Monday, October 31, 2011

Dreaming Of A White Halloween

If TigerBlog knocks on your door tonight, his favorite candies are:

* Three Musketeers
* 100 Grand
* Twix (though he hates the commercials with all the crunching)

And of course, one half of nature's most nearly perfect food combination - chocolate M&Ms (with chocolate ice cream).

He's okay with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, even though he doesn't like peanut butter, a contradiction he's never quite understood.

Today is Halloween, one of the great days of any year. Each year, as TB pulls into the Jadwin parking lot, he sees the parade of the nursery school kids in their costumes across FitzRandolph Road, and it reminds him of when TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog took part - a time that seems not so long ago.

Back then, the little boys dressed like football players and pirates and ghosts and cowboys and Darth Vader and the little girls dressed like Disney princesses and Hannah Montana and cupcakes and pumpkins.

Eventually, those costumes are outgrown, replaced by, on the women's side at least, by costumes that all involve some primarily female occupation and the word "slutty" in front of it. Sociologists can debate the cultural significance and impact.

TigerBlog likes to give out the candy to the costumed children on Halloween night, and not because he likes to see how they're all dressed. Instead, it's because it gives him unlimited access to the candy without ever having to go outside.

Today, for the first time since 1925, Halloween will include something a little different, and that would be snow on the ground. At least that's what TB read over the weekend.

For a comparison, the first measurable snowfall of 2010-11 came on Dec. 26 - not in the first half of the fall.

TigerBlog cannot remember a snowy Halloween, and he would like to point out that he's vehemently against it.

And yet there he was yesterday, shoveling snow. In October. In shorts, no less. With green leaves still in the trees.

In a really, really weird three-day stretch, TigerBlog wore a shortsleeve shirt and no jacket to work Friday, endured a driving snowstorm Saturday and was back in shorts Sunday.

Ewing, located about 10 miles from Princeton, got six inches of snow Saturday. Pennington, which is next to Ewing, got two. Princeton probably had around 2-3.

What the snow did do was destroy what would have been a great Saturday of sports here. Completely destroy it, for that matter.

There were four home outdoor games against Cornell scheduled for Saturday, as well as Heps cross country.

Attendance for the six events on a nice day would have topped 10,000, maybe reached 15,000. Instead, with the weather, three of the six events were postponed until yesterday, while maybe 400 people watched the football game. Heps actually drew fairly well, but it wasn't what it otherwise could have been had the weather not been horrific.

It's a huge shame.

The forecast all week was for cloudy and 40-45 degrees for Saturday, with a chance of rain. It wasn't until late in the week that it became more likely that it would rain, and the forecast for snow didn't arrive until shortly before the flakes did.

The big issue Saturday morning was weather or not to play soccer and field hockey, but eventually it was obvious that those games would have to wait a day for safety reasons. Football, of course, goes on unless there's lightning, and the result was the kind of football-in-the-snow that everyone likes to watch - on TV. Or play.

The forecast for this week? Temps in the high 50s the next two days and then six straight days in the 60s.

TigerBlog is hoping that the snow that fell here was a fluke and not a precursor for the winter, which doesn't actually start for more than seven weeks.

He's also hoping everyone has a fun and safe Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Greatest World Series Game Ever Played

If you didn't make it all the way to 12:39 a.m., then you missed quite possibly the single most exciting baseball game ever played and the greatest World Series game of all-time.

Given that baseball goes back 150 years and the World Series goes back to 1903, that's saying a lot.

Still, what beats last night's unreal 10-9 by the Cardinals over the Rangers, on a night when the Rangers twice were one strike away from winning the first series title in franchise history, on a night when the teams combined for 19 runs, 28 hits, five errors, six home runs, 42 players used and one unbelievable twist after another?

Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956? Game 7 in 1960? Game 6 in 1975? Game 6 in 1986? With all due respect, TB watched two of those (1975, 1986) and knows a lot about the other two and sorry, they don't match up to last night.

As an aside, TB would say Game 5 in 1975 comes closest.

The tendency when something new comes along is to break out terms like "greatest ever," and TB hates when he hears or reads stuff like that when it obviously is hyperbole.

In this case? TB think it fits.

Think about it. The Rangers snapped a 4-4 tie (in what had been a messy, messy game) with back-to-back home runs and an RBI single in the seventh, going up 7-4. Even when Allen Craig got one back in the eighth, the game seemed over when the Cards left the bases loaded in the eighth, meaning it was 7-5 into the bottom of the ninth and Neftali Feliz on the mound for the Rangers.

Except it was only getting started.

So what happened? Two on, two out and David Freese - whom TB had never heard of three weeks ago - at the plate, Freese, who suddenly is the clutchest athlete alive. Freese, down to his final strike, rips one to rightfield, where Nelson Cruz may have it, may have it, may have it ... doesn't have it.

Now keep in mind that if he catches the ball, the World Series is over. And also keep in mind that he probably should have had it, only to appear to lose track of where he was in relation to the wall.

Instead, Freese ends up with a triple, tying the game at 7-7. Now keep in mind that Feliz still has to work his way out of the inning or the game will be over right there. And he does.

This brings us to the top of the 10th. With one out, Elvis Andrus singled up the middle, and up to the plate stepped Josh Hamilton, reformed drug addict who had come all the way back from appearing to flush away his great talent to become one of the most inspirational athletes of all-time, almost like a real-life Roy Hobbs. Only now, the 2010 American League MVP has been slowed by a groin injury the entire postseason and hasn't homered once - until he drilled one not off the lights but far enough to clear the fence and make it 9-7.

Over? No chance (why did Ron Washington take Feliz out?). Back come the Cards, down to their final strike again, only to have Lance Berkman line one up the middle to tie it. And then, an inning later, here came Freese again - rocketing one over the centerfield wall to make it 10-9.

And so this World Series - as good as any TB has ever seen - has one more night left, Game 7 tonight. If the Rangers lose, then this will be as agonizing as any loss in history.

Hey, TB's having a lot of fun with the superlatives right now, but they all fit. If you watched the game, you know exactly what he means.

Peter Farrell, Princeton's cross country coach, came in this morning to talk about "my Cardinals," even as TB pointed out that in all the time he's known him, he's never once heard him talk about the team.

TigerBlog is rooting for the Rangers and has never really liked the Cardinals. He did go to college with a guy from St. Louis named Sandy Friedman who was (and presumably is still) a huge Cardinals fan. For all TB knows, Sandy might have been at the game last night, but at the very least, he was definitely watching somewhere in the St. Louis area. TB was okay with the outcome, because 1) it was such a great game and 2) at least Sandy was happy.

The World Series will end tonight, one day before a huge athletic day on the Princeton campus, one during which Farrell's team will be at center stage.

Today ordinarily would have been the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships, held this Friday each year at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Instead, it was moved from today in New York to tomorrow in Princeton, with the men's race at 11 and the women at noon.

Also on tomorrow's home schedule:

* field hockey vs. Cornell at noon
* football vs. Cornell at 1
* men's soccer vs. Cornell at 4
* women's soccer vs. Cornell at 7

Also on tomorrow's schedule? Horrible weather. At least a horrible forecast.

This will mark the fourth home football game of the year - and the fourth time the forecast has called for precipitation. Of course, the other three times, the bad weather was gone before kickoff.

Tomorrow? Maybe not.

So be brave, people. Bundle up and get out here. There are some great events here, beginning early and running late.

They won't be as good as the World Series, but that's okay.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Go Princeton - And America

TigerBlog was trying to figure out the history of the United States in Olympic women's field hockey, and so he googled "Olympic field hockey."

Of course, there's a Wikipedia page for that.

Except that TB can't really figure out the Wikipedia page. And he found, egads, a mistake. On Wikipedia.

How is that possible?

As Michael Scott said a long time ago, back when "The Office" was in its hilarious stage (as opposed to its current hardly watchable soap opera-esque stage), "anyone can update Wikipedia, which means you know you're getting the best possible information."

On the Wikipedia page, it says that the United States has won two bronze medals, but TB can only see one - by the women in 1984.

And then there's the table that lists participation. Unless TB is missing something, he can't figure out if that's men's field hockey, women's field hockey or both.

The men's game isn't huge in this country, though it is in other parts of the world, most notably India, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. TB also wouldn't have gotten this correct, but the last Olympic men's field hockey gold medalist was Germany.

On the women's side, the Netherlands defeated China in the gold medal game, while Argentina defeated Germany in the bronze medal game at the most recent Olympic games.

As an aside, how much must it stink to lose the bronze medal game? Once you've won in the semifinal, at least you're assured of a medal. To get to the semifinals and come away without a medal has to be an awful feeling.

Anyway, the U.S. team is on the verge of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London, though there is a huge hurdle in the way.

The Americans defeated Canada 4-2 in the Pan Am Games semifinal, helped by a goal from Michelle Cesan, one of four Princeton players - along with Katie Reinprecht, Julia Reinprecht and Kathleen Sharkey - who have taken this year off from school to train with the U.S. national team in hopes of reaching the Olympics, which begin July 27, 2012. The four are among the 25 players in the national team pool, and all three but Sharkey were among the 18 who are on the active Pan Am roster.

The Olympic goal would be achieved with a gold medal at the Pan Am games, but doing so would require a win against Argentina, which is ranked No. 1 in the world right now. The gold medal game will be played tomorrow in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Tomorrow will mark the fifth straight Pan Am final between the U.S. and Argentina - and the sixth in the last seven - and Argentina has won them all. The U.S. is currently ranked 13th in the world.

Of course, 12 teams will qualify for the Olympics, so tomorrow's game is not all-or-nothing for the Americans. In fact, there are three other tournaments - held in India, Japan and Belgium - early in 2012 that will fill out the rest of the field.

In the meantime, the Princeton field hockey team finds itself in a rather odd position, considering its history of success.

The conversation at this time of year for Princeton usually involves whether or not the Tigers will host the first round of the NCAA tournament, not whether the team will get the Ivy League's postseason bid.

That, though, is the current issue for Princeton field hockey.

Minus its fab four, the 2011 Princeton field hockey team has had to scratch and claw its way into what is now a favorable position for an Ivy title and postseason bid, though nothing is yet etched in stone.

A week ago, there was a five-way tie for first place in the league. Now, with two league weekends remaining, that has been whittled down to a three-way tie.

Princeton, Yale and Columbia are all 4-1 in the league, followed by Harvard and Dartmouth at 3-2, Cornell and Penn at 1-4 and Brown at 0-5.

The good news for Princeton is that it has already beaten Yale and Columbia (Princeton's loss is to Dartmouth).

In fact, Columbia hosts Yale tomorrow night, so somebody has to lose that game. Columbia also plays Harvard; Yale also plays Brown.

As for the Tigers, they host Cornell Saturday (noon) and finish the regular season at Penn next Friday night. Should Princeton win its last two games, it would get at least a share of the Ivy title and just as importantly would get the Ivy League's NCAA bid, which this year means playing the Northeast Conference winner in a play-in game (at the Ivy school).

There's no way that the Ivy field hockey race would be this close if the Reinprechts, Sharkey and Cesan were on the Princeton team. Its wins over Yale and Columbia were both by a single goal, and the Tigers have outscored their league opponents by a combined 17-7, including 10-1 the last two weeks against Brown and Harvard.

Compare that to last year, when Princeton went 7-0 and outscored the league 46-5.

But hey, that makes this year even more special, that it's been such a close struggle to get to this point. Closing out a league championship would be something unique for a program that has dominated the Ivy League with 17 titles in 18 years.

And the fab four will be back next year, resuming their playing careers at Princeton with the goal of not just an Ivy title but also a national title.

First, though, there's the final against Argentina and the quest to get into the Olympics.

TigerBlog always finds it easy to root for Princeton and the United States. Here it's even easier.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


TigerBlog isn't quite ready to say that he's a better athlete than Mitch Henderson and Brian Earl.

After yesterday, though, he'll go out on a limb and say that he's a better squash player. For now, at least.

TigerBlog was a longtime participant in the lunchtime basketball game at Jadwin Gym, something that has probably had about 400 or so different players in the last 20 years. TB actually made a list at one point, and it was well over 250 at that time.

Eventually, TB bailed on basketball, for a few reasons. First, there was the injury factor. Second, there was the foul shot factor.

The injury factor is self-evident. The foul shot factor is the idea that if there happened to be more than 10 players, then the winning team stayed on and the other team was filled by the players who had just sat out, with the remaining slots filled by a foul shooting contest among players who had just lost.

TB is an awful foul shooter, and really not much of a shooter beyond, oh, five feet. As a result, he had far too many play, lose, miss foul shot, sit and then play situations in his lunchtime hoops career.

If memory serves, though, it was when the floor in Jadwin was being redone one year that TB first started playing squash, a sport he had played exactly once in his life prior to then. That had been back in college, when TB and BrotherBlog played once, something TB doubts BB even remembers.

Anyway, it was with Mike Cross, now the athletic director at Bradley, that TB first played at Princeton. TB can't remember who won - but he can remember how badly his thighs and quads were burning the next day.

Since then, squash has been at least a three and sometimes five day a week activity, except for two rather lengthy injury recovery situations, neither of which was squash related.

Through the years, TB's main squash partner has been fellow OAC member Craig Sachson. TB imagines that he and Sachson have played close to 1,000 times, and Sachson probably has won 51% of the time. In other words, it's a very competitive rivalry.

There have been a few other opponents through the years, most notably former men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky (let's just say Guy had difficulty differentiating between the concept of what happens when a puck goes into a corner and when a squash ball does) and former women's soccer assistant coach Scott Champ (for whom squash became something of an obsession).

When Mitch Henderson was hired as men's basketball coach, John Mack, the 10-time Heptagonal track champ who worked with Henderson at Northwestern, pointed out that Henderson was a squash player.

This past summer, TB, Sachson and Henderson ventured over to Dillon Gym to play a few times because of construction on the Jadwin courts. Henderson hadn't played in awhile, and the rust was evident.

Yesterday, Henderson and assistant coach Brian Earl said they'd be playing around noon and asked if TB and Sachson wanted to have something of a round-robin.

The basic format was that there'd be two simultaneous games to seven. The winners of those games would play on Court 10; the losers would play on Court 9.

It was apparent early on that Henderson has improved and that Earl is something of a beginner. As a result, the OACers never lost to the basketball coaches.

Something else that was apparent was that Henderson and Earl, both nearly 15 years removed from playing basketball at Princeton, are still extraordinary athletes. They cover the court (squash, that is) really quickly, because of both their speed and size.

What they aren't is experienced squash players. Once they figure out how to play - and assuming they continue to play - they'll get better very quickly.

Oh, and they're both super competitive, often diving on the court to try to win a point. It's the nature of their backgrounds, both as athletes and coaches.

Afterwards, TB and Sachson talked about the pressure of not wanting to be the first one to lose to Henderson, who came close a bunch of times to the magic number of seven. Once he gets one win, there'll be no reason to expect that he won't follow that with many more.

Beyond just the squash, TB couldn't help but think of all of the years he's know both Henderson and Earl, back to before they played their first minutes here.

They were kids really when TB first heard about them, from Pete Carril and Bill Carmody, who were ecstatic about having them come to Princeton.

They arrived at a time when Penn was in the midst of a 42-0 run in the Ivy League, one that included a 14-0 season in 1995, Henderson's freshman year. It would all change with Henderson and Earl, as well as Steve Goodrich, James Mastaglio, Sydney Johnson, Gabe Lewullis, Nate Walton, Mason Rocca, Chris Doyal and others.

Henderson's famous picture after the win over UCLA came his sophomore year, Earl's freshman year. The team would go 51-6 overall and 28-0 in the league the next two years, rising in to the national Top 10 in 1997-98, Henderson's senior year.

Even when the Class of 1998 graduated, Earl's senior year was special in a different way, with a win in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii, the amazing comeback win over Penn at the Palestra and then a three-game run into the NIT.

From the start of Henderson's career through the end of Earl's - a five-year stretch - TB went to 139 of the 142 games the Tigers played. He traveled with Henderson and Earl to games in five time zones and brought both to the Jadwin interview room on countless winter nights.

Together they combined to score 2,398 points at Princeton, and they helped give Tiger fans one of the greatest eras in the history of athletics at this school.

As for TigerBlog, they helped give him way more than any athletic communications person could ever have asked. Their teams were amazing to watch, especially 139 times.

Back then, TB thought both were destined to be coaches, and he's been proven right about that. Now, together, they head up the Princeton men's coaching staff as the Tigers look to defend their Ivy League championship, in a season that begins in just a little more than two weeks.

Ah, TB could go on all day about Henderson and Earl, two of his all-time favorite Princeton athletes.

But hey, it's time for squash.

UPDATE - Mitch Henderson finally got one game off of TigerBlog and Sachson in Friday's round-robin.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chasing The Back In Black

TigerBlog was watching "Jeopardy" the other day when one of the answers asked what cabinet department Bruce Babbit headed up in the Clinton administration. For some reason, TB knew that it was the Interior.

How did TB remember that? Why? He has no idea.

It's useless information, the kind that just floats around in his head, bouncing around song lyrics, movie lines, historical dates - and of course Princeton athletic records.

There are some records here that TB is reasonably sure of, and there are others that are fuzzier.

The other day, TB was talking about the time he went to Nova Scotia to see Princeton play Ohio in men's basketball, back on the day after Thanksgiving of 1999. He was positive that Chris Young set the school record blocked shots in a game that day, and he was sure it was either nine or 10. As it turned out, it was 10.

There are some numbers, though, that are just seared into TB's brain, and they are unable to be forgotten.

Numbers like 2,503.
Or 11.
Or 40-13.
Or 43-41.
Or 53 and 163.
Or 41 seconds.
Or 20 and 12.

Or many others.

For those who are curious, those numbers correspond to: the number of points Bill Bradley scored in his career, the number of 40 point games Bradley had at Princeton (nobody else has ever had one), the largest deficit Princeton faced against Penn in the 1999 comeback game at the Palestra, the final score of the Princeton-UCLA game, the number of goals Jesse Hubbard scored in a season and career, the time remaining in the first overtime when B.J. Prager scored against Syracuse in the 2001 NCAA final and the number of goals and assists Esmeralda Negron had while leading Princeton to the 2004 NCAA Final Four.

Another number that's impossible to forget is 4,208, the number of career rushing yards Keith Elias had at Princeton.

His total is 1,099 more than the second-best total of Judd Garrett. Cameron Atkinson ranks third all-time at Princeton with 2,449 rushing yards, which means that no player who was eligible to play four varsity seasons ever came closer than 1,759 yards away from Elias, who could only play for three varsity seasons.

TigerBlog has been around Princeton athletes for nearly three decades, and some of his all-time favorite people played sports at Princeton.

When it comes to sheer charisma, there is only one athlete who has ever rivaled Elias, and that's men's lacrosse player Ryan Boyle.

If you didn't know Elias or never saw him play, this is all you need to know: All conversation always stopped the second he entered the room.

Dressed always in all black, usually with sunglasses, Elias would stroll into the media room at the time - the lounge in the Caldwell Field House - and talk with such confidence and self-assuredness that it seemed absurd to even remotely question anything that came out his mouth.

Anyway, current freshman Chuck Dibilio is leading Princeton in rushing with 536 yards, 300 more than the next highest total on the team and already the highest single-season rushing total by a freshman in school history.

Dibilio has exploded onto the Princeton football scene, especially at a position where such an explosion is so noticeable.

The question is, what does the future hold for Dibilio?

Can he catch Elias?

Well, at his current average of 89.3 yards per game, Dibilio would finish his career with 3,215 yards, or just under 1,000 away from Elias.

At his current rate, Dibilio would finish his freshman year with just about 900 yards. That would leave him needing to average 110 yards per game for 30 more games to equal Elias.

Can he do it? Of course, he has to stay healthy, though Elias did essentially miss one game of his career due to injury.

He'd also have to have some monster games along the way, like Elias did, like the seven times he went over 200 yards.

It's too early to think of Dibilio in terms of history, not with his career still in its infancy.

One thing that Dibilio does have is a bit of a "wow" factor, the thought that anytime he touches the ball he's about do to something special. Elias had that to an extraordinary degree.

It's hard to describe just how exciting a player Elias was if you didn't see him. He was also a winning player - Princeton went 8-2 each of his three varsity seasons.

Princeton football isn't on that level right now. A player like Dibilio is a great foundation for the rebuilding process - whether he finishes with 4,209 yards or doesn't approach Elias.

Monday, October 24, 2011

That's A Negative

Princeton's former marketing director Scott Jurgens now works at East Carolina, and there his new team was on Saturday afternoon, playing at Navy.

TigerBlog tuned in just in time to see a graphic flash that read that ECU's quarterback, Dominique Davis (apparently Scott only works at schools where arguably the most well-known athlete is D. Davis) was 19 for 19 passing.

TB texted Scott, who was not at the game. Instead, he was busy putting an East Carolina purple sweatshirt on his dog Barnaby.

As it turned out, Davis wasn't done yet.

The ECU quarterback went 26 for 26 in the first half. Yes, many of his completions were short dump-offs, but he did throw for 256 first-half yards. And besides, how many quarterbacks can go 26 for 26 without a defense on the field?

For the day, Davis finished 40 for 45 for 372 yards in a 38-35 win, one accomplished on a blocked field goal on the final play.

Davis set two records in the game.

First, his 26 straight completions to start the game (his first of the second half was incomplete) were the NCAA single-game record, breaking the old record of 23 set by Tee Martin of Tennessee and none other than Aaron Rodgers, the Packer quarterback, when he was at Cal.

Davis had also completed his last 10 passes against Houston the week before, which gave him 36 straight completions over two games, which is the overall record for consecutive completions.

Given TigerBlog's occupation, he starts to get curious about the historical significance of accomplishments as they unfold, such as completing a bunch of passes in a row or, in Princeton's case, having Chuck Dibilio or Matt Costello put together rushing or receiving yards that obviously have to be approaching or exceeding freshman records here.

The question that TB has always had, also given his occupation, is what responsibility does an athletic communications staff have in terms of providing negative information about its own teams?

For instance, if you're the Navy sports information staff, do you have an obligation to let everyone know that the visiting quarterback is setting a record against your team?

It's actually one of the great dilemmas in athletic communications.

Maybe not for that specific situation. In that case, yes, if you've looked it up, then there's nothing wrong with letting the press box know what's going on.

But what if your team, say, ranks statistically last in the country in something? Or is approaching programmatic records for futility?

What if the release before a game talks about a player who is on a long streak of, oh, missing three-pointers. Maybe a player scored five goals on the first 10 shots of the season but hasn't scored on the last 20 or so?

Does the athletic communications person attempt to create a context for a season? Or is it taboo to go down the path of any negativity.

Fortunately here at Princeton, with its athletic success, the people in athletic communications way more often than not are faced with positive notes and stats and such.

At the same time, that makes the negative stuff stand out more and be more obvious.

Also, there is the whole issue of being a "flack" or engaging in "spin." If you do that, you won't be taken seriously - and it'll be obvious to any reader that there are huge omissions in the information being produced.

TigerBlog's background is in newspapers, where the negative is usually more preferred than the positive, though TB never really went down that path. Instead, he's a big fan of objective context, something that allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

Here at Princeton, TB has had to deal with some coaches who weren't happy about what was being written about their teams. In most cases, it wasn't after something like "Princeton has its longest losing streak in 25 years" but more like when the information was construed by the coach as painting that team's style of play in a negative light, which would then (at least according to the coach) impact recruiting.

For instance, the 2001 Princeton men's basketball team won the Ivy League championship and played in the NCAA tournament and yet never at any point of the season had a player dunk the ball. John Thompson, then Princeton's coach, didn't like when TB would write that the team had 200 or so three-pointers but no dunks, because he felt it played to a stereotype that more up-tempo recruits wouldn't embrace.

Of course, the next recruiting class included Judson Wallace and Will Venable. Still, TB understood his point, or at least the concept of his point.

In athletic communications, there's a fine line between promoting teams and doing everything that can be done to pump up the players and coaches and coming across as a disingenuous lacky that isn't taken seriously.

When in doubt, it's not necessary to go over the top with information or notes that paint teams negatively. At the same time, it's important to be professional and legitimize the information that is produced.

Still, the line is blurry.

Another time that sticks out to TB was when Princeton's football team in the late 1990s was stopping the run but unable to run itself. TB came up with this:

"1.4 yards and a cloud of dust - Princeton and its opponents both average 1.4 yards per rush."


Friday, October 21, 2011

Run, Forrest

Do you know what movie ranks first on the Top 250? No, it's not "The Godfather" or "Citizen Kane" or "Gone With The Wind."

It's actually "The Shawshank Redemption," which has a score of 9.2 out of 10 and edges out "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" in the top three.

"Shawshank" is a great movie, obviously, though TigerBlog isn't ready to call it the greatest movie of all-time. It's definitely in the Top 50 or maybe even higher, and it certainly has great characters, a great story, great scenes and a nearly perfect ending.

What it doesn't have is the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1994. That honor belongs to "Forrest Gump," a movie that checked in at 28th on the IMDB list.

In fact, at the Academy Awards that year, Tom Hanks won Best Actor, beating out Morgan Freeman from "Shawshank" (who should have been Best Supporting Actor), while Tim Robbins - who played Andy in "Shawshank" - wasn't even nominated.

TigerBlog holds grudges against some movies that won Best Picture over others, such as "Chariots of Fire" over "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Unforgiven" over both "A Few Good Men" and "Scent of A Woman," not to mention the biggest travesty of all, "Shakespeare In Love" over "Saving Private Ryan."

In the case of "Forrest Gump," it beat out two of the top five movies in the IMDB list (which, by the way, is merely a ranking done by people who go to the website), winning Best Picture over "Shawshank" and "Pulp Fiction."

TB likes "Forrest Gump," though he's never quite understood the message. Is it that some things are just destiny and others can be controlled? Is it just supposed to be a nostalgic look at some of the major events of the late 20th century? Is there no message?

"Gump" was on the other night, and TB was switching back and forth between that and another Best Picture winner, "From Here to Eternity," which stunningly isn't in the IMDB Top 250. By any objective view, "From Here To Eternity" is one of the 25 best American movies of all-time.

Flipping back and forth, TB was able to see most of his favorite scenes from both.

The best parts of "Forrest Gump" are the ones in Vietnam, the one where he first becomes a shrimp boat captain and the best one, where he sees Jenny in Washington.

As for "From Here To Eternity," every scene is great, pretty much. If TB had to pick his favorite moments, it'd be anytime Burt Lancaster speaks.

As an aside, Lancaster did not win Best Actor of 1953. Nope, that went to another military role, William Holden's portrayal of Sefton in "Stalag 17." TB is fine with that choice.

Going back to "Gump," it loses TB in the parts where he runs across the country and back and around and over and finally stops. TB has no idea what it's supposed to symbolize, what is means, why it was important to be in the movie in the first place or any of it. He also didn't like it at all.

Really, what was the point of it? This one is completely lost on TigerBlog.

"Gump" ran across the country.

As for Princeton cross country (that's a great segue, even by TB's standards), well, the first really big meet of the year is a little more than a week away, as the Ivy League Heptagonal championships come to Princeton on Oct. 29.

Actually, that's a huge day of events at Princeton, with Heps cross country in the morning followed by football, field hockey and men's and women's soccer against Cornell through the day.

Princeton swept the Heps titles a year ago. The Princeton women have won the last five years, and they are one of the favorites, along with Yale and Columbia.

As for the men, they lost by one point to Columbia two years ago, which is the men's only loss in the last five years. Princeton won convincingly last year.

This year, Princeton will enter the race ranked in the Top 10 nationally, unless the Tigers fall two spots without running a step this weekend.

Princeton is ranked ninth in this week's poll, after having finished fourth last weekend among 21 ranked teams in the meet at Wisconsin. This is Princeton's first trip into the national Top 10 for the men since 1998.

Heps cross country is one of TB's favorite events each year, and he'll miss not heading up to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx this Friday, which and where the meet is usually held. This year, because of construction at Van Cortlandt, it'll be held on Princeton's West Windsor fields before returning to New York next year.

If you've never seen a major cross country race, don't miss the Heps this year. It's a wild scene, as runners move up and down at the end, leaving spectators bewildered as to where the team standings are from second to second.

And the runners certainly give their all, as many collapse after crossing the finish line.

And then there's football, field hockey and two soccer games.

Princeton hasn't had that many home events the last few weeks, but next Saturday will more than make up for it.

Get it circled, and get out there, starting with the men at 11 a.m. and then followed by the women.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If The World Series Falls In The Forest ...

Raise your hand if you care about the World Series.

Okay. Now raise your hand if you used to care about the World Series.

If you're like TigerBlog, then you didn't raise your hand the first time and did raise your hand the second time.

There was a time that the World Series was a big deal to TigerBlog, as big as any annual sporting event. It didn't matter who the teams were either.

In fact, TB goes back before the World Series was played at night, to a time when they were all day games. His earliest memories of the World Series are somewhat romanticized, though not quite to the level of FatherBlog, who grew up a New York Giants fan in Brooklyn during the 1940s and 1950s.

One year while TB was in high school, one of his teachers - an English teacher named Mr. Ridley - allowed the students to pick one of the teams in the Series as part of a bet of sorts. If a student wanted to participate - not mandatory, but as TB remembers it, everyone did - then a team would be selected, and the difference in Series wins between that team and the other team would be added or subtracted from the next test.

TigerBlog bet against the Yankees - and it cost him two points on a test.

Game 1 of the 2011 World Series was last night, and the Cardinals beat the Rangers 3-2.

As an aside, the idea of allowing the league that wins the all-star game to have home field advantage for the World Series is nuts.

Anyway, as TB drove around yesterday afternoon listening to sports talk radio, he heard a lot about Rex Ryan's comments about how he'd have won two rings if he'd been hired as the coach of the San Diego Chargers when Norv Turner was or the merits of the Carson Palmer-to-the-Raiders trade.

He heard nothing - or very little - about the World Series.

Think it'd be remotely possible for the reverse to be true? Will there be hotstove baseball talk on the days leading up to the Super Bowl? Uh, nope.

This World Series is an intriguing one on many levels.

On the one hand, there's the Cardinals, one of the most venerable franchises in baseball history. They are led by arguably the best player in baseball, Albert Pujols, as well as a manager who is easy to dislike. They have gotten hot at the right time, have played some dramatic games in the playoffs and have had some unfamiliar players make a big leap to the forefront.

On the other hand, there are the Rangers, in their second-straight World Series - and second all-time. They have a very likeable manager and what appears to be a team of nice guys. They also have the most compelling story in baseball bar none - the resurrection from drug addiction of Josh Hamilton.

So why does nobody care?

Is it because baseball is past its prime? Because football simply dominates baseball? Because of the residue of the steroid era? Because of all of the other entertainment options out there?

TB spent years and years driving back from away Princeton football games listening to postseason baseball on the radio, usually from trips to Harvard or Cornell.

He's pretty sure it was the ride back from Harvard in 2003 when TB heard the accounts of Josh Beckett as he two-hit the Yankees in Game 6 to give the World Series to the Florida Marlins.

TigerBlog went on basically every football road trip from 1990 or so through about 2004. They are among his favorite memories of working here.

This even includes the time it took seven hours on a Friday to get to Brown, a trip that included a two-hour stop on a New York highway as the Pope's helicopter landed nearby for a visit to a church.

Traffic? Yes, TB spent hours and hours in it on Fridays, especially heading up 95 through Connecticut on his way to Brown or Harvard or Dartmouth. The goal was always to leave by 11 or so in the morning - but it never worked out that way.

Through the years, TB find every possible shortcut, alternate route, eatery and anything else along the various paths.

The Friday night before the game was often spent at dinner with the home team's sports information people, back when there was a greater camaraderie among the league's staffs, largely because of how much more had to be done in-person or on the phone, rather than by email.

Saturday mornings often included time spent at the tailgates, or possibly at soccer or field hockey if they started early enough and were at the same site.

TigerBlog won't be making the trip to Harvard this weekend, where the forecast is for 65 and sunny. It's a full day of Princeton vs. Harvard, with games in field hockey, football and men's and women's soccer.

It's the kind of weekend TB used to love. Lots to do, lots of people around. A chance to see everyone, enjoy the fall weather, watch some great games.

And then listen to the World Series on the way back.

Instead, TB has a busy day planned, and he'll find time to listen to the football game.

And maybe watch the World Series.

Or maybe not.

What's the big deal?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dog Days

Little Miss TigerBlog takes cello lessons once a week, at the home of a local high school student who appears in TigerBlog's contact list as "Cello Meg."

Each week, when TB drops LMTB off for her 45-minute lesson, Cello Meg's dog Sam - LMTB calls him "Samuel" - comes bounding to the front door, looking for a little affection.

As an aside, if you have to drop someone off for 45 minutes, what do you do in the interim? You can't really stay. You can't really go anywhere, because you have to turn around and come back. It's a weekly conundrum.

Anyway, Sam is a big black Portuguese something dog, one with a really long tail that he whacks back and forth against whatever gets in its way and with very sharp nails that he uses to scratch an unsuspecting visitor who has not been petting him enough.

Still, TB is a fan of Sam's. And Cello Meg has taught him a trick where he appears to do a dance, which is very cute.

Dogs are a lot of work. Maybe not as much as kids, but they're close. Mostly, it's the walking, before they turn your house into their own limitless toilet.

And then there's the whole overwhelming emotional attachment you can get to a the dog, knowing full well that it has a life expectancy of 10-14 years or so.

Of course, there is something special about a dog, especially when it looks at you and seems to be saying something that you can clearly understand, a thought of how the two of you are buddies and don't really need to be able to speak the same language or be the same species for that matter to both know what's going on.

TB had a dog when he was a kid, a toy poodle named Louis XVI, named by his cousin who named a whole litter of puppies after French Revolution figures (his parents were named Napoleon and Josephine, which sort of reversed history, but hey, they were toy poodles, not people).

One amazing thing about dogs is that they know that other types of dogs are still dogs, while things like cats and squirrels aren't, regardless of whether the other dog is five times the size or tiny or a different color or with wildly different ears or any of it. How does the dog know that's another dog?

LMTB plays field hockey on Saturday mornings, and TB is always amazed by how many people bring their dogs with them to the fields where the girls are playing.

Last Saturday, TB noticed a tiny dog in a red dog sweater, which was a good look for it. When a big dog came along, sweater dog hid under its owner's chair and wailed.

Shortly after that, another big lab-type dog strolled by, while a really, really tiny dog stood by. When they came close to each other, the little one jumped up to get face-to-face with the lab and stood for a second with its paws on the bigger dog for support. After falling, the little dog tried it again and actually landed on the lab's back, for a brief second at least.

Princeton's facilities have signs saying that dogs are not permitted, though that doesn't always stop people from bringing theirs in.

Class of 1952 Stadium is one such venue, and TB has seen people bringing dogs there since the facility first opened 15 years ago.

These days, Class of 1952 Stadium is home to the Princeton field hockey team, which has won 17 of the last 18 Ivy League titles and currently sits in first place again this year.

Of course, minus its four best players, who are currently competing with the U.S. national team in the Pan Am Games and are taking the 2011-12 school year off in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics, this is not quite a normal tear-through-the-league year for the Tigers.

In fact, there is a five-way tie for first place right now in Ivy field hockey, with Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and Yale all at 3-1 with three league games remaining. Penn is 1-3, while Cornell and Brown are both 0-4.

For TigerBlog, there's nothing quite like figuring out tiebreaking scenarios, but this one is a little beyond the ordinary.

It starts to sort itself out this weekend, as Princeton is at Harvard and Columbia is at Dartmouth. Still, this race almost by mathematical probability has to go to the last weekend.

In addition to the game at Harvard, Princeton is also home with Cornell and at Penn.

The Tigers have won three straight since dropping the league opener to Dartmouth, and a Dartmouth loss last weekend to Yale helped create the five-way tie.

It's not quite last year, when Princeton outscored its league opponents 46-3 in seven games. And with the return of the four next year, the race is unlikely to be as wide open again.

Still, there has to be something fun for the team about being involved in something this competitive.

The winner of the Ivy League hosts a play-in game this year against the Northeast Conference champ for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

If the next three weeks go well for the Tigers, that means the game would be at Class of 1952 Stadium, possibly against Rider.

No dogs allowed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Built Ford Tough

TigerBlog's first car was a Dodge Diplomat, which meant he was driving a Chrysler.

As TB remembers the car, the lock to the glove compartment wouldn't open, though the locking unit itself also would come off into TB's hand if he moved the key in just the right way. To TB, it was the perfect mechanism, since the lock, while technically stuck in the locked position, was still able to be opened.

The car was two-tone, red and white, with white leather seats and, of course, an eight-track player.

The car progression went like this: Dodge Diplomat, VW Rabbit, VW Jetta, Chrysler LeBaron, Pontiac Grand Am (actually two of those) and then back-to-back Ford Tauruses, before going to a minivan and now a mini-SUV, both from Japanese companies.

TB has never been one of those people who was consumed by a "dream car." TB's dream car is one that is reliable, doesn't break down, doesn't need a lot of maintenance.

He hasn't had a terrible experience with any of the cars he's owned. When his current car is paid off, he'll keep it for as long as possible before getting another one, though he has no idea what that will be.

Maybe, though, he'll give Ford another chance.

For starters, Ford was the only one of the Big 3 American car companies not to take federal bailout money.

And for another, the Ford family has now endowed the Director of Athletics position at Princeton, as well as providing additional endowment for programs that will directly aid student-athlete experience.

From now on, Gary Walters - the first person to hold this endowed position - will be known as the "Ford Family Director of Athletics."

Yes, TB knows that the first reaction could be an eye roll, not because of this one but because of all of the named positions that come about. At Harvard, for instance, Bob Scalise is the "Nichols Family Director of Athletics."

The first thought from the outside looking in is that this is snobbishness or ego-driven or even Ivy League elitism, though there are colleges on all levels that do this.

The reality, though, is that Princeton Athletics is not rolling in money, regardless of the University's endowment. There are all kinds of limitations to what Princeton - and schools everywhere - has been able to do because of monetary limitations, and the need to fund-raise is ever-present.

The gift from the Ford family is a huge step forward for Princeton Athletics, and it will have a direct impact on the experience that Princeton's athletes have here. In turn, those athletes, once they graduate, will in large numbers, be part of the group of former athletes who also support the programs they represented.

Yes, it can be bulky to welcome people to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, but the presence of FieldTurf in the football stadium and on the practice fields has been a great addition.

Yes, it can be bulky to say Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, but ask any Princeton soccer player the last four years if they like playing at the facility and if they appreciate what the Myslik and Roberts families have done.

The gift from the Ford family will do more of the same, and figures to touch athletes across every sport here.

While it may be bulky to say, it's significance cannot be underestimated.

In a perfect world, corporate sponsorship and individual naming rights wouldn't be necessary.

In 2011, it's just how it is, and the value in what these gifts do help make places like Princeton Athletics much more able to perform the core function of providing the best possible experience for the athletes who give so much to compete here.

Those athletes owe the Ford family a huge thank you.

Whatever kind of car they drive.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tragedy at 220 MPH

TigerBlog watched the 1973 Indianapolis 500 on television and saw the carnage that resulted in the deaths of two drivers and one pit crew member, critical injuries to another driver and burns suffered by 11 fans.

He remembers that race to this day, nearly 40 years later, as well as the Sports Illustrated headline: "Trial By Fire and Rain."

TB has never really been a motorsports fan, though he does marvel at the risk the drivers are willing to take to compete.

As one driver said yesterday after the crash that killed this year's Indy 500 champ, Dan Wheldon, in Las Vegas, the idea of death is out there every time they race, though it's not something that is in the forefront of their mind when they get behind the wheel.

Still, it's there.

TigerBlog supposes it's there in other sports as well, most notably football, the idea that death or catastrophic injury is a possibility.

TB read that Wheldon's death was the first in Indy car racing in the last five years and the fourth in the last 15 years. While no professional football players have been killed in on-field action in that time, there have been, TB supposes, many high school players who have each year.

Still, when it comes to auto racing, pushing the furthest limits of the car and the driver are the name of the game.

And so the images from yesterday's race were so haunting, especially the shots beforehand of Wheldon as he got ready for the start. What's most amazing to TB is that nobody else was killed in the wreckage, or that there aren't many more deaths in racing given the number of crashes.

There are some who think that ratings are down, especially in NASCAR, because the sport has become too safe. TB would hate to think that's the case.

All that's left today, though, is the death of a 33-year-old driver, with a wife and two little kids, who less than five months ago won his second Indy 500, who apparently was extraordinarily well-liked.

It's a great tragedy, even if, like all drivers, he knew and probably embraced the risks.

TB first saw the news of Wheldon's death shortly after the Giants had finished off the Bills 27-24 in a game that was a little conflicting, given the fact that the Giants are TB's favorite team but that it's also hard to root against an Ivy League quarterback in the NFL, as in the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Jay Fielder, who played at Dartmouth and then had a solid NFL career, routinely had big days against Princeton in the early 1990s. In fact, Fiedler's career against Princeton actually began in a legendary freshman game, where he and Keith Elias put up huge numbers (on Finney Field, TB believes) in a game won by Princeton (TB believes).

Fielder capped his career against Princeton by throwing for nearly 300 yards on a wild afternoon in Hanover, one on which Elias ran for nearly 200. Dartmouth ended up winning 28-22 in a game, as it turned out, meant nothing.

If you think Fitzpatrick got to the NFL by showing them game tapes against Princeton, think again. He did little in his career against the Tigers.

In fact, he made only one start against Princeton, that in his senior year. In that game, a 39-14 Harvard win, Fitzpatrick was 14 for 31 for 172 yards, one TD and an interception. He also ran for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Clifton Dawson ran for 201 yards in that game for the Crimson, and it was Dawson who did much more damage against the Tigers than Fitzpatrick in those years. In fact, Dawson had 11 career touchdowns against Princeton, which has to be the record (and maybe the record in all of college football for one player against one team).

This weekend, Princeton is at Harvard in football again. Unlike yesterday, TB won't be rooting for the Crimson quarterback to do well.

Still, it worked out fine. Fitzpatrick had a good game, and the Giants won.

Of course, when the news about Wheldon came, it was hard to feel good about any of that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Right On The Button

TigerBlog put on his best suit - actually, it's his only suit - yesterday and made the 20-minute drive to the Holiday Inn in Somerset.

The occasion was the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey annual meeting/awards luncheon. TigerBlog is a vice president in the organization.

His role yesterday was to be something of a moderator for the discussion of the educational value of athletics of college campuses.

About 15 minutes before the event, though, TB noticed that the button on his suit pants was no longer there. It wasn't the button that held his pants on, since that was done by one of those metal clasps. No, the button in question was the kind that extends a little past the clasp.

Without the button, a piece of cloth on the end of the waist was therefore not attached. TB was pretty sure it was being obscured by the belt, which covered the whole waistline anyway, and he was fairly confident that nobody could notice the missing button.

Besides, he figured to be standing behind a lectern for most of the time anyway.

And the speakers were so good that there was no reason to notice TB.

There were two, actually.

One was Phil Felton, a molecular biology professor (who used to be a mechanical engineering professor) who serves as an Academic Athletic Fellow for the men's and women's cross country and track and field programs. Phil is a Wales native who attended Leeds for his undergraduate and doctorate work.

TB has known Phil for a long time, and he's seen him with the track programs on dozens of occasions. In fact, Phil's been a huge help with the Ivy League Heptagonal cross country championships, which will be held at Princeton in two weeks.

The other speaker was someone TB had never met before. Her name is Connee Zotos, and her background includes an undergraduate degree from Rowan and a Ph.D. from Texas, not to mention head coaching jobs in field hockey, soccer and softball and a 14-year run as the Director of Athletics at Drew University.

She is currently a sports management professor at New York University.

Together, with very little moderation necessary from TB, Connee and Phil spoke to an audience of administrators from New Jersey's college athletic departments, in all three NCAA divisions plus junior colleges.

One of the messages was this, and it was a great one:
There will always be people on campuses who are anti-athletics, and while there is only so much that can be done to combat that, all that can be done should be done.

Dr. Zotos talked of the value of having specific data on hand that would refute misconceptions - and also the value of having athletes not play into a "dumb jock" stereotype.

What does this mean specifically?

Well, much of athletic stereotyping is the result of misinformation, assumptions that the non-athletic community makes about the athletic culture. It's not enough to simply say "no, that's not correct;" it's necessary to site definitive numbers that disprove the statement. Otherwise, it's simply left out there.

At the same time, there are ways that athletes play into the stereotype. Dr. Zotos told the story of 6-5 basketball players who had to cram themselves into those little desk/chairs in her classes, but she told them not to slouch and recline, because it would just reinforce what people think of athletes.

Phil spoke about the need to engage the faculty to correct similar misconceptions, not only because of the larger view of athletics on a campus but also because of the impact it has on the education of specific, individual students.

He also talked about the Faculty Fellows program here at Princeton, which has 100 faculty members and administrators, all of whom by definition are on board with the value of athletics, and the impact it has on students and other faculty members.

Both spoke about the value of athletics on the undergraduate experience and the lessons that are taught by intercollegiate competition. Both cited very specific examples, which made their comments even more significant. Both talked about the need for athletes, coaches and administrators to be as proactive as possible in spreading the word about the athletic successes, more so in the area of personal development than in simply wins and losses.

And what is the point of it all? To give the athletes themselves the best possible experience. And to allow the athletic department as a whole to do its best to enhance the school's overall image.

The two-hour program wrapped up with a question that basically asked about the irony of spending all that time talking about the value of college athletics and yet having to constantly defend that to those who aren't buying in.

Dr. Zotos had a clear comeback to that, saying essentially yes, that's how it is. Now deal with it.

After that, it was over to a different room, for lunch and the awards ceremony, including honoring the Division I/II, Division III and junior college male and female student-athletes of the year for New Jersey.

Each of the athletes had an opportunity to say a few words - including Princeton fencer John Stogin, who did so via a video he'd made and sent from Cambridge, where he
is doing graduate work.

As each spoke, it was clear that they had been touched by their athletic experiences and that they had benefited so much from being able to compete in college.

They were shining examples of what the discussion in the next room had been about, and why administrators do so much to try to provide those opportunities.

It was a pretty vivid live-action reminder of what had been said in a theoretical sense earlier.

And it was a perfect ending to a pretty nice event.

It's a diverse group, New Jersey's athletic programs. And yet they're all facing some of the same issues.

As the questioner said, it's ironic that such a positive part of the educational process needs to be justified at all.

It should be emulated, not questioned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

State Champs

Ever hear of Laura Barito? No? Neither had TigerBlog, not until he became the head of the awards committee for an organization he knew little about prior to last year, when he went to his first CAANJ annual meeting/awards luncheon.

Back then, TB knew that CAANJ stood for the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey - and that was about it.

Today, TB goes to his second CAANJ meeting, this time with the title of vice president of the organization.

And that's how the remarkable story of Laura Barito came across his radar.

TB will get back to Barito later. First, there's the whole matter of how CAANJ became a bigger deal to him.

Last year, Princeton won the CAANJ Cup for Division I/II. The Cup is given each year to the program in each of three categories (Division I/II, Division III, Juco) that has the highest point total in the state of New Jersey, with points awarded based on conference finish and national championship participation.

When the luncheon ended and Gary Walters had accepted the trophy, CAANJ president Alexis Schug - Senior Woman Administrator at New Jersey Institute of Technology - asked if there were any volunteers who would like to help out with the organization, and TB volunteered to work as essentially the coordinator of the CAANJ awards.

In addition to the three cups, CAANJ also honors a male and female athlete of the year in each category, with the winners chosen by a committee with equal emphasis on athletics, academic and service.

There is also the Garden State Award, a lifetime achievement award for service to New Jersey's college athletes.

The CAANJ organization is an interesting one, since it has an incredibly diverse group of schools and conference offices that are brought together simply by the common bond of being in the state of New Jersey.

There are 43 colleges between all of the levels, with wildly different budgets, numbers of sports, institutional philosophies, student-body makeups and on and on. There are also five different conference offices - the Ivy League, the Northeast Conference, the MAAC, the New Jersey Athletic Conference and the Garden State Athletic Conference. And yet they're all in New Jersey.

This year's Division I/II Cup winner is, again, Princeton, which ran up 245 points, easily outdistancing second-place Rider. Princeton, for those who don't remember, won 15 Ivy League championships last year, among other accomplishments, but hey, why get into that now.

The junior college winner was Gloucester County College, whose teams won NJCAA national championships in softball and men’s tennis, had second-place national finishes in baseball and women’s tennis and had a third-place finish in men's cross country.

The Division III Cup winner was Stevens Tech, which had a year in the Empire 8 Conference similar to the one that Princeton had in the Ivy League.

The individual winners included Princeton's John Stogin, a fencer who helped Princeton to a fourth-place national finish and who couldn't accept his award in person because he's doing graduate work at Cambridge University in England.

In addition to fencing, Stogin also worked for the National Security Council, developing algorithms in the field of digital signals processing, spectrogram analysis, and feature recognition. He also analyzed proton and antiproton beams that were collided at the Fermi National Accelerator Lab, and his work led to a discovery that was original unknown by the staff there.

An Eagle Scout, he also organized and led a shoe drive that collected more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, which were then sent to Angola.

In his spare time, he also built a wireless device that enabled calculators to share text, as well as a single-person car that could reach 16 miles per hour on a battery or could run on solar power.

His senior thesis was entitled: Energy Estimates in Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations. He was honored by Princeton with the Art Lane Award, given for outstanding contribution by a senior athlete to sport and society.

Among the other winners was Dr. Connee Zotos, the Garden State Award winner who had a 34-year career that included 14 years as Director of Athletics at Drew.

Oh, and Barito, the Division III Female Athlete of the Year from Stevens? What did she do?

Well, how about this: She was the NCAA Division III champion in the 50 freestyle in the winter - and then the NCAA Division III champion in the 400 hurdles in the spring.

She won an individual national championship as a swimmer and then as a track athlete. Is that amazing or what? And that doesn't even take into account that she had a nearly perfect GPA in mechanical engineering and that she is one of nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

TigerBlog has known for years that Princeton athletes go remarkable things, athletically and off the field, as undergraduates.

His first year with CAANJ has reminded him that Princetonians are not the only college athletes doing so in the state of New Jersey.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Drive Time

TigerBlog was dropping TigerBlog Jr. off at a lacrosse practice this past summer, at a field that's 45 minutes or so away, when he saw something that made him extremely, extremely jealous.

As TB was pulling into the parking lot, he saw one of TBJ's teammates - and his older sister, who now had a driver's license and was therefore assigned the task of bringing her brother to the practice.

Imagine, TB thought, a world of self-reliant travel.

If you have kids, especially ones who are old enough to be involved in activities, then you understand the non-stop chauffeuring that goes into getting them from one place to another to the next and then home.

When there are multiple kids involved, well, then you can multiply it out exponentially.

They're all perfectly normal, healthy activities. Music lessons. Sports. School clubs. Parties. Movies. On and on and on it goes.

Of course, that doesn't even take into account such arcane concepts as "dinner" and "homework."

And, as a parent, the natural reaction is to say, at least inwardly, that it's better than having them sit on the couch playing video games or hanging out with a bad crowd on the "corner," if such corners still exist.

Gone, though, are the days of "go outside and play," apparently.

For TigerBlog, Tuesday nights are the biggest runaround nights he has now.

There are all kinds of things going on each Tuesday for TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog, and TB is actually somewhat proud of how he has managed to balance them as much as possible to the point of no overlap and pickups and drop-offs that are well-coordinated.

To the modern suburban family, it's nearly perfect choreography.

It doesn't leave much downtime, obviously, and it's amazing how such a schedule can quickly become very normal, with almost no thought given to the madness of it.

Yesterday was Tuesday of course, which meant TigerBlog had very little time to sit and watch Princeton soccer on ESPNU. What he did see, though, was what it always is when TV comes to Roberts Stadium: a Princeton soccer infomercial.

First of all, the facility again looked great, especially with the TV cameras on the bench side of the field, so they shot into the stands.

Second, Princeton won the game against Lafayette 2-1, with all three goals in the first 24 minutes.

And, of course, there is the whole idea of having a program showcased on a national network like ESPNU.

Yes, this hasn't been a great year for Princeton soccer, as both teams are unlikely to be able to make enough of a late-season run to get into the Ivy League race and ultimately the NCAA tournament.

Still, there it was yesterday, a shot of the banners that hang in one of the pavilions at the stadium, marking off Ivy League championships and NCAA tournament appearances for both teams.

And there were the ESPNU cameras, making a special point to stop at two particular banners, one recalling the men's 1993 NCAA Final Four appearance, the other for the women's 2004 NCAA Final Four appearance.

It's been a strange year for the two soccer teams.

The women through 11 games have outshot their opponents 170-103, for an average of 6.1 shots per game. In 2008, when the women went 12-3-2 and won the Ivy League, they outshot their opponents 186-159 for the year, or an average of 1.6 shots per game.

Clearly, the women are playing well enough for long stretches of games to have a better record; they've simply run into some tough luck.

The men are having a similar kind of year, this on the heels of back-to-back NCAA appearances and last year's perfect 7-0-0 Ivy record.

Like the women, the men have a huge edge in shots over their opponents - 161-129 through 11 games. Like the women, the men are below .500.

If anything, the 2011 season shows how fine the line can be in a sport like soccer, where one key scoring chance here or goal allowed there can mean the difference of a whole season.

Both teams have enough games left to finish strongly in 2011, and both are playing a bunch of young players.

And, of course, there is the stadium itself, which makes every game on campus a great event. Or every game on television look great.

At least for the few minutes here or there that TigerBlog got to see it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Scapegoats And Marathon Men

TigerBlog finally got a chance to watch the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell," which centers mostly on the Steve Bartman incident in Chicago while also spending considerable time talking about (and with) Bill Buckner, a great player for nearly two decades who is remembered mostly for letting a ball get between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Bartman - and TigerBlog is pretty sure that everyone reading knows who he is - was the unfortunate Cubs fan who, also in a Game 6 (this one in 2003, in the National League Championship Series, against the Florida Marlins), tried to catch a foul ball at the same time that Moises Alou was leaping up to grab it as well.

At the time, it was 3-0 Cubs, and they were five outs away from the World Series, up three games to two and with Mark Prior in the later stages of a dominating performance.

After that now-infamous moment, the Cubs surrendered eight runs before getting out of the inning. They lost Game 6 8-3 and then lost Game 7 (despite a 5-3 lead) and still have not won a World Series since 1908.

The Wrigley Field crowd turned on Bartman quickly, throwing things like beer and death threats at him in a quite casual fashion. Eventually, he had to be led out of the stadium, and his life has never been the same since.

He has become a national joke, a symbol of futility, for one baseball franchise - and for any endeavor anywhere. His ability to walk down the streets in Chicago without fearing for his life vanished forever that night in 2003.

Of course, on a scale of one to 100, his impact on the outcome of the 2003 NLCS was a zero.

The Cubs were up three games to one at one point before losing Game 4 in Florida, and there was of course the little matter of coughing up the eight runs after the fact in Game 6, not to mention blowing Game 7.

And yet it's Bartman who takes all the blame. And, by the way, there was an army of fans around Bartman who went after the ball at the same time.

Buckner's story is fairly similar.

Think about it. If Buckner fielded the ball and beat Wilson to the bag, the inning ends and the game continues into the 11th inning (Buckner's error came in the 10th). What guarantee does Boston have of winning? None. It's not like without Buckner's error, Boston wins the series.

The documentary was very, very good, but it left unanswered one question: Why did these two become such lasting scapegoats?

Maybe it's because of their enduring images, Buckner as he lets the ball roll between his legs, Bartman as he sits stone-faced, green turtleneck, Cubs' hat, earphones.

They looked like such easy targets, and so that's who everyone attacked.

Alex Gonzalez of the Cubs booted a sure double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out of the inning up 3-1 and likely into the World Series. It's one of the biggest choke plays in baseball history, way worse than Buckner's, and yet no one ever mentions it.

Bartman to this day remains largely invisible, though Wayne Drehs of Sports Illustrated apparently was able to find him relatively easily. The documentary doesn't quite address how much Bartman shows his face in Chicago these days, but it's clearly not a lot.

Steve Dolan, Princeton's men's cross country coach and assistant track and field coach, and Chris Brock, Princeton's Associate Athletic Director who oversees, well, money, both ran down the streets of Chicago over the weekend in broad daylight, without any of the Bartman-esque worries.

Instead, they were there for the Chicago Marathon, chosen because it is the flattest of the marathons.

Both did extraordinarily well, as Dolan finished in 3:01 and Brock in 3:37.

Brock said something along the lines of how it was fun before, fun for the first 20 miles, hell for the lax six miles and fun afterwards. Dolan said he felt great, great, great and then horrible for the last few miles.

TigerBlog cannot imagine running a marathon. The training that goes into it has to be incredible, and to be able to sustain a pace for 26.2 miles is amazing.

To finish in 3:01? Or 3:37? That's even more absurd.

TB just saw Dolan as he walked down the balcony to the mailroom, and it was clear that he was a tad sore this morning.

He should be fine in a few days, he said. That means he'll be fine in two weeks, when the Ivy League Heptagonal championships come to Princeton's cross country course.

Heps cross country is one of TB's favorite annual Ivy League events, and this year it won't require the drive to New York City.

Princeton's men are favored to repeat their championship of last year, while the women are one of the favorites, along with Columbia and Yale, to win yet again as well.

It will be a great event, and it's right before the Princeton-Cornell football game, so there's no excuse to miss it.

TigerBlog is not a runner, but he appreciates what they go through to excel at it. Or in some cases just to finish in their best time ever.

And he certainly appreciates how much they have to push themselves to get across the line after a grueling cross country race.

Let alone a marathon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

In Fourteen Hundred And Ninety Two

In fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Of course, he did it in Spanish-owned ships. After shopping around his idea of of sailing west to try to reach Japan and ultimately India and China and having it rejected by the monarchs of Italy, Portugal and England, Columbus finally got King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to agree to a fairly one-sided contract in Columbus' favor, because, according to Wikipedia at least, they never expected him to come back.

As TigerBlog remembers learning about it, Columbus' first journey across the ocean came out of a plan to avoid a land route to India and China and to offer an alternate voyage from sailing around Africa.

The other part of the story, as TB remembers from when he was a kid, is that Columbus also was going to prove the world wasn't flat, or at least everyone thought that it was flat and that he'd sail off the edge of the world. TB believed this for version for awhile, until he learned that ancient astronomers knew centuries before Columbus that the Earth was round.

It took Columbus five weeks to sail from Spain to what is now the Bahamas in what would be the first of four trips across the Atlantic for him. He did not "discover" the Americas, per se, since there were already people there and because the Vikings had already done so 400 years earlier, but it was Columbus who more than any other single individual brought European culture to the lands he found.

In turn, this led to the colonization of the entire region, which ultimately led to things like, oh, the establishment of the United States of America.

Today is Columbus Day, a day like Labor Day or Memorial Day where it is easy to forget its actual significance in favor of the fact that it's just another Monday holiday. It's been years since TigerBlog thought enough to reread Columbus' story and to get a better sense of why this is a national holiday.

Columbus Day always falls on this Monday, which means it always falls between the week of Princeton's last non-league football game and the start of the a six-week run through the rest of the Ivy League season.

Princeton will head to Brown with a 1-3 record, but the Tigers are 1-0 in the Ivy League.

So how will the Tigers do over the next six weeks?

TigerBlog has no idea. Usually, it's pretty obvious where the season is going by this point, or at least relatively so.

This year? Who knows?

By the way, Princeton got to 23 points in its five-point loss to Hampton the other day on one touchdown, one extra point, four field goals and two safeties. It reminded TigerBlog of the game at Harvard in 1997, when the Crimson won 14-12. Princeton had 12 points on a touchdown, extra point, field goal and safety (sort of hitting for the cycle, as it were), while Harvard's 14 came on four field goals and a safety.

Meanwhile, back at the 2011 Tigers, it's so hard to say where they are.

The loss to Lehigh wasn't bad, considering that Lehigh is around 10th in the FCS. Bucknell is a much-improved team. Princeton beat Columbia and had a real chance against a very solid Hampton team.

With a 1-3 record, Princeton now plays six Ivy teams, all of whom beat the Tigers last year. Will this year be different?

Princeton is getting big contributions from freshmen like Chuck Dibilio (21 carries, 147 yards, 1 TD against Hampton; team-best 323 rushing yards and a 6.7 yards per carry average for the year), Matt Costello (second on the team with 14 receptions) and Khamal brown (18 tackles). More than any other sport, though, it's hard to rely on freshmen in football.

Princeton is definitely improved over last year - greatly improved, for that matter. That's obvious watching the team on the field.

The question over the next six weeks will be how much the final record will reflect that.

It could be significant. It could be that the rest of the league is improved as well and that Princeton had a lot of catching up to do.

On Columbus Day, it's hard to say.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Strike Three

TigerBlog had no doubt that Alex Rodriguez was going to strike out when he came up with the bases loaded and one out, his team down by two in the seventh. And he had even less doubt that A-Rod would strike out to end the game, down 3-2, two out, nobody on in the ninth.

And TB was right both times.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that Rodriguez is the highest-paid player in the history of American team sports. At the very least, he is in baseball.

And yet here he was in a season-saving, game-changing moment - not once, but twice - and he failed miserably both times. And it wasn't very surprising.

Rodriguez' career will be remembered as one of huge talent, huge money and a huge history of failing in the clutch. Last night was just another example.

TigerBlog doesn't like the Yankees, simply because their blueprint for success is to outspend every other team, and by a ton. It's not debatable.

The Tigers used four starting pitchers in the series - Justin Verland, Rick Porcello, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer - who made a combined $15.5 million this year. That's one million less than A.J. Burnett of the Yankees made by himself (and $13 million of that $15.5 is Verlander's).

The two Detroit players who set the tone for the game by hitting back-to-back home runs in the first inning (Don Kelly, Delmon Young) make less than $6 million between them; seven of the nine Yankee position players last night make more by themselves.

The Yankee with the highest batting average in the series was Brett Gardner (TB is pretty sure about that). He made $529,500 this year; what must it be like for him to see his high-priced teammates come up so small?

Oh, and A-Rod made $32,000,000 this year. Maybe he could have put bat on ball in one of those two crucial situations for all that dough?

With the Yankee season now history, TigerBlog can focus his attention on the Princeton-Hampton football game.

Princeton enters the game having snapped its 10-game losing streak, and no matter what happens tomorrow in Virginia, Princeton will still be undefeated in the Ivy League when he heads to Brown next weekend.

In fact, the game at Hampton is the first of three straight on the road, followed by back-to-back rides to Brown and Harvard. Check back in three weeks, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what the 2011 football season will be like for Princeton.

Every Princeton fan TB has spoken to this week has the same two memories of the 2007 Princeton-Hampton game in Princeton seared into the brain:

1) the astonishing performance of the Hampton marching band
2) the physical toll the game had on Princeton for the rest of the season

Princeton entered the game against Hampton at 2-1 and then grabbed a 27-14 lead, only to see the Pirates come storming back for a 48-27 win.

From that point, Princeton lost four of its next five and finished the year at 4-6.

This time, Hampton comes in off a week off, and with a record of 2-2. Hampton's wins have come against Alabama A&M and Florida A&M, followed by losses to Bethune-Cookman and Old Dominion. For what it's worth, Hampton scored 23 and 21 points in its two wins and 42 and 31 points in its two losses.

Old Dominion, by the way, is 4-1, with a win over UMass and only a close loss to Delaware.

Beyond the game itself, this will be Princeton’s second game ever against a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and third-ever by an Ivy League team, with the first Princeton-Hampton game and a 41-0 victory for Yale over Morgan State in 1984.

The amount of excitement that led to the game at Princeton hasn't been matched for a Princeton game since the 2006 Ivy League championship, and neither has the attendance - a crowd of 15,329 watched the 2007 game between the Tigers and Pirates, and it's the largest crowd at Princeton Stadium since the 2006 championship season.

This time, the game is on the road, and when Princeton's travel party rolled out yesterday afternoon, it was the first time this year that it had left town for a game.

After this weekend, there are only Ivy games remaining for the team.

This Saturday, the final non-league game of the year, is special in its own right.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steven Jobs - And Sabrina's Job

TigerBlog was going to write about women's volleyball this morning.

He was going to start out by talking about how he knows little about the sport of volleyball and how he's seen less volleyball than pretty much any sport in his time here.

He was going to go on about volleyball stat keeping, which is clearly the most difficult of any of the sports for which athletic communications types regular keep stats.

Then he was going to segue into the big women's volleyball weekend coming up.

He'll get back to the last part later. As for the background, you'll have to take his word for it that it would have been funny.

TB's plan changed when he heard the news that Steve Jobs - Apple's founder, not to mention the man who turned Pixar into what it became - had died last night.

Steve Jobs changed the world as much as anyone who has ever lived. His impact on the modern world cannot be overstated, and not only in terms of the entertainment value of i-Tunes or the convenience of faster computers.

Jobs' work has touched every aspect of society, leading to huge advancements in areas like health care, commerce, politics, international relations, all of it.

And his company made the "Toy Story" movies. And the greatest commercial ever made.

Back on Super Bowl Sunday 1984 - the Raiders thumped the Redskins - Apple trotted out a mesmerizing commercial announcing the launch of its new product, the MacIntosh computer. The commercial was stunning in its scope, at a time when "plop plop, fizz fizz" was considered cutting edge.

Back in early 1980s, TigerBlog had an electric typewriter - and that put him ahead of most people. Shortly after that, the world was flooded by the personal computer, and Mac became the most powerful tool in the industry.

And that was later followed up, after a rocky patch that saw him leave the company for awhile, with i-Tunes, the I-Pad and all kinds of other advancements in technology, all of which have made the world a much smaller, much more efficient place.

TigerBlog has always used Macs, and they have made arduous tasks simple over the years, with further advancements constantly emerging.

Jobs battled cancer in recent years, ultimately passing away yesterday at the age of 56.

And what about that?

Job was worth $100,000,000 by the time he was 25. He has left a mark on the world that few have ever matched.

But he only got a 56-year run. Would you make that choice? Or would you rather opt for the more mundane, but a much longer life?

Anyway, Jobs passed away yesterday after having a most remarkable life.

Meanwhile, back at the women's volleyball, Princeton under first-year coach Sabrina King is off to a great start.

The Tigers are currently 3-0 in the Ivy League, tied with Yale for first place, one game ahead of Columbia. Princeton is at Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday and then home next weekend with Yale/Brown.

Princeton has won two of its first three league matches in five games, against both Penn and Dartmouth.

What TigerBlog does know about women's volleyball is that Dillon Gym is quite a venue when the team is playing. The crowds are loud and right on top of the action, and TB assumes the reverse is true now that Princeton takes to the road in the league for the first time.

King was a player and longtime assistant under venerable coach Glen Nelson.

Now in her first season as the head coach (TB was going to go with something like 'King Is The Queen,' but it sounded trite), she's off to a good start.

Of course, there are 11 matches to play, and the league is ultra-competitive.

Still, it's been a great start for the King era of Princeton volleyball.

So far, Sabrina King is doing a great job.

As for Steven Jobs, alav ha shalom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Still Kicking

So A.J. Burnett won a game in the postseason? Well, that's great, especially considering he's the 20th highest paid player in baseball (though only fourth on his team), with an annual salary of $16,500,000.

By the way, if you haven't looked lately, three of the top four highest paid players in baseball are on the Yankees - No. 1 Alex Rodriguez, No. 3 CC Sabathia and No. 4 Mark Texeira.

To hear the concern on the voices of Yankees fans, the idea of having to rely on someone as horrible as Burnett in Game 4 last night against the Tigers, an elimination game with the Yankees down 2-1 in the series, was too much to contemplate. It had to be the result of an organizational failure to come up with a better fourth starter, right?

Were it any other team, then Burnett's contract would be a crippling one, and the organization would have had no choice but to keep running him out there and hope for the best, like the Giants with Barry Zito.

In the Yankees' case, decisions aren't made with money in mind. To the Yankees, Burnett can be a $16,500,000/year inconvenience, and with the number of players who make more than he does (or close to what he does), then he doesn't stand out nearly as much, as it does with, say, Zito.

Of course, for as well as Burnett pitched, he might not have made it out of the first inning were it not for Curtis Granderson (who at $8.5 million is the 11th highest paid Yankee), who made two great catches on the night.

And so the Yankees are even in the series, even if their payroll is $100,000,000 more than the Tigers (and $110,000,000 more than the Rangers, who play the winner of tomorrow night's Game 5).

The only reason the Yankees are a dominant team is because they have a huge monetary edge over the rest of the sport. It's not close, and it's not debatable.

It frustrates TigerBlog, but it's not that much different in the English Premier League, TB supposes.

Speaking of soccer, the 10 runs the Yankees scored last night equaled the number of goals in the Princeton-Seton Hall men's soccer game.

The Tigers scored three times in the first 25 minutes and led 4-1 at halftime. David Dubow had a big night in his second game after returning from injury, with two goals. Antoine Hoppenot and Matt Sanner also scored twice each.

The Princeton-Seton Hall game is always special for Tiger coach Jim Barlow, who has a long-standing relationship with Pirates' coach Manny Schellscheidt, who TB believes coached Barlow when he was a club player. Barlow also played at Princeton with Schellscheidt's son Karl.

The 2011 soccer season at Princeton is at the midway point, and it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for either team to date.

A year after the men went a perfect 7-0-0 in the Ivy League and the women came heartbreakingly close to winning the league as well until a shot in OT against Penn in the season-finale was knocked off the line by Quaker defender, both teams have struggled.

And yet, it's a little early to write either one off.

The women are 0-2 in the league, but they also had a two-game stretch a year ago where they were outscored 6-0 in consecutive league games. It's unlikely any team will get through the league with a perfect record, and a record of 5-2-0 or even 4-2-1 could win the league.

Princeton has outshot its opponents 116-92 through nine games, including 26-16 in the two Ivy games. Also, Princeton has had some extraordinarily bad luck:
* lost 2-1 to Seton Hall on a goal with 1:52 left in OT
* outshot La Salle 13-5 and lost 1-0 on a goal with seven minutes left
* outshot Lafayette 29-3 in a 2-2 tie
* gave up two goals 36 seconds apart in a 2-0 loss to Yale
* allowed Dartmouth one second half shot - and it went in, with 1:53 to play - in a 1-0 loss

The women play at Brown Saturday at 4, against a team that is 6-3-1 overall and 1-1 in the league. It's a must-win for the Tigers, as are all of their remaining league games.

The men play at Brown at 7, after the women's game. The Princeton men opened the league season with a 4-1 loss at Dartmouth last weekend in a game that got away quickly after the Green scored three times early in the game.

Like the women, the men have had some brutal results:

* a 3-2 loss to St. John's on an overtime goal with 4.2 seconds left
* a 2-1 loss to FDU on a penalty kick in overtime
* a 13-6 edge in shots in a 1-0 loss to Furman

The men have an advantage over the women in that only one league game has been played. The Ivy League is so good in men's soccer that anything is possible as the league race unfolds.

September wasn't the best month for Princeton soccer, but October is off to a good start. Who knows what November will bring?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good Luck Scott Jurgens

Forgive TigerBlog if he's throwing out too much information this morning. For the last few years, he's had a small skin tag on the side of his tongue, and his dentist has been saying for just as long that he should go to an oral surgeon and get it removed.

For some reason, TB woke up yesterday and decided that it was time to go ahead and do it, so he dug out the referral that his dentist had given him and called to make an appointment, which turned out to be at 3:15.

TigerBlog was right on time, and he was in the oral surgeon's seat by 3:20 or so. And back in his car by 3:45 at the latest.

In the interim, TB had a fairly interesting half-hour or so. At one point, an endodontist came in to share an x-ray with the oral surgeon and get his opinion, just after the oral surgeon - a complete stranger to TigerBlog - had just injected whatever numbing agent he'd use into TB's tongue.

The endodontist, whose specialty is root canals, looked at TB, who was gushing blood from his tongue into the gauze that filled his mouth and made him talk like Vito Corleone, and said that TB looked familiar.

Turns out that said endodonist is also a sports reporter for a local religious station as well as a current Princeton basketball season-ticket holder. He asked TB if he could get credentials for basketball and hockey this year, and TB, given the state of his cheeks, though about answering: "Yes, but someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me."

Instead, TB just nodded yes.

Anyway, TB's tongue hurt pretty badly last night, after the numbing agent wore off, and it made talking difficult. It's a little better today, but TB is still not sure what to eat for lunch.

The oral surgeon said no Thai food, which meant stay away from spicy stuff. Still, the whole eating thing hasn't quite been easy since yesterday afternoon.

Besides, this afternoon, there is a small reception for the department, and the email says that refreshments will be served. Maybe there's no need for lunch today.

The reception, by the way, is to say goodbye to Scott Jurgens, whose title, TB believes, is Director of Marketing.

Scott is leaving Princeton tomorrow after four years here to take over the marketing duties at East Carolina.

TB could say most of the same things about Scott that he said about Steve Kanaby when he left a few weeks ago to become the director of championships for the Colonial Athletic Association.

Like Steve, Scott has been a very hard worker. Scott is another Princeton Athletics person who took on tasks that weren't specifically his responsibility. He went to a ton of events, including games obviously but also local civic events, all to get the word out about Princeton Athletics.

In all honesty, TB wasn't sure what to make of Scott when he first started here. Now TB knows that he is a difficult person to replace, and he made himself that simply by his work ethic and his willingness to do whatever was necessary for the good of the department.

Also, for someone in the position of constantly dealing with people who are making endless requests, Scott has another ingredient that is essential - a sense of humor.

As TB said, he wasn't sure about Scott and his future here when he started. TB also isn't sure if there was an exact day when he realized that he had turned 180 degrees on him, but it definitely happened. And it's not something that occurs often.

It's hard for a person to change other people's initial thoughts, and it takes time and effort. Scott managed to do so, largely because in the end, he turned out to be genuine, hard-working, team-oriented, friendly, funny - and valuable to what the department was doing.

Princeton Athletics is losing another key member of its staff, as Scott Jurgens leaves. TB wishes him luck at ECU, and TB will be rooting for the Pirates.

In the end, TigerBlog relied on Scott for a lot, and Scott never let TB down.

When TB thinks back about Scott and his time here at Princeton in the future, he'll remember an Idaho native who did a lot of growing up here. He'll remember someone always willing to help, someone who was always smiling - either because he was smiling or because that's how he dealt with the people around here who drove him nuts.

He'll remember that he had a healthy dose of sarcasm. He'll remember that he didn't get too mad when TB told him that Tony kills Christopher near the end of "The Sopranos," even though Scott had only gotten to Season 2.

Mostly, though, he'll remember moments like the one that just occurred, when Scott walked in, said something funny about nothing and turned and walked back down the balcony.

Tomorrow, he walks away from TB's office for good and heads south to East Carolina.

TB will miss his friend Scott Jurgens.