Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bob Surace's Slider

As the dog days of August approach, the best pitchers are often the toughest ones.

It's not easy to take the ball like that and go out there with your best stuff. And as the long season wears on, the wear and tear starts to become as much of an obstacle as opposing batters.

Take, for example, the injury report one on veteran pitcher: lower back strain, not expected to miss his turn.

Actually, that's the condensed version. Here's the actual report:
"With sweat pouring down his face, Coach Surace was grinding out his 175th pitch on a blistering hot day with a stiff wind coming from the east. After throwing his seemingly unhittable slider that his son finally fouled off, he incurred a debilitating injury where only the rare man could refuse the stretcher as he gamely walked off the dirt mound, waiving off the medical staff as he watched the last few outs from a distance. After the game, Surace said he would not miss his turn on Thursday, and might be available in relief tomorrow."

Coach Surace, of course, is Bob Surace, the head football coach here at Princeton. The head coach of the defending Ivy champion Princeton Tigers, that is.

This, though, was a different kind of sporting event. This was father against son, Bob Surace against A.J. Surace, wiffle ball on a beach.

TigerBlog can picture it all. Surace, his Princeton cap pulled down low with the brim over his eyes, giving the running play-by-play as he snaps off slider after slider. Big smile on his face the whole time. Yeah. That's him in a nutshell.
Bob Surace proves that you don't need to fit the stereotype of a football coach to be a great football coach. TigerBlog has said that before, several times, and it gets truer all the time.

Your average football coach is exactly what you see on TV, in games, or in fictional accounts there or in the movies. They are in to control. They obsess. They want, as once was famously said, "a university the football team can be proud of."

Bob Surace is hardly like that. He's driven and competitive. He advocates strongly for his program and his players. He wants to win as much as anyone you'll ever see. He's a wildly creative coach, and he does the No. 1 thing a coach needs to do: He puts his players in position to be successful.

At the same time, he's, well, he's sort of normal. It's a really good combination.

Princeton is lucky it has him.

TigerBlog saw a tweet from his old friend Scott Jurgens, who at one time was the marketing director here and now is at Rice, announcing that the Owls had started football practice. That seems sort of early.

Princeton is still a few weeks away from practice. TigerBlog can tell you exactly how long it is until the first game, since there's a countdown clock in his colleague Andrew Borders' office.

The clock indicates that there are 52 days until kickoff. TigerBlog was a little confused for a little while back in May or so, when the countdown was over 100. Was it counting down to the first football game, or to the first event, the women's soccer game, which also happens to be a sport that Andrew covers.

It'll be Princeton and San Diego 52 days from today, with a noon kickoff.

The Ivy League announced its television package earlier this week. Among Princeton's TV games will be two night games, on consecutive weeks.

The first is at Harvard, on Oct. 20, followed at home against Cornell on Oct. 28. The Harvard game is a Friday night.

TigerBlog hasn't looked this up, but he's guessing this is the first Princeton-Harvard Friday night game.

The picture that accompanied the story on about the Ivy League showed five Princeton players in on one tackle. It's a really good picture. You can see for yourself HERE.

When you think of Princeton football, you think of the offense first. Princeton averaged 34.6 points per game a year ago, tops in the Ivy League, nearly seven points better than the next-highest team.

The defense, though, also led the league. Princeton allowed 16.4 points per game last year, nearly five better than the next best team.

That adds up to something of a winning formula.

Princeton went 8-2 a year ago, including 6-1 in the Ivy League. Princeton tied Penn for the league title, though the Tigers did own a 28-0 win over the Quakers in early November.

Early November? It's still July.

Late July, but July nonetheless.

Bob Surace will be back to work soon enough, bringing back to Princeton football the things that make him so successful, and so unique, and because of the two, so easy to root for.

It's not football season yet. It's beach wiffle ball season.

Today? He'll be back taking his turn in the rotation.

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