Thursday, June 27, 2019

Another Year Of Winning

Every now and then, TigerBlog stumbles onto a tweet from someone he's never heard of that has been retweeted and captures his attention.

Like this one, for instance:
If you don't feel like going through all the answers, then TB can sum it up for you. A bunch of people threw out some names until someone mentioned Bo Jackson, and then everyone basically agreed that Bo was the only real answer.

If you never got to see Bo Jackson in his prime, you missed an amazing athlete. He played NFL football and Major League Baseball and was an unstoppable physical force in both in a way that even Deion Sanders probably envies.

In fact, Bo is the only person ever to have played in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the NFL's Pro Bowl.

TigerBlog can agree that Jackson is a great answer to that question. Of course, it's not the answer he came up with when he first saw it.

Nope. That would be Mason Rocca, the oft-injured Princeton men's basketball player who graduated, wait, what? Nearly 20 years already?

Rocca was a member of the Class of 2000, which means that his 20th reunion is a year away. That's nuts.

TigerBlog is pretty good at remembering facts, numbers, scores, high schools and hometowns. He doesn't even have to look to know that Mason Rocca is from Evanston, outside of Chicago.

He's actually better remembering class years of athletes who competed here in the 1990s and early 2000s than he is with more recent ones. What does that mean?

As for TB himself, he's worked here for more than 25 years now and has covered Princeton Athletics for more than 30, including his five years covering the Tigers during his newspaper days. The anniversary of his hiring was actually a few days ago.

He remembers the summer of 1994 as he started to work here and a conversation with Tom O'Connell, the late baseball coach, who asked him how he was adjusting going from the newspaper to here. TB said something along the lines that it was fine, but he was ready for the games to start.

Since then, he can't even imagine how many Princeton games he's been to, though if he had to guess, he'd say it's well past a thousand.

Each year since then has had its own ups and downs, with way more ups than downs, and in some ways they start to run into each other in ways that make it hard to remember exactly what happened when, even with TB's memory. Fortunately, there are a lot of records that have been kept through the years as a reminder.

For instance, the 2018-19 athletic year recently ended. Princeton teams combined for 643 events where one team won and the other lost (or there was a tie), so this excludes things like multi-team golf tournaments and track meets.

What was Princeton's record for those 643 events?

How about 399-231-13.

That's a combined winning percentage of .631. That's awesome.

Broken down by gender, Princeton's men's teams were 186-128-6 (.591). The women were 213-103-7, which is a ridiculous .673, which means that Prineton's women's teams won more than two-thirds of their games.

If you look at head-to-head against Ivy opponents, Princeton won at least 60 percent of its games against all seven other schools.

Princeton also won 15 league titles, 12 of which were in the Ivy League. There were eight second-place finishes and four more third-place finishes, which means that 27 of Princeton's 37 teams finished in the top three in the standings.

Yeah, it was another great year of winning.

These numbers are really good, but they're not much different than most years for Princeton. The challenge is to keep it that way.

That's been the challenge ever since TB got here. He's seen coaches, athletes and administrators embrace that and thrive under it. And he's had a chance to see a lot of more Tiger wins than losses.

It's made the last 25 years go pretty quickly.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Old Timers' Day

The Ivy League announced its ESPN football schedule for the 2019 season earlier this week, and not surprisingly, Princeton is featured most prominently.

That's what happens when you go 10-0 the year before and are one of the two focal points of the 150th anniversary of the sport. In all, three of Princeton's 10 games this coming season will be on one of the ESPN linear networks, which ranks the Tigers first among league schools.

Those three include one home game (Friday night, Oct. 11, against Lafayette), one away game (Friday night, Nov. 1, at Cornell) and one neutral site game (Saturday, Nov. 9, against Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium, time to be determined.

The first two will be on ESPNU and start at 7. The Dartmouth game will be on an ESPN network to be announced.

As for Princeton's other four home games, they'll all be on ESPN+. The season opener will be against Butler on Sept. 21, with a 5:00 start for Community and Staff Day. The other four games will start at 1, including home games against both Harvard (Oct. 26) and Yale (Nov. 16) for the first time.

TigerBlog updated the schedule on the webpage yesterday, and as he did, he wondered what to do about the Cornell game. If it's a 7:00 kickoff, then the game won't end until at after 10. Even if you factor in one hour after to get on the road, now it's after 11.

That's a four-hour ride. Stay over? Come back after the game? Hmmm. What to do?

Princeton football now has start times for eight of its 10 games. The Sept. 28 game at Bucknell will begin at 3:30, and it's a 12:30 kick in Providence on Oct. 19 against Brown.

That game, by the way, will be the first between Princeton head coach Bob Surace and his former offensive coordinator, James Perry, who is now the Brown head coach.

The only games remaining without start times are the game at Yankee Stadium and the season finale at Penn.

TB will remind you of this a lot this year, but this is a huge year for the Tiger football team. For starters, it's the year after the 10-0 season, one that saw Princeton have the highest-scoring offense in Ivy League history.

The 2019 Tigers have a unique opportunity. There have been 12 Ivy League championship teams at Princeton, but only once - in 1963 and 1964 - have the Tigers repeated. Also, Princeton has now won three Ivy titles in six years, and Princeton has only once had four in seven years - 1963, 1964, 1966, 1969.

Plus, this team has the immediate intrigue of seeing who will be filling the big shoes left by, among others, quarterback John Lovett, the two-time Bushnell Cup winner.

Factor in the 150th celebration, and you have the making of a very exciting season.

Princeton football dates back to 1869, of course. Football, though, was not the first sport at Princeton.

If you go back five years earlier, you'll see that Princeton played a baseball game against Williams College on Nov. 22, 1864. It must have been chilly.

TigerBlog has always been intrigued by the fact that the first baseball game in school history had what would now be considered a football score - Princeton won 27-16 - while the first football game in school history had a baseball game - Rutgers won 6-4.

Speaking of Princeton baseball, head coach Scott Bradley is a former Major Leaguer who played for the New York Yankees among other teams. Each year he heads back to Old Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, and this year, he was mic'd up for the occasion.

The result is a really entertaining video that you can see HERE.

The best parts are, well, really the whole thing is one continuous best part.

Princeton alum David Hale, who pitched for Bradley and is now on the Yankees, makes an appearance. Hale is pitching out of the bullpen for the Yankees, and he's 1-0 with a save in nine appearances.

Hale has pitched in 79 career games, with 20 starts and an 11-10 career record. He's also pitched for Atlanta, Colorado and Minnesota, and he's also been a member of 11 different minor league teams at various points of his career.

In the video for Old Timers' Day, he was a Yankee, hugging his college coach, a former Yankee.

The rest of the video is pretty classic Bradley. You'll figure it out when you watch it.

It's a perfect late June Princeton Athletics video. 




Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Break A Leg

Sam Gravitte Feature From 2017

TigerBlog, as he has said before, would love to have been born with the requisite talent to sing on Broadway.

He has spent his entire life enamored of those who can, and he has been a fan of musical theater for as long as he can remember. He grew up in a house with a room adorned with Playbills from various shows, almost all of which were musicals.

He saw a lot of the classics, and his parents listened to a lot of show tunes on car trips. Many of those songs are still on TB's regular playlists, and he's heard some of them thousands of times and still loves them.

One is Len Cariou, who is known more these days as Tom Selleck's father on "Blue Bloods." TigerBlog saw him when he played the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in "Sweeney Todd" - for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical - and met him in a diner in FatherBlog's building, since the two are neighbors.

The other is Debbie Gravitte, whom TB also saw when she made her debut in "They're Playing Our Song," with Robert Klein and Luci Arnaz. Gravitte would go on to win a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway."

What must it be like to be able to stand on a stage like that and be able to sing like they can? TB will never know.

He'll also never know what it's like to play Division I lacrosse. He has met several hundred people who have done that.

And now, he knows one who has will have done both. Division I lacrosse and Broadway musical.

Sam Gravitte, Debbie's son, makes his Broadway debut this week, in the musical "Wicked."

It wasn't that long ago that Sam Gravitte was a member of the Princeton men's lacrosse team. In fact, Gravitte graduated in 2017 after being a major contributor for four years, as a longstick midfielder, shortstick defensive midfielder and a close defenseman.

Sam's strengths were his speed, athleticism and tenacity with an endless motor. He was a great teammate with a great attitude.

He was great in transition and could even score goals, and he finished his career with exactly 100 ground balls.

TigerBlog saw pretty much every game Sam played at Princeton. He also saw him play the lead in the musical "Once" at McCarter's Belind Theater, and it was obvious that this was a uniquely talented individual.

And so after he graduated, Sam headed out on the road, in the national touring company of "Wicked" in stops all over the country and in Canada. And now it's on to Broadway.

To start, Sam will be in the ensemble and also will serve as the understudy for Fiyero, the male lead. He did this in the national touring company as well.

It's an incredible achievement for anyone to reach this, well, stage.

Sam obviously comes from a theater family. TigerBlog, given his long-standing love of theater, was looking forward to meeting Debbie Gravitte when he heard Sam was coming to Princeton, and it wasn't really all that tough to figure out which one she was before he met her. She carries herself like a Tony Award winning actress.

Sam's father Beau is also in the theater, as a Broadway actor and producer. Now it's Sam's turn to follow in the family business.

Sam was a football and lacrosse standout at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, and he set the school record for career touchdowns and was all-state in both sports. He also found time to be in his school's musicals, including playing Jean Val Jean in "Les Miserables," which is one of the most challenging roles ever created.

He did other shows at Princeton, often playing lacrosse during the day and then performing at McCarter that same night.

TigerBlog wrote a feature about Sam, which you can read at the top. His mom had this to say about him:
“The light went on when he did his first show in high school,” Debbie Gravitte says. “It was 42nd Street. He stood in the middle of the stage, and you couldn’t take your eye off him. He just had that thing. It can’t be named. It’s just 'the thing.' Either you have the thing or you don’t have the thing. He can stand on a stage, and he just has that thing.”

In addition to all of his athletic and theatrical talent, he's just a super young man to be around. He's always smiling, always upbeat, always with a positive attitude. All of this couldn't happen to a better guy.

And now it's his first time on the Broadway stage. TB is pretty sure it won't be his last.

Break a leg, Sam. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Kareem Keeps Winning

Question - How many Ivy League Player of the Year Awards did Bill Bradley win in men's basketball?

Well, freshmen were ineligible back then, so he played three varsity seasons. So he won three, right?

Nope. None.

The Ivy League didn't award a Player of the Year in men's basketball until 1974-75, when Penn's Ron Haigler was the winner. Princeton had the winner each of the next two years, with Armond Hill and then Frank Sowinski.

Speaking of Player of the Year winners, it still bothers TB that Nate Walton didn't win in 2001. 

There have been five two-time winners of the Ivy League Player of the Year award on the men's sidek including two Princetonians - Craig Robinson and Kit Mueller. There has never been a three-time winner.

On the women's side, there have already been three players who won Ivy Player of the Year three times - Gail Koziara Boudreaux of Dartmouth, Allison Feaster of Harvard and Diana Caramanico of Penn.

There's another player who has already won twice who is entering her senior year. That, of course, is Princeton's Bella Alarie.

The Ivy League first awarded a Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in women's basketball in the 1979-80. Koziara, by the way, was the first winner.

As TB said, the first men's winner was Haigler in 1974-75.

What he can't understand is why there was a Rookie of the Year that dates to 1970-71. That first winner was Princeton's remarkable Brian Taylor, whose accomplishments are somewhat overshadowed by Bradley.

If you look at the Princeton men's basketball records, you'll see that Bradley ranks 1-2-3 in single-season points scored and Taylor ranks 4-5 on that same list. Taylor only played two seasons at Princeton before leaving for the ABA for four years and the NBA for six more, but he returned to graduate in 1983 before embarking on a long career in education.

Elsewhere in the Princeton record book, you'll see that Taylor  averaged 24.3 points per game for his career. Bradley averaged 30.2. No other Princeton player has ever reached 20.0 for a career.

Anyway, back at the awards, why add a Rookie of the Year, especially when freshmen couldn't play? TB wishes he knew why.

Doesn't make sense, right?

Maybe TB will ask a few people.

Those were the only two major awards the Ivy League had until the 2009 season, when the Defensive Player of the Year award was added. Princeton has had three winners - Kareem Maddox, Myles Stephens and Amir Bell.

Maddox won it in 2011, after Cornell's Jeff Foote won the first two. If you remember the 2011 season, that's the one that ended with a playoff win over Harvard on Doug Davis' buzzer beater and then a 59-57 loss to Kentucky in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Maddox had 12 points, three rebounds and three steals in that game.

Trivia question - Maddox was one of four Princeton players in double figures in that game. Who were the other three? TB will give you the answer at the end.

Meanwhile, eight years later, Maddox is still making his mark in basketball. In fact, this past weekend, Maddox won a FIBA World Cup 3x3 championship with Team USA.

From the goprincetontigers.com story:
Princeton alum Kareem Maddox '11 and teammates Robbie Hummel, Damon Huffman and Canyon Barry completed a perfect run Sunday through the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Amsterdam, securing a spot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo. The title is the first for the U.S. in the event, which began in 2012 and was held every other year until 2016, when it began as an annual event. The previous U.S. best was a runner-up finish in 2016.


You can read the entire story HERE. In case you were wondering, Huffman played at Brown, Hummel played at Purdue and now is a really good ESPN commentator and Barry played at College of Charleston and Florida and is Rick Barry's son.

The sport of 3x3 basketball will be an Olympic sport in 2020, and Maddox and his teammates are hoping to qualify. The win over the weekend in Amsterdam got the Americans into the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, or they can get an automatic bid by being ranked in the top four in the world rankings this coming Nov. 1.

And the trivia answer - Dan Mavraides (14), Davis (13), Maddox (12), Ian Hummer (11).

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bill Carmody Retires

Of all of the people that TigerBlog has met during his 30 years at Princeton, there hasn't been anyone else remotely like Bill Carmody.

TigerBlog met Carmody in 1989, when he was still as an assistant coach under Pete Carril with the Princeton men's basketball team, and he liked him immediately. TB was with Carmody forthe final seven of the 14 seasons he spent as an assistant to Carril, and then he spent four glorious years as the men's basketball contact while Carmody was the head coach.

As he has said before, no Ivy League basketball contact could ever ask for more than those four seasons.

They were filled with wins - two Ivy League titles, two NCAA appearances, two trips into the national top 25 and one into the top 10 - and even when Carmody's Tigers didn't win the league, they had incredible moments that TB will never forget - the comeback win over Penn at the Palestra in 1999 and the run to the NIT quarterfinals later that year, as well as the Rainbow Classic championship in Hawaii in December 1998.

More than that, there was Carmody himself. TigerBlog can't think of one bad moment that he ever had with Carmody. He can think of dozens, maybe more, where he laughed, smiled, learned something and generally admired the man for his basketball knowledge, way with people, demeanor, humor, extraordinary competitiveness, family ties and, well, something TB would call a calm ferocity. 

Bill Carmody retired earlier this week after winning 342 games in 21 seasons at Princeton, Northwestern and Holy Cross. TigerBlog wanted to write something about him as he heads to retirement, but he realized he'd already said exactly what he wanted to say about him back in 2013. 

And so, TB shares this with you again. And he congratulates Bill Carmody, one of the absolute best people TB has ever met, on an amazing career:


Somewhere in TigerBlog's closet is the mini-cassette from the 1998 Rainbow Classic press conference in Honolulu.

Of course, nowhere in TigerBlog's universe is anything to play a mini-cassette on anymore, so you'll just have to take his word for it.

Anyway, the tape is of Bill Carmody's press conference at the University of Hawaii, after Princeton defeated Charlotte to win the tournament. Carmody was asked by one of the Hawaiian sportswriters about how everyone on the team seemed comfortable shooting three-pointers, even the big men.

Carmody's response:

"Everyone here can make a three. Our center can make a three. Our SID can make a three."

He thought back to the four years when Carmody was Princeton's head coach and TB was the men's basketball SID.

Carmody went 92-25 in his four years at Princeton, and TigerBlog was at every one of those 117 games, in the locker room after each one, on the walk to the interview room after each one.

He ran the press conference in Indianapolis, hastily called, when Carmody officially took over for Pete Carril. Somewhat famously, Carril had announced his retirement after 29 seasons at Princeton after the Tigers had defeated Penn in the Ivy playoff at Lehigh in 1996 a few days earlier, when he went up to the podium in Bethlehem and basically said this:

"I'm retiring at the end of this year ... and Billy Carmody will be the new coach."

TB remembers vividly walking Carmody from the locker room into the media room in the RCA Dome (a building that no longer exists) and to a small circular table like it was yesterday, as opposed to 17 years ago.

He remembers Carmody's first game as head coach, in the 1996 preseason NIT at Indiana. After the Tigers had played hard and lost, Carmody was asked about his team's performance. He said this:

"We run the shoot and run. One guy shoots, everyone else runs back on defense."

Princeton would go 24-4 his first year and then 27-2 his second with an Ivy League record of 28-0 those two years combined. Princeton lost to Cal, with future NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez, in the 1997 NCAA tournament and then defeated UNLV before losing to Michigan State in the 1998 tournament. Princeton and Michigan State were tied in the final minute; the Spartans would start four of the same players two years later when they won the NCAA title.

The Tigers reached the NIT the next two years, but even those years had silver linings.

Princeton won that Rainbow Classic by beating Florida State, Texas and Charlotte on consecutive nights. The 1999 season featured the amazing comeback win over Penn at the Palestra, when the Tigers trailed 27-3 and 40-13 with 15 minutes left, only to rally for a 50-49 victory.

And there was the 1999 NIT, when Princeton beat Georgetown at home (playing the same five guys the entire game) and North Carolina State in Raleigh (last game in Reynolds Coliseum) before falling at Xavier, who could come back to Jadwin the next year and see future NBA player David West shoot 1 for 11.

Added up, it came to four seasons, two NCAAs, two NITs, a Top 25 national ranking in 1997, a Top 10 national ranking in 1998, 13 wins over teams currently in BCS conferences, in-season tournament wins as far away as Hawaii and as close as Madison Square Garden (where he famously called timout and when, asked by the players how to attack the zone that they didn't expect, said "you're smart guys; you'll figure it out) and perhaps the best game in any sport TigerBlog was ever at (the comeback at the Palestra).

As TB has said so many times to people since, no Ivy League basketball SID can ever ask for more than Bill Carmody provided during his time here, starting with the day Carril retired and lasting for Carmody's four years as head coach. TB was the one lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Beyond just the winning, Carmody was hilarious, especially during the walks to the postgame interview rooms and his interactions with the media once he got there.

TB can't remember ever having one problem with Carmody during the entire time he worked with him. He respected what TB did and, like the best coaches TB has worked with, made him feel like what he did was important to the program without being a phony or condescending about it.

Carmody is among the most competitive people TB has ever met, something that came out every time he'd play lunchtime basketball, let alone coach the Tigers.

TigerBlog wonders what's next for Carmody. Maybe the NBA? TB thinks he'd be awesome on television, for that matter.

He hasn't spoken to him about anything; in fact, he's only spoken to him once in the 13 years since Carmody left here.

But he's rooted for him the entire time he's been at Northwestern, a place where it's impossible to win big at and a place where he won more than the school was used to winning.

TB has two stories that completely encapsulate what Bill Carmody is all about.

The first was in practice at Jadwin one day, when a backup got beat for a layup and yelled a curse really loudly in the empty gym.

"Hey," Carmody snapped at him. TB assumed he was going to tell the kid not to use that language anymore.

"The idea of the game," Carmody said, "is to get the other guy to curse."

Then there was the lockerroom in 1999, after Princeton had defeated the Bison in Lewisburg 50-48 on Mason Rocca's hook shot with two seconds left. It was a Tuesday night, TB believes, and he's pretty sure it was raining.

He stood in the back of the locker room, sort of in an adjoining room, so he couldn't see anyone, could only hear what was being said.

Carmody told his team that night that yes they had won but no they hadn't given their best effort. He told them that they only get four years worth of opportunities to give their best effort, and to let one of them get away was something they'd regret later on.

It was such a great speech, so passionate, so insightful. It was the last thing TB expected to hear. He thought it would be "great job, let's get out of here." Instead, it's something that TB has never forgotten, something that he has referred back to in his own experiences since.

And he wasn't even a player.

His time at Princeton was a glorious one, and TB laughs and smiles every time he thinks back to those days.

TB was just lucky to have a front row seat for the Bill Carmody era here.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Welcoming Carla

Carla Berube stood on Carril Court, which is essentially her new office, and glanced up at the videoboard.

This was about 30 minutes after the conclusion of her introductory press conference, where the new head coach of women's basketball at Princeton talked about her philosophies, her experiences, her mentor, her values and her obvious excitement about her new job. Then it was up to Jadwin's main floor for some picture-taking, and when that was over, some light conversation.

That last part included calling her attention to her face, on all four sides of the big board, with the welcome to Princeton message that accompanied it.

She didn't really say anything. She just looked up, waved her hand and laughed.

There are certain things about Carla Berube that are obvious, even if you don't know her very well.

First, she's extremely nice, friendly, engaging. Second, she has a very easy-going manner, and yeah, that's a great way to describe her. She moves with ease, speaks with ease, carries herself with ease. It gives her a real presence, whether she's at the front of a room filled with media or on the Jadwin court.

The third thing that you can't miss is that she loves basketball. She lights up when she talks about it, and you can see her competitive nature come though. You can see how much it means to her, how proud she is what she built in her 17 years at Tufts and how she's looking forward to coaching the Tigers.

Berube's background is a combination of her overwhelming success at Tufts and her overwhelming success as a player. Well, "success as a player" doesn't quite cover it.

First, as a coach, Berube went 384-96 with the Jumbos, while reaching the NCAA Division III final twice, the Final Four four times and the Sweet 16 nine times, including each of the last eight. She's also won World Championships with USA basketball as part of the youth programs.

That's a lot of winning.

As for her playing days, well, she comes from the greatest program in the history of the sport of women's basketball, coached by one of the two greatest coaches in the history of the sport of women's basketball.

This is not something to be taken lightly.

Berube is a UConn alum. Her four years in Storrs featured a perfect season and an NCAA title, not to mention learning the game from Geno Auriemma.

Obviously, during her press conference, she both brought up, and was asked about, her experiences with Geno. She even joked about how she picked up some of his mannerisms and the possibility of scheduling a game between the two.

More than that, though, she talked about having learned the need to practice hard, to communicate as a team, to get even the best players to see that they can be better and then work to get them there.

She also mentioned how she'd reached out to him immediately about the job at Princeton when it opened, and how her coach had said it was the perfect place for her. When TB caught up with Auriemma after Berube was hired, he said the same exact thing, talking about how the Princeton job was right in line with Berube's values.

Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, talked about the values of Princeton Athletics during her remarks and also how they overlapped with Berube's background and beliefs. She mentioned the educational commitment of Princeton's teams and the student-athlete experience, how Princeton athletes are pushed to achieve, serve and lead.

She talked about winning and being competitive, and she talked about how successful the women's basketball program has been at Princeton.

When Berube spoke, she pointed to the words "Education Through Athletics" that are painted on the wall of the Chandler Lounge and talked about how she believed they are essential to what she is trying to accomplish. Then she mentioned winning, and how that's something that is the goal of all of her teams.

The ability to combine the two, she said, makes Princeton "such a special place."

The team she inherits is certainly ready to win. The Tigers have Bella Alarie back for her senior year, after two Ivy Player of the Year Awards, three first-team All-Ivy selections and an entire summer of playing internationally. There's also 2019 first-team All-Ivy selection Carlie Littlefield, a deep cast of returning players, a strong incoming freshman class and even the return of Abby Meyers after a year away.

That's all a few months away, of course.

On this day, in mid-June, it was about introducing her to the media and to the Princeton community.

As for the time on the court before she left, maybe she was looking beyond the board, to the banners that hang from the rafters behind it, the banners that let you know that Princeton women's basketball has been extremely successful in recent years.

And now Carla Berube is here, to, in her words "build on that success."

She's certainly made a great first impression. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

TB1GOAT

TigerBlog was minding his own business the other day when he stumbled on what has to be his biggest fan.

And no, he's not talking about his cousin Janet, who did check in yesterday to confirm that she had read Monday's entry, in which TB suggested that it would be a good test to see who would contact him first, his cousin or his brother. For the record, BrotherBlog still has not gotten back to him.

No, this time it was someone he didn't recognize, though it had to be someone who really, really, really likes reading TigerBlog.

How else would you explain his license plate? It read "TB1GOAT."

TigerBlog1, which is actually TB's Twitter handle. And GOAT. As in "Greatest Of All Time."

That's become a huge 

TB was flattered.

The only thing he couldn't figure out is why there was a New England Patriots license plate frame, given that TB doesn't usually root for the Pats. Surely someone who was that big a fan of TB's would know that, right?

Wait. What?

Is it possible that the TB1 wasn't about TigerBlog? That it was about the Patriots' quarterback?

Nah. No way.

Whoever the driver was, TB thanks you. Would you like an autograph?

TB wasn't really sure what he was going to write about today, and then he saw the license plate. Yes, he knows. It was really about Tom Brady.

But what else is there to talk about today?

Well, he can wish his friend and colleague Jon Kurian a happy birthday. Kurian, the Assistant Director of Athletics for Business Operations, personifies a lot about what Princeton Athletics wants to be - he's hard-working but he likes to have fun as well.

Plus, he texted TB the other night to let him know the "Les Miserables" 25th anniversary concert special was on PBS. TB much prefers the 10th anniversary one, but the 25th is good too.

So happy birthday Jon. 

What else?

The track and field trip to Italy continues on with a meet today in Rome before the team leaves tomorrow for Florence and then later Milan. Yesterday's biggest stop was at the Vatican.

There was also this on social media, comparing the Roman ruins to longtime Princeton men's track and field coach Fred Samara.

When TB runs into days like today, when he can't really figure out what to write, he likes to go back a year or 10 or somewhere in between to see what he wrote then.

Going back exactly 52 weeks ago, TigerBlog's subjects were: 1) how he had nothing to write about, 2) how it was going to be the longest day of the year (with a reference to Daisy in "The Great Gatsby"), 3) how hot it was and 4) the change to the football schedule.

Taking them in order ...

First, he has nothing to write about today either. Second, yup it'll be the longest day of the year and the start of summer in a few hours.

Third, the temperature in Princeton a year ago was right around 100, with high humidity. TB does not remember that.

He can tell you that it's been a really wet spring around here, and yesterday was no exception, with massive storms in the late afternoon which dropped a lot of water in not a lot of time, causing flooding, downed trees and closed roads.

But hey, at least it wasn't 100.

As for the third, TB wrote about how the Princeton football season was going to end with a game against Penn, with the Dartmouth game shifted from Week 10 to Week 8.

TigerBlog wrote about the season prior to last year when Princeton ended its season against Penn, with this:
It was back in 1885, when the season ended against Penn. Now, 133 years later, Princeton will, for the second time ever, end the season against Penn. Would the Tigers sign up now for a repeat of the way that year went? Well, Princeton went 9-0 that year, finishing the year with a 57-0 victory over the Quakers.
Princeton actually played Penn three times that year, winning all three by a combined 213-20. TigerBlog will go out on a limb and say Princeton will not beat Penn 57-0 this year.

At the time, he had no idea about how the coming season was about to go. He had no way to know that Princeton in 2018 would match what Princeton had done in 1885, with another perfect season.

Also, the game against Penn wasn't 57-0. There were 56 points scored in the 2018 Princeton-Penn finale, with 42 of them from the Tigers.

And lastly, when TB wrote about Dartmouth in Week 8 as summer approached last year, he mentioned that it was going to be played a few hours before the clocks would be turned back in November. It all seemed so far in the future.

If TB was better at predicting the future, he would have added that the 2018 Princeton-Dartmouth game was going to be the best Ivy League football he's ever seen.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Updates From Italy And Bristol

The Colosseum in Rome attracted 7.4 million visitors in 2018.

That's not too bad for a building that's closing in on 2,000 years old.

The Colosseum was built in 72-80 AD, with seating for up to 80,000. The gladiators were a big draw back then.

Anytime TigerBlog has seen pictures of Palmer Stadium from the pre-Ivy League era, it's always made him wonder if they had event meetings back then that might have been similar to the ones he's attended. When he considers 80,000 people who showed up to watch lions attack humans, did they have meetings? And what must they have been like?

At the very least, parking must not have been an issue.

The men's and women's track and field teams visited the Colosseum yesterday as part of their trip to Italy. TB knew this because he saw this on the team's Twitter feed:

 
And this:

 

And because his colleague Kim Meszaros, who is traveling with the teams, sent this:
It has to be a pretty awesome sight, to be at a building that's nearly 2,000 years old. Up next for the traveling Tigers will be the Vatican, which is a relative newcomer at slightly more than 800 years old. It's been 450 years since Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

You can read about Days 1 and 2 HERE.

There's a line in there about how the distance runners went out for runs early in the morning. Think about that. You're used to running as a group around Princeton, and now you're out in Rome.

Closer to home, there was news yesterday about Ivy League football media day, which will be Aug. 15 this year. TigerBlog has been to a lot of Ivy football media days in Connecticut, but this one will be a bit different.

This year, the Ivy League will be taking its media day to ESPN headquarters in Bristol. From the release:
The event will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature media availability from each of the League’s head coaches, as well as two student-athletes from each Ivy League program. Special topics will be discussed throughout the day, including ESPN and the Ivy League’s respective plans surrounding CFB150 and ESPN+, the subscription platform that is home to more than 1,100 Ivy League events annually. 

You can read the whole thing HERE. For the record, TigerBlog took the Ivy League release and added the part about how Princeton is the defending champion.

Even more than that, Princeton went 10-0 a year ago. This year isn't just the year after the first perfect season in 54 years; it's the 150th anniversary of the first college fooball game, the one between Princeton and Rutgers from back on Nov. 6, 1869.

Just like the 2019 Princeton season itself will, the media day at ESPN will highlight the 2019 season and the history of the sport, in which Princeton and the Ivy League have had such a huge role.

Having it at ESPN is a big step for the league.

For starters, the league and ESPN will be in Year 2 of their ESPN+ partnership, one that has been very beneficial to both. For another, Ivy League football is in a very good era right now, and it is worthy of the added attention.

It's a long way from the media days that TigerBlog used to attend in Connecticut, which were mostly at the Lyman Orchards golf club near Yale. It was always a nice day, with a morning press conference and then 18 holes of golf. And a box lunch, with great apples.

But it wasn't ESPN. When it comes to college football, it's pretty much the epicenter of the universe. And this summer, the Ivy League will get the VIP treatment.

After that?

It'll be time for to see what the 150th season has in store. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ciao Italia

TigerBlog has never been to Italy.

Maybe.

Back in 1974, TB found himself on a trip to Israel, Turkey and Greece with his family. There was just one little problem.

Also in 1974, Turkey and Greece found themselves in something of a war after the Turks invaded Cyprus. That was in July, which just happened to be when TB was in Istanbul, trying to get to Athens.

As a result, the flight between cities was cancelled. And nobody in Turkey was really in all that much of a hurry to get the Americans to Greece.

Eventually, the Italians got involved. Well, not diplomatically. There was a flight from Istanbul to Rome and then Rome to Athens, so that's how TB and his family got there. His most vivid memory of the whole thing was the wild cab ride to the Istanbul airport, just in time to make the flight, and the cabbie who 1) nearly was responsible for about 10 accidents on the way and 2) flipped off everyone he almost ran off the road.

TigerBlog is interested in whether his brother remembers it the same way. Since he knows his brother reads this, but not everyday, it'll be interesting to see how long it takes him to say something about it. Hey, this is a good test for him.

His cousin Janet? She reads every day.

Anyway, does being at a gate in the Rome airport 45 years ago for less than an hour count as being in Italy? If it does, then TB has also been to France, since he stopped in the Paris airport on the way to Tel Aviv on that trip.

You know who actually has been to Italy? A group of 66 Princeton athletes this weekend.

Breaking that group down, you get to 65 track and field athletes and one basketball player.

Bella Alarie is the one basketball player. Bella, the two-time reigning Ivy League Player of the Year who will attempt to become the fourth three-time winner this coming season, is playing with USA Basketball in a series of 3 on 3 competitions, most recently in China and, this past weekend, in Turin, Italy.

Turin is north and west of Rome by about 450 miles. It's about an hour drive from Turin to the town of Biella, by the way.

The U.S. team is comprised of Alarie, Charli Collier (Texas), Aleah Goodman (Oregon State) and Christyn Williams (Connecticut). Alarie will also be playing for the U.S. team at the Pan Am Games in Peru in early August.

In the stop this weekend, the Americans finished third, going 3-2 in their eight games. France won the event, followed by the host Italians.

You think that experience is valuable? Or that she'll ever forget the summer she played all over the world?

As for the other 65 athletes, they're representing the men's and women's track and field programs on an international trip to Italy. NCAA rules allow teams to take an international trip once every four years, and the track and field teams are taking advantage of that opportunity now.

TigerBlog has been on three such trips, all with the men's lacrosse team, going to Spain and Ireland, Costa Rica and most recently Portugal.

As for the track and field teams, they left Saturday for Rome, with later stops to come in Milan and Florence. There will be two competitions, one in Rome and one in Milan.

These trips are amazing experiences. They're a chance to compete and practice, yes, but they're so much more than that.

It's a chance to spend time with your teammates, immerse yourself in local culture, be a tourist, have an educational experience - and in general get to do something special that will stay with you forever.

You can follow the Tigers during their trip on twitter and Instagram by going to @princetontrack on both. There's already some good stuff up there already.

Up for Day 2 is a practice and a trip to the Colosseum.

TigerBlog knew the track and field team was headed to Italy. He also knew that there was a stop in Italy for Bella Alarie. He didn't quite realize they were both the same weekend until he looked a little closer.

Princeton University is a great place, as TB wrote last week when he talked about his tour guide experience. But there's also a big world out there.

To have the chance to explore it is a great part of that Princeton experience.

Friday, June 14, 2019

1.53 Meters

By now you probably are aware of the controversy, such as it is, around the U.S. women's team at the World Cup.

The Americans (TigerBlog actually first wrote "the Tigers" out of reflex) opened the World Cup with a 13-0 win over Thailand in what was the largest blowout in the history of the men's or women's tournament. The issue wasn't how many goals the U.S. scored; it was the way the team celebrated them long after the game was way, way out of reach.

The backlash came from all over, with some defenders mixed in.

For TigerBlog, he thinks that almost anything goes in the World Cup. This isn't a mismatch in a college or high school game. This is the World Cup.

Remember, goal differential could become a tiebreaker at some point. So score as many as you can.

Ah, but as he said, almost anything goes. If you've scored your first World Cup goal, then yes, that's a reason to celebrate. If you've been there before, score and then go line up and keep playing. The excess celebrating is unfortunate.

That would be the case for men or for women too. TB saw some comments, including from U.S. head coach Jill Ellis, that the question wouldn't be asked on the men's side. TB disagrees with that.

Then again, he still clings to the fleeting hope that there will always be a place for something called "good sportsmanship" on the highest levels of competition.

When it comes to soccer on the world stage, TigerBlog trusts Grant Wahl more than anyone else. Grant is a Princeton alum and former Office of Athletic Communications student-worker who is probably the foremost soccer writer in the world these days.

He wrote THIS for SI.com.

Someone who disagreed with him was Diana Matheson, another Princeton alum. Diana played soccer at Princeton and was a first-team All-America on the Tigers' 2004 NCAA Final Four team.

These days, Diana is doing Canadian TV, and she was part of a discussion with three other women who were all in agreement that the Americans should not have celebrated the way they did.

So, to sum it up, TB agreed with Grant about the score and Diana about the celebrating.

As for Diana Matheson, she needs to be in the conversation among the greatest women athletes in Princeton history and especially in the conversation for the most accomplished Princeton athletes beyond just their college careers.

When you think in those terms, you think immediately of Ashleigh Johnson, the women's water polo goalie who won an Olympic gold medal as a Princeton undergrad. Certainly she is either at or near the top of that list.

So is Caroline Lind, the women's open rower who won two Olympic gold medals. TB would have them 1-2.

But Matheson's post-Princeton career was also extraordinary.
 
Matheson made 203 appearances for the Canadian national team, including in the World Cup and the Olympics. In fact, she won two Olympic bronze medals, including when she scored the game-winner in the third-place game in the 2012 Games. She also won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games.

What makes Matheson's international success even more impressive is that she is not exactly tall. In fact, she is barely more than five-feet, or, as her Wikipedia page says, 1.53 meters. In an international game that values physical presence, Matheson was able to use her skill, her field vision, her incredible fitness and her desire to become one of the most successful players of all time.

If you forgot the 2004 Princeton team, by the way, the Tigers became the only Ivy League team ever to reach the Final Four in women's soccer, an accomplishment that still stands. The 2017 Tigers came close, reaching the quarterfinals.

Matheson still ranks second all-time in assists at Princeton, a testament to her ability to see the field. More than stats, though, Matheson at Princeton was what she became internationally - a stabilizing force and calming influence in any situation.

For this World Cup, she is part of the Canadian TV crew.

When TB saw the clip of her after the first game for the U.S., it reminded him of her time at Princeton and what a great player she was here. And after she left.

In fact, she's one of the best Princeton has ever produced. Without a doubt.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Tour Guides

The theme for today's discussion is that when someone named "Tierney" asks TigerBlog to do a favor, odds are good that he'll do it.

Most recently that would be Trevor Tierney, the former first-team All-American men's lacrosse goalie who graduated after leading Princeton to the 2001 NCAA championship. Trevor was one of three Tierneys on that team, along with his brother Brendan, an attackman who scored the game-winner in the semifinal win over Virginia a year earlier, and his father Bill, who won six of those championships at Princeton and since has added another at Denver.

It was about two weeks ago that Trevor emailed TigerBlog and said that the club team that he runs in Denver had added a girls' team for the first time and that the team would be playing in a tournament near Princeton. Trevor was looking for someone to give the team a tour of the campus.

TB said he would take care of it. No problem.

And so it was last Saturday at around 12:30, after the day started long before that at the bike race in Philadelphia, that TB arrived outside of Jadwin Gym to find a team of eighth grade girls and their parents waiting for him.

None of them had ever been to Princeton. And they had TigerBlog as a tour guide.

Actually, they had two tour guides. Miss TigerBlog was there as well.

TB thought it would be good to bring her, since she could talk about her experiences at Princeton as a student and a lacrosse player. He figured the girls would be really interested in what she had to say about the combination.

When TB mentioned it to his daughter, her immediate reaction was one of these two: 1) "of course, can't wait to help," or 2) "I'll do it for $10."

It was actually somewhere in between. She said she'd do it, but could TB give her 10 for gas? And when TB tried to give her $10, what did she say? "Can you make it $20? I want to get lunch."

Regardless, MTB was there when the tour started. And, as TB thought, the girls had a million questions for her.

The tour started inside Jadwin, on the main court. Then it was the squash courts, Caldwell and then back outside to Finney and Campbell Fields. That's where the questions for MTB really began.

What's it like to be an athlete? How often do you practice? How do you balance school and lacrosse? What is the fall season like? How did you end up here? What are you studying? Do you get to have fun?

And a bunch of others. Lots of them. The one that was TB's favorite was "does everybody get to play the same amount?"

MTB answered all of their questions. She went over the routines and the schedules, in-season and out-of-season. She talked about her experiences and gave them advice. She told them about how important it is to work hard in practice and to make sure you're doing your schoolwork. She talked about what it's like to be a Princeton athlete.

For TigerBlog, it was great. First of all, it hasn't really been all that long since she was the eighth grader looking up to the Princeton Athletes she met along the way.

For another, it was great to see her explain to the girls what it meant to her and what she'd gotten out of being a lacrosse player at Princeton. It's been interesting for TB, to see all of the things he's worked on here for three decades through the eyes of his daughter. It's a new dimension.

The tour went out into the football stadium, and then MTB showed them the walk the team makes on its way to Sherrerd Field. Once there, she showed the girls the facility and answered more questions. Then they all took a few pictures together, and MTB was off to her job.

TigerBlog then showed them around the rest of the campus. He stopped off in the rink and pointed out that Princeton had three players who had gone directly to the NHL this season and asked if Denver could match that.

He showed them all over, to Nassau Hall, the chapel, the eating clubs, Prospect gardens, all over. Pretty much everywhere they went, the kids and their parents stopped for pictures. TB pointed out that if this had been exactly one week earlier, the campus would have been swarming with people, rather than empty. In fact, it was right at 2 that they were at Dillon, where the P-Rade had been one week before.

You know how long it took to show them around? Just short of three hours.

It was well worth it. The kids and their parents loved it.

And for TB, it was a reminder of just how special a campus it is. In fact, one of the parents mentioned that, how lucky it must be to go to work every day at a place like that.

He was right of course.

Between that and the way his daughter had presented her team and her school, it's likely that nobody enjoyed it more than TigerBlog.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Eighth In Insta Interactions

TigerBlog wrote about Derek DiGregorio yesterday and the continuing efforts of his family to raise money to combat Ataxia Telangiectasia, the deadly disease that struck Derek as a child.

What TigerBlog forgot to mention was that Derek is an honorary member of the Princeton Class of 2012, an effort that was spearheaded by former men's soccer player Manny Sardinha. TB was reminded of this in an email yesterday that said: "Manny chose to create a relationship between Derek and his class after featuring Derek's Dreams and the ATCP at an awareness day with the PVC at a men's soccer game.

Derek's Dreams is the foundation that his family created a long time ago. The ATCP is the A-T Children's Project.

The email came from Jess Deutsch, the Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Services. She was also one of the people there Saturday morning at "The Million Dollar Bike Ride" in support of Derek.

Jess is a Princeton alum, as is her husband Ted. She played tennis, and he played baseball.

Thanks Jess for the heads up on Derek and the Class of 2012. It's another way that the Princeton community has rallied around the DiGregorio family.

TB should have remembered about the Class of 2012. Steve Carell was the Class Day speaker, and there was a picture of Carell with Derek, his brothers Zack and Aaron and Howard Levy's children Lior, Mia and Noa.

TB got the email from Jess yesterday morning, right around the time he saw that Dei Lynam had knocked down a hole-in-one. Dei is a longtime NBA commentator on television who, among other things, has been the Princeton women's basketball color commentator on ESPN+ the last two years.

And how did TB see that Dei had a hole-in-one? On Instagram, of course.

TB hasn't talked to Dei since the end of last basketball season, but he feels pretty up-to-date on what's going on with her, her husband, her kids, her family because of her Instagram posts. He can stay in touch with his cousin Nicole the same way.

Dei posted a video of the ground as she walked along, from the fairway to the green and finally the cup, where you could see the golf ball and hear her reaction. It was a very cute video, and it's also a very 2019 way of sharing information.

TB then texted Dei, who responded that it was actually the third hole-in-one of her golfing career. That's three more than TB has had, though he was once playing with someone who had a hole-in-one and who, upon seeing the ball in the cup, replied calmly "this should really help my score."

In other social media news, there's a company called SkullSparks that is in the college athletics social media business. Yesterday, along with Jess' email and Dei's golf video, TB also saw a graphic from SkullSparks, who had researched the main athletics Instagram accounts for FCS schools to determine which ones had the most interactions in 2018.

Princeton was the eighth-ranked team in the top 25 that SkullSparks released. Only one other Ivy League school was in the top 25, and that was Columbia at No. 15.

It's good to see that the social media efforts of Princeton Athletics are, by this analytic, very successful. Princeton's communications, marketing and multimedia teams have put a lot of effort in the area of social media, recognizing the importance of it in today's information market.

In fact, the social media explosion has completely reshaped college athletic communications, much the way that the first athletics websites did so 20 years ago or so. There was a time that the best metric of success for Princeton communications would be the number of page views and unique visitors that goprincetontigers.com would get on a monthly basis.

Now, social media has become more important in many ways - not all, but many. Think about it. Where do you go for information?

TB hopes there will always be a market for postgame stories, but really, the immediacy of social media has overtaken that, TB thinks. As such, it asks all kinds of questions as to the kinds of content that needs to be produced, what's most effective and what's next.

These are the questions that Princeton Athletics continues to ask. The rankings that SkullSparks put out yesterday was a nice reminder that these efforts have been effective.

TB was happy to see that Princeton was eighth.

If you're wondering who was first, it was Villanova. Oh, and Sacred Heart was fifth.

In this case, eighth is good. And a sign that there is always more work to do.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Another Early Morning Ride

TigerBlog wrote this more than two years ago about Zack DiGregorio:
In some ways, the person Zack DiGregorio most reminds TigerBlog of is, well, TigerBlog.

That was back when Zack was a Penn senior and a student worker in the athletic communications office there. He's also a Princeton High grad, and one-time, long ago, he was a Princeton basketball ball boy, along with TigerBlog Jr. and Lior Levy, the son of Princeton basketball alum Howard Levy.

Now two years later Zack is a Penn grad, just like TB. He's also got the same laid-back dry humor and sarcasm that TigerBlog finds to be one of his own most endearing qualities.

Because he knows Zack so well - literally from the day he was born - it came as no shock to him that when TB arrived on the Penn campus Saturday morning - really, really, really early Saturday morning - the first thing Zack said to him was "you're only here because it makes good summer blog content, right?"

If anything, TB would have probably said the same thing to Zack if he'd given him a chance. Yeah, they're alike in a lot of ways.

There is a reality that Zack has lived with for much of his life, though, that TB has not had to face directly. And that reality is why the two of them, and a bunch of others with connections to Princeton Athletics and the DiGregorio family, were at Penn Saturday morning around 6:30.

The occasion was "The Million Dollar Bike Ride," an annual event that raises money to combat any number of rare diseases. And if there are any people out there who know all about rare diseases and fighting to combat them, it's the DiGregorio family.

They have been at this a long time, ever since Zack's brother Derek, the middle of the three boys, was diagnosed with Ataxia-Telangiectasia, a disease that affects about three out of every one million children in this country. The disease, which TB doesn't quite understand, attacks the muscular development of young children, often being mistaken for diseases like cerebral palsey, and then ultimately breaks down the immune system. The mortality rate is nearly 100%, and life expectancy beyond 20 is rare.

And this is what the DiGregorios were thrown into.

TigerBlog has seen a lot of people deal with a lot of things, but he's never seen anything that rivals what the DiGregorios have done. Startling from pretty much zero as far as A-T was concerned, they have attacked their situation through education and fund-raising in ways that have marveled TigerBlog from the start.

Steve DiGregorio, Derek's father, is a former Princeton assistant football coach who has been a high school teacher and coach for nearly 20 years now. He is still one of the most-liked people who has ever worked in Jadwin Gym, though, and the Princeton community has never neglected him or his family.

Steve and his wife Nadia have balanced it all, along with Zack and the youngest brother Aaron, now a track athlete at Franklin & Marshall. And through it all there has been Derek, who has been the biggest marvel of them all, the one who fights it the hardest, who made it through Princeton High School, who won national championships in martial arts, who has never been at a loss for a laugh or a joke and a handshake and a smile.

The bike ride in Philadelphia was the latest effort to make a difference.

Howard Levy was there, along with Lior. So was Ted Deutsch, a Princeton alum and baseball player, as well as his wife Jess, now the Associate Director of Athletics for Student-Athlete Services, two people who also been there every step of the way with this.

Charlie Thompson, the head athletic trainer, and his wife Sandy were also riding. 

The ride itself features team after team of groups who are like the DiGregorios, fighting their own fights against diseases very few people have ever heard of, diseases like A-T, which affects three of every one million children in the country.

There were three different distances - 13 miles, 34 miles or 73 miles. This is where the morning turned into middle school a bit - "well, how far are you going?" "I don't know, how about you?" "Well, I'll go as far as you go."

As it turned out, Howard made the suggestion at the 6.5-mile turnaround for the 13-mile loop that perhaps it would be good to go a little further up Kelly Drive and then came back. TB was okay with that, and he set out, only to find the rest of the group had gone back except for the under-25 crowd. Then he went to the top of this huge hill and came back. 

As for Digger (that's what everyone calls Steve), his bike lost its chain at the start, and before TB could figure anything out, he was riding along alone. Then he found most of the group, and eventually spent a few miles riding with Ted and then a few more with Zack.

These days, Zack is working in the political world. There might be law school in his future. Maybe he and TBJ will one day either 1) start their own law firm or 2) run against each other for something. Or maybe both.

It was fun to ride with him. He's a great kid, well, not a kid anymore, but still, he's a great whatever he is now. With a great future.

Surrounded by a great family. And it's that family that inspires people like TigerBlog to try to help however they can.

Yes, it's good summer blog content. That part is funny.

It's also about the best cause TB knows. That part is very serious.

Monday, June 10, 2019

End Of 2018-19, Day 1

As he's said before, TigerBlog is a huge fan of puzzles.

His favorite is "Boggle," which he plays on his phone. It's a scramble-word game. Two minutes. Find as many words as possible.

He's also stumbled on some on Twitter, including one he saw last Friday.

Hey, the athletic year just ended. What did you expect for today?

Anywhere, here's one of the puzzles that he saw last week, one that has something of a Princeton theme: Add two letters to TIGER, then scramble the letters to form the name of a classic film from the 1950s.

Think about that one. TB will give you the answer later.

As he said, the end of the women's track and field discus event marked the end of the 2018-19 athletic year at Princeton. So what would you like to talk about today? 

How about John Sadak? 

The former Princeton men's and women's basketball play-by-play man made his Major League debut Saturday night when he was part of the New York Mets broadcast team on WCBS radio. Sadak did the game with Howie Rose, the veteran Mets announcer.

Sadak is an outstanding announcer, one of the best. It's just that it's not really easy to make the jump into the Major Leagues.

He spent a lot of time doing Minor League games, in Wilmington and Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He's also had a lot of success of late, including doing NFL games and NBA games. 

And now he can add Major League Baseball to his resume. It couldn't happen for a better guy, just as TB has often said about another former Princeton play-by-play man, Tom McCarthy.

TB saw a tweet from Sadak about his first game for the Mets, which, by the way, was the first of 16 he'll be doing this season. TigerBlog did a lot of Princeton basketball with Sadak, and he answered the tweet with congratulations and a reminder that he has to be Sadak's all-time favorite broadcast partner.

In reality TB knows he isn't. In fact, he's not even Sadak's favorite from Princeton. That would be Noah Savage, whom TB brought in as his replacement to work with Sadak, and the two immediately clicked into a first-class team. When Sadak left, TB moved Derek Jones over from the women's side to do men's play-by-play, and he as well has created a really, really high quality team along with Savage. In fact, both of them got to do games on ESPN this past season.

So congratulations to John Sadak. TB is very happy for him. He'd love to see him get a full-time Major League position.

Still working on the puzzle, by the way? 

With the end of the academic year, TB saw the first real sign that summer is here for Princeton Athletics - the start of sports camp season. The first two, at least the first two he saw, were basketball camps, boys and then girls, in Jadwin Gym.

Pretty soon the campus will be swarming with camps across basically all of Princeton's sports. That's one of the best parts of summer, seeing the facilities swell with kids of all ages and skill levels, with coaches and athletes there with them.

As for the basketball camp, TB wandered into Jadwin Gym to the sound of balls bouncing and saw that it was the girls on the court. On the far side he saw a familiar face, one that he recognized from the pictures he's seen of her after she was hired as the head women's basketball coach at Princeton two weeks ago.

So TB introduced himself to Carla Berube, whom he'd spoken with and texted but never actually met. It was good to say hello. He's looking forward to their first podcast, coming soon.

Also coming soon will be the start of the fall season. If you looked at goprincetontigers.com at one point late last week, you saw the schedules for most of the coming fall seasons.

Yeah, that's getting ahead of things. In the meantime, it's Day 1 post-2018-19.

And oh yeah, the answer to the puzzle? If you forgot, here's the clue again:
Add two letters to TIGER, then scramble the letters to form the name of a classic film from the 1950s.

The answer?

Vertigo.

Hey, there's not another game for nearly three months. TB has to come up with something.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The One Remaining

A week ago, the Princeton campus was swarming with people.

It was Reunions, which brings more than 20,000 people annually to the events and the tents. It's a glorious time to be Princetonian, and as TigerBlog has said before, this is very unique. There's certainly nothing approaching it at his own alma mater.

For three days, the campus swells, parking spots are at a premium and orange and black is everywhere. It's loud and crowded and an endless stream of people, all celebrating at a place that's meant so much to them.

There's every age group, from the old guard to the youngest alums to the little children who are tagging along. It's one massive wave of people.

Then there's Class Day Monday and Commencement Tuesday. They don't have the numbers that Reunions does, but it's still a jammed campus.

And then graduation ceremonies end. And then the campus gets quiet. It's eerie, actually.

TigerBlog has been around here for 30 years, and he's seen it each time. Graduation ends. The campus clears out.

It's strange.

Now it's a week out from Reunions, and graduates have dispersed all over the world. And now there's that real quiet.

The athletic year hasn't quite ended though.

There are nearly 1,000 Princeton athletes, and all but one has finished competing for the year.

The one remaining is Obiageri Amaechi, who competes in the discus throw tomorrow at the NCAA championships in Indianapolis. When she is finished with either her third or sixth throw, depending on if she advances, then the athletic year is over.

Amaechi is a sophomore who finished seventh in the event a year ago, which earned her first-team All-America honors. She is also the Ivy League champion in the event this year, and she is also the Ivy League record-holder in the event.

There are 24 athletes who have advanced to the final tomorrow - it's at 6:05 Eastern time on ESPN3 by the way - from the regionals. There will be two flights of 12 throwers who will get three attempts each, and then the top nine will get three additional throws.

Whoever has the furthest throw wins, whether it's on the first or sixth attempt.

So knowing that, where would you want to go? Last, to know exactly what you need?

Amaechi will be in the exact opposite situation. She throws first in the first flight, which will set the standard.

The top eight finishers earn first-team All-America. The next eight are second-team.

Amaechi is one of three Princeton qualifiers for the NCAAs. The other two - steeplechaser Ed Trippas and hurdler Joey Daniels - competed Wednesday and did not advance.

The steeplechase is TB's favorite track event, and Princeton certainly has a great heritage, most notably with NCAA champ and two-time Olympic finalist Donn Cabral. Trippas, just a sophomore, has two more cracks at it.

As for Daniels, his story is fascinating. When he qualified for the NCAA championships, he became the first Princeton hurdler ever to do so.

In fact, he is just the fourth Ivy League hurdler ever to reach the NCAA finals. And when was the last time an Ivy Leaguer did so?

How about 1960?

Like TB said, that's fascinating. Why would the Ivy League struggle so much to produce good hurdlers?

Daniels didn't reach the final, but he did set an Ivy League record with a 13.70. The old league record was 13.74, set in 2014 by Cornell's Max Hairston. Daniels finished in 12th place, which earns him second-team All-American.

So Amaechi throws at 6:05 tomorrow. ESPN3.

And then the athletic year is over.

It was a year that featured 15 championships, 12 of them in the Ivy League, and a host of other great moments. And, like most athletic years, it seemed to come and go in a blink.

It started with a women's soccer game in August.

It ends tomorrow with one last athlete, looking for one last All-American finish for the year.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Remembering Tyler Campbell ’42

Today is the 75th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary moments in all of history.

As you probably know, it was 75 years ago today that Allied troops crossed the English Channel and landed on the French coastal town of Normandy, where they began what would be a nearly 11-month process of liberating France and eventually destroying Nazi Germany to end World War II in Europe.

The first day was horrific, as 4,414 Allied soldiers - primarily Americans, British and Canadians -  were killed on those beaches, code-named Juno, Sword, Gold, Utah and of course Omaha, where nearly half of those casualties were killed. Another 6,000 were wounded.

Imagine, if you possibly can, the horror of crossing the channel that morning, knowing what probably awaited. It was heroism of the highest order, and there was really no alternative way to win the war. TigerBlog, for one, cannot.

The planning that went into the invasion was enormous, complete with deceptions to fool the Germans as to the actual location of the invasion and the commander who would lead it, as well as parachuting dummies to try to make it seem like there was another attack already underway elsewhere.

In the end, there would be 156,000 Allied troops who would be part of the operation in some fashion.

And that was D-Day, 75 years ago today.

Not that all heroism was reserved for that day. The Allies' march across France and into Germany wasn't easy even after the beachhead at Normandy had been established.

If you've ever been on Finney-Campbell practice fields at Princeton and wondered who Campbell was, he was Tyler Campbell. And who was Tyler Campbell?

Tyler Campbell came to Princeton from Gilman in Baltimore as a member of the Class of 1942. He was small at 150 pounds, but he played hockey and lightweight football at Princeton. And lacrosse.

He was a goalie, in fact, one good enough that he is a member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

He was also a chemical engineering major, but he when the Americans were drawn into World War II, Campbell left Princeton to join the Army one year short of getting his degree. He would never make it back to Princeton to finish.

He completed Officer Training School and then volunteered for a front line position. He would be killed on Sept. 21, 1944, in Southern France, at the age of 22.

TigerBlog wrote a feature about Campbell back in 2010. Here's part of what he wrote:
Before his death, Campbell would serve in North Africa and be part of amphibious landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio (where he was first wounded) and Southern France. He would be wounded twice, and he would earn a Silver Star, a Bronze Star Medal and an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star Medal.
He was promoted to First Lieutenant and then to Captain.

On Jan. 31, 1944, he led his outnumbered platoon against a German unit that was firing on him and his men from a house. Campbell led his men to a covered position and then directed a mortar attack while standing in clear view of the house.

On May 28, 1944, he coordinated an artillery attack on another German position as shells exploded 10 yards from him, this after he again led his platoon into a ditch to shield them from the attack.
On Sept. 13, 1944, eight days before his death, he climbed a tree to give him a clear line of sight to the German position. Wounded once by a shot to his ear, he left briefly for medical attention and then returned to the same tree, ultimately spending 45 minutes in the tree until the German machine gun nest was wiped out.

"They put him in a hospital bed," Cook says. "He just got up, left the hospital and went back to the same tree. Unbelievable."

Five days later, he sat down to write his brother. Three days after that, he was dead.

"On the day that he was killed," General O'Daniel wrote to the Campbells, "near le Marchessant, France, he was leading his company up a heavily wooded hill and while personally directing a flanking movement of one of his platoons, was killed by machine gun fire. He died almost instantly. He was buried on 23 September at the U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Juan, France."

You can read the entire story HERE.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, which started the liberation of France and the end of World War II. It came with an extraordinary cost.

One of those who paid the highest price was a former Princeton men's lacrosse goalie named Tyler Campbell.

The field that bears his name is one that few people ever notice or consider when they walk past it.

Perhaps they should.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

To The Class Of 2019

TigerBlog stood on the grass outside of Nassau Hall around 1 yesterday afternoon as the recessional from Commencement was in full swing.

At one point, a father asked him if he would take a picture of the family. That would be the first of four such requests.

TB is also pretty sure he found his way into the background of about 100 pictures, since people were posing everywhere. If you have a picture with someone you can't identify in a bright orange pullover, it was probably TB.

This is a common scene at graduation. There was something that TB had seen never before, in all the years he's gone over to watch the ceremony and its aftermath.

One young man in his cap and gown walked past TB and then heard his name called. He turned, and there were, presumably, his parents. First he got a hug and a congratulations from what appeared to be his father.

Then a woman who TB guesses was the young man's mother went to give him a hug, only she paused just before she got to him. And then she just smiled - and then burst into tears.

TB almost teared up watching it. Almost.

That instantly vaulted to be TB's favorite part of graduation. His second favorite was watching the Princeton athletes, now graduates, getting together one more time as teammates, posing with families and coaches.

Speaking of coaches, if you think it's emotional for the parents, imagine the coaches. They first saw these athletes when they were, what, 15 or 16? And, in accordance with all NCAA rules about contacting prospective student athletes, they began to form relationships with them.

Eventually, they'd come to coach them through four years of ups and downs, with hopefully more of the first than the second. They are intense relationships, between coach and player, even the best players. The dynamic is one where the mentor is trying to push the student to achieve at the very highest level, all while maintaining the other side of the relationship, the one that cares for that athlete as an individual.

And then they get to graduation.

There are two things that seem to be true each year at the ceremony. First, it doesn't matter what time TB gets there or where he's standing; the first person he sees will be men's soccer coach Jim Barlow.

Second, the men's lacrosse players, whom TB wanted to get a picture of, are going to be among the last to walk out.

Both were true again yesterday.

By the time the the lacrosse guys made their way past the area where TB was standing, he'd seen pretty much every other team. It's such a wonderful sight - athletes who wore different versions of orange and black with "Princeton" on them now all wearing caps, gowns and smiles.

After all, they did it. They started off as green freshmen on orientation, and they made it all the way to Nassau Hall on this Tuesday. Every single one of them grows through the process, and the final product is extraordinary to see.

TB could go on and on about graduation. Instead, he'll cut it short today and simply show you (and a big congratulations to all of the members of the Class of 2019):


Women's lacrosse

Women's open rowing


 Wrestling

Women's squash (spelling 2019)

Men's hockey
Field hockey

Women's cross country

Women's soccer

Men's heavyweight rowing

Men's lacrosse

 Men's lightweight rowing

Men's squash

 
 Men's soccer

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Night At The Tewaaraton

TigerBlog and Grant Ament go way back.

To most college lacrosse fans, Ament is the Penn State attackman who shattered the NCAA record with 96 assist this year while leading the Nittany Lions to the Final Four. To TigerBlog, he'll always be the kid who played with and against TigerBlog Jr. starting in fifth grade.

In fact, somewhere on TB's computer, he has a picture of the two of them after they won a tournament the day after Christmas when they were both in sixth grade. He also has the memory of the epic game between TBJ's Lower Bucks team and Grant's Central Bucks team the following spring in the Southeast Pennsylvania playoffs, which Lower Bucks won 5-3.

Back then Grant was a kid who clearly loved to play lacrosse and who would work hard at becoming the best player he could. TB thought his size might hold him back a bit as he got to the highest levels, but that wasn't the case for him - or for another smaller kid who grew up about 20 minutes from where Grant did.

You know him as Princeton's all-time leading scorer, Michael Sowers, who also played with and against TBJ back then.

Those small kids were two of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the best college lacrosse player each year and presented last Thursday at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian and not very far from the U.S. Capitol building.

TigerBlog went to the ceremony for the first time this year. One of the first people he saw when he walked in was Grant Ament.

He hadn't seen Grant for a long time, maybe back to when Grant was in eighth grade. When he saw TB as he walked towards him, Grant gave him a smile and a hug.

"You've impressed me," TB said to him.

He has, too.

When TBJ first started playing, who would have guessed that the little kids who were just starting out would go on to be so successful years later. That Lower Bucks-Central Bucks game that TB mentioned featured 12 players who would go on to play in college, for instance.

Including, as it would turn out, a Tewaaraton finalist.

There was a reception before the formal program, and that was essentially a who's who of the college lacrosse world. TB saw a lot of friends, including his good friend and counterpart at Loyola, Ryan Eigenbrode, who was there with Pat Spencer, the Greyhounds senior who was one of the two favorites, along with Grant.

The ceremony was a great balance of the five men's and women's finalists with a tribute to the game's Native American roots, which fit the venue, and its history, with celebrations of some of the game's greatest all-time players, who were honored with Legends awards.

There are awards given each year for players who might have won the award had the Tewaaraton been presented prior to 2001. Princeton could win a few of those in the coming years. 

As for the 2019 winners, TigerBlog thought it would be Sam Apuzzo of Boston College on the women's side, after she won last year and led the Eagles back to the NCAA championship game this time around. The winner, though, was Maryland goalie Megan Taylor, who 1) led the Terps past BC in the NCAA final and 2) made 14 saves in a 15-7 win over Princeton in midseason and was very impressive doing so.

On the men's side, the winner was Spencer, the NCAA's career leader in assists and its second all-time leader in points.

There is no voting that was released, but TB would assume it was close between Spencer and Ament, with some votes for Yale face-off man TD Ierlan mixed in.

TB knew the only way Sowers was going to win this year was if the committee asked him to choose the winner, because, as he's said before, there is no player in the country TB would rather have than Sowers.

Still, this wasn't his year for this honor, which traditionally has valued players from teams who make runs deep into May. Hopefully that will be Sowers next year.

As for this year, there was a great turnout by his Princeton teammates in support of the junior attackman. That's the kind of team player he is.

Sowers will enter his senior year as the Division I leader in career points with 255, despite having played four fewer games than second-place Jeff Teat of Cornell, who has 241 points, and six fewer than Grant, who has 240.

Sowers is 45 points away from becoming the 16th Division I player ever to reach 300, and, if he matches his total of 90 points this season, he'd reach 345, which would be seventh-best in history.

In addition to his teammates, Sowers had a big following from his family at the Tewaaraton event. TB's hope is that Princeton makes a good run next year, which will allow everyone who was there this year to be back next year.

Hopefully to see him win.

He's unlike any player TB has ever seen play lacrosse. That's for sure.