Friday, August 31, 2012

Back To School

TigerBlog was checking out at the Staples store the other day when a man in his 60s or 70s got in line behind him.

The older gentlemen had only one item, Post-It notes, and as he looked around at the chaos everywhere in the store, he mentioned to TB that he had "picked the wrong day to come here."

The entire store was filled with people getting school supplies, a process that as much as any screams to kids the reality that summer is almost over.

The average kid figures to like summer vacation way more than school itself, and yet every kid seems to love both the shopping for school supplies and the first day of the new school year. The second day of school? That's when it all really settles in.

The Staples store had kids in every grade level, from the littlest ones up through high schoolers.

When TB was a kid, he has no memory of approved lists of supplies that the school would mail out. He just remembers getting some notebooks, some pens and moving on with life.

Maybe there were these comprehensive lists back then. There definitely are now.

It becomes an obsession to find the exact binder, the exact pencil sharpener, the exact everything listed on the sheet of paper. And this is done while everyone else is doing the exactly same thing.

TigerBlog Jr. actually started school earlier this week, and TB was at "Back to School Night" already. Miss TigerBlog - and most kids - start after Monday's Labor Day holiday.

Classes at Princeton don't begin until Sept. 13.

Athletics, though, begin today.

It's the start of a brand-new athletic year, one that begins with men's soccer, field hockey and women's volleyball on the road and women's soccer at home for the Princeton Invitational.

The home portion of the athletic year begins when Colgate takes on Hofstra on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium at 5, followed by Princeton and Wake Forest at 7:30. Wake was a Final Four team a year ago.

The start of a new year is always exciting.

In about 10 months, TigerBlog will write the 2012-13 athletic year in review story. How will it unfold?

How many Ivy titles will Princeton win? What team or teams will come out of seemingly nowhere to have a huge year? Who will be the top individuals? What will be the top event of the year?

Each year has its own story to tell, its own feel to it. The uncertainty about what path an entire athletic program will take for a given academic year as that year starts has always fascinated TigerBlog.

One of his favorite stories is from back in his newspaper days, when he'd go to the athletic kickoff luncheon at Trenton State College and hear the school president make the same prediction each year: "I predict," he'd say, "that every team in every sport will go undefeated."

Obviously that didn't happen there, and it didn't happen here. But it does show the optimism that surrounds everyone when a new year begins.

There's also the cautionary side to it. Princeton has won the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship 26 straight years, including by one point a year ago. Princeton has had a team or individual win a national championship each of the last 41 years - including three a year ago (Donn Cabral in the steeplechase, Jonathan Yergler in fencing and men's squash).

Will those streaks survive another year?

When you work in college athletics, as TB has said a million times before, the games are the best part. And there is something completely exciting about the start of a new year.

If you don't feel that excitement for Day 1, you're in the wrong business.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Los Tigres

Like much of the world, TigerBlog had braces when he was in high school.

His orthodontist was in Red Bank, not far from where last year's Ivy League administrative meetings were. Ah, what a sight TB made back then, with his long hair, parted in the middle, and a mouth full of wires, all while checking in at around 5-10 and weighing about 125 pounds, if that.

Somehow, he made it work.

Braces were a bit of a pain, what with the inability to chew gum and all. And they sort of were uncomfortable when you got them tightened every few weeks.

TB was supposed to wear his retainer for some undetermined period of time, though he's pretty sure he only did so for one or two nights.

Fast-forwarding to present day, TB is now up to a second child who is going down the path of braces.

TigerBlog Jr. has already had his braces and in fact lost two retainers in about five minutes each before settling in on his third.

When TBJ first got his braces on, TB was struck by how little it appears that the whole process has changed in the decades since he had them. Wires. Go back every few weeks. A year or two later get them off. On to the retainer.

Of course, maybe the entire technology is different, and TB just doesn't know it. He was just a bit surprised by how familiar the whole process was.

TBJ chewed gum, ate pizza, consumed Starbursts and did basically everything else you're not supposed to do during his braces experience.

Up next is Miss TigerBlog, who went last week to have brackets put on her teeth and now goes back this afternoon to get a fixed retainer, which will be on her teeth for six months, after which time it will be determined whether or not she needs full braces. TB is guessing she will.

Because he has to take her to orthodontist this afternoon, TB won't be here to see the bus load up as the Princeton men's basketball team heads off for its 10-day trip to Spain.

TigerBlog has gone on two international trips, both with the men's lacrosse team (2008 to Spain/Ireland, this past June to Costa Rica). Both are among the highlights of his time working here.

An international trip is a great experience for the entire travel party. It's a reward for the TB types (athletic trainers, team doctors, faculty fellows, administrators, whoever makes the trip) for their support of the program, and it's a great chance for them to really get to see the inner dynamics of the team.

It's even greater for the players, and - thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Princeton Basketball - it's something none of them will ever forget.

To have the opportunity as a college athlete to go to a foreign country with your teammates and to mix practice and competition with educational, cultural and service activities is incredibly special.

The men's basketball trip will include four games, during which Princeton will wear its super-cool "Los Tigres" uniforms. TB would love to see the team wear those for a game during the regular season.

There will be a trip to a soccer game (TB thinks a Barcelona game), among other stops along the way in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. All of it will be chronicled daily on

Mitch Henderson was a player at Princeton when the team went to Italy prior to the 1997-98 school year. The Tigers went on that year to be 27-2 and ranked in the Top 10 nationally.

In 2004, the women's soccer team took a trip to Germany and then reached the Final Four. The 2009 men's lacrosse team reached No. 1 in the national rankings after its Spain/Ireland trip.

The women's basketball team last year went to Senegal and France and came back to become the first Ivy League team ever to reach the national Top 25.

This isn't to say that all foreign trips lead directly to success the following season, but there is a lot to be said about the opportunity for additional practice and games, not to mention serious team bonding, that occurs on one of these trips.

The level of excitement as the bus pulls away to start the trip to the airport is almost visual.

The Tigers will head out early this afternoon to start their journey.

They will have an amazing time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saluting The Pioneers

It took a little short of 66 years to go from a 12-second, 120-foot, 6.8-miles per hour flight from the Wright Brothers to the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

For TigerBlog's money, mankind hasn't really ever done anything to eclipse that accomplishment.

Think about it. The technology of the 1960s, which was primitive compared to what exists now, allowed three men to blast off in a rocket, travel the 240,000 miles to the moon, land two of the men on the moon, have the third wait for them in an orbiter and then have all three safely return.

Would you have wanted to try that? Would you have had the courage?

The Apollo 11 moon flight came just eight years from the time that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and the first to orbit the Earth. During that time, the United States operated in an almost panic mode caused by two issues - beating the Russians to the moon and fulfilling the late President Kennedy's dream of doing so by the end of the decade.

And so, in mid-July 1969, there was Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, in such a rocket, ready to make good on Kennedy's wish.

And then, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon while Collins orbited in what had to have been the loneliest experience in the history of human existence.

After six hours on the moon, Armstrong opened the door to the lunar module and stepped out, famously saying "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Whether or not he actually said the "a" before "man" is debated, though he insisted he did.

To show how tenuous it all was, NASA had prepped President Nixon for the possibility of disaster, to the point where a speech for Nixon to deliver had already been written in the event of the worst-case scenario.

It wouldn't be necessary, obviously, as the astronauts made it to the moon and back safely.

Neil Armstrong died over the weekend at the age of 82. He never flew in space again after Apollo 11, and he was by all accounts a humble man who just happened to do something extraordinary.

Actually, unrivaled is a better way to put it.

In all, 12 men walked on the moon. Can you name more than Armstrong and Aldrin?

Pete Conrad was the third, and he was a Princeton graduate. TigerBlog didn't realize that Alan Shepard did so as well.

Armstrong was the first, though. TB can't help but wonder what went through his mind in the days leading up to the mission, to the flight to the moon, when he stepped out onto the surface for the first time - and for that matter every time he looked up at the moon after that.

When Armstrong walked on the moon, Princeton University was a few weeks away from admitting its first class of women, a group of 171 female students, including 101 who would be in the Class of 1973.

Amazingly, the trustees vote was only 24-8 in favor of coeducation, rather than 32-0.

TB has seen pictures of the pioneering women athletes who first came to Princeton and wonders what they must have thought as well.

The earliest women's teams were clearly second-class citizens compared to their male counterparts.

Look at the first field hockey schedule, for the 1971 season, which included games against Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) and William Paterson, not to mention the Princeton Ladies' Club. And Douglass College, which at the time was the largest women's college in the country and now is part of the Arts and Sciences school at Rutgers.

The Ivy League would not begin awarding championships for women's sports until 1973-74, and Princeton's first league championships for women would be in basketball. Princeton would not win multiple women's Ivy titles in the same academic year until 1981-82, when it won in field hockey, ice hockey and rowing.

To see those old pictures now is staggering, especially compared to the equality Princeton women's athletes receive now in every way, from scheduling, uniforms, practice times, facilities, athletic medicine, strength and conditioning, athletic communications and everything else.

TB wonders where this level of equality would be had Title IX not become law. He surmises that it would be fairly similar to where it is now, though it probably would have taken considerably longer to get to this point.

Either way, when the women's soccer team starts off the home portion of the athletic year of 2012-13 this coming Friday, it will do so in a facility that the first women's soccer team could never have imagined.

The field hockey team will be playing its games on a field that has been specifically designed for its needs, something that would also have been unthinkable 40 years ago.

As the new year begins, part of TB would want the current women athletes to know who came before them and what they had to put up with.

Another part of TB is glad that they don't have any idea what it was like way back when.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Embracing The Laziness

The TV programmers cooperated nicely yesterday morning.

"Airplane" was ending right about the time that Gary Cooper was deciding to ship out for World War I in Europe in "Sergeant York."

Just as Alvin finished off the German unit and took his 132 prisoners all with just him and seven other soldiers - a true story, by the way - Colonel Jessup was sneering at Lt. Caffey and saying mockingly "what do you want to talk about now, my favorite color?"

Where to start?

"Airplane," as TigerBlog has written before, was a spoof of a 1957 drama called "Zero Hour," which has the exact same plot line - including the main character Ted Stryker, who has to land the plane when the pilots get too sick (you'd have to be very sick to choose not to at least try to help). 

What "Airplane" did was take the storyline and turn it into a comedy, complete with an Air Israel plane with a long beard and yarmulke and a Puritan-looking woman who looks in total disdain at the man across the aisle who offers her whiskey, only to have her snort a line of cocaine, as well as the career-defining performance of the late, great, nobody-today-compares Leslie Nielsen.

It's a classic.

So is "Sergeant York," though it's a different kind of classic.

Gary Cooper plays Alvin York, the simple farmer from Tennessee who wants to exist only in his tiny speck of the world, only to make himself part of the history of World War I with his heroism.

If you're a fan of "The Sopranos," you know that Tony wanted everyone to be more like Gary Cooper, the strong, silent time who never complained and just went about doing the job that needed to be done. In many ways, he was the personification of that era in Americana.

TB can't remember any movie that Cooper ever made that he didn't like, though "Sergeant York" is his favorite. It tells a great story and does so with the charm and modesty that you'd expect from 1941, and it is complete with war effects that look rather primitive compared to movies from even a decade later, let alone today.

Alvin still had to go back to the United States and be recognized for what he did when TB changed the channel. How could he not?

The fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed at the end of the first "Rocky" movie is the best scene TB has ever seen in a movie.

The scene where Al Pacino dances the tango in "Scent of a Woman" is third.

In between is Colonel Jessup's testimony in "A Few Good Men."

The movie "A Few Good Men" is great, even without that scene. About the only flaw TB can see is that the ending doesn't hold up, because Jessup made one phone call and got out of all his troubles, in exchange for letting Dawson and Downey back in the Corps.

On the other hand, "A Few Good Men" is about the only movie TB can think of where the Tom Cruise lead and the Demi Moore supporting character, who work so closely together and obviously can't stand each other at first, don't get together romantically at the end. It would have been too contrived if they did, and it was a perfect move not to let it happen, instead to allow the respect for the two to grow professionally and personally without crossing over into romance.

For everything else that works in the movie, it's Jessup's testimony that pushes it is way over the top. In fact, TB is still bitter that "Unforgiven" beat out both "A Few Good Men" and "Scent of a Woman" for Best Picture of 1992 and especially that Gene Hackman beat out Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessup.

Whoever wrote that scene probably started out with the fact that Caffey would trap Jessup on the stand with the whole idea that Private Santiago never needed to be transferred off the base if Jessup had really said that Santiago was not to be touched.

The scene maybe overdoes it a little with how scared Caffey was to challenge Jessup, knowing what would happen if he couldn't get it out of him that he had in fact ordered the Code Red. But that's nitpicking.

Of course, the part when Caffey traps him and Jessup gets all flustered and tries to backtrack, calling Santagio a substandard Marine, is awesome.

And it's nothing compared to Jessup's tirade about how "we live in a world with walls, and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns." That speech is can't-miss every time it's on, which is why Alvin's trip to New York City had to be preempted this time.

After "A Few Good Men," it was time for the Major League Lacrosse championship game, which turned out to be dull, and then ultimately "Full Metal Jacket," which was on later.

If you think "Platoon" is a strong statement about the Vietnam War, make sure you see "Full Metal Jacket."

In all, TB didn't really do too much yesterday. He would call his Sunday "embracing the laziness."

And why not? It was the last such day before the weekends around here take on a completely different feel.

The 2012-13 athletic year at Princeton begins Friday, when the men's and women's soccer teams, field hockey team and women's volleyball teams all play. The only one at home is the women's soccer team, which hosts its invitational and kicks off its season Friday in Game 2 against Wake Forest, a Top 10 team this year and Final Four team last year. The other two teams are Colgate and Hofstra.

Between now and June, there will only be a handful of weekends during which Princeton has no athletic events. Mostly, it'll be contained to December and during exam break in January.

Other than that, it's all weekends, all the time.

It's the nature of working in college athletics. You can't complain about it; to do so would be, as TB always says, like buying a house near the airport and complaining about the noise.

The schedule isn't for everyone. TB knows some great people who have left working in college athletics because they didn't want to work every weekend.

For those who stay in, it becomes just how life is. In fact, beyond the moral griping that you might hear about anyone's job, there is little complaining about having to work weekends.

It's actually the best part of the job. Why work in athletics is you don't want to go to the games, right?

Beginning Friday, there'll be plenty of games to go to.

Princeton Athletics plays in more than 600 athletic events each year, and every single one of them, home and away, require the work of more than one person here.

So even if it was a nice day yesterday, it was still good to embrace the laziness.

The opportunity won't be coming along too often for the next nine months.

Friday, August 24, 2012

No Service

TigerBlog was in an all-day meeting this past Tuesday. It was held off-campus, in the basement of a building, in a room all the way in the back.

As TB walked closer and closer to the meeting, he went from five bars to four to three to two to one and then ultimately to the dreaded "no service" where the bars on his phone should be.

It was a weird feeling, not being able to automatically access things like text messages or emails or even to play Words With Friends.

TB recently read a story about how more than 50% of American adults begin to feel anxious when they don't have immediate access to their smart phones. TB isn't quite on that level, though it is a weird feeling to be out of the loop.

When TB was in Costa Rica in June, he spent three full days without any cell phone access, and he has to be honest - that was definitely weird.  

Anyway, every now and then, there'd be a break in the meeting, and TB and everyone else would walk outside, trying to find the spot where the bars would reemerge.

Interestingly, they didn't show up in the exact same spot each time. In fact, sometimes TB had to walk away outside, about 50 yards from the building itself, to get even one bar, when other times he had two or three before even reaching the door on the main floor.

When he'd finally get reception, it would take a few seconds, and then the waiting text messages would come through, even though they'd been sent a few hours earlier. Of course, when you send a text message, you expect some sort of rapid response, so TB assumed that the people who sent the messages were annoyed that he wasn't getting back to them sooner.

He also was able to check his email.

TB's email is weird. If he had to give percentages to them, it'd be 15% business, 15% personal and 70% junk.

Actually, maybe that's not so unusual.

TB doesn't understand the "unsubscribe" thing perfectly either. Do they want you to hit "unsubscribe" to know that your email is a real email address and therefore be able to sell it to other lists, or are you really unsubscribed?

And where did all these emails come from in the first place?

One group of emails that TB gets all the time are the transactional emails of Princeton athletes.

Each Princeton athlete has to be added to official roster as a way of assuring eligibility, and that roster then spits out that names of all the athletes to communications, as well as the equipment staff, athletic medicine staffs and anyone else who needs to keep track of who is on what team.

The same is true if athletes leave teams, as emails are sent regarding those moves as well.

Most of the time, TB simply deletes them, because there are so many athletes in so many sports, whereas he is only the sport contact for one of those sports.

Last week, though, four emails came across in a short time that really caught TB's attention. In fact, he considers this to be the most intriguing storyline for Princeton Athletics heading into the 2012-13 athletic year.

As an aside, he thought that Donn Cabral's attempt to compete in three seasons at Princeton and then reach the Olympics would be the big storyline from last year, and look how that turned out.

Anyway, the four emails said that Julia Reinprecht, Katie Reinprecht, Kathleen Sharkey and Michelle Cesan had been added to the field hockey roster.

The four took last year off to prepare for the Olympics with the U.S. national team through the pre-Olympic qualifying (Pan Am Games) and preparation. When the roster was cut down, the two Reinprechts were active players (who played huge roles in London, by the way), while Cesan was an alternate.

Now the four are back together at Princeton, rejoining the team that still won the league and went to the NCAA tournament a year ago.

And so now the big question is just how good Princeton field hockey can be this year, with two Olympians, an Olympic alternate, another national team member, the returning players from last year's team and a freshman class that is supposed to be very, very strong.

Can Princeton be NCAA champion for the first time, after so many Ivy titles and Final Fours and even two championship game losses?

Or will the pieces not fit together?

It could be asking a lot for the four returnees to blend back into a college team after their experience a year ago, especially the two who played basically every minute of every game in the Olympics. What will it be like for them to go from that level back to the college game?

Princeton opens its season a week from today, with a trip to Duke (ranked fifth) and Wake Forest (ranked 13th).

The Tigers? They're ranked fourth, behind Maryland, North Carolina and Old Dominion.

The schedule is dotted with teams in the Top 10. Princeton, though ranked fourth, received seven of the 43 first-place votes.

The 2012 Tigers will be playing on a new field, Bedford Field. The completion of the Class of 1952 Stadium project is still a year away, which means that Bedford will have temporary bleachers this year, instead of the full set that will be there next year, running up to the ones on the Class of 1952 side.

In the meantime, the temporary ones should still draw huge crowds to see this team.

It's one that will be well-worth watching.

It should be a fascinating year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Tie At 22

In the entire history of Ivy League athletics, even predating the formalization of the league in the mid-1950s, a case can only be made for two different matchups as the top rivalry the league has ever known.

And they should be obvious.

You could argue all day about which has been bigger, Harvard-Yale football or Princeton-Penn men's basketball.

You cannot argue that any other matchup of two teams in any other sport. Sorry. It's just not possible.

Maybe in the short run there have been others who have come along. It's just that there haven't been any that have the same historical context.

TigerBlog, of course, would go with Princeton-Penn in men's basketball. Why wouldn't he? His alma mater vs. his longtime employer, with the winner most often the team that won the league and represented the league in the NCAA tournament.

As an aside, as he writes this, TB realizes that he has never been to a Harvard-Yale football game. Maybe he should go sometime and see what all the fuss is about.

Princeton and Penn have had an amazing relationship in men's basketball.

Yale represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament in 1962. From that point through 2007, the only other years that it wasn't Princeton or Penn were 1968 (Columbia, after tying Princeton for the league title), 1986 (Brown) and 1988 (Cornell).

Princeton's most recent Ivy title was in 2011. Penn would have shared last year's Ivy title, but Princeton derailed the Quakers on the final night of the regular season. is currently revealing its top 50 programs of the last 50 years, using an objective point system instead of a subjective ranking.

And, surprise surprise, there was Princeton and there was Penn, tied for 22nd.

The teams benefited from being given credit for conference tournament championships in years that they represented the league in the NCAAs, even though there is no Ivy tournament. And yes, in some of those years, it's likely that the regular season winner would have lost, but it's just as likely that the team that beat them would have been Princeton or Penn, whichever hadn't won that year.

As part of the rankings, ESPN chose the top five players from each program of the last 50 years and then added three more "off the bench," as it were. It also picked the top three seasons. And the top coach.

For Penn, TB might have gone with Fran Dunphy over Chuck Daly (who, by the way, was not the  coach who took the Quakers to the 1979 Final Four - that was Bob Weinhauer). And he struggles with the idea that Matt Maloney is not one of the eight best players at Penn in the last 50 years.

For Princeton, the coach part was easy - Pete Carril. The top three teams? The ESPN article says 1964-65 (Final Four), 1966-67 (lost to North Carolina in the regional) and 1997-98 (27-2, best record in Division I, NCAA second round). Maybe you want to make a case for the 1975 NIT champs or the 1976 or 1991 Ivy undefeated teams? Okay.

As for the players, the five chosen were Bill Bradley, Brian Taylor, Geoff Petrie, Armond Hill and Craig Robinson, with Kit Mueller, Frank Sowinski and John Hummer off the bench.

Of those eight, TB saw most of Mueller's career and a little or Robinson and none of the others. He knows all of their numbers, of course, but having never seen them play, he's not really able to make a completely informed opinion.

Want to ask TB about his top five plus three for the last 25 years, the time he's actually watched the team?

Mueller, Chris Young, Brian Earl, Sean Jackson, Ian Hummer.

Off the bench?

Gabe Lewullis. Judson Wallace. Sydney Johnson.

Best coach in the last 25 years? That's an interesting one.

Carril was the coach for nine of those years. Bill Carmody for four. John Thompson for four. Joe Scott for three. Sydney Johnson for four. Mitch Henderson for one.

In Carril's nine years, Princeton won five Ivy titles (1989-92, 1996) and had two of the greatest moments in NCAA tournament history (Georgetown, UCLA). Carmody and Thompson both went to two NCAA tournaments in their four years, and Thompson tied for a third Ivy title. Carmody added two NITs, including a nice run in one of them, and he also had Princeton in the national top 10 in 1998.

Thompson had the most improbable of all the Ivy titles, the one his team won in 2001 with what was left after two coaches and four players - including Young and Spencer Gloger - left in a short time. He also had a dominant one in 2004, when he won the league by three full games.

TB isn't sure who he'd pick here. Maybe Thompson.

Feel free to disagree with any of TB's picks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Few Minutes With Eric LeGrand

How was your morning?

Traffic bad? Somebody cut you off on the road, leading to some frustration?

Was the milk expired? Maybe you had no clean socks?

Or maybe life's just a little too frazzling right about now. 

When TigerBlog came into Jadwin Gym this morning, he heard the sound of basketballs pounding the main court. Since today is the day that football is starting, not basketball, he immediately thought he was hearing a pickup game.

He quickly realized that the sounds emanating from the gym were too athletic to be the normal Jadwinites. In fact, it had to be the Princeton men's basketball team.

Then TB remembered that the Tigers are on their way to Spain in a week, and this was Day 1 of preparation for the trip.

TB peered around the corner just in time for the basketball's to stop. As he did, he was struck by something else - the presence of a camera crew, one that turned out to be from ESPN.

And then, off to the side, he saw the young man in the wheelchair. Immediately he recognized him as Eric LeGrand, the former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed from the neck down while making a tackle against Army in the 2010 season.

That was nearly two years ago.

Today, as he nears his 22nd birthday, he is much more known for his story and the inspirational approach that he has to his life than he was when he played for Rutgers.

And it was in that capacity that he was in Jadwin, to talk to the men's basketball team, share his story and just spend some time with some other guys his own age, college athletes, just like he was before his injury.

It was hard to hear LeGrand, largely because of the air conditioner that was echoing through the main court. He spoke softly, possibly because he is unable to speak any louder.

According to his bio, he weighed 275 pounds when he played football at Rutgers. Today, he probably weighs 100 pounds less, but he looks fairly fit, like he just happened to sit down in the chair to start his talk.

He moves his head, neck and shoulders pretty easily, way more so than TB figured he'd be able to do. His vow is to walk again - and TB would never sell him short, not with the continuing evolution of medicine and technology combined with what is obviously an amazing will.

LeGrand's message came through clearly, even if not every word did.

He spoke about how he attacks his therapy, how his experiences as a football player help him through his recovery, how he's there for the others he meets who are going through similar situations. He started out by talking about the injury itself, how it happened, how he felt like he couldn't breath and ultimately how when he was being wheeled off the field he couldn't give the crowd the thumbs up.

LeGrand wore a Tampa Bay Buccaneers shirt, and it was his former college coach, Greg Schiano, who signed him to a contract when he took over the Bucs this past off-season. LeGrand then retired the next day.

Before he left, Princeton's players gave him a Tiger basketball jersey with his RU football number of 52 on it, as well as a pair of sneakers, before they all posed for pictures together.

It was almost better not to be able to hear everything that he was saying. In this way, it gave a casual feel to the talk, and he was very much a college kid talking to other college kids.

He laughed easily. He talked about how he could dunk. He mentioned his Twitter and Facebook accounts. He told them to have a great time on their trip.

He talked about going to the ESPY's last year and what a great time he had there. He mentioned seeing Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor and Donald Driver of the Green Bay Packers and how he was treated like a big deal when the show was over.

In fact, he is a big deal.

He's a young man whose life was turned completely upside down in an unfortunate instance. And yet here he is now, filled with determination, living his life as fully as he can, determined to do whatever he can to allow his body to catch up to his mind one day.

TigerBlog wasn't expecting to hear basketballs bouncing in Jadwin this morning. And he wasn't expecting to see Eric LeGrand powering himself across the court to talk to the Tigers.

It just works out that way sometimes.

LeGrand gives off an "anyone in this situation would handle it the same way" vibe, but let's face it. Even if he's right, nobody wants to have to find out.

For whatever reason, he's the one in the chair. He's the one who makes the nuisances of a normal morning feel somewhat trivial, simply with the manner in which he is going about his morning.

It's not his speech. It's not how he delivers it.

It's how normal he seems. How ordinary it was, to have a Rutgers athlete talk to some Princeton athletes.

That's what makes Eric LeGrand extraordinary.

Will he walk again?

TB hopes he does.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Field, Old Friend

TigerBlog stood on Bedford Field Sunday afternoon in his first visit to the field since the brand-new turf was put down.

It wasn't that long ago that Bedford Field was the least attractive field on the Princeton campus. Actually, it was barely a field at all, more a mix of rocks and concrete-like dirt, used mostly for, well, nothing.

At one time, it was a practice field for the soccer teams, though mostly it's been a staging area for TV trucks and equipment and vehicles for construction or dining services.

Now? It's nearly perfect, spongy, colorful green fake-grass, and it will serve as the new home for Princeton field hockey.

 TigerBlog was there Sunday with Miss TigerBlog, who is getting more and more into the sport and who was there for the first day with the Princeton Field Hockey Club team.

TB left her there for most of the session and walked around the nearly empty campus. When he came back, he saw the usual scene of other parents who were also waiting, some talking to others, some sitting by themselves.

And then he saw a familiar face.

It took him about a second to remember that it belonged to Sharon Goldbrenner Pfluger, the ridiculously successful coach of field hockey and lacrosse at the College of New Jersey.

Way back when in his newspaper, TigerBlog used to write about Pfluger's teams.

Looking back on it, he was lucky to work at a newspaper and with another sportswriter - Harvey Yavener - that way earlier than most places valued women's athletics and gave considerable attention to them.

As a result, TB often found himself as the only writer who would cover the women's game of the basketball doubleheaders at what was then called Trenton State College, or at Rider or sometimes at Princeton. In fact, he was sent to any number of women sports, and TB almost never saw anyone else at those games.

TigerBlog covered men's sports too, and it was a great time to be at Trenton State. Eric Hamilton was the football coach, and actually still is. So is women's soccer coach Joe Russo.

There were others who coached there who have left, people like Rick Dell (men's soccer and baseball), Donnie Marsh (men's basketball), Mika Ryan (women's basketball), Dave Icenhower (wrestling) and others. The school and its administration - especially then-SID Pete Manetas, who taught TB a ton about the field of athletic communications - could not have been more more friendly, especially for athletics.

TB probably covered about 50 of Pfluger's games between the two sports she coaches. In all of those times, he can't remember one game that she lost.

That's not as ridiculous as it sounds, if you take into account the fact that her career record between the two is 837-104. She has won 18 - eighteen - NCAA Division III championships between the two.

She is one of just two female coaches featured in the NCAA Hall of Champions’ Legends of the Game display located in Indianapolis. The other? Pat Summit.

Pfluger's daughter was there for the same field hockey session that MTB was. As TB spoke to her for a few minutes, he remembered all of the times he'd covered her games and how polite and appreciative she and her players always were.

When TB thinks back to his time in the newspaper business, he remembers the opportunities he had to cover what would be considered "big-time" events, including the famous Duke-Kentucky men's basketball game at the Spectrum in 1992.

Mostly he thinks back to people like Pfluger and the others he met at Trenton State, or Rider, or even his most preliminary days here at Princeton, and how much of an education he got in writing and college athletics and how well it served him as a base for his current career.

Maybe it's because he was exposed early on to women's athletics - and to covering men's teams other than football and basketball - that he has embraced so eagerly the Princeton Athletics way of having 38 teams all treated as equally as possible.

In fact, as he has said often, it's one of the best parts about working here, that the entire shop isn't driven by football and men's basketball.

The newspaper that TB used to work at has long since vanished, at least the part that had seemingly unlimited space to devote to college athletics and in turn chose to give a fair share of it to the women, long before that was the norm.

Here, though, with a webpage and a blog and videos and podcasts, the idea of not giving women equal billing isn't something that would ever cross anyone's mind.

For TigerBlog, this was something that was ingrained in him long ago, long before he had MTB, a woman athlete of his own, to look after.

This is something that he was fortunate enough to learn when he was just starting out in the business, and it's stayed with him forever.

He has to thank Yav of course. And all of the great women athletes and coaches he met in those days.

Sharon Pfluger is up there with any of them.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Show Tunes

The 25th anniversary show of "Les Miserables" was on PBS last night, though it was a rebroadcast from when the show first ran, back in 2010.

"Les Mis" opened one year before "The Phantom of the Opera," whose own 25th anniversary show TigerBlog saw on PBS a few months ago.

There really can be no debate that "Les Miserables" and "The Phantom Of The Opera" are the two greatest musicals of the last 30 years or so. In fact, they could be the two greatest musicals ever, though TB has always been a huge fan of the older shows, so he would call "Les Mis" and "Phantom" two of the top five - along with, say, "Fiddler On The Roof," "West Side Story" and "South Pacific."

And, okay, "Oklahoma." And "The King And I." And "A Chorus Line." And "My Fair Lady." And "Meet Me In St. Louis."

So TB will say that those would be his top 10, with a nod to "Pippin" as just outside that group.

TigerBlog has always loved musicals, and he has taken as much grief from those who work within earshot of his iTunes for the show tunes that come along as for the 100+ Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band songs.

TB's parents exposed him to the theater at an early age, and he has many childhood memories of car rides spent listening to musical soundtracks, on an eight-track player no less. FatherBlog's favorite show tune by far is "If I Were A Rich Man" from "Fiddler."

As for MotherBlog, her favorite was from "Les Mis," the song "Do You Hear The People Sing," which fit in well with her stand-up-and-make-your-voice-heard approach to life.

The 25th anniversary show was, as you might expect, pretty much awesome, and even Nick Jonas as Marius was really good.

Yes, people don't often break out in song as they go through their days, so the whole premise of the musical requires a little faith on the part of the audience, something TB-Baltimore refuses to offer up.

And yes, even TB will admit that some of his favorite musical songs are either outdated or just plain sappy, but it doesn't stop him from listening to them over and over and over again. And he's also spent hours in his car - often driving to or from Princeton athletic events - singing some of these songs fairly loudly, mindful of the fact that the person in the next lane has no idea if the guy in the next car is singing show tunes or Jay-Z.

Mostly, the average musical is simple place to get lost for a little while, and most of them circle back to a nice, simple, happy ending. Maybe that's why "Les Mis" and "Phantom" stand out, because they are darker, grimmer and not quite as happy (though TB has long wondered why Raoul and Christine didn't simply go outside the opera house to get away from the Phantom, since he couldn't follow them).

Perhaps the greatest attraction to TB is the sheer talent it takes, not only to sing the way they can but also write it in the first place and then stage it.

It's the same level of greatness from watching the very best athletes and teams.

Rehearsals started at Princeton last week for the 2012-13 athletic year, which begins - egads - a week from Friday, when four teams begin their seasons.

The men's soccer, field hockey and women's volleyball teams all start out on the road next Friday.

The first athletic event at Princeton this academic year will be on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, and ironically enough, it won't feature Princeton. Instead, it'll be Colgate and Hofstra who meet in Game 1 of the Princeton Invitational for women's soccer.

Game 2 will be at 7:30 and will feature the Tigers and Wake Forest. Until this morning, TigerBlog did not realize that Wake Forest had been ranked third in the country last week (though the Demon Deacons were tied 0-0 by UNC Wilmington over the weekend).

Yes, games have already started.

The second day of the Princeton Invitational will be on Sunday, Sept. 2, when Wake takes on Hofstra and Princeton takes on Colgate.

Princeton women's soccer Ivy schedule is favorable every other year, when Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn are home and only Yale, Cornell and Columbia are away. In other words, the travel isn't outrageous.

On the other hand, the league opener is one of the away games, the one at Yale, which comes up on Saturday, Sept. 22. If Princeton can get through that, it would be looking at four of its last six at home.

Still, Princeton is in the early stages of preseason, and there are seven games to play before the league starts, including two in California.

The Tigers are coming off a rare down year, but there is a good mix of veterans and younger players, as well as the explosive Jen Hoy to build the offense around.

There's also the good karma from the Olympics, when Princeton alum Diana Matheson scored the game-winning goal for Canada in the bronze medal game.

In soccer more than maybe any other sport, the difference between a good year and bad year is subtle. The year that Princeton made its run to the NCAA Final Four in women's soccer, it might have all been different had Emily Behncke not forced overtime with a goal in the final minute against Harvard.

Hey, for that matter, you could be the most prepared team in the world and have it all come down to whether or not the ref calls the penalty kick at the right or wrong moment.

Anyway, it's less than two weeks until the opener. Until the curtain goes up, as it were.

Staying healthy will be important, so TB won't say break a leg, except in the theater sense.

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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Odd Couple Was Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience

With all due respect to NBC's Must-See TV Thursday night lineups of the mid-80s through mid-90s, TigerBlog thinks that the glory days for the American situation comedy was about 10-15 years before that.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "Happy Days." "M*A*S*H." "Maude." "Barney Miller." "Taxi." "The Bob Newhart Show."

How about the incredibly underrated "WKRP In Cincinnati?"

"All in the Family" was more than a sitcom; it might be the single most influential show in American TV history.

For all of these shows, TB's favorite is without a doubt "The Odd Couple."

The show aired from 1970-75 and was actually cancelled at the end of each season, only to be renewed before the next one. It's a TV version of the Neil Simon play and then subsequent movie.

The title couple is Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, two friends who get divorced and end up living together in their New York City, where Oscar is a sportswriter (who curiously seemed to work 9-5 and had his own secretary, two things TB never saw in his 11 years in that business) and Felix is "a commercial photographer, portraits a specialty."

The show wasn't really about anything other than how the two men interacted and their relationships with others. It makes no political statements, doesn't explore any controversial issues or offer anything to the national dialog.

It's just funny. Very, very funny. With great characters.

TB saw the original versions on TV and then saw the reruns hundreds of times each in syndication, to the point where he can recite basically entire episodes from memory all these years later.

His favorite episode is probably the eighth one in the series' history, when Felix is forced by Albert Brooks to use Oscar as a model in his Mandar Cologne add. Either that, or the one in the last season when Roy Clark plays Oscar's old Army buddy Wild Willie Boggs. Or maybe the one where Oscar and Felix have to find a new frog for Felix's son Leonard after his original frog ends up in the blender, leading to one of the classic lines in the history of American culture, given by Richard Stahl, an actor who apparently made his entire career playing random people on "The Odd Couple," after he hears that the new frog is not a Yugoslavian Jumping Frog but instead a frog from New York City: "An American frog? You bet I'll fix him."

TB hasn't seen many episodes of late, but he did stumble onto a few on Channel 11 in New York that aired at 3 and 3:30 a.m. on a few weekends, so he set the DVR.

In all, he ended up with four episodes, one of which is another of his absolute favorites, the one with the ghost in the air conditioner, including this exchange between the boys and Dr. Clove, the occult specialist that Felix is considering to do an exorcism:

Felix: "Dr. Clove ... exactly what kind of doctor are you?"
Dr. Clove: "I'm an orthodontist. But I gave that up years ago. This is my real love, the occult."
Oscar: "You like all this spooky stuff?"
Dr. Clove: "Beats cleaning bubble gum out of braces."

Watching those episodes took TB right back to when he was younger and watched the show all the time. It was almost as if he could picture the young TB - the one with long hair, parted in the middle, feathered back - watching the show.

He had a similar experience when he saw the CD of pictures that Margot Putukian, the Princeton team physician, gave to TB from the men's lacrosse trip to Costa Rica.

As TB went through the pictures, they put him right back at all the highlights of the trip.

There was the World Cup qualifier. The ziplining. The clinics with the Costa Rican team. The game against Costa Rica, in which TB was a ref. The beaches at Samara and Tamarindo. The community service project where the town center was painted and the field improved. The guides and the drivers.

It's hard to believe that all of that was more than two months ago already. It seems like five minutes have passed.

It's been much longer, of course.

The summer always flies by, and this one seems to have gone particularly quickly. The quiet feel to the campus has vanished, as soccer players are already getting started, to be followed in short order by the rest of the fall sports teams.

Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, was just in TB's office, and TB pointed out that his team has its first game two weeks from tomorrow. Two weeks? How is that possible?

Once again, the entire cycle of an athletic year at Princeton has come and gone, and now it's time for another one to begin.

Amazingly, the summer is almost gone, even if Costa Rica doesn't seem so far away.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Buckle The Chin Straps

TigerBlog was on a field the other night at a huge park, where the change of seasons couldn't be more evident.

The occasion was lacrosse, obviously.

And yet on the field behind him and the field across the street, there were little kids who were getting ready for football season.

There's something All-American about the site of Pop Warner football practice in the late summer. The field is cluttered with kids, all trying to wear the equipment and go through their drills without falling down on their own, let alone by virtue of contact.

It's like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting - or a car commercial.

TigerBlog Jr. played Pop Warner football for awhile, starting with the flag league and then two years of tackle. He also played two years of football in middle school.

TB, for one, is glad that his high school does not have a football team. He's glad that TBJ no longer plays football. He doubts he would allow him to play the sport if he happened to be starting out today.

This is the current issue that the sport of football has to handle as it moves forward. There have always been mothers who didn't want their sons to bang heads with the other kids. Now, in light of the current climate of the sport and especially in terms of the risk and effect of concussions, TB sense that those numbers have skyrocketed.

Oh, there are still plenty of boys who want to play the game, as evidenced by the numbers TB saw on the two fields Monday night.

It's just that the pool has to be shrinking, all in the name of player safety.

TB heard about another scene on another field with another group of little kids, this time where the kids were using helmets that were padded on the outside. This, TB was told, looked weird.

Yes, it looks weird. That's part of the problem.

The helmet is the one piece of the equipment that stands out the most and is by far the coolest. Every little kid loves to put his helmet on.

Covering the outside of the helmet can provide an even greater level of protection to the brain than padding the inside. So why isn't it being done? Because it looks weird.

Football is a huge business in this country. On the professional level, each player has decided it's worth the risk to participate. On the youth and high school level, the players do the same, but the risks can be equal or even greater (with bodies and brains that aren't completely matured yet) without the promise of millions of dollars.

Protecting the money flow for the NFL and major colleges is a huge concern. And the prevailing logic is that the violence is what sells.

TB could make a few rule changes regarding tackling and leading with the helmet that would clean the sport up considerably. The NFL could too. It doesn't want to.

The violence sells.

Anyway, whether or not the off-season concussion news has scared you off, football is almost here.

The NFL has begun its exhibition games. The little kids are obviously out in force. Just drive around at 6 any evening and you'll stumble upon them.

One place where practice hasn't started is, of course, the Ivy League.

TigerBlog has come over to the "let the Ivy champ play in the NCAA playoffs" camp, and though he likes the 10-weeks, 10-games schedule, he could see starting a little earlier and having a week off, if for  no other reason than health issues.

Not that anybody asked him.

Princeton starts practices tomorrow for most fall sports. Football is still a few days away.

The big story for Princeton is obviously the news that Chuck Dibilio, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, is not going to be able to play this year after his stroke this past January.

It's a huge blow to a team that was looking to rebuild around Dibilio, who went for 1,068 yards as a freshman.

This should be a fascinating preseason for Princeton, with competition for the starting quarterback spot probably foremost, as well as figuring out what to do without Dibilio.

Princeton is trying to incorporate another recruiting class with last year's, which had significant contributions from more than just Dibilio. While it's probably harder to play with younger players in football than any other sport (considering the physical maturity of 21- and 22-year-olds vs. 18- and 19-year olds), Princeton is reaching the point of having a good mix of veterans and young players.

Besides, the league's history is filled with stories of teams who finished near the bottom one year who made a huge jump the next year.

TB, for one, is interested in seeing the 2012 Tigers. He can't believe, actually, that opening day is so close - one month from today, to be exact.

By that time, all of the Pop Warner kids will be a few games in. So will the NFL and the rest of college.

Hopefully everyone has a safe season.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Overwhelmingly Overwhelming

TigerBlog looked on the front page of and saw the headline of his story on Princeton's participation in the Olympic Games and noticed that he had made a big mistake.

His headline now reads "Princeton Athletes Complete Overwhelmingly Successful Olympic Games." Only for about an hour or so, he left the "ly" out of "overwhelmingly," making it "overwhelming successful."

The annual athletic department calendar is currently at the printer. Like all major projects, the approval process includes an original proof version, then a pre-press version and so on. By the time the go-ahead is given, there have been so many eyes on it that it's impossible for there to be any mistakes, right?

And then it comes back, and inevitably TB finds something that makes him wonder how he missed it. Fortunately, it hasn't been something huge - hopefully this isn't the year that trend breaks.

As for the headline, it was easily fixed.

Back when TB was at the newspaper, writing headlines was a challenge, because it wasn't so easy to change the size. They had to be the right height and cover the right number of columns, a situation that often limited creativity.

These days, headlines on are supposed to be 75 characters or fewer, or else the risk of having a few letters drop off at the end could - but not necessarily will - happen.

Anyway, with his grammatical slip-up behind him, TB was once again left to marvel at just how well Princeton did at the Olympics.

Princeton athletes combined to win seven medals, which ranked ninth among U.S. colleges. As a country, Princeton would have been tied for 31st, out of 204 nations that competed in London.

Princeton won seven medals - one gold (Caroline Lind in rowing), two silver (Andreanne Morin and Lauren Wilkinson in the same race, only for Canada) and four bronze (Maya Lawrence and Susannah Scanlan in fencing, Diana Matheson in soccer and Glenn Ochal in rowing).

As an aside, UConn was one spot behind Princeton, and all six of its medals were won in women's basketball.

Princeton has had Olympians in every Summer Games since 1896 except for the 1960 Games in Rome. This year's total of 15 athletes and two alternates was the largest for the Tiger contingent ever.

The 2012 Olympics were the most-watched event in American television history, surpassing the 2008 Olympics. Certainly TigerBlog helped the ratings, as he can't calculate how many hours of Olympics he watched.

Of course, NBC's Olympic coverage wasn't exactly how TB would do it. The network was still very reliant on being more cheerleader than TV entity, to the point of a complete oversimplification that can be summed up as "America Good."

And there was the whole aspect of not having live action. Instead, the network offered a packaged production that was meant to blur the line between athletic contest and reality show.

As it turned out, the formula worked.

The sports fans like TB watched anyway, even knowing that they could check their "London 2012" app to see who'd already won the 200 butterfly or vault or any of the other glamor events. 

The non-sports fans are the ones who pushed the ratings way up, and they didn't care to look at who won in advance. For that matter, they were probably watching more for the drama than to see who won anyway. For them, it was Olympics-as-Top-Chef-or-Amazing-Race.

It'll be interesting to see what NBC does for the next Games, both the 2014 Winter Games in Russia and then the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil, to see if it evolves in its coverage or sticks with the winning formula. The time zones in Brazil make live coverage possible; will it be preferable?

And will NBC do anything to stay ahead of the social media curve regarding the Olympics?

This is it for TB and the 2012 Olympics. Once again, he reiterates that of all the winners, it was probably the city of London itself that came across the best, with its ability to put on the Games coupled with the obvious beauty and history of the city.

And it was a great two weeks for Princeton.

The Tiger success was overwhelmingly overwhelming.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Withdrawal

TigerBlog was rooting hard for Spain.

No, not in the gold medal men's basketball game. Had Spain won that game, TB would have been fine with it, since it's the underdog factor and all, plus there are a few players on the U.S. team that TB simply cannot stand.

And yes, the United States did win and has done a great job of reestablishing itself not only as the prominent basketball country in the world but also of becoming essentially unbeatable. Let's remember, though, that yesterday's final was essentially a game of 24 players in which the U.S. team had the first seven or so picks  and 12 of the first 14.

Hey, when it came time to empty the bench and take the starters out to celebrate and get a round of applause, whoever the U.S. coach was (TB can't remember who it was) put in James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguadala, Anthony Davis and Deron Williams.

No, the game in which TB really was rooting for Spain was in the women's team handball bronze medal game. He's not sure why, other than 1) he's been to Spain and not to South Korea and 2) it appeared that Spain was on every time team handball was on, so they were sort of the known team.

Spain ended up winning in overtime. Four overtimes, as it turned out, since a tie in a medal round is broken by two five-minute OTs, and if it's still tied, another two. Had it been tied after the fourth OT, then it would have been decided by a shootout of seven-meter shots.

TB doesn't understand all the team handball rules, though there is a great one. There is no shot clock, but it's an immediate turnover if the officials suspect that the offensive team is not making an attempt to score but is instead stalling. Imagine if lacrosse copied that?

Team handball is one of the parts of the Olympics that TB loves, the chance to see a bunch of sports that ordinarily aren't part of the sporting conscience.

Oh, and TB forgot to say this during the last two weeks, but you know what is really fascinating about Michael Phelps? Between the 2008 Olympics and 2012 Olympics, how many people saw him compete?

The Games ended yesterday with the Closing Ceremonies, which didn't exactly equal the Opening Ceremonies in terms of the over-the-topness but came close. The music was great and all, but was all the accompanying stuff really necessary?

Anyway, they're over now, which means the TV in TB's office isn't being turned on now in anticipation of whatever event is next. There'll be a certain withdrawal that goes along with it, as TB genuinely got into watching these Games, more so than he did in years past.

And he loved the London 2012 app, where he could figure out who won long before he could watch it on TV.

So what's going to fill the void?

Mostly, it's going to be Princeton Athletics.

As nuts as it seems, practice starts this week for most Princeton fall sports.

Even more nuts, the first games are two weeks from Friday. Today is Aug. 13, and the first games are Aug. 31. In fact, Princeton plays men's soccer, women's soccer, field hockey and women's volleyball on that Friday.

Only women's soccer is at home, but there'll be plenty of women's soccer that weekend, four games in fact, as Princeton opens by hosting Colgate, Hofstra and Wake Forest in the Princeton Invitational, with two more home games the following weekend (against St. Joe's and Temple).

By a month from tomorrow, six Princeton teams will have played home games.

The opening day for football season is a month from Wednesday.

Before you blink, the fall season - like the Olympics - will have flown by.

There are no more sports camps here, so the army of little kids has disappeared for now. There are no athletes yet, so there is almost nothing going on.

It's very, very quiet.

And it's going to change very, very quickly.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gold, Silver, Bronze

TigerBlog has eyes. He can see that LoLo Jones is very attractive.

In contemporary American society, she's the poster child for television coverage of the Olympic Games. Good-looking. All-American girl-next-door type. A difficult childhood. Came so close to winning gold four years ago. Overcame a career-threatening injury a year ago.

And, given the way it all works these days, TB also understands the willingness of people to immediately tear her down when she doesn't win a medal this time around.

Jones sat tearfully on "The Today Show" - can those people have embarrassed themselves any more the last two weeks than they have? - the other morning, talking about the story in the New York Times that called her, apparently (TB didn't read it), the Anna Kournikova of track, with the implication that she's known only for her looks and not for any athletic achievement.

This, of course, is nonsense. Jones is an accomplished hurdler, whether she is ugly or pretty.

What really struck TB from the clip of the Jones interview was when she said that she'd trained six days a week for four years for a 12-second race.

And then she came with one-tenth of a second of winning a medal, finishing in the worst possible spot, fourth.

So if you work that hard for a singular goal and fall one-tenth of a second short, how do you go on? It's not like you can get 'em next year; you have to wait four more years.

In that regard, TB gives Jones and everyone else who finishes fourth all the credit in the world. Even the ugly ones.

The Olympics are reaching their end, and most of the events TB wanted to see have already been contested.

He's fine without seeing any more of "Misty" and "Kerri," though he does wonder why the NBC announcers called those two beach volleyballers by their first names and called the other American team by their last names.

When TB has mentioned his total revulsion by the way that they were referred to by their first names, more than one person has said that maybe it was because their last names were so bulky. Yes, three syllables each. Who could handle that? 

There aren't too many more athletes that are more fun to watch compete - or appear to be having more fun competing - than Usain Bolt. Of course, it's easy to have that much fun when you simply demolish the field the way he does.

The women's soccer competition was tremendous. The basketball hasn't grabbed TB, though team handball did. And synchronized swimming. And kayaking. And open water swimming. And cycling. And a bunch of others.

The gymnastics not as much. The diving definitely didn't. Even though he though the syncro diving and swimming were wild to watch, TB is no fan of sports that are judged.

Princeton's Olympic competition ended yesterday, ended in a great way, as Diana Matheson's goal gave Canada the bronze in women's soccer.

Princeton's final medal count stands at seven, with one goal, two silver and four bronze, which are displayed on the main website, by the way, in a relatively cool graphic that TB had nothing to do with putting together (Kristy McNeil's idea and execution).

As of now, Princeton all by itself would be tied for 27th out of the 204 countries competing at the Olympic Games. For the record, that'd be tied with Kenya and Sweden with seven medals.

Among the countries that don't have as many medalists as Princeton? Mexico, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Ireland and on and on.

India, a country with 1.2 billion people, has won four medals. Princeton, a University with an undergraduate population of about 5,000 each year, won seven.

As for American colleges, Princeton sits first in the Ivy League and seventh overall in medals won.

Not surprisingly, USC and Florida rank first with 18 total medals. Cal is second with 16, followed by Stanford with 14 and then Texas and Washington with nine each.

Princeton is next.

These have been a great Olympic Games, with something for every one to get into.

Especially Princeton fans.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Medal For Matheson

So as emotional swings go, there can't be too many teams that have ever gone through what the Canadian women's soccer team just did in a three-day span.

Here were the Canadians on Monday, completely destroyed, almost unable to walk off the field after their 4-3 loss to the United States in the Olympic semifinals.

And here they were today, achieving a high that none of them had ever experienced before, all courtesy of a goal by Princeton alum Diana Matheson, this time just seconds before the end of stoppage time in regulation, as Canada defeated France 1-0. Matheson's goal came after Canada was outshot 28-4 in the game.

What a swing it was for the Canadians. Remember back to Monday, after the end of the semifinal against the Americans, in what was one of the greatest sporting events ever played?

The Canadians were physically and emotionally spent, and why wouldn't they be? They had just gone toe-to-toe with their biggest rival for more than 120 minutes, only to have Alex Morgan break their collective hearts with her header just seconds before the game would have gone to penalty kicks.

The Canadians had come so close against the Americans. They had the lead three times, only to give it back on each occasion.

The first American goal was a misplay off a corner kick. The third goal was after two controversial calls - one an almost-never-called delay against the goalkeeper and the second an iffy hand ball on the resulting indirect kick from inside the box - that resulted in a PK.

And then there was the game-winner, just seconds before the whistle.

As TigerBlog has said all week, the semifinal is a brutal round in the Olympics. Win and you're guaranteed a medal. Lose, and you have to come right back for the bronze medal game, where a loss means you come away completely empty.

For Canada, a country whose last medal in a team sport at the Summer Games was in basketball in 1936 and who had never won a medal in women's soccer, a loss in the bronze medal game would have been twice as crushing, considering just how close the team had been to beating the Americans.

For three days, the Canadians had to listen to and read all about what an epic game it had been, knowing that they had come so close to winning.

Making it worse was the fact that it came against the Americans, their biggest rival, a team that the Canadians have to be completely sick of hearing about.

And now they had to pump it back up, and quickly, in order to get a medal at all.

If you watched the game, you saw that Canada was clearly a tired team, physically, it turned out, more than mentally.

Canada could barely move in the second half, when France had chance after chance, hitting the post, the crossbar, just missing out on open looks. At one point, one of the Canadian defenders had to save a ball off the line.

Under the constant pressure, it certainly had the feel that the French were about to score, but they never did.

Instead, it was Canada that was able to counter, and it was Matheson who was the hero, as she pounced on a loose ball and drove it into the French net when the keeper was out of position.

There was still enough time after that for the French to get the ball into Canada's box and almost, almost, got a PK out of a collision, which would have been about the most heartbreaking moment any team ever had to deal with, had Canada come that close and then not won.

And then it was over, and Canada had earned a bronze medal. To the team, it had to feel as good as a gold.

The elation on the part of the team, and Matheson, screamed out from the television screen - or in TB's case, his laptop.

TB can't remember a time he felt better for a team and for an individual athlete.

Matheson balanced playing an international schedule with the Canadian team while playing for Princeton during her undergraduate days, a time that included a trip to the NCAA Final Four and a first-team All-America selection.

She's a remarkable athlete, Matheson, in that she routinely gives away a foot or more and who knows how many pounds to her competition, and yet she is able to be one of the best players on a team that just won an Olympic bronze medal. Her skill with the ball is amazing, and her fitness enables her to keep going at full speed long after most players have slowed down; both of these were on clear display in the semifinal and bronze medal games.

The goal was her first in her Olympic career, which spans the last two Games. She also has played in the World Cup for her country.

Her Olympic goal couldn't have come at a better time, and it was a Hollywood ending to the Princeton participation in these Games, where the Tigers have won seven medals.

Canada wins? A Princeton alum scores? Who could write such a script?

TB watched as Matheson beamed after the game, after she hugged her teammates, after she held out the "Canada" part of her jersey. He's seen several pictures online, including one where she is holding her country's flag.

These Olympics are almost over. The athletes who gathered in London from 204 countries will now go home, the overwhelming majority of them without medals.

The women of the Canadian soccer team will bring medals home with them. They won't be gold, of course, but they'll be cherished as much as any medals won at these Games.

After what the team went through this week, of course they will be.

And it was Diana Matheson who made it happen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lots Of Olympics, With Some Ivy Football Mixed In

Perhaps by now you've seen the commercial on the Olympics where the American athletes, clad in their Team USA gear, are gathering in the airport waiting for their flight to London.

As they greet each other, kill time before their flights and do the things that people do at airport gates, all of the other travelers, especially the kids, look on in awe.

Then the athletes all get up and walk to the plane, as the overhead sign flashes the destination of "London Heathrow." The commercial ends in the obligatory slow-motion, as the athletes board, with the voiceover talking about how United has been flying Olympic athletes for decades now.

TigerBlog wondered at first if the commercial uses real athletes or actors playing athletes, and if they used actors, why not use real athletes? Then he wondered if when the athletes traveled, they wore all that USA stuff.

Then there are the commercials that have run back-to-back.

The first is the one that starts out that the Olympic athletes are just like everyone else. The second one is the one where the athletes (actors, probably) say things like "I haven't had dessert in years" or "I haven't watched TV in years" or whatever they're saying.

And did you realize that all of the people who made it to the Olympics did so because they ate the right yogurt? Or the right french fries from the right fast food restaurant. TB isn't sure.

TB saw all those commercials last night. He also heard, again, the U.S. announcer who insists on calling the two beach volleyball players "Kerry" and "Misty," as if they are first cousins or BFFs or something. Can there be a little professionalism among all the cheerleading?

TB read this on a British blog, and it sort of resonated with him:
As one, the media are demanding, cajoling, whipping us into appropriate displays of Olympic enthusiasm, particularly in relation to British competitors and especially British victories. Breathless BBC commentators reiterate the same round of superlatives – “unbelievable”, “incredible”, “amazing,” “brilliant,” “unbelievable” – telling us again and again how unique, how special, how extraordinary these Olympics are. It feels like they’re the ones on performance enhancing drugs, not the usually sober, poised and realistic competitors.
The boosterism is relentless. We’re all being enjoined to get out and back Team GB, regardless of the particular event or the particular competitors, as if there were no other elements in the spectacle. No matter what the context, no matter how minor or major the sport or what role it actually plays in our lives and imaginations, and entirely disregarding the merits of the opposition, we must reproduce the same emotion, the same enthusiasm. As a fan, I’m always sad to see sports reduced to a hollow chamber for a one-dimensional national chauvinism. The human phenomenon we call sport is far more interesting than that. 

Another commercial TB has seen during the Olympics has been the promo for the upcoming sitcom "Go On," starring one of the guys from "Friends." Just a hunch, but TB feels like this show will go the way of every other sitcom that the "Friends" cast has tried.

TB liked "Friends," and he thought Chandler had his moments. He just can't see this show being any good. Maybe he'll be wrong.

Either way, the promos are a sign that once the Olympics end, it'll be a sprint to the end of this month and with it, the start of the 2012-13 college athletic year.

Yesterday was Ivy League football media day, or at least the Ivy League football coaches preseason media call.

TigerBlog used to love Ivy League football media day.

There was the overwhelming pressure to get the media guide done in time, because showing up without one was not a possibility. TB used to have drive to meet the printer to pick up a few boxes of guides on his way to Connecticut, where the media day used to be.

The event itself was never overflowing with media people, but there were enough to sustain it. More importantly, it was an opportunity to have all of the Ivy League coaches, SIDs and media types, along with a good handful of administrators, in the same place at the same time - all a few weeks before things go really serious.

When TB thinks back to his time here, he remembers football media day as one of the highlights of every year.

Yes, he understands why it no longer exists, with costs, decreased media and all that.

Still, it was a fun time. Some football talk. Some camaraderie. Some golf. A great box lunch after some bagels for breakfast. What could be better?

Princeton was picked to finish eighth in the media poll. Somewhat shockingly, opening day is little more than a month away for football and little more than three weeks away for most fall sports.

In the meantime, it's back to the Olympics.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Diana's Day

TigerBlog may have to start rethinking his position that Ian Darke is the best announcer he's heard in a long time.

After listening to Arlo White during these Olympics, maybe it's just every British announcer who is great.

Okay, no, Darke is still the best. Arlo, who according to his Wikipedia bio was named after singer Arlo Guthrie, is a close second.

He certainly brought his A+ game yesterday to the U.S.-Canada women's soccer game at the Olympics. His performance was perfect, and it needed to be, since this was as good as an athletic event gets. It would hardly do for the play-by-play announcer not to rise to that occasion.

TB understands why people are quick to label recently completed moments as "the greatest ever" or crown athletes as "the best of all-time" without any real historical analysis. Why wouldn't you if you were on TV or something, where the whole show is about making bold statements.

Take Michael Phelps. Is he the greatest Olympian of all time? Maybe. Certainly he has the medals to back it up.

But he's also had the opportunity to win more medals, something that is specific to swimming and gymnastics, which is the sport in which the old record holder for most career medals competed. She was a Soviet gymnast, and TB isn't going to look up her name.

So is Phelps the greatest? He could be. He's done it over time. He's done things in a single Olympics that no one else has ever done. He's done it with a mother who appears to crave the spotlight so much that she could be a Kardashian.

On the other hand, is Phelps a greater Olympian than Usain Bolt? You could discuss this for hours and reach no definitive conclusion, and that's just from this Olympics.

So even with his disdain for making the over-the-top statement, TB will still throw this out there: Yesterday's game was the best soccer game he's ever seen, and it's up there with any game in any sport he's ever watched that wasn't played by the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980.

It had it all.

It came in the Olympics, which bring with them a certain level of pressure right off the bat. The game came in the semifinals, which as TB said yesterday, means the difference between guaranteeing a medal and having a shot at gold or having to come back from the disappointment to play another game, this time where a loss means no medal at all.

This was also a game between two neighbors, the one who is the dominant one in the sport (the U.S.) and the other who is constantly getting slapped down (Canada).

And it was on live TV. With Arlo White.

Beyond that backdrop, there was the game itself. Three times, the Canadians took the lead. Three times the Americans came back. Do you ever see that in soccer?

And how many international soccer games have you ever seen that end 4-3 with a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time in the second OT?

Of course, what would a great game be without some controversial officiating. The third American goal came on a penalty kick after a very questionable delay call against the Canadian goalkeeper, followed by a questionable hand ball against the Canadians on the resulting free kick.

If TB could change on thing about international soccer, it would be to have the time kept on the scoreboard. The ref clearly could stop it whenever necessary, like due to injury and all.

In yesterday's game, a rather arbitrary three minutes were added to the final 15-minute OT. The game-winner came with about 30 seconds left. Had it been two minutes rather than three, it would have been off to penalty kicks. Who knows how much time really should have been on the clock at that point.

The Canadian team featured Princeton alum Diana Matheson, who according to TB was the second-best player on her team. And she was definitely the fittest player in the game, as her impact grew as the game went on.

By the end, when everyone was dragging, she was still going full speed.

Her ability to control the ball, to find the right person to pass it to, to defend without fouling, to disrupt the American possessions, to do this all for more than 120 minutes was amazing to watch. It's even more amazing when the fact that she stands a shade below five feet tall and, at least when she was competing at Princeton, wore size 4.5 shoes are factored in.

Matheson along with current assistant coach Esmeralda Negron led Princeton to the 2004 NCAA semifinals, something no other Ivy League women's soccer team had done before or has done since. As he watched the game, TB wondered whether or not Matheson would have had a chance at the U.S. national team had she been American.

Because of Matheson and the underdog factor, TB found himself rooting for the Canadians.

As the game went along, though, it became apparent that this wasn't just another game, even for the Olympics. This was a stunning display by both teams, one where the drama of every moment somehow eclipsed what happened just before it, where the next turn was completely unforeseeable.

In that way, it was fitting that it not come down to PKs, that it be won cleanly, the way the Americans did.

TB isn't sure how Canada bounces back from that. To be so close to a medal and then have to pump the balloon back up again to take on France in the bronze medal game Thursday? That won't be easy at all.

While it was obvious that the Canadians were crushed when it was over, it was just as obvious that it appeared that everyone on the field knew that they had been a part of something extraordinary, a game that was beyond special.

This was as good as athletic competition gets.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not Live, From London

Raise your hand if you're one of the thousands of people who tweeted something along the lines of "Hey, NBC, people will watch live sports on Sunday afternoons. Signed - the NFL."

NBC refuses to do so. NBC refuses to do anything that might compromise its primetime ratings, which, by the way, have been up substantially over the Olympics of four years ago in Beijing.

And why? Because the Olympics have succeeded in attracting viewers who traditionally don't watch sports on TV - mostly women and BrotherBlog - and many of these viewers either aren't going to check who won an event in advance or know the outcome and will watch the primetime package anyway.

And what are these non-traditional viewers watching?

In order, it probably goes like this:

1. gymnastics
2. gymnastics
3. gymnastics
4. Michael Phelps
5. beach volleyball

TigerBlog actually wonders what NBC would have done had these Games been awarded to New York City. Would the network have been okay with having these events live in primetime, even though that would mean that the drama couldn't be pre-packaged?

TB thinks not. He thinks that to NBC, primetime at the Olympics is meant to be something along the lines of a reality show, and to see who the last one voted off is is what holds the audience. Live events don't always fit nicely into time slots, especially in gymnastics.

This decision by the network might be unpopular. Actually, it is unpopular - but that's just among sports fans.

It's not going to change, however.

TB gets that. What he doesn't understand is how NBC could show on tape delay the U.S. vs. South Korea in the women's epee fencing semifinal, a match that the U.S. was clearly losing, while at the exact same to-the-second moment, the U.S. and Russia were heading towards overtime in the bronze medal match.

And you want to talk about pressure? How about a bronze medal match?

You get to the semifinals and you have to win one of the next two to win a medal. Except if you lose the semifinal, you go from the verge of competing for a gold medal to the reality of having a loss deny you any medal.

That's why the fencing match against Russia was so heart-stopping. And only available online?

The U.S. won that match, giving Princeton two more bronze medals, with Susannah Scanlan and Maya Lawrence on the team.

Scanlan and Lawrence were part of a three bronze-medal day for the U.S. Saturday, along with Glenn Ochal, who won a bronze in the fours rowing.

Princeton's Donn Cabral didn't win a medal, but he did some extraordinary things in his two Olympic races, first earning a spot in the final and then leading for three laps and ultimately finishing eighth. Expect Cabral to be back in 2016.

TB was a bit frustrated with the steeplechase final. He went to NBC's website for the stream and was stuck with some buffering for awhile, so there were only three laps to go when he finally was able to see Cabral.

The Princeton medal count - which can be seen in a graphic on the main webpage - now stands at one gold, two silvers and three bronzes.
Still with a shot at a medal is Princeton's Diana Matheson, whose Canadian women's soccer team is in the dreaded semifinal against the U.S. today at 2:45. Japan and France meet in the other semifinal.

This, of course, begs the question of which team to root for, the Americans, because they're the Americans, or the Canadians, because they have a Princeton alum.

TigerBlog has loved the Olympics, even if things like the 100 meter final aren't being shown live and even if the announcers at beach volleyball insist on calling them Kerry and Misty, instead of by their last names, something that has tortured TB to an extent that surprises even him.

And hey, it's been a great Olympics for Princeton. Six medals. Maybe another one.

Go Canada.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gonna Fly Now

TigerBlog felt like he was watching a sports movie this morning when he turned on the Olympic track and field on his computer.

Here was Donn Cabral (Donald, as it said when the names were flashed before his race), the hero of the movie, the one who set all those lofty goals a year ago, and now he was standing at the starting line for the final heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

TB half expected him to break out a tape measure, put Ollie on his shoulders, and figure out that the height of the hurdles was the same as it is back on Weaver Track. Or maybe have him stoically mention to his girlfriend that all he really wants to do is go the distance.

Here was Cabral, someone whom everyone who works in Jadwin Gym had seen run every day in what were simply ridiculous workouts, standing in front of 80,000 people, ready for the third and final heat in the steeplechase, and TB couldn't help but think that somehow this was all really fiction or something, created by Hollywood.

TB knows nothing about the strategy involved in a steeplechase race.

All he really knew - and he didn't even know this until this morning - was that Cabral needed to be in the top four in his heat or have one of the next three fastest times to reach Sunday's final. This was something that, as TB understood it, was something of a long shot.

Cabral has been putting together videos this week, and TB has seen him play ping-pong, marvel at the amount of gear they've been given, talk about his training, talk about his experience.

Track and field follows swimming at the Olympics, with Week 1 all about the pool. The Games are already well underway by the time the first runners, jumpers and throwers get started, and in fact TB believes every other athlete other than those in track and field has already competed.

It has to seem like an eternity for them as they wait for Week 2 to get here.

And then, here it was for the steeplechasers, up to the starting line early on Day 1 of track and field. For Cabral, it was possible that a little over eight minutes into the first few events on the track his Olympic experience could have started and ended.

TB watched the first heat and saw the first American (Evan Jager, who had beaten Cabral at the Olympic Trials), and he seemed in control throughout, easing into second place. Ultimately, it would turn out that Jager ran the second fastest time of the three heats, an 8:16.61.

The second heat featured an Ethiopian runner who slammed into the final hurdle and had to be wheeled away, as well as American Kyle Acorn, who would finish well back.

Then it was Cabral's turn. Obviously he would run in the third heat. What Hollywood sports movie would have him run first?

To get to the final, he needed either a top four finish or to beat the time of 8:22 that was at that moment the third fastest time by someone in the first two heats who had not finished in the top four.

The race itself might as well have been scripted by Hollywood.

Cabral went out quickly and lead for almost the entire race, except that to the uninformed eye, it appeared that he had gone out too quickly and was in an unfavorable position. Midway through the final lap, Cabral was being caught, first by one runner, then two, then three.

Eventually, as they reached the final water jump, he was in fifth - and appeared to be fading.

Of course, this being a sports movie, Cabral heard the dramatic music building to its crescendo - and shifted into another gear.

And just like that, he was sprinting down the last hundred meters, just like he had on so many afternoons outside of Jadwin, regaining fourth and pulling away.

Ultimately, he'd finish fourth in his heat at 8:21.46. He comes back for the final Sunday.

The movie probably ends as he stands at the starting line Sunday, knowing that he's achieved all of his goals. He's probably smiling, waving around to the crowd. Then he turns serious, heads to the start line.

Then there's the starter's gun, and the screen fades to black, leaving the viewer to wonder how he did.

That's how TB would end the movie anyway.

The real audience, though, will get to see how it plays out.

Winning a medal will be a very tall order for Cabral. Still, TB and every other Princeton fan will be rooting hard for him.

TB has been around Princeton athletes for a quarter century, and he can't remember more than a handful who were easier to root for than Donn Cabral.

No wonder he makes such a good movie hero.