Friday, January 29, 2016

Thirty Years Ago

TigerBlog was still in the newspaper business in 1986, so he was home on the morning of Jan. 28.

He was watching TV, actually, watching the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. If he closes his eyes, he can still see it, the apartment he shared with his college friend Ed Mikus Jr., the way it was set up, the couch, the kitchen table, the TV.

He can remember watching the 1986 Mets go to the World Series championship, all while he was down with a case of mono. And he can remember watching the Challenger explode.

It's a vivid memory, watching the launch that day.

He didn't watch all of the shuttle launches. They were commonplace by then.

That one, the Challenger launch, was different, because of the presence of Christa McAuliffe, the winner of the "Teacher in Space" contest. She was chosen out of 11,000 applicants to ride on the space shuttle and teach a lesson from space, and the media coverage of McAuliffe's role in this particular mission was extensive.

TigerBlog, like the rest of what was a huge audience, was lured to the broadcast to see the teacher in space. It was a great moment, an average woman from a school in New Hampshire who had trained to fly with the astronauts.

The launch seemed perfectly normal, until 73 seconds later, when the Challenger exploded. At first, it looked like a normal firing of the rockets to send the shuttle into orbit. That only lasted for a second, though, before it was obvious that was not the case.

TigerBlog remembers the voice of the NASA announcer, when he said "the vehicle has exploded."

It was stunning, shocking. Christa McAuliffe, and the rest of the crew, gone, just like that. Actually, maybe not just like that. There has never been a conclusive decision reached on whether or not the astronauts were conscious and alive for the nearly three minutes between the explosion and the impact in the ocean.

The Challenger disaster hit the American psyche hard. President Reagan gave an epic speech, during which he said that they had "slipped the surly bonds of Earth, to touch the face of God."

TigerBlog didn't realize until he saw it in several places that yesterday was exactly 30 years to the day of the Challenger disaster. Christa McAuliffe, had she lived, would be 67 years old now.

For the record, the other astronauts who died that day were: Francis “Dick” Scobee,  Michael Smith,  Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka and Gregory Jarvis.

Thirty years later, TigerBlog still is touched by the memory of that moment.

It takes a special, special kind of courage to get into a spaceship and be launched into space. One of TigerBlog's favorite movies is "The Right Stuff," which chronicles the Mercury astronaut program.

The Challenger astronauts? That's the right stuff.

There's no way to segue from that to Princeton Athletics and show the astronauts who died 30 years ago the respect they deserve, so TB will just go right into this weekend's basketball.

It's a big one for both the men and the women.

The women are at home against Brown tonight (7) and Yale tomorrow night (6). Tomorrow night is the annual "pink" game, so any fans who wear pink will be admitted for free.

Princeton hasn't played in 20 days, not since its 50-48 loss to Penn in the Ivy opener. That's a long time to stew on a loss, and that, combined with going through exams, should have Princeton rested, focused and ready to get at it again.

Brown got off to a 12-2 start this year before getting swept by Yale the last two weekends. Yale, 2-0 in the league, is 11-8 overall.

Princeton is 26-1 in its last 27 games against Brown and Yale. The Tigers, for that matter, are 45-7 in their last 52 games - 43-5 against the rest of the world and 2-2 against Penn.

The Tigers have at least one more game with Penn this year, but that isn't until March 8. Between now and then, Princeton can't really count on too many Penn losses, so each of the next six weekends is critical.

One subplot for this weekend - Alex Wheatley has 953 points, leaving her 47 points away from 1,000. The senior figures to get that this year easily (barring injury), though she'd have to have a huge weekend to do it in Jadwin Gym.

As for the men, they are at Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow, taking on the teams with the worst record in the league (Brown is 5-11, 0-2) and then the second-best record (Yale is 11-5, 2-0). Princeton actually has the best record, at 11-4.

Yale and Columbia are both 2-0 in the league. Princeton is 1-0, after its OT win over Penn three weeks ago. Like the women, the men are now starting out with six straight Ivy weekends and then Penn here on March 8.

 This year's men's race might be the most wide open that TigerBlog can remember. In most years, there has either been a prohibitive favorite or two or at most three teams in the mix.

This year, it seems that basically every game will be a challenge, home or away. What will win the league? 12-2? 11-3?

Whatever it is, teams need to be ready each night.

Starting tonight, with the women here and the men in Providence.

TigerBlog loves the Ivy League basketball weekends. This is the first of six straight.

It'll be over in a blink.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Opening Weekend II

TigerBlog starts today with two small John McPhee stories, one of which involves Clay Kontulis of the men's squash team.

Let's start with John McPhee. In addition to being a legendary writer, Mr. McPhee is also an Academic Athletic Fellow for the men's lacrosse team. When it gets too cold to ride his bike outside, Mr. McPhee rides indoors with TigerBlog.

During a ride last week, TigerBlog relayed to Mr. McPhee that he had recently seen the two-point episode of "The Adventures of Superman" - originally aired in 1953 - where a company in the town of Silsby drills the world's deepest oil well, which goes more than 32,000 feet into the Earth.

And what happens? They drill down so far that they enter into a world of people who live in the center of the Earth, and they come up through the hole that's been dug to see what life's like on the surface.

They are smaller than humans, with giant heads and fur. They mean no harm, though the scare the bejeebers out of the people of Silsby - except for one little girl. Clark Kent and Lois Lane were in town to write about the oil well for the Daily Planet, and now Superman has to save the day from the vigilante townspeople.

Speaking of having the bejeebers scared out of you, TigerBlog was a little kid when he first saw this episode (on syndication, not in 1953) and he was scared out of his mind. And he got in trouble for telling his friend and neighbor Anthony Morelli that the little people would come up in his back yard and go into his house in the middle of the night, and Anthony's mother called MotherBlog to tell her that Anthony didn't sleep all night because he was scared.

Anyway, TB told John McPhee this story. McPhee is an accomplished, renowned (and self-taught) geologist, so TB asked him what the deepest hole ever drilled was. In North America, it's about 7,000 feet down.

And TB then asked him this: "Knowing what you know about geology, what's the odds that there are actually little people with big heads and fur living 32,000 feet down?" Mr. McPhee said he doubts it's true.

Then there was Tuesday. TigerBlog referenced something from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and it turns out Mr. McPhee has never seen it.

About the same time, a young man wearing a "Princeton Squash" Nike shirt walked by. TigerBlog asked him if he'd ever seen "Raiders," and he said he hadn't either. TigerBlog was shocked by that.

TigerBlog asked him his name, and he said it was Clay. When TB checked out the roster, he found out he was Clay Kontulis, a freshman from Connecticut.

Oh, and since most good stories always get back to this, Clay's dad Charles was a lacrosse player at Princeton in the early 1980s. Or at least, TB is pretty sure, since there was a Charles Kontulis who played lacrosse and Clay's bio mentions his dad is Charles, from the Class of 1983. It'd be quite a coincidence if they were two different people.

TigerBlog told Clay that both he and Mr. McPhee were longtime rec squash players. He also said that he wondered if, on TB's best-ever day, he could take a point from a player on the Princeton men's team. TB said he doubted it. Clay, being a polite young man, assured him he could.

TigerBlog hit a few times with the late Bob Callahan, the longtime Princeton squash coach. Bob would stand right on the T in the center of the court and effortlessly hit shots that TigerBlog to chase all over. At the end of any given point, Bob would say "that was great hustle" or something like that, after he won yet another point without ever having to move and TigerBlog could barely breathe or stand up.

Clay and his squash teammates are among the legion of Princeton athletes who are getting into the thick of their seasons beginning this weekend.

As TB said the other day, there are 31 events scheduled between Friday and Sunday of this weekend. That's an insane amount.

If TigerBlog is counting right, then 16 Princeton teams will be competing this weekend.

Of those 31 events, 11 of them are on Princeton's campus.

Each of the last six weeks or so has its own feel. There's the hit-or-miss of events in mid-December, when some teams play and others don't. There's Christmas, when nothing happens.

There's early January, with its feel of getting everything in before shutting down for exams. There are exams themselves, when there are athletes practicing or in the weight room but with their minds clearly focused on their academics. Their athletic pursuits became a great study break and, TB has always thought, keep them balanced.

And now there's this week. There are no more exams but classes haven't yet started.

There's an excitement and anticipation, almost like it's another opening day. In many ways, that's what it is.

A huge weekend. Opening weekend II.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hello Addison, Goodbye Tessio

Welcome to the world, Addison Grace Widener.

Addison is the third child of Kelly Widener, Princeton's Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance. Addison came into the world just ahead of the blizzard - and about two weeks ahead of her due date - joining her two older brothers Michael and Connor and her father Ben.

Congrats to Kelly. She's one of the hard-working people behind the scenes here at Princeton Athletics, and she works in some way with pretty much every athlete in some capacity.

Like most of the people who work here, Kelly's commitment is to the betterment of the student-athlete experience. She works on so many different elements of that, and most of the time the average Princeton student-athlete doesn't realize how much effort people like Kelly are making.

It's not always easy to balance working in athletics with raising a family, and it's not for everyone. For those who do it, Princeton Athletics provides a great place for children to grow up, as TigerBlog can attest to first hand.

And now there's a newcomer to the extended Princeton Athletics family. Addison Grace Widener.

She made her appearance, and a few days later - yesterday to be exact - Abe Vigoda bowed out.

Abe Vigoda was 94 years old when he passed away. According to the obit that TigerBlog read, the cause was "old age" and his daughter said that hadn't been sick a day in his life.

That's the way to go.

TigerBlog is trying to think of Abe Vigoda's third-best role, and he can't think of one. It doesn't matter, because his two best are what defined him forever.

If you know anything at all about Abe Vigoda, it's that he played Salvatore Tessio in "The Godfather" and Detective Fish, first on the epic sitcom "Barney Miller" and then on the spin-off "Fish."

Let's start with Fish.

It's TigerBlog's belief that "Barney Miller" - which ran in the late 1970s - is the most realistic cop show of all time, in that the detectives in the squad room often went out on seemingly dangerous assignments, only to find out that they were nothing - except every now and then, when they really were serious. Almost nobody on the show every drew a gun, let alone fired it, and they spend most of their time making sarcastic comments at basically everyone.

It had great characters - Dietrich, Yemana, Levitt, Inspector Lugar, Wojo, Harris. And Fish.

Fish was as good as any of them. Vigoda played Fish as a detective who was well past his prime, for whom every day provided a challenge just to get out of bed, let alone be a New York City police officer. Every line he delivered was understated, deadpanned - and hilarious.

In fact, TB saw in that same obit a story for the how Vigoda came to be Fish in the first place. From the AP:
He liked to tell the story of how he won the role of Detective Fish. An exercise enthusiast, Vigoda had just returned from a five-mile jog when his agent called and told him to report immediately to the office of Danny Arnold, who was producing a pilot for a police station comedy.
Arnold remarked that Vigoda looked tired, and the actor explained about his jog. "You know, you look like you might have hemorrhoids," Arnold said. "What are you — a doctor or a producer?" Vigoda asked. He was cast on the spot.

As for Tessio, he was one of Vito Corleone's oldest friends and Capos, along with Clemenza, in "The Godfather."

DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN "THE GODFATHER" AND WANT TO SOMEDAY

TigerBlog will give you one more paragraph to divert your attention. Actually, he'll give you a few.

Before he gets back to Tessio, Princeton Athletics is coming back to full action this weekend, with 31 events - 11 at home - and 16 teams who will be competing. There are Division I teams who do not have 16 teams total, let alone 16 who can compete in one weekend in January

Coming Feb. 1, which is Monday, practice starts for most spring sports, including lacrosse. It's hard to believe, but the first Division I lacrosse games are actually a week from Saturday, and the majority of D1 gets going the following Saturday, Feb. 13.

Princeton starts Feb. 20, with a doubleheader, with the women against Virginia and the men against NJIT.

Before that, there all of these winter teams, as well as men's volleyball - TigerBlog has never figured out if that's a winter or spring sport - and men's and women's tennis who play in Jadwin until he gets warm enough.

Is that enough Princeton for one day? For today, it'll have to be.

SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT 
SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT - SPOILER ALERT
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

It's Tessio who betrays Michael at the end of the movie, which sets up the two greatest lines Abe Vigoda ever uttered in his life. They are Tessio's last two, as it turns out.

Vito, the retiring Don, warns Michael that whoever it is that comes to him to make a deal with Barzini is the one who is actually the traitor. While Tom Hagen muses that he thought it would be Clemenza, Michael says that he knew it would be Tessio, because "It's the smart move. Tessio was always smarter."

Anyway, Tessio doesn't realize he's been figured out until Tom and enforcer Willie Cicci make it clear that they are not going through with all of his arrangements. It leads to this exchange:

Tessio: Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.
Tom: He understands that.

And then, a few seconds later:
Tessio: Can you get me off the hook? For old times sake?
Tom: Can't do it Sally.


If you've seen the movie, you know just how much Vigoda punctuated the word "hook." You also know how classic, epic, that scene is, not just in that movie but in the entire history of American movies.

END OF SPOILER ALERT
END OF SPOILER ALERT

And now, it appears, nobody was able to get him off the hook.

The news that Abe Vigoda died was probably met by many with "I thought he was already dead." He actually played along with that belief many times on late night shows through his later years.

By all accounts, he was a good guy, one who appreciated his good fortune in life and treated people well.

So goodbye Tessio.

And hello Addison.

Maybe you live as long, healthy and happy a life as Abe Vigoda did.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Weekend In Ithaca

Of the roughly 25 inches or so of snow that fell in the Princeton area the other day, TigerBlog saw approximately zero of it.

Well, not absolutely zero. He saw a few flakes as he made his way out of town Friday.

And where did he go to get away from the winter weather? Where would anyone go?

Ithaca.

Yes, that Ithaca, the home of Cornell University. The place where there was almost no snow on the ground.

TigerBlog had some completely non-Princeton Athletics-related business at Cornell Sunday. The only problem is that if he didn't leave Friday, he would never have gotten there.

So off he went Friday night, just as the first of the flakes began to fall.

TigerBlog has been going to Ithaca since the Big Red played basketball in old Barton Hall, which is now the home of Cornell's indoor track and field. It's a giant facility - it looks like you could park a few dozen 747s in there - and it used to have a basketball court tucked into one corner.

Since then, TB has been there countless times - all to see Princeton play something. Until this weekend.

TB's original plan was to leave super early Sunday morning, drive up and come back, all in the same day. He's done that a lot.

Instead, the snow changed all that.

TigerBlog stayed in the Hotel Ithaca, which is on Cayuga Street by the Ithaca Commons and at various times has been, TB believes, a Ramada and a Holiday Inn. TB is pretty sure that he's stayed there more than he has any other hotel in the world, though he'd say that the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon, N.H., is up there too.

Once he got out ahead of the snow, the only problem then was what would he do to entertain himself in Ithaca for an extra day? Go to games, of course.

Well, and to a place called The Nines for pizza. He asked the only Ithaca native he knows - Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux - for a food recommendation, and she came up with The Nines.

It's in Collegetown, which is right next to the campus. TigerBlog recommends the deep dish pizza. And sit facing the dumbwaiter that keeps sending the pizzas down from the kitchen upstairs.

Cornell was home Saturday in basically everything. The Big Red had a basketball doubleheader against Columbia and a hockey doubleheader, with the women against St. Lawrence and the men against Harvard. There was also a home wrestling match against Lehigh.

TigerBlog went to the two basketball games and the hockey game.

He walked into Newman Arena, the home of Big Red basketball, in the third quarter of the women's game. The first two people he saw that he knew were Jeremy Hartigan and Julie Greco, from Cornell Athletic Communications. They knew he'd be there, so there was no real surprise in seeing them.

Barry Leonard was another story.

Barry is the longtime voice of Cornell football, basketball and lacrosse - the Dean, as it were. He had no reason to expect to see TigerBlog in Ithaca, and in fact he did a double-take. Then he shook his head and said asked a one-word question: "context?"

And so TigerBlog explained what he was doing there.

TigerBlog also saw Dave Wohlhueter, the longtime SID at Cornell, the one who was the main man of Ivy League athletic communications when TigerBlog first started at Princeton. It's always good to see The Heat.

As TigerBlog watched the games Saturday, he tried to remember how many times he's seen a game that involved two Ivy League teams in which neither was Princeton. Or even Penn, from back when he was a student.

He didn't count games in Ivy League lacrosse tournaments in which Princeton was playing other game. Or if there was another game on the campus where Princeton was playing, like the time he walked over to see Tim Bennett (another Ivy sports information veteran) at Yale softball after a Princeton-Yale lacrosse game.

No, just a game between Ivy teams without Princeton in the same neighborhood.

He can only think of one time. It was March 16, 1991.

Princeton played Villanova in the 1991 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome (so Princeton was sort of in the neighborhood). Even now, 25 years later, that game still bothers Princeton.

The Tigers had lost to Georgetown 50-49 in the 1989 tournament and 68-64 to Arkansas in the 1990 tournament. The 1991 team - led by senior Kit Mueller and with Sean Jackson, George Leftwich, Chris Mooney, Matt Henshon, Chris Marquardt, Matt Eastwick and Mike Brennan - went 24-2 in the regular season. TigerBlog really wanted to see Princeton win that game.

Instead, Lance Miller - TigerBlog hates him to this day - made a tough shot with two seconds left to give Villanova a 50-48 win. TigerBlog was in the football press box at the Carrier Dome - it was the only available phone line to immediately send a story postgame - so he saw the end of the game from about 80 yards away.

To this day, that loss ranks in the top five, maybe even top three, of Princeton losses, though not the very top one. That is the 1998 second-round loss to Michigan State.

Anyway, on the way back from Syracuse, TigerBlog drove with former Princeton athletic communications duo Kurt Kehl and Mark Panus, and athletic trainer George O'Neil, who then was with the men's basketball team but who has been with men's lacrosse for a long, long time.

The four stopped at Cornell and saw Cornell-Harvard men's lacrosse. TigerBlog isn't sure why they stopped, though Panus is a Cornell alum. And he does remember that they got a flat tire on I-380 in the Poconos just after sundown.

Anyway, that's the only other game TB remembers, until the ones Saturday.

It was nice to the see the Cornell people TB knows. And the pizza was great.

And there was no blizzard. Just a lot of "you came to Ithaca to get away from the bad weather" lines.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Digging Out

TigerBlog is pretty sure that only five people have given him about 99% of his lifetime's haircuts, or at least his haircuts of the last 45 years or so.

There was the guy named Tom, the one whose son was a professional tennis player. He cut TB's hair from grade school through middle school and high school and then after college for awhile.

There was the woman in Houston Hall at Penn. Do they still have a barbershop there? TigerBlog looked it up on the Penn website but couldn't find anything about it.

Houston Hall is the student center at Penn. Back when TB was there, it was home to a record store (records, remember those?), a few places to eat, some meeting rooms, a giant common area and possibly a McDonald's. And a decent pizza place. Maybe it wasn't a McDonald's. TB can't remember.

Meanwhile, back at the haircuts, there was also a barber shop near the Lawrenceville School. TigerBlog went there a few times, until he stumbled upon a guy named John at another barber shop about 20 years ago.

Since then, John has been TB's go-to barber. John grew up in Russia and has had a pretty interesting life, as you might expect.

It takes John about six minutes to cut TB's hair. It took Tom a lot longer, but TB had a lot more hair back then.

TigerBlog went to John's shop Friday morning, when it was a bit eerie outside. It was cold but clear, with no wind.

The heaviest thing in the air at the time was the forecast for the coming blizzard, one that was to bring snow, heavy wind, widespread power outages, even lightning to the area starting a few hours later. At that time, though, it was clear and business as usual.

Of course, supermarkets were swamped. TigerBlog doesn't understand the hording, but oh well. The worst storms ever have set TB back three days at most.

John is not a fan of snow, even if he is from Russia. He said how much he preferred the 70 degrees it was on Christmas. He talked about retiring and moving to Hawaii, where it's summer all year round. What could be better than that, he asked. Then he wondered why people in Florida complain about the heat and humidity.

Then his six minutes with TB were over. Then, a few hours later, the blizzard arrived.

And once it arrived, well, it was wild. Record-setting wild.

More than two feet of snow fell in Princeton. Even more fell in other areas nearby. New York City had its biggest single snow total ever with more than 26 inches.

The shore didn't get much snow, but it did get incredible rain and wind, which led to incredible flooding.

The 10-day forecast suggests most of the snow should be gone shortly, with sunny skies and temps in the 40s for the most part. If this turns out to be the only big snowfall of the year, that'll be fine with TigerBlog.

On a normal winter weekend, a storm like this would have forced major scrambling to reschedule games, cancel trips and all that. Because of the end of exams, there wasn't much going on for Princeton Athletics.

The men's volleyball team got out to Los Angeles to play UCLA and then at UC-San Diego before the snow started. The women's tennis team is at Grand Canyon tomorrow to start its week in Arizona.

The end of the exams and the end of the blizzard lead directly into a widely busy time for Princeton's team. There are events every day this week, though only one is at home, the men's hockey game tomorrow night at Baker Rink against AIC.

This coming weekend has a ton of huge events, and many of them are at home.

There's HYP swimming and diving for the men's and women's teams. The wrestling team is home three times, against F&M and then the Ivy opener at Dillon Gym Saturday and then against Rutgers at Jadwin Gym Sunday.

And of course there is basketball.

The men are on the road, at Brown Friday and Yale Saturday. Princeton is 1-0 in the league, after its OT win over Penn back on January 9.

The women play at home against those two teams. Princeton, winner of five of the last six Ivy titles, has been sitting on its 50-48 loss to Penn in its league opener.

To stay with the snowy theme, the avalanche of Princeton events through next weekend is just the start for the next few months around here. There are no events a week from today, but there are 34 more coming the weekend after that, including the Ivy fencing round-robins that will end with the first winter Ivy titles.

That's a crazy number.

Oh, and you know what doesn't count among those 34 events? The men's lacrosse scrimmage, which will be Feb. 6 against Monmouth.

The snow can't melt fast enough.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Business Is Booming

TigerBlog has a few questions about the coming snow.

And they are this: 1) when is it going to start? 2) when it is going to end? 3) how much will there be at any given time?

That's all anyone wants to know, right?

So what do you get when you see the local news on TV? You get three things, none of which answer everyone's questions.

And they are this: 1) pictures of snow removal trucks and salt spreaders, 2) people buying snow shovels at hardware stores, 3) people buying bread and milk at supermarkets.

Who cares about that?

If TB had a network, he'd have someone whose job is to stand there and say "the snow will start at this time. Two hours later, there will be three inches of snow on the ground. Another two hours later, there will be another inch. It will end at this time. There will be this much total snow."

Then they'd just keep repeating it.

Snow shovels? Yeah, people buy them. It's like people near beaches buying beach chairs. Who cares? TigerBlog assumes that everyone who lives anywhere in the Northeast has some idea about snow removal.

Even as late as yesterday afternoon TigerBlog didn't have reasonable enough answers to his questions. Oh well. He assumes it's going to start snowing later and keep going all night, all day tomorrow and maybe into Sunday morning.

The other issue with snow forecasts is that there's the whole "boy who cried wolf" piece. A year ago, there were endless forecasts for epic snowstorms, only to have a few inches fall here or there. Eventually, the public simply tunes out the cries of coming gloom and doom.

If this one turns out to be nothing, that'll be fine with TigerBlog. He actually doesn't mind the snow when it falls, but he hates the way it lingers and lingers, turning dirty and black and ugly and just serving as a reminder that winter is going to be here for awhile.

Plus, what is he supposed to do with all the great snow pictures he has from a year ago from lacrosse?

The Princeton area has seen a few snowflakes to date, but nothing that would count as a storm. All that figures to be changing - just in time for the first scheduled athletic events in two weeks.

The weather has already messed with the sports calendar, as the women's tennis team was supposed to compete in Jadwin tomorrow. Instead, its match against Georgetown was postponed and its match against Delaware moved to today.

The Tiger Open men's and women's track and field meet is being moved from tomorrow to Sunday, to be held after the men's basketball game against Bryn Athyn.

The first game TigerBlog ever covered in the newspaper business was at a high school called Academic of the New Church, which is located in Bryn Athyn, Pa., on basically the same piece of land as the college.

Princeton plays its first Ivy weekend next weekend, at Brown Friday and Yale Saturday. For now, it has the game against Bryn Athyn as prep for that.

Before that game, or whenever you want, check out the videos on the men's basketball page about the freshmen and about Henry Caruso. TigerBlog didn't realize that Caruso went to the same high school as Tom Brady.

One event that won't be postponed by the weather for this weekend will be the Major League Lacrosse draft, though it was moved from 8:30 tonight to 2 this afternoon in Baltimore. Ryan Ambler, Princeton's leading returning scorer after a 51-point junior year, figures to go somewhere around 30-35.

Another event that won't have any problems will be the NFL playoffs. It's conference championship weekend, with Arizona at Carolina and New England at Denver. TigerBlog sees a Carolina-New England Super Bowl. 

Anyway, before that - and the snow and the resumption of Princeton sports - TigerBlog would like to offer a small thank you.

Readership numbers are way up these days. TigerBlog is appreciative.

In fact, in the eight years that TB has been doing this, two of his four most-read entries have been in the last few weeks - the one after the debut of the Chuck Dibilio documentary and the one with Josh Teves' great play against Union.

Day-in, day-out, though, the numbers have gotten to be pretty high.

Why is this?

Well, TigerBlog feels that it suggests that even in these days of 140-characters and less and less of the actual old-fashioned written word, there's still a place for what he does every day.

He's glad you agree.

Thanks for making business so good.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Here Comes The Snow

TigerBlog saw the way the wind was howling all day Tuesday and figured that his recycling bin had probably blown into the Delaware River by mid-afternoon.

Actually, it hadn't. It had only blown to the house next door and wedged against the side. Had there been nothing blocking it, then it would have been miles away.

Winter has arrived here. It was the coldest it's been all season the last few days, and now apparently snow is heading this way.

Or maybe rain. Or a mix.

In fact, TigerBlog has been studying the weather forecasts and can tell you that it's going to start either tomorrow or Saturday, last until Saturday or Sunday and leave either some, a lot of or an epic amount of snow here.

As women's track and field coach Peter Farrell said, it's going to be between two and 30 inches of snow.

As an aside, TigerBlog had to seek Farrell out on the track the other day to talk to him. This is the one drawback of the move to E level - TB doesn't get his two or three times per day dose of Farrell, who would stop by to talk about everything and anything.

Meanwhile, back at the weather, TigerBlog thinks it's time to change the calendar, at least in this area. Why give all four seasons equal time on the calendar when they don't really have equal time in reality?

Right now, each of the four seasons has exactly three months. Perhaps it should change to reflect what's actually going on and look like this:

Summer - May 20 to October 15
Autumn - October 16 to January 14
Winter - January 15 to April 1
Spring - April 2 to May 19

Yeah. That's about right.

See, the change in the calendar suckers you into thinking that it's going to be mild all winter, and then - blam - it hits you with wind and cold and snow. Oh well.

At least if the snow does show up it'll be the latest this area has had measurable snow fall ever. Or something like that.

Even though winter has just started, TigerBlog has already watched more NHL hockey on TV than he has pretty much any other sport in the last 12 months other than lacrosse. He's pretty sure he's watched more hockey than football, though it's pretty close.

Why has he watched all the hockey? Mike Condon, Princeton alum, Montreal Canadiens goalie. TigerBlog roots hard for Montreal when Condon plays and roots for them to give up 10 goals in the games he doesn't.

Condon, a rookie, has established himself as a legitimate NHL goalie this season, with Carey Price out injured for the most part. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Price gets back.

TB watched the NHL Network after the Canadiens lost the Bruins Tuesday night, and the panelists correctly said that none of Montreal's problems are Condon's fault.

As for Princeton hockey, the Tigers are in the tail end of exam break.

In case you forgot, the men's team tied RPI and Union at home in its last two games before the break. The highlight of the weekend was the incredible plays made by Josh Teves back-to-back as he dove to keep the puck out of the net at one end, got up and went down the other end and scored.

Missed it? HERE it is again.

Princeton finished 12th in the ECAC a year ago. The Tigers are currently tied for eighth with Colgate, with 10 league games left to 11 left for the Raiders.

The key to finishing in eighth is that it gives home ice for the first round of the ECAC playoffs. For Princeton to achieve that in Year 2 under Ron Fogarty would be incredible.

The Tigers don't jump right into the ECAC schedule after exams. First up would be a game Tuesday night at home against AIC (American International, located in Springfield). Then it's off to Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend.

Right now in the ECAC, Princeton and Quinnipiac have each played 12 games, while every other team has played 10 or 11. Right now, four points are all that separates sixth place from 12th, so obviously there is a long way to go.

On the women's side, the top four host the first round of the playoffs.

Princeton is 15-4-1 overall and 9-4-1 in the ECAC. The Tigers, with 19 points, trail only Quinnipiac, with 23, and they are three points ahead of Colgate and Clarkson, though Princeton has played two more games than those two.

Harvard is in 15th right now, five points back of Princeton with one fewer game played.

On the Ivy League side, Princeton is in first place, with 12 points (and seven games played). Every other team in the the league has played five Ivy games, and Cornell, the only team to have beaten Princeton, is in second, with seven points.

In case you don't know, the Ivy League takes the ECAC games played between Ivy teams and counts them separately in its own standings, awarding the champion at the end of the year based solely on those games.

Princeton's women play at UConn Monday and then play at Dartmouth next Friday and Harvard next Saturday. Yes, both Princeton teams are on the road at Harvard and Dartmouth. No, they don't play the same team on the same night.

So that's the hockey update. And the snow update? Now it's saying 5-8 inches for Princeton Saturday.

That probably means either nothing or two feet. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Second Best Movie In The Series

TigerBlog finally got around to seeing "Creed" the other day.

He's wanted to see it since he first saw the commercial for it, and he can't remember how long ago that was. He figured he would like it, and he was right.

First of all, it's a great idea for a movie. Rocky Balboa, the former heavyweight champion, trains the son of Apollo Creed, his one-time rival and then buddy who was killed, tragically, in the ring, in what was supposed to be an exhibition match against a seemingly unbeatable Russian, whom Rocky subsequently defeated, and perhaps ended the last Cold War in the process.

Now here was Creed's son, his illegitimate son who was born after Creed died, coming to Rocky to train him. Brilliant idea.

The movie did a great job of tying up some loose ends from the movies in the series that preceded it. That's one thing that TigerBlog really liked about it.

The fight scenes in "Creed" were great as well. They were much more realistic than the ones in the other movies, and they gave the sense that you were actually watching a real fight.

And the end? Even as the final seconds were playing out, TigerBlog wasn't completely sure of how it would end. That's a sign of a good movie. 

TigerBlog's biggest complaint is that it didn't use enough of the old music, which is such a big part of the franchise.

The best part? Sylvester Stallone. He was great.

His performance in "Creed" might have been better than it was in "Rocky," back in 1976, when the series began. Stallone did not win the Academy Award for Best Actor that year, losing to Peter Finch from "Network," who passed away before the awards were given out. Had Finch not died, prevailing logic has gone, Stallone would have won.

This time around, he's up for Best Supporting Actor, for which he's already won a Golden Globe. TB can't imagine he won't win.

His performance was, in a word, believable. He wasn't a caricature, like he'd been in some of the others. He was exactly what you would think Rocky Balboa would be like all those years after he first fought Apollo Creed.

TigerBlog Jr. said "Creed" was as good as the original "Rocky." TigerBlog isn't willing to go that far - the original "Rocky" is as good as any movie TigerBlog has ever seen - but it might have been the second-best of the seven movies.

How does TB see them:
1. Rocky
2. Creed
3. Rocky III
4. Rocky II
5. Rocky Balboa
6. Rocky IV
7. Rocky V

TigerBlog has written about "Rocky" many times before, including HERE. If you don't want to read it, TigerBlog asks the question of what your favorite scene from any "Rocky" movie is besides the training montage or fight scene in the first one.

As TigerBlog watched "Creed," it dawned on him that it had been 40 years since he saw the original, one night with FatherBlog, in a movie theater in East Brunswick.

He also told TBJ that back when he was in high school, movies at Movie City 5 in East Brunswick cost $1.50. Now? Two movie tickets, one popcorn and one soda totaled $41.

Last weekend, as TB has said, was the one of two (along with the weekend after Christmas) between the start of the academic year and the end of the academic year with no athletic events, so it made for a good movie-going time.

Ivy League sports didn't stop, though, and there were two travel-partner basketball games for men and women, leaving every team in the league having played one game.

By the way, if you want to catch up with Princeton's women through this point of the year, click HERE.

If you want to catch up with the men, click HERE.

There will be three more men's games and women's games this weekend, by which time everyone will have played two league games, against their travel partners, except for Princeton and Penn, who will meet in doubleheader at Jadwin Gym on March 8, the final day of the regular season.

The four teams who won their first game on the men's side were Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia. The four games were won by a combined 22 points, and none of them were decided by more than nine.

The Princeton men are home Sunday against Bryn Athyn in the return-from-exams game.

The Princeton women do not have a game before next Friday (the 29th), when they play home against Brown and then Yale. Brown was 12-2 out of the league before losing 81-54 to Yale.

Of the eight Ivy schools, six are above .500 and four - including Princeton - have at least 11 wins with five or fewer losses.

The weekend of the 29th/30th starts the sprint to the finish line, with Friday/Saturday games for the six  straight weekends.

Things will start to settle themselves very quickly for both the men and women. Princeton figures to be very much in the mix on both sides.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tennis Anyone?

TigerBlog left two things out of yesterday's entry, so let him start by cleaning up those loose ends.

The first is that he was fascinated by Green Bay wide receiver Jeff Janis' stats on the final drive of regulation of what became a 26-20 Arizona win. Janis caught two passes on that drive, one on the big 4th-and-20 from the Green Bay 4 and then on the game-tying Hail Mary pass.

How many yards did he get on the drive? Well, the first was for 60 yards and the second was for 41. So that would be 101 yards on one drive.

Isn't a football field 100 yards long? Yes, but Green Bay had a sack for 10 yards and a five-yard penalty along the way.

It got TB to wondering how many times - or when the last time - a player had more than 100 yards receiving on one drive. Or had more than 100 rushing yards.

Statistical anomalies. TigerBlog loves them.

TigerBlog listened to Mike Francesa on WFAN yesterday afternoon and heard a few callers suggest that after the Hail Mary, which made it 20-19 Arizona with no time on the clock, Green Bay should have gone for two and the win right then and there. Francesa said that nobody would have suggested that at the time and that the only reason the callers were bringing it up was that Green Bay never got the ball in the OT.

Not true, TigerBlog said to himself. He has long suggested going for it in that situation. Beyond that, his belief is that coaches don't go for it not because they don't think it's worth the risk but because they don't want to be second-guessed if it doesn't work.

Nobody is blaming Packers' coach Mike McCarthy for his team's loss. Everyone would if they'd gone for two and hadn't made it.

Why go for two? If you figure the odds of winning in OT are 50-50, then you'd need better than 50-50 odds on converting the two-point conversion. In the NFL, the success rate of a two-point conversion attempt is right around 50%, so they're basically the same.

It's risky, though. Go for it and don't get it and you lose. But TigerBlog thinks the time to strike is when you have the opponent reeling, which is what Green Bay did. Get two yards. Win the game. Simple.

It's making the game come down to one play, as Francesa said, but it's also having control of that one play. Oh well.

The second thing TB wanted to mention was from "Hill Street Blues." Here was a show from the early 1980s, and it seemed like everyone was smoking. In restaurants and bars. In the precinct. In offices. Everywhere.

TigerBlog hated - hated, hated, hated - being in a restaurant where people were smoking. It ruined everything. Seeing it on "Hill Street" brought back how things used to be - and how much better it is now in that area.

What else?

Well, it's Tuesday, obviously. First semester exams roll along, though the end is in sight, with athletic events Saturday and Sunday.

The women's tennis team opens its fall season Saturday against Delaware and Georgetown Saturday in Jadwin Gym. Princeton has tennis courts on E level of Jadwin, which just happens to be where the new Office of Athletic Communications is located.

TigerBlog has seen a lot more tennis - and heard a lot more tennis - from his new office than he did from his old. Rec players mostly. He also has watched the tennis teams practice a little. When they hit the ball, it makes a very definitive sound at the moment of contact.

While Princeton Athletics has shut down for exams, BrotherBlog was busy flying across the world to Australia. He left Sunday, going from Seattle to LAX and then to Sydney. It took 21 hours from the time he left SeaTac until he arrived in Australia.

Then he texted his brother. Isn't the world wild?

BB's trip will take him from Sydney to Melbourne to Hong Kong and back to Seattle. Long, yes.

TigerBlog wouldn't mind going to Australia, but he's not sure he'd want to do the 21-hour one-way trip.

Laura Granville, the Princeton women's tennis coach, has been to Australia plenty of times. This was back when she was a professional tennis player and she'd go to the Australian Open.

BrotherBlog will be at the Open in Melbourne. As a spectator.

It got TigerBlog wondering how Granville did there, so he looked it up.

In all Laura played there for six years, from 2003-08. She twice made it to the third round in singles, and she reached the second round in doubles twice as well.

Granville has led Princeton to consecutive Ivy titles and NCAA tournament appearances. The Ivy schedule this year doesn't begin until March 26 at home against Penn, by which time Princeton will have played in Arizona, Alabama, Texas and New Hampshire. Oh, and Kentucky, Rutgers and Georgia State will play at Princeton.

It's a pretty ambitious schedule.

Of course, like everyone else at Princeton, the story in the short term is still first semester exams.

Maybe not for much longer - but still long enough to fly from here to Australia and back a few times.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hill Street Blues

TigerBlog watched a good deal of the NFL playoffs this weekend.

In fact, the only thing he watched more of was "Hill Street Blues."

There were four NFL games, two Saturday and two Sunday. There was also a marathon of "Hill Street" on a network called "Decades," and it lasted pretty much all day and night Saturday and yesterday.

TigerBlog will get back to the NFL shortly. For now, his one comment is to wonder how it's possible that NFL coaches and players understand so little about when the clock moves and when it doesn't.

Anyway, if you're, say, 45 or younger, you've probably never seen "Hill Street Blues." And that's a shame, because in TB's opinion, it's the best police show of all-time and, along with "The Sopranos," "Homeland" and "Breaking Bad" one of the four best dramas of all-time.

"Hill Street" is set in a large city, one that is never in the 146 episodes it ran actually identified. The title refers to the police officers of the Hill Street precinct.

TigerBlog hadn't seen "Hill Street Blues" in a long, long time. As the weekend went on, it was harder and harder to switch back to the NFL and away from the police on the hill.

TigerBlog has two very vivid memories of watching "Hill Street Blues." One is that it was a staple of the Thursday night lineup on NBC, one that included legendary sitcoms like "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Cheers" and "Night Court.

The other? This is the only show that TB can remember watching with his mother on a regular basis.

What made the show so great? It developed an outstanding ensemble of characters. It ran its stories in three-part arcs, which added to the drama.

It was well-written and well-acted. It went down roads and tackled issues that were quite controversial in the early 1980s. And it had a great, great piano theme song, one that played over some of the great opening credits you'll ever see on a TV show.  

One of the great characters on the show was Joe Coffey, who was played be Ed Marinaro. Perhaps you remember the name from when he played football at Cornell and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy?

Michael Warren, who played Bobby Hill on the show, was also a standout college athlete. Warren was a basketball player at UCLA and part of the Bruins dynasty as a national champion in 1967 and 1968.

TigerBlog thought that Warren might have played against Princeton, but he didn't, missing it by a year. Princeton actually played UCLA each of the two years after Warren graduated, losing 83-67 in the Holiday Festival in the 1968-69 season and then, in one of the greatest games in Princeton history, losing 76-75 the following year when Sydney Wicks hit a shot at the buzzer. UCLA won the NCAA title in both of those years.

Meanwhile, back at the NFL, TigerBlog noticed something about the "NFL Today" pregame show. Of the five people on the set, three had a strong connection to Princeton basketball.

The first two were James Brown and Tony Gonzalez.

James Brown is tied for 14th all-time at Harvard - with Kyle Casey - in scoring with 1,242 points. Brown graduated in 1973 after going 1-5 against Princeton in his career.

Gonzalez? You might know him as a record-setting NFL tight end, but he also played basketball at Cal.

TigerBlog was in the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem for the 1997 NCAA tournament game, one that came after Princeton went 24-3 in Bill Carmody's first season as head coach. Cal defeated Princeton 55-52, and Gonzalez was tough, strong and athletic, as you might expect.

Gonzalez finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds; TB thought those numbers were actually higher. Certainly his impact on the game was significant.

Princeton's top two scorers in the game? Current head coach Mitch Henderson (15 points, 7 for 9 shooting, five assists) and assistant coach Brian Earl (13 points).

And the third connection to Princeton? That one was easy. Bill Cowher, whose daughter Meagan Cowher is the second all-time leading scorer at Princeton with 1,671 points, only 12 behind Sandi Bittler's school record.

In fact, only Bittler and Bill Bradley have scored more points at Princeton than Cowher.

Oh, and the football itself?

The end of the Cardinals-Packers game was great, obviously. Carolina looked great.

Oh, and TB was rooting against New England, again. Oh well, there's always next week.

You know, with the conference championship games. And on Decades?

A "Kojak" marathon.

Who loves ya, baby?

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Best In The World

TigerBlog begins his Friday with a bit of business.

Ashleigh Johnson is the best women's water polo player in the world. How's that for business?

Who says so? Waterpoloworld does, that's who.

Johnson was named the top female player in the world for 2015. The top male player is named Filip Filipovic, from Serbia.

The further along Johnson goes down the path of her Princeton career, the more TigerBlog is convinced that she is the greatest female athlete ever to compete here. Strong statement?

Yes. Is it true? It's up to you to decide. Before you shrug it off, though, go watch her play.

Of course, you won't be able to do it this coming season. Johnson is taking this year off from school to train with the U.S. national team for the Olympics this summer.

She exploded on the international scene this past summer, when she led the U.S. to the gold medal at the Pan Am Games and the World Championships. She also set records for saves in an NCAA tournament game and full tournament as she led Princeton to a sixth-place finish nationally.

When TigerBlog saw the story, he wondered if Princeton has ever had anyone who was the best in the world at his or her sport at any given time, or even more incredibly, as an undergrad. He's not sure if a case can be made that Caroline Lind is or at any point was the best rower in the world, though as a two-time gold medalist she has to be up there.

In fact, TigerBlog could only come up with one person he thinks actually fits the description. Want to guess?

Hobey Baker. And that was a long time ago.

Is there anyone else? When Bill Bradley was in his prime as a basketball player, Bill Russell was too. And Wilt Chamberlain. And Oscar Robertson.

TigerBlog can't think of a lacrosse player who was ever the world's best at any given moment. In fact he's actually sure that there hasn't been a time when Princeton had the best player in the world, not when Gary Gait was in his prime.

It's an interesting question. Is TB overlooking anyone? 

So that's the business for today. Well, there's some other news.

Thomas Sanner was selected in the MLS draft. Taylor Fedun was recalled by the Vancouver Canucks. Tyler Lussi is in the U.S. U-23 national team camp.

Still, it's an interesting time for Princeton Athletics.

There's very little in the way of business going on around here right now. This is a unique weekend in the world of college athletics in January, one in which a Division I school has absolutely no athletic events.

Princeton Athletics started for this year on Friday, Aug. 28, with a women's soccer game. Since then, there have been events every weekend, except for the weekend of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the next two days and then this weekend, and there will be events next weekend into June.

From late August to early June, there are only two weekends with nothing going on. Christmas, and this weekend, which is the first weekend of exams.

There are several hundred college basketball games for both men and women this weekend. There are dozens of hockey games and every other sport.

Princeton? It's unique academic calendar has brought games to a halt for exams.

TigerBlog has always thought that in the long course of a winter sports season, having this break is a good physical and mental halfway point. He's not sure how many people agree with him, but the exam break comes at a natural stepping off point to recharge.

Of course, any momentum that exists from the first half of the season ends, and there is the part where everyone else is playing while you're watching. But that can be an advantage too, come late February and early March.

The schedules heat up beginning one week from tomorrow. In a major way.

The last Princeton events before exams were the squash matches at Harvard on Jan. 10. Then there is the span of 13 days without any events, of which Princeton currently finds itself basically in the middle.
There will be a track and field meet, men's and women's tennis matches and a men's basketball game next Saturday. And that's just the start.

Next Saturday is Jan. 23. Between then and the end of the month there will be 43 athletic events for Princeton. Yes, forty-three. That's a lot.

Before you know it, the spring overlap will be here. Hey, lacrosse games start four weeks from tomorrow.

So take it easy for now. Go to the movies. Go out to dinner. You can even watch the NFL playoffs if you want.

Don't worry. Princeton will be back soon.

Just not this weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Office Carousel

TigerBlog was talking to Director of Track and Field Operations Mike Henderson the other day about when Henderson came for his interview.

He's a Minnesota guy, so he had to fly in. His trip started out in Minneapolis and ended at Newark, and he had a long layover in between.

And where was the layover? Philadelphia.

Henderson had no idea that he was basically as close to Princeton when he was in Philly as he would be when he got to Newark. Just about, anyway.

Newark Airport is actually 34 miles from TigerBlog's desk. Philadelphia Airport is 45 miles.

So, to save 11 miles, he spent a few hours in Philadelphia.

Henderson laughed when he told TB the story. That's what he always does. He laughs when he tells a story.

Maybe it's a Midwestern thing.

For awhile, Henderson's desk was the closest one to TigerBlog's in Jadwin, though they were separated by a wall. At one point, Henderson was actually part of the three offices that are interconnected without having to go into the hallway and are collectively called Room 9 of Jadwin.

These days, TigerBlog and the Office of Athletic Communications is in the Jadwin basement, happily enjoying the new space. And it is a great space. It's the former doubles squash court, and it's a great, brand-new environment.

Maybe it was just time for a bit of a change. TigerBlog had been in Room 9 for nearly 30 years, and he had been in his former office on the balcony since 2002.

The external relations/Princeton Varsity Club/marketing group has moved into the newly refurbished Room 9. The offices have had the closets in the back of them removed, and it makes them seem much, much larger.

Meanwhile, back at Henderson - Mike, not Mitch - he has been here since 2012, and he has had a revolving door of office mates.

This is no way is reflective of Mike, of course. In fact, TigerBlog is one of the people who used to share an office - or at least an office suite - with Henderson, and then for the last few months upstairs he was the TB's next-door neighbor.

TB can't think of anything bad to say about him. Perhaps the closest he can come is that Henderson likes to eat cereal all day at his desk but hey, what's wrong with that?

Anyway, Henderson sent around a pretty good email last week.

As TB said, Henderson has been here since 2012. That's barely more than three years.

In that time, he's had 13 different office mates, including his current one, women's basketball assistant coach Chessie Jackson. Her response to the email was simple: "I'll never leave you Mike."

Ah, but that's what they all said and thought. Including TigerBlog.

TB does have to say, Henderson's email was one of the funniest ones anyone has sent in all the time he's worked here. He asked if his 13 office mates in 3.5 years might be a Princeton record.

TigerBlog went back and totaled up the number of office mates he's had and came up with 27. So that's basically twice as many in Henderson in about seven times as long.

One of the names on Henderson's list was Ben Badua. Ben has been a member of the OAC for the last year and a half, or at least waas a member.

Ben's last official day here was Saturday, when he traveled for the final time with the women's basketball team. In addition to working with women's basketball, Ben also covered field hockey, men's and women's water polo, baseball and some indoor track and field.

Ben happened to show up at Princeton at the perfect time to be the women's basketball contact, just in time for the team to go 31-1, 30-0 in the regular season, and win an NCAA tournament game while climbing to 13th in the national rankings.

The result was a media flood, and Ben was right in the middle of it. Every one, it seemed, wanted to talk to the Princeton women's basketball team, and they all had to go through Ben.

TigerBlog can relate to it. He was the men's basketball contact in 1997-98, and that's the only media deluge that TigerBlog can compare to what happened with the women a year ago.

Ben is leaving Princeton to go to work at Rutgers, but not in athletics. TigerBlog wishes him well.

Ben did a great job in his time here, and brought a calm demeanor, team-oriented attitude and understated humor to the OAC proceedings.

All the best, Ben. And thanks for everything. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Amazing 20 Seconds From Josh Teves

For about 20 seconds Friday night at Baker Rink, Josh Teves was the greatest hockey player who ever lived.

Okay, maybe that's a little strong. Still, what Teves did in the third period of what became a 4-4 tie against Union was incredible.

With the score tied 3-3 and little more than six minutes left, there was a scramble in front of the Princeton net. Colton Phinney, the Tiger goalie, was to the left side when the puck squirted in front and then was tipped towards the open net.

TigerBlog was in the press box at the time, almost directly above the goal. The puck was going in. There was no way around it.

Or so it appeared.

Then out of nowhere came Teves, a freshman defenseman from Calgary. At the last possible second he dove, fully extended, and slapped the puck into the corner.

TigerBlog, who firmly believes that press boxes are no places for cheering, didn't quite cheer. He did let out a "wow," he's pretty sure.

That play alone was incredible. What happened next elevated it greatly.

Teves got up as play continued. He skated behind the goal and then started up the left wide, where he got a pass from Ryan Kuffner, skated into the Union end and ripped a shot for his second career goal.

In one sequence he stopped a sure goal at one end and scored at the other.

In a weird way, even as Teves was still in the Princeton zone, TigerBlog had a sense he was going to go down to the other end and score. He's not sure why he thought that, but it just seems like it was preordained or something.

When TigerBlog saw the replay off the Ivy League Digital Network, which didn't do the play justice. It wasn't until TB saw the overheard video Monday that he really appreciated what Teves had done to stop the goal in the first place.

video
You think TigerBlog liked it? Check out the kid in the Princeton Varsity Club t-shirt.

It was an incredible play. It's a shame that there wasn't immediate access to the overheard feed, because that was definitely worthy of some SportsCenter Top Plays recognition.

As it turned out, Teves' play was honored by the NCAA's website as the top play in college hockey last week.

If you check out the video, the save at No. 2 is pretty incredible too. That one was by Air Force goalie Shane Starrett, who made two saves on the same shot.

But hey, Starrett didn't get up and skate down the ice and score.

In most weeks, Starrett's save would have been worthy of No. 1. Not this week.

Teves' play got TigerBlog thinking about the greatest plays he's ever seen by a Princeton athlete.

The ones he usually goes with are the ones with the most historical significance, like Gabe Lewullis' layup to give Princeton a 43-41 win over UCLA in the 1996 NCAA men's basketball tournament or Andy Moe's OT goal against Syracuse in 1992 to give Princeton the first of its six NCAA men's lacrosse titles. Hey, four of those titles came in overtime.

Maybe the best individual play TigerBlog has seen was the play against Penn in the second overtime in football in 2006, when Princeton had a fourth-and-goal at the 1. You remember the play.

Rob Toresco took a handoff up the middle and was stopped once, then again. Then he pitched it back to Jeff Terrell, the quarterback, who ran around the right side for a touchdown.

video


The historical significance? Princeton doesn't win the 2006 Ivy title without it.
 It's harder to think about great moments like Teves' that simply occurred in the course of a season.

TigerBlog's first thought takes him to Ed Persia, who beat Monmouth in men's basketball in 2002 with an, oh, 80-footer at the buzzer. The incredible thing about that shot was that TigerBlog remembers full well thinking it was going in the second it left Persia's hand.

There was also a save that Tyler Fiorito made against Cornell in men's lacrosse in the 2012 regular-season finale. Princeton was in complete control of the game at the time, but Fiorito made a ridiculous play on a shot.

video


Yeah, that was a great one.

There are so many other great plays that TigerBlog has seen. In so many sports here.

Thinking back now, it's hard to remember them all.

The one that Teves made the other night? That'll be hard to forget.

TigerBlog ranks that up there with any moment he's seen at Princeton. That's saying a lot.

But that's also how great a play it was.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

#4Games1City1Day2PrincetonAlumsCoaching

In a normal year, TigerBlog will see Eddie Timanus and Patrick Stevens at the NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four - and that's about it.

And yet, he feels like he's in touch with them everyday. That's what Twitter is all about.

Eddie is a writer for the USA Today. Perhaps you know him as the blind contestant on Jeopardy who won more than $80,000 while becoming a five-time champion and playing in subsequent competitions.

One of Eddie's big claims to fame is that he tweets song lyrics - classic rock, mostly - in the morning and at night. TigerBlog's day isn't really complete until he sees them, and it annoys him when he doesn't know what song they're from. 

Patrick? His Twitter account says that he's a "media free agent covering college football, basketball and lacrosse, 140 characters at a time." That's about right, though he is centered in Washington, D.C.

They're not exactly your stereotypical sportswriting duo. Nope. They're both very nice, ego-free professionals.

Plus, they're big lacrosse guys, so obviously that vaults them way up near the top of the list. Stevens puts together the Division I men's lacrosse composite schedule each year, and he recently completed the 2016 one, which indicates that opening day is - get this - three weeks from Saturday, with nine games no less.

Patrick had a big day this past Saturday, when he went to four Division I games in one day, all in D.C. His hashtag of #4Games1City1Day was catchy.

Maybe it would have been catchier with #4Games1City1Day2PrincetonAlumsCoaching.

His day started at noon with DePaul at Georgetown, coached by John Thompson, Princeton Class of 1988. His day continued with Game 2, which was Lehigh at American, coached by Mike Brennan, Princeton Class of 1994.

Brennan, of course, was an assistant coach under Thompson at both Princeton and Georgetown.

He was also a point guard at Princeton under Pete Carril, who found himself on CBS in 1995 after winning his 500th career game. Every time the interviewer - who was Pat O'Brien, remember him? - asked Carril a question, he brought it back to how Brennan had graduated.

So, Princeton fans, who was the point guard who replaced Brennan? It'll come to you.

TigerBlog would have guessed that Brennan was in the top 10 in Princeton history in assists, but he isn't. He does rank seventh at Princeton in three-point percentage in a season, with a .491 percentage in 1992-93. Who are the six ahead of him?

Dave Orlandini, Matt Lapin, Tim Neff, Will Barrett, Marcus Schroeder, Matt Henshon.

Orlandini, in the 1987-88 season, shot a ridiculous 60 for 110 from three-point range, which is .545. That's the record.

Oh, and the point guard who replaced Brennan? Current head coach Mitch Henderson.

Of all of the Princeton men's basketball players TigerBlog knew during the 13 years he was with the team for basically every game (1989-2002), maybe none of them said less than Brennan. When Brennan did speak, though, he was always direct, polite, humble and honest - and usually hilarious. He is an all-time TigerBlog favorite.

So, too, is Thompson. Like Brennan, Thompson is also direct, polite, humble and honest - and usually hilarious.

Thompson did one of the greatest coaching jobs in Princeton history, back in 2000-01, when he led the Tigers to the Ivy title after taking over when Bill Carmody left for Northwestern in early September. Thompson's team also lost, among others, Chris Young (signed baseball contract) and Spencer Gloger (transferred back to UCLA).

Princeton went into the last game of the regular season a game ahead of Penn and then blew the Quakers out in the second half to win 68-52. Nate Walton, who was robbed of the Ivy League Player of the Year award that year, had one of the all-time great stat lines that night - nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists, six steals.

From that beginning, Thompson has been to the NCAA tournament more times than not in his head coaching career (10 trips in 15 years, to be exact, with four other NIT trips), including two NCAA tournaments in four years at Princeton (and an NIT) and one Final Four in his time at Georgetown.

If you only know John Thompson III from TV, TigerBlog can tell you that you will meet very few higher quality people in your life.

Anyway, that's the two Princeton alums that Patrick Stevens saw Saturday.

The last two games were Coppin State at Howard and then finally Duquesne at George Washington. According to his story, he drove 86 miles on the day and spent three hours and 33 minutes in his car for the day. That's completely believable to anyone who has ever driven around D.C.

TigerBlog, back in his newspaper days, would often cover events on three campuses in one day. That would be in the spring, when he'd go to Princeton for rowing and/or lacrosse and then Rider and the College of New Jersey for baseball or softball.

He can't remember ever doing four in one day.

Patrick Stevens did that Saturday.

It makes for a pretty nice story, which you can read HERE.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Quite A Doubleheader

Wow. That was quite a doubleheader at the Palestra Saturday.

The old arena on the Penn campus is no stranger to doubleheaders. It came to prominence as a venue because of the Big Five doubleheaders, which were played there beginning in 1955.

One of TigerBlog's earliest sports-on-TV experiences was watching Big Five doubleheaders from the Palestra. The TV guide used to list them that way - so-and-so vs. so-and-so in a Big Five doubleheader game from the Palestra.

His first trip ever to the Palestra was to for a doubleheader. TB sat in a section behind the basket on the side where you walk in at the front. Ah, it's like it was yesterday, not nearly 40 years ago.

TigerBlog has no way to know where Saturday's doubleheader ranks in terms of the all-time list in the building. As co-ed ones go, though, this one is definitely No. 1.

Added up, it was 85 minutes of basketball spread over five hours, and when it was over, Princeton and Penn each had one win and one loss and the combined score was 121-121 after a pair of two-point wins.

Penn had double-figure leads in the second half of both games, only to have Princeton come all the way back both times. In one case, Penn re-rallied to win; in the other Princeton held on, though it needed overtime.

The final scores were Penn 50, Princeton 48 in the women's game and Princeton 73, Penn 71 in OT in the men's game.

For the last 16:57 of the women's game, neither team ever led by more than four points. On the men's side, Penn led by 11 with 3:38 to play, necessitating a different kind of drama.

Let's start with the women.

Princeton came in averaging more than 75 points per game. Penn came in allowing 50. From the beginning it was clear this was going to be more to Penn's liking than Princeton's in terms of score, and in fact Princeton scored 10 points in the first quarter and five in the second.

After Penn went up by 10 in the third quarter, though, Princeton came storming back. There would be six lead changes in the second half, when each possession seemed to be critical.

Princeton couldn't get the score it needed to go up by two possessions at any point in the game, which would have been huge from a psychological standpoint.

What does it mean?

Princeton beat Penn in the opener last year and then won the league at 14-0. The year before Princeton beat Penn in the opener and then Penn came back to win the league on the final day of the year.

In other words, there's a long way to go.  TigerBlog senses that for all the drama of Saturday's game, there will be even more drama on March 8, when the teams meet again on the final day of the regular season.

And the men?

Two years ago Princeton lost its opener at Penn, didn't play a league game for three weeks due to exams and never really climbed back into it. This time, Princeton was staring at that same outcome when it trailed 64-53 with 3:38 to go.

From there, Princeton did two huge things.

First, its defense tightened, holding Penn to 3-for-13 shooting the rest of the way. There were also four turnovers - including three in the OT.

Second, Princeton made its foul shots, especially Myles Stephens, the freshman who was 14 for 25 on the year from the line before crunch time Saturday and then 4 for 4 in that crunch time. Princeton also went 7 for 8 from the line as a team in the overtime, during which time it did not make a field goal.

The result was a huge, huge win for Princeton heading into exam break. Amir Bell was incredible, with a career-high 28 before being knocked out after getting hit late in regulation. Without Bell, Princeton rallied with its entire cast, and freshmen like Stephens and Devin Cannady played huge leading roles.

The Ivy League race has a long way to go, and it's unlikely that anyone is going 14-0. After exams Princeton hops right into it, with a trip to Brown and Yale, followed by Harvard and Dartmouth at home the first weekend of February.

By then, you'll have a pretty good idea of how things are starting to shape up.

For Princeton, it has as good a chance as anyone. And it's already passed one huge hurdle, doing it the hard way at that.

The women have a long way to go, and they'll be heard from again. Don't worry about that.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mopping The Floor

It is not true that the Princeton women's basketball team mopped the floor with Hampton last Sunday.

You know. Mopped the floor. Dominated. Rolled. Do people still use that term anymore?

The final was 79-55 Princeton, which doesn't exactly suggest a barnburner. It was closer than the score, a little closer anyway, not necessarily mopping the floor.

Alex Wheatley? She definitely mopped the floor.

As in literally.

During a stoppage in play, after two players went to the court, Wheatley took the mop from under the basket support and wiped the sweat off the floor.

To TigerBlog, that was Princeton women's basketball in a nutshell.

Here is Wheatley, a senior. She's been a first-team All-Ivy League selection. She's been on two Ivy League champions and has won an NCAA tournament game. She sits 57 points away from 1,000 for her career.

On top of that, she's a Princeton Scholar in the Nation's Service honoree, a prestigious award for her academic and service accomplishments. 

And yet she mopped the floor.

Why? Because that's how she is. Something needs to be done? Do it.

No ego. Nothing like that. Just mop the floor and get on with the game.

The win over Hampton improved Princeton to 11-3. Or 0-0, depending on how you look at things. The next game is tomorrow afternoon at the Palestra, the Ivy League opener against Penn.

In the last two years, Penn is 23-5 in Ivy League games. That's 22-2 against the rest of the league and 1-3 against Princeton.

Of course, the one win over Princeton was a huge one, back in the last game of the 2014 season, when the Quakers defeated Princeton to win the Ivy League title. It's the only blemish in the last six seasons for Princeton, who have won five Ivy titles and gone to five NCAA tournaments in that time.

Here's another number for you: 60. That's the combined point total Princeton has defeated Penn by in the last two Ivy openers, by 31 two years ago and 29 last year. Both teams know this.

As TB said, Princeton is 11-3 overall. Penn? The Quakers are 9-2.

Of their five combined losses, three (Princeton's to No. 5 Ohio State and No. 20 Seton Hall and Penn's to No. 16 Duke) are to ranked teams.

Princeton and Penn meet again in the last game of the season, March 8, at Jadwin Gym. Two years ago, that game was winner-to-all. Last year, a Penn loss to Cornell in midseason kept the last game from being winner-take-all.

The game tomorrow features the No. 1 scoring offense team in the Ivy League (Princeton at 75.3 points per game) against the No. 1 scoring defense team in the Ivy League (Penn at 50.3). Actually, Penn's total ranks fourth in Division I.

That, probably, let's you know everything you need to know about the game. Only one team - Drexel with 67 - has scored more than 60 points in a game against Penn so far this season. In Penn's 11 games, it has held its opponent to 50 or fewer seven times.

Princeton's season-low in points is 55, in a 55-44 win over Fordham. Other than that, Princeton has scored at least 61 in every other game, including 11 with at least 70.

The women's game tips at 1:00. The men's game follows, also the Ivy opener for Princeton and Penn, this one on NBC Sports.

Princeton has the best non-league record in the Ivy in men's basketball at 9-4, after a Virginia sweep of Hampton and Norfolk State earlier this week. Penn, with former Cornell and Boston College head coach Steve Donahue in his first season, is 6-7.

Or 0-0. You know, first Ivy game and all.

For those with short memories or those who are too young to remember, Princeton and Penn have played at least twice a year, every year, since their first meeting, on Valentine's Day 1903.

If you look at the entire history of Ivy League athletics, it is non-debatable that Princeton-Penn men's basketball is one of the two greatest rivalries the league has ever known. One of the two - or both - won the Ivy League championship and represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament every year from 1963 through 2007, other than 1968, 1986 and 1988.

The two head coaches know.

Princeton's Mitch Henderson played in the 1990s, during one of the rivalries heydays, before graduating in 1998. Donahue was a Penn assistant at Penn the entire decade, including during all four of Henderson's years.

Princeton basketball, men's and women's, will shut down for first semester exams after this one. The men play again on Jan. 24 against Bryn Athyn; the next Ivy game for both isn't until Jan. 29.

Penn doesn't play in the league again until the 29th either. The Quaker men play only St. Joe's, on the 20th, in between, while the women have three Big Five games.

No matter how busy they are the next three weeks, the teams who are 1-0 in the league will be feeling much happier than the ones that are 0-1.

Princeton-Penn basketball.

It's a renewal of an all-time epic rivalry and one that is starting to grow into one.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Busy Weekend Before Finals

TigerBlog's hope of going through the entire winter without having to break out the super heavy "Princeton Athletics" coat vanished yesterday.

It actually should have vanished Monday, except TB was too stubborn to actually wear it, so he went with just a sweatshirt as the temperature plummeted for the first time. TigerBlog is pretty sure the low for the month of December around here never made it to 32, and it was actually warm for most of the last, well, while.

All that changed Monday, when it was a high of 30 and a low of 12. What did TB wear? A sweatshirt. No coat. No hat. No gloves.

Stubborn. Or optimistic.

The temperature when TigerBlog got into his car Tuesday was 9. As much as he wanted to pretend it wasn't, yeah, it was winter. This time, TB couldn't fight it, so he went with the super heavy coat, and a hat and gloves. Actually, it was his new Princeton hat, the ugly sweater hat. He likes it.

It was 14 when he got into his car yesterday morning, but the high was supposed to be 39, so TB went back to the sweatshirt.

Hey, maybe if he pretends it's not cold then it'll continue to be an okay winter. And the 10-day forecast? Not a snowflake to be found. If true, then Princeton will have made it to mid-January snow-free.

The walk from Lot 21 to Jadwin Gym is a short one, but it can be brutal in the winter, especially when the wind rips through. Still, it's better to tough it out in a sweatshirt than to admit it's freezing.

But hey, it is early January. Today is the seventh, actually, which means only one thing.

Princeton's first semester exams are coming.

One of the unique parts of Princeton Athletics is the break that comes up in January for exams. Students returned from break Monday for this week's reading period, and that will be followed by two weeks of exams.

During final exams there will be no athletic events. It's been like this since TigerBlog first came around, and probably for long before that.

Actually, it makes TigerBlog wonder if this is how it always has been. Hmmm. How best to check this?

Well, there is the men's basketball year-by-year results, which lists dates of games. Way, way back when, there were games in mid-December and early- to mid-January, but nothing in between.

TigerBlog is talking early 1900s here. Interestingly, the entire 21-game 1908-09 season was played between Dec. 5 and Jan. 22.

It wasn't until the 1939-40 season that Princeton had a big gap in its schedule at this time of year. During that season, Princeton played Syracuse on Dec. 22 and Duke on Jan. 6 and then didn't play again until it played Army on Jan. 24.

There were big January gaps in the next three seasons as well, before the schedule went back to having games all through January for two years, until 1946-47, when there was a two-week break starting Jan. 18.

There has been such a break every year since. So there's that. 

This year's break starts after this weekend's events, of which there are a lot of them, including a basketball doubleheader at the Palestra. In all, there are 15 events between today and Sunday, featuring 10 different teams: men's squash, women's squash, men's hockey, women's hockey, men's basketball, women's basketball, wrestling, men's volleyball, men's indoor track and field, women's indoor track and field.

The women's hockey team is at Union tomorrow and RPI Saturday. The Tigers are currently in second-place in the ECAC with 15 points, five behind Quinnipiac and four ahead of Harvard.

Of course, the other teams will have the next two weekends to play catch up, so it's this one is important for the Tigers. RPI and Union are a combined 3-10-3 in the league and 5-24-8 overall, but no game is a gimme, especially on the road.

These two games won't count in the Ivy standings, where Princeton is in first place with 12 points, seven ahead of Dartmouth. On the other hand, Princeton has played seven league games; no other league team has played more than four.

As for the men, Princeton is playing a rare Thursday/Friday weekend, with games tonight against RPI and Union tomorrow at Baker Rink. For tickets, click HERE.

Princeton is playing Thursday/Friday because its travel partner, Quinnipiac, is playing Harvard at Madison Square Garden Saturday, which has resulted in a split of the travel partner weekend, as the Bobcats plays Union tonight and then RPI Jan. 21.

Princeton is 4-12-0 but starting to make serious progress in Year 2 under Ron Fogarty. The Tigers are also 3-7-0 in the ECAC, which has them tied for seventh and in the running for a home playoff series, though again, the two weeks off gives everyone else a chance to move up.

RPI is 4-1-3 in the league and 7-6-0 out of it. Union is 2-5-1 in the ECAC but 7-1-3 out of it.

After this, Princeton's next men's hockey game is Tuesday the 26th, at home against AIC. The women play a night earlier at UConn.

Hopefully it won't snow between now and then.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Night With Chuck And John

To watch "When The Game Ends," click HERE

John Bullis is a Texan.

He's high-strung, high-energy. He's laughing, now and always. When he's not laughing, he's smiling. Or chuckling. At worst, he's smirking.

He was a college hockey player, at Wisconsin-River Falls. He always seems to be moving fast, like he's always on skates, on a large sheet of ice that encompasses his whole world. He glides while the rest of the world walks.

No matter what, he never seems to be still. He bursts into a room, and he bursts out, leaving behind yet another blast of energy.

Chuck Dibilio, it appears at least, moves at a slower, quieter pace. He's from Nazareth, the one in Pennsylvania, the one near Allentown and Bethlehem and a bunch of other hard-working, blue-collar towns.

Maybe it only seems like his pace is slower because everyone seems to go through life at a slower pace than John Bullis.

No, Chuck, from what TigerBlog has seen at least, goes at a slower, more reserved pace. He seems uncomfortable in the spotlight, even if it has found him for much of his young life.

Up until a few months ago, John Bullis had never heard of Chuck Dibilio, and vice versa. And yet now, a short time later, they have bonded, while TigerBlog has taken a few steps back and observed and wondered why.

What is it about them? They're from different schools and different parts of the country. They have different backgrounds. They have wildly different personalities.

And yet they appear to be kindreds, almost brotherly.

Why? Maybe it's because both are completely genuine. What you see from one is what you get. What you see from the other is what you get. Or maybe it's because everything about them seems to come from the heart. Maybe that's it.

Bullis is a filmmaker. Dibilio is a Princeton senior.

When Bullis first came to work at Princeton, TigerBlog told him that he'd like to see him make a documentary each year. When the time came to do the first and choose a subject, TigerBlog thought of Dibilio.

At that point, Bullis didn't know the name and TigerBlog didn't know the person. Now they both know Chuck and his whole story.

Bullis was the creative force behind "When The Game Ends," the Princeton Athletics documentary that debuted last night to a packed Taylor Auditorium in the Frick Chemistry Building. The documentary told Dibilio's story, and it did so to what appeared to be great reviews.

Dibilio came to Princeton in 2011 to play football. He broke every rushing record at Nazareth High School - broke records set by his father, interestingly enough - and he then became the only Ivy League true freshman ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

Then, two months later, he had a stroke.

That was nearly four years ago. It was during reading period in January 2012, actually.

Now it was a Tuesday night in reading period 2016. And here, crowded into a 250-seat room in the chemistry building, was a gathering of Princetonians - alums, friends, fans, athletes, coaches, staff - as well as some visitors  - like Chuck's family, his therapist, his high school football coach - to see the story of how a 19-year-old hit physical and emotional bottom due to a stroke and then made his way back.

It's a story of resolve and determination, with some heartbreak to go along with it.

Chuck nearly died on the night he had his stroke, and then he had to learn to read, write and speak all over again.

Ultimately, he had to deal with not being able to return to football. Had he played his four years without a scratch, he very likely would have graduated a year ago as the all-time leading rusher at Princeton, and maybe in the Ivy League.

Instead, he took this wild detour. And there it was, on the screen, for the whole audience to see.

TigerBlog came away from this project with enormous respect for the filmmaker and his subject.

Bullis wove his story together with interviews with people from every area of Chuck's life. He did so in a way that told the story while also capturing the incredible emotions that were in play, from Chuck's time as a healthy football player through the stroke and now today, as Chuck sits on the verge of graduating from Princeton.

Last night was a great one for Chuck and John. Chuck, because of everything he had overcome to get to this point in his life. John, because of the way he told the story.

When it was over, there was a long and loud ovation for the two of them. A well-deserved one.

Then there was some questions from the audience, mostly for Chuck, about his health, if he worries that it could happen again, how much he misses football, even what play he would call if he could suit up for one more play.

For John, there was a single question, about his experiences in filmmaking and had he made anything like this before. The answer was yes, he did, as a senior project in college, about his best friend, a soldier, who was killed in Afghanistan.

Here, for one of the few times TigerBlog has known him, John Bullis slowed down. He didn't laugh. He didn't smile. He took a deep breath and thought deeply. Then he answered.

He talked about the loss he felt, and how doing that project had forced him to relive what had happened over and over. And how Chuck had done the same with "When The Game Ends."

It was the perfect insight into what TigerBlog had seen from the two of them. Kindreds, as he called them.

Kindreds indeed.