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.

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