Thursday, December 30, 2010

Issue No. 1

The McLaughlin Group first aired back in 1982, and it was an immediate hit with TigerBlog and MotherBlog.

Through the years, the two would often watch the show "together" in different states, arguing with each other on the phone the entire time.

The show is a political roundtable that has found a way to differentiate itself from the others, in several ways. One, since it's nearly 30 years old, it's stood the test of time. Also, there's the panelists themselves, who aren't trying to be outdo each other as the coolest and most outrageous.

Mostly, though, it's about the host, John McLaughlin, whose delivery, personality and subtle humor make him unique on television. The evolving group of panelists has usually been a strong complement, even if some are so rigidly ideological that they become too predictable.

The show airs each Sunday on various channels, and TB tries to watch it each week. If he can't, he usually checks it out on-line afterwards.

The best time of year to see the show is this time, when McLaughlin and the panelists review the previous year and make predictions for the new one.

TB saw Part I of the Year In Review last week, and he's looking forward to Part II this week.

The format of the show normally has McLaughlin lead the group on a discussion of various topics, always starting out with "Issue No. 1" and then getting into it.

For the year in review, McLaughlin instead brings up different categories and asks for an answer from each panelist. Among the questions were top politician, biggest winner, biggest loser, best capitalist, biggest lie, person of the year - stuff like that.

As for the Princeton athletics 2010 year in review, TB can do it McLaughlin style. Keep in mind, none of this is official Princeton stuff, just TB's thoughts:

Top Female Athlete - Alicia Aemisegger, swimming. Aemisegger put the finishing touches on one of the great athletic careers in Princeton history by running her totals to 12 individual Ivy titles and 13 All-America designations.

Top Male Athlete - Donn Cabral, track and field/cross country. Cabral, among other things, was the runner-up outdoors at the NCAA championships in the steeplechase and then ran away from the field to win the Heps cross country title.

Top Female Freshman - Niveen Rasheed, basketball. A unanimous first-team All-Ivy League selection and Ivy Rookie of the Year, Rasheed led Princeton to a 26-3 record and the program's first NCAA tournament berth

Top Male Freshman - Todd Harrity, squash. Harrity was the national individual runner-up, as well as an All-America and Ivy Rookie of the Year, as a freshman.

Best Game - Princeton 10, Cornell 9 (overtime), men's lacrosse Ivy League tournament final. Princeton trailed, as it always seems to, early against Cornell. Unlike previous times, Princeton able to rally, erasing a four-goal deficit to win on Jack McBride's goal with one second left in OT in the first Ivy League tournament championship game.

Toughest Loss - Mansfield 10, Princeton 6, sprint football. The Tigers had their best defensive effort in years but were unable to generate the winning points as neither team scored in the second half.

Toughest Tie - Princeton 0, Penn 0, women's soccer. It wasn't quite winner-take-all, as a tie gave the Ivy title to the Quakers while Princeton needed to win outright. The Tigers got a great effort from No. 3 goalkeeper Claire Pinciaro, who made her first career start when injuries knocked out the first two keepers, but a header from Caitlin Blosser that seemed to be heading in in the final minute of the second OT was deflected off the line by a Penn defender.

Best Moment On Campus By A Non-Princeton Team - The U.S. Men's National Soccer team trained on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium before going to the World Cup in South Africa. The U.S. coach is Bob Bradley, the former Princeton player and head coach, and bringing his team to Princeton before heading to the biggest sporting event in the world was a great one for the Tigers and the local soccer community.

Stat of the Year - Princeton teams won 14 Ivy League championships in the calendar year of 2010: women's basketball, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field, women's indoor track and field, men's lacrosse, men's lightweight rowing, women's tennis, men's soccer, field hockey, women's cross country, men's cross country.

Best 19-Hour Stretch - Princeton won five of those Ivy titles - the two fencings, two indoor track and fields and women's swimming and diving - in a 19-hour stretch the last weekend of February.

Individual Stat Of The Year - Kareem Maddox of the men's basketball team had two 30-point games, making him the first Princeton men's player in 27 years and eighth all-time to do so.

Under the Radar - The women's tennis team went 7-0 in the league and won every one of those matches either 5-2, 6-1 or 7-0.

Top Accounting Error - The men's lightweight rowing team won the national championship on the final day of the academic year, extending Princeton's streak of having at least one team or individual national champion to what TB thought was 24 years. When he went back to make a list of champions, TB found that Princeton's streak is actually currently at 39 straight years.

Most Heartwarming Story - The return of Jordan Culbreath. As everyone knows, Culbreath was the Ivy League's leading rusher in 2008 and then missed almost all of 2009 with what started as a minor ankle injury and quickly became a life-threatening blood disease. Nobody could have possibly envisioned that he'd ever play football again, but there he was this year, back as the team's leading rusher. In fact, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry this past season, which was only slightly off the 5.7 he averaged in 2008. He also scored the game-winning touchdown against Lafayette in overtime in his first home game after the illness.

Biggest Injuries - There are co-winners here. The field hockey team was undefeated and beat eventual-champion Maryland when its team was at full strength. Katie Reinprecht's broken leg took a huge piece of the puzzle away and kept the Tigers from being full-strength for the NCAA tournament, even when Reinprecht tried to play with the injury in the postseason anyway. Tommy Wornham, the quarterback on the football team, separated his shoulder in Week 5 and missed the rest of the year. A healthy Wornham would have almost surely meant a few more wins, and his injury cost Trey Peacock a shot at several receiving records.

Best Achievement By A Non-Championship Team - Co-winners here as well. The wrestling team went from being the perennial last place team in the Ivy League to a third-place finish. Considering how strong Ivy wrestling is, that's no small feat. The men's volleyball team reached the EIVA final and pushed Goliath Penn State before falling.

Women's Team Of The Year - Basketball. Princeton went a perfect 14-0 in the league and won every game by double figures, becoming the first Ivy women's team ever to accomplish that. As a result of its league championship, Princeton played in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. For the calendar year 2010, Princeton went 13-0 at home and is 24-4 heading into tomorrow's game against Wake Forest.

Men's Team Of The Year - Soccer. Princeton started out 1-3-1 and then put together a school-record 12-game winning streak. Along the way, Princeton went a perfect 7-0-0 in the league, making the 2010 Princeton team the first perfect men's soccer team in school history. If you think that there was nothing to it, consider that four Ivy League soccer teams made it to the NCAA tournament and a fifth had been nationall ranked during the season. Princeton, who climbed almost into the national Top 10 along the way, defeated two Sweet 16 teams during the regular season.


Oh, and Happy New Year To All.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bowl Season

Look, there can't be anyone at all who can come up with a solid reason why big-time college football doesn't have a playoff system in place.

Any of the reasons that usually come up in defense of the current bowl system are all hollow, and everyone knows it. In reality, the current system accomplishes all kinds of things that the powers-that-be don't want to mess with, such as 1) giving 70 of 120 FBS coaches the chance to say they reached the postseason and 2) for the most part shutting out the non-BCS conferences, directing the overwhelming percentage of the money to the most powerful leagues.

Think if college basketball worked the same way. How many college basketball coaches from big conferences have lost their jobs because they haven't been able to take their team to the NCAA tournament?

To TigerBlog, there are two completely ridiculous parts of the current system.

First, there are 12 teams that reached bowl games who needed wins to prevent themselves from having a losing record.

Second, the championship game between Oregon and Auburn takes place 37 days after either team last played. Put in NFL terms, the AFC and NFC championship games are set for Jan. 23; if the winners waited as long to have their championship game, then the Super Bowl would be March 1.

Another problem with the current setup is that other than the BCS title game, no other bowls matter.

When TB was a kid, the bowls were much more condensed, because there weren't as many. In 1970, there were only 11 bowl games played; this year there will be 35.

So while most of those 11 games didn't mean much in terms of having a national champion, they did mean something because each one was special in its own right. Eventually, the number more than tripled, and the names of the bowls, with their corporate sponsorship, makes it nearly impossible to distinguish one from another.

This year, even the FCS (TB still prefers the term "I-AA") got in on the silliness. The tournament plays out on the weekends, except that last weekend was Christmas and this one is New Year's. Because of that, the championship game between Delaware and Eastern Washington won't be played until Jan. 7, or three weeks after the teams won their semifinal games.

It's been 39 days since Ivy League football season ended, and it seems like even longer than that.

Again, the more TigerBlog thinks about it, the more he thinks that there's way more to like than not like about the way Ivy League football works. There are 10 weeks with 10 games, no off weeks. It's as much of a sprint as anywhere the sport is played.

Princeton, for instance, played its entire season in a 69-day window.

Oregon, when it takes the field against Auburn, will be finishing its season 128 days after its first game, a 72-0 win over New Mexico on Sept. 4.

At the same time, there are issues facing Ivy League football, some of which are outside of the league's control. The biggest is what direction the Patriot League goes in.

The Patriot presidents recently tabled for two years a proposal to adopt football scholarships across the board. Still, two years isn't a very long time, and it's not hard to envision any number of things happening, not the least of which is the breakup of the league itself, at least for football.

How does this affect the Ivy League? Well, of the 24 non-league games the Ivy teams played this year, 17 were against Patriot teams.

If the Patriot teams go in different directions, the possible opponents for the Ivy League dwindles. If they all go scholarships, that could be even worse for the Ivy League, since it would impact scheduling and probably recruiting.

And of course, any discussion of Ivy League football in the future has to include whether or not there's going to come a day when the league champion plays in the playoffs or if there'll ever be an 11th game.

For TigerBlog, though, the rest of college football could do worse than follow what the Ivy League now has, rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Get On The Bus

Back when TigerBlog played high school tennis, his team once had to play at a neutral site against another team from the same school district.

For reasons that TB never bothered to find out about, the two teams took the same bus to and from the site, stopping first at TB's school and then at the other on the way over and then reversing it on the way back.

It was a bit awkward, two teams that were about to play each other and then ultimately two teams that just had.

Of course, the time that the two teams were together on the bus was about 10 minutes each way, so it wasn't quite the end of the world.

Imagine, then, what it must have been like on the Albany men's basketball bus yesterday.

Did you see this story?

Albany is playing at Xavier tonight, and the Great Danes couldn't get their flight out to Cincinnati because of the blizzard. Instead, Albany decided to take a 10-hour or so bus ride.

That story wouldn't have made national news had it not been for one other piece of the situation. Mark Lyons, Xavier's second-leading scorer, lives in Schenectady, which is 10 minutes from Albany, and he too couldn't get back for the game.

So what happened? Xavier's coach called Albany's coach and asked if Lyons could ride on the Albany bus, a request that was granted.

Xavier's two leading scorers, Lyons and Tu Holloway, were supposed to go with Albany, but Holloway couldn't get from Long Island to Albany for the ride and had to find another way.

And that left Lyons to travel by himself with the team that his team is playing tonight. For 10 hours.

In the often cut-throat world of college athletics, where coaches agonize over every little detail as if changing shootaround times or something will give one team an advantage, it was a really nice story to see how Albany took Lyons with them.

“He was no different than any one of our guys," Albany coach Will Brown said. "The minute he got on the bus, he put his head phones on and whipped out his phone and within an hour he was out cold."

Holloway, by the way, took a bus to Pittsburgh, where a friend drove him the rest of the way.

It'll be interesting to keep an eye on the game, which is tonight at 7.

Another team on a long bus ride is the Princeton women's basketball team, whose early-morning flight to North Carolina this morning was canceled, also because of the storm.

The result for the Princeton women was a 10-hour ride of their own, from Central Jersey to Davidson, N.C., a ride of a mere 600 miles.

Princeton plays Davidson tomorrow night and then at Wake Forest on New Year's Eve. The 8-3 Tigers lost their last game in two overtimes to St. Joe's, but they have had 10 days to get over it. Davidson is 4-4 on the season; Wake is 7-5 before playing Appalachian State tomorrow.

The Princeton men were lucky in two respects.

First, their flight to Orlando for the Central Florida Holiday Classic wasn't canceled. Second, the weather has improved in Florida from where it was over the weekend (in the 30s) to the 60s or low 70s while Princeton is there.

Princeton, at 9-3, plays a 4-6 Northeastern team in the first round, and if the Tigers can get past that one, then the final would probably mean a matchup with the host team.

And, without looking, how good to do you think UCF is right about now?

How many guessed that UCF is currently 11-0 and ranked 19th in one poll and 21st in the other? In other words, a Princeton win tomorrow would set up a very nice game on Thursday.

There are three other Princeton teams who play this week, before the end of 2010.

The men's hockey team is at the UConn tournament, where it plays Bowling Green tomorrow and then either UConn or Holy Cross Thursday. The Tigers will be ending an 18-day layoff with this tournament, which is one of three breaks in the schedule of at least 10 days for the team.

The wrestling team is also in North Carolina (TB isn't sure how the Tigers got there) for the Southern Scuffle in Greensboro tomorrow and Thursday.

The women's hockey team plays the last home event of the calendar year when it faces Boston College on New Year's Eve at noon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Memories Of Waikiki

As the shovel met the snow for the first time this morning, there was only this thought:
TigerBlog was in Hawaii 12 years ago today.

Back when TB was the men's basketball contact, the in-season tournament was a staple of the schedule. Usually twice a season, in mid-December and then again between Christmas and New Year's, Princeton would travel somewhere and play two games in two nights at events with "classic" names like the Spartan Classic, the Illini Classic, the Carrier Classic, the Oneida Nation Classic, the First Bank Classic, the First Merchants Classic, the Otis Spunkmeyer Classic, the Sun Classic and others.

TigerBlog saw some great games through the years, though it usually came with a trade-off.

For instance, there was the time Princeton beat Marquette in a championship game that ended when current head coach Sydney Johnson played center after Steve Goodrich and Jesse Rosenfeld fouled out. Except it was in Milwaukee, where the sun didn't come out the entire time Princeton was there.

The same was true with the tournament in Green Bay (Oneida Nation Classic), where a guy named Jeff Nordgaard lit up the Tigers for 28 points and 15 rebound (or something like that; TB is doing this from memory) and where, again, the sun never came out. The best part of that event might have been that the hotel, the arena and Lambeau Field all shared the same parking lot.

TB's travels took him to Iowa twice, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin twice. Even when the team played in California, it was in Fresno, at the Coors Light Classic.

Oh sure, there were tournaments in Texas and North Carolina and even New Orleans, but never to anything that could be considered tropical - until Bill Carmody said that Princeton would be playing in the 1998 Rainbow Classic, sponsored by Outrigger Hotels and played at the University of Hawaii.

Princeton's first game would be on ESPN, against Florida State, at 7 local time, which was 1 a.m. in Honolulu. After that, the schedule would depend on whether or not Princeton kept winning.

TB and then-radio voice Tom McCarthy traveled separately from the team, which had left on Christmas Day. Instead, TB and TM left from Newark at 3 in the afternoon, on an American Airlines flight to San Francisco, with a connection to Honolulu.

TB and TM sat in the back on the plane to San Fran, with TB in the middle, TM on the aisle and a student from the University of Wisconsin whose ultimate destination was the Rose Bowl at the window.

The plane was completely jammed, and it was also late getting out. By the time it arrived in California, it was already past when the flight to Hawaii was supposed to leave, but the people on the plane insisted that the flight was being held.

When TB and TM got off in San Francisco, they walked one gate over and immediately onto the 747 headed for Honolulu, just in time to hear the pilot as he said "we apologize for the delay, but we're holding the plane for two passengers from Newark." This, in turn, was returned by boos and such, as TB and TM made their way to row 54, where their seats were.

As McCarthy walked down the long aisle, he apologized to each person for holding them up saying things like "I apologize" and "Hi, I'm Tom" and "Hey, nice to see you" and, to one passenger who looked like Jesse Ventura, "Do you shave that every day?"

By the time the two got to Hawaii, it was around 11 at night local time, which was 4 a.m. Eastern time. After walking off the plane, TB was given a shot of rejuvenation when the tropical breeze hit him in the face, as it was an open air gate.

The same was true at the hotel where TB and TM stayed. When they arrived late at night, it was really dark; it wasn't until the morning that TB realized that the lobby was open air as well, giving a clear view of the ocean - and Diamond Head.

McCarthy immediately figured out that this hotel was right next to the one where the Brady Bunch stayed. It was right in the heart of Waikiki, with a path that led directly to the beach.

The Rainbow Classic was an eight-team tournament, with two games on Day 1 (the 27th) and then two more on Day 2, before having four on the 29th and four on the 30th, including the championship game. The last game of each day would televised by ESPN.

In other words, if you kept winning, you kept playing the last game, on TV no less, and that would mean you could go to the beach during the day instead of playing in consolation games.

Among TB's memories:

* Princeton defeated Florida State, Texas and then UNC Charlotte to win the tournament
* TB would get up each morning and go to the athletic communications office at the University of Hawaii to update his notes and then come back to go to the beach. After that, it'd be lunch at Duke's (the macaroni salad and fish of the day each time) before heading to the arena
* C.J. Chapman had a huge game against Charlotte in the final
* TB was walking on the beach and ran into former manager Miles Clark, who had made the trip for the games
* Gabe Lewullis scored his 1,000th career point in one of the games and received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd when it was announced
* Chris Young outplayed Texas' Chris Mihm, who had a long NBA career
* TB took a picture of the team on the beach and used it on the cover of the next game program
* TB took a great picture of McCarthy and the Rainbow Warrior
* The championship trophy was awarded to Princeton by Hawaii's athletic director, who wore shorts, a flowered shirt and a lei

After the final, TB and McCarthy went straight to the airport and took an overnight flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, along with the Texas team. From there, it was onto a flight to Newark - and back to the reality of the cold weather.

Of course, the weather that day in Newark was balmy compared to what's going on today.

Snow everywhere, winds blowing it into drifts, a reminder that winter is really just getting warmed up.

And a great chance to think to a place 5,000 miles and 12 years away.

The 1998 Rainbow Classic. Good times, indeed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And To All A Good Night

Back when TigerBlog played the trumpet in high school, he had two career solos.

The first was in the marching band, at halftime of football games, to the song "What I Did For Love," from "A Chorus Line."

The other was in the jazz band, part of a song called "Angela." Fans of the old TV show Taxi will recognize it as the song that played in the beginning of the show, when the taxi drives over the bridge and to the garage. The jazz band version took about 15 minutes to play.

Despite having solos in those two songs, though, TigerBlog had another song that he preferred. This one was in the concert band around this time of year 30 years ago.

The song was "O Come All Ye Faithful," which featured a very powerful trumpet part for the main melody. The fact that it was played by an orchestra that was made up as many Jewish kids as Christian kids hardly mattered.

Christmas, as TB realizes, is a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, something that means way more to Christians than it does to non-Christians. Still, the idea of Christmas can be summed up simply: "Peace On Earth, Goodwill Towards Man." That's not a sentiment that has to be specific to any religion.

Besides, Christmas is a federal holiday as well. And it has such great movies, episodes of TV shows, songs and all the rest that who could possibly be against it?

When Harry Bailey says "to my big brother George, the richest man in town," at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life, does it really matter what your religion is? Or when the Grinch's heart grows three sizes? Or when Charlie Brown gets the wrong tree that turns out to be the right tree?

Or when Ralphie almost shoots his eye out? Or when Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" before the Smith family gets to realize that they'll still be able to be met in St. Louis?

Any good TV show worth anything has had a great Christmas episode or two. "The Office" has had a few. So did "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." And "Everybody Loves Raymond." And every other show.

Remember the episode of "All In The Family" where Archie invites his friend for Christmas dinner after his friend's son has been killed in Vietnam, while Michael's draft-dodger friend joins them? That's as good as any Christmas episode of any TV show of all time - or maybe any TV show period.

And of course there are the Christmas songs. TigerBlog is partial to Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," not to mention The Boss' "Merry Christmas Baby."

And then there's Emmylou Harris' version of "Silent Night," or the orginal "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole (that's the one with "Chestnuts roasting on a open fire."


"The Little St. Nick," by the Beach Boys. "O Holy Night," the version by Martina McBride. Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," of course, and Burl Ive's "Holly Jolly Christmas."

And "Silver Bells," especially when Dean Martin sings it. And any Christmas song by The Carpenters or Frank Sinatra.

And "Carol of the Bells" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

TigerBlog could go on all day with his favorite Christmas shows/movies/songs/etc. So could everyone else.

Once upon a time, TigerBlog had memorized "A Visit From St. Nicholas," which starts out "Twas the night before Christmas." TB can still get most of it from memory, but he doesn't quite remember the entire thing, which is a good excuse to go back and read it again.

Princeton Athletics is a secular institution. TigerBlog has been to games on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (he's fasted, of course), on Easter Sunday, on Ramadan.

Never, though, on Christmas.

In fact, Princeton has no events scheduled between yesterday's men's basketball game against Towson and this coming Tuesday, when women's basketball, wrestling, men's basketball and men's hockey all play.

Princeton doesn't shut down for that long across the board for anything other than exams.

But hey, this isn't like any other time of year.

Merry Christmas To All.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On The Record

Howie Dickenmann, the Central Connecticut State men's basketball coach, was walking out of the interview room after his team had lost to Princeton 59-57 back on Nov. 11, 2007. Sydney Johnson, who had just coached his first game as the Tiger head man, was about to walk into the room, and the two coaches passed each other in the hallway.

"First of many coach," Dickenmann said.

TigerBlog has always thought of that as a pretty classy gesture on Dickenmann's part. Dickenmann, who played at CCSU and graduated five years before Johnson was born, was welcoming the young coach to the fraternity and wishing him only the best.

Of course, in coaching, there is rarely "only the best." It's a harsh world, coaching, where so many factors - many beyond a coach's control - influence whether or not teams win games. And, in that profession, you can so easily be measured solely by wins and losses, which is always not the fairest way to determine who the best coaches are.

Often, it is the situation that the coach's program is in - or isn't in - that determines how successful a coach can be.

Still, coaches enter this world willingly, and as such, they know that they're going to be judged by their records.

So let's look at two coaches and their records, which in this case reflect something rather remarkable.

Johnson and Princeton women's coach Courtney Banghart started at Princeton at the same time, before the 2007-08 season. Neither had ever been a head coach before. Both were great players in the Ivy League. One (Banghart) wasn't quite 30; the other (Johnson) was barely in his 30s.

The women's team was 13-15 the year before Banghart arrived. The men's team was 11-17, a record that included a 2-12 Ivy finish.

Johnson opened his career with the CCSU win and followed it with a win over Iona and then 12 straight losses.

Banghart lost her first four games and at one point that year stood at 3-12.

By the time the 2007-08 season ended, the two were a combined 13-46, each having lost 23 games.

Banghart's career record actually fell 19 games under .500 after a loss to Lafayette on Jan. 2, 2009. That's actually less than two full years ago.

As for Johnson, his record ended up 23 games under .500, at 8-31, after his own one-point loss at Lafayette, three days before Banghart's game. At that point, Princeton's two young coaches were a combined 19-63, a figure 44 games under .500.

Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

Since those two Lafayette losses, Banghart is on a 44-11 run, while Johnson is 41-18. Together, they are 85-29, a figure 56 games over .500.

Banghart reached the .500 mark for the first time in her career last Feb. 12 at Columbia with a 77-55 win. As for Johnson, he was 2-2 to start his career, and he got back to .500 for the first time since in Princeton's last game, a win at Wagner.

It's an extraordinary achievement, especially for two such young coaches who came into such rebuilding situations, to get to .500 so quickly. There are coaches who fall that far behind and never catch up.

Of course, Johnson could go right back below .500 today, when the Tigers play at Towson.

Something tells TigerBlog, though, that Banghart and Johnson are well on their way to being in the black for good. Or is that in the red? TigerBlog has never been sure about that, so whichever one is the good one.

Oh, and there's a certain Princeton coach who went 1-9 in his first year who could very well follow in the path of the two basketball coaches, or at the very least take some comfort from what they've done.

From 44 games under .500 to where Banghart and Johnson are now?

It's quite an accomplishment.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Geno's And Geno

Mention the intersection of 9th, Wharton and Passyunk (pronounced "PASH-yunk," not "PASS-ee-unk") to anyone who has spent a great deal of time in Philadelphia, and they'll immediately have one thought and one question.

The thought? Cheesesteaks.

The question? Pat's or Geno's?

In the case of TigerBlog and his college friends, they were all Geno's people. TB has great memories of heading for late-night cheesesteaks, often in the freezing cold, often on nights when Frohman would eat the really, really hot peppers, often on nights when Mikus would eat, oh, four or five with. If you've ever been there, you know what "with" means.

If you haven't, it means "with onions."

Anyway, the Geno's in South Philly is easy to love. The Geno who coaches UConn women's basketball? Not always as easy.

There was Geno Auriemma Sunday, after his team defeated Ohio State 81-50 to win its 88th straight game, saying some interesting things about the state of women's college basketball and the chase for 88 straight.

The 88 straight wins equal the all-time men's Division I record, set by UCLA from 1971-1974. The Bruins' streak ended with a 71-70 loss at Notre Dame in a game that 1) UCLA led 70-59 with less than four minutes left and 2) TB watched at his Aunt Regina and Uncle Larry's house in Fair Lawn.

UConn's women go for No. 89 tonight against Florida State, a team that was ranked 14th before losing to a 2-8 Yale team Saturday and dropping to 22nd.

As an aside, ticket manager Stephanie Sutton and her daughter Mary attended the UConn-Ohio State game Sunday at Madison Square Garden, and that information led to having everyone in the Department of Athletics' weekly event meeting make a prediction for the game. TigerBlog predicted 81-52 UConn; the only person to pick Ohio State was event manager Steve Kanaby.

Anyway, after the game, Auriemma met with what was a much larger than normal media contingent and made some pointed comments:
"I just know there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman's record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men's record, and everybody is all up in arms about it.
"All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women's basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed. That's just the way it is.
"Because we're breaking a men's record, we've got a lot of people paying attention," If we were breaking a women's record, everybody would go, 'Aren't those girls nice, let's give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let's send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.'"

Except for referring to the average male college basketball writers as "miserable bastards" and throwing out an unfortunate stereotype about the kitchen, Auriemma's comments are pretty close to right on the money.

And one point he might have missed is that it was John Wooden's record his team had just tied; he some obscure coach from the 1930s won 88 straight, it wouldn't have been as big a deal. Because of Wooden, the 88 straight wins became a number embedded in American sports history.

Contrast that with the people who last week said that you can't compare what UConn is doing now with what UCLA did back then, which TB couldn't disagree with more.

Actually, what UConn's women have done is in many ways similar to what UCLA did when it had its record win streak and when UCLA won 10 championships in 12 years between the 1960s and ’70s.

UCLA, at the time, was the place where the dominant players went, and that was it. If you wanted to win the NCAA championship, you went to UCLA.

It's the same in women's basketball today. If you want to win an NCAA championship, where are you going to go? UConn. Maybe Stanford or Baylor? Tennessee isn't what it used to be.

See, that's how Division I men's basketball used to be. There was one team that won every year (UCLA) and a few others who mounted a challenge.

Back then, it was largely because of how the NCAA tournament worked. UCLA won four games in 1964 to win its first NCAA title, knocking off Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas State and then Duke in the final. Also, the regionals were truly regional, so UCLA only had to deal with Western teams until the Final Four.

Even in 1975, in Wooden's last year, UCLA still only had to win five games, including wins over Montana and Arizona State.

Before that year of 1975, only one team per conference could go to the NCAA tournament, and there were many examples of great teams with great records who were bumped off by another great team in the conference tournament and therefore missed the NCAAs.

In short, for almost all of the time UCLA was winning the championship under Wooden, it was competing against the weaker teams in the West and had to play four or five games in the tournament.

Don't forget the impact of television either. Back then, there were a handful of games on TV on Saturdays, and almost all of them involved UCLA. To be on TV meant going to UCLA or one of the other elite schools chasing the Bruins.

It wasn't until TV began to mushroom and the tournament began to expand that more and more teams became legitimate contenders for the NCAA title. A cynic might point out that the money involved motivated many of the schools as well.

Today in women's basketball, UConn is what UCLA was. It's the school that's on TV and the school that wins the tournament every year. What great player wouldn't want to go there? It's a perpetuating model, and, as was the case at UCLA, it might continue until the coach goes elsewhere.

But that's not the complete crux of what Auriemma was talking about. Basically, what he was saying is that the hard-core sports fan doesn't care about women's basketball (and, if you read between his lines, mocks women's basketball).

Certainly there is truth to that. Television ratings for men's games dwarf women's games, and there can be no debating that the popularity of men's sports far exceeds that of women's sports.

This is in no way a statement about the value of women's sports or athletes. It's just making the point that to the general sporting public, women's sports have not caught on.

TigerBlog was already giving this issue some thought long before Auriemma's comments.

The Princeton women's basketball team went 26-3 a year ago and is off to another strong start this year. The Princeton men's team is building on its postseason success of a year ago and is off to its own excellent start this year.

Both teams are clearly worth watching and, for Auriemma's purposes, worth covering.

And yet the attendance and coverage for the men is on average three to four times what it is for the women.

Why is this? Why do so many more people come to watch and cover the men's team? What does it say about American sports, and American culture, for that matter?

It says, TB supposes, that it takes a long time for change in habits to come. Men's sports are working on a 100 or so - or longer - year head start on women's sports. Long before women played sports on a large scale, men's sports had already become widespread staples on the national psyche.

It's not just a gender thing. TigerBlog, for instance, is amazed that millions of people still go watch Major League Baseball every year. Why do they do it? It's part of the psyche, put their long before TB or anyone around now showed up.

Maybe it'll be radically different 25 or 50 years from now. On some levels, American sport bears no resemblance to what it was 25 or50 years ago.

Still, on other levels, not much has changed in a country where pro and college football and pro baseball still rule the landscape.

UConn has zero chance of losing tonight. When the Huskies pass UCLA with their 89th striaght win, a large segment of the American sporting public and media will shrug it off, largely because they don't care about women's sports.

Hey, TigerBlog was like that before he started working at the paper and later at Princeton, before he was exposed to people who taught him the worth of women's athletics, before he saw up close how serious women's athletes are.

A large portion of the rest of the world hasn't caught up yet. That's how it is. Today.

In the future? Who knows.

Maybe a few trips to Jadwin to see the Princeton women play would help the cause.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dodge Ball

Hey, Matt Dodge. There's at least someone who's not blaming you for what happened to the Giants yesterday against the Eagles.

TigerBlog's got your back.

Dodge, for those who don't know, is the Giants' punter. If they haven't cut him by now, they're not going to, figuring that he still has a good future. And maybe he and Tom Coughlin can look back on the end of yesterday's disaster and laugh someday.

It won't be today, of course. Nor will it be anytime soon, not after the Giants, uh, punted their chance at winning the NFC East and possibly getting the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.

While it was a disastrous collapse, it was hardly Dodge's fault that the team lost.

If you missed it, the Giants lost 38-31 when DeSean Jackson - who has to be the easiest professional athlete in quite some time to hate, long before he torched the Giants - ran Dodge's punt back for a touchdown as time expired. Dodge had been told to kick the ball out of the bounds and send the game to overtime, but instead he hit a low line-drive that Jackson at first muffed and then picked up and ran right through the Giants to the end zone.

TigerBlog would love to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt and say that he stopped short of the goal line and ran parallel to the end zone for a few moments to kill the rest of the clock, but TB is pretty sure time had expired by then and Jackson was just being a jerk.

Anyway, the fact that Jackson ran that punt back had zero impact on the outcome of the game, because the shell-shocked Giants had no chance in the overtime. Had the Giants gotten the ball first, they never would have scored. Had the Eagles gotten the ball first, they would have scored in, oh, five plays at the most.

Beyond that, how was it Dodge's fault that the Giants couldn't hold a 31-10 lead in the final seven minutes? That they weren't prepared for the onsides kick? That they suddenly stopped figuring out how to contain Michael Vick? That the offense suddenly shut down?

TigerBlog remembers the "Miracle in the Meadowlands," when Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka couldn't connect on a hand-off, which resulted in another Giant debacle against the Eagles.

This one, back on Nov. 19, 1978, ended when Herm Edwards picked up the loose ball and brought it back for a touchdown on the final play, giving Philadelphia a 19-17 win.

TigerBlog watched that game, at least until the final seconds, at 336 Taylors Mills Road, which used to be the Zucker family compound. The assembled group had moved outside and never saw the final play - and for that matter didn't believe it to be true when Mr. Zucker came outside to say what had happened.

As for yesterday's game, TB had to take TigerBlog Jr. to his basketball game, so he actually was in the parking lot listening to the end and figured he'd miss the overtime when he heard Bob Papa on WFAN say how Jackson was running for a touchdown. "Of course he is," was all TB could think to himself.

TigerBlog's two favorite professional sports teams are the Giants and the Knicks, and so, still shocked by the outcome of the football game, TB was excited to see that the ESPN 30 For 30 series replayed the Reggie Miller-kills-the-Knicks documentary last night.

Of course, TB remembered it all, how Miller had almost single-handedly beaten the Knicks in 1994 and then actually did do it in 1995, the year the Knicks would have won the NBA title had they been able to get past what Miller did to them in Game 1 and had Patrick Ewing's finger-roll gone in at the end of Game 7.

The game yesterday was probably the most crushing Giants' loss TB remembers, and it led TB to send a text message after the game that said "Eli won a Super Bowl" three times.

As for the Knicks, Game 7 against the Pacers in 1995 was worse than Game 7 in 1994 against the Rockets in the finals in 1994.

And there they were yesterday, both on full display.

As far as the most crushing loss TB has ever been around, though, nothing the Giants or Knicks have ever done can touch the second round of the 1998 NCAA men's basketball tournament, when Princeton lost to Michigan State.

TigerBlog remembers everything about that snowy day in Hartford.

Princeton, with a 27-1 record and 20 straight wins, was the fifth seed, playing fourth-seeded Michigan State. What TB didn't know was that the Spartans would start four players in that game who would start two years later when they won the NCAA championship, and that of those four, three would go on to NBA careers. In fact, one of them - Morris Peterson - is still playing, these days with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Princeton had sprinted away from UNLV - whose coach, Bill Bayno, sat next to TB at the pre-tournament meeting and guaranteed that his team had no chance to beat the Tigers - in the opening round. For the winner of the Princeton-Michigan State game, there was a trip to Greensboro to take on North Carolina, the top seed.

Michigan State got out to a 10-0 lead, forcing Princeton to play catch-up the whole game. And catch-up the Tigers did, eventually pulling even on James Mastaglio's jump shot in the final minute. Except that it could have been a one-point lead for the Tigers had Stags not had his foot on the three-point line, and Mateen Cleaves then joined the ranks of Lance Miller of Villanova by breaking Princeton's heart, this time with a long three-pointer that TB can still see swishing through the net.

TB's most vivid memory of the postgame was when he sat with Steve Goodrich behind the interview area, waiting for Princeton's turn to speak to the media. From where TB and Goodrich sat, they could hear everything that the Michigan State players said, all of which was extremely complimentary of the Tigers and their talent. Each answer, though, made the reality even more vivid for Goodrich that his great college career was over, in a blank.

And yes, Princeton probably would have gotten thumped by North Carolina in the Sweet 16 had it gotten there, just as MSU did (losing by 15). But Princeton had played Carolina close at the Dean Dome in its only regular-season loss that season, and the Tigers were playing great basketball at the end of the year.

And so what if they had lost there anyway? They would have been a Sweet 16 team, a designation that would have separated that team even more among the Ivy elites of all-time, in much the same way that Cornell did last year (though not against a team nearly as good as Michigan State).

Now it's 13 years later, and TB still can remember the crushing feeling that he had after the 1998 Princeton Tigers were eliminated.

It's something that'll stay with him long after Matt Dodge develops into the NFL's best punter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

13 in ’10?

TigerBlog saw the original version of "Friday the 13th" in the old Pond Road movie theater back in 1980. In fictional terms, the scene at the end where Jason comes out of the lake is as scary as anything TB has ever seen, up there with anything from "Silence of the Lambs" or "The Hitcher."

Perhaps it was that scene that started TB down the path of a mistrust for the number 13. Maybe not complete Triskaidekaphobia. Still, something close to that.

For instance, TB's shoe size is 13.5, and yet he prefers to wear size 14s, even if they're a bit loose, unless they're too loose, in which case he wears the 13.5s.

If he's reading a book, TB will never stop in the middle of chapter 13. In fact, he's happier when he's finished not only chapter 13 but also 14, since until that point, he's read 13.something chapters of the book.

Still, he was okay when TigerBlog Jr. wanted to wear No. 13 in lacrosse one year, something he wanted to do because Trevor Tierney had worn the number at Princeton.

See, it's more of a mild case of triskaidekaphobia.

There's definitely something haunting about the number 13. Just not debilitating.

And really, TB doesn't consider himself to be superstitious by nature, though he is somewhat cautious about tempting fate. Still, that could be attributed to his profession, in which it's usually better to write cautiously, not because the "Gods" may be offended but because the opponent might be.

All of which brings us to tonight's women's basketball game against Drexel tonight at 7 at Jadwin Gym.

The Princeton women have a chance to do something tonight that they've never done in program history - complete a perfect calendar year at home.

Princeton's women are 12-0 at home in 2010, and so now TB is battling 1) what Bill Carmody used to call "The Whammy" and 2) the power of the number 13.

Princeton's 2010 home numbers are awesome.

The Tigers have won those 12 games by an average of 24.2 points per game. Every single one of those games has been a double figures win.

There have been five wins by at least 30 points, including two by at least 40.

Still, tonight's game will not be an easy one.

Drexel brings a 6-1 record to Jadwin, and in its most recent game, pasted Seton Hall 66-43 to go 2-0 against the Big East, including an earlier win over Villanova. The Dragons have also beaten Philadelphia rivals La Salle, St. Joe's and Penn (by 31), and they also own a win over Tulsa.

The only loss for Drexel to this point was in its only previous trip out of the city, and that was a nine-point loss at ACC-power Virginia.

Want to know where the game might be decided? Three-point shooting.

Princeton ranks sixth in Division I in three-point shooting percentage at just below 40%, which leaves the Tigers four spots behind the Dragons and their 45.2% team shooting from beyond the arc.

Drexel's two leading scorers - Kamile Nacickaite and Jasmina Rosseel - are a combined 41 for 92 from three-point range. They're the only two Dragon players who average in double figures.

Princeton, on the other hand, has been holding its opponents to 31.6% three-point shooting.

Of course, when a game figures to come down to something obvious, it never does.

Either way, it figures to be a pretty good test for both teams.

Drexel won 18 games a year ago and reached the WNIT; Princeton won 26 and played in the NCAA tournament, the preferred destination for both this season.

But all that is for 2011. This, for Princeton, is the final home game of 2010, and a chance to do something no other Princeton team has done before.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

By The Rules

To say that the modern world of sports media is a bit, uh, formulaic would be a massive understatement.

It's evident anywhere you look. They have someone who write a column about TV sports? We need one too. Their sports radio station has a pompous self-absorbed guy? We need one too.

Look at NFL pregame shows, for example. They have a host or two, a former coach, some former players? They all sit around the set and laugh as if the humor of what they have just said has eclipsed anything before it in the history of mankind? We need to get the exact same thing.

That's why something that is fresh and different and, most of all, smart stands out like a sore thumb. And Fox Sports has come up with something that fits the definition.

And it was so simple. Get an expert on officiating and the rules and let him comment on TV during the games and online during the week about the closest calls.

The result has been that Mike Pereira has vaulted near the top of TigerBlog's list of favorites in a very short time.

Pereira was an NFL official for two years and then spent a decade working in the league office as Director of Officiating and later Vice President for Officiating. He clearly knows his stuff.

During Fox's NFL games, Pereira can be seen via cut-in when there are complex rules interpretations or during replay challenges. During the week, he writes a few follow-up pieces on the most interesting calls of the previous weekend's games.

Again, it's so plain that TB has no idea how it ever got past whatever decision-makers are out there. It lacks any star-power, any pizazz, any forced comedy, and yet it works so well.

And why?

Because so many people don't know the rules. Forget just the fans and announcers. There are huge numbers of coaches and players who obviously don't.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, TB was a high school baseball umpire. It was a pretty good little part-time job, one that paid surprisingly well for a few hours of work.

To become an umpire, cadets had to attend a class on the rules of the game and mechanics of the position, while also working at middle school, freshman or jayvee games. To become certified, TB had to take a test, which consisted of 100 true/false rules questions.

TB got a 99 on the test, and to this day, he's a bit bitter that he got one wrong, largely because he knew the rule and didn't like how the question was written. Specifically, the question was: Can medical alert bracelets be worn by players during games. The answer is that the bracelet can't be worn as a bracelet but can be taped to the player's chest, so TB figured that meant true. Instead, it was false, and TB got a 99.

Anyway, what amazed TB most about umpiring was how many coaches and players didn't know the rules. Not the four balls, three strikes, three outs parts, but some of the more obscure ones that definitely came up.

TB remembers one game where a player caught a ball in fair territory and then toppled over the small outfield fence. The coach of the team at-bat came out and vehemently argued that this was a home run (it isn't, though the fielder had to climb back over the fence before he'd be able to legally throw the ball, something TB doubts the fielder knew).

As an aside, TB also remembers a time when another coach came to argue a call, and TB's response was "you squeezed with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning of a high school freshman game and have the nerve to come out here and argue?"

As a youth coach, TB makes sure to take time to teach the rules, usually in a Socratic method by coming up with a situation and asking the players whether or not it's allowed or not.

For instance, in lacrosse, TB asked the group if a player could kick the ball into the goal. When one kid muttered "yes," TB said "are you sure?" When the response again was "yes," TB was impressed, not only that the kid had it right but also that he had the courage to risk being told he was wrong.

In watching Pereira on TV and reading his stuff on, TB has gotten to thinking about Princeton coaches and athletes and how well they know the rules.

And, beyond that, how much time - if any - Princeton coaches spend on teaching their players the rules. And so, TB did his own little survey.

It turns out that Princeton coaches, at least the 12 TigerBlog asked, don't devote serious time to rules instruction. They do talk a lot about rules changes and interpretations in the preseason, but not about the core rules.

Another common theme is to go over rules specific to a situation, such as when you can run the baseline in basketball.

Only two coaches in 12 said that teaching the rules was an important consideration.

TigerBlog asked if the players arrive here with an excellent knowledge of the rules, and the common response to that was along the lines of "very good but not excellent."

Some of the comments were pretty interesting. For instance, one coach said this:
Have done "rule of the day" in the past to emphasis guys understanding (with
accompanying spot quiz during stretch). Has varied between some and a lot
of time. More "some" these days... Definitely need to learn rules. College is different than high school. We've had refs come to practice to explain, demonstrate.

And another said this:
We have a session at the start of the year with officials to answer
any question the players might have. After that, we spend zero time on

And this:
I go over some of the rules in preseason because college rules are different from what the guys are used to.

When you think of coaching, you think about recruiting, game-planning, adjusting in-game. You don't really think about teaching rules.

And yet it's such a big part of the sports world. There have been so many examples, especially on the pro level, of players who have cost their teams games because they clearly didn't know what to do in a given situation.

TB can't remember an example of when that's happened in a Princeton game, either by a Princeton player or an opponent.

But the rules are a big deal.

Especially when someone doesn't know them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taking Attendance

TigerBlog, in a very outdated way, has two entertainment options in his car.

The first is the CD player, on which he plays CDs he creates from I-tunes that are divided into three categories: Bruce Springsteen, Train or assorted others.

The second is the radio, which is almost always tuned to the AM side, except for when Little Miss TigerBlog insists on putting on Q-102, which is 102.1 FM, a station with a policy to play only songs by Rihanna, Katy Perry, that song where the woman screeches "You know we're superstars; we are who we are," the song where the guy is talking about catching grenades and such for a woman who won't return the favor and finally a random rap song, only to back to Rihanna.

Every time TB tries to change the station because the current song is unlistenable, LMTB flips out about how this one is her favorite or, even worse, she agrees that this song is awful but that the next one might be a good one.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, TB was making the rounds on the AM side when he heard Michael Kay, the voice of the Yankees on the YES Network and also a radio host of an afternoon show on the New York ESPN station, essentially saying that the best thing that ever happened in the history of the Yanks was that Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies.

Of course, Kay's position would have required him to rip the team if Lee had taken their offer, right? Of course not.

All anyone heard for the last week or so - or really, since Lee's free agent status began to approach the horizon - was how the Yankees would get him. And then all of the sudden, he's a Phillie, which sparked the spin machine.

As an aside, Kay's position is correct, even if he's only saying it because the Yanks didn't get their man. The last thing the Yankees needed was another disastrous long-term contract for a pitcher, even if it looked promising in the short term.

Over on WFAN, Mike Francesa was busy talking about how it's no fun to win the World Series in years when the Yankees simply open the checkbook to stock up on the best available players. Again, TigerBlog has no memory of a time when Francesa said that the $420 million in contracts given to C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texiera spoiled the 2009 championship.

Anyway, in all of the free agent stuff, the amount of money being thrown around is insane and, for the average person, incalculable. And what in the world do these guys do with all that money?

TB couldn't help but think about the difference between the Yankees situation and the Princeton athletics situation in the meeting yesterday to talk about the recently ended football season and look ahead to 2011. The meeting covered basically every operational aspect of Princeton football, from marketing to game times to television to ticketing to what gates the students should enter to parking to anything else.

Of course, it took TB back to all of the questions that he always has that he has no way to answer:
* is there a huge, untapped audience for Princeton athletics - and Princeton football specifically - that we're simply not reaching?
* what most impacts whether or not people attend or don't attend?
and of course the biggest one of all:
* how do we know if the attendance figures for Princeton football are good or bad?

Yes, the stadium seats 27,800, and yes attendance has dipped in the last few years. But does that mean that attendance is bad?

Or does that fact that 6,300 people attended Princeton-Dartmouth on a cold November day in a game that meant little suggest that attendance is actually extraordinary? What else could draw that number of people to sit outside in November?

Getting back to the Yankees - and apparently the Phils and some other teams - TB wonders what it would be like to have unlimited resources to use on Princeton's events and what Princeton athletics would then do. And what the results would be.

As part of the meeting, for instance, there was a discussion of coming up with new ideas to enhance the stadium concourse, with a goal of helping fan experience. Maybe one game could could have local ice cream vendors. Another could have local restaurants. Another could celebrate a local town or group.

Of course, everything costs money.

And, while Princeton does have a nice endowment, that money doesn't quite trickle down to the football marketing account.

So what do you do? Put some money towards some of these ideas and see what happens? Do nothing and see what happens?

Princeton's 2011 home football schedule begins with three straight home games (Lehigh, Bucknell, Columbia) and then has three straight road games (Hampton, Brown, Harvard) before finishing home against Cornell, at Penn, home against Yale, at Dartmouth.

In other words, by Oct. 1, 60% of the home schedule will have been played. The final 49 days of the season will feature two home games.

With a schedule like that, can momentum even be built? Factor in a possible Thursday night ESPNU game or a rainy Saturday, and attendance will be even more impacted.

The meeting ended with the idea of revisiting all of these issues in the spring as a lead-in to 2011. TB figures he'll have the same questions at that meeting that he had at the last one.

And at next year's wrap up meeting. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

That's Historical

TigerBlog orginally was going to be a political science major and ultimately lawyer when he headed to college, and he started down that path first semester freshman year with a course on the Supreme Court.

It was taught by an extremely monotone professor, and TB's main memories of that class are that 1) it was in the University Museum opposite Franklin Field, 2) TB got a B and 3) the monotone guy really, really loved the Supreme Court. In fact, one part of the class included "The Official Monotone Professor Guy's Supreme Court All-Stars," which consisted of what he believed were the nine greatest justices of all time.

Eventually, the whole law school idea began to fade away once TB realized that there were people in the world who got paid to go to games and that TB would like to be one of them.

The political science part was a little too theoretical for TB, so he switched his major to history. American Political History, to be exact.

As an aside, TB took two semesters of the History of the American South with Drew Gilpin Faust, who is now the president of Harvard. He also took some great classes on unionization with a professor named Walter Licht, whose specialty was the railroads.

Anyway, one of his seminars had each student select a book and then a week to write a paper and give a presentation on that book. The order was determined by a random draw, and TigerBlog's name was called first, giving him the option of which book and which week he wanted.

One of the books on the list was written by Dr. Licht, and TB selected that book and Week 1. He then read the book (pretty interesting stuff about the railroads), wrote his paper, gave his presentation and cruised through the remaining three months of the class.

Years later, BrotherBlog's friend Ira - another Penn academic - asked TB if he could leave him four tickets to the Princeton-Penn game, and one of the people Ira brought with him was Dr. Licht. TigerBlog introduced himself and said that he had been a student of his years earlier, but Dr. Licht didn't remember - until TB mentioned how he had picked his book and Week 1. Dr. Licht then smiled and pointed out that nobody else had ever done that in any of his seminars.

TigerBlog much preferred the history classes, whether it was European history through 1870 (complete with a lecture that featured a recitation of a speech from the French Revolution delivered in French for effect) or Jeffersonian/Jacksonian America or the American Civil War or the origins of the Cold War or even the history of the 1960s.

Since graduation, TB has still been a fan of history, and he's read many books and watched many documentaries about any number of historical areas.

And, while he's working in a career that pays him to go to games, his career path is also heavy on the history. In fact, TB considers himself a Princeton athletics historian as much as anything else.

With that background, TB has always been fascinated by putting the achievements of current athletes and coaches into historical context.

All of which brings us to Kareem Maddox and his scoring outputs of late.

Maddox increased his scoring averages from 3.7 as a freshman to 5.0 as a sophomore to 6.2 a year ago. He then scored seven, six, four, eight and four points in Princeton's first five games this season.

And since? How about 30, six, 10, 13 and 31.

His two 30-point games make him one of just eight players in program history with at least two in the same season. He's also the only one in the last 27 seasons to accomplish the feat.

You know what that means? It means that Kit Mueller didn't do it. Neither did Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, Chris Young, Steve Goodrich, Rick Hielscher, Bob Scrabis, Judson Wallace, Will Venable and many other great Princeton players.

For that matter, only Mueller, Lewullis and Hielscher out of that group had even one 30-point game.

So who were the other seven?

Brian Taylor did it six times in 1971-72 after doing it four times the year before. Geoff Petrie did it four times as both a junior (1968-69) and senior (1969-70).

Going back to the 1950s, Carl Belz had 31 against both Illinois and Brown in his sophomore year of 1956-57, while Jim Brangan had 32 against both Temple and Army in 1958-59, his junior year.

Pete Campbell, who just happens to be the third-leading scorer in program history, had 30 against Yale and Dartmouth as a senior in 1962.

The most recent to pull it off was Kevin Mullen, who had 30 against Yale and then 38 against San Diego in the NCAA preliminary round game in 1984.

As with any discussion of Princeton basketball history, the large shadow of Bill Bradley is all over this one as well.

Bradley did it eight times as a sophomore (1962-63) and 13 times as a senior (1964-65). As a junior? How about 22 times. In 29 games.

TigerBlog also thought about looking up the last time Princeton had four players average in double figures for a full season, as Maddox, Ian Hummer, Dan Mavraides and Douglas Davis are all currently doing. TB figured it'd be a complete rarity, but it actually isn't.

Yes, it hasn't happened since 1987, when Scrabis, Alan Williams, Dave Orlandini and Joe Scott all did so. But it happened a bunch of times through the years, and Pete Carril's first Princeton team (1967-68) actually had five players do it: Petrie, Joe Heiser, John Hummer, Chris Thomforde and John Haarlow.

Then TB had one last historical thought. Maddox has two 30+ games, but he has no games in his career in which he finished with a point total in the 20s. Had any other player in program history done this?

Armed with the old blue notebooks written in pencil, TB went back ... and back ... and back ... and back.

All the way until Dec. 19, 1901, in the second season of Tiger basketball, when William McCoy scored 30 against Newark Academy. His next-best game was 16, a year later against Swarthmore.

Kareem Maddox and William McCoy. The only two to have done it.

And TB has a hunch that McCoy will be getting that distinction back for himself before the end of this season.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time Out

Where to start from yesterday afternoon?

Let's start with Sal Alosi, the Jets strength coach who at this time yesterday was a virtual unknown and today is now one of the lead stories on, as well as every other media outlet in the country.

Alosi, as everyone knows by now, tripped the Dolphins' Nolan Carroll on the Jets' sideline as Carroll covered a punt in the second quarter yesterday, briefly injuring Carroll. Alosi, who has apologized, almost surely will 1) be the butt of jokes on every late-night show there is and 2) lose his job.

TigerBlog isn't sure what he would do with Alosi. On the one hand, it seems like some lines you simply can't cross, and what he did clearly crossed the line (and injured an opposing player). On the other hand, he deserves to have his entire record considered, and if this was out of character for him, then he should be allowed to keep his job, especially given how sincere his contriteness appears to be.

Then there's the whole collapse of the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, which caused the Giants-Vikings game to be moved to Detroit tonight. It also took the Giants off the hook for not getting to Minnesota Friday, before the storm came.

The video of the snow as it tore through the roof was fascinating. And did TB really hear correctly that the way the snow is usually removed from the roof involves having just six people go up to clear it?

And while we're talking snow, could this really have been that epic of a storm in Minnesota history? TB would have guessed that there were dozens of storms just like this.

Anyway, the collapse of the roof meant that there would be no Giants game on TV Sunday at 1, which meant that the Knicks were sort of off the hook for scheduling a game Sunday at noon. And how about those Knicks? And can Knick fans really root that hard for a team that is still owned by James Dolan?

Still, with all of that plus the rest of the NFL, none of it is today's main subject.

Nope. Today is all about comparing two sports that couldn't be more different, especially when it comes to crunch time.

TigerBlog spent a good chunk of the afternoon watching the Akron-Louisville NCAA soccer final with the sound turned down as he listened to Princeton defeat Tulsa in two overtimes in men's basketball.

TB is pretty sure that soccer is a better game to watch when one team scores an early goal, since it forces the other team to push forward. The NCAA final a year ago between Akron and North Carolina was a dreadful game in that it ended 0-0 and went to penalty kicks. Yes, there was drama to the PKs, but an NCAA final - or World Cup elimination game, for that matter - shouldn't be decided that way.

This time around, the Zips scored with 11:24 to play and then hung on through a wild, frantic scramble in the last minute, when the Cardinals had two great chances to tie it, to win the first NCAA title in any sport for the school.

As an aside, TB loves knowing that there was exactly 11:24 to play when Akron scored and not that it was the 80th minute. He also loved knowing exactly how much time was left for Louisville to try to tie the game, rather than simply waiting for the ref to decide to blow the whistle whenever he saw fit. Why is it that international and professional soccer can't simply have the time on the board? The ref clearly has the ability to relay to the timekeeper when to stop the clock in college soccer.

Shortly before Akron was able to celebrate, Princeton put the finishing touches on its 82-78 win over Tulsa in a very good win for the Tigers on the road.

Kareem Maddox scored 31 for the Tigers, giving him two 30+ games on the young season, a shocking number considering that there'd only been eight 30-point games by a Princeton player in the last 25 years prior to the start of this year.

Maddox has 119 points for the year, with 61 of them in two games. Princeton, somewhat stunningly, has four players averaging in double figures.

Princeton is also 3-0 in overtime games and has won five straight. Of the 10 games Princeton has played, five have been decided by five points or fewer, and a sixth was one of the OT games.

And yet, all of that is for another time. Finally, TB will get to today's point: The end of a soccer game couldn't be any more different than the ending of a basketball game.

The NCAA final had one TV timeout per half, which is one more per half than the World Cup final had. Almost no soccer game is played with timeouts.

The end of the game was a frantic scramble that played out with only the players on the field in control. The coaches could have yelled all they wanted; it's unlikely they'd even be heard.

Contrast that with the Princeton-Tulsa basketball game. The last two minutes of regulation and the two overtimes featured how many timeouts?

If you guess "eight," you'd be correct. Eight times in the final two minutes alone, one of the teams called timeout.

And that doesn't even count when Tulsa's Joe Richard fouled out, giving essentially another timeout.

There is no other sport besides Division I basketball that affords its coaches the number of opportunities to interrupt the game to control what happens next.

All Division I games (TB is pretty sure, at least) begin with nine scheduled media timeouts. Eight of those TOs come at the first deadball below the 16, 12, 8 and 4 minute marks of each half. The ninth comes on the first called team timeout of the second half, which becomes a full media timeout.

Then there are the timeouts the teams can call. Each team gets four 30-second timeouts (next time you're at a game, get your phone's stopwatch to show you how long there is between when the 30-second timeout is called and the game starts again) and one full timeout.

Since one of the timeouts called by a team is going to be a media timeout, then there are nine media timeouts and nine possible team timeouts, for a total of 18. Since each team gets a timeout per overtime, that meant 22 possible timeouts for Princeton-Tulsa.

And every one of the 22 was used.

TB understands the idea that coaches don't want to leave anything to chance, and that in game-deciding situations, they want to make sure that everyone knows exactly what they want, whether on offense or defense.

But still. Who wants to be at a game with 22 timeouts?

The worst is for an NCAA tournament game, when the final minute has endless timeouts that lead to endless commercial breaks, all of which makes the end of the game last forever.

If you're going to start with nine scheduled media timeouts, then how about no team timeouts on top of that? See what impact that has on the games.

TB guarantees they'll be better to watch.

Hey, it certainly was the case with Akron-Louisville.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Girls Don't Just Wanna Have Fun

In case you're wondering what the average 10- or 11-year-old girl is named, here are the first names of the nine players on the 5/6 grade basketball team that TigerBlog is currently coaching:
* Aileen
* Francesca
* Gianna
* Grace
* Little Miss TigerBlog
* Maggie
* Molly
* Paige
* Samantha

To this point, all of TB's coaching experience has been with boys' teams, mostly either the same basic group of boys that TigerBlog Jr. has played lacrosse with the last seven years or baseball at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School and Princeton Post 76 American Legion a long, long, long, long time ago.

This winter, though, he's taken on a different task: coaching the 5/6 grade girls.

Each team in the league had to take the name of a college team. TB selected, not surprisingly, Princeton.

The other choices shouldn't be too surprising: Villanova, Florida, Georgia Tech, Duke, Notre Dame, Penn State, Temple, UConn and North Carolina.

The Temple team in the league is coached by Mike Vreeswyk, who was a great three-point shooter for John Chaney's Owl teams of the late 1980s, including when Temple was ranked No. 1 much of the 1988 season. Vreeswyk, who scored 1,650 points at Temple, is a member of the Big Five and Temple Halls of Fame.

Before he played at Temple, Vreeswyk played on some great teams at Morrisville High School, and TB spent many a winter night covering the Bulldogs back then. Vreeswyk, who is about 6-7, played almost exclusively on the perimeter, while as TB remembers it two 6-1 or so kids played down low.

Vreeswyk, for the record, scored 2,019 points in his high school career, without the benefit of the three-point shot.

Anyway, TB's Princeton team opened up last week with a tough loss to Villanova. Up next is Florida tomorrow morning.

After the first game, one of the parents who knows TB from his lacrosse coaching had this piece of advice: "Coaching girls is a lot different than coaching boys."

TB spent a good deal of time during the week considering those words, and they rang through his ears all during last night's practice.

TigerBlog went into this determined not to treat the girls differently than the boys. In TB's mind, when people say that it's different to coach the girls than the boys, what they're saying is that the girls don't take it as serious or aren't as competitive or are just playing to be with their friends, and TB doesn't want 1) to contribute to that stereotype and 2) to make LMTB think that way.

The more TB thought about it, the more he rejected the idea.

When it's come to coaching youth lacrosse, TB's philosophy has always been to stress certain points:
* improve skills
* teach what it means to be part of a team
* begin to explain (or as time has gone by continue to enhance) the concept that to improve and to reach your full potential involves practicing hard and working on your own ... at the same time, TB also has been careful to make sure that he always keeps in mind that a huge goal is to get the kids to want to play again the next year and to give them the best possible opportunity to be playing in high school, so overdoing the hard work at too early an age is very, very counterproductive
* have fun
* play with proper sportsmanship
* play to win the game

Like teaching, coaching is in many ways about the messages that are sent from the authority figure to the pupil. If the coach of the 5/6 grade team gives off a vibe that this is not a valuable activity and that not giving your best effort is okay, then the kids will pick up on that.

This isn't to say that practicing and games are win-at-all-cost moments and that it's okay for the coach to berate or belittle players. In fairness to the majority of the youth coaches that TB has seen through the years, most kids are getting coached by people with the proper balance.

But that's not really what this about. It's about girls and boys. And to send the message to the girls that what they're doing is not as important as what the boys are doing would be irresponsible, harmful and wrong.

TB brought this subject up to a few coaches here in Jadwin, and he was surprised to hear that he got 100% agreement with him.

One coach (who has coached college and high school athletes of both sexes) said almost word-for-word what TB said earlier, that there might be a stereotype about the differences that may have been true years ago but no longer is.

When girls first began to have basically the same number of sporting options as boys a few decades ago, perhaps then there was a novelty to playing which overrode the competitive side.

Today, TB is convinced, that no longer even remotely exists.

Princeton, like all colleges, is filled with women athletes who are as competitive, who work as hard, who care as much, who push themselves as much as the male athletes. They wouldn't be college athletes if they didn't think and act that way.

And yes, maybe the judgment of the college coaches that TB spoke to this morning is a little clouded by the fact that the system has weeded out the athletes who lacked the ability and the drive to reach the college level, but that would be true for men and women.

As TB has said on many occasions, the idea that Princeton would treat its male athletes differently than its female athletes never enters anyone's mind. The term "gender equity" has come up, what, 10 times in all the time TB has been here, largely because it's simply innate to the people who work here.

It wasn't always that way, of course, and TB loves to meet the early women athletes of Princeton and hear their stories about what they had to go through to kick the doors in for the women who have followed them.

Their efforts have trickled all the way to a local 5/6 grade girls league, where the coach feels like his No. 1 responsibility is make sure the girls know that they should take athletics seriously and that they should be respected as much as any boy for choosing to play.

TB may be wrong about this, but his sense is that he's not.

Now if they could only figure out a pick-and-roll and how to box out.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Home Sweet Home

TigerBlog has a few jackets that say "Princeton Athletics" on them. Of course, he resists wearing any of them until he absolutely has to, since to do so is an admission that summer is over.

His favorite is the black one with white sleeves, a fairly lightweight one that works well in the late September/early October time. There's also the lightweight rain jacket, which is good pretty much anytime of year, especially when layering.

There's the all black with orange trim one with the thin lining that makes it a good one to wear when it gets a little chillier.

Then, lastly, there's the big winter one, which is the one TB will wear when he vacations at the North Pole one year, since it probably would keep him warm enough all by itself.

It takes a lot to get TB to break out the big one, though. Just as putting on any jacket at all means waving the white flag on summer, putting on the big coat means an acceptance of winter and, even worse, the possibility of snow.

As TB pulled into the parking lot today, he heard the weather on the radio say that it was 26 degrees, with the wind chill at 16. And yet TB refused to put on the big winter coat, so it was a long, freezing walk into Jadwin Gym, as it has been every day this week.

If the walk between the parking lot at Jadwin is 200 yards, then TB estimates that he's walked more than 1,200 miles back and forth through the years.

It long ago stopped being something that TB gave any thought to.

And yet it's important to remember that Jadwin isn't just a place with offices. In fact, to most of the people who come into this building, it's a place to go a few times a year to see a game, not a place to go every day to go to work.

TigerBlog did think about Jadwin as a basketball arena and not just an office building twice this week.

The first time was last Sunday, when TB sat in the balcony for most of the Princeton-St. Joe's men's game. The other time was when he looked at the pictures from Monmouth's new Multipurpose Activities Center, where Princeton defeated Monmouth 64-61 last night.

Jadwin was built more than 40 years ago as what was then a state-of-the-art multipurpose facility, and it's certainly served that purpose. If you've never wandered through the building, it has just about everything: an indoor track, tennis courts, squash courts, strength training facilities, a field turf field, offices, meeting spaces - and of course three basketball courts.

For a department like Princeton's, which has 38 varsity teams and a commitment to broadbased athletic participation, it's a must to have a place like Jadwin.

But as a basketball arena?

Well, TB does love the idea of a 5,000-seat basketball-only facility, with luxury boxes, offices, a wide open concourse from which to see the game, a huge video board, great acoustics and the rest of what comes with a great on-campus arena.

While TB is dreaming, how about having half the seats painted orange and the other half painted black?

Or maybe put a roof on Princeton Stadium and then use it like the Carrier Dome at Syracuse? Play basketball in the end zone across the football field?

How much could that possibly cost?

Speaking of which, one of the people who used to work at Princeton said when the stadium was completed at a cost of $45 million: "Couldn't they have built a stadium that cost $44 million and then a $1 million dollar house near here that any one who worked in the athletic department could use when they needed it?"

In all seriousness, there is a lot to be said for a basketball-only facility. The seats would be right on top of the court. The sound wouldn't be dispersed throughout a mammoth building. It would be new.

But there is something about Jadwin that TB likes.

When he sat in the balcony the other day, it was really the first time he'd done so for a long period of time during a game. The view was great from either of the two spots he was in, the section all the way in the end nearest Gary Walters' office and then at midcourt.

And yes, there are things about the building that TB would love to change, like the lower bowl seating and the lobby.

But Jadwin has its charm and its practicality. And most importantly, it has its history, something that has been represented even more so in recent years with the banners that now hang there.

This is the same building that has been the home for so many legendary players and coaches in Princeton basketball history, with so many great moments.

As for TB, he's been in the building for so many great games, so many tense endings, so many wonderful nights.

Maybe TB doesn't think about those every day as he walks his 200 yards to work.

But one day Jadwin won't be here anymore.

And TigerBlog, for one, will miss it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


There's an episode of "WKRP In Cincinnati" in which Mr. Carlson is approached by a local watchdog group about playing lyrics to songs that the group finds offensive. At first, the leader is very buddy-buddy with Carlson, though it quickly becomes obvious that he is not wavering from his agenda.

It starts out with one song, which Mr. Carlson agrees has lyrics that are over the top. Armed with the words, he approaches his top two deejays, Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap, and points out that they shouldn't play this song anymore.

Johnny and Venus warn Carlson that if they give in to the one song, the group will be back with additional requests - and with threats. Sure enough, the same man comes back with a list of songs that are not to be played, and when Carlson stands up to him, he begins to go after the station's sponsors.

Eventually, he gets the guy who runs the bait company (TigerBlog believes it was called "Red Wigglers") to bail on the station, which he apologizes for profusely as he admits he feels ashamed for doing so.

In the big scene at the end, the leader of the group comes back another time, trying to make it seem like he and Mr. Carlson are actually on the same side. Carlson then mentions that "other than making an old man feel like a coward," he doesn't see what the group has really accomplished.

He then pulls out a piece of paper and hands it to the guy, saying that Johnny had written them down and asked if they'd be acceptable.

Barely audibly, the man reads the words:

"Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today."

He then continues to skim the lyrics, the part about there being no countries, no religion, no possessions. When he's done, he tells Carlson that clearly this would belong on the banned list.

When Carlson points out that there's not an inoffensive word in the song, he then dismisses it by saying a world without religion, without heaven and hell, without possessions is clearly Communist.

Carlson, as he's about to throw him out of his office, says that the author of those words never said that those things don't exist. He said to IMAGINE they don't exist.

The episode, lost in a fluffy - and extremely funny and underrated - sitcom, is one of the most powerful moments in television that TB has ever seen.

The author, of course, was John Lennon, who was shot and killed 30 years ago today in front of his apartment at the Dakota, one block to the west of Central Park.

There are no words that can explain strongly enough to someone who was too young to be around back then just how big a deal Lennon and his group The Beatles were. To many who know them simply from a video game or now that their songs are available on I-tunes, they have no way of knowing the impact that the four long-haired kids from Liverpool had on the entire world.

As for Lennon, he was a hero to the anti-war movement, with songs like "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance" and his Christmas song: "Happy XMas - War Is Over."

Lennon also had great solo songs like "Watching The Wheels" and "Instant Karma," not to mention all the legendary songs that he and Paul McCartney wrote together for The Beatles, many of which debuted on I-Tunes recently.

Lennon was also seemingly a pretty down-to-Earth guy, one who mixed with the people on the streets of New York every day, who made time to sign autographs and pose for pictures outside of building, who never ducked the crowd.

In what became his final irony, he could have avoided Marc David Chapman easily had he allowed the car he was in to be driven into the courtyard at the Dakota. Instead, he got out in front, so as not to let down those who were waiting to meet him.

The story of the night of Lennon's murder and how it was first reported on "Monday Night Football" was the subject of an extremely well-done long piece on ESPN the other day.

TB was a big Beatles fan even before he ever heard of Bruce Springsteen, and almost all of his early record purchases were Beatles' albums. TB remembers the day Lennon was shot and what classes were like the next day like it was yesterday - even if it happened 30 years ago.

Women's track and field coach Peter Farrell is one of three Princeton coaches who was already working here when Lennon was killed, along with men's track and field coach Fred Samara and men's swimming coach Rob Orr.

TB knew Farrell, who is as accomplished a social commentator as he is a coach, would have something to say about Lennon, and TB was right.

"Lennon was The Beatles," Farrell said. "His breadth alone made them what they were. I couldn't really take McCartney or George Harrison or Ringo [Starr]. McCartney was saccharin without Lennon. I mean I couldn't sit through a Paul McCartney concert. 'Silly Love Songs?' No way. When Lennon wrote a song, he had something to say."

And then he added this:

"Lennon was the Bruce Springsteen of Great Britain."

John and Paul agreed to have every song either of them wrote for the group to be credited to Lennon and McCartney.

In a similar way, Princeton track is Farrell and Samara.

Track and field is not an easy sport to coach. It goes longer than any other sport at Princeton, beginning with cross country and then including indoor and outdoor. The numbers of athletes involved in the two programs is always more than 100, and coaching sprinters is much different than coaching distance runners or throwers.

It is physically demanding, and it takes a huge emotional toll as well, especially, TB assumes, to go from something like the NCAA cross country championships directly to the indoor season's earliest meet.

That first meet would be this Saturday, when Jadwin Gym hosts the New Year's Invitational for both the men and women. There will be 12 college teams competing, as well as some unattached individuals.

As with any track meet, it will be a well-choreographed and colorful competition, with different skills on display from event to event.

It begins at 11 and runs all day.

Oh, and it's free.

Imagine that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Turn Out The Lights

If you were born in the early ’60s and grew up essentially in the ’70s, then you probably were like TigerBlog, whose parents let him stay up to watch at first the opening kickoff of "Monday Night Football" and then the first quarter and eventually the halftime highlights.

If all you know about "Monday Night Football" is what you've seen in the last two decades or so, then you have no idea what it was all about when it - and TigerBlog - was young.

Back then, you actually had to change the channel on the television set by walking over to the TV and turning a dial clockwise or counter-clockwise. Instead of having hundreds of viewing options at any one time, there were just a handful of channels.

NFL coverage back then consisted of watching the local teams and one national game per Sunday, at either 1 or 4. There were no primetime games, no cable outlets, no internet sites, no NFL Network, nothing. It was just a 30-minute pregame show and the games themselves.

In 1970, ABC bought into the football television world that to that point belonged solely to NBC (the AFL/AFC games) and CBS (the NFL/NFC games) and decided to move its game to Monday nights.

The result was a landmark moment in television, American sport and popular culture, all of which converged for really the first time.

Up until then, announcers were like Curt Gowdy or Jim Simpson or any number of men who were always secondary to the game and especially to the players, who were exalted. Until MNF came along, sport was sport and entertainment was entertainment, and they didn't overlap.

Until, that is, a New York lawyer and a real Cowboy from Dallas came together in the broadcast booth every Monday at 9 Eastern time.

Howard Cosell was a graduate of NYU undergrad and law school. Don Meredith grew up in the Texas town of Mount Vernon and then played for SMU and the Cowboys, having never played a home game outside of the Dallas area.

Cosell was a blowhard with an opinion on everything, which at that time wasn't what color commentators were supposed to have. His mantra was to "tell it like it is," and he was the first to have a defining moment of showing highlights of the previous day's games during halftime of MNF.

With his "nasal twang" as Oscar Madison once called it on an episode of "The Odd Couple," Cosell every year would win the poll in TV Guide that asked readers who their favorite sportscaster was. Oh, he'd also win the other one, asking who their least favorite was.

As for Meredith, he was a down-home folksy ex-Cowboys quarterback who was as much a comedian as he was an analyst and who was the basis for the quarterback character in the classic sports book "North Dallas 40." His signature call was to sing the Willie Nelson song "Turn Out The Lights" at the point of the game where it was obvious one team had won.

And so, if you are in TB's age bracket or older, you had to be sad yesterday to hear that Meredith had passed away, at the age of 72.

If you never saw Cosell and Meredith, know this: Every single thing that sports television/radio has become today started with those two. And the fact that it is now impossible to separate sports and entertainment on TV goes back to their broadcast booth.

Take for instance the Heisman Trophy presentation. It used to be announced during the day with no fanfare. Now, like everything else that TV has touched, it has become an extravaganza to be hyped, hyped, hyped.

As an aside, TB was watching one of the football shows the other day and heard a discussion of whether or not Auburn's Cam Newton is the greatest college football player of all-time. For some reason, the people on the panel actually found this a reasonable point and two even agreed. Just to clarify, Newton is not in the top, oh, 50 best college players of all time.

The Ivy League's decision to announce its Bushnell Cup winner in a Heisman-style way, with four finalists, was new this year.

In the past, the league announced the Player of the Year for football as it does with all other sports, at the same time the all-league team was announced. This time, there were four finalists: Harvard running back Gino Gordon, Dartmouth running back Nick Schwieger, Penn quarterback Billy Ragone and Princeton receiver Trey Peacock.

The winners were announced yesterday in New York at the National Football Foundation event, and Gordon and Schwieger shared the honor.

TigerBlog is on record as having said, quite impartially, that Peacock was the best player in the league this year and that his numbers would have been ridiculous had starting quarterback Tommy Wornham not gotten hurt in Week 5.

And TB would like to put up a disclaimer for the rest of this and say that it is pure conjecture, but it is also interesting to think about.

Since Gordon and Schwieger tied, they had to have had an even number of coaches who voted for them. If it was 4-4, then why would there have been two other finalists (and not just whoever was the distant third)? If it was 3-3, then that left two votes.

Penn's Ragone had a great year, but Penn won as a team, not because it had a star quarterback. In fact, if you had to write down the best players on Penn's team in order, would Ragone have made the top five? That's not a knock on him; it's just that the Quakers were so good in spots that don't usually generate Player of the Year votes, such as along both lines and all throughout the interior defense.

TB's point is that perhaps Peacock came within one coaches' vote of winning.

And as for the way the Ivy League handled it, TB is fine with it. The new method generated some interest on the league's fan poll and definitely on the various Ivy League blogs and such, and that can only be good for the league.

And, of course, it's how sports works these days. Why announce the winner when you can use it as part of a larger event?

Hey, it might seem small in the case of the Bushnell Cup, but like everything else these days, its roots go all the way back to a broadcast booth in the 1970s and two guys, one who died awhile ago and another who died yesterday.