Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome To The New Look GoPrincetonTigers.Com

 TigerBlog looked at his computer this morning at 4:06 and saw this:

It's not what he was hoping to see. Nope. Not at all.

After more than 10 years of seeing that, he was ready for something different.

This morning at 4 a.m. was supposed to be the time for the relaunch of the newly redesigned, the official website of Princeton Athletics. The old, familiar design had been unchanged since early in 2004, as TB said, more than 10 years ago.

And now, TB was brimming with excitement. And there it was ... the same webpage.

Ah, but these things take a little while to get going.

It was about nine minutes later that he saw this:

A jumbled, disjointed GPT never looked so good to TigerBlog.

This was a mix of the old page and the new, and it was a clear sign to TigerBlog that the process was well underway.

He refreshed and refreshed the page, and it was still processing. In the meantime, he decided to look around the web a little and come back to see if progress had been made.

Much to his surprise, he found out that the Kansas City Royals had rallied to defeat the Oakland A's in the American League wildcard game. TigerBlog had seen some of the game, and the Royals trailed 7-3 when he last looked.

He clicked on the highlights on and found that KC had rallied with three in the eighth and one in the ninth before falling behind in the 12th and rallying yet again with two to win 9-8.

TigerBlog can't say that he has always been a Royals fan. He can say that he rooted hard for them in the 1970s, when it seemed like they played the Yankees in the playoffs every year. And one of his all-time favorite players was George Brett.

Anyway, after checking on that, and seeing some basic news headlines and of course seeing Doonesbury and Dilbert - TigerBlog loves that Doonesbury is rerunning all of its classic old strips and Dilbert is usually good for a laugh - TB went back to the webpage and found this:

Almost all the way there.

Then it was time to play the Jumble. TigerBlog loves the Jumble. Plays it every day. This morning he got the four jumbles and the riddle in 26 seconds. His all-time record is 10 seconds. Here's the proof:

Aren't screen shots wonderful things?

Then it was back to the webpage. For some reason, TB forgot to take a screen shot of the process when it was about 75 percent done.

At this point, the main stories had loaded on the front page, but there was no menu on top. And the social media accordion feed had only loaded Twitter.

You'll have to take his word for this.

So then it was back to looking around a little. TigerBlog went to the New York Post and the New York Daily News online. He loves to compare the two, as they see the world from slightly different viewpoints, one far right (Post) and the other far left (News), and they do so without apology.

His favorite writer between the two papers is Manish Mehta, who covers the Jets for the Daily News and who used to work in the Office of Athletic Communications a long time ago.

Then it was back to the webpage, and TB found that it was completely done, after about 40 minutes. This is what it's supposed to look like:

The last thing to fully load was in fact the social media accordion. This is what that part of the page looks like:

And that was it for the screen shots.

So okay, what is up with the new page?

TigerBlog likes it because of its simplicity and cleaner, less cluttered look. Let's face it, the old look was comfortable and it worked well, but it was a bit busy, no?

There are bigger pictures on the new page, with six stories that scroll through the top. There are five videos underneath the six stories.

Among the new features, TB loves the social media accordion. How does this work?

There are the tabs for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TigerBlog (of course) and the E-newsletter. If you click on one of those tabs, it'll replace the one there at the time as the expanded one. If you click on another that one will become the new one.

This is easier to demonstrate with another screen shot. See the above one, where the Twitter feed is visible? This is what you get when you click on, oh, let's go with, TigerBlog:

You can see how the Twitter feed now vanishes and the blog feed is visible.

Oh, you can also see another great feature of the new page here. The menu stays locked into place when you scroll down the page, so you can still access the items there.

Speaking of the menu, the new site features the "mega-menu" where you can go directly to each team's roster, schedule, news and social media pages.

And what else? There's the bar across the middle that has information on Princeton Athletic history. There are the tabs on the right side of the page that also direct you to social media, as well as ticketing, livestats, video and of course the blog.

There is also the "trending now" section, underneath the top six stories. This allows a certain number of stories to stay locked onto the front page without clogging up the six that rotate. This is another feature TigerBlog loves.

Anyway, the goals were to clean up the clutter, give it a fresh coat of paint as it were. And to add some better navigational ideas.

Most of these were stolen from other school's sites, by the way, but don't tell them. And they were molded to the specific needs of Princeton, with its 38 teams and other unique challenges and needs.

TigerBlog is pretty happy with the final product. He's sure there's a bug or two in there that needs to be worked out in the next few hours and days, but hopefully those are minimal.

In the meantime, it's goodbye to the old look, one that served well for the last 10 years.

Now it's the new-look, new-and-improved GPT.

Enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hanging With Bob Callahan

Kristen and Bob Callahan are celebrating their 36th anniversary today.

They were 23 when they got married, a year out of college, Bob a Princeton grad, Kristen from Bucknell.

Kristen had to go to work this morning, to her teaching job in the computer science department at Mercer County Community College. Bob is spending some of his anniversary morning talking to TigerBlog.

He called himself a cheap date on his anniversary. Cheap, as in not going out tonight to celebrate.

In truth, every moment for Bob - Princeton's longtime, well-loved former men's squash coach - is a celebration. This is a man with a Stage IV brain tumor, a man who endured aggressive chemotherapy and radiation until he finally had to stop, a man living these days because of his heart, his will, his spirit, his toughness.

And his family, especially his wife.

Kristen went back to work today and needed someone to stay with Bob a few mornings per week. As TB understands it, Kristen asked Kim Meszaros, Mollie Marcoux' assistant, if she could recommend anyone. Instead, Kim emailed the athletic department, and people came running to spend time with Bob, signing up for 90-minute time slots.

TB is here now. Field hockey coach Kristen Holmes-Winn will be here shortly to replace him.

Kristen Callahan said that Bob would be asleep the entire time, but that hasn't been the case. Instead, he's been talking non-stop.

His speech isn't loud anymore, but it's definitely his voice. He is speaking in a whisper, and TB needs to be on Bob's right side, since he can't see much out of his left eye anymore.

TB is glad that Bob has been up. He's said some incredible things.

TigerBlog was struck almost immediately by something that Bob said as he asked about how TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog were doing. He asked about TBJ and lacrosse, and then he asked this: "Does your son still play goalie?"

TB would have guessed that Bob never knew what position TBJ said, let alone remember it now.

That wasn't the only thing that Bob said that made TB shake his head and smile. Bob also said this: "I'm a very fortunate man. I don't have any complaints about anything."

Bob Callahan is a man of subtle humor, always has been. He's not going to tell you a loud, wild joke; he's going to say something in which the humor is understated, the punchline not always so obvious at first.

He asked TigerBlog about everyone in the athletic department, by name, by position. He talked about the teams, who was doing well, who was new, those whom he worked with all those years.

After a pause, he said "I'll be back."

TigerBlog smiled at that. Then Bob, in typical fashion, added this: "The alternative isn't much of a choice."

His attitude couldn't be better, and it's been that way through the entire ordeal, back when he first started radiation treatments and described them as "nice," as in "all the people there are so nice."

Now he's downstairs in his house, in a hospital bed where TigerBlog surmises a dining room table once was. There's a twin bed next to Bob's, where apparently Kristen sleeps.

There's no TV in his field of vision. Bob said he doesn't want one these days. He reads a lot, though it makes him fall asleep. He said he wants to write, but he hasn't done so yet. He gets bored too, he admitted.

He talked about his two new granddaughters. He talked about his five sons, each a Princeton graduate, like Bob, a member of the Class of 1977.

He has great recall of events and people. He repeated only one thing, which TigerBlog can't even remember now.

When he asked about all of the people in the athletic department, he said their name and then added a comment about each, which usually ran to "I really like him" or "she's a great person." When he spoke about longtime squash assistant coach Neil Pomphrey, he said that TB should "take him to lunch; he's a life-changingly good person."

He talked about trying to get out to dinner, maybe to the Blue Point Grill on Nassau Street or Acacia in Lawrenceville. So much for being a cheap date.

He never fell asleep, something for about which TB is glad, because it's been great to catch up with him.

Bob Callahan is fighting a brutal fight against an opponent that does not play fair. In many ways, he's already won.

He's still the same guy he's always been. TigerBlog can remember only one time that he ever saw Bob angry, and it was so out of character that he can't help but laugh about it now that he thinks back to it.

Mostly, Bob's tenure as squash coach was marked by overwhelming on-court success, with an unusual combination of a gentlemanly sense of sportsmanship and a fierce competitiveness. He's a member of the U.S. squash Hall of Fame, and he left a mark on Princeton Athletics and the world of intercollegiate squash that few have matched.

Ultimately, the conversation with TigerBlog went back to squash.

TigerBlog has just gotten back to playing after having knee surgery. He told Bob about how his game is progressing.

It was Bob and Gail Ramsay, the women's coach, who got TB into squash 10 years or so ago. They came and watched him play, like parents who were proud that a child was sharing one of their interests, even if they winced more than once at what they were seeing at first.

Over time, TB became pretty good at the game. His regular matches were with Craig Sachson, his colleague in the OAC. Bob and Gail would watch every now and then, offering pointers, making their sarcastically funny comments.

After about 75 minutes of non-stop talk, most of it from Bob, there was a brief lull in the conversation. TigerBlog brought up his squash resurgence.

Bob smiled at that, though in truth he had never really stopped smiling.

"I'm looking forward to getting over there to watch one of your matches with Craig again," Bob said. Then he paused - and added this: "Just like the old days."

Then it was back to the lull in the conversation, if ever so briefly.

TigerBlog looked out at Bob, his friend for more than 20 years, as he lie on his bed. He thought back to the entirety of their conversation, and how sharp his mind is, even as the tumor sits there, above his right ear.

He wished him happy anniversary again. Bob talked about his wife of 36 years, saying how she had a lot on her plate. Then he said that he didn't know how she does it, keeping it all together the way she does.

It was 90 minutes earlier that Kristen had stood on the driveway, telling TigerBlog about she and her husband had first gotten together and how young they were when they got married. She talked about his condition and prognosis, and she did all this in her own usual upbeat way.

In the corner of her eyes, TigerBlog could detect a hint of a tear, just a hint, and he wasn't sure if it was because he was having such a good morning, or because of the situation itself, or because she was remembering when she and her love had gotten together and gotten married, 36 years ago today.

It was just a hint of a tear, and then it was gone. Today isn't a day for tears anyway.

It was a day to spend some time with an old friend. A special friend.

A special man, Bob Callahan is. A special man, in great spirits, fighting today as he always does.

What do I have to regret, he asked? Then he smiled, again. 

Then it was time to go. Kristen Holmes-Winn came in, and Bob asked her immediately for pictures of her kids.

TB said his goodbye, and Bob reached out his hand. TigerBlog shook it, but Bob pulled him closer and kissed TB on the back of his hand.

Then he smiled again.

So did TigerBlog. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Missing The Fireworks

TigerBlog was at a wedding Saturday night.

A bride named Linda. A groom named Rich. A second wedding for both. TigerBlog is pretty sure there won't be a third for either, and he wishes the newlyweds nothing but happiness.

TigerBlog isn't a dancer, so weddings aren't exactly his favorite things. His cousin Brian recently got married and did not invite TigerBlog, something for which TB will be eternally grateful to Brian for, even if FatherBlog and BrotherBlog were both there.

Linda and Rich had a nice wedding, even if it had a lot of dancing. And it had something a little different to it than any other wedding that TigerBlog has ever attended.

The ceremony was performed by a close friend of the bride and groom who had gone online and gotten, what, ordained? Certified? Something that made it legal for her to perform the ceremony.

She wasn't a member of the clergy or a judge or anything, just someone the bride and groom were both close to for a long time. It certainly made the ceremony more personal.

TB has heard about this before. Bryce Chase, a longtime member of the men's lacrosse program, has performed two weddings. Erin McDermott, formerly the Deputy Athletic Director here and now the AD at the University of Chicago, officiated at her brother's wedding - marrying her brother, as it were. TigerBlog's brother-in-law Joe flew from Seattle to Milwaukee to officiate a wedding this past summer.

The wedding Saturday started at 5, and as such, TigerBlog had to miss the Princeton-Davidson football game, which kicked off at 6. And the fireworks after it as well.

For the record, TigerBlog likes fireworks more than he likes dancing, though fireworks aren't his favorite thing either. They're great in the beginning, but then it all starts to look the same. 

Anyway, by all accounts, the night managed to go well even without TB there.

Dre' Nelson ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and Princeton never looked back, winning 56-17. A crowd of 15,205 saw the game and stayed for the fireworks.

Hopefully those in attendance will be back.

Why wouldn't they be?

Princeton certainly put on a show offensively. Quinn Epperly ran for four touchdowns and 118 yards while completing 15 of 18 for 176 yards. Those numbers are pretty much what Dick Kazmaier used to put up routinely.

The supporting cast was there as well. Princeton had six players catch at least two passes - including one quarterback, Kedric Bostic. Connor Michelsen was 5 for 8 for 69 yards of his own.

Princeton has now reached at least 50 points six times in its last 10 games. The Tigers are also seven points ahead of where they were a year ago after two games, when they set the Ivy record for points in a season - though they do trail Yale by 18 points after the way the Bulldogs have exploded for 103 in two games, including a monster win over Army this past Saturday.

TigerBlog would say more about the game the other night, except he wasn't there for it. He was wondering if that was first one in the new stadium that he's missed.

When he went back to see, he came up with one game prior to this one that he missed. He had to cover soccer a few times and that caused him to not see the entire football game on the same day, but he saw at least half of those football games.

No, the only other game at Princeton Stadium TB did not attend was the 1999 game against Yale, which the Bulldogs won 23-21. TB was with the men's basketball team in Syracuse at the time.

He'll be back for the last four games this year. Princeton is off to a 1-1 start, one that really hasn't proven much of anything in terms of what the Ivy race holds.

It'll be awhile before the Tigers get back to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. First up is the Ivy opener at Columbia, to be followed by the final non-league game at Colgate.

Then it's home for Brown and Harvard back-to-back. Come the end of October, the league race - and Princeton's place in it - will be pretty clearly defined.

The fireworks of opening night will be a distant memory by then. Still, it looked like a great night at the stadium - even if TigerBlog missed it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Opening Day, Take 2

When TigerBlog is asked the last time he went to temple, the running joke is to answer "when they played St. Joe's."

Big Five humor at its finest.

TigerBlog didn't exactly go to temple yesterday. He went to the Nassau Presbyterian Church, for the reform Rosh Hashanah service offered by the Center For Jewish Life, a service led by Rabbi Sara Rich.

It's an annual tradition for TigerBlog to go to services on the High Holy Days. Well, a mostly annual tradition.

In truth, he's debating going to the Yom Kippur service - or to the Princeton at Columbia football game. And, the reality is that the football game will probably win out.

TigerBlog spent seven years in Hebrew school as a youngster, at a temple called Shaari Emeth, which means "The Gates of Truth." TigerBlog knows this well, as it was MotherBlog who actually named the temple and it was his parents who were one of seven founding families. There is still a plaque outside the sanctuary at the temple that bears their names.

At one point, he was pretty good at reading Hebrew, even if he didn't know what most of the words meant. He was never close to conversational or anything.

Yesterday, sitting upstairs at the church, TigerBlog was reminded that most of what he learned about reading Hebrew in the time leading up to his bar mitzvah - something that was a long, long time ago - he no longer remembered.

TigerBlog has never wavered from his faith, even if he hasn't reaffirmed it on a weekly basis - and even as TigerBlog Jr. attends a school called Holy Ghost Prep. He also understands that that faith hasn't really been tested in ways that it has been for many others of his people through the years (actually centuries) and that there are few places on this planet where it is safer to be Jewish than it is in the area where TB has lived his life.

The service was a traditional Rosh Hashanah celebration of the New Year, along with contemplation of one's sins and a reaffirmation of self-improvement. The eight-day period ends with Yom Kippur and its 24-hour fast to atone for one's sins.

TigerBlog was struck by one passage in one of the meditations in the service yesterday, so much so that he took a picture of it so that he wouldn't forget. It said: "Freely we choose, and what we have chosen to become stands in judgement over what we may yet hope to be."

He's still trying to process its meaning. He sort of thinks it's reversed, that "what we may yet hope to be" is what is judging "what we have chosen to become."

There were lighter notes to the service. Rabbi Rich managed to make the Shofar sound melodic, which is no easy task. If you're not familiar, the Shofar is a ram's horn, and it's not easy to make a sound come out of it at all, let alone a smooth one. It is used to announce holidays, most often on Rosh Hashanah.

Then there were the orange and black yarmulkes, of which TigerBlog saw a few.

And there was way that Rabbi Rich turned it into a decidely Princetonian service, when she brought up attendees by class, beginning with the Class of 2015 and ending with the Class of 2018. After that, she invited all alumni in attendance.

That's pure Princeton, people. When TigerBlog use to go to services as an undergrad at Penn, there was nothing remotely like that.

As TigerBlog said, he will probably choose Princeton-Columbia football over Yom Kippur services, though he will do the 24-hour fast. He always does.

Turning to a more secular subject, there is the matter of the Princeton-Davidson football game tomorrow night, before Princeton can worry about its first Ivy League game. The Tigers play the home opener a week after a tough 39-29 loss at San Diego in the first game a week ago.

This figures to be a pretty nice night at Princeton Stadium.

The weather forecast is nearly perfect for the kickoff at 6 pm, with the temperature at 76 degrees with 53% humidity and a zero percent chance of rain. There are also fireworks set for after the game.

If you missed it, that's perfect weather + fireworks. And a football game, of course.

Going back 52 weeks, nobody at that moment could have figured that Princeton was sitting on an offensive juggernaut and Ivy League championship team. Actually, the Ivy title would probably have seemed more likely than the offensive explosion.

Princeton lost its opener to Lehigh 29-28 last year. Going back a year earlier, Princeton had lost three of its last four to finish off a 5-5 year, and the Tigers had not reached more than 39 points in any game since Bob Surace had become head coach.

Game 2 last year was against Georgetown. Remember what you were thinking as a Princeton fan?

TigerBlog wrote this the day before the game:
The football team is at Georgetown, where it will be homecoming for the Hoyas. Georgetown football isn't quite like Georgetown basketball, but the Tigers and Hoyas had a pretty entertaining game last year. This time around, it'd be great for Princeton to be 1-1 heading into the Ivy League opener next Saturday against Columbia.

In other words, it was anything but a sure thing. Princeton then went out and hammered Georgetown 50-22, and the track meet that was the 2013 season was on.

TigerBlog's point is that the opener rarely defines the season, especially at Princeton, which struggles so much to win on opening day (0-8 in the last eight). The season really starts Saturday and then again next Saturday against Columbia.

So make sure you're out there tomorrow night. Weather. Fireworks. Football. A stadium that looks great under the lights.

It's opening day, take 2.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happy 5775

The High Holy Days - the "holidays," as TigerBlog's people puts it - seem to have arrived on time this year.

This is something very unusual. As TigerBlog wrote two years ago and repeated last year:

In Jewish culture, the High Holy Days never come on time. They're either early or late, as in "the holidays came really early this year," which is said at every family celebration as a way of suggesting that the hostess was caught completely off guard, what with the end of the summer and all, and therefore couldn't create a proper meal for the occasion. This is usually followed by a general agreement that "we should only be together on wonderful occasions."

For this year, it seems like it's right about when it should be. And by this year, TigerBlog means the Year 5775, which is what this year is on the Jewish calendar.

Rosh Hashanah arrived at sundown last night. For those who don't know these kinds of things, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and the start of the High Holy Days, which end eight days from now with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It's a time for celebration and self-reflection, and it ends with a 24-hour fast to atone for one's sins. It's a time to hope, often against hope, that perhaps one day there will be peace - even if that day seems fairly far away right now.

As for the Hebrew calendar, it has run continuously for 5,775 years now. It's not exactly like the Gregorian calendar, in that there are months that appear in some years and not others, months whose main role seem to be to keep the Hebrew calendar in line with the Gregorian one. They're sort of leap months, though not exactly.

As a result, the Jewish holidays don't always fall on the same exact day from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. Some years they're early. Others they're late.

Last year, the High Holy Days started at sundown on Sept. 4, which also, by the way, the earliest that it can ever start. The latest it can start is Oct. 5. The midpoint would be Sept. 20, so pretty much anything this week is right in the middle.

TigerBlog's memories of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from his childhood are of no school, no work and no playing outside. They were family days, and there was no running around before heading off to see the family, which usually meant a long ride to either Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island, depending on who the host that year was.

Every little Jewish kid tries to fast on Yom Kippur, and none make it. Rosh Hashanah? Eat up.

Rosh Hashanah lasts two full days, though Reform Jews, of which TigerBlog is one, aren't as diligent about the second one.

Rosh Hashanah will end at sundown tomorrow. If the holiday started a day later, it would end with fireworks, but only over Princeton Stadium at the conclusion of the Princeton-Davidson football game.

The men's soccer team played at Drexel last night. TigerBlog understands playing on religious holidays in a secular league like the Ivy League. Hey, everyone plays baseball and softball on Easter Sunday. The men's soccer team is home Saturday as well, against Binghamton.

The women's soccer teams opens its Ivy League season at Yale Saturday in what could be the biggest game of the weekend. Getting off to a good start in the Ivy race in soccer is huge.

The field hockey team is also at Yale Saturday and then is at Albany Sunday. The women's volleyball team opens its Ivy League season against Penn tomorrow night. Sprint football is home against Post tomorrow night as well.

There are other events as well. Water polo is home Sunday. There is also golf and tennis on the road.

It's a busy weekend.

Next weekend is the Ivy opener in football, at Columbia. TigerBlog will probably go, even if it is Yom Kippur. If he does go, he'll fast. Like he did that year at Brown, when he went to services across the street from Brown Stadium with a Bears player in full uniform.

In the meantime, happy 5775, whether you're one of TigerBlog's people or not.

Hopefully it is a year of prosperity, happiness - and peace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Athletic Communications"

If you call TigerBlog in his office, he will answer the phone by saying two words: "Athletic Communications."

That is unless, of course, he doesn't already recognize your number in the caller ID. Then he'll just say "hello," or possibly "hey" or "yo." Or, possibly not answer the phone at all, depending on the number.

TigerBlog remembers when he used to be in the newspaper business and covered Princeton sports. When he called then, or when he was in the office here and others would call, those who worked here then answered the phone by saying "Athletic Communications," so he figured he would do that as well when he started working here.

When he was at the newspaper, he would answer the phone by saying "sports," and then he would hope it wasn't someone who was calling in an obscure result that he didn't care in the least about.

The majority of calls at the newspaper were from people who were calling in a result of a game, usually a high school event. When TigerBlog took on the task of reporting TigerBlog Jr.'s results to the local paper, he found that the system of "call and hope someone who cares answers" had been replaced by "log onto website and fill out reporting form."

Oh, and TigerBlog forgot all the other calls that would come into the paper. Those would be the "my paper didn't come today" calls. He would get those on Sunday mornings, when he would go into the office to write a college football or basketball column (because he needed access to the AP wire, because there was no web yet). For some reason, the phone would ring to the sports department instead of circulation on Sunday mornings.

Sadly, TB was of little value to those who did not get their paper.

TigerBlog isn't sure how his colleagues here at the Office of Athletic Communications answer the phone. He's probably heard them 10,000 times each, yet it doesn't really stick in his mind.

Or, for that matter, how does anyone else here answer the phone when it's a number they don't recognize on caller ID.

At one point, Kurt Kehl, who had TigerBlog's job before TB did and who was the one who hired TB from the newspaper business, debated changing the name of the office from "Office of Athletic Communications" to "Office of Athletic Public Affairs."

TigerBlog even recorded a new voicemail for the office, referring to it as the "Office of Athletic Public Affairs."

Back then, the main number for this office, whatever it was called, was 609.258.3568. Kurt used to like to put a period instead of a small dash in phone numbers, and TB has stuck with that. He likes how it looks.

At one point, if you called that number, you'd be greeted with TB's voice as it gave you about eight or so options, including speaking to someone in the office, getting a directory of coaches, being transfered to the ticket office, that sort of thing. Back then, menus on voicemails were becoming big.

Now? They're infuriating, especially the kind where you keep going from one menu to another by pressing "1" for this and then "3" for that and so on. The ones TB hates the most are the ones where they ask for your account number (always followed by the "pound" sign) and then the person picks up and what's the first thing asked? Right. Account number.

Anyway, when TB first started working here, the only office number was the 3568 one. Eventually, the phones were equipped with that number and another one, which became each person's direct line. The problem then was that when 3568 would ring, the same person would always end up picking it up, since most of the rest of the office didn't want to have to deal with whoever it was on the other end.

TigerBlog has also answered the phone a lot here and had the first words out of the other person's mouth be "you're probably not the right person." In that case, the person has been right about 95% of the time, though it never stops them from wanting to be connected to the right person. They figure they have a live person, so that person will listen to their issue.

Let's see. Eventually, "Office of Athletic Public Affairs" didn't stick. And 3568 went away. Now each person has a direct line but no common line. And TigerBlog is still saying "Athletic Communications."

Not even "hello, Athletic Communications." Not even "Princeton Athletic Communications." Just "Athletic Communications."

There was a time when TigerBlog would get more than 1,000 voicemails each month. Now? He gets about 10.

One of the great advancements around here has been the fact that if someone calls, gets no answer and doesn't leave a voicemail, TigerBlog gets an email saying he has a missed call from that number. This leads to never having to worry about who was calling when he can hear it ring but not get there in time, though it does have the awkward moment of having to call a strange number back and explain who it is. Or worse, a number that TB should recognize but doesn't.

What's the point of all this?

Well, TigerBlog was recently asked if there is anything that happens in this office exactly the same way it did when he first started working here all those years ago. As he thought about it, this is what he came up with.

The way he answers the phone. Unchanged in more than 20 years.

Everything else, top to bottom, has changed.

Hey, the phone is ringing. It's a number TB doesn't know, with a 212 area code. Maybe he'll finally do it. Say something different.


"Athletic Communications."

It's okay to keep one thing the same.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kip And Ryan

TigerBlog was walking towards the parking lot yesterday afternoon when he saw seniors Kip Orban and Will Rotatori, who were walking to Caldwell Field House for the first fall practice for the men's lacrosse team.

The first practice for the actual spring season won't be held on as nice a day, TigerBlog predicts. It'll be the middle of winter, after all.

This is the fall, officially now, for that matter. And yesterday felt fall-like, which meant basically perfect.

For Princeton, it was the first step down the road to the 2015 season, one that hopefully will continue well into May.

Princeton will be playing in the Play For Parkinson's event a week from Sunday, which would be Oct. 5, at Episcopal High School in Arlington, Va. The event is part of ProjectSpark, which is dedicated to the fight against Parkinson's.

The organization was started by Christian Cook and his sister Lauren, after their mother Diane was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2008. Christian, if you don't know, was a first-team All-America defenseman and member of three NCAA championship teams at Princeton before graduating in 1998.

TigerBlog first saw Cook play on Finney Field when he was a freshman backup and saw how fast he was. And tenacious. And ridiculously fast. He had "first-team All-America written" all over him.

Cook's event is now an annual part of Princeton fall lacrosse. The Tigers will play Loyola at 1 and Air Force at 3.

The 2014 Princeton season didn't go as well as the Tigers would have hoped, as the team went 7-6 and missed out on the Ivy League tournament. Again, it was close losses that doomed the Tigers, as they lost three one-goal Ivy games on the road. One goal. Maybe it was just bad luck?

TigerBlog thinks that Kip Orban is one of the most underrated players in Division I lacrosse.

Orban ended the 2014 season without so much as an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection, despite all of the following:
* becoming the first Princeton player since Peter Trombino in 2004 to have at least one goal in every game
* the longest (or second-longest, TB isn't 100% sure on this one) current streak in Division I of consecutive games with at least one goal; Orban enters 2015 with at least one in 26 straight games
* back-to-back seasons of at least 20 goals, something only five other Princeton midfielders in the last 25 years have done
* the ability to make plays like the one at the 1:15 mark HERE

Going back to the third point, Orban is one of six Princeton middies in the last 25 years to have back-to-back seasons with at least 20 goals. Of the other five, two were on his midfield line last year - Tom Schreiber and Jake Froccaro. The other three? Brad Dumont, Josh Sims and Lorne Smith.

Of the other five, Schreiber, Sims and Smith were all multiple time first-team All-America selections. Dumont was a second-team All-America.

Froccaro was at least second-team All-Ivy this past year. Orban? Nothing this year (though he was second-team All-Ivy a year earlier).

Anyway, why is TigerBlog talking lacrosse in September? Two reasons - first, it's always a good time to talk about lacrosse.

Second, Ryan Boyle announced his retirement from Major League Lacrosse a few days ago. Boyle finishes his career as the all-time leader in assists (by a wide margin) in MLL history, and he is third all-time in points.

In what is more telling about Boyle, he is second in MLL history in playoff points. He also won four league titles (three with the Philadelphia Barrage, one with the Boston Cannons) and added two World Championships with the U.S. national team.

Without question the lacrosse Hall of Fame awaits him.

Boyle is a 2004 Princeton grad. He was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year. He ranks second all-time at Princeton with 233 career points and 162 career assists.

He assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime in Princeton's 2001 NCAA championship game win over Syracuse, and he had the game-winning goal against Loyola with four seconds left in the quarterfinals that year.

In all Boyle would play 11 NCAA tournament games and have 37 NCAA tournament points.

When TigerBlog thinks of Ryan Boyle, he thinks of someone who is tied for first, along with former football player Keith Elias, among charismatic athletes he's seen here. They both had natural cool even as teenagers, and they both immediately commanded all attention when they were in the room, without ever trying. People are just drawn to him, and the same was the case with Elias when he was here. Boyle and Elias, 1 and 1A in that respect.

Boyle speaks softly but always thoughtfully. It's part of why he's becoming such a great ESPN lacrosse broadcaster. There aren't many who know lacrosse better than he does.

He also came along at a time when the stars of lacrosse were first starting to be seriously marketed, in marketing that ran towards the celebration of the "great player as lax bro." Boyle never fit that mold, or at least that's how it always seemed to TB. While everyone else was the wild rock star of lacrosse, Boyle was his sport's Bob Dylan, the poetic genius who left everyone else is awe of his talent.

A few weeks ago, TigerBlog suggested that Boyle may have supplanted Bill Bradley as having the most successful post-Princeton athletic career by a male athlete. Now that playing career is over.

For everything Boyle accomplished on the field, the one moment that stands out the most was in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2004, his senior year. Princeton was playing Maryland at Virginia, in the nearly empty football stadium. The Tigers trailed 8-6 with two minutes to go, and then Boyle took over in what was without question the single best individual effort TB has ever seen from a Princeton lacrosse player (and maybe any athlete).

Boyle scored two goals in the final 1:55 - including the tying goal with 12 second left - and then assisted on Trombino's game-winner 1:42 into the overtime to give Princeton a 9-8 win over the Terps and a spot in the Final Four. Boyle did all that matched against Chris Passavia, a first-team All-America defenseman.

It's not just that he scored. He scored with Passavia all over him, and he scored when he was always more of a feeder. And then he did it again. And then, when the entire stadium figured he was going to do it a third time, he found Trombino wide open for the layup.

Those aren't performances that just happen. They come from the greatest of the great players, and that's what Ryan Boyle has always been for lacrosse, from his days here through the end of his professional career. 

TigerBlog was looking back at the story he wrote about the 2004 quarterfinal, and he was struck by this quote from Boyle:  "The thought that this might be the end of my career never entered my mind."

Eventually it did, a little more than 10 years later.

With nothing left to prove.

Ryan Boyle steps away from his days on the lacrosse field, secure in his place as one of the greatest who ever played the game. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Opening Thoughts

TigerBlog saw a really good concert on TV Friday night - after he had gone through five episodes of "Breaking Bad," of course.

It was Imagine Dragons, one of TigerBlog Jr.'s favorites. And, TigerBlog must admit, a group he really likes as well.

TB's introduction to Imagine Dragons was when the song "It's Time" was used to promote the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament on ESPN two years ago. The group has a really strong unique sound, and some of its songs are great - including the aforementioned "It's Time," "Radioactive," "Demons" and TB's favorite, "On Top Of The World."

TigerBlog looked through the audience at the concert and didn't see too many people in his age range. Okay, none. Still, TB does like the group, and he especially likes Imagine Dragons compared to almost the rest of what passes for contemporary music.

Has TB become one of those stodgy old people who views modern music the way people who were the age he is now back in the 1960s viewed Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones?

Nah. He just thinks most of what he hears on Miss TigerBlog's stations is awful.

Anyway, when the concert was over, he flipped around and came upon "The Silence of the Lambs," which was just starting. TigerBlog once wrote this about the movie:

"TigerBlog assumes that pretty much everyone has seen it at least once, and if you have, it's left you fairly freaked out for life to a certain extent ... Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter is extraordinary. It's not easy, after all, to make a cannibalistic serial killer so likeable, like the kind of person you'd want to have a meal with, well, uh, no to that actually."

He stands by that.

Every time he sees the movie, he is amazed that Hopkins is only in it for 16 minutes. He does a lot in that time, of course, to the point that he was one of the easiest Best Actor choices of all time.

Perhaps his best scene is the one in the beginning where he talks to Agent Starling for the first time. That's as far as TB got in the movie, since it was late and he didn't really want to have nightmares all night, even if it's seen the movie a millions times.

One night after Hopkins was on screen for 16 minutes in a performance that won Best Actor, Jameis Winston was on screen for eight minutes during Florida State's overtime win over Clemson.

In case you missed out on this, Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy last year, was suspended by FSU first for the first half and then for the entire game after he jumped onto a table in a public area and shouted an obscene vulgarity. Apparently, that earns a one-game suspension, whereas allegations of sexual assault and stealing crab legs merit nothing.

Clearly, Winston would not still be at Florida State if he was a regular student or even an average football player. But okay, FSU has decided that winning the national championship last year was worth the risk of what the star quarterback will do next.

Oh well. By the way, this treatment is why NFL players feel so untouchable by the rules of regular society, but that's another issue.

But why did ESPN feel the need to show so many reaction shots of him during the game that it added up to eight minutes of screen time? Why? Okay. He's happy when his team does something right. Everyone gets it.

For that matter, why would Florida State permit him on the sideline in the first place. Oh wait, the rules don't apply to him. TigerBlog forgot for a minute.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Princeton opened its football season with a 39-29 loss to San Diego.

TigerBlog, ever the optimist, will point out that Princeton is now, after Week 1, one point ahead of its pace of a year ago, when it set the Ivy League record for points in a season. Princeton scored 28 in its opening day loss to Lehigh a year ago.

Princeton wasn't as sharp offensively against San Diego as it was for most of last year. It was a tough opener, with the long plane ride and all of the other activities around the game, as well as the most interesting issue of all: Week 1 in the Ivy League comes in Week 4 for everyone else.

How big a deal is that?

Princeton is now 0-8 in its last eight season openers, by far its worst showing in any week in that stretch.

Princeton plays non-league games in Week 1, Week 2 and Week 4. Since the start of the 2007 season, Princeton is 0-8 in Week 1, 5-2 in Week 2 and 3-4 in Week 4.

If you want to say it's a function of the opponent, consider this: Since the start of the 2007 season, Princeton is 2-4 against Lehigh - 0-4 in Week 1 games and 2-0 in games that were played in Week 2.

From 1976 through 1999, Ivy League teams opened their seasons with a league game. To say there was a lot of pressure on the opener would be an understatement.

After all, it's hard to win the league when you're 0-1 to start. History says it doesn't happen often.

Princeton, for instance, has never done it, never won the Ivy title after losing its first Ivy game.

So the decision was made to play a non-league game first. In Princeton's case, it's the first two weeks.

And that's always going to be a disadvantage. Teams are much sharper in Week 2 than Week 1 and much fitter in Weeks 3 and 4 than in Week 1. It's just how it is. 

This year, Davidson comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium for the home opener, this Saturday at 6. There will be fireworks after the game, by the way.

What does the opening day loss mean? In the long run, not much, other than the chance to go 10-0 is gone. But hey, that's getting way ahead of things anyway.

The goals are the same every year. Win the Ivy title. Get a bonfire for beating Harvard and Yale.

The goal of an opening day win? That will have to wait until next year, at Lafayette.

Princeton has won three straight against the Leopards, just none of them in Week 1.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Opening Out West

TigerBlog starts his Friday with a good trivia question: Name the only six teams Princeton has opened its football season with in the last 60 years?

This doesn't count San Diego, whom Princeton opens with tomorrow at 4 pm Eastern time.

So go back 60 years and come up with the six teams. TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs to come up with it, as always.

In the meantime, here's something TigerBlog has been meaning to share since he first read it a week or two ago. It's a link to John McPhee's story in "The New Yorker" about his experiences growing up around Princeton football, and, like everything by John McPhee, it's well worth your time to read it.

So click HERE to read it.

The 2014 season will be Princeton's 17th in Princeton Stadium. It spent 83 in Palmer Stadium. That means that it's been 100 years since Palmer Stadium opened.

In fact, Game 1 in Palmer Stadium was played on Oct. 24, 1914, which means that this year's Harvard game will be one day after the 100th anniversary of the day the old stadium opened.

TigerBlog spent a lot of Saturdays in Palmer Stadium, all at the end of its long life as the home of Princeton football. He has nice memories of the place, even if it was a zero frills building by the end. Or, for that matter, in the begining, TB assumes.

Mr. McPhee has a much stronger connection to Palmer Stadium than TigerBlog does. Much, more stronger.

His father was the team physician for Princeton football (and the U.S. Olympic team at one point). John McPhee grew up around Princeton football, with access to the players, coaches and program that any little kid at the time would have loved. It comes out in his recent magazine piece, and it makes TigerBlog think about what Palmer Stadium must have been all about way back when.

Any picture that TigerBlog has seen of Palmer Stadium from those times was in black and white, obviously, yet it was a world of color back then as well. What did it look like on game day?

And how did Princeton distribute tickets back then? Were there event meetings like the ones that TB goes to every Tuesday?

Anyway, the answer to the trivia question is this: Lehigh, Lafayette, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Cornell and the Citadel.

TigerBlog only got five of them right when he was asked. He completely forgot the games against the Citadel.

The 2014 opener is in California, against a San Diego team that is 1-1, with a win over Western New Mexico and a loss to Jacksonville.

Princeton left yesterday afternoon on a charter flight from Philadelphia to San Diego. It's an exciting trip for the players, and it's a logistical challenge for those who had to put it together.

Still, it's a great experience all around.

Princeton comes home for its first game on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium next Saturday, when it hosts Davidson at 6. There are fireworks after the game.

This is expected to be a season of fireworks, both the literal kind after the first home game and the figurative kind on the field during games. Princeton has the bulk of its offense back after last year's explosion of points and yards, both of which set Ivy League records.

The leader of the show is Quinn Epperly, the reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year who is back for his senior year as Princeton's quarterback. Or, more precisely, one of Princeton's quarterbacks.

Princeton's scheme is built around using multiple quarterbacks at the same time. And multiple running backs. And multiple receivers.

Princeton went 8-2 a year ago, losing its opener (to Lehigh) and its finale (in the snow at Dartmouth) and winning eight straight in between. Princeton reached at least 50 points five times in those eight games; Princeton didn't reach 50 points five times going back, oh, pretty much to the time that John McPhee was a kid.

The big win last year was a 51-48 win over Harvard, the team that Princeton would tie for the league championship. This year, those two are picked to finish 1-2 in the league, and they got every first- and second-place vote in the preseason poll.

It's been awhile since Princeton has gone into a football season with so much, well, let's call it cautious optimism. It has depth. It has speed. It has size. It has experience. It has newcomers pushing to get on the field. It has an established coaching staff and system. It's bigger than any single one of its players, including Epperly.

It has its question marks. Princeton sent two defensive linemen to the NFL in two years and has some rebuilding to do on that side of the ball. The rest of the league has had a year to figure out the multi-quarterback sets; will that make a difference?

Still, there is a lot to be excited about as 2014 kicks off, even if it is 3,000 miles away.

It's the start of 10 games in 10 weeks. It's been a long wait. Now the sprint begins.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

200 National Champs, Or Is That 202?

TigerBlog was in a meeting the other day when the question of Princeton's all-time national champions came up.

Actually, questions. As in, how many? What sports? Who has the most? All of it.

Princeton has won its share of national championships. More, actually.

As you probably know, Princeton has had at least one team or individual win a national championship in each of the 43 years. Julia Ratcliffe somewhat dramatically kept the streak alive last year, winning the NCAA women's hammer throw at the final event of the athletic year.

When TigerBlog started working here, he saw someplace that said that Princeton had a long streak of producing a national champion. He didn't, however, see the list of the national champions during that streak.

At some point, he decided he'd put together the list - and he found that it actually ran 12 years longer than he thought it did. Now it's up to 43 straight, thanks to Ratcliffe.

And TigerBlog can prove it. Click HERE and scroll to the bottom.

So that's the last 43 years.

As for all time? Well, that's not as clear cut, though it is possible that Ratcliffe's championship this past spring was also a huge milestone, in addition to one that kept a big streak alive.

TigerBlog went through and added up all of Princeton's all-time national championships, team and individual. He found four teams with at least 20; he will give you a few paragraphs to guess the four.

In the meantime, there's a little issue with men's hockey national championships. As in, Princeton doesn't claim any.

Harvard, of all places, credits Princeton with two during the Hobey Baker years. Yale claims national hockey championships during that era, suggesting that perhaps there was a champion crowned.

TB is working on this one.

Okay, as for the four teams with at least 20? That would be football (with 28), women's squash (26), men's squash (24), men's swimming and diving (22). This includes team and individual for the last three.

Yeah, yeah, TigerBlog gets it. The 28 national championships in football that Princeton won aren't quite the same as winning, say, the BCS championship or something. But they're national titles nonetheless.

Not counting the men's hockey issue, TigerBlog has come up with 200 national championships all time at Princeton. In other words, if men's hockey never won a national title, then the one that Ratcliffe won was the 200th in school history.

Oh, and of those 200, the breakdown is 111 team and 89 individual. Or 113 team and 89 individual, if you count hockey.

Of course, this does not translate to 200 NCAA championships. Or 202.

Does anyone remember the AIAW, which stood for the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women?

The AIAW was founded in 1971 as the governing body of women's athletics on the college level, and it was the AIAW - not the NCAA - which ran the national championship events for the women's teams. This lasted until the early 1980s, when the NCAA basically obliterated the AIAW.

TigerBlog isn't sure how the compliance end of the AIAW worked, compared with NCAA rules and regulations. And it's not on Wikipedia, so he may never find out.

Princeton won six AIAW championships in swimming, including four individual ones by Cathy Corcione. One of TigerBlog's favorite Princeton stories is how six swimmers from Princeton went to the 1973 AIAW national meet and ended up finishing third in the country, helped along by Corcione's two individual wins and her leg on the winning 200 free relay team, along with teammates Jane Fremon, Barb Franks, and Carol Brown. All three of Princeton's champs set national records at that meet.

Corcione won two more events the following year, taking both the 100 IM and 200 IM. The most recent Princeton national championship in women's swimming came in the 1982 AIAW meet - the last one - when Diana Caskey, Ann Heusner, Liz Richardson and Betsy Lind won the 800 free relay.

Some sports still don't compete for NCAA titles, such as squash and men's rowing. Others won national titles in sports before there was an NCAA to award them, or before there was an NCAA tournament to crown the championship.

Men's lacrosse, for instance, has won 12 national championships. Of the 12, two were before the formation of the NCAA (which was in 1906) and four others were when the national champion was voted on. The remaining six were by virtue of winning the actual NCAA tournament.

Anyway, here's the list, sport by sport. Where you see a "x/y," that is "team/individual champions."

And if Julia's was No. 200, that's even cooler.

If Princeton won the two hockey championships, by the way, then the 200th would have Eliza Stone's individual fencing championship in 2013.

Football – 28
Women’s squash – 26 (17/9)
Men’s squash – 24 (10/14)
Men’s swimming and diving – 22 (0/22)
Mens’ golf – 19 (12/7)
Fencing – 14 (2/12)
Men’s lax – 12
Men’s tennis – 10 (0/10)
Women’s open rowing - 10
Men’s lightweight rowing - 8
Men’s track and field – 7 (0/7)
Women’s swimming and diving – 6 (0/6)
Women’s lightweight rowing – 5
Women’s lax – 3
Men’s heavyweight rowing – 3
Wrestling – 1 (0/1)
Field Hockey – 1
Women’s Track and Field – 1 (0/1)