Friday, August 26, 2016

Opening Night

So Hope Solo earned a six-month suspension from U.S. Soccer for calling Sweden "cowards" after the loss in PKs at the Olympics earlier this month.

TigerBlog has a problem with this.

He's always had a problem with stuff like this. He had a problem when John Rocker was suspended by Major League Baseball for his rather repugnant comments in Sports Illustrated back in 1999 or so.

What's TB's problem? Is he condoning such speech?

No, but he's defending the right of people to be jerks if they so choose.

By all accounts, Hope Solo isn't a very nice person. There's certainly enough on-field and off-field evidence to suggest that's the case.

Had a Princeton athlete called an opponent "cowards" after a tough loss - either to reporters or through his or her own social media - TigerBlog would have cringed. He would have done more than cringe, actually. 

What would have happened next? TB isn't sure. There is a difference, though, between a college athlete who has a responsibility to represent a university and an athletic department and its values and a professional athlete like Solo.

But TigerBlog still has a problem, and it's this: Who gets to decide where the line gets drawn?

What if, instead of saying that the Swedes were "cowards," Solo had said "I have no respect for the way Sweden played the game." Then what? Suspension?

There was nothing profane about what Solo said. She didn't use any curse words. She didn't threaten anyone.

Was she suspended because nobody likes her and U.S. Soccer is trying to turn the page from her? If that's the case, is the governing body of soccer in this country ready to suspend for six months the next player - perhaps a very popular one - who ventures down a path of saying something critical and insulting without ever dropping f-bombs and saying "If I see that so-and-so again I will kill them."

Then what? Who knows? On the other hand, TB knows the realities of the world today.

The lesson for Princeton athletes is to be very, very careful what you say or what you write before you hit "send." It's the lesson that TB and colleagues stress each year. The penalties can be severe in this day and age - and everything out there is public and permanent.

What does TB tell them? He quotes his former Office of Athletic Communications colleague John Cornell, who said that they should know that before they hit that pesky send button, they need to know that what they say is going to be seen by "their parents, coaches, teammates, officials, opponents, friends and the person on the admissions board of the medical school they're dying to get into and the hiring manager at their dream job."

Another Princeton Athletic year begins today, as the women's soccer team hosts Fordham at 7. The page turns on the wild success of last year - 14 Ivy titles, another non-Ivy title, a 33rd-place finish in the Directors' Cup - and a new blank canvas awaits.

That last sentence is a bit more formal than TigerBlog usually offers, but it wasn't bad.

Anyway, TB heads into 2016-17 hoping that the lessons John Cornell first put forward will be adhered to by all of Princeton's athletes, coaches and staff.

Enough of that. It's game day.

The first game of the new year is always exciting. This year, the women's soccer team has the entire stage to itself.

Princeton went 14-4-1 a year ago, including a 6-0-1 run through the Ivy League, in Sean Driscoll's first year as Tiger head coach. Princeton won the outright Ivy title and then a first-round NCAA tournament game against Boston College.

The big story for Princeton this year revolves around the 1-2 scoring punch of Tyler Lussi and Mimi Asom.

Lussi scored 15 goals last year to earn Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight year. Asom scored 12, earning her the Ivy Rookie of the Year award.

How many other times has Princeton women's soccer had two players score at least 12 goals in the same season? That would be one other time, back in the magical 2004 NCAA Final Four season, when Esmeralda Negron had 20 and Emily Behncke had 13.

Speaking of Negron, she enters the 2016 season as the all-time leading goal scorer and point scorer in Princeton soccer history. That includes the men and the women.

Negron scored 47 goals and had 112 points in her career. Lussi enters tonight's game with 43 goals and 98 points, meaning she has a pretty good chance to break Negron's records.

Of course Asom is waiting her turn to make a run at the record book herself. Her 12 goals last year put her two ahead of where Lussi was after her freshman year.

Princeton women's soccer is more than just those two, of course, but they are not to be missed. Lussi is more of a finesse scorer like Negron. Asom is more of a power shooter like Behncke.

Princeton will be home again Sunday, also at 7, against Villanova. That game will be televised on ESPNU. As nuts as it seems, Princeton will have played 25 percent of its home schedule by Aug. 28.

So get out to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium this weekend.

It's free. And well worth the time.

And if you can't? Well, enjoy the last weekend of August doing whatever it is you're doing.

Don't worry. TigerBlog won't call you names.

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