Friday, August 17, 2012

Opening Kickoff

Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow made a startling admission yesterday while he sat in TigerBlog's office.

He still watches the Mets.

TigerBlog hadn't checked the Major League Baseball standings in awhile prior to Barlow's comment, though he did realize that the Mets hadn't exactly been lighting it up since the all-star break.

What he didn't realize is that the Mets are actually ahead of the Phillies, who have completely fallen apart as well.

TB isn't sure there are too many preseason predictions of the Nationals with the best record in baseball, 19 games ahead of the Phils on Aug. 17. TB did suggest to Barlow that he would probably have been okay knowing that on Aug. 17 that the Mets would be two games up on the Phils had such a statement been made in April.

TigerBlog hasn't watched an entire baseball game this season. In fact, he's probably watched fewer than 20 total innings - if that - on TV for the entire year.

His English Premier League total will pobably exceed his total baseball watching for the year after the first two weekends of the season, which begins tomorrow. There were years when TB didn't pay any attention to the EPL; now, he eagerly counts down the weekends til kickoff.

And the best part? The return of the English Premier League Review Show on Sunday nights.

With the Olympics the last two weekends and now the EPL, it's been a fairly big month in England.

TB still isn't sure which EPL team is his favorite. He knows he'll never root for Chelsea or Manchester United, and he usually picks one of the new teams and roots for them not to be relegated. This year's choices are: Reading, Southampton and West Ham United.

TigerBlog ran into Barlow three times yesterday on what is one of the two strangest days of the year to be Jim Barlow.

Yesterday was the day before practice started. The other strange day? The day after the season ends.

Some sports seem to run forever, especially in the winter, especially hockey and basketball.

Others seem to be here and gone in a blink. And soccer is one of those.

Today is Day 1 of practice. In two short weeks, both the men's and women's teams will be playing games.

The Ivy League soccer season is 17 games long. For the coaches, it's a 12-month, year-long effort to be ready to play on those 17 dates - and hopefully beyond into the NCAA tournament.

The Princeton women will play 10 of those 17 games before the end of September. The men will play eight of their 17 games in that same time frame.

There will be 14 games on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium before the end of September, 12 between the two Princeton teams and the other participants in the two Princeton Invitationals.

TB took a friend of his and his friend's son on a tour of the campus the other day, including all of the athletic facilities. The two visitors marveled at Baker Rink and how great it must be to see a game in there, and they had the same reaction to the soccer facility.

TigerBlog was a big fan of the old field, Lourie-Love, but there's no comparison to the rickety wooden bleachers and no amenities to the nearly perfect Roberts Stadium, which is as good a place to watch a game as there is, especially from directly behind one of the goals.

As for Barlow, it was easy to see that he wasn't exactly his normal relaxed self yesterday. TB could tell he was anxious to get started, get his team out on the field and get going. It's the nature of being a coach. If you lose that excitement for another season, you're in the wrong profession.

At one point, TB went through the schedule for the men, and only then did Barlow realize that his season-opening stretch of Seton Hall, St. John's, Rutgers, Georgetown and Villanova meant five straight Big East opponents to get going. TB pointed out that he could have done the same with Houston, SMU, San Diego State, DePaul and Central Florida - at least TB thinks all those schools are in the Big East; who can be sure anymore?

The opening kickoff is just two weeks away.

Opening day is today.

Hey, the best part of working in college athletics is by far the games themselves.

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