Monday, December 21, 2015

Root At Your Own Risk

Forget for a minute the fact that the Carolina Panthers ended up beating the Giants 38-35 yesterday anyway.

Actually, don't forget it. Let's start there.

As a Giants fan, TigerBlog wasn't shocked by either of the two big storylines of yesterday's game. First, the Eli Manning brought the Giants back from 35-7 down late in the third quarter to tie it with 1:46 left. Second, it was obvious the Panthers were going to kick a field goal at the end and win, which is what happened.

It's what has defined the Giants this year. Losing late. New York is 6-8, but if games ended with 1:30 left, then they'd be 11-2-1.

The other thing about the Giants is that they are awful in the final two minutes of a half. They make the kinds of mistakes that make TB wonder how a team with so many coaches on the sideline can make so many calls that defy the slightest logic.

Anyway, that's not what TigerBlog wanted to talk about.

No, he wanted to talk about Odell Beckham Jr. It's TB's position that Beckham is the best player in the NFL. Yes, a case can be made for others, but at the very least, Beckham is an otherworldly talent.

And yet yesterday, he completely melted down. He picked up three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and he's likely to be suspended for his massive cheap shot on Josh Norman in the third quarter - for which he should have been immediately ejected. For large periods of the game, it seemed like winning was the last thing on Beckham's mind and that he was completely oblivious to the fact that he was killing his team.

For all of that, though, Beckham was never taken off the field by his coaches. Why? Because they needed him, and sportsmanship, class, sanity be damned.

Beckham has a history of being a show-off, but he doesn't have a history of being a dirty player. His outburst yesterday will be hard to overcome, though.

But hey, this is how it is to be a pro sports fan today. You can root for your team at your own risk.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin summed it up best during a halftime interview with Tracy Wolfson, the top sideline reporter for CBS who by the way got her start covering Princeton sports for a local cable station. "What about the team's chippiness?" Wolfson asked him.

"The chippiness isn't why we're down 14. I'm more worried about our execution," was the response.

What does that mean? It means that if you play well, you can be as big a jerk as you want.

It's not easy to be a pro sports fans now. Pretty much every team in every sport has someone who is a jerk, or way worse. Hey, can TigerBlog root for the Knicks if they have Carmelo Anthony? No.

Maybe this is why fantasy sports are so big. Fans can pick and choose different players, and instead of rooting for them out of loyalty, they can root for them to make money. Makes it easier to tolerate the nonsense, TB supposes.

While he watched the Panthers-Giants game on his TV, he had Princeton-Dayton women's basketball on his iPad. Like the Giants, Princeton found itself down big, came back to tie it and then lost at the end. In Princeton's case, it was 85-81.

The Princeton women were swept on their weekend trip to Ohio, falling 90-70 to No. 10 Ohio State Friday before the Dayton game. Still, at this time of year, it's not the wins and losses.

Perhaps you remember Dayton from last year's NCAA tournament? The Flyers led UConn at the half 44-43 before losing 91-70. Only Notre Dame, who lost by 10 in the NCAA final, played UConn closer in the posteaseason.

And what round did Dayton lose to UConn? It was the regional final.

So that was the team that Princeton had to play on the back end of its Ohio trip. This weekend might not have brought the Tigers any wins, but it probably made them a better team.

Princeton trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter and was still down 11 with fewer than seven minutes left. Against a really good team, on the road.

Did Princeton quit? Nope. The Tigers, down 71-60, scored six in a row to make it 71-66 and then, with just under five minutes left, played an amazing defensive possession. Dayton tried everything to get a look, but there were swarming Tigers at every pass. Eventually a turnover was forced.

TigerBlog thinks it was as good a defensive possession as he's seen Princeton have, and Princeton is a team that has had a lot of great defensive stands during its current run of a dominating five Ivy titles in six years.

Teams often respond to great defensive plays, and so did Princeton, getting a Michelle Miller three and a Vanessa Smith layup to tie it.

Eventually, it would go the way of Dayton, by four. It was a game in which, to quote Pete Carril, Princeton "gave a good account of itself."

No, Princeton won't be unbeaten this regular season like a year ago. But yes, this team is getting better.

Next up is Christmas and a nine-day break until a game Dec. 29 at Marist. Then it's Hampton at home on Jan. 3, with nothing but Ivy League games after that.

Princeton will be ready for that gauntlet. This weekend helped in every way except for getting Ws.

Oh, and the players on the team? TigerBlog can tell you they're easy to root for across the board.

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