Friday, December 30, 2011

Here's To 2012

TigerBlog left Princeton at 12:30 for the trip to Hofstra for women’s basketball yesterday, and as he did, he remembered the always-sage words of Harvey Yavener:
“I have no idea how long it takes to get to Hofstra. It can take an hour; it can take nine hours.”

Driving to Long Island is never any fun. The ride yesterday was more brutal than most, and featured all of the following:

* two wide-load trucks on Route 1 that made getting around them impossible
* a 20-minute delay at the Outerbridge Crossing
* a long line of cars waiting to exit onto the Belt Parkway off the Verrazano Bridge
* an accident on the side of the Belt near Kennedy Airport
* two cars in the left and center lanes of the Southern State driving 40 mph

By the time TB reached the Hempstead Turnpike, three hours had passed. And he had a clearer understanding of what road rage is all about, not to mention the lingering question of how people deal with that stuff every day.

The trip to Hofstra was TB’s second to Long Island of 2011, which also included one trip into Manhattan. As years go, that’s not that too bad.

The women’s game at Hofstra was the second-to-last for TB as far as Princeton Athletics goes, with only a New Year’s Eve game tomorrow afternoon at Drexel.

As he has done each of the last three years, TB spoke to his colleague Craig Sachson for the annual year-end Princeton Athletics podcast. The talk lasted about an hour, and Craig turned it into Part I and Part II.

Rather than rehash what happened in 2011, TB would rather focus on a new wrinkle that Sachson threw at him.

Somewhere near the end, Sachson asked TB what he’d like to see in Princeton Athletics in 2012.

As an aside, the world is supposed to end in 2012, correct?

Anyway, TB was caught very off guard by Sachson’s question.

Obviously, TB would like to see every Princeton team go undefeated and win a championship. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

So, keeping in mind that he couldn’t mention all 38 teams, TB came up with among his answers:

* a return to the NCAA tournament and maybe a nice postseason run by the men’s lacrosse team. If ever a team deserves a bounceback season, it’s Princeton, after the injury-destroyed 2011 season and the great personal tragedy with the passing of head coach Chris Bates’ wife Ann, an event that touched every member of the program. Princeton has a great nucleus for the spring, led by preseason All-Americas Tyler Fiorito (G), Chad Wiedmaier (D), John Cunningham (LSM) and Tom Schreiber (M).

* a return to the NCAA tournament for the women’s basketball team, and perhaps the right matchup to get a win. Princeton has played a very tough schedule (one RPI ranking has Princeton’s strength of schedule at sixth in Division I), but it’s the Ivy League season that will determine if Princeton plays in the tournament for the third straight year.

* postseason for Mitch Henderson in his first year as Princeton men’s basketball coach

* an NCAA steeplechase championship and spot on the United States Olympic team for Donn Cabral

* championships – Ivy and otherwise – in squash. It’d be awesome to see Princeton knock off Trinity on the men’s side

* a soccer resurgence next fall, after a down year for both the men and women in 2011

* the beginning of the upswing for Princeton football. Yes, the Tigers suffered through consecutive 1-9 seasons, but there is a huge foundation piece in place with running back Chuck Dibilio. It should be interesting to see what happens at the quarterback position, but there are reasons to be optimistic for Princeton football.

* continued success to all of Princeton's ultra-successful teams, without ever taking that success for granted

And for all that, none of that was the first thing that came to TB's mind when Sachson asked him the question. Nope, for whatever reason, TB came up with something else.

He wished the sprint football team a win. Just one. Nothing greedy.

Hey, who deserves it more? It's tough being a team that knows that everything has to go exactly right to keep them in a game, and winning one has eluded them for so long. Their coach, Stephen Everette, oozes optimism.

It'd be nice to see it all rewarded.

So happy new year to everyone, Tiger fans and Tiger haters alike.

May the new year be filled with nothing but happiness for everyone.

And may the world not end.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Memory Lane

One of TigerBlog's favorite moments in his time at Princeton came back during this week in 1998, which would be 13 years ago already.

The men's basketball team was playing in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, which interestingly enough is pretty nice this time of year.

Anyway, the Tigers defeated Florida State, Texas and Charlotte in three consecutive nights to win the tournament. As TB remembers, Gabe Lewullis was the tournament MVP. Or was it Brian Earl?

No, it was Lewullis, who went over the 1,000-point mark for his career during that tournament. Earl, though, at one point did win the MVP award at four consecutive in-season tournaments.

Because Princeton kept winning, the team kept playing the late game. As a result, TB had his afternoons free after getting work done in the morning, and the hotel was right on Waikiki Beach, right next to where the Brady Bunch stayed during their trip to Hawaii.

If you're going to be in athletic communications, TB recommends a week like the one he had in Hawaii, complete with then-Princeton radio man Tom McCarthy and the purple pineapple bathing suit he bought.

TB remembers using the pay phone (see, there used to be these things called "pay phones," which people could use when they were away from home and couldn't use the phone that was mounted on their wall) on the beach itself to call the men's hockey contact from the office, who was also traveling at the time.

Unlike TigerBlog, he was in Minnesota, at Bemidji State, where the temperature wasn't quite what it was in Honolulu.

TigerBlog thinks about that trip every now and then, especially during the week between Christmas and New Year's.

It's especially relevant now, as the men's basketball team will be playing Florida State for the first time since that game in Hawaii and the men's hockey team will be playing in Minnesota.

As an aside, Princeton had four players go at least 35 minutes in the 1998 game against Florida State, including Earl and Lewulls, who went all 40 not just in that game but in all three games, playing 120 of 120 minutes in the tournament.

TB will give you two paragraphs to figure out the other two.

The 2011 Princeton-Florida State game will be played not in Hawaii but in Tallahassee, where the Tigers will also play Florida A&M on New Year's Day.

Princeton is 6-7 on the year, with the two games in Florida to be followed by a Jan. 8 home game against the College of New Jersey and then 14 Ivy League games.

The other two Princeton players who went 35 minutes against FSU in 1998? Chris Young and C.J. Chapman.

Of course, the current Seminoles are 8-4 overall, and one of those four losses came against Harvard in an awful game in the Bahamas, which interestingly is also nice this time of year.

The men's basketball team played five games in 15 days before a break for the holidays.

The men's hockey team hasn't played since Dec. 11. The trip to Minnesota, which will feature games Friday and Saturday against Northeastern and then either Niagara or the host team, begins a stretch of six games in 16 days - and then 17 days off for first semester exams.

The Tigers last played at home on Dec. 10, and the next home game isn't until Jan. 13-14 against Colgate and Cornell. If 34 days between home games sounds like a lot, how about the men's basketball team, which goes from Nov. 30 against Lafayette to Feb. 10 against Dartmouth without playing a home game against a Division I opponent.

Playing on the road can be challenging, but it can also be fun. Especially at this time of year.

Especially 13 years ago in Hawaii.

Those were the days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Play Of The Year - And Maybe Any Year

The entire month of December seems to build to one day - one morning, really - and when Dec. 25 has come and gone, the entire attitude of the country seems to change.

It morphs quickly from the Christmas rush and everything that goes along with it - shopping, Christmas songs, Christmas movies, Christmas cards, Christmas lights, and on and on - to a desire to put all of that as quickly as possible into the rearview mirror.

As December reaches the 25th, the holiday itself is highly sacred, whereas its conclusion immediately brings along the secular.

And the secular part of the month builds much quicker, lasting six days, until New Year's Eve.

It used to be hugely important to have something - anything - to do on New Year's Eve. These days? TigerBlog figures it'll still be 2012 when he wakes up Sunday.

Anyway, the wildest part of the week between Christmas and New Year's is that nobody ever knows what day of the week it is.

Christmas and New Year's Day are a week apart, so they obviously always come on the same day of the week. Unlike, say, Thanksgiving, though, that day can be any day of the week.

Because there is little or nothing going on during the holiday week, every day feels like the weekend. Only it's not. Today is, TB is pretty sure, Wednesday.

Of course, if you asked him what day yesterday was, he might have been a bit more hesitant. About 10 times in the last two days he's thought about what day it was, and he's had to stop and figure it out first.

College athletics are measured in academic years, not calendar years, and the current "year" is really only 40% played out. For instance, pretty much every Princeton fan knows that the Tigers won 15 Ivy League titles last year, but really that means 2010-11, not just 2011. In the calendar year, Princeton has won "only" 13 Ivy titles.

Still, it's the end of 2011, and with that there is no way to escape looking back on the last 12 months and remembers what stands out. Hey, all you have to do is look around the Web for five minutes and you'll find at least, well, 2,011 different stories recapping 2011.

For Princeton, there was no shortage of interesting moments from 2011.

TB doesn't need to recap them all here. He can just mention "double-triple" or the baseball championship or women's open rowing or field hockey or women's basketball or both swimming and diving teams or open rowing or on and on.

In many ways, it's not that much different than 2010 or 2009 or any other year, all of which had their championship teams and top athletes.

But 2011 at Princeton Athletics was more than just that, and it was because of one single play, a moment that instantly became one of the all-time greatest in the entire history of Princeton sports.

Of course, everyone knows what TigerBlog is talking about. Obviously, it's Douglas Davis' shot that beat Harvard in the Ivy League playoff game and sent the Tigers into the NCAA tournament.

Harvard and Princeton tied for the men's basketball title, and the playoff game was to be held at Yale. Harvard seemed to be in control for most of the game, but the Crimson never were able to shake the Tigers.

Eventually, though, Harvard went up 62-61 on Brandyn Curry's layup with 11 seconds left. Davis raced the ball up the court but had his shot blocked, and it rolled out of bounds to Princeton under the basket with 2.8 seconds to play.

2.8 seconds. TB doesn't need to remind any fan of either team how much time was left.

Of course, 2.8 seconds doesn't seem very long, but it's an eternity in basketball.

The ball was inbounded to Davis, who had the presence of mind - and the time - to dribble to his right, come back to his left and drain a shot that just beat the buzzer.

For a moment, a single moment, it's hard to beat that one.

It was the biggest single basket for Princeton since Gabe Lewullis' to beat UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament, but had Lewullis' shot not gone in, that game would have gone to overtime. This one was all or nothing - and with an unbelievable prize for the winner.

In fact, of all of the plays that TB has seen in every Princeton sport in the last 25 years, he can't remember one that tops Davis' shot. Maybe Jeff Terrell's touchdown after Rob Toresco flipped him the ball on fourth down in the second overtime against Penn in 2006, except there wasn't a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line.

And sure, there are others that have been huge, including four NCAA championship-winning overtime goals in men's lacrosse.

Still, when TB thinks about it, he always comes back to Davis' shot. And in many ways, it transcended athletics themselves.

TB walked Davis around campus doing media interviews in the day or two after the big shot, and everywhere Davis went, every single person he walked past recognized him, congratulated him, shook his hand.

This included sports fans and non-sports fans alike, people whom TB has known for years and knows for a fact that they are not sports fans.

This moment was bigger than all that, of course. It was a moment of great accomplishment, and it was a moment that every member of the campus was able to share.

For all those reasons, Davis' shot is the Play of the Year - for 2011, and maybe every other year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Replay Rant

The best part of TigerBlog's weekend was the card he got from Little Miss TigerBlog, who wrote the following:
"Good tidings to you and all of your kin, so since I am part of your family, your kin, I am wishing myself happy holidays."

TB's second favorite part was the Giants win over the Jets.

For starters, TB's favorite professional sports team is the Giants, and it was a win that eliminated the Eagles and kept the Giants in the chase for the NFC East title and a spot in the playoffs.

And it's not like TB hates the Jets per se. It's just that the current Jets head coach makes it somewhat easier to root against his team, unless you're a diehard.

TB found himself listening to the postgame show on the radio, and he checked out both team's stations as he flipped back and forth. It was there that he heard live as Brandon Jacobs torched Rex Ryan.

He also heard the play of the game on one station and the turning point of the game on the other, and somewhat shockingly, neither was Victor Cruz' 99-yard touchdown reception, which is what TB would have chosen.

If you missed the game, the Jets looked like they were dominating early on, but the Green had only a 7-0 lead to show for it. Then the Giants came very close to getting a touchdown before settling for a field goal, and so it was 7-3 when the Giants found themselves backed up to their 1.

As an aside, why didn't the Jets go for it on a 4th-and-inches at the Giants 42 early in the second quarter, up 7-3? Why don't teams take more chances on 4th-and-short, when they have a better-than-average chance of picking up the first down and maintaining possession? Had the Jets gone for it there and kept that drive going, the entire game might have been different; a coach whose talk is so bold could have used some bold action.

Anyway, after the Jets backed the Giants up on the 1, Eli Manning threw a short pass on third down that looked like it would be a first down and little more, only to see Cruz simply outrun the Jets to the end zone.

It was the 13th time in NFL history that a pass play had gone the maximum 99 yards, tying a record, as they say, that will never be broken.

As another aside, the Princeton record for longest pass play is the same, 99-yards, Matt Verbit to Clinton Wu, at Brown in the early 2000s.

The Giants won the game despite some curious officiating, especially in replay situations.

The first was after the Cruz TD, when the Jets regained possession.

Jeremy Kerley put the ball on the turf, and Aaron Ross picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown. The call on the field was TD, which meant that the video would have to be conclusive to overturn it.

From every angle, there was no way to see if Kerley's elbow hit the ground or the shoe of the Giants Antrel Rolle. And yet the call was reversed. There were also two reversals of fumble calls on the field.

Replay came to the NFL to correct horrible mistakes, not to be what it has become, which is a disaster. In fact, there was only call in the game that was really obviously wrong - a reception by Santonio Holmes where he clearly had possession and then fumbled - and yet that was non-reviewable because the whistle blew.

This is the first year of mandatory replay for ECAC hockey games, and each rink in the league now has a camera mounted over the goal line to see if the puck actually crossed the line.

Before two of Princeton's women's basketball games that were being televised by Verizon Fios 1, the refs came up to TB and asked about the video capability and whether they could use it for review. TB said it was fine with him, and the Verizon Fios crew was able to accommodate them.

Still, the games were much better off because there were no delays for replay than they would have been had there been stoppages to try to find the tiniest views of whether or not someone's foot had been on the three-point line or whether the shot clock went off before the shot or after.

It has always been TB's contention that nothing like that impacts the outcome of game, unless it happens in the final few minutes.

TB would much rather see refs who can ref the game without having to look over their shoulder at the video. Yes, some calls won't be exactly correct, but the game goes so much better without replay stoppages.

TB fears that he's in the huge minority in this thinking and that it won't be long before Princeton venues all follow the Baker Rink lead, with replay equipment that is installed - and then used way too much.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Take The Weekend Off

TigerBlog was right.

When Harry Bailey said “To my big brother George, the richest man in town,” TB’s eyes teared up. As they always do.

Of course, right about the time that Harry was making his toast in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the von Trapp family was winning the festival and making a getaway in “The Sound of Music.”

A few minutes after that, Marion the Librarian and Professor Hill serenaded each other with “Til There Was You,” as once again “The Music Man” ended happily.

Add those three movies together, and TB has probably seen them more than 100 times. Fortunately, TB hit most of his favorite scenes, even if they were all on at the same time.

Meanwhile, over on TBS, Ralphie was reliving his idyllic childhood in a two-hour block 12 straight times as one of the greatest programming ideas of all time played out again. If you missed it, “A Christmas Story” once again was shown 12 times in a row, something that continued throughout Christmas Day.

One of the best things about the movie itself is that it can be picked up and let off basically in any scene. Yes, the story is all tied together, but it’s not like it needs to be seen sequentially. Besides, TB suspects that most of the people who watch it aren’t exactly seeing it for the first time.

TB is pretty sure that most families vary little in their holiday traditions from year-to-year. In fact, most can probably set their watch by what they do on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day.

To that end, TB hopes that everyone enjoyed the 2011 edition of Christmas and had a great holiday weekend.

As for Princeton Athletics, it ground to a halt for Christmas, making this the only weekend other than for final exams between early September and June that there are no athletic events.

TigerBlog saw that there were some college sporting events over the weekend, though very few. There was a bowl game on Christmas Eve, and then there was a basketball tournament in Hawaii.

Beyond that, TB wasn’t sure he saw much else out there.

Princeton is actually in a seven-day break between events, which is how it should be.

For every athletic event, there’s an athletic trainer, an event manager, an athletic communications person, a coaching staff and many others who are required to be there.

It's part of the deal of working in college athletics, and to be honest, if it had been, say, Princeton's men's basketball team in the tournament in Hawaii, the Tigers would be there.

It's better this way.

The people who work at Princeton work hard, and they almost all do this far away from the spotlight. They're proud of what they do, and they'd be there in a heartbeat if they had to be.

It's just that all that's for another time. Not for this past weekend.

Just like TB knew he'd get a bit misty when Harry made his toast, he also knew the feeling he'd have when Ralphie and his family went away after their 24-hour run.

As always, TB would watch the end of the last one and see one of his favorite parts, when the duck makes its appearance on the table for the Parker family. One of TB's favorite parts is how Ralphie's parents are cracking up while the scene is playing out, as both Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon are covering their faces because they're laughing so hard.

And then it's over. And it's a bit sad.

This year, there was at least a half-hour respite before the holiday basically ended, as "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" - the cartoon, not the movie - came on.

With the end of the holiday and the beginning of the new week comes a gradual return to the pace of work. There are a handful of games coming up, and then a few more after the new year before exams.

By the end of January, the winter season will be in full swing, and it won't be long until the spring teams start. Hey, the men's lacrosse opener as now less than two months away.

All that is for another time, though. It wasn't for this weekend.

This weekend wasn't a time to work. It was a time for traditions, whether they were playing out on the TV or in real life, whether they were religious or secular, whether they were with friends and family or any combination in any form.

And they didn't need to be interrupted by games.

Most times when there's a weekend off in college athletics, it feels sort of weird.

Not this time. Nope, this wasn't weird at all. It was unique and special, something that only comes once a year, something with a special power, the kind that made the Grinch's heart grow three sizes.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life

All George Bailey ever wanted was to get out of Bedford Falls, and he became more and more miserable as he realized he was never going to leave.

Charlie Brown, tortured by the over-commercialization of the season, thought he had gotten a nice tree, and all anyone did was mock him.

Bill Murray - TigerBlog can't remember the character's name - was a jerk in the movie where he plays the TV executive. The Grinch couldn't help being a jerk.

At first, Kevin was fired up to be Home Alone.

What happened to all of them and hundreds more in movies and TV shows?

Christmas, that's what.

When the right characters are put in the right situation with the right story - all of it centered around Christmas - well, there's really nothing else that matches up to it.

Take George Bailey.

For most of the movie "It's A Wonderful Life," all he wants to do is get out of his hometown outside Buffalo. He wants to see the world. He wants to travel. He wants to go and keep going and never come back.

So what happens? Well, if you've seen the movie, you know exactly what happens. And if you haven't seen the movie, go see it, and TB promises not to ruin it for you.

And the others?

The Grinch and Bill Murray both learn their lesson. So does Kevin, who turns out to be better at catching bad guys than he does at being a loner.

There are dozens of great Christmas movies. There are hundreds of great Christmas episodes of TV shows.

When one of those TV shows comes on in May or July or something, it immediately conjures up images of the holidays and immediately places the audience into the Christmas moment.

Christmas music?

It's been played on several radio stations around here since before Thanksgiving. If a station played it all year around, TB is pretty sure that people would listen, because of the same reason, how all of these songs take people right into the Christmas moment.

TB said this last year, and he'll say it again. Christmas is more than just a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Because of that, it's something that non-Christians as well can relate to, can embrace for themselves.

The United States has 10 official federal holidays. Of those 10, Christmas is the only one that is religious in nature. The other nine are completely secular.

It's been that way since President Grant signed the bill that made Christmas a federal holiday back in 1870. With all of the different religions in this country, which by the way includes the freedom to practice any religion as one of its most fundamental tenets, to have a religious holiday recognized by the federal government to this day suggest its universal importance and larger-than-religious connotations.

Besides, it's just a fun time of year.

As TB pointed out last year, the only times that Princeton Athletics grinds to a halt between September and June is for final exams and Christmas. No other religious holiday is exempt.

The men's basketball team played last night. The women's basketball and wrestling teams compete Dec. 29.

In between, there are no Princeton events.

It's an opportunity for all of the coaches and athletes - and everyone else who is part of Princeton Athletics - to take a step back from the games and have a chance to be with family and friends and enjoy the season.

And to think about those who don't have it as good as the rest, those who are struggling.

At the end of "It's A Wonderful Life," Harry Bailey gives a toast to the people of Bedford Falls.

TB has seen the movie about a thousand times, and he can't help but tear up every time Harry begins to speak, even though he knows exactly what's coming next.

TB isn't quite the most sentimental person of all time, and he understands that the Baily family is fictional. Hey, for that matter, he's not even a Christian.

And yet there's something about that moment, when it's all become so clear to George, who has figured out what really is important to him and what never really mattered that resonates so much.

It's not something that people think about all the time. It's something somewhat specific to this time of year.

"To my big brother George," Harry says, adding, "the richest man in town."

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What A Card

Yesterday was TigerBlog's friend William's 10th birthday.

For his birthday, his parents told him that he could eat at any restaurant he wanted or have his mother make him anything he wanted for dinner. What did he choose?

He asked his mother to make him buttered noodles.

Ah, to be 10.

The holiday card that TB got from William's parents was among the best of the ones he's received.

As an aside, the cleverest was the one from two people who will be having their second child after the new year, and their card said "we're 'expecting' to have a happy and exciting 2012." Now that's sharp.

Meanwhile, William's card featured a holiday wish surrounded by about 15 pictures of William and his brother as they played lacrosse last summer.

TB is a big fan of the summer-in-winter themed card, which usually manifests itself as a scene from the family's beach vacation of a few months earlier. In the case of William, the lacrosse shots accomplished the same effect.

Or, for summer-in-winter, TB offers this minute in Princeton, where on the first full day of winter, the sky is deep blue and the temperature is in the low 60s. TB isn't sure if he should go caroling or to the beach.

The holiday card is a huge part of this time of year, and picking the right picture is crucial to the success of the card itself. Often, people go for a highly artistic approach, ad it doesn't always work. Little Miss TigerBlog opened one card, for instance, and said "they look fuzzy and unhappy."

TB is sure at some point that kids get too old for the family holiday card, though he's not quite sure at what point that is.

One of his favorite parts of Jadwin Gym is the back of the door in the business office, where Phyllis Chase - the department's travel coordinator - has a running year-by-year collage of the holiday cards of people from the athletic department, so it's easy to see how much all the kids have changed - and seemingly how quickly.

TB just got done posting a video entitled "A Day In The Life" to The video follows three Princeton athletes - basketball's Douglas Davis, wrestling's Garrett Frey and lacrosse's Lindsey deButts - through various parts of their Princeton experience.

The video isn't a holiday video by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a great piece of work, done by the good people of, the company where Princeton's original video machine, Jeff Taylor, works.

Back when Taylor was making videos here, TB was a bit envious of his creativity, which is extraordinary. And innate, for that matter.

TigerBlog, as has the rest of the OAC, gotten into the business of making original videos. TB still doesn't approach Taylor's flair, but he's gotten pretty good at churning them out at least.

Using the flip-cam cinematography of student manager Amanda Roman, TigerBlog created a women's basketball holiday video, which he posted the other day.

Back when Princeton made the decision to go away from the printed piece and to the video realm, videos like the women's basketball holiday video were exactly what the point was.

The video shows a close-knit team, one that is clearly loving the time it's spending together. It gives a much clearer view of the Princeton women's basketball experience than any printed piece ever could.

Plus, it has a great combination of heartfelt sentiment, genuine emotion and some great holiday humor.

What better way to say happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who Loves Brussels Sprouts?

TigerBlog was walking into the Campus Life holiday party yesterday at Chancellor Green when he was asked to write his name on a name tag while also writing an interesting fact about himself.

And so TB complied. His name was easy. The interesting fact? Not as easy.

Please don't take that to mean that TB finds himself to be filled with so many fascinating possibilities that he couldn't settle on just one.

Eventually, TB settled on something that he assumes is a rare skill: He can recite the entire book "The Cat In The Hat" from memory.

As TB went into the party, he naturally checked out the other interesting facts. One person wrote that she used to live in Hawaii. Another wrote that he had been a state record holder in track. Another was born in Iowa. Another was the Easter Bunny at the mall one year.

One woman wrote on her name tag that she loves Brussells sprouts. Of course, the response was the same from everyone - nobody loves Brussells sprouts.

If any vegetable has ever gotten a bad name, its Brussells sprouts. TB isn't sure why, since if nothing else the vegetable contains the same anti-cancer ability as broccoli, which everyone eats.

Still, who doesn't have horrible nightmares about being forced to eat Brussells sprouts as a child? TB certainly does.

Anyway, a few hours after the party, TB found himself in the supermarket looking to get something for dinner for him, TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog. As always, he went to get broccoli, and what did he see right next to it? Right, Brussells sprouts.

So, after not having eaten Brussells sprouts for decades, TB decided to try it again. And so he got the broccoli and the sprouts and put them out along with the rest of the dinner.

TB ate a few of the Brussells sprouts and thought they were pretty good. Not great. But good enough that he'd eat them again.

And Little Miss TigerBlog? She said she'd eat one for $5 and two for $8.

The renaissance of Brussels sprouts wasn't the only thing that TB took from the party.

Campus Life consists of seven separate units: Religious Life, Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Outdoor Action, Career Services, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, University Health Services and of course the Department of Athletics and Campus Recreation.

Here in the Department of Athletics, the goal is obviously to win games, to win championships, to have overall success.

In reality, though, those aren't ends unto themselves. No, they're a by-product of a departmental commitment to providing the absolute best undergraduate experience for Princeton's 1,000 athletes that is possible.

Obviously, not every athlete is going to win a national championship or even an Ivy championship. Still others will win multiple championships.

All of them benefit from being part of a department that places the experience of each athlete first and foremost.

This philosophy is shared by all of the components of Campus Life, even if the individuals who comprise those components who were drawn to the University for such diverse reasons and whose primary focus on a day-to-day basis varies so greatly.

What does the athletic department have in common with, say, religious life? Or career services? On the surface, maybe not much. In what the people who work in these departments spend their time doing every day maybe not much.

But ultimately, it's the same basic idea. Student experience. Providing the best possible undergraduate experience.

TB thinks that schools get in trouble - maybe not the kind of trouble that Penn State finds itself in now, but trouble in general - when their athletic departments become completely isolated from the rest of the school and become their own entities.

At Princeton, TB has never found that to be the case. He spends enough of his time working with other campus groups, whether through Campus Life or through the many different communications offices.

In doing this, TB - and the rest of the department - are served constant reminders that athletics is integrated within a larger University setting. It gives what is done in athletics greater context, and it leads to a much greater shared sense of community, which is one of TB's favorite things about Princeton.

It's a University that really does have great diversity in its workforce, and by diversity, TB is not talking only about race or religion or any other demographic.

He's talking about diversity of personality, diversity of experience, diversity of interests, diversity of thought.

It's been great for TB to have the opportunity to meet these diverse people, to talk to them about what they do, to get a better understanding of what they think.

After all, the small area that encompasses the Princeton University campus takes in all comers.

Even those who love Brussells sprouts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Player Of The Week

When it comes to TigerBlog's pet peeves, very little can top people who are oblivious to the world around them.

TB cannot stand when people are driving along and can't figure out if they are supposed to make a turn here or keep going and therefore simply stop, without caring that there are 10 cars behind them who are not expecting them to stop. Or when someone is pushing a cart in the supermarket and stops right in the middle of the aisle, so nobody else can get past. Or when someone stops in a doorway to talk to someone they know, not understanding that many other people are trying to get in or out.

He also hates when people use "whom" to sound smart, even if they're using it wrong.

Or when the refs in Little Miss TigerBlog's basketball games can't keep straight which team should get possession on a held ball.

Not quite to that level is Ivy League Co-Player of the Week. Still, the "Co-" can torture TigerBlog.

It's a league of eight schools. Pick one. If someone has a performance that would merit Player of the Week in any other week but someone else outdid it this week, oh well.

And this is a subject that TB has discussed with almost everyone he has worked with at the league office for the last, oh, 20 years.

In all of TigerBlog's dealings with the various coaches here at Princeton, there have been few subjects that can touch off a firestorm quite like the selection of the league's Player of the Week, basically in any sport.

TigerBlog has heard coaches rail against the league, the selection process, the nominations, everything. Often coaches feel there's a hidden agenda at the league (there isn't).

Basically, the way it works is that the athletic communications staff at each school nominates someone for Player or Rookie of the Week. The decision is made by the sport contact at the league for each sport.

And TB understands the tough position that this places athletic communications people at the schools and the league in, since the honor is a nice one and one that is taken seriously by coaches and athletes. It's not always easy to pick the person to nominate, since the one with the best stats is not necessarily the one who played the best that week (something coaches know full well). On the other hand, saying things like "was the player most responsible for the team's success" doesn't really move the league office.

And the league people? Their decision is so subjective that there's often no one right answer. And they're the ones who have to deal with the fallout from angry coaches, so their task is hardly easy.

Princeton rarely had the league's Player of the Week when TB was the men's basketball contact, largely because whoever (not whomever) had a big game Friday night rarely had a big night Saturday night, because the teams had so much balance and depth.

Anyway, TB - in his role as interim women's basketball contact - successfully nominated last week's winner, Niveen Rasheed, who had 23 points and 18 rebounds against DePaul and then 16 and six against Stanford. Both opponents are nationally ranked.

Because of her torn ACL last year, Rasheed has competed in 29 weeks in her career. She has been honored by the league 14 times now in those 29 weeks, between her nine Rookie of the Week honors and five Player of the Week honors (including two this year).

The men's Player of the Week was also a Princeton player, Ian Hummer, honored for the fourth time in his career.

In the name of citing sources, TB takes the following paragraph from
In wins at Rider and Northeastern, Hummer averaged 20.5 points per game, scoring 21 against the Broncs and 20 against the Huskies. He also had a double-double at Rider, his third of the season, bringing down 12 rebounds while also giving a career-best seven assists. Against Northeastern, Hummer had a career-high five steals.

Rasheed and Hummer are both closing in 1,000 career points as juniors, but they are so much more than just scorers. For the record, though, Rasheed has 854 career points after her 20-point night against Santa Clara; Hummer brings 871 career points into Thursday's game at Siena.

TB wouldn't use the word scorer to describe either one. They're all-around players, both of whom can dribble, pass, rebound, run the floor, defend.

Mostly they're stars, winning players who have a great ability to impose their will on a game.

Watching Hummer at Rider made that crystal clear. He is an explosive player, a "guard in a 6-7, 230-pound body." He's a great ballhandler for a big man, better than any big man Princeton has had since Kit Mueller (with the possible exception of Judson Wallace), and that gives him the extra dimension of creating his own shot.

As for Rasheed, she has many of the same traits as Hummer. She can get a tough rebound, dribble the length of the court and finish or pass off the break. She can guard any player, guard to center. She can get her own shot basically whenever she wants. She rebounds with ferocity. Any loose ball is hers.

These two are the kinds of players who make it worth coming to watch the game, just because of what they might do. They also make their teams so much better.

This week, they're both the Ivy League Player of the Week.

TigerBlog is fine with it. He also would have been fine had neither won, rather than having a Co-Player. But hey, that's just him.

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Place Like Road For The Holidays

Apparently, somebody named Sophie won "Survivor" last night.

TigerBlog is not a fan of reality TV, mostly because it plays into something that he feels has the most ruinous effect on this country of any cultural phenomenon - and that's the glorification of fame for the sake of fame, as opposed to a by-product of some specific, unique talent.

TB has never really watched more than a minute here or there of any reality show, with the exception of about two full episodes of "The Amazing Race."

Shows like "American Idol" and "Amazing Race" and some of the others that at least pretend to revolve around talent are skill are basically harmless in nature, except that the contestants become instant celebrities.

The whole concept morphed into shows like Jersey Shore and the Kardashians and the Real Housewives franchise and some of the others that are just maddening in their concept, because these people have achieved great fame and wealth simply by having no shame at all.

This would be fine in its own little contained way, except that so many people seem to embrace the idea that they too should lose any sense of decency, all in the name of getting rich quick. Or, worse, that people with legitimate work ethic or talent or whatever are not longer seen as role models.

Anyway, congratulations to Sophie, who pocketed $1 million for, TB assumes, eating bugs and stuff like that.

TB is pretty sure that "Survivor" was the first such show, and he's also pretty sure that it was the first that came up with the idea of "voting someone off the island," or paring down the contestants one at a time until there is a winner.

So, in that respect, at least there's a sense of originality to what "Survivor" came up with. There can be no denying, not even by TigerBlog, the affect the show has had on American culture and society.

There was a time when TV shows had their finales in May, except for the summer fill-in shows, which ran until the new fall season began.

Now, TB has no idea when one show ends and another begins. In fact, there aren't too many TV shows he still watches regularly. Well, actually, there aren't any.

Hmmm. When did that happen?

Anyway, the "Survivor" finale came in late December, and now it's Dec. 19, or less than a week until Christmas. Hanukkah starts tomorrow at sundown.

Everyone's shopping done?

One present that you can't stuff in someone's stocking is a ticket to a home Princeton athletic event for the calendar year 2011.

In fact, of the more than 600 athlete events for the calendar year, there are only 10 remaining, none of which are on this campus. Or, for that matter, all that close to this campus.

The men's basketball team plays at Siena Thursday and then is in Florida for two games after Christmas. The women's basketball team plays at Santa Clara this evening and then has games at Hofstra and Drexel after Christmas.

The wrestling team is at Northwestern on Dec. 29 and 30 for a tournament. The men's hockey team is at a tournament at Minnesota Dec. 30 and 31.

And that's it for 2011.

In fact, between now and the end of exam break the last weekend of January, there are only nine home events.

For TigerBlog, this time of year used to mean traveling to a holiday men's basketball tournament before and after Christmas. Among the destinations:

* El Paso
* East Lansing, Mich.
* Ames, Iowa (twice)
* Green Bay
* Milwaukee
* Lawrence, Kansas
* Bloomington, Indiana
* New Orleans
* Champaign, Ill.
* Fresno

And oh, yea, Honolulu.

Those trips are among TB's best memories of his time working here, even with so many more cold weather destinations than warm ones. Part of the reason was of course that Princeton did so well in them.

And that TB often got free stuff from going there. In fact, he wore his ridiculously ugly multi-colored jacket from the tournament at El Paso for years. He still has one of the watches he got at Iowa State and the one he got at Hawaii.

Sadly, most of those tournaments fell victim to the new way of scheduling in college basketball. Oh well.

TB will be at two more events in 2011 - the two women's basketball games.

After that, it'll be 2012.

Which, of course, means that lacrosse can't be that far away. In fact, Christmas comes two months late this year - the men's lacrosse opener is at home against Hofstra on Feb. 25.

Friday, December 16, 2011

City Blog, Country Blog

FatherBlog believes there are two kinds of people - those who live and/or work in New York City and hicks.

Back when TigerBlog used to live in Trenton, he took FatherBlog one night to one of the great restaurants in the city's Chambersburg section. His response? "Who would have thought this, a great restaurant in the middle of nowhere."

Trenton, N.J., is many things. The middle of nowhere is not one of them.

TigerBlog has never shared his father's love for the City, or for cities in general. They're too crowded, too dirty, too hard to park in, at least for TB.

He thought Dublin was a great city when he was there with the men's lacrosse team. And he loved Toronto when he was there. He's always liked Boston.

He went to college in Philadelphia and was fine with it back then. These days, he wouldn't choose to be in a city if he could avoid it.

He had no choice last week, when he had to go into Manhattan for a meeting. At the Waldorf-Astoria, no less.

For starters, he drove into the city. Why, people asked him? Well, when they figure out a way to coat the trains in a Purell-like substance, then TB will take the train.

He actually doesn't mind driving in the city. It's parking, getting out, walking around and all.

His meeting began at 9, so he had to make the trip in during the heart of the rush hour. He cannot for the life of him belief that people do that every day.

Seriously, to invest that much effort just to get to work in the first place? It has to make you either crazy or immune to any kind of annoyance, if you simply take that as part of a normal work day.

TigerBlog grew up in the suburbs, and he likes the open spaces, the lack of traffic, the slower pace in general. It's 180 degrees from TB's father, who can't function without the city as his backdrop.

As TB drove out of the Lincoln Tunnel on his way back to Princeton, he knew that the day had been a really strong reminder of all the things he didn't like about going into the city.

It also got him wondering about Princeton's geographical location and the impact it's had on the University's success, athletic and otherwise.

Princeton is actually two towns, one the township and the other the borough, though voters passed a referendum last November to consolidate the two into one, which apparently will happen in 2013.

It's located in Mercer County, N.J., about 10 miles north of Trenton. It's almost the exact halfway point between New York City and Philadelphia. For that matter, the ocean is only 45 minutes away.

Does this help Princeton in any way? TigerBlog thinks it does.

Of the eight Ivy League schools, five are city schools - Harvard (Boston), Penn (Philadelphia), Brown (Providence), Yale (New Haven), Columbia (New York City) - and two are somewhat rural schools - Dartmouth (Hanover, N.H.), Cornell (Ithaca, N.Y.).

Maybe rural is the wrong word, but they are more isolated campuses that are harder to get to, so whatever word describes that, that's what they are.

Princeton is the only really suburban campus in the league. It is the only school in the league that is close enough to a big city (actually two) that it only takes an hour to get there, yet far enough away from the city to have the open space of suburbia.

It's not for everyone.

It's not for those who never want to drive a car or want to be able to walk every single place they go or want to be able to, oh, inhale smoke in the doorway of every single building on every street because the people can't smoke inside.

As TB drove further and further down the New Jersey Turnpike, he was more and more convinced that location is a big factor for Princeton.

Athletically, the suburban campus has enabled the facilities to be more spread out and enabled the school to devote at least what appears to be more space for fields (grass or turf). At the same time, everything is on campus, easily accessible by walking or by bicycles, which are everywhere.

The campus also is attractive to coaches, many of whom have children who grow up in this area.

TB feels like the availability of New York and Philadelphia without the hassle of city life is big for college students. The relative safety of walking around late at night appeals to parents.

The whole package appeals to TB.

Hey, he made his one trip for awhile into New York City. He loves to see the skyline - especially in the rearview mirror.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Night In Lawrenceville

Mack Darrow said he was just waiting to see Douglas Davis be the hero again. Instead, he found himself at center stage, and his majestic three-pointer as time expired in overtime gave Princeton a 72-71 win over Rider, ending a wonderful night of basketball in Lawrenceville.

About 10 minutes after Darrow won it on his only basket of the night, TigerBlog was on the radio with John Sadak interviewing assistant coach Brian Earl, who said essentially that Princeton and Rider should play every year and he's not sure why they haven't, especially back when he was a player.

In fact, it had been nearly a decade since the teams last met, and they had played only twice since 1947 prior to last night. Princeton had never before played at Rider's Alumni Gym.

Watching the game last night, that seemed like such a silly history, or lack of it.

As for the game itself, it was a showcase for the multi-dimensional talents of Princeton's Ian Hummer, who came very close the first triple-double in program history as he finished with a line of 21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

More than the numbers, Hummer has such a calming influence over everything that is going on on the floor, especially because he has the ball so often. And he is explosively quick off the dribble for someone who is routinely guarded by a big man.

If all of that sounds familiar to Princeton's fans who go back more than 20 years, those words also could describe Kit Mueller, the player Hummer most reminds TB of in his time watching the team. And that says a lot, since Mueller is one of the greatest players Princeton has ever had.

Another player who had a huge night was T.J. Bray, who played nearly all 45 minutes and had a career-best 11 points to go with eight rebounds. He had huge baskets down the stretch, giving Princeton its first lead at 61-60 with 2:24 to go in regulation and then snapping a 61-61 tie with a three-pointer 45 seconds later.

Princeton might have figured this was going to be an easy night against a 1-9 team that was allowing 82 points and nearly 50% shooting for the season, but the Broncs hardly looked like their numbers, as they mixed a fluid offense and an aggressive defense that made TB and the rest of the Princeton people wondering what had been going on for the first 10 games.

Rider actually had the lead for 41:57 of a 45-minute game, twice leading by as many as 16 in the first half. Princeton fell behind 25 seconds into the game and played the whole game trying to push a rock up a hill, especially in the second half, when Rider's lead seemed to extend to seven and come back to three, only to go back to seven, for what seemed like an eternity.

Heading into the final stretch of the overtime, Rider was up two with 8.3 seconds left and shooting two foul shots, both of which were missed. Davis pushed the ball up the court and tried to get to the basket, only to find himself cut off.

Darrow, standing just in front of the Princeton bench, caught the pass already squared to shoot, and he let it go just ahead of the final buzzer and the red light on the backboard. The ball soared through the air and splashed down perfectly, at least for the Tigers.

It was a tremendously entertaining game to watch, and the drama was all in whether or not Princeton was ever going to actually catch the Broncs. The entire time, the question was how Rider would respond if it actually fell behind.

TB was on the radio with Sadak, sitting on the baseline in the gym. The media used to sit courtside, only to be shipped to the baseline years ago, after Harvey Yavener - in the TB Hall of Fame - used to spend the whole game talking to the Rider coaches.

The view from the baseline is a pretty good, as the floor spacing is clear and it's easy to see how sequences develop. It's hard to judge the distance from the basket at the far end of the court, but it's only 94 feet, not 100 yards, so it's not that bad.

TB hasn't done radio for basketball in awhile, though he has done a few hundred games, with partners like Sadak, Dan Loney, Tom McCarthy, all the way back to Peter Peretzman and David Brody.

TB likes the radio, the way it focuses him on the game the entire time, as opposed to doing PA, when the microphone is off much of the time or simply watching the game, when conversations drift in and out and much of the game blurs together.

A few years ago, TB gave up his seat next to Sadak to Noah Savage, the former Princeton captain who had, to TB's knowledge, no radio experience at that point. Savage, in a very short time, has become an outstanding color commentator, and he and Sadak are very good together on the air.

TB's strength is in his knowledge of Princeton basketball history more so than X's and O's, while Savage knows enough of the first and a ton about the second.

After the game, when Earl came on for the postgame interview, he talked about how strange a game it had been with Rider in the lead the entire time, what it's like to play so many games on the road, about his confidence in Darrow as a shooter, about Hummer's all-around game.

When he was done, Sadak and TB wrapped it up talking about Princeton's progress on the year, the challenge of the league down the road, the usual.

And then it was a few lingering goodbyes to some of the people TB knows from Rider, including Director of Athletics Don Harnum. TB also had a great chance to catch up with Associate AD Greg Busch, who used to work at Princeton.

All that was left after that was the short ride home for everyone, regardless of which team you were there to see.

For a Wednesday night college basketball game in December in Mercer County, it was hard to ask for anything more.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Heading For The Zoo

TigerBlog has always wondered at what point he reached the tipping point, in this case the tipping point of having spent more time on the Princeton campus than the Penn campus.

TB spent four years as a student at Penn, which included living there obviously. He also stayed there for two summers, one when he worked as a vendor at Veterans' Stadium and one when he first started at the newspaper.

Of course, he has spent many more years on the Princeton campus, though rarely for 24 straight hours.

At some point, though, he had to have spent more time here than there, though it probably wasn't until a few years ago.

Figuring the academic year is nine months long, with probably a month of breaks built in, then TB was on Penn's campus for eight months a year for four years, or 32 months. Figure the summers added on another three months between them, so that makes 35 months.

Of course, that stretch includes basically every hour of every day. Maybe subtract out a month or two for time not actually on the campus, so that leaves 33 months. With 30.4 days per month, that comes to 1,003 days or 24,076.8 hours.

If TB was at Princeton for eight hours a day, five days a week, or 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, plus an additional, say, six hours on a game day 40 times a year, well, then that adds up to 2,240 hours a year. Divided into 24,076.8 and that comes to 10 years and ninth months, so it's been awhile.

As an aside, that could be the dullest two paragraph stretch in TigerBlog history.

And, if it took more than a decade for TB to become more Princeton than Penn in the physical sense, well, spiritually, he got there much earlier.

If Princeton and Penn rank 1-2 for TigerBlog in terms of time spent on a college campus, then what's No. 3? Well, Rutgers and the College of New Jersey (though TB hasn't been there more than once or twice since it's been called that) are way up there, probably more so than any other Ivy League school.

No. 3, though?

It has to be Rider.

Back in TB's newspaper days, a typical winter week would go like this: Princeton on Friday and Saturday (during the Ivy season), Rider during the week. With a Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) doubleheader mixed in.

And during Princeton's exam break or during the early-season when the schedules were more random? TB would be at Rider.

He was there often during the time Kevin Bannon was the Broncs' head coach, when Darrick Suber was scoring more than 2,200 career points, including the two at the buzzer that beat Wagner in the 1993 Northeast Conference championship game.

One of the best dunkers TB has ever seen - Tim Pennix - was a Bronc, as was William Kinsel, whose nickname was "Doodles" and who was part of a great recruiting story. Kinsel, a four-year starter until he blew out his patella tendon, committed to Rider, but Suber committed to St. Francis in Brooklyn after they'd grown up around each other in Pittsburgh.

When Suber arrived on the campus, he immediately knew he'd made the wrong choice, so he started driving back to Pittsburgh. As he got to 95 in Mercer County, he saw the big sign for Rider, remembered that's where Kinsel was, and drove right over. TB is pretty sure Suber is still the school's all-time leading scorer.

TB was at Rider when the student section first started to be called "the Broncs' Zoo," a name hung on the group by the Trentonian's Jay Dunn, who also wrote a book a long time ago called "The Tigers of Princeton: Old Nassau Football."

As an aside, Dunn also wrote perhaps the most prescient preview story for a game in newspaper history, when he asked Trenton State football coach Eric Hamilton if he'd go for two or kick the extra point for the tie (back before overtime) when the Lions played Montclair State that weekend for the New Jersey Athletic Conference title. Hamilton said he'd kick the extra point and sure enough, that's what he did when TSC scored on the final play; the result was a 31-31 tie and a co-championship.

Meanwhile, what was TB talking about? Oh yeah, Rider.

The school is located about six miles from Princeton, right down 206 in Lawrenceville.

TigerBlog has been on the campus often, for basketball, baseball, soccer, back in his newspaper time. Every time he's been there, he's been impressed with the great school spirit, the sense of teamwork among the people who work there, the way that the small school puts on its events.

It all resonated for him again when he was there for women's basketball a few weeks ago, and he's sure it will again tonight for men's basketball.

Somewhat stunningly, Princeton has never played men's basketball on the Rider campus, not at any point of its history, prior to tonight's game, which tips at 7.

It seems like a natural fit to play a team so close, but that also can get in the way of building such a rivalry. Whatever the cause, the teams play for the first time since Dec. 8, 2002, when Rider beat Princeton at the Sovereign Bank Arena.

For a Princeton team that's on the road for about as long as the Harlem Globetrotters, tonight is the nearest thing to a home game for awhile.

When TB used to be the men's basketball contact, Princeton would often have stretches where it would play six, seven, eight straight games away from home. Every time there'd be a home game, TB would hear people commenting on the team, and he'd think "nobody but TB has really seen them; how do they know."

Of course, this was pre-videostreaming.

Today, the world is much smaller, and Princeton fans are able to see their team play on their computer, listen to the Tigers on the radio and comment all they want on various message boards.

Still, there's nothing like actually seeing the team play. And, for the next two months or so, tonight's game at Rider - cozy, friendly Rider - is as close as the Tigers get to a Division I home game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Anchors Aweigh

When TigerBlog was at the United States Naval Academy Friday night for women's basketball, he asked a few people there which they would rather have for their football team.

1) a loss to Army but a trip to a bowl game in Hawaii
2) a win over Army and no bowl game

As it turned out, sentiment was unanimous - everyone wanted a win over Army. And that's how it played out, with a Navy win (amazingly its 10th straight over Army) and no bowl, since neither team finished .500. For Navy, it ended a string of eight years in a row going to a bowl.

While TB was at the Academy, the football game dominated the talk, and why wouldn't it? When it comes to college athletic rivalries, maybe there are others that mean more to fans or the media. When it comes the participants themselves, there can't possibly be anything to rival Army-Navy football, and it's obvious from watching the game just how hard these teams are going at each other on every play.

As an aside, if you haven't seen the CBS documentary "A Game Of Honor" about the Army-Navy game, it's a must-see.

The scene was different the night before, when it was Princeton-Navy women's basketball. Still, a crowd of 2,312 was in the building - the beautiful Alumni Hall, a perfect setting for college basketball - and the home team played very well while handing the Tigers a 65-52 loss.

Beyond the game, though, TigerBlog was quite in awe of the Naval Academy.

For starters, fans couldn't park on the campus (the Yard, as it's known). For security reasons, everyone had to park at the football stadium (about five minutes off campus) and ride a shuttle over.

Entering the Yard required a photo ID. As TigerBlog came through the gate, he saw about five students who appeared to be playing one of those laser tag games, though it clearly was a military drill, not a game.

Once at the arena, there was no wireless internet, again for security reasons.

Then there were the Navy students. Some wore dress uniforms; others were in more casual uniforms.

During the national anthem, every single of one of them stood at complete attention while saluting the flag. There was no hint of a slouch, of anything that could be construed in any way as showing the slightest disrespect to the flag, the song or the institution.

That, as well as when the band played "Achors Aweigh," gave TB chills.

TigerBlog has seen Princeton play in any number of sports on the road against non-league opponents on all levels. He's done this hundreds of times.

Each time, there is something that TB can pick up on as a sign of respect for the academic commitment of Princeton's athletes. Maybe it's a comment. Maybe it's a chant from the student section that's meant to be derogatory but does suggest that there is a grudging acknowledgement of what it takes to be a Princeton athlete.

TigerBlog used to think there was no difference between Princeton athletes - or Ivy athletes in general - than with their non-Ivy counterparts. It just seemed like many of them were recruited only by the Ivy League and wanted to play in college and so that's how they ended up here.

Then, at the 1998 NCAA men's lacrosse final, TB had something of an epiphany.

The game was between Princeton and Maryland, and it was played at Rutgers Stadium. There's a steep walk up from the field to the lockerrooms, and then both teams were housed down a long stairway (TB isn't sure if that's how Rutgers does it for football; his sense is no).

Anyway, as TB walked to the Princeton lockerroom before the game, he had to go past Maryland's. From inside where the Terps were dressing, he could hear heavy metal music blasting at jet-engine levels.

Further down the hall, he came to Princeton's spot. When he walked in, the room was quiet, and there were two freshmen sitting in the outer area, where TB heard one say to the other: "you can't take that unless you took the other class, because it's a prerequisite."

In that moment, TB figured out that it's not quite the same thing.

It also isn't a negative. It's not that Princeton athletes aren't passionate about their sports. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's just that the passion doesn't come at a cost of the complete education.

They are so passionate about both that they make the commitment to the balancing act between Princeton's academic and athletic experiences. No, it's not for everyone, but it does attract some incredibly impressive young men and women.

And it's something that gets noticed when you're on someone else's campus.

Friday night TB knew exactly how the people who marvel at Princeton's athletes feel, as he watched all of these Midshipmen go about their business.

How can anyone not be filled with respect and awe at what these people commit to doing, both while they are undergraduates and then after they graduate, all with the inherent risks that are involved in military service, especially these days.

Each time TB saw one of the Mids, he wanted to shake their hand and say "thank you" and tell them how much appreciation he has for them.

Of course, he didn't. He would have seemed somewhat odd to do so, and besides, they probably would have simply shrugged it off with a "thank you sir." For them, it's a calling.

When it was over and Princeton lost, TB was a bit bummed. The Tigers never really got into their normal rhythm, and it really felt like one that got away.

Of course, given the opponent, he could only get so upset.

It's hard to root against the United States Navy, after all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

If Tom Is The Devil, Can Tim Be ... ?

"Broadcast News" was on the other day, and like every other time it shows up, it's hard for TigerBlog to change the channel.

The movie is about the inner-workings of a major news network and the people who work there. It's mostly about the relationships that develop from working long hours together, combining great humor and great storytelling, all with nearly perfect character development.

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning none. In one of the great Oscar snubs ever, Albert Brooks did not win Best Supporting Actor, which went that year (1988 Oscars) to Sean Connery for "The Untouchables." Also, the movie did not win Best Picture, which went to "The Last Emperor."

There are so many great moments in "Broadcast News," most of which center around Brooks and his character, Aaron Altman, the completely professional, completely decent, completely lovable guy who is getting nowhere in his job or with the woman he loves. At the same time, Tom Grunick (William Hurt) has no talent no intelligence and no depth and of course he's vaulting over Altman, at work and with the woman (Jane, played by Holly Hunter) they both love.

The scene where Aaron and Tom are on the patio and Aaron quizzes Tom over general knowledge is hysterical; so is the scene where Aaron anchors the weekend news and thinks it's his big break. The scene where Aaron finally lets all his bitterness towards Jane show through is also tremendous, as is the ending, which is even better because it's not quite what the audience suspects will happen.

And hey, what about when Aaron is shut out of the special report about a Libyan bombing, so he watches it at home, calling into executive producer Jane to give her a tip, which is repeated by Tom on air, as Aaron says "I say it hear; it comes out there." And how he is reading book while Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train To Georgia" is on the stereo and, to the music, Aaron offers: "I can sing, while I read. I'm reading, and singing, both."

The movie is dotted with other great lines spread here and there, such as:
"It takes a special kind of courage to talk to the boss that way." - Aaron

and ...

News president: "It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room.
Jane: "No. It's awful."

Still, without question, TB's favorite moment is when Aaron is trying to talk Jane out of being with Tom, and he offers up this logic:

Aaron: "I know you care about him. I've never seen you like this about anyone, so please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil."
Jane: "This isn't friendship."
Aaron: "What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women."

Of course, is Tom is the Devil, then why can't Tim Tebow actually be the opposite?

TB is semi-serious here. Well, not really semi-serious. But hey, what if Tim Tebow is either the Almighty, or sent by the Almighty to liven up the NFL?

How else can anyone explain what Tebow does every weekend, without fail now. Like yesterday, when his Denver Broncos were down 10-0 to the Bears in the waning minutes. So what happened?

Of course, Tebow threw a touchdown pass, the Bears fumbled (divine intervention?), the Broncos tied it on a 59-yard field goal to force OT and then the Broncos won it on a 51-yard field goal.

It all left TB shaking his head, and he's not a huge fan of the Broncos or a Tebow. Still, how could he not root for the team and it's quarterback, who is so polarizing that in a time where the country's most famous family is the Kardashian family, Tebow is criticized for being nice, humble and religious and his professional ability is dismissed as "high school stuff" and unsustainable.

Anyway, Tebow's comeback led into the huge win for the Giants, and those two proved to be the athletic highlight of the weekend for TigerBlog.

As for Princeton, it wasn't the best weekend, not as the men's hockey team lost twice, the women's basketball team lost Friday at Navy, the men's basketball team lost Saturday at Drexel and the women's hockey team was swept home-and-home by Quinnipiac.

Still, weekends like that are rare, and one of the great things about Princeton athletics is that even on a weekend like that, there's always something big that happens.

In this case, it happened 17 feet, 7.25 inches off the ground.

Dave Slovenski, a senior from Maine and a three-time Ivy League indoor pole vault champion, cleared 17-7.25 at Princeton's New Year's Invitational this weekend. His vault - which won the competition by a foot over the second-place finisher (who competed unattached) and by two-and-a-half feet over the nearest collegiate competitor - set a new Ivy League record, which is impressive in its own right and doubly so this early in the season.

The indoor track and field season is just starting, as cross country just ended. Princeton, of course, won both the men's and women's indoor championships last year at the Ivy League Heps, not to mention all of the other cross country and outdoor titles as well.

There will be no "double-triple" this year, but Princeton figures to be ultra-competitive in the remaining four Ivy League track-and-field championships.

TigerBlog watches track practice sometimes and sees the pole vaulters go through their workouts and has the same thought each time: "no chance would TB do that."

It seems so simple, right, to run down, plant the pole and launch oneself over the bar. TB isn't quite going to try it anytime soon.

Slovenski's pole vaulting resume includes second-team All-America honors last year outdoor, Heps indoor performer of the meet honors and a high school national championship. And now the Ivy League record.

And you know who could break that record, even if he's never pole vaulted before?

Tim Tebow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Thursday With Mr. Doar

John Doar's senior thesis was entitled "An Analysis of Farmer Cooperatives, 1918-1946."

Last night in Dodds Auditorium at the Woodrow Wilson School, Doar was asked what effect that thesis had on his life's work.

"None at all," he said softly, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Doar spoke to the crowd for 90 minutes, or one minute for every year old he is. As he spoke, TigerBlog sat next to him, pressed into service as the moderator, and marveled at basically everything he was witnessing.

It was the same feeling he'd had seven hours earlier, when Doar spoke to a smaller group at a luncheon.

In short, TB was struck by how easily a 90-year-old man could rattle off names, dates, events, opinions - and the depth and historical significance of what was stored in the archive section of his brain.

John Doar was born and raised in the North, not the North as in the Northeast, but the North as in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He came from privilege, a family of lawyers that included the Governor of Wisconsin.

He was Princeton educated, a basketball player at that under Cappy Cappon, with a brief time to train as a bomber pilot for World War II, which ended before he could be deployed. He returned to Princeton, graduated, went to law school at Cal and then joined the family business.

And then, with all that, he set off to do something completely unforeseeable - he became one of the giants of the civil rights movement.

He changed the world.

As he spoke yesterday, at both the luncheon and his talk in the evening, he credited everyone else who had been part of it - Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, James Meredith, an army of Southerners whom few people could recognize by name, black students who had undertook great risk to help register black voters, even the legislations themselves, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of those last two, he would say several times: "They changed the world."

And his own role? Nothing. Not a word about its impact, about the gratitude that is owed to him for playing as large a role as anyone in ending a century-old caste system that lingered long after the Civil War.

Not that TigerBlog was surprised.

Everything he knew about John Doar, going back the first time he wrote about him more than 10 years ago, suggested that he would never in 90 years - or a million years - talk about his own legacy.

Mr. Doar is a tall man, probably close to 6-6 or so, and he is in good enough shape that he stood throughout his evening talk. His hearing isn't what it used to be, and TB figured out early on that he needed to stay to Mr. Doar's left for him to be able to hear him.

Still, his mind is completely intact.

He spoke about his background at the luncheon, how he came to be involved in the movement, because between the time he had his informal conversations in the 1940s with his Southern Princeton classmates and their attitude of "there are problems, but we don't need any Yankees coming in to make it worse" and his law school and early law practice days, he'd seen no progress on the issue.

And so off he went, to Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, to make the progress himself.

At the event in the evening, he hardly mentioned the courage it took to do that. Instead, he gave almost all of the credit to Bob Owen, a member of the Class of 1952 (whose own thesis was entitled: "The Secession Movement in Texas."

Doar spoke about his old friend Bob, who had done much of the legwork in the Deep South back then.

Then it was time for a Q&A. The first question came from TigerBlog, and it asked him to talk about his most publicly notable contribution to the movement, the day in 1962 that he escorted James Meredith as he integrated the University of Mississippi.

Listening to Doar's response, it was clear that he was filled with great pride about what he had done that day, how he had helped stand up to a corrupt governor and a state that was determined, as he said, "to defend the Confederacy."

It wasn't a "look what I did" kind of pride, though. It was a pride born from knowing that what he had done had made such an impact, and it was done simply because, as he says often, "it was the right thing to do."

Eventually, about 10 questions where asked, and TB asked if there was a last one. From the back, Al Kaemmerlen's hand went up, asking what happened to Bob Owen.

Mr. Doar paused and told how his friend had died of cancer at the young age of 50, taken "long before his time," as Doar said emotionally.

That as the end of his talk, which drew as it had at the luncheon a huge, genuine ovation from the audience. There were pictures to be taken, including one with Doar and Pete Carril.

From his own view, seated next to the man all day, TB couldn't help but marvel at this man. His contributions to American history are significant and extraordinary, and yet he's as understated and humble as anyone TB has ever met.

Doar spoke from a speech that was printed out, three-hole punched and then placed into a binder. On the back side of each page were hand-written notes.

A few times during his talk, Doar paused and consulted the notes, deciding to punctuate his prepared remarks with other anecdotes or information.

As he did this, TB could see his mind churning, summoning up memories from long ago, of days spent at ground zero of the civil rights movement.

Those memories were all sitting right there, waiting for him to click on the ones he needed, when he needed them.

For a 90-year-old to have that kind of recall of the events of a lifetime is extraordinary.

For this 90 year old, it's the events themselves - as well as the mind - that are extraordinary.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sheman T. Potter

Sherman T. Potter was born and raised in Missouri, and he probably never left the state before he joined the Army.

With his love of horses, he served as a Calvary solder in World War I. The timeline is a little fuzzy from there, though he at some point he went to college and medical school, presumably while still in the military.

The Korean War was his third, and by then he had risen to the rank of Colonel. He was eventually chosen to be the commanding officer for a field hospital, the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, after the former commander had been discharged, only to be killed when his plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan as he was heading home.

During his time with the 4077th, Colonel Potter showed himself to be a strong surgeon, a well-respected leader, a man of great loyalty and compassion and the possessor of a solid sense of humor - all while never losing his old-fashioned country values and loves.

And, of course, he was a fictional character. The actor who played him, Harry Morgan, died yesterday at the age of 96 after a long and successful career as an actor that saw him play, among many other roles, Officer Gannon on the huge hit "Dragnet" and the judge in "Inherit the Wind," a TigerBlog favorite.

Colonel Potter was one of the staples of the television show "M*A*S*H," which is clearly one of the greatest series in the history of the medium.

Like the movie on which it was based, the show began with an equal balance of hilarity and anti-war drama, highlighted most clearly in the earliest days of the show, when the main character (Hawkeye Pierce) has a reunion with one of his best friends, only to have the best friend die in the war later in the episode. For TV in the early 1970s, when the show debuted, this was relatively new ground, broken only by "All In The Family" at relatively the same time.

By the time the show ended, in 1983 (the final episode remains to this day the single most-watched TV show in American history - 77% of all televisions in use at the time were watching it), it wasn't quite the same balance, and the show wasn't quite what it had been back in its first eight or nine years.

Still, "M*A*S*H" gets an A+ as a television series.

And it gets an A++ for its ability to replace hugely important characters with new, completely different characters and not miss a beat. Maybe only "Cheers" can rival "M*A*S*H" in that respect.

The show had some of TV's most classic characters, from Hawkeye and Colonel Potter to Radar, Trapper, Major Winchester, Frank Burns, Hot Lips Houlihan, B.J. Honeycutt, Klinger and others.

The show also had a strong Ivy League connection.

Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John, is a member of the Princeton Class of 1954, and his senior thesis was entitled: "Oscar W. Underwood: the Dilemma of the Southern Statesman."

Trapper, for that matter, was a Dartmouth grad who was the quarterback on the Big Green football team as an undergrad.

Major Charles Emerson Winchester was a Harvard man, undergrad and medical school. It's likely that his athletic attendance was limited to the Harvard-Yale football game, if that - remember the episode where he'd never heard of Mel Ott?

Still, his alma mater's men's basketball team finds itself in the Top 25 in both the ESPN coaches' poll and Associated Press media poll this week. The undefeated Crimson became the seventh Ivy school to be ranked at least once in its history (all but Brown).

Harvard, of course, is the only Ivy League school never to have played in the NCAA men's basketball tournament since the official formation of the league. The Crimson came agonizingly close (unless you're a Princeton fan) a year ago, when Douglas Davis' buzzer-beating jump shot became an instant part of Princeton athletic lore and vaulted the Tigers into a game against Kentucky.

With its unbeaten record (heading into tonight's game against defending NCAA champion UConn) and national ranking, Harvard is clearly positioned to earn its first NCAA bid this coming March. Of course, nothing is etched in stone, anything could happen once the league games start.

Forgetting the Tigers for a minute, Yale is 7-2 and has maybe the best player in the league. Penn is playing well. So is Columbia. On any given night, home or away, it could be a struggle for the Crimson.

And Princeton? Where are the Tigers now under their can't-be-rooted-for-hard-enough first-year head coach Mitch Henderson?

Well, one place the Tigers are is "away," as in not playing at home for huge stretches now.

The Tigers last played a home game on Nov. 30, eight days ago. The next home game is one month from today, on Jan. 8; the next one after that is more than a month after, on Feb. 10. And since the Jan. 8 game is against the College of New Jersey, both of these statements are true: Princeton plays one home game in 72 days and no home games against a Division I team in 72 days.

Of course, not all of the road trips are extraordinary distances, such as the current streak that saw Princeton play at Rutgers last night before heading to Drexel Saturday and Rider Wednesday.

The game last night was an exciting one, as Princeton led by 17 with eight minutes to go, fell behind, tied it up and eventually won it 59-57 on Ian Hummer's basket with 2.7 seconds left.

Hummer had a great line against the Knights - 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists two blocks with only one turnover in 37 minutes. Denton Koon, an explosive freshman, had 10 points on 5 for 5 shooting and was on the floor for 27 minutes, including every second of the last 11.

Princeton continues to rely heavily on Hummer and Davis (16 points last night) for scoring, and the emergence of Koon is exactly what the Tigers need.

It seems like forever until the Ivy League season starts, and the Tigers aren't helped by having the first five games in the league on the road. Of course, that also means that seven of the last nine are at home, so if the Tigers can get through that stretch, who knows what might happen.

The first home weekend is Dartmouth/Harvard, but hey, that's more than two months away still.

So watch the Crimson on TV tonight, and root for them. Why not? It's good for the league to get the publicity.

The games that matter most, though, are still down the road.

For the Princeton men, that road is a little longer than it is for pretty much any other team.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The White Man In The Picture

The face of the civil rights movement was Dr. Martin Luther King. Literally and figuratively.

What other person who played a huge role in the struggle has an instantly recognizable face? Everyone knows the name Rosa Parks - how many people know know what she looked like?

And so it was with the picture that's on the posters that have been hanging around Jadwin Gym the last few weeks.

The black man in the picture - colored, as he was called when the picture was first taken, back Oct. 1, 1962 - is named James Meredith, who along with Parks is probably the second most well-known person from the movement. Meredith, as pretty much everyone knows, was the first black student at the University of Mississippi, and his integration of the school - and the violence that accompanied it - are considered cornerstones of the civil rights era.

His name is a key part of any historical text of what happened back then. His face, though, wasn't one that TigerBlog immediately put with the name.

The white man in the picture is in the top, oh, 10 or so of people who impacted the movement. His face isn't familiar, and for some reason, his name isn't either, because for some shocking reason, he hasn't been as prominent in history books as he should be.

In fact, TigerBlog had never heard of him until one day about 10 years ago when he wrote a story about the white man and his life, as remarkable a life as anyone TB has ever met has lived.

The picture that's on the poster is also on Meredith's Wikipedia page, only the white man is cropped out of it. This is the picture that TB has seen a million times, the one without the white man.

When he saw the one of the white man, he was struck by the sheer courage that it took for the white man to stand next to Meredith and walk onto a campus where there existed such institutional, entrenched, multi-generational hatred for Southern black and Northern whites, let alone the two of them walking together.

And yet that's not what is so awe-inspiring about the white man.

It's the fact that as he glances slightly to his left the look on his face is so matter-of-fact, so unemotional. Just imagine, however, what it is he sees as he glances, what is over the camera's shoulder. Everywhere he looks, there is a mob of people determined to make it clear that neither he nor the black man are welcome, with elements of the mob willing to escalate from words to violence.

This is where the picture is most fascinating. The white man's face is screaming to the mob "you are not going to bother me, you are not going to stop me, you are not going to touch him, you have no idea what you are up against."

The white man in the picture is named John Doar.

He is a 1944 Princeton graduate, one who played basketball for the Tigers. He was born in Minnesota 90 years and six days ago, so far away from the world that he would impact so deeply, and somehow so anonymously.

He was a lawyer, a graduate of Cal-Berkeley's law school, and he walked away from private practice to join Robert F. Kennedy's in the justice department. It's how he got involved in the civil rights movement in the first place.

He worked tirelessly in that cause, and not just with James Meredith. He prosecuted several of the highest profile cases of the time, including the federal case against the people accused in the lynching of three white civil rights workers in Mississippi, which inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning."

He helped write the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which was the legislation that the entire movement built to and which was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Beyond that, he was also a key counsel for the House committee during the famous hearings that investigated the Watergate break-in.

When TB spoke with Doar for the first time, he couldn't help but notice how he downplayed his life's achievements, how he basically summed it all up by saying simply it "was the right thing to do."

A few years later, TB nominated Doar for the NCAA's Inspiration Award, which he won. TB still has the handwritten note that Doar wrote him, thanking him for the nomination.

John Doar speaks on campus tomorrow night, at 7:30 in Dodds Auditorium inside Richardson Hall, as part of the Princeton Varsity Club's Jake McCandless Speaker Series.

The lecture is free. The speaker is priceless.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saying Goodbye

The football game was seven-on-seven, 14 boys all in the 10 year old or so range.

They argued about whether or not they were hit with one hand or two, or whether the big tree was out of bounds. When they said “fourth and one,” they meant they needed one more completion for a first down, as opposed to another yard.

It was an unbelievably perfect setting, a bunch of kids playing touch football on a farm. The biggest fan, literally and figuratively, was a horse who spent the entire time with its head over its fence, focused intently on the action a few yards away from him.

TigerBlog’s view was from much further away, up on a ridge overlooking the field. The boys were all wearing khakis and dress shirts, like the game broke out at a big family holiday celebration.

Somewhere, TB surmised, Ann Bates was looking down on her funeral and smiling at it all.

An hour earlier, the setting had been a church outside of Philadelphia, where four people who had been much closer to Ann Bates than TB had spent more than an hour talking to the packed house about her spirit, her life, her family, her experiences, her impact on those she left.

Ann Bates, the wife of Princeton men’s lacrosse coach Chris Bates, passed away last week after her battles with cancer. Her funeral was held yesterday, and it was what the funeral of an accomplished 43-year-old doctor/mother/deacon/humanitarian figured to be – equal parts celebration of life and overwhelming sorrow at the tragedy of it all.

As the pastor said, there’s no way to account for the fairness – or lack of it – in life.

In the front row of the church sat Chris and Nick Bates, who shortly would be one of the 10 year olds in the football game. Whenever TB started to laugh at something one of the speakers said, he glanced at those two and couldn’t help but go back to the unfairness of it all.

After the service, there was a luncheon at the same place where Chris and Ann had been married years earlier.

By the time TB left, he had a better appreciation for who Ann Bates was, who her family and friends were, what made her tick, what her life was like before he met her, as it turned out, two years before her death.

He thought of how nice it would have been to see her like she was the day that Drexel, Chris Bates' former team, beat Virginia, back in 2007, when she stormed the field - past a reluctant security guard - to join the celebration.

He would have loved to have had the opportunity to talk to her about her medical career, their unconventional first date in a hurricane, the time she gave a funeral for a bird. He was sad that he had to wait until her funeral to learn all this about a woman he knew only for her infectious smile and unable-to-be-beaten happiness, even until the last time he'd ever see her.

Beyond that, looking around the packed building, he also knew that this was the very best of what intercollegiate athletics was all about, the way this large congregation was drawn there to celebrate the life of a woman and support her husband, a man most of them knew through college lacrosse.

There were so many Princeton coaches, staff and administrators there that it could have been a departmental meeting. The entire Princeton men's lacrosse team was in attendance.

There were former Princeton players, both from Coach Bates' first year with the team and from before he became head coach. There were Drexel players, Drexel administrators.

What brought all of these people - and many others - to this place?

It's what college athletics teaches, and it's not something that is learned in too many other venues.

It's a team. It's a commitment to each other, one that lasts long beyond the end of the game.

It's something born from hours and hours and hours of working to the same goal, of being asked to foresake the individual for the betterment of the team.

TigerBlog knows of nothing else that can forge that kind of lifelong bond, not just among two best friends but among a roster of 40 or more players, from any era.

And so when it was obvious that one of their own needed their support, they were there. That's it. TigerBlog doubts that any of the people in attendance yesterday ever stopped to think about whether or not they should go. They just went.

And for the rest of the Princeton people there, people like Mitch Henderson, the men's basketball coach, who has probably had little interaction with Chris Bates and probably never met Ann? Why was he there?

The same reason, that's why. It was someone from Princeton Athletics who was in pain, and so he went.

And Stephen Brundage, who detoured from Baltimore to Milwaukee, where he is now an assistant coach at Marquette, to be there for his former boss, to marvel at the way he had handled the combination of his wife's disease with his team at Princeton while never once letting on about how difficult it had to have been.

When it was over and TigerBlog left, he knew that Chris and Nick appreciated the turnout, appreciated how all of these people made it their business to be there, for Chris and Nick and for Ann.

It didn't make it any less sad of a moment, and it didn't bring her back. It didn't diminish the unexplainable unfairness of it all, and it didn't change the harsh reality of it all.

It was, though, a beautiful service, and everyone in the church knew that it was.

Hopefully it'll make it at least a little easier for the Bates family as it moves forward.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lug Nuts

TigerBlog was heading down 95 Saturday morning on his way to Baltimore for the women's basketball game at UMBC when he heard a rather unfortunate sound emanating from under his car.

He didn't even need to wait until he pulled off to the side a little past the Philadelphia airport to know that he had a flat tire.

As he thought about it, the issue might have started back by the Walt Whitman Bridge, where he felt the car suddenly jolt a bit. Either way, his right rear tire was destroyed.

TB is not the handiest person who ever lived. Still, he learned a long time ago how to change a flat tire, something that has come in handy a few times in the past. This time, he struggled to get the lug nuts loose, and then it was time to put on the spare.

As is always the case, the spare was one of those smaller tires, not quite the tiny donut tire but not big enough to make it all the way to Baltimore and back. So off TB went to try to find a tire place, and he stumbled upon a Pep Boys, where he learned 1) his old tire wasn't able to be patched and 2) the other tire would probably melt before he made it Baltimore.

So, he had no choice but to get a new tire. This would have been annoying no matter the circumstance; it became even more annoying considering that TB had recently gotten new tires for his car.

Anyway, after about a half-hour, he was back on the road, arriving at UMBC about 30 minutes before tip-off.

He went up to the third floor conference room where there was pregame media food, surprisingly finding some pretty good soup and sandwiches and a great brownie, one with chocolate chips in it.

As he ate his lunch, TB looked at the pictures on the wall, of past UMBC championship teams in a variety of sports. The most interesting part, other than the evolution of hairstyles, was that they were in three different leagues: the Big South, the Northeast and now the America East.

It served as a reminder to TB of how lucky Princeton is, to be in the most stable league in college athletics, the Ivy League.

There's no way a team is going to leave the Ivy League, and there's no way a team is going to come into the Ivy League. There is no other Division I conference that can make the same claim, as recent headlines and the championship pictures in UMBC's conference room show.

And speaking of the Ivy League, Princeton has won the league's unofficial all-sports points championship each of the last 25 years.

The fall season ended officially yesterday, when Princeton defeated UC San Diego 9-7 at Cal in the third-place game at the NCAA men's water polo championships.

For the Princeton men, it was their second national third-place finish in three years, including two years ago, when the championships were held at DeNunzio Pool.

It's a very impressive accomplishment, defeating a California school in California in the national tournament. And to do so one day after falling 17-4 to USC in the semifinal, as was the case two years ago as well, when Princeton rebounded from a one-sided loss to USC to defeat Loyola Marymount.

The end of fall Ivy play actually came a few weeks ago, and men's water polo isn't an Ivy League sport.

And, back at the all-sports points total, Princeton finishes the fall not in first but actually in fourth, as the field is fairly bunched right now.

Yale is actually in first, with 39.5 points, followed by Columbia with 37.5, Dartmouth with 36 and then Princeton with 34.

It was still a pretty strong fall for Princeton, with two Ivy titles (men's cross country, field hockey) and the men's water polo third-place finish (as well as strong showings nationally in men's and women's cross country).

Princeton has trailed at the end of the fall before in the all-sports and even once trailed after the winter (2005) before winning.

And there are more sports in the winter and spring than in the fall.

A year ago, Princeton outscored Yale by 27 points, Columbia by 41.5 points and Dartmouth by 47.5 points in the winter season alone. Should Princeton approach those numbers this year, it'll almost surely be back in first by the end of the winter.

As TB always says, the year will come when Princeton doesn't win the all-sports championship. Still, it's not about being first by the end of November, and there's a long way to go before Princeton's streak is in jeopardy.