Friday, April 3, 2020

Blog 3K

TigerBlog had several Zoom meetings yesterday, including an all-staff one in which there were thumbnails of all of his colleagues whom he hasn't seen in, what's it been?, months, years?

Actually, if you can believe it, TigerBlog was thinking about how four weeks ago this evening was the night he sat on his couch and watched Princeton women's basketball (Bella Alarie broke the school career points record), men's basketball (Princeton big over Columbia) and men's hockey (first-round ECAC win at Dartmouth).

Does it seem like only four weeks? No. It seems like another time from another world.

Another of TB's calls yesterday, by the way, involved head football coach Bob Surace, and a few others. TB asked them all the same trivia question:
"Only two switch-hitters in Major League history reached 3,000 hits. Can you name them?"

Only Coach Surace got them both: Pete Rose and Eddie Murray. Impressive.

Murray, by the way, is the only player ever to have at least 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. That's even more impressive for a switch-hitter.

In case you're wondering, Murray hit 504 career home runs, with 362 lefthanded and 142 righthanded.

Stats are fascinating things. In Princeton Athletic history, there are just some that leap out of the record books - Bill Bradley had 2,503 career points, Keith Elias ran for 4,208 yards, Leslie Robinson had the first triple-double in Princeton basketball history. TB could go on for awhile.

As you probably figured out a long time ago, TigerBlog loves statistics, something that stems from an even greater passion for numbers, patterns and algorithms.

Where this came from he's not sure, but it likely has something to do with the fact that numbers are finite for the most part. They offer clarity and certainty and in an ever spinning world they can offer comfort.

With that as a backdrop, you might be interested to know that this is the 3,000th entry in TigerBlog history.

He doesn't tell you this for recognition, but rather to demonstrate how important this is to him and how appreciative he is of all of you out there who read it every day. Without your feedback and readership TB isn't sure he'd be so dogged in his consistency, but aside from his own personal sense of accomplishment, he loves your comments and support.

The blog was born on Aug. 28, 2008, with no actual purpose other than to say Princeton Athletics had a blog. At the time, who knew what it might become?

At first, it was used for in-game blogging and some small messages. As TB has said before, nobody was reading it then, and it almost simply went by the wayside until TB hit on the idea of using it as a story-telling venture.

From that point, things started to take off a bit. It was a few months until it became a daily venture, and that's where it stays now, without having missed a business day in more than 11 years.

The 1,000th entry was on May 17, 2012. The 2,000th was on May 2, 2016. Now it's 3,000.

If he had to guess, TB would say that he's written 2,800 of them. There were the early ones, that were most the short blurbs and in-game ones. There have been some guest spots through the years, for which he thanks everyone who has ever submitted one, especially Jim Barlow, Tad La Fountain, David Rosenfeld, Craig Sachson and Howard Levy. He also would like to thank the two Princeton Ford Family Directors of Athletics who have allowed it and seen its value, Gary Walters and Mollie Marcoux Samaan.

Every blog is archived here. They're not all worth going back and reading, but some are.

The best have always been the personal ones, the emotional ones, whoever the subjects have been. They have been the ones that have been the best-received, and they've been the ones that have really helped TB explain why Princeton Athletics - and what it has always represented - has been so special to him for more than 30 years now.

When TB first saw what day the 3,000th blog would fall on, he thought he'd be writing it in advance of a really busy spring athletic weekend. Now he's writing it in the middle of a pandemic that has brought athletics to a halt.

And while that may be true, what is even more obvious is that the connections that athletics foster are strong than ever. In these times, there have been all kinds of stories and all kinds of social media that prove that is the case.

As TB has been saying, staying connected now is more important than ever.

So again, he thanks everyone for staying connected with him all these years and through to the present. He's ready to start on the next 1,000 come Monday.

In the meantime, stay safe. And thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Real Heroes

A quick search of his archives here reveals that TigerBlog has been judicious in his use of the word "heroic" through the years.

He's glad to be able to say that.

It probably comes from his mother, who was pretty clear with him - and with her own work with paralyzed veterans - that it's not a word to be thrown around lightly.

The last person that TigerBlog referred to as a hero before today was back in November, when he mentioned Hobey Baker and the "heroic" status he achieved mostly through his post-Princeton military career.

Before that, it was a month earlier, in a reference to Tyler Campbell, Class of 1943, who was killed during World War II. Before that, it was talking about his friend Steve DiGregorio and his wife Nadia in their fight against the rare disease that their son Derek, another hero, has had to face for most of his 22 years. Then it was the people who rescued those stranded in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.

TigerBlog was thinking about heroes yesterday, after he heard the news that Evan Garfein had tested positive for the Coronavirus. It came by a post from his sister, herself a doctor, and then several others alerted TB.



It was just a week ago that TB wrote about Garfein, a plastic surgeon in New York City who had been pressed into emergency duty treating COVID-19 patients for 12 hour shifts.

Garfein is a 1992 Princeton graduate and an NCAA champion with the men's lacrosse team his senior year. He spoke with TB about the lessons he learned as a lacrosse player, one who worked hard to maximize every ounce of his ability and go from a walk-on for a team that was 2-13 the year before he got there to someone who was on the field in the 10-9 double overtime win over Syracuse on Memorial Day 1992.

His Princeton coach, Bill Tierney, spoke glowingly of Garfein's character and his impact on the team when TB spoke to him last week. Even now, 28 years later, Garfein's role on that first NCAA championship team resonated with the Hall-of-Fame coach.

You can read the story HERE.

If you don't want to read the story, here's how it ended:
Heroes. They're not always the ones who score the winning goals. They are the ones who are there when you need them most. These days, Evan Garfein is one of the heroes in a place and time that desperately needs them.

This was that time.

And so he became the hero that New York needed. And now he's sick.

He knew that there was a pretty good possibility that would happen. He mentioned it when he and TigerBlog spoke last week.

He went into those emergency room shifts anyway.

Who knows how many people he helped, even saved, during his time there. They certainly appreciate that he was there.

The country, in fact the world, is filled now with people who are walking into hospitals to do their parts. They're not all doctors and nurses either. They're hospital staff, researchers, cleaning people, anyone who is vital to the effort to end this madness.

TigerBlog knows some of them. He has a friend named Lisa who is a nurse near Albany who also got sick. He has another friend named Tabitha in Chicago who is also a nurse. She keeps heading in to take care of the ones who need it, doing whatever she can.

Everyone has these stories. Everyone knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone.

They deserve your highest level of respect. They deserve everyone's highest level of respect.

TigerBlog had another entry all written and ready to go before he heard the news about Dr. Garfein. He wondered for a minute if it was appropriate to swap that out and write this.

He decided, obviously, to write this. Why? Because of the same reason that he wrote the original story.

These are times unlike any other that have come along, maybe ever. Most of the world is locked down at home, trying to get work done, watching kids, trying to exercise, trying to have a little fun. watching a lot of TV and spending a lot of time on Zoom.

There are others, though, who are walking straight into the fire. In many ways, they're like the firefighters on 9/11, doing what needs to be done and great personal risk.

When this is over, there will be a lot of people alive who literally will owe their lives to the medical personnel who are currently working those 12-hour shifts. Evan Garfein is one of them.

TB wishes him the best. Get well soon.

After all, there are a shortage of real heroes out there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Fact Checking

TigerBlog gets some very random inquiries requesting all kinds of random information.

He's gotten a bunch of emails and calls from hiring managers fact-checking resumes. Let that be a lesson to everyone out there applying for jobs; they are checking out what you're saying.

And speaking of fact-checking, TB has a great story from a long time ago about a different sort of inquiry.

Back in the 1990s or so, he received a call from a seemingly young woman who wanted to know if a certain person had been an All-American fencer. It seemed innocuous enough, so TB looked up the information.

That was before these things were on a webpage, which has certainly cut down on the phone calls.

When TB went to check the record book, he learned in fact that the person was not a fencing All-American. For that matter, he was not a men's fencing letterwinner.

When TB mentioned that to the young woman, she asked if he had a way to check to see if the person had gone to Princeton. It turned out that he hadn't.

By now, TB's curiosity was peeked, so he asked what the purpose was.

To paraphrase, the woman said that she and her friends had been out the night before in a bar in New York City and a young man told her that he had been an All-American fencer at Princeton in the course of their, um, conversation. She was calling his bluff - and presumably not calling him ever again after that.

At the time, and now for that matter, TB thinks it was a pretty sharp move by the prospective suitor.

If he said that he was the captain of the football team, she wouldn't have bought that too easily. Princeton. Fencer. Sure, why not.

Even if he flopped.

TB has no way of knowing if this next story is true, but he did hear it once and it does seem plausible. An old friend of his was in a bar listening to another young man trying to impress another young woman, and he told her that he was a former Major League Baseball player. Not believing it for a second, TB's friend asked him who he got his first Major League hit off of, and when the guy stumbled and didn't immediately have the answer, TB's friend called him out and said he was full of it, causing the young woman to flee.

Of course, it's easy to assume that everyone who ever played in the Major Leagues can recall who his first hit was against, or, for pitchers, who the first batter he struck out was. To test this, TB asked a former Major Leaguer, Scott Bradley, if he could remember whom his first hit was against.

This was the response:
"First hit was against the Blue Jays in old Exhibition Stadium. Pitcher was Louis Leal! Ground ball between first and second. Was my third major league at bat!! Remember it like it was yesterday!!" 

Bradley, of course, is Princeton's long-time baseball coach.

Bradley was a lefthanded hitting catcher, which is a rare and valuable commodity. He was a career .257 hitter in nine Major League seasons, and he played in more than 100 games in four straight years with the Mariners from 1987-90.

The highlight of that time was June 2, 1990, when he caught a no-hitter thrown by Randy Johnson. He would go on to coach Ross Ohlendorf at Princeton, and Ohlendorf was once part of a trade for Johnson.

Bradley has won 413 games in 22 seasons as Princeton head coach, trailing only the 564 that Bill Clarke won in 36 years as Tiger head coach. He has taken Princeton to seven NCAA tournaments, most recently in 2016 at Louisiana-Lafayette, and he has turned out an army of professional players, including several Major Leaguers and a World Series champion in Chris Young.

You don't have to email anyone. All of those facts are correct.

And there it for today, which is Wednesday, right? If you're like TB, you're having trouble remembering which day is which in these surreal times.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Howard And Richmond

Speaking of staying connected, as TigerBlog was yesterday, here are two more examples.




Now that's cool.

That would be Duncan Joyce, a junior on the men's squash team. And that would be the squash court in the basement of his family home.

Is there a better way to pass the time than playing squash in your basement? Ah, the days of lunchtime squash and the epic battles between TB and his former colleague Craig Sachson, the battles that raged before TB had surgery on both knees and bad shoulder tendinitis, the direct result of which is that his major form of exercise the last few years has been riding his bike.

Still, it was worth it. TB loved to play squash, especially against Sachson, against whom he was fairly evenly matched (though he'd guess Sachson won around 55 percent of their career matches).

Before that, TB played a lot of lunchtime basketball in Jadwin. He was never a good ballhander or shooter, but he could pass and he could play the low post, at least the lunchtime version of that. Had he been about eight or so inches taller, he would have been a fine Princeton backup center, he supposes.

As a former lunchtime center, at least, TB can appreciate the Mikan Drill, especially when it's done these days in a driveway and then put on Instagram as part of the efforts to stay connected.







A post shared by Mercer County Men's BBall (@mccchoops) on


Do they still do the Mikan Drill anymore? It's named after George Mikan, who was the first dominant big man the NBA ever saw and who was famous for playing with big, thick glasses on.

The man in the video is Howard Levy, the head coach of the Mercer County Community College men's basketball team. He's also the Princeton career record holder for field goal percentage at .647.

In the video, Howard shot 30 for 32, which is .938. TB was surprised to see that he missed any.

Howard came to Princeton from Suffern, N.Y., and he went from not being in the regular rotation to one of the best big men Princeton has ever had.

His career-high was 24 points in a game, which he did twice, including in the 1984 NCAA tournament game against UNLV in Salt Lake City. When TB looked it up, he wondered in that was something that Howard would remember easily, so he texted hm. He got this response:

"I had 43 points against North Rockland HS, 38 for Princeton JV against Cambden CCC and 24 a couple times for the Tigers."

Impressive recall.

The video on his driveway is not the first time that Levy did that Mikan Drill. That's how he got better. TigerBlog would guess Richmond Aririguzoh did more than his share.

In fact, Aririguzoh finished his career second all-time at Princeton in field goal percentage at .636, trailing only Levy. As TB looked a little closer he found that Aririguzoh had a career not that much unlike Levy's.

How does this comparison look:

* Aririguzoh played in 13 games as a freshman and averaged 1.5 points per game; Levy played in 11 games as a freshman and averaged 1.0 points per game.

* as sophomores, their averages were 2.7 (Aririguzoh) and 1.8 (Levy)

* the following season, their junior years, they both increased their per game averages by exactly 9.4 points per game, as Aririguzoh went to 12.1 and Levy to 11.2.

* as seniors, they averaged pretty much the same, with Levy at 12.1 and Aririguzoh at 12.0.

* neither was in double figures in scoring in game as a freshman or sophomore; as a junior Aririguzoh had 20 double figures scoring games, while Levy had 19.

* blocked shots in their careers: Aririguzoh 53, Levy 51; assists in their careers: Levy 125; Aririguzoh 117

* career highs for both were 24

Also, they both went from being non-starters to finishing their careers as All-Ivy League selections. Levy would be a second-team selection in 1985, while Aririguzoh was a first-team selection this season and a second-team selection last season.

How'd they do this?

Coaching, for one. And especially work ethic. Both of them showed what can happen when those two things are combined.

The result is that both have their rightful place among the all-time great Tiger centers. Deservedly so.

It took a lot of Mikan Drills to get them there. 


Monday, March 30, 2020

Staying Connected

So here is how someone who has spent most of his life in athletic communications tends to think every now and then.

TigerBlog was watching part of the "Rocky" marathon on AMC Saturday. When it got to the point where Rocky was going to fight his rematch with Clubber Lang, TB thought to himself "what is Rocky's record now?'

Well, before his first fight with Apollo Creed, Rocky's record was given by the two commentators as 44-20. Since he loses that fight but then beats Creed again (Rocky II) and then says he won his first 10 title defenses before losing to Lang the first time (Rocky III), that would make him 55-22 prior to the rematch.

It also means there were a lot of guys in the Philadelphia are who watched one of Balboa's fights and said "you know I kicked his butt, right?"

By the way, there have been eight movies in the series, and Sylvester Stallone wrote seven of them. Can you guess the one he didn't write?

For the record, TigerBlog was so disappointed in "Rocky IV" when it first came out that he never saw "Rocky V." Through the years, he's come to be okay with "Rocky IV," even if he'll never love it. He did think the two "Creed" movies were awesome, and he'd rank "Creed" up there with any of the other movies other than the original, which will forever be in a class by itself.

The "Rocky" marathon was a big part of TB's Saturday. It was raining in the greater Princeton metropolitan area, so it was a good day to sit inside and watch movies you've seen a million times before.

Of course, TB is still not past the idea of where he was supposed to be while the marathon was going on. In fact, he even checked the weather in Providence to see if it would be raining there for the Princeton-Brown men's lacrosse game, which of course was not going to be played.

Turns out it wasn't raining at 1, when face-off was supposed to be. It would have been a great day for what figured to be a great game.

Oh, and TB is not a fan of all of these simulations of games or NCAA tournaments or anything. It's okay if you like them, and he's not talking them down. It's just that they are most decidedly not his thing.

If TB is still this tuned in to when and where games were supposed to be, he imagines the coaches and especially players are even more so. In the meantime, as the pandemic continues, this surreal spring moves ahead with no games and remote classes.

In this era, staying in touch and staying connected are hugely important, maybe more so than ever, as people spend very little time with actual contact with the overwhelming majority of people in their lives.

The softball team is another team that should have been playing this past weekend. The Tigers, though, are staying in touch the way so many teams, and all organizations for that matter, are currently doing.

You can see for yourself:


 

That's just one of the many ways that Princetonians are staying connected these days.

There have been highlight videos. Lots of them. And former Tigers who have checked in about their teams, including this from Sandi Bittler, who had been the all-time leading scorer for Princeton women's basketball before Bella Alarie beat her 30-year-old record:



There've been written pieces, including "Dear Princeton" essays such as this one from Evan Quinn of the men's golf team that you can see HERE and which includes this:
I am so appreciative of everyone who has made my last four years so unforgettable. 
Every day really is a great day to be a Tiger.
Sincerely,
Evan Quinn '20

The whole piece is really good.

TB's colleague Cody Chrusciel has set up a home broadcast center, one in which he originally featured an interview, such as it was, of his dog.


The first human interview was with wrestler Patrick Glory. You can see that one too:


There have also been coaches who have been turning their homes into family workout areas, some really good:

 

And, of course, what did everyone's mother say? It's only fun til someone gets hurt?


 

TigerBlog can confirm that A.J. is doing fine.

In the meantime, you can continue to check out the webpage and social media for more content. As TB said, staying connected has never been more important.

You can't watch TV all day, not even when there's a "Rocky" marathon. 

Oh, and Sylvester Stallone did not write the first "Creed."

Friday, March 27, 2020

Unmasked

A few weeks ago, which seems a lot longer than a few weeks ago, TigerBlog stumbled upon a team picture of the 1953 men's hockey team.

His first thought on seeing it was of John McPhee, a member of the Class of 1953 and someone who has often talked about his friendship with George Hackl, the captain of the 1955 men's hockey team and a sophomore in 1952-53. TB thought he'd like it.

He also sent him another picture he found of John's cousin Frank McPhee, an All-American end on the football team in the early 1950s.

Yesterday, TB and McPhee (John, not Frank) ventured out to for a bike ride. TB has been out most days, but this was the first time he rode with Mr. McPhee in awhile.

John, by the way, was featured on the princeton.edu website yesterday as he continues to teach his sophomore writing seminar, albeit using Zoom these days. It went fairly seamlessly, the story said and he concurred, as everyone seems to be becoming a Zoom expert these days.

You can read that story HERE.

During the ride, the two got to talking about the 1953 hockey picture. John pointed out that the picture included a lot of his friends and even two of his roommates, and he also mentioned how George could identify every single player in the picture.

This got TB to thinking about whether or not that would be expected or was something impressive. He thinks he'll go with expected (for impressive, consider that John McPhee, age 89, rode his bike more than 11 miles yesterday).

In fact, TB would go so far as to say that he'd guess that a high majority of Princeton athletes could go through a team photo decades later and correctly recall the name of everyone in it. That, TB would suggest, speaks to the bond that is created by being a Princeton athlete.

In addition to his pretty much daily bike rides, TB has been doing a lot of writing and a lot of updating of things on the webpage. He's guessing he's not the only person who works in athletic communications who is doing those things.

TB would have gotten on the men's lacrosse bus today for the trip to Brown that had been scheduled. He's going to say that the Tigers, who were 5-0 when the season was suspended, would be 7-0 now, and hey, he acknowledges that anyone from Penn (his friend Quaker Meeting House for instance) or Yale would definitely say otherwise.

Another person on the bus would have been Derek Griesdorn, the equipment manager for men's lacrosse and other Princeton teams.

TB has know Derek since he came to Princeton three years ago, and he can vouch for the fact that Derek means every word of this quote on his bio on the webpage: "I will bend over backwards to help anyone achieve what they need done. If there is anything I can do in the line of equipment, I will do whatever I possibly can to make it happen. Always looking to better myself and the people around me."

Also, from that bio, TB sees that Derek is a graduate of the University of Dayton. That's rough, since he's left to wonder not only about how Princeton men's lacrosse would have done the rest of the way but also how Dayton men's basketball would have as well.

In typical Derek fashion, he shrugged it off by saying it was a fun year and he loves the school and the arena.

By the way, last night and tonight would have been the men's Sweet 16.

Derek is spending his time these days doing what he can to help the fight against the coronavirus, or at least to help those who are fighting it. An expert at sewing, Derek has been working to convert fabric, mostly cotton, into masks that can be used in this time of a shortage. Cotton works the best because it is breathable but can also catch the particles.

At least that's what Derek said.

"It's a great cause," he says. "There's a shortage, and if I can help out, I'm happy to do it."

It takes him about 30 minutes to convert an old t-shirt to a mask. He's been supplied fabric by local organizations and by some others at Princeton, and he has been making 10 masks a day.

For more information, including how to donate fabric, click HERE.

And, you know, TB doesn't expect Tiger fans to know who Derek is. And yes, Derek would rather be getting on the bus to Providence than sewing masks.

But that's what he's doing, sewing masks. And making a difference.

And so now you know who he is. And you can be glad people like that are a part of Princeton Athletics.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Garfein And Glory

TigerBlog, like everyone else who is spending pretty much all day at home, is always open to a good diversion.

He saw this one yesterday, and it's great - but only if you're a Broadway fan, especially "Les Mis." TB's colleague Jon Kurian definitely fits the bill.

Or Playbill, as it were.

You can see what TB means HERE. If you don't to click, it's a bunch of Broadway actors and actresses singing "One Day More" from "Les Mis" while they are quarantined. TB isn't exactly sure who's doing the actual singing, but he still liked it a lot.

Okay, hopefully it's about three minutes since you read the last paragraph, and hopefully you enjoyed the little diversion.

For today, TB would like to talk about two people, and he'll do so alphabetically.

First, there is Garfein, Evan.

That's actually Dr. Evan Garfein, a plastic surgeon who has been called to the frontlines of the the fight against COVID-19 in New York City. Evan is a working 12-hour shifts in an emergency room these days, and he's seeing first-hand what this virus is doing.

You can read TB's story about Garfein HERE.

If you don't read the story (TB is wondering what percentage of people reading this sentence have read the story after they listened to the "Les Mis" video), or even if you did, Garfein played on Princeton's 1992 NCAA championship men's lacrosse team, the first of six such teams the program had.

Garfein came to Princeton in the fall of 1988 as a walk-on, and the team he joined had just gone through a 2-13 season under first-year head coach Bill Tierney. Expectations, and roster numbers, were both low, but Tierney promised his first recruiting class that it would win an NCAA title.

Nobody believed him.

Garfein was able to get a spot on the team, something he says might not have happened a few years later, and he would work his way up to being a contributor. He even dressed for the semifinal and championship games in 1992, the circumstances of which are covered in the story.

What really strikes TB about the story is the way that Garfein talks about the lessons he learned playing at Princeton and how now, nearly 30 years later, he is still drawing on those lessons as he approaches the current crisis.

In fact, what he's talking about is what came to be known as "Education Through Athletics," and he has gone on to be everything that is summed up under the heading "Achieve, Serve, Lead." It's a fascinating dynamic, and he is doing incredible work right now.

The other person is Glory, Patrick.

A long time ago, there was a baseball pitcher at a local high school whose last name was "Lord," which led to all kinds of predictable headlines after he'd win. When Glory first came to Princeton, TB imagined that he had been the recipient of similar headlines during his high school career.

His, uh, Glory Days hardly ended with high school though.

Glory, from North Jersey and the Delbarton School, had an extraordinary season, going 24-0, winning the EIWA title at 125 pounds (for the second straight year), becoming Princeton's first Ivy Wrestler of the Year since 1986 and winning 13 of his 24 matches through either a techincal fall or a pin.

Excruciatingly, Glory is one of the many athletes who will never be able to find out how the 2020 season would have turned out, as the NCAA wrestling championships were cancelled, just like the basketball tournaments, hockey tournaments and all spring championships.

Still, Glory's sophomore season has another potential honor on the table, as he is one of 10 nominees for the Hodge Award as the top collegiate wrestling.

The award, by the way, is named for Danny Hodge, who 1) went 46-0 at Oklahoma from 1955-57, 2) won the NCAA title each of his three varsity seasons, pinning his opponent all three times in the final (one of only two wrestlers ever to win three NCAA finals by pin, with the other being Oklahoma A&M's Earl McCready from 1928-30), 3) an Olympic silver medalist in 1956 and 4) now 87 years old and still, apparently, crushing apples in his hand (that's what it says on Wikipedia anyway).

Fans can vote for Glory until 6 pm Eastern time tomorrrow at THIS website. The winner will be announced Monday.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The All-Americans

TigerBlog was giving thought to the number of meetings he's attended in all his years at Princeton. It's probably more than he could ever begin to count.

Or maybe he can. Hmm. Weekly. Monthly. Conference calls. Multiple decades.

Nope. He has no idea how many he's been a part of though the years. It has to be somewhere around, well, a lot. More than 1,000, he'd guess. Probably closer to 1,500.

It was one of the very first ones where Hank Towns, the beloved former equipment manager, mentioned that teams were practicing way too late, which led to a question of where the athletes were eating if practices were going past the time when the dining halls would close.

"I'm not worried about their dinners," Hank said. "I'm worried about my dinner. They can eat at McDonald's."

Classic stuff.

Meetings are much different in the surreal times in which the world now exists, but they still go on. TB has been on several meetings in the last week, with more to come today and tomorrow, but they've been done remotely through an app called Zoom.

Have you used it?

A link is created (once the app is downloaded), and you can click on the link and be connected with all of the people you otherwise would have met with in person. The only issues is that every person on the meeting is on the screen in their own little box.

It gives the impression that everyone is staring closely at you at all times, in ways that are different from regular meetings, when everyone is around a table. Maybe it's in TB's head, but it takes a little getting used to, that's for sure.

There was an Office of Athletic Communications meeting yesterday to talk about a variety of subjects, including content for goprincetontigers.com and social media. If you looked on the webpage yesterday, you saw a series of stories that had "All-American" in there somewhere. Four straight stories, to be exact.

In short order, Princeton had:

* women's hockey player Sarah Fillier named second-team All-American. Fillier is now the first two-time All-American in program history, and she has achieved this after only her sophomore year. You can read about it HERE.

* two of the stories were about the men's and women's squash All-Americans. There were a total of four Princeton athletes honored, three women and two men. The women, as you might know, reached the national championship match against Harvard. The stories are HERE and HERE.

* finally Bella Alarie keeps adding honors to her already hugely long resume. Alarie became the first Ivy League women's basketball player ever to be a two-time All-American. HERE.

Also, this All-American talk got TB to wondering if there will be spring All-Americans named. On the one hand, it would be nice to have continuity in the records through the years, even if the season's were very much abbreviated. On the other, the seasons were very much abbreviated.

Just something to think about.

Oh, and one more thing for today, something that has nothing to do with Princeton Athletics. 

TigerBlog has always liked his cousin Steve very much, ever since he was a little kid.

Steve is married to Linda, who was MotherBlog's first cousin. Linda's mother and MB's mother were sisters who, if stood one on top of the other, would barely have been taller than Chris Young, but hey, at least they were taller than their brother Maurice.

Linda and Steve have been married for 56 years now, and have raised two daughters, TB's cousins Nicole and Jill (who happens to be a Cornell graduate, but it's okay, TB still loves her).

Steve spent his professional career in the New York City probation department, working with some of the toughest people there - and also helping untold numbers of them to turn their lives around. Standing around 6-6 with a deep voice, a slow manner of speaking and a dry sense of humor, he is very much what used to be known as the strong silent type, the kind of character Gary Cooper might have played in a movie long ago.

This past Sunday Steve turned 80 years old. He doesn't look it, and he certainly doesn't act it. Maybe the first has something to do with the second?

Anyway, TB wanted to sneak in a quick "Happy 80th" to his cousin. You know, because he didn't send a card.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Here's The Story

As old sitcoms from when he was a kid go, "The Brady Bunch" was never one of TigerBlog's favorites.

It was okay. It was no "Gilligan's Island" or "I Dream Of Jeannie," and it wasn't in the same universe as "Get Smart." And then there was the golden age of sitcoms, the 1970s, which included the greatest ones of all time: "All In The Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Barney Miller," "WKRP In Cincinnati" and of course "The Odd Couple."

"The Brady Bunch" was okay, though its concept is what made it not as funny as it could be. The family didn't have any tensions it could play off of, since they were all so committed to being nice and getting along. What's funny about that?

It was a bit too wholesome to be really funny. 

As everyone knows, the best part of "The Brady Bunch" was the song at the beginning, where they all sang "Here's the story ..." while they were in their own little squares.

There was a video on Twitter yesterday that played off of that theme, one that the University put up on the first day of remote classes for students. Perhaps you saw it:


 
That's really good, right?

If you looked closely enough, you may have noticed a familiar face in the final third of the video. That would be the face of women's lacrosse player Kyla Sears.

There aren't too many more well-rounded student-athletes than Kyla Sears, who excels at both parts of that term.

She's a standout student with one of the top GPAs on the team, and she is obviously one of the best women's lacrosse players Princeton has ever seen. And she can sing.

Sears sang with choirs and a cappella groups at Skaneateles High School outside of Syracuse, and she's sang the national anthem before Princeton games throughout her career. Princeton, in fact, has a long history of women's lacrosse players who sing before games, going back to Theresa Sherry, who scored the game-winning goal in OT of the 2003 NCAA championship game.

On the field, Sears holds five school records and two Ivy League records. The two Ivy records are the most goals (64) and points (83) by a freshman, and she also holds the Princeton records for free position goals in a season and career and assists in a season.

Sears currently has 217 career points, which has her sixth all-time at Princeton. She is also tied for sixth in career assists with 68, and her 139 goals leave her three away from the top 10. She's already earned a special place in Princeton women's lacrosse history.

It's not a coincidence that Sears has the school records for free position goals, since she is the best TigerBlog has ever seen at drawing a free position in the first place. In fact, TB asked Chris Sailer about her ability to do on one of the podcasts this years, and Sailer spoke about how Sears just has an innate ability and a tenacity put herself in the right spots to make it happen.

And she can sing, as TB said.

Her spot in the "Brady Bunch" video came about as part of an effort to put together a group that represented pretty much all segments of the campus. It includes, as you can see, several members of the band, not to mention the actual Tiger.

Its original purpose wasn't to be a reminder of a connectedness to the campus during these surreal times, but that's what its best usage is. You can't be part of the Princeton community and not be touched by it.

And it's great that Kyla Sears was able to be a part of it.

At a time when everything is up in the air the way it is, it's always great to remember the people who make the place so special in the first place. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Old Time Hoops

At noon Saturday, TigerBlog had on his television the replay of the 1982 NCAA men's basketball championship game between North Carolina and Georgetown.

At one point he thought to himself about the fact that he was not at the Princeton-Yale men's lacrosse game in New Haven at the same time and what he would have thought a month ago if you'd told him he wouldn't be at that game. Or, more exactly, that he wouldn't be at the game AND wouldn't be watching the videostream.

The only thing he would have come up with was that Princeton would be hosting the NCAA women's basketball tournament (a possibility) and that he would be needed there, though even so he still thinks he would have been watching the lacrosse game.

Nevertheless, in these surreal times, he was home, on his couch, watching North Carolina-Georgetown from 1982.

You could tell it was a game from a different time from how it appeared on TV. First of all, there was no three-point shot or shot clock. That alone made the game look unfamiliar.

For instance, on each possession that resulted in settled offense, TB found himself thinking about how much time was on the shot clock. Then he looked for it on the on-screen graphic - only to remember that 1) there was no shot clock and 2) there was no on-screen graphic.

Not even the score alone was constantly displayed. It was just put up after a score or going to a timeout.

Oh, and speaking of that, there was no media timeout format back then either. The first deadball after the 16:00 mark of the first half brought no immediate reaction by anyone to head to the bench.

It's amazing how conditioned you can get from watching games on TV and how viewing habits become ingrained.

TB hadn't seen that game since he watched it in his dorm room at Penn. He remembered how Patrick Ewing started the game by being the kind of dominant and imposing physical presence that has rarely been rivaled, and even his multiple goaltending violations left the Tar Heels intimidated.

That North Carolina team wasn't bad. It featured James Worthy and Sam Perkins, who would be the No. 1 and No. 4 players picked in the NBA drafts when they left UNC and who both had great professional careers. Worthy is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Perkins is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

The team also had Michael Jordan as a freshman. With apologies to every other player who has ever played the sport, Jordan is in TB's eyes the greatest player of all time. In fact, he's the greatest athlete TB has ever seen.

On that team, though, he was a freshman, and he was not the lead player, which is something that was weird to see as well. Of course, when it mattered most, Jordan knocked down the game-winning jump shot as UNC won 63-62.

As he watched, TB texted John Thompson III, whose father was the Georgetown coach then, to see where JT3 was sitting for this one in the Superdome in New Orleans. Turns out he was across the court near mid-court in the second or third row.

John Thompson III played on the unluckiest Princeton team TB can think of his senior year, at least other than the ones whose seasons were shortened by the current pandemic. The 1988 Tigers lost three straight heartbreaking one-point games in midseason and then blasted Ivy champ Cornell by 30 on the last night of the year in Jadwin Gym. The Tigers would then win the next four titles.

He then went on to be part of Pete Carril's last staff at Princeton (the one that beat UCLA in 1996) and Bill Carmody's first (the one that went 14-0 each of Carmody's first two seasons and beat UNLV in the first round of the 1998 tournament) before becoming Tiger head coach himself when Carmody left for Northwestern shortly before practice for the 2000-01 season began.

Thompson led Princeton to three Ivy titles in four years, and the 2000-01 team will always be one of TB's favorites, after the way the rookie coach and his rebuilt roster won the championship. Thompson would quickly establish himself as a calming influence in every storm that came up, and his innate ability to manage late-game situations and the resulting ability to win close games defined all of his teams.

He went from Princeton to Georgetown before the 2004-05 season, but he remains a universally loved and respected presence on the Princeton campus. He can't walk into Jadwin Gym without being swarmed by the fans who saw him play and coach.

This past weekend wasn't a great time for him to watch TV. In addition to that 1982 game that Georgetown lost, the 2013 opening round game between his second-seeded Hoyas and 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast was also reshown. In that game, which would have been one of TB's favorite games ever to watch had it not been for the fact that he was rooting hard for Georgetown, saw the "Dunk City" FGC team win 78-68 and do so in very entertaining fashion.

Thompson, of course, led Georgetown to the 2007 Final Four, defeating North Carolina 96-84. Georgetown trailed by 11 in the second half before a 14-0 run sent the Hoyas to the Final Four.

Hey, CBS, would it have been too much to fit that game in there somewhere this weekend?

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Different Five-Game Sweep

Even if you've spent your whole life going to the supermarket in this country, you've clearly never seen anything quite like what's gone on in the last two weeks, or especially the last week.

TigerBlog finally needed to go back yesterday, and he figured if he went in the morning, he'd have a better chance of finding stocked shelves.

As he walked into the store, he saw a man returning to his car holding two things of toilet paper. TB said he was surprised to see toilet paper, and the man responded that there was some in the store and that they were limited to two packages each, with maybe four rolls per package.

TB didn't need any toilet paper, which is a good thing, since by the time he got into the store, it was all gone. He was able to get paper towels, which he was short on.

It's not just toilet paper that is in short supply these days. Or hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes.

There was only one package left of chicken thighs (fortunately they were boneless). There were no frozen vegetables anywhere in the store.

TB likes the veggie burgers, which is a good thing, because the regular ones were long gone, though there was box after box of the veggie kind in the freezer section.

Pasta? Nope. Tuna fish? Only the large single cans. 

It's a fascinating study really. What products move fastest and which ones just sit there. And why?

For the most part, TB was able to get what he needed. The line wasn't better. It wasn't that crowded.

He'd guess about 15 percent of the people wore masks. Some, very few, wore rubber gloves.

These are interesting times, to say the least, surreal, actually. TigerBlog did his podcast with Chris Sailer yesterday, and it was done not in the Levine Broadcast Center but instead by phone, something TB learned how to do for hopefully the short term.

The women's lacrosse team was supposed to spend the week in Florida, with a game against Jacksonville Tuesday night that obviously was not played. TB would have been at that game as well, though of course he did not go to Florida.

This week's podcast was supposed to be about that game and the game tomorrow at Brown. Instead, as you can hear by clicking HERE, the discussion was about how quickly everything moved last week, when the Tigers went from a game at Stony Brook Sunday to figuring out logistics Monday and Tuesday and then having everything shut down Wednesday.

Sailer talks a great deal in the podcast about the communication she and the rest of the Department of Athletics received from the University administration and then how she has communicated with her athletes. You can hear the sadness in her voice, but you can also hear the resilience too.

Meanwhile, back in the supermarket, TigerBlog saw someone wearing a University of Pennsylvania sweatshirt, and so he asked him if he went to Penn. They looked to be about the same age, and TB thought maybe they went to school together.

As it turned out, his son goes to Penn. TB, of course, was dressed in Princeton stuff. The man said that he had been to the football game at Penn in November, which Princeton won 28-7 and which seems like a long, long time ago.

The fact that Princeton won that game got TB to thinking how the Tigers also swept Penn in men's and women's basketball, making it a 5-0 record for Princeton in football and basketball against the Quakers.

This got TB to wondering how often this has happened in an academic year in the past, and it turns out that it's happened three times to be exact: 2019-20, 2013-14 and 1987-88.

So it doesn't really happen all that often.

Going through the scores again, by the way, reminded TB of what an incredible record Mitch Henderson has against Penn. After this year's sweep, he's now 20-8 against the Quakers, including 5-4 as a player and 15-4 as a head coach. Keep in mind, he started out 0-4 against Penn as a player, so he's 20-4 since then.

Do you remember his first win over Penn? It came in the 1996 Ivy League playoff game at Lehigh.

How many times has Penn gone 5-0 against Princeton in football and basketball? 

He didn't go back and look that up all the way to the beginning of Ivy League women's basketball, but the last time the Quakers did so was in 2004-05, and that's the only time Penn has done so this century. 

And when you saw the headline, you thought it was about the men's lacrosse team and its 5-0 start, didn't you.

Have a good weekend. Stay safe.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

1998 vs. 2020

The Princeton women's basketball team finished 17th in the final coaches' poll and 22nd in the final media poll.

Does this confirm that coaches are much smarter than media members?

Back in 1998, as the Princeton men's basketball team was climbing up the national rankings, TigerBlog would write each week on where the Tigers were in each poll and would have the heading "what do the coaches know" or "what do the media know" depending on where they were higher.

Also, during the first semester exam break, Princeton went from somewhere along the lines of ranked 17th to 10th or so without ever playing. TB wrote this: "If we never play again, we'll end up No. 1."

Those Tigers didn't quite reach No. 1. The highest they got was No. 8 in the final AP poll of the season, which left them sandwiched between No. 7 Kentucky and No. 9 Utah, who played that year in the NCAA championship game.

That was an incredible year to be the basketball contact for a team, as TB was back then. He saw all 29 games the team would play that year, beginning with wins over Texas and North Carolina State in a preseason tournament at what was then a very beautiful and vibrant Meadowlands Arena and ending in at the Hartford Civic Center with a second-round NCAA loss to Michigan State, a team that would bring four of its players from that day back as starters two years later when it won the national championship.

The 1998 men's team and 2020 women's team had something in common - their record in the regular season. Princeton's men that year, and Princeton's women this year, went 26-1.

If you recall, the lone loss by the Princeton men that year was to North Carolina, in December. The Tar Heels moved into the No. 1 spot in the national rankings after that game.

The women this year lost only to Iowa, a team that is 23rd in the coaches' poll this week and also 21st in the media poll, which would be one spot ahead of the Tigers in that one.

TigerBlog was trying to think if there are a lot of similarities between the teams beyond their record. They both played very challenging non-league schedules. Both teams led Division I in scoring defense, something TB did not remember about the 1998 men's team, which allowed just 51.6 points per game (the current women allowed 47.6).

As he thinks back to that team, his memory is of what a fluid offensive team it was. Having done a podcast with Carla Berube all year and having followed the current Princeton women's team as closely as he did, he thinks first of their defensive mentality.

The Tigers in 1997-98 shot nearly 50 percent as a team the field (49.8 percent for the year), which is extraordinary, especially considering that 49.5 percent of the shots that team took where three-pointers.

In fact, Princeton shot better than 60 percent as a team on two-point shots that year. In the days preceding any serious analytics, TB's memory is that the majority of those shots were either layups, low post moves, or sadly as in the case of that loss to Michigan State, a foot on the line on a three-pointer.

The 2019-20 women actually averaged nearly five points per game more than the 1997-98 men (71.2-66.5).

The Ivy League Player of the Year in men's basketball in 1998 was Steve Goodrich, the Tiger center who would go on to play in the NBA. The Ivy Player of the Year this year in women's basketball was Bella Alarie, who isn't quite a center but she's also headed to the pro ranks, in her case the WNBA.

Goodrich shot 66 percent on two-point shots that season. 

Both of them, despite being dominant inside players, could also shoot the three-pointer. In the case of Alarie, she was 21 for 59 (.359) for the year. TB would have guessed that Goodrich would have been about the same, but he actually shot 31 for 73 (.425) that season.

There are a lot of differences between the teams. The 1998 men had five seniors, while the 2020 women had two. The men had three players average between 13 and 14.5 points, while the women had Alarie at more than 17, Carlie Littlefield at just short of 14 and nobody else over 10, for instance.

Still, they are linked by more than just their regular-season records.

You can start with the idea that they will be forever known among the greatest basketball teams the Ivy League has ever seen. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Record, Broken

What is the rarest of the rare achievements in college athletics?

You can make a strong case that it is becoming a four-time, first-team all-league selection. To do so, you have to be great from Day 1, and you have to maintain a consistent level of the highest performance through all four years.

In some cases, you also have to avoid politics, as was the case in 1994, when Princeton men's lacrosse goalie Scott Bagicalupo was not named first-team All-Ivy League as a senior after being a first-team selection his first three years. What did the rest of the lacrosse world think of that decision? Bacigalupo, despite being second-team All-Ivy, was named the national Player of the Year.

In others, you have to stay healthy. Niveen Rasheed would have been a sure-fire four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection, but her knee injury sophomore year prevented that.

And, perhaps in others, you have to avoid the awful timing of the current Coronavirus situation. TigerBlog isn't sure if there will be All-Ivy League teams selected this surreal spring, though it's a question worth asking.

The announcement of the All-Ivy League women's basketball team was made last week, and to nobody's surprise, Bella Alarie was named to the first team for the fourth straight year. Alarie becomes Princeton's first four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection in women's basketball.

Princeton men's basketball team has never had a four-time first-team All-Ivy League selection. There have been four three-time first-team selections. Can you name them?

In addition to being first-team All-Ivy League for the fourth time, Alarie was also named the Ivy League Player of the Year for the third straight year. Only two other players, Harvard's Allison Feaster and Penn's Diana Caramanico, have ever done so before.

If you want to make a list of the greatest Ivy League women's basketball players of all time, or at least in the 31 years that TigerBlog has been watching, it's those three plus Rasheed. TB isn't sure the correct order, but if you wanted to say that Alarie is the greatest Ivy League women's basketball player ever, he won't fight you on that.

The four Princeton men's players to be three-time first-team All-Ivy selections, by the way, are Pete Campbell, Bill Bradley, Steve Goodrich and Kit Mueller.

TigerBlog and Princeton women's basketball go back a long way, and it was one of the first sports he covered here when he was with the newspaper. Back then, the sport was much different in terms of its national exposure, and TB was almost always the only person who would be covering a game in Jadwin Gym.

The Princeton team back then was led by Sandi Bittler, a three-point shooting marvel from outside Pittsburgh who shot a set shot that always seemed to confuse the defense with its release, since it looked like she was faking a pass more than getting off a shot.

She'd graduate in 1990 with 1,683 points in her Princeton career, which at the time was 61 points better than the previous record, set 11 years earlier by C.B. Tomasiewicz. Bittler's record would stand long after she became Sandi Bittler Leland, long after she worked for the NBA and then the WNBA, long after she had three children and long after she relocated to Oregon.

Through all of that, she and TigerBlog stayed friends. In fact, TB has been to her house in Portland, and his kids played whiffle ball in the backyard with hers.

Through the years, as someone began to challenge her record, she'd reach out to TB to ask if it would still stand. Meagan Cower came closest, falling just 12 points shy with 1,671 in her career, though Rasheed would have flown by it had she not lost more than half a season to that knee injury.

With Alarie, the only question again was injuries. This time, though, that would not prevent her from reaching the magic number.

Alarie went into Princeton's game at Columbia two Friday nights ago (think about that and everything that's happened since) needing just three points. It seemed like there was no chance she wouldn't get it in the first quarter, except Columbia doubled her every time she touched the ball and Alarie didn't force anything, choosing instead to find open teammates.

As the game unfolded, TB was texting with Bittler. With her permission, he is sharing some of what she said during that time, as her run of 30 years as Princeton's all-time leading scorer came to an end.

"Let me know when it's over! I've enjoyed the run. Guess my luck has run out."

How does this make you feel, TB asked.

"Old."

That was funny.

"Whoever thought it would last this long? And the athletes today are so impressive. I haven't been relevant for a long time, so at least my name will be mentioned for getting past me in the record book. That part is fun."

TB asked her if she remembered the game where she broke the record before hers.

"I remember it was a three-pointer from the top of the key but I don't remember which game."

Once Alarie got to 1,684, this was the response:

"We that was fun. Now I'm off to make dinner and take the kids to basketball practice, all the things Bella will be doing 30 years from now."

TB then connected her with Bella, and two exchanged text messages after the game.

It was a nice, classy move by the former record holder to the new one. That's how it's supposed to be.

For 30 years no women's basketball player at Princeton ever scored more points than Sandi Bittler Leland. Her place in Tiger history is secure. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Basketball Anniversaries

Pete Carril had just won his 500th game as Princeton head men's basketball coach and now he was being interviewed by Mark Eckel, then with the Trenton Times.

Eckel asked Coach Carril what some of his best wins were, and Carril thought for a second and said "I guess you have to start with the Georgetown game."

TigerBlog, moderating the conversation, then had to point out that the Georgetown game technically didn't count because Princeton had actually lost that one.

The game to which Carril referred was the 1989 NCAA tournament game between the Tigers and the Hoyas. Or, more accurately, the top-ranked Hoyas and the very, very lowly regarded Tigers.

That game, by the way, was played 31 years ago today, on March 17, 1989, in Providence.

As you probably already know, Georgetown won that game 50-49 when Alonzo Mourning blocked a pair of shots in the final six seconds, by Bob Scrabis and Kit Mueller, who between them would win the Ivy League Player of the Year award each year from 1989 (Scrabis) through 1990 and 1991 (Mueller).

Princeton led the game at the half 29-21, and to this day there are Princeton fans who still swear that Mourning fouled by Scrabis and Mueller. TB interviewed Scrabis on the radio at halftime of a game once and didn't ask him if he got fouled, instead asking if the shot would have gone in.

"Definitely," Scrabis said.

"I think we're a billion to one to win the whole tournament," Carril famously said before the game. "To beat Georgetown I think we're only 450 million to one."

After the game, and the no-calls at the end, he had an even more famous comment:

"I'll take that up with God when I get there," he said.

If you want to read all about that game, you can do so HERE.

All these years later, he fortunately still hasn't had a chance to take that up with God, and hopefully that conversation is still a long way off for Carril, who turns 90 in July. He's a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and he would win 514 games, along with 13 Ivy titles, while making 11 NCAA appearances and winning an NIT in his 29 years at Princeton.

He is as big an athletic icon as Princeton Athletics has ever seen, up there with anyone who has ever represented the school.

His story might be familiar, but it is no less fascinating because of that fact. He's the son of a Spanish immigrant, a steelworker who never missed a day of work in 40 years in the mills of Bethlehem, Pa.

He grew up poor, and that experience has stayed with him forever.

He is part of the legendary Princeton men's basketball coaching tree, one that started with Cappy Cappon and includes Butch van Breda Kolff, Gary Walters, Bill Carmody, John Thompson III, Joe Scott, Sydney Johnson and Mitch Henderson.

One of those 514 games that Carril did win at Princeton, in fact the 514th, was in the 1996 NCAA tournament, when the Tigers knocked off defending champion UCLA 43-41.

The 24th anniversary of that game was Saturday, and TigerBlog's colleagues Chas Dorman and Elliott Carr did a live tweet of the game. It was a really good idea, and they pulled it off well.

TB was in the RCA Dome that night, and his memories of the game, and the whole trip, are still very vivid. It was as good as it's gotten in all his time working with Princeton.

There aren't too many people left in the athletic department who worked there when that game was played. One of the people who didn't work in the department then was Henderson, the head men's basketball coach now. He, of course, played a huge role in the game.

After the live tweet ended, TB remembered a video that he and another colleague, John Bullis, filmed four years ago, on the 20th anniversary. That video was of Carril and Henderson as they sat on the couch in Henderson's office and watched a tape of the game.

TB rewatched that video and thought it was pretty good. You can see it HERE.

Pretty good, right?

Before the live tweeting, TB connected Chas with David Rosenfeld, who worked at Princeton at time of the game and was part of the department staff in Indianapolis. David pointed out that Carril and every subsequent Princeton head coach (Carmody, Thompson, Scott, Johnson and Henderson) was on the Princeton sideline that night.

How many other schools can say that?

Anyway, it's been a few days of basketball anniversaries around here, including a huge win and a huge almost-win.

It's been fun to remember back to them, as it always is.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Nothing

It was right around 1 Saturday afternoon when TigerBlog texted Matt Madalon with a simple "how are you?"

In the next 10 seconds, his phone rang. It was Madalon, the head coach of the second-ranked Princeton men's lacrosse team.

"What are you doing?" TB asked.

"Nothing," Madalon said.

Nothing. Matt Madalon, nothing, on a March Saturday at 1. Who would have ever thought it possible?

That was the exact moment that Princeton was supposed to face off with Penn in its Ivy League opener. It was perfect lacrosse weather, and a huge crowd figured to be at Sherrerd Field for a game between the defending Ivy champs and the 5-0 Tigers.

And now? Nothing.

TigerBlog tried to remember the last time he had a March weekend with no game to cover. He's pretty sure it was back in 1988.

Nineteen eighty eight. Think about that.

TB is pretty sure that he did the same thing that every single player, coach or staff member on every college team scheduled to play did Saturday. He looked at the clock, saw the time and thought of what he would normally have been doing at that time.

He thought about when he would have left home. He thought about what pregame would have been like. When the face-off should have been.

Even after he talked to Madalon, he imagined what the game would have been like, what the score would have been, when halftime would have been.

The events of the last week unfolded at a rate that TB has still not processed. It went from a weekend of lacrosse with the upcoming March Madness to play out to nothing anywhere. No games. No pro sports. No school. Almost no students on campus.

Each day - no, forget each day, each few minutes seemed to bring with it more astonishing news that nobody could have foreseen.

The COVID-19 virus continues to make its way through the world's countries and societies with a path that remains uncertain. The term "social distancing" has gone from never uttered to the most-used phrase in the English language.

It's also somewhat like the biggest snowstorm ever has descended on the area, forcing people to prepare for an uncertain amount of time without being able to leave home. Only it's beautiful outside. People can go anywhere they want.

It's the weirdest of times, that's for sure. The most surreal. 

As TB said Friday, he'll be here every day as always, with some sort of content that doesn't focus solely on the virus. He's not sure exactly how that will look, but he'll come up with something.

For today, though, he did want to touch on something from a few days ago.

The enormity of what has happened is hard to fathom. There are obvious questions about what is to come next, especially for the athletes whose seasons have been ended by this situation.

For now, though, you have a lot of college students who are trying to figure out what happened, what they're going to do and how they're going to adjust to all of it. Their emotions are all over the place with the way their experience has been completely disrupted.

It's easy to understand it in general terms. Friday afternoon TigerBlog got a different view of it.

The weather Friday was more like late May than mid March, and so it didn't really give the feel that anything was off about all of the students who were moving out of the dorms. It was like any other time, only it was nothing like any other time, because yes, 70 degrees notwithstanding, it was mid-March, and this was the last thing any of them figured would be happening.

TigerBlog went to help Miss TigerBlog gather up all of her stuff and move it home, just like he did a year ago, just like he did with his son several times before.

This had some of those elements. It was a time of saying goodbye, saying they'd stay in touch, saying they'd see each other soon.

But this was nothing like those other times, because this time also mixed in was a different kind of sadness. They weren't exactly going through the motions of saying goodbye, because there's always a sadness with that and this was geniune.

It took TB awhile to put his finger on it, as he saw cars being packed up, boxes being carried down steps, clothes being packed away.

It was that they were doing this all while they were in a state of shock. Maybe not a clinical one, but that's how TB saw it.

They were stunned by what was going on. They weren't prepared for it.

And they were faced with something that no Princeton students, or any 19-22 year olds want to ever have to face.

What could they do about it?

Nothing. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

What A Week

TigerBlog has been doing this every work day since January of 2009.

That's without fail. No matter what, every day, for more than 11 years.

He's done this on vacation. He's done this from three continents. He's done this after surgeries. He's done this when he's been sick. He's done this when he has had literally nothing to say, through summer after summer when there have been no Princeton athletic events.

Today is the closest he's come in all that time to not writing.

What can he say? TB actually wrote a piece about women's basketball history with Bella Alarie and Sandi Bittler Leland, and he was going to run it Wednesday when all this started to unfold. Then he thought about putting  it up yesterday, but it didn't seem right with with the Ivy League announcement of suspending spring events. He was going to put it up today, but again, it just doesn't feel right.

What a week this has been.

When left Sherrerd Field after Princeton defeated Rutgers in men's lacrosse last weekend, the last thing he thought was that he had seen the Tigers for the final time this season. That was six days ago. It seems like a hundred years.

For that matter, it's only been five days since he drove away from Stony Brook University after the women's lacrosse game. He never once on the ride back from Long Island considered that he'd seen his final Princeton athletic event for a long time.

That's how quickly this all moved.

That was the main takeaway for TigerBlog from the message from President Eisgruber. Look at where this situation was two weeks ago and compare it to what it is now in places like Italy and New Rochelle, and then ask yourself what it could be like anywhere else in the next two weeks.

The Ivy League was the first Division I conference to cancel its basketball tournament and its athletic competition for the spring when it made that announcement Wednesday. Since then, pretty much the rest of the college athletics world has followed suit, as the reality of trying to stop the spread of the Coronavirus sinks in.

The inevitable announcement of the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournaments, as well as the rest of the winter and spring NCAA championships, came around 4:15 yesterday. 

It's an awful time for college athletics, and for colleges in general, as they all struggle with what to do next, how to keep educating their students with as little additional disruption as possible, beyond the obvious fact that campuses everywhere will be turning into ghost towns for the foreseeable future.

The No. 1 question TB has been asked the last few days has been if he's ever seen anything like this before. The answer, as he wrote yesterday, is no.

Who could have imagined any of this would happen?

This is, for many, the best time of the year for college sports. March Madness is in full swing. Brackets were set to be revealed. Conference tournaments, including the Ivy League tournament, were to dominate the weekend.

Now that's all gone, in a matter of a few days.

TigerBlog as you know, loves lacrosse, but there's nothing he's even been to that compares to the first rounds of an NCAA basketball regional. It's a huge party all day.

He's been with Princeton to nearly 10 of them. Each one was great.

The NCAA tournament is a big a part of American sporting culture as anything other than the Super Bowl. It's been contested every year since 1939.

Yesterday was more of the surreal, with announcement after announcement trickling in about league's canceling tournaments, teams opting not to play, professional leagues having to suspend competitions, professional athletes who have the virus.

TigerBlog is not an alarmist. It's just that he's never seen anything like this.

He'd like to share this short video with you from Michael Sowers, who is as impressive as a human being as he is as a lacrosse player. He speaks for pretty much every college athlete and student everywhere with his words:

 

And that's it for this week, this crazy, unfathomable, never-to-be-forgotten week.

TigerBlog will be back next week. He'll probably even start out with the women's basketball piece.

He's not sure what else to say today.

Maybe he'll just end with how Michael ended his video.

Stay safe.