Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Walter Riggs' Tigers

TigerBlog fell asleep early in the third quarter of the Alabama-Clemson game Monday night.

He watched the first half, which he found to be fairly dull. At halftime, he watched a little of an episode of "NYPD Blue," a show that he probably should have liked more than he did, and "Saving Private Ryan," which TB considers to be one of the two best movies ever made, along with "Schindler's List."

He wouldn't call either a favorite, because they are both so hard to watch, but that's precisely why they need to be watched, so that the subjects of the two movies will never be forgotten.

As for "NYPD Blue," TB liked it but didn't love it.

As police shows go, he was much more into "Hill Street Blues," "Kojak," "Quincy" (that counts, right?), "Law & Order" and even now "Blue Bloods" than he ever was into "NYPD Blue," which is weird, because Sipowicz was basically the same character (also played by Dennis Franz) as Detective Buntz on "Hill Street," only with a bigger role in "NYPD Blue."

Oh well. There's no explaining why people get into one show and not another.

For instance, TigerBlog tried to get into "The Walking Dead" and couldn't. "Breaking Bad?" Devoured it (get it?). "Mad Men?" "Game of Thrones?" Never happened. "The Crown?" It fit.

Oh, and how did John Lithgow not win for his performance as Winston Churchill? That's absurd.

He's watched the first few minutes of a few random shows on Netflix and gone no further. He watched the first few minutes of a show called "Fauda" and was immediately hooked. He tore through the entire season in no time, and it was great - even with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles (it's the story of an Israeli special ops team and its pursuit of a terrorist who has been presumed dead).

Why Fauda? Why any show over any other show? Who knows. It would probably make a good thesis for a psych major.

As for the football game Monday night, when TB woke up, Clemson was down by three and time was running out. He's pretty sure he saw the last three plays, including the touchdown with one second left that gave Clemson the national championship.

It's hard to root for Alabama. It's like rooting for IBM or Microsoft. It's also hard to root for Clemson too. They're hardly an unheralded underdog.

On the other hand, it became easier to root for Clemson when TigerBlog checked something out. And so thanks, Walter Riggs, for your role in all this.

Riggs was the football coach at what is then the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina in the 1896 season, the first in program history. Before that, he had coached at and attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, which today is called "Auburn University."

Auburn has been the Tigers ever since it first fielded a football team, back in 1892. Riggs graduated from the school that same year. As for "War Eagle," that's Auburn's rallying cry, not nickname. On the Auburn athletics website, it says that "we are Tigers who yell 'War Eagle.' " Simple.

TigerBlog read a long time ago that schools in the South adopted nicknames of major Northern schools, which explains, for instance, why Georgia and Mississippi State became the Bulldogs - after Yale's teams - and why Alabama became the "Crimson Tide," after Harvard.

As for Auburn, it became the Tigers in 1892 after Princeton's Tigers. And when Riggs went to Clemson, he brought the Tigers nickname with him.

According to another reputable website, Wikipedia: "In 1896, football coach Walter Riggs came to Clemson, then Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, from Auburn University. He had always admired the Princeton Tigers, and hence gave Clemson the Tiger mascot."

Hey, it's on Wikipedia. It must be true.

If all of that is true, then the game Monday night was really a relative of Princeton against Harvard. And Princeton won.

And hey, who wouldn't admire the Princeton Tigers. On the other hand, TigerBlog can't figure out what it was that drew Riggs to Princeton. He was born in South Carolina on Jan. 24, 1873 and died two days short of his 51st birthday. He had no connection to the North that TB can find.

By the time Riggs graduated from what is now Auburn, Princeton had played only one team in its history that wasn't a Northern school, and that was Michigan.

The home of the engineering school at Clemson these days is called "Riggs Hall" in his honor. Maybe he sat around and thought "I should invent the internet, and that would make it way easier for me to follow Princeton."

As an aside, the first season that football scores began to have point totals was 1883. The 1882 season at Princeton features scores like "Princeton 5g, 6t - Rutgers 0." In 1883, that score was "Princeton 20, Rutgers 0."

In the first four years of that scoring system, Princeton averaged 43 points per game.

In the four most recent years of Princeton football, the Tigers have averaged 34.1 points per game. That's an extraordinary number.

A championship number, actually.

Yup. The 2016 football season. Championships for Tigers, both Princeton and Clemson.

Somewhere, ol' Walter Riggs is smiling. 

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