Friday, July 29, 2011

Thanks Bob

TigerBlog didn't watch any of the 2002 World Cup, the one that was in South Korea and Japan.

He watched way more of the 2006 World Cup. By 2010, he had watched and followed most of the qualifying rounds and almost every game of the tournament itself. He's still annoyed that Ireland didn't get in after France's Thierry Henry's obvious hand-ball wasn't called, and he would have loved to have seen how the U.S. would have done had it gotten past Ghana.

Of course, there was the goal that Landon Donovan scored against Algeria in stoppage time, one of the single greatest sporting moments TB can remember.

It didn't hurt of course that the call on the play was from Ian Darke, the best announcer in the world.

Through the years, TigerBlog has come to appreciate the enormity of international soccer, especially as it contrasts with American professional sports and in particular how it's televised. TB realized that, with no commercials and a two-hour block featuring excellent announcers, international soccer is the perfect TV sport.

Of course, it didn't hurt that that the head coach of the United States men's team was a Princeton alum, a former Princeton coach whom TB knew, covered during his newspaper days and worked with when he first came to Princeton, not to mention the brother of the current Princeton baseball coach.

And now, 13 months after the U.S. defeated Algeria to win its group at the World Cup, Bob Bradley is out as the American coach.

It's the nature of being a coach at the highest level professional or international level that you're almost certainly going to be fired one day. That day came yesterday for Bradley.

His last appearance as the U.S. coach didn't go well, with a group loss to Panama and then a finals loss to Mexico at the Gold Club. The Mexican game was a disaster, as the U.S. jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead only to see the game get away, 4-2.

The sport of soccer is this country is unlike any other.

TigerBlog has seen different surveys that give different information about which sport more American children play than any other, but TB's hunch and experience is that it's soccer. At least, they do when they're really, really young, since soccer is about the first sport every kid seems to get signed up to play.

Usually, this is in the four-year-old range, when they play co-ed, 3 v 3 with no goalies.

Still, for all the kids who play it, soccer still lags behind in the American sports conscience, way behind football, basketball, baseball and even hockey.

On the international scene, the U.S. team has gotten past the days when making the World Cup is the goal, though it hasn't quite reached the elite level either. The goal for U.S. soccer obviously is to win a World Cup, or reach the semifinals at least.

The question is how to get there. And who can get the team there.

The first question is the tough one to answer. The current youth system loses players throughout, and the ones who do stay with the sport go through a highly structured process that robs American players of individual creativity, especially on offense. At least that's what people who know way more about the sport tell TigerBlog.

The answers to that problem aren't very easy.

Neither is the fact that the best American athletes overwhelmingly go to the other sports, especially basketball and football. It doesn't take a genius to see that if the elite of American athletes played soccer, the country would be much more competitive internationally.

Of course, those issues couldn't be solved by Bob Bradley alone. Or any other coach who takes over the program.

The reality is that it's rare for a coach to go through two World Cup cycles. The other reality for U.S. soccer is that the next coach will face the same challenges Bradley did.

TigerBlog is getting ready for the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Still, it won't be the same, not without Bradley as the U.S. coach.

Every time TB watched the U.S. team play, at least part of the interest was in the Princeton connection. Now that that is gone, it won't be exactly like it was before.

Of course, the World Cup has become one of his favorite sporting events, and Bob Bradley is largely responsible for that.

TigerBlog was sad to see the news about Bradley, as he assumes all Princeton fans were.

Nobody will be able to convince TigerBlog that he didn't do a great job as U.S. coach - or that he deserved to lose the job.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What A Waste

The news that Amy Winehouse had died was, to TigerBlog and many others, not surprising.

For the most part, TigerBlog had no idea who Winehouse was, other than a troubled singer. He was pretty sure he had never heard her sing a note, and he couldn't name a song of hers.

About all he knew was that 1) she was English, 2) she had a problem with drugs and 3) she was constantly in the news for her drug-related problems, as well as for some outlandish behavior.

As far as TB was concerned, Winehouse was another pampered entertainer, someone more famous for being famous than for any actual substance. She appeared to fit in nicely with the current Lindsay Lohan-type blueprint for fame; namely, do whatever is necessary to be outrageous to achieve celebrity for celebrity's sake.

When the news broke, TB read a little about it, though it was clear that she had to have died of a drug overdose. After all, she was 27.

And yes, that was the same age that music legends Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, among others, were when they died.

Still, TB though, how could Winehouse be compared to those people?

Eventually, TB stumbled upon one story that had a link to one of her songs, so he figured he'd actually stop and listen.

And you know what?

She was good. Really good. Really, genuinely talented, with a very unique style that was a combination of modern Hip-Hop and old blues, tied together with a powerful voice. It was actually haunting to hear her, a few days after her death, for the first time.

Now TigerBlog feels somewhat ghoulish listening to some of these songs, especially since he never gave her a second thought while she was alive.

The reality is that it's a complete waste of that talent that Winehouse died so young, made even worse by how she died.

TB has tried to get his kids - and the kids he's coached - to understand that there are certain surefire ways to get into trouble, and he's made a list: 1) hanging out with the wrong people, 2) staying out after midnight, 3) gambling and 4 and most important) drugs and alcohol.

He also often quotes a second- or third-generation piece of advice that was given to him: If you have to ask yourself if what you're about to do is a good idea, it isn't, or, put differently, when in doubt, don't do it.

He can only hope that when the time comes, all young people will make the right decisions, though he knows that they all won't.

In Winehouse's case, the price for not doing so was the highest she could have paid.

And it was a total waste.

Anytime TigerBlog has been asked to speak to incoming freshmen or recruits, he always tells them the same thing.

By virtue of being recruited by a school like Princeton, these kids by definition are among the very, very elite of their age in terms of academic performance and athletic ability. They have been given gifts that so many others their age weren't - and would trade anything to have.

It's easy to take it for granted when you've spent your whole life as the smartest one in the class and the best athlete.

And TB tells every one of them when he's asked to meet with the same thing: Whatever you do, don't waste the talent you've been given.

Right now, there are somewhere around 200 athletes who are a few weeks away from being Princeton freshmen. They are still in their summer vacations, maybe working, with school looming out there but not quite a reality yet.

When they get here, they'll start out their run at Princeton with basically the same goals - win championships, play a lot, get a great education, make some lifelong relationships, have a great all-around experience.

Not all will achieve all of those. Some will. Just not all. It's not possible.

Still, TigerBlog's advice to all of them is the same. Don't waste the opportunity. Get the most out of it that you possibly can.

Don't look back four years from now and wish you'd done more than you had.

TB isn't trying to equate what happened to Amy Winehouse to what happens to a college athlete or student who doesn't make the maximum effort, though there is one similarity.

Theirs is a unique opportunity.

They owe it to themselves to do their absolute best.

Anything else is just a waste.

In Winehouse's case, it's a tragic waste.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On William, Jack And Heroes

William Anderson is nine years old. Jack Auteri is 14 or maybe 15, and he plays lacrosse with William's older brother Matthew, as well as TigerBlog Jr., on a team called Twist.

When the team's coach would talk to the players post-game, William would sometimes try to sneak unnoticed into the back of the group, so he could hear what was being said.

To William, who plays on the U-11 level, it doesn't matter that his brother is on the same team. Jack is his favorite player.

And why wouldn't he be? If the team had an MVP award, it would have gone to Jack, who won more than 70% of his face-offs this summer while also scoring 20 goals, many of them in big spots, and playing tenacious defense.

In one game earlier this summer, Twist found itself in a "Braveheart," which is the summer lacrosse term for deciding a tie game without having a full overtime. In a Braveheart, each team sends out one player and a goalie, and the two players face-off at midfield and play full-field one-on-one until someone scores.

In most cases, teams agonize about which player to send out. In Twist's case, nobody ever told Jack to go out; it was just assumed by all players and coaches and parents that he would be the one. In this rather stressful situation, it took Jack exactly four seconds to win the face-off and go down and win the game.

At one point, William told Matthew, a longstick midfielder who plays on the wing on face-offs, that it was probably no fun for Matthew when Jack faced off, because once Jack got the ball, all Matthew would get to do is run off the field.

Beyond Jack's ability, he is also the obvious team leader, gifted with a natural charisma that his teammates can't help but be drawn to. When the team breaks the huddle, it is Jack who screams "1-2-3" while the others answer "Twist." He possesses the ability to be relaxed and easy-going off the field and a ferocious competitor on it, and he can toggle back and forth between those two personas seamlessly.

This past weekend was the end of the 2011 Twist season, one that saw the team go 27-4 in a very competitive age group.

Between games Sunday, in the sweltering heat and humidity, William ended up having a catch with Jack, something that then turned into a small tutorial on facing-off and ultimately stick tricks.

There is something wildly innocent about a child with a good case of hero-worship, as William had while throwing with Jack. It's like watching a group of puppies rolling around on a lawn or snow falling on December 24th or something like that.

William is the perfect age for this, and TigerBlog used to see it with TBJ and the Princeton players around the same age. In fact, to William, Jack might as well be a college player or professional player. Heroes - especially athletic ones - are what they are.

Eventually, Jack and William got together for a picture, and TigerBlog cannot remember ever seeing a smile quite like the one William had on his face at the time.

It was a smile that suggested that here was a nine-year-old who couldn't possibly think of something he'd rather be doing more, or of someone he'd rather be standing next to. It was a smile of pure, unfiltered, unjaded, non-cynical, couldn't-possibly-be-happier youthful innocent joy.

It was the kind of smile that made everyone who saw it smile themselves, since they couldn't help but be touched by the moment.

It was a nine-year-old and his hero.

TigerBlog hasn't been nine for a long time, since Richard Nixon was President, actually.

TB also never really was the kind who had heroes in the way that William looks at Jack.

As he got older, though, TB developed his own brand of hero-worship, though he'd be reluctant to actually call it that. Maybe they weren't heroes, but there have been people that TB as looked at not as mentors or role models per se but simply as people who earned TB's greatest level of respect.

One of them was Alex Wolff, the Princeton alum, author and Sports Illustrated writer.

TB met Wolff mostly through Wolff's love of basketball in general and the times he'd come to Princeton to watch it.

A soft-spoken man with great intelligence and an awesome ability to put words to paper, Wolff made for a perfect TB "hero." There was also an element of "hey, wouldn't it be cool to have his job" built into it.

Wolff doesn't write sports the way most people write sports. In fact, if someone like F. Scott Fitzgerald had become modern-day sportswriter, then he would have written the same kinds of stories as Wolff, stories that are as much literature as they are journalism.

Wolff wrote a book called "Big Game, Small World," a fascinating concept in which he traveled all over the world in search of basketball for a 12-month stretch of 1998-99. It included stops in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and of course North America, and the subjects along the way were amazing, such as his stop in Bosnia talking about how civil war had destroyed an international powerhouse (and lifelong friendships), in Japan to write about a former Villanova women's basketball star who had become a cloistered nun, in Africa to write about the African championships, in a small Asian country where the ruler was a basketball nut.

In fact, the book begins and ends in Princeton, beginning with a conversation with the late Marv Bressler and ending when Wolff came and played pickup basketball in Jadwin Gym. It would have been a great book before it mentioned the perfect backdoor pass that TigerBlog threw.

Wolff wrote a great piece in Sports Illustrated about the 1997-98 Princeton team that reached No. 7 in the national rankings and went 27-2.

He's written other books, covered any number of other sports and even owned a minor league basketball team in Vermont.

TB has had long conversations with Wolff about basketball, Princeton, his favorite players and coaches, his least favorite players and coaches and a bunch of other subjects. For someone who reached the pinnacle of his career, Wolff has always remained down-to-Earth and humble, free of the ego inflation that too often afflicts those in the media.

TigerBlog recently found out that Wolff was being given the Curt Gowdy Award by the basketball Hall of Fame during its induction ceremonies Aug. 11-12 in Springfield.

The Curt Gowdy Award is given to a member of the print or electronic media (or in this case both, as broadcaster Jim Durham is also being honored) whose "longtime efforts have made significant contributions to the game of basketball."

Nobody is more deserving than Alex Wolff, whom TB hasn't spoken to as much in recent year as he used to.

Still, when TB saw the news about Wolff, he was particularly happy for him, and many of the memories of TB's interactions with Wolff came flooding back.

Hero-worship might be different as you get older, but it's still the same basic premise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Great Moment In Organized Labor

Guess what everyone. The biggest farce in the history of American labor relations is over.

TigerBlog isn't quite a union guy, though he did study the labor movement considerably back in his undergrad days. He remembers reading about events like the Haymarket Square riot, the evolution of labor unions on the railroads, the Wobblies and any number of other significant moments through the years.

One of the class assignments was to watch a movie called "The Molly Maguires," which starred Sean Connery as the leader of the saboteurs who were trying to force the mining company to recognize unionization.

At no point in any of the classes that TB took did the subject of how to split billions of dollars between two equally greedy factions, all while the leadership tries as much to save face as anything else, come up.

Raise your hand if you thought there was the slightest chance that the NFL season wouldn't start on time.

The NBA, by the way, is a whole other situation, as teams there really do need to do something to save the league. In the NFL, though, there is so much money pouring in that it's almost obscene.

Actually, it is obscene to think that the players and owners had to have a work stoppage in the first place, especially considering how many people continue to be unemployed or struggling.

In the end, it was mostly a game of chicken between DeMaurice Smith, head of the players union, and commissioner Roger Goddell. In fact, TB wouldn't be shocked if the actual meetings that the two had between them were mostly spent with conversations like this:
"DeMaurice, how did we paint ourselves into a corner like this?"
"Not sure, Rog, but we have to figure a way out to save face."

Ultimately, both sides won, and the lawyers really won.

Mostly, the players got out of all of their off-season workouts and mini-camps, which they don't like anyway. And both sides can continue to print the money.

Now that the lockout has ended, the feeding frenzy of signing players can begin.

Princeton has a long history in the NFL, though the Tigers were not represented last year on an NFL roster. In recent years, Princeton grads like Dennis Norman and Ross Tucker were staples in the league, solid veteran professionals.

Of course, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett, is a Princeton alum. So is the Giants' Director of College Scouting, Marc Ross.

The 2011 season could feature a Princeton player in the league, if Harry Flaherty can make the New Orleans Saints.

Flaherty was Princeton's tight end last season, when he actually threw more touchdown passes than he caught. He did catch 25 passes, the third-best total on the team.

Since the end of the season, Flaherty has been working hard as a long-snapper, something he didn't do at Princeton, as well as a tight end and special teams player. That kind of diverse skill set can help him find a spot on a roster.

Trey Peacock, who caught 72 passes for 955 yards last season, might be a few split seconds too slow to be an NFL player, or at least to get a chance to be an NFL player. In a league where the stopwatch for a 40-yard dash at a workout means more than what a player has shown in his college career, Peacock might not be fast enough.

TigerBlog thinks this is a sham, because he saw enough of Peacock to know that he could help someone in the NFL. TB isn't saying he could be Miles Austin or Danny Woodhead, or maybe he is saying that, because all those guys needed was a chance.

It's a weird league, the NFL.

On the one hand, about half of first-round draft picks - even in the top 10 - never make it. Tons of money is thrown at players with the right tools, even though they'll never make a difference either.

And it hardly matters if those players are less than sparkling in their ability to stay out of legal trouble. If they can play - or look like they can play - they'll get another chance. Look at Plaxico Burress.

And yet, for all of that, people - TigerBlog included - can't get enough of the NFL. Nothing in American sports compares, which is why there is so much money in the first place.

So relax, football fans, the lockout is over.

Wonder if this nonsense will be added to the curriculum anytime soon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bye Jack; See You Soon

For whatever reason, TigerBlog can remember exactly the first time he ever met Jack McBride.

One day shortly after McBride arrived on campus, TB was walking across the track towards the football stadium when he came upon a kid on all fours, looking for something in the drain on the side of the track closest to where the chemistry building now is.

TB recognized the kid from a picture and asked him if he was Jack McBride, and he immediately sprung to attention and answered in the affirmative, followed by a huge smile and handshake.

TB isn't sure why he remembers that moment, as opposed to the other thousands of times he's met Princeton athletes. He remembers meeting Dan Cocoziello, another Delbarton grad who played lacrosse at Princeton, for the first time, when Cocoziello was standing against the fence at Class of 1952 Stadium during his senior year of high school, when he already looked like he was 30.

McBride, like Cocoziello, has a huge personality, only his is 180 degrees from the understated, quiet, soft-spoken - and hugely charismatic - Cocoziello.

No, with McBride the personality gushes from him at all times. And, like the first time TB met him, McBride is always smiling and always, always shaking hands. He is among the most polite people TB has ever met.

He's also among the best goal scorers.

McBride was the 2008 Ivy League Rookie of the Year after scoring 19 goals, and he had back-to-back 35-goal seasons as a sophomore and junior, earning All-America honors and first-team All-Ivy recognition both times.

As a junior he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat Cornell in the first Ivy League tournament final. He then had two goals and three assists in Princeton's 8-5 opening round loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament.

Another 35-goal season as a senior would have given him 124 career goals, which would have ranked him behind only Jesse Hubbard, Chris Massey and Sean Hartofilis - and he would have only needed two more at that point to tie Hartofilis.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, McBride's goal total his senior year was exactly one, which came in the season-opener against Hofstra. Bothered by a groin injury, McBride was limited to less than 60 minutes for the season (a little more than three quarters against Hofstra and about five minutes against Penn).

He graduated this spring with 90 career goals, 15th-best in school history, and with a year of eligibility remaining.

And now it turns out that he'll be using that year at North Carolina, as he will work on his MBA while playing for the Tar Heels in 2012.

Because he graduated, McBride was no longer able to play at Princeton, or anywhere else in the Ivy League. He was essentially a college free agent, since he could play next year at basically any other school, and he chose North Carolina.

Interestingly, McBride will be playing against Princeton this coming spring, when the Tar Heels and Tigers meet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on March 10 as part of the Face-Off Classic.

TigerBlog was trying to remember other instances of former Princeton players who came back to compete against Princeton, and he could only remember two.

One was J.R. Gillern, who left Princeton and went to the College of New Jersey and then played against the Tigers during the annual Division III game in 1998.

The other was a bit more dramatic, though it was the same sport. Dominick Martin (mar-TEEN) was Princeton's starting center as a freshman in 2001-02 and then transferred to Yale.

There have to be others, though TB can't think of them.

Or maybe there aren't, since not that many athletes transfer from Princeton.

In McBride's case, you have a player who was the team's star for three years and the captain last year, when he couldn't play but still was a very strong team leader.

The Princeton-Carolina game next year will be weird, as McBride will look out-of-place as he goes against his old team.

For TB's part, he'll have a hard time rooting against him, even on that day.

TigerBlog has always known that there was something special about Jack McBride, and not just as a lacrosse player.

He knew it ever since the first time he met him.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Never Too Hot For Soup

TigerBlog has always operated under the basic premise that it's never too hot for soup or too cold for ice cream. Today will be testing the first part, though TB is not ruling out the baked potato soup at Panera for lunch today.

There aren't too many days where you walk outside at 7 am or so and are simply overwhelmed by how hot it is. Today was one of those.

As of 10 this morning, the temperature in Princeton was 96, with humidity of 53%. The heat index (sort of the reverse wind-chill) is 109.

Today's high is supposed to be 102, which is four degrees higher than yesterday's high of 98. Tomorrow is supposed to be 101.

TigerBlog wondered if he'd be able to tell the difference between 98 and 102. After awhile, isn't it just ridiculously hot?

The answer is, apparently, sort of. It's noticeably more uncomfortable today than yesterday, though that could be more attributable to the heat index than the four degree difference.

TigerBlog has taken advantage of the off-week for squash camp to play three times this week, with the possibility of another game coming up in a few minutes. On Tuesday, he played with Scott Champ, the former Princeton women's soccer assistant coach who is entering his first year at Arizona State.

Were there a reality show dealing with squash addiction, Champ would definitely be the main character. He came to the sport in 2008, back when TB could beat him playing lefthanded. Eventually, by playing about 25 hours a day, Champ became a, well, champ or something like that.

Now, as he heads to Arizona State, he was lamenting the fact that there is only one court on the campus.

Meanwhile, TB was sweating completely through his clothes in about the first four seconds of playing down on D level of Jadwin, where the air is scarce on a normal day.

The first Princeton athletic events of the 2011-12 season are exactly six weeks from today, when Princeton will play men's and women's soccer and field hockey.

If that seems like a long time away, it isn't. In fact, six weeks ago (June 10) hardly seems that long ago.

As TB said last week, July 23 (which happens to be tomorrow) is the exact halfway point between the last event of last year (the NCAA track and field championships) and the first event of the new year.

Champ was saying how the ASU players were already on campus, going through conditioning work in advance of preseason, which starts shortly. Champ's team has an exhibition game against Boise State in just three weeks, and the season-opening games are just four weeks away.

TigerBlog has always preferred the spring schedule to the fall one, because the weather goes from bad to good rather than good to bad. Lately, though, it seems like it takes longer for spring to arrive, only to see it turn to summer in about two days.

Regardless, there are two months left of summer and then another few weeks after that of hot weather. By three months from now, temperatures will routinely be no higher than the 50s or 60s, with lows in the 30s and 40s.

TigerBlog has a picture of Little Miss TigerBlog after a basketball game of hers in the winter. She's standing in front of her mailbox, with a snow drift way bigger than she is behind her.

That picture was taken exactly six months ago today.

TB is pretty sure he had ice cream on that day.

Today, he might have soup.

And he could heat it up on the sidewalk.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where Do These People Come From?

TigerBlog could sum up the overwhelming majority of his lifetime's community service record in two words: coaching kids.

Let's face it. That's not quite rolling up his sleeves and feeding the hungry or helping the unfortunate.

Yes, TigerBlog can hope that he's had an impact on some of these kids and that they learned something in the way of life lessons from him. In fact, he knows several examples where that is most definitely the case.

Still, that's basically where it ends for him.

When TB was writing the Princeton Athletics Year in Review and doing the senior-athlete video, he obviously included the winners of the Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch Awards as the primary honorees of the previous year.

And the Art Lane Award winners? Yeah, they're in there, though always less prominently featured than the athletic awards.

The Art Lane Award is given for outstanding contribution to sport and society by a Princeton senior athlete. Each year when TB first sees the nominations, he's amazed at how some of these athletes are able to balance the requirements of being a student and playing a sport and then go out and spend additional hours each week helping others.

Often, he finds himself thinking to himself: "Where do these people come from?"

He finds himself today thinking the same about Chad Wiedmaier, the All-America defenseman on the men's lacrosse team.

Wiedmaier left yesterday for a four-week trip to Uganda
, during which time he'll work with an organization called "Fields of Growth" that is using lacrosse to help promote education and citizenship in that country. To date, it has been wildly successful, as Uganda was just admitted to the Federation of International Lacrosse and as such is eligible for the 2014 World Championships in Denver.

Wiedmaier's trip will see him centered primarily in Kampala, the capital of the country, where he will conduct lacrosse clinics, oversee an unofficial national championship tournament and help out in several educational endeavors.

Additionally, Wiedmaier is also going to spend time in more rural settings, helping build schools and on other such projects, while also spending time near the rain forest that borders Uganda, Rwanda and Congo as he assists a displaced group of Batwa Pygmies.

More than half of the people in Uganda live in poverty. Wiedmaier went to the Delbarton School, whose tuition each year exceeds the average annual income of your average Ugandan by about 25 times.

Wiedmaier is a three-time first-team All-Ivy League defenseman, and he will head into his senior year with a chance to become the first four-time selection in school history. In fact, only one Ivy League player, Cornell's Max Siebald, has ever been a four-time first-team selection, and Wiedmaier and Cornell's Rob Pannell both have a very good chance of joining Seibald next year.

For all that, Wiedmaier could have spent his summer on Wall Street or working at lacrosse camps or even lifeguarding at some beach somewhere.

Instead, he's chosen to head to a poor country on a poor continent to try and do some good.

Maybe it's a function of the University itself, with its unofficial motto of "In the Nation's Service and Service of All Nations."

Maybe it's more a function of the people themselves.

In Wiedmaier's case, he summed it up this way after drawing on his experience last summer in Costa Rica:
"You can be told so many times how lucky you are to live in America or attend a college like Princeton," Wiedmaier says. "You don't really understand it until you go out of the country. Even though Costa Rica is hardly a developing country, it still showed me how fortunate we are to have the resources we have. That experience made me want to keep traveling and keep helping people."

Again, TigerBlog asks, where do these people come from?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

About Time

TigerBlog Jr. will be attending a high school that does not offer football, which is just fine with TigerBlog.

In the past, TBJ has played tackle football, on the Pop Warner level and the last two years on the middle school lightweight team, where he was a 105-pound right tackle and defensive end.

TB would stand on the sidelines and watch these games and have the same thought run through his head: no concussions.

And yes, TB realizes that the sport that TBJ plays by far the most, lacrosse, can also have concussion-causing plays. In fact, arguably the best defensive player on his summer team has had to miss the entire spring and summer seasons due to two concussions.

And yes, life requires taking certain risks, sometimes in the name of playing football.

Still, every parent TB has spoken to who had a son who played youth football who is not playing football in high school is, like TB, just fine with it.

Somewhere along the line, football has grown from being violent to being dangerous.

The reason is simple: There is too much glorification, on TV and in video games, of crippling hits rather than of proper tackles.

In fact, very few people actually tackle anymore. They either launch themselves as hard as they can into the person with the ball, hoping the sheer force of the blow will knock the man to the ground, or they are cornerbacks who have no interest in tackling if they can't knock the ball down or intercept it.

All of this has been condoned and encouraged by the mass media. When was the last time anyone saw a highlight of a perfectly executed tackle, rather than a crushing shot that was laid on a receiver?

It's been years.

If you watch highlights of games from 30 years ago or more, you'll see almost no helmet-to-helmet shots. What you'll see is gang tackling, eye gouging, biting, knee-targeting and all the rest - but not helmet-to-helmet shots.

The emphasis on the player-as-missile way of playing the game has had as big an impact on the sport as anything ever has. Couple this with the fact that no sport in this country has ever been more popular than football is now, and you could see how the players and the owners who are raking in the money wouldn't want to do anything that might mess with that.

Oh wait. Of course, except for having a lockout over nothing other pure greed. But as far as making the game safer, nope.

What if rules were changed to make it seem like the league was trying to dial down the carnage? What if fans didn't respond to them? Then what would happen to the money?

All of this brings the Ivy League's new football rules, announced today, to the forefront.

When the Ivy League takes a unilateral stand on an athletic-related policy, the usual reaction is that the rest of college sports will not follow. Instead, the BCS conferences are more likely to go in the other direction.

This time, though, it might be different.

TigerBlog didn't read the entire report that is on the Ivy League webpage.

Still, he read enough to know that the league is serious about taking the lead in making football a safer sport to play.

In the New York Times article about the changes, Harvard coach Tim Murphy had this telling quote:
“If we want young people to continue to fall in love with this great sport, we have to protect the athletes.”

The rules changes might not be significant, as going to two full-contact practices per week might not actually alter teams preparation plans all that much. In fact, it's hard to believe that there are too many teams who use the full five full-contact practices per week during the season that the NCAA allows. What would be the point?

What the Ivy League is mostly doing is acknowledging that there's a real problem that needs real attention paid to it. It's attempting to change the culture of the sport, by making those who play it and coach it constantly pay attention to the core issue.

In doing so, it'll become standard operating procedure to limit - or even eliminate - head shots. It won't just be lip service that is being paid to the problem; offenders will face real, legitimate consequences, as referees will be even more vigilant in flagging those who violate the rules.

The key piece is to move past the accepted belief that he violent collision is the best part of the game, the one that drives the interest in football.

It's not the case.

The problem is that addressing this makes it seem like those trying to effect change are trying to "wussify" the sport and that they don't understand that it's only for "real men" to play.

The reality is that professional football right now has an epidemic when it comes to head injuries, among both current players and retired players, many of whom are dying way, way too young.

And, of course, those playing on the lower levels of college and high school imitate what they see as how the game should be played. And very few of them will ever earn the millions that are part of the tradeoff.

Somebody needed to do something to make the first step in the right direction.

Maybe the Ivy League has done just that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tweet This

The first time TigerBlog read USA Today, he was astonished by the fact that almost all of the stories were so short.

Other than the big cover story of the day, all of the stories were only a few paragraphs. The ones on the front page didn't even jump - TB loves throwing around the newspaper talk - to an inside page, something TB had never seen before.

As it turns out, USA Today was ahead of its time. In fact, it was in many ways (and probably unknowingly) the bridge between traditional writing and Twitter.

For centuries, writing was a complex undertaking, and it wasn't meant for the masses. Even after the democratization of public education, especially in this country, writing still meant novels of hundreds of pages or magazine or newspaper stories of considerable depth.

Today? Anyone can be a writer, especially on Twitter, where 140 character entries are all you get. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 350,000,000 Tweets per day.

To put that in some perspective, the first few paragraphs of TigerBlog so far are 727 characters.

TigerBlog recently read a story about how "The Great Gatsby" had been rewritten to make it easier for readers. To TB, who first read the book back in 10th grade and has loved it ever since, it immediately called up one of Pete Carril's best quotes: "when you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you."

Apparently, the Women's World Cup final this past Sunday broke two impressive records.

First, there was the Twitter record, with 7,196 Tweets per second during the game, breaking the records recently set after the death of Bin Laden and the marriage of those two kids in England.

The other record? ESPN's telecast of the final for the women drew a 7.4 rating, the highest ever for a soccer game on ESPN. In fact, it was nearly double the 4.0 rating of the previous high, for the U.S.-Algeria game in the men's World Cup last summer.

The ratings amaze TB, since, like many who ended up being captivated by it all, TB didn't even realize the Women's World Cup was about to begin until shortly before it did.

What answers the question of why the ratings were twice those of the men's game against Algeria? Is it because the U.S. was in the final, and the American public will blindly watch anything American on that level? Was it the drama from the game against Brazil that helped build the audience for the rest of the tournament? Was it the fact that it was tailor-made for today's audience, with a natural heroine (Abby Wambach) and an attractive leading woman (Hope Solo)?

TigerBlog's theory is that it was something akin to watching Michael Phelps in the Olympics. It was big as it happened, but once it ended, women's soccer - like swimming - goes back to the back burner until four years from now, if the magic can be recaptured.

The Twitter aspect is much more interesting to TB, at least from the perspective of what it actually means for the future.

It used to be that newspapers would be the go-between for quotes from athletes and coaches - and anyone else - to the people who wanted to hear what those people had to say. Today, athletes and coaches simply Tweet.

What does this mean for Princeton and its Twitter effort,

Will Princeton reach a time where its athletes and coaches are providing their own alternative to Yes, some of the teams already have Twitter accounts, but it's still very rudimentary.

And, for that matter, will eventually eclipse Is that what the real audience is?

TigerBlog has known for years that people don't want to read in-depth game stories as much as they want to read about the next thing that's going to happen. In many ways, box scores - and even headlines - are more than good enough for providing the information about the last contest.

So should Princeton do what Miami did once, when Miami suspended its actual website for a day and provided information only through its social networking sites?

To this point, Princeton's Twitter efforts have been something of an afterthought.

For TB, maybe the Women's World Cup is trying to say something about how to do business around here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bad Girls

If you never owned an actual record and record player, you probably don't know who Casey Kasem is. Or, if you're a Scooby Doo fan under the age of 30, you probably never put the voice of Shaggy together with Top 40 radio.

Speaking of Scooby Doo, by the way, why were Scooby and Shaggy ever afraid of any of the ghosts and monsters they ran into, since they were always just the bad guy in a disguise. Wouldn't they have figured that out at some point?

Anyway, Casey Kasem would count down America's Top 40 - the top 40 songs in that particular week's Billboard chart - on his show every weekend.

Yesterday morning, TigerBlog was flipping through the radio when he stumbled upon the voice of Casey Kasem - who also was the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo. It was a repeat of the countdown from July 14, 1979, the top 40 songs from 32 years ago this week.

The year 1979 was an interesting time for music, with a combination of some classic rock songs that TB listens to on his I-tunes pretty much on a daily basis and the peak of the disco era.

The countdown certainly reflected that. Included on the list were songs like "The Logical Song" by Supertramp, "I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick, "Is She Really Going Out With Him" by Joe Jackson and "Dance the Night Away" by Van Halen, as well as R&B classic "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

Alongside those were disco smashes like "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge, "Good Times" by Chic and "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer.

In fact, the top two songs in the countdown - which included a Long Distance Dedication of Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" - were disco songs, with "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward at No. 2 and another Donna Summer favorite, "Bad Girls," - at No. 1.

As an aside, the Long Distance Dedication was from a family in Kentucky to an old friend in Indiana, whom they no longer lived near, and it struck TB as really weird, because the distance isn't that great. And then he realized that distance in 2011 is way different than distance in 1979.

TigerBlog listened to the countdown on 101.9 FM in Baltimore, as he was in town for the Summer Sizzle lacrosse tournament. As a result, he missed the Women's World Cup championship game between the U.S. and Japan, though he did see the highlights later.

Again, TB has the same problem with international soccer on the women's side that he did with the men's game.

First, the rules of college soccer are far better than those of international soccer. Forget the stuff that is untouchable, like the offsides rule and all that.

The idea that time isn't kept on the scoreboard is ludicrous. The three-substitution rule is bad also, because it means that you have exhausted players on the field at the end, which inhibits the quality of play.

And overtime should be sudden death, and not because Abby Wambach's goal would have won it for the U.S. In fact, if OT was sudden death, then Brazil would have beaten the U.S. - but that's still how it should be. Why do they insist on playing out all 30 minutes?

Lastly, and this applies to the NCAA tournament here as well, penalty kicks are no way to end a game, let alone decide a World Cup championship. Keep playing until someone scores.

The game won't go on forever, since both teams will have to take chances to get the goal to win. They couldn't sit back and play for a tie and hope for PKs.

Mostly, though, TB thought about the difference in the world of women's sports from the days of "Bad Girls" as the No. 1 song in the country and today.

The countdown that TB heard came seven years after Title IX was enacted in 1972, and even after that landmark legislation, the idea that an international women's sporting event would get the kind of coverage and attention that it did was unthinkable.

TigerBlog has said this many times before, but the idea that Princeton - or any college - would shortchange its women's teams in favor of its men's teams is unthinkable. It's not something that would ever enter into the radar of anything that is done around here.

TB has sat in so many meetings in which gender equality is never spoken about because it doesn't have to be. It's just something that exists.

One of TB's longstanding questions is what would it be like around here for gender equality if not for Title IX. TigerBlog likes to think that Princeton does much of what it does because it's the right thing to do, not because it's the law.

But maybe things would be different if there wasn't the constant threat of the federal government hanging over college sports? TB hopes not, but he can't be sure.

In fact, much of the equality here is between the usual "haves" of college sports - football, basketball and such - and everyone else, regardless of gender.

Still, progress would have been much slower without Title IX.

And maybe Princeton's women's teams would still be playing in substandard conditions, practicing when the men didn't want to, without the same administrative support.

It's a great question.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Friday In July

The weather could not have been more perfect around here the last few days. Temperatures in the low 80s, not much humidity.

Last night at the pool, it was on the fringes of being chilly, with a low of 64.

It felt like September, not mid-July. It had the feel of an early-season sporting event on one of those days that reminds you that it's not quite fall yet but that the hottest days of summer are past.

In reality, it's still early summer, and five of the next 10 days in the forecast have temps in the 90s.

The midway point between the last athletic event of last academic year and the first athletic event of 2011-12 is actually still eight days away. For the record, Sept. 2 is opening day, with games in men's and women's soccer and field hockey.

There are few days in the world of college athletics quieter than a Friday in July.

Forget Saturdays during the school year. Sundays during the school year are way busier than Fridays in July.

TigerBlog remembers how FatherBlog would take most Fridays in the summer off from work, and there are many who follow that same plan to get a jump on the summer weekend. Were it up to TB, he'd take off every Wednesday in the summer instead of Fridays, since then he'd never work more than two straight days and, presumably, your average summer attraction is less crowded on a Wednesday than a Friday.

Actually, Lot 21 is actually jammed today, since there is a football camp going on outside and, TB thinks, a youth squash tournament going on inside.

Of course, there is work being done around here. At least TB assumes there is.

It's just quiet, that's all. And nothing seems to be all that pressing, as opposed to the non-stop crunch of college athletics in-season.

So far today, TB has had a talk with a co-worker about her upcoming 50th high school reunion. There was an impromptu "meeting" to decide a fairly trivial matter, and most of the meeting was spent talking about the story about the guy who did the "World Triathlon" and how hilarious the comments were.

Somehow, this segued into the fact that Douglas Davis' shot against Harvard made the ESPY's Top 10 Plays of the Year.

As an aside, the best person at doing "Plays of the Week/Year/Month/Day" ever has been, for TB's money, Warner Wolf. TigerBlog remembers watching one time when Angels' manager Cookie Rojas was ejected from a game in Yankee Stadium for arguing that it was raining too hard to continue playing, and he was tossed by all four umpires at the same time when he came out of the dugout with an umbrella.

What else?

TigerBlog has to finish the Year in Review for 2010-11 and some other written pieces for the annual fundraising calendar. He also wants to get the men's lacrosse recruiting class on the webpage and write up something about men's lacrosse All-America Chad Wiedmaier's coming trip to Africa.

Still, none of those are totally pressing for today at least.

On the other side of campus, Little Miss TigerBlog is at the summer camp at Dillon Gym. Yesterday was '80s day, and LMTB went with a "Flashdance" look, even though she had no idea that a movie of that name ever was made. In fact, she often refers to TB's tastes in music and movies as "not from this millennium."

Fridays at the camp feature the big dance competition, in which the three age groups - the 6s, the 7/8s and the 9/10s - all compete to be that week's winner. Apparently, LMTB needed hula skirts for today.

When TB dropped LMTB off this morning, Craig Schwartz, the camp director, asked him what he was going to be writing about today.

TB asked Schwartz was he'd recommend, and Schwartz ran through a few subjects. Most of them required way too much thought. So did some of the others that TB had in mind, so he'll just table them for today.

It's too quiet a day for that.

So TB will get back to the waiting stress-free tasks.

That's how it is on a Friday in July.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The President's Report

TigerBlog was at a meeting at Prospect House several years ago.

The meeting featured representatives from all of the various communications offices on campus, and it was in a room with a long rectangular table. TigerBlog sat down somewhat randomly at the far end of the table, and as the seats filled in, all but the one to his immediate left were taken.

Eventually, the featured speaker for the meeting walked in and, seeing only one empty chair, sat down next to TB. as the two had never met, she very politely extended her hand to TB and said: "hello, I'm Shirley Tilghman."

Obviously, TigerBlog knew who she was already, since she is the President of Princeton University.

TB has dealt with President Tilghman several times through the years and seen her at numerous functions. She always remembers TB by name, which TB assumes she multiplies out times the hundreds or thousands of people on this campus that she can similarly identify.

For someone whose background is as a scientist, Dr. Tilghman has always struck TB as a natural politician, someone who moves seamlessly from constituent to constituent, always smiling and pleasant.

In essence, it's a huge part of what being a college president is about, the ability to interact with people on campus from vastly different points of view, not to mention the alumni relations aspect.

There have been two Presidents of Princeton during TB's tenure here, Dr. Tilghman and Harold Shapiro before her.

TigerBlog's interactions with President Shapiro were more limited. TB was invited to a dinner at the President's house in 1996 with the rest of the men's basketball program after the UCLA win and Pete Carril's retirement, and TB did go to Dr. Shapiro's office to produce a first-person account of his memories and thoughts of Palmer Stadium for the game program from the final game there.

Back when Dr. Shapiro was the President (should TB be capitalizing that?), the Department of Athletics had to produce a document each summer called "The President's Report."

TB assumes that every other department did as well, and he wonders how much of this ever was read by anyone.

Anyway, this report consisted of charts, text, graphs, historical references and such, recapping the athletic performance of the previous academic year, as well as information like campus rec permits sold and club sports offerings.

The amount of time it took to put together was extraordinary, with charts of individual honors won by Princeton athletes and team-by-team seasonal reviews and on and on.

Through the years, that document - now called an annual report - has gotten to be much more bare bones, with mostly a statistical recap of what happened in the last academic year.

There is some valuable information there.

For instance, in head-to-head competition last year, Princeton teams went a combined 366-217-5, for a .627 winning percentage.

The women by themselves had an even better percentage of .656, with a combined record of 197-103-2. The men were 169-114-3 (.596).

Not surprisingly, the winter was Princeton's best season, with a record of 163-72-3, or a winning percentage of just under .700.

Princeton also had a winning record in head-to-head competition against all seven Ivy League schools. In fact, Princeton had a .581 or better winning percentage against each of its Ivy rivals.

Of course, it might be a bit surprising which school it was that played Princeton the toughest. Any guesses as to the school against which Princeton was 18-13?

Hint? Eight of those 13 losses came in men's and women's hockey and baseball.

The answer?


Four Princeton teams won at least 23 games this past year. The baseball team won 23 - and lost 24. Still, finishing below .500 is okay, considering that Princeton went 3-13 in its first 16 games and then 20-11 in its last 31, winning the Ivy title and advancing to the NCAA tournament along the way.

The women's fencing team went 24-3, and the basketball teams combined to go 49-12 (men were 25-7; women were 24-5).

All in all, it's great information to have an archive of, and TB has binders of these reports going back to the 1980s. As well as some nightmares of having to compile it all, at least before it was mercifully streamlined.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boog And Bus

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the game was Trenton High vs. Atlantic City High, the first game that Tom McCarthy did on the radio back when he and TigerBlog worked together at the Trenton Times.

McCarthy, who covered high school sports primarily, was all excited the day of the game. He wanted to get into broadcasting, and this was Step 1 in the process.

The next day, TigerBlog and McCarthy stood in the same spot, talking about how it went when Harvey Yavener walked by, resulting in this actual conversation:

Yav - "Yeah, I heard you on the radio."
McCarthy - "What did you think?"
Yav - "Work on your writing."

It was Yav's way of saying that McCarthy was off to a good start.

Shortly after that, McCarthy left to the newspaper to take over in the front office of the fledgling Trenton Thunder, a Double-A baseball team in the Detroit Tigers' system that would be playing in a stadium being built around the corner from where TB was living at the time.

TB tried to tell McCarthy that it would never work, that nobody would ever come to see Minor League Baseball in Trenton and park their car there at night and all.

As TB has said many times before, he's never been more wrong about anything.

As it turned out, McCarthy was in the right place at the right time. The radio voice of the Thunder, he was able to use that as a stepping stone to the Major Leagues, where he is now the television voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, who have already won one World Series during McCarthy's time there.

His resume includes a time on WFAN with the Mets.

McCarthy will be inducted tonight into the Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming one of 16 members of that fraternity.

McCarthy - known by many as "Boog" for his former resemblance to the longtime Orioles' first baseman Boog Powell, and the fact that McCarthy used to play first base - has certainly come a long way since Trenton High vs. Atlantic City High.

His broadcasting career isn't limited to baseball.

He spent most of a decade as the basketball play-by-play man for Princeton, and he also did several seasons of Princeton football.

When TigerBlog looks back on his nearly 25 years of working at Princeton between the newspaper and the OAC, some of his very best memories are the times he spent with McCarthy, both the events themselves and the travel to and from them.

TigerBlog has spent more time on airplanes with McCarthy than with anyone else, to and from destinations as varied as Green Bay and Ames, Iowa, to Hawaii and Miami.

There were countless hours riding together in autumns and winters to Ivy League destinations, returning usually after a win but also after some excruciating losses.

The more that life in the OAC evolves, the further away from those days TB gets, and he knows he'll never repeat the relationship that he had with McCarthy.

As TB said, McCarthy is one of 16 members of the Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame. One of the other 15, a man named Bus Saidt, also was a former Trenton Times writer who also was a longtime Princeton football broadcaster.

In fact, as TB recalls, Bus was the No. 2 choice for the Phillies' radio spot when the job originally went to Harry Kalas in 1971.

Saidt, who was Yav's best friend, had two careers, first as an accountant for the City of Trenton and then as a sportswriter. While in his accounting days, Saidt would do Princeton football on the radio.

Saidt, in his early 40s, left the accounting business to become a full-time sportswriter. During his prime, Saidt would take the old Trenton Times car and head off to cover either the Mets, Yankees or Phillies, depending on who was home that night. Every night he'd be at one of them; during the winter, he'd write columns about almost anything.

Eventually, Saidt was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Bus (whose real name was Harold) was on the job at the paper every day up until his death in 1989, at the age of 68.

Saidt was a Trenton legend when TigerBlog first started in the business, and he could be ornery and intimidating at times.

Mostly, though, he was a kind man, one who constantly encouraged the army of young writers who appeared in the building in the mid-'80s.

The first story that TB ever wrote that appeared on the front page of the sports section was a Princeton High tennis match in the state tournament. Princeton High won the match in really dramatic fashion, and there was a huge headline on the top of section.

TB was all proud of himself when Bus walked in, picked up the paper, saw the size of the headline and snapped:

"What happened? The war end?"

TB has thought about Bus many times through the years, thought about his work ethic, the way he did his job, his relationship with Yav (who was touched hard by Bus' death).

As for McCarthy, he and TB are still friends, even if they don't talk as much as TB would like.

Still, TB couldn't be happier for anyone for how he's reached his lifelong dream.

Tonight, Boog joins Bus in one Hall of Fame. Maybe 25 years from now, he can join him in the other one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Christian Lopez - Hero Or Fool?

Okay, let's talk about Derek Jeter.

The Yankee captain is one of the greatest shortstops of all time, and he was a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall-of-Fame selection before he got to 3,000 hits.

Having said that, TigerBlog can't stand the whole movement to deify Jeter and his "intangibles." Want to know what his primary intangible has been? The good fortune to play on a team with a, well, great fortune, one that enable it to spend nearly $2 billion more in salaries during Jeter's career than the next-highest team.

Like Mariano Rivera, Jeter's presence on the Yankees has enabled him to perform in the playoffs almost every year. Would other players have earned the reputation that Jeter and Rivera have had they been on the Yankees? Would, say, Paul Molitor (3,319 career hits) have become the poster child for "intangibles" instead?

Rivera has been, for the most part, lights out in his entire career, with a few major, major notable exceptions (vs. the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, vs. Boston in the 2004 ALCS, for example). At the same time, the fact that he plays for the team he plays for has given him the opportunity that many others haven't had.

If TigerBlog had to choose between Jeter and Ozzie Smith, TB would take Smith every time. Smith, who had 2,500 hits in his career, won 13 straight Gold Gloves and was a 15-time all-star. He didn't have the power numbers of Jeter, but if there was a stat of runs saved + runs scored, Smith would probably be No. 1 all-time.

When Jeter homered the other day for his 3,000th hit, the ball was caught by a young fan named Christian Lopez, a recent college graduate who works as a mobile phone salesman.

Lopez, who played football at St. Lawrence and has student loans to repay, hauled in the ball and then smothered it like a fumble recovery, in his words.

Then, rather than try to squeeze every last penny out of the ball - a figure in the neighborhood of $250,000 - Lopez returned it to Jeter. In exchange, the Yankees gave him tickets for their remaining home games this year and a few other small gifts, as well as the opportunity to meet Jeter.

Lopez was immediately launched into the public eye for his noble gesture.

And almost as quickly, the backlash began.

TigerBlog listened to enough sports talk radio to be amazed at how many people called in ripping Lopez, calling him an idiot and sucker. In fact, out of every 10 calls on the subject, it was probably 8-2 in favor of the fact that Lopez had done something dumb.

TB would like to think he would have done the same as Lopez. And the cynic in TB thinks that Lopez' gesture in the long run will pay off more than simply selling the ball would have.

Still, is this where American society is now? A 23-year-old does something selfless, and the majority of society turns on him? Is America that jaded? Maybe it is.

As for memorabilia, TigerBlog has never been that big a fan of the whole concept.

One thing he does wish, though, is that Princeton had an athletic museum of sorts. As a department, Princeton Athletics is woefully short on old-time memorabilia, which is a shame, since there has to be so much great stuff out there.

Every now and then, TB will receive some stuff or an offer for some stuff, usually when an older alum passes away or when a class does a group project. Through the years, some good stuff has turned up, though not enough to create an actual museum.

And where would it be? The lobby of Jadwin would be great in terms of the number of people who would see it, but there is a question of space. Areas with more space attract fewer people who happen to be walking by.

When TB is offered old Princeton stuff, he always asks if there is old game footage, which would be his No. 1 choice.

Unfortunately, most of what people have is old game programs or tickets or printed stuff that Princeton already has archived.

Maybe one day it'll start to change, and some big collection of Princeton stuff will be unearthed.

Until then, one of the things on TB's wish-list here is a museum with Princeton memorabilia.

Oh, and Christian Lopez?

Good for him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Abby = Good; Erika = Bad

It's really hard for a series of events to conspire to make the United States the sentimental choice of the rest of the world in any competition while another country becomes the bad guys.

Yesterday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal game between the U.S. and Brazil was one of those occasions.

The two people most responsible for this were Australian referee Jacqui Melksham and Brazil player Erika, whose performance was so reprehensible that TigerBlog can't imagine anyone who might want to ever name a child "Erika" again.

In fact, TB has no memory of a player who more disgraced a game's integrity than Erika did.

Think about it. Yesterday, Erika was just another unknown Brazilian player. Today, she is listed in Wikipedia under "Poetic Justice."

If you haven't seen it yet, with time winding down in the second overtime and Brazil ahead 2-1, an obviously faking and cheating Erika walked toward the U.S. goal and with, no one around her, dropped to the ground as if she'd been shot from the stands.

Writing in imaginary pain, she was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher, only to unbuckle herself and then sprint back to the sideline and quickly back into play.

If her goal was to kill time, it didn't work, as the ref added three minutes of extra time. If her goal was to rest her defense, that didn't work either, as the U.S. scored after two minutes of that extra time.

In fact, had she just kept playing, it's likely that Brazil would have won the game.

And it's not like the ref did the U.S. any favors before adding the extra time, not with the horrific call of a red card on the penalty kick and then the even more horrific call of a re-kick after Hope Solo saved the ball.

And then there was Marta's goal in extra time, where the play was clearly offsides.

Erika should be banned from international competition for what she did. And so should Meklsham, whose last four letters of her last name pretty much tell you what she turned the game into.

By the time Erika was turning herself into an international joke, the crowd in Germany had turned completely against the Brazilians and in favor of the Americans, which is a ridiculous thought.

Still, it all seemed lost before Abby Wambach headed in the most perfect cross of all-time, off the foot of Megan Rapinoe, to get the U.S. even at 2-2 with little more than a minute left before 'Sham would've ended it.

With the game tied, it took penalty kicks to decide the outcome, and a save by Solo was the difference as the U.S. advanced to Wednesday's semifinal against France.

The game itself was a classic, maybe the greatest in the history of the Women's World Cup.

It was made even better by Ian Darke, the announcer on ESPN who really stood out to TB during last year's men's World Cup.

It's amazing what an announcer can do to enhance a telecast when he's not trying to make himself bigger than the event.

TigerBlog has written several times that the British announcers he hears on soccer broadcasts are what American baseball announcers were like in the 1940s and 1950s and so, before the announcers became multi-media stars of their own and, to get there, had to be completely self-promotional.

TB had a thought of trying to get Darke to do some Princeton broadcast this year, though he's pretty sure that won't happen.

One thing TB would like to do is a podcast with Darke at some point this year, talking about his background in broadcasting, his approach, his preparation and all.

After that, TB would love to talk to him about his perspective on American sports and American television and then ultimately about Princeton athletics and the Ivy League.

TB has no idea what a big-time announcer from England knows about Princeton, but it would be fascinating to find out.

A podcast with Ian Darke.

Coming in 2011-12.

TB hopes, at least.

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Ashton In The Crowd

When TigerBlog does the senior-athlete video each May, he puts the award winners at the end.

Usually, he'll end with the Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch Award recipients, alternating between the men and the women in alphabetical order. Prior to them, he'll put the Art Lane Award winners, the senior speakers and any others who won major departmental awards.

The one tricky part is that TB never knows the identity of the Class of 1916 Cup until the day before the senior athlete banquet, because that award - given to the senior athlete in the highest academic standing - isn't known until that day.

As a result, he has to find that athlete's picture and move it to the back.

By that point, TB has gone through the pictures a bunch of times, importing them, cropping them, labeling them and such. After awhile, he can begin to remember where the pictures are in their random order and start to ID them as "crew guy in funny hat" or "the two Michael A's," referring to the two open rowers named "Michaela."

Then, as TB walks around the Princeton Varsity Club banquet and sees the athletes - most of whom he'd never heard of prior to starting the video - as they walk around with their name tags on, and it's almost like seeing celebrities at the Oscars.

Every now and then as he does the video, TB stops and reminds himself that each picture in the video - on screen for 3.5 seconds - is actually an individual, unique in his or her experience, background and such.

TigerBlog had that same feeling when he saw on the home page that Ashton Brown of the women's open rowing team had won an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

TB remembered her name from the video as one of the army of rowers who comprise the sport at Princeton with the most athletes. And, aside from her name, that was about all TB knew about her.

After going to the roster, TB learned that Brown was a Canadian, from Calgary. She attended the United World College prior to coming to Princeton four years ago.

While at Princeton, she majored in economics.

She also won an NCAA title as a member of the first varsity eight boat this past spring, after she helped Princeton win the Eastern Sprints in a race that gave the athletic program its record 15th Ivy League title.

The NCAA awards up to 174 postgraduate scholarships annually, 87 for men and 87 for women. The scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who excel academically and athletically and who are at least in their final year of intercollegiate athletics competition.

The one-time grants of $7,500 each are awarded for fall sports, winter sports and spring sports. Each sports season (fall, winter and spring), there are 29 scholarships available for men and 29 scholarships available for women. The scholarships are one-time, non-renewable grants.

TigerBlog, like the rest of the athletic department, is working on any number of issues for next year, issues that affect the big picture of the department.

At the same time, the feeling that TB gets when he goes through the banquet video should stay with everyone who works in college athletics.

People like Ashton Brown are more than just a face a crowd of Princeton Athletics.

They are Princeton Athletics.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Roll The Video

Back when TigerBlog was responsible for producing the football media guide each year, he used to tell himself that he would write update five player bios a day in March and April, so it wouldn't be such an arduous chore when the deadline time approached.

And, of course, in all those years, TB never once actually did that.

The football media guide was the primary chore for TB at this time of the summer for eight different summers. Once the Ivy League adopted its media day in Connecticut each summer (an event that no longer exists), TB had to get it done in time for that event - or suffer the unimaginable shame of being the only school not to have one done.

As far as TigerBlog remembers, no school ever showed up at the media day without its guide, though there were all kinds of occasions where the guides were finished with literally minutes to spare.

In Princeton's case, TB more than once had to get one box of printed guides from the printer on the drive to Connecticut, because he had cut it too close.

Back then, it took about three weeks to print a guide like the football guide, which was usually 144 pages. It'd be a week to get a proof print, and then two more to get it printed, bound and shipped.

Today, such a process could be completed in three days, rather than weeks - or even less.

Of course, it was important to get the football guide done so TB could start on the basketball guide, because if football season started before the basketball guide was mostly done, that was another nightmare.

TigerBlog thought back to those days as he watched Part II of the video of Princeton head coach Bob Surace and his former teammate, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, as they chatted outside Caldwell Fieldhouse.

The move to eliminate media guides - at least as recruiting tools - had many elements to it, especially:

* money - it cost thousands of dollars to print a football guide and tens of thousands to print all the guides that Princeton used to print

* arms race - schools, especially the major BCS conference ones, were producing 500-, 600-page guides that were hard-cover, all in the name of showing recruits the commitment they had to the sport

As a result, rules were passed that limited how may pages could be in a guide and then ultimately made it against NCAA policy to send them to recruits. Once that happened, the guides became true "media" guides.

From TB's perspective, the No. 1 reason to stop doing guides was that they had little value. All the information was available online, as opposed to the version that was printed and then became obsolete once the first play of the new season happened.

TB remembers diligently filling out opponents sections for guides, until it dawned on him that nobody would care how many returning starters the Week 7 opponent had or who its assistant coaches were.

As video technology increases somewhat hourly and makes it easier and easier to view - and produce - clips like the one of Surace and Garrett have much greater appeal to the audience that guides used to serve, with the possible exception of long-time media types.

Were you a recruit, would you rather see a picture of Jason Garrett in a book that you probably can't find five minutes after you get it, or be able to see a video of Garrett and Surace? In TB's mind, it's not even a debate.

One thing TigerBlog would love to do is get as many Princeton athletic icons on video as possible.

The video last year of 100-year-old Jack Bales was outstanding, and it also turned out to be invaluable, as Bales passed away last month.

It would be great to put together a big archive of similar videos, though the hard part is getting the subjects when they're spread out literally around the world.

When Princeton first went down the video path, TigerBlog had every confidence that it was the right decision and that it would be hugely successful.

In fact, he hadn't been that confident in one of his opinions since back when he said that minor league baseball would never work in Trenton.

Hey, at least this time, he was right.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Signing Off

When TigerBlog heard that New Jersey Network - a state-run public television network that fell victim to budget cuts - was no longer going to exist, his first thought took him back to the Hartford Civic Center.

Back in 1998, Princeton played in the NCAA men's basketball tournament in Hartford. As Tiger fans recall, that was the year that Princeton was the No. 5 seed in the East after going 26-1 during the regular season and climbing into the Top 10 nationally.

As a result, the media crush following Princeton was enormous that year. When it came time for the NCAA tournament, media credential requests were filtered through the schools' athletic communications offices and then forwarded to the host school, in this case UConn.

All through the early part of the week, more and more credential requests came through to TigerBlog, who was the men's basketball contact at the time. He would in turn forward them to UConn, each time saying something like "sorry, there's one more."

Eventually, the UConn people started to get a bit annoyed about the endless stream of requests, though in fairness to TB, there wasn't much he could do about it. After all, it was the media people who were trickling in with their requests, not TB.

At one point, the UConn person overseeing the media relations operation got so, uh, peeved that he called TigerBlog at home. TB answered the phone just as he got out of the shower and received a "dressing down" even though he was undressed.

Shortly before the start of the Princeton-UNLV opening round game, TigerBlog was sitting in his courtside seat in the media section.

Oh, and AUG (Angry UConn Guy) got even more angry at Princeton when Manish Mehta, now with the New York Daily News but then an intern in the OAC, took someone else's seat right at center court.

Anyway, one of the messenger types working there came up to TigerBlog and said that AUG was by the media entrance and needed to see TB at once.

When TigerBlog got there, he saw the bald head of New Jersey Network's Jerry Henry and his trusty sidekick cameraman standing by the media check-in, asking for credentials as if this game happened to be Princeton-Monmouth in late November, completely unaware of the fact that he might have had to request such credentials in advance.

AUG lit into TigerBlog again before letting Henry into the building, where he and his cameraman again violated the rules by trying to film highlights of the game while it was in progress, a major NCAA no-no.

NJN was on channel 23 and 52 as TigerBlog grew up, and there was a stretch in elementary school when each day, TB's class would watch a 15-minute show on NJN that featured kids in ordinary situations with a moral at the end. TB remembers being home sick one day in fourth grade or so and tuning into the moral show anyway.

NJN televised a lot of Princeton events in the '80s and '90s. The 52-51 Penn win over Princeton in the final game of the 1993 season - that was the first year of the Jerome Allen-Matt Maloney Penn teams - was on NJN. How does TB know? He was covering a different game that night, about six miles away, and watched the end of the Princeton-Penn game on a TV in the Rider athletic department before the other game started.

NJN had a steady stream of on-air people, though Henry was the one TigerBlog dealt with the most through the years. A former Marine, Henry was always laughing, always happy, always looking forward to talking to whatever Princeton athlete he was there to meet.

TigerBlog lost touch with Henry through the years, as NJN scaled back its coverage of Princeton.

Today, NJN no longer exists, like much of the media that TigerBlog dealt with when he first came to Princeton.

With the end of NJN, another link to the 1990s - a glorious time to be in athletic communications at Princeton - vanishes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Runner Up

TigerBlog was following the same basic route as the Union army did, 148 years to the day earlier, a fact that didn't dawn on TB until he pulled into a Subway on Route 15 just north of Gettysburg.

A few minutes - and one Cold Cut Combo - later, TB went past the town where the Union met up somewhat by chance with the Army of Northern Virginia, and three days later, 8,000 soldiers were dead.

It was on July 1, 1863, that the Battle of Gettysburg began. When it ended on July 3, the Confederate Army was in retreat, never to return north of the Potomac. Though it was would take until April of 1865 - and thousands more dead - before the Confederacy surrendered, the winner of the Civil War was determined by that battle.

Had Robert E. Lee, to that point viewed as invincible, managed to break through in Gettysburg, who knows what might have happened. Instead, the North prevailed, saving the Union.

TigerBlog actually went to the battlefield at Gettysburg once, and to stand at a place where so many people died is quite a different experience. It's haunted, so to speak, not by ghosts per se but by the memory of what went on there.

It's especially true from the perspective on Little Round Top and Cemetery Hill, where the Northern army turned away "Pickett's Charge," as 12,500 Confederates tried to storm a hill and half never came back, the rest either killed, wounded or captured.

This trip, though, wasn't to Gettysburg. It just happened to go through the town, and it just happened to be on the day the battle started.

Had General Meade decided to chase Lee and his Southern army as it retreated south from Gettysburg, he might have caught up to them on a little patch of land in the town of Boyds. Had he done so, that land might now be sacred, just like the one in Gettysburg.

Instead, Meade decided to regroup and refresh, leaving Lee to make it back to Virginia and fight another day.

And so the land in Boyds is instead the Maryland Soccer Complex, a sprawling facility that this past weekend played host to the National Lacrosse Classic middle school tournament and which now through Friday is hosting the high school division.

The middle school tournament brought together 12 boys' teams and six girls' teams from different regions of the country. On the boys' side, there were two pools, featuring Long Island, Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois and Rochester in one and Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Maryland, Metro New York and New England in the other.

The teams were selected from regional tryouts. The high school event is a solid recruiting event, while the middle school one was in its first year.

The winner of the middle school tournament won the "national" championship, though it obviously was not a true national champion and the teams were not comprised of only the elite in middle school lacrosse. Still, there were some great players in the tournament.

Still, it was a very well-run event (including seminars on issues related to sports-parenting, fitness, nutrition and such), and there was an element of a middle school dance when the boys and girls teams mingled.

As for the level of play, it was extremely high.

Long Island needed to hold off New Jersey in the final game of its pool to advance to the final. Pennsylvania - a team that included TigerBlog Jr. - went 5-0 in its pool, with a one-goal win over Metro New York and a come-from-behind win over Maryland along the way.

This set up a Long Island-Pennsylvania final, and it turned out to be the single best youth sporting event TigerBlog has ever seen. There was a huge crowd, as the girls' finalists (Pennsylvania beat New Jersey) and families, as well as some of the boys' teams who had just played prior to the final, stayed to watch.

The game itself was tight throughout, as Long Island went up 3-1, Pennsylvania tied it at 3-3, Long Island went up 6-4 and Pennsylvania tied it at 6-6. LI took a 7-6 lead with about six minutes left and then held off two strong Pennsylvania challenges. The game ended as LI did a masterful job of playing keep-away in the box before Pennsylvania finally got it back with about 20 seconds to go, only to turn it back over and lead to a game-sealing LI goal with six seconds remaining, making the final 8-6.

It was an extraordinarily well-played game, especially considering the teams had almost no practice together.

On the other hand, the coaches were college assistants, and Pennsylvania was coached by a combination of Ohio State on the first day and Duke on the last two.

Watching the game, TB couldn't help but think that the skill level and physicality of most of the players was far beyond an average high school player, and of course it led to some obvious questions.

During the opening ceremony of the event, as 300 boys and 150 girls paraded by, TigerBlog was asked how many of these players he thought would eventually play at Princeton. This was followed up by how many of these players would end up in Division I.

With the way that some of them can run, shoot, dodge, defend, handle a long pole and everything else, it's hard to imagine that they're not going to be Division I players at some point. If TB had to guess, he'd say No. 24 and No. 22 on Long Island or the Maryland goalie are much of the way there, as well as a few from Pennsylvania and other teams.

In all, TB said of the 300 boys, maybe fewer than 20 would end up playing Division I.

The middle school kids are all high school blank slates right now. Every time TB was asked about his job and what the coaches ask potential recruits, the first answer is always about academics. Right now, none of these kids has taken one high school class.

TigerBlog is used to seeing Princeton athletes, or other Ivy League athletes, as the finished products they became. Like the middle school kids from this tournament, a few years ago they were kids with some promise, and they went through high school and achieved great things athletically and as students.

TigerBlog might save the rosters of the kids from this event this past weekend and go back in four years and see who is who.

Some will never play the game on the varsity level, for any number of reasons. Others will get to Division I.

The cool part is that it's really up to them.

Are they willing to work as hard as they can to make it happen, to take full advantage of the gifts they have been given? Some will. Some won't.

It was a great weekend for the kids involved in the event. Like the Confederacy at Gettysburg, will it be the high-water mark of some of their careers?

TB hopes not.

Everywhere he looked this weekend, TB saw kids with potential. It'd be a shame for them to waste it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Any Given Saturday

Alexander Road, which connects Princeton to Route 1, was closed for the last few weeks, leading to massive traffic all around town.

Getting to Route 1 now meant mostly having to go down Washington Road, which was backed up to Faculty Road every minute of every day, as were the Princeton Pike and Route 206. The first few days were the worst, before everyone finally figured out a preferred alternate route.

Yesterday was the big re-opening for Alexander, and TigerBlog made his first drive along the newly renovated road expecting to find that the bridge had been straightened or something. Instead, it appears that the road is a bit wider, perhaps, and that's about it.

Later in the afternoon, TigerBlog was talking to a Penn State alum who was saying how much he likes to go back to his alma mater.

TB remarked that he'd been to the campus a few times, for lacrosse and basketball, and he wondered what in the world the traffic must be like for days when more than 100,000 people show up for football.

After all, it appears that there is one road in and one road out of State College. In TB's mind, it's the Alexander Road situation taken to a much higher degree.

The alum said that the Penn State people are used to it and that most of them come back the day before or simply tough it out.

TigerBlog has never been to a football game at Penn State, or any other BCS conference school other than Rutgers.

He's been to basketball games at any number of schools who play in the power conferences, and he's sat in most of the top arenas in Division I.

When it comes to big-time FBS football, nope. TB has never seen a game in person.

He once read a book called "Big 10 Saturdays," in which the author spent a week at each Big 10 school and detailed what it was like for the days leading up to the game and the hours immediately following it. The book wasn't about football per se; it was about the flavor of the game as an event, complete with local traditions, places to eat, etc.

It must be wild to be part of a regular-season football Saturday for a game on that level, where the event transcends anything else in American sporting culture.

And TB isn't talking about going to see, say, Auburn-Alabama or Notre Dame-USC or something like that. He's talking about any random game, like South Carolina at Mississippi or Baylor at Texas A&M, on an early Saturday in October.

What TigerBlog has seen is Ivy League football, probably more than 150 games worth. He's been to every campus numerous times, with of course more than half the games at Princeton.

The contrast between what TB sees in person and what he sees when he watches college games on television is rather obvious.

Rather than drawing full houses of 50, 60, 70, 80,000 or more, Ivy League football plays to smaller crowds in smaller stadiums. The fan bases aren't as large or rabid, and the money being generated from the games isn't, uh, corrupting.

It makes it more of a challenge for those who market the games, as rather than printing tickets and having them all accounted for for years down the line, there is a real effort to maximize attendance.

Still, there is something very appreciable about Ivy League football.

On the field, every week offers multiple rivalries that date back three centuries, and even teams that have fallen out of the league race can look forward to playing a long-time opponent. The league, top to bottom, is very competitive.

Off the field, the dynamics of the crowd are different. Instead of being dominated by male alums ages 25-50, the average crowd for Princeton football is more heavily weighted to local families with kids and alums who are slightly older.

For Princeton, the challenge is to provide the best possible experience for fans, so they'll want to come back again And to use football as a vehicle to introduce these fans to the rest of the athletic offerings at Princeton.

For those who work in Princeton Athletics and who have been there for years, it's hard to get a real fresh feel on the experience and what is appealing to the new fan and what isn't. The quest for feedback is never-ending, as beyond that, what's left is what Princeton has done for years - making its best guess.

As of today, practice for the 2011 season starts next month. It's a rather unique schedule this season, with three straight home games and then only two more home games over the final seven weeks.

As usual, Princeton will be trying to make decisions and reach conclusions about its marketing efforts for football and beyond. As usual, there will be too many variables to make any hard-fast analysis.

Other than this one: TigerBlog is pretty sure that going to a Princeton football game is fun.

And now that Alexander Road is reopened, traffic flow won't spoil that.