Monday, March 3, 2014

Ashleigh Johnson, TV Star

There are two days, TigerBlog believes, when the best movies are on television.

One seems to be Election Day, for some reason. TB supposes that it's to provide an alternative to the wall-to-wall returns that dominate most channels that night.

The runaway winner is clearly the day of the Academy Awards, of course.

This year was no different. In the hours leading up to last night's award's show, all of the following were on one network or another: "Bridge on the River Kwai," "My Fair Lady," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Goodfellas," "Mutiny on the Bounty," L.A. Confidential," "Tootsie" and any number of others.

The Saturday lineup included "Casablanca," which TB has seen enough times to have essentially memorized. It's hard for TB to pick out his favorite line from the movie, and if he had to come up with his 100 favorite lines from any movies of all-time, then there'd probably be five to 10 from "Casablanca."

TigerBlog used to love the Academy Awards, back when he'd see most if not all of the movies that were nominated. This year, he'd seen only one, and, quoting a line from a long ago Weekend Update from "Saturday Night Live," based on what he'd seen, then "American Hustle" should have won.

TB didn't watch any of the awards show. It's a little too much self-love for him among the presenters and host and all.

In fact, for all of the great movies that were on yesterday, the two best things he saw on TV had nothing to do with film-making or the Academy Awards or anything.

First was the "30 For 30" documentary called "Ghosts of Ole Miss," which actually was released two years ago but which TB had not yet seen.

In the first 10 minutes, there is footage of James Meredith as he integrates the University of Mississippi, back in 1962. He walks in escorted by two white men, one of whom was very tall and very thin.

Now, more than 50 years later, that tall white man is one of the most impressive people TB has ever met. His name - John Doar - is now familiar to TB, though not from any history book. Instead, it wasn't until years after he graduated from college with a degree in American history that he even heard of Doar.

For that matter, the documentary never mentions him by name, even though he, along with Meredith, were the ones with the real courage. And yet there he was in the footage, doing what needed to be done because, as he's said simply to TB several times, "it was the right thing to do." One of TB's most cherished possessions is a handwritten note from Mr. Doar thanking TB for nominating him for the NCAA Inspiration Award, which he won several years ago.

The documentary does a great job of chronicling what it took to enroll Meredith while tying it into the Ole Miss football program. The best part - other than the footage of Doar - were the actual phone conversations of then-President John Kennedy surrounding the events.

And again, it left TB wondering what more John Doar could have done to get a little credit for what he did, not that he really cares about that.

In addition to the documentary, TB also watched Princeton's 11-9 win over Harvard in women's water polo on ESPNU.

Princeton's agreement with ESPN is nearly 10 years old and was recently renewed through 2019. Somewhere along the line, ESPNU began to televise Princeton water polo, and the feedback TB gets from the network is that they love it - and that people watch it.

Each of the last few years, there has been a Princeton men's water polo game among the seven events ESPNU has broadcast. This year, the network added a women's game to the men's game, and so there was DeNunzio Pool, on ESPNU again, yesterday morning.

It's easy to overlook water polo when thinking about the great athletes Princeton has had representing it in recent years, but that would be a mistake, especially on the women's side. As TB has said before, there are very few athletes who dominate the way sophomore water polo goalie Ashleigh Johnson does.

That's how it was yesterday during the game. The first half was high-scoring; the second half was all Johnson, and therefore wasn't.

Princeton led 8-7 at the break, and Johnson didn't make a single first-quarter save. It's fair to say she heated up after that.

In the end she'd allow just two second-half goals as Princeton improved to 11-0 on the year.  Johnson would finish with 17 saves, and TB has no idea if that's a high number or not for an average goalie. For Johnson, it's her third-best total in 11 games.

More than the number, it's how she does it. She's ridiculously quick and strong. Think about it. She's treading water the entire time and still able to explode to the ball as it comes to her.

One of the reasons ESPNU loves water polo is that it fits into a 90-minute time slot. Because the game was over before that, there was a chance to interview Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao when it was over. It doesn't get too much better than Luis Nicolao, as an interview subject or as a person in general.

As always, Luis came across great on TV. In fact, everything did. The team. The pool. The event. The University's institutional spot with that great narrator with a great voice.

On a great TV day, Princeton water polo couldn't have asked for much more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Meredith at Ole Miss was incredibly impressive. But probably John Doar's finest moment was diffusing a tinderbox of a protest confrontation after the murder of Medgar Evers, when he grabbed a bullhorn and interposed himself between the marchers and the heavily-armed police and troopers who were poised to open fire on them, then pleaded with the marchers to peacefully dismiss, stating "My name is Doar, D-O-A-R, I'm from the Justice Department, and anyone around here knows what I stand for is right."

Doar's physical courage is beyond dispute. His other inspiration is leading a life of moral the point of stating in a matter-of-fact, non-egotistical manner, that what he stands for is right. A role model of the highest order.