Friday, July 30, 2010

LeBron Again?

There was a time when people actually liked LeBron James.

TigerBlog was one of them. He admired the way James played hard, made everyone around him better, actually passed the ball (perhaps as well as anyone since Magic Johnson). TB especially liked how grounded he appeared, given that he had been fawned all over his entire life, and that he had single-handedly turned around his hometown team in Cleveland.

That time when people liked him seems like a long, long time ago. If you do word association with the next person you see and ask him or her to say the first thing that pops into their mind about James, you'll get words like these:

* narcissistic
* spoiled
* selfish
* self-absorbed

All of this, of course, came about because of the way James handled the announcement of his decision to move from the Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, on a made-for-ESPN event that was called "The Decision." The way it's worked out, perhaps a better name would have been "The Decision To Destroy All The Good Will I've Built Up."

ESPN's ombudsman ripped the show and his home network's role in it, citing so many of the obvious reasons why it was an awful decision to run "The Decision."

Even when it seemed like the hits to James had started to decrease, along comes another mess between the star player and the network.

For those who didn't see this, James spent a weekend in Las Vegas, and apparently an writer was in attendance by James' invitation. The writer then filed a story about the experiences, and his story plays to the self-indulgent "I am king" side of James.

The story was on briefly earlier this week before being yanked away. Eventually, ESPN put out a statement that said that the story shouldn't have been up and that the reporter never identified himself as such to James and the people he was with.

This being 2010, the story can be found in any number of other places online, including at Deadspin, which is where TB read it.

When you read the story, you'll realize that there's nothing to it. A 25-year-old with all the money in the world goes to Las Vegas and does what you'd expect. So what?

It would have been forgotten five second after it was read had ESPN not pulled it.

Instead, it becomes another reason to rip on James and even more of a reason to rip on ESPN, which appears to now have an investment in James and is killing a story to protect its investment. The idea that ESPN is simply a news organization, particularly as it relates to James, is gone all together.

Meanwhile, there are all kinds of questions left to ask about the issues raised by the James situation with ESPN and how they apply to the world of sports media in general in the present. What are the rules today?

When TB first started at the newspaper business, rule No. 1 was this: The news is the news; your covering the news is not news. In other words, people care about the game or the off-field news; they don't care about what the reporter had to go through to write about it.

The late Marvin Bressler used to talk to TB all the time about how amazed he was that sportswriters would write about themselves and how this player didn't talk to them or how the press box changed from a central location to one behind the end zone. Why should I as the reader, Marv would say, care about any of that?

Fast forwarding to today, the number of old-fashioned newspaper stories continues to dwindle, replaced by the less-formal blogging. Even TB has become what he hated most as a sportswriter and for much of his athletic communications career, during which he almost never would speak in first person or talk about his own experiences covering Princeton teams. TigerBlog is basically doing those things on a daily basis.

In fact, the very thing that ESPN says it pulled its story for - not being clear about being on the record - is something that TB violates pretty much every day, when he tells his anecdotes about people who never said they were on the record. Still, it seems fairly standard practice these days.

There are a handful of sites that TB likes to go to on a regular basis, and only one of them - the website for the New York Post - is for a traditional newspaper.

The one site that TB likes to think has embraced the world of new media the best is Inside Lacrosse, which recently finished with blanket coverage of the World Championships in England. There was everything you could want on IL's site - video, audio, in-game blogs, first-person FlipCam accounts of the off-the-field experience by players on various teams. What more could you need - except perhaps a traditional 1,200-word game story, and hey, it's one of TB's well-established beliefs that the last thing anyone reads anymore is a game story.

One thing that was obvious from IL's coverage was that they sent their in-house guys to cover the event, as they were everywhere on the site. They also spent much of their time writing about what they (the reporters) did while they weren't covering games. This violates the "your covering the news is not news" tenet, but TB in 2010 doesn't object as much as he used to (though certainly more than most people probably do).

TB also is a frequent visitor to Jon Solomon's, which has some original written content - mostly in the form of postgame recaps - as well as links to any and all things Princeton basketball.

TB is also a fan of Bruce Wood's Dartmouth blog, Big Green Alert, even if he's not an actual Dartmouth fan. TB just likes the way it's all presented, with its mix of original commentary, links to other sites and straight news. Like IL and Solomon's site, this site gives a pretty good indication of where niche coverage (the sport of lacrosse, Dartmouth sports) is going.

There are other blogs - youth sports, politics - and such that TB goes to regularly. Like IL and the two Ivy sites, these are ones that are updated for the most part every day, which is important in getting people into the habit of going there.

TigerBlog, too, is updated every day. The habit of going to a site can be broken quite easily, after all, and the No. 1 way to make that happen is to not keep the content fresh.

Maybe the No. 2 way is to become so out of control with crossing the line between traditional rules of journalism and doing what ESPN has done with James. In just the last few weeks, for instance, it has paid for the right to have James make his announcement on its air, it has distorted the coverage so that it was all James all the time and now has killed a story that wasn't even that unflattering.

Lessons to be learned? Media might not be what it used to be, but some ways of doing things are still wrong. Thankfully.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Help Wanted

A guy puts a sign in his store window. It says "Help Wanted. Must be able to work with computers, know how to use PhotoShop and be bilingual."

A little while later, a dog walked into the store with the help wanted sign in his mouth. He puts the sign down and starts barking at the store owner, who gets a confused look on his face.

The dog then hops up on the computer table and starts typing away. After a few minutes, he hits the print button, and out comes a document all about dogs, with facts and graphics and everything.

The store owner looks over the paper while the dog barks again.

Then the dog takes out his digital camera, takes the owner's picture, connects the camera to the computer and begins to make all different versions of it in PhotoShop. Again, he prints it out and shows the owner, barking the whole time.

The owner looks at the dog and says "wow, this is great. You can use computers. You know PhotoShop. Tell me, are you bilingual?"

And the dog looks at the store owner and says:


TigerBlog will now give you a few moments to laugh.

Actually, when TigerBlog first heard that joke, the help wanted sign said the store owner was looking for someone who could type and file and was bilingual. TB simply updated it for the modern workplace, which no longer is filled with typewriters and filing cabinets.

Fictitious store owners who serve as straight men to punchline-delivering dogs are not the only ones who are looking for different skill sets these days.

The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) have a website ( that tracks transactions in the sports information field. The most recent transaction is this one:

Bradley - Julie Kindinger named Coordinator of Creative Production. Previously, Kindinger was the audio/video production coordinator for Global Spectrum at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., since 2007.

Bradley, of course, is the home of former Princeton Executive Associate Athletic Director Michael Cross, who has been the Director of Athletics at Bradley for the last six months.

While at Princeton, Cross was an important proponent of decisions that helped move us away from printed pieces and into the multi-media world. These decisions led to launching the video site (, as well as TigerCast, the podcasting effort that started last year as well.

TB assumes that Kindinger's position at Bradley, given her background, will be part of an expansion of the multimedia efforts for

Bradley is not the only one who is now hiring people to work in-house whose focus will be video. A week ago, UMass had this for transactions: Hired Sean McCluskey as athletic media relations video production assistant. McCluskey comes to UMass from Plattsburgh State (NY).

Two weeks ago, the Southern Conference had this: Calhoun Hipp III named media relations assistant and Jamie Lillard selected for newly created multimedia services assistant position. A Rhodes College graduate, Hipp spent last season with the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and also assists the South Carolina media relations office. Lillard is a 2010 graduate of Wofford College.

There are, of course, many more transactions that announce hirings of people to positions like sports information assistant and such, and there is no way to tell how many of those people are being hired with an eye towards multimedia.

As an aside, the word "intern" is disappearing as well; there were four hired this month, while in July 2004, there were 14.

Here at HQ, we used to have a publications person, whose job was strictly to do publications and not to cover sports. That position was shifted to a traditional athletic communications spot after the second publications person (John Cornell) left in 2003, and hirings done since have depended heavily on the applicant's ability to do publications and cover sports.

And now, publications are largely a thing of the past. Today, all the people hired because of their publications skills have been shifted to doing video and audio work, in addition to covering sports. Publications is a tiny, tiny part of it.

Judging by the transactions trends, the world of college athletics is starting to go in the same direction.

Wonder what the July 2015 transactions will look like.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Abbott And Costello

TigerBlog's channel flipping the other night never made it past TMC, which had a triple-feature of "Buck Privates," "Ride 'Em Cowboy" and The Noose Hangs High."

As anyone who grew up in the 1970s in the New York area and watched Channel 11 Sunday mornings at 11:30 knows, those three movies all belong to the legendary comedy team of Abbott and Costello.

"Buck Privates" was the first movie for the duo, who started their movie career in 1941 as an extension of their vaudeville days. The straight man was Bud Abbott, who grew up in Asbury Park, and the portly man with the punchlines was Lou Costello, who grew up in Paterson and was a boxer before turning to show business.

Together they made 36 movies in 14 years, from 1941-1955, and they were the No. 1 box office team the entire time. And years later, every Sunday at 11:30, Channel 11 would show one of them.

TB has seen every one of them a bunch of times, though not for years. And so, when he saw the tripleheader the other day, he was hooked.

Most Abbott and Costello movies were the same. The two buddies would find themselves unwittingly thrust into the middle of some situation, and they would just as unwittingly become the heroes of the situation. Along the way, Abbott would torture Costello verbally, but Lou would sometimes get back at Bud.

TB's three favorite Abbott and Costello movies are "The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap," "Comin' Round the Mountain" and "The Time Of Their Lives." The first two follow the familiar script; the third is unique in that Abbott (a modern-day psychiatrist and the descendant of a Revolutionary War traitor, whom Abbott plays in the beginning of the movie) and Costello (a ghost whose character was mistaken for a traitor during the Revolution) don't play off each other much.

Of course, the two are most famous for their routines, especially "Who's On First," which originated as a skit on a radio show and later was in the movie "The Naughty Nineties."

TigerBlog remains a huge fan of the two, long after their deaths (Costello died in 1959 shortly before his 54th birthday; Abbott died in 1974 at the age of 78).

TB was also a huge fan of the Marx Brothers. He liked Dean Martin more than Jerry Lewis, and he never really got into Laurel and Hardy.

And, since Channel 11 long ago stopped showing the old Abbott and Costello movies, there are probably fewer than, oh, 10% of current Princeton athletes who can identify them.

Anyway, a more modern version of a comedy duo was formed in Cincinnati, when the Bengals signed Terrell Owens to pair with Chad Ochocinco. You want to talk about funny? How about the two of them on the same team?

It was brought to TB's attention this morning that becoming the Princeton head football coach spared Bob Surace from having a front-row seat for the Owens-Ochocino show.

Actually, Owens and Ochocinco are more alike than just being me-first attention grabbers who've been known to destroy team chemistry. In fact, they both feel that they are actually misunderstood and misrepresented and that they practice hard and play hard all the time, even hurt. They don't get arrested, and they don't do drugs.

In contemporary American sporting society, doesn't this pass for being a good guy? Or is the bar so low that often-boorish behavior doesn't make you a bad guy?

Either way, Surace walked away from coaching with the Bengals to become Princeton's head coach. Now, while NFL training camps are starting, Surace is removed from that, still a few weeks away from his first Princeton preseason.

Here in the Ivy League, football season doesn't start until Sept. 18, and practice doesn't start until late August.

The NFL preseason, of course, is about to start. If there's any doubt what the No. 1 sport in this country is, check out the amount of attention paid to mundane practices, let alone the games themselves.

In most of college football, teams are getting ready to get started in the next week or so, though the start of the regular season doesn't come around until Sept. 2

TigerBlog has said this often, but he is a big fan of the way the Ivy League does it, with 10 games in 10 weeks and no off-weeks built in. The schedule does not start before Labor Day and run until after Thanksgiving.

And of course there is no postseason, which is clearly the No. 1 thing most Ivy League fans would change about their league.

TB hates the postseason in the FBS, but the FCS is different, with its 16-team tournament. TB understands why the Ivy League does not participate, as the foundation of the league was built on no athletic scholarships or postseason for football.

And TB is looking forward to the 2010 football season, especially to see how Surace begins to make his mark on the program. And, for that matter, to see what he's like on game day, how he runs his team, what his in-game and post-game personality is like.

And even something simple, like what he and the coaches will wear during the games.

Princeton football has a new head coach for 2010, one who could have been spending his time shaking his head at TO and Ochocinco. Instead, he's here, getting ready for his first run through the league.

In a few weeks, at least.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


TigerBlog, in the pre-computer days, remembers the time he had 25-page papers due on consecutive days. The first was on FCC regulation of commercial television; the second was on the origins of the Cold War.

TB had not started either one by the weekend before, and yet he churned both out on his little electric typewriter and handed them in on time.

Of course, given that this was the early 1980s, the topics were vastly different than they would be under today's framework.

For the first topic, for instance, if you remember George Carlin's famous routine of "The Seven Words You Can't Say On TV," TB is pretty sure he's heard four, or maybe even five, on network television since he wrote his paper.

As for the second, TB's paper ended up being only 18 pages, instead of the required 25. When the professor gave them back, TB remembers how she said she was disappointed in them and that there were only two A's in the entire class (of about 20 kids).

TigerBlog figured he was in trouble because his was too short. When TB got his back, his grade was an A-minus, which left TB to wonder if there were two others who got A's and a bunch of A-minuses, or did TB's A-minus count as one of the A's.

After all these years, TB has kept that paper around, stored in a box with some other college papers and a bunch of early TB newspaper clippings. Every now and then, TB goes through the box, and he always chuckles at what the professor wrote in her comments:
"A well-written analysis. If there is a criticism, it is that you tend to accept at face value everything written or said by an American and are quite less willing to accept the words of the Soviets."

TB didn't keep the paper on the FCC. He's pretty sure he got a B on that one; it was a fairly common TB grade.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the experience of writing those two papers started him down his career path of being deadline driven, something that was reinforced completely during his 11 years in the newspaper business.

TB is not so much a procrastinator as he is aware of when things are due. If it's due on the 15th, don't look for it on the 14th. But you definitely won't have to wait until the 16th.

Through all the years, the one deadline that TB struggled the most with was getting the Princeton football media guide done in time for Ivy League football media day.

TB was the football contact for nine seasons (1994-2002), which means he did nine football media guides. He's not sure when Ivy League football media day started, but it was in the late 90s.

Each year, the struggle was to avoid being the only school not to have its guide at football media day. No matter what, TB was going to avoid having that distinction.

To get it done, he would count backwards with the printer for how long it would take to print and then figure out what day the printer had to have it. Working with that deadline, TB never missed getting one done - but he never had it to the printer early either.

TB thought back to those experiences with some sense of nostalgia, as neither media guides nor media day exist anymore.

The media day itself used to be held at a centralized location, usually on or near the Yale campus and in conjunction with Ivy League sports information meetings the day before. Media day included a session where the eight coaches would speak, and then reporters could ask questions.

When that part was over, there was lunch and golf. Probably a little less than half of the times TB played golf in his life was at an Ivy football media day.

Ask anyone who attended all of those sessions what the highlight was, and they'll probably all come back with time Harvey Yavener insulted the head of officials.

Somewhere along the line, someone from the Ivy League office came up with the idea - a very good one, by the way - that the supervisor of officials could come and brief the media on rule changes. Unfortunately on this occasion, the official went line-by-line of every rule change, which dragged out his time well beyond its allotted space.

When he got around to talking about changes in having towels attached to pants, Yav had had enough.

"Can you speed this up?" Yav interrupted. "We've got interviews to do."

TB assumes that anyone who was there remembers that one.

Anyway, there was always a table in the back of the room to place your media guides on, and TB always took great pride in putting his Princeton ones out there, right on time.

Today, Ivy football media day has been replaced with a conference call of the league head coaches.

Media guides are no longer being done, a decision Princeton made a year earlier than the NCAA.

The good of the new media world so far outweighs the bad that there can be no arguing that it's been a positive thing for college athletics and college athletic communications offices.

Still, as with progress everywhere, there is something to be said about a simpler time.

TB sort of misses the days when getting the media guide done was a great accomplishment - but he would never want to go back to doing it again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Meagan's Mom

Of all of the thousands of athletes who have come through here during TigerBlog's time, there hasn't been one quite like Meagan Cowher.

When word first came that Cowher was going to be playing basketball here, everyone's thought was the same: Bill Cowher's daughter is coming to Princeton. It didn't take her long to step way out of her father's shadow to create her own legacy here as one of the best female athletes in school history, as well as one of the most liked.

Bill Cowher, of course, was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time. During Meagan's sophomore year, the Steelers won the Super Bowl; one of the enduring memories of the post-game celebration is Meagan, her two sisters and her mother on the podium with Cowher as confetti rained around them.

It was that moment that TB first thought of when he saw this weekend that Kaye Cowher had passed away at the young age of 54, the victim of skin cancer.

Kaye Cowher was more than just the wife of a football coach and the mother of three girls who grew up to be basketball players themselves (Lauren followed Meagan to Princeton, though she did not play basketball beyond her freshman year; Lindsey plays at Wofford).

Kaye herself was a great basketball player at a time when the women's game didn't enjoy nearly the popularity it does today. She played at North Carolina State, helping the Wolfpack to the first women's ACC title, and she then went on to play in a professional women's league.

It is because of the dedication of pioneering athletes like Kaye Cowher that so many little girls who followed have had the opportunities that they have, in basketball and all sports. The idea that girls would be prevented from playing sports is ridiculous today; not that long ago, it was a reality.

One of the little girls who took full advantage of her opportunities was Kaye's oldest daughter.

Everything about Meagan Cowher screamed out to be noticed during her four years at Princeton. She was a great athlete, an undergraduate student leader who took a lead role in the Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee and above all a friendly young woman who was always smiling her dazzling smile.

By the end of her career, she had come with 12 points of Sandi Bittler's career record for points in women's baketball with 1,671, and no men's player other than Bill Bradley has ever scored more points at Princeton than Cowher. She was one of two winners of the 2008 von Kienbusch Award as the top senior female athlete.

Since the inception of the Princeton Athletics website, Meagan Cowher's bio is by far the most viewed of any individual athlete. For the record, current men's lacrosse player Jack McBride is second all-time, while recently graduated men's hockey goalie Zane Kalemba ranks third.

Of any athlete who has competed here during TB's time, Cowher also had by far the most interview requests, largely to talk about her father. This wasn't easy for Cowher, who was asked over and over the same questions by people who knew little about her and who were usually just going down the same formulaic path (father is a successful football coach with three daughters and a big chin).

Despite this, Cowher almost always obliged. She spent literally hours answering the same questions over and over, always politely.

Her parents were regulars at Princeton games, especially after Cowher retired from coaching after Meagan's junior year and began to work on television.

TigerBlog never spoke to Bill or Kaye Cowher, and he knew Meagan on a "hi, how are you?" basis.

The most time TB ever spent with Meagan was when CNN wanted to interview her before the Super Bowl, and TB went with her to the studio they used in the Carnegie Center, a five-minute ride across Route 1.

Still, you didn't have to be around her much to know that she has a special quality about her. Part of that came from growing up so close to the spotlight, but much of it is simply innate.

The scene of the podium after the Super Bowl is blended with today's scene, of a family mourning the loss of its young matriarch, a family with such strong ties to Princeton Athletics, a family whose oldest daughter left such a mark on this University and especially this athletic department.

TigerBlog wishes them all the best in this saddest time for them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

PWCD: Guest-TB's Day With A Knight

Note - TigerBlog has a standing offer to all Princeton coaches to have the forum for a day on any subject they'd like. Men's soccer coach Jim Barlow is the first to take TB up on it:

If you are like me, you’ve noticed many people in the Princeton area have contracted the terrible affliction known as PWCD (post-World Cup depression) over the past couple of weeks. After a month of non-stop matches, lots of drama, and several clinics in skill and possession from the Spanish, it all ended so abruptly. For Princeton University soccer people the empty feeling is even greater, as we began the summer by hosting the US Men’s National Team on Myslik Field in Roberts Stadium. We had the best players in the country here for a week. We had great soccer at our fingertips. We were spoiled.

Now, with over a month left before college soccer begins, what is a soccer fan to do? Watch baseball? That’s also become difficult if you are a Mets or Phillies fan. Fortunately, several options remain. To the north, the NY Red Bulls are having a good season, opened up a beautiful new stadium, and this week signed and introduced the legendary French international Thierry Henry into their line-up. To the south, the expansion Philadelphia Union are playing their inaugural season in MLS and also opened an incredible new stadium (PPL Park) in Chester.

Both franchises have scheduled friendly matches in July against some of the best European professional teams who travel to the US for preseason. Good soccer, yes, but the World Cup? No.

So what to do to cure PWCD while waiting for preseason to arrive? Guest-TB feels like he did when he was a kid and the family decided to drive somewhere (like Florida) for vacation. It just seemed like we had so far to go until we got there, and we just wanted the fun part to arrive already. To pass the time on these long journeys, we’ve all posed hypothetical questions to each other, like, If you could invite a famous person to lunch, who would it be?

Would it be an actor, a politician, an expert in your favorite field, a musician, a religious leader? An athlete or coach? Would it be TigerBlog (Or, maybe the better question is, who would TB choose –I sense that blog in the near future)?

One person any soccer fan would want to invite to lunch is Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of the most successful franchise in professional sports, Manchester United. A native of Scotland, Sir Alex took over a struggling Man United in 1986, and over the past 25 years he has won, among other trophies, 11 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two UEFA Champions League titles, and a FIFA Club World Cup. In 1998/1999 the club became the only English team to ever win the elusive “treble” as the Reds captured the Premiership title, the FA Cup, and the Champions League trophy. The success led to Ferguson being “knighted” and thus the “Sir” before his name. What an honor it would be to have lunch with Sir Alex and to hear his thoughts on the game, coaching, and some of his experience working with athletes like Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, and Christiano Ronaldo.

But who would Sir Alex invite to lunch?

Well, how about Civil War historian and Princeton Emeritus Professor James McPherson, who arrived on campus in 1962 and, after his Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era won the Pulitzer Prize, became one of the nation’s most famous historians?

On Wednesday, Guest-TB had the privilege of sitting in on a lunch at Prospect House that included, among other distinguished guests, both Sir Alex Ferguson and Professor James McPherson. Sir Alex is in the States for preseason with Manchester United, and the team set up camp in Philadelphia prior to Wednesday night’s friendly against the Union (Manchester won the match, 1-0). An avid reader of Civil War history, Sir Alex used some time off to visit Gettysburg and was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Professor McPherson at Prospect House and hear more about it.

There I was, sitting across the table from arguably the greatest Civil War historian in the world and the greatest soccer coach in the world. Both men are well past 65 but have more energy than most of the players I coach. They spoke of turning points in the war, naval blockades, Union and Confederate strategies, and lessons from Gettysburg. It was fascinating. The most striking similarities between Sir Alex and Professor McPherson are their passion, their desire to learn, and their ability to be fully engaged in the moment. For such enormously successful living legends, they have no ego, no arrogance. Their energy is contagious and you can’t help but feel fueled by their passion for what they do.

Having lunch with Sir Alex and Professor McPherson reminded me of a book I recently read (and highly recommend) called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, who visits centers of excellence around the world and tries to explain how greatness is “grown.” Part of the process, according to Coyle, involves “master coaching.” He explains what he observed about master coaches:

…They were mostly older; many had been teaching thirty or forty years. They possessed the same sort of gaze: steady, deep, unblinking. They listened far more than they talked. They seemed allergic to giving pep talks or inspiring speeches…They had an extraordinary sensitivity to the person they were teaching, customizing each message to each student’s personality. After meeting a dozen of these people, I started to suspect that they were all secretly related (p. 162).

Master coaches aren’t like heads of state. They aren’t like captains who steer us across the unmarked sea, or preachers on a pulpit, ringing out the good news…They possess vast, deep frameworks of knowledge, which they apply to the steady, incremental work of growing skill circuits, which they ultimately don’t control (pp. 165-166)

I was able to witness first hand what Coyle was describing. How fortunate was I to spend a couple of hours with two masters of master coaching.

And what better way to get over PWCD.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

FatherBlog grew up in Brooklyn, where he was one of the few New York Giants fans during baseball season. Everyone else around him, of course, rooted for the Dodgers.

This was during the late 1940s and into the 1950s, before the Dodgers and Giants bolted for California, back when the Dodgers played at Ebbetts Field and the Giants played at the Polo Grounds.

Ebbetts Field was in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, where today stand the Jackie Robinson Apartments. The Polo Grounds sat on Coogan's Bluff, or actually under Coogan's Bluff, above the Harlem River across from Yankee Stadium; today, it is also an apartment complex.

Back then, though, Ebbetts Field and the Polo Grounds were baseball sanctuaries, the home to two beloved franchises who spent their entire existences trying to overcome each other and then, in some miraculous years, those "Damn Yankees."

The Giants and Dodgers featured legendary players and managers. Their rivalry was one of the greatest in the history of American sports.

It peaked in 1951, when the Giants came from 13.5 games back on Aug. 11 to catch the Dodgers, winning 16 straight games along the way at one point. The result was a best-of-three playoff for the National League pennant (there was no NLCS until expansion in 1969 and no wild cards until 1995; back then, the two league champions went directly to the World Series).

The Giants, of course, won the pennant on Bobby Thomson's three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3. Thomson hit it barely above the short 315-foot sign in left field, off of Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, with then-rookie Willie Mays in the on-deck circle.

If you make a list of the greatest moments in American sports history, "The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff" has to be in the Top 10, maybe Top 5. For his part, FatherBlog had made bets with his Dodger friends and had paid them off before the Giants scored four times in the ninth, so his story always revolves around how he had to get his money back and his winnings.

To hear FatherBlog talk about the days of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers is to understand the love that people of his generation had for their baseball teams. It goes beyond simply being a fan, and it's probable that in this day and age, with the way players make so much money and change teams so easily, that having that kind of affection for your team might be impossible.

TigerBlog was a much bigger baseball fan 20 years ago than he is now, and much of that can be attributed to 1) the disaster that Major League Baseball has become and 2) Bill Tierney. Today, TB would consider himself to be a very, very casual baseball fan.

He doesn't check the standings too often, but he did this morning. He knew the Braves, a team he rooted for in the late 1980s and 1990s, were in first, but he didn't realize they were 6.5 games up on the Mets, the team he rooted for in the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Two things TB did know about the 2010 Major League Baseball season were that the Padres were in first (four games ahead of the Giants) and that the Pirates were in last (34-60, 19.5 games out of first and headed to an 18th straight losing season).

The Padres and Pirates (who are 29th and 30th in the Major Leagues in payroll, by the way) are the two teams that have Princeton alums on them, and it hasn't been an easy year for any of the three.

The Padres have two former Princeton baseball/basketball players, Chris Young and Will Venable. Young threw six shutout innings in his first start of the year back on April 6 to beat Arizona - and has been on the disabled list ever since. Young, who has a shoulder issue and who missed much of last year with a back problem, is hoping to be back in August, which would be just in time to see if he can contribute to the pennant race.

Venable has had the best year of the three alums. His batting average is .238, but he has hit 12 home runs, driven in 32 and stolen 15 bases while also being one of the better defensive outfielders in the National League. Plus, his numbers are deceiving because he got off to a very slow start. And like Young, he's been hurt as well, though he played against Cincinnati yesterday in his first game back after being activated.

As for the Pirates, they have Ross Ohlendorf in their rotation, and he pitches tonight against the Brewers. Ohlendorf is 1-7, but he's actually pitched much better than that. His ERA of 4.62 isn't bad, and the pitchers directly above him and below him on the ERA leaders list have records around .500 (Jamie Moyer, for instance, is 9-9 with a 4.84 ERA).

Ohlendorf's last outing lasted less than two innings, but his three before that were all strong. Pitching for the Pirates, though, is not easy.

Still, for Princeton fans, the plus side for this season would be a healthy Young and Venable in the postseason.

It would take a miracle much greater than the one in 1951 to get the Pirates there.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lindsey Lohan And Tiger Football

There are a lot of things in this world that TigerBlog doesn't understand, and the fixation with Lindsey Lohan is near the top of that list.

So Lohan is in jail? Who cares? Who could care about her, let alone want to read story after story on website after website about her conduct and, now, the consequences of it all?

Yes, TB understands the culture of modern-day American society, where the value is on "celebrity" at all costs, regardless of what it takes to achieve that celebrity status. And clearly, the value of "celebrity" far outweighs the value of "talent."

Oh, and as far as talent is concerned, what talent does Lindsey Lohan have? Or any movie star, for that matter? They're no more talented than you are; they just had the right look and got the right break.

And then there is the trainwreck factor. People love to watch the trainwreck, yes.

Still, for all of that, TB doesn't understand the endless Lindsey Lohan coverage. Why her and not someone else? What is it specifically about her that makes her more appealing to the general public? Or, for that matter, to the media?

Anyway, apparently, Lohan has a 90-day sentence, though there is a place you can go to bet on how much time she'll actually serve.

Let's assume for a minute that she goes the full 90 days. That takes her from yesterday through October 18, which means that she would miss half of Princeton's home football schedule.

The 2010 Tigers play six home football games, three before Oct. 18 and three after.

The 2010 season, Bob Surace's first as Tiger head coach, begins with any away game at Lehigh on Sept. 18. By the way, with temperatures still in the 90s for the next five days, the 2010 Princeton football season is just 59 days away.

Anyway, after the Lehigh game, there are four home games in five weeks, including three straight home games at one stretch. It goes like this:
Sept. 18 at Lehigh
Oct. 2 at Columbia
Oct. 16 BROWN
Oct. 30 at Cornell
Nov. 6 PENN
Nov. 13 at Yale

Because of the six home games and four road games and because of who the road opponents are, you could see all 10 Princeton football games this year and not exactly have to travel all that far. Lehigh and Columbia are both an hour from Princeton, while Yale is a little more than two and Cornell is just under four. That's not too bad.

Because of a variety of scheduling issues, Princeton will not have a Thursday or Friday night game. There is good and bad for this, of course.

The down side is that there will be no ESPN game for the football team this year. The plus side is that the Thursday and Friday night games significantly affected attendance.

For instance, the 2009 Princeton-Colgate game on a Thursday night drew 5,685; the home game against Lehigh the year before drew nearly 9,000. It'll be interesting to see what the Princeton-Colgate game on a Saturday afternoon this year brings.

Setting the start times is another matter.

The Dartmouth game, that late in the year, should be a 1 p.m. start. Harvard, with its many alumni activities, is also a 1 p.m. start.

Penn was set by Versus TV as a 3 p.m. start, which is actually TB's preferred start time, even for Nov. 6.

That leaves the three games that Lindsey Lohan might not be able to get to.

The Brown game is at 1, given that the Bears need to travel back to Providence. As for the other two?

Lafayette is a 6 start. It's also Community Day, so activities will begin in the late afternoon. TB loves the early-season start time of 6, since the stadium looks so good under the lights.

TB would have been okay with 3 or even 6 for Colgate as well, but that one will be at 1 instead.

How much does start time impact attendance? Would more people be able to come to the Colgate game at 6, or is the number the same? Are families with kids, a prime Princeton demographic, too busy with their own games (and birthday parties and everything else) to get to Princeton at 1 at that time of year?

If not, then what should be the primary reason for setting the start time? Continuity? Is it important that all the games are at the same times?

Anyway, TB will debate all of those questions for another year. Reviewing for this year:

Lafayette - 6
Colgate - 1
Brown - 1
Harvard - 1
Penn - 3
Dartmouth - 1

See you at Princeton Stadium on Sept. 25. Unless you're one of those no-talent media obsessions who doesn't get an early release.

Then we'll see you here in October.

Just don't expect TB to make a big fuss over you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sizzling In Baltimore

The uniforms were, uh, colorful. The sleeveless jerseys were black, with the word "Kentucky" centered in florescent orange with florescent green outlining. The numbers were gigantic, off to the right on the front, all white.

As for the shorts, well, they were black with checkerboard done in the florescent green and white.

What made these uniforms most interesting, though, wasn't their design or color scheme. Nope, it was the sport.

These were lacrosse uniforms, worn by youth lacrosse players from Kentucky. The competed this weekend at the Summer Sizzle, a tournament held in the heart of lacrosse country, Baltimore.

In the world of youth lacrosse, it doesn't get much better than the Summer Sizzle, which draws teams from all over the country to compete against the best teams in the Maryland area. There are eight divisions in the tournament, from high school down to U-11.

TigerBlog Jr.'s team, Twist, was one of the teams in the U-15B Division, which consists mostly of players who are heading into eighth grade. There is a U-15A Division, which is mostly kids who will be starting high school in the fall.

What was most extraordinary about this tournament was the fact that teams were there from all over the country.

There was a team from Nashville (the Groove). From Houston. From California. From Denver. Two from North Carolina, including a team from Winston-Salem. There were a few from Pittsburgh. There were a few from Virginia. And of course throughout the Northeast.

And of course, there was the team from Kentucky, who went 1-3-1 in its five round-robin games. After one of its games, TigerBlog overheard the coach say in his Kentuckian drawl: "If you throw and catch like that, you won't win a game in KIHN-tuh-kee, let alone up here."

And, in fairness to those who won, well, the eight divisions produced champions from the following areas: seven came from Maryland and one came from Long Island.

The 1992 Princeton men's lacrosse team won the first of the program's six NCAA championships. Of the 48 players on the roster, 20 were from New York and nine were from Maryland. Five more were from New Jersey, and three were from Northern Virginia or D.C.

There was one player from Michigan, and that was David Morrow, who stood out as a complete rarity back in those days. Morrow, of course, went on to become the national Division I Player of the Year and then the founder of Warrior Lacrosse, which was named for his high school, Brother Rice.

In 2001, when Princeton won its sixth championship, the roster consisted of 18 players from New York, nine from Maryland, four from Pennsylvania and three each from Virginia and Colorado. There was also one player from Michigan and one from Texas.

The most recent Princeton team had seven players from New York and eight from Maryland. It also had players from Illinois, California (two), Michigan and Montana, as well as six from Connecticut.

That the sport of lacrosse is growing is obvious. The Summer Sizzle was held on four locations, two for the youth and two for the high school.

Driving from the Maryland Fairgrounds to St. Paul's School at back, TB could see the hundreds of players, all in their wildly colorful uniforms (though not quite like Kentucky).

Of course, not that long ago, lacrosse didn't exist in most of these areas. And, as the number of Division I men's teams continues to remain in the area of about 60, the number of players per roster spot has skyrocketed.

This has put the pressure on the college coaches to find the talent, wherever it is.

And who knows? Maybe one day it will be coming from the kids from Kentucky. Oh wait. It already is; the recent high school All-America list includes three players from Kentucky, two of whom are headed to Division I schools (Providence and Dartmouth).

In fact, Hopkins has a player coming from Indiana. Other non-traditional states who have Division I players on their list: Tennessee, Ohio, Oregon, Maine, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota and even Idaho.

Still, that's not what any of this was about, at least not on the youth level. The players or parents who sit there and think in terms of college scholarships or college roster spots are missing out on the most obvious part of all of this.

TigerBlog Jr.'s team reached the U-15B final, winning all five of its round-robin games (against three teams from Maryland, one from Pittsburgh and one from New Jersey) before taking on a team from Philadelphia in the semifinals.

After that was a 6-4 loss to Hotstix, a team from outside of Baltimore.

TBJ's team had won two of its first three summer tournaments, one in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania. To go to Baltimore and compete so well against the best teams from Maryland and around the country was probably more impressive, but it's hard for a bunch of U15ers to think in those terms sometimes.

Still, after the team lost, nobody threw their equipment or cried or stormed away angrily or any of that.

Besides, when they think back in years to come about how they spent their summers when they were adolescents, they're not going to remember the scores of the games. They're going to remember sitting around a table at a hotel buffet in their own florescent green shirts, about hanging out with friends they made playing a game they loved to play.

Will TBJ or any of his 20 teammates play in college? If they're really lucky, maybe one or two will play Division I, and that would be a lot.

Maybe a few more will play at other levels in college.

The rest will probably play at some point in high school before the maturation process begins to separate the very best.

Still, nothing's going to take away from the experiences that they've gotten to have. That's what the Summer Sizzle - and the rest of the tournaments - are really about.

And it doesn't matter where you're from, Baltimore, Pennsylvania or even Kentucky.

It's a great way to spend your summer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

You May Run Like Mays ...

TigerBlog was in the car last night when he heard on the news that James Gammon had died. It was one of those tease intros to a story where the announcer says that someone had died who was recognizable to most people in every way except for name.

TB's first reaction was, of course, "who died?" Then, when the announcer mentioned that Gammon was a longtime actor whose most famous role was as Lou Brown, the manager of the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 movie "Major League," TB knew exactly who he was.

And TB was sad.

Who couldn't have been a fan of James Gammon, even if you never knew his name? He had a distinctive face and the deepest voice of any actor other than perhaps Sam Elliott.

Gammon's acting career, at least according to his bio on Wikipedia, began in 1968 and continued basically until his death. Along the way, he played characters with names like Peanut John, Clate Connaloe, Ironbutt Garrett and California Joe.

He also played three U.S. Presidents - Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant and Teddy Roosevelt. Is that the record?

TigerBlog remembers his small role in the movie "Silverado," a Western that TB saw when it first came out in 1985. Basically, Scott Glenn tries to trick Gammon's group into thinking that Glenn's group is a bunch of outlaws, when they're clearly the good guys, and everyone falls for it except Gammon, who says "they're gettin' away with the horses" in a way that TB has always remembered.

Of course, he's best known for playing Lou in "Major League." Like most of his characters, Lou is a bit crusty, a bit rough around the edges and completely lovable. He is hired to have the team finish last, but instead they end up winning the division, beating the evil Yankees in a one-game playoff at the end.

As an aside, even Roger Dorn is a more popular athlete in Cleveland these days than LeBron.

Back in his newspaper days, TigerBlog wrote a story about sports movies on the day of the Academy Awards of, probably, 1991 or 1992. Basically, there were two pieces to it. First, TB talked to some film makers and film critics about making sports movies, the problems that are usually encountered, the history and such.

Then, for the second one, TB did his Academy Awards of sports movies, taking the five main categories of Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress, putting down his five nominees in each and then selecting a winner.

The best sports movie of all-time is, of course, "Hoosiers." TB also had "Rocky," "Raging Bull," "The Natural" and "Heaven Can Wait" in his best picture group.

In addition, TB wrote how "Field of Dreams" was one of the worst movies he'd ever seen (he still believes that) because 1) it was too ridiculous, even by fantasy standards and 2) it glorified the Black Sox scandal. He also wrote that "Major League" was a very underrated movie and that it was among the best sports movies ever made.

In his 11 years in the newspaper business, TigerBlog received as much mail for his sports movies stories as he did for every other story he wrote combined. This was back when people had to write actual letters, as opposed to emails or comments on a blog.

Through the years, TB has thought that there has to be a great sports movie waiting to be made about something to do with Princeton sports.

You can actually go two ways with this, one a documentary or two an actual movie. For a documentary, there are endless possibilities, though TB thinks building one around the 2001 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game between Princeton and Syracuse would be a good place to start.

In that game, you had any number of storylines and angles for both teams, especially the emotion of Bill Tierney as he won an NCAA title with his two sons. And aren't great documentaries the ones that take a singular moment and explore it in considerable depth from all sides? It's not the moment itself that is most important; it's the people who went into the moment.

If not that, then perhaps one on Bill Bradley at Princeton? Or how the 1998 men's basketball team came to be together at Princeton? Or the 2004 women's soccer team? Or the very first competition involving women at Princeton?

As for an actual movie, TB is sure that there's an Academy Award out there waiting to be given to the Hobey Baker story, which TB went into a bit last week. Think about it. The story has everything - sports, war, a handsome leading man, some love angles and ultimately a tragic death.

Who wouldn't want to go see that? It would be better than any movie out there lately that isn't "Toy Story 3."

Maybe TB should start writing it and selling it to Hollywood. And get casting on the line.

Oh wait. Sadly, James Gammon can't be in it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Face-Off For Striebel And Boyle

TigerBlog has a black long-sleeve dri-fit shirt that says "England Lacrosse" on it.

While the shirt itself was merely icing on the cake, it has made TB a huge fan of the English national men's lacrosse team.

The shirt was a gift for keeping stats during Princeton's three games against England during its tour of Spain and Ireland in 2008, during which the Tigers beat the English full national team 8-7 and 9-7 and the English U-19 team 15-4. It was given to TB by Ravi Sitlani, one of the coaches of the English team.

TigerBlog was stunned by how well England played the game. The athleticism of the English wasn't too surprising; instead, it was the their comprehension of how to play that was amazing. TB figured they'd be a bunch of ex-soccer guys who had just recently picked up sticks, but that was hardly the case.

Baggie, as he is known to all, is also one of the key organizers for the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England, which started last night with England's 12-3 win over Germany.

As an aside, England lost to Germany 4-1 in the soccer World Cup round of 16; TB is pretty sure that the men's lacrosse win didn't erase that sting for the average English sports fan. As a further aside, England will finish way better in lacrosse than it did in soccer.

Meanwhile, back at the World Championships, Baggie and the rest of the organizers have been dealing with the fallout of an issue that was not their fault at all. The Iroquois Nationals, a team consisting of players from six Iroquois nations, has been trying to travel to England for the event on their native passports, but the British denied them visas to enter the country based on new anti-terrorism travel rules that were implemented.

The Iroquois, who feature some great former and current college players (and who nobody suspects are terrorists), were supposed to be in England almost a week ago, and it was supposed to be England-Iroquois to open the tournament. Instead, the team was forced into a holding pattern in New York City, where it stayed and practiced while trying to solve the problem.

Along the way, some (but not as much as TB thought) national media coverage came out of their situation, almost all of it sympathetic to the Iroquois. And while TigerBlog feels for them, it's not like the World Championships just sprung up on them. The rules are quite clear, and with as much money and effort as the Nationals had tied up in the trip, TB figures that they would have had it straightened out well in advance.

Anyway, with the situation still uncertain, the organizers of the tournament had to drop the Iroquois down one group in the tournament and bump Germany up to the top group.

The way it works in the 30-nation event is that the top group of six teams (the U.S., Canada, England, Japan, Australia and now the Germans) are playing for the championship, while six other groups are playing for places 7-30. The top group will play a round-robin and then use the standings to set up semifinals and ultimately the final.

The first game for the U.S. is this afternoon (Eastern time) against Australia, followed by games against Canada, Germany, England and Japan on consecutive days. It will take something miraculous for the final next Saturday (11:30 Eastern time on ESPNU) not to match the U.S. and Canada.

Here, by the way, is today's schedule:
Time Matchup (Group)
8.30am Slovakia v Switzerland (Orange)
9.00am Bermuda v Poland (Yellow)
9.30am Argentina v Austria (Grey)
11.30am Netherlands v Wales (Grey)
12.00pm Iroquois v Spain (Plum)
12.30pm Italy v Czech Republic (Red)
2.30pm Hong Kong v Norway (Plum)
3.00pm Sweden v Mexico (Red)
3.30pm New Zealand v France (Turquoise)
4:30pm Canada v Japan (Blue)
5.30pm Scotland v Latvia (Turquoise)
6.00pm Ireland v South Korea (Orange)
6.30pm Finland v Denmark (Yellow)
7.30pm USA v Australia (Blue)

The U.S. team features two Princeton players, Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel.

When TB thinks of Princeton men's lacrosse players who are totally linked together, his first thought is the record-setting, three NCAA championship-winning attack group of Jesse Hubbard, Chris Massey and Jon Hess. After that, there is Alex Hewit and Dan Cocoziello, who played together from middle school through Princeton (where both were first-team All-Americas). Same with Joe Rosenbaum, Owen Daly and Brad Dumont.

Or there are those who seemed to be extensions of each other as players here. Kurt Lunkenheimer and John Harrington, defensemen from the Class of 1999, for example.

Really, though, the clear winners are Striebel and Boyle, which is somewhat amazing considering how they came to be teammates in the first place.

Striebel, of the Class of 2001, was an attackman from Gill, Mass., who also played soccer at Princeton (not many players play in the NCAA tournament in two sports, like Striebel did). When Boyle arrived three years later playing the same position, the then-senior Striebel was moved to midfield.

Rather than let it be a negative, Striebel turned in an All-America senior year, while Boyle also earned All-America honors while also assisting on B.J. Prager's overtime goal to beat Syracuse in the NCAA final. Boyle went on to three more All-America seasons, and he stands second all-time at Princeton in points and assists.

The two reunited on the 2002 U.S. team that won the World Championship in Perth, Australia, and they also played together on the 2006 team that lost to Canada in the final in London, Ontario. They've also been teammates on three Major League Lacrosse championship teams with the Barrage.

In other words, Striebel and Boyle has been teammates for 10 years and won five major championships, taking the top prize in the college, professional and international ranks.

TB was going to look up how many other players have won all three as teammates, but he couldn't find all the rosters he needed. There was no MLL prior to 2001, so that limits it to players from Princeton, Syracuse, Virginia and Hopkins who might have pulled it off, though TB can't think of any off the top of his head (and is pretty sure that no two Powell brothers won an NCAA or MLL championship together).

Boyle and Striebel also work together with Trilogy Lacrosse, a youth lacrosse organization.

They have evolved from two college kids playing the same position into among the very best attackmen and midfielders in the world. They have long been two of the biggest stars in the sport, and they are mobbed by kids at every opportunity.

They are great ambassadors for the sport, with Boyle a cerebral rock-star type who speaks softly and seriously and Striebel a big kid who talks and laughs loudly all of the time.

It's unlikely that they could have envisioned just how connected their futures - lacrosse and otherwise - would be when they first met a decade ago.

Still, there they are in England, getting ready to try to win a sixth major championship together.

There aren't too many partnerships that have been quite this successful.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hobey In The Hall

TigerBlog saw a guy standing in front of a store talking loudly, apparently to no one in particular. Hidden, of course, was his Bluetooth, which meant that he was actually making a phone call.

Just then, a stranger walked by and said the best thing TB has heard in awhile: "It used to be easier to tell who was crazy."

Yes, it did. Back in the good old days, a person standing alone speaking loudly in front of a store would clearly be nuts. Today? You see it a million times.

You get out of your car and think the person standing there is talking to you, but instead it's a Bluetooth. In fact, it makes the non-Bluetooth person into the rude one for interrupting the other one's train of thought.

Think back, if you're old enough to do so, to a time before cell phones, before email, before the internet. On the one hand, it conjures up a simpler time, no? On the other hand, do you really want to get up and change the channel on the TV, or wouldn't you rather use the remote (not to mention the DVR).

Do you really want to go back to getting a busy signal? Or having to call up the movie theater to find out what time the show starts? Or pay cash at a toll booth?

These times are the simpler ones, at least in terms of making day-to-day life simplistic. Maybe it's because the pace was a little slower years ago that people recall such time with fondness.

Or maybe it's because you were younger and therefore had fewer responsibilities.

Whatever the reason, a little nostalgia isn't a bad thing every now and then. For TB, it means thinking back to the ’70s and ’80s. For others, it means thinking back further.

TB was flipping through the channels last night when he stumbled on a crime drama movie from 1949, one he'd never heard of before (and can't remember the name of now, though it wasn't bad). TB spent a little time going back and forth between that movie and "The Departed," which won Martin Scorcese his only Academy Award for Best Director (he didn't win for "Goodfellas;" TB will give you the answer to who did in a few paragraphs).

In a black-and-white movie with terrible special effects, 1949 came across as a long, long time ago. Still, watching the movie, TB wondered what life must have been like in 1949.

Did it seem modern? Cars were everywhere. World War II ended. Jet planes were starting to appear. People then must have felt like people today feel in terms of how far society had come.

Oh, and the answer to who won Best Director of 1990? Kevin Costner for "Dances With Wolves," which also won Best Picture. TB feels like "Goodfellas" was better.

Now, if you're looking for ancient history, how about going all the way back to 1918?

Specifically, go back to Dec. 21, 1918. World War I had ended six weeks earlier, but there was still room for one more casualty: Hobey Baker.

For those who don't know, Hobey Baker was a member of the Princeton Class of 1914, though he was already a legendary athlete by the time he came here from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire. In fact, Hobey played football, hockey and baseball in prep school, but the rules of the time meant that he'd only be able to play two at Princeton, so he chose football and hockey.

His career in both was so spectacular that he is the Hall of Fame for both sports. He led Princeton to the 1911 college football championship and the 1912 and 1914 national hockey championships, and he earned a reputation as not only a great player but also as one of the true gentlemen in sports history.

It was that combination that made him the most beloved athlete of the pre-World War I era. And then, he graduated from Princeton, and he entered into the second phase of his adult life, one marked by working in finance in New York City while playing in exhibition hockey games (there was no professional hockey at the time).

Baker struggled without the glory of athletics, but he found a substitute when he learned to fly. He flew in the war, but when that ended, he was faced with a return to his pre-war life. Instead, he died on Dec. 21, 1918 after volunteering to test fly a repaired plane, during which he crashed. His orders to return home were in his pocket at the time of his death.

Legend has it, of course, that Baker crashed his plane on purpose to escape a life without the glory of competition or war. Either way, his death was mourned throughout the country.

Today, the best player in college hockey each year receives the Hobey Baker Award, and Princeton obviously plays its games at Hobey Baker Rink. According to TB, Baker is one of the three greatest athletes in Princeton history, along with Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley.

Why bring Hobey up now? Well, yesterday Hobey Baker was named to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (he was born in Bala Cynwyd, and his family was a well-to-do Philadelphia family).

TB isn't sure why Hobey went in this year, as opposed to last or next or any of the other 92 since his death, but that's not the point.

For the record, Baker will be inducted in November with this class: Dick Allen, Hobey Baker, Elizabeth Becker, Tom Brookshier, Ron Hextall, William Hyndman III, Bobby Jones, Leroy Kelly, Lighthouse Boys Club (Lifetime Commitment), Tug McGraw, Jim Phelan, Mike Quick, Bobby Shantz, Ted Silary (Legacy of Excellence), Marianne Stanley and "Jersey" Joe Walcott.

It's easy to forget who Hobey Baker was and what he meant to Princeton athletics and to all of American sport, for that matter. After all, if you were, say, six years old when he played, then you're 102 now.

Still, his legend is a fascinating one.

And hey, thanks to the internet, anyone can Google him anytime they want.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

RIP, George and Bob

TigerBlog knows a guy who was with his family in Boston to see the Yankees play the Red Sox a long time ago.

Though TB doesn't remember the exact story, since he hasn't talked to the guy in about 15 years or so, it went something like this: He was sitting in the lobby of the hotel wearing his Yankees hat when George Steinbrenner came by, saw his hat and bought him an ice cream cone.

As you might expect, it made him a Yankees fan forever.

TigerBlog's least favorite professional sports team is the New York Yankees (or the Miami Heat, but that's a relatively new thing), a team that owes much of its success to the overwhelming economic advantage it has over the rest of the sport. In fact, if baseball's union wasn't so strong, the sport would have some sort of salary accountability from team-to-team, and the Yankees wouldn't be able to simply outspend everyone.

As an aside, the Yankees' 2010 payroll is $206,333,389; the next-highest is the Red Sox at $162,747,333. The Yankees spend more than the bottom six teams (Pirates, Padres, A's, Rangers, Marlins and Diamondbacks) - and two of those teams (Texas and San Diego) are in first place at the all-star break.

Despite that, TB has always liked Steinbrenner, who passed away yesterday at the age of 80. Maybe it's the story about the ice cream cone, which has led TB to think that Steinbrenner was probably a pretty good guy away from the spotlight.

Maybe it was the way he wanted to win and was willing to do what it took to make it happen. Or, maybe it was the way Larry David portrayed him on Seinfeld.

If nothing else, Steinbrenner had to have a sense of humor, what with the Miller Lite commercials he made through the years.

It's been a rough week for the Yankees, who lost two of their franchise icons in a short time. Steinbrenner's death came just two days after the death at age 99 of Bob Sheppard, the longtime public address announcer for the Yankees and the Giants (TB's favorite professional team).

A look at Sheppard's bio on Wikipedia revealed all kinds of information that TB didn't know. For instance, Sheppard was a Naval office in World War II who commanded gun boats in the Pacific. Also, he was a teacher at St. John's for years.

The first game he did as PA announcer for the Yankees was in 1951, the home opener against the Red Sox. The game featured eight future Hall-of-Famers.

TB is pretty sure that Sheppard did the PA for a Trenton State-Montclair State football game in the late '80s.

Sheppard was known for his straightforward style and his unflinching devotion to using proper speech, proper phrasing and professional objectivity. In the current environment of public address announcing, it's a style that almost is extinct.

He was often imitated, with the rhythmic cadence of his player introductions.

In fact, he was one of TB's two favorite PA announcers of all-time, though he was clearly No. 2 on that list.

No. 1? That honor will be always be reserved for John McAdams, the late voice of the Philadelphia Big Five and just about every other team in the greater Philadelphia area. Princeton was fortunate to have McAdams as a PA voice for football, sprint football and soccer, among other sports.

The death of Sheppard came five years after McAdams passed away, which means that TB's favorite living PA announcer is, well, TB.

TigerBlog has done PA at Princeton for men's and women's basketball, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's hockey, field hockey and sprint football. When McAdams passed away, TB stopped doing radio to do PA for football, something he continues to do.

TigerBlog has tried to pattern his style after that of Sheppard and McAdams, rather than try to make himself a part of the show. It hasn't always been successful, as he was once told he was "brain-dead" as an announcer.

Still, TB feels that more people want to hear an announcer like a McAdams or a Sheppard, rather than someone who is completely over-the-top. That, as much as his longevity, is why people have spoken so highly about Sheppard in the days following his death.

TB has a friend who emailed him a cartoon yesterday that said this: "In honor of George Steinbrenner's death, hate the Yankees a little less today."

TB will always root against the Yankees, maybe more than usual. After all, George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, TB's two favorite members of the organization, are no longer with us.

George had his flaws (some of them were legal issues), but he gave everything he had to the franchise.

And Bob Sheppard? He was a total class act.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Coach" Turns 80

TigerBlog remembers seeing three movies in the big New York City theaters way back when.

The first was "The Poseidon Adventure," a 1972 movie about a luxury ship that capsizes in a giant tidal wave on New Year's Eve and the efforts of a small group to be rescued; Gene Hackman was great as the reverend who leads the group. TB, as any pre-teen would have been, loved the scene where the toilets were upside-down.

The second was "Star Wars," back when it first came out in 1977. TB and BrotherBlog went to the movie at the wrong time and saw only the last two-thirds of it, and to this day, that remains the only portion of any "Star Wars" movie TB has ever seen.

The last was "On Golden Pond," a 1981 movie about a dysfunctional family led by Henry Fonda (who won an Oscar) and Katherine Hepburn. Fonda's character is Norman Thayer Jr., who by the way is a professor emeritus at Penn, and part of the story involves the fact that Norman is turning 80.

When he's asked by his daughter's fiance's son what it's like to be 80, Norman replies with a fairly classic line:
"Twice as bad as it did to be 40."

Pete Carril turned 80 this past weekend, and when TB thought about that, he first remembered the line from "On Golden Pond" and realized it hardly applies to the man so many refer to simply as "Coach."

When Pete Carril turned 40, he was three years into his tenure as Princeton men's basketball coach. His record stood at 55-22, and he had won two Ivy League championships and played in one NCAA tournament.

Among his 22 losses was a one-point defeat, 76-75, at UCLA against one of John Wooden's best teams, a game the Tigers lost when Sidney Wicks hit a jump shot in the final seconds. It would be one of the three most excruciating losses (all by one point) of Carril's Princeton career, along with a game when he was in his 40s (against Rutgers in the 1976 NCAA tournament) and one in his 50s (against Georgetown in the 1989 NCAA tournament).

When Carril turned 10, he was living in Bethlehem, Pa., where his father worked in the steel mills. When he turned 20, he was playing basketball at Lafayette.

By 30, he was a high school teacher and basketball coach at Reading High in Pennsylvania. Gary Walters was between his freshman and sophomore years at Reading at the time, just beginning a relationship with Carril that would see him play for him at Reading, coach with him at Princeton and ultimately become his boss as Director of Athletics at Princeton.

Carril would lead Princeton to the NCAA tournament 11 times, once in his 30s, twice in his 40s and then four times each in his 50s and 60s. When he left Princeton after the 1996 season, he was 65 years old.

At 70 he was still in basketball, working with the Sacramento Kings, an affiliation that continues into his 80s.

TigerBlog once had this exchange with Carril during a pregame radio interview before a game at Penn:
"This is where we met. You remember?"
"You were coaching, and TB was was chanting 'sit down Pete' with the rest of the Penn fans."

In reality, TB didn't actually meet Carril until the late 1980s, when Carril was 57 or 58 or so. Since then, TB has gotten to know him extremely well, and he continues to be TB's favorite subject on which to write.

As TB often says, of the 50 funniest things he's ever seen in his life, Carril was probably directly responsible for 25 of them. He is a driven man, one with a high level of expectation of those who played for him.

In Carril's own words: "If you lower standards, they turn around and attack you."

TigerBlog maintains that in the long history of Princeton athletics, there are four icons who rise above everyone else. Three were Princeton athletes - Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley; the fourth is Carril.

TB once wrote that Carril has long been the conscience of Princeton basketball (and to a larger extreme, Princeton athletics), and by that he means that Carril was never one to let anyone get away with anything less than full effort, full commitment. He couldn't be conned as head coach, and he cared little about what a person's background was. Nobody had a free pass on his teams.

He himself grew up poor, and TB has heard stories both heartfelt and hysterical about Carril's experiences as a child and the effect they had on him.

Today, at the age of 80, he's a more mellow person. He's still the conscience of Princeton basketball, but he does so from the perspective of your wise old uncle that you see a few times a year.

And yet, he hasn't slowed a step. He still has the quick wit, the dominating persona, the ability to sniff out the BS immediately.

There has never been anyone to walk into Jadwin Gym quite like Pete Carril. Now that he's 80, there still isn't, and TB suspects it will forever be this way.

Monday, July 12, 2010

See You In Brazil

TigerBlog was disappointed when he came into work this morning, since there was no 9:30 World Cup game to watch. Or a 2:30 game to look forward to. Or, going back to the very beginning, a little more than a month ago, a 7:30 game to see the end of as he came in the door.

Nope, the World Cup is over. TB watched all of the U.S. qualifying games, some other qualifiers, the draw (which was fascinating) and probably three-quarters of the games from South Africa.

And after a riveting month of games, the final between Spain and the Netherlands was, uh, nightmarish for the sport.

In short, it was everything that non-soccer people say is wrong with soccer. There was no scoring and little attempting to score, for fear of losing the World Cup on a bad counter. There was flopping all over the place. Every call made by the English ref (what was he supposed to do, not make these calls?) was greeted by incredulous looks by every player, as if each call was the worst ever made in the sport's history.

In the end, there was only one redeeming part of the game, and that was that it didn't end in penalty kicks. At least Spain scored a goal, and mercifully replay showed that Andres Iniesta wasn't offsides on the play.

If you're looking for someone who completely embarrassed himself in the final, it was Arjen Robben of the Netherlands. Robben's day included missing the best chance of the first 90 minutes and coming across like a spoiled baby with every reaction he had to every play.

TigerBlog is always struck by the reaction of coaches and players at the end of a season, or at least what seems to be the reaction. TB has been around numerous teams on the final day of a season, and the vibe almost always is "can't wait for next year to start."

When it's an event like the World Cup, there's no next year. The next Cup will be four years from now, in 2014, in Brazil. Of the players and coaches who participated in South Africa, only a small fraction will be back in 2014.

The World Cup process is so involved, beginning with the earliest qualifying rounds, that to come as close as the Netherlands did only to fall short has to be, in TB's opinion, the most excruciating thing in sports. It's worse than falling short in the Olympics, because it appears that an Olympic window lasts longer than it does for the World Cup.

It doesn't seem like that huge of a time frame from the last World Cup to this one, but it is. Between now and when the 32 teams head to Brazil, there will be mid-term elections and another Presidential election, a Summer Olympics in London, a Winter Olympics in Russia and four Super Bowls, among other things.

Here at Princeton, there are 33 head coaches. Of those, the line is split almost evenly between those who coached here before the 2006 World Cup (17) and those who started after the 2006 World Cup (16). In other words, nearly 50% of the head coaching staff turned over between Cups.

As for athletes, about 1,500 will compete at Princeton between now and the opening kickoff in Brazil. Among those who will be Princeton athletes by then are those in the Class of 2017, who just completed their freshman years of high school.

It's possible that Princeton will have a new Director of Athletics by 2014 (Gary Walters started his tenure during the 1994 World Cup), and perhaps a large turnover in its athletic administration and staff.

Between the 2006 and 2010 Cups, Jamie Zaninovich left Princeton to become the commissioner of the West Coast Conference and Mike Cross left to become the Director of Athletics at Bradley. Perhaps the current athletic staff will have similar career advancement between now and 2014.

Of course, some will still be here at Princeton, including, in all likelihood, TigerBlog. In fact, TB will probably watch the 2014 World Cup on the same little TV in his office that he watched the most recent one on.

First, though, he has to go through a bit of World Cup withdrawal.

Oh, and it's impossible for him to do better on his 2014 prediction than he did on his 2010 one. Back on June 11, TB said Spain would beat the Netherlands in the final.

For 2014? How about Brazil to win at home over the United States.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Phil And LeBron

TigerBlog was all set to write about Phil Spiniello today. And he will, though he has to add a few things at the end that he didn't want to get into.

Spiniello, for those who don't know, spent the last four years as an assistant women's swimming and diving coach at Princeton. He left earlier this week to become the head coach at Rutgers.

While Spiniello was at Princeton working with head coach Susan Teeter, the Tigers won three Ivy League championships, were consistently ranked in the national Top 25 and put together a 30-meet winning streak that will carry over into next year.

Princeton finished 18th at the NCAA championships the last two years.

TB wasn't sure what kind of program Rutgers had, so he looked it up: The Scarlet Knights finished fifth in the Big East a year ago.

Princeton is filled with assistant coaches like Phil Spiniello. He's not yet 30 years old, and he's been a coach at Arizona State and Princeton.

He's also a graduate of Franklin & Marshall.

He fits the profile of any number of assistant coaches who are working at Princeton. Their coaching lives include all aspects of working with a Division I program, and they also recruit, recruit, recruit.

For some, it becomes apparent that this isn't the life they want and they move on to other things. For most, it has the opposite effect, turning them into lifers who use their time at Princeton to move to head coaching positions or assistant jobs at other levels.

They do all this far from the spotlight. TB is always fascinated when he sees the head coach (in whatever sport) go talk to the media, even if it's just the kids from the Prince or the OAC contact with a flip cam, while the assistant coaches pack up the video stuff or make sure the tailgate is set up.

As for Spiniello himself, TB's first dealing with him came when Spiniello did something TB didn't like and then came and apologized, something that TB has always respected.

The new RU coach is a tremendous person, one of a group of people who always stops by the OAC to say hi, even when nothing's up. TB wishes him nothing but the best at Rutgers.

Now, as for the other subject, has there ever been anything more embarrassing that what happened with the whole LeBron James thing last night?

TB didn't watch it, because who could care enough about anything other than what team he picked, and TB figured he'd find that out soon enough.

TB has always thought that James was remarkably poised and composed for someone who has been the subject of adulation his whole life. And, much like he always rooted for Michael Jordan even though it was at the expense of his favorite team (the Knicks, who by the way, probably didn't expect the summer of 2010 to end up like this), he did the same with James.

In the end, TB feels like James cheapened himself by 1) leaving Cleveland rather than bringing a championship there, even if he had to do it alone and 2) the whole overkill of the announcement.

If nothing else, it's a reflection of the Kardashian-ing of society. If TV cameras follow you around and hang on your every word, regardless of how banal it is, you can't help but start to think that you're fascinating.

Tomorrow afternoon, Spain and the Netherlands (TB's June 11 World Cup entry wishing Bob Bradley luck picked a Spain-Netherlands final, sort of) will play for the World Cup championship. Every player on both teams is a professional, and they will play all-out as hard as they ever have to win the first title for their country.

Win or lose, they will go back to their million dollar lives of being elite players in Europe.

There will be something extraordinarily special about the World Cup final, though. TB guesses that they'd all give back a year's salary each to win that one game.

When you're playing for something bigger than just yourself, like your country or even your school, that love of the game is still there, and it can inspire those who watch it. When you're all about yourself, as LeBron was last night, it turns people off.

TB will have a hard time rooting for the Heat, and he feels badly for the people in Ohio. As for the Knicks, he's used to it.

And to Phil Spiniello, good luck in the new assignment. TB will rooting for you.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Great Man Passes

TigerBlog can't remember if it was at Conte's one night, maybe with some combination of Pete Carril or Bill Carmody or John Thompson or Howard Levy or Joe Scott (or all of them) at the next table.

Or maybe it was during an interview on the radio at halftime of a basketball game. Or maybe in the Jadwin Gym lobby. Or in the supermarket. Or in a restaurant.

It didn't matter where you saw Marvin Bressler, because the whole world was his classroom. Time after time, TB would run into Bressler, and time after time, Bressler would say something that would stick.

Like the time he said this: "Anything worth talking about is worth talking about superficially."

TB has always been fascinated by how historical figures like Ben Franklin and Mark Twain and others were famous for saying pithy things. TB is pretty sure Bressler is up there with any of them.

"There is no crisis," he was famous for saying, "to which academics will not respond to with a seminar."

TigerBlog received an email yesterday with the subject line "Marvin Bressler" and was pretty sure what it meant.

Bressler, who had been in hospice care, had passed away. He was 87 at the time of his death.

Immediately, a flood of memories of time spent with Bressler came flooding back, and, as the man himself would probably have appreciated, it made TB smile, not cry.

Bressler, for those who don't know, was a longtime sociology professor at Princeton. He began teaching at the University in 1963, and he didn't retire until 1994. Even after that, he remained a constant presence at the University up until his death.

TigerBlog met Bressler in 1989 and was immediately impressed by the man with the shaved head, the pipe and the ability to turn whatever setting he happened to be in at the time (Contes? Jadwin?) into a graduate-level seminar on any subject you liked.

"If you start out with the idea that ..." he often started conversations. He often took positions in discussions that were completely opposed to the ones he actually believed, simply to provoke thought even further.

TB has never met anyone else quite like Marvin Bressler. Whatever room he was in, he was its emcee. Whoever was around wanted to talk to him, to go greet him. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him.

He was extraordinarily funny. He was extraordinarily warm.

His connection to Princeton Athletics was very deep and very strong. He was great friends with Carril, though he actually predated Carril with the Tigers.

In fact, Bressler served as an unofficial adviser/friend/confidante with a young Princeton point guard from Reading in the Butch van Breda Kolff era. That player obviously was Gary Walters, who went on to be an assistant coach at Princeton and for the last 17 years, the Director of Athletics.

Early in his time as AD, Walters began the Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program, which he based on his relationship with Bressler from his own undergraduate days. That program has grown to identify many faculty and staff members at the University and match them with Princeton's 38 varsity teams, and thousands of Princeton athletes have been able to develop a relationship similar to the one that Bressler and Walters had.

"It's always good to have an adult to talk to," Bressler once said about the program. "Of course, you don't always know which one's the adult."

In further tribute, Walters also created the Marvin Bressler Award, the official wording of which is:
"Awarded to that member of the Princeton family who, through heartfelt support of the University’s student-athletes and coaches, best embodies a belief in the lifelong lessons taught by competition and athletics as a complement to the overall educational mission. Awarded in the spirit of Marvin Bressler, professor of sociology, 1963-94."

Bressler, like TigerBlog, was educated at Penn before spending his career at Princeton. Bressler grew up in Philadelphia and spent a great deal of time at Connie Mack Stadium; TB once gave him a book about the stadium that had been written by a former professor of his at Penn.

In the 21 years that TB knew Bressler, they had exactly one disagreement, over, ironically enough, the misuse of a word. It was a disagreement that was resolved within minutes. A few days later, before a men's basketball game at Jadwin, TB and Bressler joked about the incident, and then it was back to business as usual.

The rest of the time TB knew Bressler, he looked at him as a giant of a human being, one who touched so many, one who spent so much of his life laughing and making others laugh.

TB wrote about him often, including here on TigerBlog itself. Most recently, he wrote about the time he ran into Bressler while he was buying yogurt.

Sociology is the study of society, or, in other words, the study of people.

Marvin Bressler was in the perfect field. He spent 87 years studying people, entertaining people, learning from them, teaching them.

"The best teachers," he said, "are the ones from whom you continue to learn long after you've left their classroom."

TB never took a class from Marv Bressler, but he feels like he's spent years in his classroom. He also feels like it'll be a long time before he stops learning from what Bressler taught him.

Marv Bressler is worth talking about, and you can't talk about him superficially.

TigerBlog will miss him.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Class Is In Session

One of TigerBlog Jr.'s last assignments for the school year was to do a report and presentation the his reading class.

The subject? Anything you wanted. Anything in the entire world.

TigerBlog asked TBJ to put together a list of what everyone did for their presentations, and he came up with the following:

The Miracle on Ice
The History of Lacrosse
UV Rays
Asperger Syndrome
Cap Com
Heather Brewer
The Black Sox Scandal
Erno Rubik
The History of Video Games
Water Pollution
Shawn Johnson
World War II

For the record, TBJ did not do his on the history of lacrosse. In fact, it wasn't even a boy who did it on that subject.

No, TBJ's was on the Miracle on Ice, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's gold medal run at Lake Placid.

As an aside, TigerBlog was always a bigger fan of essays and presentations rather than multiple choice or true/false questions. TB's attitude was that essays tested you on what you knew; the others tested you on what you didn't know.

One time, TB was in a junior seminar at Penn on labor history, a class taught by a professor named Walter Licht, who in subsequent years would cash in on knowing TB at an early age by getting free Penn/Princeton basketball tickets. Anyway, as part of the seminar, Professor Licht had each student choose a book and week to do a presentation on it. TigerBlog got to pick first after a lottery, and he chose Licht's book on railroad unionization and the first week.

Meanwhile, back at TBJ's project, TigerBlog was thinking about what he would do if he was in Billy Madison II and found himself back in middle school with the same assignment.

After no time, it became obvious to TB that his project would have to have something to do with Princeton athletics, assuming he took his current knowledge back to middle school with him.

So Princeton would be the subject, but what part of Princeton?

Would it be the first football game, the one between Princeton and Rutgers back in 1869? He could talk about how the Rutgers players challenged Princeton and how they played on back-to-back weekends, splitting the games. Nah.

Maybe it would be the history of women's athletics at Princeton. TigerBlog has always been fascinated by the earliest Princeton women athletes, who faced an inherent discrimination by the men's programs that by today's standards would be unthinkable. Maybe he could talk about some of the comments he's heard from some of those early women athletes, like the women's hockey player in the Class of 1975 who said that she was told women shouldn't play the sport because it would impact their ability to have children later on.

Or maybe he could write about the rise of the lacrosse dynasty at Princeton in the 1990s. Certainly it's a subject he knows a lot about.

Maybe the right topic would be a single team in a single season, such as the 1997 perfect season in men's lacrosse or John Thompson's first Princeton team in 2001 or the women's soccer team's run to the 2004 Final Four.

Or maybe about how Peter Farrell and Fred Samara started on the same day more than 30 years ago and still are here running the track-and-field programs.

Or one single game. Princeton-Dartmouth football in 1995. Princeton-Harvard women's soccer in 2004. Princeton-Harvard ECAC hockey final in 2008. Princeton-Trinity men's squash in 2009.

Or even one play. Out of the thousands he's seen. Off the top of his head, TB wouldn't even begin to try to think of that one play right now.

So many choices for a subject. And yet TB knows exactly what he would have done it on.

Princeton men's basketball, March 1996. Getting thumped by Penn in the regular-season finale. The win over Penn in the playoff on the night Pete Carril retired. The win over UCLA.

Yeah, that would definitely be it.

Or maybe the history of Yoo-Hoo.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thoughts On LeBron

TigerBlog's favorite professional sports team is by far the New York Giants. His next favorite team has always been the Knicks, who haven't exactly made rooting easy through recent years.

TB, in fact, went to Madison Square Garden often as a kid, when FatherBlog would take him to see the great Knick teams coached by Red Holtzman and featuring Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe and of course Bill Bradley. TB's favorite player by far was Clyde (that's Frazier, to those who don't know), though if he knew what his career path would become, he probably would have chosen Bradley.

As an aside, Lucas, who was one of the great college centers of all-time (Ohio State) and who played on the 1973 championship team for the Knicks, was famous for being a, well, genius, one with a photographic memory (which enabled him to memorize the phone book). TB read stories about how Lucas did mental exercises to keep his mind sharp, including one where he'd take a word and instantly put all the letters of the word into alphabetical order.

Anyway, the current Knicks aren't quite as romantic a group as they were back then. These days, they are among the hardest franchises to root for in all of professional sports, although they aren't quite as brutal as they were a few years ago.

The team's recent philosophy has been to get rid of as many contracts as possible to be able to sign LeBron James, who is now an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps you've heard about this?

All any Knick fan heard about the last two years was that LeBron was coming, LeBron was coming. Oh, and he was bringing Dwyane Wade with him. Let the championships flow.

Instead, the Knicks have signed Amare Stoudemire to a $100 million contract, despite he obvious facts that 1) he has a history of injury, and 2) he's at his best when he has a great point guard like Steve Nash.

Still, the Knicks hold off hope that LeBron will be signing as well.

TigerBlog looks at this whole thing with three thoughts.

Let's start with the idea that TB is a Knick fan and wants to see the Knicks do well, and the only player TB has ever liked to watch play more than LeBron is Michael Jordan. Even with that background, TB wants LeBron to stay in Cleveland, because that seems to be where he belongs.

Second, TB is way more familiar with college athletics obviously. In college sports, rosters turn over completely every four or at most five (with some rare exceptions of six) years. It's simply the nature of how it works.

Building a team in professional sports should be different than it is on the college level, because you're trying to make decisions that are going to bring the right players for five to 10 years. This doesn't even take into account the financial impact of those decisions. Suppose Stoudemire flops in New York. The Knicks can't really do anything about it.

Rebuilding a team, or a program, in the college ranks is much different. You're looking at 16-18 year old kids who have no proven body of work other than against other kids.

The lifeblood of any college athletic program is recruiting. While summer may seem a tame time for college sports, it's actually in many ways the most crucial. Coaches everywhere are out evaluating talent at summer camps and tournaments, which have in many (most, actually) sports have become way more important than the high school team.

To be a successful college coach, you have to know your stuff in terms of Xs and Os, but none of that will matter if you can't find the talent. When you get into coaching in college, the idea of having to recruit is a given.

In the case of LeBron and the other NBA free agents, recruiting has been replaced a bit by groveling. In one of the stories that TB wrote about Pete Carril, he spoke to Chris Mooney (now the Richmond coach) about what Carril's recruiting approach was like. Mooney said that Carril took him up to his office, put on a tape of Mooney as he played at Archbishop Ryan High School and told him everything he did wrong.

TB's thought is that LeBron understands that he's going to make a lot of money no matter what and that what he really wants is to know that he's going to have his best shot at winning a championship wherever he lands. Either that, or he's just in it to see how much he can make everyone grovel, but that doesn't seem like his style.

Lastly, TB is fascinated by the way the media coverage of the whole free agency situation has gone. It's been such tremendous overkill, with countdown clocks and over-analysis and predictions that are based on nothing that nobody will ever remember.

In many ways, it's been completely the opposite of the World Cup coverage.

But there's also the fascinating sidelight of how the players themselves update their web pages and tweet and embrace all forms of new media and social networking to help promote themselves.

At Princeton, we're constantly making decisions about where to put our resources to promote our teams and athletes and to help generate attendance. The more TB sees the world evolve, the more convinced he is that the cell phone is the key.

How do you reach kids, teens and the rest? It's not through the newspaper. It's not on the radio. It's on their phone, which of course accesses the web. Next time you're anywhere, see just how glued society has become to its phone.

Anyway, to recap where TB is on LeBron:

1) recruiting is a natural for college; in the pros it seems really weird
2) the entire episode is a reminder of the ways that Princeton should continue to explore in terms of marketing
3) stay in Cleveland.