Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts From Lot F

Prior to the start of yesterday's Division I men's lacrosse championship game between Virginia and Maryland, TigerBlog wandered over from the official stats booth to the main press box at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

There, TB, Christian Swezey of the Washington Post and Eddie Timanus of USA Today made their predictions on the game.

TigerBlog called it Virginia 10-7. Timanus said 9-7 UVa. Swezey said 9-6 UVa. Actually, TB can't remember which one said it'd be 9-7 and which said 9-6.

Ultimately, the final score would in fact be Virginia 9, Maryland 7, meaning one of the other two was right and TB was pretty close.

As for the tournament itself, TB picked Virginia - the seventh seed - to win the championship when he first saw the draw.

It's easy to gloat when your picks come true, because nobody ever remembers the ones that don't. And, to be honest, TB has made predictions that have missed the mark way more often than the ones he's made that have worked out.

So why was he right this time?

TigerBlog wasn't looking at the seeds or records or early-season results. He was just looking at the level of talent, and he was pretty sure that Virginia had more of it than anyone else. It was that simple - and in the end, that's how it played out.

And, TB thought, the Cavs had something to prove once the Bratton twins were dismissed from the team, which gave them a little more fire than the other teams. A ridiculously deep and talented Virginia team with something to prove was too much for the rest of Division I.

When UVa needed a goal, it had more choices, more depth, than anyone else. It didn't need its top players to be playing well, or even playing, for that matter - the Most Outstanding Player, Colin Briggs, was suspended for the semifinal game for the nebulous "violation of team rules" and then scored five times in the final on a day when Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklett, who had 76 goals and 43 assists between them on the year, combined for a single assist.

In truth, not having Briggs could have meant the end of UVa's season had Bill Tierney and his Denver Pioneers been able to knock off the Cavs in the semifinal, but again, Virginia just had too many great players. This led to another truth - not having Briggs play in the semifinal made him the freshest player on the field for the final on a weekend when temps on the turf surpassed 100 degrees.

So, armed with a correct prediction on the tournament champ and with nearly getting the score of the final spot on, what else can TigerBlog say about lacrosse?

The 2011 championship weekend marked the 17th time in the last 20 years that TB has been in the press box for the event. Of those 17 trips, TB has seen Princeton go 10 times, advance to the final eight times and win six times. For the other seven, TB has been the official scorer for the two Division I semifinals, the Division II and III championship games and the Division I final.

Since his first trip in 1992, TigerBlog has seen the event grow from something that drew a niche crowd to a college stadium for a game that was televised three weeks later condensed into a 60-minute block to one that was a bit disappointing because "only" 35,661 showed up in the baking heat yesterday.

It has become a made-for-TV weekend, with start times altered to fit ESPN's schedule. It casts a much wider net for fans, and it is a mega-production at an NFL stadium.

The sport is being tugged in two different directions.

On the one hand, there is the old guard of people TB has seen at almost all of the 17 Final Fours he's been to, the ones who represent traditional lacrosse powers or media outlets.

Then there is the new generation of lacrosse fans, who picked the game up on the internet and from television and who never saw a Final Four that wasn't in an NFL stadium. This group is the "growing the game" group, and they're the ones who are responsible for the explosion in youth and high school participation, in Final Four attendance, in television exposure, in everything that has brought the game away from its tradition base.

Of course, be careful what you wish for, right?

The biggest story of this year in men's lacrosse ultimately won't be UVa's championship. Nope, 2011 will be remembered as the year that Marquette and especially Michigan added Division I programs.

Does the fact that a BCS school added men's lacrosse signal a trend? Will the 2021 championship game match Michigan and Texas, after they defeated UCLA and Florida State in the semifinals?

Or will the traditional powers always be the cornerstone of the game?

TigerBlog did see two things this weekend in Baltimore that made him realize just how much different the game is from his first semifinal experience, back in Franklin Field in 1992, one of which brought a few tears to his eyes.

In the previous years that the championship was in Baltimore, TB got to park in Lot D, which is right next to the media entrance. This time, he was sent to Lot F, on the other side of the light rail, about a seven minute walk from the media entrance, which, instead of being a bad thing, was actually good, because it gave TB a greater chance to see the dynamic of the crowd pre-game and post-game.

On Saturday, as TB walked around the outside of the stadium, he saw a group of six kids with lacrosse sticks playing catch and keepaway and checking each others sticks as they got close to each other. It's a sight TB has seen a million times before - except all six of these kids were black.

As much as the game has grown, the highest levels of the game still has very few black players. Earlier this year, TigerBlog wrote a feature about Randy Evans, a Princeton alum in Jacksonville who has developed a program to bring lacrosse to the inner-city. The sight of six young black Baltimore kids middle school age or so throwing the ball around outside M&T Bank Stadium prior to the Final Four is a great sign for lacrosse.

And then there was the big kid who was touring the press box with his family and tour guide Quint Kessenich, the ESPN commentator.

TB recognized the kid as soon as he saw him and his face, scarred with the after-effects of a horrible brush with a fire in his house that left him burned over 85 percent of his body, all of this while his father was serving in Iraq.

The boy's name is Connor McKemey, and TB first heard of his situation through Tierney when he was still the Princeton coach. Tierney had built a relationship with the family after he heard about what had happened and had heard that he was a youth lacrosse player - in South Carolina, by the way, another sign of where the game has spread.

Since first hearing about McKemey, TigerBlog has read about him in various magazines, how he fought through surgery after surgery, how his spirit never wavered, how supportive his family and friends have been, how he's returned to play lacrosse in high school because he loves the game, loves to play - and because it's a game that can be played in South Carolina these days.

And now, standing in front of him in the press box, TB wasn't quite sure exactly what to say to the kid, this 6-3 or so kid with scars all over, with a huge smile across his face to be in the press box at the Final Four, with a family who kept thanking everyone for all they'd done.

"You're a pretty inspirational person," was about all that TB could mutter.

It was the highlight of the 2011 championships.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Night Of Hugs

Everywhere TigerBlog looked last night at the Princeton Varsity Club senior athlete banquet, he saw hugs.

Athletes hugging athletes. Parents hugging their kids' friends and - egads - former teammates. Alums hugging classmates.

TB saw 80-year-old John McPhee hug a woman he affectionately calls "Dad." He saw Vern Bugg hug everyone.

It didn't matter how sticky the night was or how much everyone was sweating. It was a night for hugs.

TigerBlog has his strengths; doing the whole nostalgia thing isn't one of them. Still, there is obviously something special about Reunions at Princeton, and the PVC banquet, which takes place annually on the first night of Reunions, has elements of that all around it.

Basically, the night weaves together the story of the last four years of the athletic senior class, while offering to the soon-to-be-graduates a perspective from people who were in their shoes in the past.

If the banquet is a success, then the athletes leave the tent at the grad college with a strong feeling that they helped Princeton Athletics accomplish great things in their four years (such as 48 Ivy League championships, including a league-record 15 this past year), with a twinge of sadness that their time at Princeton is ending and with the knowledge that their affiliation with the University will endure, much like it does for the people there in the wild orange and black jackets.

Each year, the banquet follows a similar script.

There's a cocktail hour, followed by dinner and the awards program. There are two awards for "adults," the Class of 1967 Citizen-Athlete Award - given this year to Joe Baker, a football player who graduated in 1991 who is now an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and who was honored for his work with PlaySmart, an organization that brings athletic participation to children who otherwise might not have access to it - and the Marvin Bressler Award, given to a person at the University who has contribute to the experience of the athletes. That award this year went to McPhee.

There are also four awards for seniors, given for service, scholarship and for the top male and female athletes.

Then there are the special PVC awards, which may or may not be presented in any given year. There are also two senior speeches, given this year by field hockey player Alexandra Douwes and swimmer Patrick Biggs.

In all, 16 seniors were honored last night.

There were five male athletes who received the Roper Trophy: runner Mark Amirault, hockey player Taylor Fedun, men's basketball player Kareem Maddox, lightweight rower Robin Prendes and men's soccer player Josh Walburn.

There were five female athletes who received the von Kienbusch Award: runner Sarah Cummings, runner Ashley Higginson, basketball Addie Micir, swimmer Megan Waters and rower Lauren Wilkinson.

The night had some very poignant moments.

Jordan Culbreath was honored with a PVC Award of Valor for the way he fought back against Aplastic Anemia and was able to return to play football, this after Biggs talked about how inspirational Culbreath had been to everyone here.

Peter Quimby, the outgoing Deputy Dean of the College who is headed to become the Headmaster at the Governors School in Massachusetts, fought back tears as he spoke about his work at Princeton. TigerBlog hopes the athletes - many of whom probably had no way of knowing just how much Quimby had done for them through the years - were struck by how important Princeton Athletics was to him.

McPhee, who was also humorous, spoke about his dear friend Marvin, who passed away last year, and how Marvin had worked with his nephew Charles McPhee, who himself passed away from Lou Gehrig's Disease three weeks ago.

And then there was the Lorin Maurer Award. Lorin worked in athletic fundraising here at Princeton, and she was killed in the Continental Airlines plane crash outside of Buffalo two years ago. The award in her memory honors a member of the Department of Athletics who has her same spirit and zest for life.

After the presentation of the award, Lorin's father Scott spoke to the crowd about how he - from inner-city Reading, Pa. - would have been too intimidated to apply to for a job at a place like Princeton but how his daughter did so enthusiastically, and he thanked fellow Reading native Gary Walters for everything he'd done for Lorin.

This year's winner was Vernon Bugg.

Essentially, Vernon's job was to sit by the desk in the Jadwin lobby, check people in for recreational tennis and make sure nothing was amiss. Instead, Vernon injected himself into the lives of everyone who came by, calling all Princeton male athletes his sons and all Princeton female athletes his daughter. His favorite, favorite thing to do, though, was to tell everyone who walked in that they were loved, prefacing it with "have you been told today?"

Vernon usually speaks in deep, strong voice. Upon accepting the award, which was greeted with a standing ovation by the athletes and calls of "We love you Vern" from the audience, he spoke in a barely audible whisper, as he was clearly overcome with the emotion of the moment. It was almost like he was wondering what all the fuss was about, that all he had done was to be engaging to the people who walked past him every day.

At the end, of course, there was TB's video, complete with music from Angels and Airwaves, Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Pink.

When it was all over, TB got a big, sweaty hug from Vernon. Then, as TB was about to leave, he saw former hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, who left to start the program at Penn State.

TB asked Guy a bunch of questions about his new job, and it's clear that he is excited about the chance to build something from the ground up.

Then, he turned and pointed over his shoulder to the video screen, where moments earlier, action shots of athletes from 38 sports, 29 of which won at least one championship in the last four years and 31 of which competed in national championship competition in the last four years, had scrolled through.

Looking up at the blank screen, Gadowsky hesitated for a second and then said "I'm going to miss this."

TigerBlog knew immediately what he meant.

He's going to miss the Princeton experience, the chance to be at a place of such wondrous athletic diversity, a place with such a great love for the institution, a place where people come to be a part of something very special.

And, now that it was time for him to move on, this was his twinge of sadness, a realization that a special chapter in his life had ended.

It was the same for the athletes.

And that's how TB knew that Princeton Athletics had not failed them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Banquet Time

Somebody won "American Idol" last night. Apparently it was the high school boy, rather than the high school girl.

TigerBlog doesn't know and honestly doesn't care. He's never watched an episode of "American Idol," or listened to an entire song, for that matter.

His only observation of the show is that he's pretty sure there's no way Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez or Paula Abdul would actually win the competition if they were a contestant rather than a judge - and Tyler is the lead singer of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Besides, TB had no time for "American Idol," not when he was going to watch the final version of his video and then burn it to a DVD in advance of tonight's banquet.

Actually, the day didn't start out so well video-wise. TB was forced to restart his computer, and when the video came back up when I-movie reopened, all of the names that TB had entered on the pictures had disappeared.

Well, not all of them. There were a few that didn't. For one, women's hockey player Laura Martindale. And then there were the senior award winners, whose pictures are at the end of the video. Their names were still there, but the color of the font had gone from black to white.

So off TB went to re-enter the names.

As TB said yesterday, you can't really appreciate just how many athletes there are here who play such varying sports until you type all of their names on a video.

And hey, now TB can appreciate it twice as much.

As an aside, when TB gets to the banquet tonight, he'll see all the senior athletes with their name tags, and he'll do what he always does, mentally check them off the video. Every now and then, he'll panic that he sees a name tag that isn't in the video, but he's pretty sure he got everyone this year.

While TB was going back over the names, it dawned on him that Princeton Athletics' photographer Beverly Schaefer, who took almost all of the pictures, is one of the very, very, very few people who sees all 38 Princeton varsity teams in every academic year.

Tonight is the senior-athlete banquet, an event that TB always contrasts with freshman athlete orientation, held in September for the new class. The difference is remarkable, with a group of freshman who are trying to figure out how to find McCosh 50 and a group of seniors near graduation who have had their entire Princeton experience play out for them, for better (hopefully) or worse.

The banquet itself begins with an informal reception and goes into dinner and awards.

John McPhee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and teacher of a sophomore writing seminar here at Princeton, will be receiving the Marvin Bressler Award, given to a member of the campus community who has done the most for the school's athletes. This figures to be an emotional moment, as Bressler - who was McPhee's good friend for years - passed away last summer.

Joe Baker, an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a former Princeton wide receiver, will be honored with the Citizen-Athlete Award, for his work with the organization PlaySmart, which is attempting to bring athletic competition and physical fitness to underprivileged kids.

There are also awards for senior athletes, including the Roper Trophy to the top senior male sportsmen and von Kiensbusch Award to the top senior sportswomen.

And it ends with the video, all 17 minutes of it, and then the singing of "Old Nassau."

This is the 14th banquet. The 13th fell victim to massive thunderstorms that cut the evening short, forcing completion on Friday morning in Jadwin Gym.

As TB looks out the window, the sun is shining brightly.

Hopefully it'll continue to shine, as it were, during the entire banquet.

The Class of 2011 deserves it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TB's Video, TB's Music

Robert Zimmerman was born 70 years ago yesterday in Deluth, the one in Minnesota. He grew up in Hibbing, also in Minnesota, in a Jewish family that had recently come to this country to escape the pogroms in Czarist Russia.

Eventually, he shortened his first name and took as his last name the first name of his favorite poet, and Bob Dylan started down the road to become as great a song-writer as has ever lived.

His anthems include "Blowin' In The Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin" and "Like a Rolling Stone," as well as a catalog of others far too long to mention.

"Blowin' In The Wind" was the first Dylan song that TigerBlog ever learned, back in his Camp Toledo days. Back then, there'd be sing-a-longs at the camp, with a counselor who played the guitar whom TB can still see all these decades later, and "Blowin' In The Wind" was a staple of those evenings.

TB has vivid memories of himself, maybe 6 or 7 or 8 years old, singing "Blowin' In The Wind" with the rest of the camp, not really understanding the meaning of the song or its impact on contemporary American culture.

If you asked TB what his favorite Dylan song is, he'd unhesitatingly say "Forever Young."

"May God bless and keep you always. May your wishes all come true. May you always do for others, and let others do for you. May you build a ladder to the sky and climb on every run, and may you stay, forever young."

TB has always thought that Dylan started out with that part of the song and, after putting it to paper, stopped and thought to himself "hey, that's pretty good."

TigerBlog has used the song "Forever Young" in two senior athlete videos, the ones he does the Princeton Varsity Club Senior Awards Banquet each year. It is the only song TB has ever used more than once - though he did repeat the song "When I Look To The Sky" by Train that Greg Busch used one year.

The PVC banquet is tomorrow night, and the video is - TB likes to think - one of the highlights for the athletes.

It features an intro montage of live action footage, followed by a photo of each senior athlete, all set to music.

The video usually runs in the 17- or 18-minute range, and it runs at the end of the event.

TigerBlog's favorite part of the banquet is to hear the athletes all cheer for each other when the pictures come up on the screen, an acknowledgement - for three seconds each - of their contributions to Princeton Athletics during their time.

It always amazes TB when he puts the video together just how many athletes from so many different sports with such varying perspectives compete for Princeton.

The video itself predates the advent of I-movie on TB's laptop, and it used to be a nightmare to put together. At first, TB had to take it to a local video store and have it done for him, since the technology wasn't there. This involved actual photographs, rather than scans.

Eventually, the earliest versions of I-movie came out, and they were less-than-fun to use. If you don't believe TB, you can call Busch, now at Rider, and ask him how much fun he and TB had watching the pinwheel spin interminably as the program either froze again or simply took forever to move along as the file got bigger and bigger.

Today, creating video is simple, and the time to create the video is a fraction of what it used to be.

The big issues in putting it together are 1) making sure there are pictures of everyone, 2) making sure everyone's name is spelled right and 3) making sure that the person whose name appears on the picture is actually that person. TB has gone down that road a few times, with pictures of teammates incorrectly reversed.

And then there's the music.

It usually takes four or five songs to cover the entire project, and they need to be a good mix. TB looks for songs that have an inspirational message or speak to teamwork and loyalty. He can use love songs, if they suggest a bond between the athletes, their teammates and the University.

He's found great success with Bon Jovi, Train, Bruce and some others, perhaps because those are among his favorite groups.

As TB always says, it's his video, so it's his music.

And, now that every other part of the video is done, it's time to add in that music.

Right now, TB is unsure of what he's going to use.

Tomorrow night, at the end of the banquet, the video will be playing, and TB will have it all figured out by then.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


TigerBlog didn't know the results of any of the English Premier League games from this past weekend when he sat down to watch the EPL review show.

And that turned out to be a good thing, since the show's producers did something extraordinarily clever to show how the final weekend played out, something that TB had never seen before.

There were three games that would have huge impacts on the final standings - and the futures of five league franchises.

And the EPL review show chronicled those games at the same time, going from highlights of one to another to the third. And each time any of the three games changed score, a graphic flashed up showing what the final league standings would be if the score of all three stayed as it was.

It was fascinating, because the teams on the outside looking in changed with every goal. And the drama continued to build, all the way until the end, when it came crashing down for Blackpool (TigerBlog was rooting for the Tangerines) and Birmingham City and when there was elation for Wigan, Wolves and Blackburn.

Ian Darke, TigerBlog's favorite broadcaster, wrote a column for ESPN.com on the recently completed season, and it included this:

I don't know about you, but I'm still breathless from a frantic final day in the English Premier League that might have been scripted in Hollywood. As I passed relegated Blackpool manager Ian Holloway on the stairs out of Old Trafford after Sunday's game, it was hard to find the right words of consolation. For once, the effervescent "Ollie" seemed stunned into silence as I offered sincere but worthless sympathies.

I was reminded of the old gag from legendary manager Tommy Docherty: "When one door closes, another slams you in the face."
But the Premier League will be a poorer place without Blackpool's devil-may-care brand of attacking football. The Seasiders scored more goals (55) than any other relegated team in the history of the Premier League and seemed to produce more thrillers than Alfred Hitchcock and John le Carré combined.
We will miss them.

What made the last weekend of the EPL so unique was that all of the drama was on the bottom of the table, not near the top, where Manchester United had already clinched the title.

No, the scramble to avoid relegation was unreal to watch as it unfolded on the review show.

The bottom three EPL teams move down a division, while the top three in the Championship League move up. The difference between the top and second levels is probably like the difference between the Major Leagues and Triple-A, and there are all kinds of pounds at stake for these teams.

To see the reactions of the fans - and managers, especially Wigan's Roberto Martinez, who like Darke was great on TV during the last World Cup - as their teams either lost or survived was amazing. Honestly, TB isn't sure there are American fans who are as passionate about any professional sport the way EPL fans are.

Maybe college sports, but not pro sports.

Why would that be, TB wonders (assuming TB is correct)? Is it a cultural thing? Is it that because the country is so much smaller, everyone must have some connection to someone on the team? Is it a feeling that the players are actually representing the local area and not just mercenaries in it for the money?

If Jim Barlow, Princeton's soccer coach, had his way, the NCAA championship game would be held this weekend, along with the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona.

Barlow long ago told TB that he thinks soccer in college should follow a European-type schedule, with one game a week in the fall and spring with a break in the winter and the NCAA championships around this time.

Of course, that isn't how it's done, and it's unlikely to change anytime soon, despite the brilliance of Barlow's idea.

Nope, this is the spring, and as Memorial Day weekend approaches, there are still seven Princeton teams left competing - all four crews, both track and field teams and baseball.

The national rowing championships are this weekend, with the women's open team in Sacramento, while the women's lightweights, men's lightweights and men's heavyweights are on the Cooper River in either Pennsauken, Cherry Hill or Camden, depending on where you see it listed.

The track and field regionals are in Indianapolis, and Princeton's athletes there will be looking to qualify for the NCAA championships in Des Moines in early June.

As an aside, the baseball team will some day play in the NCAA tournament as well.

Todd Harrity already continued Princeton's streak of having at least one team or individual national champion when he won the national men's squash title last winter. That streak, by the way, is now at 40 years.

Is there another national champion on the horizon for Princeton?

With the way that the boats have been going and with how close two runners - Donn Cabral and Ashley Higginson, both the steeplechase - came a year ago, it's certainly possible.

As the end of the 2010-11 year winds down, it would certainly be a perfect finish to what has already been a record-setting year for Princeton.

Monday, May 23, 2011


TigerBlog was driving over the Burlington Bristol Bridge Saturday evening when Little Miss TigerBlog asked what time it was.

Informed that it was a little after 6, LMTB replied: "Wasn't the world supposed to end at 6?"

TB had forgotten all about that, at least as the day wore on.

Earlier, he had been wondering what to wear for the end of the world, and he bounced back and forth between formal, business casual and ultimately what he chose to wear, his gray Princeton athletics t-shirt and khaki shorts, the ones he got for $7 at Target.

For his own money, TB looked rapturous.

TB is hardly a biblical scholar, though he was pretty sure that there would be a Sunday this week. And next week, for that matter.

This coming weekend will be the NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four. In case you missed this past weekend's quarterfinals, the No. 1 (Syracuse), No. 2 (Cornell), No. 3 (Johns Hopkins) and No. 4 (Notre Dame) seeds all lost.

TigerBlog's tournament predictions so far have been pretty good ones.

For instance, he has said all year that No. 1 Syracuse was vulnerable and not a prohibitive favorite. The Orange played a ton of close games - including a two-goal win over Princeton in a game that was tied late in the fourth - and TB had a feeling that it would catch up with the Orange eventually.

Plus, Maryland did everything it needed to do to win that game - controlling face-offs, making saves, playing from ahead. Even when the game got to the overtime, Maryland felt like it had the advantage, and that was the case, though SU did have a good transition opportunity before Grant Catalino's game-winner.

TB picked Virginia to win the tournament, largely because the Cavs have such overwhelming talent every year and because of the way they crushed Penn 11-2 in their first game without the Brattons. TB doesn't understand how the game against Cornell could be considered an upset, when UVa clearly has as good a group of players as any team in the country.

As for Duke-Notre Dame, TB never figured out for the entire championship game last year which team he was rooting for, and he was in the same position as he watched the quarterfinal yesterday. Eventually, he was probably pulling for Notre Dame, since Westy Hopkins, who had three of the five Irish goals, is a Lower Bucks Lacrosse alum.

And then there was the only game of the four quarterfinals that TB couldn't watch, Johns Hopkins-Denver. Thankfully, he did get updates from TigerBlog Jr.

The first one said 2-1 Denver. Then it got to 6-1. Then 8-7. And then, just when it seemed like the Hop was going to take it, the Pioneers exploded, running away to a 14-9 win.

For Bill Tierney, it's Final Four number 11, as he chases NCAA title No. 7, which would tie Roy Simmons Jr. for the most ever in Division I men's lacrosse.

It's only been two years for Tierney at Denver, and already his vision of what the sport could be in the West is starting to come true - in a much greater way than forecasts of a zombie apocalypse.

Denver's opening round playoff game was played in front of a packed house, and it was the first NCAA men's lacrosse tournament game played west of the Mississippi River. Already since Tierney went to Denver, Michigan and Marquette have announced the addition of varsity teams, as the sport continues to creep westward.

What Tierney has done in Denver already is extraordinary, and the Pioneers - with their high-flying offense that ranks second nationally - figure to be a force for the foreseeable future.

TigerBlog made another lacrosse prediction this year, this one back in the fall, and that was that Princeton was going to be a Final Four team this year as well.

Obviously, TB had no idea how many players were going to be injured for the Tigers this year. He figured Jack McBride would have a first-team All-America senior year of about 45 goals and 20 assists, not one goal and no assists. He figured that the first midfield group of Mike Chanenchuk and Tom Schreiber would force defenses to neglect the other attackmen, which would open Chris McBride up for 25-30 goals of his own.

Instead, Jack missed basically the whole year, while Chanenchuk didn't play a minute. Schreiber, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year who is everything he was advertised to be, and Chris McBride also missed games due to injury.

When TB looks back on the 2011 lacrosse season, hopefully he's looking back on Denver's first NCAA title.

At the same time, he's positive he'll look back on this season for Princeton knowing that his Final Four prediction would have come true had the team that started fall ball still been playing.

It's something that will nag TB for awhile, knowing just how good Princeton could have been this year.

Of course, it's not like it was the end of the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Circle Game

Judy Collins was nearly 70 when TigerBlog saw her in concert, yet it was obvious from the first, oh, 10 seconds or so that she still had her fastball.

There aren’t too many human beings who have ever been given a voice like Judy Collins, and that voice – majestic, commanding, heavenly – bounced all over the theater as she went on for about 25 songs worth.

Judy Collins was one of TB’s first musical loves, dating way back to the Camp Toledo days in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And his favorite song by the woman who inspired the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” has always been “The Circle Game.”

Don’t know the song? It’s the one that starts out “yesterday, a child came out to wander” and includes the chorus “and the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down,” ultimately ending with “we can’t return, we can only look, behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in the circle game.”

TigerBlog thought about that song – and the irony of his own camp memories – as he sat in TigerBlog Jr.’s high school freshman parent orientation Wednesday night. As it went on, TB kept hearing Judy Collins’ voice, singing again about the “carousel of time,” realizing that the lyrics that speak to how quickly children grow up are so spot on.

There was TBJ, listening intently to the rules and policies and opportunities and expectations of him and the rest of the Class of 2015.

And there was TB, sitting next to TBJ, half listening and half remembering back to when TBJ first “came out to wander.”

When TB thinks back at his childhood, he thinks back to times like when he went to Camp Toledo, which used to be his home for eight weeks each summer in High Falls, N.Y.

Whether it’s Camp Toledo or any number of other events, though, TB doesn’t consider his high school days as part of his childhood. No, they were their own separate entity, high school, removed from the peaceful innocence of being a kid.

And that’s when it dawned on TigerBlog. When TBJ remembers back to his own childhood, he’s going to remember a period of his life that is already over.

And, as TB became more introspective, he realized something else. When TigerBlog Jr. gets to be 30 or 40 or 50 or hopefully way older than that and when his mind takes him back to his own days of being a kid, he’s going to remember one aspect of that time as prominently as anything else he experienced as he grew from a baby to a teenager:

Princeton University, and specifically, Princeton Athletics.

TigerBlog Jr. was born in the shadow of the University, and he has spent so much of his life on campus that it’s almost a second home to him. He knows his way around the University as well as many of the students who will be graduating soon, and there aren’t too many who’ve seen more athletic events here in the last decade.

TB remembers the time that, the day after a Princeton-Harvard football game, TBJ as a toddler spent an idyllic Sunday afternoon running around on the field at Princeton Stadium, back when it was still natural grass, until he literally had to be dragged kicking and screaming away.

His preschool was University League Nursery School, across FitzRandolph from the Jadwin parking lot. TB, on the dreaded “helping parent” days, would bring the kids in TBJ’s class to Princeton Stadium and let them talk on the public address system, or he’d bring the radio equipment to the school and marvel at the looks the kids would give when they realized they could hear their voices through the headsets.

When he was five, he sat courtside at Jadwin with a headset of his own on and listened to Tom McCarthy do his old ESPN radio show before Princeton basketball on Friday nights.

TBJ learned to swim in the pool in Dillon Gymnasium. The first time he was allowed to go get pizza by himself was at Frist. The first time he stayed overnight by himself away from home was in the Princeton dorms at lacrosse camp. The first time he performed publicly was when he played the national anthem before a men's basketball game.

His first jobs?

He spent six or seven winters as a ballboy at basketball games, helping out at what, 60 or 70 games? He’s thrown t-shirts in the stands during timeouts at basketball. He’s helped out with stats at lacrosse and sprint football. He’s worked in the press box at football, answering phones, running stats and doing other tasks, including being a spotter for the PA announcer.

His first paychecks?

He’s worn a headset to communicate stats between the official computer and the TV truck, and he’s been a TV timeout coordinator.

Back when Princeton played at Lafayette when he was three, TBJ went with his dad to the game. TB was nervous, because he had to be on the radio with McCarthy, and he wasn’t sure what he’d do if TBJ became antsy or started running all over the place. Instead, TBJ sat and watched the game for three hours, and it was on that day that TB realized that TBJ might just be a big sports fan.

By his own count, TB figures that TBJ has been to Princeton home events for 20 of the school’s 38 varsity teams.

His earliest heroes were all Princeton athletes or coaches, people like Bill Tierney and John Thompson and Jason Doneger and Ryan Boyle and Chris Young and Ahmed El-Nokali and John Mack - and B.J. Prager, Trevor Tierney, Jeff Terrell, Matt Striebel and an army of others.

TigerBlog was never really naive enough to think that this would go on forever. Eventually, TB knew, his son would get a little older and prefer to sit in the stands with his friends - or even go to the movies or parties or other non-Princeton events.

And of course that's what ended up happening, a little at a time. And, even now that he's on the verge of high school, TBJ still loves to come to Princeton games, though it's been awhile since he's sat in the press box, as now the norm is in fact to bring his friends with him. For that matter, about the only time TB sees TBJ during a game these days is when he comes and asks for money to get food.

And, for that matter, his own games and practices began to more and more intrude on the Princeton schedule.

Over the next four years, TBJ will drift further away from being the little kid who would wait anxiously outside the locker room after a lacrosse game and tell the Princeton players whom the media wanted to talk to or the kid Chris Young held up to the basket so he could dunk.

Shortly, he'll come to his dad looking for the car keys the way he now comes looking for a few dollars for the concession stand.

TigerBlog looks around Jadwin Gym and sees a bunch of people who have little kids, have newborn babies or are expecting babies. TB smiles at them, and thinks back to a time not that long ago when that was his life. As TB was writing, women's basketball assistant coach Melanie Moore walked in and said that her two-month old was up at 3 and 5 in the morning.

When you have little kids - TB and Little Miss TigerBlog, who is playing her own circle game - it seems like it's going to be forever before they can walk and talk, before they go to school, before they begin to be able to take care of themselves.

In reality, it isn't.

The orientation was an exciting time, actually, filled with the uncertainty and promise of a young man whose future is whatever he will make of it. His time in high school will see him take another step down the path from child to man, and four years from now, it'll be off to another orientation, another chapter.

As TB sat in a high school gym the other night, though, he knew that his son's childhood was over.

And to that thought, TB couldn't help but have a little twinge of sadness, coupled with the satisfaction of knowing that when TigerBlog Jr. looks back on those years, he will be anything but sad.

No, he'll remember times of pure, unspoiled, optimistic happiness, times spent with his dad on the campus of a college that the father never attended and the odds say the son won't, though his father is hopeful that he will.

TigerBlog's wish for his son as he sits on the verge of his high school career is that the best days of his life are all in front of him, helped along by the foundation of a childhood that he will look back on with great fondness.

He can be sure when his father thinks back to those days, he certainly will.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Drawn In The Quarters

The Maryland men's lacrosse team pulled off the hidden ball trick against North Carolina last week in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

As the television replay shows, the Terps pulled it off so well that they fooled the Tar Heels, the announcers and the camera people.

And, it's worth giving credit to ESPN's Paul Carcaterra - one of TigerBlog's favorite lacrosse announcers - who at the end of the clip mentions that he can't fault the camera people for not following the play when he never saw it either.

The play reminded TB of the 2001 NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra, when Loyola's Bobby Horsey and Gavin Prout ran it perfectly against Princeton in a play that almost enabled the Greyhounds to reach the Final Four. Instead, Princeton held on to win by one and ultimately won its sixth NCAA title.

TigerBlog is not a huge fan of the hidden ball trick. In fact, he remembers being on the sideline during that Loyola-Princeton game and hearing someone - he's can't remember exactly who, but it was a player - who said that Loyola was admitting that it couldn't play Princeton straight up and win.

In Maryland's case last week, the Terps certainly did play straight up and won, easily actually, advancing to the quarterfinals this week against Syracuse. In fact, your four men's matchups are:
No. 1 Syracuse vs. unseeded Maryland, winner to play the winner of No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Duke.
No. 3 Johns Hopkins vs. No. 6 Denver, winner to play the winner of No. 2 Cornell and No. 7 Virginia.

Ask TB who he's rooting for of those eight teams, and he'll obviously say Denver.

Ask TB who he thinks is going to win the whole thing, and for some reason, he thinks it'll be Virginia, despite all the problems the Cavs have had this year and how close they came to getting bounced last week by Bucknell.

Maryland is the only unseeded team to win last week on the men's side.

On the women's side, the Terps are the No. 1 seed.

By the way, can anyone name the only undefeated team in either men's or women's Division I lacrosse at this point of the season? TB will give you one whole paragraph to think about it.

The matchups for the women's quarterfinals are:
No. 1 Maryland hosting your Princeton Tigers, winner to play the winner of No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Duke.

And on the other side of the bracket, it'll be No. 3 North Carolina and No. 6 Loyola, with the winner to play the winner of No. 2 Northwestern and the undefeated, perfect-on-the-year, 18-0 ... Albany Great Danes.

Florida, as you may or may not know, needed only two years as a varsity program to reach the NCAA quarterfinals. As former OAC-er John Cornell always said, everyone who wants to see the sport of lacrosse grow on the college level will be disappointed when the Final Four is Florida, Texas, UCLA and Michigan.

Meanwhile, Princeton has somewhat quietly put together a great stretch run to reach the quarterfinals. The Tigers have had several must-win games (twice against Penn, the regular-season finale against Penn State, the Ivy tournament final against Harvard, last week's NCAA opener against James Madison) in the last few weeks, and Princeton has won them all.

As a result, the Tigers are, perhaps surprisingly, the last Ivy League team left playing, which always makes a team feel good.

Unfortunately for Princeton, the quarterfinals once again match the Tigers with the No. 1 seed and defending NCAA champion, just as they did in 2009 and 2008, when Northwestern was the opponent.

Still, the Tigers will show up for the game.

A little more than a month ago, Maryland defeated Princeton 17-10 in College Park in a game that left the Tigers at 6-4 on the year. On the same night, Maryland improved to 14-0.

The records now are 12-6 for the Tigers and 19-1 for the Terps, who lost to Dartmouth in the final game of the regular season.

Princeton and Maryland have played each other at least once - and often twice - every year since 1994. They have met three times in the NCAA championship game.

Chris Sailer, Princeton's Hall of Fame women's lacrosse coach, has three NCAA titles on her resume. She has taken Princeton to the NCAA tournament 19 times and Final Four 11 times, and there are also nine Ivy League championships mixed in.

When the list of the greatest coaches in Princeton athletic history is drawn up, it doesn't take that long until the name Chris Sailer is mentioned.

As teams like Northwestern and Florida have mad their move to Division I women's lacrosse, Sailer has had to adjust to keep Princeton among the sport's elite.

Her team's run this year is proof that she has been successful at that. Now the challenge is to knock off the No. 1 team, with the potential prize a 12th Final Four.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Catcher Is A Stand-Up Guy

Every now and then, TigerBlog looks through an old media guide for some purpose. Every time, he has the same thought:

How in the world could these ever have been so important?

When TB thinks back on all of the time and all of the money that went into producing these guides, he laughs. And to what purpose? In the entire history of media guides, was there ever an athlete - just one - who decided to come to Princeton over another school because of the media guide?

After all, that was their main purpose. If they were actually media guides, then they could have been a fraction of the size with no pictures, only information, in them, and they would have worked just fine.

TigerBlog has nightmares about the hours he put in to get guides done through the years, especially when he first started working here, back when technology hadn't made desktop publishing easy yet and when TB's computer skills were, uh, non-existent.

In fact, TB remembers back to when he first got the job, and then-intern Chuck Sullivan spent a few hours one weekend to try to teach MacIntosh 101 to TB. One moment of that experience that is burned into TB's memory is when Sullivan said that to undo something, TB had to hold down the apple key and hit the letter z at the same time and that he had to do it before he did anything else, "sort of like an appeal play in baseball."

Of course, that's not as true as it used to be, because you can undo almost anything in the most recent versions of the software that people use.

Back then, Princeton's media guides were done in software called PageMaker, and TB thinks that the OAC was operating on version 2.0 when he first arrived. It wasn't until version 5.0 that two people could print at the same time.

PageMaker, as an aside, no longer exists.

Anyway, TigerBlog's first media guide was the 1994 football guide. On the first page of the first guide he did, TB put a big picture of 1994 captain Carl Teter, the All-Ivy League offensive lineman.

Only it wasn't really Teter. TB had the wrong player. In a giant photo on Page 1. Of his first guide.

And when it came back from the printer, it was the first thing TB noticed. And, obviously, it was too late to do anything about it. Nope, TB was stuck with 2,500 football guides, all with the wrong player in the big picture on Page 1.

Through the years, TB has made more mistakes than he could count. Remember the picture of Dick Kazmaier on the cover of the last game program at Palmer Stadium? Turns out it wasn't Kazmaier, even though he was wearing No. 42 and the picture was identified on the back as Kazmaier.

There have been others, some bad, some not-as-bad.

It's part of working in this business. Strive to get everything right, but it's an unforgiving world out there when you publish something wrong.

The Ivy League last week announced its All-Ivy baseball team, and Princeton catcher Sam Mulroy was the Player of the Year. It was on the Ivy website, on goprincetontigers.com.

Only Mulroy wasn't really the Player of the Year. An accounting error actually gave the award to Mulroy when it should have gone to Yale's Trey Rallis.

This put a bunch of people in an awkward spot.

The Ivy office didn't mean to make the mistake, but it did have an obligation to correct it. Mulroy didn't ask to be the Player of the Year by mistake. Rallis didn't ask to get the award after the fact.

So what do you do? The Ivy office did the right thing by awarding it to Rallis, who is the legitimate winner.

And Sam Mulroy?

He earned TigerBlog's everlasting respect for how he handled the whole situation.

In fact, there was a story all set to go up on goprincetontigers.com, a story in which Mulroy essentially says that he wouldn't want to win an award if he hadn't actually earned it, that he congratulates Rallis and that he won the award he really wanted, which is the Ivy League baseball championship that Princeton won.

Ultimately, that story never ran, because to Mulroy, it wasn't that big a deal.

TigerBlog was going to let the whole thing go because of that, but it's important for everyone to realize how Mulroy reacted, even if he doesn't want that.

It was a pretty classy thing for a college junior to do, especially one who had been unwillingly thrown into this situation in the first place.

So in the end, no harm, no foul. The Ivy office, who felt awful about the mistake, got the award to the right player.

And Sam Mulroy - whom TB has never met - showed himself to be a solid guy.

He might not be the Ivy League Player of the Year, but he does get to play in the NCAA tournament.

He takes TB's respect with him - and TB assumes the respect of everyone else who hears about how he reacted to all this.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Left On Base

TigerBlog had never heard of Vin Mazzaro before last night, and it's not going out on a limb to suggest that Mazzaro would prefer to have remained anonymous.

For those who missed it, Mazzaro pitched for the Kansas City Royals last night - and ended up being sent to the minors after the game.

Mazzaro's line: 11 hits, 14 runs, seven outs. Final score: Cleveland 19, Kansas City 1.

According to Stats.inc, no pitcher in Major League history has ever given up 14 runs and gotten fewer outs, at least as far back as the company's records go, which is 1919.

Mazzaro came into the game in the third inning, after KC starter Kyle Davies lasted only a third of an inning and reliever Nate Adcock got through the first and second before allowing a leadoff walk in the third.

Enter Mazzaro, who actually got a fly ball, strikeout and ground out to end the third, with the score 3-0 Indians.

The fourth? It didn't go as well. Mazzaro allowed 10 runs in the fourth, the final nine of which came with two outs. He gave up four more in the fifth before being taken out of the game - and sent to Triple-A Omaha.

Speaking of Omaha, that'll be the site for the College World Series, as it always is. The CWS could run as late as June 29 if it goes to a deciding game in the final series.

Princeton, of course, won the Ivy League baseball title nine days ago, and it's still almost two full weeks before the selections for the NCAA tournament will be announced.

The NCAA website has a list of all conference tournaments for Division I, and the last column lists the champion.

In the case of the Ivy League, it lists Princeton as the host for the tournament and Princeton as the champion.

In the case of every other league, it lists the dates for the upcoming tournaments, some of which won't be played until Memorial Day weekend.

Ivy League baseball struggles with this every year. The entire league season is played in a five-weekend window, the first two of which are the crossover weeks between the two divisions and the final three of which are four games against each team in the division.

The next weekend is the Ivy League championship series. Then the wait begins.

Unfortunately for the Ivy League, there's not much that can be done about it. League rules prohibit regular-season competition when schools are in final exams, and exams start in early May throughout the league.

Pushing the start date back would be great, if possible. Games could be played in better weather, and the champion wouldn't have to wait around for an excruciating period before playing in the NCAAs.

Baseball, more than any other game, is one where a huge break is problematic. Teams don't want to have a long period of rest before big games. All that does is mess up the timing of the hitters and the arm strength of the pitchers.

It's difficult for a team to stay fresh with this much time off. There are only so many intra-squad games that you can play, and, of course, there are also final exams here to deal with.

TigerBlog thinks that one way to help the situation might be to expand the Ivy League playoffs, from two teams to four.

The Patriot League, for instance, has four teams in its tournament. The first week, there are two best-of-three semifinal series, and now the two remaining teams - Navy and Army - play in the championship best-of-three series. These games are played at the higher seeds.

Maybe the Ivy League could do that.

With two divisions, there could be crossover series, although that would require greater travel. Maybe the top two in each division could play each other again and have the winners meet in the final.

Of course, this would involve games being played during exam periods, so it probably wouldn't work.

It appears that since the NCAA made the decision to back its baseball tournament up so far, the Ivy League can't really do anything.

Not that that helps Princeton.

TigerBlog saw Scott Bradley yesterday outside of Caldwell Field House, and it took him a second to remember that Bradley's team still has its NCAA shot in front of it.

Far, far in front.

When TB mentioned it to Bradley, the veteran baseball coach did what he always does, chuckled and made a joke of it.

Hey, his team will still get to go to a regional.

Just not anytime soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beat That

The five nominees for Best Picture of 1956 were "Giant," "The Ten Commandments," "The King and I," "Around the World In 80 Days" and "Friendly Persuasion."

TigerBlog has seen four of those five and had never heard of "Friendly Persuasion" until he just Googled "Best Picture 1956" a few seconds ago. Apparently, it's a movie set in the Civil War starring Gary Cooper, so it's probably pretty good.

Meanwhile, back at the other four, TB would rank "Giant," "The Ten Commandments" and "The King and I" - had to be a busy time for Yul Brenner - well ahead of "Around the World In 80 Days." Of course, the one TB has fourth is the one that won Best Picture.

Yul did win for Best Actor for "The King and I," which is one of TB's all-time favorite musicals. Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress for "Anastasia," another movie TB has never seen.

Why talk about 1956 so randomly on a Monday morning?

Well, 1956 was the first year of official Ivy League athletics.

Yes, most of the schools in the league played in each other in every sport dating back decades before. And yes, there are a ton of athletic rivalries among Ivy schools that date back to the 1800s.

And, yes, if you asked your average college sports fan which league is older, the Ivy League or the SEC or the Ivy League or the Big Ten or the Ivy League or the Pac-Whatever, most of the time the answer you'd get would be the Ivy League.

For all that, official Ivy League play didn't begin until 1956.

In that first year, Yale won seven Ivy League championships, which became the standard for league titles in an academic year.

It would be 1961-62 before Harvard would match those seven championships, and the Crimson would repeat that two years later and better it to eight four years later.

The record would stay at eight until Princeton won nine in the 1976-77 school year, which was three years after the league started awarding women's championships as well.

Princeton was the first to double figures, as the Tigers won 11 titles in 1979-80, and, two years later, the record was pushed to 13.

Princeton would need 20 years to add to its record, which became 14 in 1999-2000 and was matched again by Princeton a year later.

Harvard would get a share of the record in 2004-05, and that's where the record stayed until this year.

Yesterday afternoon, in a completely dominant performance, the women's open rowing first varsity 8 won by more than four seconds at Eastern Sprints to earn the Ivy League championship that goes along with that title. Princeton would also win three other women's open races and the women's lightweight race as well.

The women's open rowing win was the 15th of the academic year for Princeton, and so the record now belongs solely to Princeton in 2010-11.

For the record, nine other teams finished second or third, and of the four that finished second, three - women's soccer, men's squash and men's tennis - came agonizingly close to winning as well.

Yale finished second to Princeton in the number of Ivy League championships won with seven, the same number that was the record in 1956-57 but which now is fewer than half the record. Harvard was next with five, a number that includes the Crimson's share of the men's basketball title with Princeton.

Once again, Princeton's 15 Ivy League championship teams are:

fall - field hockey, men's soccer, men's cross country, women's cross country
winter - men's basketball, women's basketball, women's fencing, men's indoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving
spring - men's outdoor track and field, women's outdoor track and field, baseball, women's open rowing

As an aside, that's nearly 400 athletes who won Ivy League titles this year at Princeton.

Can the number 15 be topped? It took 20 years to get from 13 to 14 and then 12 years to get from 14 to 15, though it was tied twice along the way.

Is 16 possible (assuming the league stays at 33 sports)? What's the top number? Can one school get to 17, which would be more than half of the championships awarded?

Who knows. This isn't about speculating on that anyway.

This is about marveling at Princeton's record-setting year, and understanding that it will merely redouble the competition's efforts to match it or beat it.

Once again, TB will end with a Best Picture winner, this time from when the record for Ivy titles was still at eight. And TB won't even say the movie, only the line that he always says at this point of the story:

"All glory is fleeting."

So, Princeton fans, you might as well enjoy it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Off To The Races

Note - Blogger returned while TigerBlog was playing squash. The status of Thursday's TB remains a mystery.

Note No. 2 - Thursday's post reappeared magically.

TigerBlog was greeted this morning with a question: How come there was no TigerBlog yesterday?

Not TigerBlog the person. No, TigerBlog the actual blog itself.

TB couldn’t help but wonder what the question was about, since there was a TigerBlog yesterday. It was about the women’s lacrosse game and how there is no other possible matchup in Division I between a school and another school whose namesake is an alum of the first school.

As in, Princeton at James Madison in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

So, before doing anything else, TB went to TigerBlog, and there it wasn’t. Yesterday’s entry, that is. The most recent one is Wednesdays, about the Ivy League meetings.

When TB attempted to log in to update the site, he was greeted by the words “Blogger Is Currently Unavailable.”

It’s possible that when the site comes back up, the Thursday post will reappear. At least, TB hopes that’s the case.

TB figured he’d wait a half hour or so to see if the site came back up, only that didn’t happen. Along the way, he read a bunch of stuff on the internet, including the story about the kid in Connecticut who can’t go to his prom because he posted a sign outside the school asking the young woman to go with him and therefore ended up banned from attending.

The story left TigerBlog wondering what rule he possibly broke? The one against being creative? The one against learning to put yourself out there?

The only question for Shelton High School is if it’s okay having administrators who can be this short-sighted, and not whether James Tate should be allowed in the prom.

Once TB was done with that, he went on to other things, like getting both of the words in the “guess the word” game that he wrote about earlier. And read the New York Post. And Inside Lacrosse.

And then TB went back to the site, and it’s still not up.

So he decided he would do the next best thing. Write today’s entry and put it on goprincetontigers.com in the interim.

It’s not about keeping alive his streak of posting every business day since Oct. 16, 2008, per se. It’s more like a newspaper attitude. The newspaper has to come out every day, regardless of the weather or mechanical breakdowns or anything.

That brings us to today’s entry, which was going to start out with the motorcyle in Lot 21 and eventually get to the Eastern Sprints in rowing that are going on this weeend.

TB will save the motorcycle for another day.

This weekend marks the awarding of the last three Ivy League championships of the year. So far, there have been Ivy titles awarded in 30 sports, and Princeton has won 14 to date.

The most any program has ever won in an academic year is 14, something Princeton has now done three times, including in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, and Harvard did in 2004-05.

In other words, one rowing title would mean a new record.

To get greedy, three rowing titles would mean Princeton would have won more than half of the league’s championships.

Of course, even should none win, Princeton will have at least a share of the record.

As for the races themselves, Princeton is undefeated this year in women’s open rowing, and it has lost in both men’s lightweight and men’s heavyweight.

And none of that will really matter when the boats get on the water.

Princeton is the top-ranked women’s first varsity open 8, which is the same position Princeton was in a year ago, when it lost to Yale by less than a second in the 2,000-meter race at Eastern Sprints.

This year, Princeton opened the season with a close win over Brown, who hasn’t lost since.

The women’s championships are on the Cooper River in Camden.

The men’s boats will race on Lake Quingsigamond in Worcester, Mass., where the lightweight men will look for a third straight title, something the program has never accomplished. The race for first could come down to a battle between Princeton and Harvard, who defeated the Tigers by one second during the regular season. Princeton lost to Harvard during last year’s regular season by 0.7 seconds and then won at Eastern Sprints by more than two seconds.

The men’s heavyweights also lost to Harvard during the season, and like in the lightweights, that figures to be a strong matchup at Sprints.

And there you have it.

By Sunday, the last Ivy titles will have been awarded for 2010-11. It’s already a record-tying year for Princeton.

Will it be a record-setting one?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Alumnus Day

When TigerBlog heard Princeton's matchup for the first round of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament, he wondered how many times a Division I school has played against another school named for one of its alums.

Princeton plays this Saturday at James Madison, who graduated from Princeton in 1771.

This little fact started TB to wondering what other Division I matchups of this nature are possible.

For instance, could George Washington play against George Washington's alma mater? No, because George Washington never attended school past the age of 15.

Oral Roberts? He went to two small schools, neither of which is Division I.

TB thought of a few other Division I schools named for people. As near as he can tell, people like Robert Morris, George Mason, Brigham Young and Sam Houston never went to college.

Austin Peay went to Washington & Lee, and, while it rhymes, the latter is a Division III school. So too is Transylvania University, the alma mater of Stephen F. Austin.

Nope, as far as TB can figure, a matchup of Princeton and James Madison is the only in Division that fits this particular criteria.

Not that anyone at the game Saturday will care.

Especially those in Orange and Black. They'll just be happy they have a chance to be playing this time of year.

A mere 22 days ago, Princeton took a 6-5 record to Franklin Field to play Penn, who was riding a 34-game Ivy winning streak at the time. Princeton came into the game off a seven-goal loss to Maryland and a one-goal home loss to Harvard, but the Tigers never trailed on their way to a stunning 11-7 win, one that began the season turnaround.

Starting then, Princeton is 5-1 in its last six, including four wins in a row. And that was hardly an easy stretch.

Princeton beat Columbia by eight to finish its Ivy schedule and then knocked off Penn State, then ranked 13th, by a commanding 19-10 final in the regular-season finale

That left the Ivy League tournament, something that Princeton probably needed to win to get an NCAA bid. And who would be standing in the way?

First, it was Penn, again on Penn's home field. This time, Princeton trailed four times and came back each time, eventually building a late two-goal lead - only to see Penn rally to force overtime.

Princeton, though, didn't give in, scoring twice in the six extra minutes to win the semifinal game 10-8 to set up a meeting in the final with Harvard.

Princeton stormed out to a five-goal lead as TB watched on the small TV in his office before heading out to the Ivy baseball championship Game 3 on Clarke Field between Princeton and Dartmouth (Princeton won 8-5).

TB hardly had reached the field before Harvard had caught up, and every update he got from that point on was close. Eventually, the PA announcer at Clarke Field gave the final score - Princeton 12, Harvard 10.

While it doesn't count as an Ivy title, it does give Princeton the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Without, Princeton might not be getting on buses later today to make the six-hour rid to Harrisonburg.

Waiting there will be a team that defeated Princeton 10-5 during the regular season, way back in mid-March. If 22 days seems like a long time ago, then that first meeting with James Madison seems like a few seasons ago.

JMU is the eighth seed, while Princeton is unseeded. The winner of that game is headed to a meeting with the winner of the game between No. 1 Maryland and Navy.

In other words, to get to the Final Four, Princeton will probably have to beat two seeded teams, including the top seed, both on the road.

It won't be easy.

Then again, getting into the tournament at all for Princeton wasn't either.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meeting Time

When you make the list of TigerBlog's favorite things in the world, it's not long before you get to "beach."

There isn't much TB likes to do more than look out from the beach over the water, with the distinct sea smell splashing in his face. He hardly ever actually goes all the way into the water, preferring instead to walk just along the water's edge, so his feet get wet.

TigerBlog walked out of his hotel yesterday afternoon and headed down a path that led to a small beach, this one that faced out over the Long Island Sound. Visible in the distance was Long Island, most likely Orient Point, across the Sound, and it was easy to see the northern tip of Suffolk County on a crystal clear afternoon.

The tide was mild, and the beach behind the hotel was very narrow. At one point, TB walked out on a small jetty that extended a few feet off the shore, and it was from there that he could really smell the salt water.

It was a pristine setting, and TB appreciated the solitude.

It came after essentially nine hours of meetings with the sports information group, a subset of the larger Ivy League athletic meetings going on in Northern Connecticut.

TigerBlog always chuckles when he reads on a message board or hears someone say that the Ivy League is basically winging it when it comes to athletics, because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is a very well-regimented league, and great care is given to the process of formulating rules changes or adopting new policies.

Still, those policies aren't really what stood out to TB during the day of meetings yesterday.

Nope, instead it was the whole concept of having eight highly competitive entities gather together to think big picture - "for the good of the clan," as the late, great Dartmouth SID Kathy Slattery would always say - and yet with what appears to be great admiration and appreciation for what goes on on the other campuses in the league.

And yet, essentially, each school's mission is to outdo all of the others.

It's this seemingly incompatible dichotomy that is fascinating to TB. On the one hand, the field of intercollegiate athletics draws in those who are highly competitive. On the other hand, they all get along like they're old fraternity and sorority buddies.

In many ways, the people in the various departments - sports information, compliance, etc. - work with the people on the other campuses, even though they're separated by in many cases hundreds of miles. Getting together at meetings like this presents a rare opportunity to spend face-to-face time with people who are usually in constant contact by email.

The league personnel spend a great deal of time in meetings, but there's also some down time. Included in this was a dinner last night that brought the extended group together.

In the room were veterans whose time in the league goes back decades and newcomers who have been there for a few months or even weeks. There were athletic directors - and an army of people whose goal it is to become athletic directors.

The Ivy League office put together a game in which it asked everyone to give a fun fact, and all of these facts were put together onto an orange sheet of paper. The idea was to figure out whose fun fact was whose, and it led many in the room to try to find out which fact belonged where without giving up their own fact too easily.

TigerBlog didn't play along that much. Mostly he sat back and watched, saw people from vastly different backgrounds in vastly different stages of their careers interacting in a low-key, non-competitive setting, against a backdrop that suggested that the competitive nature of being in the same athletic conference never completely disappears.

The Ivy League has eight schools who have been competing against other since the earliest days of college athletics, and they continue to do so today, when college athletics has become a billion dollar industry.

It's the responsibility of those who were assembled around the room to balance the uniqueness of the league with the realities of modern-day sports. And, it appears to TB at least, that that's not something that those in charge take lightly at all.

Except this was a time to be lighthearted, and that's what was going on all around the room.

Lighthearted fun. A bunch of people eating and playing a small game.

And then back to the meetings, gatherings that ultimately fine tune the Ivy League athletic model.

Mostly work, a little play - all with a group of highly dedicated people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Double Triple

TigerBlog was saddened yesterday to see the news that Tony Seaman was no longer the men's lacrosse coach at Towson and that Richie Meade was no longer the men's lacrosse coach at Navy.

Both are longtime coaching veterans, giants in the sport.

Seaman's son Greg was the last Princeton athlete ever to wear the No. 42, something he did in men's lacrosse before graduating in 2009, after the number was retired across all sports at Princeton. Tony Seaman coached Penn, Johns Hopkins and Towson to the Final Four, making him the only coach in Division I history to get there with three teams.

Meade took Navy to the 2004 NCAA championship game against Syracuse, defeating Princeton in the semifinals along the way.

Between them, they won more than 430 games.

TigerBlog has met both men and has a great deal of respect for both. Most recently, he saw both at the USILA convention last December, when Meade gave a riveting talk about his coach at Nassau Community College (Richie Speckman) and when Seaman was in the audience. They are two class acts.

Still, TB also understands that coaching in college is a challenge, and that eventually every coach - even the legends - step aside in favor of the young bloods. He's seen it happen at Princeton through the years, and that's why he has such great respect for the seven coaches at Princeton who have been there longer than he has.

Tony Seaman was the head coach at Penn for the first lacrosse game that TB ever saw, back in the early 1980s.

By that time, Peter Farrell and Fred Samara were already established with the women's and men's track and field and cross country programs at Princeton. They're still there today - and showing no signs of letting up.

In fact, Farrell and Samara have seen their programs complete a remarkable 2010-11 year, one that saw both the Princeton men and women win the Ivy League title in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.

Having each team win the "triple crown" as it were is very unique in the track world. Having one school's men's and women's teams do it in the same year is even more so.

Princeton's accomplishment, in fact, marks the 19th time in Division I history that it's been done, and only nine schools have done it (BYU has done it a remarkable seven times). Princeton is the first Ivy League school to do so.

As an aside, TB didn't do the research on this one. Paul Carmany of Liberty, whose teams did it in the Big South last year, sent it along.

Still, TB didn't need Carmany's work to confirm what an amazing year it's been in track and field at Princeton.

The women swept all three Heps titles for the first time in 30 years. The Tigers put up 132 team points, 19 more than second-place Cornell in a field that was fairly competitive.

The men's side was a two-team event the whole way, as Princeton edged Cornell 197-186, followed by Brown in a distant third at 76 points. The championship was clinched on the final event, the 4x400 relay, where Princeton's team of Mike Eddy, Tom Hopkins, Ricky Kearney and Austin Hollimon won by more than two seconds over Cornell.

Both the men and women will send individuals on to compete in NCAA competition and for All-America honors, and it'll be interesting to follow that group, especially since Donn Cabral was the runner-up in the NCAA steeplechase last year, while Ashley Higginson finished third in the event among the women.

Still, whatever happens there, the track and field teams have already made history this year with their "double triple."

And, as Princeton has now tied the league record for championships in an academic year with 14 with a shot at a new record with the three rowing titles to be awarded, a huge part of that has come from the track and field program.

And their veteran coaches.

It can be a young person's world, college coaching.

On a day when two who've been around for awhile had to step aside, TB was happy to see that Peter Farrell and Fred Samara are still running at full speed.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Out To The Ballgame

That this was going to become a day of pretty strong historical significance for Princeton Athletics was not foremost on TigerBlog's mind as Digger made the statement that Mariano Rivera might be the most dominant athlete of all time.

That statement came in the late innings of yesterday's decisive Game 3 of the Ivy League baseball championship series between Princeton and Dartmouth, a game the Tigers would win 8-5 with some timely hitting and clutch relief pitching by freshman A.J. Goetz. Princeton won despite three long home runs by Dartmouth, including back-to-back shots in the fifth inning.

TigerBlog watched most of the game from the hill on the leftfield side of Clarke Field, which couldn't have looked more perfect on this sunny and 70 degree Mothers' Day. Princeton, picked to finish last in the Gehrig Division after going 12-30 a year ago, completed its remarkable turnaround season by going 15-5 in the league this year to win the division.

Dartmouth, on the other hand, had won the last two Ivy titles and had swept Princeton during the season in Hanover. Princeton won Game 1 Saturday 9-2 and led by four in the seventh inning of Game 2 before the Big Green rallied to win 5-4, setting up a winner-take-all game yesterday.

The back-to-back home runs made it 5-4 after the Tigers had leads of 2-0, 4-1 and 5-2, but Goetz came out of the pen to get some big outs over his 4 2/3 inning stretch. The key moment of the game came when freshman Jonathan York hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to push the lead back to 8-4.

When it was over, TigerBlog sent a text message to a co-worker that said "baseball = no. 12." His reply was this: "w track = 13."

A little while later, "m track = 14," and the math added up to an amazing Sunday for Princeton.

Baseball's Ivy League title was the 12th for Princeton this academic year, and it was followed by women's track and field and men's track and field at the Heptagonal championships in New Haven to give Princeton 14 Ivy titles for the academic year 2010-11.

The all-time record for Ivy titles in an academic year is 14, something Princeton has now done three times (1999-2000, 2000-01, this year) and Harvard has done once (2004-05).

Princeton has three chances to break the record this weekend, when the men's lightweight and heavyweight rowing teams and women's open rowing team compete at Eastern Sprints for the final three league championships.

In case you're keeping score, Princeton has won the Ivy League title this year in:
field hockey, men's cross country, women's cross country, men's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball, women's fencing, men's indoor track and field, women's indoor track and field, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving and the three won yesterday.

The three Ivy titles yesterday don't even include the women's lacrosse team's win in the final of the league's tournament, which earned the Tigers an NCAA tournament spot - but not an Ivy title.

In fact, the first five pictures on goprincetontigers.com this morning were what the OAC people call "jubo," short for "jubilation."

All of that is great, of course. TB got another text yesterday from someone who used to work here and now works elsewhere in Division I - okay, it was John Mack - and he said that he hoped the people here appreciated how special a day like yesterday was and how special a year like this is.

And he's right, of course.

And yet, that's not what TB was thinking about when Digger - former assistant football coach Steve DiGregorio - brought up Mariano Rivera.

No, it was too perfect a day standing out on the hill or sitting on the grass to get bogged down in the historical stuff.

More than anything, yesterday reminded TB why there was a time in his life when baseball was his favorite sport.

TigerBlog has gotten more disillusioned with baseball than any other sport through the years, with all of its issues, most notably the whole way steroids have destroyed the legitimacy of the record book. He's not too thrilled with the way below average players make multi-millions either.

But all of that seemed so far away yesterday.

Watching Princeton and Dartmouth with Digger, Howard Levy, Rick Giles, Jess Deutsch and her husband and an army of others who strolled by, TB came to remember the appeal of the game, the leisurely way it plays out, the time in between to debate situations and what each person would do given the outs and baserunners and score.

And of course there's also the side conversations, like the one about Rivera. TB disagrees, and Howard backed him up, though Digger made some good points. This conversation was wrapped around the game, which is how baseball is supposed to be.

In fact, without missing a single moment in the game, the conversation ran all of the map, including religion, politics, sports and anything else, from whether it would ever be a good idea to try to lay a two-out bunt down with a runner on third if the third baseman is playing way back (TB said yes, Rick Giles said no) to telling stories about former equipment manager Hank Towns to how Digger rowed crew in high school on one of what was then only five high school rowing teams in New Jersey to why photographers standing exactly in the same spot get very different pictures of the same event.

The Princeton students were into it as well, with a large contingent on hand, drawn partly by the lure of $1 hot dogs on Saturday and then the winner-take-all drama of Sunday. The students were loud, but they never crossed the line into profane or unacceptable; their best effort was counting out the number of times that Dartmouth's Sam Bean spun his bat before getting set to hit.

By the ninth, the drama of the game built to the point were Howard mentioned that the players would remember this moment for the rest of their lives, a point that is never lost on TB.

Eventually, the last out of the day settled into the glove of Princeton centerfielder Tom Boggiano, and the celebration began.

TB stood back and took it all in, the "jubo" of the moment, the way the students joined in on the field, Princeton coach Scott Bradley as he spoke about his seniors on the field to a large gathering near home plate.

TB watched it all from the hill, the sea of people on an immaculately maintained field, the end of what was simply a perfect day.

Yes, it was one of great historical importance, and that is not to be underestimated.

But mostly it was just a great day to be outside, in the sunshine, hanging out with some friends - and getting reacquainted with a sport.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Let's Play A Game

As hard as this may be to believe, there are times here in the OAC when it's not all hard work.

Every now and then, the staff here likes to play a game.

It could be the Jumble, or the word game that Milena Flores, the assistant women's basketball coach, introduced to the OAC.

There are those here who have a weekly competition using the puzzles from the USA Today.

Back in the day, there was a promotional nerf hoop and ball in the back room, something that led to OAC games of H-O-R-S-E. And there was OAC golf a long time ago, which involved teeing off in TB's office and putting in the back room.

Sometimes, the game of the moment is a trivia game.

Take yesterday, for example. At one point, the game was "who am I," and it included questions about the Major League Baseball standings, such as "who am I? I'm the Major League Baseball team that is the most games out of first place in its division."

The answer? The Chicago White Sox.

Later, another impromptu trivia game sprung up. This one was "here's the year; guess the Roper and von Kienbusch winners."

For those who don't know, the Roper and von Kienbusch are the awards Princeton Athletics gives to the top senior male and female athletes in each particular class.

TB was asked to name the Roper winners from 1996, from which he got two of four. David Patterson, the linebacker on the Ivy champion football team, was an easy one, and for some reason he remembered that Ugwunna Ikpeowo from track and field won the same year. TB couldn't get tennis player Reed Cordish and soccer player Jesse Marsch.

As an aside, one day, Vinnie DiCarlo, then the track contact, asked Fred Samara how Ikpeowo pronounced his name (ih-GOO-nuh ik-PEE-oh-woh is correct) and was told "just how it's spelled." Vinnie then paused and said "ug-wuh-nuh ik-ee-pow-wow-wow."

Back at the name-the-winner game, TB did better on some years than others.

The easiest to remember was Roper in 2000. That was simple. John Mack, Josh Sims, Peter Yik.

As the game went on, questions drifted to "name every men's lacrosse player who won the Roper Trophy from 1992 to the present" and "name any Roper winners from the 1970s."

Eventually, TB realized that while the game was fun, it also served as a realization that each year, after awhile, sort of blends into the one before it or the next.

Back in each particular year, the details were very vivid. Over time, it's not always easy to remember what year was which.

Take the current year. In another 10 or 15 years, it'll be hard to remember everything that's gone on these last few months, as the 2010-11 academic year has played out.

Still, depending on what happens over the next few weeks, 2010-11 could still be a record-setting one for Princeton, and TB is pretty sure he'd remember that simple fact for awhile.

Princeton currently sits with 11 Ivy League championships, and the record for an academic year is 14, set by Princeton twice (in 1999-2000 and 2000-01) and matched by Harvard in 2004-05.

There are seven Ivy titles still remaining to be awarded, including one - softball - that Princeton has no chance to win, as the winner of the series between Harvard and Cornell will take that championship.

For the other six, Princeton has as good a chance as anyone.

This weekend, three of those titles will be decided, leaving only the three rowing championships in two weeks on the table.

The baseball team hosts Dartmouth this weekend in the Ivy League championship series, which begins tomorrow with a pair of games and then will have a third game if necessary Sunday. Dartmouth has won the last two Ivy titles, and Princeton's last was in 2006; the Big Green swept Princeton in Hanover during the regular season.

The men's and women's track and field teams compete at Yale in the Ivy League Heptagonal championships, also beginning tomorrow and in this case definitely continuing Sunday. Princeton has won the men's and women's cross country and indoor track and field titles so far this year.

Also this weekend, the Ivy League will be holding its two lacrosse tournaments, both of which will determine not the champion but instead which team will get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Princeton women are at Penn tonight in one semifinal, with Harvard and Dartmouth in the other. The Tigers ended Penn's 34-game league winning streak earlier this year and that win, along with last week's win over Penn State and an earlier win over Georgetown, leaves Princeton right on the NCAA tournament bubble without the automatic bid.

The current athletic year at Princeton is winding down, and most of the story of 2010-11 has already been written.

But not all of it.

There's a lot still to be determined, beginning this weekend.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Quarter Century And Counting

TigerBlog was on his way to the bagel place to get lunch yesterday when his phone rang. The caller ID showed that it was his roommate from his senior year in college.

TB first met Charlie Frohman on the first day of junior year, when he heard a voice with a giveaway Long Island accent bellowing from outside the window, which happened to be on the 22nd floor of one of the three high-rise dorms at Penn. When TB opened the window, he heard the first words Frohman ever said to him:

"Who are you?"

Only Charlie also included an expletive in there as well.

It led to this conversation:

"What year are you?"
"A junior."
"Yeah? I'm a junior too. How come I don't know you?"

The following year, TB and Frohman were roommates two floors up, on the top floor of High Rise South.

One day, Charlie was in the McDonald's on the corner of 40th and Walnut when a kid ran in one door, grabbed a young woman's purse, and ran out the other door, up 40th Street. Without hesitating, Charlie sprinted out the door after the kid, finally tackling him into an Action News van that pulled out of the alley half a block down the street and holding him until the police arrived.

A few weeks later, TB and Charlie were in a courtroom in Center City, as Judge John J. Wright listened to the prosecutor's recap of Charlie's statement and then announcing to his courtroom "all right, Charlie." Eventually, the kid - who it turned out had a knife - was sentenced to probation on the condition that he move to Pittsburgh and live with a family member there who would make sure he went to school.

As an aside, TB hopes that that was the last time that that young man was in a courtroom.

Anyway, Charlie has gone on to great things in the business world. He and TB have stayed in touch through the years with emails several times a week, and TB is pretty sure that even though Charlie is 1,000 miles away, were TB to call him in the middle of the night and tell him that he needed a quart of milk and it had to come from Charlie, then Charlie would be on the next plane with a quart of milk, no questions asked.

When Charlie called yesterday, it was to ask TB the name of the kid he chased down. He was at lunch with someone, and he was telling him the story.

TB, of course, remembered his name, as well as the judge's name - and the ride back to campus after the court appearance. As TB's friend Brad used to say, driving with Charlie was "an E ticket at Disney World."

TB remember all that even though it was more than a quarter-century ago. Think about that. A quarter century. Seems like a long time.

When TB went to update the Ivy League's all-sports points standings - okay, the unofficial ones - he realized that Princeton had clinched the championship for this year. Even if the Tigers finish in last place in men's and women's track and field and all three crews, the Tigers will still win the title.

Right now, Princeton has 167 points, 31 ahead of second-place Harvard. Princeton is guaranteed seven points for baseball, while Harvard has already had its baseball points allocated, so Princeton is actually 38 ahead.

Because Harvard could gain at most seven points per sport (eight points for first, one point for last), the maximum amount the Crimson could gain would be 35. Well, actually, it's 34, because Brown doesn't have men's lightweight rowing.

In other words, Princeton wins, no matter what happens from here.

For Princeton, that means that the streak has reached 25 straight years, or almost since the time that Charlie was chasing the kid into the Action News van.

Actually, TB wasn't even 100 percent sure what happened back in 1985-86, the year before Princeton's streak began. Back when TB started working here, the streak was at a certain point, and TB just kept updating it each year.

In other words, he took for granted that the information he started with was correct.

To test that theory, TB went back to 1985-86 and entered all of the results. Yes, it was a pain.

And yes, Princeton did not win. In fact, it was fairly close, but Harvard won that year.

And Princeton has won every year since.

Including this one.

Next year?

TigerBlog will offer the same conclusion he does every time he brings this subject up, and it's the ending of the movie "Patton."

You remember the end. Patton is wondering through the little town after the Germans have surrendered. He walks out into a clearing and across a field, and as he does so, his voice can be heard saying his thoughts, which conclude when he mentions that "all glory is fleeting."

One year, Princeton won't win again. It just hasn't been one for the last quarter-century.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Win, Lose - But No Random Draw

TigerBlog Jr. had a lacrosse tournament this past weekend, something that is not all that uncommon for him.

Almost all of the tournaments he plays eventually crown a champion, and they get highly competitive, especially in the summer. The one from this weekend was a bit lower key, though it was playing off to winner in each of its four divisions.

These tournaments have highly varying formats, numbers of teams entered and ways of determining the winner. Most end up with a playoff setup, and they have quite different ways of figuring out tiebreakers.

Most of the summer tournaments have divisions, and teams play a round-robin to set up the playoff round. Only one tournament that he's played in has been a straight elimination tournament (with confusing consolation rounds after each team loses its first game).

TigerBlog is always fascinated by how the tiebreakers are designed, especially given his professional background.

In all cases, they start out with head-to-head, though not every team plays every other team in every tournament. Or, in some cases, there are three-way ties that need to be broken.

As an aside, TB is amazed at how many times he's heard a parent say something like "how come they're ahead of us if we beat them," without considering that their team also lost to a third team, one that the first team defeated.

Other tiebreaking considerations include goal-differential, with a maximum number of goals that can counted from a given game, this to discourage running up the score. Other tournaments only use goals allowed.

The tournament this past weekend had two six-team divisions, and each team played three preliminary round games. After that, a series of tiebreakers would be applied to come up with a ranking of 1-6 in each division, and then there'd be cross-over games to determine first, third, fifth, etc.

The nice man running the operation was trying his best to keep up with all the various outcomes of games, but it got a bit complicated at times, since not every team played every other team. At one point, he said that it would be impossible to figure out who would be playing where and when in the cross-over games at that point - until TB came up with it for him.

He thanked TB, who said that it was nothing, that it was what he did for a living.

In the first two years of the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments, TigerBlog has tried to figure out all the permutations of results to determine if anyone had already clinched a spot in the field of four or had been eliminated.

What he's learned is that it's nearly impossible to figure out until there are only two weeks left in the season, and even then it's not easy.

Then there's the question of whether or not the tournaments are worth it.

TigerBlog is strongly in the "no basketball tournament" camp, and he has been for decades now.

For lacrosse, though, he doesn't mind the tournament, precisely for the same reason he doesn't want a basketball tournament. In the case of basketball, it would destroy the credibility of the regular season; in the case of lacrosse, it enhances the regular season.

Heading into the final weekend of the 2010 season, all seven men's teams had a chance at the Ivy tournament and by extension, the NCAA tournament. In the end, the Ivy tournament didn't add any teams to the NCAA tournament, but it also didn't keep any out. Princeton and Cornell would have been in without an Ivy tournament, and they were in anyway.

This year, six of the seven men's teams had a shot at the Ivy field entering the final weekend. It remains to be seen the effect that tournament has on the NCAA field, but TB can't see any of the three Ivy bubble teams - Penn, Yale, Harvard - not making the field with an Ivy tournament loss that otherwise would have made it.

Of course, for Princeton, the season ended a week short of the Ivy tournament. Without an Ivy tournament, Princeton would be playing its final regular season game this weekend.

Without an Ivy tournament, though, the last few games of the season would have been meaningless for Princeton, who would have been mathematically eliminated from the NCAA tournament without the possibility of a .500 record.

If TB had to change one thing about the Ivy tournament - and about any determination of a tiebreaker in the Ivy League - it would be to eliminate the possibility of a random draw.

Had Yale come back to beat Harvard and Dartmouth beaten Brown instead of losing in overtime, then the fourth spot would have been decided by a random draw.

There's too much riding on these outcomes to have them determined randomly. TigerBlog knows of a few times where the league found itself having to determine important placings or even NCAA bids by random draw (2003 men's and women's lacrosse automatic bid; 2006 women's basketball three-way playoff pairings), and in every case, TB couldn't help but think there had to be a better way.

For starters, eliminating random draws protects the Ivy League from ever being accused of rigging a random bid (something TB never has even remotely suspected, but there are probably those who thought that was the case).

So what would be the best way, if there's, say, a three-way tie where the teams are all 1-1 against each other and have the same results against every other team?

How about RPI? Goal (or point)-differential head-to-head? Goal-differential against the top team remaining in the standings?

Yes, any goal-differential situation opens up the door to running up the score, but honestly, how often could that possibly come up? And maybe go with goals allowed, rather than goal differential.

Hey, it works on the youth level.

Summing up, TB would like the Ivy League to never have a basketball tournament, keep the lacrosse tournaments and eliminate random draws.

Is that asking too much?