Friday, June 23, 2017

Bowling And Walking

TigerBlog can tell you the exact last time he went bowling.

It was back in the three-month period between when his friend Corey had his driver's license and TigerBlog did not. In other words, it's been a long time.

Corey drove, in the big old brown Olds 88 he used to have. His house was exactly four miles from TB's (he knows this because he used to ride his bike over there, even though he had to cross Route 9 at the end), and his driveway looked like it had valet parking service, with all the cars that were parked there most times.

Anyway, they went bowling, at Howell Lanes. TigerBlog had to drive the big 88 back, even though he only had his permit. You can figure out why. Yeah. You're smart. Corey and TB? They remain close friends to this day and will forever.

Why mention bowling today? TigerBlog would like to say it's because he was watching an old Foghorn Leghorn cartoon, the one where Foghorn says about the little chicken that "the boy's about as sharp as a bowling ball." But hey, TB hasn't watched cartoons like that in, well, not this week at least.

And then there was the time recently when someone in the athletic department mentioned bowling, and Kim Meszaros, the assistant to Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan, cringed at the thought of TB's renting shoes and, egads, putting his fingers into the holes on the bowling ball that someone else might just have used without dousing it with hand sanitizer first. That was funny.

Actually, it has nothing to do with either of those. Nope, it has to do a little bit with how bad TigerBlog's eyes are getting.

TigerBlog's two favorite Division I athletic conferences are, obviously, the Ivy League and the Northeast Conference. The Ivy League has Princeton. The Northeast Conference has TigerBlog Jr.

Yesterday afternoon, TigerBlog saw a tweet about how the NEC had released its institutional team academic awards.

Basically, the league recognizes the school whose athletes have the highest average GPA and then the team from each sport in the league that has the highest GPA. For the record, Sacred Heart, TBJ's school, won both the men's lacrosse award and the overall institutional award, while 24 men's lacrosse players - including TBJ - won the individual academic award for having at least a 3.3 GPA.

In fact, it was quite a year for Sacred Heart men's lacrosse. The team had a seven-win improvement from 2016 and made the conference tournament, and the Pioneers also won the academic award while also maintaining a strong commitment to service. There's a lot to like in that program.

The overall Sacred Heart athletic GPA was 3.381, which is the all-time NEC record for a school over the course of an entire school year. It's quite a tribute to Bobby Valentine, the SHU athletic director, and the entire athletic department.

Oh, and bowling?

When TB first looked at the list, he thought that LIU Brooklyn's women's bowling team had the best overall GPA, and an incredibly high one at that, at 3.864 for the team. In fact, it's just TB's eyes that are failing him. When he looked closer, he found out that it was really 3.664, which is still extraordinary.

It's not the best in the league, though. The team with the highest overall GPA is Robert Morris women's basketball at 3.724. That's unbelievably high.

The Ivy League doesn't have such an award, though maybe it would be something the league would consider at some point. The league does do Academic All-Ivy League, which honors five male athletes and five female athletes per school per season for excellence academically and athletically. Doing the math, that brings you to 15 men and 15 women per year per school.

The spring 2017 group was announced yesterday. You can read about them HERE.

The list includes two of the greatest all-around combined athletes/students Princeton has ever known, really. One is Julia Ratcliffe, the three-time first-team All-America hammer thrower. The other is Olivia Hompe, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton lacrosse history.

All 10 athletes in the spring group, and all the athletes across the league each season who win this honor, have done incredibly impressive things on their campuses.

And while TB is talking about incredibly impressive things that people have done, how about Derek DiGregorio?

TigerBlog has written about Derek a lot through the years. He's the middle son of Steve and Nadia DeGregorio, the one who has been battling Ataxia Telangiectasia for years. It's a disease that has left him in a wheelchair for the last few years, but there he was the other day, graduating from Princeton High School and walking across the stage (with the help of an exoskeleton) to get his diploma.

Out of the chair. Walking across the stage.

You can read the story about Derek HERE.

Here are a few quotes from his parents (his father, Digger, was a longtime Princeton football assistant coach):

"He is the toughest individual I know," Steve said. "True grit is what he has, compassion and perseverance, that's what he has, that's Derek."

"We don't have the word 'no' in our vocabulary," said Nadia DeGregorio, Derek's mother.

Yeah, they're pretty tough individuals themselves.

Congratulations to Derek. It would have been easy, so easy, for him to give up at any number of points. And, it would have been easier still to not walk across that stage.

Then again, these people never do what's easy. The DeGregorios - the parents, their other two sons Zack and Aaron (who also graduated from PHS this week) and their close circle of friends - deal every day with issues that most people couldn't fathom or handle for a few hours.

They deserve to celebrate a little. For Derek, and for themselves. There aren't too many high school diplomas that mean more anywhere this month than in their house.

Again, congrats to Derek and his family.

They are the most courageous people TigerBlog has ever met.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

District 12

TigerBlog ran into a question yesterday he's asked a lot this time of year, one he's mentioned plenty of times before. 

Do you have to work in the summer? The answer, again, is yes.

It actually got TigerBlog thinking back, what is it now, nearly 35 years, back to his first summer in the newspaper business. He covered high school sports back then, so what would he do in the summer?

The answer, he found out, was simple. District 12 Little League.

At first, TigerBlog couldn't believe that the two major - at the time, they were definitely major - newspapers in Trenton would devote that much effort and space to covering Little League baseball and softball. Over the years, TB came to embrace it as a staple of Mercer County summers.

It was weird for him that first year, when he first got tossed into covering the District 12 tournament. Chambersburg, a section of Trenton, was the winner, knocking off Hopewell in a dramatic final. Hopewell's best player, by the way, was Mark Gola, who is today the Director of Athletic Communications at the College of New Jersey.

Night after night for a few weeks that summer, TigerBlog would go to a different Little League field in Mercer County, where enormous crowds would gather to see the games. Back then, TigerBlog was making $15 per story, and he was getting a lot of drama on those summer nights for his $15.

It was a rare year when Nottingham didn't win. When Chambersburg finally did win the championship, there was a huge headline on the front page of the sports section. The late, great and immortal (he's in the baseball Hall of Fame writers' wing) Bus Saidt walked into the newsroom, saw the size of the type and said this: "What happened? The war end?"

TigerBlog remembers it like it was yesterday.

One of TB's favorite Princeton Office of Athletic Communications stories ever was more than 10 years after TB's first District 12 tournament. This time it was David Rosenfeld, TB's former OAC colleague, who was astonished by the coverage. In this case, David asked the immortal question: What's huh-TER-buh?

Huh, TigerBlog wondered? Then he saw the paper. It had "HTRBA" in a headline. As it turns out, huh-TER-buh was "H-T-R-B-A," or the Hamilton Township Recreational Baseball Association, of something like that. It had a team in the tournament.

Yeah, David didn't quite get the whole District 12 coverage either.

It's been years since TigerBlog has seen coverage of the District 12 tournament. He only covered it once, the year Chambersburg beat Hopewell. All these years later, it stands out as much as almost anything he covered at the newspaper.

Speaking of Bus (his real name was Harold; TB isn't sure why he was called Bus), he was as old-time a newspaper sportswriter as you could ever hope to find. Bus would cover a Major League Baseball game every night during every season, driving either to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium or Veterans Stadium, depending on which team was home.

He'd actually reinvented himself as a sportswriter, after a previous career as an accountant for the state of New Jersey, coupled with his time as a broadcaster. TigerBlog believes that he was the runner-up to Harry Kalas as the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies a long time ago, largely based on his work as the radio play-by-play voice of none other than your own Princeton Tigers.

When TB met Bus, he was already a Trenton legend. Bus, that is, not TB. He was very encouraging to young TB when he was first starting out in the business.

What would Bus think of the world of sports media these days? He'd hate it, TB supposes. Getting his point across in 140 characters? That would not have been for Bus.

Yeah, it's a new world.

Speaking of 140 characters, the best tweet of the week was by far by TB's colleague Craig Sachson, who retweeted a tweet that mentioned that Spencer Weisz had been added to the 76ers predraft workouts. Craig's tweet was "Trust. The. Process."

Now that's tremendous.

TigerBlog isn't expecting Weisz - the 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year and Roper Trophy winner - to be chosen in the draft tonight. Or Steven Cook, who worked out with the Knicks. But who knows that happens and why. It would be great if one or both of them heard his name called.

When Craig showed TB a video of Weisz at Sixers practice, he was wearing the Sixers gear they'd given him. It reminded TB of when TB wrote a story about Ross Tucker, who was then a Princeton offensive lineman.

Ross figured he'd have a shot at getting into an NFL camp after graduation and then move onto whatever career he was going to have. His question was this: When they cut him, would he get to keep the helmet?

Instead, he ended up playing for seven season in the NFL, with six teams. He probably ended up with a few helmets.

And, as one of the most active members of the football media, he ended up with a lot of Twitter followers. Like, 170,000 of them.

That's 170,000 more than Bus ever had. He would have hated Twitter.

He was one of the greats, Bus was.

TigerBlog can't really explain to you why he started thinking back to the District 12 tournament, but that's what got him to thinking about Bus, which is good.

Bus Saidt passed away in 1989. Odds are good that you never heard of him.

To TigerBlog, he represents a world long gone for him - one of the very best parts of that world, for that matter. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jukebox Heroes

TigerBlog found himself in an art deco diner in, of all random places, Richmond last weekend.

He had the Philadelphia omelette, which was tremendous. It was a like a cheesesteak omelette. He could go for one right now, actually.

He debated between the omelette and one of those breakfast specials that included eggs, two meats, potatoes and pancakes. He bets that would have been great too.

Miss TigerBlog was there with him. She had a different omelette.

After they ordered, MTB pointed to the object near the window and asked simply "what's that?" This is what she pointed at:
That, TigerBlog told his nearly 17-year-old daughter, is called a "jukebox." Then he added: "it's like an old-fashioned iPod."

TB had to explain to her that way, way, way back when, these were at every table in every diner - at least every good diner. You'd put a coin in the slot and pick a song, or a few songs, and they would play at your table. After all, there had to be something to do at a restaurant while everyone waited for the smart phone to be invented. 

This particular jukebox didn't accept money. Instead, you pushed the buttons for the song you wanted and then it went into the queue for the entire restaurant, playing softly over the speakers.

TigerBlog counted up, and if he's correct, the jukebox had 310 songs, pretty much all of which would have been on the diner jukebox when TB was in high school. MTB randomly pressed "L3," which turned out to be "Mrs. Robinson," by Simon and Garfunkel. She selected on purpose "Dancing Queen," by ABBA.

The purpose of the trip, of course, was summer lacrosse. What else do people do in their summers?

While at that particular tournament, TigerBlog saw a few people with Princeton connections. For instance, he was walking across a parking lot when he instantly recognized one of the greatest female athletes in school history - Theresa Sherry.

There aren't many athletes out there who scored goals in two NCAA tournaments in two different sports, but Theresa Sherry did - in lacrosse and soccer (Matt Striebel did the same, by the way, for the men). Sherry played in eight NCAA tournaments in her four years at Princeton, and the two teams she played for went a combined 119-25-6 during that time.

She was a three-time first-team All-America in lacrosse, and she - along with men's players Andy Moe, Kevin Lowe, Jesse Hubbard and B.J. Prager - can say that she scored the game-winning goal in overtime in an NCAA championship game (in her case 2003).

Theresa at one time was the head women's lacrosse coach at the University of California. Now she's coaching on the club level. She's also one of the nicer people you'll ever meet in your life, so it was really nice to see her.

TB also saw Penn State head coach Missy Doherty, a former assistant to Chris Sailer here at Princeton. Doherty has taken the Nittany Lions to the Final Four each of the last two years.

The conversation with Missy included, of course, the recent hiring of Jeff Kampersal as Penn State's women's hockey coach, a few years after Guy Gadowsky became the men's head coach.

A few hours later, TB saw Doherty as she pushed a baby stroller. No, this wasn't her own third child. This was the first child of Brianne Tierney and Dylan Sheridan, a really, really little baby. Dylan is a former assistant men's lacrosse coach at Princeton and the head coach at Cleveland State.

Brianne is the head coach at Kent State, which will be starting a team in 2019. She's also the daughter of former Princeton head coach Bill Tierney. TB had seen her a few minutes earlier, when Brianne told her that Missy was pushing the baby somewhere while she watched games.

As TB watched MTB play, he met a group of parents from a team from just outside of Washington, D.C. As he usually is at these tournaments, TB happened to be wearing something that said "Princeton," in this case, his new, really comfortable "Princeton Lacrosse" shirt. This is not to be confused with his other 50 Princeton lacrosse shirts.

Anyway, as usually happens, the parents asked if he was a Princeton coach. He explained what he does, which is followed, as usual, by a request to help get their kids into Princeton.

One of the parents then asked him if he knew who Tyler Lussi was, and he said that of course he did. It turns out that they're close friends of the Lussi's.

TigerBlog has been in this situation a lot. It's a small world, apparently, this world of club sports.

TB pointed out that Tyler Lussi graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Princeton soccer history, for men or women. In fact, she scored 53 goals, the most by an Ivy League player in the last 35 years.

That's an incredible stat. The most in 35 years? Actually, that would give her the most goals since TigerBlog last saw a jukebox, he supposes.

Lussi is one of the bigger graduation losses any Princeton team will have heading into 2017-18. She's a lot like Olivia Hompe, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton lacrosse history - men's or women's.

It's the nature of college sports. You get four years - sometimes five - and that's it. The program moves on, hoping to find the one who comes along to break your record.

Of course, it makes you appreciate when you have the Tyler Lussi's who come through there in your uniform. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jury Duty

TigerBlog spent much of yesterday in Louisiana. His mind did, anyway.

His body was on jury duty. Or, as he likes to call it, "sit in a room with total strangers for a few hours as nobody's number is called."

TigerBlog was called for jury duty one other time in his life, back when he still with the newspaper. On that occasion, he sat around the courthouse for eight hours and had his number called right at 4 for a civil case, only to have one of the lawyers immediately dismiss him.

This time, TB was originally supposed to go in late April, but he got a postponement until mid-June because of lacrosse season. And off he went yesterday morning, ready to fill his role in the justice system. Better than being a defendant, right?

Before he ever reached the courthouse, he realized he'd forgotten the book he wanted to read. It's called "Documents That Changed The Way We Live," by Joe Janes, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog. He'll report back on it another time.

Fortunately, he had two John McPhee books in his trunk. And so he re-read the first section of "The Control of Nature," which is about the attempts in Louisiana to keep the Atchafalaya River from overwhelming the Mississippi River 300 miles north of New Orleans.

Mr. McPhee had given the book to TigerBlog a little more than a year ago, when TB had gotten back from Lafayette and the NCAA baseball regional there. As part of the drive from New Orleans to Lafayette, TB had been on the team bus when it drove over a 23-mile bridge over the Atchafalaya Basin. When TB mentioned it to Mr. McPhee, he gave the book to TigerBlog - complete with an inscription that read "To the Blazin' Cajun."

Anyway, TB had the book with him when he checked in at 8:30. After a brief orientation for the approximately 100 potential jurors, the woman who was in charge said that she'd be back around 10 with an update on when they'd be needed, though possibly sooner, if something came up.

From that point, TB wouldn't see that woman for awhile. In the meantime, he and his fellow jurors were allowed to spread out a bit - into the hallway, upstairs to a cafe, in the back to a "quiet room." In the main room, a television played daytime TV, including "The Price Is Right." At one point, a man walked in from outside and asked TB if he'd missed anything. TB informed him that the lady on "The Price Is Right" almost won a car but messed it up at the end. He said "no, I meant with the jury stuff."

When TB had gotten his postponement back in April, he called in to the number of his summons and spoke to a woman who very nicely rescheduled him. During the time that TB was in the main room yesterday, that same woman - presumably - was patiently listening to caller after caller tell her why they shouldn't have to be on jury duty without every losing her temper, or mind.

For the most part, TB read his book. When he opened it, the first thing he saw was the inscription. His first thought was that "Cajun" would be a great name for a French bulldog.

The book kept him occupied, though he couldn't find the right spot to read. The hallway was the best air conditioned, but it was also the highest traffic area. There were also people who wanted to chat.

So TB kept reading. He got most of the way through the part about the Mississippi and Atchafalaya, which he'd read before. At no point did the woman come back to call any numbers. None. Eventually, a few hours before the scheduled end time, she let the whole group go, saying no juries would be needed that day in that courthouse.

Maybe it's because for one day, there was no strife?

Anyway, that was TB's second jury duty experience. For this one, he was paid $9, plus $.17 per mile, which brought his total amount to around $16. He elected the option of donating it to one of the three charities offered, in his case, the Wounded Warrior project.

What did he miss at Princeton? There were two new stories on this particular June Monday on goprincetontigers.com.

One was about Dan Mavraides, the former men's basketball player who is competing this week at the FIBA 3-on-3 World Championships in France. Mavraides was a 1,000-point scorer at Princeton before graduating in 2011, after helping Princeton to the Ivy title and NCAA tournament. He reached the 1,000-point mark despite scoring only 11 points as a freshman.

TigerBlog saw last week that 3-on-3 basketball has been added to the 2020 Olympic Games. So have a bunch of other sports. And some existing sports will have some new wrinkles, like swimming and track with co-ed relays.

You can read all about Mavraides HERE.

The other story was about recent men's soccer graduate Steffen Seitz, who earned a bunch of amazing honors with his diploma. You can read about him HERE.

Among those honors, Seitz won a writing prize. From the story:
On graduation day, Seitz was also honored as the recipient of the 2017 Gregory T. Pope '80 Prize for science writing. The Pope Prize is awarded annually to a graduating senior for outstanding articles or papers on scientific topics written for a broad audience. A committee consisting of The Council for Science and Technology members and science writers selected his winning essay "The Wine Menu From Hell: The Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index."

The title alone was award-winning, right?

Anyway, it was a quiet day. At Princeton, and in the jury room.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Remembering A Voice From The Past

TigerBlog hopes you had a good weekend.

He hopes, if you're a dad, you had a great Fathers' Day.

Today, though, he offers nothing in the way of humor. Nothing lighthearted about Princeton Athletics.

Today is about sadness, as he thinks back about Wendy Herm, who passed away last week. Wendy was 40 years old at the time of her death.

You have to be a pretty devoted Princeton fan to remember Wendy the athlete. She was a softball player, a good one, a two-time All-Ivy League selection, including one first-team honor, before she graduated in 1999.

Princeton won the Ivy League title and an NCAA regional in 1996, advancing to the Women's College World Series. If you go to the records section of the softball page, you'll see Wendy Herm's name on a few of the lists. At-bats in a career. Doubles. Extra-base hits.

TigerBlog's connection to Wendy Herm came through the fact that she worked for him, and his current Office of Athletic Communications colleague Craig Sachson, back when she was a student, along with her softball teammate Katie Bay.

There have been three people who have been the primary public address announcer for Princeton football since the stadium opened in 1998. TigerBlog is the current one. Before him, it was John McAdams, who might have been the only full-time PA announcer of all time. You remember him more as the long-time, legendary voice of the Palestra and Big Five basketball.

Before John, it was Wendy Herm.

As he writes that, TigerBlog realizes that both of his predecessors passed away, much too young. John was 64 when he died, back in 2005.

As TB said, Wendy was just 40.

She spent the last five years of her life battling a brain tumor, fighting it hard to the end. A few days before her passing, the softball team tweeted a message to her from Reunions:

It was touching. It was a sign of the love her teammates had for her and the enduring bond that is formed here among athletes and teams.

TigerBlog can't remember when he first heard Wendy Herm do the PA at a sporting event. When he did, he was impressed enough to offer her the women's basketball job, even when she was an undergrad. That was followed by men's basketball and football.

Even now, nearly 20 years later, there aren't a lot of women who do the public address for college football and men's basketball. Back then, Wendy was even more a rarity.

She was the PA announcer for the 1997 Princeton-Yale game held in Giants Stadium. At the time, she was the first woman to do PA at that stadium - which no longer exists - for a football game. She also was the PA announcer on opening day at Princeton Stadium in 1998, when the stadium was completely sold out.

Wendy's presence behind the mic brought in a lot of media coverage. She handled it very well. You can believe TigerBlog when he says it's not easy to pretend there isn't a camera crew in your face while you're announcing.

It also brought in some condescending letters and emails from some alums, who questioned why we'd have a "girl" do the PA for us.

TigerBlog wouldn't have put her in that situation if he hadn't had total faith in her. And she never let him - or anyone listening - down.

TB would have loved to have her back as the permanent PA announcer, but she went her own way after graduation. Through the years, TigerBlog lost touch with her, and it's possible that he saw her or heard from her maybe three times in the last 15 years.

Still, he always thought highly of her. He always respected how she handled the challenge of being a woman - an undergraduate woman at that - in a high profile role here. He always liked her.

He was saddened when he heard the news that she had gotten sick. He was sadder still when he heard that she had passed away last week.

There are memorials for her this week, including one that sounds more like a party than a funeral.

Still, there's no way to sugarcoat it all. She was bright. She was funny. She was engaging. She was a lot of good things.

And now she's gone. At just the age of 40.

TigerBlog sends his sympathies to her family and friends. He thanks the softball team for its support for her.

One of TB's memories of watching Wendy as a player would be the chant that the team would do when she was at bat. Chanting was a big thing in softball, way more so than today.

When Wendy was up, this is what her teammates cheer:

"Get a hit for me. Get a hit for me. C'mon Hermie, c'mon Hermie, get a hit for me."

TB has no idea why he remembers that. He just does.

It was from a time when Wendy was a young athlete, strong, independent, confident, funny, mature.

It's the Wendy Herm TB will always remember.

In the meantime, he'll just be sad that she's gone. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

Cam Porter, Cara Morey And Some Other Stuff

TigerBlog stumbled on a "Gilmore Girls" quiz the other day.

Not surprisingly, he did very, very well. The only questions he got wrong were about the new roles that Jess and Paris play on other shows that TB hasn't watched,and what song was playing in the background when Dean and Rory first broke up.

TigerBlog got a few of them too right.

For instance, TigerBlog's answer to "where did Rory first meet Logan" was "by the coffee cart outside her dorm when she was with Marty and then in the archway by her dorm when Logan and his friends were looking for a different young woman they thought lived in Rory's room."

The correct answer was "college."

There were also quizzes about some other shows. Like "The Sopranos." TigerBlog did well there too, including knowing that Christopher's father was "Dicky Moltisanti."P

Why write about this today? Why not? History has shown TB that today and the next few Fridays will be the least read TigerBlogs of the year.

What? You have something better to do on your summer Fridays?

In fact, TB could probably just insert the lyrics from "Thunder Road" or something right here, and almost nobody would notice.

He always wonders that about senior theses. Are professors really reading every word? Maybe someone should try the "Thunder Road" trick and see what comes of it. What's the worst thing that could happen?

Anyway, for those of you who are reading this, and before you embark on your weekend, TB has a few Friday thoughts:

* Calendar update

The first athletic event of the 2017-18 academic year is 10 weeks from today. Wow. 2017-18?

TigerBlog thought it would be more than that. Nope. It's 10 weeks from today to Aug. 25, when the women's soccer team hosts Monmouth.

TigerBlog's prediction is that he'll go the game, and the first person he'll see when he gets there is former Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters. He's not sure why he thinks that.

In some ways, those 10 weeks don't seem like a very long time. The summer always seems to fly by.

On the other hand, things around here definitely slow down a bit. Obviously there are no intercollegiate athletic events in the summer.

This will be the ninth summer since TigerBlog has been writing every day here. When he first got to the summer of 2009, he wasn't sure exactly how he was going to come up with something five days a week. As he's said before, he figured he'd slow down to three days a week, or rerun some of the earlier ones from the year, or, when in doubt, just tell funny Pete Carril stories.

You know. Like this one:

TigerBlog was walking with Carril to a pre-tournament luncheon for a tournament at Fresno State. Carril had his cigar in his hand, and the tournament rep told him he couldn't smoke inside the building. What did Pete do? He put the cigar down on the underside of the stair railing outside the building, went to the luncheon, came back outside and got his cigar back.

Yeah, TB could make a summer out of writing things like that.

* Cam-puters
Cameron Porter is one of the best men's soccer players Princeton has seen. He led Division I in goals scored, points per game and goals per game in 2014, when he was the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Year.

He began his Major League Soccer career with the Montreal Impact, and he scored a huge goal for the team in stoppage time in the CONCACAF Champions League. Then, two weeks later, he had a devastating knee injury.

Now he's back in MLS, with Sporting Kansas City. There's more to him than just that, though.

Porter was recently featured in a story on the world's most tech-savvy athletes. The list includes him - and some others you might have heard of, like LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Joe Montana and Paul Rabil (he's a lacrosse player).

You can read the story HERE.

Or read another story about Porter HERE. This one is about the same basic subject, though it's from mlssoccer.com.

This is impressive stuff. Porter is representing exactly what Princeton Athletics wants to be - a place where students can pursue their education and athletic pursuits without having to compromise either for the other. Princeton pushes its athletes to do just that, and maybe the best part about Princeton Athletics is that it won't make excuses for either.

The result is that people like Cam Porter thrive here and then go to do amazing things when they leave. Read the stories. You'll know exactly what TB means.

* In other Princeton news ...

Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Oh, Thunder Road, oh, Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road
Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road
Well, I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
And my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride ain't free
And I know you're lonely for words that I ain't spoken
But tonight we'll be free, all the promises will be broken

* Speaking of soccer

Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium will be the home of eight soccer games in September - plus the one in August. That's a busy stretch.

The men are home three times that month, while the women play five home games in September, all in a 16-day stretch.

* Head coach Cara Morey

When Jeff Kampersal left to become the head women's hockey coach at Penn State, it seemed likely that Cara Morey would take over the head coaching job here at Princeton. That became formal with the announcement last week.

Morey spent six years on Kampersal's staff, most recently as the associate head coach. She has helped lead Princeton through two very strong seasons the last two years, with an NCAA tournament at-large bid and Ivy title in 2016 and a trip to the ECAC semifinals and 20 wins this past season.

You can read the entire story about Cara Morey right HERE.

* Happy Fathers' Day

If you're still reading, TigerBlog wants to wish a Happy Fathers' Day to all of the Princeton dads out there. 

Fatherhood is certainly fascinating. TigerBlog can attest to that first hand. It jumps at you from Day 1, forcing you to learn things about yourself that you never imagined and pushing you in ways that you would never be able to see coming.
TB looks at people who are about to become fathers for the first time and chuckles. They have no idea what they're in for, after all.
TigerBlog has been at this father thing for awhile now, and even now he's still not sure what to expect next, or what challenge is coming down the road. Still, he thinks he speaks for pretty much all fathers when he says he wouldn't trade any of it.
As he said, Happy Fathers' Day to all of you dads. TB assumes you'll be waited on all day by your kids, right? 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Thank You And Farewell To Anne And G



TigerBlog had a meeting with Patrick McCarthy yesterday morning.

You remember Patrick. He's the oldest child of Tom McCarthy - Boog, as he's known - the former Princeton football and men's basketball play-by-play man who now does the Philadelphia Phillies, the NCAA basketball tournament and the NFL, among other things.

Patrick did some radio for Princeton last year, on football and men's basketball broadcasts. He's spending his summer working with the Reading Fightin' Phils, and the conversation yesterday was about possibly having Patrick back to do more announcing.

That part lasted about five minutes. The rest of the time was just hanging out, with Patrick and with Cody Chrusciel, one of the Office of Athletic Communications video stars.

At one point, TigerBlog wanted to show Patrick two pictures he has on his computer, both of a very young TigerBlog Jr. with Patrick's dad. He found one them easily - it was TBJ and Boog at the scorer's table at Jadwin Gym, both wearing headsets, as Boog did what was then "The Tom McCarthy Show" on ESPN radio. It's a classic.

The other one was at a Lafayette football game. Again, they're both wearing headsets, and Boog is towering over him, in the broadcast booth in Easton.

That one TB couldn't find. He found others. Lots of others. He seems to have a lot of pictures that were taken on a beach, interesting enough. Some really great ones too.

One of those is of TBJ and Miss TigerBlog, maybe a year or two later, standing on the beach. They're both holding lacrosse sticks, one a plastic one and the other an old wooden one.

They've come a long way since then in the sport, and they've had a lot of support from a lot of people along the way.

Two of the ones who've done more than they probably realize are now leaving Princeton's Department of Athletics.

Anne Murray came here more than a decade ago from Pittsburgh to play on the women's lacrosse team. She has stayed after graduation as an assistant coach, and last week she announced that she was leaving to pursue the next phase of her career.

TigerBlog can't remember one time since he met Anne where he'd say she was in a bad mood. She's always upbeat, always smiling, always bringing energy to the situation. Even when she wasn't happy about something, she would give one of those "are you serious?" type of smiles.

Somewhere along the line, Anne coached MTB at one of Princeton's summer camps. She stayed invested in her progress along the way, even stringing sticks for her. She was always asking how she was doing.

For a kid like MTB, having someone like Anne was invaluable in her development as a player. Just hearing that Anne had asked about her made her play harder.

As for TigerBlog Jr., well, he owes a lot to Gary Mosley. And he's not the only one.

Mosley - "G," as countless Princeton athletes and coaches have known him during his time as assistant equipment manager - is also leaving Princeton. He's entitled. After all, it's only been 41 years with the athletic department for him.

As far as TBJ is concerned, Mosley outfitted him from Day 1 of his lacrosse career and helped him with anything and everything, all the way through to, well, the present. TigerBlog has no idea the number of times G cut one of TBJ's sticks to the right length or attached and reattached his throat protector to his helmets.

And, just like Anne, he was always asking how TBJ was doing.

As far as Princeton's athletes are concerned? Well, TigerBlog will say it this way: Gary Mosley has been a no-nonsense guy around some young people who desperately needed that kind of influence.

G worked with a lot of different teams at Princeton, including men's soccer and track and field. TigerBlog can tell you he was a bedrock of the men's lacrosse program.

In fact, Bill Tierney had this to say about him: "G was a constant for me, just knowing how much the players and I could count on him. It was just a given that if I needed anything at all, he would be there."

Gary Mosley was more than just the equipment manager for the men's lacrosse team. He was part of their accountability to the program and the school. During his decades here, he was not the kind of person you wanted to let down. You did not want to have him have to tell you why and how you let him down.

He was famous for his brief, but, uh, to the point, halftime addresses to the team, before the coaches came into the locker room. He was a presence on the sideline during games.

Tierney was right when he said he could count of him. That's just what his nature has been all these years.

There was a going-away event for Gary the other day. He was asked to say a few words, and he did at the end. They were, as TigerBlog could have guessed, very brief.

All he basically said was that he tried to do a good job and he tried to help the athletes with whom he worked. It was all about them, he said.

It's how he operated for all those years. Need him? He's there. Need someone to have your back? He's your man. Need someone to push you away from bad habits? You want him for that too.

When TigerBlog found out that G was retiring, he had sent him a short note of congrats and, of course, to thank him for everything he'd done for TBJ. This was the response he got:
If I had any hand in helping your son out it was a pleasure. It's great to see how he developed in this game we both love. Thanks again.

That was perfect. Not too many words. Right to the point. No nonsense. Encouragement. Honesty.And a touch of emotion.

That's Gary Mosley in a nutshell.

He'll be missed. So will Anne Murray.

They gave a lot to this department. TigerBlog wishes them the best.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Best Ever

So the academic year has ended, and the Class of 2017 has scattered.

Princeton's campus is quiet, or at least quieter, for the summer.

TigerBlog is frequently asked whether he has to work in the summer. The answer is yes. There is always something to do.

In fact, come August, when the events start up again - August 25 is the first athletic event, a women's soccer game at home against Monmouth - TigerBlog will again be amazed by how another summer has flown by and how many things there were to get done along the way.

And that he came up with something to write about every day. 

Of course, it's a tad too early to be looking ahead to the coming fall season.

When TigerBlog thinks back to the 2016-17 athletic year, he's going to think of the 11 Ivy League championship teams. He'll think of the field hockey run to the Final Four. He'll think of the different teams that were impacted by freshmen who made an immediate impact on Princeton Athletics  - especially Michael Sowers with men's lacrosse (not to mention the extraordinary seasons of seniors Gavin McBride and Zach Currier) and Matthew Kolodzik with wrestling.

He'll think about the extraordinary accomplishment of the men's basketball team, which was asked to do something no other team in Ivy League history ever had to do - go 16-0 to get to the NCAA tournament.

And the football team, the Ivy League champ with the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense. And the ridiculous year of John Lovett, who put up a season (like Currier) that will never be matched. Remember his numbers: 20 rushing touchdowns, 10 passing touchdowns, 26 receptions. Who will ever do that again?

TB will remember the men's hockey team's ECAC opening round series against Colgate, which Princeton won two games to one. He'll especially remember Game 2 of that series, when Princeton, after losing Game 1, avoided elimination by tying it with one second left and then winning it in OT.

It's one of the best games TB has ever seen. And then Game 3, which was another epic day from this past year, when Princeton gave up the first goal and then came back to win the game and series 2-1.

He'll also keep in mind the women's lacrosse team, especially its NCAA win over Cornell, its third straight over the Big Red, this time accomplishing it as torrential rain fell in a surreal way as the winning goal was scored. 

There were other big moments from the past year as well. There always are. It's one of the best parts of being at Princeton.

More than anything else, though, TigerBlog will remember 2016-17 as the year of the most loaded von Kienbusch Award ever.

As you know, Princeton had 10 finalists for the top female senior athlete. All 10 are among the most elite - or are the most elite - athletes ever to play their sport at Princeton.

It began to become obvious to TB and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues a few years ago that this year was going to be unique. Each year, the OAC group talks about future Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch fields (who says athletic communications people aren't super cool?), and it was obvious that 2017 had some big potential.

First, there were the original members of the Class of 2017. Then there were three who took off to train for the Olympics who would come back as members of the Class of 2017.

The result was what you saw at the banquet before Reunions. That would be the best von Kienbusch field ever.

TigerBlog has always thought that the three greatest male athletes in Princeton history are Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley. He'd go in this order, by the way: Bradley, Baker, Kazmaier.

As for the women, it's been a bit more uncertain.

He's mentioned Caroline Lind, the two-time Olympic gold medal winning rower. He's mentioned Rachael Becker, from field hockey and lacrosse. Maybe Niveen Rasheed from basketball can be in the conversation. There are certainly others. TigerBlog does not mean to slight anyone.

If you wanted to make a top 25 - hey, maybe that's a summer project? - the Class of 2017 would be well represented.

If you wanted to make a top 1?

Well, TigerBlog would have to go with Ashleigh Johnson.

And yes, maybe she's getting extra credit for her gold medal at the Olympics and the two times she was named the top player in the world at her sport. Or maybe it's just about the eye test.

If you've ever seen Johnson play - at Princeton or in the Olympics or anywhere - you probably could sum her up in one word: "wow."

As in "wow, how can she tread water like that and then explode to get a ball that's rocketing to the top corner of the goal?"

When you're in athletic communications, you don't always want to deal in superlatives. For starters, you don't want to overlook anyone. As TB says, he never means to slight anyone.

In Johnson's case, though, it's a little different. She is so extraordinary that, as TB wrote, her win in this incredible von Kienbusch field surprised no one.

So it's TB's opinion, and not an official Princeton position, that she is the greatest female athlete Princeton has ever seen.

And when you see the greatest, it's okay to point it out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Chewing The Cud

As TigerBlog sat roasting in the sun while watching lacrosse this past weekend - an annual rite of summer that he'll get back to in a second - it dawned on him that his two kids rarely play on what would be considered a "nice" day.

It's either freezing or boiling. This weekend? Boiling.

This is Summer No. 10 for TigerBlog of club lacrosse. It's really hard to explain to someone whose kids do not play summer lacrosse, or some other sport, what exactly it's like to devote weekend after weekend, tournament after tournament, summer after summer to a club team like this.

The schedule this past weekend for Miss TigerBlog, for instance, was three games Saturday - at 3, 5 and 7 - and then one more at 1:30 Sunday. That means play a game, sit an hour, play again, sit again, play again.

And this schedule was kind. This coming weekend's tournament has a game at 6 p.m. Friday, at 3 and 7 Saturday and at 8 a.m. Sunday. That's a lot of waiting around.

This, of course, is going on while much of the world is doing non-athletic-related things, like, oh, going to the beach.

And is it free?

TigerBlog's friend Todd has two sons, Matthew and William. Matthew played with TigerBlog Jr. starting in fourth grade and ultimately every summer from the end of sixth grade through the end of 11th. William is two years younger than MTB, so he has a few years left.

TB and Todd were talking the other day about how much money they've invested into this through the years. The exact amount? A lot.

On the other hand, the positives of all of this have so far outweighed the negatives that TB's only complaint is that he's going to miss it when it's over. TBJ's summer team, made up of kids spread out across the Philadelphia area, became very close, as did the parents. MTB's team has pushed her to become a much better player and a much more assertive person (and who doesn't want their nearly 17-year-old daughter to be even more assertive?).

Among TigerBlog's best memories ever are the times that he has spent with his kids at their summer lacrosse tournaments. And not just at the games. Driving. In hotels. Talking lacrosse, yes, but also about anything and everything. Like life. Music. TV. The difference between now and when TB was a kid. TigerBlog's rules for staying out of trouble if you're a teenager.

Even cows.

MTB's tournament this weekend was out in Pennsylvania farm country. As the two got closer to the field, they had this conversation:

TB: That's a lot of cows.
MTB: What are they doing?
TB: Chewing their cud, it apepars.
MTB: What's cud?
TB: No idea.

As it turns out, cud is food that hasn't been fully digested and therefore is dispelled by the digestive system of the cow in order to be chewed again. In other words, it's vomit.

So, yeah. Yuck. But hey, even that turned out to be funny.

That was Saturday. The cows were still there Sunday, seemingly unbothered by the heat and their diet.

Speaking of Sunday, there was a story on nj.com that was right in TigerBlog's wheelhouse. Actually, it was in Harvey Yavener's wheelhouse, though Yav hasn't written anything in awhile.

As an aside, TigerBlog's reaction is still to call stories that appear on nj.com as having been in the "Ledger," as in the Star-Ledger, which used to be on the biggest newspapers in the country.

Anyway the project began last week, when Ryan Dunleavy from nj.com emailed TigerBlog asking him to recommend teams that could be considered in his list of the top Division I teams in New Jersey from the 2016-17 academic year.

The first thing TB thought of was "Yav would have done something like this in a heartbeat." If you don't know who Yav is, he was a sportswriter who probably wrote more about Princeton than anyone other sportswriter ever did. It was from Yav that TigerBlog learned an important lesson - judge all sports, and the athletes who compete in them, equally based on the parameters of each sport, rather than the sport's overall popularity.

It's what led Yav to cover anything and everything, and especially women's sports. Really, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this was wildly unconventional thinking, especially for a veteran male sportswriter.

The piece in nj.com didn't rank the teams in order. It just listed them by school. You can see it HERE.

There are 31 teams who were included in the story, representing New Jersey's eight Division I colleges. Here's the ranking by number of teams included:

Princeton - 13 (really, 14, since men's indoor and outdoor track and field were counted as one)
Monmouth - 5
Rider - 4
Rutgers - 3
Seton Hall/St. Peter's - 2
FDU/NJIT - 1

If you don't feel like doing the math, that's 42 percent for Princeton.

It got TB to thinking about which Princeton team he would have ranked as the No. 1 for the year. Honestly, it's hard to pick.

Women's lacrosse? Ivy tri-champ but then powered to the Ivy tournament title and then to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Men's basketball? The first 16-0 team in league history.

Field hockey? Made it to the Final Four, though didn't win the league.

Women's fencing? No. 2 nationally, plus an individual champ.

Football? Led the Ivy League in offense and defense while winning the championship.

Others? A case can be made.

In other words, it was another really good year for Princeton Athletics.

So chew on that for awhile. It's better than cud, right?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Goodbye, Jeff

TigerBlog walked down the Jadwin stairs Friday, down to the basement he and his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues call home.

Oh, and Brian Fitzwater, the IT guy for the athletic department. When the OAC relocated downstairs in late 2015, the was space for eight people, and there are seven OACers.

Fitz, as he is known, was thrown into the package. If you ever wanted to share your office space with one random person, the IT guy is a perfect choice.

The printer isn't working? "Hey, Fitz." Got some weird error message on your computer? "Hey, Fitz." Something goofy with your phone? "Hey, Fitz."

It's like sharing office space with the help desk.

Then there's Fitz himself. He's about as laid back as it gets, which is great considering what he has to deal with all the time. TigerBlog isn't the greatest technology mind of all time, but he does like to at least try to solve the problem (usually by turning something off and back on) before he reaches out for help.

Still, there are times he has to reach out for help. Each time, Fitz has fixed it in about 10 seconds. That's his job. People come to him with problems they can't identify or correct, and they seem incredibly daunting to them. On top of that, people are so reliant on their computers, phones, tablets and everything else that they come to Fitz with a total sense of desperation.

And he calmly fixes what ever the problem is and then sends them on their way. Never once, in all that time, has TB ever heard him yell "it's so simple. Fix it yourself."

Plus, he's an IT guy. By nature that makes him a little different. For instance, he had a really bad nose bleed last week. What did he do? He took a picture of it. Then he said to TB "hey, want to see something cool?"

Anyway, as TB came around the corner after getting to the bottom of the stairs Friday, he heard a familiar voice outside the locked office space.

It was Jeff Kampersal, who was on the phone with Fitz.

Kampersal, as you probably know, is the new women's hockey coach at Penn State. This comes, extraordinarily enough, after 21 years as the head coach at Princeton.

During his time at Princeton, Kampersal had a record of 327-261-58. Most recently, he led Princeton to the 2016 Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament and then the ECAC semifinals this year.

TigerBlog and Kampersal go back to before Kampersal coached the women's team here. TB first met him back in 1992, when Kampersal was a senior for the Princeton men's team.

Kurt Kehl and Mark Panus, TigerBlog's predecessors in the OAC, asked him if he'd write two feature stories about a men's hockey players. One was Andre Faust, who would go on to become, TB believes, the first Princeton player ever to score an NHL goal.

The other was Kampersal.

When TigerBlog first started out in the newspaper business, he was paid $15 per story, plus 22 cents per mile. TigerBlog kept his first check, which was for $15, rather than cashing it, figuring it would have sentimental value down the road. It might have - if he had any idea where he put it.

Instead of keeping the check, he should have bought stock in a new company called "Apple." If he had invested $15 then, it would have returned $337,824,443 by now. Or something like that.

Anyway, you know what Kehl and Panus paid him for those stories? Lunch.

TigerBlog knew little to nothing about hockey and Princeton hockey back then. He can't imagine what he wrote in those two features. They probably weren't very good. Not even worth $15.

But he always remembered the first impression Kampersal made on him from that small time they spent together back then. He could tell Kampersal was a good guy.

Nothing that's happened in the last 21 years has changed that impression for TigerBlog. Year after year, Kampersal represented Princeton with class and dignity, with on-ice success and players who routinely won awards for academic success and service.

Like all of the best coaches at Princeton, Kampersal made himself a big part of the departmental culture.

There was a party last week for Kampersal before he left Princeton. It was easy to tell he was uncomfortable being rewarded and celebrated for his time here. He's a humble guy.

And an easy guy to root for. Oh, and speaking of "guy," the storyline for his hiring is pretty simple.

This is from a story in the Daily Collegian, the Penn State student paper:
Penn State won big the last time it hired a former Princeton hockey coach.
The Nittany Lions dipped into the Tigers’ pipeline again with the hiring of Jeff Kampersal, hoping to recreate the success that Guy Gadowsky brought from Princeton.

Kampersal will be heading to the same school that took another Princeton hockey coach, Guy Gadowsky, who took the Princeton men to two NCAA tournaments and then took Penn State there this year. Kampersal and Gadowsky are close, which makes for a good reunion.

Penn State has put a lot of money into its hockey programs, and its hockey arena. It's a new challenge for Kampersal, one that comes after 21 years of loyalty and hard work here at his alma mater.

TigerBlog wishes him the best.

When he said goodbye to him the other day, it dawned on him that he was talking to the same good guy he'd met all those years ago.

Best of luck, Jeff Kampersal.

You definitely made Hobey proud during your time here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

All-America Again

Update from yesterday - TigerBlog's friend Mark reports that he took a drop after hitting the ball into the street and then chipped in from off the green on the next shot to save par.

TB asked him if video exists to prove it. None does, it seems, though TB will take his word for it.

Here's another update from yesterday - TigerBlog found himself near Nassau Hall shortly before noon. It was decidedly less crowded than it had been when he'd been there 48 hours earlier.

TB is sure he could ask someone in the communications office how many people came to this campus in the last week, between Reunions, Class Day and Commencement. Whatever the number is, it's a lot.

The place was flooded with people. There were crowds everywhere.

Sometimes, TigerBlog starts writing something and the words just come flying out. He goes from the first paragraph to the last paragraph without a stop, the thoughts just blending together effortlessly.

Or something like that. In all seriousness, TigerBlog finds it much easier to write that way, quickly, so that his thoughts do continue, as opposed to stopping, going back, trying to figure out where he left off, what he's already said. That's especially true about feature stories, way more so than the daily effort here.

This entry, though, is different.

TigerBlog wrote the update from his friend Mark around 11 yesterday morning, before he headed up near Nassau Hall, which made him wonder about the size of the crowds who had just been there.

Then he had a nice leisurely lunch. Then he wrote the part about wondering how many people were on campus in the last week, so he actually emailed Dan Day in communications.

Then he got into the heavy lifting of his day while waiting for Dan to get back to him. Actually it didn't take Dan that long to inform TB that that there were 26,000 people at Reunions and 10,000 people at Commencement (8,000 of whom took the free panchos that were left out). Throw in some extras here and there, and that's about 40,000 people.

Ah, but TB wasn't sure that was public information, so he emailed Dan back to ask him if it was okay to use. And so he got back to doing other work while he waited, though he did consider what 26,000 or 10,000 or 40,000 people do to the campus.

As he thinks about it and has said before, the only other events that can bring close to that many people here are big football games.

The campus was certainly alive for the last week. Contrast that with when TB was up there yesterday, and it was quiet, almost eerily so. The only sign that anything big had happened there was the last remnants of the fences from Reunions, which were being taken down.

And so TB got to this point, a little past the halfway mark. It was late afternoon - but he had to stop again.

For one, Dan hadn't gotten back to him about using the information, which he ultimately did, which you could have surmised by the fact that TigerBlog already included it. And he wanted to get dinner, which turned out to be dinner for three - TigerBlog, Miss TigerBlog and Miss TigerBlog's hard-to-dislike-even-if-he-constantly-wants-attention cat Jingles.

Speaking of Jingles, MTB started at Instagram feed for him, and he has more than 150 followers already. And he's a cat.

Mostly, TigerBlog had to wait for the results for the NCAA track and field championships, Day 2.  This would be the final event of the academic year, with the final two athletes of the 1,000 or so who represent Princeton set to compete - Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer throw and Allison Harris in the pole vault.

For Harris, it would be an honorable mention All-America performance to cap her career, after being an All-America indoors as well.

As for Ratcliffe, she would finish sixth, making her a first-team All-America for the third time in her career. She becomes the first Princeton women's track and field athlete to be a three-time first-team All-America in the same event.

For those keeping score, Ratcliffe finishes her career with an 11th place finish, an NCAA championship, an NCAA runner-up finish and now a sixth-place finish. She also demolished the Ivy League record, and in fact did so with every single throw of her entire career.

TigerBlog remembers when Ratcliffe first arrived at Princeton from New Zealand. It was five years ago, since she'd take one year off to train for the Olympics.

Then-women's track and field coach Peter Farrell knew what a unique talent Ratcliffe was before she came here, and he had raved about her potential from Day 1. When Ratcliffe came to Princeton - literally, after the long flight from home - there was nobody in the women's track and field office. In fact there was nobody in Jadwin Gym other than TigerBlog and a handful of others, and Ratcliffe's first stop was a chair in TB's old office on the balcony.

She seemed tired then.

She leaves Princeton as one its greatest student-athletes ever. She was a nearly perfect student in economics, and it'll be a long time before someone dominates an event in the Ivy League the way Ratcliffe dominated the hammer.

She's also, in TB's limited time with her, been an incredibly nice, polite person, but also one with a quick wit and an easy laugh. What more could Princeton have asked for from one of its athletes.

TigerBlog has been lucky to be around a lot of really impressive athletes in his time at Princeton. There haven't been many who compare to Julia Ratcliffe. Hopefully she reaches the Olympics in 2020. Regardless, whatever she does, you can bet that she'll do it very well.

And with that, the 2016-17 athletic year at Princeton is over.

And so is TigerBlog for today - nearly 12 hours after he started writing this. That, friends, is definitely a record.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Hammer Time

There's a golf course near TigerBlog's house.

It looks nice. TigerBlog wouldn't know. He's never played it. The only time he's ever been there was for a banquet for Miss TigerBlog's high school field hockey team.

TB isn't a golfer. He's played before, though not in a long time.

He knows a lot of people who do play. He even knows some who play at that local course.

Like his friend Mark, for instance. Mark is a former Cornell hockey player who has three children, including one (Michael) who grew up playing lacrosse with TigerBlog Jr. and who now plays at St. Joe's and another (Maddie) who grew up playing lacrosse with MTB and will be playing this coming year at Lehigh.

Mark lives across the street and beyond the train tracks from where the golf course is. He's been known to chip balls from his front lawn, over his house and the railroad trestle and onto the green on the other side.

You'd think someone who could do that would have a better sense of where the golf course ended and the road next to it started. And yet there was Mark, standing in the middle of the road on the other side of the course from his house, holding what looked like an eight-iron and looking for his ball, which TigerBlog could see was nestled against the curb, as he happened to be driving by at that exact moment.

How did he get the ball to stop against the curb on the near side of the road, as opposed to the far side? TB drove away before Mark retrieved his ball and got back on the course, so he didn't see the next shot, but he did see the old ladies playing behind him who were pissed that he was making them wait.

Shortly after that, TigerBlog found himself on the towpath, a place he goes a lot to walk or ride his bike. Not the towpath in Princeton. The one in Bucks County, across the river in Pennsylvania. It's a very calming, scenic, in many ways beautiful place, with views of the Delaware River as you go further up and down and the colors of the canal and its surroundings on the path itself.

He's not the only one who goes there to exercise. There are bikers, runners, walkers, dog-walkers, people pushing strollers, teenagers, senior citizens, everybody and anybody. And geese.

The range of speed and athleticism varies widely among those you'll see coming and going, but the other day TigerBlog realized that the two guys who were running towards him were a little different than anyone he usually sees out there.

As they got closer, he figured out why. One of them was Robby Andrews, the volunteer assistant men's cross country coach at Princeton and a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Robby ran the 1,500 in Rio.

Of course, TB didn't realize it was Andrews until he was passed him, and by then what was he supposed to do? Turn around and catch up to him? Yeah right.

Now that Reunions and Commencement have come and gone, it's easy to forget that the 2016-17 athletic year at Princeton isn't over. There are still the Princeton athletes who are competing in the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.

Princeton's participation began yesterday, when William Paulson ran his heat in the 1,500 and August Kiles competed in the pole vault.

It continues today with the two women who have qualified.

Allison Harris will also pole vault, in an event that begins at 8 Eastern. You can watch it HERE.

Harris, the Princeton and Ivy League record holder, finished ninth at the indoor NCAA championships to earn second-team All-America honors. She's also a three-time Heps champ, twice indoors and once outdoors.

Harris is the first Princeton women's pole vaulter to qualify for the outdoor championships in 13 years.

Today will also be the final day as a Princeton Tiger for the legendary Julia Ratcliffe. Barring something wildly unforeseen, Ratcliffe will finish her career having eclipsed the previous Ivy League women's hammer throw record on every single throw of her career. If she takes all her throws today, that would be 140 throws in her career.

The women's hammer starts at 5 Eastern. You can watch it HERE.

Ratcliffe is a four-time hammer throw NCAA qualifier. She won the championship as a sophomore in 2014, and she was the 2015 runner-up before taking last year off to train for the Olympics.

Ratcliffe has the second-best throw so far of the athletes in the field. The best belongs to Maggie Ewen, from Arizona State.

The path to qualifying for the NCAA championships goes through the two regionals. Ratcliffe won the East with a throw of 70.75; Ewen won the West at 70.81. That's not a huge gap. In fact, it's 0.05 meters, or just under two inches.

It would be a storybook ending for Ratcliffe to win again.

Regardless, her place in Princeton Athletic history is already secure.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Graduates


For reasons that he couldn't possibly explain to you, TigerBlog refused to go to sleep the other night until the Florida-Oklahoma softball game ended.

This was Monday night, and it was Game 1 of the Women's College World Series. If you didn't see what happened, the game went 17 innings before Oklahoma won 7-5, with a three-run home run in the top of the 17th before Florida could only get one back in the bottom of the 17th. Back in the 12th, Oklahoma got two to go up 4-2, but Florida came right back to tie it again.

Oh, and for reasons he also couldn't possibly explain, he was rooting for Florida.

TigerBlog wasn't even watching the game on TV. He was following it on Twitter and through the live stats, and the game ran well after midnight. Still, he refused to fall asleep until he knew who won.

As he watched the live stats refresh, he thought he heard it begin to rain. It was definitely raining when he woke up, and as he listened to it fall, one of his first thoughts was this: How will this affect graduation?

Then he got an email from Dan Day, the University's Vice President for Communications. If you were to build the perfect VP for Communications for a university, you'd build Dan Day. Anyway, the email said that the ceremony would be held outside, as opposed to in Jadwin Gym, which would be the indoor site. TigerBlog is pretty sure that no graduation since he's been around has had to be moved indoors.

As it turned out, the rain held off - mostly - for the 270th Commencement in Princeton history. TigerBlog saw most of it, at least on the big screen behind Nassau Hall.

It was cool but not chilly and damp but not too bad for the ceremony. Even when it rained, it only spit a little, never turning into anything steady.

TigerBlog is a big fan of graduation. He's a big fan of tradition and history and celebration and pomp (and apparently, circumstance), and graduation is all of that rolled together.

His own college graduation was held in a building that no longer exists, the Philadelphia Civic Center. It was a nice day and a nice event, but TigerBlog never felt the institutional connection that permeates everything that's happened on the Princeton campus the last week.

BrotherBlog? He loved graduation so much that he did it three times - undergrad, master's and law school. Maybe he just did it to milk graduation gifts out of people? He did have a great pre-graduation party before his law school commencement at U-Dub, where TigerBlog had Thai food for the first time.

As TigerBlog has said, though, nobody does these milestone events like Princeton does. TigerBlog likes the term he just used - "institutional connection." Everything that's happened in the last few days has been a reinforcement of that connection, and a celebration of it. To someone who has spent more than seven times as many years on this campus than on Penn's, he can tell you that this is something very different and very special.

The speech yesterday by valedictorian Jin Yun Chow was about the "unsung heroes" of Princeton, the people who keep the University running and help the students have a better experience in any number of small ways. TB assumed he was included in that group.

The entire ceremony was formal and structured, and TigerBlog really liked it. The awarding of the honorary degrees even included a major surprise - Kareem Abdul Jabbar received one.

For TigerBlog, the best part of graduation every year, though, is to see the recessional of the graduates themselves, how they go through FitzRandolph Gate for the first time and then wind their way back out of the area in front of Nassau Hall.

TigerBlog watched the ceremony while sitting on a cement bench. As University president Chris Eisgruber gave his final remarks - concluding with an emphatic "Onward" - the area around TB began to swell with family members, professors - and coaches. They were there to say goodbye to their seniors, and congratulate them on becoming alums.

As the grads started to make their way by, TigerBlog saw a lot of familiar faces. They'd worn the uniform specific to their team for four years, but now they were all in identical caps and gowns.

He saw Ashleigh Johnson. Then he saw water polo coach Luis Nicolao, who probably was taking graduation 2017 harder than anyone else, since it meant that the best player he'll ever coach was receiving a diploma.

He saw the women's basketball grads. The field hockey grads. The softball grads. The football grads. Team after team walked by. Men's basketball. That was a lot of points that was holding diplomas.

At one point, TB was standing next to Jim Barlow when the men's soccer grads came by.

There were hugs for the coach, but not the kind of hugs that you'd see at any other time, not after a game, not after a goal, not after coming back to school for an alumni event after being away for 10 years.

No, this was the kind of emotion reserved for this moment, with a proud coach and the players who were thanking him for all he did to get them to this day.

TigerBlog waited to see the 11 members of the men's lacrosse team. Eventually they made their way by, and in the world of athletic communications in 2017, TB wanted to get a picture for Twitter and Instagram.

He watched them as they gathered together. He'd seen them play for four years. He'd traveled with them, to their games and even to Europe. He'd seen the paths they'd gone down as players and teammates, how some played pretty much every game and others hadn't played nearly as much, how some had played for four years with barely a scratch while others had to deal with injuries that kept them off the field for long stretches.

Now they were together, 11 guys, all with diplomas. It's about the journey, of course, but it's also about the finish, getting there with your teammates.

As TB got them to get together for the picture, he thought about all of that - and wondered when the next time these 11 would all be in the same place at the same time again.

They were here now, though. The entire Class of 2017 was.

Together again, one last time, together in the moment, celebrating one more win as Princetonians.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Congrats Chessie, And The Class of 2017

So is this a good record for a coach: 1,042-137?

What if 20 NCAA championships (and nine more runner-up finishes) go along with that record? That's good, right?

That would be the career record for Sharon Pfluger, the head coach of field hockey and women's lacrosse at the College of New Jersey. Pfluger is one of two female coaches featured in the NCAA's Hall of Champions Legends of the Game at its Indianapolis headquarters. The other? Pat Summit.

Pfluger, whose most recent TCNJ team fell in the NCAA Division III women's lacrosse final to Gettysburg 6-5, reminds TigerBlog of Bill Tierney, another Hall-of-Fame coach whose own resume has seven NCAA lacrosse titles on it, six at Princeton and one at Denver.

Pfluger and Tierney both see each season as its own opportunity and challenge, no matter how many previous successes they've had. They don't live on their past accomplishments. Neither has lost any fire through the years. Both let their players play and are the kinds of coaches players love to play for. They are organized and completely in control, but they are not authoritarians. Their on-field intensity contrasts with their soft-spoken way off the field.

Actually, now that he thinks about it, TigerBlog met Tierney and Pfluger within a few months of each other, back in the 1989-90 range. They were winning then, and they haven't stopped since.

When TigerBlog saw Chessie Jackson had gotten the head women's basketball coaching job at TCNJ, his advice to her was to figure out what Sharon has been doing all these years and do that. It's good advice.

Jackson will be leaving Princeton, where she has been on Courtney Banghart's staff the last two years. Interestingly, the picture on the TCNJ website in the story announcing Jackson's hiring shows her at a Princeton game from two years ago, and she is pictured with Meg Griffith, another former assistant to Banghart who also became a head coach, a year ago at Columbia.

Jackson has all the attributes to be a successful head coach. She is smart (a Williams grad), and she is competitive. She knows what it takes to be successful on the Division I and Division III levels.

She learned from Banghart and Milena Flores at Princeton, which is a pretty good internship. She'll also be a really strong addition to the overall athletic department culture.

She will definitely be the kind of coach that players will want to play for. TigerBlog is a big fan of hers, and he wishes her the best in her first head coaching job.

Congratulations are the order of the day. And happy anniversary.

The anniversary wishes go out to, among others, Princeton University itself.

Today marks the 270th time that Princeton has had a Commencement ceremony; does that mean that this was the 269th Reunions? Must have been a fairly short P-Rade back then.

Actually, TigerBlog was wondering when Reunions started, so he checked out the Princeton Companion. Apparently, they started shortly after the Civil War before becoming a more recognizable event - along with the P-Rade - in the 1890s.

Meanwhile, though, it is the 270th Commencement Day today. TigerBlog remembers the celebrations around the University's 250th anniversary, and he'll stop by for the 300th in another 30 years.

When you're here every day, you don't really consider how far back the University actually dates. When you think in terms of 270 Commencements, it leaves you awed at the number of people who have come through here in that time, and what they've done when they've left here.

It's impressive. And it's not something too many other schools can come close to matching.

As for the congratulations, TB sends out his congrats to everyone who is earning a diploma at Princeton today. It's the culmination of four years of really hard work - and presumably a weekend of a lot of fun.

Just as Chessie is heading down a new road after "studying" at Princeton, so too is everyone who is getting a diploma today.

Princeton is not an easy school, obviously. It challenges its students from Day 1 all the way through to today, graduation. It hasn't been too long since the grads in caps and gowns today were finishing their senior thesis, and then experiencing the thrill of handing it in.

There are roughly 200 Princeton athletes who are graduating today too. Actually, they're technically former Princeton athletes.

They've made their way through to the finish line while balancing the demands of being a high-level Division I athlete with the Princeton academic requirements. This adds another dimension to the accomplishment.

All of the values that Princeton Athletics stands for really manifest themselves in the years ahead for the graduates. All of the lessons they learned. All of the things that athletics has taught them. All of the ways they've had to push themselves to achieve their successes, and all of the times they've had to pick themselves up when it didn't go their way. All the times they've had to sacrifice their own individual wants for the good of the team. All of the times they wanted to take the easy way out but then pushed ahead anyway.

These are all going to stay with them forever. A co-curricular education.

All of that is for the future though. Today is about the moment.

It's Graduation Day. Congratulations to the graduates, especially the athletes.

You're entitled to feel pretty good about yourself right now. You've accomplished something very, very special.


Monday, June 5, 2017

A Ride Around Reunions

So TigerBlog figured he'd try to get a jump on Friday's banquet recap entry by writing some of it advance, during the day.

As it turned out, it was a bad idea, since he didn't use a word of it when he finally sat down to write post-banquet. Well, maybe not a terrible idea, since he figured he would use some of it this week.

His premise was where the women's athletic class of 2017 ranked all-time among Princeton's top female athletes. This is part of what he wrote:

If you want to say Caroline Lind is the greatest female athlete in Princeton history, you can definitely make the case. If you want to say it's Rachael Becker, you can make that case too.

Hey, he used it.

By the way, TigerBlog finds himself writing things that he doesn't use more and more these days. Maybe it's because he's more willing to trade off deleting a few hundred words that don't say exactly what he wants to say than he was before. Why is that?

Anyway, the point is that TigerBlog would put Rachael Becker up there with any female athlete who has ever played at Princeton. She won seven Ivy League championships between field hockey and lacrosse, and she remains the only Princeton lacrosse player, male or female, ever to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation's top player.

Becker was a three-time first-team All-America in lacrosse, and she was the cornerstone of Princeton's 2002 and 2003 NCAA championship teams.

She won the Tewaaraton despite playing defense, something that no other men's or women's player has ever done.

TigerBlog thought of the irony of that as he saw Becker play defense Saturday afternoon on Sherrerd Field. Was this a game? No, she was chasing down her four children - and no, none of them had any more success in getting past her than her opponents did back when she was a player.

The occasion was a Reunions reception for men's and women's lacrosse and field hockey. There were familiar faces everywhere in the large crowd, for all three sports.

TigerBlog wrote this Friday (after the banquet, not before):
It breezes by, four years at Princeton. They go from names on a recruit release to the Grad College a few days before graduation in the blink of an eye.

And that's true for the undergrads.

The alums? That's a whole different story.

TigerBlog has heard coaches and athletes talk about Princeton in terms of the four years the athlete are there and then the 40 (and more) years that follow. If those four years to compete move quickly, they only start the clock on a lifetime of being a Princeton alum.

With all due respect to every other college on the planet, including TigerBlog's own alma mater, there can't be another school that engages its alumni the way Princeton does. And there can't be another alumni group that celebrates like Princeton.

If you take the whole Reunions event for granted because you're a Princetonian, then don't. It's something really special, and something really unique about the school.

TigerBlog wanted to stop by the lacrosse/field hockey reception. He didn't want to mess around with the parking, so he brought his bicycle, parked by the empty Grad College, and rode over to Class of 1952 Stadium.

Along the way, he saw all of the pageantry of Reunions, with the crowds, the jackets, the families and little kids, the orange and black everywhere.

For a Penn guy, it's pretty impressive.

TigerBlog didn't have a wristband, so he missed out on most of the festivities, mostly the Duran Duran concert Saturday night. He would have loved to have been there for that.

He did pedal from the lacrosse/field hockey reception to see one of his favorite events, the P-Rade.

The 25th reunion class was the Class of 1992, which was near the front of the line. TigerBlog was there to see the men's lacrosse alums, who marched with the NCAA championship trophy they'd won 25 years earlier.

About the same time that the lacrosse reception was beginning, the Class of 1967 was taking its annual class picture. At the same time, the class awarded an honorary varsity letter to Sam Isaly.

If you've been to a Princeton basketball game at Jadwin in the last few decades, you've probably seen Sam Isaly. He's there in a wheelchair, the result of a broken neck he suffered back when was a high school senior, back in 1962.

Sam went to the Western Reserve Academy prep school in Hudson, Ohio, where he played football and wrestling. He needed a year of recovery from his injury before he could attend Princeton, and he graduated in 1967, going from there to the London School of Economics to a long and highly career in the medical investing field.
And there he was, getting his letter presented to him by Gary Walters, also of the Class of 1967. Gary raves about Sam Isaly, about how he succeeded at Princeton, about his attitude, about how he never once felt sorry for himself.

And now, 50 years later, he was rewarded with the letter he surely would have won all those years ago.

It was just another special Reunions moment.

So was something else, something small, that happened back at the lacrosse event.

With all of the former players TB saw in a short time, one of his favorite moments was when he got to say hi to Trent Magruder, who had been a Daily Princetonian writer before he graduated in 2008. His very-identical twin Evan had been a back-up goalie for the lacrosse team. TigerBlog liked both of them very much when they were undergrads.

TigerBlog doesn't think he's seen either of them since shortly after graduation, on the team's trip to Spain and Ireland. There they were, though.

Evan is a law school grad. Trent? He is a surgical resident at Johns Hopkins. And there, a few feet away, was Justin Tortolani, who graduated as the all-time leading scorer for the men's lacrosse team with 120 goals, a figure that has been bettered just four times since.

Justin, in addition to being a former All-America, is a surgeon in Baltimore as well. TigerBlog introduced Trent to Justin, resident to surgeon. Justin told Trent to stay in touch.

That's how Princeton works, people.

Once you're one of them, you're one of them forever.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Finite Moments



Spencer Weisz laughed and Spencer Weisz got teary, and that's really what the night was about in a nutshell.

The occasion was the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Banquet, the 20th such banquet, held last night at the Grad College. TigerBlog has said before that the average temperature for these banquets has been 70, since it's either 90 or 50. Last night, it really was 70, and it's hard to imagine a more perfect night for a banquet.

Early on in the banquet, Spencer Weisz - the 2017 Ivy League men's basketball Player of the Year - appeared on the video screens. The idea was to find a Princeton senior athlete and have him or her compete against other senior athletes in different sports, and Weisz was the athlete chosen to be the centerpiece of the video.

He was the perfect choice. For starters, he's a really good all-around athlete, and the person in the video needed to be a good all-around athlete.

For another, he has the right personality for it. He is naturally funny, without forcing it, and he comes across well on camera. Actually, he'd make a really good broadcaster.

So there on the screens, with his fellow seniors watching, was Weisz. He fenced with Peter Pak. He dove with Lisa Li. He played golf with Alex Dombrowski. He played volleyball with Brittany Ptak and Cara Mattaliano. He faced-off against Zach Currier. Tried to hit a softball against Claire Klausner. Played soccer with Haley Chow and Tyler Lussi.

Oh, and he threw the hammer with Julia Ratcliffe.

It made for a really good final product, the abbreviated version of which was shown at the banquet and the longer version of which will be available on the webpage shortly. The audience seemed to like it. They certainly laughed enough.

Then, about an hour later, there was Weisz on the stage. He'd just won the Roper Trophy as the outstanding senior male athlete, and now he was speaking.

This time, he was getting emotional. He didn't exactly break down, but he came close. It was from the heart. There can be no way to doubt that.

And it was great.

He talked about coming to Princeton with doubts. He talked about the honor of wearing "Princeton" across his chest. He talked about how his coach, Mitch Henderson, pushed him to get the very best of him. He talked about his teammates and the other coaches and how much they meant to him. He talked about his parents and all of their support, saying he could literally count on one hand the number of games of his that they'd missed.

It was a great speech, especially given that it was being done in an impromptu fashion.

In many ways, he was speaking for every senior there. Yes, he was one of the big award winners, so he got the microphone. But all of the senior athletes there had a similar story to tell.

It breezes by, four years at Princeton. They go from names on a recruit release to the Grad College a few days before graduation in the blink of an eye.

They have their own experiences along the way, but they all came here with uncertainty, they all became part of a team, they all had a coach who pushed them, and now they all sat there balancing the emotions of the moment - the joy of graduating from a place like Princeton, coupled with the finality of knowing that a glorious chapter of their lives had ended.

What had Sam Gravitte called them earlier? Finite moments.

Gravitte, the ultra-talented men's lacrosse player/actor/singer, gave the keynote address for the athletes, and his speech spoke of those competing emotions of the moment. He spoke of looking out at his 40 teammates - brothers, he said - in the audience when he was on stage in the musical "Once" and how much it meant to him.

He also, though, talked about walking out onto the stage with his fellow cast members after the last performance, and talked about walking off Sherrerd Field after his last-ever practice. Those are finite moments, he said.

The connection to Princeton doesn't end this week, of course. As a reminder, there were the two alumni speakers, Frank Sowinksi (men's basketball) and Lori Dickerson Fouche (softball). And University president Chris Eisgruber, who gave a rousing congratulations to the athletes before he introduced Dickerson Fouche.

Weisz was one of six finalists for the Roper Trophy. There were 10 finalists for the von Kienbusch Award for the outstanding senior female athlete.

It was as good a lineup of 10 senior female athletes as Princeton has ever produced. TigerBlog has mentioned this before. This group included Olympians, national champions, All-Americas, leading scorers, Players of the Year, on and on.


The winner, though, was Ashleigh Johnson of the women's water polo team, the one at Princeton and the U.S. one that won a gold medal last summer at the Olympics. The idea that the other nine weren't the winner shows you just how incredible the field was, and the fact that the winner was fairly obvious shows you how incredible Johnson is.

Like Weisz, she spoke about her coach, Luis Nicolao, and how he convinced her that she had the ability to be an Olympian when she didn't believe it. She talked about her teammates and how much they had supported her, despite how hard she pushed them. She talked about her mother and the support she'd gotten from her.

It was another emotional moment, in a night of emotion that was the start of a few days of emotions.

There is something about real emotion. It can't be faked. It can't be hidden. It can't be ignored.

And there it was last night, on display.

Laughter. And a tear or two.

And the knowledge that they'd given their all as Princeton athletes, they'd built relationships that they'll have forever - and that now it was pretty much time to go their separate ways.

Finite moments.

Infinite memories.