Friday, September 30, 2011

Memories Of Palmer

Princeton entered late October of 1995 as one of two undefeated football teams in the Ivy League. Remember the other?

Your hint is that they played on Oct. 28 that year, and both were 3-0 in the Ivy League. Your other hint is that it was no contest, a 44-14 Princeton win.

The answer is Columbia, which came to Princeton that day nearly 16 years ago for a showdown for first place in the league. It didn't go particularly well for the Lions.

As TigerBlog recalls, the Lions quarterback was named Mike Cavanaugh. During the 1994 season, Columbia rotated quarterbacks, often play by play, as Cavanaugh ran the wishbone one play and then moved to tailback for the next play, when a different QB (whose name TB doesn't remember) came in for passing situations.

In 1995, Cavanaugh was the only Columbia quarterback, and he was exciting to watch. He could run and throw, and he was a big-play threat on every down.

What TB mostly remembers from the 1995 game was that Cavanaugh broke his leg in the middle of it, which led to a headline in the New York Daily News that read:

"Title Hopes, Quarterback Left Mangled In New Jersey"

Princeton and Columbia meet again tomorrow, in the Ivy opener for both. Kickoff on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium is at 6.

For some reason, when TB thinks back on all the Princeton football games he's seen, that one against Columbia in 1995 really stands out, maybe because of the headline. Or maybe because it was a big step on the road to the outright Ivy title that the team won that year.

Back in 1995, Princeton still played in Palmer Stadium, which has become a venerated place in Princeton University history, and for good reason. There are few buildings in this campuses history that had the historic significance as Palmer Stadium.

It was built in 1914, taking four months and costing $300,000. It was built on the spot it was and with an open end zone because it gave fans an unobstructed view of the lake, something that today is blocked by the closed end of the new stadium, not to mention the track, Jadwin Gym, Faculty Road and a bunch of trees.

TigerBlog has seen millions of pictures of Palmer Stadium from back in the 1920s or 1930s, when the building was packed and there were almost no cars in the parking lot, only horses.

By 1995, Palmer wasn't quite the same place it had been in its glory days.

The stadium was made of concrete, just before people figured out that concrete expanded and contracted with the weather over time, and so there were cracks in the stadium almost from the start.

By 1995, it was a place that was crumbling, and orange and black netting had to be put up to support the structure and catch the falling rocks.

There was a side road that led under the stands on the side where the press box was, and TB used to pull his car underneath to unload whatever needed to be brought up for that game. Every time he parked, he wondered if the stadium would come crashing down on top of his car.

There was no elevator to the press box, so everything had to be carried up. This included the copy machine before the season (and brought back down after the season), and TB remembers an epic near-blows confrontation between student workers Brad Sonneborn and Marcus Hurley on one occasion.

The press box itself was completely exposed to the elements, except for a wooden roof that leaked. On a fall day when it might be sunny and chilly, those in the press box got no benefit of the sunshine, which made it seem even colder.

The TV and radio booths were one level up, so TB had to run stats or out of town scores or bagged lunches up a flight of wooden stairs to get there. There was no ladies' room, only a men's room, on the press box.

The guest box was next to the press box, and TB isn't quite sure who sat in there or why.

The rest of the stadium was a vast expanse of whitish/grayish concrete bleachers, with numbers painted on them. The distance between one row and the next was pretty big, and it wasn't all that comfortable to either sit on the concrete without any back support or to lean back onto the row behind you.

There were no locker rooms, showers or other amenities in the stadium. There was definitely no video board.

All in all, it wasn't the most comfortable stadium ever constructed. Nor was it the most beautiful.

What it was was home for the Tigers for 83 years, and it saw national champions, Ivy champions, record-setting performances, All-Americas, Hall-of-Fame players and coaches, future pros and one Heisman Trophy winner.

TigerBlog wasn't all that upset to see its demolition back in 1997.

Still, he thinks of it rather fondly when he remembers back to his time there.

Of course, that all changes the first time it's cold and wet and he can simply close the window in the PA booth in Princeton Stadium.

Well, maybe it doesn't change completely.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rays Won?

TigerBlog figured that the Boston Red Sox were safe, at least for another day, when the Yankees were still up on the Rays 7-0 in the seventh inning last night.

So what did he do? He put on "Criminal Minds" and watched an episode that once again made him wonder what the writers' meetings on that show must be like. Hey, let's have the guy pour sulfuric acid in his victims eyes and mouth and on their hands. Yeah, that'll work.

While the bad guy was going crazy with the acid, the Red Sox were up 3-2 on the Orioles in the seventh in a rain delay. TB never bothered to go back to the baseball

As such, it wasn't until TB heard the sports report on the "Imus in the Morning" program this morning that he found out that the Rays had rallied from that deficit to shock the Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings.

And that the Red Sox had lost to the Orioles. And that the Phillies had beaten the Braves, knocking Atlanta out as well.

It wasn't until even later than that that TB learned that the Orioles-Red Sox game ended three minutes before Rays-Yankees.

And even later still that he learned that Dan Johnson, the player who tied the game at 7-7 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a solo home run, had the lowest batting average (.108) of any player in the Majors with at least 75 at-bats.

And TB has to give credit to the Orioles and Yankees for playing so hard in these games, even though they were playing for nothing. There was even a great sign in the crowd at the Red Sox-0's game, held up by a fan in a Boston jersey, that read "I can't believe I'm saying this, but go Yankees."

The Rays were nine games back earlier this month, giving them the record for the largest September deficit ever overcome by a team that made the playoffs.

The Cards came from 8.5 back, tying the 1964 Cards, who rallied famously against the Phillies, for the second-biggest deficit overcome.

A month ago, it seemed like there would be no drama in September in Major League Baseball, except for the race betwee the Diamondbacks and Giants or possibly the Rangers and Angels.

So what happened? The Red Sox completely fell apart, and St. Louis couldn't lose. And the Rays made up ground basically every day, as Boston never won consecutive games in the month, during which they went 7-20.

Beyond all that, there was the issue of the batting title in the National League.

Jose Reyes, a prized free agent this coming winter, bunted in the first inning and then went out of the game to preserve his spot on top of the NL leaderboard. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun then had to go 3 for 4 to catch Reyes, and instead Braun went 0 for 4.

Braun was on "PTI" yesterday afternoon and came across as a very down-to-Earth guy; Reyes comes across as a spoiled, me-first player who only played hard this year because of his contract situation. TB would be hesitant to sign him long-term.

Anyway, now that we're transitioning into the "root against the Yankees" portion of the sports year, the playoff matchups are: Yanks-Tigers and Rangers-Rays in the AL and Phils-Cards and D-backs-Brewers in the NL.

The temptation would be to say Phillies-Yankees, but TB thinks that it'll be Brewers-Tigers in the World Series.

None of the eight postseason teams has a Princeton player on its roster.

In fact, the 2011 season wasn't a great one for Princeton's three Major Leaguers.

Chris Young, who looked like he was off to a big year with the Mets, was hurt in April and never made it back. In fact, the big question is whether Young will be able to be back next year or beyond.

Ross Ohlendorf had an injury filled season for the Pirates, and he was on the DL for most of it and made only nine starts. When healthy, Ohlendorf looked okay in some spots, though his final numbers were shaky: 1-3 with an 8.15 ERA (though he did hit a home run).

TigerBlog still thinks Ohlendorf has his best days in front of him, as long as he can stay healthy. Judging him by the remnants of this season, when the Pirates were long out of the race, is unfair - though he is 29.

The Princeton alum with the best season was Will Venable, the San Diego Padres outfielder. Venable finished the year with a .246 average, nine home runs, 44 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 370 at-bats. He struck out 92 times, which is too many.

Venable's year included a demotion to the minors, and he was a much better player in the second half of the year than he was before his demotion. He's a year younger than Ohlendorf, which means he should be in his prime, but he is a bit young baseball-wise because he came to it a little late. As Princeton fans may remember, he played basketball more than baseball in his earlier days.

He is on the cusp of establishing himself as a legitimate Major League starter who can produce offensively while continuing to be on the best defensive outfielders in the game, but TB thinks the odds are better that he will achieve that than that he won't.

The 2011 regular season ended in wild fashion, though not for the Princetonians (though Venable did hit his first career grand slam last night).

Now it's time for the postseason, which means all that's really left is to root against the Yankees.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Late Bob Rodgers

Pete Carril is being honored by the Joe Lapchick Foundation with its Lapchick Character Award, one he'll share with former Virginia women's coach (and Hopewell Valley High School grad) Debbie Ryan and former Mt. St. Mary's men's basketball coach Jim Phelan.

Former winners include Lou Carnesecca, Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, John Thompson (the other one), Bob Hurley Sr., Jody Conradt, the late Kay Yow and Gene Keady.

Joe Lapchick, for those who don't know, was a legendary New York basketball figure who coached St. John's and the Knicks.

The current class for the award means that two of the honorees will be wearing bow ties to the ceremony, to be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 17.

Anyway, none of that is that TigerBlog's point today is about.

When people earn such awards, it's customary for their former school to purchase a congratulatory ad for the honoree, and such is the case with this event (and with the recently completed ad for Carril's induction into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame).

The Lapchick people sent over a few samples of other ads, and they were forwarded to TigerBlog, along with a picture of fireworks over Jadwin Gym, a picture TB had never seen before.

When he asked where the picture came from, he was told it was sent by "the late Bob Rodgers."

Late, TB immediately wondered. As in, passed away? How could this be possible.

It turned out, sadly, to be true.

Bob Rodgers, Princeton Class of 1956, passed away on Aug. 9, and TB didn't hear about it until seven weeks later. Rodgers was 76 years old at the time of his death.

The world of Princeton Athletics is filled with familiar faces, people who went to Princeton long before TB walked on the campus for the first time, people who have stayed loyal to the University and its teams for decades.

TigerBlog doesn't know all their names, or at least he can't always match the name to the face.

Bob Rodgers was different. He was tall with silver hair, and he was impossible to miss. He was one of those people who never had a bad word to say, who always introduced whoever was around to whoever else was around, as if all of the people in the room were his lifelong friends.

He was appreciative of everything that the OAC did to publicize Princeton sports, and he sent endless emails to express his thanks for one story or another.

TigerBlog, as it turns out, didn't really know much about him, at least until he read his obituary, which included this:
Husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend to all... Engineer, builder, analyst, perfectionist, compulsive organizer, debater, mediator, fixer... Nature lover, preserver, sailor, grill master, builder of beach fires... Reader, wordsmith, collector, poet, writer of limericks... Gentle giant... and Tiger.

TB has no idea if Bob was an athlete (TB doesn't think so). He didn't know he was a St. Louis native, that his career was spent as an engineer, that he was a sailor, that he had a lakehouse in Michigan where he ultimately died this past summer.

All TB really knew about him was that he was an extraordinarily nice man whom TB saw at any number of Princeton sporting events and that he was always in a good mood.

It's not something that is a common denominator in the world these days.

Maybe that's why it's so noticeable when you meet someone who is - and why it's so sad when you learn of their sudden passing.

There will be something missing from Princeton's venues without Bob Rodgers.

Condolences - a few weeks late - to his family and those who knew him way better than TigerBlog, who saw him around the campus regularly for many years and who liked him very much.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brand Loyalty

TigerBlog was watching the "Bubble Boy" episode of "Seinfeld" yesterday when one of his favorite moments in the show's history - really in TV history - rapidly approached.

If you remember the episode, Jerry and Elaine are in the coffee shop when they're approached by Brian Doyle-Murray, who'd been sitting at the counter and noticed Jerry.

Doyle-Murray, whose character drives a Yoo-Hoo truck, explains that his son is stuck in a plastic bubble, because his immune system doesn't function properly, and that Jerry is his favorite comedian. He invites Jerry to stop by his house, which as it turns out is on the way to the cabin upstate that Jerry and Elaine are going to with George and Susan.

The scene in which Doyle-Murray explains the boy's condition moves him to tear up, and Elaine does the same. As she begins to cry, she hands the father a napkin to wipe his eyes, takes one for herself for the same reason and hands one to Jerry as well, seemingly because Jerry would be teary at the same time.

Instead, Jerry takes the napkin and uses it to wipe his mouth from his sandwich, showing that he is completely unmoved by the situation. It is subtle - but it is also hilarious.

For anyone old enough to remember the TV movie "The Boy In The Plastic Bubble," which starred John Travolta as a teenager forced to live in, well, a plastic bubble, again because of a lack of an immune system. It was something of a tearjerker, and Travolta's character inspires total sympathy.

On the "Seinfeld" episode, the Bubble Boy is sort of a jerk, and in the end, he and George get into a fight over a word spelled incorrectly on a Trivial Pursuit card. The result is that the bubble is punctured.

Another great line from the episode is when Doyle-Murray mentions that he's out there "six days a week hauling Yoo-Hoo."

TigerBlog has probably consumed a few truckloads worth of Yoo-Hoo in his life, beginning when his grandmother Judy introduced it to him when he was probably 4 or so.

In the case of Yoo-Hoo, TB's affection is to the product itself, not the brand name. Yoo-Hoo has no other product that compares, so TB sticks with it.

It's the same with Coke and Pepsi, TB assumes. They don't taste exactly the same, so the consumer is drawn to one or the other based on taste, rather than loyalty to the name.

Some products are pretty similar, and therefore loyalty to a brand name might come into play. Take toothpaste, for instance. Isn't it all basically the same? And yet, don't most people have a preferred toothpaste that they stick with?

It's amazing, though, how loyal people are to certain product brands, for whatever the reason. It doesn't seem to matter what it is - toilet paper, pants, gas stations, ice cream - people seem to find one thing and stick with it.

There are some brands that are thrust upon people and through that they become loyal to them because of that.

In TigerBlog's case, there is Nike.

Through the years, TB wore any number of sneaker and apparel brands, almost without noticing. Then Princeton Athletics entered into its Nike contract, and since then, TB has been nearly 100% loyal. In fact, he felt a bit guilty wearing his Under Armour "Malvern Lacrosse" t-shirt that David Metzbower sent him.

TigerBlog has said this before, but the Nike contract is one of the best things that's ever happened to Princeton's athletes.

He was reminded of this during the Parade of Champions Saturday night, when all of Princeton's athletes on the field wore uniform Nike apparel - and looked great because of it.

In the time before the contract, TB would see Princeton athletes in any number of different brand names, often wearing sweatshirts or t-shirts from other schools, something that always drove him nuts.

Today, thanks to the Nike contract, Princeton Athletics is a much more uniform place.

And TB never has to worry about what to wear to work.

It's like trying to figure out what chocolate drink to go with. There's no second thought necessary.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Before The Parade Passes By

TigerBlog played the trumpet in high school. Well, at least his last year in high school.

He figured as a senior that he would take up a musical instrument, and the band director at the time, a man named Mr. Danielson, suggested percussion. TB wanted something more, well, instrumental and asked what the easiest instrument to learn would be, and Mr. Danielson suggested the trumpet.

Mr. Danielson then went to get an old, beaten-up trumpet out of the closet, except the floor had been waxed a few minutes earlier, and the only trumpet he had was a brand-new one, which he gave to TB.

This was in early summer. By the time school started, TB's high school girlfriend, a french horn player, had taught him the basics of how to play. By the time school started, TB was in the concert band, which was made up of primarily freshmen, as well as the marching band and even the jazz band, which he only made because there weren't enough trumpets who tried out.

By the end of the school year, TB had played a few solos and had a really good experience. And then he never played again, not a single note. In fact, his entire trumpet career lasted about 11 months.

The high school band did march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City, though, and TB remembers 1) dodging what the horses on the parade route had left and 2) that it was cold.

TigerBlog likes a good parade. The Tournament of Roses Parade or the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving always make for good television, even if the fluff and self-promotion quotients are over the top.

There are all kinds of parade songs in musicals, real feel-good stuff, like "76 Trombones Led The Big Parade" from "The Music Man" and "Before the Parade Passes By" from "Hello Dolly."

One of the absolute best things on Princeton's campus is the annual P-Rade, where all the classes line up and march down the heart of the campus.

Even the Princeton Department of Athletics gets into the parade business once a year, when it has the annual "Parade of Champions" to honor the previous year's championship teams.

TigerBlog watched as the parade began to form late in the second quarter of the football game, with a line of 17 teams (15 Ivy champs, plus Ivy tournament champ women's lacrosse and Eastern Sprints champ women's lightweight rowing) plus men's squash national champion Todd Harrity walked in from the Princeton tunnel.

Eventually, the front of the line snaked around to the Bucknell 20, back to the end zone, across the field and then back down to near midfield behind Princeton's bench.

It was about 140 yards worth of athletes/coaches, all lined up ready to be recognized.

This was the largest gathering on the field, as Princeton's 15 Ivy titles last year were, as you might have heard, were a league record for an academic year.

Also, as TB always says, there is no guarantee that the next Parade of Champions, or the one after that, will fill the field. In fact, it's the neverending challenge here, to keep those parades what they've always been.

There was nobody here who looked out at the field and thought "hey, now Princeton can take it easy for awhile."

Each year is its own challenge.

And just for reinforcement, TB offers up the same quote he always does, the voice-over for the end of the movie "Patton." For opening credits, TB will take "Saturday Night Fever." For an ending, it's hard to beat "Patton," especially when he says:

"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: That all glory is fleeting."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Heads Up

For awhile there yesterday, TigerBlog was giving serious thought to the possibility of being clocked on top of his head by a falling satellite.

When TB came back from getting lunch yesterday (chicken salad club, wheat toast, no mayo), he was greeted by a discussion in the business office about the impending return to Earth of a dead satellite. As of yesterday, all that was known was that it was going to reach the ground somewhere - anywhere- on Earth between Friday and Sunday, and that it was the size of a bus.

The last time this happened was in 1979, when Skylab was going to make that plunge as well. TigerBlog is old enough to remember the widespread panic that news inspired, only to see the first American space station fall into the Indian Ocean and hit a small piece of Australia, without causing any damage to anyone.

As of last night, TB saw that the odds of any person's getting hit by the satellite this weekend was 1-in-3,200.

Armed with those numbers, TigerBlog was pretty sure that the Princeton-Bucknell football game wasn't going to be interrupted by a gigantic piece of space debris. Still, it would have been somewhat fascinating to be in the PA booth and see something beyond the far side of the stadium that got bigger and bigger and closer and closer until it sort of destroyed Princeton University.

Now it looks like the satellite will fall into the Pacific Ocean sometime today, as opposed to Lot 21 or Thomas Sweet tomorrow afternoon.

Whew. TigerBlog can breathe easier.

Of course, there's a much higher chance that something else will be falling from the sky between now and kickoff - rain.

Granted, it won't rival the last Princeton-Bucknell football game, at least in terms of mud, since Powers Field is FieldTurf and not real grass.

And yes, the hourly forecast indicates that the rain is supposed to end right around 6, which is when the kickoff is scheduled.

And the forecast becomes pretty good after that - cloudy and temperatures around 70. Perfect for football.

Except that the average fan who makes a decision day of game as to whether or not to bring the family over to the Princeton football game will probably be less and less likely to the later the rain falls.

Michael Cross, now the Director of Athletics at Bradley and a longtime member of Princeton Athletics, had a theory that the average family considering what to do with their entertainment dollars on a given weekend, makes that decision within a few hours or the event, as opposed to planning well in advance.

TB wonders if he has the same belief in Peoria that he had here, or if there are different factors - such as ticket price or demand - at play at Bradley.

Here, though, the philosophy that Cross believed is shared by TB, which also means that the decision to attend Princeton athletic events versus, say, going to the movies, is highly dependent on the weather.

And it's not even the weather at the time of the game. It's the weather in the hours leading up to the game.

TigerBlog has already gotten one text message today from someone who said that they'd be at the game, probably, "as long as it's not storming."

Tomorrow is also Faculty and Staff Night, which is a good opportunity to get some people to games who ordinarily might not come - and then get them to come back by having a good experience.

The bigger issue is that one rainy game - let alone more than one - when there are five home football games can significantly impact the attendance figures for the whole season.

It all comes back to the questions that TigerBlog always asks, such as what should Princeton marketing be, what drives people, is there this untapped audience out there for Princeton athletics, are people not getting the word or are they getting the word and still not interested, are there other issues, are there misconceptions.

In the meantime, TB is hoping that the weather clears earlier and that people come out to see the game.

Right now, though, all TB sees outside the window is rain as it falls onto Princeton Stadium.

Of course, it's better than a satellite.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sprinting To Mansfield

TigerBlog listens to his iTunes all day, every day. It's the first thing he turns on in the morning when he gets to work, and it plays all day.

Back when he was in college, TB used to listen to music (on a record player, with a turntable and needle and all) while he studied, and it was probably from that experience that he developed the habit of not being able to work in total silence.

For that reason, iTunes is perfect for him.

While TigerBlog isn't sure how much money he spent annually on music from 1975 or so up until he discovered iTunes, he's pretty sure that he spends less per year now buying a song here or there from the iTunes store. His most recent purchase was the Soft Cell song "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go," which was big in the early 1980s.

That song brought his total number of songs to 1,188, which could play for 3.4 days without repeating any song. It's quite a collection.

As TB is writing, Hall & Oates are singing "She's Gone." Who knows what'll be next. Isn't it fascinating? Oh wait. "She's Gone" has ended, and now Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are singing "Next To You."

One of TB's favorite parts of iTunes is the play counter, which tells you how many times each song has played. The most recent version of "She's Gone" was the 68th; this is No. 141 for "Next To You."

TigerBlog has had 25 different songs play at least 160 times, of which 10 are by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

As an aside, the next song to come up was "Rags to Riches," by Tony Bennett. TigerBlog has no idea what to make of Bennett now that he made those ridiculous 9/11 comments to Howard Stern, but TB will give him pass because 1) he's a great singer and 2) he fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, which earns him a lifetime exemption.

Meanwhile, of the 25 songs that have played at least 160 times, 24 of them were either recorded before TB graduated from college or are off of the Boss' newer albums. The only exception is "Just Friends," by Gavin DeGraw.

There are four songs that have played at least 180 times, with "Waiting on A Sunny Day" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce trailing only the two songs tied for first at 185: "Don't Let Him Go," by REO Speedwagon and "Teenage Idol" by Ricky Nelson.

Now, as "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys comes on for the 147th time, TB can point out that iTunes was launched on Jan. 9, 2001.

In other words, the last Princeton sprint football win - other than against a club from VMI - predates the birth of iTunes.

This past weekend, Princeton opened the sprint football season under new head coach Stephen Everette with a 34-0 loss to Penn. If that seems lopsided, consider that the last game of last year was also against Penn, and that was a 70-0 loss.

Princeton's game against Mansfield a year ago was a 10-6 Tiger loss, and it was the closest Princeton has come to winning a CSFL game since its 12-7 win over Cornell in 1999.

In fact, since that game - and excluding the game against the VMI fraternity boys - Princeton has had only one game decided by fewer than seven points, and that was the one against Mansfield last year. TB has no way of knowing how many times in those 12 years that Princeton has been in the lead at any time.

For Princeton to win, the game figures to be along the same lines as last year's, when it was low-scoring. Against Penn, Princeton was outrushed 308 to minus-1, but Princeton did throw for nearly 200 yards.

("Ain't No Mountain High Enough," by Diana Ross and the Supremes, play No. 42).

There is no team that plays any sport anywhere that deserves to win one as much as Princeton sprint football. TigerBlog's theory has been that the win would come like the last one, against one of the established league teams that has an off night, takes the Tigers lightly, has some badly timed turnovers, gets behind and panics.

The new teams - Mansfield and Post, with Franklin Pierce on the way - are too focused on Princeton to let their guards down.

But hey, who knows. Princeton seems like it's improved. It's early in the year, so injuries and attrition haven't become a huge factor yet.

So go Tigers.

There are 18 athletic events this weekend at Princeton. TB is keeping a special eye on the one being played furthest from campus.

When he announces the scores of other Princeton events over the PA at football Saturday evening against Bucknell, he'd definitely love to throw a Princeton sprint football win out there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jeans And Sneakers

Joe Susan is a big dude. A funny, soft-spoken one maybe. That doesn't change the fact that he's about 6-4, 6-5 as TigerBlog remembers him.

Today, Susan is the head football coach at Bucknell. Back when TigerBlog first working at Princeton, Susan was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers.

When TB used to be on the radio, Susan would tell him the first few scripted plays, so TigerBlog could sound smart in the beginning of each broadcast, with seemingly insightful comments like "don't be surprised if Princeton tries to go for it all on the first play" or "look for something to so-and-so right off the bat to get him involved early."

TigerBlog would often guard Joe Susan in lunchtime basketball, giving away size while maintaining his advantage in quickness. Susan would always, always fall for the fake to the baseline up-and-under move.

The problem with guarding Susan is that his huge knee brace would always scratch TB's legs when they bumped in the low post.

Susan wore the brace after tearing his ACL at lunchtime once. He had the ball and went into a move, only to crumple to the ground in obvious distress.

While someone ran to get an athletic trainer, men's basketball coach Pete Carril sauntered over to Susan, who was writhing on the floor.

"This," Carril said, "might not be the best time to tell you that you traveled."

Susan brings his Bucknell Bison to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Saturday, as Princeton attempts to win in Week 2 for the eighth straight year.

This will be the first time that Princeton and Bucknell have played since 1996, when Susan was still the OC.

TigerBlog remembers that 1996 game at Bucknell more than he remembers most games, largely because of the unbelievable rain and mud that overran Christy Mathewson Stadium in Lewisburg. In fact, TigerBlog cannot remember a Princeton football game that he was at that was played in worse conditions.

It actually poured all Friday night as well, and it was still raining heavily Saturday morning.

TB - who remembers having great French toast for breakfast - always got dressed up for games in the pre-Nike days, which would have meant a shirt and tie. That day, though, TB realized that he would destroy anything nice he wore, so he put on the same jeans he had worn the day before, along with sneakers.

As for the game, the final was Bucknell 10, Princeton 6.

The Tigers held the Bison to minus-28 rushing yards, a program record. The only touchdown drive of the day for Bucknell was one yard - that's right ONE YARD.

It came after Princeton had held the Bison on four cracks inside the two, including a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, only to turn it back over on the first play after the goal line stand.

For some reason, Princeton and Bucknell haven't played since, while Princeton has played Lehigh, Lafayette and Colgate almost every year.

In fact, Princeton and Bucknell don't play in many sports, and TB has only been to the school three times, once for the muddy football game and twice for men's basketball (Princeton will play three games at Bucknell this year as part of a men's basketball event).

It seems like the schools are close enough (a little more than three hours), and yet there's no history between the two.

Come Saturday night, there'll at least be a present, one that involves the nice subplot of having Joe Susan back at Princeton.

This time, though, he's unlikely to share his first few plays with TigerBlog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

399 - And Counting

TigerBlog was talking about the flurry of college realignment that is dominating the landscape with several people yesterday, and he posed the same question to each. Could it affect the Ivy League?

"Nope," one person said. "The Ancient 8 will always be the Ancient 8."

As an aside, the more TB thought about what he wrote yesterday, the more annoyed he became about Syracuse's move from the Big East to the ACC. And, apparently Michael Wilbon read TigerBlog before he went on PTI yesterday, since what he said was essentially word-for-word (go to about 19:20).

Meanwhile, back at the Ancient 8, TB has always felt like it's something of a misnomer, since the Ancient 8 isn't nearly as old as some of the other leagues that are currently trying to turn a quarter into three dimes.

In fact, the Ivy League first began formalized league play a mere 55 years ago.

Yes, the schools in the league are some of the oldest in the country. In fact, seven of the nine oldest schools in America are in the Ivy League, minus Cornell and joined by William & Mary and Rutgers.

The Ivy League first awarded championships in the 1956-57 academic year, when Yale won seven and Princeton and Harvard won four each.

Since that beginning, Princeton has gone on to win 395 more, and it entered the 2011-12 academic year with 399 Ivy League championships all-time. Here are the current all-time standings:

1. Princeton 399
2. Harvard 347
3. Cornell 199
4. Penn 189
5. Yale 172
6. Dartmouth 128
7. Brown 119
8. Columbia 87

If you look at the first 25 years of league competition, Harvard won 136 to Princeton's 117.

Since then, Princeton has won 282, while Harvard has won 211.

TigerBlog doesn't have the list broken down by gender, though he'll put that together one day. His hunch is that Princeton's hugely successful women's athletics programs through the years have been a big help in building the lead.

If you total up the last 15 years of Ivy League championships, here are the numbers:

1. Princeton 169
2. Harvard 99
3. Cornell 73
4. Penn 58
5. Yale 49
6. Dartmouth 39
7. Brown 45
8. Columbia 30

Last academic year, of course, Princeton won 15 Ivy League championships, the record for a single academic year. The old record had been 14, which Princeton had done twice and Harvard once.

TB has often wondered why Princeton has enjoyed such consistent success through the years and what the underlying reasons are. He has never come up with one correct answer.

Still, he's glad to be at a place with this kind of history.

This Saturday night, Princeton will have its annual Parade of Champions during halftime of the football game against Bucknell.

A total of 17 teams will be on the field - the 15 Ivy champs, plus women's lacrosse (Ivy tournament champ) and women's lightweight rowing (Eastern champ).

One of the best parts for TB is the wide range of teams that win year to year. The words "broad-based athletic participation" have been said so many times that they have lost much of their impact, but it doesn't make them any less true.

While the rest of college athletics is busy chasing money, the Ancient 8, as it were, continues to take a different approach.

When Princeton wins its next Ivy title, it'll have 400 all-time, which is a nice milestone - and a nice reminder of a special place in college athletics.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Seats Are Filled With Gold

There were 6,704 people at Princeton Stadium Saturday night for the opening game of the 143rd season of Tiger football.

Princeton, in fact, was one of five Ivy League schools to play home on Week 1.

Yale drew an announced crowd of 12,246 against Georgetown.

Dartmouth - who might be the league favorite right now - had 5,616 at Memorial Field for its win over Colgate.

Cornell announced 14,032 for its Homecoming Day game against Bucknell (who along with head coach Joe Susan will be at Princeton this Saturday at 6).

Penn, in its shocking loss to Lafayette, drew 9,438 to Franklin Field.

Here are some other attendance numbers:

No. 1 Oklahom at No. 5 Florida State drew 84,392. No. 7 Texas A&M drew 86,623 - against Idaho. Nebraska? 85,110. South Carolina? 78,807.

Those numbers are actually pale compared to some others. Take Alabama. The Tide rolled past North Texas while 101,821 watched. Tennessee at Florida drew 90,744; had the game been at Tennessee, it would have been more than 102,000.

Here's a bad game. Eastern Michigan at Michigan. Attendance? 110,343.

Those attendance figures - and the accompanying parking, concessions, merchandising and other sales on game day - are only part of it. They don't even begin to take into account television revenues.

Do not fool yourself in any way into thinking that anything that is happening with college realignments these days is happening because of anything other than money, football money at that.

This isn't about men's basketball, which is why the Big East is in trouble and why schools like Syracuse and Pitt so eagerly jumped to the ACC.

Here's what it's not about, by the way: the best interests of the athletes.

TigerBlog isn't sure when it became the sole mission of major athletic universities to squeeze every last penny they could out of their football teams, to the point where they make decisions that are so obviously being made for that purpose.

Remember, if Texas goes to what would become the Pac-16, then it would result in Texas at Washington State women's volleyball and men's tennis, not just football. By being in the ACC, Syracuse is going to have play women's soccer at Florida State, and on and on.

Speaking of Texas, the Longhorns - and their gaudy ESPN network - are now shopping themselves literally from coast to coast, trying to find the right place to maximize revenues, wondering if they're above every league out there and probably giving very little thought to questions like, oh, when are all these people going to go to class. And they're doing so at the highest levels of the school and with so little regard to the fact that it couldn't be clearer to the public at large what is driving these decisions (read - $$$$).

Geography? Who cares.

Loyalty? Who cares even less. So what if Syracuse men's basketball went from being a nice regional program with a pretty good history to being one of the very elite programs in college basketball solely because of its affiliation with the Big East? Does Syracuse realize that it's athletic identity nationally was made by men's basketball games against teams like Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova?

Every time conference realignment comes along, TigerBlog wonders if it could ever, ever happen in the Ivy League.

The obvious answer is no, and for one reason.

And it's not money per se.

The football attendance numbers from this weekend would change radically if, say, Harvard was in the Big East and playing at Gillette Stadium against, say, West Virginia or if Penn was in the ACC playing at Lincoln Financial Field against Clemson.

It's not about historical loyalty and precedent either. If anything, those factors have been proven to be non-existent anymore in college athletics.

Nope, the eight schools are bonded together largely because the academic connection to the Ivy League brand is so much more valuable than extra television revenue for football could be in a different league.

It's actually pretty refreshing.

The Ivy League isn't going anywhere.

If anything, TigerBlog could see some very, very strong academic schools who want to adopt a similar athletic philosophy possibly join the league, but that's highly unlikely as well.

So, armed with the knowledge that he works in the most stable athletic league in the country, TB can sit back and watch how the rest of it unfolds.

And continue to be shocked by the unabashed greed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back To School

Last night was Back To School Night for both TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog.

TigerBlog ended up at LMTB's school, where he went through her daily schedule, heading from one class to the next in abbreviated 10-minute periods to hear the teachers talk about expectations, policies, etc. When it was over, TigerBlog was amazed that he somehow was able to make it through his own school days without an internet from which his parents could monitor every homework assignment, quiz and test score.

Back To School Night is necessary, TB assumes, though he did turn a bunch of disbelieving heads among his fellow parents - who looked at TB like he was from another planet - when he asked the teacher in one class if she'd mentioned all these rules to the kids themselves and when informed that the answer was "yes," replied with "then it's up to them to follow through."

TigerBlog was a bit late getting to BTSN, because he and LMTB were in the middle of what has now become a rather common occurrence - a game of Monopoly. This game, by the way, appeared to turn big when LMTB landed on Atlantic Avenue with three houses on it, only to turn back around the other way when TB ended up Boardwalk with three houses.

When TB pulled up to the school - minus the $1,400 for landing on Boardwalk - he saw the parking lot was essentially jammed. The school borders two others, so the overflow parking took him to the parking lot of one of the other schools.

In fact, TB parked further away from the school than anyone else, except for one car further away. As TB was pulling in, the woman who parked just behind him was getting out her car, and TB could see she was on crutches.

Realizing that it was a fairly long walk back to the school, TB offered a ride to the woman, whom he'd never seen before. She looked into TB's car, thought about it for a second and then said "no thanks," and then started to hobble up the path to the school.

TigerBlog thought it was fairly obvious what was going through her head. Stranger. Car. Bad idea. TB figured she'd probably seen one of the 30 or so episodes of "Criminal Minds" where the supposed Good Samaritan is actually a serial killer.

Anyway, BTSN always comes on the Thursday of this week, which means it's always two days before the start of Princeton football season.

The 143rd football season at Princeton opens tomorrow night at 6 at home against a Top 20 opponent, Lehigh, who comes in for its third game with a record of 1-1 after defeating Monmouth and losing a thrilling 48-41 overtime game against another top FCS team, New Hampshire.

For Princeton, the 142nd season ended at 1-9, 0-7 in the Ivy League and with a possibly unprecedented number of injuries that decimated the team as the year went along.

When TigerBlog thinks about Princeton football heading into 2011, this is what he sees: a lot that could go right or a lot that could go wrong.

And it all revolves around Tommy Wornham, the quarterback who was injured in Week 5 last year and who is now healthy for his senior year. Wornham alone makes Princeton a much better team, even with the loss of receivers Trey Peacock and Andrew Kerr.

The same is true on defense, where Steven Cody went down in Week 1 last year against Lehigh and didn't return. The same is true of Caraun Reid, who also played only against Lehigh last year and then did not come back after getting injured.

Just having those three healthy should make a huge difference.

So too should the fact that it's Year 2 of the coaching staff, so the newness factor is gone and everyone is on the same page as far as not only schemes and game plans but also simply how business is done.

Then there's the other side of the coin, which TB sees as two main issues.

First, there's the schedule. Lehigh is a power. Bucknell is improved. Columbia has been more than a handful the last two years. And after that, there are five away games in seven weeks, including what could be the most daunting three-game road trip in those 143 years - trips to Hampton, Brown and Harvard all in a row.

Then there's the fact that the other league teams all seem to be as good or better than they were last year as well, with returning quarterbacks and studs all over the Ivy rosters.

So what's the bottom line going to be? What would be improvement? What's practical?

If the Tigers go 3-7, they've tripled their win total but still are just 3-7. Is 5-5 possible? A winning record?

Set the goals high and go from there. See what happens along the way.

Hey, it's a 10-week sprint, and if nothing else, it's almost Opening Night, with a perfect weather forecast and healthy home team.

What could be better than that?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Critical Thinkers

TigerBlog first met Dana O'Neil when she was Dana Pennett, age 15 or so, and the stat keeper for her high school football team, which was playing a game that TB was covering in his early newspaper days.

Subsequently, Dana would work at The Trentonian when TB was at the Trenton Times, and the two often covered the same event. Eventually, TB fixed her up with her husband, Princeton athletic trainer George O'Neil.

With that background, TB usually will go out of his way to read Dana's work for her current position, as a national college basketball writer for

When her story is about Princeton and Mitch Henderson, well, then he'll definitely read it.

Such was the case yesterday, when O'Neil wrote about the transition for Henderson from player at Princeton to head coach at Princeton.

In her story about Henderson, O'Neil says that Princeton has more alums as Division I head coaches than any other school and then lists them:

Bill Carmody (Northwestern)
John Thompson (Georgetown)
Joe Scott (Denver)
Sydney Johnson (Fairfield)
Craig Robinson (Oregon State)
Chris Mooney (Richmond)

Carmody, of course, is not a Princeton alum. He went to Union, where his coach was Gary Walters, now the Princeton athletic director. And he did coach with Pete Carril here for 15 years before he became the head coach for four.

In fairness to TB's friend O'Neil, it's an easy error to make, because Carmody is so closely associated with Princeton, Carril, Walters and the others who followed him as head coach - and because his own playing days aren't what he's known for (even though TB would pick him first in basically any pickup game, simply because he's the most competitive person TB has ever met).

O'Neil made another mistake in her story, when she referred to Princeton's win over "preseason favorite" Harvard in the playoff game. In reality, Princeton was the preseason favorite.

Still, Dana's story was a very good one, and she has a strong interest in Princeton and its program. Given her audience, this is hardly a bad thing.

And getting back to her point that Princeton has the most alums as DI head coaches (a number that could swell in the near future with people like Brian Earl, Mike Brennan and Scott Greenman), even without Carmody on the list, Princeton would at worst still be tied.

When TB read that, he thought back to earlier yesterday at freshman athlete orientation.

And as an aside, TB was annoyed to see a freshman male athlete in a Duke t-shirt and a freshman female athlete in a Marquette t-shirt. It's all-Princeton, all-the-time now people.

Anyway, Clayton Marsh, the Associate Dean of the College, was telling the freshman athletes that Princeton is not a professional school, that it has no medical school or law school or graduate business school.

He told them to pursue areas of study that interest them. He told them that if they are majoring in economics because they think it'll help them get a job on Wall Street, they're making a mistake.

Princeton's goal, Marsh said, is to be the best liberal arts education in the world. It's not trying to churn out an assembly line of pre-programmed executives but rather creative, critical thinkers.

It's a hard message to get across to college kids, especially ones who will be looking for jobs in a few years.

The basketball coaching stat bears out that Princeton is successful in getting the point across, though.

First, it's not just basketball where Princeton has produced a high number of coaches. It's across almost the entire coaching spectrum.

Second, pursuing coaching is about following a passion for what one loves to do, which is something that the University is trying to inspire.

And third, coaching is about critical and creative thinking, as much as any other career path anywhere.

So what if Bill Carmody isn't a Princeton alum. The point is still the same.

Dana O'Neil made it. Clayton Marsh made it.

Hopefully the freshmen were listening.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting Oriented

The first song by the group Angels & Airwaves that TigerBlog ever heard was called "Heaven"

Jeff Taylor - who at one point was the only person around these parts who knew how to do a video and who now has moved on to much bigger projects while everyone else figured out how to use I-movie - used it in a senior banquet video a few years back.

Since then, TB has become a big fan of the group, led by Blink 182 guitarist Tom Delonge.

Angels & Airwaves is the kind of group, sort of like Steely Dan, where the sounds is so consistent that the listener either likes basically every song the band plays or no song the band plays.

After TB began to listen to a few others, he began to realize that almost all of these songs, like "Heaven," would fit nicely into the videos that are produced here.

And why not? They have long introductory instrumental pieces and then an up-tempo melody with lyrics that usually talk about allegiance and fidelity and commitment.

TB's most recent video is for today's freshman athlete orientation.

This time around, TB went with the group's first released song, "The Adventure," which features the lyrics "I can't live, I can't breathe, unless you do this with me."

Freshman athlete orientation, for some reason, continues to fascinate TigerBlog in all kinds of ways.

Here you have a bunch of kids who a year ago were high school seniors, standout athletes and students, being recruited from all over the country and the world, all of whom chose to come to Princeton.

And now they're all thrown together from so many different backgrounds, mostly strangers still, at the beginning of relationships that will last in many cases til they day they die.

For that matter, there are probably athletes in the room who haven't yet met but who will end up married to each other.

As TB looks around, he wonders what kind of experience they'll all have, what impact they'll have on Princeton athletics, what will go right and what will go wrong.

Mostly, as TB has said before, he'll look around the room at the assembled group and wonder which ones are going to win the Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch Award, in this case to be awarded in May 2015.

It's next to impossible to do, of course. Yes, sometimes there is a Yasser El Halaby or Ryan Boyle or Alicia Aemisegger, athletes who come here as can't-miss studs and have careers that don't miss.

And then there are most years, when it's hard to say who's going to be the big winners.

Look back 12 months.

Last year, there were five Roper winners - Kareem Maddox, Taylor Fedun, Mark Amirault, Robin Prendes and Josh Walburn - and five von Kienbusch winners - Sarah Cummings, Ashley Higginson, Addie Micir, Lauren Wilkinson and Megan Waters.

Going back to Sept. 14 of last year, TB is pretty sure he wouldn't have picked out all 10 of those. Maybe that's a good thing, since it's a four-year award and senior year should count for a lot.

Looking ahead a year, there are a few really, really strong contenders for the awards, and TB could probably pick out a few on both sides with success. Still, if TB had to write down right now who's going to win, he'd come up with three men and two women.

Now he'll wait until the spring to see if he's right.

For now, it's off to orientation, to hear Gary Walters welcome the athletes and hear others from the university speak to specific topics, such as athletic medicine, academic services and such.

And there's the video to lead it off.

Just like the one that will be there at the senior-athlete banquet in May 2015.

TB can't predict who will win the big awards that night, but he'll take a stab at the music in the video - some combination of Bruce, Bon Jovi and Train, along with some song that hasn't yet been released.

And a random one by Angels & Airwaves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bon Retour

One by one, the travel party from the women's basketball trip to Paris and Senegal trickled back into Jadwin Gym.

The team returned from its 11 days overseas Sunday afternoon, and yesterday was the first day back to work for the staff.

As they walked by TigerBlog's office, a few ducked in to say hello and tell a few stories about the experience.

After awhile, TigerBlog began to notice something interesting about all of these stories: None of them were about Paris.

And that's the moral of the whole trip.

The team left here on Sept. 1 and spent four days in Paris. When you start to rank cities in the world for their combination of beauty and history and food and shopping and general interest, then Paris probably ranks No. 1.

Senegal's cities don't rank anywhere near the top of that same list.

And yet here was a random sampling of those who had made the trip with Princeton, and all they wanted to talk about was Senegal.

TigerBlog, back in the 1990s, traveled all over this country with the men's basketball team, going to some places that also aren't quite like Paris. At the time, TB appreciated the opportunity to travel to spots in the United States that he otherwise never would have on his own.

Yes, TB enjoyed his trip to Honolulu. Still, when he thinks back to those days, he remembers being in Wisconsin and Kansas and Iowa and places like that in December as much as Hawaii.

Now multiply that out by about a million, and that's what the women's basketball team experienced.

Maybe the stories would have been less about Senegal and more about Paris had the itinerary been reversed and the trip started in Senegal and ended in Paris, though TB doubts it.

The reality, TB assumes, is that Paris was wonderful and Senegal was life-changing.

After all, as TB heard the stories about the African nation, he could sense in the people telling them that they were legitimately, genuinely touched by what they had seen there.

They all talked about poverty, about transportation issues, about the food, about the games.

Mostly, they all came back to two events.

The first was a basketball clinic that the team put on for local players, for boys and girls players from around eight or so through high school age. Each Princeton player talked about how much they were appreciated, how excited the locals were to work with them, how much they wanted them to stay.

The second was a trip to an orphanage.

It was a place with babies in cribs with mosquito netting and overflowing diapers and young children who were hugging and holding on for dear life.

What is in the background of the average Princeton student, athlete or non, to prepare for that scene?

And how can someone go there and see that and then come back to a place of such privilege like Princeton University and not feel a responsibility to make the most of her opportunity?

And how could any of them ever forget what they saw there?

The answer is they can't.

They can remember with great fondness the sights and sounds of Paris.

They had to be changed by what they saw in Senegal.

From the sounds of it, they were.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Game Week

TigerBlog was coming out of the supermarket Saturday evening when he saw ticket manager Stephanie Sutton on her way in.

She was clearly in a big hurry, stopping only to explain that she had to get home for the start of the Michigan-Notre Dame game.

As it turned out, hurrying home for the kickoff wasn't that big a deal. It was staying with the game to the end that would have been better.

After all, Michigan and Notre Dame played the best final minute of a college football game since, oh, Doug Flutie knocked off Miami with his "Hail Mary" pass in 1984.

In case you either turned off the game at 24-7 Notre Dame in the third quarter or simply fell asleep (TB did both), you missed an extraordinary final 15 minutes. Michigan scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter - including two in the final 1:12, TDs that happened to be sandwiched around a Notre Dame score that briefly put the Irish back on top after Michigan had taken the lead.

Michigan had 240 yards of offense in the fourth quarter. Denard Robinson, who threw for 338 yards on just 11 completions, had a Jeff Terrell-type moment when he scored after a running back was stopped near the goal line (though Robinson picked up a fumble as opposed to Terrell, who famously took a pitch from Rob Toresco against Penn in overtime in 2006).

The final 1:12 saw Michigan go up, Notre Dame calmly answer and the Michigan win it with a 16-yard touchdown pass with two seconds to go. Had the pass been incomplete, Michigan would have been able to tie it with a field goal or go for the win again.

As an aside, TigerBlog always rooted for Michigan before the unrootable Rich Rodriguez showed up to coach the team. From what he's seen, TB likes Brady Hoke.

TB assumed Notre Dame had won, until he flipped open his computer Sunday morning to see a picture of Michigan's celebration on and shook his head.

Had a BCS championship game ever ended the way Michigan-Notre Dame did, it would be instantly considered the greatest game ever played.

Another dramatic game from Saturday, albeit not on the Michigan-Notre Dame level, saw the teams combine for 953 yards of offense (731 of them through the air) and 52 first downs and the losing quarterback throw six touchdown passes.

This particular game was tied 41-41 at the end of regulation after one team came from 18 points to take the lead, only to see the other team tie it and then win 48-41 in OT.

The two teams were Lehigh and New Hampshire, who walked away with a thrilling 48-41 win over the Mountain Hawks in a game played at the very picturesque Goodman Stadium at Lehigh.

This coming weekend will be Week 3 for most teams in college - and high school - football.

In the Ivy League, it's Week 1. For Princeton, it means a home game Saturday at 6 against those same Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

It's a huge disadvantage for Ivy League teams to play opponents that have two games under their belts. A year ago, Ivy teams went 4-4 in season-openers - including a 19-14 Penn win over Lafayette that might have been a bit more one-sided later in the year.

By Week 2, Ivy teams were 3-1 outside the league.

Back in 2000, Ivy teams went away from opening with a league opponent in favor of non-league opponents in Week 1. Since then, Princeton is 3-8 in its openers - all of which have been against either Lafayette, Lehigh or The Citadel - for a winning percentage of .273.

In Weeks 2-10 in that time, Princeton has a winning percentage of .474.

The logic of not playing a league game in Week 1 is obvious, since the team that loses would be in a huge hole one game in and since teams probably aren't at their best in their first game.

This isn't unique to football, by the way. Ivy League schools are playing catch-up in field hockey and soccer as well.

Still, for Princeton football fans, there are worse ways to start a season.

Week 1? A very strong - and apparently exciting - Lehigh team.

Week 2? A Bucknell team coached by former Princeton offensive coordinator Joe Susan.

Week 3? Ivy opener against Columbia.

All three at home. All three at 6.

Ivy coaches and players - and fans for that matter - have to wait longer than anyone to get going. Still, once kickoff rolls around Saturday evening, that won't be an issue anymore.

Game week is here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 + 10

TigerBlog walked down to the end of the driveway. It had just turned to darkness, and it was completely still, completely quiet. Eerily so.

TigerBlog had an uneasy feeling. He was scared.

It was the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

TB's memories of earlier that day are equally as etched in cement in his mind, to stay there for the rest of his life.

He dropped off TigerBlog Jr. at pre-school and heard a woman who worked there mention that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. How could that be, he wondered, on such a brilliantly perfect sunny day?

He spent the day at work, helping on the football game program for a game that would never be played, hovering around a television in the training room in Caldwell Field House, checking in with people who might have been in the city, eventually going back to get TBJ at the pre-school, where he was on a swings with a bunch of other oblivious little kids.

And then there was that night. Standing alone, on the edge of the driveway, thinking to himself about what had gone on that day, and certain beyond any doubt that two things were true:

1) the world had changed completely in one day and there was no going back, and
2) there were going to be more attacks on this country, probably in the next few days and then endlessly after that

Now, as the country remembers that horrific day on its 10th anniversary, it turns out TigerBlog was half right.

The world did change forever that day, and it will never again be like it was 10 years ago today or 10 years ago tomorrow.

On the other hand, there has not been another massive terrorist attack in this country. There have been incidents since, of course, but nothing nearly like what happened on 9/11.

In fact, there were probably dozens of missions planned on that scale, but the U.S. military and U.S. law enforcement have done an amazing job.

Al Qaeda is disintegrating, though numerous smaller groups - and individuals - are everywhere out there. Osama bin-Laden is dead, killed by Navy SEALS.

Credit for keeping this country as safe as its been these last 10 years goes to all of the people who have fought the War on Terror and the two Commanders-In-Chief who have overseen the effort - Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

TB wondered that night on the driveway whether or not the United States would be able to survive such a shadowy enemy, wondered what a post 9/11 world would look like, whether or not he could take for granted that Princeton University would still field athletic teams.

And then an amazing thing happened. The sun came up the next day, and the resilience of New Yorkers - especially then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani - began to inspire the entire country.

TB remembers one quote from Giuliani more than any other: "We will honor those who died by living our lives."

And that's what's happened.

If you asked TB to write down the best moments of his life, many of them have happened in the last 10 years.

As for Princeton, some of the greatest moments in Princeton athletic history have happened in the last 10 years. Today, Princeton is heading off into a new athletic year with athletes who were, what, in elementary school on 9/11?

One thing that TB has struggled with in these last 10 years is watching the events again on TV. In a world where it's so hard to separate reality and fantasy, TB has always felt it's somewhat voyeuristic and disrespectful to watch the planes hit the tower again, watch the towers fall, see the people jump out the windows because it was a better option for them - almost like it was watching a war movie or some episode of a cop show.

But the last few days, when TB has seen those images, it's served as the best reminder of the biggest heroes of that day, equal to the ones on the flight that crashed outside of Pittsburgh when the passengers fought back - the New York City police and firefighters who ran INTO the buildings, helping evacuate them before they collapsed.

In the aftermath, there were all kinds of fundraising events, including a huge one at Madison Square Garden. TB remembers a New York City firefighter who was on the stage and said his name and address into the mic and dared Osama Bin Laden to have the guts to come to his house.

TB heard an interview yesterday on the radio with one of the firefighters, a man who was trapped for 13 hours before being rescued. He talked about people he worked with who died, talked about the horror of the day.

Then he talked about resilience, how New York City came back, how the people got up off the canvas and went about their business and how proud that makes him.

And he's right.

It's been 10 years since the worst day in American history, one that left TigerBlog and tens of millions of others afraid about what the future would look like.

Ten years later, the world has changed, but the American people haven't. They've lived their lives, as Giuliani said.

They've gone to work and gone on vacation and had children and sent them to college and gone to their weddings. They've played sports and watched sports and gone to the movies and gone to concerts. They've argued politics. They've cleaned out flooded basements and gotten sick and gotten better.

And every morning, they've gotten up.

It's 10 years later.

The terrorists won big on 9/11.

America has won big since.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fooling Mother Nature

The product, TigerBlog believes, was Chiffon margarine. The commercial featured Mother Nature herself, eating the spread on something, marveling over the butter taste.

When informed that it was margarine and not butter, the response was that "it's not nice to fool Mother Nature," followed by a raccoon, TB believes, who covered its eyes, awaiting the ensuing wrath.

All these decades later, it's good to know that Mother Nature hasn't lost her fastball. Not with what's going on around here of late.

The earthquake that preceded the hurricane, floods and more torrential rain and floods was only two weeks ago, so that's a lot packed into a short time.

Last night - actually early this morning - featured a massive thunderstorm, one with illuminating flashes of lightning followed in short order by gigantic crashes of thunder, all while even more rain cascaded down.

Princeton has seen rain on 16 of the last 28 days, much of it substantial.

Who knows? Maybe it's related to margarine.

If you watched the opening weekend of college football, you saw three games delayed by lightning, including two that were unable to be finished.

According to a stat TB saw, the last time a Division I-A game wasn't played to its conclusion was 2002; there were two last weekend alone - Michigan vs. Western Michigan and Marshall vs. West Virginia, both of which made it about three-quarters of the way through with one team up big.

The Notre Dame-South Florida game was delayed twice and finally finished six hours after it started.

As an aside, TB can't help but think that the sideline antics of ND coach Brian Kelley - a hard guy to root for after the way he dumped Cincinnati - that were caught on TV (screaming, cursing, berating players after mistakes they didn't intend to make) are part of a act that he thinks he has to go through to get his players to see how tough he is.

Anyway, Princeton hasn't, to TB's memory, had a football game delayed by lightning in all the years he's been watching - although maybe he's just forgetting it. There have been other games delayed, including a women's soccer game last year against St. Joe's that was cancelled after a big t-storm that came in at halftime.

Princeton's 2002 NCAA women's lacrosse semifinal against North Carolina was delayed by lightning with Princeton ahead 17-4 or something like that and only a few minutes left, but the game was resumed and played to its conclusion.

As TB watched South Florida take apart the Irish and their happy-go-lucky coach, the announcers were thrown into the unenviable position of having to fill time, an extraordinary amount of time as it turned out.

At one point, the discussion turned to the rules of when a game can be restarted, and the announcers seemed at a bit of a loss as to what they actually are.

TB was confused on one part as well, and that's whether or not NCAA rules apply to BCS college football.

Around here, once a game is stopped by lightning, there is a 30-minute clock that starts. If a subsequent lightning strike occurs, the clock is reset to 30 minutes.

The athletic trainers and the event management staffs are in charge of monitoring such situations, and there are computers and cell phones that receive automatic lightning warnings at every site.

Aside from the seats at the baseball field, TigerBlog is pretty sure that every outdoor bleacher at a Princeton venue is metal. The need to evacuate fans in the event of lightning is obvious.

Safety, of course, is the first priority, for everyone involved.

Tonight is the first home event for Princeton athletics in 2011-12, with a field hockey game against Penn State to be followed tomorrow night by a men's soccer game against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Hopefully, these events - and all others - will go off without having to implement policies for bad weather.

Still, those policies exist, the result of long discussions in meeting after meeting.

And when they're needed, it's a good thing those meetings happened.

As for now, TB is going to answer the messages he's gotten from the four people who can't get near here because of the floods.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome, Franklin

TigerBlog was an American History major back at Penn.

It was a good fit for him, as he's always 1) been good at remembering what happened and on what day and 2) had an interest in the trivial. In many ways it was great preparation for what TB does now, and Princeton's athletic history and the dates of certain games and legacies of certain athletes or coaches have replaced wars and generals and political movements as the curriculum.

At some point, TB had memorized all of the U.S. Presidents in order, remembering them mostly by the years they were elected. For instance, William Henry Harrison was elected in 1840 but died shortly after inauguration, which led to John Tyler (Tippecanoe and Tyler Too) and then one of the most underrated Presidents, James K. Polk in 1844.

These days, TB can remember almost the entire list. Washington, Adams, Jefferson and then the first of the two Princetonians - James Madison, followed by Monroe, Van Buren and Andrew Jackson before getting into the 1840s.

If there are two eras where TB struggles, it's the group right before Abraham Lincoln and then in the 1880s through 1896. In both of those cases, there are some very bland Presidents.

As an aside, it'd be pretty interesting to know how history is going to remember the Presidents of TB's lifetime with the benefit of 100 years or so. Sadly, TB probably isn't going to live into his 150s or so and won't be able to find out.

As Presidents go, it doesn't get much blander than Franklin Pierce, who followed Millard Fillmore and preceded James Buchanan and was President from 1853-1857. In fact, according to the site that knows all, Pierce's biggest claim to fame is being consistently ranked among the worst Presidents of all time.

Pierce was the lone President to come from New Hampshire.

Today, in Rindge, in southern New Hampshire along the Vermont state line, sits Franklin Pierce College, a Division II school that plays in the Northeast-10 Conference.

The Ravens have a video intro to their webpage these days, one that trumpets the arrival of four new athletic programs on campus. One is women's hockey. Two of the others are men's and women's track and field/cross country.

And the fourth?

Sprint football.

Franklin Pierce will begin play in sprint football a year from now, when it will be the eighth team in the Collegiate Sprint Football League. The Ravens will join the five long-time members - Army, Navy, Princeton, Penn and Cornell - and the two newcomers - Post and Mansfield.

The obvious question is why would colleges add sprint football? The answers are simple: it costs a fraction of what traditional football does, and it attracts full-tuition-paying students to the school.

Princeton, as any Tiger fan knows, is struggling in sprint football. In fact, the Tigers' last win was in 2005 - against a club team from Virginia Military Institute. Princeton's last league win was in 1999, when the Tigers defeated Cornell 12-7 in their opener.

Since then there have been many more blowouts than there have been heartbreakers, and yet year after year, the Tigers keep showing up.

TigerBlog has watched at least one sprint football game each year basically every year, and the one thing that always stands out is the optimism of the team. Even after all of the tough nights, Princeton still approaches every game as if it's going to win.

The 2011 season marks Stephen Everette's first as the head coach for Princeton sprint football. Everette could not have made a better first impression on TB, with his organization, enthusiasm and drive.

Late last week, Everette had all of his players here at the OAC for head shots. Each of them wore a bright orange Princeton sprint football shirt, and they all were eager to get going.

TB is rooting hard for Everette and his team to get at least one win. It doesn't seem like much to ask, right?

Princeton came closest a year ago, with a 10-6 loss to Mansfield.

Maybe this is the year, for Everette and his team.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Boardwalk And Cleanup

For the first time since TigerBlog can remember, he played a game of "Monopoly" the other day.

Board games were a big part of TB's life, at least to a certain point.

The early years saw children's games like "Chutes and Ladders" and "Candyland," which later evolved into "The Boss" or "Risk," which was a popular game in college.

If you never played "Risk," you're missing a good game. The basic premise is that the world is divided into different regions, and each player represents an army. The one who conquers the world wins.

One version of playing involves making non-aggression pacts, though they are not spelled out in the rules. One player will agree not to attack another for, say, five turns along a certain border, so each will only need to keep one army on that particular territory.

Back in college, TB was playing one time with a bunch of other people, including his friend Glazuh and another guy, one who was growing a goatee (TB is pretty sure it was Gary Hatke).

Anyway, those two agreed to a non-aggression pact, which fell apart when Hatke loaded up his armies on the border and attacked Glazuh, breaking the pact. When Glazuh protested, Hatke said that he could, because it wasn't in the rules, and he even sighted a precedent - the Nazis broke their non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in World War II.

Glazuh, incensed (and soon-to-be eliminated from the game), finally realized he had no recourse, and so he said the only thing he could in the circumstances, turning to Hatke and saying "I don't like your beard."

"Monopoly," though, is the granddaddy of all board games.

TB and Little Miss TigerBlog played Sunday afternoon, and, as TB said before, he can't remember the last time he played.

This time, the game turned on a trade TigerBlog made, one that would have worked out great had it not allowed LMTB to get Boardwalk to go with Park Place and put up three houses on each, only to see TB land twice on Boardwalk and once on Park Place.

In exchange, TB got back three properties that completed monopolies, as well as a railroad. Had LMTB landed on New York Ave. on the turn before TB landed on Boardwalk for the first time, it might have all been different.

The game was one of the highlights of a low-key Labor Day weekend, one that TB can't believe has already come and gone. The month of August sailed by.

In another few weeks it'll be Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then Christmas, and it'll seem like no time has passed. In early December, it'll be time for the annual Princeton Athletics holiday party, probably in the boathouse, where it always is.

And on that night, TB will think back to Hurricane Irene, which completely flooded the Shea Rowing Center a week ago.

In fact, TB was amazed when he saw the video on youtube of the flood, considering how many times he's been in the boathouse and how pristine it is in there.

In fact, TB was there what seems like a few days ago, for the 2010-11 end-of-year department picnic. Oh wait, that was more than three months ago.

Anyway, there are two amazing things about the video.

And, as an aside, the music at the end is Maureen McGovern's song "A Morning After," from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure."

First is the sheer amount of water that made its way into the building, especially since for all of the nasty rainstorms that we've had here through the years, it's never happened like that before that TB remembers.

Second is the attitude of the people in the video, who happen to be the members of the Princeton crew coaching staff. They simply went out and cleaned up the mess.


Pride. In themselves. In each other. In their program. In the building.

It speaks volumes about who those people are.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So Long, Steve Kanaby

While TigerBlog isn't sure how many parking spaces are in Lot 21A, he's pretty sure that there are more people with a 21A parking pass than there are spots in the lot.

For those who don't know the dynamics of parking around here, Lot 21A is the small piece of the main Jadwin Gym parking lot (which is Lot 21). When you pull into the lot by DeNunzio Pool and then turn right to head into the main parking area, 21A is the one on the right, where the rest of the spots are on the left.

Lot 21A is reserved for athletic department staff, except that at any given moment, a bunch of the spots in the lot are taken by people without athletic hang tags.

Of course, because more people have those tags than there are spots, it's possible - and often happens - that the lot is filled.

The result is that athletic department staff people have to park in the overflow area, which is the rest of Lot 21. For some reason, this seems terribly unfair and inconvenient, even though the walk from the furthest point of Lot 21 up to the building can't be more than five minutes or so.

Steve Kanaby, as far as TB knows, has never parked in Lot 21A. TB has never seen Kanaby's car there, and he's walked out of the building with Kanaby a dozens of times and never once saw him get into his car in 21A.

Instead, Kanaby prefers to park far away. And why? To leave the 21A spots for others.

Earlier this week, Kanaby sent TB an email with a subject line of "new position," and TigerBlog immediately knew what it meant.

Steve Kanaby is leaving Princeton, heading off to become the Associate Commissioner in charge of championships for the Colonial Athletic Association.

Kanaby has been at Princeton for five years, working with Karen Malec as the entire event operations staff in the department.

You've seen him at games. With an army of people wearing orange and black Nike-issued Princeton athletics gear, Steve Kanaby is the one in the suit and tie.

What you haven't seen from him is that he's often the first one here and the last to leave. Day or night. Holidays. Weekends.

For the last five years, Kanaby has been in this building and at the other venues of Princeton athletics.

During his time, there have been maybe 2,000 athletes who have competed for Princeton. Maybe, what?, 25 or so knew his name?

His efforts touched every one of them. Touched every coach for every team. Every fan who came to a game here - every single fan - was the direct recipient of something Kanaby did.

Work ethic, though, isn't what makes Kanaby special.

It's not enough to say that Kanaby is a nice guy or use another similar word. That doesn't even begin to describe him.

TB often shakes his head at Kanaby, wondering how a person can actually be that ultra-nice - and that ultra-nice all the time.

TB, in the five years that he's known him, has never once seen Kanaby get angry or upset, no matter how annoying the circumstance. He's seen him laugh, shrug his shoulders and get to work on whatever mess was created and dumped in his lap, never once letting any frustration show through.

Kanaby's current residence is near the indoor facility where TigerBlog Jr. used to play lacrosse on Sunday mornings. Each week, after the game, a few families from the team would stop by the Perkins next door and have breakfast.

Since Kanaby was so close, TB invited him to come by and watch and then join the group for breakfast. At Perkins, Kanaby sat with a group of mostly strangers, politely talking, laughing and all.

Then he picked up the check. And refused to let anyone else help him out. This after getting up on a Sunday to watch a middle school winter league lacrosse game that he had no stake in - after a weekend of working at events.

Multiply that out by the thousands of other things he's done that TB has no idea about, and you start to get an idea of what Kanaby is all about.

TB often has joked through the years that once a person leaves Princeton, he becomes "dead to us" - which TB actually means a term of great affection. Now it's Kanaby's turn to join that list.

In truth, he'd outgrown his job here and was ready for a new challenge, one that hopefully leads to greater successes down the road.

Kanaby and TB have talked movies, music, sports, education, religion, politics and everything. Probably 95% of what one has said to the other made the other laugh.

In all seriousness, though, TB will miss him, and miss him a lot.

He may be dead to TB, as TB likes to say.

That doesn't mean that TB doesn't wish him all the best.

And it doesn't mean that TB won't remember him as a very genuine, very special person, one he was fortunate to work with for as long as he did.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bon Voyage

TigerBlog had two "Seinfeld" options last night at 11.

The first was "The Contest," which is about a game in which the four main characters have a bet to see who can go the longest without, you know, doing that.

The second was "The Chinese Woman," the one where Jerry accidentally ends up talking to a woman named Donna Chang on the phone and asks her out, thinking she's Asian. When it turns out that she shortened her name from "Changstein" and is from Long Island, Jerry is very disappointed, even though she's an extremely nice woman. Other sub-plots included Kramer's attempts to improve his chances for fertility and Elaine's efforts to avoid having to make small talk with her friend's boyfriend, whom Jerry dubs a "long talker."

"The Contest" was the 51st episode of the series and first aired on Nov. 19, 1992; "The Chinese Woman" was the 90th and aired on Oct. 13, 1994.

Flipping back and forth between the two only confirmed for TigerBlog what he's know for years - that "Seinfeld" went downhill after Season 4 and way downhill after Season 5.

"The Chinese Woman," like many of the shows in the final four seasons, isn't really all that funny. It's trying too hard to be zany and to incorporate phrases like "long talker" into pop culture, rather than being what it was when it first started, which is television as good as it's ever been.

"The Contest" is brilliant. It's primary subject is never mentioned by name, yet it's present in every moment of the episode. The story has one central plot, and the situations that the characters find themselves in are completely believable, which makes it funny, not zany.

TigerBlog thinks "The Contest" is the best episode of the series and one of the best in television history. He's not alone in that: TV Guide called ranked it No. 1 on its list of the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All-Time.

TB wouldn't go that far - it's got nothing on the episode of "The Odd Couple" with the ghost in the air conditioning, the "Whitecaps" episode of "The Sopranos" and the show that TB would rank No. 1, the episode of "All In The Family" with Sammy Davis Jr.

Still, it's' a Top 10 episode of all-time, as far as TB is concerned.

And TB's August faded away with a reminder of what happened to the show over the course of a few seasons.

Then he woke up and it was September, which meant, among other things, that last year's Princeton Athletics calendar had to be replaced with this year's.

It also meant that opening day for Princeton athletics is a day away, with teams on the road in California (women's soccer), South Carolina (men's soccer), Pennsylvania (field hockey) and New York (women's volleyball).

And it also meant that another team is going on a road trip way longer than all of those combined.

Around 3 this afternoon, the women's basketball team will roll out of Jadwin Gym on its way to Kennedy Airport, as the two-time defending Ivy champion begins an 11-day excursion to France and Senegal.

The team will fly to Paris and stay there through Monday before heading off to Dakar. The trip will feature four games, two in France and two in Senegal, as well as educational, recreational, cultural and service-oriented opportunities for the team.

While in Paris, there will be a trip to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the other famous landmarks.

While in Senegal, there will be a trip to Pink Lake (which really is pink), a safari and a visit to a port where slave ships left for America.
The advantages on court to getting extra practice and playing a few preseason games is huge, especially with a veteran team. It helped, among others, the 1997-98 men's basketball team and 2009 men's lacrosse teams to big years.

The off-the-court benefits are huge as well.

TigerBlog went with the men's lacrosse team to Spain and Ireland in 2008, and it was an incredible experience.

No member of the travel party for the coming women's basketball trip will ever forget this opportunity, to tour and play in Paris - arguably the No. 1 travel destination in the world - and Senegal - a place that few would ever go to were it not for something like this.

Bon voyage, Tigers.