanus is a sportswriter for USA Today, as well as the winner of a considerable amount of money as a five-time "Jeopardy" champion and a contestant on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"

Chuck is Eddie's father, as well a grad of Cortland State (Bill Tierney's alma mater) who has ties to Georgetown (where John Thompson is the coach), which makes him okay with TB. After parking, the Timanuses went to the stadium store and bought a t-shirt for Eddie's six-year-old son.

They are quite a pair, Chuck and Eddie. They are usually at the center of all conversations in the press box, and it's not long before one or both is either laughing or making everyone else laugh.

The press box at M&T Bank Stadium last weekend was filled with familiar faces, not just Eddie's and Chuck's. Everywhere TB looked, he saw someone he's known for years, dating back to his own newspaper days.

There was Christian Swezey, who fits in well with the Timanus crowd. Like them, Swezey is extraordinarily nice and quick to laugh, and he somehow seems to be up on the latest news in the lives of everyone in the press box. He doesn't just say "hey, how are you" or "what's new;" instead, he is that rarest of people who actually wants to know how you are and what's new.

There was Gary Lambrecht, who is more the quintessential sportswriter, with a bit of an edge to him.

There was Dana O'Neil, the wife of Princeton athletic trainer George O'Neil. TigerBlog actually fixed George and Dana up; there are currently two married couples who owe it all to TB.

It was good to see all of them. Always is.

The interesting part to TB about seeing all of these people - as well as many others - came when they were in the postgame interview area. TigerBlog-Baltimore served as the moderator for the room, and if there was a hall of fame for press conference moderators, TB-Baltimore would definitely be in it.

Anyway, TB-Baltimore asked all of the media people to say their name and affiliation before asking their questions. Unlike, say, 10 years ago, when everyone was at a newspaper, almost everyone who asked a question was from an online publication, including Christian, Gary and Dana.

It's not exactly Earth-shattering news to learn that newspapers aren't what they once where and that online sites are dominating sports media these days. Still, to have it reinforced so clearly caught TB's attention.

It wasn't that long ago that the NCAA wouldn't have credentialed bloggers or on-line writers. Now the press box is dominated by them.

TB saw this when Princeton hosted the quarterfinals; almost no requests were made by newspapers. On the other hand, TB did receive multiple requests from and, two sites that offer all kinds of content, photos and, especially laxpower, fan interaction. Neither has any need for even one piece of paper.

Even the newspaper reporters who were in Baltimore - say, Dave Rahme of the Post-Standard who was covering Le Moyne in the DII final - are writing as much for the paper's website as anything that will be in print.

And none of that includes Inside Lacrosse, the organization that currently dominates lacrosse media coverage. Inside Lacrosse still prints its magazine, but it also updates its website every day. TB isn't sure how many credentials IL got for the Final Four, but there were a ton of writers there from the publication there, all doing different tasks, from in-game blogging to postgame write-ups to behind-the-scenes stories and video interviews and so on.

Of course, the point to all of this isn't just related to the changing media. It's also related to how this changing media has led directly to the growth of lacrosse.

The internet and television brought lacrosse to everyone in the country, not just to the traditional hotspots of Baltimore, Long Island and Syracuse. Today Division I rosters have players from all over the country. And how did they get into the sport? They saw it online, just like kids from Baltimore.

TigerBlog is fascinated by how much the profession he got into nearly 30 years ago has evolved and will continue to evolve.

It's something he has written about a great deal, and he will continue to do so, so clearly his radar is up on the subject.

Still, every now and then something happens to reinforce it, and last week's experience at the Final Four was one of them.

It's a whole new world. TigerBlog loves to see it, but he also will always love the good old days.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Perfectly Logical

Empathy is not exactly TigerBlog's best thing. Still, he couldn't help but feel for Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga after what happened last night.

By now, everyone knows the story. Galarraga set down the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced last night and was one out from a perfect game. Jason Donald hit a ground ball between first and second that Miguel Cabrera fielded and tossed to Galarraga, who was covering first. Though Donald was clearly out by a full step, umpire Jim Joyce called him safe.

Of course, the video confirms that Donald was out and that Galarraga should have had a perfect game. Instead, Galaragga had to settle for a one-hit shutout; more importantly, it's unlikely that he will approach a perfect game again in his career.

As an aside, did you notice how well Galaragga seemed to take it? He gave Joyce a quick smile of disbelief and then went back to pitch.

TigerBlog is a staunch opponent of the use of instant replay in games, not because of the ability of replay to show mistakes by officials but because of how it is applied. If anything has ever confirmed this for TB, it's what happened last night.

Replay in sports should correct egregious mistakes like the one last night, not be used to go frame-by-frame to try to find some possible reason to change a call and in the process destroy the flow of a game as in football or give the refs a chance to be the center of attention as in basketball.

Still, in this case, it's obvious what Major League Baseball should do, for everyone's sake. Joyce, for instance, immediately said that he blew the call after watching it on instant replay. Does MLB really want Joyce, by all accounts a fine umpire, to be haunted by this?

No, what Major League Baseball should do is say that Donald was out, the next at-bat never happened and Galarraga has a perfect game. After all, that's exactly what happened.

If sports can ever figure out a way to have replay correct such situations, then TB would be all for it.

The recent NCAA men's lacrosse tournament experimented with instant replay in a pretty good way. Each Division I game, and the DII and DIII finals, had a monitor at midfield, and there would be an automatic review of any goal scored in the final two seconds of a quarter.

TB saw in person six of the 16 DI games and the DII and DIII championship games, and in those eight games, which involved 32 quarters, only once was replay used. That was at halftime of the DII game, at which Matt Chadderdon of Le Moyne rocketed a no-look shot into the goal.

From watching it in person, it appeared that the goal did not beat the horn. In watching it on replay, it clearly didn't. End of discussion.

There was no need to stop the game in mid-quarter to review something that ultimately wouldn't impact the outcome anyway, another of TB's replay peeves. Does a first down in the second quarter really make the difference in a game? No, it doesn't.

Maybe the lacrosse model is a good one. Only review scoring plays at the very end of a quarter.

One event that is begging for trouble is the World Cup, which has no use of replay. TB would use replay on that level on every single goal scored in order to make sure nobody gets robbed when they were clearly offsides or something similar or, as was the case in qualifying, that a handball doesn't vault France in ahead of Ireland.

The call in the Tigers' game last night got TB thinking about any similar situations for another group of Tigers, the Princeton Tigers. Have there been any simply awful calls that TB could think of from Princeton events?

In fairness to the officials who call games here, TB could think of very few. Oh, there was the night at Temple when Will Venable's drive as time expired was clearly goaltended, and the non-whistle left the Tigers on the wrong end of a two-point game instead of headed to overtime.

And TB can think of some nights when the officiating has been inconsistent or flat-out bad. Still, he can't think of too many times when the refs have made one specific call that has completely impacted the outcome.

Back when TB was at the newspaper, he covered a Trenton State-Stockton State New Jersey Athletic Conference men's basketball playoff game. TSC needed the game to get into the NCAA tournament, as TB recalls, or perhaps it was the last game of the regular season and TSC needed it to get into the NJAC tournament.

Either way, a guy named Charles Dudley hit a jump shot seemingly as time expired to give TSC a one-point lead, a shot that resulted in a massive celebration as Dudley was mobbed on the court by his teammates.

Except for one problem. The refs ruled that Stockton had called timeout and put some fraction of a second back on the clock (this was before the clock stopped on a made basket in the final minute; TB swears there was no time on the clock when Dudley's shot went in anyway). Then they called every TSC player who left the bench and came onto the court to celebrate for a technical foul. The result was chaos and a Stockton win.

Afterwards, TSC coach Donnie Marsh - as nice a guy as TB has ever met - said that he disagreed with the call but that you can't put yourself in position to let the refs impact the outcome of a game.

After the DII men's lacrosse final, TB walked to the parking lot with the ref who had made the split-second call of no-goal at the end of the first half. TB complimented him on making the right call, and he laughed and said something along the lines of "we usually do."

He's right. And when they don't, replay can be used to correct the mistake. It's just that it in its current application, replay use in sports is a disaster.

A good start in the right direction would be giving Galarraga his perfect game. After all, he earned it.