Monday, August 7, 2017

Tyler, Julia - And Usain

TigerBlog spoke to Mark Eckel over the weekend after he wrote about his retirement this past Friday.

Mark wanted to know how TB remembered the story about how Mark had said he was going to write a game story and a column about Gabe Lewullis after Princeton beat Penn in the 1996 Ivy men's basketball playoff game. TB responded that he remembers everything.

Maybe not everything. TigerBlog, though, does have a good memory. Maybe it's because he likes to do puzzles. Keeps the brain stimulated.

Mark told TigerBlog something he'd never mentioned before. He said that the playoff game in 1996 was one of the two "craziest" nights he's had in the business. The other one, he said, was the "Fog Bowl" that the Philadelphia Eagles played against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on New Year's Eve 1988. The fog that rolled in that day limited visibility for the NFC playoff game to absurd levels, but the teams played through it.

Chicago won the game 20-12. TigerBlog's memory of seeing the game was not being able to see the game because of the fog. It was, as Mark said, definitely crazy.

He didn't remember that Randall Cunningham threw for 407 yards in the game. Hey, TB never said he remembered every detail of everything. Just most.

One thing TigerBlog didn't mention about Mark was that in addition to all of what he covered, including Super Bowls and Stanley Cup finals, he also covered a lot of women's athletics and did a lot to promote women's athletics at a time when not a lot of male sportswriters did.

Princeton, of course, has one of the best women's athletics programs in the country. It is a place of equality of opportunity, and it's a university and a department that takes huge pride in the accomplishments of all of its athletes, regardless of gender.

The current Courtney Banghart "10 on 10" series that is reviewing the women's basketball coach's first 10 years at Princeton is the product of TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton. Warren, by the way, has successfully completed one full year of marriage, so congrats to him and his wife Michelle.

The series is focusing on the major storylines of Courtney's tenure to date. For all of her on-court success, and there's been a lot of it, maybe her biggest impact is something that TigerBlog has said many times before - the way she has grown the fan base for her program to include a large portion of men and boys.

It's true of a lot of Princeton sports. Hockey. Lacrosse. Soccer. Field hockey. So many. There are way more men watching women's teams play now than there were when TigerBlog first started out. That's for sure. 

This past year as an extraordinary one for Princeton women athletes. The 10 finalists for the von Kienbusch Award were a wildly remarkable group, easily the deepest and best that TB remembers.

Two of those 10 had big weeks this past week as they continued their athletic careers post-Princeton.

Tyler Lussi scored the first goal of her professional career, with a goal in the 39th minute that would be the difference as her Portland Thorns defeated Houston Saturday.

Lussi, the all-time leading scorer in soccer at Princeton for men or women, fought her way through a crowd in the box and knocked a right-footed shot into the goal.

Meanwhile, if you went east instead of west from Princeton, you could have found Julia Ratcliffe, who was competing for New Zealand in the World Championships of Track and Field in London.

Ratcliffe, a 2020 Olympic hopeful, finished 25th in the women's hammer throw. That's in the entire world, which is, you know, really impressive.

Lussi and Ratcliffe followed Olivia Hompe, who had a huge World Cup tournament this summer for the English women's lacrosse team. The list of Princeton women's athletes who are succeeding way beyond Princeton is very long indeed.

As for the track and field championships, assistant men's track and field coach Robby Andrews runs in the 1,500 Thursday.

Oh, and Usain Bolt lost. Finally.

Bolt, who won the 100 and 200 and was on the winning 4x100 relay team at each of the last three Olympic Games, is one of the most dynamic athletes TigerBlog has ever seen. Usually you want to root for the underdog. In the case of just a few athletes all time - you know, like Michael Jordan - you root for their greatness, for the opportunity to see the very best ever in their primes.

Bolt has been one of them.

And so what that he lost at the World Championships. It changes none of that.

So anyway, here's to your marriage Warren. May it be the first of many.

Oh wait. That's not right. But hey, you know what TigerBlog means.

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