Friday, November 21, 2014

Closing Kickoff

The blur that is the Ivy League football season will have come and gone by nightfall tomorrow.

It's really hard to imagine another season has come and gone.

TigerBlog remembers watching the first game of each basketball season or each lacrosse season and thinking to himself that he couldn't believe a whole year had come and gone, and that was nearly 30 years ago now. Hey, this basketball season has already started, and lacrosse season is less than three months away, even if it seems like yesterday that TigerBlog was driving back from Long Island after Princeton's season-finale against Cornell last spring.

There was a time when TigerBlog was sure that sportswriting was just a passing phase, and he used to tell himself that this year would be the last one. Whatever year that was. Football would start, and he promised himself that when the spring ended, he would move on. Find a different career.

And he never really has. While he's gone from sportswriting to here, he'd hardly call this a completely different career.

Time in this business is always measured by the passing of the seasons. Not the fall, winter, etc. The sports seasons.

And no season flies by like Ivy League football. It seems like five minutes ago that Princeton was on its way to San Diego to start the 2014 season. Now it has but one game left.

Princeton hosts Dartmouth tomorrow at 1. Your ticket to the football game gets you into the basketball game at 11 against Incarnate Word. If you have a basketball ticket, you'll be given one for football when you get to the game tomorrow morning.

If you're wondering about the 11 a.m. start, it was agreed to so that Incarnate Word can get back to San Antonio tomorrow evening.

If you're wondering who Incarnate Word is, this team is no joke. The Cardinals are in their second year of Division I, and they went 9-5 in the Southland Conference last year. The overall record was 21-6.

This year, the team is 2-0 with two big blowouts, though Princeton is its first Division I opponent. The Cardinals seem to be able to score points, with 89 and 94 in the first two games this year and an average of 82.1 a year ago.

So that's the basketball game.

The football game is the last of the year. Princeton, the preseason league favorite, will not be winning a second-straight championship.

One thing to root for if you're Princeton is for Yale not to score 50 points against Harvard. The 2013 Tigers scored an Ivy-record 437 points; Yale has 387 heading into its game tomorrow against the Crimson.

Speaking of the Crimson, they are 9-0, 6-0 in the league, and have already clinched at least a share of the Ivy title. Yale comes in 8-1, 5-1, with only a loss to Dartmouth, who is 7-2 but 5-1 in the league, having only lost to Harvard.

So, if Harvard wins, it wins the outright title. If Yale wins, it ties Harvard. If Yale and Dartmouth win, then there is the first three-way Ivy championship since 1982.

Princeton, currently 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the league, would finish tied for second with a win and a Harvard win.

The game tomorrow is the last chance to see Princeton's Class of 2015, a class that started out 1-9 and won an Ivy League championship as juniors. This class had two bonfires for sweeping Harvard and Yale.

It played a leading role in the scoring record. It had some epic games, including the two wins over Harvard. Hey, if you're adding it all up, Harvard is on a run where it is 29-1 against everyone else and 1-2 against Princeton. That's not too bad.

It's a pretty strong resume for the Class of 2015.

Now they have one last game to play.

TigerBlog has always thought that it was toughest to walk away from football than any other sport, to know you've played for the last time. It's not like there are too many pickup tackle football games out there. Basically every other sport here can be played to some extent post-graduation, in some league or club, but not football.

Plus, football is so physically and mentally taxing and is such a sport of week to week to week routine. Letting go of all that has to be tough.

Princeton's seniors play for the final time tomorrow. One hole in the resume is that this class has never beaten Dartmouth, so there's a chance to turn that around.

No matter what, though, this has been a really special class for Princeton football.

One game to go. TigerBlog is shaking his head.

Where did those 10 weeks go?

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