Monday, January 31, 2011

In The Pool

Back when TigerBlog worked at the paper, his daily routine often went like this:
* wake up around 11
* eat breakfast
* watch TV for a little while
* go to Rider and swim
* eat a huge lunch

TigerBlog can't remember where he first learned to swim. He does remember taking JLS (Junior Lifesaving) at Camp Toledo back when he was eight or nine or so in a course that included treading water in blue jeans for a minute.

TB was never a fast swimmer, and his high school didn't have a swim team. In fact, it was a rarity for a team by the Shore to have a swim team back then, and TB was a bit shocked at how basically every school in the Mercer County/Bucks County area had a swim team and a pool when he first started covering high schools.

In fact, back then, swimming was one of the sports TB covered the most, and he began to develop a pretty good understanding of the nuances of the sport, from how training worked to what coaches had to do to put swimmers into the right spots to maximize points during championship meets.

When he went from covering high schools to colleges, TB didn't cover as much swimming anymore. Still, he went to occasional meets and did get to know the local swimming coaches, which is how he ended up in the pool at Rider three or four days a week for two or three years or so.

As exercise goes, it's hard to beat swimming laps. TB would go up and back in the pool, time after time, eventually working up to 100 laps. His major problem was that he was never good at flip turns, so TB invented his own semi-flip turn, which looked a bit awkward but got the job done.

Since TB has been working at Princeton, he hasn't been in DeNunzio Pool that often, choosing instead to play basketball or squash primarily for exercise. DeNunzio is the deepest pool he's ever been in, with nothing that could be called a shallow area as it is, TB believes, at least 10 feet deep everywhere.

It's also a beautiful pool. Even more than 20 years after it opened, the pool has a great aesthetic quality to it, and improvements in recent years have featured the history of the two swimming and diving programs throughout the building.

For those who don't make it in to DeNunzio, that history can be found for the men and for the women on a pair of information central pages on

The pages highlight two programs that have been great histories - and presents, and both teams are consistently ranked in the national Top 25.

The men's program has won six of the last nine Ivy League championships, including two straight and four of five. The women have won nine of the last 11.

The 2011 Ivy League women's championships will be held Feb. 24-26 at DeNunzio, while the men's championships are a week later at Harvard.

This past weekend gave a bit of a glimpse into what those championships might just hold, as the annual HYP event was held at Yale, whose pool resembles the Coliseum in Rome.

On the men's side, Princeton defeated Yale and lost to Harvard in a close matchup. If history has anything to say about it, the Ivy champ will be either Princeton or Harvard, as it has been every year since 1993, when Yale and Harvard tied for the crown. In fact, the last time a team other than Harvard or Princeton won an outright men's title was 1971, when Penn did so.

The women's event was all Princeton, as the Tigers won all 16 individual events and took both team meets by huge margins. This came in the first HYP meet since the graduation of Alicia Aemisegger, a 13-time All-America, and Courtney Kilkuts, one of the very greatest swimmers in program history who was overshadowed by Aemisegger for four years.

Harvard's win on the men's side and Princeton's on the women's would set them up as favorites in a month, but it's hardly set in stone for either. A great deal can happen in a championship swimming meet, when swimmers who are primed for that day and turn, say, a sixth-place finish into a third can make all the difference.

Princeton swimming and diving has had a great deal of stability in its program through the years with the presence of women's head coach Susan Teeter, men's head coach Rob Orr and diving coach Greg Gunn.

This stability has helped the programs maintain their high level of success, and the goal of each year starts with an Ivy League championship and sending as many swimmers as possible to the NCAA meet.

This year will be no different.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Til Death Do Us Part

Before TigerBlog gets to the ECAC hockey standings, he first wants to tell a family story that has him a bit freaked out.

FatherBlog had a first cousin named David, and he was married for 61 years to a woman named Minnie. They were a kind, friendly couple, the kind TB saw at extended family gatherings like weddings and such. In all the time he knew them, TB can't remember either ever saying or doing anything that could be construed as anything but nice.

Anyway, Minnie passed away earlier this week, at the age of 83. Then, two days later, David (who had not been sick) died as well. Married for 61 years, apart for two days.

TigerBlog has heard many stories about married couples who had been together for such long periods of time who passed away close to each other. TigerBlog remembers being at Mrs. Zucker's mother's funeral a few months after he father's and seeing her hear one time too many that her mother had "died of a broken heart" before she lashed out; ironically, it was Mr. Zucker who would die similarly many years later, a few months after Mrs. Zucker.

Still, in the case of David and Minnie, it was two days apart. Yes, it is sad that they both passed away, but there are worse ways to end up than being married for 61 years and dying two days apart.

TB wanted to share that story, partly to say goodbye to David and Minnie and partly because he's not sure why it happens. Is the mind that strong that it can take the body with it in such a fashion? It must be.

Anyway, thanks for indulgence.

As for the ECAC hockey standings, Princeton went into the exam break in second place, but that wasn't a very good indication of where the Tigers stood, since the rest of the league would be playing as many as four league games while Princeton was off.

Princeton got on the bus yesterday to head to the north country to take on St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend, and it did so tied for third. In reality, it's a better sign for Princeton than being in second was three weeks ago.

As an aside, Princeton qualifies for "north country" status these days. And TB just heard that there's another "significant snowfall" on the radar for next week.

If TB told you that the ECAC hockey standings had Colgate in first, Harvard in second and St. Lawrence in third, you'd figure that was simply business as usual. Instead, those three rank 10-11-12, as in the bottom three, right now.

At the other end? It's No. 1 Yale in first, followed by Union in second and then Princeton and Dartmouth tied for fourth.

TB assumes that the average Yale fan is okay with how things are going, by the way, as much with where the Crimson are as with where the Bulldogs are.

The point totals are like this:
Yale 20
Union 17
Princeton/Dartmouth 15
RPI 14
Clarkson/Cornell 13
Quinnipiac 12
Brown 11
St. Lawrence 6
Harvard 4
Colgate 2

The goal is to be in the top four, which earns a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs and makes the path to a potential NCAA tournament berth more attainable. Princeton's RPI currently is 18, which is actually fifth among ECAC teams, behind Yale (1), Union (10), RPI (11) and Dartmouth (15).

On the other hand, Princeton plays Union and RPI twice each still, including games at Baker Rink next weekend, while also playing at Dartmouth and home with Yale.

The ECAC regular season ends Feb. 26, which means the Tigers now have 10 league games in a 29-day stretch that starts tonight.

At the very least, the goal is to be in eighth place or better, to get a home series in the first round. Mathematically, it'll be hard for Princeton not to be at least eighth.

But sitting in third in late January, the Tigers' goals can be set a little higher.

Princeton hockey in the last few years has given its fans some of the greatest moments in the history of the program, and there have been more home playoff games at Baker Rink of late than there were in the decades that predated this run combined.

It's easy to forget that there were years when Princeton hockey was playing out the string in late February, locked into a road playoff series to open the playoffs and hoping against hope to capture some magic.

TigerBlog has said before and will repeat it that Baker Rink could be Princeton's best athletic venue, with the action directly in front of the fans and with high-quality, competitive games the norm.

Princeton hasn't played a league game in three weeks; tonight is the start of five straight Friday/Saturday games to end the regular season, with at least one guaranteed playoff round, almost surely at home.

Starting tonight, Princeton is playing to see if it can get a week off before having to start the playoffs.

From there, anything is possible. A year ago, a group of Tigers in orange and black made the NCAA Final Four - the ones from RIT.

Maybe some day a different group will get there as well, the ones from Princeton.

Will it this be this year? Maybe not, but there's no harm in dreaming big.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Home Or Away?

Being a lawyer who knows little about sports, BrotherBlog has a different reaction to “hit-and-run” than most. With that background, BB surprised TigerBlog one day, when they were watching or listening to some trivia show, possibly “Jeopardy.”

As an aside, TigerBlog was watching "Jeopardy" last night and ran the category entitled "President Tyler," going 5 for 5 on the 10th President.

Anyway, back to the original story, the question asked what pitcher had thrown the most career no-hitters, and BrotherBlog instantly said “Nolan Ryan,” which is correct. Impressed, TB asked him how he knew that, and BB said that he answers “Nolan Ryan” to any baseball trivia question.

A friend of TB’s from a long time ago once said that the answer to any random question about Nobel Prize winners is “R. Buckminster Fuller.”

Along those same lines, the answer to a question of “who said the following quip” is usually either Ben Franklin or Mark Twain.

For instance, it was Franklin who said “Some people are weather-wise; some people are otherwise.” It was Twain who said “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody every does anything about it.”

TB thought of the second one last night as he watched snow fall yet again. “What,” TB said out loud, “would you have TB do about this Mark?”

Again it snowed, this time a whole lot. TB estimates that it was nearly two feet this time, though this was probably the weirdest winter storm ever. The snow turned to rain, rain to ice and then, eventually back into snow. And oh yeah, just to make it super bizarre, there was also thunder and lightning.

Thunder and lightning? During a winter snowstorm. What in the world was that about? What even caused it?

Anyway, the result was that Princeton University is actually closed today. In all the time TB has worked at Princeton, he can’t remember more than maybe five times if that that the entire University has been shut down due to snow.

Also, like many people in the area, TB has no electricity, which means that he’s hoping his computer battery lasts long enough to finish this and not quit in mid-sentence.

And so, he might as well get to the point.

The Princeton men’s basketball team opens its Ivy season this weekend, hosting Brown tomorrow night and Yale Saturday. At the same time, the women will be on the road at the same two locations.

The women are already 1-0 on the Ivy season after defeating Penn nearly three weeks ago.

Next weekend, the men are home with Harvard and Dartmouth, while the women are on the road again.

This begs the question of which team has the advantage? Is it the men, who play four straight home games to start the league season or the women, who play four straight on the road during this crucial stretch that includes two teams (Yale and Harvard) who are already 2-0.

Which would you prefer, if you were the coach?

Of course, this assumes that home court advantage is valuable in the Ivy League. A few years ago (2003, TB believes), the Ivy League came within one game on the men’s side of having every team sweep the teams below it and get swept by the teams above it. In other words, home court meant nothing.

This year, though, TB’s sense is that home court will have value.

Back in the early 1990s, TB used to travel with the Tigers on their bus as they went on the road in men’s basketball, and he actually thought being on the road was an advantage. The team was focused completely on basketball, away from campus, completely together and all business.

Still, it’s common sense that teams would rather play at home than on the road. So which is better?

Gary Walters, Princeton’s Director of Athletics, walked by TB’s office the other day, and TB asked him that question. Without flinching, Walters said “start at home.” Then, after thinking about it for a few seconds, he said “I’m not sure, actually.”

The advantage to being at home is the opportunity to use that home court to get off to a good start, play from ahead in the league and then be a bit more seasoned before having to hit the road.

The advantage to playing on the road is knowing that if you win, you have a big edge the second time around and that if you lose, you have the home game to fall back on.

So which is better? Depends if you win or lose, TB suspects.

Still, if TB had to choose, he’d much rather open with the road games and know that the home games were still out there.

Or, even more, he’d probably use another famous quote he’s heard in the past.

“Just make shots.”

Who was that who said it? Franklin? Twain?


Bill Carmody.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dreaming Of A White Month After Christmas

For those in the greater Princeton area who were dreaming of a white Christmas, well, you were disappointed.

For those hoping to have a day since Christmas without snow on the ground, you too are similarly disappointed.

Today marks exactly one month since the first snowfall of this winter in Central Jersey. Back on Dec. 26, more than a foot of snow was dropped on the area, and since that day, there has not been a day where snow has not been on the ground.

The snow that made this morning's commute a disaster is the seventh of the season, and this one could be the worst. It's supposed to snow for much of the day before turning first to ice and freezing rain and then back to snow for an additional five to eight inches.

This year's awful winter comes on the heels of last year's, when there were four separate storms of at least a foot of snow. This year hasn't had that many huge downfalls, as the average has been about six inches or so.

Of course, this year also has featured much colder overall temperatures. Last weekend, for instance, it never got above 20 degrees, and the lows were around five.

TigerBlog much prefers warm to cold, summer to winter, dry to snow. He's been skiing once and didn't like it; he's been to the beach hundreds of times and loves it.

Of course, there was a least one ray of sunshine today, one glimmer of hope that the end of winter is at least on the horizon.

Today marked Opening Day for the first spring sport.

Okay, Princeton-Rutgers women's tennis on E level of Jadwin on a snowy, icy day isn't quite sitting on the hill at Clarke Field or at Class of 1952 Stadium on the first sunny and 70 degree day of April, but at least it's a spring sport.

Megan Bradley, the women's tennis coach, learned a year ago in her first season - when she led the Tigers to a 7-0 Ivy mark and the league title - that the best way to boost attendance for her team's matches in Jadwin was to feed the audience.

As such, there was a sign inviting everyone down to E level to watch the match and enjoy bagels, coffee and orange juice. And, at 10, as the teams were warming up, sure enough there was a parade to the courts, to see a little tennis and get some free food.

As TB reached for a plain along with a few others, Bradley walked by and said to the group "now you have to stay and watch for awhile."

Bradley was dressed in black sweatpants and an orange "Princeton tennis" sweatshirt, and it got TB to thinking about the wide disparity of ways in which coaches dress for their events.

For instance, men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and men's basketball coach Sydney Johnson are always in suit and tie for their games. Courtney Banghart gets dressed up for her women's basketball games as well.

The football staff, all of it, wears the same exact thing, with their Princeton football shirt and khaki pants.

Men's lacrosse does basically the same, substituting Princeton lacrosse gear for football; women's lacrosse tends to be a bit more casual, with sweatpants and Princeton lacrosse tops.

Scott Bradley and the baseball staff wear, of course, baseball uniforms, honoring a long-standing tradition that includes every baseball manager in the last 100 years except for Connie Mack, who famously wore a jacket and tie.

Trina Salcido and the softball staff, on the other hand, wear sweats and Princeton softball gear.

The field hockey coaches dress up. The soccer coaches dress, for the most part, as if they're about to put themselves in the game, with soccer shorts and dri-fit shirts in reasonable weather and then winter stuff when it gets cold.

Beyond those groups, there are also the coaches who dress in what could basically be called business casual, usually in an orange and black scheme. TB's sense is that some of these coaches have their lucky shirts and sweaters and such.

TB isn't sure why basketball and hockey coaches began to dress up for games, while most coaches tend to be as casual as possible. Perhaps it is because those sports are indoors or because the coaches are so easily seen by the fans in the arena.

These days, all of these different dressing styles are part of the different cultures of each sport, and to deviate from them really stands out. TB used to like to see football coaches who wore suits on the sideline, but now they just look odd.

The same would be true if Chris Bates showed up for the first men's lacrosse game of the season with the same kind of suit that his hockey or basketball colleagues wear.

Of course, that first men's lacrosse game is a mere four weeks from Saturday.

By then, it'll probably have snowed five more times.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good For Them

TigerBlog was told something yesterday that he didn't realize about the Super Bowl.

In the last 10 years, there have been four AFC teams who have reached the big game: the Patriots, the Colts, the Steelers and the Raiders.

In the same time frame, the NFC has had 10 different representatives. That's right; there have been 10 different NFC teams in the last 10 years.

TB will give you a few paragraphs to list them.

He'll spot you the Green Bay Packers, who will play the Steelers a week from Sunday in Dallas. For those who don't know, the next three Super Bowl sites after this year are Indianapolis, New Orleans and the Meadowlands, in February 2014. Judging by the way this winter has gone, TB is pretty sure the NFL is glad that this isn't the year for an outdoor stadium in the Northeast.

Yesterday, TB and TigerBlog Jr. listened to Mike Francesa's annual Super Bowl trivia game, in which people have to answer four mostly unanswerable questions to win a trip to the game in Texas. The way to win is to listen all day and hear the questions that other people get right and hope to piece that together four times to win.

TB did learn some things that he never realized, such as the fact that Kerry Collins has thrown the most passes in Super Bowl history without having a touchdown. And that Don Shula went to John Carroll.

He was also shocked that one contestant, when asked to name the four quarterbacks who had started in the Super Bowl for the Giants, came up with Collins, Eli Manning and Jeff Hostetler - but not Phil Simms.

Anyway, the NFC representatives (year the game was played, not the year for the season played):
2011 - Green Bay
2010 - New Orleans
2009 - Arizona
2008 - New York
2007 - Chicago
2006 - Seattle
2005 - Eagles
2004 - Panthers
2003 - Buccaneers
2002 - Rams

That leaves six teams with a chance to extend the streak next year - the Cowboys, Vikings, Lions, 49ers, Redskins and Falcons. Of those six, three have a realistic chance - the Vikings, Cowboys and Falcons.

The Super Bowl is the single biggest thing in American sports, though TB knows many people who prefer the last two weekends from a purely football standpoint, with four games and then two and with little associated hype, at least compared to what will go on between now and kickoff.

There is a huge difference between professional sports and college sports, obviously, and it extends to all pieces of the two, from on-the-field to player procurement to the business side and everything else. About the only thing they have in common is the way that they have carved out important places in the American public psyche.

There is, TB feels, a misconception on the part of the average fan as to what college sports are all about. Most people know college sports only for big-time football and men's basketball, and through this there is the idea that college athletics serve mostly as a minor league farm system for the NBA and NFL.

The reality, as most people know, is that almost nobody makes it all the way to the professional ranks, which makes the NCAA slogan of "Almost all of us are going pro in something other than sports" something of pure genius.

TB hates the term student-athlete; there are no "student-musicians" or "student-debaters" or "student-artists." Still, almost all of college athletics exists within this framework, whatever you want to call it, across a wide range of sports and divisions.

Almost every kid plays a youth sport at one point in time, but about 80% of those never play in high school. The chances of going from high school to college aren't easy either.

About five percent of high school football players will play in college; fewer than two percent play in the pros. The numbers are lower for men's basketball (they're highest for hockey and baseball).

TigerBlog has always wondered what percentage of football and basketball players at major Division I program realize that they're never going to play in the pros and are using their scholarships to get an education that otherwise might not be available to them. TB also wonders what percentage are under the mistaken belief that they are a lock for a big paycheck, when the reality is that they aren't.

There can't be many, if any, Princeton athletes who have ever come here thinking about using this as a springboard to a pro career. That's not to say it's impossible, because it's been done many, many times in a variety of sports.

Princeton has long had good representation in the pro ranks, including not only what has traditionally been known as the big four (hockey, baseball, basketball, football) but also now in soccer and lacrosse.

What TB is saying is that those who come here are doing so with an eye not just on what their professional future might be.

For instance, TB read a story today about how Cam Newton, who recently quarterbacked Auburn to a dubious BCS national championship, is now in California working out for the combine. TB leaves everyone to draw their own conclusions about the educational value Newton saw at Auburn.

At Princeton - and at many other points in the Ivy League and across the college athletic landscape - athletes have a much more balanced experience than that. When a Princeton athlete does land the huge professional contract, it's something unique.

Of course, it's happened twice in recent days.

Chris Young, who played two years of basketball and baseball at Princeton and left every Princeton fan with a huge what-if, signed with the Mets for $1 million guaranteed and incentives that should push it up at least to $2 or $3 million and possibly to as much as $4.5 million.

For Young, even without the extra incentives, his career earnings now stand at $16.125 million.

Ross Ohlendorf is having an arbitration hearing with the Pirates. He has asked for $2.025 million; the club has offered $1.4 million; this means that he'll either get one of those from an arbitrator or some settled amount before the hearing that is in between the two.

Add it up, and Young has $16 million for 48 career wins, and Ohlendorf is going to earn a 400 percent raise minimum, to at least $1.4 million, for going 1-11 a year ago.

Of course, Young's career winning percentage is nearly 60%, and he'd probably have around 80-90 career wins had it not been for injuries. When healthy, he's been a dominant starting pitcher.

And Ohlendorf has also shown potential stardom in his young career, though he too was hurt much of last year. Also, pitching for the Pirates is not easy.

TB is happy for both of them.

Chris Young is as fine a person as TB has ever met. TB has never met Ohlendorf, but from everything he's seen, heard and read about him, he's up there with Young.

So good for both of them.

It doesn't happen often for Princeton athletes, but it does happen. It's part of what makes this place so special.

Monday, January 24, 2011


With the temperatures outside dropping to nearly her age, sixth-grader Grace sat on the gym floor as basketball practice ended and made this statement: "I really want some ice cream."

TigerBlog, her coach, looked at her and came back with this: "If you live to be 100 years old, always remember that it's never too cold for ice cream or too hot for soup."

Coaching kids - boys or girls - is not an easy proposition, and TigerBlog has had considerable experience in this arena. There are all kinds of issues for the youth coach, such as how competitive to make things, what messages are being sent, how to balance playing time, how to deal with parents whose ideas might be contrary to the coaches', how to deal with opposing coaches and refs, how to teach kids about the value of sportsmanship.

That last one is even more difficult when almost everything young athletes see on TV is the opposite of good sportsmanship. In fact, television seems not only to show but also to glorify the me-first, let-me-taunt-you nonsense that has infested professional sports, especially football.

Look at yesterday's Packers-Bears game. It was 14-7 Packers with the Bears backed up near the goal line with Caleb Hanie, their No. 3 quarterback, who had almost no NFL experience. What happens? He throws an interception to Green Bay lineman B.J. Raji.

And what happens next? Of course. Raji holds the ball out in front of him with one hand and starts to slow down as he nears the goal line. Luckily for him, he had to go 18 yards instead of 19, because Hanie caught him just after he got to the end zone and knocked the ball away. Had that been just before he got to the end zone and the ball had gone out of bounds in the end zone, it would have been a touchback for the Bears.

This is to get into the Super Bowl. And this is a defensive lineman who isn't used to carrying the ball. Is it asking too much to protect it and then hustle into the end zone, rather than showboat?

And can one of the TV announcers call Raji out on this, or is that asking too much?

How many kids watched the play and now want to emulate it? How hard is it going to be for their coaches to get them away from that mindset?

TigerBlog has tried to stick with the idea that teaching them the right way to play, physically and mentally, is the most important thing a youth coach can do.

TB isn't a huge fan of leagues that don't keep score of games, largely because everyone there is keeping score anyway and because it's important for kids to be learn how to win and how to lose. Too often in today's world, kids are rewarded for doing nothing other than being there, and the critical idea that you have to work to improve and ultimately be successful gets lost in that thinking.

For kids up through sixth grade, for TB the main goal is to get them to want to play again next year, because they had a good experience this year. For seventh/eighth graders, especially the stronger ones, TB thinks that that is the age when they should start to learn what it might be to compete on the high school level and therefore he tries to prepare them for that.

All of which brings us back to Grace and her eight fifth/sixth grade girls' basketball teammates. This is an in-house league, not a travel league.

TigerBlog, long ago brainwashed by the Pete Carril/Bill Carmody/John Thompson/etc. approach to basketball, had it in his mind that he could incorporate elements of Princeton basketball into his 5/6 grade team, including something as benign as layup lines. Instead of having the players dribble in and shoot the layup. TB has them pass from one line to another, receive the pass back and then shoot the layup.

For TB, isn't simply the idea of using pieces of Princeton basketball because of his Princeton connections. No, it's more because they are at their core based on simple philosophies - pass, cut, dribble, shoot, defend - and TB figured they'd be easy for 5/6 grade girls to pick up on.

Immediately, he ran into a few problems. First, the court is narrower than a regular court, which affects the ability to have good spacing. Second, for kids in this age group, boys and girls, dribbling is probably the toughest of all the skills.

TB backed off some of his thoughts of Princetonian grandeur early on, concentrating instead of trying to run a pick-and-roll or to free up the girl bringing the ball up the court by setting a pick for her as she reached the defense, which can't guard in the backcourt.

All that really ended up happening, though, was that the person who brought the ball up would get stuck 20 feet from the basket after picking up her dribble, and yet the girls would still try to set picks for her or, beyond that, simply run to the ball.

To counter this, TB tried to introduce the concept of setting a screen away from the ball and having someone curl off of that screen to get a pass. Here, though, the lack of spacing came into play; with so many players in such a small area, there are few clean passing lanes.

And then it came to TB the other night in practice.


When people think of Princeton basketball, they think of the backdoor pass for the layup, which comes when the defender gets caught up "ball-watching." Only after it is too late does the poor, exposed defender realize that the offensive player has already cut and is about to receive a pass for an uncontested layup or dunk.

Princeton - and Georgetown, Northwestern, Mercer County College and the rest - run this in a bunch of different ways. It could be that the person with the ball dribbles right at another defender and then makes the pass after the teammates cuts behind, for instance.

What all of these plays have in common is that they come without a screen. They're all done off of cuts. In fact, TB wishes he had $5 for every time he heard Carmody yell "hard cuts" during a game.

Another way that Princeton runs this is its center-forward play, which basically has a guard get to the ball to the center, who starts on the low block and then comes up to the elbow. The center than passes to the cutting forward, who comes from the wing as the center is getting the ball. Bang-bang.

Arguably the single most famous play in the history of Princeton basketball - TB is hard-pressed to think of another one that equals it - is Gabe Lewullis' layup against UCLA in the first round of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

The play came with the score 41-41, after UCLA had led a few minutes earlier at 41-34. Princeton came back on a long three-pointer by now-head coach Sydney Johnson and then layups by Steve Goodrich (great feed from Chris Doyal) and Johnson (after a Mitch Henderson steal).

As an aside, TB is pulling the play-by-play from memory. It's seared into his brain.

UCLA had two chances in the final minute, first when Johnson intentionally fouled Cameron Dollar, who then missed both foul shots, and then when Kris Johnson's short jumper bounced out and was rebounded by Goodrich. Timeout Princeton with the shot clock off.

As the clock went under 10 seconds, Johnson had the ball and made the pass to Goodrich, who came to the high post. Lewullis made one cut, doubled back and then reversed himself, getting the pass from Goodrich and converting the layup. When Toby Bailey's jump shot sailed long at the buzzer, Princeton had one of the great wins in NCAA tournament history.

But could the 5/6 grade girls execute the same basic play?

TB spent much of practice Friday night trying to figure out if they could. After about 20 minutes, he brought in some of the parents to play defense to see if the girls could make it work against them, and it had limited success, largely because Grace's dad was defending the wing better than Charles O'Bannon had in 1996.

Still, at the game Saturday, TB was ready to try. The first few times, it didn't work, because either the original pass went to the forward or because the forward cut long before the ball came up the court or because the pass to the center was dropped.

At halftime, TB drew it up again. Aileen was to bring the ball up. Grace was to the center. Gianna was to the forward.

This time, everything went perfectly. Aileen's pass to Grace was on the money, and Grace controlled it and turned to immediately pass. Gianna had made her cut at the right time and now had lost her defender, who was focused on Grace and the ball. The pass led Gianna enough, and Gianna caught it all alone and converted the layup.

Okay, so TB's team lost the game. Still, he couldn't help but get the feeling that he'd been successful in a few ways at that moment.

They'd learned how to run the play. They practiced it over and over until they could do it. They translated that into the game.

Most importantly, they'd been successful in doing so. Maybe, in some small way, it got them all to think "hey, if we work in practice and play as a team and I understand my role in all that, then we can get better as a team and I can get better as an individual." Maybe years from now, one or more or even all of them will still have that idea in their heads.

Maybe it won't just be confined to sports.

TB could be dreaming or making way more out of it, but he'd like to think that life lessons have come from less.

Coming next week?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Back In Black - And Orange

TigerBlog began his career at Princeton as the contact for the football, men's basketball and men's lacrosse team, a cycle he repeated for eight years.

He also was the contact for men's and women's water polo when it first became a varsity sport in the mid-1990s. He was the rowing contact in the late 1990s, and he covered women's soccer, men's and women's squash and wrestling at one point.

All told, the teams that TB was the contact for have combined to win somewhere around 25 Ivy League championships, and he has written about national championships in four of his sports.

Each season of each sport has been unique, and it hasn't only been championships that has defined the best of these teams. Bill Tierney used to say that the best part of coaching was that each new season provided its own challenge.

Of course, one of the strong lures of working at Princeton is that so many of these teams are successful on the field, which makes it more fun to chronicle.

Still, certain teams will always be more special than others, based on what they accomplished and how they did so.

The 1992 men's lacrosse team, for instance, which won the program's first of six NCAA championships. Or the 1997 team, which was the only one to have a perfect season. Or 2001, which was the most emotional of the six titles.

There was the 2004 women's soccer season, which saw Princeton become the first Ivy League team reach the Final Four in a 64-team NCAA tournament.

When it comes to men's basketball, there have been more than a few that really stand out, but if TB had to pick the most special of all of them, it would be the 1997-98 season.

Second and third, by the way, would be 1995-96 (Carril's last year, the playoff win over Penn, the NCAA win over UCLA) and 2000-01 (John Thompson's first year, an unexpected Ivy title).

But 1997-98 was beyond the normal scale of what an Ivy League athletic communications person could expect to be part of.

TB was looking through some of the clips from that season yesterday, and here is a partial list of media outlets that came to Princeton to write about a team that ultimately reached No. 7 in the national polls:

* the Washington Post
* the San Antonio Express-News
* the Los Angeles Times
* the Boston Globe
* Newsweek
* the Chicago Tribune
* the Houston Chronicle
* the Miami Herald
* the New York Times Magazine
* Sports Illustrated

Every day, it seemed, the phone would ring and another reporter would ask to fly across the country to talk to head coach Bill Carmody and the rest of the Tigers.

When TB thinks back to that season, he remembers the media, he remembers the regular-season finale against Penn (an overtime win), he remembers the only regular-season loss (at North Carolina), he remembers the three wins against Texas, N.C. State and Wake Forest at the Meadowlands, he remembers a whole lot of Ivy League routs.

He remembers how Mike Lupica asked Carmody in the postgame press conference after the opening round NCAA tournament win over UNLV: "What did you say during the timeout? Go score five straight backdoor layups?"

Unfortunately, he also remembers how crushing it was when it ended, with a second-round loss to a Michigan State team that would start four of the same players two years later, when it won the NCAA championship.

TB also remembers the return-from-exams game, which matched the local Division III team from the College of New Jersey against the mighty Tigers. Surely this game would be the blowout of blowouts, right?

In looking through the clips, TB stumbled across Harvey Yavener's game story from the win over Niagara in the ECAC Holiday Festival championship game in Madison Square Garden. It went like this:
"Start spreading the news. Princeton's basketball team is going to go 26-and-1... All that's left are 14 games in an anemic Ivy League, a home date with a Manhattan team that lost by 27 at Mount St. Mary's last night and the return-from-exam date with the College of New Jersey. Maybe TCNJ will be the tough one."

As it turned out, Yav's words were 100% on.

Princeton destroyed Manhattan in that home game and cruised to 14-0 in the league, with only the overtime win at the Palestra on the final night even remotely close.

And the TCNJ game? Princeton 59, TCNJ 50, on Jan. 26, 1998. Princeton led 33-24 at the half, and the second half was even at 26-26.

TCNJ came into the game ranked fifth in Division III, with a record of 14-1. Princeton, with the win, improved to 14-1. Current assistant coach Brian Earl played all 40 minutes and led Princeton with 19 points, including 4 of 9 three-point shooting.

The attendance for that game was 4,320.

Three years later, TCNJ was back. This time, Princeton won 69-59, behind a 26-point, 10-rebounds, three-assist performance from Nate Walton. Attendance was 4,032.

TCNJ will be back in Jadwin Gym Sunday afternoon at 2, again in the return from exams game. Princeton will be 11-4 heading into the game, which will be the first in 18 days for the Tigers.

The Lions will be either 3-13 or 4-12, depending on whether or not they beat Montclair State Saturday.

Still, it should be a pretty good crowd, as TCNJ figures to bring some fans over from the campus in Ewing, which is six miles away from Princeton's. And of course, the Ivy League season starts for the men and women next weekend.

If nothing else, it's an athletic event involving Princeton after the seemingly endless exam break.

In addition to basketball, there's also men's and women's track and field at Jadwin tomorrow, and men's and women's swimming and diving against Dartmouth at DeNunzio Sunday.

Men's hockey gets back at it Tuesday, hosting Sacred Heart. By next weekend, men's volleyball and men's and women's tennis will have started their seasons, squash will be resuming and heading to its crucial matches, women's hockey and basketball and wrestling will get back in action and, within a few days, spring sports will start practicing.

After that, the next break for Princeton athletics won't come until June.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

American Idol

TigerBlog accidentally saw a few moments of the first episode of season 10 of "American Idol," which was on last night.

It is TB's contention that nothing is contributing more to the decline of American society than what is known as "reality television," which actually runs a pretty wide gamut between shows that require at least a bit of talent and shows that require nothing in terms of talent or shame.

TigerBlog will admit that "American Idol" is probably the "Gone With the Wind" of reality shows and that in the end, the show has launched the careers of a few highly regarded pop stars.

Still, the common thread of all of reality TV is the belief that fame - any kind of fame - is by itself a goal to be attained, at any cost. For the most part, this means a willingness to sacrifice anything to achieve that fame, and by anything, TB means what has traditionally been known as dignity, morality and self-respect.

The result is that those who have attributed the largest degree of fame have almost exclusively done so by engaging in patterns of behavior that society used to consider somewhat reprehensible. These are people with no actual talent and nothing that makes them special, other than perhaps their physical appearance and their willingness to do anything on television.

What you're left with is a few Kardashians and "Jersey Shore" types, which would be fine if they weren't trailed by an army of followers - mostly younger women - who want to be just like them. And to be just like them requires going down a somewhat destructive path, only to do so without any of the fame.

Some of it is just freaky, to the point where TB cannot believe people willingly put themselves into these positions. The few minutes that he once saw of "Bridalplasty," for instance, have done more to enhance TigerBlog's own personal self-esteem than anything else he can remember.

Some reality TV is all about money, and even the highbrow ones - like "Amazing Race" - are not without the component of seeing how much the contestants are willing to degrade themselves in pursuit of that money.

"American Idol" at least has a talent component at its core. As even TB knows, the point is that people all over the country sing for a panel of judges, and the those who make it past the first round are brought to Hollywood for a second cut.

Those who make it that far then compete and one by one are voted off until there is a champion, who receives a car and the opportunity to record an album. Apparently, all previous winners have made at least $1 million in their first year. They've also achieved great fame to go with that fortune.

TB's problems with AI aren't with the winners. No, they're with 1) the judges, who (Steven Tyler aside) probably wouldn't have won the contest themselves, 2) the ones with legitimate talent who get passed by through the contest and lose all of their confidence and 3) the ones who have no business singing publicly but are willing to degrade themselves just to be on TV.

Back when TB was a kid, there were basically sitcoms, variety shows, cop shows and medical shows on primetime TV, spread across three networks. Now, with all of these different networks, reality TV has provided low-cost, mass-produced programming, which largely erupted during the writers' strike of a few years ago.

Because of that, networks have spent less and less time trying to come up with funny, intelligent shows, when churning these shows out is so easy.

Fame and fortune. That's what it's all about.

Jeff Halpern earned both in a different manner, one for which TB has a much higher degree of respect than those who come through the reality TV ranks.

Halpern came to Princeton from Potomac, Md., not a traditional launching pad for great hockey talent. All he did at Princeton was play in 132 games, the most for any player in school history, and put up 142 points (60 goals, 82 points), third-best in school history.

He also led Princeton on one of its great postseason runs ever, helping the seventh-seeded Tigers run through the 1998 ECAC tournament and earn the program's first NCAA tournament berth.

Since he left Princeton, Halpern has been a solid NHL player and a member of several U.S. national teams, including five world championships.

He has played for the Washington Capitals, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and currently the Montreal Canadiens, with NHL totals of 138 goals and 197 assists for 335 points in 767 games played.

The ECAC, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, is announcing its 50 greatest players of all-time, not in any ranking order. Instead, five are announced each Wednesday.

Halpern joined the list, which now has 30 names on it, as one of the five announced yesterday. He is the first Princeton player on the list, though TB suspects he won't be the only when the next 20 are announced.

TB knows more about hockey than he lets on, and though he hopes to live another 50 years or so, he knows that he'll never see anything in sports to equal the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

Looking at the first 30 names on the list, TB sees the name Jack O'Callahan, who was a member of that 1980 U.S. Olympic team, as well as Ralph Cox, who was the last player cut. There's also former Cornell goalie Ken Dryden, who perhaps would have been ranked No. 1 on this list had it been done that way and who was the color commentator with Al Michaels on the 1980 Olympic broadcasts.

The list also includes a ton of familiar names from the NHL, several of whom have their name on the Stanley Cup. There's also a good balance of players from various decades.

And there are still four more Wednesdays of five players each to go. The voting is done by a selection committee of former coaches with some media members.

For Halpern, it's a great honor, obviously, a recognition that he is one of the great players in ECAC history for sure. It's also a bit of a team recognition, for the great run that Princeton had in 1998.

When Halpern came to Princeton in 1994, he probably never envisioned what direction his career would go in.

Princeton, prior to Halpern's arrival, had not had a winning record in 26 years. Yes, 26 years. With Halpern here, Princeton won 18 games three times (his freshman, junior and senior years) and had three winning records, as well as the ECAC title and NCAA bid in 1998.

From there, it was off to a long career in the NHL.

All in all, it's been a great run for Jeff Halpern.

An American? Yes. An idol? Not in the reality TV sense, but in every way, Halpern's success has been much more deserved.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Insert Dohn Mug Here

TigerBlog was at the Princeton-Rutgers men's basketball game in November when he heard his name called and turned around. He immediately recognized the voice and the face, even though it'd been years since he'd seen or heard either.

They both belonged to Brian Dohn, who it turns out is working for the website Dohn had most recently been in Los Angeles with the Daily News, where he covered the Dodgers for years. Before that, a long time ago, he was at the Trentonian, where he covered local colleges, which meant a great deal of Princeton.

Dohn was something of a hippie at the time, with his wardrobe of Mickey Mouse t-shirts and shoes that never had socks between them and his feet. TB isn't sure if Dohn still shuns socks year-round, in New Jersey and not just California.

Dohn was a mid-1990s visitor to Jadwin and Palmer Stadium, and TB isn't quite sure when he left for L.A. Back then, in the pre-web days, TB's job was close to 90% media relations, and he was fortunate to have a pretty good collection of local reporters, including Dohn, who was a solid guy to have around.

It was quite the group, with Chris Thorne from the Star-Ledger, John Bruns and Tara Finnegan from the Home-News, Mark Eckel and Harvey Yavener from the Trenton Times, Dohn from the Trentonian, Andy Kaye and Bob Nuse from the Princeton Packet, Jeb Stuart from the Town Topics.

Of that group, only Nuse still covers Princeton regularly. Stuart ended up selling Town Topics and, in retirement, worked in the OAC for years before he sadly passed away nearly three years ago.

It was Dohn who prodded Pete Carril to admit that Penn had Princeton's number after the 1996 regular-season finale, which was Penn's eighth straight win over Princeton and which forced the famous playoff game, asking the question three times and getting "I don't believe in that" back from Carril all three times. Then, when a different reporter asked what Carril what his team could do differently in the playoff game, Carril's response was to look at Dohn and say "nothing, if they have our number."

Dohn, if TB remembers correctly, wrote a column before the playoff game saying that "the smart money would be on Penn." After that, Carril started calling Dohn "smart money."

Dohn wrote a bunch of columns for the Trentonian and, like all columnists, had his head shot next to it. One day, the people in the composing room put the words "insert Dohn mug here" where Dohn's head shot was going to go, except that they forgot to actually do it, so that the paper was printed with the words "insert Dohn mug here" in that space.

TigerBlog was reminded of that story earlier this week when TB-Baltimore forwarded a link to a similar situation that happened in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In this case, the person doing the layout (computers have long since rendered laying out pages by hand obsolete) put in the random letters to give a basic idea of what the headline would look like but more importantly to keep the font type and size in place. Only nobody went back and actually put in the headline.

When TB does a feature for a lacrosse program, he does essentially the same thing. The previous program will have a feature with a headline, and TB will usually type over that headline to hold it in place, usually with something like "ASDF" or simply the name of the person the story is about, rather than an actual headline.

It is one of TB's big fears that he's going to forget to go back and actually put the headline in, so when the program comes back from the printer, it's going to have a story with a headline that is a series of random letters.

To date, TB hasn't done that. But he's made enough other mistakes that he hasn't caught until it's too late, though fortunately it's never been something too bad.

The reality of working in something like athletic communications or at a newspaper is that what you're doing is going to be, for the most part, made public. The other reality is that you're going to make mistakes.

You try not to, and you do everything you can to minimize them. But there are always going to be some.

For the most part, these mistakes are really minor things.

Of course, there's also another reality to working in this arena: When you make a mistake, people are going to notice. And they're going to point it out to you.

It's just how it is. Either it bothers you or it doesn't, but it never is going to change.

TB has always been fascinated by how quickly people will jump on a mistake. He's pretty sure there's a reason for it, and he probably even knows what it is, but hey, everyone can draw their own conclusions.

Let's just say TB can handle it. And when his next "insert Dohn mug here" moment comes along, there'll be plenty of people ready to point it out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Changes, Big And Small

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the Office of the Ombudsman at the University of Pennsylvania was once located in or near Houston Hall, which was also the home of the student center.

The lower level of Houston Hall had a food court, a place to get your hair cut, a game room, that sort of stuff. TB is pretty sure that when he would walk to the center that he would pass the sign of for the ombudsman.

Of course, TB at the time had no idea what an ombudsman did, though he did find the word itself to be intriguing. Over time, he's come to realize that an ombudsman is essentially a conflict manager, someone who is there to provide an outlet for those who are involved in a conflict and hopefully help both sides work through it.

Here at Princeton, the ombudsman is the very impressive D.A. Graham, who is in his third year at the University. Graham's resume includes tours in Iraq as a military chaplain, as well as the 2001 Military Chaplain’s Association Chaplain of the Year Award for service with the U.S. Marine Corps. He formerly worked at San Diego State.

Graham, who is also an Academic Athletic Fellow for the football team, batted lead-off yesterday at the Department of Athletics midyear retreat. Graham showed his many sides in his three-hour presentation, showing himself to be at various times a professor, a philosopher, a realist, a pragmatist, a dreamer and Chris Rock.

In the end, Graham's presentation led TB to ask himself some genuine questions on the subject, which TB would suggest was the point.

In the beginning, though, Graham began with an exercise that left TB without an answer, at least at first.

Graham asked all those in the room to introduce themselves and use an adjective to describe themselves. The caveat was that the adjective had to start with the same letter as the person's first name.

He then went around the table clockwise and happened to start with TB, who passed until it went all the way around and came back to him.

Graham's exercise started the day.

Director of Athletics Gary Walters had one to end the day, and that was to ask each person around the time to say what they would change about Princeton Athletics if they could change one thing. This time, he went the other way around the table, giving TB plenty of time to come up with his answers.

In fact, TB had six answers, at least to himself. When it came to be his turn, he offered four of those six to the group.

The two he didn't mention were:

* find a place to build a 5,000-seat, basketball-only facility that also had offices and meeting spaces and luxury boxes and the like. All of the seats would be orange or black, and they would go all the way around the court in one bowl. Jadwin would then become an indoor track/squash/fencing/field house/training area/indoor practice facility paradise

* have a few scrolling message boards around campus that would announce upcoming events, recent results, have a few ads and maybe some video

The four he did bring up were:

* get a TV booth for the press box at Class of 1952 Stadium and Roberts Stadium. The press box at '52 wasn't built with television in mind, and when TV does a game from there (or Roberts), it takes over the entire operation, leaving hardly any room for radio, stats and media.

* TigerBlog would get $5 every time someone asked him or someone from his office to put something on the webpage that was already there. This one is somewhat self-explanatory, but it happens all the time.

* Figure out a way to make the concourse at Princeton Stadium more engaging to fans during football games. TB loves the concourse at Lehigh's Goodman Stadium and the way it keeps fans connected to the game while offering all kinds of food and other options that enhance what we always refer to as fan experience.

And then, lastly:

* allow the Ivy League football champion to play in the NCAA playoffs. TigerBlog's main interest in this would be to study the effect such a move would have on Ivy League attendance for football and, presuming there was a rise in that figure, how that could then benefit all other Ivy sports in terms of ability to promote to a slightly larger fan base. TigerBlog isn't sure what that effect would be, but it would be interesting.

And that was what TB came up with.

Oh, that and doubling his salary. Forgot to mention that one too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Doneger Brothers

TigerBlog Jr. has been coming to Princeton athletic events since he was a mere BabyBlog.

Through the years, TBJ found many of his earliest heroes in Orange and Black. Chris Young, for instance, once lifted TBJ up over his head so he could shoot into the basket on the side court at Jadwin when TBJ was, what, two?

As time has gone on, he's gotten to know more than his share of Princeton athletes, seeing them as a ballboy or in interview rooms or on road trips or any number of other situations. There are so many that he's liked that it'd be hard to name them all here.

There are, though, two who stand out as his absolute favorites.

One is John Mack, a 10-time Heptagonal track champ and now an Associate Athletic Director at Northwestern. Mack really got to know TBJ after he graduated and started working at Princeton, so there is a bit of an asterisk there.

No, the unquestioned favorite Princeton athlete for TBJ is former men's lacrosse player Jason Doneger, who graduated in 2005.

TigerBlog has a great picture of Doneger and TBJ after a game from either 2004 or 2005. The picture is on the concourse of Class of 1952 Stadium, and Doneger is holding his lacrosse equipment in his right hand an TBJ in his left.

Doneger is the middle of three brothers, all of whom were big-time Division I lacrosse players from Lynbrook High School on Long Island.

Adam Doneger, the oldest, was a first-team All-America at Johns Hopkins. Jason and Michael, the youngest who also played at Hopkins, weren't first-team All-Americas, but they both have something the older brother doesn't have - NCAA championship rings.

Adam Doneger, as an aside, has one of the hardest shots in the history of lacrosse. He was also, if TB's memory is correct, a member of the winning U.S. team at the 2002 World Championships and the Rookie of the Year in Major League Lacrosse.

Jason Doneger was a member of the 2001 NCAA champion Princeton team. He also ranks seventh all-time at Princeton in goals scored in a career with 105 and, again if TB's memory serves him correctly, had exactly 100 more goals than assists in his career.

He and Sean Hartofilis, who both scored 41 goals in 2003, are the last two Princeton players to reach the 40-goal mark in a season. Doneger led the Ivy League in goals scored (in league games) twice in his career.

Michael Doneger was an attackman at Hopkins and a member of the 2005 and 2007 NCAA championship teams, as well as the 2008 runner-up Blue Jays.

TB never got to know the older or younger Doneger brothers, but he always rooted for the collective family group.

He finds himself rooting for the Donegers again, at least Michael Doneger, though not just because of the family name

Michael Doneger has gone from Hopkins to become an aspiring filmmaker. He recently was one of 6,000 entrants in the Doritos/Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl contest, which invited submissions of commercials for one of the two products.

The top five were chosen and put on a website, and the top three in the voting will have their commercials air during the Super Bowl.

Rather than prejudice himself simply by voting for Doneger, TB enlisted two coworkers to watch all five finalists and see which one they liked the best. Both of them chose Doneger's.

TB watched all five and agreed.

Of course the entire purpose here isn't necessarily to endorse Doneger's video, other than to say that if its the one you like the best, vote for it. By the way, his is the one where the guy in the commercial looks like he played college lacrosse.

The entire contest shows again the continued evolution of the media world, away from structured corporate settings and further and further toward the individual.

In the little world of the OAC, this continues to be our biggest challenge. The future is clearly video and multimedia, and the level of expectation of the audience is for the quality of video that is usually seen on television.

At Princeton, it seems like a hundred years ago that media guides were still the primary focus, but it's really only been two. Since then, huge strides have been made in the world of producing video, but there are all kinds of issues that still need to be improved in the very, very near future.

Of course, in fairness to Princeton's video, the people producing it are still essentially novices.

Of course, all 6,000 of the videos that were entered, and not just the five finalists, were created by some individual, rather than as the result of the traditional path of creating commercials.

The fact that three of these will air during the Super Bowl is even more ironic, in that Super Bowl commercials are the gold standard for commercial advertising.

What would it do to the corporate heads if one of the winners from an amateur contest gets better reviews that the ones that had so many more resources - human and financial - behind them?

That day will be hear soon, if it isn't here already.

And if that day happens to be this coming Feb. 6, hey, it might as well involve a Doneger.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mourning Khristin

TigerBlog was staring at the screen yesterday morning in the front of the room as a slide with the names of Princeton athletes who were representing their teams as part of a student-athlete wellness leadership group.

A few minutes earlier, TB had learned the unthinkable news that Khristin Kyllo, a freshman softball player, had passed away earlier that morning, and now he was in the Department of Athletics' monthly staff meeting, where the news had not yet reached.

As he looked at the slide with all the names, TB tried to figure out which athlete went with which team, a task that wasn't always simple.

Princeton has nearly 1,000 athletes spread out across 38 varsity teams. Back when TB covered many sports, he got to know a great deal more of these athletes personally than he does today, when he only directly covers men's lacrosse.

Some of the names and faces are more familiar than others, and many of Princeton's athletes are just what the list of wellness leaders were: names on the roster or headshots on the webpage.

TigerBlog sees them all the time. They walk into Jadwin or into Caldwell or around campus. They wear their Princeton Athletics gear, or ice packs on their shoulders and knees.

Sometimes, TB will recognize them from their headshots and know instantly a great deal about them, from their athletic accomplishments to their hometowns and high schools to their academic honors to many other kinds of information.

Usually, when TB passes by, he gives the obligatory "hey, how are you" and then moves on his way, as they move on theirs.

Only they're not just the person on the webpage. They're all individuals, with different backgrounds, different goals, different dreams.

They play vastly different sports, from America's most mainstream games like football, basketball and baseball to the more exotic, like fencing and squash. They come from all over the country, and all over the world, for that matter.

TigerBlog sees them all gather at freshman athlete orientation and assumes he'll see them nearly four years later, at the PVC senior athlete banquet. The overwhelming majority of them will be there, and the ones who aren't TB assumes won't be there because of things like general attrition or or some who will leave Princeton for whatever reason.

Death? That's not something TB is ever thinking about when it comes to these athletes.

They're so young and so well-conditioned and so confident that they look indestructible. Every now and then comes the grim reminder that nobody is.

TigerBlog never met Khristin Kyllo. She was one of the many Princeton athletes whose path never intersected with TB's.

After learning of her death, though, TB spent much of yesterday getting to know about her. And trying to make sense of something so tragic and so unbearably sad.

He learned how she had battled seizures since last spring, how she had spent time in the hospital, how her condition had doctors confused, how she suffered from memory loss. He was struck by a story about a time she went to a favorite restaurant and never realized she'd been there many times before and how a teacher at her high school in northern Virginia spent time with her helping her relearn subjects she had already had.

TigerBlog learned that eventually she was able to return to finish her high school softball season and graduate. He knew that her high school boyfriend tried to recreate their prom in her hospital.

It all led TB to wonder about more than he learned. How was she doing at Princeton? What was the significance of the unusual spelling of her first name (K-H-R-I-S-T-I-N)? What would her future with the softball team have been? What could her parents possibly be going through? What were those friends closest to her thinking?

He thought about all the times that he'd probably walked past her on the balcony of Jadwin, probably carrying a softball bat or a glove.

And he thought about the day that the freshmen softball players came in to get their headshots taken, the very headshot that TB saw on the webpage.

Why this headshot? Why this young woman, wearing her Princeton uniform for the first time, smiling broadly, thinking - hoping - that whatever had caused her so many problems a few months ago was a thing of the past and that her best days were right around the corner.

TB was haunted by this quote that he read in a story about her from last spring, coming from her father:
"The scariest thing is that you don't know the future," Tom Kyllo said. "You have a daughter who has everything -- athletic ability, intelligence -- then within a matter of minutes, it may be all gone."

A year ago, she was a 17-year-old whose future included an Ivy League education, Division I athletics and then who knows what?

And then yesterday, she was an 18-year-old who died in her sleep.

By all accounts, her death was peaceful.

It was also 70 years too soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie

It was late afternoon yesterday when, sandwiched between "Our Lips Are Sealed" by the Go-Gos and "Rosalita" by The Boss, the song "American Pie" came on TigerBlog's I-tunes.

TigerBlog first heard the song back at Camp Toledo in the old, old days. For those who don't know, "American Pie" is maybe the most analyzed song in the history of American music, not to mention among the very best.

It's a Don McLean song from 1971, one that starts "A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile." It's familiar chorus goes: "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. Them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this'll be the day that I die."

Each of the six times the chorus is repeated, it is preceded by the words "the day the music died." From start to finish, the song takes 8:29, extraordinarily long for any song, especially one from 1971. In fact, radio stations then and now have run versions of the song that have been edited for time, something that TB considers to be an unthinkable decision.

The first verse references a happy person touched by a musician and then the cold reality of a February day delivering newspapers when the bad news came, followed by an uncertainty of how exactly he reacted to the bad news, though there was a certainty that "something touched me deep inside," and then, for the first time, "the day the music died."

One thing everyone can agree on about the song is that this part refers to the Feb. 3, 1959, the Day the Music Died. It was on that day that a small plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson (who performed under the name "the Big Bopper" and had many hits, including "Chantilly Lace") and a pilot crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, killing all four.

The rest of the song is a mystery. Google "American Pie meaning" and 800,000 responses come up, lead by the website

TigerBlog has heard interpretations that include references to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King and others.

For his part, McLean famously said this when asked what the song means: "It means I'll never have to work again."

TigerBlog has heard the song thousands of times. He's seen it included on countdowns of the greatest songs ever, often at the No. 1 spot.

Each time TB hears it, he's reminded why. It's a song of unbelievable depth and power and ultimately simplicity, as McLean simply sings his lyrics, with little in the way of background.

TigerBlog went to Clear Lake, Iowa, once, to check out the field where the plane crashed.

Princeton was playing at Iowa State in basketball (TB's second trip to ISU), and TB and Tom McCarthy flew to Minneapolis to visit TB's childhood friend Larry Zucker. Minneapolis is about a three-hour drive from Ames, right down I-35, and the trip takes you right through Clear Lake.

When TB saw the sign, he and McCarthy decided to get off and look for the site. Of course, this came during a very warm December, one so warm that it melted frozen lakes and created an incredible fog, unlike anything TB has ever seen before.

Still, with a little help, TB and TM were able to find the field, and the little monument that commemorates what happened there.

TB always thinks about that trip when he sees Iowa State on television or when something about ISU athletics comes up. For instance, TB saw yesterday that Iowa State was hosting No. 3 Kansas in men's basketball, and it immediately reminded him of his two trips to Ames, especially the one that went through Clear Lake.

This time, though, when he saw that Iowa State was playing, it also made TigerBlog think about how many Division I games were being played these days.

Yesterday, for instance, there were 60 Division I men's games and 46 Division I women's games. Tonight there are 60 more men's games and 66 more women's games.

This Saturday, there will be 143 men's games.

None of these, of course, involve Princeton, as the Tigers are on an extended break for first-semester exams.

Yesterday afternoon at 4:30, TB walked over to look in the gym to see what was going on. For a normal winter Wednesday, that time would be as busy as it ever gets in Jadwin.

Both basketball teams would be practicing, using the main court and both side courts. The men's and women's track and field teams would be at it as well, with the usual symphonic movements of all the moving parts that track practice entails.

Beyond that, there'd be any number of other athletes from other sports milling around, on their way to the weightroom or the pit downstairs.

Yesterday, though, there were a handful of track athletes and four women's basketball players. There had been two men's players a bit earlier.

Back when Pete Carril was the Princeton coach, he used to say that the best thing his players could do during this break was to come down and shoot around a little to break up their studying. Physical exertion, he would say, was just what the brain needed.

And that's usually been the case through the years. Formal practices are forbidden during reading period and exams, but the athletes always trickle down in groups to get in a workout and get study break.

As for the four women's players, there were two at each end of the court. At the near end, assistant coach Melanie Moore, eight months pregnant, was throwing entry passes as part of a drill.

In all, it was a very quiet time, an oddly quiet time in a place that usually rocks with noise at this time of day, at this time of year.

But not for these two weeks.

This time, all the action is on the other side of Washington Road.

And so TB went back to his desk, where Don McLean was singing about a girl who sang the blues.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cup Update

By 6:00 this morning, TigerBlog had already received a text message, a voicemail and an email from TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog's school district saying that today would in fact be a snow day.

Back when TigerBlog was a kid, none of those mechanisms for notification were in place. Instead, TB would have to listen to the radio or see an early version of a crawl on the bottom of the screen on television, hoping to hear that his school was closed.

It was such a hopeful moment, waiting to see if it'd be a free day or, crushingly, if school was in fact still on.

There's nothing like a snow day for a kid. For starters, you can't count on it, so you have to have all of your homework done in advance of knowing that school is off. As a result, it's a day devoted completely to play, and with the bonus of having freshly fallen snow all around you.

When you're little, that means things like snowmen and sledding and very little time outside before you get too cold, so you come inside for hot chocolate and TV. Of course, going from outside to inside requires putting on layers and boots and gloves and hats and scarves, and coming from outside to inside means the reverse, only everything is wet.

And then it's impossible to come inside without getting some of the snow all over the floor, something guaranteed to set any parent off.

As you get older, you graduate to helping shovel and then eventually having to shovel on your own. The trade-off is playing football in the snow, which makes the shoveling worth it.

TigerBlog first heard about this most recent snow from Chuck, the guy at the gas station, who said last week that we were getting snow on Tuesday and that it could be bad. How bad, TB asked? At least 10 inches and, if the worst-case scenario plays out, as much as three feet.

TB was hoping for less, but it appears that about 10 inches of so fell in the Princeton area. This time, though, it was the really light snow, the kind that's easy to shovel.

December, of course, means the holidays and ultimately the end of the year. February can offer a warm day or two here or there, as well as the start of lacrosse season (Feb. 26, Princeton at Hofstra, is a mere 45 days away).

January, though, is nothing but winter. According to the nice lady across the street, the Farmers' Almanac said that this would be a very mild winter, though so far that has hardly been the case. The 10-day forecast for Princeton shows that the temperature will never make it out of the 30s, and on four of the 10 days, it won't make it out of the 20s.

Autumn officially ended nearly a month ago, but not for the Learfield Directors' Cup standings.

Nope, the fall ended today for the people who track the Directors' Cup, and it ended with Princeton in 25th place in Division I.

The Directors' Cup uses NCAA championship placings to determine the best overall athletic program in Division I, II and III for the course of an academic year. Stanford, with 399 points, is in first place after the fall, and if history is any judge, the Cardinal are there to stay, as the school has won 16 of the 17 Cups awarded.

Princeton isn't competing for first place overall but instead to consistently place in the 30s, 40s or 50s. In the 17 years that the Cup has been awarded, Princeton has finished in the top 50 14 times and the top 40 12 times. There have been five Top 30 finishes, with an all-time best of 21st in 2001-02.

Princeton received points for the fall in men's soccer, field hockey and men's and women's cross country.

TigerBlog is always fascinated by the schools that finish directly ahead of and below Princeton, which after the fall looks like this:

21. Louisville
22. Indiana
23. New Mexico
24. UCLA
25. Princeton
26. Michigan State
27. Auburn/Florida
29. Boston College
30. Minnesota

New Mexico, who earned big points in both cross countries and additional points in both soccers and women's volleyball, is the highest non-BCS conference school. Princeton is second, and the next are Tulsa, Central Florida and William & Mary at 34, 35 and 36.

In other words, there are all kinds of schools out there competing for the top spots in this competition.

The fact that Princeton consistently ranks so high - and finished this fall at 25th - is nothing short of remarkable.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tigers Win The Title

TigerBlog was a freshman at Penn when his friends Larry Harding and Stephen Ehrlich said that their friend from high school would be visiting on a Friday night.

The friend played football at Boston College, though as a freshman he wasn't on the travel squad. A week later, he would be traveling, when BC played at Penn State.

Down 31-0 in the fourth quarter, then-BC coach Jack Bicknell threw the kid into the game, and he played well enough against the Nittany Lions to earn the starting spot for the next three-plus years, not to mention the 1985 Heisman Trophy.

The friend was Doug Flutie, who along with Larry and Stephen went to Natick High outside of Boston.

TB was already a huge Flutie fan - how could you not be of a 5-9 quarterback who had one scholarship offer, who put up huge numbers every year and who was friends with friends from college? - when he watched the 1984 BC-Miami game (also at 336 Taylors Mills Road, where so many big games were watched) the day after Thanksgiving and saw what remains the single greatest play he's seen in a college football game that didn't involve Jeff Terrell and Rob Toresco.

Flutie remains a favorite of TB's, and anyone else in TB's age range.

Yesterday morning, TB heard Flutie on the radio talking about the coming BCS championship game between Oregon and Auburn and how it was going to be a shootout. When asked how many points would be scored in the game, Flutie replied: "north of 80."

He was wrong, of course - the final score was Auburn 22, Oregon 19, which made it barely north of 40. On the other hand, he would have been right had the game not been played 37 days after the two had last played.

When you have precision offenses like those two - who combined to average more than 90 points per game between them - you can't take that much time off and expect to pick up where you were. It doesn't work that way.

It was, for the most part, a perfectly dreadful game, with no rhythm or flow. The highlights were turned in by Oregon's kickers on a fake extra point and fake point, and the winning points came after a middle school-type situation, where Auburn running back Michael Dyer appeared to be down, got up, stopped along with everyone else, looked around and kept running.

Yes, it was a dramatic moment, but it was hardly a great play. It was more of a play that symbolized the night, when everything seemed to be off by a bit. Even the game-winning field goal had no drama, as it was essentially an extra point.

The game was a fitting end to a bowl season that was, like the BCS final, dreadful. Name one bowl game that captured the imagination? And could the bowl schedule have been set up any worse, as the two games that immediately proceeded the championship game were unranked Kentucky vs. unranked Pitt and No. 15 Nevada against unranked Boston College.

The Oregon-Auburn game would have been a much better game, probably "north of 80," had it not been for the excruciatingly long delay. And the way the bowls played out, it wasn't like they were building up to the final.

That's one of two major problems. The other is that there is no way anyone can convince TigerBlog that Auburn is a more deserving national champion that Texas Christian.

A playoff would solve both problems, but since that's not going to happen, TB can solve one of them:

Play the BCS championship game first, before any of the other bowl games. Play it Dec. 15 or so, giving the teams enough time to be fresh without losing their rhythm.

Looking for a precedent of playing the big event before the rest? How about America's best attended sport, NASCAR, which opens with its Super Bowl, the Daytona 500.

Anyway, the win by Auburn is at least somewhat a win for Princeton.

Several SEC teams adopted their nicknames from Ivy League schools, especially those that were the dominant football powers in the 1800s.

Georgia and Mississippi State, for instance, chose "Bulldogs" after Yale. Alabama is the "Crimson Tide," taking the "Crimson" part from Harvard.

Auburn chose to be the Tigers after Princeton. In fact, its colors of orange and dark blue were meant to mirror, but not completely copy, Princeton's orange and black.

Princeton's nickname evolved from the color black, to which orange was added in the form of a P on the chest of the football uniforms for the 1876 Yale game in Hoboken. The orange came Nassau Hall, named for William of Orange of the House of Nassau.

In 1880, Princeton added orange stripes to its sleeves, and the nickname "Tigers" grew from the look, coupled with a newspaper account that said the team "played like Tigers."

As for Auburn, it first started playing football in 1892. Princeton has won many more national football championships than Auburn, and the Tigers have an edge in all-time victories with 783, compared to 703 for Auburn.

Still, Auburn held up its end of the nickname nicely last night - even if the game itself wasn't good.

But no worries. When the powers that be in college football listen to TB and play the BCS final in mid-December, then it'll be much better.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Expires On Jan. 22

TigerBlog is okay with the Nature Valley crunchy granola bars. His favorite is the oats and dark chocolate, though he also likes the apple crisp (that's the one in the red box) and whatever they call the one in the green box.

Of course, he'd rather have, say, s'mores Pop Tarts, though he can sum the difference between the two up this way: Two oats and dark chocolate bars are 190 calories, while one s'mores Pop Tart is 200 calories.

As anyone who has growing kids knows, you can't buy food fast enough to suit them. It makes expiration dates somewhat irrelevant, since your average good item isn't going to come anyway near reaching that date.

And things that don't come with expiration dates, like fruit, are even less likely to ever go bad. If you've ever seen a, oh, middle school kid go after bananas, apples and oranges, then you understand.

Still, most things come with expiration dates, even things that you'd figure would never expire. Bottled water, for instance.

And crunchy granola bars. In the case of the most recent ones that TB bought, they expire on Dec. 11, 2011. Maybe they just have an expiration date one year after they're packaged?

TigerBlog's belief is that many expiration dates are put on products not because the product goes bad but because the company that makes the product wants the consumer to buy a new one after a certain point. The thought of using something beyond its expiration date causes most people to conjure up images of getting violently sick on something that has gone bad or, in the case of medicine, using something that no longer will work (or will make the situation worse).

It's a great marketing strategy. You have an already hooked audience that clearly likes your product, and you scare them into throwing out perfectly good stuff and buying new.

As an aside, TB last week wrote about "The Jumble" word game. Check out today's and get the first word, which is an apt word to describe TB.

One thing that clearly does go bad is milk. The gallon that TB bought on Saturday had an expiration date of Jan. 22, which meant that it was two full weeks away. TB figures no milk can ever make it through more than a few days in the house anyway, so a two-week window is probably twice what will be necessary. On the other hand, when you buy multiple gallons of milk at once, you never can tell.

As TB stood in the store and checked out the expiration timetable, it dawned on him that Princeton will be coming out of exam break on that Jan. 22 date with a men's and women's track meet. That date will be long after the milk itself will be gone, and in fact, TB is probably looking at multiple trips to the supermarket between now and when Princeton athletics starts up again.

The next Princeton athletic events are for that Jan. 22 weekend and feature:
Jan. 22 - m/w track hosting the Princeton Relays
Jan. 23 - m/w swimming/diving vs. Dartmouth
Jan. 23 - m basketball vs. The College of New Jersey
Jan. 25 - m hockey vs. Sacred Heart.

The all-sport schedule lists 22 events the following weekend, between Friday the 28th and Sunday the 30th.

If you're fired up to see how the men's and women's basketball teams are going to do in the league, or if the men's hockey team is ready for another postseason run, or if Princeton can equal last year's total of seven winter Ivy League championships, that's all great.

Except you're going to have to wait two weeks to see any of it.

It's the start of the weirdest two weeks of the Princeton Athletic calendar.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Good Luck Jason

TigerBlog Jr. is in Year 6 as a ballboy for Princeton basketball. TBJ is joined by his friend Matthew - whose age and shoe size are an identical 13 - in sweeping the floor during timeouts, putting the balls on the rack and doing basic ballboy chores.

The real lure for them is the opportunity to shoot around on the court pregame and at halftime, to hang out around the players and to sit under the basket for the games.

At one point in his second year, TigerBlog looked up to see TBJ discussing a call with the ref and had a brief and horrible thought that TBJ was about to earn Princeton a technical foul. When TB asked the official what he had said, he was told that TBJ asked "where did you go to ref school?"

Anyway, Matthew had a practice of his own the other night and couldn't make it to the Princeton-Marist game, so TBJ enlisted his friend Nipun to pinch-hit.

On the way to the game, Nipun mentioned that Marist was 3-11. When TB asked him how he knew that, Nipun replied that when TBJ asked him to go to the Princeton game, he looked up who the opponent was and what its record was.

TB was immediately taken back to his own childhood and the way he used to get information on teams and players.

First, and foremost, was the newspaper. TB, like many, read a million box scores in all different sports to find out basic information. How many kids today even know what a box score is?

Of course, in baseball, box scores back then had only individual at-bats, runs, hits and RBIs, not the expansive boxes that there are after (and for that matter, during) each game these days. The paper might also run agate type of league leaders in batting average, home runs, RBIs, wins by pitchers and strikeouts on a daily basis, and it was only on Sunday that anyone could get the expanded list of players stats, as the paper that day would list every hitter with the league minimum at-bats and his stats and every pitcher with the minimum innings pitched and his stats.

Sabermetrics? There were no such things back then. Maybe on-base percentage, but nothing else.

Another way that kids could learn about sports and athletes back then was in a manner that hardly exists anymore: through books.

TB read all kinds of books written for kids, with titles like "The Baseball Life of Willie Mays" and "The Sports Immortals." TB read books on Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens and any number of others. He read Jerry Kramer's book "Instant Replay," about the 1967 season with the Green Bay Packers. He even read "Life on the Run" by Bill Bradley, not realizing at the time that he would come to know a lot more about Bradley than he could have imagined.

Television was a big source of sports knowledge, though in a much different way. Back then, one of TB's favorite shows was "This Week in Pro Football," a weekly highlight show that ran on Saturday evenings and recapped the previous week's NFL games.

Beyond that, there was the sports report on the 6:00 news, which usually came on around 6:20 or 6:25. For TB, this always meant Warner Wolf first and foremost.

Fast forward to the present, and there's no reason to watch the sports report on the local news (unless it's for local information), not when there is much greater in-depth coverage available round-the-clock on so many different sports networks.

These days, of course, the amount of information has skyrocketed, and every kid in TBJ's age group has access to all of it, as pretty much every middle school kid has a computer, a cell phone and constant connectivity.

And yet, because there are so many other diversions as well, kids today don't seem to know as much about sports as they did back when TB was a kid. Yes, they know about the athletes and the personalities and what they see on TV, and they also see every big dunk or hit in football or home run in baseball, not to mention every unsportsmanlike me-first gesture that gets replayed time and again.

But as far as sports themselves, TB suspects they don't know. For instance, how many 10- to 15-year-olds can tell you how to figure out earned run averages? Or batting averages, for that matter.

One thing that TBJ has done is take advantage of all of this sports content to learn about the history of certain sports, especially football and basketball. Much of it has come through discussions between him and TB, as the two have spent hours talking about the great players and great games that TB watched when he was a kid.

But just as much has come from, say, the NFL Network. TBJ especially got into the recent countdown of the top 100 players of all-time, though in his mind, it has now been sent from a burning bush that Jerry Rice was a better player than Lawrence Taylor.

And, as much as the top 100, there's the America's Game series, a documentary look at some of the great Super Bowl championship teams and teams that were favored but fell short, a spin-off called "The Missing Rings."

Last night, TB and TBJ watched the 1976 Oakland Raiders for instance. Because MotherBlog hated John Madden, TB always disliked the Raiders, and he especially rooted against them during their great run through the 1970s. Still, watching the show on the 1976 Silver & Black, TB couldn't help but smile at their antics.

And what about the America's Game series 30 years from now?

Will it include one of Jason Garrett's Super Bowl wins during his Hall-of-Fame run with the Cowboys? Or will Garrett never get his team to the playoffs or out of the first round and ultimately be replaced in much the same way his predecessor was?

Garrett, one of the great quarterbacks in Princeton history, was introduced yesterday as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It really was no shock, after he went 5-3 as interim coach.

As an aside, TB is now in the uncomfortable position of having to root against a Princeton guy, who just happens to be head coach of TB's least favorite team in the NFL.

On PTI yesterday, Tony Kornheiser and Bob Ryan asked the question of whether Garrett would win more than the 34 games as Cowboy head coach that Wade Phillips had won. A total of 34 doesn't seem that high, but statistically, the odds are against Garrett.

Still, he's landed in a situation where the owner clearly will spend on the organization, and there still is something special about the Cowboy name. In fact, it was an NFL Films season highlight film that first used the term "America's Team," something that clearly has stuck.

Garrett is the eighth head coach in Cowboys' history, a list that includes some of the greatest names in coaching of all-time, like Tom Landry, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, as well as the more forgettable Dave Campo and Chan Gailey and the seemingly likable but ultimately unsuccessful Phillips.

There's something special about being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, just like there's something special about being the manager of the New York Yankees, another team TB hates.

So good luck to Jason Garrett.

Hopefully, TBJ will get the chance to sit with TBIII one day and watch a documentary with Garrett and two of his players as they talk about their great Super Bowl win.

Hopefully, that one will be sandwiched around a few more about the Giants as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Season's Greetings

TigerBlog was in the supermarket the other day to get four items, one of which was a box of pasta.

MotherBlog used to tell TB that there were several things in the world that were all the same, especially aspirin, toothpaste and pasta. Armed with that belief, TB always chuckles when he sees the wide variety available for all three products and when he considers how he developed his own personal preferences for all of them, despite his mother's observation several decades ago.

For pasta, TB likes shells, rotini, bow ties, ziti, rigatoni and many others. His favorite, though, is a basic spaghetti or linguine.

As an aside, there's an exchange in the show "The Odd Couple" where Felix and Oscar argue whether there is a difference between spaghetti and linguine, which ends with:
"Eat your spaghetti."
"I thought it was linguine."
"It's garbage now."

Anyway, after TB grabbed the spaghetti - or was it linguine? - he walked down to the end of the aisle to head to the checkout line, only the end of the aisle was blocked by a shopping cart and a woman who was diligently studying pasta sauces. So TB stood there for a second or two, hoping that the woman would move her cart.

Except that the woman never looked up. This went on for what seemed like forever, or maybe more than five seconds, before TB said "excuse me." Still, the woman didn't budge. Eventually, she was jostled out of her own little world to see TB standing there, and she moved.

If TB has a main pet peeve, it's this: people who are unaware that there is a world around them. It happens with people who push carts in supermarkets, and it especially happens with people who drive 25 miles per hour on a 45 mph, one-lane road or who don't put their blinker on before making a right turn where TB is waiting to make a left or who slow down and look for their turn when they have no idea where they are.

Hey, people, there's a whole world going on around you.

Another pet peeve TB has is when Princeton athletes wear gear from other schools, something he saw this morning when a group of women athletes came out of the pool one of them had on a Michigan State sweatshirt.

It could have been a swimmer, diver or water polo player, and TB isn't looking to single anyone out. Plus, since Princeton's deal with Nike took effect, the number of times this happens has plummeted.

TB walks into Jadwin many winter mornings when athletes come out of the pool with wet hair, and he's always wondered why swimming and diving are winter sports.

For some reason, he thought even harder about this today than normal, to the point where he wrote down the 14 sports that are primarily winter sports:
m/w swimming and diving
m/w basketball
m/w hockey
m/w squash
m/w indoor track and field
m/w fencing
m volleyball

Those 14 teams represent eight sports, of which six (basketball, fencing, wrestling, volleyball, swimming/diving, track/field) compete at the Summer Olympics. Of the remaining two, one is at the Winter Games (hockey) and one isn't an Olympic sport (squash).

It got TB thinking about how sports ended up being contested in the season's that they currently are.

Football, for instance, was played in the fall from its earliest days.

Lacrosse, on the other hand, debuted in 1881 - in June 1881 to be exact. The first three seasons featured more games in October and November than in the spring, but since then, it's been all spring games.

Why the change? TB has no idea, and there's nothing that he's seen written about the decision to move to the spring. If he had to guess, he'd say it's because of how football dominated the autumn, both in interest and in players (almost all early lacrosse players also played football).

The same might explain why rowing became primarily a spring sport. As an aside, the earliest regattas were in July each year in the 1870s and 1880s.

TB understands the obvious, that the winter sports here are winter sports because they are played indoors. The fall and spring sports, with a few exceptions, are played outdoors, and so playing them in the winter wouldn't work.

Still, some of the seasons don't make much sense.

TigerBlog would move swimming and diving to the spring, if for no other reason than not sending all these kids out into the cold winter with wet hair.

TB grew up by the Jersey Shore, where soccer was played on the high school level by boys in the fall and by girls in the spring. He's pretty sure this has since changed, to accommodate the state tournament and such.

It's interesting that both soccer teams play on the intercollegiate level in the same season, as they share the same facility on probably every college campus. On the one hand, it leads to doubleheaders, which fans seem to like, but it also leads to sharing facilities for practice time, game schedules and such.

Of course, Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, has told TB that in his perfect world, college soccer would be somewhat like the English Premiere League, with one game a week for a 20- or 25-week or so stretch that started in the fall and ended in the spring, taking some time off in the heart of winter.

And then there's baseball and softball. TB would move them from the spring to the fall, because 1) the sport would be so much better in the nicer fall weather and 2) it would end around the same time as Major League Baseball. Currently, baseball/softball is the only one of the so-called four major sports in this country where the college season is at a different time of year from the professional season.

Of course, none of this will ever happen. The tradition of playing these sports in the seasons they're played in now is too ingrained for the entire college sporting world to change.

Still, it's okay every now and then to look at the status quo and ask "why?"