Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lost Lovett

TigerBlog's first football exposure for 2017 was to watch the first episode of Season 2 of "Last Chance U."

If you don't have Netflix, you're missing out. That's where the best shows are these days.

"Last Chance U" is the story of the football team at East Mississippi Community College, located in the town of Scooba, which is about 50 miles east of Philadelphia, the one in Mississippi. It's also 1,000 miles south of the Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and seemingly even further than that - at least figuratively - from the big-time Power 5 football where many of the players at East Mississippi started out and how to get back to at some point.

The school is up front about what it's doing. It's taking players who have all the football talent in the world but are not on major Division I rosters for any number of reasons, mostly including academic or legal issues. East Mississippi is trying to turn them around, get them back to Division I and win some football games in the process.

The first season of the series was a pretty fascinating look into the dynamics that exist at the school, and it made stars out of the coach and some of the players and especially the woman who worked tirelessly and endlessly in the academic support role.

Season 2, at least through one episode, seems like an extension of the first, only with different faces on board. And, TB believes, the woman leaves her role at the school. And, interestingly, the first five minutes introduce all of the new faces - and show why they had to leave where they'd previously been playing.

It continues to amaze TigerBlog the way so many shows are on TV these days in which relatively unimpressive, unaccomplished people have cameras following them around and all of the sudden they achieve fame, notoriety, wealth and everything else, without anything that really distinguishes them. TigerBlog usually isn't a fan of such shows, but he likes "Last Chance U."

Maybe it's because it's about a college football team? Maybe it's because there isn't a whole lot of pretense to it. On the other hand, imagine if you had cameras that followed you around all day and then had that broadcast on television, followed by instant fame as everywhere you went people said "hey, there's that person from that show on that channel."

Wouldn't it make you feel fascinating? How would TB react if there were cameras in his office all day recording his every move? Coming up next week, watch TigerBlog eat his tuna and avocado sandwich - and then everyone did, and found it to be great television.

Anyway, the head coach of the team seems to be the one most aware that cameras are everywhere. The rest of them just go with the flow.

If you've never seen "Last Chance U," check it out. TigerBlog has also watched "Ozark," which was okay, and tried "Gypsy" but never got into it. He's heard "Orphan Black" is good.

Meanwhile, in football news closer to home, Princeton head football coach Bob Surace announced yesterday that John Lovett will not be available for the start of the 2017 season. Here is his statement:

"John Lovett had surgery during the offseason, which stemmed from an injury he played with during the 2016 season and, unfortunately, did not completely heal during the offseason. The surgery was a success, and he will miss time this fall. He will continue to be a tremendous leader for our team, and we look forward to his healthy return to the field."

Lovett had quite a 2016 season, when he was the Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-America. He had ridiculously insane numbers, with 20 rushing touchdowns (and at least one in every game) and 10 passing touchdowns, with one receiving TD tacked on.

Those 31 touchdowns are a Princeton single-season record. They're also more than five league schools had last year.

Keith Elias is the most dominant football player that TigerBlog has seen at Princeton. Lovett last year approached that level of dominance, in a different way, but on the same level.

With Lovett's versatility, Princeton's offense led the Ivy League, and the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Ivy League, sharing the championship with a Penn team Princeton beat 28-0. In that game, Lovett ran for one TD and threw for another.

Princeton has played a very unique style of offense the last few years, especially with its use of multiple quarterbacks. Chad Kanoff is back for 2017, but Princeton is in the strange position of having only one of its quarterbacks available now, as if they were cornerbacks, not quarterbacks.

Plus, Lovett is an incredibly exciting player to watch.  You never know what he's going to do, but he's usually going to be the focal point of every play. And he's awesome in short yardage situations - not only the ones that took him into the end zone 20 times but the others that kept drives alive on third and fourth downs.

But hey, that's the nature of football. You have to be ready if someone is unavailable. TB is pretty sure Surace and his staff have a Plan B in mind.

At the same time, TB feels badly for Lovett. He had to be primed for a big 2017, and now that's been pulled out from under him.

In football, you need that "next man up" mentality. You also need to remember the last man. What he's going through isn't easy - and TB hopes he can get back quickly. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On a Princeton campus where Ivy League championships are both expected and -- happily -- regular occurrences, football titles remain special events. They are like baby chicks to be held carefully and fawned over with cooing and loving affection. Or perhaps they should be treated as rare works of art, each to be appreciated as a unique gift from the artists in shoulder pads who created them.

In the 61-year formal history of the Ivy League, we have only 11 football championships to so treasure, fewer than in all but four other men's sports and within a decimal point or two of being fewer than all women's sports as well, adjusted for the shorter record of women's conference crowns.

How then can we evaluate the two Picassos given to us so far by Coach Surace?

Bill Parcells famously told us that, sophisticated qualitative assessment aside, you are what your record says you are. So let's start by going strictly by wins and losses, leaving offensive and defensive superlatives aside for now.

Princeton has four types of Ivy championships among its 11 titles:

A. Perfect Ivy record (1964)

B. Sole champion (1957, 1995)

C. Two-way shared title, beating co-champion head-to-head (2006, defeated Yale 34-31; 2013, defeated Harvard 51-48 in three overtimes; and 2016, defeated Penn 28-0)

D. Two-way shared title, losing to co-champion head-to-head (1963, lost to Dartmouth 22-21; 1989, lost to Yale 14-7; and 1992, lost to Dartmouth 34-20)

E. Three-way shared title (1966, defeated Harvard 18-14 and lost to Dartmouth 31-13; 1969, defeated Dartmouth 35-7 and lost to Yale 17-14)

If one accepts the premise that categories A, B, C, D and E form a hierarchy of Ivy championships, then in seven years, Coach Surace and his players and staff have produced two of the "best" six conference seasons Princeton has ever experienced. If they are not Picassos, neither are they your second-grader's drawing posted under a refrigerator magnet.

The Tigers in 2016 led the Ivies in scoring offense and defense as well as total yards of offense and defense. John Lovett won the offensive player of the year while Kurt Holuba was a finalist for defensive POY. It was a superlative season with only the excruciating overtime loss to Harvard keeping 2016 from the holy grail of category A. Such is the razor-thin margin in sports sometimes.

Another aspect of sports, perhaps unfairly, is the "What have you done for me lately?" element, or as TB likes to put it, "All glory is fleeting." After the 2013 championship, Princeton was picked to repeat in the 2014 pre-season poll, only to have injuries contribute to a 4-3 disappointment, leading to a further 2-5 setback in 2015.

With Lovett's off-season surgery hanging over fans' psyches, we look forward to 2017 with anticipation but also anxiety. Can the football program take the next step to be a perennial contender, even in the face of a potentially significant injury?