Monday, November 21, 2011

The Penguin Wins Again

TigerBlog recently had a meeting with one of Princeton's ESPN contacts, and of course at one point the conversation turned to how well Princeton's events that the network televises rate.

Anyone want to guess which sport does the best?

Okay, granted, it's not putting up numbers like the NFL or "American Idol." Still, anyone want to guess?

And speaking of the NFL, if you were watching the Giants-Eagles last night and saw the play where DeSean Jackson wiped out a 50-yard reception by drawing a flag for taunting after tossing the ball to Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, one of the key pieces of what happened was lost on Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, though to his credit, Collinsworth did rip Jackson for acting like an idiot.

No, the key part of the play was that had the Giants not also committed a penalty, then the completion would have stood and it would have been a deadball 15-yard penalty against the Eagles, resulting in a net of 35 yards. Because the Giants were also guilty of a foul, the penalties offset, putting the ball back at the original line of scrimmage, which was the Eagles' three or so.

TigerBlog cannot think of another situation - nor can he remember seeing one - where a team benefited so much by committing a penalty.

And speaking of "American Idol," TigerBlog has never watched it.

Anyway, back to the original question. Which Princeton sport has drawn the best ratings on ESPN?

The answer is ... men's water polo.

In fact, ESPN loves the Princeton men's water polo games, and with good reason.

The games the network does always pit two Top 20 teams, and they fit nicely into a 90-minute block. Plus, there's the "hey, this is something different on TV" factor, where it's not just another football or basketball game.

In fact, this year, the men's soccer game between Princeton and Lafayette also did better than expected, perhaps for similar reasons.

The men's water polo team is coming off a huge weekend after winning the CWPA Eastern championship and earning a bid into the NCAA Final Four. For Princeton, it's the fourth Final Four appearance and second in three years.

The last time, 2009, the NCAA Championships were held at DeNunzio Pool, and that event ranks among the coolest events that TB has seen on Princeton's campus. Princeton would win the consolation game to finish third.

As for this time, Princeton had a stunning win in the semifinals, rallying from three goals down with four minutes to go to tie it with 36 seconds left and then win it in overtime. The championship game wasn't as dramatic, as Princeton knocked off Navy 10-7.

As the Eastern champion, Princeton automatically advances to this year's NCAA championship, to be held at the University of California on Dec. 3/4.

If you've never seen water polo, it's a ridiculously wild sport, played by athletes who are in sick shape. You have to be to play the game, which requires constant treading water and swimming, all while someone is kicking/whacking/punching you under the surface.

The Princeton coach is Luis Nicolao, who coaches the men's team and the women's team and is a huge fan, of among other things, Bruce Springsteen and the Oakland Raiders.

As TB likes to say, his door is always open on the balcony, partly because it gets so hot in his office when the door is closed. Still, Nicolao takes full advantage to come in, talk about what's going on with his teams or with the Boss or anything else, and it's rare that he'll leave here having failed to draw big laughs.

Of course, his sense of humor isn't limited to the OAC. Nicolao once showed up for a Princeton Varsity Club luncheon dressed only in a speedo.

During one of the ESPN telecasts of a Princeton match, one of the people in the TV truck asked which one the Princeton head coach was, and the response was "the one who looks like a penguin."

TB doesn't quite see the resemblance, but hey, it was funny.

So congrats to the Penguin and his team on the big weekend - and another trip to the Final Four.


Brian McD said...

ESPN should schedule 60 minutes for Rob Orr and Luis Nicolau to interview each other. They are two of the most outstanding people in the world and each of them has a unique and creative take on the English language. They are both funny guys in ways that people who don't know them would find impossible to imagine. The only risk is that Comedy Central might try to lure them away from Princeton.

Anonymous said...

The Eagles should have been allowed to decline the penalty on the Giants, as any team should be allowed to do.

Robert J.W. Hill said...

Just a shout out to the Penguin and the entire Princeton Men's Water Polo team for winning Easterns and going back to Cal-Berkeley for the NCAA tournament. I love their success and read as much as I can about the quality players and their fans. As a member of the 1992 NCAA team, I have memories of going to the NCAA water polo tournament when it played 8 teams vs. the 4 teams of today. Best of luck to Luis and his team representing the proud Princeton athletic heritage, the East Coast and Club-Varsity Waterpolo for the NCAA tournament in 2 weeks!