Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yeah Uganda

If you're going to be bored by the Major League Baseball All-Star game and not watch it - and recent rating trends suggest you won't unless you're older than TigerBlog - then there is a pretty good alternative.

And hey, the same goes if you need some good international competition now that the World Cup has ended.

Tonight at 7 Eastern (TigerBlog is pretty sure it's Eastern time) on ESPNU will be the pool play game between the United States and the Iroquois from the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver.

The U.S. is currently the only unbeaten team in the top division, while the Canadians and Iroquois both have one loss. The game is huge, because a win would give the U.S. the top seed and therefore a much easier route to the championship game.

The goal is to avoid the Canadians or Iroquois in the semifinals. Canada defeated the Iroquois 10-9 the other day in a game that was, uh, spirited, to say the least.

The Iroquois are about as exciting to watch as any team in sports right now. The team is led by the high-scoring Thompsons, as well as a few other big names from Syracuse. Together they run and gun, they score and they hit relentlessly. They will back away from no one ever.

The U.S. team defeated Canada 10-7 earlier in the event. The Australians are probably the fourth-best team, but there is a sizable gap from the top three to the fourth, even if the Aussies only lost 12-10 to the Iroquois.

Should the Iroquois beat the U.S., TB isn't sure what the tiebreaker would be to determine the top seed, since the top three would all have one loss and be 1-1 against each other.

Granted, TigerBlog is probably more into this tournament than the average person.

He was actually just watching Israel-Germany on ESPN3 in an elimination game in which Israel was up 8-0 in the second quarter. TB had to laugh when one of the German players flopped on a loose ball push and stayed down as replay after replay showed that nothing had happened to him.

And TB doubts that losing to Israel in the lacrosse tournament will take away some of the national joy in Germany now from winning the World Cup.

And TB isn't close to as into it as TigerBlog Jr., who has watched basically every game online, beginning with China vs. the Netherlands and Scotland vs. Thailand the other day.

China lost that game 19-4 but did come back to defeat Argentina 9-7 yesterday for China's first-ever win at the World Championships. And what a week Argentina is having, what with going 0-4 at the lacrosse tournament and losing the World Cup final.

Another team that won for the first time was Uganda, who defeated South Korea 10-9 in a thriller. The Ugandans trailed 9-4 at the end of the third quarter before outscoring the Koreans 6-0 in the fourth quarter.

It was 9-8 with less than a minute to go before Uganda scored with 44 seconds left to tie it. Patrick Oriana then won the face-off and scored the game-winner eight seconds later.

TigerBlog is a big fan of the Ugandan team, and not just because it's a great story. Lacrosse is very new to the country, brought there by the people at Fields of Growth. Just getting to Denver in the first place was an uncertainty almost to the end, but now the Ugandans are the first team from Africa to compete at the World Championships.

Then add to the fact that the team's offensive coordinator is Princeton alum Tom Schreiber, the three-time first-team All-America and two-time national midfielder of the year. And the winner of Princeton's Art Lane Award for contribution to sport and society and the national winner of the Senior Class Award, which recognizes the same types of contributions.

Schreiber was first connected to the Ugandan team through Fields of Growth, and he has embraced all aspects of the FOG program - the educational and economic development side, as well as the lacrosse side.

It's not surprising. That's how Schreiber is.

There haven't been too many lacrosse players, or athletes - or any students, for that matter - quite like Schreiber. He is one of the greatest players in Princeton lacrosse history, and he combines that with an almost too-good-to-be-true persona that has seen him give his time to so many different people, especially kids. 

And the Ugandans.

The team won't be advancing into the championship bracket. That doesn't matter in the slightest. 

Uganda got to Denver. That was Win No. 1.

Win No. 2 was even better.

There are three stories to these World Championships. One is the eventually winner. Two is the Iroquois and the excitement they've brought.

And three is the Ugandans. With Tom Schreiber in the middle of it.

Barring something ridiculous, he'll be at the 2018 championships as a player for the U.S. team. For now, he's there as a coach. A winning coach, for that matter.

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