Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Party At The Surace's

TigerBlog has finished "Lilyhammer" and is halfway through "Happy Valley" as his Summer of Netflix winds down.

Oh, and one thing about the Emmy Awards: Is that really the best they can do? It's just not funny. And does everyone who won have to act like it's the most shocking thing that's ever happened, something so beyond the pale of their deepest innermost thoughts that they are so absolutely completely stunned speechless that that they won?

Okay, back to Netflix. "Lilyhammer" turned out to be really good, with Season 2 much better than Season 1. "Happy Valley" is only one season of six episodes, of which TB has watched three to date.

It's not about Penn State. It's a British police show, and a really good one. The main character is a policewoman whose daughter committed suicide, and she's on the trail of the man who drove her to do so, unaware that he has conspired with four others in a kidnapping plot. It's a really good show.

So if you're keeping score, TigerBlog has watched 26 episodes of "Orange Is The New Black," 26 episodes of "House Of Cards," 16 episodes of "Lilyhammer" and three of "Happy Valley." That adds up to 71 episodes, which, granted, would put him most of the way through "Breaking Bad," something he hasn't started yet.

One more Emmy note. TigerBlog was rooting against Robin Wright in the Best Actress in a Drama category because her character on "House Of Cards" is such a bitch that TB figured she didn't deserve to win. Now that's a good acting job. It made her worthy of winning, which unfortunately she didn't.

Of course, there's more to life than Netflx. There's football, for instance.

TigerBlog was taking a Netflix respite Saturday when he stumbled upon high school football. He wouldn't have stayed with it long, except that the play-by-play man was Eamon McAnaney, who does a ton of lacrosse. Plus, it was the first "real" football game - as opposed to NFL exhibition games - that he'd seen this year.

Eamon actually said something really funny early on. The color commentator mentioned that the coach of one of the teams gets up at 4 am to go running every day, and Eamon mentioned that the last time he'd been up at 4 am was to catch a plane.

TigerBlog didn't watch much of the high school game. He also didn't watch much of the first "real" college game of the year, Eastern Washington vs. Sam Houston State on Eastern Washington's distinctive red turf.

This game was played Saturday. Eastern Washington won 56-35.

The game was played one day before Princeton's team met for the first time. In fact, it was two days after head coach Bob Surace had his preseason picnic for the football coaches and others, TigerBlog included.

TigerBlog doesn't go to too many events that make him feel better about Princeton Athletics and Princeton University than the picnic that Coach Surace has.

It would be easy for the head football coach to want to be above everyone and everything at a university, let alone an athletic department. After all, isn't that how it works in that profession?

Look around the country at the Power Five conferences and elsewhere. The head coach is a step below God, which still makes him a few steps above anyone else on the campus. The head coach makes millions. The head coach is revered. The head coach in many cases feels he's above the law.

Bob Surace? Hah. Hardly.

He's about as down-to-earth as you can be and still be a college football coach. He doesn't think of himself as above it all. He thinks of himself as a member of a team.

He's completely engaged in Princeton's other teams, in much the same way that John Thompson used to be when he was the men's basketball coach. He stops in daily just to say hello and see what's up. He proves that someone doesn't have to be a jerk to be a football coach, that you don't have to look down on everyone else to be a football coach, that you don't have to be a phony tough guy to be a football coach.

His picnic this year was like his other ones, except that it didn't rain, which TB thinks is a first for the event. Mostly it's just a preseason gathering, the calm before the storm, in his nice - but not ridiculously over the top - backyard, with a bunch of people who all contribute to Princeton football in some way, some big, others small.

It's like going to a block party or a Christmas party at a neighbor's house, the nice neighbor who says "hi, how are you doing, what's new?" and really wants to hear the answer.

If TB had to sum it up in one word, he'd use "warm."

Meanwhile, while the NFL is less than two weeks away from the regular season and the rest of the football world is in game week (college, high school, youth), the Ivy League is just getting going for practice.

This year is a bit different for Princeton, the preseason favorite in the Ivy League. The Tigers come off an 8-2 year that saw them set Ivy records for points and yards in a season.

The lineup has some holes to fill, for sure, but that's the nature of college athletics. Mostly, Princeton has experience and depth, especially on offense. It has the leader of last year's onslaught, quarterback Quinn Epperly.

It has a lot to be excited about as practice gets started. The season is still three weeks away, with the opener in San Diego Sept. 20 and then the home opener against Davidson Sept. 27.

The season will fly by. It always does. In a blink, it'll be mid-October, and the defining moments of the season will be here.

For now, it's the first practices.

And the memory of another picnic at the head coach's house, a head coach who has done more than turn around the fortunes of the football program.

He's proven that you can do that and be a good guy all at the same time.

In this day and age, sadly, he's a rarity.

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