Thursday, January 31, 2013

What A Racket

Three young men holding four pizzas each walked into Jadwin Gym yesterday at 5 pm or so.

They were headed for the women's tennis match, one that would turn into a big win both for Princeton and for direct marketing.

About 27 hours earlier, women's assistant coach Sadhaf Fath peered around the corner during an OAC staff meeting and dropped off a flyer, printed on basic white copy paper, inviting everyone to the match, with the words "FREE PIZZA" in all caps.

As the young men with the pizzas made their way down to the courts on E level in Jadwin, they found themselves with a much-larger-than-normal crowd waiting for them.

Doing a little estimating, if 100 people come for the pizza and even a third stay for the match, then attendance has gone up.

The women's tennis team defeated Temple 6-1 yesterday in the dual meet opener for both the 2013 season and the career of head coach Laura Granville, who appears to be following the same marketing strategy of her predecessor, Megan Rose, who was famous for bringing bagels to matches.

Up next for the 73rd-ranked women's tennis team (the top 75 are ranked) is a trip this weekend to Akron to take on 52nd-ranked Missouri and the home team. There are also trips to Duke, Syracuse, Denver and Colorado and finally Loyola Marymount - and home matches against Rutgers, Seton Hall, Binghamton and DePaul - before the Ivy season begins March 30 against Penn.

By then, squash season will be long over.

The top three stories on this morning featured people holding rackets, and the tennis match was the third one in.

The first two were squash, after a hugely successful night for the men and women here at Jadwin, just one floor up from where the tennis match was going on.

Princeton is the top-ranked team in the country for both the men and the women, though that doesn't necessarily make both teams prohibitive favorites to run the table in the league or national championships. This year appears to be the most balanced year for squash on both sides in years.

Both of Princeton's teams beat Penn 9-0 last night, and that was a much bigger surprise on the women's side than the men's. The Quakers were ranked third in the women's poll, which means that the Tigers have now defeated No. 2 (Harvard) and No. 3 (Penn).

Next up is Yale this Saturday in New Haven at noon, for both the men and women. Yale is very, very tough at home, especially on the four-glass-walled court that will only be used for the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 matches for the men.

In addition, Yale defeated Princeton 5-4 in both men's and women's squash in the Ivy scrimmages back in November, so obviously nothing is certain.

On the women's side, Princeton and Yale are both unbeaten in the league. If there is a divide between the top four teams in the league, then Princeton would have seem to have a little more margin for error than Yale.

Should Yale win, the Bulldogs still have to play both Penn and Harvard, who has only one loss and would possibly be playing to force a three-way tie for the league title when it met the Bulldogs.

Should Princeton win, it would be 4-0 in the league with wins over the other top three schools and with matches against Brown, Columbia and Cornell remaining to play. Oh, and Trinity, but that of course has nothing to do with the Ivy race.

Meanwhile, on the men's side, the 9-0 win over Penn was accomplished without losing a single game.

The standings are the same for the men - Princeton and Yale are the lone unbeatens, and Harvard, with its loss to Princeton, has one loss. So does Cornell, a legitimate threat to beat one of the top teams as well.

After Saturday, Princeton has Cornell remaining. Yale has Harvard remaining. The winner in New Haven will have the inside track to the championship, or at least a share of it, or even a three-way piece of it.

This weekend will be the first trip to New Haven for the men's and women's squash teams. The second will next month for the national championships.

In the squash world, winning the Ivy title is like winning the SEC title in football.

The winners this weekend between Yale and Princeton will have taken a huge step in that direction.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Business Casual

TigerBlog owns a nice suit. He has two shirts and a few ties that he can wear with it.

He has two pairs of black sweats. They're very comfortable. One of them, the ones with the Princeton shield and Warrior lacrosse logo, is better than the other, which is just plain black.

Basically everything else he has is standard issue Princeton stuff. And a few pairs of pants, light and dark khaki and green khaki, that can be interchanged with various orange and black and white shirts.

Actually, if you have a total of five pairs of pants and maybe 20 shirts, then how many combinations do you have? That's easy. It's 100. Ah, but now you have to subtract out a few of the combinations that don't quite match, so it's not exactly 100.

When TigerBlog saw a suggestion to dress in "business casual plus" for a meeting last week, he chose not to go with the suit and instead was wearing his uniform, which meant one of the nearly 100 similar looks he could muster up.

Then, when he got there, he found everyone else in the room wearing a jacket, with most in ties. Oh well. TB was still comfortable.

TigerBlog's fashion sense isn't great. He likes the look of sneakers with khaki pants more than he likes to wear dress shoes or even casual shoes, like his Merrell's. It took him a long time to settle on white socks instead of black socks with the white sneakers and khakis.

He's always figured he can't go wrong with solid colors, and let's face it, he's been helped considerably by being at Princeton, where orange and black go with everything.

TigerBlog was listening to the Princeton-College of New Jersey basketball game on the radio Sunday when Derek Jones mentioned that the Princeton staff was wearing suits and sneakers as part of a Coaches vs. Cancer event.

This led Noah Savage, who in a very short time has become a great color commentator, to remark that he's never understood why basketball coaches get dressed up, with men's coaches in suits and women's coaches in formal business attire.

"As a player," Savage said, "I'm very comfortable being coached by someone in business casual."

TigerBlog laughed out loud at that.

Not every basketball coach wears a suit.

Pete Carril, at least at the stage of his career when TigerBlog first started covering his teams, always wore a navy blue sweater with a white golf shirt under it, as well as gray pants. The sweater had a cigar hole in it that was right over the part on the white shirt under it that had a basketball on it, so it made it look like the blue sweater actually had a basketball on it, something that took TigerBlog a few years to figure out.

Bill Carmody wore very business casual clothes when he coached at Princeton. He's more of a sport coat guy now at Northwestern.

The opposite end of the spectrum is John Thompson, who could be in some men's suit catalog any time he's coaching. TigerBlog never understand how he could travel and still have his suits be completely wrinkle-free on game night.

Mitch Henderson likes to dress in a suit for a game as well. He and his staff are very well attired.

TigerBlog isn't sure when basketball coaches first started to dress up, or why for that matter. Maybe it's because the crowd is so close to them.

Connie Mack used to wear a suit when in his 50 years of managing baseball in Philadelphia, but now the rules say that managers and coaches have to wear uniforms. Besides, that's a very baseball thing to do.

In football, where coaches are lost on the sideline and are much more exposed to the elements, there are many different styles. Some have even worn suits or jackets or ties.

For the most part, they dress uniformly among the entire coaching staff, usually in khaki pants with team apparel, depending on the temperature.

The same is true for lacrosse, whose coaches seem to most closely resemble football coaches.

Soccer? They dress very casually it appears, in shorts and sweats, also depending on the weather.

In other words, it doesn't seem like there is uniformity to the thought process. Baseball and soccer coaches dress like the players. Basketball coaches dress up, but they don't match each other.

Football and lacrosse coaches usually match each other.

TigerBlog's look for Princeton lacrosse games almost always mirrors that of the coaches, even though he's not trying to do so. In fact, he's often been called "coach" when on the road by the other school's facilities staff.

He takes that as a compliment, he guesses.

When TB first started working at Princeton, he wore a tie to every game. In fact, he remembers a football game at Bucknell where it rained so hard and the entire field turned to mud (1996?) that he wore the jeans he wore the day before - and wondered if he'd get fired.

Instead, he just got basically ruined jeans, because they were so caked in mud when it was all over.

These days, he sees some of his counterparts in ties at games, while others go the same route as he does. TB thinks everyone should be comfortable and look professional, and the khaki/school attire look is very professional in his mind.

The first men's lacrosse game of the year is three weeks from Saturday. TigerBlog will be going business casual for that one.
Even with white socks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Marshall, Not Mitchell

Miss TigerBlog plays field hockey on Monday nights, so TigerBlog couldn't stay around for "Pardon the Interruption" last night.

Instead, he could only watch "Around the Horn," which is clearly the junior varsity of the two shows on ESPN's "Happy Hour" at 5 and 5:30 each weekday.

"PTI" is just so much better, simply because of the two hosts, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Still, "Around the Horn" is still a really good jayvee show, especially because of its main host, Tony Reali, a Fordham grad, by the way.

Yesterday's "Around the Horn" featured a segment at the end, when it was down to the final two voices, in which the question of Marshall Henderson's taunting of the Auburn student section after his two foul shots for Ole Miss won the game Saturday afternoon was raised.

If you haven't seen the clip yet, please click here now and do so. If you have, please move on to the next paragraph.

As an aside, the first TigerBlog saw of the incident was when someone tweeted "Mitchell Henderson" instead of "Marshall Henderson," which made me wonder why Princeton's men's basketball coach had become an internet sensation.

Anyway, as you can see from the clip, it got a bit ugly there for a few seconds. Or did it?

That was Reali's question, anyway.

Was what Henderson did okay? How about what the fans did? Who was in the right?

Meanwhile, the clip itself has been dissected on the internet in every way possible, with the supporting roles of "Auburn Pajama Girl" and "the old guy."

Don't think so? Do a search for "Auburn Pajama Girl" and more than 34,000,000 results come up. Do one for "Alabama Pajama Girl" and 1,800,000 come up.

Had TigerBlog been on "Around the Horn" last night, he would have offered that everyone was in the wrong. He would have added that this is something that used to be described in two words that seem extinct now: poor sportsmanship.

Hey, Henderson, you won the game. You don't need to rush to the other team's students and mock them, even if they had been merciless to you the entire night. And the students? They aren't as accountable because their not representing the University in an official capacity, such as a student-athlete is.

But still. This is where America is right now? Fans at a game who think they can say anything they want? F bombs flying back and forth and it makes for great entertainment, rather than being seen for what it is, which is boorish behavior that used to be discouraged and punished rather than encouraged and rewarded like it is now?

Yup. It's how America is. The more outlandish, the less respectful - and the more likely you are to get your own reality show. It's fame for the sake of fame, regardless of what it took to achieve it. TigerBlog guarantees that the kids in the middle of the Auburn section were treated like royalty when they got back to the dorms.

TigerBlog wrestles with the idea of where the line is and when has it been crossed, in terms of what fans (especially students) can say and do at games. Additionally, what is an institution supposed to do when it feels that the line has been crossed?

The idea is to get students to the games to create a nice advantage for the home team. And TB supposes he's talking mostly basketball here, because of how close the fans are to the players.

He also realizes that someone can yell something completely inappropriate without every using a curse word or any other "derogatory comments," as the NCAA's sportsmanship message reads.

So what do you do? Have a group stationed next to the students monitoring what they say and then have a committee decide if it's okay or not? And TigerBlog's version of appropriate is not the same as yours. And yours isn't the same as the next person's.

At places like Princeton, there is a huge reliance on families with children as a target audience. Does this mean Princeton needs to be more diligent with enforcing the "derogatory comments" action?

And what should that enforcement look like? If you tell students not to do something, they're more likely to do it louder next time. It's just how all 18- to 22-year-olds are.

As TB watched that clip, he couldn't help but think back to the 1999 Penn-Princeton game at the Palestra, when Princeton rallied from 27 points down with 15 minutes to go to win the game. Brian Earl, now an assistant coach for the Tigers, was one of the key reasons why Princeton won that game.

When it ended, Earl clutched the basketball and hugged his teammates. In fact, TB still has a copy of the Philadelphia Daily News that has a great picture of that moment.

What Earl didn't do was run over to the Penn students and shove his jersey in their faces. And TB has a hard time believing that Auburn's fans were on Henderson more than Penn's were on Earl that night and every other night he played in that building.

Before TigerBlog saw the clip from the Ole Miss-Auburn game, he'd never heard of Marshall Henderson. Now everyone knows who he is.

Unfortunately,  in 2013, that's mission accomplished.

Monday, January 28, 2013


The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia is part of a pretty nice sports complex, one that houses the 20,000 seat arena alongside Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park.

Unlike the other two, the Wells Fargo Center has had five names in its short existence, starting out as Spectrum II and then becoming the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center and the Wachovia Center and now Wells Fargo.

Together, the buildings are the home of Philadelphia's four major professional sports teams - and about a million other events. For a small area that packs so many people into it on a regular basis, the sports complex has great parking and is easier to get into and out of than any other such complex TigerBlog has ever experienced.

Way back when, that area was home to three venues that no longer exist.

The Spectrum was the arena where the Sixers and Flyers played. Mammoth Veterans Stadium was the home for the Eagles and Phillies. Only one person has ever really liked Veterans Stadium, and that's TigerBlog, who thought it was a great place.

Long forgotten is JFK Stadium, which began its life as Municipal Stadium and was mostly known for hosting the Army-Navy football game from the 1930s to the 1970s.

TB was in the Wells Fargo Center early yesterday, very, very early yesterday, for a lacrosse event.

There was hardly anyone in the building, and when the horn went off to end one of the games, TigerBlog knew that the sound was familiar, though it took him a few minutes to place it.

When an arena of that size is full, then the sound of the horn gets muffled, at least a little.

When it's empty, the horn - followed by the sound of applause from a sparse audience - has a pretty unique sound to it. Maybe it's an echo. Or maybe it's just the sound with little else distracting from it.

Then it came to TB. It was the sound of the end of one of the practice sessions that teams have in the arena the day before the NCAA basketball tournament.

Teams have essentially a glorified shootaround on the game court the day before the games, and these practices are open to the public. Mostly they're just dunk contests or something like that, along with a lot of three-point shooting and foul shooting to get used to the environment.

The actual serious practicing is done at some other site, usually a small college or even high school gym in the area, that the NCAA teams have been able to secure.

TigerBlog has been to a bunch of those pre-tournament shootarounds, and they had the same sound as the nearly empty Wells Fargo Center.

Will Princeton's men's basketball team be experiencing one of those shootarounds in the near future?

Well, it'll basically be a sprint from now through the end of the regular season.

Princeton defeated the College of New Jersey 71-33 yesterday in its post-exam return to the court. Princeton, who hadn't played in 15 days, is now 8-7 on the season, with nothing but Ivy games coming up.

Princeton has played 15 games in 79 days since the season began on Nov. 10.

Beginning Friday night, when Cornell comes to Jadwin Gym, Princeton will play 13 games in 40 days.

The Tigers are 1-0 in the Ivy League, with a win over Penn. Princeton almost got a huge gift Saturday afternoon when Dartmouth almost knocked off Harvard, but the Crimson rallied from 11 down with three minutes to go to win in OT.

For 37 minutes, that game was all Dartmouth. And a loss would have been devastating to the Crimson.

No team has played more than two league games, and only Harvard (2-0) and Princeton (1-0) are undefeated. Columbia, who owns an 18-point win over the same Villanova team that just defeated Louisville and Syracuse last week, lost to Cornell in New York City Saturday, which means that Yale and Brown and Columbia and Cornell split their home-and-homes.

Princeton's first five Ivy games are all at home (the Penn game and now Cornell/Columbia this weekend and Brown/Yale next weekend). The Tigers play at Harvard on Feb. 16 (a Saturday) and then wrap up the season with Harvard at home on a Friday, followed by Dartmouth at home and then a game at Penn.

It's a pretty nicely set up schedule.

The goal of every year is to win the league and get to the NCAA tournament.

That's when the fun really starts.

There is nothing like the NCAA men's basketball tournament in college athletics. As 1996 showed, a team never knows when it's going to do something that will live on forever as one of the great March accomplishments.

For Princeton, the goal is to hear the unmuffled sound of a horn in a nearly empty arena the day before the tournament.

The sprint to get there begins Friday.

On your mark ...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Memories Of Levien

TigerBlog looked through the closed blinds of the Lou Gehrig Room and out over the court at Columbia University's Levien Gymnasium, and the first thought he had was of Mike Bechtold.

It was back on March 2, 2002, that Bechtold had the biggest night of his Princeton basketball career, as he went for 25 points - more than half the Tigers would score - in a 49-48 win over Columbia here at Levien. Bechtold shot 5 for 10 from three-point range that night, and his fifth three-pointer was the game-winner in the final seconds.

Bechtold shot 9 for 15 from the field in that game; every other Princeton player combined was 6 for 28. Trivia question, with answer to come later, is this: which Princeton player played all 40 minutes in that game.

As TigerBlog peeked through the window, he could still Bechtold's last three-pointer, launched from straight on above the top of the key, right at the basket TB was looking down on through the class yesterday. He could see it as it rattled around and eventually splashed through.

TB was at Columbia yesterday for an Ivy League meeting. Actually, he's back right now for Day 2.

As an aside, the way people drive in Manhattan is fascinating. It's almost like there's an assumption that following 80% of the traffic laws is good enough, and people weave in and out, make turns from two or three lanes over and mostly cut each other off rather than give up the unforgivable sin of allowing someone to gain a car length on them.

Anyway, TigerBlog pulled up both yesterday and today to the familiar entrance to the parking garage at Columbia, the one with the entrance on Amsterdam Avenue at 119th Street. From there, it's a winding walk through the part of Columbia that is not on any admissions publications (and, in fairness, is the way in for almost no visitors to the otherwise attractive campus), past dumpsters and parked facilities vehicles and side doors into buildings on this side campus, before reaching the ultimate destination of the building that houses Levien Gym, the university's athletic offices, squash courts, the pool and such.

There's an old gym that is a few hallways away from Levien, where as TB came in yesterday and today some of the Columbia softball players were getting some swings in.

Just before the entrance to the old gym is a stairway that goes up to where the visiting lockerroom is for basketball. TigerBlog has spent many winter evenings waiting outside that lockerroom to take Princeton's coach at the time and players to the postgame interview area.

Usually, it was after a win. But not always.

In addition to Bechtold's big night - one that gave Princeton a share of the Ivy League championship that ultimately ended up with a loss in the Ivy League play-in for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament - TB remembers the night in 1990 when Princeton, on a night when Matt Eastwick would be the high scorer with 12 points, defeated Columbia 67-39. Late in the game, the Columbia students would chant "you may be winning, but we're building character."

There was another 9-for-15 performance by a Princeton player in an Ivy-clincher in Levien Gym, this time in 1996. That night, it was Steve Goodrich who carried the Tigers, this time with 24 points, as Princeton edged out the Lions.

The significance of that game? Well, nobody ever talks about it, but it was huge. The Princeton win left the Tigers at 12-1 in the Ivy League, while Penn would finish 11-2. The next three Princeton games were the 14-point loss to Penn at the Palestra on the closing night of the regular season and then the playoff win and NCAA tournament win over UCLA.

No win over Columbia? Probably no NCAA tournament in Pete Carril's final season, since it would have made the game at the Palestra winner-take-all.

They weren't all wins. In 1993, Buck Jenkins lit up Princeton for 32 points as the building rocked. Jenkins would be the Ivy League Player of the Year.

Oh, and the trivia question? Let's up it to this: one Princeton player went all 40 minutes in the 2002, 1996 and 1993 games at Levien. Can you name all three? Hint - two of them have the same first name.

Levien Gym is an interesting place.

It has a lobby with plaques for Columbia's athletic hall of fame inductees. It's tucked into a building where, from the outside, there's no way to tell that it's a basketball arena.

The fans sit behind the court on both sides, but there are no stands behind either basket. The walls are very close to the end of the court.

Almost every time that TB made the Cornell/Columbia road trip, he went up-and-back to both schools rather than staying over. As a result, there were a lot of Friday and Saturday nights driving into Manhattan, seeing the life of the city as the theater crowd gathered 80 or so blocks to the south.

He's always liked going to Levien, a friendly place where he'd always see Princeton alums he knew - and almost always would see competitive games with rabid, vocal home fans.

TB isn't sure what year he stumbled on Alex Oberweger, who was a Columbia student broadcaster when TB first met him.

Today, Oberweger is one of the top members of the Columbia athletic administration. He is a smart and pragmatic, a very good combination, and TB has no problem seeing him as a athletic director one day. Or an upper administrator within the university itself. What he can't see is Oberweger's ever leaving Columbia or New York City, where he was born and raised.

During yesterday's first day of the meeting, TB and Oberweger talked briefly about Princeton-Columbia men's basketball, and he remarked how big this year's games between the schools will be.

Right now, Columbia and Princeton are two of the four teams at 1-0 in the league (along with Harvard and Brown). The Lions are 9-6 overall, and one of those nine wins is a convincing thumping of Villanova, who just beat Louisville.

Princeton will be at Levien four weeks from tonight in what figures to be one of the defining games of the Ivy season. The building will be sold out, TB assumes, and he also assumes it'll be loud.

It'll be a big contrast to right now, when there is mostly silence here, save for the people who work here and a few Columbia athletes, as well as the people in TB's meeting.

It's quiet here.

And yet TB can still see all the memories of Princeton-Columbia basketball for all of the years he's seen games here.

Oh, and the trivia answer:

2002 - Kyle Wente.
1996 - Chris Doyal
1993 - Chris Pavlic

Thursday, January 24, 2013


TigerBlog was driving along yesterday when came across a billboard that read "the current temperature is 89," with the "89" as one of those electric displays that change when the necessary number changes.

As he was processing how wrong the number was, he saw the words underneath the temperature, words that read: "in the Caribbean, that is."

It was a billboard for a cruise line.

TigerBlog went on a cruise once. He didn't like it very much.

If he wanted to do all the stuff there was to do on the ship, then he had to stay up late. If he wanted to get off the ship to go to the islands, he had to get up early.

Plus, the boat rocked. He definitely didn't like that.

On the other hand, the cruise ship itself was an amazing structure. As TB recalls, it sailed from San Juan and went through the Caribbean, and it was like being on a mall that could float. A floating mall, that is, with a bunch of food courts, all of which served all-you-can-eat fare around the clock.

And with tiny staterooms, with tinier bathrooms in them.

For TB,  a much better vacation is finding one beach and sitting on it for a week.

FatherBlog is on a cruise even as you are reading this. His itinerary started in Tahiti and went through French Polynesia. Currently, he's in the Marquesas Islands.

Yesterday's destination was Nuku Hiva, for which TB did a search. It seems to be a fairly scenic place.

TB's Aunt Edie took cruises all over the world. BrotherBlog's last major vacation was a cruise in the Mediterranean, through the French and Italian Rivieras.

This week would have been a great week to be on vacation in a tropical location, even if it had to be on a cruise.

And it wasn't just because of the weather.

This is Week 2 of first semester exams. It's a week that has no athletic events at Princeton. Hey, for that matter, there wasn't even an event meeting this past Tuesday at 10, which is a complete rarity for the academic year.

Princeton's teams return to competition tomorrow at the Armory in New York City, where the women's track and field team will be participating in a meet.

After having no events for 12 days, Princeton will have 23 in the next eight days, with at least one event every day.

The home portion of the schedule resumes with something of a double feature Sunday afternoon.

The men's basketball team plays its Division III game against the College of New Jersey Sunday at 2, and then the men's hockey team hosts Sacred Heart at 4.

By next weekend, the basketball and hockey teams of both sexes will be in full league mode, and there will be one intense game after another for the rest of the season.

For now, though, there's still one more day with nothing going on.

TigerBlog is in New York for a meeting all day anyway, so he couldn't have gone away this week after all.

Of course, if he really wanted to go on a cruise, there's always the Circle Line.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Month Away

TigerBlog's iPhone has an app on the first screen that shows the weather.

The icon is a blue sky with an orange sun, underneath of which it says "73" with the symbol for degrees, which TB can't figure out how to get on his computer.

Then you click on the app, and it tells you the actual temperature and the forecast for the next five days, of wherever TB happens to be at that moment. It's actually pretty neat.

This morning, it said it was nine degrees in Princeton, or only 64 degrees away from the 73 on the app's icon. Now, a few hours later, it has vaulted up three degrees, all the way to 12.

Yes, it's really winter here. Of course, this comes on the heels of Sunday's high temperature, which was 60. And it'll be back near 50 next week.

Last winter was the mildest TB can remember. Even with how cold it is today, it's still better than snow, which is in the forecast for Friday, though without much accumulation.

TB was walking into the building this morning with Marcus Jenkins, the men's basketball coach assistant coach, who agreed that nobody ever says "it's awesome when it's this cold out."

Meanwhile, back at TB's iPhone, there's another app for the calendar, which very nicely has today's date on it each day. For instance, on the 14th of the month, it'll say "14" across the icon.

Today TB was greeted with the number 23, which made him immediately think of where he will be  the next time that app has "23" on it.

He'll be at Hofstra. For Princeton-Hofstra men's lacrosse. That same day, by the way, the women open the season at home against Villanova that same day.

Princeton hasn't started practice yet. The Ivy League schools actually have their first practices on Feb. 1, which is a week from Friday and one day before the first Division I men's game, as Delaware plays at High Point. The women have already had their first real game, as Syracuse played Jacksonville.

TigerBlog doesn't think that the Ivy schools are at a disadvantage because they start a few weeks later. In fact, who would want to be practicing outside on days like today?

There are some big early February games on the horizon, including Denver's opener against Duke on Feb. 9.

As for Princeton's men, it'll be a fascinating season.

The Tigers averaged 11.2 goals per game and gave up 7.25 in 2012, when the Tigers went 11-5, won the Ivy League at 6-0 and returned to the NCAA tournament.

The offense will be led by junior Tom Schreiber, who came within two assists last year of having Princeton's second "30/30" season (David Tickner in 1976 had 34 goals and 32 assists for the only season of 30 goals, 30 assists in school history). The cast around him offensively is very good, and the Tigers could easily add to the scoring offense total this time around.

Schreiber, by the way, is can't-miss viewing, as he is a threat to do something spectacular every single time he touches the ball.

And the rule changes could help Princeton, as they are meant to open the game up, give more possessions and add to the offense. The major ones involve substitutions, which all are on the fly right now (other than after goals and penalties) and of course the biggest one, the 30-second countdown after a stall warning, a change that is clearly a prelude to a shot clock.

For Princeton, all the question marks are on defense. How could they not be, when graduation took, among others, All-Americas Tyler Fiorito in goal, Chad Wiedmaier on defense and John Cunningham at longstick midfielder, as well as four-year starter and All-Ivy performer Jonathan Meyers.

TigerBlog envisions a lacrosse season with sun and warmth that increases as the season goes along, building to hopefully another successful May.

For now, it's up four more degrees, all the way to 16.

The warm weather is coming though.

He, a month from today, it'll be spring.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Baker?

Today's trivia question - what happened in Princeton athletics on this day 100 years ago?

Give up?

It was on Jan. 22, 1913, that Hobey Baker was penalized for the only time in his hockey career. It was a slashing call, for the record.

Hobey Baker was less than a month away from his 27th birthday when he died in that mysterious plane crash in France, shortly after World War I ended. Mysterious, in that it's possible that he crashed the plane on purpose, or so legend has it.

Baker was an American hero, one of the first icons of American sports.

He was the only American among the nine original members of the hockey Hall of Fame, and he is also a member of the college football Hall of Fame. No other athlete has ever been so honored.

Beyond his athletic achievements, he was also a beloved, romantic figure in American culture of the time. His death was a national tragedy.

Who knows what might have been next for Hobey Baker? Maybe he would have ended up in business, or maybe he would loved the competitiveness of a different field, politics. Maybe if he had never died, it could have been, with apologies to a different family, Senator Baker, Governor Baker.

Maybe even President Baker.

Who knows?

Baker's reality was harsher.

Princeton has produced two United States Presidents, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson. There have been Princetonians who have come close, though none has reached the big chair in the Oval Office since Wilson.

If you asked TigerBlog, the three greatest athletes in Princeton history are Baker, Bill Bradley and Dick Kazmaier. Of those three, history will never know what Baker might have done, but Bradley came pretty close, reaching the "final four" of presidential candidates in 2000 before losing the Democratic nomination to Al Gore.

President Obama's second inauguration was Sunday, with the public part of it Monday. Among those in attendance was Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson, whose sister Michelle is the First Lady.

TB wrote this after Mr. Obama's last inauguration:

Let the debate go forward: Was that an Oregon State or a Princeton scarf that first brother-in-law Craig Robinson was wearing at the inauguration of his sister Michelle's husband Barack Obama? Robinson - and his sister - are Princeton grads. Craig Robinson is the fourth all-time leading scorer in Princeton basketball history with 1,441 points, and he was the 1982 and 1983 Ivy League Player of the Year.

As an aside, one of the big changes from the first Obama term to the second is that Robinson is no longer fourth all-time at Princeton in scoring, as he was passed by Douglas Davis last year. Ian Hummer is only 47 points away from tying Robinson as well.

Anyway, during yesterday's inauguration, Robinson again wore the orange and black scarf.

Oh and he also mugged for the camera. Photobombing, it's called, apparently.

Shortly after the inauguration, TigerBlog got the first of several emails through the Princeton communications group - known as "Spin" - about how Robinson was wearing the scarf, which was originally attributed to Princeton and then corrected to Oregon State.

Having a Princeton men's basketball player be the brother-in-law of the President of the United States is an amazing occurrence.

TB remembers Robinson when he was a player for Princeton and TB was a student at Penn. And now his sister's husband is two days into his second term as President.

Whether or not you voted for Mr. Obama or like him or what he does or how he does, there can be no denying that his is a wonderful American success story. And that he comes across as a great family man.

The fact that his family has such strong Princeton connections - and Princeton athletics connections - makes it even better.

Monday, January 21, 2013

10 Years - Jim Barlow's Guest TigerBlog On Rob Myslik

Usually, a guest TigerBlog requires some explanation and introduction. This one, by Princeton men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, does not:

When I started to think of what I might say today, and began to get nervous about trying to “say the right things,” I was reminded of the words that Toni Morrison spoke after the tragedy of September 11th.  I keep these words taped to the wall behind my desk.  She said to the Princeton University community -- “I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say….” (at first, this line seemed really appropriate for me – if you knew Rob no words are necessary – he revealed himself to you in ways beyond mere words and we all know that -- if you did not know him, well, then words do not suffice) – The more I thought about it, though, the more I could hear Rob’s voice saying “what a cop out.”  A talker like no one else, he would want us to talk, to share, to live this moment here today like we live every other one.

So I kept reading over Morrison’s words about addressing the broken and the dead without any anger, self-promotion, cliché – without any agendas. She said that speaking to the broken and the dead is “too holy an act for impure thoughts” because “the dead are free, absolute, they cannot be seduced by blitz.” The more I thought about it the more I realized that this is how people spoke to Rob when he was alive.  Of all the people I have ever met, he was already the most free, absolute.  He remained immune to societal measures of success – the same “blitz” of which Morrison speaks.  He refused to be seduced by money or status…What seduced him was life – being awake in each moment and squeezing as much as possible out of every day.  I think his battles with insomnia were a reflection of this need to always be AWAKE

(taken from my eulogy on Rob Myslik written in January, 2003)

As I finished reading this year’s New Year/holiday update letter from Rob Myslik’s sister Melora and her husband Andrew Balson, I could not get past the following sentence:

“As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the loss of our beloved Robby, we continue to try to live our lives to the fullest, as he knew how better than most.”

Ten years. 


I can remember that day so vividly - being awoken in my hotel room in Guadlajara, Mexico with an urgent message to call home.  I had assumed that my wife PK was checking on me as there had been a big earthquake in Mexico that night.  When I phoned her, however, she delivered the life-changing news  – Rob was killed in a car accident.

In the eulogy I gave at his memorial service days later, I started off by saying, “These days, everything reminds me of Rob.”

Ten years later not much has changed. 

So many things continue to remind me of Rob.  Big things remind me, like our game field (named in Rob’s memory), our prestigious Robert Hauter Myslik Award (awarded to the member of the team who most demonstrates the passion for life, the fiery competitiveness, the unwavering honesty and the selfless generosity of Rob), the Reach the Beach 200-mile relay that is run in his memory each year, and, the biggest of all, his daughter Maggie (who will turn 10 in the fall). 

But so many little things also remind me, like a passionate debate, a competitive practice, a frank discussion, a playful dog, a bad referee, a pizza at De Lorenzo’s, a beat-up, smelly car, Princeton soccer, Princeton basketball, a good book.  I can’t help but imagine Rob’s insights into everyday life.  What would he think of the Lance Armstrong interview, of the imaginary girlfriend at Notre Dame?  Would he have liked Les Mis as much as TigerBlog?  What would he think of our team?  What suggestions would he have for the line-up?  Our practices? What would his player ratings have been after each game?  How much would he have heckled Penn fans at last week’s basketball game?

As I write this guest TigerBlog, I have the Liverpool/Norwich game on in the background.  After Liverpool scored, the announced called it a “scrappy” goal.  My first thought?  You guessed it  – one of Rob’s many nicknames was Scrappy.

Yes, ten years later and Rob is still everywhere.  But not everyone knows him. We keep a picture of Rob on the bench at our games.  On one of our road trips this season, I asked a freshman to carry the picture on the bus and be responsible for making sure the picture made it to the bench and back on the bus.  “By the way, “ I asked him, “do you know who that is in the picture?”

After a long pause he looked back at me. “Yes,” he guessed, “is it PK?”

The bus roared in laughter, but the incident served as a reminder that many of our current players don’t know anything about Rob Myslik, about a person who was such a huge part of what Princeton Soccer is and of the values that make our program special.  Rob’s story needs to be told every season, every time a group of freshmen arrive on campus.  There can be no better role model for them. On the tenth anniversary of his tragic death, Rob continues to teach us, in Melora’s words, how to live our lives to the fullest.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the part
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
(from John O’Donohue’s On Grief)

Friday, January 18, 2013

One In 37

Princeton had four teams compete this past Aug. 31, which happened to be a Friday.

As of now, there are no events scheduled for the weekend of May 17-19, though that could change with postseason qualifications.

In between, Princeton will have more than one team who has competed or will be competing on every single weekend. Except for one. This weekend.

For those keeping score, that's 36 of 37 weekends with athletic events for Princeton teams. And one without.

The reason, of course, is first semester exams, which are at their midway point.

And because Christmas and New Year's Day fell on Tuesdays.

Meanwhile, back at this weekend, there is nothing going on at Princeton. Or with any Princeton team on the road.

By next weekend, exams will be over, and the men's and women's track and field teams, men's basketball team, men's hockey team and men's and women's swimming and diving teams will all be back at it between Friday and Sunday.

Ah, but this weekend? Nothing.

When you work in college athletics, you understand that being there on the weekends is just part of the deal. Nobody knows any differnet.

In fact, there could be another four weekends of events on the schedule, depending on how far teams and individuals advance, which would make 40 of 52 weekends with events.

So what about this weekend? TigerBlog figures his co-workers will be taking full advantage.

TigerBlog mentioned the other day his theory that the exam break helps Princeton's winter teams, because they get a built-in, essentially two-week physical rest period. It drew this comment:
It's fascinating that you believe the exam break is an advantage for Princeton winter athletes. I've always assumed that it's a disadvantage because sports success depends upon practice and repetition, which is interrupted. On the other hand, football teams always say that they look forward to bye week. I guess it hinges on the break being long enough to provide physical rest but short enough to stay sharp. I would be interested if you've ever asked any of the athletes their opinion.

As a result, TigerBlog did just that, asking a few Princeton athletes what they thought. Here are some of the responses:

Meg Bowen, women's basketball:
I find the break for finals to allow us to relax a little from the basketball side of things and really focus on our academics. It also allows time to take a physical break and further prepare for the Ivy season. Some people get run down physically by the new year, so this period really helps our bodies regroup and prepare to get through March.   

Denton Koon, men's basketball:
It's a challenge because we were just starting to get into a good flow as a team. Taking a few weeks away from the game can be tough, but it'll definitely make us mentally stronger going into the second half of the season and into league play.

T.J. Bray, men's basketball:
It's not much of a distraction. You've just got to focus on your work when you're working and when you're down in the gym, focus on basketball. You've just got to really separate the two and focus on both of them. It's kind of nice to get a little break here. You like to keep playing and keep some momentum, but I think it should help us.

Jack Berger, men's hockey:
Ideally, we would like to keep playing games to stay sharp after coming off Christmas break, but the time off will give our team the opportunity to let guys get healthy for the postseason push that is coming up ...  I think that guys do a great job of maintaining a high level of commitment to being both a student and an athlete.

James Kerr, men's hockey:
This two-week adjustment endows student-athletes with fresh purpose and allows them to return to their sport reinvigorated. A change is as good as rest.

Blake Dietrick, women's basketball:
I think the break definitely helps us to re-focus for the Ivy League season.

Yes, the unique Princeton academic calendar is all they know as athletes at the school. Still, it appears that there is some merit to what TB was saying the other day.

In the meantime, the only free weekend from August to May is almost here.

It starts to ease back into normal next weekend. Then the busiest time of year explodes on Princeton athletics.

This weekend? Nothing.

Well, the NFL playoffs, among other things.

Just nothing Princetonian. For the only time in 37 weekends.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wait? What's Up With Manti Te'o?

TigerBlog once wrote a story about Jim O'Brien, a former men's lacrosse player at Princeton.

O'Brien's brother was in the military and was serving in Iraq at the time. The story was basically about how that situation was impacting the family and O'Brien himself as a senior college student and athlete.

At no point did TigerBlog figure he needed to check to see if O'Brien really had a brother and if the story was real. He just assumed it was. Why would O'Brien make something like that up?

Of course, O'Brien wasn't making it up. Neither are 99.999% of the athletes who talk to media people, who then write stories based on what they're told.

The Manti Te'o story is freaky on all kinds of levels. Still, TB is surprised to read the backlash against the media for blindly reporting the apparent death of his now-known-to-be-non-existent girlfriend.

What were they supposed to do? Investigative reporting on whether or not she was real?

Nope, sometimes you just get duped along with everyone else. There are all kinds of criticisms that can be leveled against the contemporary American media, all of which would be deserved. This isn't one of those times.

Besides, that's not the story here anyway.

It's whether or not Te'o was in on it or not.

And if he had been, then why? What was in it for him?

That's the part that TB really can't get a handle on.

If he was tricked, then what the motivation for the trickers? To embarrass him? That certainly worked out, as he has been publicly humiliated in a major way.

Usually, though, the motivation is money. Did they see this as a way to sucker him in and then extort his NFL earnings from him?

And if he was in on it, then why? For publicity? Why invite a dying girlfriend for that? Being the best player for Notre Dame's football team wasn't enough?

Maybe he started out thinking it was real and then figured out he was the sap and wanted to try to save face, so he played along? But wouldn't there have to be endless ways to prove that what he says is true?

There are so many subplots to this, and not just the media reaction.

There's the Twitter reaction, which has been merciless to Te'o. Merciless.

Yes, he's such an easy target right now. But still? Is this what American society has become? Kick someone when he appears to be down before knowing anything about what really happened?

As TB watched it all unfold, it became weirder and weirder and made less and less sense. He still can't figure out what he thinks.

Usually, it's the person who had the greatest motivation who is behind it all. In this case, TB doesn't get anyone's motivation.

As always when TB watched this play out, he was struck by another thought - thankfully this wasn't involving a Princeton athlete.

TB doesn't envy the administration at Notre Dame, which has to balance being supportive of Ta'o with making sure that it's not becoming part of a lie.

The No. 1 goal has to be to get all of the information, good or bad, before making any kind of public statement, so that such a statement doesn't come back to bite them when it all eventually does come out.

Or, if you're cynical, you could suggest that since ND apparently knew about this on Dec. 26 that the school didn't want it to come out prior to the BCS title game. 

Anyway, the next issue is whether or not the administration (in this case the athletic director at Notre Dame, who spoke last night) has a greater responsibility to the athlete or to the good name of the institution.

It's not about throwing the athlete under the bus. It's about whether or not the institution can stake its reputation defending someone who ultimately could drag it down (for reference, see "State, Penn").

In other words, the school has to be very, very certain that it has all the facts.

Could this happen here? Of course.

It could happen anywhere. That's just the reality of the world these days.

Twitter. Facebook. Phones. Instant access to everything. The miracle is that it hasn't happened more than this.

Maybe this was above and beyond because of the sheer oddity of it. Everyone's reaction was the same: "wait, what did that just say?"

If Te'o was the victim of a hoax, then TB feels bad for him, because this will be with him forever.

Oh, and if you're cynical, you'd say that his performance in the BCS title game will hurt his NFL chances more than this will.

It's a huge story now because it's Notre Dame. But it's also a story about contemporary society and its rush to pile on, long before all the facts are in.

If it happened to be a Princeton kid, the piling on would be intense too, not because it'd involve the Heisman runner-up but because of the reputation that Princeton has for being a school with smart people.

Ah, but the smartest can still get hooked up in something like this.

And that's why TB's first reaction was to shake his head and then his second was - again - to say "thankfully this didn't happen here."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


TigerBlog's biggest memory from chemistry is this: pv=nrt.

It's the ideal gas law. And that's all that TB remembers. He has no idea what it means. He has no idea in what context it's used.

He just knows that pv=nrt.

His college roommate Charlie used to say "pv=nrt" anytime anyone else ever mentioned that there was a chemistry exam/lab/quiz/class on the near horizon. He'd say it with such confidence that he came across as a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, as if understanding that equation unlocked the key to the entire universe of chemistry.

In fact, TB can't remember if he learned the equation in his chemistry class as a high school sophomore or from hearing Charlie say it so many times.

TB definitely liked biology better than chemistry, even though biology was sort of gross. He liked physics way more than either of those, largely because he could actually visualize what was going on, like inclined planes and all that stuff that he barely remembers.


TB's biggest memory is another friend who had to dissect a cat during biology and named her cat "Pieces." That and Mr. Perka, the wrestling coach at his high school who was also the bio teacher and who would end all experiments with the most definitive "clean it up, wipe it dry," followed by the admonition to put away microscopes with "low, low power, barrel down."

It's amazing what someone might remember about high school all these years later.

As for chemistry, TB never got past the idea that three moles of this plus two moles of that could equal three moles of something else. Or, for that matter, what moles were.

TB thought back to high school science yesterday as TigerBlog Jr. was studying for his chemistry midterm.

There are exams at his school this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Tuesday and Thursday are reading days. That means he was home all day yesterday, and he said he was studying hard for his only test of today, chemistry, since his other exam was in a writing class and they had a written assignment that was already due.

Of course, when TB showed up, he found TBJ and his friends Matthew and Jared, who attend a different high school and who just happened to stop by after school, since they do not have exams this week.

Matthew and Jared lost all credibility when they mentioned that they were there to help him study, but hey, that's okay. A study break every now and then isn't the worst idea.

Eventually, TBJ had to get back to work and Matthew and Jared had to leave. TB gave TBJ a subtle reminder of what he had to do with two simple words: "yo, moles."

Midterms at TBJ's high school coincide with final exams here at Princeton.

As a result, there are no athletic events this week or next. In fact, there are no structured practices, only the opportunity for athletes to come down when they have a few minutes to get away from studying and get a workout in.

This could mean one person from an entire team or more than half. It's a real rarity when everyone from a team can get together; in fact, TB cannot remember ever seeing that in all the time he's been watching Princeton teams.

It's a fascinating time of year here.

You can't turn on the television without seeing every other college basketball team in the heat of their conference seasons. All winter sports are competing. Spring sports in most cases are starting practices.

Here, it's exam time.

It's actually something that works to Princeton's favor, TB thinks, with a built-in refresher right in the middle of the longest seasons. When the end of exams rolls around, winter athletes are physically rested and mentally ready for the spring to the end.

Yes, it may take a little effort to get back into game shape, and any momentum from the pre-exam period is gone.

But having that physical rest is a plus. Winter practices started in October, and teams hope to be playing their best in March. That's a long time.

Of course, the next games seem pretty far off right now. Exams here have just started, and they run for another 10 days.

As a result, it's sort of slow around here right now.

Inert, one might say.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why So Glum, Tommy Lee Jones?

TigerBlog figures that the picture of Tommy Lee Jones from the Golden Globes must have been taken right after he checked the Princeton-Harvard men's and women's squash scores Sunday.

Why else could the former Harvard football player have looked so glum?

Oh, could it have been a moment of self-introspection, where he looked around the room at the phoniness, narcissism and lack of genuine talent and wondered what it said about him. Or maybe, as everyone says, he looked up at the stage, saw people trying way too hard and said "what's funny about this?"

TigerBlog is glad that "Homeland" and "Les Miserables" both won big at the Golden Globes. He watched almost none of the show, probably because he couldn't handle the self-absorption that was everywhere.

As an aside, you pronounce the "bluh" at the end of "Les Miserables."

Anyway, as TB has said many times before, singing requires talent. Dancing requires talent. Playing an instrument requires talent. Playing sports obviously requires talent.

Acting - in movies or on TV at least - is less about talent than it is about having the right looks and getting the right break.

There are not 50,000 other people out there who can play basketball like LeBron James but who never got a break. There are not 50,000 other people out there who can sing like Sinatra could but never got a break. There aren't 50,000 people out there who can play the trumpet like Dizzy Gillespie could but just aren't hot enough.

As for the parade of movie stars from the other night, please feel free to show TigerBlog the one on the list who is really ugly. What? Oh, that disqualifies you?

Okay, TB gets it. Just don't tell him that Sofia Vergara is talented. 

Instead of watching much of the show, TB watched some more "Two And A Half Men" reruns. He's seeing the show completely out of order, which makes it somewhat difficult to figure out what's happening chronologically, though Jake's age makes it somewhat easier to figure out. The plots involving Rose jump around so much, though, that it's really hard to remember what just happened and what hasn't happened yet.

He also watched a little of the squash on the videostream Sunday, which doesn't make him all that unique.

In fact, the squash matches were the most-watched events on this weekend, ahead of men's hockey, women's basketball and anything else.

If you were rooting for Princeton, then it was great television.

Princeton defeated Harvard 5-4 in both the men's and women's matches. The Princeton men are the No. 1-ranked team in the country, while the Harvard women were No. 1.

The squash teams play for two big goals, the Ivy League title and the national title. The two wins Sunday were huge steps towards the first, though both teams have some big hurdles left.

The women's road is tougher, as Yale will be the new No. 1, while Penn can also beat anyone. As for the men, Yale is also the toughest remaining challenge, while Cornell is strong.

Still, beating Harvard is big, because Harvard could come back and beat Yale and give the Tigers some margin for error. Harvard has none and on top of that needs help to win.

Maybe the biggest point of the day came from Princeton sophomore Samuel Kang, who won the first two games and was up 10-5 in the third game, only to see Harvard's Brandon McLaughlin fight off five match balls and win Games 3 and 4 to even that match at 2-2. Then, when Kang was cramping up, McLaughlin hit a drop shot that Kang dove for and hit a perfect cross-court winner to end the match.

Jadwin Gym has seen more than its share of great squash matches of late, including last year's national men's final in which Princeton ended Trinity's 13-year run as champion.

This past Sunday was another one, as the squash gallery was again packed and the drama played out over many hours.

Again, Princeton came away with the big wins.

It was a nice start to a possible run at championships for both teams.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Okay, so if the Denver defensive backs didn't morph into bad high school players then Peyton Manning would be a more clutch playoff quarterback? Is that how TigerBlog is supposed to see it?

TB is a huge Peyton Manning fan. He's his second favorite Manning, obviously. And honestly, TB would rank Manning among the top five quarterbacks of all time, maybe even the best. And he would be happy to have him quarterback his team in the playoffs - but only if his brother wasn't available.

TigerBlog missed the Broncos-Ravens game because he was at Jadwin Gym all day Saturday, and he couldn't believe what he saw in the highlights, with the way the Ravens tied the game at the end of regulation.

TB was rooting for the Broncos because he likes Manning. Oh well. Wasn't to be.

Besides, it was too good a day for Princeton basketball to let a Broncos' playoff loss affect him.

Princeton and Penn played a basketball doubleheader Saturday, with the women at 3:30 and the men at 6.

That's 80 minutes of basketball between the two games. In those 80 minutes, Princeton led for a combined 76:06, including 62:12 by double figures.

The two games were tied for 2:08, including 14 seconds of the women's game before the Tigers took the lead. Princeton's men and women trailed for a total of 1:46, all in the men's game, and neither team would trail after the first media timeout of the first half.

The women were prohibitive favorites against the Quakers, but Penn was still two games over .500 heading into Jadwin. And each year is a new year when the league season starts, so there had to be at least a little uncertainty.

All of that vanished quickly, as Princeton led 9-0 at the first media timeout and 13-0 before Penn scored. In fact, it was 17-5 before Niveen Rasheed scored her first points of the day.

Blake Dietrick continues to put up great numbers, and she went for eight points, six rebounds and nine assists in just 26 minutes. In fact, no Princeton player went more than 30.

All in all, it was a very impressive showing by the three-time defending champion Tigers.

Then it was the men's turn.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that if Princeton had lost Saturday night then it would have been almost certainly too big a hole to dig out of as far as the Ivy League was concerned, even though it would have only been one game.

He's also pretty sure that if he knew that, then the Tigers knew that as well.

That kind of pressure can mess with a team, especially one that 1) had a rough go of it early on, 2) was playing its best heading into the game and 3) wasn't going to play again for two weeks because of exams. Had Princeton lost to Penn, it would have had that 0-1 in the league lingering the entire time.

Instead, Princeton was never really threatened. T.J. Bray went for 23 points on 6 for 11 three-point shooting, but even more impressive was the fact that he didn't have a single turnover in 39 minutes. Not to overstate the obvious, but Princeton will be hard to beat if Bray can replicate those numbers or even come close.

Ian Hummer had 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Those are dream numbers for most players - for Hummer they were solid but not spectacular night.

Harvard also won its league opener, defeating Dartmouth 75-65 in a game that the Crimson had to have as well. Princeton can look down the road to two huge matchups against the Crimson, but what would be the point? Exams are too all-consuming at this point to worry about anything beyond that.

But that's also why Saturday was a must-win, and that's exactly what Princeton came away with.

If you were looking for two very strong performances, you got that.

If you were looking for drama, there wasn't much - though there will be in the weeks to come as both teams pursue championships.

And hey, for excitement, there was the Bucks County Bungee Jumpers, who did their amazing jump-rope show at halftime.

For the fans, their show was a great thing, the moment in nearly five hours at Jadwin that drew the loudest ovation.

For the home team, lack of excitement was a better thing.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rivalry Time

The flood of memories that TigerBlog has stored in his brain of Princeton-Penn men's basketball goes back more than 30 years.

It has been without question his favorite rivalry in any sport on any level, both because of what was usually at stake and his unique position as an alum of one school and an employee of the other.

His earliest memories of his time watching the two schools play centers on vitriol aimed at two people - Howard Levy and Pete Carril. Little could TB have imagined back when he was 18 or 19 years old that one of those two would be among his closest friends and the other would be probably the most fascinating person he's ever met.

TB has seen these teams play each other more than 50 times, more than he's seen any two other teams play each other in any sport, in person at least.

His team has been on the end of unreal wins and completely crushing losses - and his team hasn't always been the same each time.

The more TB thinks about it, that's the most amazing part of the rivalry to him.

It's wild to him how someone can root so unconditionally for a team for so long and then turn 180 degrees and root for the other. Especially when he's the someone.

Maybe it isn't.

TigerBlog hated Patrick Ewing in college; Ewing is one of TB's all-time favorite NBA players. TB never rooted for Georgetown until John Thompson III became the head coach; now Georgetown is his favorite team other than Princeton.

For TB, the transition started when he left Penn and started covering Princeton for the newspaper. At first, it was extraordinarily weird to see the rivalry from the other perspective.

Then, as not a lot of time went by, TB knew everyone affiliated with the Princeton program and almost nobody affiliated with the Penn program. One day, he just realized that he was rooting for Princeton and against the school he attended.

It was weird at first. Now he's used to it.

He's been asked a million times if he's rooting for Penn or Princeton, and he's still a bit taken aback that people don't understand why he roots for Princeton. 

Anyway, regardless of rooting preference, the rivalry itself even viewed objectively has been unlike any in college basketball.

Princeton or Penn won the Ivy League and went to the NCAA tournament every year from 1963 through 2007 except for three times - 1968, 1986 and 1988. That means every year from 1969-1985 and then again from 1989 through Cornell's run from 2008-10.

Because the Ivy League has no conference tournament, that meant there was an unbelievable amount at stake every time the teams met. It wasn't like they'd be able to get much help from anyone else, so every head-to-head matchup counted.

Today, it's not quite the same for TigerBlog.

His long streak of not missing a Princeton-Penn game ended two years ago. These days, Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse is bigger to him, and Princeton-Harvard men's basketball are now the circle-the-calendar dates for the league, at least this year.

Princeton and Penn have met at least twice a year (and many times an epic third time) every year since the first meeting, back on Valentine's Day 1903. That's 110 years of basketball between the two.
Princeton hosts Penn tomorrow at 6, after the women play at 3:30. It's the Ivy opener for all four teams.

Penn comes to Jadwin with a record of 2-12, while Princeton is playing the best it's played all season. The fact that nobody has played a league game changes everything though; everybody is again 0-0.

There was years and years when Jadwin would have long ago been sold out for this one. Not this year. It'll be about half full, TB assumes, maybe a little more.

But that doesn't diminish what these teams have meant to the Ivy League and to college basketball in general.

Or, for that matter, the possibility that tomorrow will be another classic chapter in the rivalry.

Neither team plays a league game again until Feb. 1, so the winner is going to be sitting on a 1-0 record and feeling pretty good about things for three weeks. For Princeton, that means exam break.

It's a big game tomorrow. Both need to be 1-0.

Besides. It's Princeton-Penn.

It's always special.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hall Of Shame

TigerBlog was all set to talk about how nobody was voted into the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday when the song "One Day More" from "Les Miserables" came on his iTunes.

TB has heard the song a billion times, and he was really only half paying attention to it this time when it dawned on him that Inspector Javert would never have joined the students prior to their uprising.

Why? Because Javert would have seen spying as illegal and therefore something he would never even remotely consider.

Javert wasn't a villain. He was someone who was too rigidly wed to his beliefs of right or wrong to understand that, as the Monkees so beautifully put, "today there is no black or white, only shades of gray."

To that end, Javert would have seen the uprising as illegal and would have worked with the Army to put it down. He never, though, would have resorted to becoming a spy. His pride wouldn't have allowed it. The same ethics that allowed him to imprison Jean Valjean for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread or allowed Fantine to die a horrific death wouldn't have allowed it.

He would never have been able to be a spy. Hey, look what he did when Valjean pointed out that Javert had been wrong about what he thought about him all those years. Think he ever would have been able to handle knowing that he was doing something that is blatantly against the rules?


Anyway, when "One Day More" ended and "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor came on, TB got back to thinking about the Hall of Fame voting. Would Javert have voted for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa? How about Mike Piazza?

After all, none of them have been convicted of anything. On the other hand, can you find one person out there who doesn't believe that they all took steroids? TB thinks that Javert would have voted them all in.

The problem that the baseball Hall of Fame has right now is that there aren't many people who have either admitted using steroids or have been caught doing it, but basically everyone's numbers are now being called into question.

As a result nobody gets voted in, either because there is widespread belief that they were cheating, or, in the case of Craig Biggio, they got 3,000 hits in Houston as opposed to New York or Chicago.

So now what?

Are voters supposed to say that if common knowledge suggests that a player took steroids then that player can never be in the Hall? Are they supposed to guess to the extent to which that player's career was enhanced and see if he would have been a Hall of Famer anyway (Bonds and Clemens certainly fit into this category)?

Are they supposed to ignore it all together? Should baseball say "hey, anyone is eligible and voters cannot take steroids into account?" Does baseball even have the right to say that?

At some point, somebody is going to have to come up with policies, because otherwise nobody will ever be voted in again.

TigerBlog has written this before:
TB understands that there is no bigger threat to the integrity of sports - not performance enhancing drugs, not paying players, not anything - than having athletes who are competing not to win but to influence point spreads.

This raises the question of should fans even care whether athletes are choosing to use PEDs in the first place?

The NCAA certainly does.

All Princeton athletes are required to sign a standard NCAA consent form that opens them up to random testing for performance enhancing drugs. This can be at any time, year-round. Every NCAA athlete must sign this form.

Also, teams that are competing at NCAA championship events are all subjected to random drug testing. TB has seen countless times where Princeton athletes have had to go immediately from competing to the locker room to the drug testing center. The rules are very clear about what is permitted and what isn't in terms of hydrating after games, and TB has sat there with Princeton athletes for a long time before they could produce a sample, especially after really intense lacrosse games on really hot days.

The penalties for failing a drug test are severe.

The athlete immediately loses one year of eligibility, which starts the moment the positive result is known and lasts one calendar year. The athlete cannot compete again he/she tests negative and applies for reinstatement; any second failed test results in a permanent ban.

It's not something to mess around with.

Maybe the lure for college athletes is different because the matter of millions and millions of dollars isn't at stake. Maybe college athletes don't look around their sport and say "everyone else is doing it."

Or maybe it's just that the NCAA isn't messing around.

Clearly the baseball writers aren't either.

And Inspector Javert? He never did.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thumped Or Edged?

TigerBlog apologizes if you've seen this one someplace else.
He didn't do this himself. Instead, it was emailed to him by former Princeton radio voice John Sadak:

Princeton beat Harvard, 39-34; Harvard beat Yale, 34-24; Yale beat Georgetown, 24-21; Georgetown beat Wagner, 13-10; Wagner beat Colgate, 31-20; Colgate beat Lehigh, 35-24; Lehigh beat Liberty, 28-26; Liberty beat Stony Brook, 28-14; Stony Brook beat Army, 23-3; Army beat BC, 34-31; BC beat Maryland, 20-17; Maryland beat Temple, 36-27; Temple beat South Florida, 37-28; South Florida beat Connecticut, 13-6; Connecticut beat Louisville, 23-20; Louisville beat Florida, 33-23; Florida beat Texas A&M, 20-17; Texas A&M beat Alabama, 29-24

Roll Tigers?

Of all the scores on that list, the most important was Stony Brook over Army, which made the transition from FCS to FBS.

You could stick Dartmouth's or Penn's win over Princeton at the front there as well. In fact, you could have Dartmouth's win over Princeton and then Sacred Heart's win over Dartmouth and then on and on, with a school that beat Sacred Heart. Maybe it could eventually get to Division III.

Of course, with all due respect, TigerBlog thinks Alabama would probably beat Princeton.

Peter Farrell, the women's track and field coach, is a Notre Dame alum. After his Fighting Irish were pasted by the Crimson Tide, he took it in stride, saying that the food at his house was good but the game wasn't.

The big question debated yesterday in the OAC was whether or not it was better to be Notre Dame and get blown out in the big game or be Georgia and be much more competitive, only to lose a heartbreaker.

Georgia, you might recall, fell to Alabama 32-28 in the SEC title game. The game ended when the Bulldogs were driving and could have spiked the ball late but instead threw a short pass that ended the game at around the five-yard line when it was caught with no timeouts remaining.

Had Georgia won that game, then it would have been Notre Dame's opponent in the BCS championship game. And, judging by the way that game went, it's like that Georgia would have won that game.

Instead, the Bulldogs played in the Capital One Bowl, defeating Nebraska.

So what's better?

Thumped like Notre Dame or edged like Georgia?

TigerBlog has seen both sides of it.

Take the 2000 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game.

Princeton lost that one 13-7 to Syracuse in a game that the Tigers were never really in. Two years later, Princeton lost to the Orange 13-12. In between, by the way, the Tigers beat SU in the 2001 final.

TB remembers 2000 as a year that the team was fortunate to get to the final. He remembers 2002 as a year that maybe one got away.

The one loss that stings the most in all of TB's years at Princeton was the 1998 NCAA men's basketball second round loss to Michigan State, in a game that was tied with a minute to go. That one really hurt.

On the other hand, there's also the realization that the game was special. So was the 1989 Princeton-Georgetown game obviously (TB doesn't count that one because he wasn't at it).

So is it better to be part of a game where it's almost forgotten when it's over, or is better to live with the hurt that lingers essentially forever?

TB would rather lose a tough one.

TB also asked TigerBlog Jr. what he thought, and he said he'd rather win the game than lose big or small.

Ah, to be young.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Yeah. Yeah. She's Hot.

Okay. TigerBlog gets it. A.J. McCarron's girlfriend is attractive.

At this time yesterday, the young woman (her name is Katherine Webb, and she was Miss Alabama apparently) had fewer than 1,000 Twitter followers, or way fewer than, say, Princeton Athletics. Today? She has 82,000.

It was pretty offensive to hear Brent Musburger's comments about Miss Webb. It was also awkward and embarrassing.

For that matter, why is Brent Musburger doing games on ESPN, let alone big games like the BCS championship game?

Have you ever met anyone anywhere who said "oh yeah, I love Brent Musburger; he does a great job?"

You know who's a way better broadcaster than Musburger? Tom McCarthy, that's who. So is John Sadak. And Derek Jones. And Dan Loney. And just about anyone else who ever broadcast a game.

TigerBlog cannot for the life of him understand why ESPN sticks with Musburger. He destroys any game he does.

And he somehow managed to hit an all-time low last night, with the way he fawned over a woman who is, by the way, 50 years younger than he is.

Not that the game was worth watching. TB said Alabama would win big, and he was right, as the Tide rolled 42-14 in a game that could have been 142-14. The remarkable part is that had Oregon not lost to Stanford, then that game probably is Oregon-Notre Dame, with Alabama on the outside looking in.

Last night's game was over quickly, so much so that TB was already watching "Big Bang Theory" repeats long before it ended.

The best text TB got last night came at halftime of the game, when it was 28-0 'Bama. It came from Craig Sachson, Princeton's football contact, and it said "the next play of college football I watch will be the kickoff against Lehigh."

As for the "Big Bang Theory" episode, it was the one where Raj dates the deaf woman and it was hilariously inappropriate, but not in a creepy/Musburgerish way. TB is still laughing about how Raj told Howard (who could do sign language) to tell her that he has a deep voice like James Earl Jones or when he tells Penny after the woman dumps him that he can't get over her and is still watching TV muted.

Meanwhile, back at Musburger, TB is still trying to figure out why networks take announcers that nobody likes and forces them on the American sporting public, especially since people are tuning in to watch the game, not the announcer.

Had it been Sadak on the call with Kirk Herbstreit all season, the audience would have been the same (or larger, TB presumes, since there have to be people like he is, who turn off any game Musburger does).

So why pay big dollars to announcers?

Some announcers actually do enhance the games they broadcast, but it's more of a plus to have one them doing the game you want to watch rather than a draw to the game itself.

Perhaps no announcer does more with a game than Mike Emrick, whose best sport is hockey but whose work on water polo at the most recent Olympic Games was equally as exceptional.

Emrick, nicknamed "Doc," will be at Baker Rink Friday night to do the Princeton-Union game on NBC Sportsnetwork.

It's a huge weekend for Princeton, coming off its sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth.

Union is tied for third with nine points. Princeton is in second with 11. Quinnipiac has 20, by the way, and is very unlikely to be caught. RPI, Princeton's opponent Saturday, has four league points and is in a three-way tie for 10th.

Princeton (and Quinnipiac) do go two weekends without playing, which is like knowing you have to make a pit stop and the other cars in the race don't. You need to be as far out in front as possible when you leave the track.

The significance of the weekend speaks for itself.

Having Emrick at Baker Rink will be an added bonus.

Emrick is a great announcer, and TB marvels at his ridiculous level of preparation, especially when doing Olympic hockey or water polo with Eastern European teams with hard pronunciations and unfamiliar players that he rattles off effortlessly.

He also seems to be a great guy - friendly, nice, upbeat. TB has met so many big-time announcers through the years, and most turned out to be exactly how they come across on TV.

As for Emrick, he doesn't seem like the kind who would leer at a woman 50 years his junior, all on national television during the biggest college football game of the year.

No matter how hot she is.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Full House

Tonight's sort of "championship game" in college football is the worst type for TigerBlog, in that he struggles to root for either team.

And he doesn't want to concede the legitimacy of this as a championship game, for that matter, though that's an old issue.

Alabama, on the one hand, is coached by Nick Saban, who sort of makes it hard to root for him.

Notre Dame is coached by Brian Kelly, who sort of makes it hard to root for him.

TB bases this on watching games on TV and reading about the two coaches. In Kelly's case, it's especially true from watching him on TV, since he comes across horribly to the casual viewer.

Speaking of casual viewers, TB will be one of those tonight. If he watches, he watches. If he doesn't, he doesn't. Maybe he'll watch some of the "Two And A Half Men" reruns he's been DVRing in an attempt to catch up on the entire history of a series that somehow he missed out on all these years.

And honestly, it's hard to make a case that Notre Dame and Alabama aren't the two most deserving teams in the country. Notre Dame's schedule was really tough, and the Irish have wins over Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan, USC and BYU, among others. Maybe Oregon could have been selected over Alabama, but somebody had to be the other team.

And with the coming of a four-team playoff, at least there's an admission that the current system isn't working, so that's a good thing.

So why is TB ambivalent about the Alabama-Notre Dame game?

Well, for starters, he again thinks that bowl season should start with the BCS title game, not end with it. That way, the teams could play somewhere sooner than seven weeks after they last did.

Then there is the whole bowl season. Seriously, is there anything more boring than the bowls? And then the championship game comes up, and it's like an extension of all the others.

And maybe it's the fact that the NFL playoffs just finished one weekend and have another coming up, so gearing up for a big game tonight isn't that big a deal.

Or maybe it's just the coaches.

Either way, TB sticks with his ambivalence.

He's ambivalent about the return of the NHL as well.

Honestly, TigerBlog probably wouldn't have watched any hockey to this point of the year, other than the winter classic, which would have been cool as always. Beyond that, he wasn't exactly scrambling for something to do because there was no Devils-Islanders game on TV.

He's also amazed that a hockey strike happened at all. Short of the federal government, it's hard to imagine a complete mismanagement of a situation coupled with a total misunderstanding of public sentiment.

So the NHL is coming back. That's good, TB supposes.

Unless it affects Princeton men's hockey.

Princeton hockey has drawn amazing crowds all season at Baker Rink, including for this past weekend's sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth, a result that vaulted the Tigers into second place in the ECAC hockey standings.

Princeton has another home weekend this weekend, as RPI and Union are at Baker. Then it's two full weekends off, while the rest of the league has a chance to catch up in the number of games played. Right now Princeton has played 10 league games; other than travel partner Quinnipiac, every other school has played either seven or eight.

Still, Princeton is in good shape to compete for a top four spot and first round playoff bye, or at least home ice in the first round by finishing fifth through eighth.

And home ice? It's been crowded there this year.

To date, Princeton is averaging 2,145 fans at Baker. Last year, Princeton averaged 1,858.

Can the increase be attributed to anything but the fact that the NHL hasn't been playing all this time?

Maybe there is. Maybe it's the fan-friendliness of Baker Rink. Or Skate With the Tigers. Or how great it is for kids to see games there.

On the other hand, all those things were true last year as well.

Maybe the fact that the NHL was locked out is the reason.

If so, does that mean that now that the NHL is back, Princeton's attendance will suffer?

There are seven home dates remaining. Let's see what the average attendance for those will be.

Oh, and TigerBlog thinks Alabama wins big. 

Not that he'll be watching.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy Birthday Baker Rink

Yesterday was the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Princeton in the Revolutionary War.

Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of the opening of Hobey Baker Rink.

TigerBlog will get back to both of those shortly.

First, there's the little matter of the Arizona-Colorado basketball game from last night.

If you missed it, Colorado was looking for a huge statement win on the road against the unbeaten and third-ranked Wildcats. And they got it. Maybe.

Colorado led by as many 17, including 10 with less than three minutes to go, so too much sympathy for the Buffs TigerBlog doesn't have. Still, Sabatino Chen appeared to save the day for CU when he drained a three at the buzzer, apparently making it an 83-80 win.

Except the refs went to the monitor and said that Chen's shot came after the clock showed all zeroes. As a result, they waved it off and sent the game to overtime, where Arizona blew Colorado out, winning 92-83.

The replay of Chen's shot shows that it was definitely close. It also looked in full speed like he got it off in time. Slowed down frame by frame, it's really impossible to tell, though everyone in the building reacted like they knew it was good.

TigerBlog hates instant replay in college basketball for so many reasons.

There will be five-minute delays in games to determine whether the shot clock should be reset with the score 12-9 early in the first half. There will be different sets of rules between games that have TV and games that don't.

Mostly, he hates the way it makes the refs a bigger part of the game than they should be. TigerBlog can't help but wonder how many stoppages wouldn't be stoppages if they didn't put all the focus onto the officials.

After last night's game, TB had two thoughts:

1) would the refs have made the same call had the game been at Colorado?
2) Colorado coach Tad Boyle said this: Get rid of instant replay. In basketball, football, human error is part of our game. If human error is part of the game, let the officials call the game. Players, coaches and officials will make mistakes. ... We spend all this money on replays and we still can't get it right. Get rid of it. TB agrees, but he feels like maybe Boyle wouldn't have said that had he gotten the call.

Anyway, college basketball - and NFL football - would be way better without instant replay.

So where were we?

Oh yeah. The Battle of Princeton.

Back on Jan. 3, 1777, George Washington - fresh off his first major success, which came in Trenton on Christmas Day - attacked the British rear guard, after the rest of the British army thought Washington would try to escape back across the Delaware.

The battle would end when what was left of the British force was trapped in, of all places, Nassau Hall, from where they surrendered. The British then bailed on New Jersey, and Washington settled into Morristown for the winter (if you drive up 287, you can go see where he and his troops went, and if you're like TB can wonder how in the world they got there).

After that stretch between Trenton and Princeton, the American army was revived from the brink, while the British morale began to go the other way. In many ways, the turning point of the American Revolution happened just down the Princeton Pike, on a piece of land TB drives past about 1,000 times a week, and where Princeton used to run cross country races.

That's the first piece of history for today.

The second piece is that Baker Rink opened on Jan. 5, 1923. It is the second-oldest hockey rink in Division I, behind Northeastern's Matthews Arena, which opened in 1910.

It was 90 years ago tomorrow that Princeton defeated the St. Hicks Hockey Club 3-2 and then 90 years ago Sunday that Princeton defeated MIT 9-0 in the second game in the building.

This weekend, Princeton will also play two games in two days at Baker Rink, though against two different opponents. Tonight it will be Harvard who is at Princeton for a 7 pm face-off, and then tomorrow afternoon at 4 it'll be Dartmouth. You can Skate With The Tigers after the Dartmouth game.

The men's hockey team played 12 games in 43 days to start the season and since then has played just two games - last weekend at Vermont - in 27 days. The Tigers now play four games in eight days (two this weekend, home next weekend with RPI and Union) and then are off for two more weeks for first semester exams.

After that, it's the usual rush through the end of the season and into the ECAC playoffs.

Princeton is currently 2-3-3 in the league, which adds up to seven points and makes Princeton one of seven teams in the 12-team league with seven, eight or nine points. Quinnipiac is running away with it at a perfect 8-0-0 to this point.

The goals, as always, are to get a first-round bye by finishing in the top four or, failing that, get home ice in the first round by finishing fifth through eighth. The ECAC final four this year is again in Atlantic City.

ECAC hockey, by the way, has effective instant replay, with cameras mounted above goals. TB is okay with that, he supposes, and he definitely wants replay in the next World Cup for soccer.

Everywhere else? Let it go. It's not doing what it was supposed to do, which is to overturn totally horrible calls.

Sadly, replay is going to increase, not decrease, as technology evolves.

It's not good for the games, at least not how it's done now.