Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Taken On

What to write about? What to write about?

Some days it's obvious. Other days it's a struggle. TigerBlog liked that one rambling blog he did a few months ago. He'll have to do another one of those one day. Soon, probably.

There are times when TigerBlog is going through his daily life and sees things that would for great blogs. Then, when it comes time to actually write about them, he sometimes forgets.

This happened over the weekend, when he saw, well, he can't remember what he saw.

Other times, there are things that would be great to write about, but they're hard to relate back to Princeton Athletics, which is supposedly the point of all this. He can include those in his book one day.

Every now and then, someone makes a suggestion for something that might be interesting, or even volunteers to write it for TigerBlog.

And then there's yesterday, when TigerBlog experienced a first. It was came in the form of a challenge, worded this way: "Take that on, TB."

The challenger is an all-time TB favorite named Brett Hoover, who once upon a time was the communications director at the Ivy League office. He was a little before his time, since Brett would have been a natural in the social media era. That would really have played to his strengths. TigerBlog can remember many, many conversations with Brett about where athletic communications was going, what the future looked like, what was becoming obsolete.

Brett took over the communications role from Chuck Yrigoyen, another TB favorite, who is now the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Chuck, before going to the Ivy office, had worked here in the Office of Athletic Communications. When TB was still in the newspaper business, it was Chuck who played a pretty strong role in helping with the transformation from "Penn grad" to "Princetonian."

And, as the lunchtime basketball games continue to go along in Jadwin, there still hasn't been anyone who could knock down a mid-range jump shot the way Chuck could when he got on a roll. Or, more impressively, yell "I am the worst basketball player ever" as he let the shot go when he wasn't on a roll.

Ah, those were the days.

TigerBlog hasn't seen Chuck or Brett much in the last few years, but it's always good to hear from them. And yesterday, suddenly there was an email from Brett.

TigerBlog isn't exactly sure what Brett is doing these days, but Brett is definitely into track and field. TB isn't sure how much of the Heps Track website Brett does, but he's pretty sure he's the one who started it.

Anyway, the first sentence of his email was this: "I don't know where anyone would begin with determining the most dominant athlete in Ivy League history."

Then he hit TigerBlog with a stat that 1) is ridiculous and 2) TigerBlog believes, because this isn't something that Brett would get wrong.

His premise is that any discussion of the most dominant athlete in league history has to include Princeton women's hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe. Then he made his case to back it up.

According to Brett Hoover, how many of the top hammer throws in Ivy women's history have come from Julia Ratcliffe. TigerBlog will give you a few seconds to think about it.

Keep in mind, Ratcliffe was the NCAA hammer champion as a sophomore and runner-up as a junior. She then took off last year to train for the Olympic Games, hoping to represent her home country of New Zealand. Now she's back as a senior.

Also, keep in mind that Bill Bradley still, more than 50 years later, has the 11 top scoring games in Princeton basketball history. So that's a little perspective.

Okay, so what's the answer?

How about 112.

Yup. According to Brett, Julia Ratcliffe has the 112 best hammer throws in Ivy women's history. That, friends, is nuts.

Think about that conversation:

"Hi. Only one person ever threw the hammer further than I did in the history of the Ivy League?"
"Yeah. And my best throw ranks 113th all-time in the Ivy League."

Does that make her the most dominant athlete in Ivy history? Brett offered up a few names, like Bradley, Ed Marinaro from Cornell football (and "Hill Street Blues"), Ken Dryden from Cornell hockey and Abby D'Agostino from Dartmouth track and field.

TB supposes it depends on your perspective. You can make a case that Julia Ratcliffe deserves that title. You'd certainly have 112 reasons to do so.

You can also make a case that she's not even the most dominant female athlete in her class at Princeton, if you want to say Ashleigh Johnson is. In fact, the current senior class of women's athletes at Princeton is extraordinary.

No matter what, Julia Ratcliffe is one of the greatest athletes in Ivy history. She still has the rest of this outdoor season, and then beyond that, an international career.

Also no matter what, it was good to hear from Brett. Always is.


Brett Hoover said...

Let me open that what Tiger Blog does is far harder than the readers can imagine. Even if you are a quick, fantastic writer (which TB is), having the discipline to do it every day is a chore. TB is up there with Gehrig and Ripken.

And, thanks, TB for writing about Julia. She has been just amazing and by the time this year ends, she may have the top 140 or 150 throws.

And a quick update about me. I am now the associate director of New Haven Promise, which is a Yale-funded scholarship and support program for the students in the city. We currently have about 600 students in college and we distributed about $2.4 million to them this year. We also have family financial and academic resource programming as well as a paid internship and job pipeline with the university and businesses of New Haven! If anyone in TIger Land wants to jump into supporting college affordability in the Princeton area, I'd be glad to let them know the what, why and how of what we've done!

Be well, TB

Nassau83 said...

It is very hard to compare athletes across generations and sports but there is a strong case to be made that Ashleigh Johnson '17 is the greatest Princeton women's athlete ever - and in the conversation for best male or female athlete. She would also have to be part of the discussion for any list of best Ivy athletes ever.

Julia Ratcliffe is exceptional but despite her talent and success at the US collegiate level, she did not qualify for the Olympics, where many of the top athletes in her discipline are older and professional. Ashleigh made the US Water Polo team and won gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the World Championships the prior year. She was the first African American on the US team, the first non-Californian and the first collegian, if I recall the stats correctly. She has also been named as the greatest water polo player in the world.

From earlier this year, “She’s plays the position of goalie unlike anyone has ever played this position before,” says Johnson’s Team USA coach, Adam Krikorian. Johnson’s also making history: she’ll be the first black American women to compete in water polo at the Olympics.

Both Julia and Ashleigh - and other exceptional current and past Princeton athletes - men and women - have achieved great success in sports that are rarely televised and publicized and should be celebrated. Kudos to Tiger Blog and his colleagues at Princeton and elsewhere for celebrating so many Princeton athletes across the 36 teams and other exceptional Ivy League athletes who have excelled in their sports.