Thursday, September 30, 2010

Will And Chris

Did you see the catch Will Venable made last night? Actually, both catches?

Venable, back in centerfield for the Padres last night, took at least a double - and maybe even a home run - away from Alfonso Soriano in the second inning and then absolutely robbed Aramis Ramirez in the fourth, with a runner on base and two outs.

"The first catch was good," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "The second catch was phenomenal."

The two plays by Venable made Chris Young a winner for the first time since April 6, when he threw six shutout innings and then missed the next five months. He has since returned with three outstanding starts when the Padres have really needed them.

Venable had missed the first two games of the series with a back injury, and the Padres lost both of those games to slip two games behind the Giants in the National League West. He said that he could have used another day off, "but we don't have another day."

Venable had been sizzling at the plate, by the way, before his two days off this week, with a .392 average in September.

San Diego also trails the Braves by a game in the loss column for the NL Wild Card, though there is good news: The Padres finish the season with a game tonight against the Cubs and then three with the Giants.

The Braves play the Phillies at home to end the regular season in a series that 1) means nothing to the Phils and 2) will be the difference between the postseason or the end of the career for Braves manager Bobby Cox.

The Padres, of course, weren't supposed to do much this year, with their low payroll and 75-87 record of a year ago that left them 20 games out of first.

And yet here they are, in the final weekend of the season, desperately trying to get to the playoffs, a spot that seemed all but set when they were 6.5 game up on the Giants a month ago and all but gone when the Pads lost 10 straight at one point.

Because they play out of the spotlight and far from the East Coast, the Padres aren't exactly a high-profile team to most baseball fans. For Princeton fans, there is nothing unknown about San Diego.

Venable and Young, of course, are Princeton grads. More than that, they are known far more for what they accomplished as basketball players at Princeton than as baseball players.

Young played only two seasons of baseball and basketball before he was drafted, originally by the Pirates, which made him ineligible for both sports after he signed a contract. Of course, NCAA rules say an athlete who is a professional in one sport is still eligible in other sports, but Ivy rules say no to that; this rule is now called "the Chris Young rule."

Had Young played four years of basketball, he would have finished his career second all-time at Princeton in scoring and rebounding, first in blocked shots and first or second in assists. It's TigerBlog's contention that he would have been an NBA lottery pick.

Venable was a four-year starter in basketball who didn't play baseball at Princeton until his sophomore year. He finished his career as a 1,000-point scorer, a lockdown defender, a largely unguardable presence and a huge clutch player who was at his best in huge spots, like at Duke or in the NCAA tournament against Texas.

And yet for all of their basketball ability, they both made it to the top in baseball. And, to boot, they are teammates.

Princeton has had 25 players reach the Major Leagues, including the three current ones of Venable, Young and Pittsburgh pitcher Ross Ohlendorf. Those three are the first Princeton Major Leaguers in 25 years, since Bob Tufts played for the Giants and Royals.

And two of them were basketball players (though not teammates, as they never played on the same team)?

TigerBlog can only think of one other Princeton player in his time here who played both sports, and that was Anders Vestergaard. To have two players do so and reach the Major Leagues - on the same team - is ridiculous.

There are hardly two people who you could root for harder than Young and Venable, who as players here were huge fan favorites. As TB often says, Young is the single most beloved athlete at Princeton since he's been observing - and Venable isn't far behind.

They enter the last weekend of the regular season with a chance at the postseason, and they will get there by winning out. It's not an easy task, but it's better than where the Padres though they'd be heading into October.

And it was made a bit easier by the performances Wednesday night of the two Princeton basketball players on the team.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Great Gatsby - And A Great Win

TigerBlog first read "The Great Gatsby" in 10th grade, in Mr. Ridley's American Literature class.

Until TB later read "A Prayer For Owen Meany" a few decades later, he thought Gatsby was the best book he ever read. It's not a book with great action or wildly dramatic plot twists; what sets it apart is that it is so well written.

TB was re-reading Gatsby for about the millionth time last night, going through some of his favorite parts - and piecing back together some parts that he had forgotten.

At the same time, he had the livestats for the Princeton-Maryland field hockey game going on the laptop, set on the table where he was reading, so he could glance from the pages to the screen to see if anything was happening.

As Gatsby was explaining to Nick that Daisy's voice was full of - money, it was still 0-0. Of course, Nick had spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what it was about Daisy's voice that made it so unique. TB has long suspected that part of the reason that there was such an emphasis on side characters who could sing or who were famous stage performers was to show that despite how great their voices were, there was a quality to Daisy's voice that left it above the others - only Nick couldn't figure out what it was.

The game stayed scoreless as two cars went from Long Island to Manhattan and most of the way back. By the time Myrtle's day took a big turn for the worse, though, it was 2-0 Princeton.

It stayed that way through chapter 8, which doesn't exactly have a lot of big laughs in it. It does, though, include one of TB's favorite lines from the book, which Nick shouts back to Gatsby: "They're a rotten crowd," I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch of them."

TB has never completely understood what the point of the next line is: "It was the only compliment I ever gave him, since I disapproved of him from beginning to end." Is Nick really saying that? Or is it difficult for him, all these years later, to admit that Gatsby - who had so many values that Nick found contrary to what he thought were his own - was really his hero?

It was 2-0 for a long time, through George Wilson's attempt to figure things out and then his misinterpretation of events, which has a somewhat tragic twist to it. It was still 2-0 when Nick ran into Tom in New York, long after those tragic events had played out.

And then it was 2-1 before Nick could get a word in. And then, just after Tom was explaining to Nick how hard it all was for him, it was 3-1 Princeton. And then, before Nick could sort it all out, it was 3-2. And, by the time Nick finished the best paragraph of the book - and perhaps the best one TB has ever read:

"I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" ...

... it was 4-2 Tigers.

By the time we were beating on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, the game was over.

Princeton came into the game ranked fourth, behind an ACC trio of Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. All four were undefeated before last night.

Princeton lost 7-5 to Maryland in last year's NCAA semifinals, and Maryland then lost the final to North Carolina.

This year, Maryland came into the game ranked No. 1 nationally. The Terps left with their first loss - and wondering what a possible rematch might be like.

Princeton's win over Maryland marked the fourth time in the last three years that a Tiger team has beaten the No. 1 team. The other three? The squash team's win over Penn in the 2008 Howe Cup final, the women's hockey team's 2-1 win over New Hampshire in 2007 and the men's lightweight rowing team's win over Harvard in the IRA final last spring.

TigerBlog thought the men's lacrosse team's 12-8 win over Syracuse in the 2009 Big City Classic came when the Orange were ranked No. 1, but they were actually No. 2 at the time.

The 2010 Princeton field hockey team, which starts only one senior (Alexandra Douwes), has 10 regular season games left - five Ivy games and five other games against ranked teams.

Included in that stretch is a game at Virginia a week from Friday, as well as a home game against American this Sunday as part of Play for the Cure.

In other words, it's a bit early to start thinking about Final Fours and beyond. Still, anytime Princeton tops the No. 1 team, even in midseason, it's big news.

Of course, this year's Final Four will be played at Maryland.

Princeton probably would sign right now for a home-and-home in a series with the Terps.

Who's No. 1 right now? There's still a long way to go in this field hockey season, but Princeton has established that it is at least in the conversation of who might be No. 1 when it's all over.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pretty Much Perfect

You're a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles? It took your team three weeks to establish itself as one of the best in the league and with possibly the league MVP - and the league's most exciting player - as your quarterback.

Except that your quarterback is a convicted felon who spent nearly two years in prison for, what was it, oh yeah, killing dogs. Not that you could tell by the gushing reaction of the media and 99% of the fan base, of course. And yes, he served his sentence and by all accounts seems to have changed considerably from when he was younger. Still, this is the person you're rooting for these days?

Oh, you don't like the Eagles? Your team is the Giants? Well, TigerBlog has a friend whose family has had Giants season tickets going back to Yankee Stadium. This year, they had to get rid of two of them and move from the 40-yard line downstairs all the way upstairs at the new stadium. Their PSLs were $5,000 per seat, and each ticket is $265. Per game.

This past Sunday, they couldn't go, so he offered up the tickets to anyone who would pay face value. And for what? To see the quarterback and about five other players try? To see how many dumb penalties the team could commit?

What's that? You're not a fan of either? You like the Jets?

Well, they are 2-1 and have two big divisional wins under their belt, including the win Sunday night at Miami. And the biggest play of that game? It might have been the 67-yard touchdown pass that came one play after Miami had taken the lead in the third quarter.

Except that the receiver who caught the pass was less than a week removed from a drunk driving arrest, with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit in most states. It's a miracle he didn't kill himself - or someone else.

Oh, and the rest of the team, from the owner to the coach and on down? Does the word "boorish" work for them?

And that's basically how it is these days for the three NFL teams closest to Princeton.

According to Mapquest, it's 53 miles from here to Lincoln Financial Field and 52 miles from here to the New Meadowlands Stadium (which, by the way, was completely unnecessary, as the old Meadowlands Stadium was perfectly fine).

As TigerBlog walked around the parking lot outside Princeton Stadium Saturday, the NFL seemed a lot further away than just 50 or so miles. In fact, if you had to describe the scene, beginning when TB got there around 4 until the always-idyllic scene of all the kids on the field during the Fifth Quarter, you wouldn't use "boorish," that's for sure.

More like, oh, "perfect." Or at least nearly perfect.

If you're a fan of a Princeton or were just someone looking for a great football experience, you couldn't have done better than the Princeton-Lafayette game Saturday night.

For starters, Princeton won the game 36-33 in two overtimes. The winning touchdown was scored by Jordan Culbreath, who has come back from a nearly fatal battle with aplastic anemia in miraculous fashion.

The win was Bob Surace's first as Tiger head coach. The record for wins by a Princeton coach is 89, held by the very first Princeton coach, Bill Roper, so it's 88 to go to tie for Surace.

The game saw Princeton rally from 11 points down in the third quarter and tie it late in regulation on a field goal by Patrick Jacob, who then added a 39-yarder in the first OT and who is now 8 for 9 on the year.

Quarterback Tommy Wornham's performance earned him Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Trey Peacock continues to excite the crowd every time the ball is thrown near him, and Andrew Kerr, Jeb Heavenrich, Isaac Serwanga and Harry Flaherty give the Tigers any number of playmakers at receiver.

And for all of that, when it came time to pick the Dining Services Player of the Game, it was none of those guys. Instead, it was linebacker Jon Olafsson, who filled in for the injured Steven Cody with 16 tackles, two more than he had all last year as junior.

Beyond just the on-field entertainment, the rest of the evening at the stadium was equally as enjoyable.

As an aside, TigerBlog is a huge fan of how the stadium looks at night, and it's a shame that there can't be more night games, though TB understands that travel and weather factor into it as the year moves along.

TigerBlog invited the members of TigerBlog Jr.'s summer lacrosse team to come to the game, and he went through Lot 21 trying to meet up with those families at a pregame tailgate. Of course, they weren't the only ones, as the entire parking lot was filled by grills, coolers, footballs, kids, families and everything else.

Off on Finney/Campbell Fields was the youth sports festival that is always hugely popular as part of Community Day, which went on around the outside of the stadium.

And all of this with a ticket price that is $5 if you have season tickets and a top price of $8/ticket for gameday walkups?

TigerBlog is pretty sure that you can't get the kind of affordable family entertainment that you got at Princeton Stadium Saturday night basically anywhere else, whether it's football, the movies or anything.

Throw in the fact that the weather couldn't have been better, and you have one of the great days that Princeton Stadium has known.

It was indeed pretty close to perfect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's A Wash

TigerBlog put the clothes in the washing machine and then spent a half hour looking for his phone. When the laundry was done, he went to put the clothes in the dryer - and there was his cell phone, which had been the pocket of his pants.

For those who don't know, putting a cell phone into the laundry - even on warm water and with a low water setting - isn't exactly a good idea if you want the phone to work ever again.

TB knows of people who have had their phones in their pockets when they jumped into swimming pools and the ocean and such. Those aren't good ideas either.

It was actually sort of fun to be without a phone for a little while, to have moments of being unreachable. It didn't last long, of course, as he was able to replace his phone quickly.

The only problem is that all of his contacts (and pictures - people appear to have long ago replaced carrying pictures of their kids in their wallets with pictures of their kids on their phones) were gone, and so he was left with having to start from scratch in terms of replacing all of those telephone numbers.

TigerBlog has a tremendous memory for many things, including birthdays, scores and details of games from long ago and telephone numbers (and "The Cat In The Hat," which TB memorized cover-to-cover from reading to TigerBlog Jr. so many times when he was little; every now and then, TB still likes to recite the book to make sure he still can). He's never had an address book or rolodex, since he's simply been able to remember every number and date he's needed.

He's still good on the birthdays and the scores and Dr. Seuss, but he's severely lacking in the phone numbers. This is due to the fact that everything is saved under contacts, which means that people no longer have to enter the phone number when making a call.

TB has tried to rebuild his contacts list, and some of them were easy. During the football game against Lafayette Saturday, though, he got a few texts and calls from numbers that he didn't easily recognize, and he either had to try to piece together who it was from the information on the text or, in some cases, reply with the dreaded "who is this?" response.

It'll be awhile before all of the contacts are back in place, but TB is well on the way to fixing the problem.

The moral of the story is, of course, don't put your cell phone in the laundry. Another moral is that just because you washed your cell phone and lost all your contacts doesn't mean that things won't be better in a few days.

Like at Princeton athletics, for instance.

The Tiger equivalent of putting the phone in the laundry was last weekend's 4-9-2 combined record by all of Princeton's teams.

The getting a new phone and replacing all your contacts was this weekend.

Princeton competed in men's and women's soccer, field hockey, football, sprint football, men's water polo and women's cross country from Friday to Sunday.

Combine record? How about 8-1, not including women's cross country, which took first place in the HYP meet.

Men's soccer went 2-0 at its invitational as Antoine Hoppenot scored four goals in the two games. Women's soccer opened its Ivy League season with a 1-0 win at Yale (not to get ahead of anything here, but every year since 2002, Princeton has advanced to the NCAA tournament in years it has beaten Yale and has not advanced to the NCAA tournament in years it has not beaten Yale).

The field hockey team continued to roll through the league, topping Yale 7-0. Princeton is now 2-0 in the league having outscored its two opponents 16-1; the Tigers, ranked fourth, host No. 2 Maryland tomorrow at 6 at Class of 1952 Stadium.

The men's water polo team defeated Johns Hopkins, Navy and George Washington in a 3-0 weekend.

The football team, now a highly entertaining 1-1, got Bob Surace his first win when Jordan Culbreath scored in the second OT for a 36-33 win over Lafayette.

The lone loss came in sprint football, where Princeton fell 33-12 to Cornell. This year's 21-point loss to the Big Red came after the Tigers lost by 44 a year ago to Cornell; Princeton lost by 36 in Week 1 to Penn after losing twice by margins of 50 and 72 a year ago to the Quakers.

Could there be a win in the next two weeks for sprint football, who hosts the two newest programs, Mansfield and Post, on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium the next two Fridays?

Anyway, an 8-1 weekend is a pretty good bounce back from going 4-9-2 a week earlier.

If your last week wasn't the best - say you put your phone in the washing machine or something - there's always another one on the way.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pennington At ANC

TigerBlog saw that this weekend's high school football schedule includes Pennington at Academy of the New Church, a matchup that made TB smile.

After all, without that game, there'd be no TigerBlog, at least the blog itself.

As for TigerBlog the person, well, without Pennington-ANC, he'd probably be just another really, really, really bored lawyer - or maybe an actuary. TB always thought that would be an interesting career.

It was 27 years ago today that people all over the Mercer County area woke up breathlessly to TigerBlog's 12-inch story on the 1983 Pennington-Academy of the New Church game. As TB recalls, Pennington needed one win to set a school record for consecutive wins, while ANC wasn't supposed to be very good. It was a close game through the first half before Pennington pulled away and won easily.

That 1983 game was the first game TB ever covered. He had zero writing experience before that, and he was only covering the game because of a weird series of events that began when BrotherBlog got a different work study job and vacated his old one in the psychology department.

TB then took BB's old job, where he worked with another guy (who today is the head coach of the University of Iowa men's basketball team) whose brother wrote for the Trenton Times.

As TB became friends with them, the older brother, Jack McCaffery, said that his newspaper was looking for people to cover some high school football games that fall and would TB be interested.

And so, for $15 per story and $.22 per mile, TB went off to cover that game and a bunch of other ones that fall. By the following year, it was basically a full-time job, and TB worked in the newspaper business for more than a decade before coming to work here.

The first half of his time in the newspaper business was spent covering high schools. Eventually, he moved up (graduated?) to covering college sports, which mostly meant games at Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey), Rider and of course Princeton.

And it all started at the game at ANC. Jack McCaffery went with TB to the game and gave him a few pointers, and then it was back to the gigantic newsroom on Perry Street in Trenton.

Back then it was a wide-open room with desks interconnected and word processors on which to write. It was also a smokey place, as TB figures nearly half the people were still lighting up in the work place, and it was always a challenge for TB to find a spot away from the smokers.

At the time, TB figured it was a hobby - and way to make a few extra dollars. But Jack did warn TB that day that "once you get the ink in your blood, you never get it out."

He first told TB that 27 years ago yesterday, when he pointed TB down a road that he never imagined nor had ever seriously considered beyond the "hey, this would be a fun thing to do" way of thinking that TB had when he read newspapers as a kid. In doing so, Jack detoured TB away from a career as a lawyer (which is what he had set out to do) or something else (TB probably would have drifted into something else).

Since that day, TB has, between the newspaper and Princeton, written about, what, 5,000 games? More? How many features, pregame stories, columns, player bios and everything else? How many words and column inches?

Looking back now, he can see some of the great games (and crushing ones) in his mind like they were yesterday. He can remember details, final scores, quotes, disagreements, travels, friendships, all of it. They are among the best memories he has.

Ironically, most of those involve Princeton University, the biggest rival of his own alma mater.

Everybody takes a different path to their ultimate career. When TB was a freshman at Penn, his roommate was a kid named Seth Rubin. He knew he wanted to be a doctor from Day 1, even volunteering in the hospital at Penn at something like 5 a.m. or something. Today? He's a doctor.

Others are like TB, who had a vague idea of what they wanted to do and then were sent in a completely unforeseen direction.

Princeton hosts Lafayette tomorrow in its home opener in football, with kickoff at 6. Community Day activities, including the very popular sports fair for kids 5-13, begins at 4.

TB invited the families who played lacrosse with TigerBlog Jr. over the summer to come to the game. TB has done this many times in the past, and it's almost always met with a comment like "you get paid to go to games? You have the coolest job in the world."

In many ways, they're right. As TB has said often, we work where other people pay to go watch.

It all started with a story that ran in a newspaper about a high school football game, one that ran 27 years ago today.

TB would never have guessed what that was the start of when he first saw his story in the paper. All he knew that day was that it something different, something fun, something cool.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sudden Death

Back when the main floor of Jadwin Gym was renamed Carril Court, TigerBlog was recalling stories from the old coach, and he included this one:

One time on a plane back from an in-season tournament, TigerBlog sat in the middle seat of three. Directly in front were assistant coach Bill Carmody on the aisle, Coach Carril in the middle seat and an elderly gentleman at the window. Carril and Carmody were working on a crossword puzzle, while the elderly man peered over their shoulders. "10 down should be "so-and-so," the old man said. "Hmmph," Carril sneered. "14 across should be "so-and-so," the old man said. Again, Carril snarled. "7 down should be ..." Before the old man could finish, Carril, then somewhere around 65 years old, cut him off and said "Yo, Pops, when I want your help, I'll ask for it."

As TigerBlog has said many times, of the 50 funniest things he's seen in his life, Pete Carril was probably responsible for 25 of them.

He said funny things all the time, and yet for every time he drew laughter, there was at least another time when he said one of the most profound things that TB has ever heard. In fact, TB quotes Carril to TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog all the time, hoping they too can learn the life lessons that a basketball coach taught their father years ago.

And then there were the times when Carril was at his no-BS best, saying things that should make most politicians in Washington ashamed for the stuff they say.

Such as on Feb. 20, 1991, when Carril spoke about the subject of putting flags on uniforms during the Persian Gulf war that had just started. At the time, for those who don't remember, Princeton was one of the only teams in the country that did not put an American flag on its uniform.

"What good is it if you wear a flag and play like a dog," Carril said back then. "What good is it if you put a yellow ribbon on your porch and cheat on your taxes. That young guy who was killed there today? He can never be replaced. All the dreams and aspirations that his family had for him, they're gone. How can there be any way to balance that except for every person in this country to do the best he can to honor that hero. Maybe it's far-fetched to think that someone on the front line is concerned whether our guys go to class, but I think that's part of what they're fighting for, that if our students don't do everything in their power to keep their commitment to their parents, they're letting the whole country down. This kid who died over there today. What are you doing in your life to make sure you're worthy of him?"

In other words, anyone can put a flag on a uniform and go off and pretend that that makes them a patriot worthy of the great sacrifices going on on the other side of the world, but it's not the case. To Carril, putting that flag on the uniform would have been an empty gesture, a fraudulent gesture. It wasn't until Princeton played in the NCAA tournament - and others mandated it - that Princeton had flags on its uniforms.

TigerBlog thought back to that Carril quote when he first heard the news that Brendan Looney was among the nine American servicemen killed in a chopper crash in Afghanistan the other day.

Looney, a lieutenant, was a SEAL. The cause of the crash is unknown.

Also on board was Andrew Dow, who survived the crash but was seriously injured. Dow, another Navy grad, was the captain of the 2007 Navy men's lacrosse team. That would mean that he graduated just three years ago.

Looney was a 2004 grad, a longstick middie who played against Princeton in the NCAA semifinals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore his senior year. His two younger brothers, Billy and Steve, were All-Americas at Navy.

TigerBlog used to think that Princeton athletes were just like any other college athletes, only they happened to play at Princeton. His opinion on that has changed dramatically through the years, and something that happened prior to the 1998 NCAA lacrosse final between Princeton and Maryland contributed to it.

The game was played at Rutgers Stadium, and both teams were in their lockerrooms about two hours before the game. The two lockerrooms were separated by a long hallway, and TB had to walk past Maryland's to get to Princeton's.

As he walked past the Terps, he heard loud music blaring and a bunch of expletive-laced bravado coming from the players. In Princeton's lockerroom, the music wasn't quite as loud, and he heard two players talking about how one had taken a class because it was a prerequisite for another one that he was taking the following semester.

Princeton (and the Ivy League in general) attracts great athletes yes, but these athletes also buy into the Ivy League philosophy (Princeton calls it "Education Through Athletics").

The same is true of the service academies. Yes, there are some athletes in the Ivy League or at Army and Navy because that's the only school that recruited them. Kevin Houston, who led Division I in scoring while playing basketball at Army in the late ’80s, was one of those.

But for the most part, attending the military academies is a calling. These are young people who at 16 or 17 years of age, decide to commit a huge portion of their lives to a regimen that 99% of the kids their age would want no part of, and it's a regimen that comes with some serious future risks.

Back at that 2004 Final Four, much of the talk was about how rooting for Navy was the patriotic thing to do. After Navy beat Princeton 8-7 in the semifinal (after Jason Doneger almost tied it at the end with a shot that rocketed off the pipe all the way back to midfield), the Midshipmen played Syracuse in the final and lost a classic game 14-13.

One of the Syracuse players - TB thinks it was Mikey Powell - said before the game something like "hey, we're Americans too." And TB felt that all of the focus on how the Navy kids were going off to risk their lives while the Princeton (and then Syracuse) kids were going off to make money was a little insulting.

That was a little more than six years ago.

Since then, Brendan Looney went to SEAL school (hardly an easy task) and then to fight in a war that most of the country hardly feels. He only made headlines doing it this past week, and it was only because of his tragic death.

Princeton has had several athletes in ROTC through the years, and some Princeton athletes (Hobey Baker, Tyler Campbell) never came back from previous wars.

But word of Looney's death reminded TB that ever player at the service academies assumes that risk. And why? Because that's what their calling is.

It's okay that TigerBlog's calling wasn't the military, and it's okay if yours wasn't either.

Stop, though, and think about Lt. Looney for a minute. Think about all of the people still there fighting a war unlike any other in American history.

And ask yourself Pete Carril's question.

Lt. Brendan Looney. What are you doing in your life to make sure you're worthy of him?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can I Get Directions?

TigerBlog was leaving a strip mall that houses his favorite bagel place a few days ago when it suddenly became obvious there was something wrong with the traffic light. One minute went by. Two minutes went by. Three minutes. And the light refused to change.

Eventually, it became obvious that something was wrong. TigerBlog was third in line at the light to make a left turn, and the second car pulled around and went right instead. After maybe six minutes or so, TB did the same thing and then made an immediate U-turn, only to have the light change at that moment, so he got stuck at it again.

That was a fairly frustrating moment in TB's driving career. Another one happened yesterday, at least until the end.

TB was behind a car for about 10 miles on a road where nobody can pass, and the driver in front was going about half the 45 mile per hour speed limit almost the entire time. Finally, that driver chose to cut through a strip mall rather than taking the jug handle that TB had to take.

When TB went across the jug handle, he saw flashing lights ahead. As he got closer, he saw a police officer had pulled the other car over for cutting through the strip mall.

It left TB to wonder if anyone had ever gotten a ticket after driving that slowly for such a sustained period of time.

The whole system of driving is a fascinating one to TB. It's based completely on trust, and all of society would break down if people weren't able to rely on that the fact that people will drive on the correct side of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs and everything else that everyone takes for granted every day.

How many times do you read about some murderer or some other heinous criminal who was arrested while driving? They might have killed people, but they would never dare cross a double line in a tunnel.

TigerBlog's first car was a 1977 Dodge Diplomat, complete with an eight-track player. If TB had to get someplace back then, or through the series of cars he had after that one, he had to get a map and figure it out. Either that, or rely on his sense of direction, which along with his ability to type fast are among his best attributes.

These days, of course, people can get from Point A to Point B without ever having to think independently about where they are. Their little GPS will tell them exactly where to turn and when, or, for those who don't have them, the directions printed off of Mapquest will do just fine.

People will follow blindly what these directions say, even if they are contrary to what the driver already knows. Turn here? Okay. So what if i went another way 50 times before this.

The website has thousands of pages on it. If you ask the people who produce that material what the most important ones are, they - like TB - would say the stories, the previews, the videos. In short, they'd pick the obvious stuff.

A long time ago, when TB first started working here, Kurt Kehl (now the VP for communications for the Washington Capitals) once remarked about how the people in the OAC would agonize over every detail of a program or a guide that would have fewer than 250 copies printed but would throw together something like the seasonal sports schedule, which would have 15,000 printed.

The same is true of the webpage. Yes, the content is hugely important, and it is what drives much of the traffic.

But there are other parts of the webpage that are, if not equally as important, still very critical, especially to those who come to the site seeking specific information.

And in this day and age, what more specific information is there than how to get to events in the first place.

To that end, the site recently debuted something that seems so simple and easy to overlook but is proving to be a very viewed page: driving directions, complete with a link to a Google map of Princeton's athletic facilities.

The main problem with Mapquest or GPS directions to Princeton facilities is that there aren't specific street addresses for most of them, but the Google maps take care of that problem.

TigerBlog has gotten a billion calls through the years from people who have wanted directions to athletic events here. The addition of the link with the Google maps is the biggest step to making it easier than ever to get here.

It doesn't address the issues related to the construction of the new neurosciences building that has destroyed the parking near Roberts Stadium and Class of 1952, but hey, at least nobody has an excuse for getting lost on the way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Garages At Night

Does the name Mark Felt ring a bell to anyone?

Surely someone must recognize the name of one of the most famous characters of the 20th century, no?

His name isn't familiar? Well maybe his pseudonym is: Deep Throat. Does that make it clearer?

Felt was the No. 2 man at the FBI back in 1972, when five men broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, which were housed in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., near where the Kennedy Center is. The break-in, of course, started a series of events that ultimately led the resignation of President Nixon two years later, marking the only time in American history that a President has resigned the office.

If you believe "All The President's Men," then the only reason that the scandal grew and made its way to the White House was because of the work of Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who pursued the story when no one else thought there was anything there.

Taken a step further, the key person for Woodward and Bernstein was a shadowy, anonymous figure whom Woodward would meet at night in a parking garage. Rather than identify him by name, the two simply called him "Deep Throat," which had a, uh, pop-culture significance at the time.

Deep Throat, played perfectly by Hal Holbrook in the movie, gave the two reporters vital information about all of the highest level officials in Nixon's White House, information that literally brought down "All the President's Men."

For decades after the scandal, Felt chose to remain anonymous, until he was well into his 80s and nearly dead, two years ago.

And that's who Mark Felt was. Political operative, law enforcement official, legendary figure in American history - and precursor to much of the way information about Ivy League sports, and the world in general, is disseminated today.

Sure, through history there have been writers who were anonymous or unknown. "Beowulf," which was written sometime around the ninth century, is widely considered the oldest piece of English-language literature; its author has never been known.

As an aside, TigerBlog considers it unreadable garbage, rather than a beautiful epic.

For the most part, of course, authors of all stripes - books, magazines, poems, newspapers, anything - have always put their name right out there for all the world to see.

Today, though, it's all different.

Sure, most "published" writers are still identifiable, but TigerBlog believes that the amount of information out there that is read by a mainstream audience and is written by someone who hasn't identified his or herself by a name has gone from about, oh, 0.1 percent to about, oh, 50 percent in the last 10 years.

This is hardly news. TigerBlog used to have a real byline in a newspaper. Now he's just TigerBlog, which isn't his actual given name. Multiply that by a few hundred million, and you have what is called the blogosphere.

What are the best ways to get information about Ivy League sports?

Well, of course there are the eight school sites and the league site itself. But much of this falls under the heading of "spin" and lacks an edge that so many readers like.

So where to turn for that? Newspapers? Yes, there is information out there, and Princeton is lucky to have its loyal souls like Bill Alden at Town Topics and Joe O'Gorman at the Trentonian.

And there are some blogs that are devoted to covering Ivy League schools, mostly football, including the Big Green Alert Blog about Dartmouth and the Roar Lions Roar blog for Columbia.

How about the Ivy League sports board? TigerBlog has no way to know the number of hits that site gets, but he'd bet it's a lot.

And that site is filled with people who use names that aren't really names, names like "Foehi" and "Holtsledge" and "Asia Sunset" and "Sprint 66" and Princeton's very own version of Deep Throat - someone who calls himself (or herself) "Reality."

They've become to regular readers highly identifiable for their loyalties, peeves, enemies and everything else. In many ways, their names are to Ivy League sports these days what Harvey Yavener or any number of old-time reporters were back when they were in the prime.

These people - and many more - post comments regularly, with information, commentary, predictions, recruiting updates, anything.

Oh, and you want another way that the world has changed?

Princeton's Steve Cody broke his leg Saturday against Lehigh and will miss the rest of the season. Back in the day, this news would have gotten out through a newspaper.

In 2010? Steve Cody's dad posted it on the Ivy League message board.

That's how the world works these days. Bypass the middle man and go directly to the reader, and everyone can be a writer. Or anyone, since you don't really know if you're sitting next to Asia Sunset at the Penn game.

The amount of information continues to skyrocket, brought to you by a slew of Deep Throats, not in a garage at night but right there on your computer - or your phone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Half Full

When a TV outlet like ESPN shows up on campus to do a game, it will usually ask the Office of Athletic Communications to find some people to help with basic tasks, such as holding up the big round sideline microphones that you always see during TV games or to be the timeout coordinator.

The TOC, also known as the "Red Hat," is a great job, because the game cannot start until that person says so. He or she will stand on the field, connected to a headset to the truck, and wait for the word; when that word is given, a signal is flashed to the refs.

TigerBlog has been able to recuit some great TOC's through the years, including former men's basketball player Mike Stephens, the former assistant football coach whose name TB can't remember but who went on to UVa to be a strength/conditioning coach a few years ago, former assistant football coach Matt Borich and the most recent TOC, former men's soccer player Devin Muntz.

The job of holding the parabolic mics doesn't seem like as much fun: You have to stand there and hold that heavy, bulky thing up for a few hours.

Last year during lacrosse season, TigerBlog sent an email to all football players looking for parabolic mic holders. Michael Muha, then a sophomore, was the first to respond, which earned him the job, and each time ESPN came back, they specifically asked for Muha.

When TB found out that Muha was going to be the starting center on the football team this year after moving from defense, he was happy for him. In fact, before the game at Lehigh Saturday, Princeton photographer Beverly Schaefer asked what players to concentrate on getting pictures of, and TB said "No. 69," which is Muha.

Unfortunately, Muha got hurt on the first series and did not return; head coach Bob Surace said he would comment on all of Princeton's injuries sometime this week. This would include Steve Cody, the Ivy League's leading tackler a year ago.

TB feels badly for everyone who gets hurt, but he felt especially bad for Muha, who earned the starting spot way out of the spotlight and ultimately had his first day, at least, cut way, way short. Plus, he came across as a pretty nice guy during the lacrosse season, and certainly ESPN thought he was hard-working and reliable.

The injuries to Muha, Cody and Jed Heavenrich were a pretty significant storyline to Princeton's 35-22 loss to Lehigh on the first day of Ivy League football for 2010.

For Princeton fans looking at the big picture, there were certainly a whole lot of good things that happened at Goodman Stadium, though.

Among them:

* Princeton outgained Lehigh by 201 yards and ran 87 plays, which is 23 more than Princeton averaged a year ago.

* quarterback Tommy Wornham was 32 for 51 for 392 yards. As TB said on the radio (he did radio for the first time in about six years or so), those were the kinds of numbers that Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry routinely put up during his days at Brown, when he amassed numbers that no Ivy League quarterback has ever come close to matching.

* Trey Peacock was so impressive at wide receiver that TigerBlog Jr. called him "the next Sidney Rice." Peacock was unstoppable, with eight catches for 196 yards and an 80-yard touchdown reception on which he split two defenders who had no chance of covering him or catching him on the play. The 196-yard day was the eighth-best in school history and the best since 1991, when Michael Lerch went crazy against Brown. Peacock, at 6-3 and 210 pounds, is a big target, and he was easily the best player on the field Saturday.

* Andrew Kerr caught 11 passes for 125 yards of his own. Kerr often kept drives alive with big catches in big spots, and he was fearless in going after the ball.

* placekicker Patrick Jacob kicked five field goals, which got progressively longer are the day went along.

* freshman running back Brian Mills carried seven times for 35 yards in his debut. TB said on the radio that Mills is unlikely ever to be the best Princeton player ever to wear No. 20, but he definitely looked good.

* and then, of course, there was the return of Jordan Culbreath, who led Princeton with nine carries for 56 yards. Culbreath, of course, was playing football against Lehigh 50 weeks after he first was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a potentially life-threatening disease that ended his 2009 season and led to much greater concerns than football. Culbreath, the Ivy League's leading rusher in 2008 with 1,206 yards, has inspired his teammates - and all Princeton fans - with the way he has fought through the disease and returned to playing football. TB said that he wanted to see Culbreath go for 125 yards on 20 carries, but his nine for 56 was great because 1) he looked really good doing it and 2) he was out there in the first place.

Princeton plays four of its next five at home, including this Saturday at 6 against Lafayette.

As an aside, TB wishes that Princeton Stadium was like Goodman Stadium in two ways: 1) the grassy hill behind one end zone is a great place for kids to watch the game and 2) the concourse is littered with great food options and the field is visible the whole time.

So what to make of Princeton after Week 1? Well, the injuries are big, and while it was good to see Jacob nail five field goals, it's better to have five touchdowns and one field goal than the other way around.

At the same time, for Game 1 under Surace and a new coaching staff, there were a ton of positives to build from. And, from an excitement standpoint, Wornham, Peacock and Kerr could hit it big on any given play.

As for the rest of the league? Harvard won easily over Holy Cross behind quarterback Andrew Hatch, back after playing in the SEC with LSU. Penn struggled past Lafayette. Dartmouth made a big comeback to beat Bucknell in a matchup of teams with strong Princeton connections (former OC Joe Susan is the Bucknell head coach; Borich is on his staff; former Tiger linebackers coach Don Dobes is the Dartmouth DC).

Yale came back to take a shootout from Georgetown. Brown had a nice win over Stony Brook in overtime. Columbia lost to Fordham in a low-scoring darby. Cornell struggled in its loss to Wagner.

In other words, who knows?

Princeton is 0-1 and a little banged up - but a team definitely worth watching.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kick It Off

TigerBlog was on a few sports sites yesterday afternoon when he saw the news that Chris Young would be back on the mound for the San Diego Padres this weekend during a crucial series with the Cardinals.

Young has been out since making his only start of the year, back in early April. Since then, he's been on the DL with shoulder problems.

The Padres have to be the favorite Major League team of any real Princeton fan, what with Young and Will Venable, both Princeton grads who played basketball and baseball here. A few weeks ago it seemed like a lock that Venable, at least, would be in the postseason, back when the Padres had a lead of 6.5 games in the NL West.

Now the Padres could definitely use Young, as Padres are now in second place, a half-game back of the Giants, with the Rockies also in the mix. One of those three teams will win the West; the other two look like they will battle the Braves for the wild card.

The American League teams seem all set with the Rays, Yankees and Twins in a battle for the best overall record and those three ready to be joined by the Rangers in the postseason. As an aside, the Yankees-Rays game the other night that had C.C. Sabathia pitch against David Price was 0-0 after nine innings, by which time the teams had combined for no runs and six hits. Time to play nine scoreless innings? 2:50.

It's a busy time in sports, what with the regular season winding down in baseball and the NFL season heading into its second week. We're also four days away from the start of the NHL exhibition season.

College sports are in full gear, as well.

The college sport that outdoes them all, nationally at least, is football. For the most part, teams are getting ready to play their third games this weekend, and as always, the regular season in college football is proving to be the most significant of any sport.

Teams can play themselves into and out of national championship position as early as September, and losses this time of year can wipe out a team's chances. In other words, teams need to be ready to play every week on the FBS level, which makes it unique in a sports world where teams can lose repeatedly during the season, get hot at the end and steal the whole show.

Princeton, like the rest of the Ivy League teams, has not yet played a minute of football, a situation that changes this weekend when all eight teams kick off. For Princeton, it means a trip to Bethlehem to take on Lehigh tomorrow at 12:30.

As an aside, check out the gameday central page and the information central page on

Steve Verbit, the longtime defensive coach for the Tigers, stopped by yesterday afternoon and laughed at how long it seems like his team has been practicing before it finally gets to play. For Ivy teams, the wait can seem to be excruciating, as practice starts in late August, just before most teams are starting their games.

In fact, pretty much every high school team (and Pop Warner team, for that matter) has already played.

TigerBlog actually likes the way it works in the Ivy League, as this week's games set up 10 games in 10 weeks, with no off-weeks (why are they called "bye weeks," when a bye is what you get to advance through a tournament without playing). It's a sprint from start to finish, and each season seems to fly by.

There are two main storylines for Princeton football in 2010.

The first - and most inspirational - is the return of Jordan Culbreath to the starting tailback position. Culbreath, as everyone by now knows, was the Ivy League's leading rusher in 2008 before missing almost all of 2009 with aplastic anemia, a life-threatening disease that he has overcome to return to the football field.

The other big story for Princeton football is the start of Bob Surace's tenure as head coach, with his new coaching staff firmly in place.

Surace, a 1990 Princeton grad and All-Ivy center on the 1989 Ivy championship team, was hired last winter. Since then, he has put together his staff, evaluated his team, implemented his system and done everything else that goes along with being the new head coach.

In fact, he's done everything except for coaching an actual game.

It always fascinates TigerBlog when new coaches are hired, because they almost always are hired shortly after the previous season has ended and therefore are months and months away from actually coaching games, just as Surace was.

Now it's almost gametime, and it'll be interesting to see what Princeton football looks like going forward, not in terms of wins and losses at first but instead in terms of style, philosophy, personality and approach.

All that changes tomorrow.

TigerBlog remembers the first game of Surace's predecessor, Roger Hughes, and the first game of Hughes' predecessor, Steve Tosches. Those two have been Princeton's head coaches for the last 22 years (Tosches for 12, Hughes for 10), so debuts of Princeton football coaches are something of a rarity of late.

So with Chris Young about to return and with the Giants trying to get to 2-0 with a game against the Colts, as well as everything else going on the sports world this weekend, TigerBlog is most excited about Princeton-Lehigh football.

The weather is supposed to be perfect, and Lehigh is 1) a short drive from here and 2) a great place to watch a game.

TB is excited to see Culbreath out there again, and what a Bob Surace-coached team will look like.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The TigerBlog Era

TigerBlog took four classes as a first-semester Penn freshman: a political science class that was largely about the history of the Supreme Court, Economics 1A, German 1 and Math 140 (calculus - TB was always a big fan of derivatives).

The political science class, taught by a man who spoke in complete monotones, was in the University Museum at Penn, which is across the street from Franklin Field towards where the Civic Center used to be. In other words, TB's first class faced into where he hoped he'd be graduating on time. German and Econ were both in Williams Hall, next to College Hall, where the statue of Ben Franklin is right in the heart of campus. Calculus was in the David Rittenhouse Lab, which faces the Palestra, the tennis courts and Franklin Field.

Nearly four years later, TB took his last college final in the David Rittenhouse Lab. He remembers walking out of the building on a warm May day and thinking to himself that, as long as he had passed the test (he did), he was a college grad.

In between, he took some pretty interesting classes on his way to a degree in American History. He took two on the American South of the 1800s that were taught by Drew Gilpen Faust, now the president of Harvard. He took a great astronomy course just because it was fun, and one on the history of the 1960s for the same reason.

One of his favorite classes was Jeffersonian and Jacksonian America, taught off campus at the American Philosophical Society building, at Fourth and Market. Sometimes, TB would make the 30-block walk from West Philadelphia with the rest of the people in the class. He also took some American labor history classes, one of which included seeing the movie "The Molly Maguires," which as it happened was on TV last night.

There were also some snoozers, like that political science class, an econ, and a few others. And there were some weird ones, like a philosophy class taught by a young man whose personality ran to the, uh, morbid and who stood in front of the small classroom and chainsmoked the whole time.

TB thought back to his college career this morning, when it dawned on him that it was the first day of classes here at Princeton.

And it also made him think of the word of the day: Era. As in, the days in between the David Rittenhouse Lab can be called "The TigerBlog Still Rooted For Penn Era."

TigerBlog got an email yesterday from a loyal reader who raised some good questions about the concept of eras as they relate to Princeton Athletics. They also raised some good questions about whether or not TB could use those questions here.

As part of his rehab from his knee surgery of last year, TigerBlog spent much of the winter riding the exercise bike on D level with John McPhee, the author and Academic-Athletic Fellow for the men's lacrosse team.

For 30-45 minutes three times per week, Mr. McPhee would tell his stories, one more fascinating than the last. TB wanted to write about them (especially the time McPhee met Dwight Eisenhower when Ike was president of Columbia), but he chose not to use any of them, because they weren't meant to be what used to be called "on the record."

As for Loyal Reader's email, TB has decided to use some of it:
"More specifically, the notion of a 'Surace Era' was nagging at me. He is supposed to be a very solid guy and we all have high hopes for the football program in the years to come, but in some distant, nostalgic land long ago, I recall that a program's identity seemed to be derived first from the school, second the sport (Princeton Basketball) and third the exceptional teams and players (The Hess-Hubbard-Massey lacrosse teams). I get the Bradley era, the Elias or Garrett brother years or the Kazmaier teams, etc., but when did we (not Princeton specifically) start referring to periods identified by coaches. Certainly there have been many exceptional coaches at Princeton who achieved a high level of visibility and prominence and the 'identities' of Pete Carill and Bill Tierney both make complete sense, especially *after* their many years of sustained success and excellence and I'm sure that in the future, great current coaches like Rob Orr, Bob Callahan and Julie Shackford will deserve some enhanced identity when the teams they coached are described in the future. So, question one goes to identity and prominence of coaches."

Actually, thinking about it, most of the eras are "post" eras, as in someone prominent left. In the case of Loyal Reader's email, he referred to the Surace Era, since Bob Surace is now the head football coach and is about to coach his first game. The story on has this headline: Finally, Football; Princeton Opens Surace Era, 2010 Season At Lehigh.

For the most part, though, the use of the term "era" to relate a period of Princeton athletic history to a specific player or coach is rare, and it's usually something reserved for headlines or for people who like to speak in superlatives.

For the most part, it's used to define periods for purposes of time rather than achievement.

TigerBlog assumes the question really is this: Can Princeton Athletics produce someone who is larger than Princeton itself, to the point where they have their own "era?"

The answer is yes, but it too is rare and in the end, the program is always what's biggest. And that's one of the great things about Princeton Athletics.

Looking back in history, Princeton has its athletic icons - Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier, Bill Bradley, Pete Carril and Tierney leap to mind for TB. Speaking from a contemporary perspective, the only ones who have had somewhat mythical individual accomplishments are Elias and Hess-Hubbard-Massey, with apologies to all of the great players who did great things here.

When TB thinks back to those great athletes and their achievements - even teams like the 1998 men's basketball team - he thinks first of the bigger picture of Princeton, not of the individuals involved.

That's what it means to be part of programs that have such great traditions and history to them.

So yes, the word "era" can get thrown around a bit from time to time, and yes, there have been some people who left legacies that exceed the name Princeton alone.

But it is extremely, extremely rare.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting Oriented

TigerBlog's Corn Flakes this morning were shared with a story about the 25th anniversary of Ewing High School's 1983 Central Jersey Group II football championship and how the members of the team are being saluted at the Blue Devils' game this weekend.

TB covered that championship game for the same newspaper he was reading this morning, and he remembered some of the key details of the game:
* it was cold
* it was at Colonia, who was heavily favored
* Ewing won 3-0
* the kid who kicked the field goal was also a defensive lineman (TB is pretty sure on this one)
* the game ended with 36 seconds remaining due to an altercation of some sort; according to this morning's paper, it was a brawl that the Colonia side started, which is sort of how TB remembers it
* the Notre Dame High School coaching staff sat in the stands behind the Ewing bench offering support - and a few plays; the ND head coach then is the ND head coach now (Chappy Moore)

Twenty-five years have gone by since that game? A quarter century? It doesn't seem that long ago. And how about going that far from now into the future? TigerBlog, 25 years from now, will be, uh, not young.

Put in some further context, the current Princeton freshman class (of 2014, by the way) was about seven years or so away from being born back when Ewing beat Colonia that day.

The Class of 2014 is completing a week of orientation activities in advance of tomorrow's first day of classes (which, by the way, could almost overlap with fall break at some other schools).

For those members of the class who are athletes, today offers Freshman Student-Athlete Orientation, a completely fascinating event for TigerBlog.

As he does every year, TB will sit in the event, look at the more than 200 faces there and think ahead 44 months to the 2014 Princeton Varsity Club senior-athlete award banquet, where a handful of those athletes will be honored with the major departmental awards, including the Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch Awards as the top male and female athletes.

And of course, not everyone will have an award-winning experience. Some will battle injuries. Others will decide not to continue with their athletic careers.

Still, if past performance is any indication of future whatever-those-commercials-say, then more than half of the kids in McCosh 50 today will win at least one Ivy League championship. Most will compete in NCAA or other national championship events, and some will even win them.

The overwhelming majority will have a great experience here. They will come away with great athletic memories of competing for Princeton University, and they will have lifelong friendships as a result, friendships that are just now starting out on a path that will last for decades and take them from where they are now through weddings, babies, careers, grandchildren and all the rest of it.

TigerBlog is lucky to see two completely different sides of the athletic world from such close proximity - the youth sports world and the Division I world.

It wasn't that long ago that the current 14ers were playing youth sports, among the hundreds of thousands who were doing the same thing at the time. And, those same 14ers were going through elementary school, middle school, eventually high school.

The freshmen are part of an extraordinarily lucky few, those who were good enough in their lives on both their athletic and academic plane to have the intersection of the two land them on this campus.

For every young athlete who wanted to play Division I, only a very, very, very few could. For everyone who wanted to attend Princeton University, only a very, very, very, very, very, very few could.

The athletes in the Class of 2014 have achieved both. They are to be congratulated - and cautioned not to waste this golden opportunity.

The woods are filled with those who will never have that chance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

15 For 16

Little Miss TigerBlog had her first soccer game in a long time this past Saturday. She's on the white team, and her team lost to the royal blue team.

Like basically every other kid in the country, LMTB's first organized sporting activity was in a co-ed soccer league for four year olds. Contrary to what anyone - TigerBlog included - may say about lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in terms of youth participation continues to be soccer.

Soccer, of course, is responsible for the current model that exists in the youth sports world, where it's all about making the travel team at whatever age so that eventually you can get a scholarship to a Division I school.

LMTB, and TigerBlog Jr., gave up on soccer after their four-year-old experience. Since then, she has played basketball and lacrosse, while he has played baseball (for one year), lacrosse, basketball and football. LMTB returned to soccer this year because her best friend, Wiki, also plays, though she is on a travel team.

Wiki also has competed in youth swimming and even synchronized swimming. Other kids that they know participate in among other sports baseball, softball, tennis, golf, wrestling, track and field and cross country.

One sport absent from that list is field hockey. For the first time, TigerBlog saw a youth field hockey program being advertised, though it is a half-hour away. Additionally, TBJ's middle school also has a field hockey team.

In many ways, field hockey is a mysterious sport to many, most of whom have either never seen it or don't understand the rules.

TigerBlog grew up near the Jersey Shore in a town that didn't have field hockey or lacrosse, and he first saw field hockey when started covering high school sports in his early newspaper days.

He learned most of what he knows about the rules and such from Lori Hussong, who was the West Windsor-Plainsboro High coach back then and now is the highly successful coach at Rider University, and from the Princeton coach when he started covering colleges, Beth Bozman.

Basically, you can't shield the ball from your opponent with your body and can't double-team the ball. You also have to hit the ball with the flat side of the stick.

Princeton went 156-83-4 against Ivy League schools a year ago in all sports combined. So far in 2010-11, Princeton is 1-0, with a win over Harvard in men's water polo last weekend.

As men's water polo is not a sport that will crown an Ivy champion, the field hockey team will play the first actual league game this Friday night, when Dartmouth comes to Class of 1952 Stadium in a matchup of teams that are undefeated on the young season and rank 1-2 in Division I in scoring offense.

The Princeton women have won 15 of the last 16 Ivy titles, including each of the last five.

How difficult is it to dominate a sport for that extended period of time? Very.

In Ivy League history, the only other time a school has won 15 titles in a 16-year span of the same sport has come in men's lacrosse, and TB will grudgingly give Cornell proper credit for its dominating run beginning in 1968. Princeton's best run in men's lacrosse, by the way, was 12 titles in 13 years.

Princeton field hockey dates back to 1971, when it was the second varsity women's sport at the school. The program has won more than 65% of its games all-time, and that number is higher when starting in 1988, the year Bozman became head coach.

Under Bozman, Princeton went 188-73-6, a .715 percentage, and reached four NCAA Final Fours and two NCAA finals.

It took Bozman eight years to reach her first Final Four; current head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn got there in seven. Holmes-Winn is 89-43 with the Tigers overall, and she is 36-6 since the start of the 2008 season.

This year, the Tigers are 3-0 and have outscored their three opponents by a combined 17-2. This weekend is big, with the game against Dartmouth Friday and then another home game Sunday against Syracuse, whom Princeton defeated to reach the Final Four a year ago.

The Tigers aren't exactly ducking anyone this season either.

Princeton is currently ranked fourth, and the regular-season schedule includes games against No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Virginia and No. 6 UConn, as well as Syracuse (No. 8), Louisville (No. 12), Penn State (No. 15) and American (No. 18).

Clearly, you don't put together a schedule like that if you don't think you can handle it. Even with a team that is still amazingly young, the Tigers clearly feel ready for such a challenging fall.

Challenge No. 1: An Ivy League title would make Princeton field hockey the first league school ever to win 16 in 17 years.

Challenge No. 2: Navigating a tough non-league schedule with an eye on another Final Four.

These are interesting times in the mysterious sport.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Highly Offensive

The best show ever on Sunday nights was, of course, "The Sopranos." The second-best show ever for a Sunday night?

How about the English Premier League Review Show on Fox Soccer Channel? Each Sunday at 8, the top moments from the top games of the previous weekend are shown, complete with the commentary from the world's best announcers.

The big surprise of the early season is, of course, the fact that Blackpool currently sits in fourth place with seven points. Blackpool, a seaside resort town in northwest England, is in its first year in the EPL after a remarkable 3-2 win in which the team came from behind twice in the Championship League play-off to beat Cardiff City to advance.

As an aside, the whole concept of relegation in professional sports is tremendous. Imagine if American pro leagues split into a premier league and a championship league, and teams in the middle were constantly battling to move up or avoid moving down?

Anyway, back at the review show, it's basically all goals and big saves, with some near misses mixed in.

In other words, it's not too much different than yesterday's women's soccer game on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, where Princeton defeated James Madison 6-3 in a wild up-and-down track meet of a game.

The game was remarkable in that the average soccer game doesn't have nearly that number of goals, and yet in this one, all of the scoring seemed like part of the normal flow of the game.

Princeton's offense was so efficient that it finished with six goals on just nine shots. Jen Hoy, a sophomore, had three goals on just three shots.

TigerBlog doesn't have any way to look up the last time a Princeton player had at least three goals without missing any shots. He could, on the other hand, look up some other stuff.

The game against James Madison marked just the sixth time in 489 Princeton women's soccer game that a team has scored three or more goals and not won. It was also the first time in the 266 games that Julie Shackford has been the Tigers' head coach that it has happened.

Of the six games in which the losing team reached three, four finished 4-3. The only other time besides yesterday where Princeton allowed at least three and scored more than four was in 1984, when the Tigers defeated Kean 6-4.

On the men's side, there have been 14 games in the 1,091 in program history where the losing team has scored at least three. Jim Barlow has been the current head coach 252 and has only had one game in which the losing team reached three - his team fell 7-4 to Yale in 1998.

There was also one 4-4 tie with Rutgers back in 1963.

Added together, there have been 1,580 games in Princeton soccer history, and only 21 of them (.013%) have seen a team score at least three goals and not win. It had been 12 years since the last one.

The Princeton women's team was shut out in its first game, a 2-0 loss to No. 24 Rutgers, but since then the Tigers have scored 10 goals in three games, all wins. Of the 10 goals, seven have been scored by sophomores, including four by Hoy, who had four all of last year.

Contrast that with a year ago, when Princeton, playing mostly freshmen, went 7-7-3. Of those 17 games, nine finished either 1-0 or 0-0, and a 10th was 1-1.

Against James Madison alone, Princeton scored three goals in less than 10 minutes in the first half and then in the second needed 62 seconds to answer a goal by the Dukes.

The Princeton men are 1-2 against a strong early season schedule following the NCAA tournament season a year ago. There is a soccer doubleheader at Roberts Stadium Friday, as the women take on LIU at 5 followed by the men's game against Georgetown.

The Ivy League season begins the following week for the women with a huge game at Yale and the week after for the men with another doubleheader against Dartmouth.

If you're expecting the losing team to score at least three goals every game, history suggests it's unlikely.

If you're looking for great soccer - for free, no less - than Roberts Stadium is a great place to start.

Well, that and the English Premiere League Review Show.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dookie Is Correct

TigerBlog was right. It only took a few minutes of the first NFL game of the year for TB to miss the announcers from the World Cup.

And this was even more true when TB listed to Kevin Harlan shriek on every play on the radio. Who can listen to that guy for more than one or two plays and not change the station?

Yes, back in June, TB said it would come to this. Watching the World Cup and listening to the announcers - mostly English - pointed out exactly what was wrong with most American broadcasters, and TB knew that this would be most obvious when the NFL season began.

Sadly, it only took a few minutes of the Saints-Vikings game to prove TB correct.

As an aside, TB never used to mind the Vikings, going back to their days playing outdoor games in December at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, where the Mall of America now stands, and he sort of liked Brett Favre, at least a little bit. This year, as with last, the Vikings are TB's least favorite team, and it's because of Favre. It's amazing, isn't it, how one player can destroy his legacy?

Anyway, going back to the World Cup, the American team was of course coached by a Princeton alum, Bob Bradley.

There has also been a Princeton alum coaching the at the basketball World Championships, currently nearing their conclusion in Turkey. In the quarterfinal round yesterday, the U.S. team defeated Russia 89-79; extra credit is given if you can identify without looking the other three teams in the FIBA final four (TB will let you think about it; quitters can click here).

As most should know by now, the Russians are coached by Dave Blatt, who was the captain of the 1981 Princeton team that won the Ivy League championship while going 13-1.

Blatt came from Framingham, Mass., to play for Pete Carril, and he was a steady contributor if not huge scorer for three varsity seasons. Princeton went 7-7 in the league in his sophomore year, and that included two one-point losses to Penn in the year that the Quakers reached the NCAA Final Four.

As a junior, Blatt was part of a Princeton team that tied Penn for the league title and then lost by one in the playoff for the NCAA spot in a game played at Lafayette.

Princeton also played in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii that year and went 0-3, and Carril vowed never to play in Hawaii again. True to his word, Carril never took his team back to the 50th state, and it wasn't until the 1998-99 season, when Bill Carmody was head coach, that Princeton again played in the Rainbow Classic, defeating Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte to win the title as TB earned a free trip to Hawaii in what was clearly win-win.

Meanwhile, back at Blatt, he was the captain along with Randy Melville in 1980-81, when Princeton won the outright title before losing to BYU in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Blatt, who has dual citizenship with the U.S. and Israel, played in Israel for 10 years after graduating before embarking on a hugely successful coaching career that has taken him throughout Europe. Ultimately, he became the head coach of the Russian team and then won the 2007 European championship.

For these World Championships, he made his biggest impact with his claim that the Soviet Union rightfully was awarded the gold medal in basketball in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, though he also said that he cried at the time when the U.S. team didn't win.

This resulted in a back-and-forth with the U.S. coach, whose name escapes TB at the moment, who said this about the comments:
"He's Russian. He coaches the Russian team. So he probably has that viewpoint. His eyes are clearer now because there are no tears in them."

TigerBlog doesn't ordinarily side with a Dookie against a Princetonian, but in this case, the Dookie is correct. There is no objective way to say that the Soviets deserved to win that game.

For those who don't know much about the 1972 Olympics, there were all kinds of problems, including the murder of 11 members of the Israeli delegation by Arab terrorists and the subsequent decision to resume the Games after one day of mourning.

As far as the competition went, nothing topped the men's basketball final. The U.S. team was 63-0 all-time in Olympic basketball prior to the 1972 final against the Soviet Union, and if you're under 40 or so, you don't really have a feel for what any sporting event between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was all about back then anyway.

The Soviets led 49-48 when Doug Collins, now the Sixers coach, was fouled with three seconds to play. Collins made both foul shots (one of the more amazing pressure performances in sporting history by the way), and that left the Soviets three seconds to go the length of the floor.

The rest is pretty involved
, but the bottom line is that the Soviets were given three different opportunities to inbound the ball. The first two resulted in an American win; the third resulted in a Soviet layup (after what was a clear offensive foul) that was allowed to stand.

The final thus became 50-49 in favor of the Soviets, who gleefully took their gold medals. The 12 members of the American team refused to accept the silver medals, and to this day, not one of them has one.

In the history of American sport, there has never been another time when a team has been so wronged out of such an important win. Nothing, actually, comes close.

It had to be that big for TB to agree with the Dookie. In this case, though, he's right.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Through The Record Book

TigerBlog remembers being at Rutgers one night for a men's lacrosse game. Chris Massey, who was part of the great attack unit along with Jesse Hubbard and Jon Hess that brought Princeton the NCAA title three straight times before they graduated in 1998, needed a goal in the game to break the Princeton record for consecutive games with at least one goal.

Massey didn't score in the first quarter, and then-assistant coach David Metzbower was getting a bit annoyed by how much it seemed everyone was pressing to get Massey his goal. TB, standing on the sideline, remembers how Metz told Massey to "get this over with." Within a few seconds, Massey had his goal.

TB has always been hugely interested in Princeton records and, by extension, the likelihood that current athletes will break them.

As an aside, when TB was in the newspaper business, he was taught that there's no such thing as a "new school record," since saying "so and so set a new school record" and "so and so set a school record" say the same thing. That's one of those style points that TB never bought into it.

Despite having seen hundreds of Princeton games, TB hasn't really seen too many Princeton career records set in person.

He was there when Esmeralda Negron set the school record for goals in a career in soccer. He was there when Hubbard broke Justin Tortolani's record for goals in a career in men's lacrosse, and for that matter when Tortolani broke Wick Sollers' record.

TB does not remember being there when Keith Elias broke the record for career rushing yards. He knows he was not there when Bill Bradley broke the previous record for points in a career.

As a matter of fact, how many games did it take Bradley to do so? The record when Bradley arrived at Princeton was 1,451, set by Pete Campbell before he graduated in 1962. Bradley, who was a freshman when Campbell was a senior, scored 682 points as a sophomore and 936 as a junior; he passed Campbell in against Columbia in his 49th career game.

Bradley destroyed the Princeton basketball record book, even without the three-point shot and a fourth year of varsity to play. It's unlikely anyone will ever come close to what he's accomplished here, and in fact, nobody has: Bradley has the 11 highest single-game scoring totals in Princeton history.

When TB wrote about Negron the other day, he mentioned how Negron had scored more goals (47) than any other male or female soccer player in school history. That got him thinking about where men and women stood when you compared similar records in similar sports.

If you do so, you find out some interesting things.

Start with basketball. Bradley is so far out in front of everyone else who has ever played with 2,503 points, but the four other players who ever scored at least 1,600 points were all women: Sandi Bittler (1,683), Meagan Cowher (1,671), C.B. Tomasiewicz (1,622) and Becky Brown (1,608). Niveen Rasheed, not to jinx her, would reach 1,788 points by repeating her freshman total of 447 points the next three years.

How about home runs? The Princeton baseball record is 26, set by Matt Evans; four softball players have more than 30 (Jamie Lettire with 38, Kelsey Quist and Melissa Finley with 37, Kat Welsh with 30).

John Cook's record for goals in a career in men's hockey (67) has stood since 1963, and John Messuri's record for points in a career (178) is 21 years old.

On the women's side, three women's hockey players scored more than 200 points: Kathy Issel (218), Mollie Marcoux (216) and Kelly O'Dell (207), while Cook's record would rank 13th for the women. O'Dell (121) and Marcoux (120) nearly doubled the men's record.

In lacrosse, Bill Tierney said nobody would ever break Tortolani's record when it was at 120. Since then, Hubbard (163), Massey (146) and Sean Hartofilis (126) have all done so.

Also beating Tortolani? The top 10 women listed in the record book, starting at No. 1 with Crista Samaras at 189.

Cassie Nichols is third all-time in Princeton women's water polo history with 255 goals - which is one more than the men's record of 254, held by John Stover. For the women, No. 1 is Adele McCarthy-Beauvais with 325, while No. 2 is Elyse Colgan with 272.

In other words, if you take the biggest career scoring record for the sports that are easily compared, you have men with the first spot in basketball (followed by four women) and then the women with the top spot in soccer, baseball/softball, lacrosse, hockey and water polo.

And, the women don't just have the top spot. They have the top few spots.

So why would that be? Why would women's records eclipse men's? For the most part, both teams are playing similar numbers of games, so that's not it.

At the risk of offending someone, is it possible that there are fewer great women's athletes, so the ones who do dominate are able to do so at a greater extent than the men?

Is it that Princeton has built in a short time (comparably, at least compared to the men) a great tradition of women's athletics, complete with some sure fire Hall of Fame coaches? That part is a huge factor as well.

Or is it another reason? TB isn't sure, but he does find it interesting.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Back when TigerBlog was a student at Penn, the bookstore sold football jerseys with the various class years on them, making them a big sell. Among the various school stuff that TB had back then was a shirt with a Penn "P" that had Snoopy asleep on top of it, as if the "P" was the doghouse of the most famous dog of all-time as he was in his most-famous perch.

When TigerBlog was still in the newspaper business, Joan Kowalik was the women's basketball coach here at Princeton. One day, Kowalik gave TB a black sweatshirt with the words "Princeton Basketball" across the front in orange.

Sometime later, TB wrote a story on the Princeton crew. The women's coach at the time was Dan Roock, who sent TB a Princeton rowing hat.

Those two were TB's first pieces of apparel that had the word "Princeton" on it.

Today, TB could wear something that says "Princeton" on it for a month and never wear the same thing twice. It's one of the great benefits of working here.

As an aside, TB has nothing left that says "Penn" on it.

And, thanks to Princeton's deal with Nike, it's better than ever.

Yesterday was a big day around here, as the good people in the equipment room dropped off some new Nike stuff for the athletic staff to wear heading into the new academic year.

The effect off the Nike deal on all of Princeton Athletics has been nothing short of extraordinary. What started out as a bit of a perk has turned into the single best element of what TB calls "overt pride," something that stretches across every coach, athlete and staff member of the department.

Before the Nike deal, each team would have its own arrangement, and none of the gear that the teams wore matched any other team, or if it did, it was coincidence.

Now, when you walk around campus, you will see easily identifiable Princeton athletes, all in their matching Nike gear. There may be the distinguishing "Princeton Soccer" or "Princeton Squash" wording, but it's on identical shirts/jackets/shorts/hats/etc., all in the same colors, with the same font and with, of course, the swoosh.

As an aside, a Google search for "swoosh" brings back more than six million entries. According to the website that knows all: "The Nike Swoosh logo represents the wing in the famous statue of the Greek Goddess of victory, Nike."

Back in the pre-Nike days, back when TB was the contact for football and men's basketball in addition to men's lacrosse, normal game-day attire in the fall and winter was shirt and tie or, for the women, something that might be considered business casual (unless TB doesn't really know what business casual is, in which case what he's actually trying to say is "somewhat dressed up without going crazy").

Since Nike came on board, normal game-day attire for those sports is the Nike stuff, and this has had two effects on the athletic department staff.

First, everyone looks the same, which makes it clear to fans in attendance that the people in these shirts are affiliated with the University and department and are working at the event. Second, and more importantly, it gives off a sense of pride in being part of Princeton Athletics.

It's a simple idea, but it wasn't as "overt" as it was when everyone was dressed differently.

As for his favorites, TB is a big fan of the orange dri-fit shirt, the long-sleeve polo, the long-sleeve Ts and the two windbreakers from last year. Actually, he's a big fan of all of it.

Looking out his door, TB has been tracking the people who walk by on the balcony and putting them into groups of "those wearing Nike stuff" and "those dressed as civilians."

The Nike stuff people are up by about 2:1.

Why wouldn't they be?

We've spent a lot of time talking about overt pride here, and there are still a lot of ways to dress up the facilities. The people in them?

Thanks to Nike, they're dressed just fine.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The House That Es Built

TigerBlog knows that he parks in Lot 21, and he knows the lots above the football stadium are 4 and 25. Lot 15 used to be where the new chemistry building is going.

Other than that, TB isn't 100% sure which lot is which. He's pretty sure, though, that the lot that used to be near Class of 1952 Stadium before construction of the new neuroscience building was Lot 20, and that it's possible that the lots across the circle are 16 and 23.

While he's not certain what lot he parked in the other day before the women's soccer and field hockey games that began the 2010-11 home season of Princeton Athletics, he is sure that it's only a short walk from there to Roberts Stadium or Class of 1952, so in that vein, he's not sure what all the fuss is about for having to take a few extra steps.

TB is sure that as he walked to the fields, the first car to come by him was driven by men's basketball coach Sydney Johnson, who was bringing his family to the games. When TB got to Roberts Stadium, he also saw head football coach Bob Surace and his family.

Having the head football and men's basketball coaches attend other sports is one of the great things about Princeton Athletics. To be sure, this is probably not unique to Princeton, but there are probably more Division I schools than not where the head football and men's basketball coaches would consider themselves to be way above something like that.

Someone else TB saw at Roberts Stadium Sunday was Esmeralda Negron, who according to was the No. 2 female athlete at Princeton in the last decade. As a senior, Negron led Princeton to the 2004 NCAA Final Four in women's soccer, something no other Ivy League school has accomplished before or since.

These days, Negron is an assistant coach at Seton Hall, and her team fell to Princeton 3-1 Sunday.

TigerBlog tried to think of other Princeton alums who had gone on to coach against the Tigers and their former head coach, and he came up with two quickly: Armond Hill in basketball when he was the head coach at Columbia in 1995-96 and Pete Carril was still the Princeton head coach and Julie Shaner when she was an assistant coach at Penn in women's lacrosse and annually coached against Chris Sailer. There are probably lots of other examples, but TB couldn't think of them off the top of his head.

Negron scored 47 goals for Princeton, more than any other male or female ever to play for the school. Her 112 points are 18 more than any other male or female player ever has had at Princeton; her 52 points as a senior are 21 more than the next-highest total by a woman and eight more than the men's record.

She also had a knack for scoring big goals, including four in overtime. Her two biggest were probably the one that proved to be the game-winner in the NCAA quarterfinal win over Washington at Lourie-Love Field and one in OT against Harvard several weeks earlier, when Princeton scored to tie the game late in regulation and then won it in overtime, ending a huge jinx at home against the Crimson and propelling the Tigers to their big NCAA run.

She finished her career as a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year and a first-team All-America, a rarity for an Ivy League women's soccer player.

Negron's new team plays its home soccer games on the outfield of the baseball field; Princeton's Roberts Stadium, on the other hand, continues to be a jewel of a soccer facility and a huge draw for the Tiger men and women.

With no ticket sales, it's difficult to say exactly how many people were in attendance, but it was a pretty good crowd for the Princeton-Seton Hall game. There aren't too many venues that can rival Roberts Stadium for college soccer or simply to watch a game, with all of the seats so close to the field, with the facility still in pristine shape and with the near perfect sight lines, especially behind the goals. It didn't hurt that the weather was perfect.

One thought TB had when watching Negron leave Myslik Field was that in many ways, Roberts Stadium is somewhat The House That Es Built, or at least The House That Es Did A Lot To Help Get Built.

Lourie-Love was a "charming" place, with charming in this case meaning "historic and with a lot of memories but also with decaying wooden bleachers and no amenities." Princeton's runs to the 1993 men's Final Four and 2004 women's Final Four took place on that field, which will always make it a special place in school athletic history.

It was the women's run especially that helped convince the University administration, led by President Shirley Tilghman, that a new facility was warranted, and it was a huge reason why the momentum for a new facility was finally able to take hold.

On a team filled with stars, Negron was the most important player. Now, wearing the visiting blue of Seton Hall, she was walking off a field at a stadium in which she never got to play on the short end of the score.

"Losing stinks," she said.

Negron is one of TB's favorite Princeton athletes of all time, and her team senior year is one of his favorite teams (TB was the women's soccer contact back then). The senior class from that team has produced several lawyers, scientists, businesswomen - and one Division I assistant coach.

Their legacy is of one of the most successful teams Princeton has ever had, and there are pictures of them on the plaza and banners that hang recalling their biggest wins and accomplishments.

Included in that list has to be Roberts Stadium itself, which was in its all its glory on a perfect Sunday afternoon, when it welcomed home one of its greatest alums. She left unhappy at the score - but Esmeralda Negron can at least take some solace in seeing what she and her teammates helped achieve.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earl-y Games

Hurricane Earl, as TigerBlog sits down to write, is centered about 150 miles to the southeast. Looking out his window, TB can see from the trees that there isn't the slightest bit of wind right now in Princeton.

After a week or so of "bracing" for Earl, it appears that the storm is going to miss New Jersey. The forecast for heavy rain has been replaced by a 30% chance of rain this morning or early afternoon, with clear skies in Central Jersey tonight at 7.

As for the weekend, the forecast couldn't be better, with temperatures in the 70s Saturday and Sunday and the low 80s Monday with no chance of precipitation any of those days.

All of this is great news for those who make their livings at the Jersey Shore, who were probably figuring on a lost Labor Day weekend due to Earl. Though the stakes weren't quite as high for Princeton athletics, it is nice to know that the opening weekend of events for 2010-11 will be played in great weather.

Today is Opening Day for Princeton, with the women's soccer team at Rutgers at 7 and the women's volleyball team at Lafayette for the Leopard's tournament today and tomorrow. The men's soccer team plays tomorrow at 7 at FDU, and the first home events are Sunday, when the field hockey team hosts Bucknell and the women's soccer team hosts Seton Hall, both at 1 (and both free, for that matter).

As an aside, the Seton Hall women's soccer coaching staff includes Esmeralda Negron, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton soccer history (men's and women's).

As TB mentioned the other day, there are 60 athletic events for Princeton teams in the month of September alone and more than 600 for the coming year.

The start of the new year got TB to thinking about the summer that is ending.

TB is often asked if the people in the athletic department work in the summer, the answer to which is clearly yes. The pace may be slower because there are no games, but there is definitely work to be done.

The compliance staff, for instance, goes through the time-consuming NCAA clearinghouse procedure during the summer. There are all kinds of meetings, from strategic planning to ticketing/marketing to television and corporate sponsorship and other fundraising.

Here in the OAC, the pace certainly wasn't what it'll be now that games are starting, but the big fear at the beginning of the summer is always that the information on the website is going to get stale.

Instead, from June 1st until yesterday, there were 172 stories posted to, an average of more than 2.5 stories per work day.

TB thought it'd be interesting to go back to some of those stories and see exactly what there was to write about all that time. Consider July 28-30, which had these fairly random headlines:

2010 Football Tickets Now Available To Be Ordered Online
Rachel Dawson Joins Princeton Field Hockey Staff
Men's Track Earns Five Places on All-Academic Team
Michibata to Receive Rogers Cup Hall of Fame Invite
Five Tigers Named to Track & Field All-Academic Team
One on One with Judson Wallace '05
Start Times For All 2010 Football Games Now Available Online
Kendrick Saunders Named Director of Men's Basketball Operations
Tiger Rowers Win Seven Medals At U23 World Championships
Women's Lacrosse Assistant Altig Takes Job at Penn State

As for TigerBlog, as was the case in the summer of 2009, every business day was accounted for with something.

This summer alone, TB subjects included:
* the World Cup (a lot)
* Lindsey Lohan
* LeBron James
* Abbott and Costello
* South Pacific
* youth lacrosse
* the guy who played the manager in Major League
* that marathon tennis match from Wimbledon
* the election of Tony Mack as mayor of Trenton
* Cash Cab
* the TV show "The White Shadow"
* Lou Pinella
* The Sure Thing

Of course, all of these topics (and many others) related back to Princeton athletics.

The point is that yes, Princeton athletics does work in the summer. Apparently, a lot of work.

But the main reason that people work in college athletics is to work with the athletes and, of course, for the games.

And they start today.

Hurricane Earl has chosen not to attend the opening weekend. You, on the other hand, are cordially invited.