Thursday, March 19, 2015

Princeton Madness

If you're a Princeton fan or a March Madness fan, then you'll like the "30 For 30" short film entitled "The Billion Dollar Game."

If you're both - and you were back in 1989 - then you'll love it.

If you want to watch it, you can click HERE.

Obviously, it's about the 1989 NCAA tournament first round game between Georgetown and Princeton. No. 1 Georgetown. Against Princeton, the 16th seed.

Final score: Georgetown 50, Princeton 49.

A few years later, after he won his 500th game, Pete Carril was asked to list the biggest wins of his career. The first game he mentioned was the Georgetown game, until it was pointed out that he didn't actually win that one. 

The game through the years has largely been credited with getting CBS to buy the rights to the entire tournament. The short film confirms that, with interviews with television programmers and execs.

There are also interviews with Pete Carril, several of the 1989 players and current head coach Mitch Henderson, as well as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Dave Blatt. It is a really well done piece, and it really does convey what a colossal mismatch the game was supposed to be, but wasn't.

The first two nights of the NCAA tournament have come and gone, and the meat of the tournament gets underway today. As days on the sporting calendar go, today and tomorrow are among the best.

TigerBlog filled out a bracket for the Office of Athletic Communications "just for fun, no money is involved, repeat, no money is involved" pool. Figuring everyone in the world was picking Kentucky, TigerBlog went a little different. He has a Final Four of Virginia, Duke, Kentucky and Wisconsin (three 1s and a 2, he knows) and a final of Duke over Kentucky.

Do not take this to mean that TigerBlog is rooting for Duke. It's just that he doesn't think Kentucky is invincible, and he this is the kind of thing that Duke seems to find a way to pull off.

For many people, today and tomorrow are better than the later rounds. And if you agree, well, then you can thank the 1989 Princeton Tigers.

TigerBlog came on board covering Princeton the following year, 1989-90. He wasn't at the Princeton-Georgetown game, bu he saw the after effects, how everyone flocked to the team the next year to see how they did it.

Most of the players who played in that game were back the next year, and TigerBlog got to see most of them play for two or three more years. It was a great group, with some of his all-time favorites, like Kit Mueller, Matt Eastwick, Matt Lapin, Matt Henshon, George Leftwich, Jerry Doyle and Sean Jackson.

TigerBlog saw them play in the 1990, 1991 and 1992 seasons, all of which ended in the NCAA tournament. Until Harvard this year, Princeton's Class of 1992 was the last Ivy League class to go to four NCAA tournaments.

There really is nothing like the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It's an incredible event to be a part of, especially from the inside, from what TigerBlog's perspective always was.

The NCAA tournament is incredibly regimented, with a tournament manual that spells out basically every single thing that can be done, has to be done, will be done. It makes everything run incredibly smoothly, especially for CBS, whose fees to cover the tournament basically underwrites all of college athletics.

For the fans in the building, it's a fun experience. For someone who is behind the scenes, seeing the media crush, seeing how the teams prepare, seeing the intensity of every moment of the trip, it's as fascinating as anything that TB has experienced in his career.

TigerBlog was also there with Princeton in 1996 - the year the Tigers beat UCLA, which was the single wildest week of all his time here - 1997 and 1998. And 2001. And 2004.

He was lucky to be part of such great years of such a great program.

It can be overwhelming to get everything done on time. The postseason guide, which gets distributed to the media, was always a challenge. More than once TB had to meet the printer somewhere on the road as he headed out to the site of the tournament.

When Princeton played in New Orleans in 2001, TB accidentally shipped three boxes of football media guides, rather than the basketball ones.

TigerBlog is left with great memories, beginning the year after the Georgetown game and continuing for the next 15 years or so.

There are others who will be having their own memories made today and tomorrow, or for as long as they can keep their run this year going.

And TB? He's in the same spot he was a year ago, hoping that next year it'll be Princeton's turn again, Princeton's next chance to be part of the madness that it did so much to help create.

Don't believe TB?

Watch the movie.

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