Friday, January 6, 2017

Loving Princeton And Penn

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend.

While TigerBlog will be rooting for the Giants, he won't be crushed if they lose to Green Bay Sunday. He doesn't see anyone who can beat New England in the AFC, at least not in Foxboro. In the NFC, he can see basically any of five teams - other than Detroit - who could get to the Super Bowl. He'll go with Atlanta, though.

One team not in the playoffs is the Washington Redskins. TigerBlog was rooting for the Redskins last Sunday, even though they were playing the Giants, because he wanted to see Washington get into the postseason, for multiple reasons, including the fact that MotherBlog was a huge Redskins fan in her time.

In fact, in an effort to possibly taunt her son, MotherBlog repeatedly bought TB Redskins gear. TigerBlog actually wore most of it, including a great hat, one of those winter ones with a pom pom on top and the team logo in front.

Athletic loyalties are fairly strong, so TB has to wonder how many people have ever rooted for the Redskins at one point and the Giants at other times.

Or, on a much bigger scale, Princeton and Penn.

TigerBlog is a Penn alum, as you might recall. He has great fondness for Penn. He was going to apply to a bunch of other schools, but he got a likely letter from Penn early in his senior year, so he simply took the rest of the money FatherBlog gave him for college applications and spent it instead on records.

You know. Records. They went on a turntable and needed a needle with which to play them.

How old do you have to be now to never have owned a record, or for that matter seen a record player?

TigerBlog's first Princeton-Penn men's basketball game was nearly 40 years ago. One time, when interviewing Pete Carril for a pregame spot before a game at the Palestra, he told the Hall of Fame coach that this was where they'd first met, when Carril was coaching and TB was chanting "sit down Pete" with the rest of the Penn fans.

His path from Penn student/fan to Princeton employee/fan had a buffer zone of about 10 years, when he was in the newspaper business. At a Penn-Princeton game around 1990, Chuck Yrigoyen, then of the Ivy League office, asked then-sportswriter TB which team he wanted to see win. TB first said he was, of course, impartial. Then, pressed by Chuck, he admitted he was rooting for Princeton.

Princeton hosts Penn tomorrow night, with tip-off at 7. It's the second game of a doubleheader that begins at 4, when the Princeton women host the Penn women.

Princeton and Penn men combined to win every Ivy League championship from 1963 through 2007, with the exception of just three years - 1968, 1986, 1988. It was a record of prolonged excellence that makes it, to TigerBlog, the No. 1 rivalry in the history of the Ivy League.

The longest stretches in which one or the other of Princeton and Penn won every Ivy title were 1969 (Carril's first NCAA tournament trip) to 1985 and 1989 (Princeton lost to Georgetown that year) through 2007.

The women's rivalry hasn't quite reached that level yet, but either Princeton (five times) or Penn (twice) has won all of the last seven Ivy titles. A year ago, Princeton and Penn became the first two Ivy League teams to both reach the NCAA basketball tournament in the same year, as Princeton earned an unprecedented at-large bid.

This year, Harvard has the best non-league record in Ivy women's basketball at 11-1 and Penn is the preseason favorite. Princeton? The Tigers have played a really challenging schedule, have gotten better on a weekly basis and now are ready to head into league play.

On the men's side, both teams have played very challenging non-league schedules, and they are both one game over .500. Princeton and Penn have played at least twice a year, every year, since they first met, on Valentine's Day 1903.

This year, of course, is different than any other that has preceded it in Ivy League basketball. Why? Because this is the first year that the path to the NCAA tournament goes through a conference tournament at season's end.

The games this weekend begin the regular season, and whichever team (or teams) on top of the league standings at the end of that regular season will earn the Ivy League championship. The NCAA tournament bids, though, will go to the winners of the men's and women's tournaments.

The tournaments will be four-team events, both played at the Palestra. This means that Goal No. 1 for each team is to be in the top four in the league standings.

Princeton's men and women will both be home again next weekend, against Yale and Brown. After that, it'll be four home games and seven road games the rest of the way.

TigerBlog has seen 50 or so Princeton-Penn men's basketball games in his life, and he'll be there again tomorrow, on the radio, this time with the ever-improving Patrick McCarthy.

Of those 50 games, TB has rooted for Princeton way more than Penn, but he has rooted for both.

How many others in Jadwin will be able to say that?


Anonymous said...

The women's team will need to be thoroughly prepared to attack zone defenses. Penn will not play man-to-man until we demonstrate that we can defeat a zone.

Anonymous said...

Chuck's name could stop any spellchecker dead in its trax.

I'm still waiting to use it in a free-range Scrabble game.

Gary H. said...

I've rooted for both, having degrees from both. But when it comes to Penn against Princeton, I have to stick with my undergrad roots. Not sure how TigerBlog sleeps at night going over to the dark side in a Penn-Princeton game - Bakuh, Glazuh, and 'Fro-man would not approve...