Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If A Is Greater Than B ...

TigerBlog was a big geometry fan when he was in high school.

His teacher was a woman named Mrs. Mancuso, who was fairly straight-forward about it all, though hey, how exciting can geometry be?

TB remembers one test where he solved (proved?) the theorem, even though there was a typo in it and it was said to be unable to be done correctly. As a result, the rest of the class was given the question correctly, and TB and the other kid who solved it (proved it?) got extra credit.

Mostly, geometry appealed to TigerBlog for the same reason that physics did, because it sort of made sense just by looking at it.

Chemistry was the worst for TB, because it was all small reactions that had little rhyme or reason to it. Seriously, two moles of this and three moles of that make four moles of something else?

Who could keep that straight?

Biology wasn't TB's favorite either, since it was sort of messy. He did have a friend who had to dissect cats in advanced biology, and she and her partner named their cat "Pieces," which was funny, if not in questionable taste.

Meanwhile, back at math, TB always did well, regardless of the subject. Algebra. Geometry. Calculus.

As an aside, he can help Little Miss TigerBlog with her math more than he can TigerBlog Jr. with his, which means that TB is now operating on a middle school level.

Anyway, one of TB's favorite parts of geometry was the whole transitive property and all that.

You know if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.

It wasn't up there with the joy of one of those "solve for x" equations where there are all kinds of things going in numerators and denominators and then finally it ends up with something like x/5=25 or something simple like that and it was obvious that everything had been done correctly.

Still, there was something about having the absolute knowledge that if A was greater than B and B was greater than C, then there was nothing C could do about it, no matter how hard C tried.

Of course, TB has heard a million times that the transitive property does not extend to sports.

Therefore, it's not true that if Team A beat Team B and Team B beat Team C that Team A is definitely going to beat Team C.

That's a pity, because consider that the following four statements are all true:

In men's basketball this season ...
* Florida State beat Duke at Duke
* Florida State beat North Carolina by 33
* Florida State lost at home to Princeton
* Florida State lost on a neutral court to Harvard

In other words, Florida State is 2-0 against the two behemoths of the ACC and 0-2 against the Ivy League.

Alas, the transitive property doesn't apply to sports, as we know. Otherwise, Princeton would be better than North Carolina and Duke.

Of course, you could start one of those long chains with so-and-so beat so-and-so, as in:

Duke lost to Florida State who lost to Princeton who lost to Morehead State who lost to South Dakota who lost to South Dakota State who lost to North Dakota who lost to Bradley whose athletic director is Mike Cross, who used to work here at Princeton.

Ah, but that's just for fun. And why wouldn't it be?

Nothing's that big a deal around here right now, not with first semester exams ongoing.

Princeton's next men's basketball game is Monday, when the Tigers head to the Palestra to take on the Penn Quakers. Princeton is 1-1 in the Ivy League; Penn is 2-0.

By then, either Yale or Harvard will no longer be among the unbeatens, as the teams meet Friday in New Haven in a game that is already sold out.

Princeton will go from a long drought of no games (and longer with no Division I home games) to an all-out sprint in the league, as it always does.

Upon returning to the court, Princeton will in fact play 12 games in 36 days, as the Ivy League championship sorts itself out. The Tigers follow their trip to Penn with another to Yale and Brown, meaning that the first five league games will be on the road.

Princeton finally returns to Jadwin Gym on Feb. 10/11 against Dartmouth and Harvard. By then, it will have been 72 days - a shocking number - since Princeton played a home game against a Division I team.

Harvard is ranked in the Top 25 in one poll and is on the cusp in the other. Still, this doesn't look like a one-sided league race. Maybe a great deal will be learned Friday night in New Haven.

On the women's side, there are two unbeaten teams, Princeton at 3-0 and Harvard at 1-0.

For any of the schools who already has a loss, there is the need to sweep Princeton during the season, or get help from another school. For Harvard, there is the need not to lose a game to anyone else.

In other words, Princeton, the preseason favorite, is playing with some margin for error.

Meanwhile, nobody around here is playing anything, at least for another week, when there will be track and field and swimming and diving this weekend and then hockey in the beginning of next week.

So while the students study and take tests, TigerBlog has plenty of time to have fun with the transitive property.

Just like in the old days of Mrs. Mancuso's class.

1 comment:

George Clark said...

Princeton, with three more road games before coming home, has very little margin for error. If Harvard and Penn both win their next game the Ivy race is probably a two team affair. If Yale and the Tigers win Princeton's visit to New Haven next week should also sell out...I hope the Ivy title chase is like the Republican primaries...a new leader every week.