Monday, February 21, 2011

Changing The Channel

The Daytona 500 was on yesterday. The NBA All-Star Weekend was on all, well, weekend. The top four teams in the men's college basketball poll from last week all lost in televised games.

TigerBlog watched none of those, at least live. He did see the highlights of the slam dunk contest, including the ridiculous Blake Griffin dunks where he hung on the rim by his elbow and the one where he jumped over the car on an alley-oop through the sun roof.

As an aside, TigerBlog counted about six different ways that Griffin could have injured himself or, for that matter, paralyzed himself during those two highlights alone.

TigerBlog has never been a big NASCAR fan, though he understands that millions of people are. Having the Daytona 500, which is the biggest race of the year, as the first race of the season makes it unique in sports, and TB previously has written that the BCS championship game would be much better if it followed that example and became the first game of the college bowl season.

From the perspective of the driver, it has to be unbelievably draining physically and emotionally to go through that level of high-speed stress for 200 laps around a 2.5 mile track. TB often wonders what it must be like for the drivers to drive on regular streets when they leave the track after the race and have to go 25 mph or stop at stop signs and such.

The winner of the race was a 20-year-old named Trevor Bayne, which led TB to wonder how long ago he had gotten his driver's license, let along begun racing. The second-place finisher was Carl Edwards, whom TB confuses with Carl Perkins, a famous guitar player who played with Elvis.

Edwards had a pretty good quote in the story TB read, in which Edwards said that second is the worst place to finish at Daytona and that while he tries not to like the other drivers because he has to compete with them, he can't help but like Bayne, who seems likeable.

So if TB passed on the chance to watch those events, what was he watching this weekend?

Well, he flipped back and forth between three things yesterday in the early afternoon and then focused on one later in the day.

Starting at 1, TB had his choice between Princeton-Yale men's hockey on ESPNU, Syracuse-Denver men's lacrosse on Comcast SportsNet and reruns of "The Sopranos" on A&E. He chose all three.

For "The Sopranos," the best part was when Paulie summed his entire life up this way:
"I was born. I grew up. I was in the Army for awhile. I was in the can for awhile. Now I'm a half-a-wiseguy. What's the big deal?"

As for the games, TB was awful in his timing, as at one point, the hockey game was 3-3, the lacrosse game was 6-3 and TB had seen about three of the 15 goals.

Princeton's contract with ESPN results in seven televised home events per school year, and the hockey game yesterday was the fifth.

To date this academic year, ESPNU has had some pretty good Princeton games, with:
* an 11-9 men's water polo win over Santa Clara
* a come-from-behind win by men's soccer over Harvard
* a dramatic win for the men's basketball team over Harvard in the first game between the teams who are essentially tied for first with little more than two weeks left
* a pair of 5-4 hockey games, one a win over Colgate and now the second a loss to Yale

Still to come are a pair of men's lacrosse games, March 11 at home against North Carolina and April 9 against Syracuse. Princeton also will be on ESPNU with its men's lacrosse game at Johns Hopkins on March 5.

The telecast yesterday from Baker Rink featured Barry Melrose, as big a name as there is in hockey broadcasting, and he didn't disappoint. He was prepared, meaning he had studied up on both teams rather than treating the game like it was beneath him, but he also didn't try to seem like a complete know-it-all, especially when it came to showing genuine surprise when unexpected players on both teams impressed him.

He was at his best during the disallowed goal by Yale in the third period, and his comments then were as good as TB has heard in a long time.

With the score 4-4, Yale's Antoine Laganiere knocked the punk into the net, but Melrose immediately said that it had been kicked in. When the first replay angle didn't show the puck before it went in, the camera followed Laganiere back to the Yale bench.

Melrose continued to say it had been kicked in and that the goal would be disallowed, even though the replay to confirm that had not yet aired. While waiting for the replay, Melrose instead focused on Laganiere and said "he has a guilty a look on his face," essentially making the point that Laganiere knew he'd kicked it in.

Sure enough, the second replay showed he had, and the goal was disallowed. "Melrose is right," he then said with a laugh. All in all, it was brilliant stuff from an analyst.

Unfortunately for Princeton, Yale was able to score with about two minutes to go to pull out the win. The result leaves Princeton in sixth place in the ECAC with one week to go, though a win over Yale would have put the Tigers into a three-way tie for third.

Princeton is guaranteed of hosting an ECAC playoff series, though it won't be known until after the Tigers play at RPI and Union this weekend whether it's a first-round series or quarterfinal series.

Princeton can finish no lower than sixth but can finish as high as third. If it gets in the top four, it'll get a first-round bye.

Meanwhile, up in Syracuse, Denver, led by Bill Tierney for the second year now, got off to a low start, falling behind to the top-ranked Orange 6-1, before playing them pretty much evenly for the next 40 minutes or so before falling 13-7.

Denver won the ECAC in Tierney's first year as head coach, and the Pioneers are ranked 12th or 13th to start this year. As was the case last year, TigerBlog is rooting for Denver at Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a few months.

And yes, while it is still February, lacrosse season is here. TB watched the Duke-Notre Dame game from Jacksonville on ESPN after the 1:00 games ended.

The game was a rematch of last year's NCAA final, won in overtime by Duke. This time, Notre Dame won 12-7, despite not scoring for the first 24 minutes.

Along the way, ND got two goals from freshman Westy Hopkins, who, before he played at ND or Lawrenceville for a PG year or La Salle for high school was a Lower Bucks Lacrosse player whose father Doug coached the LBL's top team for years and won a Southeastern Pennsylvania league championship a few years ago.

It was nice to see Hopkins do well in his first game.

It was a nice ending to an afternoon of interesting - if a bit out of the mainstream - viewing choices.

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