Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On To The Final

Yesterday, TigerBlog was talking about rooting for Donn Cabral.

Today, he's renewing his earlier statement that he's rooting for Jill Ellis.

And hey, if he has to root for the U.S. women's national soccer team, so be it.

Ellis is the head coach for the United States, and she has her team in the championship match at the Women's World Cup. The U.S. will take on the winner of tonight's England-Japan semifinal match in Sunday's final, after the Americans defeated the top-ranked team in the world, Germany, 2-0 in the semifinals last night.

Should the English win, then Ellis would be coaching the United States team against her native country.

Today's quick quiz - what country won the most recent Women's World Cup? If you guessed the U.S.A., you'd be wrong.

The answer is Japan.

Can you name the last three Women's World Cup winners? Japan, Germany (2007) and Germany (2003).

The last time the U.S. won was in 1999. The first time the U.S. won was in 1991, which was the first Women's World Cup, the one where Brandy Chastain knocked in the winning PK and then had her rather famous celebration.

The other Women's World Cup, in 1995, was won by Norway.

In other words, the U.S. isn't a lock to win every time there is one of these tournaments. The casual fan might think so, but that's not the case.

Of course, it's not like there isn't pressure on the U.S. to win each time out. Far from it. Had Ellis' team not won yesterday, even against the No. 1-ranked team in the world, there would have been a sense of failure around the team.

The Americans haven't accomplished their goal yet. The 2011 team reached the championship match against Japan and lost in PKs. Having that happen again would leave an empty taste this time as well.

So Ellis has to deal with the win-it-all expectations every time her team steps on the field. And then there's the whole balancing act that is being the U.S. coach, with all of the personalities and stars and newcomers and everything else.

Just handling a mega-star like Abby Wambach in the tail end of her career is challenge enough. Now factor that across the entire U.S. roster.

The best player, if no the biggest star, for the Americans now is Carli Lloyd.

TigerBlog was Princeton's women's soccer contact in 2004, when Ellis coached UCLA against Princeton in the Final Four, and is 2003, when the Tigers took on Rutgers on the first Tuesday in October.

TB remembers the game pretty well. Princeton was ranked 23rd nationally, and Rutgers was always a national power.

Rutgers had a really strong defense, one that had allowed one goal in 700 minutes prior to the game. TigerBlog didn't remember that part; he saw that when he read the recap of the game he'd written all those years ago.

Princeton led 2-0 after scoring two late first-half goals. TB did remember that.

He didn't remember who scored them, though it turned out to be Rochelle Willis and Emily Behncke.

The other thing he remembers about that game is that Rutgers came back to tie it 2-2. And he also remembered who scored both goals.

That's right. Carli Lloyd. She scored one goal seven minutes into the second half and then the tying goal with seven minutes left in the second half.

As TB re-read the story he wrote about the game, he saw that there was a quote from then-head coach Julie Shackford, whose best friend is Jill Ellis.

Here's what Shackford had to say: "Carli Lloyd is a great player. She knows where to put the ball."

She certainly did against Germany last night, when she scored the first U.S. goal on a penalty kick.

Lloyd is the leading U.S. scorer with three goals in this World Cup. Megan Rapinoe has two, and no other American has more than one.

So yes, it seems that Shackford was right about her.

And now the U.S. has one game to go to win the Women's World Cup.

If the Americans get there, Jill Ellis better get the credit she deserves. This isn't just about rolling the balls out there and rolling to the championship.

Nope, this would be the first time in 16 years that America would have won.

It takes a special coach to pull that off.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rooting For Donn Cabral

Tomorrow is the last day of June, which means it'll be the exact halfway point of 2015.

Think about what you did on New Year's Eve. That was exactly six months ago. Does it seem like that long ago?

The other day was the halfway point between Christmas 2014 and Christmas 2015. June 25th, to be exact, which was last Thursday.

When do you think you'll see your first ad for the new Christmas season? Before opening day of the NFL?

When you're a kid, you're aware of when your half-birthday is, even if it's not that big a deal. It's not like it was good for any presents or anything.

What it was big for was adding the "and a half" to your age when someone asked you how old you were. How old are you? Last week you said seven. Now you say "seven and a half."

It's a big moment.

TigerBlog thinks the slowest time of the year is the time that's about to be upon us, the Fourth of July until the start of the new school year. It's a relaxing summer respite from the busy every day week-to-week season-to-season grind of the school year.

The fastest time of the year is from Halloween to New Year's. Then it slows again a little.

Halloween to New Year's is a total sprint. Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year's. One after the other.

This year, those holidays will be followed by 2016, which will feature, among other things, the next Presidential election. There's a lot at stake for the country in the next election, and yet it will deteriorate into what it always does, with an endless number of primaries, debates, ads and all the rest of it, with the long crawl until Election Day in November. It'll seem like a thousand years have gone by from the summer of 2015 until Election Day 2016.

As an aside, not to get political or anything, but going to Dartmouth for football or basketball in a Presidential election cycle is always interesting, because of the New Hampshire Primary and the importance it plays. There's always something going on at Dartmouth it seems.

Anyway, another big part of 2016 will be the Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, beginning Aug. 5.

TigerBlog is rooting hard for Donn Cabral to be there again.

Cabral is the 2012 Princeton grad who won the NCAA steeplechase championship his senior year. Then he went on qualify for the Olympics in London and then reach the final, where he led for awhile before finishing eighth.

Cabral competed at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Oregon this past weekend, as did five other Princeton alums. Cabral finished second in the steeplechase, running an 8:13.37, leaving him 1.08 seconds behind Evan Jager, who was the other American in the 2012 Olympics, where he finished sixth.

TigerBlog knows next to nothing about track and field and how it works and what times mean what.

He does know this: Had Cabral run the time he just ran in Oregon in the 2012 Olympic final, he would have won gold - by more than five seconds.

Yes, this is not an apples to apples comparison. Still, Cabral is getting faster, no? His time to finish eighth in Londan was 8:25.91, or 12.54 seconds slower than he ran last weekend.

TigerBlog has talked to Cabral twice, he thinks. Once was for a feature story for the football game program, and TB still has the thank you note that Cabral sent him.

That seems to be the kind of person he is. 

He's not the most imposing physical presence. That's for sure. He doesn't overwhelm you with bravado or anything like that.

He just comes across as a nice guy, one who is very serious about what he's doing and - very, very good at it.

Plus, as TB has said many times before, watching him train on the Weaver Stadium track when he was a senior was a daily event, one that drew the attention of anyone who happened to casually glance at Cabral as he ran.

Anyway, the 2016 Olympics are not exactly around the corner. First are the World Championships in Beijing in August. Then there is still most of a year until Olympic qualifying.

TigerBlog will be rooting for him. That's for sure.

How can he not?

After all, Donn Cabral is pretty much everything that is good with Princeton Athletics. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nous Sommes Quarante Et Un

So Miss TigerBlog has become a tad obsessed with speaking French.

Of the last 12 text messages she has sent her father, nine of them have been in French. This would be fine, except TigerBlog speaks only a single word of French.

Fromage.

It means "cheese."

Before he gets into the whole French thing, TB wants to point out that his daughter - who recently completed her freshman year of high school - is tethered at all times to her cell phone but is only 50-50 to respond to a text of his. And if he calls? Forget it. She's 90-10 not to answer.

Why is that?

Okay, back at the French thing.

TigerBlog took Spanish in high school and German in college and had basically no natural affinity for learning foreign languages. BrotherBlog did - he could pick up pretty much anything, including Mandarin Chinese.

Pete Carril once said of one his players a long time ago that he "can speak seven languages, but when I try to tell him what to do, I sometimes think English isn't one of them."

TigerBlog Jr. took four years of French in high school. He was pretty good at it, if his grades through the years are to be believed. But he never really has spoken much of it in casual conversation around the house.

Then there's MTB. She's all French, all the time. She took a brief middle school rotation of French, Spanish and German and chose French for high school.

It was a about halfway through the year that she started with the whole French deal. Now? It's an every day thing.

It certainly has its charm.

TigerBlog will text "what are you doing?" and the answer will come back to him in French. Or he'll ask what she wants for dinner, and the answer comes back in French, to which he will respond "would you like 'fromage' with that?"

Usually, TigerBlog has to then forward it to BrotherBlog for translation. It's an arduous process, yet in some ways it's been good for family bonding.

TigerBlog asked MTB yesterday how to say "we are 41" in French, and she replied "Nous Sommes Quarante Et Un." TB will take it at her word - or words - that she is correct.

Why did TB want to know how to say "we are 41" in French? Because Princeton finished the year 41st in the Directors' Cup.

Princeton was actually 40th until TCU vaulted past the Tigers with its points in the last sport of the year, baseball. For those who don't know, the Directors' Cup measures the top athletic programs in Division I, Division II and Division III through a system that awards points based on NCAA championship participation.

Princeton had a huge spring, getting 80 points in the fall, 172 in the winter and then 300.5 in the spring. The teams contributing to the spring haul were women's lacrosse, women's open rowing, women's tennis, men's tennis, women's track and field and men's track and field.

And women's water polo. Princeton got more points in the spring from women's water polo than any other sport. The most points by any sport all year were the 80 in fencing, though that is a combined total for the men and women.

Princeton went from 77th at the end of the fall to 56th at the end of the winter to 41st in the final standings.

Princeton led all Ivy League schools and was in fact the highest ranking school from a non-power conference. Adding it up, the top 40 featured eight Pac 12 schools - including the top three, who were Stanford, UCLA and USC - eight ACC schools, six Big 12 schools, nine SEC schools and nine Big Ten schools.

Think about that. That's 40 power conference schools and then Princeton.

For everything that Princeton accomplishes athletically, there are few things that reflect the combination of what the athletic program is striving to be than having such a strong showing in the Directors' Cup. Princeton is showing how well it can compete against schools that spend tens of millions of dollars more per year on athletics and can compete without having to compromise its core values in any way.

This is the 22nd year of the Directors' Cup. Princeton has finished in the top 50 19 times.

The 2014-15 year was also the 19th time in those 22 years that Princeton has finished first in the Ivy League.

That's great stuff. It's a great way to end the year.

Being Quarante Et Un?

That's something to applaud.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Keeping Stats

TigerBlog watched the first 30 minutes of last night's NBA draft, which enabled him to see four picks.

That's 30 more minutes and four more picks he's seen of the last, oh, 10 or so NFL drafts combined, partly because the NFL hasn't figure out yet that having its draft in the heart of college lacrosse season is just killing its marketability.

Anyway, TB saw basically everything he needed to in those four picks.

The Sixers had the third pick. The Knicks had the fourth. TB's Office of Athletic Communications colleagues Craig Sachson (Sixers fan) and Ben Badua (Knicks fan) were both less than thrilled by how it played out, as the Sixers ended up with Jahlil Okafor and the Knicks took Kristaps Porzingis.

TB has no idea what will ever come of all these players. Some will pan out. Others won't. Will  Porzingis? No clue.

TigerBlog grew up rooting for the Mets, Knicks, Giants and Islanders. He still roots for the Giants. He doesn't really care about the Mets or Islanders anymore.

The Knicks? They are the hardest team in sports to root for, bar none. The owner (James Dolan) and the star player (Carmelo Anthony) are completely impossible to root for. The team hasn't won a championship since 1973.

For the most part in recent years, the Knicks have fielded teams made up of highly priced jerks. And charged really high prices to watch the jerks play - and usually lose.

So will Porzingis matter? Doesn't matter.

The best part of the 30 minutes that TigerBlog watched was by far the tribute commissioner Adam Silver paid to Harvey Pollack, the long-time statistician for the Sixers, who recently passed away at the age of 93.

Pollack, whom TB never met, is a legend. He invented a bunch of stats and put together expansive compilations of statistical analysis year after year after year.

As Silver said, he was the last remaining original employee of the NBA from its inaugural 1946-47 season.

As he listened to Silver, it dawned on TB that stat keeping is about the only remaining original task from when he started in the OAC all those years ago.

Everything else has changed through the years. Everything.

It makes TigerBlog laugh to think back to the "old" days. He tries to explain to the newer generations, like Badua, about how much different it was back then, before the internet, before the explosion of technology. Tasks that now take a few seconds took hours 20 years ago.

For all that, stat keeping remains essentially the same. Well, sort of.

When TB first started at Princeton, stats were kept by hand and then entered into a computer to get the season cumes and all that.

After a football or basketball game, TB had to use the computer of Marge DeFrank, a secretary in the department then who has long since passed away, since it was the only computer in the building that had the stat program on it. He could only use it when DeFrank wasn't around. TB remembers it being a giant pain in the butt.

Then along came computer stats. At first, they were intimidating. The first time TigerBlog had to enter stats at a basketball game on the computer was about as stressful a task as he's had here.

Actually, the first football game with computer stats featured a play where there was an interception that was run back to near the goal line, where it was fumbled into the end zone and picked up by an offensive lineman, who ran it out to the two. TigerBlog and the stat crew just looked at each other and laughed

These days computer stats are simple. At first, there was someone doing backup stats by hand. Now? Never.

As the mechanism for stat keeping has evolved, the whole concept of the stats themselves has not. A basket is still a basket. A goal is still a goal.

There is still too much discrepancy from place to place on assists in all sports. And there are still too many people - many coaches included - who don't know the rules of keeping stats. Hey, there are a lot of people in athletic communications who don't know the rules too.

TigerBlog, for instance, had no idea that in women's lacrosse, no ground ball is given without a change of possession, except on a missed shot.

TigerBlog has seen countless examples of bad stat keeping in his time. It tortures him. There are NCAA manuals online, and they have official rules in them. TigerBlog himself helped write the rules for men's lacrosse.

In general, though, most people who keep stats in college athletics are well-informed and well-intentioned. And they produce final stats that can be trusted, which is the most important thing.

When the action gets going in a game, it's easy to panic as the official statistician. And to miss things. Over the course of a season, this all evens itself out.

TigerBlog has had players ask him about stats, ask them to be changed. Unless it's a score or penalty that was given to the wrong person, they can't be changed.

Being a statistician is different now than when TB started and certainly when Harvey Pollack started. When he first put pencil to paper, there's no way he imagined computers and live stats and people who followed the stats on their smart phones.

But stats? They're not just numbers. They're a way of comparing eras, of having continuity from generation to generation, of establishing unquestionable greatness for teams and individuals.

It's the responsibility of the stat keeper to make sure those numbers are accurate. It's challenging and rewarding when done right.

And, even after all these years and all of these changes in the business, those little numbers are still one of TigerBlog's very favorite parts of the job.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nice Working With You, Mike

Back when TigerBlog used to read a newspaper every morning, he used to love to check out the "Transactions" section of the sports section.

He had his routine down. Comics. Jumbles. Sports. Letters to the editor. The usual.

Now he gets the comics and jumbles online. And sports news. Letters to the editor have been replaced by comments under stories, online as well.

Oh well. Those were the days.

Anyway, the "Transactions" section was always fun. There was almost always something that had a local connection.

Maybe it was another Ivy school that hired a coach. Maybe it was a former Princeton athlete or coach who was hired someplace else. Maybe it was someone who played against Princeton.

And of course there were the NFL cutdown days. Those really were the mother lode for "Transactions" days.

And then there were the days when Princeton had a transaction. Those were stressful, making sure that it was actually in the paper. TigerBlog could never remember if he was supposed to send it to the AP office in Newark or Trenton or if they received it or if anyone could confirm it.

Anyway, the transactions still exist, but it's not the same online.

Were Princeton's Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux not such a good sport, then it would be possible that today's "Transactions" would include this: Princeton - Announced field hockey assistant coach Mike Pallister has been fired.

Fortunately for Mike, he's still in good standing with Mollie, even after beating her in the championship match of the Dillon Gym ping-pong tournament yesterday.




The championship was the second straight for Pallister, who won last year's inaugural tournament. Pallister, at about 6-7, covers the table fairly effortlessly, and he is somewhat intimidating with his backward baseball hat and all.

Mollie was a two-sport athlete at Princeton, All-Ivy in soccer and hockey. She is competitive, that's for sure. She wants to win.

The Dillon tournament last year was limited to only those people who actually worked in Dillon. Mollie's office is in Jadwin, but she was given as exemption into the tournament, as was her assistant Kim Meszaros, who didn't make it out of Round 1.

Mollie had a huge win in the quarterfinals, defeating last year's runner-up, men's soccer assistant Steve Totten. Pallister reached the finals by defeating men's soccer coach Jim Barlow in the semifinals.

TigerBlog figures one of these years is Barlow's year.

So the final came down to Pallister and Marcoux. It's not easy playing against the boss, right? On the other hand, Mollie isn't the kind who would respect anyone who let her win just because she's the AD.

Pallister and Totten went the distance last year in a best-of-five. This time, Pallister swept the championship match.

TigerBlog is a decent ping-pong player, though Barlow wiped him out in a ping-pong Friendly last year. He's not sure who the best player in Jadwin is.

He does have an idea, though.

How about Dillon vs. Jadwin. You know, like how it's done in squash. Nine players, ranked 1-9, playing their counterpart in that position from the other building.

That would draw ratings, no? Or at least interest in the department.

Hmmm. Where would TB start on this? He supposes he has to see if there's a ping-pong table in Jadwin.

In the meantime, things like the recently completed Dillon tournament are a pretty nice piece of the Princeton Department of Athletics fabric. Princeton Athletics features 38 teams, all with their own challenges and struggles on a day-to-day basis.

Plus there are administrators, staff members, everyone else who makes up the entire department, all with their own needs and requirements in their jobs.

But still, when you work in college athletics, you do so largely because you like being part of something bigger than just your own personal area.

That's what the tournament is all about. It's all Princeton Athletics.

That spirit is one of the best parts of working here.

Congratulations to Mike Pallister.

And rest easy, Mollie won't take it personally.

Besides, she will get her revenge when Jadwin beats Dillon. Of course, Dillon would have a big edge with Pallister, Barlow and Totten at the top of the lineup.

Jadwin would either have to steal a match up there and hope to have better depth, or else have Mollie move the soccer or field hockey offices over here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Most Fascinating Fact

As part of a Father's Day gift, TigerBlog received pictures of his two kids from the recently completed high school lacrosse season.

He also got a giant card with a monkey on it. Like, giant. Like nearly three feet tall. 

When he went to put one of the pictures in a frame in his office, he used one that had an older picture showing. When he took the frame off, he saw that there were two others underneath.

He does this all the time. He suspects most people do.

It's actually sort of fun to find which pictures are underneath. It was sort of like Throwback Thursday, only without Twitter and on a Tuesday.

Anyway, this picture was the one of TigerBlog Jr., which TB put over one of TBJ from when he played in a tournament in fourth grade or so. Underneath that was one of TBJ as a Princeton basketball ball boy.

And underneath that? A picture of Kyle Wente as he posted up in a Princeton basketball game. Well, not just any post up. And not just any game.

Wente, who stands about 6-4, is posting up Nick Collison as Princeton hosts Kansas at Jadwin Gym. Collison stands 6-10, and he looks basically the same now, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Princeton played a home-and-home against Kansas, playing in Lawrence in the 1999-2000 season and then back at Jadwin two years later. Kansas won both, though they were both reasonably competitive.

And, as TigerBlog remembered back - and looked up some info - from those two games, he stumbled upon an incredibly fascinating fact. At least to him. TB has learned that some of the facts he finds fascinating aren't always thought of as fascinating by everyone else.

Like how the career record for points in a career in men's lacrosse was exactly the same at TBJ's high school, Princeton University and Denver prior to the Pioneers' trip to the most recent Final Four. Before that, the record was 247 at all three.

Anyway, don't digress. This isn't about lacrosse. Basketball. Basketball.

Not shockingly, Kansas was loaded then. In fact, the team that played Princeton at Jadwin started Collison, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich, who became longtime NBA players, as well as Aaron Miles, who played briefly in the NBA and still plays in Europe.

By the way, does anyone know who the fifth Kansas starter was in that game? Jeff Boschee. The name familiar?

Wayne Simien, who won an NBA title with the Miami Heat, came off the bench. TigerBlog guesses there haven't been too many games in Jadwin where one team brought a future NBA champion off the bench.

He does know the last time a future NBA player came off the bench in a game at Jadwin. That would be Jeremy Lin, who didn't start the 2007 game at Jadwin for Harvard. The Crimson started three guards in that game, and none of them were Lin, who played 19 minutes and scored two points.

Meanwhile, back at Princeton-Kansas.

The teams played in the legendary and spectacular Allen Field House (picture the Palestra doubled in size) in Lawrence on Dec. 22, 1999. Here's what TigerBlog remembers about that game:

* you know you got up early when you wake up at home, go to the airport, fly to Kansas City, rent a car, drive an hour to Lawrence and get to the hotel there in time for the breakfast buffet. That's what TigerBlog and Tom McCarthy did

* Roy Williams was the Kansas coach back then. He agreed to do a pregame interview with McCarthy but misunderstood the Kansas SID, who said he had to talk to two people. Williams thought that the two people from a local TV station were the two he had to talk to, but really he had two separate interviews, that one and then with McCarthy. TB and McCarthy thought Williams would explode on the SID guy, but instead he apologized for the misunderstanding. Then McCarthy had to change the batteries on his recorder, causing Williams to have to wait. And what did he do? Put his arm around McCarthy and said "it's okay Tom, we've all been there."

* the brownies in the media room were made by one of the women who worked in the Kansas athletic department, a very grandmotherly looking woman. They were the best brownies TB has ever had.

* oh, and Chris Young was unstoppable. Young led everyone with 20 points on 8 for 12 shooting, but it wasn't enough as Princeton lost 82-67.

Then, two seasons later, was the game at Jadwin, with attendance listed as 6,861.

Princeton lost that one 78-62 after trailing 35-29 when Ed Persia dropped in a three-pointer at the first half buzzer.

Princeton had four players in double figures in the game. Mike Bechtold, Andre Logan and Judson Wallace had 10 each.

The Tiger leader that night? Hint, he's still playing professionally.

Answer - Will Venable. The Padres outfielder had 11 points in 23 minutes in that one.

And the fascinating fact?

Princeton played Kansas in basketball 14 and 16 years ago. Princeton's leading scorer in each game is still an active Major League Baseball player.

Now that's fascinating.

Not like the lacrosse thing, but fascinating.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

See The World

TigerBlog has heard his father talk about his Army days ever since he was a kid.

It wasn't until two days ago - Father's Day - that TB actually thought to ask his dad what it was he actually did in the Army. The resulting conversation was pretty fascinating.

FatherBlog had the good fortune of being in the Army from 1956-58. It was basically the midpoint between the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

In fact, if you go from Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) through the end of American combat in Vietnam in 1973, then you have basically a 32-year stretch. During those 32 years, America was at war in 16 of those years, or obviously half.

It was FatherBlog's good fortune to be in the peaceful half.

TigerBlog had two uncles who were in the combat half, one in World War II and one in Korea. They both survived, and neither speak of word of the experience to the day they died.

As for FatherBlog, he was a kid from Brooklyn who found himself on a plane to Colorado for basic training and then a boat to Germany for a 16-month deployment. The year was 1956, which was also when the Soviet Union put down an uprising in Hungary.

As FatherBlog said Sunday, there was talk of sending U.S. troops into the situation. Instead, the U.S. sat that one out.

The result was that when FatherBlog went home to Brooklyn in 1958, he was able to give the Army back a rifle that "was perfectly clean, brand-new, never used." The bullets he was given? He never even loaded the weapon.

He was in the supply division for the engineers, possibly because he knew how to type. He was there with three other privates - one from Louisiana, one from Pennsylvania and one from Wisconsin - all of whom shared one room in a barracks.

He hated the food. Especially creamed chipped beef on toast. 

Mostly, he spent his time in an office typing up requisitions for supplies that may or may not have existed. He also got into the car business, buying cars and then flipping them to soldiers for small profits.

And traveling.

With little to actually do, he found himself with a lot of free time. And with a commanding officer who was amenable to giving him weekend passes, he was able to see most of Western Europe, as the Iron Curtain was still preventing him from getting to the East.

In fact, he told one story about driving from Germany through Belgium and towards Dunkirk, the site of the famous coastal evacuation during World War II of British troops.

TigerBlog was struck by the image of a young American soldier on a scenic, serene drive, one that 15 years earlier or so had been a torturous march in the other direction for thousands of young American soldiers, many of whom would not make it all the way through the war's end.

The trip to Colorado for basic training was the first time FatherBlog had ever been on an airplane. He said that his lifelong love of travel had been formed when he and some friends drove around much of the U.S., but his experience in the Army certainly advanced it.

Since then, he has been everywhere, from China and Japan to Australia and New Zealand to countless trips to the South of France and Brazil, as well as all over Europe. Curiously, he has had very little interest in traveling around this country.

He spoke the other day about an experience when he visited Normandy and participated in the folding of the U.S. flag after it was taken down for the day. That was, he said, incredibly moving.

One of the best parts of the Princeton Athletic experience is the ability for the athletes to make one international trip in their four years, as NCAA rules allow. TigerBlog, who is as happy at the Jersey Shore as anywhere else, has made two such trips with men's lacrosse, to Spain and Ireland in 2008 and Costa Rica in 2012.

There are currently two foreign trips underway, with rowers at Henley and the men's and women's track and field teams in Cuba.

To TigerBlog, the trip to Cuba is exactly what these trips should be about. It's an opportunity to go to country where few if any of the Princetonians would ever go, with the opportunity to experience the educational side of that experience coupled with a chance to compete in two meets.

Coming soon will be a trip by the men's golf team to Ireland and England, and the men's squash team is off to Italy as well. The fencing team is headed to South Korea.

Off the top of his head, here's a list of some of the other countries to which Princeton teams have traveled: Australia, Malta, Senegal, France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina, Nicaragua, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany.

There are definitely a bunch of others. TB can't think of them off the top of his head. Well, Canada, but that counts too.

The trips are great for team bonding, extra practice and competition, sightseeing, culture, education, all of it.

Come to Princeton. See the world.

Monday, June 22, 2015

103 Episodes, 47 Days

TigerBlog read someplace yesterday that Americans spend nearly $9 billion a year more on Mother's Day than on Father's Day.

So what do we make out of this?

Well, in fairness, the mothers are a tad bit more, uh, inconvenienced by the whole childbirth process. Still, is that worth $9 billion more?

Anyway, TigerBlog hopes all the dads out there had a great day yesterday, even if their kids got them gifts on the cheap, at least compared to the mothers.

Mother's Day and Father's Day are big days for the Braverman family, even if they are fictional. For those who don't know, the Bravermans are the family about whom the show "Parenthood" centers.

There were six seasons of "Parenthood," for a total of 103 episodes. TigerBlog recently finished watching all 103.

It's a great show, especially for someone who can relate to families, raising children and all those "grown-up" type issues. It's not exactly hip stuff. It's just a fairly old-fashioned family show, and it succeeds on every level it tries. It's one of the best TV shows he's ever seen.

Perhaps more than any other show TigerBlog has ever seen, "Parenthood" came up with situation after situation that forced him to think deeply about what he would do if faced with the same circumstances or who in the family was right and who in the family was wrong, with no real black or white answers.

It also had some great supporting characters, which is the mark of any great show. The best were Max, the son with Asbergers, and weirdly enough, Ray Romano, who went from sitcom star on "Everybody Loves Raymond" to Hank the photographer, a character who is 180 degrees away from Ray Barone.

The best ending to a series finale that TigerBlog has ever seen was for "Newhart," the show in which Bob Newhart plays an innkeeper in Vermont. This is not to be confused with "The Bob Newhart Show," in which he played a psychiatrist in Chicago.

Or was it to be confused? If you ever saw the last episode, you know what TB is talking about. If you didn't, let's just say that it is the most creative ending to a TV show anyone has ever come up with.

Most final episodes of shows fall flat, because they put too much pressure on themselves to resolve everything for the viewer. Plus they struggle to be artificially dramatic, instead of letting it all play itself out.

"Parenthood," though, hit a major home run with its final episode. It was pretty much perfect. It tied up every loose end and presented it flawlessly and emotionally. It was great.

There's one little problem, as TB sees it. Or maybe not a problem. He'll leave that up to you to decide.

TigerBlog wrote about "Parenthood" back on May 18, when he finished watching Season 1, which was 13 episodes long. He finished the show Saturday, which means he watched the final 90 episodes in 33 days.

He can't remember exactly when he started watching, but it was probably two weeks or so earlier. That would mean 103 episodes in 47 days.

At least he watched it on Netflix, which didn't have commercials, which meant that each episode was 43 or 44 minutes. At least for the first five seasons. Then he got to Season 6, which isn't out on Netflix yet.

He could watch it on demand, which meant either paying $25 to have the season without commercials or watch for free but with commercials. It was a tough choice. He watched Episode 1 of Season 6 with commercials and then forked over the $25.

Anyway, maybe he overdid on the whole "Parenthood" thing. On the other hand, it did keep him from starting Season 3 of "Orange Is the New Black," which is only 13 episodes. How long could that possibly take?

So now he's put away "Breaking Bad" and "Parenthood" pretty rapidly. He can't imagine that he ever watched a show one week at a time, one year at a time.

Once again, that was 103 episodes in 47 days. That's not unhealthy or anything?

It's been a little more than a week since the end of the NCAA track and field championships, which were the last athletic events of the 2014-15 season. The last actual game of the Princeton athletic year was back on May 16 (during Season 1), when the women's lacrosse team lost 7-3 to Duke in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The first event of the 2015-16 athletic year will be on August 28, when the women's soccer team hosts Howard in what will be Sean Driscoll's first game as Tiger head coach.

May 16. That was 36 days ago. August 28? That's 67 days from today.

That means it'll be 103 days between games for Princeton Athletics. If you go by the last event, the track championships, then it'll be 76 days between events.

Summer actually started for real this weekend.

At Princeton, the first two-thirds of summer are camp season. They've already started, actually, and they transform the campus from college athletes to those who dream about being college athletes.

Anyway, there's a long way to go until a new athletic year begins.

TigerBlog probably can knock off two more TV series between now and then.

Friday, June 19, 2015

And The Answer Is ...

So yes, the answer to yesterday's question was the men's basketball game at the Palestra between Princeton and Penn back in 1999.

You know the one. Princeton scored first on a Brian Earl three-pointer. Then Penn scored 29 straight. Then Penn led 33-9 at the half. Then it got to be 40-13 with 15 minutes left.

Then Princeton won, 50-49.

It was a wild game, obviously. TigerBlog has heard from many people who say they saw the score during the first half and turned it off, missing the epic comeback.

TigerBlog will never forget the atmosphere in the building that night. While it was going well for Penn, the Quaker faithful sensed the moment and rose to a level of harshness that TigerBlog has never seen there on any other night. And then? It was eerie, a palpable uneasiness that gave way to a feeling that it would still be okay because the hole was just too deep to a "what just happened" incredulity at the end.

Princeton improved to 7-0 in the league with the win. Penn fell to 6-1. Historical context? None. Penn ended up running the table the rest of the way. Princeton lost to Harvard and Yale. Penn won the league and went to the NCAA tournament, though Princeton did make a nice run to the NIT quarterfinals.

The answer was too obvious for it to have been any other game.

TigerBlog did forget the Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse from 2011, a game that was completely insane and yet had no historical context, a game that was referenced in a comment yesterday. It definitely fit on the list TB had yesterday.

So that was fun. At some point in the near future, TB will tackle Question No. 2 - Happiest moments you've experienced due to Princeton sports.

He's not sure where to start on that one. He'll figure it out though.

Changing the subject, TigerBlog found himself at the Phillies-Orioles game yesterday. He was invited by two Princeton Office of Athletic alums, longtime pals David Rosenfeld and Manish Mehta.

TigerBlog hasn't been to too many Major League Baseball games in the last few years. The last time he went to one was in 2013, when he went to see the Mariners and Twins in Seattle.

TigerBlog hasn't paid that close attention to the current Major League Baseball season, so he didn't realize the Phils had the worst record in baseball.

TB and Mehta met Rosenfeld at the game, and it was TB's fault that the three missed the first two batters of the game. By then, it was 1-0 Orioles, after Manny Machado's lead-off home run. Who knew that the O's would not score again?

The Phillies won the game 2-1, with both runs coming in the seventh on a two-run home run from Ryan Howard, which came with two outs and runner on third. The amiable man sitting next to TB (in Row 18 behind the O's dugout) was yelling at the runner on third to steal home, because he had no faith in Howard's ability to get him in. Steal home, he yelled three or four times. Then Howard drove the ball into the right field seats.

Princeton has four players on Major League rosters right now.

David Hale is pitching for the Colorado Rockies. Ross Ohlendorf is pitching for the Texas Rangers, though he just went on the disabled list with a groin injury. Will Venable is hitting .258 with five home runs and 13 RBIs for the San Diego Padres.

And then there's Chris Young, who is pitching for the Kansas City Royals. Young is off to a 6-2 start with a 1.98 ERA. He also has given up 38 hits and 16 walks in 59 innings.

It's pretty stunning to see that Young is in his 11th season in the Major Leagues and that he has thrown 1,115 Major League innings.

To TigerBlog, Young will always be a basketball player first and then a baseball player, because that's what he was at Princeton. And TigerBlog will always be left, as will tons of Princeton fans, to wonder what Young might have done had he been able to play his last two basketball seasons at Princeton, instead of having his eligibility end when he signed a pro baseball contract.

By the way, remember who scored the winning basket in the 50-49 in over Penn in 1999?

Another cliffhanger.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Question No. 1

TigerBlog interrupts where he was going to start today to mention his experience at the driver's license center yesterday.

This was incredible.

As you might remember from last week, TigerBlog needed to get his license renewed, because it was expiring soon. In fact, it would have expired today.

So TigerBlog did the part where he had to renew it online, and then he got in the mail the renewal confirmation, which then required him to go to the driver's license center to get his picture taken and his new license issued. For the record, he wore an orange "Princeton Lacrosse" for his new picture.

The incredible part was this: From the time he opened the door to the driver's license center until he was back in his car, at most three minutes elapsed. Maybe two. But no more than three.

TigerBlog was ready to wait there for an hour. Or hours. Instead, nobody was there. He went in, gave the form to the lady, sat down, clicked that he wanted to be an organ donor (MotherBlog would have insisted) and was already a registered voter, smiled and got his picture snapped. About 20 seconds later, he had his license.

That was it.

The woman who worked there asked TigerBlog if he was okay with his picture, and TB said of course. Then he asked her if more men or women are okay with their picture the first time around, and she said the overwhelming majority of men are okay with the first and almost none of the women are okay with the first. For whatever that's worth.

So that's what TigerBlog wanted to say about the driver's license center.

Up next is this comment that TB got last Friday:
Now that the academic year is over, just a word to encourage more of your feature stories which include your personal memories or historical compilations. Here are some unsolicited ideas:
Greatest games or events you've witnessed, with and without regard to historical context
Happiest moments you've experienced due to Princeton sports
Weirdest fluke plays
Most improbable comebacks
Most inspiring student-athletes


Wow, what a great comment. TigerBlog has decided that he will address all five during this summer. Let's start with the first one.

The greatest games or events he's witnessed, with and without regard to historical context. That's a huge asterisk. Historical context often defines an event, so factoring that part of it out isn't always easy. Also, because of the lack of historical context element, TB will take out any NCAA tournament game or postseason event.

Also, TigerBlog assumes the question is limited to Princeton events. At least, that's what he's going to do.

So the winner in this category is obvious, so obvious that TigerBlog will start with the runner-ups. Or is that runners-up? Anyway they're not in any order.

* Princeton 15, Syracuse 14 - men's lacrosse, 1999 regular season. Princeton defeated Syracuse in four overtimes on a goal by Josh Sims in a game that was tied at 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13 and 14-14 before the Tigers won. TB remembers that game for the epic performance of Kurt Lunkenheimer, who returned after six weeks from a torn ACL.

* Princeton 2, Harvard 1 - women's soccer, 2004 regular season. There's a bit of historical context to this, sort of, because TB isn't sure if Princeton would have made its run to the NCAA Final Four that year without this win. Still, the game itself didn't determine a championship or clinch a postseason spot. Princeton hadn't had much success against Harvard in the few years prior to the game, and, as TB recalls, hadn't even scored a goal at home against the Crimson in eons. Anyway, Princeton dominated the game but trailed 1-0 into the final minute, before Emily Behncke tied it with 41 seconds to go on a perfectly placed shot, as the Tigers were throwing everything they had at Harvard. Then, after Emily Vogelzang stopped a breakaway in the OT, Diana Matheson perfectly set up Esmeralda Negron for the game-winner.

* Delaware 81, Princeton 70 - women's basketball, 2011-12 regular season. Okay, Princeton lost this one, but as events go, this was a great one. Delaware and Princeton were both undefeated, and a crowd of nearly 2,000 came to Jadwin to see the showdown, and the Blue Hens incredible Elene Delle Donne. Her line for the night: 32 points on 13 for 19 shooting, nine rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists. As TB wrote the next day, it had to be what it was like to see Bill Bradley play at Princeton. As for the Tigers, Lauren Edwards had 23 and Niveen Rasheed had 20.

* Princeton 34, Yale 31 - football, 2006. Okay, this one skirts the historical context rule, as did the women's soccer game. Princeton entered the game at the Yale Bowl on a brilliantly sunny warm November day a game back of Harvard in the league race, but Harvard would lose that day to Penn, opening the door for the Tigers to tie for first with only one week left. Yale's Mike McLeod appeared to close the door, running for 151 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. Jeff Terrell brought Princeton back from three 14-point deficits and one 11-point deficit for the win.

* Princeton 31, Penn 30 - football, 2006. Two weeks earlier, Princeton defeated Penn 31-30 in two overtimes. This game featured one of the greatest plays in Princeton football history, when Rob Toresco, stopped short of the goal line on fourth down, flipped the ball back to Terrell, who ran it in to start the second OT. The game ended when Penn had a bad snap on the PAT after it scored on its possession and almost had its holder run it before he was stopped just short of the winning points.

* Princeton 39, Harvard 34 - football, 2012. Like the game at Yale in 2006, this was another big comeback for the Tigers, this time from a 24-point deficit in the final 12 minutes. Yup. Princeton trailed 34-10 before Connor Michelson threw for three fourth-quarter touchdowns and then, after Michelsen was hurt, Quinn Epperly came on to throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Roman Wilson for the game-winning points with 13 seconds left. Ironically, had Princeton made the two-point conversion after the third touchdown to tie the game at 34-34 with 2:27 to go, Harvard probably would have won, because the Crimson would have attacked instead of trying to run out the clock. Instead, Princeton held, got the ball back and won the game.

* Post 32, Princeton 29 - sprint football, 2012. This is the closest the sprint football team has come to winning in a long time, and it was an incredible ending that left TigerBlog absolutely crushed. Princeton led 29-26 after kicking an OT field goal, and Post had the ball first and goal at the two on its possession. And then? The snap was fumbled. Had Princeton fallen on it, the game would have ended and Princeton would have won. For what seemed like an eternity, the refs unpiled the players and then excruciatingly pointed in Post's direction. One player later, Post scored.

* Princeton 14, Cornell 13 - men's lacrosse, 2013 Ivy League semifinal. Mike MacDonald had seven goals and two assists, including the game-winner on Kip Orban's overtime winner, in what was an incredible game. TigerBlog could come up with about 10 other men's lacrosse games, but he'll go with this one.

* Princeton 76, Loyola Marymount 48 - men's basketball, 1991. Princeton completed a 24-2 regular season on Selection Sunday with a massive blowout win over the team leading the nation in scoring offense. TigerBlog remembers that as the most crowded he's ever seen it. The box score lists attendance as 7,735, and TB is sure all of them were there about two hours before tip-off.

So those are some runners-up. There are probably an equal number of others that TB isn't thinking of right now. There has to be a men's soccer game or two. Or hockey.

And the winner?

C'mon, you're a Princeton fan. You have to know this. Does TB even have to tell you?

He's not going to. You tell him.