Monday, February 28, 2011

Gonna Fly Now

TigerBlog remembers clearly the night he saw "Rocky" for the first time, at the old movie theater in East Brunswick by the ice cream place called "Farrell's."

As an aside, that was the place where all the waiters and waitresses would sing "happy birthday" when it was your birthday and that had the biggest ice cream sundaes that TB has ever seen.

TB wishes he had a videotape or something of the first time he saw the scene where Rocky transforms himself from being "a legbreaker for some cheap, second-rate loanshark" into a fighter who could go the distance with the great Apollo Creed, all while "Gonna Fly Now" plays in the background. Or the scene where Creed knocks him down in the 14th, only to see Rocky get back up, drawing the greatest incredulous look of all-time.

Or, for that matter, the scene where Mickey comes to Rocky's apartment and begs to train him. Or the one where he tells Adrian that all he really wants to do is go the distance with Creed.

If your view of "Rocky" is jaded by having seen it so many times or by seeing all the sequels that followed, then that's a shame, since the movie is one of the greatest in American history. The character development over the first hour of the movie is perfect, and it then morphs into the single most inspirational piece of fiction ever filmed.

Even today (or yesterday, since it was on A&E in the morning), TB watched Rocky sprint up the stairs of the art museum and felt the same breathless feeling he did when he saw it nearly 35 years ago.

The movie was an improbable rags-to-riches story of its own right, and it vaulted Sylvester Stallone to superstardom. Mickey (Burgess Meredith), Paulie (Burt Young) and Creed (Carl Weathers) are three of the great characters in movie history as well.

"Rocky" won Best Picture of 1976 at the 1977 Academy Awards, and Stallone would have won Best Actor - TB believes - had Peter Finch not passed away after filming "Network."

TB used to love to watch the Oscars, back when he saw essentially every movie that ever came out. These days, his trips to the movies are essentially non-existent, and he didn't watch one minute of this year's show.

"Rocky" was honored on March 28, 1977, or just before Peter Farrell came to Princeton to start the women's track and field program and Fred Samara came to Princeton to help oversee a men's program that had been around for just over 100 years by then.

Just as TB wouldn't mind having the videotape to see his first reaction to seeing "Rocky," he also wouldn't mind a tape of a conversation that Farrell and Samara would have had after being told that in 2011, they'd both 1) still be coaching at Princeton and 2) still be winning big.

Princeton's men's and women's indoor track and field teams both won Heptagonal championships yesterday in New York, the men by posting the highest team point total in the history of the event and the women by edging second-place Columbia.

Princetn's men won all but two individual events, led by junior Donn Cabral, who won the 3,000 and 5,000 to earn Most Outstanding Performer honor. Cabral, the NCAA runner-up in the steeplechase a year ago outdoors, won the Heps cross country title last fall.

The women won by five points, and the biggest difference in the meet came in the 3,000, where Princeton's Ashley Higginson, Sarah Cummings and Alex Banfich went 1-2-4 to give the Tigers 22 points in an event where Columbia would get none.

Under Samara, Princeton has now won 13 indoor Heps titles and 11 outdoor Heps titles.

For Farrell, who doubles as the athletic department philosopher, now has coached Princeton to 25 Heps titles between indoor and outdoor track and field and cross country.

The track and field championships came a day after Princeton won the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championship.

Susan Teeter has now coached Princeton to 15 Ivy League championships in the pool. Of the last 12 Ivy League championships, 10 now belong to Teeter and the Tigers.

Princeton won 12 of the 21 events at the meet, and the appropriately named Megan Waters won three individual events and was part of four winning relays to win Most Outstanding Swimmer honors.

For Princeton, the three championships this weekend were the sixth, seventh and eighth of the 2010-11 academic year. Princeton has also won titles in men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's soccer and women's fencing.

There are still three more Ivy titles to go in the winter, and Princeton is a contender in all three.

The women's basketball team is 10-1 in the league. Harvard and Yale have three losses each, and every other team is mathematically eliminated.

The men's basketball team is also 10-1, while Harvard is 10-2. The other six teams are all mathematically out of it.

The women's basketball team hosts Harvard Saturday, while the men are at Harvard Saturday.

The Ivy League men's swimming and diving championships conclude Saturday at Harvard as well.

This past weekend was a pretty good one for Tiger athletics. The excitement building to next weekend has already begun.

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