Friday, October 29, 2010

Congrats Batch

TigerBlog Jr. first played lacrosse in the second grade. When TigerBlog went to register TBJ, he was asked if he knew anything about lacrosse; when told that he had been working with Princeton's team for years, he was put in charge of the K-2 program.

TB took the 60 or so boys and divided them into four teams - Princeton, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. The program would meet every Sunday for one hour, with two teams in 30 minutes of drills while the other two teams played a game for 30 minutes (half-field, one goal in the crease, the other at midfield), after which the teams would switch, and the first two would play a game while the other two did drills.

At the end of the year, the K-2 group was feeling pretty good about itself, so it challenged the third graders to a game. When TB arrived at the field, it dawned on him that his teams hadn't used goalies yet, and so it needed one for the game.

At that point, he asked the K-2ers if anyone wanted to be the goalie, and only one hand went up - TBJ's. Since then, TBJ has never played another position in lacrosse, except for some very rare moments in a few blowouts.

Before TBJ volunteered to be the goalie, TB used to watch lacrosse and wonder who in the world would agree to play the position. After all, you stand in the goal while people rocket a hard rubber ball at you, and your task is to get in the way of the ball.

Now that he's watched TBJ do it for awhile, TB has an even greater respect for those who play in goal. By the end of the summer season, TBJ's legs are essentially one continuous bruise.

And yet he doesn't flinch or turn away, which is exactly what TB would do if even a Nerf ball was to be shot at him. TB has an amazing amount of respect and admiration for all goalies.

Some, of course, more than others. And right at the top of the list is Scott Bacigalupo.

This weekend, Bacigalupo will be inducted into the USILA Hall of Fame, becoming the third Princetonian from the Bill Tierney era and 14th of all-time to be so honored. Bacigalupo will join his coach (Tierney, who will introduce Bacigalupo) and Kevin Lowe, who like Bacigalupo graduated in 1994, as the first members of the Princeton lacrosse program from the team's six NCAA championships to reach the Hall of Fame.

Of course, there will be others who follow. Absolute total locks are Jesse Hubbard, David Morrow, Jon Hess and Ryan Boyle. There are several others who could make it as well, including Trevor Tierney, Chris Massey and Matt Striebel, as well as former Associate Head Coach David Metzbower (it would be a sin if Metz doesn't get in).

But this weekend belongs to Bacigalupo.

He came to Princeton in 1990-91 as the cornerstone of Princeton's ascent under Tierney to the elite of college men's lacrosse. After seeing Princeton fall in triple overtime to Towson in the 1991 quarterfinals his freshman year, Bacigalupo led Princeton to the 1992 championship, the 1993 semifinals and then the 1994 championship.

He would be the Most Outstanding Player of both championships, which both came in overtime. The 1992 title may have been considered a fluke had Bacigalupo and Lowe not led Princeton to a second one two years later.

He was a three-time first-team All-America and three-time first-team All-Ivy selection. His senior year he was voted second-team All-Ivy by the league coaches - and then was named Division I Player of the Year.

The current issue of Lacrosse Magazine, in advance of Bacigalupo's induction, is its goalie issue. The cover is a montage of pictures of some of the top goalies of all time, and it asks the question Best Goalie Ever?

The magazine has all kinds of great stuff about goalies, including a feedback section from its website that has all kinds of comments about what it takes to play the position, most of which include comments like "must be nuts."

There is a long story about Bacigalupo, with the headline "Best Of The Batch?" It also has a sidebar in which Bacigalupo mentions Metzbower.

There is also a poll where fans were asked to vote for the best goalie ever. Bacigalupo was first with 27% of the vote, followed by Sal LoCascio (UMass) second, Brian Dougherty (Maryland) third and then Trevor Tierney fourth.

As an aside, TB is pretty sure that current Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito, currently a junior, will be in the conversation when his career ends.

Bill Tierney, quoted about Bacigalupo, talks about what a great goalie he was. He also talks about how big it was for the Princeton program to get a player like Bacigalupo and what his decision to attend Princeton meant for the big picture of Tiger lacrosse and the sport itself.

As for TB, he saw almost every game Bacigalupo played at Princeton, and he remains amazed 20 years later by how dominant he was, what a difference he made and how much he scared the other teams.

Is he the best goalie of all-time?

What he did was more than just keep the ball out of the goal. An entire lacrosse dynasty was built with him as its foundation.

Congrats to Batch on being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

There an be no arguing that he deserves to be there as much as anyone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

On The Run

There are two guys who come into Jadwin Gym most workdays wearing suits and carrying gym bags. They emerge a few minutes later in running attire, and off they go, only to return awhile later to shower and put the suits back on.

One of them is tall; the other is short. TB is pretty sure they're lawyers. He's seen them for years, more than a decade, several times a week. He has no idea what their names are; his relationship with them consists of "hello," followed by some basic pleasantry about what a great day it is for running and/or what's coming next in Princeton Athletics.

TigerBlog has never been a fan of running. He's been a fan of exercising, though he's liked to get that exercise in the framework of playing a sport, rather than simply running.

Through the years, TB was a big fan of the Jadwin Gym lunchtime basketball game, something that a few years ago gave way to playing squash. If you've never played squash, go do so, because you'll get hooked on it immediately.

Even if there was no game, TB would rather ride the exercise bike than simply go out and run. The times that TB has gone running, he's spent the entire time thinking to himself "TigerBlog hates this."

As an aside, the best song TigerBlog has ever heard just might be, ironically enough, "Born To Run."

Still, TB does appreciate what it takes to be a long-distance runner, the dedication to keep going when it's so easy to stop.

And when TB looks at the athletic calendar each year, one of his absolute favorite can't-miss dates is the Ivy League Heptagonal cross-country championships, held in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx the last Friday of October.

And hey, tomorrow is the last Friday in October.

If you're anywhere near New York City, it's worth heading up to the park to check this event out, especially if you've never seen it before.

Basically, it's eight schools with two teams each who set up in a row of tents that are loaded up with sandwiches, bagels, cookies, cookies, brownies and cookies. Last year, TB sampled cookies from all eight schools and gave the edge, as always, to Brown.

Each tent is swarming with parents, recent alums, friends, relatives and anyone else, all of whom have come out to support that particular team.

The women's race goes off first, followed by the men. Construction in the park has forced the course to change several times, but the runners are not visible most of the time that the race is going on, but that only adds to the drama.

Eventually, the runners come back into view and close to the finish, which is right in front of the tents. They come across the line in a rapid formation of different uniforms, which makes it nearly impossible to the untrained eye to figure out exactly which team is where.

Last year, on the women's side, it was easy - even for TB's untrained eye. Princeton's women came in 1-2-3-4-5, which of course is a record that can be tied but never broken. It was an amazing site, with Princeton's Liz Costello so far ahead of the field and a trail of all orange and black behind her.

The men's race a year ago was much harder to figure, and with good reason. Columbia edged Princeton by a single point - one placing either way would have changed the outcome - and the drama was amazing as the judges counted and recounted before making a formal announcement.

TB has seen Heps winners who have crossed the finish line and look not the least bit winded, and he's seen many others who have struggled across the line in tears, who have collapsed just after finishing.

This year's races?

Well, Princeton is still the favorite on the women's side, but not as prohibitively as last year. In fact, Cornell, Columbia and Harvard are expected to challenge.

As for the men, Columbia returns four of its top five. Princeton is ranked 18th nationally and has run very well this year, and all of the top six finishers from last year's individual race are back, including Harvard's Dan Chenoweth, the 2009 winner.

In other words, it should be another great event at Van Cortlandt Park.

The women's race begins at 11, followed by the men at 11:45. The weather should be perfect. The races should be tremendous.

And so should the cookies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Whammy

TigerBlog could fill a week's worth of entries with funny things that he heard Pete Carril said, on the record and off, rated G all the way through NC-17.

Despite the fact that Bill Carmody was only the head coach here for four years, he hardly was lacking in his own funny comments, which also ran the same ratings gamut.

Carmody, especially, was also very superstitious. And he was a big believer in a concept he called "The Whammy."

Basically, it's the same thing as a jinx. If you write, for instance, that Brian Earl has been in double figures in five straight games, you're ensuring that he won't get there in the next one.

TB heard Carmody say the word "whammy" so much that he incorporated it into the game notes, as in this 1998 entry: "The whammy - Princeton is 10-0 in the Ivy League and has won every game by double figures." Princeton, of course, went on to go 14-0 in the league that year and won 13 of those 14 by double figures.

Anyway, TigerBlog could hear Carmody's cautionary tone when he went to Penn's website yesterday and found the lead story with a headline that said: "Fall Frenzy For Penn's Athletic Teams."

The basic point of the story is that Penn is having a good fall. Heading into this weekend, Penn has five teams in first place in their league: football (tied with Brown), sprint football, men's soccer (tied with Princeton), women's soccer (tied with Columbia) and women's volleyball (tied with Princeton).

TigerBlog, in fact, was going to write a similar story last week but instead thought of Carmody. And Gary Walters, who also believes in the whammy, though not quite by that name. Instead, the Princeton Athletic Director believes in managing expectations.

You will notice that most of those Penn teams are tied for the lead, including two with Princeton. The football team at Penn is tied with Brown, whom it hosts this weekend. Men's soccer still has to play the other three top teams in the league, two of whom (Brown and Princeton) are ranked in the Top 25. The women's soccer team is tied for first, but it is really a four-team race with Penn, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton.

On the other hand, the story was a good, positive one for the Quakers, and with big home games this weekend around Homecoming in West Philadelphia, such a story can generate some pretty good excitement.

So the question then becomes, how should athletic communications offices handle such situations?

Is it okay to point out how well your teams are doing, or is that only putting extra pressure on them, setting them up to fail and giving the opponents additional motivation?

Is it okay to state the facts about where teams are in the standings, or is it better to be low-key until championships are actually won?

It's something TB has wrestled with a lot here.

As the Penn story was being written, Princeton has seven fall teams very much in the championship mix. Still, TB was hesitant to write about last week and still is, for that matter, because none of those teams has won a championship yet.

And even if, say, two or three do, if you write a story that says seven teams have a great shot at winning their league, then it appears that overall you've come up short in the end.

Back in the pre-internet days, TigerBlog was pretty sure that no Princeton athletes read the Trenton Times or any other local paper every day and therefore really didn't know much about what was being said about them.

Today, where each of Princeton's 38 sports and each of every other school's however many teams have their own page on the school's website, TB is pretty sure that every Princeton athlete and every opposing athlete reads everything.

TB also has said that he doesn't think that anything he or anyone else writes can actually influence the outcome of a game (if it could, then sports info people should be paid more), there is something to the fact that athletes and coaches take it personally if they read something that slights their team.

In general, TB likes to err on the side of caution, largely to avoid having a game end only to hear a player on the other team say something like "I read on Princeton's webpage how great they were and wanted to knock them down a little."

So good luck to Penn in its quest for championships this fall. If nothing else, there are some great races in Ivy League sports that are just heading to stretch run.

And hey, wondering whether or not to really pump up your teams during their own runs towards championships?

It's not a bad problem to have.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Howdy, Partner

One of TigerBlog's favorite websites, not surprisingly, is

As TB is writing, the seven stories that rotate through the main part of the front page includes one about the women's golf team. In a solid bit of scheduling, it appears that the Tigers are headed to Hawaii for fall break.

There are also stories about men's soccer, two about women's tennis, one about rowing from the Head of the Charles and one about field hockey.

And the seventh?

It's about Princeton and its renewal of its contract with Nelligan Sports Marketing.

At first glance, it appears to be a standard-issue story: Princeton and NSM have continued their partnership, and there is some basic information about both groups and the to-be-expected quotes from Director of Athletics Gary Walters and the Nelligan leadership.

Make no mistake, though. Princeton Athletics' partnership with Nelligan is huge. It's also somewhat unique - and it raises all kinds of issues about the current state of college athletics.

Nelligan is a giant in the field of collegiate sports marketing, especially in this area. From the story:
In addition to Princeton University, NSM represents some of the elite college properties in the country, including the Colonial Athletic Association and its 12 member institutions, the Horizon League, Pac-10 Conference, Patriot League, Brown University, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, Cleveland State University, Colorado State University, Eastern Michigan University, Fairfield University, Florida Atlantic University, Indiana State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, University of Louisville, Marquette University, Middle Tennessee State University, Missouri State University, Monmouth University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Providence College, Rutgers University, University of Texas at San Antonio, West Virginia University, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the Champs Sports Bowl, the Capital One Bowl and the Penn Relays.

What makes Princeton's situation unique - at least from most of the outlets Nelligan works with - is that the University's goal isn't to squeeze every last dollar out of its athletic corporate partnership. In fact, it's quite the opposite - Princeton is very resistant to over-commercialization of its product.

In today's sports world, almost anything goes as far as sponsorship. All you have to do is listen to a Yankees game on the radio (mercifully, you won't be able to do that for the World Series) to see what TB means. Everything - everything - it seems is sponsored, from the broadcast booth to the 15th out of the game to the pitching changes.

And none of this is unique. Pretty much everything in the world of sports works that way now.

Even the games themselves are affected by rules specific to sponsorship. Why else would paying customers have to sit through nine media timeouts at college basketball games (written into the NCAA rules, by the way) or, even way worse, the dreaded score-TV timeout-kickoff-TV timeout-play again for NFL games. If you've been to an NFL game in person, you see how it drags the whole game to a halt.

When Princeton plays a football game with TV timeouts, it never takes fewer than three hours. Without TV timeouts? In the last three weeks, Princeton played three home football games with no TV timeouts. Game times? Princeton-Colgate was played in 2:37. Princeton-Brown was 2:43. Princeton-Harvard was 2:48.

And the most amazing thing about all of this to TB is how the sporting public simply accepts this. TB isn't 100% sure when the idea of having media timeouts began, but there can be no doubt that the flow of games is better without them.

Media timeouts don't even take into account the bombarding of the senses that can go on at venues, with signs, announcements, sponsored promotions and the like.

Princeton is not immune to this reality of modern-day collegiate sports. Still, TB is sure that Princeton is at the low end of what it will tolerate and what it won't.

As a result, Princeton will sometimes have to say "no" to requests for sponsored elements that would bring in additional revenue. In that regard, Nelligan is a great partner.

It's been clear from the five years that Princeton and NSM have partnered that NSM has bought into this reality and actually embraced it for its uniqueness. The result has been win-win, as Princeton has been able to maintain a semblance of order while Nelligan has been able to be satisfied with the arrangement to the point of eagerly renewing.

At the same time, Nelligan has also brought Princeton forward in terms of corporate sponsorship and what the University is comfortable with in that area. This is also important, because it has helped Princeton develop strong relationships with local corporations and organizations in a business and community sense, without having to cede control of its athletic venues.

There will always be a segment of the Princeton fan base that views any commercialization as a bad thing, and TB understands that.

Still, Princeton Athletics is fortunate to have a partner like Nelligan Sports Marketing. The relationship has developed over the last five years to its current state, which is very positive for both sides, a rarity in business.

Of all the news on in the last few days, the story about the renewal of this relationship might have been an afterthought to most who glanced at it.

To Princeton Athletics, it's huge.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, With A Cherry On Top

When Peter Farrell ducks his head into the OAC, it's usually followed by some funny story. It's been 17 years of this now, and the women's track and field/cross country coach hasn't run out of them yet.

So this is how it went this morning:

"Are you a baseball fan? When I was 11 and played CYO baseball, my father told me two things: Never make the last out of the season, and never strike out looking."

The Phils' Ryan Howard did both Saturday night, though in fairness to Howard, it looked like the 3-2 pitch was a bit low. Still, as Mr. Farrell said, don't strike out looking, especially to end the season.

Howard took the called third strike with two on and his team down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth of Game 6. The result was that the Giants will play the Rangers in the World Series, a thought that has to be thrilling for Fox, which has paid a lot of money to show the event. Hey, it may turn out to be a great World Series. Will it draw big ratings? Unlikely.

So maybe Howard didn't have a great weekend. You know who did? Jim Barlow.

As a matter of fact, you can't ask for more out of a game than Barlow got against Harvard yesterday. For Barlow and Princeton men's soccer, it was a great Sunday - with a cherry on top.

It wasn't just that Princeton defeated Harvard 2-1, coming from behind after allowing a goal off a free kick in the first half to win on second-half goals from Josh Walburn and Matt Sanner three minutes apart - though the win was huge for the Tigers.

No, this was more than just getting a win. It was getting a win over a huge rival, which gave Princeton back-to-back wins over Harvard for the first time since 1999-2000.

And, it was getting that win on national television. Okay, the audience was smaller than the one that saw Howard strike out (though it might rival the one the World Series will draw), but still, those who were watching had to come away impressed with Princeton and the facility.

Certainly the announcers were, including color man Taylor Twellman, formerly of the U.S. national team.

TigerBlog was going to go to the game, but he decided instead to watch in on ESPNU to get the full effect of how the game played on television. It was a great decision.

For starters, it wasn't something that you ordinarily can do, so why not see Princeton from that perspective.

As the game unfolded, it turned into almost an advertisement for the program and facility.

Princeton worked with ESPNU to ensure that the cameras were on the far side of the field shooting into the stands, rather than on the press box side shooting into the benches with a background of the turf practice field, which doesn't capture the true feel of the stadium.

ESPNU obliged and then set its announcers up in the end zone, giving them a different view of the play. ESPNU also set a camera up high behind the end zone, so the TV audience was given the wide angle view as well. For the announcers, it worked out pretty well, as all three goals were scored into the goal directly in front of them.

TB isn't sure where you were yesterday, but if you were in the Central Jersey area, you couldn't beat the weather, which reached the low 70s with low humidity and brilliant sunshine.

The day led to awesome looks at the campus and Nassau Street through numerous cut-aways by ESPNU. And the on-air guys? They couldn't say enough great things about the campus, the stadium, the coaching, the players.

There were a ton of references to the fact that the U.S. national team trained there before the World Cup, and there was a halftime feature with video of the Americans at Roberts Stadium.

And, of course, in the end, it was a win, Princeton's ninth in a row.

The result is that Princeton and Penn are now 4-0-0 in the league, followed by Brown at 2-1-1 and Harvard at 1-1-2. Both Brown and Harvard have suffered their only league loss (and in Brown's case, only loss period) to Princeton.

Princeton and Penn meet on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium in two weeks, after Princeton is at Cornell and Penn is home against Brown. Penn also has to play Harvard, while Princeton's final league game is against Yale.

Men's soccer is a sport where it's hard to run the table in the Ivy League, and the season is one week past the halfway point. The stretch run could be a great one for Princeton, or the depth and strength of Ivy soccer could catch up to the Tigers.

Not to jinx anyone, but Princeton, with a rising RPI, is in great shape for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if it doesn't win the league's automatic bid. Last year, four Ivy teams played in the NCAAs, and Princeton, Penn and Brown seem to be in line at least this year. Should Princeton go to the NCAA tournament, it would be the eighth time that the Tigers did so - but the first time in program history that they would be there in consecutive years.

Whatever happens, that's for the next few weeks. For today, with nearly a full week until the game at Cornell, Jim Barlow can smile a big smile at what his team did yesterday.

It was a perfect game to watch on TV. Through the eyes of the head coach, it had to be even better than that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rooting For The Tigers - And Texas

TigerBlog listened to enough sports talk radio last week to get the basic point of Yankees' fans, who were aghast at the idea of having to pitch A.J. Burnett in the American League Championship Series.

How could the Yankees be stuck with such a terrible option, they all wondered? And how best to hide him? Should he be sacrificed against Cliff Lee in Game 3, even if it meant messing up the rest of the rotation for the series, or should he pitch Game 4, even if that meant that Texas would have a huge edge in Game 3 with Lee and Game 4 against Burnett.

The idea that Burnett might actually win never came up. The only issue was that Burnett was unworthy of starting a game for the Yankees.

And what did TigerBlog end up screaming at the radio? Five years, $82.5 million.

This is Year 2 of that deal for Burnett, whose 2010 salary is $16,500,000. Tommy Hunter, who started for Texas in Game 4 against Burnett, has a 2010 salary of $409,500.

It's stuff like that that fuels the anti-Yankee sentiment of people like TB. It's not just that the Yankees can throw money at big-name players that other teams can't dream of doing; it's that it doesn't matter if they're wrong about those players. They just eat that contract and move on to the next.

By the way, where do you think Lee is going to be pitching next season?

As one caller said when calling WFAN, how hard is it to be the Yankees' GM, who has limitless resources and hasn't had to worry about second, short, third, catcher and closer for years now?

Bill Simmons, on Page 2, once said that rooting for the Yankees "is like rooting for the house in black jack."

TB does know several Yankees fans, including one who happens to be the head football coach at Princeton.

Bob Surace grew up in South Jersey, in the heart of Phillies/Eagles' country. His father, though, was a long, long time Yankees fan.

How much of a fan? Well, he named one of his children "Mickey Charles Surace," after "Mickey Charles Mantle."

Tragically, Mickey Charles Surace died at the age of seven months, something that TB never knew about Bob Surace.

Still, the Yankee gene was passed from his father, and Surace was rolling his eyes after Game 4, when the Rangers built their 3-1 lead in the series. Things got a little better for the Yankees Wednesday when they made it 3-2, with Game 6 tonight and Game 7 (hopefully not necessary) tomorrow.

Surace will be busy with his own game this weekend, as he goes through his first Princeton-Harvard game as a head coach. He did go 2-1 against the Crimson as a player, with wins his junior and senior years.

The football game is one of four between Princeton and Harvard this weekend on campus. It's a busy weekend for Princeton athletics, with a schedule like this (the only home event with an admission charge is football):

* the men's hockey team hosts Morrisville State, a Division III team, in its final exhibition game tomorrow at 4 at Baker Rink. The regular season begins next weekend with a four-team tournament in New Haven featuring Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown and Yale; all four will play two games that will count towards their records but won't count towards their league records.

* the women's hockey team plays its first real games this weekend, at Northeastern tonight and at Providence tomorrow

* the women's tennis team competes at the ITA regionals at Dartmouth

* the rowing teams compete at the Head of the Charles in Boston. If you're in the area and want to see a sporting spectacular, check out the pageantry of that event.

* the men's water polo team inches closer to the Southern Championships and the Eastern Championships when it takes on Iona at 11 and George Washington at 5 at DeNunzio Pool tomorrow

* sprint football is at Navy tonight. It's asking a lot to expect the Tigers to beat Navy, something that hasn't happened in 12 years. TigerBlog does know someone who feels that Princeton's best chance at a sprint football win is against one of the established teams, rather than the newcomers, because the established teams could be looking past Princeton.

* the women's volleyball team is 5-0 in the league as it heads to Columbia and Cornell. The Tigers are the only undefeated team at this point, but Penn has won four straight since its opening loss to Princeton. This race seems likely to go the end, when Princeton and Penn have their rematch.

* the field hockey team is playing the toughest non-league schedule in the country, something that should have the Tigers pretty well toughened up by the NCAA tournament. As for the Ivy League, Yale is 3-1 and tied for second - but the Bulldogs have been outscored 10-7 in the league. Why? Three wins by a combined four goals, plus a 7-0 loss to Princeton. Cornell is also 3-1, with its loss to Yale; the Tigers are at Cornell next weekend, after they host Harvard tomorrow (noon) and then play at Penn State Sunday. Princeton finishes the regular season with Penn.

* the football team will be playing its first full game without injured quarterback Tommy Wornham, who broke his collarbone last week against Brown. Princeton used three quarterbacks against the Bears after Wornham was hurt; a full week of practice at the position will be a huge plus. Princeton and Harvard meet for the 104th time in the 12th-most played rivalry in the FCS, though Harvard has played Yale, Dartmouth and Brown more than its played Princeton, and Princeton has played Yale more than its played Harvard.

* Princeton and Harvard meet at 5 in women's soccer tomorrow on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. Princeton is in second place entering the weekend, one point behind Columbia, who hosts Dartmouth. Harvard is 5-6-1 overall and 2-2 in the league, but no women's soccer game against the Crimson is ever easy.

* the men's soccer game will be played Sunday at 5 and can be seen on ESPNU. Princeton is one of three Ivy League schools ranked in the NSCAA Top 25 this week, along with Penn and Brown. The Ivy standings right now have Princeton and Penn at 3-0-0, followed by Harvard at 1-0-2.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gently Down The Stream

TigerBlog used to live with a guy named Jim Chesko, who at various times was the color commentator for Princeton basketball and the PA announcer at Princeton football.

Chesko was a human DVR back in those days, as he would set his multiple VCRs to record multiple television shows, edit out the commercials and then watch them. It was revolutionary stuff at the time, back when he had a library's worth of "Seinfeld" and "Friends" and "The Gary Shandling Show" and others.

Chesko and TB lived in a row house in South Trenton, on Chestnut Avenue near DeKlyn Avenue. It was a nice, quiet place, with a little grassy yard in the back.

It was also a short walk from there to a vacant area on the Trenton waterfront that, shortly before TB left, started to be populated by cranes and construction vehicles. It was on that spot that Mercer County Waterfront Park - the home of the Double-A Trenton Thunder - was built.

TB was completely certain that the entire idea was headed for disaster. When Tom McCarthy left the Trenton Times to go work for the Thunder, TB told him that it was a mistake, since the team couldn't possibly succeed in Trenton.

Build a stadium there? Expect people to come into Trenton at night? Whose idea was this? The alternate idea at the time was to build the stadium in West Windsor's Mercer County Park, but the Mercer County executive at the time (as TB remembers it) was the driving force behind the Trenton site.

TB was not alone in thinking that this would never work; his Trenton Times colleagues at the time Harvey Yavener and Mark Eckel were also certain.

So what happened? Well, nearly 20 years and millions and millions of fans later, the franchise has turned into a model for both minor league baseball and small, local business. TigerBlog has never been more wrong.

Of course, he was just as certain a few years ago that Princeton athletics had no sustainable way of bringing live and archived video to the fans who are interested in watching it.

Now, a few years later, TB would say that this is the single biggest challenge that Princeton has in athletic communications.

The basic history is that a long time ago, Princeton figured out that it could get the TV feed for football and men's basketball from the old cable company (it was called C-Tec back then) onto its webpage, back when it was and not

After years of not having any sustained video effort, the current video model began to evolve in something known as TigerZone off of Today, all of this is housed on

The tv site has live and archived game video, as well as original content that is created through athletic communications and marketing. Those original pieces (interviews, features, bios, facility tours) have been extraordinarily well-received, and TB isn't talking about those when he talks about the problems with video, only with the live and archived.

To videostream a game, all you need is a camera, a laptop and an internet connection (preferably an ethernet connection rather than wireless). All you do is plug the camera into the laptop and away you go.

It also became apparent early on that you could stream multiple sports at the same time.

At first, all of this seemed like a great thing. Parents and friends and such could now watch the games whereas before there would possibly be livestats or audio. And now it was video, right there to see.

And then the list of obvious problems began to materialize:

* web providers viewed streaming as a revenue source, so it became necessary to charge a subscription fee. Once a fee is charged, no matter how small, the level of expectation of the viewer goes way up.

* the feed that is usually being shown is from the coaches' camera, which is usually being handled by an injured player or team manager. The entire feed consists of one camera that never changes position, with no replays or multiple camera looks.

* for the majority of games that are streamed, there is no audio, and it's often difficult for the viewer to know what point the game is at, what the score is, etc.

* there is nobody at Princeton who is a designated video person. This means that either an assistant coach or a member of the marketing staff or both have to coordinate having the laptop in the right place, making sure the computer is connected and anything else that is involved in getting a videostream going.

* multiply this by the number of sports that want to stream their events.

* all subscription information is done through neulion, not through Princeton.

* and the biggest problem is that there is no way of troubleshooting during a game if something does go wrong, because the resources here don't permit us to have a video coordinator. Instead, if the marketing staff has set up the game with the assistant coach, then they're both busy once the game starts - or often times, the marketing staff doesn't remain at the game.

When Princeton has a game on Verizon Fios TV, it's able to take that feed and stream it directly. This results in multiple cameras, announcers, graphics and such and makes the presentation immeasurably better.

Unfortunately, Verizon Fios TV only does a handful of games.

The result of all of this is that demand for video far exceeds our ability to supply a high quality product at this point. has a feedback section, and the overwhelming number of them refer to video efforts. Most of those are about subscription issues, but many are technical as well.

People are used to watching sports on television. When videostreaming first started, the attitude was something of "hey, this is great; it's way better than nothing."

That attitude is no longer true. Now, there is a much higher level of expectation for the quality and reliability.

Here at Princeton, there are no plans to add additional staff. The challenge - our biggest, actually - is to figure out how to meet the demand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Games Gone Wrong

TigerBlog saw a story this morning about how the NFL had been selling photos on its website of a hit that James Harrison of the Steelers put on Mohamed Massaquoi of the Browns last Sunday, a hit that drew no penalty flag but did contribute to a $75,000 fine against Harrison.

And there, TigerBlog said immediately, is the whole problem with football right now.

The issue of big defensive-player-as-missile hits would go away right now if the NFL decided it really wanted it to. Unfortunately, there's little evidence to suggest that's the case.

Instead, the opposite continues to be true. The NFL loves the violence because it sells, from TV ratings to video games to pictures on its own website.

It you watch professional football today compared with 20 or so years ago and longer, you'll see among other things the fact that nobody is trying to tackle anymore by putting his shoulder into the ball carriers chest and wrapping him up. Today, your average defensive player doesn't use his arms at all and instead tries to hit the ball carrier as hard as possible (the first player TB remembers doing this was San Francisco's Ronnie Lott). This often results in leading with the helmet.

And then this is what happens:

1) the TV commentators jump all over it as being spectacular, talking in glowing terms about the hit itself while showing numerous replays
2) the hit ends up on SportsCenter and every other highlight show
3) college players see this and figure that's how you have to play to get to the NFL or to get on TV
4) high school and youth kids emulate this

And all of this is so unnecessary, because the NFL could make it stop in one second by 1) strictly enforcing the existing helmet-to-helmet rules and the rule about defenseless wide receivers and 2) by suspending those who make these hits.

This past weekend seemed to be particularly violent in the NFL, especially with the two hits by Harrison and the stunning collision between Atlanta's Dunta Robinson and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.

And it seemed like the NFL was about to start taking it seriously - and maybe the NFL still is - with the stories about coming suspensions for such hits. But then TB saw the story about the Harrison picture, and that brought him back to the reality that there is money to be made from those kinds of hits.

Call TigerBlog cynical, but he doesn't accept the NFL's explanation that it made a "mistake" in having the Harrison picture for sale.

An hour north of where TB is writing this, Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand is in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle on a kickoff against Army last Saturday. Hopefully LeGrand will make the same sort of progress that Kevin Everett and Adam Tagliaferro were able to make after they were in the same place that LeGrand is now and be able to walk again.

TigerBlog has been impressed by the way Rutgers has handled the LeGrand injury, a situation that is horrible all the way around.

TB today got an email from Mike Cross, who is nearing the one-year mark of his tenure as Director of Athletics at Bradley after spending 10 years working here at Princeton. Included in the email was a reference to a Bradley baseball player, Phil Kaiser, who died Sunday night from an undetected heart ailment.

When you get into the college athletics business, you know that you're going to be working with people who are young and in the peak of health and physical prowess. At its best moments, working in college athletics puts you around people who are devoted to fitness and teamwork, people who awe you with their pure athleticism.

For the majority of college athletes, there is also a true balance between student and athlete, between a healthy mind and a healthy body.

TB has seen it here at Princeton for decades, and still after all this time he is awed by the people he sees here. In many ways, they seem indestructible.

And yet, every now and then, there are worst-case scenarios that have to be dealt with. Sadly, TB has seen it first-hand here, as Princeton athletics has not been immune to tragedy, with athletes, young alums and young colleagues.

It hasn't been easy any of those times. In the end, TB has mostly been left to think about the randomness of it, the sadness of it, the unfairness of it.

You work in college athletics to have an impact on the lives of these young people. If you're lucky, you also get to be there when they have the big wins, the championship experiences, the glory days that nobody will ever forget.

That's why Mike Cross went to Bradley, to help the athletes there have those kinds of moments. And less than a year later, he finds himself in the middle of a tragedy nobody could have anticipated.

And suddenly, he has to deal with it, taking the emotional lead for his department and University.

There's no way to properly prepare yourself for it, and it's an awful experience to have to go through.

It's even worse when it's preventable. The NFL has played with fire for years with the violence in its sport, and worse - it's allowed that violence to trickle down to the kids who play the game.

TB wishes the best to Eric LeGrand and his family and to Phil Kaiser and his family, as well as all of their friends.

He also gives the people at Rutgers and Bradley his best for having to handle these situations and huge credit for how they have.

We're all in this for the fun and games, but unfortunately, that's not always what life is about.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Worldwide Leader At Roberts Stadium

When TigerBlog was a kid, PBS used to have a weekly college hockey game on each Saturday. TB was fascinated by the broadcasts, which he sometimes watched on the tiny black-and-white TV that was in the room he shared with BrotherBlog.

For whatever reason, TB remembers that it always seemed like New Hampshire was one of the teams playing.

Back then, college sports on television were almost completely limited to football and men's basketball. And those sports were pretty limited in their distribution, with very few games on each weekend.

TB grew up halfway between Philadelphia and New York City (though he went to New York 100 times for every time he went to Philadelphia), and he was able to get the TV stations from both cities. Not on his cable system, of course, because there was no such thing as cable TV yet, at least until he was in high school.

Getting the channels of both meant actually walking over to the TV and changing the channel knob, to either channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 or 11 from New York or 3, 6, 10, 17, 29 or 48 from Philadelphia. There were also public TV options - 12 and 13 were the New York and Philly PBS channels, and 23 and 52 were New Jersey's.

TB remembers watching the Mets, Knicks, Rangers and Nets (from the ABA) on Channel 9 and the Yankees on Channel 11. Home games for basketball and hockey were never televised.

Of course, there were also Big Five doubleheaders from the Palestra on Channel 48.

Back then, the highlight shows were the best part of watching sports, especially football. "This Week In Pro Football," with Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall and its distinctive music, was a must-see every week.

As for college football, TB remembers a Game of the Week show that would focus on the top two or three games and would run Sundays at noon, before the NFL games started.

As for live games, there were a few, but not many.

Fast forward to today, and obviously it's all different. There were about 25 college football games on TB's cable system this past Saturday, and that doesn't include the additional games that are on Thursdays, Fridays and even Wednesdays.

When college basketball season starts, it'll be even more saturated, with about a million games on every night. More, of course, does not necessary equate to better; at some point, it all starts to look alike.

Princeton has a contract with ESPN to show a minimum of seven home events per year. It's a very nice situation for us to be in, especially since it gives us a chance to showcase a variety of teams.

TigerBlog starts each year working with ESPN on the schedule of events. This year, we were unable to make a football game work, after having one on for four straight years.

The ESPN people have long ago made it clear that their two favorite sports from Princeton are men's hockey and men's lacrosse, which fit in nicely with the big picture of their programming.

Still, they have been open to some other things, like, for instance, the first event of this year that was televised, men's water polo vs. Santa Barbara.

The next event will be this Sunday at 5, when the men's soccer game against Harvard will be shown (on ESPNU).

Early on, TB tried to sell ESPN on the idea of 1) televising a game on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium and 2) putting the cameras on the field turf side to shoot into the stands, so as to show off the facility. This year, he was successful on both counts.

The game itself is a huge one for the Ivy League men's soccer race.

Princeton and Penn are currently 3-0-0 each, while Harvard is in third at 1-0-2 after a scoreless tie with Brown last weekend. In Ivy League soccer, three points are awarded for a win and one for a tie, so technically Princeton and Penn have nine points, Harvard has five and Brown has four.

The Tigers will enter the TV game on a seven-game winning streak and with exactly three goals scored in each of the seven games. To put that in perspective, Princeton has scored 21 goals in its last seven games; it scored 21 for the entire 2008 season and 20 for the entire 2007 season, both of which were 17 games.

Penn still has games against Princeton, Brown and Harvard. Brown is still the highest ranked Ivy school.

It's unlikely Princeton or Penn will run the table. It's also likely that three or even four Ivy schools will get NCAA tournament bids, as Ivy men's soccer is among the most competitive of all league sports.

ESPNU chose the game in part to be a good partner with Princeton, but the result is a fairly strong matchup.

TB never could have envisioned back when he was a kid that an all-sports network would grow to what it has become and that sports like college soccer and water polo would be able to be seen on regular TV.

Still, that's where the world has gone, and it's been great for Princeton.

So watch your 25 college football games on Saturday. Then tune in for a big college soccer game, Sunday at 5.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mrs. Cleaver And A Huge Almost

TigerBlog was listening to the news in the car yesterday morning when a story about some politician who blames the coming opponent for every ill on the planet and whose opponent does likewise in return was followed not by the announcer but instead by a woman's voice who was immediately familiar.

Of course, there could only be one reason for Barbara Billingsley's voice to be coming through the radio on a Sunday morning: The 94-year-old actress had obviously passed away.

As an aside, when older actors/actresses die, the announcers never seem to say so first; they always play a clip of the person from one of his or her most famous roles and then say that they died. The only time TB can remember it differently was when the announcer said: "This voice will sing no more" and then played "White Christmas" back in 1977, when Bing Crosby died.

As for Barbara Billingsley, while her career spanned many decades in many different roles - including a hugely funny moment in the movie "Airplane" - the clip that was played on the day of her death had to be from her most famous character, June Cleaver, from the perfectly charming sitcom "Leave It To Beaver," a show of which TB has seen every episode multiple times despite the fact that it ended its six-year, 234-episode run back when he was still Babyblog.

If you're looking for pure Americana nostalgia, go no further than "Leave It To Beaver." If you're looking for something more dramatic than how, say, a broken chair can get fixed without having the parents find out, then you've come to the wrong place.

The show was about the Cleaver family of Mayfield, with its father Ward, mother June and sons Wally and Theodore, who is nicknamed "Beaver" after the way Wally said "Theodore" when the Beaver was a baby.

During the course of the show, Wally and Beaver grow from being little boys into high school kids. They are constantly getting into trouble, but simple stuff, and they always make it worse by trying to hide the damage from their parents.

Ah, and what parents they were. Ward was a solid hard-working businessman who never forgot what it was like to be a pre-teen or teenage boy. June - famous for doing housework in a dress and pearls - was a tad overprotective, but you would have been fine with her as your mother.

She was a bit naive at times about what the boys were going through, but she was sharp enough to know that Eddie Haskell was a complete phony. And, of course, there was always a well-balanced, nutritious meal for the whole family at dinnertime.

The boys themselves were good athletes, though Wally was better than Beaver. In fact, TigerBlog is pretty sure Wally went on to play football and run track at an Ivy League college; at least he's seen a million pictures of athletes in team photos from that era who look just like him. And who knows, maybe it worked out in the end for Wally and Mary Ellen Rogers.

Wally's best friends were Eddie and Lumpy Rutherford. Beaver had friends named Whitey and Gilbert and Larry and of course the old firefighter Gus.

Beaver's best sport was football, and there are many episodes where he is playing the game either on a formal team or just on the sandlot (back then, not everything was about signing up for the sport and then trying to make the travel team; kids just played, and where they played was called "the sandlot").

Beaver was always trying to think up great trick plays, and every now and then they came up with some great ones, like "ol' 99."

None of them had anything on what Princeton almost pulled off against Brown Saturday afternoon. Had the play that the Tigers dusted off worked, it would have been the equal of any football ending ever, including The Immaculate Reception and the Stanford Band, though without the historical significance.

With 31 seconds remaining, Princeton trailed Brown 17-13 and had the ball first-and-10 at its 21. Expanding on the situation, Princeton needed to go 79 yards, needed a touchdown, had no timeouts to work with and was without its injured starting quarterback.

The first play of the drive saw backup quarterback Andrew Dixon throw a short pass to Shane Wilkinson, who then pitched it back to Trey Peacock on what looked like a standard hook-and-lateral.

Instead, Peacock flipped it back to Dixon, who was two yards in front of the line of scrimmage at this point. Of course, that was irrelevant, since there had already been one forward pass on the play, so another would have been illegal.

Dixon then threw the ball all the way across the field, to in front of the Brown bench, right to Wilkinson, who caught the ball after it went over the head of Meko McCray.

Wilkinson then began to sprint up the sideline. Had Brown's defense been all scattered to the far side chasing the ball, Wilkinson would have possibly scored. With McCray as a blocker, Wilkinson still managed to go 35 yards to the Brown 45 before he was brought down. Perhaps if McCray had caught the ball, he would have had Wilkinson to pitch it to.

It was a great play, well-designed and well-executed, and it almost pulled out the win for Princeton.

As for Wilkinson, he now has been involved in two near-misses, as he was the one who caught the 43-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half against Colgate that came up short of the end zone.

In case you're wondering how to score that play, there can only be one reception on any play, but all the yards are receiving yards. Therefore, Wilkinson gets credit for the original six-yard catch, and he gets 35 more receiving yards but no other reception.

Peacock was credited with no catch and minus-2 yards, and so was Dixon. In Peacock's case, it'll hardly be noticed. In Dixon's, his season receiving stats now read zero receptions for minus-2 yards.

The Princeton-Brown game saw the Tigers lose quarterback Tommy Wornham for the season with a broken collarbone and top running backs and captains Jordan Culbreath and Matt Zimmerman for the second half.

Still, the Tigers came really, really, really close to pulling it out - with what have been one of the greatest endings in football history.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Happy Bosses' Day

TigerBlog has talked before about how much he loved the TV show "Taxi" going back a few decades, of course.

TB learned that tomorrow is National Bosses Day (on a Saturday?) when he was forwarded a link to a site that listed the six worst TV bosses of all time. TigerBlog cannot believe that Mr. Slate from "The Flintstones" and Mr. Spacely from "The Jetsons" - described by The Site That Knows All in not quite glowing terms - didn't make the list.

So who was on the list? Well, No. 1 was Montgomery Burns from "The Simpsons," a show that TB has never once watched.

Checking in at No. 2 was Michael Scott from "The Office," and the story's analysis of the situation at the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin is pretty in-depth.

Taxi's Louie DePalma came in fourth. As with the others, a youtube clip was included with Louie's selection, but TB tried to find a better one.

Of course, there could have been any number, including this one, where Louie goes to Elaine's apartment to try to get his job back after Elaine had him fired for peeking at her in the women's lockerroom while she was changing. The best part is at the 4:35 mark.

It's not TB's favorite Louie DePalma clip. Actually, it's not even in the top five or so, but the pickings on youtube were sort of slim. The two absolute best Louie moments are when Nardo drives Tom Selleck up to Vermont as part of the two-part "Memories of Cab 804" episode and when Bobby Wheeler says he's leaving the garage after getting his big acting break on a soap opera.

For those who don't remember these two episodes, Nardo picks up Selleck - who is playing an art dealer; Nardo was trying to get into the art business - and she agrees to drive him to Vermont, a long way from New York City. As they drive, the two start to become obviously attracted to each other. When they get to Vermont, Selleck asks Elaine to spend the night with him, though he's leaving for Europe the next morning on an extended business trip.

When she says no, he realizes that he has to pay his fare, and he offers her a $100 tip. It leads to this exchange:
Elaine: "I can't take that. I'd feel like a call girl."
Tom Selleck: "But you didn't do anything."
Elaine: "Then I'd feel like a bad call girl. What would you have given me if I'd stayed the night?"
Tom Selleck: "A very warm memory."

As the two of them pause in silence after spending hours and hours together in the cab, Louie's voice crackles over the radio:

"You're better off with the hundred."

As for the one where Wheeler leaves, he mocks Louie and rips up his hack license, which leads Louie to say:
"You'll be back. They all come back. Only one guy ever made it out of this garage, and that was James Caan - and he'll be back."

Louie should've been No. 1.

When TB thinks of The Boss, he thinks of course of Bruce Springsteen.

Around here, though, the boss is Gary Walters, Princeton's Director of Athletics since the end of June 1994.

TB has said often that it would have been easy for Gary to come to Princeton back then and adopt a "don't rock the boat" approach, suggesting that things were going fine at the time and why change anything?

Instead, Gary has completely overhauled Princeton Athletics in the last 16+ years, leaving his stamp on every possibly area, from facilities to the coaching staff to the never-ending crusade to have athletics and athletes viewed on campus as co-curricular, as an extension of the educational side of the University.

These beliefs can be summed up in the department motto of "Education Through Athletics," a motto that is currently on display in a banner in Princeton Stadium that will shortly be joined by similar banners in other facilities.

The other part of that motto, though it's a tad long for a banner, is "an unmatched tradition of athletic success."

In Gary's time as Director of Athletics, Princeton has won 176 Ivy League championships, which is 69 more than the next highest school. In 12 of the 16 years since Gary became AD, Princeton has reached double figures in Ivy League titles.

Add to that 38 team or individual national championships during his tenure, and it's impossible to argue the athletic success of the department that he has overseen.

Sucking up on the eve of National Bosses' Day? Not at all.

TB has not always agreed with Gary's decisions and ways, and he's certainly been on the losing end of disagreements with him. Still, a little conflict and difference of opinion is a good thing, and TB has many times told Gary when he thought TB was correct and Gary was wrong - with varying degrees of success in getting his point across.

Still, you can't spend this quantity of time working for someone if you don't buy into the bigger picture of what it is they're trying to do and what their goals and values are. Eventually, it would just make you bitter and a bit nuts.

TB has often told people that Gary Walters has mostly been very good to him through the years. In all the time TB has worked for Gary, he can't remember too many days when he dreaded having to come to work.

Quite the opposite, actually. Princeton Athletics has usually been a fun place to work, with a lot more laughs than anything else. Laughs, and a constant vigilance towards having the best possible teams with the best possible athletes and coaches on them represent Princeton.

The boss has to get at least some of the credit for that, and TB's only known one boss since he's been here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trade Your Way To The USA

So you've written a movie script and are trying to line up the funding to get it made.

Except your movie has no violence, no special effects, no explosions and nobody who takes their clothes off. And what does it have? Singing? Dancing? Cheesy backdrops?

And what's the plot again? Some creepy old guy tries to teach some pretty young woman how to speak properly, while her father tries to use this is a way to cash in?

And you expect to get this project going? Fat chance.

Which is a shame, because in 1964, this movie won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Rex Harrison, as the creepy old guy better known as Henry Higgins).

The movie, of course, was "My Fair Lady," and it will always rank among TigerBlog's favorite.

"My Fair Lady" is set in London, a city that TB has never set foot in, located in a country that TB likewise has never visited. The closest he's come is Ireland, and history suggests that that is not really the same.

TB has seen any number of movies that make London (and England, for that matter) seem as familiar as New York (a city that TB has been to), from musicals like "My Fair Lady" and "Oliver" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to Monty Python comedies to classic dramas like "Mrs. Miniver.

Of course, being an American, TigerBlog lives in a country that goes way back with the British, starting with "No Taxation Without Representation" and the Revolution and the War of 1812 and then, switching pages, as BFFs for the last 196 years (the War of 1812 didn't end until 1814). And hey, even "The Star Spangled Banner" came from the War of 1812.

Yes, it was a rocky start between the two, but you're going to have that when, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them to another.

British Airways used to make fun of that history when it had an ad campaign featuring Robert Morley, who would implore Americans to visit England by saying: "do come home; all is forgiven."

Maybe it's the centuries of history, or maybe it's the impact that the English have had on this country and its development and culture. Hey, the Beatles alone are reason enough to love the English.

Or maybe it's just the accents. In "My Fair Lady" alone, you have Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn (who, by the way, was born in Holland) and their inflections.

When TB first got the voicemail asking about the possibility of incorporating the Princeton-Brown football game into a British children's version of "The Apprentice," the first thing TB noticed was the accents. A British accent always makes everything sound so much more formal and important.

Anyway, after much back-and-forth between the powers that be, it was determined that in fact the show could be held here. And so Saturday, during Princeton-Brown football, Princeton Stadium will host the final two teams of three English kids ages 12-14.

The show is part of the CBBC, which is the children's BBC, or the English equivalent of PBS Kids.

The show is called "Trade Your Way To The USA," and it started with a group of 14 teams of three each, who have been competing towards the grand prize of coming to this country for the final.

TB has never seen "The Apprentice," but as he understands it, there are teams competing in different business models. The same holds true for "Trade Your Way," where the kids have been all over England in different contests to see who could sell the most of whatever that week's product was.

And now, the six kids have made their way to this country. They've been around New York City, and they'll be heading to Princeton tomorrow, where they'll film with the band, the cheerleaders and head coach Bob Surace.

The contact person from the BBC sends emails in which she refers to Frist as "the canteen" and spells "realize" with an "s" instead of a "z." In all of TB's dealings with the BBC, nobody's ever referred to the game; instead, it's always the match.

And what will they be doing during the match?

Hawking cookies, candy and the like. Two teams. Three kids. Who can sell the most?

At Princeton-Brown football Saturday.

It figures to be jolly good stuff.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Into The Light

This past August 5th was a Thursday. It was still nearly three weeks away from the start of fall practices for Princeton teams and just about a month away from the first games, which of course is now nearly six weeks in the past.

In other words, it was a long time ago.

Think of what you were doing on Aug. 5. The beach? The pool? Getting ready for vacation? Kids in camp? You weren't school shopping yet; there was way too much time for that.

In fact, Aug. 5 was 69 days ago. It was also the day that the mine collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 men 2,000 feet below the surface.

It would be 17 days before rescuers would be able to drill through into the emergency chamber where the men had taken up residence. In those first 17 days, the men had managed to make 48 hours worth of food and water sustain them, and when the first bore holes reached them, rescuers were at least able to send them necessary supplies to keep them alive.

Still, the men were told, it would be months before a hole large enough to get them out would be dug. And so they figured they were to be stuck in the ground until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Instead, as TigerBlog writes this, the 14th miner is on his way up in the capsule, following the 13 who have already made the 15-20 minute trip. According to the plan, the last of the miners (and the two rescue workers who were lowered into the hole before the first miner was raised) will be out by the middle of the night tonight.

It's an amazing story on every possible level. The idea that they survived in the first place. The way they organized themselves into a society while trapped and how that kept them sane, a process that included switching on the headlights of the vehicles that they had there to keep them oriented to daytime and nighttime. The unimaginable conditions that they've endured, with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, very high humidity and of course no natural light. The rescue effort itself. The national pride that it is generating.

Think about the darkness itself for a moment. Imagine if you had to go 69 days without seeing a ray of natural light.

The miners long ago passed the record for the longest time trapped underground; nobody had ever survived that long in that kind of environment.

To see them on the video during their time trapped and now as their being rescued is inspiring. Maybe in their dark moments they was some sense of panic, some sense of doom, but it's never come out publicly.

Instead, these 33 men - 32 Chileans and one Bolivian - offer a chance for a little recharging of one's faith in the human spirit. The miners and their rescuers, that is.

TB has followed the story closely in amazement. One of the best pieces he read was on, a story about how one of the miners is a former pro soccer player in Chile.

TB cannot possibly imagine what it would be like to be stuck 2,000 feet underground like that. It would have taken him until, oh, Aug. 5 before he freaked out. Or maybe not. Maybe they just adjusted to where they were and made the best of it.

Still, 69 days is a long, long time. Since the mine first collapsed, those fall teams at Princeton have gone from summer vacation to fall practice to where they are now, which is in the heart of their seasons.

The men's soccer team is entering the stretch drive having won six straight games for the first time since 1989, when Bob Bradley was the head coach and current Tiger head coach Jim Barlow was the best player on the team.

More than just having won six straight, Princeton has scored at least three goals in each of those six games.

Has that ever happened before in Princeton's men's soccer history? Six straight games with at least three goals?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but not very often and not for awhile.

In fact, this is the fourth such streak in the history of a program that dates to 1938. Princeton actually reached at least three goals in seven straight games in 1942 and 1957 and did it in six straight most recently in 1977, 33 seasons ago.

The 1942 team went undefeated in the days before the Ivy League, and the 1957 team won the first league title awarded in men's soccer.

The 1977 team followed its six-game run by going 2-3 down the stretch, losing to Penn and Cornell to miss out on an Ivy title, though it did get an NCAA tournament bid.

And the 2010 team? It has six regular-season games remaining, including five in the ultra-stacked Ivy League, which is as competitive in men's soccer as it is in any sport.

For the men's soccer team, though, these are good days, a team that reached the NCAA tournament a year ago and is pushing for a return trip this year. It's also a team with as realistic a chance to win the league as anyone, and it's unlikely that any team will cruise through the league undefeated and possibly even with only a single blemish.

As for the rescue of the miners, it's as heartwarming a story as TB can remember. If the scenes of jubilant miners being lifted out of that capsule don't make you smile, it's possibly that you're made of stone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Board

TigerBlog got an email yesterday welcoming him to the CAANJ board. A few days ago, TB had no idea what CAANJ was.

Last week, TB was at the CAANJ annual meeting, which was followed by an awards ceremony at which Princeton received the CAANJ Cup for having the top athletic program in Division I/II in the state of New Jersey.

CAANJ, by the way, stands for College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey. There are 48 member institutions, with four athletic conferences and then a fairly even distribution between the three other classifications - DI/II schools, DIII schools and junior colleges.

The day started when the outgoing CAANJ president turned over the top spot to the incoming one, Alexis Schug from New Jersey Institute of Technology. The old president? None other than Cindy Cohen, the longtime Princeton softball coach who won 560 games and 12 Ivy League titles while taking the Tigers to the Women's College World Series twice. Cohen is now an administrator at William Paterson College.

The meeting featured an energetic and well-informed speaker from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Division III conference, who spoke about new media and its impact on college athletics.

And then it was time for the awards ceremony, which featured a male and female athlete of the year from each of the three classifications, as well as the top programs in each. The Division I winners of the athlete of the year awards were a baseball player from Seton Hall and a women's volleyball player from NJIT; the other top programs were The College of New Jersey in Division III and Gloucester County Colege for the jucos.

At the very end, Schug asked if anyone would volunteer to be the coordinator of the awards for the organization. Once assured that this wasn't too taxing of a position, TB volunteered, and so now he's on the board.

It was, to say the least, a very interesting experience to attend the meeting.

Back when the Ivy League had sports information meetings - and most of the decisions centered around the media - TB always thought it was odd for eight schools who had little in common geographically to be making decisions that were uniform for media purposes. For purposes of competition and admissions and financial aid and everything else? Yes, that makes complete sense.

But for the media? How could the group make decisions that treated rural schools like Dartmouth and Cornell the same as urban schools like Columbia, Penn and Harvard? These eight offices were connected by being in the same league, but that had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations and logistics of their dealings with their respective local medias.

TB had a similar feeling at the CAANJ meeting.

Yes, all of these schools were in New Jersey. At the same time, the issues that are faced by the community colleges are so different than the ones faced by, say, a BCS school like Rutgers.

TB sat at table during the luncheon with people from Brookdale Community College (where TB's eighth-grade graduation was held, back when he was the fourth-shortest boy in the class) and Mercer County College. One of the people from Mercer was John Simone, whom TB knows dating back to his days coaching at Notre Dame High School.

There was also a woman from Mercer who ran at TCNJ when current Princeton men's cross country coach Steve Dolan was the coach for the Lions and a woman from Brookdale who went to high school with Lorin Maurer, who was a Princeton Friends' Group fundraiser until her tragic death in a plane crash nearly two years ago. Lorin and the woman from Brookdale were from outside Reading, which of course sparked a conversation with Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who grew up in Reading.

The room was filled with people who do a great deal for New Jersey's college athletes, the overwhelming majority of whom do not compete at the Division I level.

These administrators give their athletes every opportunity they can to be successful, and they do so with far fewer resources than TB is used to dealing with here at Princeton.

The speaker from the MIAC spoke about things that TB takes for granted as an everyday part of doing business in athletic communications - thinks like livestats and video streaming and flip cams and content management systems and all of it.

At the same time, many of the people in the room had no experience in dealing with these. Why? They don't have the resources - financial and staffing - to so so.

By the time he left, TB had a better understanding of what a lot of people in college athletics go through each day in their attempts to put quality teams on the field. He also had renewed respect for the challenges that many of these dedicated people face.

He was also determined not to take for granted what he has at Princeton and just how lucky he is to be working at a place like this.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No Place Like Home

TigerBlog saw something that he would call, uh, unusual this morning as he made his way to Lot 21.

Driving down a Princeton side street, he saw an elderly man hurrying in his direction, wearing a sport coat and carrying a ping pong paddle. TigerBlog assumes that he has a regular game a neighbor's house and wasn't simply wandering the streets looking for a table and a little white ball.

It reminded TB of the very first episode of "Seinfeld," when Kramer walks into Jerry's apartment with two pieces of bread and says: "Do you have any meat?"

TB first played ping pong back at Camp Toledo, a sleepaway camp he attended for five summers, from ages 6-10. He learned to play from a girl named Joni Meister, who was probably two or three years older than TB and who used to keep her left hand behind her back while she simply returned every ball that was hit her way. It's been a long, long time, but TB remembers that she was somewhat unbeatable.

Through the years, TB has emulated that style ever since, rarely going for winners and simply keeping the ball in play. The theory is that eventually your opponent will lose patience and make a mistake.

TB's cousins Paul and Janet used to have a table in their basement, and Paul was famous for pounding the table with his paddle to try to fluster his opponent. The Joni Meister strategy was perfect for combating this, since it also kept you on an even keel for the whole game.

TB's strategy in Foosball is a little different. In Foosball, TB always keeps his left hand on the goalie and only moves his right hand to the other three positions. That way, if the ball moves quickly down the table, the goalie is always ready to keep the ball out of the goal, rather than just hanging out waiting for the quick transition from the two offensive rows to the defensive end.

In transitioning from defense to offense, TB likes to have the goalie move the ball up one row and then have the two defenders move it to the five guys in the middle. This is as opposed to simply hammering the ball up the table, because it could take any number of crazy hops along the way.

Foosball, of course, is the table soccer game where one or two players control four rows of players. These players can spin forward or backward, so it's possible to institute the mayhem strategy of simply spinning all the rows and hoping something good happens.

Real soccer is not played on a field made of cardboard with a ball that makes a "plunk" sound when it smashes into the sides. The players also don't spin forward and backward and don't have to move in four separate units.

Perhaps one exception to the spinning rule is the Brown women's soccer player who did her throw-ins after doing a complete flip forward, the point of which is to get the ball to travel further. She did it several times Saturday against Princeton, and her throws did set up several good chances for the Bears.

None of them paid off, though, as Princeton won 1-0 in a game that came after the men defeated Brown 3-0. Two games, 180 minutes, two wins - Princeton 4, Brown 0.

The wins left both the men and women undefeated and untied in the Ivy League.

The women's team is the only team without a loss or tie in the league. At 3-0-0, the Tigers have nine points, two ahead of 2-0-1 Columbia, Princeton's next league opponent (at Columbia Saturday at 4).

The women's Ivy standings have Princeton with nine points, Columbia with seven and Harvard and Penn with six each at 2-1-0; Princeton still plays all three.

On the men's side, each team has played two league games instead of three, and Princeton and Penn are both 2-0-0, followed by Harvard at 1-0-1. That Brown is not 2-0 might be something of a surpise: the Bears came to Princeton 7-0-2 having outscored their opponents 16-1 before Princeton scored three times.

The real winners at Princeton soccer, though, are the fans, who get to watch the games at Roberts Stadium. The facility, now in its third year, continues to amaze TB every time he's there.

It doesn't matter where you sit in the building, because you are so close to the field at every point, but TB likes the view from directly behind the goals. The field itself is pristine, to the point where when you look at it from the stands, you can't tell where the real grass of Myslik Field ends and the field turf practice field begins.

Clearly the local soccer fans have noticed. Though TB has no numbers to back this claim up, it's his belief that attendance at Princeton soccer has definitely gone up since the stadium opened. And the crowds that come are a cross section of the local Mercer County soccer fans (a large group) and an army of soccer-playing kids in their varied youth jerseys. In short, it's everything Princeton Athletics is looking to have at its events.

The teams have also responded: Princeton's men's and women's teams are combined 3-5 on the road and 10-2-1 at home.

Of course, neither is going to win their league without being able to compete successfully away from home.

Still, it's nice to know that your home facility is nothing short of spectacular.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'll Play The Carpenters; I'll Play Barry Manilow

TigerBlog has 1,129 songs on his I-tunes.

Of those, 130 are by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, followed in second place by Train with 45 songs and in third by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes with 42.

TB isn't sure how the random-play function on I-tunes works, since it seems like some songs are played way more than others. In fact, there are six songs that have played at least 160 times each: "My City of Ruins," "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and "The Land of Hope And Dreams" by Bruce, "Teenage Idol" by Ricky Nelson and "Don't Let Him Go" by REO Speedwagon are all on that list, which is led by Bruce's "Meet Me At Mary's Place," which tops the chart, so to speak, with 167 plays.

As an aside, TB-Baltimore, during his time in the next office here in the OAC, used to cringe everytime he heard "I got seven pictures of Buddha" and vowed never to listen to the song again after he left here.

There are a lot of different groups that have at least one song on the list, including 19 that begin with the letter "A" alone. Some are one-hit wonders, and others have a solid block of songs.

Included in the 1,129 songs are 10 by The Carpenters and three by Barry Manilow. If you're in TB's age range, you probably 1) love both and 2) would never admit it publicly.

The lead singer for The Carpenters was Karen Carpenter, who had an angelic voice and died from anorexia at the age of 32 back in 1983. She left behind a string of hits, including "We've Only Just Begun," "Close to You," "Yesterday Once More," "Top Of The World" and many more. Her brother Richard played the guitar.

As for Barry Manilow, he's still going fairly strong at the age of 67, with his familiar mega-hits like "Copacabana," "I Write The Songs," "Weekend In New England," "Even Now" and many others as well.

For some reason, The Carpenters and Barry Manilow weren't quite cool enough for the average teenager back then to admit that he/she was a fan. Also for some reason, though, everyone knew all the words to all of their songs.

The whole Carpenters/Manilow thing is captured perfectly in two television comedies. One was on an episode of "Family Guy," when Peter and his buddies hear the news that Manilow is going to be playing a concert in Quahog and begin by making fun of it, only to admit that they secretly love his music.

The other is from "WKRP in Cincinnati," which could quite possibly be the most underrated comedy in TV history.

Anyway, Dr. Johnny Fever was the top deejay at WKRP, a devoted rocker from the ’60s and ’70s. On one episode, when a bomber attacks the radio station's transmitter (where Johnny and Venus Flytrap had gone because they thought the station was the target), Johnny just gets out on time because he hears sirens coming and thinks it's the "phone cops," who know he just destroyed a phone (back in those days, the phone company owned the telephones). Venus chases Johnny out the door, just before the bomb goes off.

The two end up back at the station, where Johnny tries to hide from the phone cops. He screams to Travis (the program director): "I'll play The Carpenters; I'll play Barry Manilow."

If there is an equatable situation today, TigerBlog says it's with Miley Cyrus, beloved by the under 10 girls and, grudgingly, by their parents. Hey, go listen to "Make Some Noise" and come back and tell TigerBlog that that's not a great song.

Still, even TB was surprised yesterday afternoon, when he was on his way to the E-level storage room, located next to the Princeton Varsity Club weightroom, which was busy with activity. And the song that was blaring? "Party In The USA."

TigerBlog was down there to get the 1959 football roster to answer a question that had been asked. It turned out to be quite an educational trip.

The 1959 roster included 66 names. Here are your questions, to be answered in a paragraph or two:

* how many players weighed more than 200 pounds?
* how much did the heaviest player weigh?

The current Princeton roster has 81 players who weigh more than 200 pounds, 38 who weigh at least 250 and five who weigh more than 300.

Back then? Of the 66, 14 weighed more than 200 and nobody weighed more than 225.

Football players of varying weights will be playing this weekend on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, beginning tonight with sprint football against Post and continuing tomorrow with the football game against Colgate.

As an aside, TB has always wondered how to transition from talking about sprint to talking about the other football team. Both are varsity sports, so you can't call one sprint and the other varsity. Former sprint coach Tom Murray used to call his team the lightweight team and the other the heavyweight team.

It's a big home weekend for Princeton Athletics, with eight games on campus between tonight and Sunday.

The sprint game is as intriguing as any, since the matchup is between the Tigers, who has lost 66 straight to CSFL opponents, and Post, who is 0-2 in its first year with a CSFL team.

The (other/heavyweight/Saturday) football game is the first of three straight home games, with Brown and Harvard due in the following two weeks. Interestingly, in Princeton's last 10 games, the home team has won nine (Princeton won at Dartmouth last year), and you know the Tigers can't wait to play again after last week's 42-14 loss to Columbia.

The women's volleyball team, fresh off its stunning rally from two games down to defeat defending Ivy champ Penn, hosts Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow.

There is also a soccer doubleheader tomorrow after football, with the men at 4 and the women at 7, both against Brown. The women's team is 2-0-0 in the league, tied for first with Penn, while the men won their Ivy opener last week in impressive fashion, 3-0 over Dartmouth.

The third-ranked field hockey team away today at No. 4 Virginia in a huge matchup, and then there is a quick turnaround for Sunday's 1 p.m. home game against No. 8 Louisville.

The men's water polo team is home tomorrow against Bucknell at 2.

Eight games in 44 hours, seven of which have no admission charge.

What's not to like?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

CAANJ Champs

When TigerBlog was a student past junior high or so, his favorite kinds of questions on tests were essay questions.

Why? Because TB always felt that essay questions tested you on what you knew, and other questions tested you on what you didn't know.

TB had a math teacher in high school - actually, TB had him for probability and statistics - named Mr. Iovino, and it was his theory that on multiple choice questions, the correct answer is "B" a disproportionate amount of the time. He also had another high school teacher who gave the class a true/false test once on which every answer was false - mostly as a psychological experiment to see if the people taking the test would be okay with answering "false" to every question.

In a college astronomy class - fascinating stuff, by the way - the professor's tests consisted of clusters of unrelated questions. There would be seven clusters on the test, with three or four or five questions in each cluster - and students could pick any five clusters to answer.

For today, though, let's start out with a little "fill in the blank" exercise. Ready? Here goes:

Princeton Athletics competes in __________________.

TB is pretty sure that most people would give the easiest and most correct answer: The Ivy League.

Others could point out the ECAC or the CSFL or the IRA or any of the other affiliations and events Princeton has.

You could even say Orange and Black. Or Princeton Stadium and Baker Rink and all the other venues.

How many of you, though, came up with this answer:

New Jersey.

Since we're playing the "fill in the blank" game, here's another one:

There are ____________________ Division I schools in New Jersey. We'll get to that in a moment.

Princeton is first and foremost an Ivy League school, and winning Ivy League championships has always been the No. 1 goal. And then, depending on the sport, there are natural rivals outside of the league in a variety of places.

But Princeton is, of course, located in New Jersey. And while there isn't the greatest of natural rivalries within the state beyond possibly Rutgers, Princeton does compete against its closest geographical rivals for the CAANJ Cup.

"CAANJ" stands for "College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey." Each year, CAANJ honors athletes and athletic programs in the state in a variety of ways.

Included in this is the CAANJ Cup, which goes to the top athletic program in the state. This year's winner is Princeton, which has won often in the past as well.

The Cup is awarded to the team that has the highest point total according to the CAANJ formula. Points are awarded for seven men's sports and seven women's sports based on conference finish and national competition.

There are separate divisions for Division I and for Divisions II and III.

It's not necessarily easy to figure out the exact sports to nominate, because the points system is a bit complex, so a sport like men's lightweight rowing, which won the national championship, didn't earn as many points as men's water polo, which won an NCAA tournament game.

The CAANJ Cup will be awarded today at the annual banquet. Like the first "fill in the blank" question above, the answer to what Princeton's first goal each year is is not to win the CAANJ Cup, but it's still a very nice honor.

As for the answer to how many Division I schools there are in New Jersey? Who had "eight?" If you did, you are correct:

Princeton, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Monmouth, St. Peters, Rider, Fairleigh Dickinson and NJIT.

It's not the same as competing against Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, Columbia and Penn.

Then again, Princeton is more than happy to be the home of the 2010 CAANJ Cup.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

9,327? Is That Good?

Did anyone notice something unique about yesterday, at least as it pertained to the world of sports?

TigerBlog didn't pick up on it until someone else in the office mentioned it. Since the Major League Baseball playoffs don't start until today, that left yesterday as one of those rarest of days, one without any regular-season or post-season games in any of the four major professional sports in America.

The days before and after the MLB all-star game also fit the bill. Aside from that, there aren't too many that TB can think of, as there are now NBA games on Christmas, an outdoor NHL game on New Year's Day and basically something every other day of the year as well. In fact, can it really be only the days around the all-star game and yesterday?

When TB worked at the newspaper, the days around the all-star game were awesome ones to work on the desk, since there were never any late games to have to worry about. Usually, when you worked the desk (which TB had to do in the summer), you'd have everything done for the early editions and then sub out advances or wire stories for the game stories that came in from the Yankees, Mets and Phillies.

Sometimes, when there would be an early story (something written before the game) or an early notes column, people on the desk would write things like "The Phillies led the Pirates 3-2 in the seventh inning at press time." TB always hated that, since when you got your paper, the game was long over.

Eventually, for the last edition, with a deadline then of around 2 a.m., you'd be waiting for box scores for MLB games from the West Coast. You'd also have to take the AP story and add it to the American League or National League wrap, which meant having to cut something out of the earlier entries to make it all fit.

And you had to do all this in the middle of the night, long after most of the rest of the newsroom had gone home (or out, which is what most of them did) and after one of the greatest cafeterias of all-time had closed for the day.

Except for the Monday before and Wednesday after the all-star game. On those days, it was an all-star preview, some stats, local American Legion and Little League baseball and wrap it up by 9 or so.

Of course, this was all in the pre-internet days, so getting late final scores (or even early ones) wasn't as easy as, say, looking at your phone (which in those days was mounted on your wall).

Those were the days, no?

The MLB playoffs used to start on Tuesdays, not Wednesdays, so sports world went from Monday Night Football to baseball playoffs.

Back when TB was in grade school, all of the postseason games were played during the day, and he can remember way back in 1973, when a teacher wheeled in a TV so that the class could watch the Mets-Reds in the NLCS.

TB isn't as interested in the 2010 playoffs. He's rooting against the Yankees, but he basically has nothing against any of the other seven teams. He has the Giants ranked just ahead of the Yankees in his rooting preference, since they knocked out the Padres.

His first choice would be the Braves, and his second was the Twins; TB doesn't see either winning in the first round.

So why isn't TB as into the playoffs as he used to be, when he would watch every game all the way through? Is it because he's older and has more important things to worry about?

Or is it because the sport of baseball has done basically everything it could do in the last 20 years to alienate its fan base?

Whether it's labor issues or steroids or 1-0 regular season games that go more than three hours or playoff games that end after 11:30 in the East or ticket prices that have destroyed the idea that baseball was affordable family entertainment or the staggering of playoff games to squeeze every nickel out of television or World Series games in November or any number of other decisions that baseball has made, it's no longer what it was back when TB was a kid, let alone when FatherBlog was growing up in the '40s and '50s in New York City.

What's the moral of the story? Don't assume that just because someone is interested in your product today means they're going to be interested tomorrow. The decisions you make have a huge impact.

TigerBlog can't imagine that Princeton fans feel the same about sports here as TB does about baseball. Perhaps some old-time football fans remember days when Palmer Stadium was routinely filled, but for the most part, Princeton athletics of today is providing as high a quality product - from a viewing standpoint - as it ever has.

Still, it took exactly one home football game here at Princeton this season for TigerBlog to be hit by the familiar conversation, which goes something like this:

"What was the attendance for the Lafayette game?"
"Is that good?"

Again, the question with no answer. A crowd of nearly 10,000? Was it a good crowd or a bad crowd? And how do the decisions that we continue to make here at Princeton impact the people who come or don't come?

It's a familiar theme for TB, who wrote a great deal about this very subject not long ago, with a Part I and a Part II.

The questions then are the same as they are now. One home game into the 2010 football season, and they haven't changed.

So now Princeton has three straight home games coming up, the first of which is Saturday against Colgate. Last year, attendance was 5,685 for a Thursday night. This year's forecast for Saturday is for sunny and 73 degrees; in other words, the weather will be perfect.

Coming up after that are back-to-back games against Brown and Harvard. All three games kick off at 1; the Lafayette game was at 6.

So what should attendance be? What would be considered good? What factors are playing into it? Is Princeton's marketing efforts working?

Michael Cross, now the Director of Athletics at Bradley, used to have discussions with TB all the time back when he worked at Princeton over whether or not it was important to set goals for attendance.

If you want to average, say, 12,000 fans per game but only average 10,000, are you unsuccessful? Or is working towards a goal a good thing? And if you are, what should that goal be?

Like all the other questions related to that subject, this one often went unanswered.

TB is not stating a goal for attendance for the next three weekends. He's in more of a "let-see-what-happens-and-if-it-teaches-us-anything" mode.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kills, Digs, Blocks, Spikes

Down on E level of Jadwin Gym, there is a storage closet that has a bunch of old file cabinets that used to be in the back room of the OAC, in a spot that is now the shiny new offices of Associate Athletic Director Chris Brock and Assistant Athletic Director Kelly Widener.

These file cabinets include drawers labeled "football, pre-1930" and "men's basketball, 1945-1967." They are filled with old papers, yellowing and crinkly, that have all kinds of information on them, from old rosters to box scores to preseason releases - and, of course, stats.

In fact, there are decades' worth of stats that are hand-written on old notebook paper, with simple columns like "goals" and "points" and "touchdowns."

Back when TigerBlog first covering Princeton in his newspaper days, the shift to computerizing stats was just happening, though not yet for in-game. Instead, then - and through TB's first year or two here in the OAC - stats at all games were still done by hand, with a group of four or five or so people armed with papers, charts, pencils, a typewriter (to type the play-by-play) and blank box scores to fill in. It would take at least 30 minutes after a game to have a finished box.

After the game, TB would have to go into a different office here in Jadwin, then occupied by Marge DeFrank (a longtime administrative assistant here who passed away several years ago), and use Marge's computer to update the cumulative stats. It was an annoying, arduous process.

For men's lacrosse stats, TB developed an excel spreadsheet on which he would have to enter that game's goals, assists, saves, etc., and then excel would do the rest, updating season and career stats.

Eventually, the trend in college sports went to doing computerized in-game stats, which seemed like the very invention of computers themselves to many SIDs at the time.

There were a few companies that were vying for the emerging market of college stats, most notably one called StatMan (which nobody but TB liked) and another called StatCrew (which everyone else liked). TB doesn't know what happened to StatMan, but basically every college now uses StatCew for all of its computerized statting.

StatCrew has programs that are basically structured the same for football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, baseball and softball. These programs have come light years from what they were in the mid-1990s, and the advances in StatCrew software - ability to do live stats, compatibility with the web, ease of NCAA reporting, variety of reports it can create - have done so much to help make athletic communications a much more efficient venture.

All of the programs work in the same manner. Games are set up with the opponents and their rosters, and then all statistical entering is done by uniform numbers, not by names. The programs are designed to anticipate everything that can happen off of a given situation, so if you enter, say, a shot in soccer, the program knows that the next thing for that shot has to be that it was a goal, was a save, went wide, hit the post, was blocked, etc.

Within seconds after the game is over, final stats and updated cumulative stats can be on your web page.

While there are still some in the sports info world who are still intimidated by the process of entering stats, it is something that can be learned with relative ease.

If you ask any SID what the hardest sport to do is, they will almost unanimously say volleyball. TigerBlog has never done StatCrew for a volleyball match, and he'd basically be lost if he tried. The stats are somewhat complex, with digs and kills and assists and aces and everything else, and the game moves quite rapidly.

Princeton's women's volleyball team made the Penn stat crew stay later than anyone thought would be the case when the defending Ivy champion Quakers went up 2-0 in Saturday night's Ivy League opener.

But the Tigers stormed back, winning the final three games 25-23, 25-19 and then 25-9 to shock Penn.

Women's volleyball in the Ivy League works just like basketball, with a double round-robin travel-partner format that determines the league champion and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Should there be a tie for the title at the end, there would be a playoff to determine the automatic bid.

For Princeton and Penn, it was just the opener. Dartmouth and Yale are off to 2-0 starts, and the Big Green are 11-2 overall. Princeton this weekend is home to Brown and Yale as the league race begins to sort itself out.

Of course, for decades, the face of Princeton volleyball was Glenn Nelson, a somewhat beloved figure in Tiger athletic history for his humor, his laid-back style - and his success on the court.

Jolie Ward is now in Year 2 as the head coach, as is her assistant (and the men's head coach) Sam Schweisky, who took the Tiger men to the EIVA final in his first year. While much was made a year ago about how Chris Bates took over from Bill Tierney in men's lacrosse, Ward and Schweisky stepped into as enormous a shadow in Dillon Gym.

With football and a soccer doubleheader Saturday, a big chance for sprint football Friday night and another game against a Top 15 team in field hockey Sunday (all at home), it's possible to overlook women's volleyball, an indoor sport (along with men's water polo) among mostly outdoor fall sports. This is a big weekend for the Tigers in Dillon, where the atmosphere for matches can be outrageous.

And where else can you get stats like this (from the story after the Penn game): Lydia Rudnick recorded 26 kills, 12 digs and a .300 attack percentage in the win. Junior Cathryn Quinn, Princeton's most experienced starter, also had a strong effort for the Tigers. The middle recorded 18 kills and six blocks while providing important leadership after the Tigers found themselves in an early hole.