Monday, April 30, 2012

Together In Victory

TigerBlog came away from the Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse game Saturday night (a 14-9 Tiger win) with two lasting images - and one nagging thought.

Let's start with the first image, the one of the save that Tyler Fiorito made. Actually, he made 11 in the game, though if you were there or saw it on TV, you know that one that TB is talking about.

TB has watched it a bunch of times now, and he continues to be amazed by it.

Princeton already had the game won by the time that Cornell's Matt Donovan had Princeton's Fiorito and Chad Wiedmaier hung up, with the ball in his stick and the two Princeton All-Americas in the goal.

In this situation, the offensive player is hoping to get the defenseman to chase him while the goalie stays put, so that he can go around the goal the other way, much like a round of duck, duck, goose. Defended properly, the goalie will come out on one side while the defenseman goes out on the other when the player dodges and hope to make him take too wide of an angle, giving the other defenders a chance to get into the play.

And that's exactly what Princeton did. And Donovan did exactly what he was supposed to do, which is recognize early and feed, which is what he did, to the cutting Steve Mock. Fiorito went a little too wide and took himself below the goal line extended, though, and left the entire goal open, so all Mock had to do was catch it and throw it into the open net, which is what he thought he had done, only to see Fiorito come flying back into the play and, in a fully extended dive, deflect the shot into the air.

In the interest of full disclosure, Cornell did get the ball back on the deflection and did score on that possession. Still, it takes nothing away from the save Fiorito made.

TB has seen every single one of the 596 saves that Fiorito has made in his career, and he considers that one easily the best. And maybe the single best save he's ever seen.

Speaking of Fiorito's 596 saves, that total ranks him fourth all-time at Princeton and 14 away from tying for second, behind only the 732 that Scott Bacigalupo had in his career. Bacigalupo is a Hall-of-Famer.

Fiorito, who came in as a can't-miss recruit, hasn't missed. He's been as good as advertised from Day 1.

Anyway, that's image No. 1.

And the nagging thought?

It was two years ago that Cornell celebrated on the same field after the final regular-season game, celebrated a 10-9 win that gave the Big Red a share of what was a four-way tie for the Ivy League championship. Eight days later, it was Princeton who celebrated on Cornell's field, by virtue of the Ivy League tournament championship.

This weekend's event brings Cornell and Yale (semifinal No. 1 Friday at 5) and Brown (Princeton's semifinal opponent at 8) to Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium. The winners meet Sunday at noon, and the winner gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

In almost any other year, Princeton's slot in the NCAA tournament would be etched in stone by now, with a 10-3 overall record, a 6-0 march through the league and out-of-league wins over Hofstra and Villanova. Those three losses are by a combined four goals, to Hopkins, Syracuse and Carolina.

The only question should be whether or not the Tigers would get a home game.

Except Hofstra has lost about 100 overtime games. And Villanova has stumbled. And Syracuse isn't what it usually is. And even the win over Cornell is no longer a Top 10 win.

And so by the criteria, Princeton is a bubble team. In other words, if Princeton doesn't get the auto bid, it's going to have sweat out the selection show.

And even though Princeton has looked so good of late, anything can happen in a two-games-in-three-days-single-elimination tournament.

All of which brings us to lasting image No. 2.

The Tigers took the Ivy League trophy into the team room at Class of 1952 Stadium after the game and laughed and sang and cheered and did all the things that teams do after they win championships.

Eventually, the players filed out, where they were mobbed by parents, friends, fans and alums.

Ultimately, the team room was basically empty, except for a few newspaper reporters, Princeton head coach Chris Bates and TB.

Then Bates walked outside and was given a huge ovation by everyone who was there, a loud, sustained, loving ovation.

TB watched that and thought about everything Bates had been through in the last 52 weeks.

The last Saturday of 2011 was one of the worst days Bates has ever known, and it had nothing to do with the fact that his team had just finished a 4-8 season with a 9-7 loss to Cornell. No, it was on that day that Bates found out that his wife Ann's cancer had returned, this time unable to be stopped.

As everyone knows, Ann Bates passed away on Nov. 30 of last year. The Princeton players to a man were awed by the strength that their coach showed through the fall, as he worked so hard to rebuild his team and do whatever he could for Ann.

In the aftermath of Ann's death, the Princeton players vowed to make 2012 different. In the words of senior tri-captain John Cunningham before the season started:
"To see your coach go through everything he went through and stay committed to you, how could you not be committed to him. We want to turn it around for Coach Bates. For him. For nobody else."

In TB's opinion, no case can be made for anyone else other than Chris Bates to be the 2012 Division I Coach of the Year, maybe in any sport. The ovation he received was an acknowledgement of the fact that what he had done was noticed, and had touched, every person affiliated with the program.

But the ovation that Bates received isn't the image that TB will remember most.

Instead, this was a few seconds earlier, after the last reporter had left the team room. TB faced the far wall, where he saw Chris Bates as he sat and looked to his left, where next to him was the Ivy League trophy and then next to the trophy his son Nick.

And TB couldn't help but think of the amazing job Chris Bates had done, with his pursuit of the first and his responsibility for the second.

TB was about to turn the corner and head back up the ramp when Bates came outside, and he heard the ovation.

TB can't remember the last time he was as happy for someone as he was for Chris Bates in that moment - and it'll be a long time before he forgets the sight of the coach and his son, alone on the bench, together in victory as they had, sadly, been together in tragedy a few short months ago.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Think Of The Absurdity

TigerBlog knew he wanted to write about the Penn Relays and the Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse game, and he wasn't really sure where to begin.

He was going to go with something along the lines of "there's this great three-day sporting event that began yesterday and runs through tomorrow - and it's not the NFL draft," and yet that didn't really grab him. Plus, he's pretty sure the Penn Relays actually started Wednesday.

He thought about a history lesson, about how the Penn Relays began in 1895 as an offshoot of a relay race between teams from Princeton and Penn.

Then, before he could go down that path, Princeton women's track and field coach Peter Farrell walked by - presumably on his way out the door to Philadelphia - and said these words: "Think of the absurdity."

TB has no idea of which particular absurdity Farrell was speaking this time. With Farrell, it could be any number of them, from movies to music to satellite radio to people and even to intercollegiate athletics.

Anway, when in doubt, TB can always start with Farrell.

He never slowed down after his four word admonishment, and so TB couldn't ask him a simple question. Are the three days of the Penn Relays your favorite three days of the year?

There are no Ivy League titles at stake, though there are Championships of America to be won.

Beyond that, there is the spectacle itself that is the Penn Relays, where thousands of athletes converge on Franklin Field, which finds itself nearly full, as if the Eagles were playing there in the 1960s again.

It's a continuous schedule of race after race, with high school students at one moment and Olympians the next.

Farrell's team got off to a good start yesterday when the 4x400 relay team of Carrie Vuong, Eileen Moran, Cecelia Barowski and Joie Hand broke a 30-year-old school record.

There will be more Princeton athletes who compete at the Relays today and tomorrow. In all, about 50 Princeton athletes will run at this year's Penn Relays.

As for TigerBlog, his preferred event for the weekend is the men's lacrosse game against Cornell, on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium tomorrow night at 7. Those nowhere near Princeton can watch it on ESPNU.

Those close to Princeton can come and bring lacrosse equipment or clothes to donate to the Fields of Growth organization, who will send the donations to Uganda.

The game itself is huge.

Princeton has already clinched at least a share of the Ivy title, and a win over Cornell would give Princeton the outright championship. Cornell, on the other hand, is looking for a share of the title with a win of its own.

Also, the winner hosts next week's Ivy League tournament. The real prize is up for grabs there, with the winner to get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

And hey, Coach Farrell just came back.

He was a Penn Relays champion as a high school runner. He has coached Princeton to man, many Heps titles.

Which does he like better?

Well, by his own words, they're very, very, very different. And of course, there's a pressure that goes along with the Heps.

Ultimately, he summed up his feelings about this weekend's event in another simple four words:

"It's the Penn Relays."

Nothing absurd about that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On The Clock

Ever heard of these guys?:

Thomas Davis. Travis Johnson. David Pollack. Erasmus James. Alex Barron. Marcus Spears. Matt Jones. Mark Clayton.

Doesn't ring a bell? At least not on your average fall/winter Sunday?

That list would be picks No. 16-22 in the 2005 NFL draft.

Pick No. 23? That would be Fabian Washington, who went to the Oakland Raiders. Washington made five interceptions in three years with the Raiders and then played for the Ravens and Saints before missing all of the 2011 season with a hamstring injury.

Pick No. 24? That would be Aaron Rodgers. Think the quarterback-deprived Raiders wish they had taken Rodgers?

Tom Brady was the 199th player selected in the 2000 NFL draft. Of the 198 players selected ahead of him, six were quarterbacks. Ready for this list?:

Chad Pennington. Giovanni Carmazzi. Chris Redman. Tee Martin. Marc Bulger. Spergon Wynn.

Seriously. All of those guys were chosen ahead of Brady. Carmazzi and Redman were third-round picks, for that matter. Brady didn't go until Round 6.

The NFL draft amazes TigerBlog. It's like giving the weather report, except that there are millions of dollars at stake. And yet the teams are so consistently wrong in their evaluations.

Oh sure, sometimes they're right. Probably more so than they're horribly wrong. It's just that with all of the attention and money and time and film and workouts and everything else, can't someone figure out that, say, Victor Cruz is fast?

And the coverage of the draft? TB can't handle it.

Anyway, TB won't be watching the draft when it starts tonight. Hopefully the Giants will get some impact players, like they did when they picked Jacquian Williams with the 202nd pick last year. You remember Williams, right? He's the one who stripped the ball in overtime against the 49ers in the NFC championship game.

That's how you win, by the way.

Meanwhile, back at sporting events that TB really cares about, there's the two Game 7s in the NHL tonight involving local teams.

And then there's Princeton-Cornell.

The Tigers and Big Red have five huge games this weekend, four in baseball and one in men's lacrosse.

The baseball games are at Cornell tomorrow and then here Sunday.

In the Rolfe Division, Dartmouth as a four-game lead on Harvard with four games to play against the Crimson.

In the Gehrig Division, Princeton trails Cornell by three with the four games this weekend. What that means is that the Tigers have little margin for error.

Cornell is currently 13-3, followed by Princeton at 10-6. 

Should Princeton win three of four, then Cornell would still win the division title. Princeton needs to win all four, which would mean the division title and a spot opposite Dartmouth (in all probability) in the Ivy League Championship Series.

The site of the ILCS will be at the team that has the better league record. Dartmouth is now 11-5, so it's still fairly up in the air.

Hopefully, the Tigers can push it to Sunday here with the division still unsettled and then take their chances.

The baseball season in the Ivy League flies by. It's 20 league games in 30 days.

Hopefully Day 30 will still matter.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


TigerBlog went to the eye doctor yesterday, something he does once each year.

It's always the same routine. Take off the glasses and read the chart. Look through the machine that has the two eye holes and then the lenses that change to see how bad TB's eyes have gotten from one year to the next.

This is always a tricky one for TigerBlog. He's trying to keep his eyes open as wide as he can so that the machine gets the right reading and he gets the right prescription.

And then there's the whole "which looks sharper, this one or this one?" where the differences are so subtle. TB is always afraid he'll say the wrong answer and end up with glasses that make everything worse, not better.

When TB gets new glasses, he prefers to get them essentially the same as his previous ones, though there's always a part of him that wants to go down the Buddy Holly path, though he never has. These days, he chooses only the Nike frames, out of respect to Nike's relationship with Princeton Athletics.

When the eye test part is over, there's the joy of the eye drops, three separate squirts that all sting worse than the one before it. Then it's a series of bright lights shining in your eyes - or the blue laser-like one that gets pushed up against the eyeball.

Ultimately, it's about a 15-minute wait until TB's pupils are completely dilated, so that the last tests can be conducted. And then, when TB walks outside, he feels like he's standing on the sun, the light is so bright.

TB's eye doctor - Dr. Hudecheck - is super cool. She always relates stories of the latest trip that she and her husband have taken, most recently to go scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands and hiking in Machu Picchu, with a trip to France on the horizon.

TB was lucky to make it to his 30s before he needed glasses. Now? He can hardly see without them.

Little Miss TigerBlog, as she is in most things, is far ahead of her dad, though this unfortunately also includes the area of getting glasses, something she's had since she was about 7 or so.

She has started to wear them when she plays lacrosse, under her eye goggles, to help her catch the ball. It's a look that led TB to ask Chris Sailer, the women's lacrosse coach at Princeton, if any of her players have ever done the same, and she said no.

LMTB will be one of the ballgirls tonight when Penn comes to Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium for a huge women's lacrosse game. LMTB's team will be out in force, and they had a random draw to see who would get to be the ballgirls.

With only three league games remaining, the Ivy women's lacrosse race is in a fairly complex place right now, including the possibility of a five-way tie for the championship between Princeton, Penn, Dartmouth, Cornell and Harvard.

In addition to Princeton-Penn, the other games left are Dartmouth-Harvard and Cornell-Brown.

For Princeton, the basics are somewhat simple. A loss tonight eliminates the Tigers from the Ivy League tournament, and even if Princeton gets a tie for the championship, it could not host the league tournament.

On the other hand, a win tonight puts the Tigers in the tournament, regardless of anything else. At least TB thinks that's the case. Yeah, he's pretty sure.

The big difference between the tiebreakers for the women's tournament and the men's tournament is that the women's side has goal differential as a criteria, whereas the men do not. TB, as an aside, hates goal differential, because of the obvious incentive to run up scores, though he's not a huge fan of the random draw either (to determine ballgirls, it's fine; to determine postseason bids, not so much).

A Princeton win tonight would bring the Tigers to 5-2 in the league. If Dartmouth beat Harvard or Brown beat Cornell, then only three or four teams could get to 5-2 and Princeton would be in. If the five-way tie came about, then Princeton would be in through the tiebreakers, including possibly goal-differential.

And so it's a simple night for Princeton. Win and be in.

It should be a great game.

And if nothing else, you can root for the ballgirls.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Luck Glenn

As Glenn Michibata sat in TigerBlog's office yesterday afternoon, TB couldn't help but think of Armond Hill.

Michibata resigned yesterday as Princeton's men's tennis coach after a 12-year tenure.

During his time at Princeton, Michibata established himself as one of the most well-liked people here. As TB wrote two weeks ago:
There aren't 25 people who've ever walked into Jadwin Gym who are nicer people than Michibata ...

It's not easy to coach in a place for as long as Michibata did. Of Princeton's 20 men's teams, only six have coaches who have been here for as long as Michibata coached the Tigers.

And so why did TigerBlog think of Armond Hill, an all-time great men's basketball player here at Princeton?

Hill was the head coach at Columbia for TB believes eight seasons. When he left, he probably was wondering with some uncertainty what was next.

And what happened?

He landed on his feet, in the NBA, as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, with whom he has won an NBA championship.

In other words, there's no way to know what comes next.

TB hopes that Michibata goes down a similar path in his post-Princeton career, that he lands on his feet as well.

The profession of coaching is not for everyone. TB has clearly seen that in his time here.

It's a profession that attracts highly intense, highly competitive people. Without those qualities, it's impossible to be successful.

Of course, that doesn't mean that a coach has to be a jerk. Far from it. It's just that they have to have the competitive gene.

It has to gnaw at coaches when they lose. Once they are okay with losing, then it's all over.

And this has to be sustained for years and years and years.

TigerBlog remembers a conversation with Bill Tierney after he'd already won multiple NCAA championships. TB asked him what motivated him to keep going.

Tierney's response was essentially that each year is its own challenge, and it all starts over every single time.

It's not easy to be a coach, especially on the college level. The recruiting alone requires energy, salesmanship, resolve.

And then once the players are here, there's the helplessness of having your career depend on the production of 18- to 22-year-olds of varying levels of commitment.

Here in the Ivy League, athletes are not bound to their teams by athletic scholarships. If it doesn't work out, they're free to leave the team - without worrying about how it will affect their financial aid.

TigerBlog started to think about just how many coaches have been here during TB's time, how many have stayed in the profession, how many have gone on to other things.

When it works out, when their teams win big games and championships, there's nothing better than seeing the coach, the one who saw something in the kid when he/she was a senior, junior even sophomore in high school, who helped bring that kid to the school and helped that kid reach the fullest potential.

Or to see coaches around alums, former kids who are now in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, reflecting on everything they learned from that coach, even if they didn't realize at the time they were learning it. That is when it all pays off for the coach.

Glenn Michibata won more than he lost here at Princeton for his 12 years here, and the tennis players who were on his team were lucky to have the opportunity to learn from him, be mentored by him, have their college experiences shaped by him.

Now, as he moves on from Princeton, TB wishes him all the best. Hopefully, he goes down the same road that Armond Hill went down.

TB is also pretty sure you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone at Princeton today who disagrees.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Boston Harbor

The sandwich is called the Boston Harbor.

It consists of whitefish salad, Nova Scotia lox, tomato, lettuce and onion. With a side of macaroni salad or maybe a potato knish, it's hard to beat - especially when you throw in a Doctor Brown's cream soda or black cherry.

TigerBlog always goes for the Boston Harbor at Rein's Deli, off exit 65 of I-84 in Vernon, Conn., on his way to or from Harvard.

Former Harvard SID John Veneziano turned TB onto the place somewhere in the mid-’90s, and it's been a staple ever since.

As an aside, you've never met a nicer person than Johnny V, who bailed on sports information long ago and who was part of a golden age of Ivy SIDs, people whom you went out of your way to hang out with the night before the game, back when camaraderie in the profession was at an all-time high.

On some trips to Harvard, the stop at Rein's is the highlight.

On trips like the one last weekend, it's just the icing on the cake.

TB rolled into the Rein's parking lot about two hours after the Tigers had finished off an impressive all-around win over Harvard in men's lacrosse. Princeton defeated the Crimson 12-5 after sprinting out to a 5-1 lead after the first quarter, ending a two-year losing streak to Harvard.

The win showed once again and without any doubt that Princeton is playing as well as any team in the country right now and has all the pieces in place to make a big run next month.

The big question is: Will Princeton get the chance?

Princeton is 9-3 overall, 5-0 in the Ivy League. They have a two-goal loss to Johns Hopkins back on March 2 and one-goal losses to North Carolina a week later and at the Carrier Dome to Syracuse two weeks ago.

Other than that, Princeton has a five-overtime win over Yale and then eight other wins by at least six goals.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they don't have a Top 10 win.

Hofstra, which usually is a Top 10 team, isn't this year. The one that Princeton really would love to have back is North Carolina, a game that even UNC would admit that it was outplayed in, though in fairness the Tar Heels did pull it out.

And the way the selections for the NCAA tournament work, a Top 10 win means almost everything. Having two Top 10 wins means even more.

Princeton doesn't have one of those. And might not get the chance to get one.

Princeton is ranked in the top 10 in Division in scoring offense and scoring defense, along with only two other teams: No. 1 Loyola and No. 2 UMass.

There is no team in the country that goes into a game with Princeton with a better goalie, a better defenseman, a better all-around offensive player and a better midfield defense.

And yet none of it matters right now. Not according to the selection criteria.

Princeton is being done in by its schedule. The Tigers are locked into its six Ivy League games and its game against Rutgers. That leaves six opponents.

Princeton plays Syracuse and Hopkins every year, and that almost always (but not this year) affords the chance for a Top 10 win or two. That also leaves four opponents.

Princeton played Manhattan, which is not a top level team but is the kind of local, decent early-season matchup that every top team plays.

That left three teams for Princeton to schedule.

And Princeton went out and chose three teams that played in the NCAA tournament last year: Hofstra, Carolina and Villanova. Princeton blew out Hofstra and Villanova, but Hofstra has been done in by a series of one-goal losses and Villanova, like Princeton, is a bubble team.

And Carolina? That's the one that got away.

Suppose, though, Princeton had decided to drop Hofstra and Carolina and pick up instead a couple of Patriot League opponents. Then Princeton would have been accused of softening its schedule.

But how did anyone know that Lehigh and Colgate would become Top 10 teams? Had Princeton wanted to go that route, it could have just as easily scheduled, say, Lafayette and Army and missed out on the chance for quality wins, and yet here Lehigh and Colgate are in the Top 10.

In other words, you have to schedule and hope for the best.

Going back to Top 10 wins, Villanova has one - Lehigh. On Feb. 18. If you're a Princeton fan, by the way, root for Villanova to win the Big East tournament, though it would need to beat Notre Dame in the final. If that happens, Nova could be a Top 10 team, and Princeton's win would become a Top 10 win.

Penn State has one. The Nittany Lions beat Notre Dame. On Feb. 26. By a score of 4-3.

And then there's Navy. The Mids didn't even qualify for the Patriot League tournament, but they suddenly now find themselves with two huge legs up to the NCAA tournament - a .500 record at 6-6 and two Top 10 wins, over Colgate and Johns Hopkins.

That's Colgate, by the way, who lost 9-6 to Dartmouth, a team Princeton beat 21-6.

But the selections don't have any room for comparative scores or even a "as a committee we watched Team A and Team B and thought Team A was better" logic.

So where does that leave Princeton?

The Tigers host Cornell Saturday night (7) in a game that once figured to be huge and now isn't as big as it once was (though a Princeton win would mean an outright Ivy title).

 Why? Because the winner of the game won't get a Top 10 win. If it's Cornell, Princeton isn't in the Top 10. If it's Princeton, Cornell will drop out of the Top 10 (that's RPI, by the way).

The logic used to be that Princeton would be safe with a win over Cornell in the regular season, even if it didn't win the Ivy tournament. And that Cornell was safe no matter what.

Now? Each time Syracuse loses, Cornell's best win gets a little more precarious.

Still, there is a huge silver lining for Princeton.

Just win, baby.

Win the Ivy tournament - which will be held at either Princeton or Cornell, depending who wins Saturday - and Princeton is in with the Ivy's automatic bid.

And hey, a win over Cornell this weekend might still be just enough to push Princeton over the top at-large-wise, especially if Villanova wins and - don't say it - Denver loses in the ECAC tournament.

Or, it could be that the winner of the Ivy tournament is the only Ivy team in the tournament.

Princeton is ranked 13th this week in both the media and coaches' polls. Is no one watching Princeton?

TigerBlog is, and he knows how good this team is.

And he hopes they get the chance to show it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Eyewitness Weather

TigerBlog saw some interesting things in the morning newspaper, which by the way, he still actually reads.

For instance, there was this headline: "Teen Volunteers To Be Honored."

TB read that very quickly, and read it as one specific teenager volunteered to be honored, as opposed to a bunch of different teenagers who volunteer their time were going to be honored.

Then there was one story that had a direct quote, except the attribution was withheld because the person giving the quote "wasn't authorized to comment publicly on the situation."

TB sees this all the time.

If you're not authorized, keep your mouth shut. Isn't that supposed to be how it works?

It's not always easy, though, when a reporter calls up and asks you for information you have and promises they'll keep your name out of it, especially when it's someone you know and like. Hey, though, that's the job.

Keep your mouth shut.

What else was in the paper this morning?

Oh yeah, there was the weather, which suggests that today and tomorrow are going to be nice and then it's going to rain Sunday and Monday.

Of course, TB could look out the window and see it's nice today. It reminds him of a line from the first episode of one of the most underrated sitcoms of all time, "WKRP in Cincinnati."

Andy, the new program director, is meeting with his staff, and he tells Les Nessman that there's an item called "Eyewitness Weather." When Andy asks him what that is, Les says quite casually "I open up the window, and I witness the weather."

Witnessing the weather this morning is relatively easy. No clouds. Bright sun. Warm. All good.

Because of the forecast, the decision was made to move Princeton-Columbia baseball and softball this weekend from Saturday/Sunday to Friday/Saturday.

It's the kind of decision that TB applauds, and he's always wondered why it's not done more often. Games that are rained out are moved back? Why not move games up to take advantage of good weather.

In situations like this, the paranoid first reaction is always "who gets the advantage," not "it doesn't matter; let's play when it's nice out."

TB has always found that to be the case when he proposes moving games because of television, and they in the heat of the game itself, he realizes that not one player or coach is thinking that the game originally would have been the next day or two hours earlier or whatever.

Meanwhile, back on the Ivy League diamonds, Princeton is hoping to get to next weekend's games against Cornell in softball within striking distance.

The 6-6 Tigers are currently four games back of the Big Red (10-2), while Penn is at 8-4 heading into its four games with Cornell this weekend. To accomplish that, Princeton needs to root hard for Penn.

Princeton will also be rooting hard for Penn in baseball, though without as much urgency.

The four Gehrig Division teams are all at least .500, with Cornell in first at 10-2 and Princeton in second at 9-3. Columbia and Penn are 6-6.

Princeton has four games next weekend with Cornell. Being a game back heading in would require winning three of the four.

The goal, of course, is to get to the Ivy League Championship Series.

If you're looking for home events this weekend, there's women's lacrosse, who has a huge game against Dartmouth as it tries to get to the Ivy tournament, and the Larry Ellis track and field meet, which has more than 200 teams and 2,000 athletes.

Both events are free.

In case you're interested in some on-campus eye-witnessing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To The Summitt

TigerBlog isn't ready to call Pat Summitt the greatest coach in the history of American sports.

Of course, he's also not ready to say she isn't either.

So who is it?

Vince Lombardi? John Wooden? Phil Jackson? Red Auerbach? Bill Tierney? Herb Brooks?

As TB wrote those names, he started to wonder who the No. 1 manager in baseball history is, and he can't really come up with anyone definitive.

Actually, if you were to list the people generally considered the greatest coaches of all-time, you'd probably have mostly professional football and college basketball coaches. Why is that?

 Pat Summitt announced that she is stepping down as the head coach of women's basketball at Tennessee, stepping down after 38 years and one year after announcing the early onset of Alzheimer's.

Summitt's numbers at Tennessee? A record of 1,098-207 (1-0 against Princeton) with 16 SEC championships, 18 NCAA Final Fours and eight NCAA championships.

From the story on
Her impact reaches beyond wins and losses. Every Lady Vols player who has completed her eligibility at Tennessee has graduated, and 74 former players, assistants, graduate assistants, team managers and directors of basketball operations are among the coaching ranks at every level of basketball.

Beyond that, the impact she had on her sport is incalculable.

Because of Summitt more than anyone else, the sport of women's basketball has grown from something resembling gym class to something that plays its Final Four in packed arenas and in front of national television audiences.

And that doesn't even take into account the millions of little girls who have played basketball, going through doors opened for them by the pioneers of not-that-long-ago, led by the head pioneer, Pat Summitt.

One of the absolute greatest stories TB ever read was the one Gary Smith wrote about Summitt, back when Summitt was on the cover of Sports Illustrated on March 2, 1998. It is not to be missed.

This past season, the Princeton women's basketball went 24-5, winning a third straight Ivy League title and going to a third straight NCAA tournament. They were led by a coaching staff that set very high, very demanding standards and pushed this team to achieve all it could, to approach each day with a renewed fire to improve over the day before.

The team was filled with players who combined athleticism, skill, grace and tenacity. They played hard and aggressive, but with style.

At some point in their lives, they were encouraged by those around them - parents, coaches, friends - to put everything they had into developing their full potential.

They also looked around and saw what the game they were playing had become. They saw role models - not the least of whom were their Princeton coaches themselves, all of whom were accomplished players - and they saw the doors that could be opened by excelling athletically and academically.

Watching the 2011-12 Princeton women's team play was an eye-opening experience. They tore down any myth that might have remained about how "girls" play basketball, and their games were filled with much of the same excitement that existed for the 1997-98 Princeton men's team, as each possession of the ball gave the fans a hint that something to marvel at was about to happen.

The fans responded. On average, more than 1,000 fans per game showed up to see Princeton play, both at home and the road.

Just so you know, all of that would have been unthinkable without the impact that Pat Summitt had on the sport of women's basketball.

And so yesterday, someone who will forever tower over college athletics resigned.

She did so much for Princeton University, without even trying.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tournament Talk

There are two women who work on the Jadwin Gym balcony whose names are pronounced "KEH-lee." One spells her name "Kelly," while the other is "Kellie."

One of them walked by this morning, and TigerBlog was reminded of the last week, when about five different people saw "Kellie" written on a piece of paper and didn't know which one was which.

TB suggested to this one that at the next department meeting, everyone be asked to identify which one is which and see how many get it wrong.

One of the "KEH-lees" is married to the only person TigerBlog knows who went to the University of Kentucky, a man named Steve Staples. In addition to his degree for Kentucky, Steve also has a Ph.D. and a high-level position in the Princeton Office of Development.

Clearly, he's an intelligent, successful man.

When TB asked him if it bothered him that the only thing that anyone thinks of when they hear the name of his alma mater is "one-and-done," he said that it didn't.

From TB's perspective, the University of Kentucky couldn't have made itself look worse if it hired a public relations firm to give it advice on how.

Kentucky's entire starting five had a press conference yesterday at which it was announced that they were all going to the NBA draft. Big shock, right?

Every year Kentucky does this. Every year, John Calipari brings in players who are clearly intending to stay for one year (if possible) or a second year (if necessary), compete for the NCAA title and then bolt to the NBA.

Hey, at least Kentucky won it this year.

TB's question is, was it worth it?

Because, just like Steve Staples, every Kentucky alum has to face the same reality, that their school is viewed first and foremost as the one-and-done capital of college basketball.

Of course, there is the flip side of the issue, which is what exactly is anyone supposed to do about it? The NBA made the rule about when a player is eligible for the league, and for the average 18-year-old basketball superstar, the idea of going to college for one year, enjoying a year of adulation and then heading into the NBA draft is preferable to, say, playing in Europe or the D-League.

It's not an NCAA rule. It's an NBA rule.

TB is pretty sure that the general public's disgust with it on the college level comes not from the rule itself but from the unapologetic way that Calipari goes about it. Hey, it some ways, it's almost enough to get you to root for the guy.


Meanwhile, back here in the land of the four-and-done, the basketball talk of late is of the possibility of an Ivy League tournament, a subject brought forth by league executive director Robin Harris in a story in the Harvard Crimson.

Essentially, Harris said that there is the possibility of putting forth a proposal for a four-team tournament after the May athletic directors' meetings. This would, by the way, be only the first step in making such an event reality, as the ultimate decision would rest with the league presidents.

TigerBlog is long on record as being completely anti-Ivy League basketball tournament.

At the same time, he loves the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments, because unlike in basketball, there is a proven history of multiple bids.

TB isn't going to go through the whole litany of reasons why he thinks that 1) there shouldn't be an Ivy tournament and 2) why other one-bid leagues should give up on theirs. He's written it so many times already.

Okay, he'll hit the highlights: best team is established over 14 games, want your best team representing you in the NCAA tournament, money, playing in empty gyms, diminishing quality of play over some tournaments that play multiple days in a row.

TB instead will give you what he would go for if it came down from Mt. Sinai that he had to come up with a format.

And this is what he would do.

The regular-season ends on the Tuesday before the selection show.

On Friday, the No. 3 team in the league plays at No. 2. On Saturday, No. 2 plays at No. 1.

If there's a tie for third or first, then the existing league tiebreakers break it.

This way, the regular-season champ gets a huge edge, not having to play the day before and not having to travel.

And each year, there is a championship game.

And there you have it.

That's TB's second choice.

The status quo isn't always a bad thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thanks Guys

TigerBlog's second favorite statistical oddity from this past weekend in Ivy League men's lacrosse was that Brown could finish 3-3 and not make the Ivy tournament but go 2-4 and make the tournament.

TB's favorite was that after Yale beat Brown in four overtimes Friday night, Yale was 3-2 and had clinched a spot in the Ivy tournament while Princeton was 3-0 - including a win over Yale - and had not.

Princeton took care of that little anomaly with its 21-6 win over Dartmouth Saturday afternoon, one that improved the Tigers to 4-0 in the league.

With its spot in the league tournament assured, Princeton can look ahead to Step 2, which would be winning the regular-season title and hosting the tournament.

Both of those prizes will go to the winner of the Princeton-Cornell game on April 28 on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium. Though the possibility of a co-championship at 5-1 still exists, the winner of the game on April 28 will definitely 100% host the Ivy tournament.

Before Princeton can worry about Cornell, there is the game this Saturday at Harvard. As hard as it is to believe, there are only two weeks left in a regular season that feels like it just began 10 minutes ago.

Speaking of how time flies, there was the matter of the group of men, mostly in their 40s, who wore orange jerseys and took the field at halftime of the Princeton-Dartmouth game. Had it really been 20 years since these guys won the first of Princeton's six NCAA men's lacrosse titles?

There they were, the team of 1992. Scott Bacigalupo. Kevin Lowe. David Morrow. Justin Tortolani. Andy Moe. Mike Mariano. And about 20 others.

Some are doctors. Some are businessmen. Some are in the lacrosse Hall of Fame (Lowe, Bacigalupo). Another (Morrow) will be, both for his contributions as a player (1993 national player of the year, U.S. national team member) and for what he did for the sport by founding Warrior Lacrosse.

TigerBlog was a newspaper reporter back then, one whose main beat was Princeton and Trenton State football and Princeton and Rider basketball.

One really cold spring day in 1990, he was sent out to cover a game that he had seen only once before, back when he saw Brown-Penn while a college student. This time, it was Princeton-Bucknell, on Finney Field.

By the time the 1990 season ended, TB was hooked on the game. By the time Princeton won the 1992 title, he had covered almost every game Princeton had played in those three years and was already a lifetime member of the Bill Tierney fan club.

Since then, he has seen basically every Princeton men's lacrosse game, missing maybe 10-15 at most in all that time.

He has become involved in the sport in a major way, both through Princeton and through youth and now high school lacrosse as TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog both began to love to play a sport that TB barely knew existed when he was their age.

TB has had the great good fortune to be the athletic communications contact during the Jesse Hubbard-Jon Hess-Chris Massey years, for the great emotions of the 2001 NCAA championship, for the opportunity to see the wondrous ability of Ryan Boyle, to be inspired by the strength of current head coach Chris Bates as he builds his own program after Tierney left for Denver.

The sport of lacrosse has been great to TigerBlog, and he's had the chance to meet hundreds of great young men who have played the game here, as well as some great coaches, players and families on the youth level.

And none of that happens without the guys from 1992.

As he said hello to a few of them after the halftime ceremony, TigerBlog wasn't sure how many of them even remembered him, back when he would come to their games, uncertain of the rules, uncertain of the skills involved, uncertain of what he was seeing.

With no knowledge of the sport, TB focused on the people who played it.

If none of those guys had come to Princeton and the program never took off,  TB almost certainly would never have gotten involved in lacrosse the way he has.

Through the years, TB has had conversations with whoever the current group of Princeton players was about the team from 1992, how they had put their faith in each other and in the still-unproven Tierney and top assistant David Metzbower and how they had grown from below-.500 to NCAA champion.

He's told any number of youth players and coaches about how great those players were, how hard they played, what they meant to the development of the sport.

He's always gotten back a sense of awe when he's said that he saw Bacigalupo's flair for the dramatic in goal, saw Lowe smoothness and vision, saw Morrow wipe out the other team's best time after time, saw Tortolani's reliability near the goal.

Of all the teams that TB has been around in his life, no team has impacted him like the 1992 Princeton men's lacrosse team.

Seeing them out on the field Saturday afternoon hammered that point home for him.

These were not just a group of guys he saw win a championship. They were a group of guys who started him down the road to falling in love with the sport they played and all that is good about it, a group of guys who opened the door to so many great experiences for TB centered around the game of lacrosse.

It's a relationship that's 20 years now - and counting.

And to the guys in the orange jerseys, TB says thanks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Here's Looking At You Kid

TigerBlog has a group of about, well, a lot of movies that he has seen so many times that he's essentially memorized them.

The first three Rocky movies. "A Few Good Men." "The Great Escape." Shawshank. "Animal House." "Stripes." And of course the first two Godfathers and "Goodfellas."

The one movie you don't want to watch with TB, though, is "Casablanca." For whatever reason, TB cannot help but recite that movie as it goes along, as opposed to the others, during which he can usually keep it to himself.

What is it about "Casablanca?"

It is, for TB's money, a movie with no flaws, an absolutely perfect blend of plot and character development with enough dramatic turns that reaches its concluding scene at a time when the viewer (first-time, anyway) has no idea how it's going to end.

Its script and acting are just as perfect.

No line is gratuitous; no character is unnecessary. Nothing in the movie is wasted, and it grabs you from the time the narrator sets the stage with the frustration of the city's population up until Humphrey Bogart utters as great a final line as has ever been uttered.

Bogart - Rick - is the movie hero, and yet he is such an unbelievably flawed person that it's hard for the viewer to figure out what he'll do from one situation to the next. The same is true of Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

Beyond Bogart and Rains, the cast features all-time greats like Ingrid Bergman, Paul Heinreid, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. And of course, there's "As Time Goes By," sung by Dooley Wilson.

"Casablanca" is a war movie, essentially, though there are no battle scenes or army headquarters and only a handful of soldiers. It's more about what World War II did to the average citizen, how displaced those people became, how some had the courage to stand up and fight in anyway they could, how others just gave up and how still others - such as Rick Blaine - were forced to take sides.

And keep in mind that this was shot in 1942, when the outcome of World War II wasn't yet decided. And real life intruded - the amiable man who played Carl from Rick's Cafe - had three sisters who died in concentration camps. 

It could be the best movie TB has ever seen. And as for the quotes? There are six in the AFI Top 100 movie quotes of all-time, more than any other movie. But really, any line in the movie is a classic.

It was on Turner Classic Movies the other night, and TB couldn't turn away.

TCM is one of TB's favorite networks - maybe his favorite - because he's either going to see one of his all-time favorite movies or a movie he's never heard of before but has a pretty good chance of liking, such as the one a week ago that had Edward G. Robinson as the gangster who gets out of prison and Jimmy Stewart as the newspaper guy who married his ex-wife and raised his son.

TCM isn't for everyone, TB will freely admit. Just as there are endless channels that aren't for TB, mostly those that feature insane reality shows like "Dance Moms."

But hey, TB admits there's an audience for both.

College athletics works the same way, to a certain extent.

For some, it's all about the big-time football Saturdays and nothing else. The days when 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 thousand people tailgate, pack the stadium, root for the home team and then tailgate some more.

For TigerBlog, it's about Saturdays like the past one here at Princeton.

TB didn't even mind when he had to park all the way down in the final row in the Jadwin parking lot because there was so much activity on campus.

There was rowing, lacrosse, baseball, softball and tennis. There was a field hockey clinic. There was a huge football recruiting weekend.

Everywhere you looked, there was another sport setting up its tailgate, having its game, having its big event.

There was also a big academic event in Dillon Gym, which added to the number of people here.

To TigerBlog, it was a reminder of what is so special about a place like Princeton, where there is this actual, legitimate commitment to having a broadbased athletic program.

It made for a great atmosphere here Saturday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nice To See You

The guy who walked in the door with football coach Bob Surace was ripped.

He wore a gray Princeton football t-shirt, and it was obvious that this guy was in great shape. He didn't have an ounce of fat on him; even his face looked chiseled.

Clearly, he'd spent a lot of time in the weightroom.

He had the look of a serious athlete as well. It's a look of invincibility, a look of the late teens and early 20s, a look TigerBlog knows when he sees it.

When the guy spoke, he was polite, calm, optimistic.

He talked about what he's been doing with his time, what challenges he's looking forward to taking on with all his effort.

His voice, like his body, conveyed strength and confidence. His answers were crisp and clean. He laughed easily.

He was completely at ease. On top of his world, it seemed.

It's hard to believe that it's only been a few months since he had a stroke.

Chuck Dibilio stopped by Jadwin Gym yesterday.

After talking to Dibilio for five minutes, TigerBlog can't believe he had a stroke, even more so than he can't believe the general thought that a 19-year-old who rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman last fall.

It's still a shocking thought, that it happened in the first place.

It's not like he had the amazing freshman year and then tore his ACL playing pickup basketball or something crushing, but understandable.

But a stroke?

For a 19-year-old elite athlete?

There's no way to process that.

Dibilio's future as a student looks pretty solid. As a football player?

Well, that's not as cut and dry.

The first necessity is to figure out what caused the stroke in the first place. Once that happens, then a determination can be made as to the future ability of the young man to resume his playing career.

Dibilio spoke as if all of that is just a matter of time, even though it's possible that he's just trying to be as optimistic as possible.

And who can blame him?

A few months ago, he was the cornerstone of Princeton's rebuilding efforts in the sport. He burst onto the scene last fall and gave Princeton fans someone they had to watch, someone who could make something happen any time he touched the ball.


He's still ripped. He's in great shape apparently, the result of being able to resume workouts in the weightroom.

It makes it all the more ridiculous to try to comprehend that the guy who ran up all those yards and records last fall and the one who was standing in TB's office yesterday is also the same guy who had a stroke this past winter.

At the very least, it was great to see him here, looking as good as he did.

Like every Princeton fan, TigerBlog wants to see him back on the field, repeating and eclipsing what he did last season.

Beyond that, though, they just to know that he'll be healthy and back in school and able to move on with his life.

Judging by five minutes yesterday, Step 1 seems to be out of the way.

Will there be a Step 2?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good Job, Bones

TigerBlog could care less what any singer or athlete or movie star thinks about serious issues that affect the world today.

For that matter, he can’t understand why anyone else does either.

George Clooney, for instance, was born good-looking. That’s his talent. The fact that he makes entertaining movies is a by-product of that – and it doesn’t make him the least bit of an authority on any serious subject out there.

The same holds true for any of the other narcissistic entertainers who think their lucky break in life has now qualified them to be intelligent voices who lead the international discussion. It doesn’t.

So if Ozzie Guillen wants to love Fidel Castro – or respect his toughness or whatever it is he actually thinks – that’s great with TigerBlog.

It’s his opinion. It’s just that in TB’s mind, it counts for zero. Just like the opinions of every other famous person.

When TB first heard Guillen’s comments, he thought that would be the end of Guillen’s tenure as manager of the Miami Marlins – for good, not just for five games.

It’s not because of what he said. It’s because of where he said it.

The Marlins need the local fan base to be completely on board to make their new ballpark and new investments in players pay off, and that’s not going to happen without the support of the displaced Cuban population there.

And, given how that Cuban population got to Miami and the fact that many still have family stuck in Cuba, that’s not going to happen if the leader of the Marlins is a pro-Castro guy. 

So that would make what is likely going to be the inevitable end of this - Guillen's termination - an economic issue, not an issue of free speech.

As far as that goes, Guillen can say whatever he wants, as far as TB is concerned. He can love or hate any famous or infamous person or embrace whatever controversy he'd like. So can anyone else.

TB recoils in horror when people are disciplined for having opinions that are contrary to those of the mainstream, largely because who decides when the line is crossed.

Can Guillen not respect Castro but respect Hugo Chavez? If not Chavez, then what about someone else and then someone else and then someone else? Who decides when it is too far?
When Atlanta Braves' reliever John Rocker was suspended and essentially had his career ended by his dopey comments about riding the 7 train in New York, TB was appalled. If Rocker wants to be a jerk, that's his business. Same with Guillen.

Or TigerBlog or you for that matter.

The entire Guillen controversy came out in an article in Time magazine, written by none other than former Princeton basketball player Sean Gregory, who was part of the great class of 1998.

And now there is some backlash going on against Gregory, as if he someone exploited what Guillen said to make himself look good or to purposely make Guillen look bad.

In truth, Guillen knew exactly what he was saying, how he was saying it and even more importantly the platform on which he was saying it.

What was Bones (that's Gregory's nickname, by the way) supposed to do? Ignore that Guillen, the manager of a team that had just gone out of its way to brand itself as MIAMI, not Florida, had spoken about Fidel Castro, the most reviled person in the city of Miami?

And Guillen knew exactly what he was saying, so why say it?

To show how tough he was. To show how nobody's going to control him and his thoughts. To show how he's not afraid of anyone.

So good for him. He got everything he wanted.

As for Bones, he did the 100% correct - and not easy - thing in leading his story (which is only available online to Time subscribers) with the Fidel Castro quote. 

Bones is the tough guy in this situation.

Guillen is just another famous person with a big mouth who thinks he's above it all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Baby Steps

When your first child is a baby, there are certain givens for any new parent.

A pacifier hits the floor? Off it goes to be boiled. Bottles need to be heated up or cleaned? Not in the microwave or dishwasher.

Each day, it's off to consult "What To Expect The First Year" to make sure that your kid is crawling or rolling over or supporting himself or whatever it is not at the time that the book says but earlier than that, so that you can eagerly - and casually - report this to the other new parents whose kids are still not there yet.

And playing with the little toys that hang down from the crib? The surest sign that you have created the next Einstein.

For the first birthday party - for which the child is completely unaware of the significance - it's upwards of 40, 50, 60 people - all of whom are there against their will and common sense.

Then there's your second baby.

For all of the above, none of them apply again. For instance, when the pacifier hits the ground, it gets wiped off on your shirt and shoved back into the kid's mouth.

When you have a second baby, especially one that comes more than two or three years after the first, it's easy to forget all of the little things, like how to put in the infant car seat and all that.

These days, when TigerBlog hears of people who have become new parents, he's thrilled for them and wishes them all the best - and then recoils in horror at the thought of having to go through that again.

Of course, one-week-old Mason Sachson isn't just the newborn of Craig Sachson, who works here in the OAC. Mason is also TigerBlog's partner in the destruction of his father's squash game.

TB figures that it'll be a good eight weeks or so before Craig has even passable energy, and during that time, TB intends to take advantage of that fact to punish Craig in squash three or four times a week.

He has no choice, since Craig is way ahead already in the yearly race to see who is going to win the OAC squash championship.

TB grew up playing tennis, and he only played squash once - in college - before he began to play regularly here about 10 years ago, when the Jadwin Gym courts were being redone and lunchtime basketball didn't exist for a few weeks.

His strength in squash is his ability to hit the ball. His weakness is just about everything else.

TB hits squash shots like he learned how to hit tennis shots, and that's not exactly how squash is supposed to be played. His backhand, while very successful, is a full windup as in tennis, which is contrary to how it's supposed to be hit.

TB hasn't played tennis in about 15 years or so, and if he tried now, he'd struggle to put racket on ball, since a tennis racket is huge compared to its squash counterpart.

The Princeton men's tennis team is currently tied for first place in the Ivy League at 3-0, along with Columbia.

If the Tigers are going to win the Ivy title, they're certainly going to earn it.

The next three league matches are Saturday at Dartmouth, Sunday at Harvard and the following Friday home with Columbia. Those three teams happened to be ranked 62nd, 24th and 37th in the country.

Princeton came oh-so-close to winning a year ago, when it finished second to Cornell in a match that could have gone either way.

This year, Columbia has already swept Harvard and Dartmouth, both by scores of 5-2. A year ago, it seemed like every Ivy match was 4-3.

In Princeton's case, that's how its' been this year as well, as that was the score in its wins over Penn, Yale and Brown.

Glenn Michibata is the head coach of the men's tennis team, and he and his program operate a bit far from the limelight around here.

Still, there aren't 25 people who've ever walked into Jadwin Gym who are nicer people than Michibata, who was a great professional player in his own right.

Tennis on the college level plays out through the fall and spring. For Princeton, it's really all about three matches in seven days, beginning Saturday at Dartmouth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Mystery Of History

When he wasn't busy rooting against Pete Carril, TigerBlog was a history major back in his days as a Penn undergraduate.

TB isn't quite sure why he majored in history beyond just the most simplistic of "it is interesting."

And it was.

TB took some great classes at Penn, studying a wide range of historical eras, cultures, locations and such.

His focus was American history, and among his teachers were now-Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust (who taught in the American Studies department and with whom TB had two classes on the American South) and Walter Licht, who earned a Ph.D. from Princeton and who has through the years hit his old student up for tickets.

If he had to pick his single favorite class, he probably couldn't come up with just one. History of the 1960s was a good one. Anything about the Cold War. Or the Civil War. Or World War II. Or 19th century European history. Or the history of labor unions.

It was all pretty great stuff.

One of TB's professors was a man named Bruce Kuklick, who in addition to being a professor wrote a book on Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium that was pretty interesting.
In one of Professor Kuklick's classes, the subject turned to Alger Hiss, a member of the State Department in the 1940s who was accused of being a Communist spy and was subsequently convicted of perjury, for which he spent 44 months in prison.

Of course, the case against him was dubious, and it was one of the highest profile cases during the time of the fear of Communist infiltration of the U.S. government.

Anyway, Professor Kuklick told the class that years later he saw Alger Hiss in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and went up to him, introduced himself and said that he had been teaching a class involving his case for years at Penn and had one question for him: "Did you do it?"

Looking back on it, maybe TB should have gone down the path of getting a Ph.D. of his own and being a professor. Nah. That wouldn't have been his style.

In fact, he found a career that has a great blend of the historian to it, and that is the athletic history of Princeton University.

TigerBlog considers himself an expert on the history of Princeton athletics, and that is why he was so shocked to see a newspaper clip that was forwarded to him about the 1974 football game between Princeton and Rutgers.

According to the story from the Daily Princetonian of Sept. 30, 1974, Princeton and Rutgers tied at 6-6 because Princeton was unable to attempt an extra point after a late touchdown. And why?

Because the Rutgers students tore down both sets of goal posts at Palmer Stadium to prevent it.

Walt Snickenberger scored with 22 seconds remaining in the game, but there were no goalposts left on the field. Princeton suggested kicking without goal posts or putting up backup ones (which apparently would have taken five minutes), but the refs were a no-go on either idea.

Ultimately, Princeton was forced to go for two and was unable to convert.

At first, TB figured this had to have been from a joke issue, no? And even now, he's not 100% sure he's not being tricked.

But the article does have accompanying pictures of the goal posts being torn down and of an irate Princeton head coach Bob Casciola.

It also has this line from writer Peter Seldin: "The game's electrifying final minutes were a wholesale departure from the sleep-inducing events of the first 40 minutes of play."

TB was also taken by the visual Seldin creates of Casciola postagme: "It's an unfortunate thing, an unbelievable thing," said Casciola, resignation written all over his face as he slumped back in his chair in the Caldwell Field House lounge.

For that matter, TB is pretty sure the same chair is still in that lounge.

Anyway, Princeton apparently had no recourse and was somewhat robbed, something that Rutgers coach Frank Burns even admitted. 

It's a fascinating story, one that TB had no idea ever happened. Assuming of course, it did happen, ad that he isn't being taken in by a joke.

It makes him wonder what else is out there in the Princeton annals that he's missed to this point.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chocolate Ears

Halloween, of course, is the No. 1 candy day of them all. Except it's a bit misleading.

Halloween features the wide range of candy, where really nothing is off limits.

If, however, you're all about milk chocolate, as TigerBlog is, you really can't beat Easter. What's better than breaking off a piece of a chocolate bunny's ear?

And then there's the Dove chocolate eggs. They would be as perfect as any candy ever, were it not for how hard it is to peel off the wrappers.

Sometimes, you get the fold perfectly and it opens without issue, but that's only about 10% of the time. The other 90%, you have to fight your way through and end up with little scraps of wrapper and chocolate under your fingernails.

TB isn't sure why chocolate became such a big part of Easter, but he's fine with it.

Other than the fact that it involves the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Easter is as close to a Jewish holiday as there is in the Christian calendar.

How so? It's not on the same day every year. It's not like Christmas, which is always Dec. 25. Or, more secularly, Thanksgiving, which is not always the same exact day but is always on the same Thursday.

Easter is like Hanukkah, which can be anywhere from late November to late December. Or the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper and always seem to come "early" or "late" but never right on time.

This year, Easter and Passover fell on the same weekend, which is a rarity.

This year's Easter also fell on the Sunday of the first weekend of the baseball season.

If you look at the standings now, the Yankees are 0-3, while the Mets are 3-0. The Red Sox are 0-3, while the Orioles are 3-0.

What does it mean? Nothing. Though it did make for some good panicky phone calls on sports radio.

For a Yankee fan to panic now would be like a fan of an NFL team to panic if the team was down 7-0 at the end of the first quarter of the opener.

Meanwhile, Princeton has one active Major Leaguer - Will Venable of the Padres, who is 2 for 10 after going 1 for 4 yesterday. Venable had a very good spring for San Diego and a good start would be a nice carryover.

Ross Ohlendorf is at Triple-A Pawtucket for the Red Sox. Chris Young is in extended spring training for the Mets.

Back in the Ivy League, each baseball team has played eight games, all against the teams in the other division.

Right now, the four Gehrig teams are all over .500. In the Rolfe Division, no team is above .500.

TB has no way of checking this, but this has to be a rarity since the league started with two divisions around 2000 or so.

Princeton, at 6-2, is a game back of Cornell. Penn and Columbia are both 5-3. This weekend's schedule has Penn at Princeton and Columbia at Cornell for four games apiece.

On the softball side, the Gehrig Division (called the South Division in softball) is the stronger as well.

Cornell is 7-1, followed by Princeton and Penn at 5-3. Harvard is out to a 7-1 start in the other division, with no other team better than 3-5.

Each game is huge as the teams now play in their divisions in both baseball and softball.

TigerBlog is always amazed at the all-out sprint that is baseball and softball as the teams play their 20 league games in a span of 30 days, leading up to the Ivy League Championship Series.

Easter to Mothers' Day.

It goes pretty fast.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dome Sweet Dome

If a big pickup truck filled with unlimited money was backed up to TigerBlog's office with a note that said "spend on one athletic facility here," then TigerBlog would build a Princeton version of the Carrier Dome.

If you've never been the building on the Syracuse campus, then you're missing out.

TigerBlog loves the Palestra, though some of that has to do with the fact that 1) he went to school at Penn and 2) some of the greatest athletic events he's seen have been Princeton-Penn basketball games.

TB loves M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. He's a huge fan of the Stan Sheriff Center, largely because 1) Princeton won three games in three days there, 2) the garlic french fries and most importantly 3) it's in Honolulu.

What other facilities does TB love?

He used to love the gym at Long Island University, mostly because it was on the stage of an old theater. He's a big man of the football stadium at Lehigh (great setting, especially the grass behind the end zone) and the basketball arena at Lehigh (Princeton beat Penn there in the 1996 Ivy playoff, plus it's a great building).

TB has been to basketball arenas all over the country. He has been to very few Major League Baseball or NFL stadiums.

As an aside, when Princeton Stadium was built for $45 million, John Cornell, then the OAC publications person and resident observer of all things in the human condition, suggested a $44 million stadium and a $1 million house somewhere near here and that anyone who worked in Princeton Athletics could use the house whenever they wanted.

Meanwhile, back at venues, it's possible that the Carrier Dome is TB's favorite.

He does know that he'd love to have one just like it here, to use for football, basketball and lacrosse.

How great would that be? It wouldn't have to be 50,000 seats, like the Carrier Dome. And it'd be perfect for Princeton.

Sadly, the dump truck with the money isn't backing up anytime soon, and the cost of building such a facility would probably require more than one dump truck anyway.

TB has never seen football in the Carrier Dome, but he has been there for basketball and lacrosse. Whoever designed it smartly configured the basketball part so that the overwhelming majority of the seats are close to the court.

And for lacrosse? It's a great place to see a game.

Princeton - and TigerBlog - will be in Syracuse tomorrow at 4 to take on the Orange in men's lacrosse. It'll be Princeton's first visit to the building since 2008, as the 2009 and 2010 games were played at the Meadowlands and the game last year was played here in the domeless Princeton Stadium.

Just as like a year ago, when Princeton played at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field for the first time after four years in M&T Bank Stadium, it'll be a real thrill for the Princeton players to be on the Carrier Dome.

The rivalry between Princeton and Syracuse is a great one. The Orange lead 18-9, and 23 of those 27 games have been played since Princeton defeated Syracuse in the 1992 NCAA championship game.

While the Orange lead the series 2:1, Princeton has won some epics, including one-goal games in the Dome in 1999 and 2003. The teams have split four NCAA championship games, with the 1992 and 2001 games to Princeton in OT and the 2000 and 2002 games to Syracuse.

Princeton had an incredible 12-season stretch from 1992-2003 in which it either won the NCAA championship (six times) or lost to Syracuse in the NCAA tournament (six times).

Of course, when the opening face-off comes tomorrow (4), the reality of the importance of the game will set in, and the facility and history will take a back seat.

Syracuse comes into the game at 4-4 overall, losers of two straight (for the first time since 2007, apparently). The Orange lost for the first time ever in the Big East when they dropped an 11-10 game to Villanova (whom Princeton beat 14-8) two weeks ago and then fell to Duke in the Meadowlands last Sunday.

The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Orange, who take on two Top 10 teams (Princeton and Cornell) in four days.

Syracuse is used to playing deep into May, and the team is going to have start winning some games to get the chance this year.

Princeton, on the other hand, comes into the game playing the best its played in awhile, with four straight wins, including last week's 13-2 thumping of a Brown team that had lost by one to Duke four days earlier.

Still, the game tomorrow is hardly going to be easy for Princeton. Syracuse is never, ever, ever, ever to be taken for granted, especially in its own building and especially when it's desperate for a win. In that regard, Princeton would have been better off if the Orange had beaten Duke last week.

TB loves all Princeton lacrosse games, but there's something more special when the opponent is Syracuse and even more special after that when the venue is the Carrier Dome.

TB, for one, can't wait for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mason's Dad

Maddie Sachson is three years old.

She has a friend in  playgroup named Jackson, so when she heard she was going to be a big sister, she suggested that Jackson would be a great name for the new baby.

So go ahead. Say it out loud.

Jackson Sachson.

Needless to say, when Craig and Jess Sachson had their second child yesterday, they did not name the newborn boy Jackson.

Instead, they went with Mason.

Welcome to the world, Mason. Hope the trip was smooth.

If you're reading TigerBlog, then chances are close to 100% that you've read something written by Mason's dad.

Craig Sachson is the contact here at Princeton for 12 sports, which TB thinks is more than any other athletic communications person in the Ivy League - and therefore probably more than any other athletic communications person anywhere in Division I.

If you've read anything on about football, it was written by Craig Sachson. If you've gone to a football game here and picked up a game program, that's almost all a Craig Sachson publication.

Same goes for men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's volleyball,  men's and women's lightweight rowing, men's heavyweight rowing, women's open rowing, wrestling and of course, men's and women's squash.

If you add it up, that's probably half of Princeton's 1,000 athletes. There can't be anyone else in athletic communications who deals directly with that quantity of athletes.

Hey, most schools in Division I don't have nearly that number of athletes in their programs combined.

It's quite a workload.

Way back when, before the web came along being the sport contact for football was all consuming, as was basketball, lacrosse and hockey. The other sports required little effort.


Every sport gets a pregame story, a postgame story. Features. Podcasts. Videos. Highlights. And on and on. And every sport has coaches, athletes, parents, alums and friends who have a steadily rising level of expectation.

TigerBlog knew Craig Sachson's name before he knew Craig Sachson, who was - like TB had before him - in the newspaper business. When an opening for an intern came up here circa 1998, TB called Sachson to see if he'd be interested.

As it turned out, Sachson hardly knew what athletic communications was. Still, he came up for an interview and took the position, staying for two years before spending two at Cornell and then returning 10 years ago.

The elimination of the internship program here at the OAC in favor of full-time positions has enabled Princeton to keep its athletic communications people in place. The result is that there is much greater familiarity with the teams by the people who work here, since they're not being replaced ever year or two.

In Sachson's case, he has brought stability to so many sports and their coaches, all of whom love the fact that they have someone there year after year who knows the history of the program and the people involved.

His impact on so many Princeton athletes, many of whom never met him or have no idea of his name, has been tremendous.

And now he has a new son.

Maybe, like TigerBlog Jr., Mason will spend hours and hours with his father at games here. Maybe like TBJ and Little Miss TigerBlog, the Princeton campus will become something of a second home.

Pretty soon, it'll be Craig who is calling up Mason at noon to make sure he's awake and ready to go wherever he has to go that day. It'll be Mason who is hiding the fact that he lost his retainer and making endless plans to go to the movies or to a friend's house or - egads - on a date and expecting Craig to be his at-a-moment's-notice driver.

It won't seem like all that long until Mason is eating at 2 am - no because he's an infant but because he's a teenager who's still awake.

In the meantime, it's all about diapers and sleepless nights for Craig and Jess.

And taking care of little Mason.

TigerBlog joins with everyone else at Princeton in welcoming Mason to the fold.

And letting him know how lucky he is that he has the dad he has.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is it Next Year Yet?

So the Baylor women became the first college basketball team - male or female - to go 40-0 in a season?

TigerBlog is amazed. That the Bears played 40 games, that is.

The last men's basketball team to go unbeaten in Division I was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, who went 32-0. Baylor's 40-0 season added a full 25% more of a season than the Hoosiers of Scott May, Kent Benson and Quinn Buckner did.

The NCAA women's tournament started in 1982, six years after the Hoosiers had their perfect run. Since then, no men's team has been undefeated, obviously.

The 2012 Baylor women became the sixth women's team to have a perfect season.

Oh, by the way, did you ever eat a Clif Bar? You know, those instant energy-type bars (TB thinks they're a tad bitter). Anyway, the court at the women's basketball tournament was decorated exactly like the wrapper for the Clif Bars. Didn't anyone notice that?

The NCAA women's tournament somewhat closely mirrored the men's tournament, in that the unquestioned prohibitive favorite cruised through the event.

It made for some March dullness.

The world of college basketball has some issues to deal with as it moves forward.

The one-and-done concept makes a mockery of the commercials that run that say "still think we're a bunch of dumb jocks?" The answer is, in big-time men's basketball, no, not dumb jocks, just mercenaries.

The officiating has become everything officiating isn't supposed to be. The refs are supposed to be invisible; instead, they have injected themselves into the forefront with their mind-numbing replay reviews over nothing and the propensity to make the wrong call in a big spot.

The way games end is tedious. There are way too many timeouts called. If there are going to be nine media timeouts per game, how about no team timeouts? Or at the very least how about three timeouts per game, and if you don't call one in the first half, you lose it?

And none of that even takes into account how conference realignment for football affects basketball.

For all of that, there are few things that match a great college basketball game.

TigerBlog, for one, is excited already about Princeton's chances in the 2012-13 season, for men and women.

Between the two programs, three 1,000-point scorers graduate - Douglas Davis (his 1,550 points are second all-time at Princeton) for the men and Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood for the women.

Even with those losses, both teams will be in the hunt to the end next season.

The men were playing as well or maybe better than any team in the league by season's end this year. By next year, the team will have had the difficult transitional year under a new head coach out of the way, and Mitch Henderson clearly is a great young coach.

The women's team destroyed the league this year, and the distance between the Tigers and the other schools was significant. Losing Edwards and Allgood will hurt, but the rest of the league has a lot of catching up to do.

For Princeton fans, next year offers the last chance to see two all-time greats play for the Tigers.

On the men's side, there's Ian Hummer, who is likely to pass by Davis in points. Hummer is a threat to do something spectacular at any moment, and he will be as good as any player in the Ivy League next year (he will be the only returning unanimous first-team all-league pick from this year).

On the women's side, there's Niveen Rasheed, easily the best player in the Ivy League and as good as any player in Ivy women's history (along with Harvard grad Allison Feaster and Penn grad Diana Caramanico). Just like Hummer, Rasheed is a highlight waiting to happen every time the ball is in her hands.

The 2012-13 basketball seasons could both be pretty exciting around here.

Unlike the recently concluded NCAA tournaments.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hey Abbott

TigerBlog gave up on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" long ago, choosing instead to split his morning commute between Imus and Boomer and Carton.

Usually, he'll linger more with Imus - unless he happens upon a pretty good guest on the Boomer and Carton show. When that happens, they're usually pretty good interviewers.

The Boomer and Carton show is at its best, by the way, when Carton is pretending that he was as good an athlete as Boomer and then Boomer dismisses him. That's a good dynamic.

Unfortunately, the show gets too silly sometimes, especially when women are the subject of some juvenile comments.

This morning, though, it was pretty good stuff.

TB was listening to a guest talk about the day he threw a no-hitter. As it was, the hosts didn't mention his name for awhile, which TB actually liked, since he was trying to figure out who it was.

The clues kept coming as he spoke and mentioned that he'd thrown:

* a no-hitter for the Yankees
* against the Indians
* not a perfect game

TB originally thought David Wells or David Cone, but it wasn't either of them.

Eventually, TB though he had the right guy, Dave Righetti. As it turned out, he had the wrong no-hitter.

Righetti threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

It was Jim Abbott who threw the no-hitter against the Indians, his on Sept. 4, 1993.

TB imagines that even the most ardent anti-Yankee fan still had root for Jim Abbott (TB-Baltimore, is this true?).

Abbott, for those who don't know, was born without a right hand. Despite that, he was a star high school athlete who went to the University of Michigan, helped the U.S. to the 1988 gold medal in baseball in the Olympics in Seoul and was a first-round draft choice in Major League Baseball.

He would tuck a glove under his arm when he pitched and then somehow get it on before the ball could be hit back to him. Teams that tried to bunt on him weren't usually successful.

Anyway, on the Boomer and Carton show this morning, Abbott was talking about the book he's written, about having only one hand, about his career. As when he had been a player, he came across as simply a nice guy.

And, when you're born without your hand, you never know any different, so to him, it was all very natural. Still, to reach the levels he did with only one hand is a tremendously inspiring achievement.

Abbott kept talking about trusting his catcher, and TB couldn't think who the Yankee catcher was in 1993. Eventually, Abbott said the name: Matt Nokes.

If throwing a no-hitter is a huge accomplishment, catching one is a huge thrill.

One person who knows the feeling is Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley, who caught a no-hitter by Randy Johnson for the Seattle Mariners on June 2, 1990.

As an aside, TB can't remember the context of the conversation that he had with Bradley the day that Bradley said something along the lines of "hey, I was once traded straight up for Ivan Calderon," but TB remembers that it was pretty funny.

Bradley coaches the defending Ivy League baseball champion, and the Tigers opened the 2012 season with a 3-1 weekend, splitting with Dartmouth in a rematch of last year's Ivy League Championship Series and then sweeping Harvard.

It's a good thing for the Tigers that they went 1-3, because the other three Gehrig Division schools (Columbia, Cornell, Penn) matched it, leaving a four-way tie after one weekend.

The format for Ivy baseball has two cross-over weekends, where the teams play two games against each of the four teams in the other division, and then three weekends where the teams plays four games against the other three teams in its own division.

At the end of the 20 games, the two division champs play best-of-three for the Ivy title and NCAA tournament berth.

The Gehrig Division champion has hosted the ILCS the last two years. Before that, you have to go back to 2003 to find the last time that the Gehrig Division team was the host.

If the first weekend is an indication, then this year's Gehrig Division race figures to be fascinating. Also, it's possible that the Gehrig teams, if they really are better, will beat up on each other to the point where one Rolfe team ends up with a better record.

In the meantime, Princeton heads to Yale and Brown this weekend, the final one of the cross-over games.

One of the great events of last year was the 2011 Ivy League Championship Series Game 3, when Princeton defeated Dartmouth to win the title. It was on a perfect May Sunday at Clarke Field.

It'd be okay with TB if there was a repeat of that this year.

After Weekend 1 of Ivy baseball, though, it's obvious that there's a long way to go.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Today, No Segue

The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament is a bizarre animal.

There's the whole impact of the one-and-done philosophy - especially at Kentucky - and the over-saturation of the event by the media, which is willing to discuss to no end a player's length or anoint a coach as a certifiable genius - as if winning at Kentucky and Kansas is somehow difficult - and yet not ask a single question on subjects like, say, if the one-and-done mentality is in any way consistent with what college athletics are intended to be.

For that matter, TigerBlog has heard and read a great deal about the last NCAA championship game meeting between Bill Self (who comes across as a pretty down-to-Earth, normal guy) and John Calipari (who doesn't.) What he hasn't heard and read a great deal about is how Memphis (Calipari's old team) had to vacate that game, which wasn't a first for Calipari.

The only reference to any of it that TB has heard came when Calipari suggested that Duke and Carolina are also "one-and-done" teams and sort of wondered if they were bad for college basketball too. It reminded TB of when MotherBlog used to say "if everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?"

Oh, and then there's one of the parts of the tournament that TB loves. How many players on either team in the final can you name, and of that group, how many had you heard of two weeks ago?

For all that, though, the wildest part of the tournament is how it gets progressively duller.

The Selection Show is awesome. The first two rounds (not the play-in games, but the first two actual rounds) are even better.

The first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournament are two of the best five sports days of the year.

The next two rounds? They're okay, but not as good, especially when the darlings of Thursday and Friday hit the reality of Saturday/Sunday - see Norfolk State and Lehigh this year and Princeton in 1996.

The Sweet 16 games are good, and the regional finals to see who gets to the Final Four are pressure-packed.

And then the Final Four? Eh. The semifinals are hardly memorable, and even the memorable championship games are few and far between.

Nope. This is the rare athletic event where the beginning far eclipses the end.

TB is going to say that tonight's championship game will be forgotten as well, something to the tune of Kentucky 81, Kansas 63.

Beyond that, TigerBlog offers no actual segue from the NCAA basketball tournament to what had to be the best event of a pretty good weekend for Princeton athletics.

It wasn't the men's lacrosse game, a 13-2 domination of Brown that gave the Tigers their fourth straight win as they head to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse.

It wasn't in baseball, where the Tigers opened the Ivy League season by winning three of four at home against Dartmouth and Harvard. In what might be a first, all four Gehrig Division teams have winning records on the Monday after the first weekend, though Penn and Brown haven't played yet and Cornell and Dartmouth only got one game in.

It wasn't in softball, where Princeton swept Dartmouth to open its season Friday before being swept Saturday by Harvard.

It wasn't in rowing, where the season is finally starting to get into full swing.

Nor was it in tennis, where the men and women are 1-0 in the Ivy after defeating Penn.

Nope. It was in men's volleyball. Even in a loss.

Princeton took on Eastern power Penn State, a perennial threat to win the NCAA championship.

Penn State had beaten Princeton 3-0 for seven straight years before Friday night's epic in Dillon Gym, where the Tigers actually had eight match balls before falling 37-35 in the fourth game and then 15-12 in the fifth and deciding game.

As TB said last week after his experiences at Yale for men's lacrosse, the beauty of working in college athletics is that you never know when you're going to stumble across an event like the Princeton-Penn State volleyball match.

TB wasn't there, but he's been in Dillon Gym for volleyball enough to know that the place had to have been completely rocking.

It's what intercollegiate athletics is supposed to be all about. Not one-and-dones with coaches who are made out to be above mere mortals.

Oh wait. Was that a segue?