Tuesday, June 19, 2018

One Step Closer

Miss TigerBlog first met her friend Wiki (you can call her "Victoria") back when they were both three years old.

That was when Wiki and her family first moved into the next house. TB has told you this story before, but since odds are really good you don't remember, he'll give you the basics again.

Wiki and her brother spent about three days looking across to the next yard, where very young MTB and very young TigerBlog Jr. would play on the swingset. Eventually Wiki made her way over, and that was that.

The two girls were basically inseparable after that. And there are pictures of the two of them at the bus stop on the first day of school every year, including this past year, when both were seniors in high school and neither took the bus.

TigerBlog has a picture of them when they were maybe four years old each, dressed up in whatever costumes they used to dress up in, arms around each other. And now to that he can add another picture of the two of them, dressed up in different costumes, again arms around each other.

This time, the costumes were caps and gowns, and the setting was not the back yard or the play room but instead on the high school football field, a few minutes after graduation had ended last week.

TigerBlog wasn't sure exactly what level of sentimentality he should bring with him to the ceremony. On the one hand, it was high school graduation, a milestone in anyone's life. And, as with any other high school graduation, there longtime friends who were vowing to stay in touch, knowing full well they wouldn't, despite the best intentions. This applied to graduates, and their parents.

So yeah, it was sentimental.

On the other hand, what comes next for MTB is incredibly exciting.

MTB will be a member of the Princeton Class of 2022. Each remaining step of her high school career once she got her acceptance email in December has been leading up to the day when she would graduate and move on to the next step.

As with every incoming freshman, MTB has been filling out forms, getting her Princeton email, looking at academic offerings and generally taking it all in as she gets ready for the big move to Princeton.

For TigerBlog, it's all been an amazing look at a side of the University that he hasn't seen before. TB has been on this campus for nearly three full decades, and all of that time has been spent watching other people's kids go to school here. When it's his own? It's a lot different.

It's been a fascinating look at the admissions process and now the orientation process. TigerBlog has a million questions about how it actually works, and he's been watching how it all unfolds.

Beyond that, there's just an enormous sense of pride in knowing that his daughter will be here. TB is positive that anyone who has a child who is coming here feels the exact same way.

TigerBlog would have been proud of her no matter where she went. He's certainly proud of TigerBlog Jr., who has had a great experience at Sacred Heart and who has grown so much in his first three years there.

Maybe, though, TB is more in tune with the whole Princeton experience, given how much time he has spent here and how he's seen how much this place has done for so many people.

So did that actually make the high school graduation less meaningful?

TB thought it would. He can't really remember anything about his own high school graduation, and TBJ's graduation doesn't really stand out much either.

He parked in a neighborhood across the street from the school and had to walk across the field hockey and girls' lacrosse field on his way to the football field for the ceremony. As he did, he thought back to all the times he'd seen her play there in her four years and realized that there would be no more of those games there.

When the ceremony ended, everyone gathered on the field. That's where TB took the picture of MTB and Wiki.

There were others there too though. All of MTB's friends. They'd literally grown up together, been in classes together, played sports together. And now they were scattering.

Yes. The whole thing did get TigerBlog to be a little nostalgic.

But throughout it all, his mind kept, well, going back to Nassau Hall, and where he hopes to see MTB graduate next time. When that day comes (not to jinx anything), it will be especially emotional for TigerBlog. He can guarantee that.

In the meantime, MTB is done with high school. She did an incredible job in her four years there; she had to if she got into Princeton. She has grown considerably as a student, athlete and person.

And now she's coming to Princeton.

TigerBlog's advice to her now?

Dream the biggest dreams you can possibly dream.

You're coming to a place that can make them all come true.


Monday, June 18, 2018

A World Cup Weekend

As Lionel Messi lined up for his free kick attempt in the waning seconds of Argentina's World Cup game against Iceland Saturday, TigerBlog was pretty sure he had only one thought going through his head:

"Ronaldo did it; I can do it too."

Cristiano Ronaldo tucked a free kick from pretty much the same distance as Messi was about to attempt as Portugal tied Spain 3-3 late in the best game of the tournament so far. And now Messi was trying to do the same, though the game was tied, so he was playing for the win.

TB knew Messi had no chance. You could tell by his body language. In fact, he ended up getting more on the the ball his rocketed away as the ref blew the final whistle than he had a second earlier, on the attempt for the win that hit the wall and came right back to him.

Final score: Iceland 1, Argentina 1. Iceland, which, according to Princeton men's basketball alum Sean Gregory's story in Time magazine, has the same population for its entire country as the city of Corpus Christi, Texas.

TigerBlog has watched more of the World Cup already than he did the entire recently completed NBA and NHL playoffs combined. You could throw the 2017 baseball playoffs in there as well and it would still be the case.

The fact that the U.S. team isn't it doesn't matter to him. Or, it seems, to many people.

Either you're into the World Cup or you're not. TigerBlog respects both sides.

He also thinks it was genius of the marketing people at Volkswagen to come up with the campaign to appeal to American soccer fans where fans of other countries ask for their support. That's great stuff.

The Portugal-Spain game, as TB said, has been the best one so far. Portugal led 1-0 and 2-1, both on Ronaldo goals, and then Spain tied it and went ahead 3-2, only to have the perfectly placed kick by Ronaldo tie it.

If there had ever been a game in which TigerBlog was rooting for a tie, it was that one. He's rooting for a Spain-Portugal rematch in the championship game.

If it comes to that, then TB would have to root for some sort of unbreakable tie between the two. Well, not really. He'd probably go with Portugal, but only barely.

Without the U.S. team, TigerBlog's fourth favorite in the field would be Iceland. It's hard to root against the smallest nation ever to qualify, and their fans make them even more appealing. Undoubtedly you saw them and their rather enthusiastic clap.

Up next would be Costa Rica. Why? Because TB was there with the Princeton men's lacrosse team in 2012, when he and most of the team went to a qualifier that year between Los Ticos and El Salvador.

TigerBlog has never been to another sporting even quite like it. The entire scene was just one big party, outside the stadium, on line for tickets, inside the stadium, everything. If you've never been to an international soccer game, you need to go.

Ever since, TB has rooted for Costa Rica. And every time Costa Rica has played, he thought about how fired up Princeton's guide Diego, and Diego's father, must be in the moment. 

Of course they couldn't be happy about the draw. Costa Rica, a quarterfinalist four years ago, is in a brutal group, which made a win in the opening game against Serbia a must. And the game was in Samara, which is 1) the name of one of the coastal towns Princeton went to in Costa Rica in 2012, 2) the name of Princeton's men's track and field coach and 3) the sixth-largest city in Russia, though TB had never heard of it before yesterday.

Unfortunately, Costa Rica lost 1-0 on a perfect free kick midway through the second half. With games ahead against Brazil and Switzerland, well, the math isn't good for advancing. 

Then there are Spain and Portugal. TB was in Spain in 2008 with the men's lacrosse team. And then, on the same trip, he went to Ireland, which is one letter removed from Iceland.

The 2008 European championships were held in Austria and Switzerland, and Spain would ultimately win the championship. The tournament began when the men's lacrosse team was in Spain and continued while they were in Ireland, who didn't even qualify. Even without its team in the event, the Dublin streets were flooded with fans for the games.

And then there's Portugal.

Princeton was there in the fall of 2016, shortly after Portugal had won that summer's European title. It appears that Princeton men's lacrosse is a good-luck charm for its hosts in that year's championship.

Why the joint allegiance to Portugal and Spain? TB thinks it stems from when he ziplined between the two countries, back when the Tigers were staying on the Portugal side.

Remember that? You can refresh if you like HERE.

If you didn't bother to read it, TB can sum it up quickly: It was between two countries, from one time zone to another, and was really, really cool.

Portugal took a quick lead over Spain Friday on Ronaldo's penalty kick in the first few minutes. As soon as it went in, TB texted Francisco, the men's lacrosse team's guide (and the men's soccer team's guide when it was there several months later).

Francisco got back to TB in 15 seconds. They texted back and forth a few times, and then TB told Francisco to go enjoy the game. TB had a sense he was watching it.

TigerBlog said he'd get back to him, hopefully after a Portuguese championship.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Amy Campbell Retires

TigerBlog was really mad at Amy Campbell.

Once.

It was back in 1996. There was a field hockey game at the brand-new Class of 1952 Stadium, and Amy - then a Senior Associate Athletic Director at Princeton - was standing next to the unit that controlled the scoreboard.

For some reason, she couldn't get it to work, so she called TigerBlog, who was at his desk in Jadwin Gym. When TB tried to talk her through it, she insisted that he come over to the field, so he had to walk all the way from Jadwin to '52 to start the countdown clock.

Yeah, that was the one time he was mad at Amy Campbell.

As he thinks back about it, TigerBlog is surprised he was mad at her even that one time. Amy is a very, very hard person to get mad at.

If you want to see a picture that completely defines a person perhaps more so than any picture TB has ever seen, then click HERE and you'll see everything you ever need to know about Amy Campbell. That's her in a nutshell.

In many ways, her personality reminds TigerBlog of the late (and way-too-early) Bob Callahan, the longtime Princeton men's squash coach. Nice. Genuine. Nothing phony. Always smiling. Really interested in TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog.

TigerBlog first came up with the comparison to Bob Callahan the other day in the Chancellor Green rotunda, where the retirement reception for Amy Campbell was being held. Amy long ago left the Department of Athletics, first to be the Director of Athletics at Bryn Mawr College before returning to this campus to work in Nassau Hall.

Her final title at Princeton was something along the lines of Assistant Vice President for University Services. To be honest, TB isn't sure what she did in that role - but he's certain that whatever she did, it made for a better experience for staff, faculty and especially students.

Amy said in her short speech at the reception that it was 30 years ago that she first walked onto the campus. TigerBlog met her shortly after that, when he was still in the newspaper business. She was a vital part of the Department of Athletics then and for the first few years that TB worked here, back in the mid-1990s.

Forgetting that one time where Amy - gasp - made him walk all the way to Class of 1952 Stadium, TB learned a lot about college athletic administration from Amy, and from Inge Radice and George VanderZwaag, who were the others in the senior administration at the time.

When TB was covering games at the newspaper, he worked with someone named Harvey Yavener, who was a rarity at the time in that he valued women's athletics and felt that women's teams deserved coverage as much as men's teams. That was not a view shared by a lot of sportswriters at the time.

As a result, TigerBlog came to Princeton already embracing the concept of equity. Amy reinforced that for TB, though not in a "it's the law so this is what we do" way but instead in a way that was all about doing what was right.

Back then there was a small conference room on the Jadwin balcony, one that was big enough to hold basically the entire staff at the time. Amy ran all sorts of meetings in that little conference room, and TB developed a real admiration for her management style, one based in setting high standards, upholding a set of values and operating in a way that promoted equity across the board.

At the same time, she always kept things light, which was another important lesson for TigerBlog. Things get really, really busy around here, and you have to keep a sense of humor and a sense that everyone is in it together.

TigerBlog lost track of the timeline of when Amy left to go to Bryn Mawr or when she came back. He hasn't seen her as often through the years as he did when he worked down the hall from her obviously, but each time he's seen her there's been another hug and another smile and another nice conversation about how each one is doing.

Princeton University is an incredibly special place, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is people like Amy Campbell, who have such a difference in the lives of so many people on this campus.

TigerBlog learned a lot from Amy at a time when he needed to learn those lessons, and he's never really thanked her for that. Or for her quarter-century of friendship.

So, now that's she retiring, he figured it was the perfect time to do that.

Thanks, Amy.

You're one of the special ones. And TB is hardly the only person who feels that way.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Far From The Crowd Noise

TigerBlog got some interesting feedback on his question yesterday about what the best sporting event you were ever at in person was.

His colleague Warren Croxton said it was Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the 2010 playoffs against Cincinnati, a game that edged out last season's NFC championship game win by the Eagles. Warren is a big Philadelphia sports fan, but TB was surprised to hear that the baseball game was higher on the list than the game that put the Eagles into the Super Bowl.

TigerBlog did forget to mention that among other events he's been to have been the U.S. Open in tennis and the Davis Cup. BrotherBlog has been to the Olympics.

Cody Chruschiel, another TB colleague, said that the best he's ever been to was Mercer's win over Duke in the NCAA men's basketball tournament a few years ago. He also said that the loudest event he's ever been to was the Yankees win over the Twins in the Wild Card game last year.

TigerBlog is surprised by this, since he would assume that an indoor venue would by nature be the loudest, since the sound can't really escape. 

This then got TB thinking a little further. What's the loudest he ever remembers a venue?

Well, there were two times at the Palestra. One was in 1993, when Penn beat Princeton to end the Tigers four-year run as Ivy League champion. The other was in 1999, during Penn's 29-0 run to go up 29-3 on the Tigers. Each time Penn scored it got more and more defeaning.

It was pretty quiet at the end though. Princeton won that won 50-49 after trailing by even worse than the 27-3. It was actually 40-13 with 15 minutes to go in that one.

Where else was it really loud?

That's a good question. The one place where TB was astonished by the noise level was an arena that has a reputation, actually, for not being all that loud - the Dean Dome at the University of North Carolina. Princeton played there in the 1997-98 season, and it was actually the site of Princeton's only regular-season loss that year.

The game was close, and it took a late push for UNC to win it (the Tar Heels moved into the top spot in the national rankings with the win, by the way). TB just remembers being shocked by how loud it got.

If he had to think of a time when he was at a game at an outdoor stadium and it got really loud, he goes back to the 2001 NCAA championship game in men's lacrosse, when Syracuse scored with 16 seconds left to tie Princeton and the Orange fans (not the Orange and Black ones) went nuts. Princeton got the last laugh of course.

A bit far away from the loud crowds right now are the 10 Princeton athletes who are participating in the Coach for College program, which is now in its sixth year.

From the Princeton Varsity Club website:
The Princeton Varsity Club (PVC) is pleased to announce a record class of 10 Princeton varsity student-athletes who have been selected to travel to Vietnam this summer to participate in the Coach for College program, a global initiative aimed at promoting higher education through sports. As part of the Coach for College program, the student-athletes will teach academics, athletics and life skills to 6th, 7th and 8th grade Vietnamese students while working alongside Vietnamese coaches and instructors.

The 10 athletes who are there for the summer are: Joanna Curry (swimming and diving), Carlie Littlefield (basketball), Ben Martin (soccer), Mackenzie Meyer (softball), Quinn Parker (track and field), Lindsey Schmidt (track and field), Max Schwegman (track and field), Joey Smith (softball), Tia Weledji (basketball) and Chris Wilson (rowing).

The Coach for College program actually began as, according to its website, a partnership between Duke and North Carolina. TigerBlog didn't know there was anything that those two would ever agree to partner on, as an aside.

Since that rather interesting beginning, the program has grown to include participants from 40 different colleges. Princeton's athletes, though the PVC, have taken full advantage of the opportunity.

The 10 who will spend time in Vietnam will have a huge impact on the kids there, who are at an age when they really need this kind of mentoring. They work with middle school kids who, according to the Coach for College website, are at an age when many Vietnamese children start to leave school.

In other words, it's some of the most important work these Princeton athletes will do - even if there are no crowds there to cheer them on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Did You See That?

So TigerBlog Jr. was right at the finish line for a Triple Crown winner.

That's somewhat historical, no?

It's led TigerBlog to a question for all of you out there. What's the most famous athletic event you've ever seen live?

One of the beauties of sports is that you never know when you're going to see an epic event. Pick any random night of the Major League Baseball season. If you have tickets to a game, you're not likely to see something that nobody will ever forget - but there is that chance.

Maybe you'll see a no-hitter. Maybe someone will make the greatest catch of all time. Maybe someone will hit four home runs.

Maybe you'll see a disallowed home run because of a rules technicality that results in having one of the greatest players ever completely lose his mind, leading to a protest, an overturned on-field decision and a whole lot of bizarre stuff. That would be the famous George Brett "Pine Tar" game.

That was back on July 24, 1983. TigerBlog, who was only in the old Yankee Stadium a handful of times in his life (and has never been in the new one, though he figures he will be when Princeton plays football there against Dartmouth in 2019).

He was there for the Pine Tar game.

Don't remember it? Watch THIS video.

George Brett, by the way, is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorite baseball players, largely because he spent his career doing things like he did that day to those damn Yankees. Brett was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer with 3,154 career hits, and he's the only player to win a batting title in three different decades. He also hit .390 in 1980, for the best batting average a player has had since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941.

That day in 1983 was the only time TigerBlog ever saw Brett play live. He went to Shea Stadium once to see another of his all-time favorites, Greg Maddux of the Braves, pitch against the Mets, and Maddux barely made it out of the fourth inning or so on a rare day when he got shelled.

Like TB said, you never know when you're going to see history.

Then again, sometimes you do - like going to the Belmont Stakes when a horse has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. For TigerBlog, the Belmont Stakes is like Game 7, if a horse has already won the first two races, and like a Game 7 that is still played anyway if one horse has not won the first two.

TigerBlog has never been to a Game 7 live. He's been to, he believes, one NBA playoff game (1973 Eastern Conference final Game 4 as the Knicks beat the Celtics 117-110 in two OTs), no NFL playoff games and no NHL playoff games. He was there for the 1983 World Series between the Phillies and Orioles.

By the way the Orioles won that series in five games. None of those five games ran more than 2:50 and only one ran more than 2:35. The deciding game, a 5-0 Baltimore win, was played in 2:21.

TigerBlog will guess, sight unseen, that Game 5 of the 2018 World Series is in the fifth or sixth inning at the 2:21 mark.

So what is the most famous game you've ever been to? Certainly there have to be some of them.

How about Princeton games?

TigerBlog has certainly been to more than his share of famous ones. What would he have liked to have gone to that he missed?

Depends if you're talking time machine or missed it by a few years.

If you're talking time machine, then he'd probably like to have seen all of the following:

* Hobey Baker - can you imagine what a Princeton football game in, oh, 1913 looked like?
* Dick Kazmaier
* Bill Bradley at Dillon Gym
* a game in sold-out Palmer Stadium when there were horses parked outside
* the first football game back in 1869 (to see what people made of it)

If you're talking about just missed it, then he would have liked to have seen the earliest days of women's athletics here. His own memories go back to the late 1980s, when things had already evolved pretty far. He would have loved to see what they were like 10-15 years earlier, when women's teams were definitely second fiddle to the men, and how the women's athletes, coaches and administrators had to do things to earn that equality that the current generation would never dream of having to do.

Oh, and he would have loved to have seen the 1981 Princeton-Yale football game.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Non-Heps-Track Triple Crown

The Princeton men's track and field team was not the only Triple Crown winner this year.

TigerBlog will get back to that in a few seconds.

While TB was talking yesterday about Princeton's performance at the NCAA track and field championships, he should have mentioned the charge the USC woman made at the end of the last race.

Did you see this? Here it is (you can fast forward to about the 3:20 mark):

Basically, USC needed to win the relay, or else Georgia would have won the NCAA title. And, well, you've probably seen what happened.

The woman who ran the final leg for USC is named Kendall Ellis. She was one of the two biggest racing winners of the weekend.

The other was Justify. He's a horse, a good-looking horse at that.

As you know, he became the 13th Triple Crown winner (that's only five more than Fred Samara has won by himself at Princeton, including one this year) when he went wire-to-wire to win the Belmont Stakes Saturday. He may or may not have gotten help from Restoring Hope, another horse from Justify's trainer who may or may not have acted as something of a pulling guard.

TigerBlog knows next to nothing about horse racing, but to him it looked legit. Justify ran out of the gate quickly and nobody was going to catch him.

By the way, how many of the other 12 Triple Crown winners can you name? How many can TigerBlog name?

There's Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah. Those were the four just before Justify, and they did it in 1973, 1977, 1978 and 2015. There were no Triple Crown winners for 37 years after it was done three times in six years, and now there have been two in four years.

Before Secretariat? There was Citation in 1948, or a 25-year gap.

The other seven? TB can come up with: War Admiral. Count Fleet. Whirlaway. That's nine. He has no idea what years they were.

So he's missing four. And he'd never get them in a million years. Okay, okay - he'll look them up. Turns out they're: Assault, Sir Barton, Gallant Fox and Omaha.

By the way, what would be a great name for a horse? You know, if you had to name a horse, what would you come up with?

TigerBlog thinks "Thank You" would be a great name. He'd be fast, and he'd be polite. It'd be "Thank You by a mile."

TigerBlog Jr. and his Sacred Heart buddies were at the Belmont Saturday. He took a video of the finish - and he was only a few lengths away from Justify as he finished.

Somehow they ended up in the front row, even with the finish line. That was impressive.

When TB asked him about it, TBJ said that they just walked there and nobody stopped them. Simple.

TigerBlog's standards for Triple Crown winners were established by watching Secretariat destroy the field in 1973 and then watching Affirmed hold off Alydar three times in 1978. If you've never seen how these two horses won the Triple Crown, you can watch the Belmont Stakes races for:

Secretariat (TigerBlog didn't remember that the race stayed as close as it did for as long as it did, but he did remember there were only five horses)
Affirmed (remembered how close it was, didn't remember that only five horses were in this record too)

Those are two extraordinary races, no? Is Justify on that level? Probably not, but, on the other hand, TBJ did get to see a Triple Crown winner from just a few feet away.

TigerBlog didn't realize that Justify had a Princeton connection until he got an email about it yesterday. Bo Nixon, Class of 1950, and his son Ted, Class of 1974, are part owners of Justify, with their Starlight Racing Partnership.

Is that the first time Princeton alums have owned a Triple Crown winner?

Oh, and the email also mentioned that their stable has a two-year-old that they're high on for next year. His name?

Golden Tiger.

That's a horse who will be easy to root for, right?

Monday, June 11, 2018

And A First-Team All-America To End The Year

Well, the Princeton Athletics year has ended.

The final event, of the more than 600 that made up the 2017-18 academic year, was the NCAA track and field championships, which ended Saturday night in Oregon. Princeton sent four athletes to compete, and four came back as All-Americas.

The fourth of them was Obiageri Amaechi, the freshman women's discus thrower. She had an interesting night in Oregon Saturday, though it ended well.

After one throw and one foul, Amaechi needed to improve by seven meters to advance to the next round, which she promptly did. That throw earned her three more, and she'd end up in seventh place, earning first-team All-America honors. 

It was a pretty good end for the academic year.

So now what?

Camps. And of course, the World Cup.

TigerBlog was taken aback by the sound of basketballs bouncing and coaches coaching in Jadwin Gym Friday afternoon. There it was, though, the first session of the first girls' basketball camp.

It's the start of a long run of summer camps here, one that will stretch for the next eight weeks or longer and touch pretty much every sport here.

Something else that will run into July is the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

The World Cup begins Thursday and runs until July 15. It's TigerBlog's second-favorite sporting event - behind the NCAA lacrosse championships, of course.

TigerBlog loves the World Cup. Of course, it's the first time in 32 years - a span of seven straight events - that the U.S. men's national team will not be in the field of 32.

Of course, TigerBlog could point out that the U.S. men's national team has been on a downward trajectory since it fired Bob Bradley, the former Princeton player and coach who led the Americans to a group title at the 2010 World Cup. Since then, it's been second place in the group in 2014 and not qualifying this time around. 

TB will still be watching. He's been to nine of the 32 countries represented, including three (Costa Rica, Spain, Portugal) that he's been to on international trips with Princeton lacrosse. He'll start out with those three.

And Iceland. Who could root against Iceland?

If you hadn't already locked onto the idea of what is by far the smallest country in the tournament, you'll like the Icelandic team even more after you read the Time magazine piece by Sean Gregory.

You can read it HERE.

The short version is that Iceland has built a lot of nice soccer fields in the country and then basically tossed a bunch of balls to kids and told them to go play. And when there are structured club teams, they're not coached by parents.

In other words, it's something of a contrast to the American model, which is very, very structured. 

As for Sean he has written about sports all over the world. Next time TB sees him, he'll have to ask him how many different countries he's been to covering various events, like the World Cup and Olympics.

TigerBlog saw him recently in Jadwin Gym as the most recent men's basketball Reunions pickup game. Gregory is a member of the Class of 1998, the same one as current head men's coach Mitch Henderson.

Their senior year was the one in which Princeton went 27-2 and nearly knocked off Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. That game still bothers TigerBlog.

If you clicked on the link to see the story Gregory wrote about Iceland, you also may have seen the video embedded called "Exploring Planet Futbol." And who is the host and narrator?

That would be Grant Wahl, another Princeton grad. Grant is a member of the Class of 1996.

Grant is one of the top soccer writers in the world. He's also a former Princeton Office of Athletic Communications student worker.

Grant will certainly be busy for the next month-plus in Russia with the World Cup.

TB doesn't think Sean will be there. If he is going, then he took time away from soccer to cover the Belmont Stakes Saturday. You can read what he wrote about Justify HERE.

And you can come back tomorrow and read what TigerBlog has to say about it.

Hey, TB has to come up with something to write every day. And there are no more Princeton Athletic events for awhile, not after the track and field championships.

A 4-for-4 run in All-Americas was a pretty good way to end 2017-18.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Picnic Time

TigerBlog's bicycle originally cost him $80.

It's hardly high-tech. At the same time, it's pretty durable.

The last time he rode it, though, he thought it might be on its last legs. It was definitely beaten up, with only a few of the gears workable, and the ones that did made a lot of noise when the pedals turned.

He considered getting a new bike, a much nicer one, but he took his old one with him to a local bike shop, uncertain of whether he wanted to fix the old one or get a new one. Then the guy at the shop told him he'd fix the old one good as new - for $75.

For some reason, this fascinates TigerBlog. He spent $75 to fix a bicycle that originally cost $80. Was that a smart thing to do?

The $75 is way less than it would cost for a good new bike. On the other hand, would you spend nearly 100 percent of what you originally spent on something to fix it? 

TigerBlog was out riding yesterday afternoon. It was a great afternoon for it.

This came a few hours after TigerBlog had a pretty good lunch as well.

And dessert was even better.

By the way, if there are any two words that TigerBlog still struggles with all these years after elementary school, it's "dessert" and "desert." Even now he had to check to make sure he had the right one, the one that got Courtney Banghart to speak so poetically, not the one where there were two murdered couriers that got the ball rolling in "Casablanca."

No. Dessert.

Lunch? That was a mix of basically everything, from hot dogs to steak, with pizza, salads and a bunch of other stuff. And a lot of it.

Oh, TB should tell you the occasion. It was the Department of Athletics end-of-year picnic. This one was held at the Lenz Tennis Center.

As for dessert, TB was standing behind Banghart, the women's basketball coach, when the guy from Thomas Sweet dropped off the big barrels of ice cream and set up the sundae bar.

"There is love," Banghart said, "and then there's love."

In fairness, she's right.

The academic year at Princeton ended with graduation this week. The athletic year ends today and tomorrow, when the final two Princeton athletes compete at the NCAA track and field championships in Oregon.

You know what else yesterday was? It was exactly 100 days until the football opener, which is Sept. 15 at Butler. The home opener is one week later, against Monmouth.

The first athletic event of next year is, well, it's so far away that TB hasn't even looked it up yet. He assumes it's a women's soccer game in late August, or perhaps field hockey. Or women's volleyball.

For yesterday, though, all of that was far, far away in the future.

There were some new faces at the picnic, and a few who are leaving. There are others who have left already, including Becca Dorst, who was the interim women's water polo coach this past spring. Becca is leaving to go back into nursing, TB believes.

In her one season as interim head coach, by the way, Becca was the CWPA Coach of the Year.

There's always turnover from one year to the next. It's the nature of the beast.

There aren't too many times when the entire department gets together like it did yesterday at the picnic. Usually everyone is focused on their tasks, in their areas.

There are offices across the campus, with some in Jadwin or the pool, some in Dillon, some in Baker Rink, others in other places. TigerBlog isn't sure of any other departments that are as spread out as that.

At the same time, the entire department falls under the heading of "Princeton Athletics." And there's something a little different - and uniting - when you're representing the same department against opponents from other schools. TB has always found that to be a defining part of what it means to work in college athletics, that together you have a much greater pride in the organization when you're wearing its name and colors in competition.

TB also thinks it's why there's so much camaraderie within the department, because there is that sense that everyone is on one team.

And that's why it's always nice to get together like yesterday. It was fun and relaxing, a chance to step away from the constant challenges that also define college athletics. It certainly doesn't stop in the summer.

But for one afternoon at least, it slowed down and allowed everyone to get together, eat, and hang out.

It was really nice.

Even before the guy from Thomas Sweet showed up.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Some Basketball, Baseball, Rowing And Track and Field

If you graduated from Princeton earlier this week, then you're probably wrestling with something that TigerBlog remembers from his own experience a long time ago.

For four years, the answer to the question "where do you go to college" was, in the case of the recent grads, "Princeton." Now, in a blink, it goes from "I go to Princeton" to "I went to Princeton."

The first time you say that to someone, it is definitely weird. In a lot of ways, that's when it hits you that you're actually done with college and moving on to what's next.

TigerBlog has heard that the most emotional part of the entire Reunions/Class Day/Graduation run for a senior is when they get to Poe Field at the end of the P-Rade. TB's alma mater doesn't have anything quite like that, and his own graduation ceremony - held at the old Philadelphia Civic Center - was hardly a gripping moment.

In fact, he thinks he was more emotional when Pete Carril got two technicals and tossed from a game against La Salle in the same building a decade later.

Speaking of Princeton basketball, did you see the story on the basketball page of goprincetontigers.com about Chris Young and David West? You can see it HERE.

That's pretty good stuff from West, who is currently chasing an NBA title with the Warriors. The story says that Young and West only faced each other once, but Princeton and Xavier actually played three times in 18 months - in the 1999 NIT at Xavier, in the 1999-2000 regular season at Xavier and then in the 2000-01 regular season at Jadwin. The home team won all three.

The two games at Xavier were played in the very old Cincinnati Gardens, which is where the Cincinnati Royals used to play. Oscar Robertson was their franchise player. The Royals left in 1972 to become the Kansas City-Omaha Kings (splitting home games between the two cities) before heading in 1985 to their current location - Sacramento.

Back in the highly entertaining 1999 NIT, Princeton had beaten Georgetown (using just five players) and North Carolina State and was playing at Xavier for a spot in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Tigers were up by double digits in the first half before falling 65-58.

Young in that game 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. In the game at Jadwin, which Princeton would win 58-52, West would have 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Bechtold led Princeton with 16.

Young, of course, went on to a long career as a Major League Baseball pitcher. One day after graduating, Princeton's Ben Gross was drafted in the 

Anyway, none of that was what TigerBlog meant to talk about. No, even if it's post-graduation, the athletic year has not yet come to an end.

First there were the men's heavyweight and lightweight and women's lightweight rowing championships, which were held at Mercer Lake last weekend. The best showing was by the men's lightweights, who finished second, less than a second behind Columbia and nearly five seconds ahead of third-place Harvard. You can rad about it HERE.

The women's lightweights were third, behind Stanford and Boston University. You can read about it HERE.

The men's heavyweights finished fifth in a very strong showing. You can read about this one HERE.

With the end of the rowing championships, all that was left was the NCAA track and field championships, which are currently underway in Oregon. Princeton sent four athletes, two of whom competed yesterday.

William Paulson earned his second honorable mention All-America honor in the 1,500, but he was edged at the finish and did not advance out of the semifinal. Paulson ran the fastest time of any non-advancing runner after finishing eighth in his heat, less than a second out of first.

Adam Kelly was a second-team All-America after finishing ninth in the hammer throw. Kelly was fourth in his flight and then waited an hour to see if anyone in the second flight would knock him out of the top nine, who advance.

Kelly would hold on to ninth, which got him three more throws, but he was unable to move up into the top eight, which would have been first-team All-America. Still, two competitors and two All-Americas in the first day isn't bad.

Princeton doesn't have anyone who will compete today. Connor Lundy goes in the 5,000 final tomorrow night, and then freshman Obiageri Amaechi goes in the women's discus Saturday.

And when Amaechi is done, so too will be the 2017-18 academic year.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Class Of 2018

If TigerBlog is remembering correctly, then the weather forecast for every Princeton graduation since he's been working here has basically been the same: cloudy, chance of rain.

Not enough rain for it to be a total washout. Just enough rain so that there is consideration given to moving the ceremony into Jadwin. There are emails and preparations and all, and then, at the last minute, the decision is made to have it outside anyway. TB can't remember one that was actually moved inside.

And then there's usually a little drizzle but nothing too serious.

Yesterday was the 271st commencement in Princeton history. If you rank them all in terms of how good the weather was, then TigerBlog would say that 2018 has to rank No. 1.

It was a perfect day for a graduation. It reminded TigerBlog of an old, old, old Doonesbury cartoon, where Zonker is watching the ceremony at Walden College and says "if I knew it was going to be this nice out, I might have graduated."

Joe Janes, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog, is the incoming Chair of the Faculty Senate at the University of Washington. He will be the parade marshall at U-Dub's graduation this weekend.

As for Princeton's graduation, TB's favorite part is the recessional. He loves to watch the newly minted grads as they leave the area in front of Nassau Hall and head out to wherever it is they're going, knowing that they have made it through the top University in the country and now have joined the ranks of its alums.

The recessional yesterday was no different.

As with every other year, the area around the fences that separated spectators from graduates started to swell with coaches as the ceremony ended. A little at a time, the coaches would see their players, and they'd be greeted with hugs and high fives.

If TigerBlog could ask all of the graduates one question, it would be this: How would you compare who you are now with who you were when you first arrived at Princeton? He would add for the athletes - how did your athletic experience shape you?

When you watch them all walk out at graduation, they're all smiles, and they should be. They've come to the finish line. What you can't see is what has impacted them during their time here, the good and the bad.

Ah, but that's too philosophical for a graduation day, especially one when the weather is that good.

The first athlete to walk past where TB was standing was Junior Oboh of the men's volleyball team. When TB last saw him, he was receiving the Art Lane Award for contribution to sport and society at the athletic banquet last week. TB was sitting in the back at that event. Standing next to him, he looked a lot taller.

TB even went to the roster to see how tall he was. Turns out he's 6-7.

There were pockets of athletes who strolled past. Leslie Robinson of the women's basketball team. The men's soccer players. TigerBlog got a handshake Dan Bowkett - whom he'd never met. Women's soccer players.

The women's lacrosse team walked by and were greeted by their coaches, but then again, their head coach - Chris Sailer - had been greeting pretty much every graduate who walked by, congratulating them, wishing them well and telling them to go change their world.

The men's lacrosse grads were near the back, like they always seem to be. TigerBlog gathered them for a picture, like he does every year.

 They weren't the only teammates to take a picture together.

There were, among others:










That's men's lacrosse on top. After that, from the top down, that's men's hockey, men's soccer, women's open rowing, men's basketball, women's soccer, men's heavyweight rowing, men's track and field, women's lacrosse, women's hockey, women's basketball.

After the pictures were taken and the hugs were done, there was the reality that the Princeton experience was now over. It's a moment that seems almost frozen in time.

Not like the memory of a huge play, or a big win. More like the idea of not wanting to let go, like not wanting to take off the cap and the gown, because once they did, there was nothing else but that reality.

As the grads started to scatter, TigerBlog made the walk back to Jadwin Gym.

Along the way he passed by the entrance to McCosh 50, the site of the annual freshman athlete orientation. He couldn't help but smile when did, thinking about how far they'd all come from that day to this one.

Congratulations to all of Princeton's varsity athletes in the Class of 2018. And to everyone who graduated yesterday.