Monday, February 28, 2011

Gonna Fly Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 25, 2011

TB-Baltimore Talks Caltech And Princeton

Once again, the floor belongs to TB-Baltimore:

Physics was, by far, my least favorite subject in high school (amazingly my 20th reunion is this year, but that’s another story). I never had a great mathematical mind, but somehow I got dragged into honors classes in science and math just like I did in English and history.

Luckily I had some fun in physics class. Mr. Schorr, the teacher, was an amiable guy who had a habit you couldn’t help but notice. When pausing or moving from one thought to another, he’d make a strange ticking noise and tilt his head to the left. One day he was a few minutes late to class, and I got up in front of the room and started on the imitation I’d been working on for weeks. I remember getting some laughs until Mr. Schorr walked in and I quickly bolted for my seat.

The only part of physics itself that I remember enjoying was when Mr. Schorr turned on the VCR (look up here if you’re under 15) and popped in one of the 26 tapes from a series called "The Mechanical Universe."

The series was filmed at Caltech sometime in the 1980s and is sort of a classic of educational television. After the opening credits, you see eager Caltech students entering a lecture hall and finding their seats. In walks the professor, Dr. David Goodstein, who steps to the front table and reads about this week’s topic while the students take notes. At the end of Goodstein’s opening script, we leave the classroom and head into the past.

Actors dressed as Galileo, Copernicus and Newton take us through gravity, motion and energy, aided by computer graphics that were stunning for the time, and it’s all narrated by a guy who could give NFL Films legend John Facenda a run for his money.

I thought about the show when I read that the Caltech men’s basketball team broke a 310-game losing streak in conference games when the Beavers beat Occidental (where President Obama first went to college) by one point in their season finale Tuesday night. The team had last beaten a conference opponent in 1985, maybe around the time they were filming "The Mechanical Universe."

The win set off pandemonium: the school president stormed the court, as did a Nobel Laureate chemist who is a Caltech professor. Some of the players missed class the next day because the school scheduled a celebratory press conference in the gym, which the Los Angeles media attended en masse as if it were the Lakers playing in the NBA Finals.

Somewhere in all this there are two cautionary tales for Princeton fans.

1. Don’t ever forget just how often Tiger teams win. Take the 13 “winter” squads. Of them, a total of 12 have winning records. The combined record of the men’s teams (69-24-2) and women’s teams (70-23-1) are nearly identical; add them together and the teams have basically won 75% of their contests, three out of every four times they compete. Having worked at many different institutions, I can tell you that this isn’t normal. Yet at Princeton it simply has become the norm and sometimes, in good ways and bad ways, the expectation. All of which brings up the next cautionary tale…

2. Don’t ever take that success for granted. The odds are that, even at Princeton, any and every team will take some kind of fall back toward the middle ground or lower at some time. No Princeton team is going to lose 310 straight conference games, but there’s bound to be some kind of losing streak that will have fans shaking their heads and wondering “how does this happen?” The answer is that it’s more amazing how infrequently it happens.

What is the greatest irony surrounding Princeton athletics? It’s the fact that, nationally and even internationally, the Tigers are best known for being underdogs. This stems from one Princeton team and just a minuscule sample of its games through hundreds of years. The truth is of course that, for the thousands and thousands of other times that Princeton teams competed, they were probably the favorites three out of four times.

Caltech’s epic athletic struggles don’t end with the men’s basketball team. The baseball team has lost more than 400 straight conference games and 170 straight games overall. The women’s volleyball team has never won a conference match. The women’s basketball team finished 0-25 this year.

Imagine for a second that your team has never been the favorite in any games it’s ever played. Imagine that your team has every disadvantage it could possibly have compared to its opponent in every game every year and that never changed. Imagine if your school tacitly celebrated this achievement, reminding you that the kids are brilliant and there’s really no point in giving too much thought to athletics because, well, it’s about the lessons learned and not about the result.

Then imagine what it must have been like for the senior playing his last game to make the free throw with three seconds left to end Caltech’s 26-year streak of futility. Then do the math (but not the physics).

Maybe you won’t be nearly as upset the next time Princeton loses a game you’re sure it would win.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fun With Ace And Nicky

When the subject turns to great mob movies, the conversation almost always starts with "The Godfather," "The Godfather Part II" and "Goodfellas."

It rarely gets around to including "Casino," which is sort of "Goodfellas Part II."

To those who never saw it, "Casino" is set, obviously, in Las Vegas. Like "Goodfellas," "Casino" was a Martin Scorsese movie that starred Robert DeNiro as Ace Rothstein and Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro.

Also like "Goodfellas," it's based on a true story (though not as directly) and is told in the same extremely violent and gritty way. DeNiro and Pesci are awesome again in "Casino," as in Sharon Stone as DeNiro's wife (she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for the role).

The rest of the cast includes people who never let you down, like Frank Vincent (who played Phil Leotardo on "The Sopranos"), Alan King, James Woods and Kevin Pollack (TB always confuses him with Kevin Spacey). And that group doesn't even include the great Don Rickles in a rare dramatic role.

Yes, there is some over-the-top feel to the violence, and the movie does, according to Wikipedia, use a certain word 432 times, a record for movies to that point.

Still, it's a great movie, with great character development and storylines, and it's extraordinarily well-acted and well-filmed.

Had "Casino" been done before "Goodfellas," then TigerBlog is pretty sure that their reputations would be reversed.

When TB is flipping around and sees "Casino" is on, he is pretty much locked onto it, especially for his favorite scenes are coming up, which would basically be any of the scenes involving Pesci.

Last night, "Casino" went head-to-head with "The Godfather Part II," and TB spent equal time on both, and not as much time on Georgetown-Cincinnati basketball, which was also on at the time.

The basketball game didn't hold TB's attention because 1) it was against two of his favorite movies, 2) Georgetown was losing and 3) the game meant, essentially, nothing.

And that's the annual problem with college basketball at this time of year.

College basketball has been on TV basically every night since early November. By now, almost every game has essentially started to look the same, and it's impossible to get excited about any of them.

For a team like Georgetown, there is no chance at a No. 1 seed and no doubt about an NCAA berth and pretty good seed. It's way more important to a team like the Hoyas to have a good draw than a good seed anyway, so if that means being a fourth seed instead of a third seed but getting more favorable matchups, that's much better.

As for the one-bid leagues, none of those games matter much either, because the whole thing is going to come down to the conference tournaments that start in a few days. And of those leagues, some team's No. 1 team is going to get bounced in the tournament, which will be stolen by the third-place team or someone like that, who will then get thumped in the NCAA tournament in a game that the regular-season champ might have had a chance to win.

By virtue of its postseason structure, college basketball has completely devalued its regular season. There are a handful of teams out there on the bubble, but honestly, unless you have a direct connection to a Richmond or Northwestern, for instance, who could care about those teams?

It all comes back to TigerBlog's long-standing belief that the Ivy League's position as the only Division I league without a conference tournament should be emulated.

Consider what's going on on both the men's and women's side in the league.

On both sides, the race is essentially between Princeton and Harvard (Yale still has the tiniest chance on the women's side).

Of the 16 teams who compete in men's and women's basketball, in reality only five have earned the right to be competing for the two spots in the NCAA tournament during the games of the last two months.

So why would the league want to risk not sending its best teams to the tournament? TB said the same thing a year ago, when Cornell's men's team was clearly the best team in the league and then went out and reached the Sweet 16 (though nobody - or no statistical analysis - will ever convince TB that that team was better than the great Princeton or Penn teams of the 1990s).

In women's basketball, Princeton is at Cornell tomorrow and Columbia Saturday and then home next weekend with Dartmouth and Harvard before finishing the season at Penn on March 8. Harvard is home with Brown and Yale this weekend before the trip to Penn and Princeton and a season-finale on March 8 at Dartmouth.

For the men, the schedules are all reversed, except that Harvard has already completed its season series with Dartmouth.

Princeton is 8-1 in women's basketball, followed by Harvard at 7-2 and Yale at 7-3. No other team is over .500 in the league.

Harvard is 9-1 in men's basketball, followed by 8-1 Princeton. Penn is the only other team over .500 at 5-4.

By the end of this weekend, there could be all kinds of different directions to both races, but there can't help but be a strong sense at this point that a week from Saturday will be a huge one with the two Princeton-Harvard games. In fact, it's possible that by this Saturday night, every team on both sides will be mathematically eliminated except for Princeton and Harvard.

As for ECAC hockey, this is the final weekend of the men's regular-season. Princeton can finish no lower than sixth, which means that there will be a home playoff series at Baker Rink.

There is still a chance it could be in the quarterfinals in two weeks rather than in the first round next week, but it won't be easy for the Tigers. First, they have to take care of their own business at RPI (currently fifth, one point ahead of Princeton) and Union (currently first, playing for the championship) and get some help from the rest of the league to move up on some combination of Dartmouth, Cornell and RPI to get into the top four.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Go To Togo

TigerBlog's first work-study job in college was in the psychology department basement at 37th and Walnut Street.

Back before there were copy machines that collated and stapled, TB would spread out sheets of paper all over this big room with books lining the walls and eventually staple them together. His co-worker at the time was Fran McCaffery, now the head men's basketball coach at Iowa.

After working there for two years, TB essentially moved over to the General Counsel's office, though that didn't last long, as his newspaper career began roughly at the same time. About the only thing TB remembers from that experience was having a big crush on a co-worker there, only to see her marry an eye doctor.

Here at Princeton athletic communications, good student-workers have been hard to find and keep. Part of the problem is that there aren't many Princeton undergrads who are looking to get into athletic communications after graduating, so they aren't looking for the kind of experience that they could get here.

There was a time in the late ’90s when the OAC had an army of women's basketball players who worked here, and the glory days of student workers here also included Grant Wahl, who now writes for Sports Illustrated, and Nate Ewell, whose resume includes college sports information work and a long run with the Washington Capitals' communications office before he left recently to work at College Hockey Inc.

Recently, the OAC has had almost no success recruiting student workers for the office, though there are several who work at games.

Finding a good student worker is hard, and there is a big investment of time in training them once they are hired. Still, when there is a student who can, say, update bios on the webpage or do any of those kinds of tasks, it's a huge help for the OAC staff.

Our most recent student worker who could do those types of things was a woman named Liz Stevens, who graduated last spring. Liz is currently working on her master's at Albany, and she is headed into the Peace Corps shortly.

TB wrote her a letter of recommendation for the Peace Corps last spring. Eventually, she was accepted to the program, and it wasn't until recently that she found out her destination.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, Liz wandered in to say hi to the OAC group. She also said that, beginning in June, she'd be spending two years and three months in Togo.

Like everyone else in the office, TigerBlog knew Togo was in Africa but could never have found it on the map. A quick search later, and there was Togo, a narrow country in the western part of the continent that borders Ghana to its west, Benin to its east, Burkina Faso to its north and the Atlantic Ocean to its south.

Liz was genuinely excited about the coming adventure, which will include large stretches without electricity or indoor plumbing.

Hey, in the nation's service and the service of all nations, right?

Liz was a high jumper for the women's track and field team, before injuries essentially ended her career. At one point, though, she was a point scorer in the event at the Heptagonal championships.

If TigerBlog is counting correctly, then 16 of Princeton's 38 varsity teams will be competing this weekend.

Among the events are ECAC women's hockey playoffs, huge hockey and basketball regular season games, the opening of men's and women's lacrosse season and the men's squash national championships.

The big three this weekend, though, are the men's and women's track and field indoor Heptagonal championships and the women's Ivy League swimming and diving championships.

The Heps events will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Armory in New York City, which is around 169th Street on the West Side.

The women's swimming and diving championships will be held at DeNunzio Pool tomorrow through Saturday.

Princeton is the defending champion for all three events, which were won on the same weekend a year ago.

In women's track and field, Princeton, Columbia and Cornell combined have the best marks in 13 of the 17 events. Those three teams finished 1-2-3 a year ago.

On the men's side, Princeton returns six athletes who won at Heps a year ago: Austin Hollimon (400m), Russell Dinkins (500m), Peter Callahan (800m), Trevor Van Acker (mile), David Slovenski (pole vault) and Craig Pearce (weight throw).

As for the swimming and diving, Princeton won last year, but by a very narrow margin over Harvard and Yale. Those three figure to compete for the top spot again this year.

TB has always been fascinated by how differently Ivy League championships are won across sports. In some cases, it's a grind over months, like in hockey, basketball or football.

In others, it's a one-weekend - or one day - sprint, such as in track and field, cross country, rowing, fencing, swimming and diving.

Some are round-robin. Some are double round robin. Some are split into divisions. Some are championship meets.

A team can win an Ivy title in cross country in about 20 minutes; in hockey the season runs from October through this weekend.

Of course, they all result in having a designation of "Ivy League champion," which will always be special to the team that wins, no matter how many times they've done so in the past.

This weekend will see three more teams earn that distinction. Well, mathematically at least, it's possible that one team could clinch at least a share of the men's basketball championship this weekend, but it's highly unlikely.

So let's say three Ivy titles are up for grabs, beginning tomorrow night at here at the pool.

Good luck to all, with hopefully a little more luck going to the Tigers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Howard's Team

TigerBlog is nearly 20 years removed from his newspaper days and almost 30 years away from his first assignment in the business, which happened to be covering Pennington at Academy of the New Church on a September afternoon a long time ago.

When TB thinks back to his days at the paper, the first team that pops into his mind is the Princeton men's basketball team. TB had the unique opportunity to cover the Tigers during the Kit Mueller years, and it seems like yesterday that TB was on the bus riding around the Ivy League with them.

Because Pete Carril took so long in the lockerroom after games, TB could write his entire story and then just plug in a quote or two before sending it to the paper from his old Radio Shack word processor. As a result, he never kept the team waiting, so he was allowed to ride on the bus.

Those trips - or the home games - came on weekends, obviously, as they still do. During the week, TigerBlog would cover some of the other local teams, usually Rider or Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey) and every now and then Mercer County Community College.

Mercer's campus is in West Windsor, which borders Princeton Township, meaning that it's about a 15-minute ride from the heart of the Princeton University campus to the community college. Located next to Mercer County Park, MCCC has 13,000 students who are either full-time or part-time.

TigerBlog covered about five Mercer events each year while at the paper, usually in men's soccer or basketball.

He'll never forget the time that an excitable guy named Bud Livingston was the Vikings' basketball coach. Livingston reacted to a call that went against his team by storming down the end of the bench and kicking the door to the outside, which snapped back quickly, locking him outside. About two minutes later, Livingston came running back inside the front entrance, since it's a long way around the athletic building back to the gym.

That might have been the last time TB was at Mercer for a game before last night, when he went to see the Vikings play Morris in the first round of the Region 19 playoffs. Mercer would win 60-47.

The lure for TB was the current Mercer head coach, who is none other than Howard Levy, the all-time leader in field goal percentage at Princeton.

Levy came to Princeton from Suffern, N.Y., with great size and with a head coach - Carril - who guaranteed that he would turn the big man into a player. As it turned out, he was right.

Levy was listed as 6-11 when he played, and he has half-joked to TB through the years that had he been listed as 7-0, he would have stuck with the Nets instead of being the last player cut after he graduated in 1985.

Instead of playing in the NBA, Levy played in the CBA, where his coach would be Phil Jackson, before his time with the Bulls and Lakers.

Levy is a law school grad (George Washington) who coached at Trenton State and GW and built a business in New York City before joining Bill Carmody's staff at Princeton in 1996. He would stay with the Tigers through the tenures of Carmody, John Thompson and Joe Scott.

His first head coaching job is the one at Mercer, and he is in Year 3 there now.

Watching him coach his team last night only reconfirmed what TB has known for years, which is that Levy's competitive fire burns intensely.

He's a combination on the sideline of his college coach and the three Princeton coaches he worked with. He talks like Carril. He makes Carmody's hand gestures. He smiles sarcastically at bad calls like Thompson as he works the refs. He stomps like Scott.

He runs his own version of the Princeton offense, which in the first half last night resulted in 15 wide open three-point shots, only one of which actually went in.

The results were that 1) the Vikings trailed 29-16 at the break and 2) the guy sitting in front of TigerBlog said "the Princeton offense stinks."

Of course, in fairness to the guy, he did clarify, sort of, that he meant it stinks because you need guys who can make shots.

The second half was an entirely different story. Morris' best player, No. 3, went out with a split lip or bloody nose, but even had he been in, he wouldn't have made much of a difference.

Mercer outscored Morris 44-18 in the second half and shot 50% from the field. At one point, after a pass went into the post and a cut opened up a wide-open look from three-point range for one of Mercer's players, who drained it, TB said to the guy in front of him "that's the Princeton offense." When the guy turned around, he saw TB's "Princeton Athletics" sweatshirt and laughed.

The result of the win is that Levy's team advances to play top-seeded Lackawanna Friday.

Carmody, of course, coaches in the Big 10 now, with a Wildcat team on the verge of breaking through. Thompson is in the Big East with one of the top programs in the country. Scott is in the Sun Belt, with an eye on the NCAA tournament. Carril has spent 15 years in the NBA.

As for Levy, he's coaching the local community college. It'd be easy to point out the contrasts between his world and the ones of the coaches he worked for at Princeton, or Princeton itself, for that matter.

But why bother? They're so obvious. Levy's team will be in a few vans to head to Scranton for the next game, not on a big bus or a plane. His gym is tiny. His games don't have TV or radio - or even media timeouts, for that matter.

And who out there needs TB to tell the difference between a 13,000-student commuter junior college and Princeton, one of the best universities in the world?

Still, watching the game, none of that mattered to TB. It was a basketball game, an entertaining one, with players who gave maximum effort and coaches who worked every angle they had.

When it was over, the nearly seven-foot coach was all smiles. He talked about how much he liked how his team's second-half effort, how they had come out of the lockerroom with nearly eight minutes left on the clock, how good Lackawanna is.

Coaching at a place like Mercer can be humbling, especially to someone who has been to as many NCAA tournaments and NITs and won as many Ivy titles as Levy has, as both a player and coach at Princeton.

In his case, though, it doesn't come across that way, not in all the times TB has talked to Levy about the experience and certainly not watching it in person.

Maybe it's proof that he's most like Carril, the coach who believed in him all those years ago, the one for whom it was never about the frills or the money or the ego or any of that.

To Carril - and to Levy, TB is pretty sure - it's always about one thing and one thing only: Those two hours each day in the gym with the guys.

Last night, those two hours were a lot of fun to watch.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Changing The Channel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mitch Madness

By now, TigerBlog will assume you've seen Dwyane Wade's length-of-the-court pass to LeBron James in Miami's game against Indiana the other night.

It was a ridiculous pass, as Wade got the rebound, turned and fired it to James, who caught it and laid it in in one motion. The only way it could've been better would have been for it to be a dunk on the other end.

If you watched the highlight on TV, you were immediately deluged with the obligatory "is this the greatest pass ever" discussions, as everything has to be hyped to its highest level within moments, without any regard for context.

The play actually got TB wondering why it doesn't happen more often. Wade looked like a quarterback in the pocket with good protection, and he threw a post pattern to a receiver who had beaten the defensive backs.

A basketball court is 94 feet baseline to baseline, so let's say Wade's pass went 90 feet. That's 30 yards.

Yes, there are no laces on the basketball, so throwing a football precisely is easier. Still, TB isn't suggesting that a pass like that should happen every day, but he is surprised that it's such a rarity.

As a completely unrelated aside, was there nobody at NBC or on the set of "The Office" who could have stood up, shaken his or her head and said "we can't run this 'Threat Level Midnight episode because it'll be the single worst episode of television in history?'"

Meanwhile, back at passing a basketball, Wade's pass made TigerBlog think about what the greatest pass he ever saw a Princeton player throw.

Princeton basketball has had some amazing passers in the 22 years that TB has been around the program. In fact, many of them were big guys, starting with the first Princeton center TB saw play extensively, Kit Mueller, and continuing today with Ian Hummer, whose ability to see the court and move the ball is tremendous.

If you look at the all-time assist leaders in Princeton history, the top three are a guard (Bill Ryan), a center (Mueller) and a forward (John Thompson).

If you go out to the top eight, you find that five of those eight are currently basketball coaches on either the Division I or NBA level:
No. 3 Thompson - Georgetown
No. 4 Mitch Henderson - Northwestern
No. 6 Sydney Johnson - Princeton
No. 7 Brian Earl - Princeton
No. 8 Armond Hill - Boston Celtics

TigerBlog, when he thinks to the single best passes he's seen, remembers one that Nate Walton threw, a no-look behind-the-back dish, to a cutting Mike Bechtold for a layup in Princeton's 2001 Ivy League championship-clinching win over Penn at Jadwin.

Walton is the second-best passer TB has seen at Princeton. If TB had to pick the single best passer he's seen here, he'd go with Henderson, who graduated in 1998.

Because of the talent that he played with, Henderson is often overlooked. His teammates included Johnson, Earl, Steve Goodrich and Gabe Lewullis, all of whom were 1,000-point career scorers who were first-team All-Ivy selections. Goodrich, Earl and Johnson all were Ivy Players of the Year on top of it.

As for Henderson, he finished his career with 970 career points, one second-team All-Ivy selection and one honorable mention All-Ivy selection.

Of course, during much of his time here, Henderson was the best player in the league and the catalyst for a team that reached No. 7 in the national rankings. He had a ridiculous ability to throw passes off the dribble - "scoring passes," Thompson calls them - with either hand, passes that resulted in uncontested layups and confounded spectators (and defenders).

TigerBlog remembers the morning in 1998 when Bill Carmody - now Henderson's boss at Northwestern - called TB up to his office to show him a pass that Henderson had thrown the weekend before at Brown. Carmody was nearly speechless, uttering "you have to see this" over and over.

Carmody then showed TB the clip. Henderson had the ball above the foul line, with three Brown players staring at him. He then flicked the ball to Lewullis, except Lewullis was a split-second away from starting his cut when Henderson let the ball go. The result was that the three Brown players were completely frozen, and Lewullis had himself an easy basket.

TB still had that in his mind when later in the year at Jadwin, Henderson threw the exact same pass, only he did so lefthanded.

What else does TB remember about Henderson? He was fast, tough, tireless and soft-spoken. Carmody said back then that "you won't see a guy throw passes like that again for the next 15 years." With apologies to the great passers here since, Carmody may have been off by another 10-15 years or so - or maybe ever.

The Tigers will be back this weekend on the court were Henderson threw that pass to Lewullis on the back end of the Yale/Brown weekend. Princeton has gone through its first run through the league at a perfect 7-0, but duplicating that won't be easy, and it starts tonight in New Haven.

The Ivy League race looks to be between Princeton (7-0) and Harvard (7-1), and if it's going to involve a third team, then Yale (5-3, third-place) needs to beat Princeton tonight. Princeton almost got a big boost from Brown last week, but the Crimson rallied from 22 down at the half to beat the Bears.

Princeton can say it's unlucky that Brown didn't hold the lead, but Princeton was also fortunate that it won at Cornell the same night.

For the rest of the way, Princeton and Harvard both are at Yale and Brown and home with Cornell/Columbia. Harvard then hosts Princeton and Penn, and Princeton has the extra game against Penn.

In other words, Princeton has five road games and two home games, including a season-ending run of at Harvard on Saturday March 5 and at Penn Tuesday March 8. Harvard has six left, four of which are at home.

The women's race is down to Princeton (6-1), Yale (6-2) and Harvard (5-2), as every other team has at least four losses.

Princeton is home this weekend with Yale tonight and Brown tomorrow night, and unlike the men, Princeton has the other two competitors at home, rather than on the road.

Princeton has beaten Yale and lost to Harvard, while Harvard has beaten Princeton and lost to Yale.

As in basketball, the hockey standings could go in any number of directions in the next few weeks.

The women's team is playing for home ice in the first round of the ECAC playoffs when it travels to Yale and Brown this weekend.

Princeton has 23 points, one behind travel partner Quinnipiac for fourth-place and the final home spot in the playoffs. Quinnipiac, obviously, plays the same two teams.

Princeton and Q-Pac can both be home next weekend if they both catch third-place Dartmouth, who has 26 points but has to play a much harder schedule, with games against a nearly unbeatable Cornell team (19-0-1 in the league, 25-1-1 overall) and a Colgate team that needs to win to get the eighth spot to get in the playoffs at all.

On the men's side, Princeton is in sixth place heading into this weekend at home with Brown and Yale (Sunday, on ESPNU) and next week's trip to RPI and Union.

Princeton's season can go in a bunch of different directions, from a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals to having to go on the road in the first round. The schedule is brutal, as Princeton's last four include games against teams in first (Union), second (Yale) and fifth (RPI).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let It Melt, Let It Melt, Let It Melt

When TigerBlog first started working here, he was able to look out his office door and through the giant windows in Jadwin to see directly into Palmer Stadium.

These days, the view doesn't go directly into Princeton Stadium, since Weaver Track is in the way. Still, he can see the upper deck of the football stadium, as well as the press box, while also seeing the grass on the field at the track.

Since the day after Christmas, the view has also included snow, which has been sitting on the grass each of the last 53 days, ever since the first storm of the winter. At one point, the snow was packed five or six feet deep in some spots, and that was before the layer of ice fell on it.

A year ago, the people who go to the Princeton Athletics events meetings had an informal pool - no money involved - to guess the last day there'd be snow on the ground visible from the Jadwin balcony. TB guessed sometime in April, and he came closer than he would have liked, though late March was the winner.

This year, the snow fell much earlier and more frequently, though not in the absurd quantities of last February. There were, in fact, seven snowstorms between Dec. 26 and early February, and the result was snow piled everywhere around the area, with drifts 15-20 feet high in some places.

Of course, there's still plenty of time for more snow this winter, and TB isn't ready to say that the groundhog was correct when he predicted an early spring two weeks ago.

Still, looking out the window today, TigerBog can see almost all grass at the track, except for a diagonal path of snow that appears to be about 10 feet wide and stretches from Caldwell Field House to the tunnel near the Princeton football lockerroom. TB has no idea why that path hasn't melted, especially since it closely mirrors the path most people take to cut across.

Today's high temperature in Princeton is supposed to be 60, followed by tomorrow's high of 63. That should take care of much, but probably not all, of the snow left on the ground.

The 10-day forecast has no day in which the high temperature is below 40, though none that are above 45. More importantly, there is no snow listed either, but again, TB's hunch is that there's at least one more major blast out there, just waiting its turn.

The spring sports season has sort of started (quite alliterative, TB realizes), as the tennis teams have both played matches in Jadwin so far. Still, the first outdoor events are a little more than a week away, with the men's lacrosse team at Hofstra and the women's lacrosse team home with Johns Hopkins next Saturday, Feb. 26.

As an aside, there are 17 Division I men's lacrosse games scheduled for this Saturday and six more - including Denver at Syracuse - scheduled for Sunday.

As for Princeton, the coming spring season means that Tiger athletics are heading into their busiest time of year, the winter/spring crossover. This weekend, before the spring teams start to play, is astonishingly busy on its own, with seven teams at home for a total of 15 events, including the national championships in women's squash.

Jadwin Gym will be an extraordinarily busy place on its own.

The Howe Cup begins tomorrow, with 38 women's squash teams competing in five different flights. The top eight play for the national championship, and Princeton's quarterfinal match against Penn will be tomorrow at 2.

At the same time, Smith will be playing Boston College in a Flight D match, just to give you a sense of the variety of teams that will be in attendance. Where else could a Big East power school like BC play a tiny all-woman Division III school?

The national final is Sunday at 1:30. Admission is free.

Below the squash, there will be women's tennis on E-level Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the ECAC championships (the men will be in the same event, only at Harvard). On the women's side, the field features seven of the eight Ivy schools (minus Penn) and NJIT and basically runs all day each of the three days.

Princeton's first match will be against NJIT tomorrow at 6 p.m.; the Tigers are the top seed.

While all that is going on below ground, the main floor of Jadwin will feature the men's and women's Princeton Invitational track and field meets all day Saturday.

And, of course, when the track meets are over, there will be just enough time to set up for women's basketball's game against Brown, which happens to be the Pink Zone game. The Tigers also play Yale Friday night in a game that matches the first-place team (Princeton) and second-place team (Yale) in the Ivy standings.

There are other events on campus as well, though you will have to go across Washington Road.

The wrestling team is home with Hofstra and Boston University Saturday afternoon in Dillon Gym, while the men's volleyball team is home with George Mason tomorrow night at 7, also in Dillon.

And then there's Baker Rink, which will see Princeton play host to Brown tomorrow night and Yale Sunday afternoon (on ESPNU, no less).

None of that includes the other teams on the road, like men's basketball and women's hockey. It also doesn't include a home men's lacrosse scrimmage against Albany.

It's only another week until lacrosse and then two more until almost every other spring sport starts. That's when things will really get busy around here.

Until then, weekends like this one will have to do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

King's Reign

TigerBlog can refer to the blog itself or to the writer of the blog. Almost always, the writer is the same TigerBlog. Every now and then, though, another TigerBlog takes over for the day.

In the past, this has led to confusion and emails asking if this was actually TigerBlog or a different TigerBlog. Today, TigerBlog offers, well, a different TigerBlogger:

Glenn Nelson stood on the tee box, and for just a split second, wasn’t focused on the shot ahead.

The long-long-longtime head coach of all things Princeton volleyball was convinced one year that his teams finally needed a media/recruiting guide. It was the summer of 1999, and while Nelson had no real plans of using it (as evidenced by the unopened box that stayed in this TB’s trunk for months), he finally gave in.

He had one condition. He wasn’t going to talk about players or previews in his office or on the phone. If TB wanted information, he was going to have to fish for it over 18 holes. Well, 19 holes.

The tricky part is breaking Nelson’s focus on the golf course. Despite a limp brought on from an injury decades earlier, the man had a magician’s touch, especially close to the green. Put the ball anywhere inside 20 yards and it’s up, down and off to the next hole.

He’d answer a question or two, but it never broke his concentration. That is, until the player in question was Sabrina King.

To this day, TB doesn’t remember Nelson’s quote, though it had something to do with the fact that she’d be playing for one of the best teams in the country if she had been six inches taller. The quote itself didn’t matter. The point had already been made.

Sabrina King was something special.

If Sydney Johnson wins an Ivy League title the way John Thompson III did 10 years earlier, the face of Princeton men’s basketball will still be Pete Carril. It’s not like that in every sport here, but two years since his retirement, Nelson still remains the face of Princeton volleyball.

But for quite some time, as both player and assistant coach, King has been its heart and soul.

King was named the fourth head coach of Princeton women’s volleyball last week, an announcement that apparently brought plenty of positive responses to the inbox of Director of Athletics Gary Walters. King is beloved by the alumni, from those who preceded her to those who both played with and were recruited by her.

She began as an assistant coach in 2002, and she left the program when Nelson retired following the 2008-09 academic year. Of the last 14 women’s volleyball seasons, she has been here for 11, and she has been part of the team photo for each of Princeton’s last five Ivy League champions.

King spent the last two years away from the volleyball court, doing a variety of things to find if any could match the fulfillment she found in coaching at Princeton.

Obviously, we learned that answer last week.

The fact that it was coaching at Princeton was the key to King. TB has a hunch that this was King’s first application for a full-time head coaching position, and he also has a hunch that it will be her last. She wasn’t meant to coach volleyball in the MAAC, or the NEC, or even in a BCS conference.

She wasn’t meant to coach at Yale or Penn, either.

Sabrina King recruited the best players of the last decade, including a handful on the team right now. Her last class of recruits included Lydia Rudnick, one of two unanimous first-team All-Ivy selections last season, and Pat Schwagler, the reigning EIVA Rookie of the Year.

Schwagler, by the way, is male. King’s job description didn’t necessarily include assisting Nelson in men’s recruiting, but she did so anyway. Why?

The same reason she wasn’t meant to coach anywhere but here.

Sabrina King is Princeton volleyball.

TB has covered Princeton volleyball for 11 seasons – 22 if you count the men – so he feels pretty confident in predicting a long, successful run for King. In fact, the potential combination of King and men’s coach Sam Shweisky could make each stronger; both possess different strength that could complement the other.

There will be some form of learning curve as the head coach, especially because only one coach could do things the Glenn Nelson way, and he’s in somewhere in a fairway with a wedge in his hands.

King will figure it out. She’ll do it because she’s smart, because she knows the game and the University and, more than anything, because Princeton volleyball means more to her than it does to anybody else.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jaclyn's Friend

Jaclyn's friend was tough - "the toughest kid I ever met," Kareem Maddox called him.

How tough?

He sat there and watched as people - young people - whose age he'd never come close to did the kinds of things that young people with indestructible bodies do, knowing full well that his body had long ago failed him.

And he smiled the whole time. Always. Anytime TigerBlog saw him, an 11-year-old boy whom TB never once spoke to, he was smiling. No matter how bad it was, no matter how dire his circumstances, he kept on smiling.

Why did his body fail him? No one will ever know.

Why him and not someone else? Again, there are no answers to such questions.

Michael Christian Regulski - called "Christian" by most and "Crunch" by the Princeton men's basketball program - passed away five days ago after a battle with what TB believes was brain cancer. He was 11 years old.

Princeton basketball fans may remember him as the boy who sat in the middle of the Tiger bench for a few home games this year and last.

Every now and then, TigerBlog would see him sitting there, always smiling and laughing, always interacting with the players on either side of him, regardless of the game situation.

"Crunch" and the Tigers first came together last spring, through a program called "Friends of Jaclyn."

The program, according to its website, has this as its goal:
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families formed in 2005. FOJ matches a child in need of love, support and friendship with a college or high school sports team based on geographic basis. Through a due diligence process, the foundation screens for the best match based on the child and family's needs and the team, coach and athletic director's commitment to our foundation's goals.

The "Jaclyn" in "Friends of Jaclyn" is a high school student named Jaclyn Murphy, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor seven years ago, at the age of nine. Jaclyn's family started the foundation with an eye on matching children who were in a similar situation with athletic teams that could provide inspiration and support.

In the case of Crunch and Princeton, the official adoption ceremony was held last April.

Crunch was from nearby Robbinsville. According to his obituary, his five favorite things were playing and watching lacrosse, building with legos, his beloved Princeton basketball team, going to school and his big brother Alec.

The random unfairness of what happened to Crunch is incalculable and unmerciful.

Still, it has to be of some comfort to his family that he found in his final months such a great support network with the Princeton basketball team through the Friends of Jaclyn.

TigerBlog could tell by looking at him all of those times that when he was in Jadwin Gym, he was able to put it all behind him, at least for a little while. When he was here, he was so clearly thrilled.

The last part of his obituary mentions that memorial contributions can be made to the Robbinsville Lacrosse Association, a youth lacrosse group that TigerBlog has coached against several times.

There are dozens of similar leagues, and TB has seen hundreds of youth lacrosse players, shaken hands with them going through postgame rituals.

It's a whole series of "good game, good game, good game," with closed fist bumping against gloves, and then it's back to TB's sideline.

Never once in any of those times has TB thought that any of these kids were nearing the end of their life, rather than just exploring the beginning.

In the case of Crunch, he was an exception to that rule, a cruel exception.

The life of this tough little boy was short, and there's no way to comprehend what his parents and the rest of his family and friends are going through at this point.

TigerBlog hopes that the efforts of the Princeton basketball team took at least a little of the hurt away for them.

TB never met the little boy, but his smile on the Princeton bench will be sorely missed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Is Jeopardy

When the Final Jeopardy category was announced as "Movies of the 1930s," TigerBlog immediately thought the correct answer had to be one of three:
* "Gone With the Wind"
* "The Wizard of Oz"
* "It Happened One Night"

Then the clue asked in which 1930s movie had a category who gets the Pythagorean Theorem wrong. TigerBlog didn't immediately remember the scene that the clue was referencing, and had he been one of the three contestants, he would've spent the 30 seconds or so figuring which of his three original thoughts it had to be.

The correct answer, of course, was "The Wizard of Oz," from the scene where the Wizard gives the Scarecrow his brains, which leads to this from the Scarecrow:
"The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side."

In reality, he's wrong about a bunch of things. First, it's not an isosceles triangle; it s a right triangle. An isosceles triangle is one with two equal sides, but it doesn't necessary have to have a right angle. In a right triangle, the sum of the square of the other two sides is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, which is the side opposite the right angle.

As an aside, TB was always a big geometry fan, back in Mrs. Mancuso's class sophomore year of high school. There was something about the logic that appealed to TB.

Meanwhile, back at Jeopardy the other night, the doctor who delivered her own baby at her house (at least that's what she told Alex during the part where they all talk about themselves after the first commercial break) ended up getting "The Wizard of Oz" and knocking off the four-time champion.

TigerBlog, for his part, couldn't understand why Alex didn't follow up with the woman to ask her why she delivered her own baby. Was it because the baby showed up unannounced, early and quickly, or did she do it by her own choosing?'

As for the four-time champion, he was a big, soft-spoken computer programmer from Tennessee who knew a lot about a lot.

Jeopardy is by far TB's all-time favorite game show, far outdistancing "The Price is Right." It's a great show, one that requires a combination of well-rounded intelligence and a sense of how the strategy of the game works.

TB is still shocked by the woman from two weeks ago who didn't have to bet anything at Final Jeopardy to win and instead bet it all, got the question wrong and left $16,000 on the table. It brought back memories of Cliff Clavin.

TB likes to DVR the show, because he can watch an entire episode in about 15 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials and small talk. Unfortunately, he'd already gone through two shows and deleted them before Princeton head football coach Bob Surace came in the other day and said that his former teammate was a four-time champion on Jeopardy who had won $72,000.

When Surace said that, TB immediately knew whom he was talking about. Surace also ruined it somewhat for TB, since he'd only seen him win two episodes.

The teammate was Paul Wampler, who actually won $72,002 in his run through four wins. Wampler was stopped short by the LDWDHOB (Lady Doctor Who Delivered Her Own Baby). His winning total ranks him in the Top 100 of all time.

Because TB deleted the first two shows after watching them, he's not sure if Wampler made any references to his Princeton football career during his small-talk-with-Alex time.

Wampler graduated in 1992, one year after Surace, though they both started here in the same year. Both were offensive linemen; both came to Princeton from New Jersey high schools, Surace from Millville in South Jersey and Wampler from Westfield in North Jersey.

While at Westfield, Wampler was an all-state football player, as well as a member of two state championship lacrosse teams. His bio in the 1991 football guide also refers to his two sisters; at some point during one his talks with Alex, Wampler mentioned that they are both lawyers who also married lawyers.

Wampler suffered a major knee injury that cost him a year, but he did play a great deal his senior year.

TB was still at the newspaper during Wampler's playing days, and in fact, TB is pretty sure that his first-ever Trenton Times feature story was about Surace when he the Tiger center.

TB didn't remember Wampler by name or by face when he saw him on Jeopardy, but he was definitely impressed by his four wins.

Wampler spent much of that time destroying the field. He had to come from behind once in the four shows, as TB remembers, and he couldn't have been too upset when he finally fell short.

This Princeton football alum won $72,002 on Jeopardy.

Who is Paul Wampler.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Remembering Lorin

TigerBlog always keeps his door open out onto the Jadwin mezzanine.

While part of the reason is that it gets ridiculously hot in his office if the door is closed, the real reasons are that TB likes to interact with the people who walk by and wants anyone who walks by to know that they are welcome to come in.

Almost nobody actually does come in, of course. Most don't even slow down as they walk past, head down, on their way to their next task. Some slow up to wave or say hi. A few will stop and have a conversation, even when there's nothing really to say.

Lorin Maurer, who worked at Princeton with the athletic friends' groups, was usually in that last group, unless she was in a hurry, in which case she was in the second group. She was never in the first group.

Even now, as TigerBlog looks out to the blue sky, the brown facade of Princeton Stadium and Weaver Track and the white snow that covers anything green, he still half expects to hear her come down the hall, stop, wave, smile, say something and then be on her way to her next meeting, her next social event, her next workout.

Of course, she won't be by today. Just like she hasn't been in almost two years.

Lorin Maurer died two years ago tomorrow, died at the age of 30 in a horrific plane crash outside of Buffalo, where she was headed for her boyfriend's brother's wedding.

TigerBlog will never, ever forget waking up to an email that Lorin had been killed. His first reaction was that there was no way that it was possible, that Lorin had just been in the department meeting the day before, that Lorin was so full of life.

Sadly, it did turn out to be true. It was a shocking, numbing day here in Jadwin, one that seemed to move in slow motion and last forever, one that featured a parade of media people who wanted to learn about her in a way that was part noble and part ghoulish.

Lorin died along with 48 others on the plane and one more on the ground. Since then, much has been learned and written about regarding the crash, the role the pilots played in it (and they paid the heavy price themselves), the culpability of airline policies and other issues.

The family and friends of the victims have done a great job in bringing these issues to light and in trying to effect change so it will not happen again.

But that's not what TigerBlog wants to talk about.

Today, he just wants people to remember the young woman who worked here, the one with so much life and energy, the one who had it taken away from her so needlessly and tragically.

When TigerBlog thinks back to Lorin, he thinks first of her smile and her laugh. He also thinks back to the time that building services didn't show up for one of her friends' events and how she set up the lobby of Jadwin for the luncheon by herself. Why? Because it needed to be done.

TigerBlog and Lorin were friendly, but there were many here who knew her better than TB did. Earlier this week, TB asked some of those people to give their thoughts on what they remember.

This is what they had to say about her:

"Two years, wow, not sure if that seems like a long time or if it went quick. Anyhow, I just remember her pure love for life and everything she did, her constant smile, and contagious happiness. Lorin was pleasure to be around." - Jon Kurian, business office.

"I’ll never forget her smile. There are days where I’ll see someone that reminds me of her and I catch myself before calling out to her…remembering that it can’t be. I know people come into our lives for a reason and hers was to make us smile. She will not be forgotten. Ever." - Kim Meszaros, director's office.

"Within the first week of my employment at Princeton, Lorin had made the time to introduce herself and invite me to a happy hour that her roommate was hosting. Lorin's simple act of inviting me showed me just the kind of person she was - engaging, unassuming and exuberant every second of every day. She was a wonderful individual and a caring and devoted friend. I miss her every day." - Kelly Widener, compliance.

"Lorin is missed every day. I have a picture of her in my office, and also at home…though it may seem strange I sometimes find myself talking to her…because she was always such a source of strength. I feel that Lorin was a hard-worker, was full of enthusiasm, had an infectious laugh and energy and devotion to all she did that she set a high standard.
"Lorin was a good friend and strong person. I was lucky to share an office with her when I first came. Though she can be intimidating because she excelled at things she was involved in, she is a caring person and once you ‘prove’ yourself to her, you were ‘in’. She was a great person to first meet not knowing anyone or having family around, because she was a connector and took great joy in networking and having people meet each other. On holidays, she would have me over with her family, since mine lives far away.
"Lorin was a genuine person who would ‘tell it like it is’. In this world, it is hard to find people who will be blunt and forthcoming and I respected that greatly.
"Lorin had a love of life and seemed to make the most out of every moment. She was able to keep things in perspective and worked and played hard! She loved to dance, go out to eat, have a glad of wine, workout, work at events, see her family, be with friends and of course Kevin.
"Lorin taught me that even if people aren’t in your life for a long period of time…the impact they have can last forever.
"I feel sad wondering about what Lorin would have done or who all has missed out on her being here because she had an impact everywhere she went and on everyone she met.
"Lorin was integral in my daily life at Princeton. We were co-workers, friends, shared an office, and spent time together on weekends and trips.
"Lorin will never be forgotten because as everyone who encountered her or knew her knows she is unforgettable.
"I hope Lorin knows how much we all love and miss her." - Marie Muhvic, athletic friends

Lastly, there is Kellie Staples, from the Princeton Varsity Club. She was probably closest to Lorin of anyone who works here.

Kellie sent along her original eulogy of Lorin, along with these words:
After thinking about it for some time this afternoon, I decided that the most meaningful way for me to contribute was to pass along the thoughts that I shared as part of Lorin’s service in February of 2009. The sentiments still ring very true for me as I often think about the ways in which I was blessed to know her and about the many gifts she gave me.
Perhaps sharing this again will encourage others to take some time to reflect about the ways in which Lorin enhanced their lives. If it is something that helps keep her memory alive, then it is worth it for me.

And here is the text:

My relationship with Lorin began as co-workers who were friendly and got along well. We worked together on many projects, and because of that, spent a good amount of time together. As time progressed, a fundamental shift occurred in our relationship. We became good friends and confidants that happened to be co-workers. I can’t remember the exact day when the shift happened, but we both felt it. For years, I had come to rely on that friendship.

Once I realized that my friend had been taken away from me, in an effort to make some sense of the tremendous loss that I was feeling, I called my parents – a constant source of strength in my life. After some very patient listening on their part, I finally paused…awaiting my father’s response. What he said was not something I expected to hear, but it brought me great comfort.

He told me – “you were one of the lucky ones. You really got to know Lorin and got to be her friend. You need to think about what a gift that is.”

If you knew Lorin, you knew that she loved to give gifts. She would stockpile up all sorts of presents so that she was ready for any occasion. Without knowing it, my father had said something that struck me on so many levels.

So, whenever I am feeling anger or loss, I listen to those words again and I start to think about all of the ways that I was lucky and all of the ways that Lorin blessed me with our friendship and the many gifts that she gave me. I want to share with you some of those gifts…

Lorin gave me her compassion. When I first moved to Princeton, the person that I loved still lived in Boston and I was constantly traveling back and forth. Lorin repeatedly extended invitations to me to go out with her and her friends. Even though I did not initially take advantage of those offers, eventually, I began to meet some of the wonderful people who were part of Lorin’s life. Those people are now my friends. When I stop to think about it, Lorin gave me a Princeton family.

Lorin gave me the gift of her laughter. People often speak of Lorin’s bright and beautiful smile. It is so easy for me to picture because of the light that it brought. But, her laughter was her smile amplified. You could not contain your own laughter when she thought something was really funny…Often, one of her one jokes, but nonetheless, the sound just radiated and before you knew it, you were joining that chorus of laughter.

Lorin gave me the gift of patience. Some of you may be wondering what I am referencing, as patience might not be the first word you think of when talking about Lorin. When she wanted to get something done, she got it done and was not interested in waiting around… But, if you know me at all, you know that I simply can not cook. Lorin NEVER gave up hope on me that she could help me learn to cook. She would constantly tell me that it was simple, that I could do it. She would have me over and include me in the process or have me watch as she prepared us dinner and I poured a few glasses of wine… Deep down I was thinking, there is no way that I am going to do this on my own – but she never quit on me.

Lorin gave me her trust. To have a friend and colleague who you trust implicitly is a tremendous gift. To know that she trusted me with so many different parts of her life fills my heart. I knew that no matter what I was going through, or what she was going through, that we could talk about it. We would listen to each other and we would do whatever we could to help and to be there for the other person and that took so many different forms. In some instances it meant a really honest answer to a tough question. In other instances, it simply meant giving the other person a hug. There was nothing off limits between us and often our conversations centered on the most important aspects of our lives… love, family, career aspirations… Essentially, what we wanted in our lives in order to feel fulfilled. She wanted more than anything to be in love – something that was fulfilled when Kevin entered her life. She cared so deeply about her family and wanted them to know what they meant to her – something I hope that they can hold onto forever. And she wanted to be successful in her chosen profession. For those of us who worked closely with her, we know that she achieved that excellence.

Lorin inspired me in the way she lived her life. She did not wait around for things to happen to her – she made things happen. If she wanted something – she went for it, whether it be planning a trip to Europe or deciding last minute to go support her Florida Gators in yet another quest for a national championship. What a great inspiration for those around her and such an example of how to live each day to the fullest. I consider it such a gift that I was able to be inspired by her for the last three and a half years.

The other day, as I was going through some of Lorin’s belongings in her office, I came across a very small orange notepad. Not sure if it was work-related, I flipped a few pages to get a sense of what I had found.

Inside, I found a series of lists that were drafted in April of 2008. For those who knew Lorin, I am sure you are not surprised – her list-making ability is legendary. But these were not work-related lists, or tasks that needed to be accomplished. They were much simpler…

The header was a name and the contents below described the person noted above. As I flipped the pages, I saw that there were lists about those people who were so important in her life, her best friend Monica, her boyfriend Kevin, her good friend Kathleen…and then I flipped one more page and saw my name. The tears came rushing and I had not even read a word.

When I was able to gather myself to read the wonderful things that Lorin had written about me, all I could think was - what a gift. What a tremendous gift for me to find. I have to believe that Lorin purposely left it there for us to have. Though I have no idea why she wrote these lists, or what their purpose was at the time she drafted them, the fact that I was able to have even a brief glimpse into how I was able to give her something important in her life means the world to me.

I hope that every person who was blessed enough to get to know Lorin – on any level - thinks about the gifts that she gave them. Whether it was simply the gift of her smile, a thoughtful treat she brought in the office for everyone to share (as she often did), or the gift of her friendship… She lived her life thinking about what she could do for others and I was such a lucky beneficiary of that generosity. Please remember Lorin for all of her tremendous gifts and think about how you can do what she did for so many others.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Defending Champs

It was back in eighth grade, TigerBlog believes, that he had to memorize maps of the different continents for social studies. It might have been seventh, though TB is positive it was in middle school and pretty sure it was in eighth.

The map of Europe, for some reason, was always a bit problematic for TB, maybe because there were so many small countries as opposed to, say, Asia or South America. This was especially true of Central and Eastern Europe, and TB has strong memories of taking forever to figure out which country was which.

The funny part in looking back on it is that at the time, TB probably figured that the European borders were set in stone and couldn't possibly ever change. And now, the part of the map that TB struggled to learn hardly exists anymore.

The Soviet Union has split into 15 different countries. What was then Yugoslavia is now seven independent countries - TB will give extra credit if you can name five of the seven.

Czechoslovakia is gone as well. At least it's a less confusing outcome, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

One country that has enjoyed relative stability - except for an unfortunate alliance with Austria that sort of dragged the whole world into war back in 1914 - is Hungary.

In fact, Hungary is also one of the oldest countries on Earth, dating back to the year 895, and it has a culture and history that is to be expected of a nation that old.

Its role in the collapse of communism in Europe and in bringing down the Iron Curtain is very significant, particularly with its 1956 revolution against the Soviets and the decision to open its border with Austria in 1989.

It is bordered by seven countries, though that number was five when TB was learning the map.

Oh, and what was then Yugoslavia is now these countries: Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovena, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. And back when TB was learning the map, he also had to learn that capitals, so the whole process is now that much more difficult.

If TigerBlog is correct, then all but three of Princeton's head coaches are Americans, many of whom, by the way, were All-Americas.

Of the remaining three, two are Canadians - men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and men's tennis coach Glenn Michibata.

The third is men's and women's fencing coach Zoltan Dudas, who is Hungarian.

Dudas is in his fifth season as the head coach of the two Princeton teams, and this coming weekend is a huge one for Dudas and his programs.

Princeton will be defending both the men's and women's championships at the Ivy League fencing matches, which will be held at Jadwin Gym Saturday and Sunday. The Ivy League fencing titles are decided by this format, with each team fencing each other over a two-day span at one site, which rotates among the seven fencing schools (no Dartmouth). This year happens to be Princeton's turn.

Of all of the sports at Princeton, fencing is probably the one that TigerBlog understands the least. About all he knows is that points are awarded for touches, there are three weapons and the team scores add up to 27 for a match, meaning that a team needs to win 14 bouts to get the win.

TB sat in the event meeting this week and heard about how the fencing strips would be brought from the fencing room on C level up to the main floor for the event and how each strip weighs 1,000 pounds.

Another thing that TB knows about fencing is that Ivy League teams are very good at it.

On the women's side, Harvard is ranked third nationally, followed by Princeton at fourth, Columbia sixth and Penn eighth.

The men also have four of the top eight teams. Harvard is ranked second nationally, while Princeton, Penn and Columbia go 6-7-8.

Still, Princeton is at home, and the Tigers went unbeaten on both sides a year ago. And with such a strong field, it's possible that no team will go through undefeated.

Jadwin Gym will be hosting all kinds of events this weekend, including squash, tennis and of course two big women's basketball games.

Fencing, as it often does, may drift into the background, a little off the radar for most people.

Still, it'll be worth checking out.

Two Ivy League champions will be crowned here at Jadwin this weekend. It could be Princeton on both sides - but it certainly won't be easy on either.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Rivalry Reborn

TigerBlog's intro to sports media came at WXPN during his undergrad days at Penn.

The sports staff those days included Scott Graham, whose original claim to fame was that he could do a great imitation of the Phillies' Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas. Graham would make a name in broadcasting in his own right, as he went on to be the voice of the Phils himself for awhile and now can be heard almost everywhere, including on NFL Films, Westwood One's NFL studio show and college basketball games on all kinds of networks.

Graham was teamed with Rob Kennedy last night on Comcast's telecast of the Princeton-Penn men's basketball game. For those who missed it, Penn rallied from 13 back to force overtime on Tyler Bernardini's clutch three-pointer with three seconds left in regulation, only to fall to the Tigers 62-59 on a game that ended with some bizarre twists.

As an aside, Graham and Kennedy are an exceptional team. They are understated, without any screaming or shtick, and they do a great job presenting the games they do.

After the game last night, Graham sat in the Jadwin bleachers and talked about old times with TB, while Kennedy listened. Eventually, Graham said that he wouldn't mind going back to those times, if only for a few days.

Kennedy laughed and said maybe for a few weeks. Then Graham admitted reality, that he couldn't go back.

The Princeton-Penn rivalry? That's another story.

For decades, the two (and sometimes three) Princeton-Penn games decided the Ivy League men's basketball championship and NCAA tournament bid. Period.
From 1963-2007, either Princeton or Penn represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament every year except for three: Columbia in 1968 (after defeating Princeton in a playoff game), Brown in 1986 and Cornell in 1988.

Then, in each of the last three years, the title belonged to Cornell. Even more amazingly, in the three years that Cornell won, either Princeton or Penn finished sixth or lower each time.

That's part of what made last night's game even more special than just a dramatic win for Princeton. Graham, before talking about going back to his college days, mentioned that the game was "anything but boring," and he was certainly right about that.

The game certainly didn't lack for drama or controversy.

Princeton led the whole way, building a double figure lead in the first half, leading by as many as 13 with a little more than six minutes to play. Then Penn mounted a comeback, finally tying it when Bernardini swished his long three after a great out-of-bounds play freed him up without ever giving Princeton a chance to foul, if it had wanted to do so.

Penn led for the first time when it scored the first three points of the overtime, but Princeton didn't go away.

Ian Hummer got a lucky bounce to score to make it 59-58 with 45 seconds to go, giving Princeton its first points of the OT. With a 10-second difference between the shot clock and game clock, Penn had a key possession, but when Jack Eggleston attempted to call a timeout to maintain possession, Penn was hit with a technical foul because they had none left.

To TB, it was ironic, because of the way timeouts just kill the end of close basketball games. Last night, for instance, there were five called team timeouts in the final 2:16 of regulation alone, and then another called by Penn with 38 seconds left in OT before the phantom one with 16 seconds left.

No wonder a player lost track of how many timeouts his team had left. To a player, it must seem like there's a never-ending supply.

Princeton made enough foul shots, and Penn made enough mistakes (the non-timeout, the turnover on the subsequent inbounds, the missed layup) to give Princeton the win, 62-59.

The result is that Princeton is now 5-0 in the league, staring at seven of its final nine on the road. Harvard is 5-1; Yale and Penn have two losses each.

Of course, winning this championship will not be easy for Princeton, not with a season that ends with games at Harvard on Saturday, March 5, and at Penn Tuesday, March 8.

Regardless, though, it was clear that Princeton and Penn have both made it back to the upper echelon of Ivy basketball.

Back in 1988, after Brown and Cornell had both won league titles, it seemed like the Princeton-Penn domination of Ivy basketball might have ended.

Then what happened? Princeton won in 1989 and then nearly knocked off Georgetown. Two years later, the Tigers were in the national Top 25. Penn then put together a 42-0 league mark from 1993-95. Princeton then beat UCLA and got to the national Top 10 two years later. Penn then had some more dominant teams, while Princeton won two more titles. Back and forth they went, until Cornell took over.

It's possible that looking back in 20 years, the Ivy League titles in men's basketball will be spread out among four or five teams.

Or, just maybe, Princeton and Penn are where they were back in 1989, when both teams reloaded to dominate for nearly 20 more years.

Surely they both have the right coach in charge, with the great sidebar of the lifetime rivalry that Sydney Johnson and Jerome Allen are taking to another level.

If it all plays out that way, then last night's game will be remembered for a lot more than just a timeout that didn't exist.

It'll be remembered as the night the Princeton-Penn rivalry was truly reborn.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Ivy League's Greatest Rivalry

TigerBlog used to cover Rutgers football every now and then, back before Rutgers Stadium was built up to what it is now. The games then used to draw probably right around 20,000 fans either way, and that's about as close as TB has come to being at really big-time college football.

He's never seen a Big 10 game or an SEC game or anything like that. He's been to a bunch of BCS campuses and seen their football stadiums and wondered what it must be like on a game day.

TB has been to a ton of Ivy League football games, all of which have involved Princeton, Penn or both. He's never been to an Ivy game that didn't involve one of those two teams, which means he's never been to a Harvard-Yale game.

Given the choice between an average BCS game - say, Michigan State at Wisconsin or Oklahoma State at Nebraska - or a Harvard-Yale game, TB would take the BCS game, just for the experience.

At the same time, that's not a knock on Harvard-Yale. TB wouldn't mind going to one of the Harvard-Yale games once just to see what it's like and get a better feel for one of the only two rivalries across all sports that can make the claim of being the greatest in the history of Ivy League sports.

It's either Harvard-Yale football or Princeton-Penn men's basketball (which, by the way, will be played for the 223rd time this evening at 7 at Jadwin Gym). There is no possible way to debate this.

TigerBlog is not talking about 2011, by the way. He's talking about all-time, back to Day 1 of Ivy sports.

So yes, there are other rivalries now that in the last few years have been more significant than those two. If you had to ask TigerBlog about the last two or three years only, he'd say Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse in a heartbeat.

But historically, it's not even close. The third-place rivalry, whatever it is, is far in the rear-view mirror that it would take decades of unforeseen circumstances to catch up.

When TigerBlog thinks of Harvard-Yale football, he thinks of large crowds of alums who are there for the tradition as much as the game. He imagines that it's as much a party as it is an athletic event.

Again, as he has never been to one, TB could certainly be wrong about this.

When TigerBlog thinks of Princeton-Penn men's basketball, the first word that comes to mind is "intensity." There is just a different feel in the building when it's Princeton-Penn.

Through the years, the teams have played epic games - and blowouts - in front of rabid crowds that have hurled some downright cruel insults back and forth at each other and the players.

The last three Ivy League men's basketball titles belonged to Cornell; of the 37 before that, 34 belonged to Princeton or Penn.

One thing that does push Princeton-Penn men's basketball, in TB's opinion, beyond Harvard-Yale is that the teams were often playing for an NCAA tournament berth, as well as as the Ivy League title. In fact, Princeton and Penn have met three times in playoff games solely to determine the NCAA tournament bid, after they had shared the league title.

Back when current Tiger head coach Sydney Johnson was a player, he played a huge role in Princeton's win over Penn in the 1996 Ivy playoff game and then in Princeton's 43-41 win over UCLA in the NCAA tournament. TB has heard Johnson and several of the other players on that team say many times that the playoff game meant as much or more to them than the NCAA win.

Princeton and Penn have played at least twice a year every year since they first met on Valentines' Day 1903.

The single greatest sporting event TB has ever seen was a Princeton-Penn men's basketball game, the one at the Palestra in 1999 when the Tigers fell behind 29-3, 33-9 at the half and then 40-13 at the first media timeout of the second half before coming back to win 50-49.

Tonight's game is big on a number of levels.

First, there is a side note, where Douglas Davis needs six points to reach 1,000 for his career. Should he do so, he'd be the first Princeton junior to get to 1,000 since Kit Mueller did so in 1990.

Then there's the real significance, the impact on the 2011 league race. Princeton is 4-0 in the league, while Penn is 3-1. Harvard is 5-1 after losing at Princeton Friday and beating Penn by one in double overtime Saturday.

Should Penn win tonight, then there'd be three teams with one loss each. Should Penn lose, then the Quakers would have two losses and would have an arduous task looking up at Princeton and Harvard. The Crimson, even with the loss, know that they host Princeton and Penn to end the regular season, so as long as they can stay within one (or get even), then they have to feel good about their chances.

As for Princeton, the Tigers had the weird position of playing their first five league games at home and then seven of the final nine on the road. The season ends with games at Harvard on a Saturday and Penn on a Tuesday.

But for TB, the big-picture meaning of tonight's game is that for the first time since 2004, Princeton and Penn are back playing a game when both have a reasonable, realistic chance to win the Ivy League championship.

Both teams fell on hard times and then turned to young coaches from their great teams of the 1990s, Johnson at Princeton and Jerome Allen at Penn.

Neither team is all the way back, and they won't be until they get back to the NCAA tournament.

Still, given where they were a few years ago, it's great to see them playing a game like so many other games from so many decades, games with league championship implications, games with intensity, games that have made this the Ivy League's greatest rivalry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

One Right, One Wrong

There was something missing from the Super Bowl yesterday, and it was evident from the opening kickoff.

It just didn't feel like a Super Bowl should feel. TigerBlog's theory is that the game has been morphing for awhile into something akin to New Year's Eve and that once the moment rolls around, it's anti-climactic.

Or maybe it's because this game featured two really good teams, rather than two great teams. Or, even better, a great team against a really hot team, like when the Giants beat the Patriots a few years ago.

Or maybe there's just too much around the game - like the commercials and the halftime show - that the game itself gets overshadowed.

As an aside, TB thinks that the commercials are trying way too hard to be clever, and the result is that fewer and fewer of them are achieving the goal.

Anyway, the game yesterday was nothing special. TB spent more time thinking about the "America's Game" series version of the game than the game itself, wondering who would be on it, wondering how they'd make the game seem way better than it was.

There were many years where the Super Bowl was a blowout, but lately that's changed. In fact, close games to the end are the norm now.

But even with that, as Pittsburgh came out onto the field for the final drive with a chance to win the game, TB was, well, asleep. He woke up in time to see the Steelers fizzle, and that was that. Rather than watching any of the celebration, TB instead changed the channel just in time to hear young Henry say: "If Paulie moved slow, it's because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody."

In fact, the best part of this Super Bowl was TigerBlog's prediction from Friday, the one that read: Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 21.

TB had the right team and the right score for the winning team, and he came reasonably close to the score for the losing team. It was certainly better than last year's prediction of Colts 34, Saints 24.

It was certainly better than his prediction at the first media timeout of Friday night's Princeton-Harvard men's basketball game. At that point, Princeton trailed 12-4, and TB turned to the person next to him and said "this might not be Princeton's night."

Usually, TB isn't impressed by what happens in the first few minutes of a basketball game. The team that comes out on fire can't possibly sustain that, and in many ways, getting off to a great start can doom a team, because once the air goes out of the balloon, everything is out of whack.

A team that comes out and shoots 10 for 11 to star the game and builds a 30-12 lead after 10 minutes isn't going to score 120 points and win by 72, and when the shots start to not fall, the team with the lead often loses its confidence and instead goes into "hold on" mode.

That's not what happened in the first few minutes Friday night. Harvard came out with great intensity and just looked like it was an express train zooming through a station.

Princeton, though, spent the rest of the first half slowing the train down and scratching its way back into the game. It was 30-29 at the half after Douglas Davis was fouled shooting a desperation three just before the final buzzer and made all three shots, and then Princeton turned into the Acela to start the second half.

It took the Tigers 4:43 into the second half to from down one to up 11. At that point, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker called timeout, and Jadwin Gym erupted as loudly as it has in years and years.

Harvard managed to make a game of it, using some clutch three-point shooting in the final minute to twice make it a one-possession game, but Princeton got clutch foul shooting from Dan Mavraides and Ian Hummer to win 65-61.

The Ivy League title was hardly won by the Tigers here this weekend, not with 10 league games remaining, including all seven road games. In fact, it is somewhat amazing to think that two Division I teams (Princeton and Penn) still haven't played a league road game yet.

And, if you're a Princeton fan, you have no way of knowing if Harvard's double OT win over Penn Saturday night helps or hurts in the long run, because you don't know how either of those teams will do the rest of the way.

What you can say is that the league race appears to be between those three teams and possibly Yale, if only because the Bulldogs at 4-2 in the league have the other three at home (and Harvard at Harvard this Friday).

Of course, Princeton has a huge game tomorrow night, when Penn comes to Jadwin for the 223rd meeting in the series. A Tiger win keeps Princeton as the lone unbeaten team in the league and gives Penn a second loss; a Quaker win means three teams with one loss each and gives Princeton a loss to a team Harvard has beaten.

Still, Friday night was a great night at Jadwin, with a large, loud crowd in attendance and a big win by the home team.

It came on a night when the Tigers looked like they were about to be run out of the building, but instead it turned into a big win.

Championships - like games - aren't usually won by making an abnormally high number of shots.

They're won with toughness, the kind Princeton showed Friday night.