Monday, June 27, 2011

That Time Of Year

There was a category on "Jeopardy" last week entitled "Papal Bulls," which TigerBlog knew he'd do poorly on.

He thought the same of "Chemistry" and figured he'd tear through "Broadway Musicals," though he ended up getting three of the five right on both.

One of "Papal Bull" questions had something to do with one issued in 1582, and TB had absolutely no idea that this had to do with establishing the Gregorian calendar.

As for Princeton Athletics, it has its own variation of the Gregorian calendar, which by the way, is still going strong more than 400 years later. Much like the Gregorian calendar, the Princeton Athletics calendar is something that doesn't have many surprises to it.

One of TigerBlog's favorite parts of working in college athletics is, as he has said before, the cyclical nature of it all.

Each different part of the year has its own unique feel to it, with vastly different requirements.

TB is often asked if the summer is a slow time here, and of course, the fact that there are no games by definition makes it slower. And, because media guides have gone the way of albums, phones mounted on walls and - for TB at least - hair brushes, the summers aren't a time for doing publications anymore.

New Year's Day for Princeton Athletics is around Aug. 20 or so, when the first fall athletes begin to return to campus. The campus is pretty much deserted before that, and pretty much every day is in the 90s with high humidity.

The arrival of the first trickle of athletes precedes the full crush of returning students by two weeks or so. Still, the first few athletes are a reminder that fall is on the way, even if the weather doesn't quite reflect it.

The first half of September is the next block. During this time, the rest of the football-playing universe (including high school and Pop Warner) is in regular-season mode, while the Ivy League (and NFL, if it can't get its act together) hasn't kicked off yet.

In the meantime, the other fall sports are all playing their first games, almost exclusively outside the league. The first games - field hockey or soccer - essentially mark the end of summer, and TB always finds himself wondering what kind of year of overall athletic success awaits Princeton's 38 teams as he watches the first of the 600 or so athletic events of any academic year.

Once football starts its season in mid-September, the other sports are starting their Ivy League competition. From mid-September until the end of October, the fall teams go through their league schedules, until the first Ivy championships begin to be crowned near Halloween, including the Heps cross country titles.

Up next is the fall/winter overlap, which brings up the second-busiest time of year. It's not unusual to have weekends like Princeton will have this coming November, where football, men's basketball, men's soccer and men's hockey are all home on the same Saturday (the 12th) and where there could be postseason in field hockey and soccer.

Once the fall wraps up, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is relatively slow. There are some winter teams who are playing, and men's and women's basketball have the bulk of their non-league games in that time. Still, the quantity of teams playing is small by Princeton standards, and things are generally slow, especially if basketball spends most of its time on the road.

There is a flurry of games in early January - until the athletic program shuts down for more than two weeks for first-semester exams.

Then there is the all-out sprint of winter teams from late January through the end of February, when entire Ivy schedules are played out in no time. TB is always fascinated by how teams can play something like five games in 40 days and then play 14 games in the next 39 days, or something like that.

By the end of February, spring seasons are beginning, and the busiest time of year is the winter/spring overlap. During this time, any story posted on after a Saturday afternoon will have completely disappeared from the front page by the end of the day.

Once the winter is over, the spring goes strong through early May. Depending on how many teams reach the postseason, it slows down until Reunions and the Princeton Varsity Club senior banquet, which makes for a few days of having the campus be a total zoo.

And then, just like that, silence, as the campus basically empties.

This time of year, it's all summer camps all the time, with a flood of kids from various sports everywhere. The camp season runs through early August, which is followed by the wait for the arrival of the next group of fall athletes.

TigerBlog has been doing this for nearly a quarter-century, and it has yet to change around here.

TB could set his watch to it - if he still had one. Nope, watches are just something else that is being replaced, this time by cell phones.

Maybe that's why having such a reliable calendar each year is somewhat comforting.

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