Friday, September 28, 2012

103 Straight

The Ryder Cup starts today outside of Chicago. Apparently, it's Craig Sachson's favorite sporting event.

Sachson told TigerBlog this yesterday as they warmed up for squash. He loves the Ryder Cup.

For those who don't know, the Ryder Cup is a golf competition between a team of golfers from the U.S. and a team representing Europe. It is held every two years.

Sachson talked about the pressure on each player, the fact that they're not getting money but instead are representing a team for one of the rare times in the sport, the reaction of the normally mellow golf crowds.

TB prefers the World Cup to the Ryder Cup. And the NCAA men's lacrosse championships and the Super Bowl (in that order, unless the Giants are winning the Super Bowl, as they have two of the last four years). And the Olympics. And probably a few others.

The pregame squash talk turned to another interesting fact about Sachson. In his role as football contact for Princeton Athletic Communications, Sachson will be attending his 103rd consecutive football game tomorrow, when Princeton opens its Ivy season at Columbia.

Armed with this news, TB tried to figure out what his longest consecutive streak of attending Princeton football games was.

TB was the football contact before Sachson, and he spent eight years in that role. Prior to that, he covered the team at the newspaper. Since Sachson's arrival, TB has been on the radio and of late the PA announcer for the games.

And for all that, he thinks his longest streak is 28 straight games. Basketball, it seemed, often got in the way of the Princeton-Dartmouth (and then sometimes Princeton-Yale) football games.

Still, all told, TB still has he edge on Sachson in total number of Princeton football games. If he had to guess, TB would say he's seen between 150 and 170.

His current streak of consecutive games stands at two, as in the two played this year. It'll go back to zero tomorrow, as he won't be making the trip to New York City.

The Princeton team that goes to Columbia does so with an 0-2 record, but the results are still encouraging.

Princeton lost 17-14 at Lehigh in what was its first game and Lehigh's third - and the Mountain Hawks have one of the top programs in Division I-AA. Princeton then fell at home last week to Georgetown 21-20 on a field goal with 14 seconds to play.

So are all 0-2 starts created equal?

Last year Princeton was outscored 68-31 in its first two games (Lehigh/Bucknell) and then defeated Columbia 24-21 to open the Ivy season.

The Lions are 1-1 on the year, with a win over Marist and a loss to Fordham. Like the Tigers, Columbia very much wants to be 1-0 in the league come tomorrow night.

The interesting thing about the early season for TB is that there's no way to guess what will happen next. TB has the sense the Tigers are much-improved, but as he has been saying, it's important that wins follow that.

Besides, after the Columbia game, there is one at a much-improved Lafayette and then the sprint of six Ivy games in six weeks.

Whatever happens, it's going to happen quickly.

When Sachson gets to 110 straight, what will Princeton's record be for the year?

It's possible that tomorrow's game will be a huge piece of answering that question.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Date Night Variable

The big news for today is that the season premiere of "The Big Bang Theory" comes up at 8 on CBS.

Or you can DVR it or watch it on demand or something like that, or even DVR it and start it at 8:07 so you don't have to watch any of the commercials, as viewing possibilities have changed radically since TigerBlog first began watching TV on a black-and-white set with a dial that had to be turned with somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 watchable channels.

A year ago, TB had never watched one episode of "The Big Bang Theory." In the last few months, he has seen every one, most of them more than once. Who says TB doesn't spend his time wisely?

TB watched the trailer for Episode 1 of the new season, which starts with Howard in outer space. It is entitled "The Date Night Variable," so presumably Howard does not play a huge role.

Of course, the excitement for the new "The Big Bang Theory" season is nothing compared to what figures to be the highlight of the weekend, the premiere Sunday night of Season 2 of "Homeland."

How much is TB looking forward to that one? It airs from 10-11 Sunday night, and there is zero chance that TB will flip away even for one second to get an update on the Giants-Eagles game, going on at the same time.

An average episode of "The Big Bang Theory" last year drew around 13 million viewers. The last episode of "Homeland" drew 1.7 million. TB is fascinated by what those numbers will be this time around.

Between now and the premiere of "Homeland," there are 23 competitions involving Princeton teams, according to the all-sports schedule.

Of those 23, only two are at home, but they're well worth attending.

Princeton hosts Dartmouth in a soccer doubleheader Saturday, beginning at 2 with the women's game and then concluding at 5 with the men's game. It is the first weekend of league games for the men and the second for the women.

If you think that Ivy women's soccer is pretty tightly bunched, you'd be right.

Last weekend's first four games were all decided by one goal, with two 2-1 games and two 1-0 games. Princeton was on the winning end of its game, knocking off Yale 2-1 in overtime.

Dartmouth defeated Brown by a 2-1 score last weekend as well. Penn and Columbia also won.

Of the eight league teams, seven are at .500 or better overall. It's very unlikely that the league champ will be undefeated, so getting to 2-0 would be a great first step.

Princeton is led by Jen Hoy (whom you can hear on this week's TigerCast) and her 11 goals in nine games. She leads the Ivy League and actually has more than twice as many goals as any other player.

On the men's side, Princeton is 4-3, which makes the Tigers one of three teams over .500 heading into the league. The other two? Cornell at 8-0-0 and Brown at 7-1-0.

Ivy League men's soccer is wildly competitive. The Tigers, winners of their last three, went 7-0-0 in the league two years ago and then struggled last year, showing that the margin of error is slim on the men's side as well.

The men's team features Thomas Sanner, who has won the Ivy Rookie of the Week award three of the four weeks it's been awarded.

Dartmouth comes into the game at 3-4 overall, but everyone is now 0-0 in the league.

The soccer doubleheader on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium is your only opportunity to see Princeton teams at home this weekend.

And there you have it.

"The Big Bang Theory" tonight.

Soccer Saturday.

"Homeland" Sunday night.

You're on your own for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Day To Atone

TigerBlog's people have two holidays that really mess with his eating habits.

The first is Passover, the eight days that celebrate the Israelites' exodus from enslavement in Egypt, led ably by none other than Moses.

For each of those eight days, TB's people are not allowed - well, not supposed - to eat anything leavened, which essentially eliminates bread, pasta and basically everything else most people eat every day.

The other is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which just happens to be today.

On Yom Kippur, Jews are to fast, from sundown of one day (yesterday) to sundown of the next (today). No food. No liquids. Nothing. For 24 hours.

TigerBlog has spent much of his life mulling over the question of which is more challenging, going eight days minus so many huge staples of his diet is tougher or one full night and day without eating anything.

Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the Jewish year, a day of quiet reflection and prayer to atone for one's sins of the past year.

It is the end of the Jewish High Holy Days, which began eight days ago with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

In Jewish culture, the High Holy Days never come on time. They're either early or late, as in "the holidays came really early this year," which is said at every family celebration as a way of suggesting that the hostess was caught completely off guard, what with the end of the summer and all, and therefore couldn't create a proper meal for the occasion. This is usually followed by a general agreement that "we should only be together on wonderful occasions."

For children, the goal on Yom Kippur is always to go the entire 24 hours without eating, though it's rarely achieved.

The tendency is to overeat at dinner before sundown when Yom Kippur begins, but this doesn't do anything to sustain someone the entire next day.

TB's schools were always closed on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and he never went to classes in college on the holidays. He's almost always taken off from work, except at some point when he began to attend Princeton's games should the holiday fall on a weekend.

This put him in a different place than Sandy Koufax, who famously did not pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

TB's first Yom Kippur game was a football game at Brown back in the 1990s.

He decided to make the trip because he figured that leaving at 6 am, driving to Providence, working at the game and then driving some of the way back - all without eating - would be a tougher challenge than sleeping later and not being as busy.

Brown Stadium is not located on campus, set instead at the end of a residential neighborhood about a mile away with a temple across the street from the parking lots.

TB decided to go to the services being held at the temple, and he went in and found three players - two from Princeton and one from Brown - at the services as well. As he recalls, the Brown player was in his uniform.

The 2010 Princeton football season opened on Yom Kippur with a game at Lehigh, and TB did the radio for that one. About five feet from his booth was the pregame media food, which looked great from TB's hungry standpoint.

As for that Brown game, TB made the trip with Princeton's radio team of Tom McCarthy, now the Phillies' TV play-by-play man, and Walter Perez, now a reporter on Channel 6 TV in Philadelphia. The two of them spent the entire trip eating, and when not eating, talking about eating. As TB remembers it, they both got really good bacon and egg sandwiches at a bagel place in the morning.

That particular Yom Kippur, TB broke his fast at a Wendy's off I-95 in Rhode Island.

Anyway, TB is talking today off, except for a few reflections on the holiest day of the year.

He'll be back in the office tomorrow morning, well fed and fully atoned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good Call

If you're an NFL fan like TigerBlog, then you remember the good old days, back when every coach, player and commentator praised the officials after every game.

Remember those days? Every call was right. There was never any controversy about anything, whether it be a judgement call, the administration of the game, none of it.

Everyone lived in blissful happiness, knowing full well that no matter what, the game would never be decided by an officials' error, since they didn't make any.

TigerBlog gets the whole ref controversy. It's easy to blame the replacements.

And now everyone is looking for it on every play in every situation everywhere.

TB's theory is that if the real refs came back but nobody said they were the real refs, everyone would still say all the same things about them as if they were the replacements.

Take last night's game between the Packers and Seahawks. The last play of the game might not have been a great call or even the right call, but it was hardly the worst call of all time.

Offensive pass interference is never called in that situation. And Golden Tate had a lot of the ball and never let go of it, even if the Packers' M.D. Jennings had more of it.

Did that call give the Packers the loss? Hardly.

Maybe if Aaron Rodgers threw for more than 223 yards. Or, to all those offensive linemen who couldn't wait to tweet, maybe eight first-half sacks were part of the problem.

It's not possible for the replacement refs to come in and be exactly as good as the regular ones, simply because they don't have the experience of officiating games at that speed with players that size with that much scrutiny. It takes more than three weeks of regular season games to make that happen.

But are they as horrific as they're being made out to be? No, they're not.

The uproar over last night's game is predictable, and it does deflect attention away from the fact that in a 60-minute game, the powerful Green Bay offense rolled up 268 yards of offense while the defense forced exactly zero turnovers against a rookie quarterback in his third game.

Oh, and for the New England-Baltimore game, how would real refs have made anything different on the game-winning field goal, which, by the way, was 1) good and 2) not reviewable.

Officials are such an easy target.

The ones who officiate college men's lacrosse have endured a great deal of screaming and yelling and ranting and anything else coaches could come up with, and it's not going to get any easier for them this coming year.

The new rules in men's lacrosse that were recommended last month by the rules committee and then tweaked and finally formally adopted this week include a brand-new challenge for the refs.

To address the issues related to pace of play, the rules committee came up with the idea of using the stall warning as sort of a pseudo shot clock.

Under the old rules, when the refs decided that the team with the ball was making no effort to go to the goal in a reasonable amount of time, a stalling warning was issued. At that point, the team with the ball had to keep the ball in the box or else it would become a turnover.

The problem with that rule, though, was that it has become harder and harder for the defense to force the turnover in that situation, as offenses have gotten way better at playing keepaway (partly because of new stick technology) and defenses have had to choose between trying to aggressively force the offense out of the box while risking overplaying and giving up a layup or sitting back passively.

For TigerBlog, those situations could be fascinating, though the balance had certainly shifted from fascinating to happens-too-often.

To get around this, the rules committee came up with the new rule. Once a stalling warning is issued, the refs will immediately begin a 30-second countdown, the first 20 seconds of which will use a timer and then the final 10 seconds of which will use an arm countdown.

If the team with the ball does not get a shot on goal in those 30 seconds, it'll be a turnover. A shot on goal is defined as a goal, a shot off the pipe or a save by the goalie (the shot off the pipe doesn't count as a statistical shot on goal, by the way).

The rule change no longer requires the offensive team to keep the ball in the box during the 30 seconds after the stall warning is issued.

As for the last two minutes, the team ahead is no longer required to keep it in the box, but the rule about getting a shot on goal in the 30 seconds will apply once a stall is called. This could be a huge advantage to a team up by one who gets the ball with fewer than 45 seconds or so remaining, since it could probably just spread the field and kill the clock.

The idea is to prevent teams from simply sitting on the ball without instituting a shot clock, which could, among other things, provide a financial/staffing issue for schools.

The problem is that so much of the game will now be decided by the officials' discretion as to when to issue the stall warning. In the past, that was a problem too, and the defensive coaches are already yelling "stall" after the offensive team makes more than five passes.

Now, though, the timing of calling the stall has direct implications on what happens in the next 30 seconds, so when it's called becomes a much bigger deal.

And then there are the mechanics of the situation, with issues related to starting the 20-second timer, teams not knowing how much exact time is left on the countdown, what will happen when the ball goes out of bounds but the offense retains possession (the timer runs, the arm countdown stops).

Still, it's a good step in the direction of taking some of the problems related to the pace out of the game.

TB still thinks a bigger problem revolves around substituting, with offensive and defensive specialization.

And he thinks ultimately there will be a shot clock in college lacrosse.

For now, it'll be interesting to see how the refs respond to the new responsibilities placed on them.

In case you haven't noticed, people love to rip on the refs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

And The Emmy Goes To ... Homeland

Is there anyone anywhere who laughed at anything any of the presenters said during the Emmy Awards last night?

Anybody at all who thought any of that banter, which is so poorly written and then attempted to be portrayed as spontaneous, was actually funny?

Is this really the best that award shows can do? Supposedly the top writers and most "talented" performers are all working on this show; can't someone come up with something that isn't embarrassingly awkward?

Of course, there is little in the way of actual talent that separates the average TV or movie actor from the other 100,000 or more wannabe actors who don't get the break. TigerBlog has said this before a thousand times, that unlike endeavors like writing or even sports, acting isn't something where the most successful by definition are the most talented.

Still, someone should have been able to stand up and say "no, this isn't funny." As it turned out, the production for the Emmy Awards was pathetic, done in by the lack of anything remotely funny in the presentations and the widespread self-absorption of the winners and sometimes losers on the night.

TB watched the show because 1) nothing else on another channel was grabbing him, including the Patriots-Ravens game (TB thinks that field goal was probably good and wonders how it would have been any different had the regular refs had been on the field) and 2) because he wanted to see how his two favorite shows made out.

The first, "The Big Bang Theory," struck out, wiped out by "Modern Family." TB has heard that "Modern Family" is hilarious, but he's never seen it.

The second is "Homeland," a show TB hadn't heard of maybe three weeks ago, before he watched all 12 episodes in a four-day span in which he simply could not turn away from the riveting show.

TB's favorite dramas of all time are "Hill Street Blues" and "The Sopranos," shows he spent years and years watching, developing a feel for the characters and the different directions the plot went, all while seeing every episode many times each.

In the case of "Homeland," his entire experience with the show lasted half a week, and he hasn't rewatched any episode. And yet it was so well done, so well written, so well acted, with such perfect character development that TB can't help but put it in a class with any show he's ever seen on television.

Even the two major plot twists that could be seen as a contrived really came ended up working, and that's not an easy trick to pull off.

"Homeland" cleaned up with four awards, including Best Drama, a writing award and the two top acting awards. The best male actor in a drama went to Damian Lewis, whom TB didn't know was actually British, something not obvious from watching him in "Homeland" or when he was the top American officer in "Band of Brothers."

As for Claire Danes, her acting performance in the 12 episodes of Season 1 was so over the top perfect that there could have been no suspense that she would win. She made Carrie - the CIA agent who tracks returning POW Lewis - into a nearly flawless professional with a completely flawed personal life, and there was an inevitable crashing together of the two at the end that was simply riveting.

If you haven't seen the show, do it. Right now. Stop what you're doing and go watch it.

Princeton football had its own breakout star on national television this past weekend. Or at least that's what DiAndre Atwater looked like during Princeton's football game Friday night on ESPNU.

Atwater - the son of former NFL great Steve Atwater and the brother of one of the Georgetown players - ran for 92 yards on 15 carries and had around 80 yards receiving wiped out by penalties. Atwater also exploded 53 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for Princeton, Atwater's TD didn't stand up as the game-winner, not after Georgetown drove the length of the field and kicked a field goal with 14 seconds left as the Tigers fell 21-20.

Through two games this year, Princeton is 0-2, having been outscored by a total of four points, in losses to two Patriot League teams.

A year ago, Princeton was 0-2, having been outscored by a total of 37 points, in losses to two Patriot League teams.

Princeton could have won either or both of its first two games, and TB can point to one play in each game that might have swung things. That's not really something that was true a year ago.

Those are intangible improvements, and teams can get some confidence from them. What would be an even greater source of confidence would be wins, being able to say "we're getting better and the record reflects it."

The next chance to do so is this Saturday, with a 12:30 kickoff at Columbia.

Princeton is 0-2 but 0-0 where it counts, in the Ivy League. In many ways, Weeks 1 and 2 are a test run for the league season, which starts at Columbia, takes a week off for the game at Lafayette and then concludes six more league games in six weeks after that.

Columbia is 1-1 on the year, with a win over Marist and a loss to Fordham. Just like the Tigers, Columbia would love to be 1-0 in the league.

It's way too early to push the panic button for Tiger football in 2012. There are some strong pieces in place, and the first two opponents were not easy.

This Saturday is a great opportunity.

Step 1 was to show that the team is competitive, and two losses by four points does that.

Step 2 is to turn a one-point loss into a win.

Step 3 is to see how winning becomes contagious.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall Is Here ... Maybe

TigerBlog used to know what day was the first day of fall, winter, spring and summer.

Then, over time, all that faded away.

Is it the 20th? 21st? 22nd?

Actually, TB heard on the radio that fall starts tomorrow, which is the 22nd, at 10:46 am. He actually was surprised to hear that.

There's a part of "The Great Gatsby" where one of the characters is talking about how she always looks forward to the longest day of the year and then forgets about it when it actually happens. TB is pretty sure the scene is meant to show how devoid of any sort of depth that particular woman is.

The longest day of the year around here (actually, all days are the same length; she was referring to the day it stays lightest out the longest) has sunlight til after 9 pm. Sunset today is at 6:56.

TB loves discussions of what is somebody's favorite season. TB doesn't really have a favorite per se, as each season has its very strong points.

He does know that he loves this time of year, the late summer/early fall and on through Halloween and Thanksgiving, the two greatest holidays of them all.

Spring is supposed to be the time of rebirth and rejuvenation, after the long winter. TB sees it the other way.

TB's world goes something like this: Spring is for lacrosse, and June and July are for summer lacrosse. August and early September are for baking in 90-100 degree heat and humidity.

By the time mid-September rolls around, the weather starts to cool and the humidity starts to drop, and the result is this current two-week stretch of weather that has featured one rainy day and 13 of the most perfect weather days of all time.

That's as rejuvenating as going from the cold winter into the rising temperatures of spring, at least to TigerBlog.

The beneficiaries of this weather are the people who are planning to come to Princeton tonight.

The Princeton Invitational men's soccer event begins this evening, as Penn takes on FDU (5:00) and Princeton then hosts Rider (7:30). It'll be Penn-Rider (noon) and Princeton-FDU Sunday (2:30).

Admission is free.

Men's soccer coach Jim Barlow was here earlier this morning, and TB pointed out that if the game tonight comes down to which coach is better at imitating people, then Princeton has no chance. Rider coach Charlie Inverso - who had a great three-decade career at Mercer County Community College - is as good an impersonator as TB has ever heard, maybe short of Rich Little and Andrew Dice Clay.

Unfortunately, the football game was moved to Friday night for ESPNU, which means it goes on at the same time as the men's soccer event, something TB never likes to see here.

Princeton hosts Georgetown at 7 in the first meeting between the schools since 1925.

The Tigers are 0-1 after a close 17-14 loss to Lehigh last week. Georgetown is 2-1, its loss a 24-21 decision to Yale last Saturday as well.

Princeton is looking for improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but more than that, the Tigers are looking for a win. Beating Georgetown would be a big step for many reasons, including:
* showing measurable improvement
* evening the record
* having a win to build on heading into the league season
* getting a win over a quality opponent

TB is interested in what happens on the field obviously. He was also interested in what the weather would be.

Last year's home football schedule was five games. It rained for three and snowed for one.

Tonight will be perfect weather, temperature in the mid-60s at kickoff.

After last year, that's already a win.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

32 Songs, 4 Hours, 2 Goals, 35 Seconds

Peter Farrell walked in and said "stop what you're doing and get tickets."

To Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, that is.

Farrell, Princeton's women's track and field coach, then said this:

"I've seen the Beatles, the Stones, the Dead, Jimi. I've never seen anything like this."

Lastly, he said this: "It's the best $120 I've ever spent."

Farrell went to see the Boss last night at MetLife Stadium. As it turns out, it was the first time in 30 years that he's seen him.

And he couldn't stop raving.

Eventually, he made TB go to to get the playlist for the concert, which ended this way:

Thunder Road. Born To Run. Rosalita. Dancing In The Dark. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. And lastly, Twist and Shout.

Not too bad, huh?

For TB's money, there's never been anyone better at anything than Springsteen is in concert. Maybe Michael Jordan as a basketball player, but that's it.

If you've never seen him, you're cheating yourself. The Boss is three days away from his 63rd birthday, and yet there he was last night, out there again, for nearly four more hours of unbridled energy.

As TB said to Farrell, Bruce could sell out that stadium every night for 100 years and people would still be buying tickets. And raving when they left.

Meanwhile, while Farrell was being awed by the Boss, Jen Hoy was scoring three first half goals in Princeton's 5-2 win over Lafayette in women's soccer.

TigerBlog learned from Twitter that Hoy had scored her three goals. 

He didn't realize that two had come 35 seconds apart and that the three were within 18 minutes of each other.

Armed with that knowledge, he went off to the NCAA record book to find out where that all fit in.

After all, two goals in 35 seconds by the same player in soccer? That's not something that happens all the time.

TB's experience in trying to find out where Hoy's feat stands was not exactly successful.

The record book has an entry for fastest consecutive goals by the same player, which is a shocking five seconds. And amazingly, two players share that record: Jill Pearson of Fresno State in 1997 and Stephanie Erickson of Northwestern in 1994.

Five seconds? To have one player score twice?

TB thought he recognized Erickson's name,  and when he looked, he found out she was Harvard's coach for a year before returning to Northwestern to take over the program there.

And the record for three consecutive goals by the same player? Who would have that record?

Well, let's just say that TB didn't have to look up the name once he had it.

Abby Wambach scored three goals in a 2:02 span of a game against Arkansas back in 2000. TB didn't know that Wambach, a Rochester native, played at Florida.

So Hoy's goals weren't a record. But where did they stand?

The record book lists the top 30 fastest goals by the same team, by opposing teams, to start a game - all of those except by one player. And that meant TB couldn't find out where Hoy now stands.

For that matter, he doesn't know if it's a Princeton record or an Ivy record.

He does know that it's fast.

The women's soccer team is now 3-3-1 as it prepares to head to Yale for its Ivy League opener. The Tigers could easily be 5-2, had it not been for two tough stretches against Colgate (a 4-1 lead turned into a 4-4 tie) and UC-Irvine (two late goals led to a 2-1 loss after the Tigers had to play a player down for 70 minutes).

While 5-2 would look better than 3-3-1, it wouldn't really impact Princeton as it heads down the path of the league schedule. Princeton has looked great at times this year, and Hoy, who already has nine goals, is a marvel to watch.

The game Saturday is big, but it's not season-making-or-breaking. A loss would be a setback but not an insurmountable one.

On the other hand, a win would be great, especially with four of the next six league games at home. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Make Sure You Get Tuna

John Cornell was one of two people who ever held the position of "publications coordinator" here in the OAC.

The first was a young man named Mike Zulla, who started here as an intern and then became the first publications coordinator. When he left, Cornell came in from the Naval Academy to become the second.

After Cornell's tenure was up, TigerBlog changed the position, which was something of a luxury at the time, back to a more traditional athletic communications one. Now, looking at how few publications are still done around here, the thought of having a position devoted completely to printed pieces is something completely antiquated.

Zulla, who married former fencer and von Kienbusch Award winner Caitlin Rich, used to write on the dry erase board (which also no longer exists) what his whereabouts would be if he had to be out of the office. To this day, TB can still see "Z at dentist" written in huge letters across the white background.

As for Cornell, he came from Navy, as TB said, and spent his first week at Princeton simply walking around the office giving his opinion on basically any and all subject, though he managed to pull this off in a somewhat charming way, which is no easy feat.

At one point, Cornell did some diet where it was okay to eat three cheese dogs at Wawa and the chicken/cheese lunch at Fridays but not an apple. And, somewhat stunningly, TB remembers that he lost weight through the process.

One of TB's favorite emails of all time is the one that Cornell wrote nine years ago this month entitled "Back in the Day." It starts out with "You know you worked in OAC in 2001-2002 if..."

TB just reread it, and once again it is hilarious. Among the entries:

-You can order Friday's without the menu
-You know all about Navy
-You know the difference between Yasser El Hallaby and Yariv Amir
-You hate Yale but you like Steve Conn and Tim Bennett
-You get there early to make sure you get Tuna
-You're sure the record book is updated
-You love Luis
-You've actually talked about squash at the water cooler

There are a ton of others, all of which are inside jokes. Steve Conn and Tim Bennett, for instance, are universally loved Yale's sports information people. Getting tuna means getting there early at the football luncheon to get a tuna sandwich before they were all gone. Yariv Amir works in the OAC; Yasser El Halaby is the greatest college squash player ever.

As for the record book, well, let's just say that anyone who was asked if their sports were updated replied "yes," even if the answer was really "not for the last few years."

There was another one that said: -When someone asks about John Thompson, you don't think about Georgetown Basketball. This, of course, was before John Thompson left Princeton to go to Georgetown.

Before he was at Navy, Cornell used to work at Post in Connecticut, which has to make him the only person to work at three of the eight sprint football playing schools.

Two of those three, Princeton and Navy, meet Saturday on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, with kickoff at 2.

It's a rare Saturday afternoon game for the sprint team, which almost always plays on Friday nights, something made impossible this week by the Princeton-Georgetown game, which will be Friday at 7 on ESPNU.

Princeton opened the season with a 23-16 loss to Mansfield Friday night. TB was at the men's soccer game and on his way to Princeton Stadium when Mansfield intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to clinch it.

As for Navy, well, TB went back to some of the recent scores in the series and noticed an interesting stat, though not a very good one.

Princeton has not scored a point against Navy since 2004. The Tigers have been outscored 400-0 in that time.

Why bring this up?

Well, because the Tigers appear to be a bit more competitive. Maybe hoping for a win Saturday might be a bit much, but measuring improvement might be possible based on the final score, especially if it doesn't end in "-0."

TB gives Steve Everette and his team a great deal of credit, for the optimism if nothing else.

One day, the Tigers will get a win. Hopefully it'll be this year. Maybe it won't be.

But there's no denying the courage it takes to keep trying, every week, for this team.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tonight's Attendance Is ...

Back before he was the Director of Athletics at Bradley University, Mike Cross was the Executive Associate Director of Athletics here at the U.

Every now and then, Princeton gets referred to as "The U" around here, just to keep things light.

Anyway, when Mike worked at Princeton, he and TigerBlog had great discussions about basically any and all topics in intercollegiate athletics. And movies. And TV. And everything else.

TB remembers when he first met Cross, back when he came here from Michigan a long time ago. His first impression was that of an academic, though maybe it was because he had a Ph.D. in education, something not nearly as common in athletic administration as, say, a law degree.

In fact, Cross' biggest strength here, and TB assumes in his current position in Peoria, is his pragmatism, which is about as valuable a commodity as one can have in any position. It's okay to have the grandiose conversations and the big dreams; it's just that they need to be balanced by the practical realities of the economic, political, human situation.

TB prides himself on his own pragmatism, which should never be confused with taking the easy way out or not being willing to evolve and try new ways of doing business. It's just that ultimately, there has to be an ability to see the big picture.

That doesn't mean that the conversations that TB and Cross had weren't valuable. Many of those conversations revolved around the idea of attendance at events, especially football.

TB thought back to those times talking to Cross as he looked at the home attendance for the three Ivy League home football games from this past weekend.

They were:

Butler at Dartmouth - 9,089
San Diego at Harvard - 5,272
Marist at Columbia - 3,933

Princeton's game at Lehigh was played in front of 7,346 at Goodman Stadium.

The game was played on a 100% perfect can't-ask-for-more weather day between two schools separated by a one-hour drive (so any Princeton fan could easily have gone), and the home team is a Top 15 Division I-AA team in the middle of a sustained period of excellence. And the stadium is a great place to see a game.

Add up those four games, and it comes to 25,640, or about a quarter of the number (98,782) that saw Penn State host Navy on a campus that is trying to get away from the football-runs-the-school mentality.

As TB and Cross spoke all those times, the two shared the main point, which is how is a school like Princeton (or any other Ivy school) supposed to know if it's being successful in getting fans to the game?

Should Princeton set a goal for average attendance in a year? Or are there too many variables that make that impossible? Is failing to reach such a goal, if set, a sign that there was something else that the athletic department could have done?

Princeton hosts Georgetown Friday night in its home opener.

On the one hand, the weather is supposed to be perfect again (75 degrees during the day, around 68 for kickoff, no chance of rain). Princeton Stadium is also a great place to see a game. Princeton seemed to be vastly improved in its game against Lehigh, and the Georgetown game figures to be a nice barometer of where the team stands right now.

Of course, it's also a Friday night at 7 and on ESPNU. And its the first meeting between the schools, rather than a traditional rivalry. And Georgetown isn't a big-name football team, even if it is a very strong football team the last two seasons.

So what would be a good crowd?




Again, TB has no idea.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Half Full And Half Empty

TigerBlog is more fascinated by the idea that the small, wide glass can hold as much as the clearly taller but thinner glass than he is in trying to figure out if either glass is half full or half empty.

Pete Carril famously said "these are tough times for a pessimist," and he said back in the 1991 season, when the Princeton men's basketball was on its way to a 14-0 Ivy League season.

He also once said that he thinks like a pessimist and works like an optimist.

TB doesn't view the glass as half full or half empty. He sort of views it as both.

In TB's mind, there's room for both optimism and pessimism. Why wouldn't there be? It's not a world of absolutes.

There certainly was room for both Saturday afternoon as he stood on the sidelines at Goodman Stadium and watched Princeton open its football season at Lehigh with a 17-14 loss.

On the one hand, Princeton fell behind 17-0 at the half. On the other hand, the Tigers wiped out Lehigh in the second half and almost came all the way back.

Let's start with the pessimistic side.

Princeton fell behind and never had the lead. The Tigers struggled offensively through the first half. The defense was hurt by a few big plays that led to the 17 points.

Then there's the optimistic side.

Princeton could have given up but didn't. Lehigh could have sprinted away from Princeton in the third quarter, but the defense didn't permit that. Not in the least.

Princeton held Lehigh to 17 points this year after allowing 35 and 34 to the Mountain Hawks the last two years. Lehigh averaged 3.1 yards per rush in this game after going for 4.6 per carry last year against Princeton.

Stats aside, watching Princeton defend in the second half, TB was impressed by how physical the Tigers were - and especially by how emotional they were. It was as if they were taking it all personally.

And then, after three scoreless quarters, Princeton put up two touchdowns, got a stop and had a chance to drive for a tying field goal or winning touchdown.

Princeton did all this without Chuck Dibilio, last year's Ivy League Rookie of the Year, who is out this year after suffering his stroke. Quarterback Connor Michelsen made his first career start, as did many other players.

In fact, TB could make the case that the biggest difference between Princeton and Lehigh Saturday was that it was Lehigh's third game and Princeton's first. Maybe it would have been different had it been Princeton's third and Lehigh's first.

So where are the Tigers now?

Well, they're home Friday night, in the first meeting ever between Princeton and Georgetown. The game kicks at 7 pm and can be seen on ESPNU, as an aside.

The Hoyas are 2-1, with wins over Davidson and Wagner and a loss to Yale Saturday. Clearly, this will be a good test for Princeton and an aid in the barometer of where the Tigers are as the season starts to gain some steam.

Princeton will be at Columbia in the Ivy opener the week after the Georgetown game. Then there is a game at Lafayette, followed by six more Ivy games.

Can Princeton look at its performance against Lehigh and look at it as a positive, with much to build on? Clearly Lehigh has one of the top programs in Division I-AA, and Princeton was right there with the Mountain Hawks the whole way.

Still, it's important to measure success in wins and losses as well. It's one thing to say "hey, we're getting better," but for the players, there is so much more meaning in seeing the results in wins vs. losses.

So where are the Tigers?

Depends on whether your glass is half full or half empty.

TB's glass is both - but he's really hoping that it gets fuller and fuller as the year goes by.

If ever a team deserved it, the Princeton football team does.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sprinting To Start The Weekend

Today is Orange and Black Friday.

Well, every Friday here is Orange and Black Friday, at least going back as far as Phyllis Chase used to wear orange and black to work every Friday.

This is Year 1 of the post-Phyllis Chase era, as she retired at the end of the last academic year after a long career as the travel coordinator for the athletic department.

Walking into the business office these days is a different dynamic, with the new faces of Brendan Van Ackeren and Jessica Guerriero now on board. Jon Kurian and his old face are still there as well.

As an aside, Jon Kurian was nicknamed "the new guy" when he first started here, and it stuck long after he wasn't the new guy, though very few people here remember when Kurian was called that. One of Phyllis' hobbies was making collages of pictures from each year's Christmas party, and the amount of turnover from one year or even a few years is drastic when looking at those pictures.

Meanwhile, Van Ackeren, the brother of former Princeton distance runner Trevor Van Ackeren, played football at Lehigh. Guerriero is a Seton Hall graduate.

As Princeton is opening the football season at Lehigh tomorrow, TigerBlog asked the natural question of Van Ackeren: Which team is he rooting for in the game?

TB has a long history of rooting against his alma mater, fond of it as he may be.

Will Van Ackeren root for Princeton or Lehigh tomorrow? He won't know until kickoff.

TigerBlog will be rooting for Princeton, though it's a tough task for the opener.

Lehigh is one of the top teams in Division IAA, and the Mountain Hawks are playing Game 3. Lehigh has defeated Monmouth and Central Connecticut, jumping out to 14-0 first quarter leads in both games.

Before that game kicks off tomorrow at 12:30 (at one of the great places to watch a game, Lehigh's Goodman Stadium), there's the matter of a few events on campus.

The Farnsworth/Princeton Invitational for men's tennis starts today and runs all weekend.

The men's soccer team hosts No. 12 Georgetown tonight in Game 4 of the team's five-game run through the Big East to start the season. Game 5 will be Sunday at Villanova.

The women's team, by the way, is at No. 3 UCLA for the first of its two games in California. And there are two home field hockey games this weekend, including the first Ivy event for Princeton this year, tomorrow's game against Dartmouth.

And then there's the start of sprint football season.

TigerBlog watched head coach Steve Everette's video on, and you have to give him credit for being an optimist.

Princeton hasn't won a CSFL game in 14 years, but Everette is encouraged by his team this preseason. Mansfield is one of the three newer teams in the league, along with Post and this year's addition, Franklin Pierce.

Each year brings with it the hope that the team will finally be able to break that losing streak, and yet it hasn't happened to date.

Who knows? Maybe it'll be tonight.

TB understands Everette's optimism. He's always wanted to be there for the one night that the team does win, and any game he's gone to, he's always thought that it was going to be the one.

Hey, those guys definitely deserve at least one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Getting Oriented

TigerBlog was on his way to McCosh 50 when he saw two athletic-looking young men with confused looks on their faces.

Seeing that TB was wearing a "Princeton lacrosse" shirt, the two figured out that they were headed to the same place. One of them began to ask where McCosh was, though this was after TB figured out what was going on and simply said "yes, this way."

TB and one of the young men walked together for the last 50 yards or so. As it turned out, his name was Chris, Chris Bodurian, a freshman on the Princeton baseball team, fresh out of St. Alban's.

As TB spoke to Bodurian, it was immediately obvious how excited he was.

And why wouldn't he be?

Here he was, a freshman at Princeton, one day removed from the start of classes, ready to embark on his career as a college student and college athlete at one of the top universities in the world.

As an aside, that'd be the fifth-, seventh- or ninth-best university in the world, depending on which ranking you believe in. TB's alma mater came in 12th in the world in the same ranking where Princeton was ninth, a fact for which TB is willing to take none of the credit.

TB, Bodurian and enough others to essentially fill the giant lecture hall in McCosh were all headed to freshman student-athlete orientation.

It is, as TB has said before, one of the most fascinating events of each year.

The messages that come from the athletic administration, the Office of the Dean of the College, athletic medicine and the McGraw Learning Center are all basically the same. It's a message that can't be repeated often enough, and hopefully the new athletes are paying attention.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Study what you really want to study, not what you think you should study to get a specific job some day. Be prepared for the challenge. It's different than high school. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

To be a freshman athlete at Princeton, it goes without saying that it's been 18 years of overwhelming athletic and academic success. Perhaps in many cases it's been easy to use the natural gifts that each has been given.

Now, the bar has been raised substantially in both arenas. It can be intimidating, TB supposes, and it's probably reassuring for the freshmen to hear the messages and realize that they are not in it alone.

TB's contribution is a small video that is intended to give a sense of the athletic department, its historical successes and its desire to afford each athlete the best possible experience. It's also intended to make each kid sitting there think "I'm part of something cool now."

None of this, though, is the fascinating part for TigerBlog.

For starters, there's the idea that these people have come from such wildly different backgrounds and have played such varying sports, and now they've been thrown together somewhat randomly on a college campus. At the same time, they also have the immediate benefit of being teammates, not only with those on their actual teams but also under the larger umbrella of Princeton Athletics.

And then there's the chance to look around the room and see their faces and wonder who is going to be All-Ivy League, All-America, win the Roper Trophy or von Kienbusch Award as seniors.

Not all of them will still be athletes when they graduate, as every class has a normal level of attrition. Some will struggle through four years fighting injuries; others will start every game and never have even a minor strain.

The entire athletic class is hardly ever in the same place at the same time. There is freshman athlete orientation. There is a barbeque for freshmen and sophomore athletes. And there is the Princeton Varsity Club senior-athlete banquet.

When the orientation was over, TB met three men's lacrosse players, all of whose names he'd heard a million times during the recruiting process. If the next four years (hopefully) are the same as the last four, then TB will see every game they play in their Princeton careers.

And then it'll be late May of 2016, under the big tent at the grad college, for the senior banquet. And this current group will be together for the last time.

TB told Bodurian that it would fly by, and Bodurian laughed and agreed.

Then TB told him to make sure he took full advantage of his time here.

There are so many people who would love to trade places with him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Scramble Words And Field Hockey Talk

TigerBlog was in one room, and in the next room were two high school boys - TigerBlog Jr. and his friend Matthew - and one middle school girl - Miss TigerBlog.

From his spot about 15 feet away, TB heard not a sound coming from the other room.

When he ducked his head in, he saw all three on smartphones, playing Scramble With Friends.

It's a rather addicting game, one with four rows of four letters, seemingly set up randomly, and the game is to drag your finger across the letter to form as many words as possible. There are three rounds of two minutes in each game, and the point values go up with double letters and a double word letter in Round 2 and then triple letters and a triple word letter in Round 3.

TigerBlog usually plays with two different opponents.

The first is Stephanie Sutton, the Princeton athletics ticket manager.  TB and Stephanie are about 50-50 on who wins.

The other is someone whom TB originally connected with randomly and has now played several hundred times, though he has no idea who his opponent is. He has no idea if it's a male or female, adult or child, American or foreign - none of it. For that matter, TB isn't sure if it's a human being or computer that has been matched to basic scores that TB puts up, since these games are around 50-50 as well.

The game allows the opportunity to converse, but TB prefers the mystery of it.

As for TBJ, MTB and Matthew, obviously MTB was the one winning, so much so that the two boys bailed and went outside.

As any parent with middle school to high school kids knows, there's a delicate balance between allowing them the freedom to use electronics and the worry that 1) they're overdoing it and 2) they're going to get in trouble via electronic freedom. And you don't want to see the bill, and see how many texts these kids are sending and receiving.

Of course, the argument is that kids need phones now to use in case of trouble or to allow parents to know where they are. TB was in his 30s before he ever got a cell phone, and he managed to navigate his teenage years even without such devices.

In the case of TBJ, MTB and Matthew (not techincally TB's responsibility, but around enough), they are active enough and outside enough so that they are not constantly on their phones/computers/iPods/etc.

MTB is currently trying out for middle school field hockey, with a week-long audition for 45 girls for the 20 spots on the team. Unfortunately, more than half won't make it, and given that they're 7th and 8th graders, TB hopes they don't give up on playing that sport or any other.

MTB also plays with the club program in Princeton, the one run by Princeton coach Kristen Holmes-Winn.

Whereas there is soccer for little girls as young as 3 or 4, there aren't nearly as many field hockey clubs around. In the case of the one in Princeton, the girls get to play on Bedford Field, which offers them a chance to play on perfect turf.

As for the main tenant of Bedford Field, the Princeton women are currently ranked second nationally in the poll that came out yesterday.

 Actually, the Tigers are tied for second, with Syracuse, 23 points behind No. 1 North Carolina.

The poll features five teams that received No. 1 votes, including 18 of the 43 for the Tigers. For the second straight week, Princeton has the most No. 1 votes.

This week's schedule sees Princeton at home Saturday against Dartmouth in its Ivy League opener and then unranked Delaware Sunday.

The rest of the schedule includes Syracuse, No. 4 Maryland, No. 5 UConn and No. 9 Virginia, among others. And then there's the NCAA tournament looming in November.

Princeton has twice advanced to the NCAA final, and the Tigers have won 17 of 18 Ivy League titles. With the return of the four national team members, this could be Princeton's best chance at going the distance.

Still, as the poll with five teams who received first-place votes suggests, there are plenty of schools out there who are thinking big.

In the meantime, Bedford Field is a place to be this fall, to see how good this team can be.

Bring the kids. Admission is free.

And tell them to turn off their cell phones during the game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget

In the days before TigerBlog's senior year of college, his friend and soon-to-be roommate Charlie volunteered him to help coordinate during student move-in period.

There were two reasons for this. First, TB and Charlie got to move into their own room a few days early, thereby avoiding the crush when everyone showed up. Given that TB and Charlie were living on the 24th floor of a 24-story dorm, that was a huge advantage.

Second, there was the opportunity to meet women during move-in.

As it turned out, TB got to avoid the rush at the elevators and that was about it.

This past weekend was move-in at Princeton, where classes begin later this week.

Actually, Princeton's academic calendar begins later than most, and TB has seen the effect of taking their first-borns off to college on some of his own friends in recent weeks. It appears to be a tad, uh, emotional, for both mothers and fathers.

TB has thought back to his own collegiate move-in experiences recently, with the start of another school year.

He thought back to the days of the 1980s, to the world that existed when he was a student and in the years that followed.

And how any semblance of that world vanished 11 years ago today.

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, was very much like this morning or yesterday morning, at least in terms of the weather. It was crystal-clear that morning, the kind of late-summer morning where the sky is at its absolute bluest and the world appears to be at its calmest.

TigerBlog was at the preschool across the street from the Jadwin parking lot, taking TigerBlog Jr. into the building, when he first heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

If TB lives to be a million years old, he'll never forget the feeling he had after walking out of that building, looking up to the perfect blue sky and realizing that there was no way that a plane could accidentally have crashed into the tower.

At that point, TB was confused, and expecting the worst.

By the time he reached Jadwin, the worst got even worse.

In almost no time, four planes had been hijacked, three of them crashing into high profile targets at the World Trade Center and Pentagon and a fourth headed to either the White House or Capitol before the passengers took over, only to crash into a Pennsylvania field.

In all, more than 3,000 people were dead - and the world was changed. Forever.

TBJ was too young to have any idea what was going on.

The students who just moved into Princeton were for the most part between 7 and 11 years old on 9/11, old enough to remember and not really old enough to remember what the pre-9/11 world was like.

Whatever your politics, any American owes a huge debt to the administrations of President Bush and President Obama - and to the American military and intelligence communities - that have prevented a repeat of such a large-scale attack in this country in the years since.

The result, TB suspects, is a lowered sense of the urgency of the situation, a fading over time of just exactly what could happen in this country if those who are charged with protecting it fail.

A few days ago, TigerBlog began to watch Season 1 of "Homeland," the Showtime series about an intelligence agent and her never-ending quest to prevent a terrorist attack. After never even heard of the show less than a week ago, TB has now watched all 12 episodes of Season 1, and it's vaulted near the top of the list of any show he's ever seen.

As Carrie and her colleagues go about their business, she is surrounded by a world going about its business, which is the way it's supposed to be in this country. It's just that this can't be at the expense of forgetting what happened 11 years ago.

There are so many people whom TB knows or has met - many of them former Princeton athletes - who were in the middle of Ground Zero at it all was happening.

A former Princeton men's lacrosse player and member of the 1992 NCAA championship team, John Schroeder, was killed that day.

It was a very real, very frightening day, and the passing of time shouldn't dim that or soften that or make anyone forget the very real threat that apparently will always exist.

TB remembers looking up at the sky that night, 11 years ago, and seeing nothing but darkness and stars, nothing moving, no airplanes flying after they'd all been grounded.

Again, he remembers clearly the moment, knowing that the world had been changed forever. He was positive that the next attack was coming, maybe even as he was standing there.

Now 11 years have gone by, and nothing close to that has been repeated in this country. The cost has of protecting America has been huge, and many have sacrificed their very lives to make it so.

With every year that passes, the reality of what happened that day gets a little further in the rearview mirror.

It's important that it not fade completely. Ever.

As TB's people say about the Holocaust - never forget.

Too many people are owed that for what they did to keep you safe.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Week

The biggest non-story in sports right now is the referee situation in the NFL.

Basically, the regular NFL refs are either striking or locked out. TigerBlog isn't sure and doesn't care.

NFL refs make about $140,000/year for what is a part time job. They apparently want $180,000, and benefits.

On the one hand, the refs are contemptible greedhounds because they make $140,000 for a part time job. On the other hand, the owners are contemptible greedhounds because it's a billion dollar industry, so why bicker over a few hundred thousand dollars here and there.

Because the two can't reach an agreement, the season has started with replacement officials, which was supposed to signal the end of the world as we know it. Mistakes were going to destroy the games. Nobody was going to know the rules. Chaos was to ensue.

What has actually happened is that the replacement refs have been subjected to scrutiny for every false start, every spot of the ball. And you know what?

The games didn't look any different than any other games in any other year. Mostly, the officials were invisible, except when the coaches yelled. And they didn't decide the outcome of any games.

The replacement refs have been subjected to gratuitous shots from TV people, who disparagingly talk about their real jobs in a mocking tone, as with the ref in the Giants-Cowboys game who is also a middle school geography teacher. Guess what? The guy did a great job.

And the labor situation has enabled the NFL to do something that it had never done before, and that was allow a woman to officiate an NFL game, as Shannon Eastin was part of the crew for the Vikings-Rams game.

Week 1 of the NFL season ends tonight, and by then, basically every football team everywhere will have played at least one game. Except for the Ivy League, of course, which famously begins later than everyone every year.

If you're an Ivy football fan, you can't help but wonder why it is that the league only plays 10 games and why it is that the league champ doesn't go to the NCAA playoffs.

TB understands. For now, at least, it is, how they say, what it is.

Princeton opens the season this Saturday at Lehigh before its home opener Friday night, Sept. 21, against Georgetown.

After that, it's seven Ivy games in eight weeks.

There are 10 games in 10 weeks, with no off weeks to rest up from the inevitable injuries. It runs from this weekend through the Saturday before Thanksgiving, one game into the next.

Princeton, as everyone knows, enters the 2012 season off of back-to-back 1-9 years, minus Chuck Dibilio, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year who rushed for a 1,000 yards last year before suffering an off-season stroke.

So where is Princeton heading into 2012? The great thing about Ivy football is that nobody knows.

For reference, TB refers you to the following records:


Those were the records for Penn football in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

Penn won the Ivy title each year from 1982-86.

Will Princeton win the Ivy title this year? TB isn't going to predict that.

What's he's saying is that there's precedent for big turnarounds in Ivy League football. It all has to do with momentum, staying healthy, getting big performances from young players who are on their way up - and getting some luck.

If there's a program that's owed luck, it's Princeton football, both on the field and, with what happened to Dibilio, off the field as well.

The opener isn't easy, coming against one of the top teams in the FCS. The league, as always, will be a challenge each week.

For the Tigers, the chance to turn the page from 2010 and 2011 is a great opportunity.

In a few days, the 2012 Princeton football season kicks off.

It'll be over before you know it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Luis, The Gov And A Busy Weekend

The two men in the picture look like brothers.

In reality they'd never met until seconds before the picture was snapped. The site was one of the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concerts at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia last weekend, and the two men are famously huge fans of the Boss.

One of them is a bit more famous than the other, of course.

The man on the right is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The one on the left is Princeton water polo coach Luis Nicolao.

They could be twins, actually.

TigerBlog follows Governor Christie on Twitter, as much for his commentary on his personal interests as his positions on the salient issues for the state.

Not too long ago, Christie tweeted his ten favorite Springsteen songs, a list that featured overlap with TB's own list on maybe four or five songs.

Maybe more than any other current politician, Christie comes across as just another guy from the neighborhood, which probably explains his popularity both nationally and in a state that has gone against Christie's party in the last five Presidential elections.

Christie had his moment on national TV last week when he gave the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. In the interest of keeping his blog politically neutral, TB will remind everyone that the keynote address at this week's Democratic National Convention was given by Julian Castro.

The other guy in the picture with Christie from the Springsteen concert gets to be on television tonight, though not in the same politically charged way.

Nicolao and his 13th-ranked men's water polo team host third-ranked California at 6 this evening in a game that will televised on ESPNU as the first Princeton event on ESPN this academic year. The next will be the football game against Georgetown in on Sept. 21, followed by men's soccer against Creighton on Oct. 9.

The game against Cal is part of the 12-team Princeton Invitational, which also includes second-ranked UCLA. The event runs from Princeton's game at 1 this afternoon against Cal-Lutheran through Sunday.

This is the first huge home weekend for Princeton Athletics of the 2012-13 academic year, and there are some great events, including the water polo.

There's also the men's soccer game tomorrow at 2 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium in a game that will pull Nancy Donigan in two directions.

Who's Nancy Donigan? She works in the compliance office here (she also handles the departmental awards), and she's been here longer than you'd guess possible to look at her. Nancy's husband Joe is a Temple man who also works here at Princeton, and his brother - Nancy's brother-in-law - is Rutgers soccer coach Dan Donigan.

Way back when, TigerBlog covered Dan Donigan when he was a player at Steinert High, and he went on to a great career at UConn. His was the head coach at St. Louis for nine years before taking over at RU a year ago.

The Scarlet Knights are 1-2, with a win over Fordham and losses last week in Nebraska against SIU-Edwardsville and Creighton, who is ranked third nationally. Princeton is 1-1, having beaten Seton Hall and lost to No. 15 St. John's.

Princeton-Rutgers is always a great matchup, no matter what the sport. One note - if you're coming to the game Saturday, you have to park on the football stadium/Jadwin Gym side and walk over (about a five-minute walk; it's good for you) because of student move-in on the other side of campus.

There are three soccer games this weekend at Roberts Stadium, including the women's games tonight (7) against St. Joe's and Sunday at noon against Temple.

And then there's field hockey.

The 3-0 Tigers are ranked fourth, with wins over nationally ranked Duke, Wake Forest and most recently Penn State, 3-2 in overtime last night.

Next up? A game against Richmond Sunday at noon in what will be the first game played on the artificial turf at Bedford Field.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hoy Story

It wasn't a great sports night for TigerBlog.

The Giants lost. The Yankees won, moving back into sole possession of first place in the American League East (and TB will be surprised if they don't win by at least five games).

Going back to the Giants, TB can't really get too upset with the opening-night loss to the Cowboys, or anything else the team does this year or in any of the next few. Not after the Giants won two highly dramatic, highly improbable Super Bowl titles in the last four years.

In fact, TB has said that the Giants could go 0-16 for the next 10 years and he won't complain, not with the last four already in the bank. Think about it. Barring something completely unforeseeable right now, Eli Manning will have more Super Bowl titles than Peyton Manning.

With sports not going well, TB had only one reason to watch the Democratic National Convention, and it had nothing to do with the speakers, their policies or any of it. It was the same reason he watched the little he did of the Republican convention last week, to see the radically different way that the cable news outlets presented them.

TB long ago made up his mind as to who will be getting his vote exactly two months from today. His candidate could come out on stage for the debates wearing a prom gown or dressed like a clown and it wouldn't change anything.

So with no interest in what was being said, there was always how it was being portrayed.

Media bias fascinates TigerBlog, since he had the idea that reporting was supposed to actually be fair and balanced drilled into him early on in his newspaper days. And yet there was MSNBC and CNN on the left and Fox News on the right, all watching the same events unfold and yet reporting them from complete 180-degree differences.

It's embarrassing to watch all of these people with no ability to see anything outside of their narrow view and then have them gush over their candidate and dismiss the other side's, all without any shred of objectivity or even honesty. The ones who take the time to actually analyze what's being said and what's going on stand out so remarkably, even though all they're doing is what they're supposed to be doing.

With football, baseball and politics all depressing him, TB did the only thing he could. He fell asleep.

Now, when it comes to don't fall asleep, don't turn away, TB offers the Princeton women's soccer team and specifically senior Jen Hoy.

There have been athletes who have come through Princeton who were must-sees simply because they had the potential to do something amazing at any given second, and the crowd always reacts anytime such a moment begins to build.

TB doesn't want to leave anyone out, but through the years he recalls people like Keith Elias, Jesse Hubbard, current men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson, Will Venable in two sports, Esmeralda Negron.

When he looks at the current Princeton landscape, there are people like Niveen Rasheed, Ian Hummer and Tom Schreiber. And more than one field hockey player.

And Jen Hoy.

These are athletes who at any moment can make the entire audience stop and gasp and mutter "wow" at what they've just seen.

Hoy certainly showed that last weekend, when she scored four goals in Princeton's first two games to earn Ivy League Player of the Week honors. Hoy was easily the best player on the field in both games, against both Wake Forest (a Final Four team last year) and Colgate.

She obviously has great speed, and she routinely creates opportunities with her ability to make up ground and then open up another gear. She's tenacious defensively, and she is a great possessor of the ball.

When Hoy has a chance off a counter, her gifts are more apparent. She can challenge several defenders at once and still get off shots and, at a rate of 2.0 per game so far, goals.

What was also evident watching Hoy and the Tigers last weekend was the difference between a team that was playing its sixth game (Colgate) and a team playing its second (Princeton). The game fitness is not quite there yet, and in its second game in three days and in the heat and humidity, the Tigers clearly were tired while the Raiders rallied from a 4-1 deficit to tie it at 4-4.

Princeton gets another chance this weekend at home, when its hosts St. Joe's tomorrow night (7) and then Temple Sunday (noon). The Princeton men have their home opener Saturday at 2 against Rutgers.

The women then take a trip to California for two games and have a game at Lafayette before the Ivy opener Sept. 22 at Yale.

By then, Princeton will be fully fit and ready to take a shot at an Ivy title and return to the NCAA tournament.

Watching games at Roberts Stadium is a real treat, and every team that comes into the facility remarks about how special a place it is. The crowds there last weekend were tremendous, and with three games in three days this weekend, it'll be another great opportunity.

If you go, don't take your eyes of Jen Hoy.

She's No. 2, but you'd figure which one she is without knowing in advance.

She's one of those rare athletes where you just can't help but do so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5,000 Miles To The East

TigerBlog knows two people who live about three or four miles apart near Princeton.

Last Thursday, they both woke up in the same town and then went to the same airport. One flew 3,000 miles west; the other went 5,000 miles east.

Doing the math, they went from waking up three or so miles apart one day to 8,000 miles apart the next day.

TigerBlog remembers driving home from a Trenton State College basketball game one night a long time ago with then-TSC SID Pete Manetas. TB is pretty sure the game was a holiday tournament game at one of the Pennsylvania Division III schools, maybe Moravian.

Anyway, TB and Manetas got into a discussion about the history of human beings, and TB raised the question of what percentage of people who have ever lived have flown in an airplane. Has to be small, no?

For much of human history, having two people wake up one day in the same small town and the next 8,000 miles apart would have been impossible. These days, it's so commonplace that it hardly makes you stop and think about how small the world continues to get.

The person who went west was on her way to a wedding in California, only to find out when she arrived at the wedding that it had been called off.

Apparently, it was called off before she ever got on the plane, only word didn't reach her or a handful of other guests, who showed up in full wedding attire. TB would be a tad miffed had he done so, largely for having to drag his dress shoes across the country.

The person who went east went with the Princeton men's basketball team on its trip to Spain, which runs through this weekend.

Princeton is now 1-2 on the trip in its games against Spanish professional teams following a 94-72 loss to Alicante. When TB saw the name of the opponent, during the Valencia portion of the trip, he couldn't help but smile.

Alicante was the town where the men's lacrosse team landed on its 2008 trip to Spain and Ireland. TB saw the airport in Alicante, and that was it, as the team bused over an hour to the coastal resort of La Manga. Even now, men's lacrosse faculty fellow John McPhee, who was TB's roommate in Spain, will refer to himself as "Juan of La Manga."

Princeton's leading scorer on this trip so far has been Ian Hummer, who had 21 and 20 in the first two games and then 14 against Alicante. That's an average of 18.3, which is what TB would suggest will be around what Hummer will average this year.

Hummer enters his senior year with 1,170 carer points, and he needs to average fewer than 12 per game to catch Douglas Davis to be the second all-time leading scorer in Princeton history.

In case you're wondering, he needs to average 47.6 points per game to catch Bill Bradley for first, to give you an idea of how ridiculous Bradley's accomplishments were.

The trip to Spain has been chronicled through stories, pictures and videos on, and they remind TB of the trips he's taken with the men's lacrosse team.

It's obvious from watching the video and seeing the pictures and stories that the experience of traveling overseas has a great impact on a college athletic team.

And, as was the case for the men's lacrosse trip to Costa Rica, it should be a must to go to a soccer game as part of these trips, as the men's basketball team did when it went to the Barcelona game.

The video is designed to offer a direct portal into what it's like to be part of a team, in this case the Princeton men's basketball team. And there's no way to watch the video and see that they are having anything other than an amazing time.

There's still one game to be played for the Tigers, and the basketball end of a trip like this is huge, what with extra practices and competitions.

But it's not really what the trip is about.

No, it's mostly about the cultural, educational and social opportunities that the Tigers are being exposed to during their 10 days in Spain.

From TB's seat 5,000 miles away, the Tigers are taking full advantage.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Back

The home attendance for Scott Jurgens' last football game of last year was 10,001.

The attendance for his first game of this season was 49,023.

Obviously, Jurgens has gotten way better at marketing.

Or maybe he just switched employers. Jurgens went from being Princeton's athletic marketing person to working in the same position at East Carolina, where average attendance last year was 50,012 for Pirate football.

It's a different world, going from the Ivy League to an FBS school like East Carolina, especially one where the local college football team is the biggest game for miles around.

TigerBlog wouldn't want to make such a move. He loves being at Princeton, where there are 38 sports and as much as possible they are treated equally.

It was obvious during his time here that Jurgens wanted to be part of an FBS school. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

This past Saturday was the first football Saturday for Jurgens as the ECU marketing head.

And there was TB, flipping through the guide on the TV, seeing one college football game after another come up, until he stumbled upon East Carolina-Appalachian State.

Actually, the game was on three different channels on TB's TV.

TB put the game on, half expecting to see Jurgens' dog Barnaby wearing a purple vest throwing t-shirts into the crowd, all with that same "why didn't he leave me at the pound where I was happy" look on his face.

Instead, he saw App State cause a turnover, score a touchdown and go up 7-0. TB was willing to blame the marketing guy.

ECU came back to win 35-13 against one of the top FCS programs, a team that famously defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor a few years back.

This weekend was the start of the college football season, and there were about four million games on television, beginning Thursday night and running through last night's Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech.

If you're wondering why college football has driven all of the conference realignments, even when the NCAA basketball tournament is such a preeminent event, well, all you had to do was look at this weekend. Stadium after stadium was packed, and the dollar amounts that this sport generates were there to smack you in the face.

The sanctions at Penn State were meant to among other things dial back the football-first, football-above-all culture that allowed Joe Paterno to achieve the status he did and then in turn drove him to protect at all costs what he had built. So what happened? PSU drew 97,000 fans for a game against Ohio (which the Nittany Lions lost).

Princeton obviously doesn't open its season until a week from Saturday, Sept. 15, at Lehigh. The Tigers play 10 games in 10 weeks, with no open dates along the way. It turns football into a sprint.

TB has always liked the way the Ivy League does it, though he'd be okay with opening a week earlier and having an off-week (or even opening two weeks earlier, having an off week, adding one game and allowing the league champion to go to the NCAA playoffs, though he understands well why all those things don't happen).

As TB watched the old marketing guy's team, he thought about the new marketing guy and the challenges that Princeton faces in marketing its own football team.

None of the issues that TB thought about are new - what would be considered good attendance, what should the University do to try to drive attendance, why don't people come, why do people come.

Add to this mix though the incredible saturation of football on television at the time when Ivy League games are being played, and it's even more difficult.

The weather is a huge issue here, and last year's home schedule was destroyed by three Saturdays of rain and one of snow.

But more and more, it's TV that is impacting attendance, TB thinks.

If you have a big screen, HD TV, you can watch any game you want, basically, and you never have to leave your house to do it.

It's hard to compete with that if you're an Ivy League school.

At the same time, if you're a college football fan and you're willing to be one with your couch for an entire Saturday, well, then this is about as good as it gets for you.