Friday, September 30, 2016

Let's Go Tigers, And Pioneers

The Lambert family was big in the jewelry business on Madison Avenue in the early 1900s, as well as big college football fans.

At least that's what it says on Wikipedia.

The name "Lambert" has long been synonymous with supremacy in Eastern college football. Victor and Henry Lambert first named a trophy in honor of their father August (again, Wikipedia) in 1935, and ever since then, the best team in the East has received the trophy.

Princeton has won it twice, in 1950 and 1951, when a certain Dick Kazmaier was the team's best player. Princeton did not lose a game in either season.

Once Division I-AA came around in 1982, the Lambert Cup began to be awarded to the top team in that division in the East. No Ivy school had ever won the Cup until last year, when Dartmouth, Penn and Harvard all shared it.

Interestingly, only one team has ever won the Lambert Cup with a perfect record. That honor belongs to Holy Cross, who went 11-0 in 1987. Four schools have won the Lambert Cup after winning the national championship - UMass in 1998, Delaware in 2003, James Madison in 2004, Villanova in 2009.

The current Lambert rankings have two Ivy teams in the top four - Dartmouth at No. 3 and Harvard at No. 4. Cornell is ranked 12th. Georgetown, whom Princeton plays next week, is ranked sixth.

It's early and all, and the Lambert rankings should change radically between now and the end of the season. But who's ranked No. 1 this week?

Is it Villanova? Nope. Stony Brook? Richmond? Fordham? Colgate? James Madison? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope.
Give up?

It's the Pioneers of Sacred Heart University. Yup.

Sacred Heart is 4-0 on the season, heading into a game tomorrow against Wagner, ranked ninth in this Lambert Cup poll.

Ranking colleges in order of how much gear TigerBlog has, it goes like this: 1. Princeton, 2. Sacred Heart, 3. every place else combined. In case you don't realize it, Sacred Heart is where TigerBlog Jr. goes to college.

Sacred Heart is doing some really nice things these days. There is a great deal of construction of new buildings and an expansion of its academic offerings. It's small, but there is a really strong sense of community there.

And, through four weeks, the best FCS football team in the East.

Princeton will be playing a crucial game tomorrow as well, as it travels to Columbia to take on the Lions in the Ivy opener for both.

Only two Ivy League games have been played so far this year, as Cornell defeated Yale and Harvard defeated Brown a week ago. In addition to Princeton-Columbia this weekend, Penn is at Dartmouth tonight, on NBC SportsNetwork.

Of course, when only 28 Ivy games are played each year, then they're all huge. Especially the first one. The last time a team won the Ivy title after losing its first league game was in 2005, when Brown did so (other than when two teams met in the opener and then went on to share the championship).

Princeton and Columbia kick off at noon, on Fox College Sports (and Fox Sports Go).

If you're not going to New York for that one, there's a soccer doubleheader on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium tomorrow afternoon. It'll be Princeton and Dartmouth in two games tomorrow, with the women at 1 and the men at 4.

The women are 0-0-1 in the league after a 1-1 tie with Yale a week ago. Dartmouth lost to Brown 1-0 in its first league game last week.

Princeton still has the best overall record in the league at 7-1-1, but seven of the eight teams are at least .500. Dartmouth is 6-3 overall.

Again, each league game is big. Princeton, the defending Ivy champ, went 6-0-1 a year ago, winning its first six before tying the last one. Maybe this year will be the reverse of that, with a tie in the first one. Or maybe it's one of those years where something in the neighborhood of 4-1-2 or so wins the league.

On the men's side, this is Week 1 of Ivy play. Princeton began the year 0-2 and is 4-1 since, with its four-game winning streak snapped in a 1-0 overtime loss to Villanova on a penalty kick Wednesday.

There are five Ivy men's teams over .500. The other three teams are a combined 2-12-7, including Dartmouth, who is 1-2-4. No game ever in Ivy League soccer can be overlooked, though.

There are other events this weekend, including two home matches for the defending Ivy champion women's volleyball team, who hosts the other defending champ, Harvard at 7 tonight and then Dartmouth at 5 tomorrow.

There are also four home league water polo matches.

It's a big weekend all around. Go Tigers. And Go Pioneers.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Welcome To The NWPC

Luis Nicolao will be meeting Bruce Springsteen today.

To put this in perspective for you, imagine meeting the one person who has ever lived - or maybe even was fictional - that you've wanted to meet more than any other, that you've wanted to meet your whole life, that you thought you'd never meet.

It's almost like a college application essay question. Name three people, living or dead, fiction or non-fiction, that you'd like to have lunch with and why.

Luis - oh, by the way, he's the head water polo coach at Princeton if you didn't already know that - was the lucky winner of a ticket in the lottery to meet The Boss at the Philadelphia Public Library. He said he will be giving Springsteen some Princeton water polo gear; if he gives him the longsleeve T-shirt that he recently gave TigerBlog then Springsteen will love him forever.

TigerBlog emailed Luis yesterday asking him when the last time he was this excited about something. Honestly, TigerBlog can't remember the last time anyone he knows was this excited about something.

What was Luis' response? He said he keeps thinking Springsteen will be showing up at Luis' house afterwards for a drink. 

It all got TigerBlog to thinking about the one person he'd like to meet that he's never met. If it has to be limited to someone "famous," then maybe he'd stay with the E Street Band theme and go with Stevie Van Zandt.

TB would have a lot to talk about. There's the music of course, including Van Zandt's own band, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, had a song that is a TigerBlog favorite - "If I Give You My Heart, Will You Love Me Forever?" 

And of course, Little Steven was Sylvio Dante in "The Sopranos," which could be TB's favorite TV show of all time. And TigerBlog loved "Lilyhammer," a Netflix series in which Van Zandt played a character very similar to Sylvio.

On top of all that, TigerBlog and Van Zandt grew up 15 miles away from each other. Maybe they could hang out and get some pizza on the boardwalk one day? TigerBlog will buy.

Anyway, once Luis is done living out this dream of his, he can go back to focusing on his season.

His team defeated St. Francis (Pa.) last night at DeNunzio Pool in its first-ever Northeast Water Polo Conference game. What is the Northeast Water Polo Conference?

Well, if you've followed men's water polo here in the past, you know about the Collegiate Water Polo Association, in which Princeton has competed for years. This past off-season the CWPA did some realigning and renaming, and the result is two new conferences under the old conference's jurisdiction.

The split is a bit confusing.

There are now two separate conferences, but they are not divided with the same number of teams or along geographical lines.

If TigerBlog is getting this right, there are 47 men's water polo teams, of which 20 are in one of the two new conferences. That's a high percentage.

The two conferences are the Northeast Water Polo Conference and the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference. The Mid-Atlantic one has two divisions, the East and the West.

There are six teams in the Northeast - Princeton, Harvard, Brown, MIT, St. Francis and Iona. Princeton will play each team twice, including five straight at home beginning last night.

And the other four? There's Iona tomorrow night at 8. There's Brown Saturday at 7. There's Harvard Sunday at 10. There's MIT Sunday at 2.

That's a lot of water polo at DeNunzio Pool, all of which is free, by the way. 

There are six teams (Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, Fordham, Navy, Wagner and George Washington) in the East Division and there are eight in the West Division (Connecticut College, Gannon, La Salle, Mercyhurst, Monmouth, Penn State Behrend, Salem International, Washington & Jefferson).

At the end of the season, there will be a playoff format for each conference. The winners of the two conference playoffs will then play each other in what will essentially be an NCAA play-in game, with the winner to advance to the Final Four.

Again, that's if TigerBlog has this right.

Princeton water polo got a lot of attention this past summer with Ashleigh Johnson as one of the best players on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics. She'll be back this spring with the women.

At some point during the spring season, Nicolao figures to go over the 800-win mark for his career here between the two teams. He currently has 779 wins, which is a ton. He's won nine division championships with each team, and he has taken both to the NCAA championships. He's won 13 Coach of the Year awards.

And now he gets his reward.

He gets to meet The Boss.

He seems sort of happy about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More On The Princeton Pioneers

If there is an alumni organization, then there will be Princetonians involved.

That's TigerBlog's profound thought for your Wednesday. He has no way of proving this, of course. It's just a hunch, and he's pretty sure it's a good one.

Until yesterday, TigerBlog didn't realize that there was an alumni organization for U.S. Olympians. Then he found out that there was. Then he found out that two of the five vice presidents for the organization are Princeton alums.

All of this started when Carol Brown, a member of the Class of 1975 and a three-time Olympic rower, emailed TB a picture of Princeton alums who are working to try to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles.

Brown said that the group was part of the U.S. Olympian Paralympian Association, and that she was on the executive board. So too is Joe Cheek, Class of 2011 and a two-time Olympic speedskater.

There were four people in the picture. It has Brown, along with Augie Wolf, a 1984 Olympic shot-putter, and Brett Goodwin and Jennie Thompson, who work for NBC. Cheek, and USA Fencing president Donald Anthony, were not in the picture but are part of the efforts.
For Brown, this is the second TigerBlog appearance this month, after she helped put together the women's athlete symposium in Chicago earlier.

Brown, whom TB has never met, appears to be something of a force. If she is putting her efforts into bringing the 2024 Olympics to California, TB wouldn't be shocked to see it happen.

TigerBlog didn't know much about Carol Brown until she reached out to him about the symposium. Since then, he's learned all sorts of interesting things.

Perhaps the most interesting was her path to Olympic rowing. It certainly didn't begin when she was in high school in Illinois, where, in the pre-Title IX days, girls were legally forbidden from playing sports.

Miss TigerBlog takes it for granted that she's gotten to play a bunch of different sports her whole life, and field hockey and lacrosse in high school. She and her friends could never dream of what people like Carol Brown had to go through to compete.

Because there were no athletic opportunities for her in high school, she instead was a musician. It wasn't until she came to Princeton that she found athletic opportunities, primitive as they were for women then.

If you want to read some interesting stuff on what she and her fellow athletic pioneers went through back then, you can click HERE.

TigerBlog has said this before but not in a long time, so he'll throw it out there again. Where would women's athletics be now without Title IX?

He'd like to think that there'd have been a natural evolution that brought increased opportunities to girls and women in sports. He'd like to think that the teams his daughter plays on now would have been there on their own, but it's possible that that's not the case.

Brown and her husband live in the Chicago area. Their son, Stuart Pomeroy, is a junior on the Princeton men's hockey team. His bio on says that his mother also played hockey and swam at Princeton, in addition to her rowing.

That's a lot of athletic achievement for someone who had never competed in anything before she came here. One day, TigerBlog will ask her what it was like when she was a girl.

Did she realize how athletic she was? Did she want to take her Olympic bronze medal and stick it in the face of everyone who told her girls could play sports when she was little?

The men's hockey season, by the way, starts one month from today, at Michigan State.

If you think back one month, to Aug. 28, that was the Sunday when Princeton played Villanova in women's soccer on ESPNU in the second event of the year. Today is Sept. 28, which, among other things, is Gary Walters' birthday.

The last month has certainly zipped by, and the next one will too, as it'll be hockey season in a blink. The women's team actually faces-off a week earlier, with a pair of games in Providence. The Princeton women are ranked seventh nationally in the preseason and are coming off an NCAA tournament appearance a year ago.

In an interesting schedule quirk, the team plays its first three games in Providence, with a game at Brown on the 28th, one month from today.

For now, it's the heart of the fall season.

There are two events today, with the men's soccer team at Villanova at 4 and the men's water polo team at home against St. Francis (Pa.) at 7:30. Hopefully head coach Luis Nicolao will focus on the game and not be reading Bruce Springsteen's book while the game is going on.

Between today and Sunday there are 22 Princeton athletic events. The breakdown by gender? There are 11 for men and 11 for women.

That's how it should be.

That's not how it always was.

There are athletes like Carol Brown - and some of the women's track and field athletes who were at the Peter Farrell dinner Saturday night and an army of others - who made it his way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hail To The Redskins

So the Giants lost to the Redskins?

Somewhere, MotherBlog was smiling.

The last two days have been a pretty good reminder for TigerBlog about what he misses most about his mother, who passed away nearly 22 years ago. A Giants-Redskins game Sunday and a Presidential debate Monday?

About the only thing that could have made it better for her would have been a Steve McQueen movie marathon in between, though she'd only need the scene near the end of "The Great Escape" where McQueen - without a stunt double - hops the barbed wire fences on a motorcycle.

MotherBlog died before she ever had a cell phone or email. Still, if she was still around (she'd be closing in on her 77th birthday were she alive today), TB's phone would have been buzzing every five seconds, between the Skins' rally past the Giants and the debate last night.

As a long-time resident of the D.C. area, she loved the Redskins and politics. Her favorites at the time? John Riggins and Walter Mondale. Or was it Joe Theismann and Jay Rockefeller?

MotherBlog was a huge football fan, but only the NFL. TB doesn't remember talking too much college football with her, though she did root for Georgia by the end of her life, after she'd moved from D.C. to Atlanta.

As such, TigerBlog roots for Georgia too, even if the Bulldogs always let him down.

In fact, if TigerBlog had to give you the three college football teams he roots for the most, it would be Georgia, Sacred Heart and Princeton.

TB is pretty sure you already know this, but Sacred Heart blew out 24th-ranked Stony Brook Saturday night, improving to 4-0 on the season. And that was on the road.

As for Princeton, the Tigers are 1-1, with a win over Lafayette and a loss to Lehigh.

Up next for the Tigers is Columbia, in the Ivy League opener. That game is in New York City this Saturday and kicks off at noon, on Fox College Sports and Fox Sports Go.

Columbia is 0-2 on the year, with losses to St. Francis (Pa.) and Georgetown.

There have been 53 total points scored in Columbia's first two games. Princeton's first two games have seen an average of 68.

Columbia's first two games have seen an average of 588 yards per game. Princeton's first two games have seen an average of 919.5 yards per game.

What does it mean? Princeton's games have been pretty wide open. Columbia's have been tight defensive struggles.

It's only two games, so it's hard to say that these are definitive patterns. Still, it is 20 percent of the season already.

The biggest place this yardage difference can be seen is in passing yardage. Princeton has allowed 410 yards through the air per game through two games; Columbia has thrown for 254 yards in its two games combined.

Again, a performance like the one that Lehigh quarterback Nick Shafnisky had on Saturday skews the numbers so early in a season. Still, it's certainly an intriguing matchup, a team that doesn't throw much against a team that has struggled to stop its first two opponents in the air. 

The most interesting Princeton stats through two weeks to TigerBlog involve touchdowns.

First, Princeton has scored eight touchdowns, and all eight have come on the ground. Second, Princeton is one of two teams in Division I (FBS or FCS) to have scored a touchdown on every trip into the red zone.

Princeton has made seven red zone trips and scored seven touchdowns (he's not 100% how exactly a red zone trip is defined). The only other team in Division I to do so is Delaware State, who has scored two touchdowns on two red zone trips.

The Columbia game is the only Ivy game in the first four weeks of the season for the Tigers, who are at Georgetown next week. The first goal of every season is to be 1-0 in the Ivy League. That would set up the back-to-back home games against Brown (Oct. 15) and Harvard (Oct. 22) nicely. 

Anyway, FatherBlog turned 81 yesterday. What did he do to celebrate? He went to work. That's what he does.

It dawned on TB that BrotherBlog is actually older now than MotherBlog was when she died. That's a hard concept to consider.

It's not worth contemplating why some people die young and others are still going to work in their 80s. It's just how it works.

All you can do is think about the people who aren't here anymore and remember them as they were. Some days, like the last two for TigerBlog, it's so easy to do that.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Godspeed, You Handsome Devil

“This is not some apron-wearing mother you're speaking with - I know all about your Valhalla of decadence and I shouldn't have let him go. He's not ready for your world of compromised values and diminished brain cells that you throw away like confetti. Am I speaking to you clearly? If you break his spirit, harm him in any way, keep him from his chosen profession, which is law - something you may not value, but I do - you will meet the voice on the other end of this telephone and it will not be pretty. Do we understand each other? I didn't ask for this role, but I'll play it. Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell.” - Frances McDormand to Billy Crudup in "Almost Famous"

Suzanne Zywicki is the second of five sisters.

In order, it's Ellen, Suzanne, Carol and then the identical twins, Nancy and Patty. They grew up in the house next door to TigerBlog, back in Manalapan.

Suzanne is a year older than TigerBlog. She went from Manalapan to Princeton, where she was a high jumper for Peter Farrell on the women's track and field team.

TigerBlog hadn't seen Suzanne in decades before Saturday night, when she was one of several hundred people who turned out to honor Farrell, who retired at the end of the 2015-16 academic year after 39 years - 117 seasons - coaching Princeton in women's cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Suzanne and TigerBlog weren't the only two Manalapan High School alums at the event. Robby Andrews, the volunteer assistant men's cross country coach at Princeton, was also there for Peter.

Robby, of course, ran the 1,500 in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and he was the subject - victim? - of a questionable call that DQd him after the semifinal round. Had he reached the final, he would have had a real shot at a medal.

Suzanne wanted to meet Robby, so TigerBlog introduced them. They talked about where they lived in Manalapan - Robby grew up on the other side of Route 9 - and track and field, especially the Millrose Games.

This was all during the cocktail hour portion of the evening. 

TigerBlog recognized Suzanne immediately, even after all these years. He also recognized many of the other faces of the alums during his time here, even if he couldn't come up with most of the names that matched. It was like all of the old media guides had come to life, with all of the head shots in them suddenly walking, talking and reminiscing.

There were also colleagues - current and former - and friends and relatives. Even Hank Towns, the former equipment manager, was there.

They came from everywhere and anywhere, from the 1970s through the current athletes. They drove in. They flew in. They came from this country and other countries.

Heck, they even came from before Peter ever coached at Princeton, back to when he coached at Christ the King High School in Queens, before he came to Princeton as its first full-time women's track and field coach.

Why were they there? Because they love the guy, that's why. 

By now, Peter's resume is familiar to you. He and men's coach Fred Samara started at Princeton on the same day, Sept. 1, 1977. When the women’s cross country team won the Heptagonal championship a year ago, it gave Peter 27 Heps championships. In his time at Princeton, there were 117 Heps championships won in women’s cross country and track and field, and Peter Farrell’s teams won more than 20 percent of them.

Peter also coached 55 All-Americas and 182 Ivy League champions. He led the program to the Ivy League Triple Crown - winning all three Heps championships in one academic year - in both 1980-81 and 2010-11 and is the only Ivy women's coach ever to achieve this feat even once.

He always was so much more than as a coach, though. TigerBlog has known him for more than a quarter-century, and he has seen first-hand the dynamic that existed between him and many of the athletes in the room last night.

They respect him. They are humored by him. They were challenged by him.

They love him.

And that's why they were there.

It was a night of a reunions, and different from Reunions in that it wasn't primarily major years represented. Instead, as Peter said, there were former freshmen back with their captains.

There was a video. There were speeches, of course. One athlete from each decade. Two longtime former rival coaches, Mark Young of Yale and Lou Duesing of Cornell. It became something of a roast.

Sue Shea O'Connell spoke too. She is a Villanova grad, Class of 1982. And Christ the King, Class of 1978, where her coach was a young Peter Farrell. And why did she and so many of her high school teammates decide to run track in the first place?

"Because," she said, "Peter was soooooooo hot."

At one point, TigerBlog began to wonder why Peter started coaching women in the first place, and the answer was actually given to him a few seconds later by one of the speakers. It was to see if women could have the same experience from the sport that Peter and his brothers did. TigerBlog never thought of that.

Then it was Peter's turn to speak.

TigerBlog was all the way in the back of a packed room, but Peter's 30-minute talk wasn't much different than all the other ones TB has heard him give when it was just the two of them in TB's office for all these years.

Peter is the kind of person you can listen to talk for a long time, because what he's saying is so profound and how he's saying it is so entertaining. He didn't disappoint Saturday night.

He started out by saying that he had lost his notes, or someone had taken them, but it didn't matter, because every word on those notes had already been said over and over. So then, he said, he would rehash what had been said, only this time from the coach's perspective.

And so he did, asking different groups to stand up. He recognized basically everyone all over again, commenting on them from his point of view. He mentioned the pioneers of women's track and field at Princeton. He mentioned the first recruited athletes - classes that included Suzanne Zywicki. He talked about the modern era. He talked about the next generation of Princeton women's track and field coaches - Michelle Eisenreich, Brad Hunt and Reuben Jones - and the support that he knows they can count on from those in the room going forward.

More than anything else, he talked about his family, his two daughters, Virginia, who graduated from Princeton in 2013, and Susan, who is a senior now. Have you picked a thesis topic yet, Peter asked her. He said that they were good kids, the kind who never embarrassed him, even if he constantly embarrassed them.

And then there's his wife Shane, who also recently retired from Princeton. You're going to have a great retirement, Peter promised her.

Lastly, he said that for him, it wasn't about all the winning - which is something you can say when you've won as much as he has. It was about helping his athletes, either to get into Princeton, or to get through Princeton, or to give them something - the track and field program - to help them on a daily basis with the rigors of Princeton. If he'd done that, he said, then he was happy.

Of course he did that. For 39 years.

An emotional Peter ended his speech with these words: "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to."

A funny Sue Shea O'Connell ended her part by saying "Godspeed, you handsome devil." That was pretty good.


He's going to end where he started today, in the movie "Almost Famous." TigerBlog and Peter have talked about that movie as much as they have any other, and the quote TB started with today is Peter's favorite.

TigerBlog has heard Peter recite it a bunch of times. Peter says it better than Frances McDormand, and she was nominated for an Academy Award for the movie.

Whenever TigerBlog thinks of Peter Farrell, he'll think of those words.

That's Peter in a nutshell. Don't try to BS me, he's saying. Be a person of substance.

Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

For 39 years, he was the mighty force, coming to the aid of the hundreds who were there for him Saturday night.

When Peter was finished, TigerBlog turned and walked out the door on the far side. He never said goodbye to Peter; the line would be way too long.

At some point soon, Peter will come by. He'll talk about the next great movie he wants TB to see, or the next great live performance he heard on E Street Radio.

He'll do what he always does, which is to start to say something funny, walk away, pause, and throw the punchline out there. By the time it reaches TB, Peter will be around the corner and on his way.

Gone, in the moment, but never to be forgotten. Not by TigerBlog. Not by Princeton.

And definitely not by all of the women who were there for his big night, all of the women who were so proud to call him their coach - just as TigerBlog is proud to call him his friend.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Luis Gets His Dream Ticket, And Football At Lehigh

Floyd Phox Video Can Be Seen Here.

As you know, TigerBlog's old car just went over 200,000 miles.

When you have a car with that many miles, some things will invariably no longer be working. In the case of that car, it's the radio.

With the odometer now past 200,000, TigerBlog is back to driving his "new" car, the one with 78,000 miles on it. At least it has a working radio though.

When TB turned the car on yesterday, he heard the group Player singing "Baby come back. Any kind of fool could see. There was something, in everything about you."

You know the song. TigerBlog has heard about a million times, probably beginning in 1977, when the song hit No. 1 on the charts.

In all the time TB has heard that song, it never dawned on him to wonder how it turned out. Clearly someone in the band wrote it for someone specific.

Did she come back to him? TigerBlog would like to think that if someone went to that much trouble to apologize and beg for another chance that she would have been swept away by the gesture. But maybe not.

You know the song "Roseanna," by the group Toto? It's about Roseanna Arquette, who was dating one of the band members at the time. TigerBlog once saw her on one of the late-night shows, and she basically said that she hates the song and can't stand to ever hear it.

Still, TigerBlog is going on the assumption that it worked out for the guy in Player. Love conquers all and such. TigerBlog is a romantic.

As for music in general, the big story in Princeton Athletics this week is that water polo coach Luis Nicolao has gotten one of the 300 tickets available to meet Bruce Springsteen in Philadelphia next week. TigerBlog is fairly sure that there exists no amount of money in the world for which Luis would sell that ticket.

TigerBlog hasn't seen someone this excited about anything in a long time. Luis, who has said he will be bringing some Princeton water polo gear for the Boss, is downright giddy. Hopefully he doesn't just wear a Speedo, which he has done to some more formal Princeton events.

Ah, but what if Springsteen is having a bad day and Luis is near the back of the line? What if Springsteen is a jerk to Luis? Or worse, what if he bails midway through and Luis never gets to see him?

TigerBlog would like to think that Springsteen is a good guy who remembers where he came from and appreciates his fans. Ah, but what if? TigerBlog can't imagine how crushed Luis will be.

It reminds TigerBlog of the Mario Soto story, from when he was a vendor at Philadelphia Phillies games in the early 1980s. He's written this before:
Mario Soto was the Cincinnati Reds' ace and the favorite player of Evan Weiss, then a vendor who used to drive TigerBlog from West Philadelphia to the stadium every day in his VW and today a doctor in Philadelphia. All season, Weiss waited for the Reds to arrive so he could get Soto's autograph, and then finally the day was there. Weiss waited for Soto to get off the bus and went up to him and asked for his autograph, only to have Soto walk by without stopping. Talk about being crushed.

Oh, and in other Luis news, he's closing in on 800 total wins as Princeton's water polo coach, between the men's and women's teams. He won't get there this weekend, when his men's team is in California.

A little closer to home, but not exactly at home, the Princeton football team - which has more than 800 wins - plays its second game of the season.

Princeton will be at Goodman Stadium at Lehigh to take on the Mountain Hawks, with kickoff tomorrow at 12:30. You can see the game on the Patriot League Network stream or hear it on WPRB FM 103.3.

Princeton is 1-0 after a 35-31 win over Lafayette a week ago. The Tigers defeated Lehigh 52-26 a year ago at Princeton.

Lehigh is 1-2 after three games. The first two were losses in which Lehigh scored 21 each time, falling to Monmouth and Villanova. The win a week ago saw Lehigh score more than it had in the first two games combined in a 49-28 win over Penn.

The football adage is that teams makes their greatest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Lehigh seems to have made a big jump from Week 2 to Week 3, which would be fine with Princeton, who opens the Ivy schedule next week at Columbia.

The game tomorrow is the first of three straight away games for Princeton, who is at Georgetown on Oct. 8.

Anyway, the game tomorrow will be a great test. But before kickoff, if you view nothing else at all this week on, make sure you see the Floyd Phox video on that TB's colleague John Bullis produced. The link is at the top of the page.

Okay, if you're too lazy to go back to the top, you can see it HERE too.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sunset, Sunrise

TigerBlog was at Drexel Tuesday night for the men's soccer game.

Drexel plays soccer on Vidas Field, which is about 10 blocks west of the main part of the campus. Drexel's campus, of course, touches Penn's campus in the University City section of West Philadelphia.

If you're sitting in the stands at Vidas Field, you'll see the field, the benches and a small press box as you look out. Beyond that stand two tall apartment buildings.

As the game Tuesday night started, the sun was setting, and some forces of the universe combined to turn the sky all kinds of incredible colors as it reached those two buildings.

TigerBlog took a picture and put it on Twitter and Instagram, only to find that a few minutes later, the sky was even more picturesque. So TigerBlog took another picture and posted that one.

When he checked yesterday morning, he had nearly 200 likes on the sky pictures. Actually, as he thinks about it, he wouldn't mind going back to that moment and staring up at that sky again. There was something very intoxicating about it.

Anyway, it was complete darkness at Vidas by the time Princeton's Henry Martin scored with 4:45 to go in the half. Nicholas Badalamenti scored in the second half, and Princeton had itself a 2-0 win.

Princeton has now won three straight after dropping its first two. Princeton has also shut out Drexel six straight times and now has held the Dragons scoreless for 568:08.

Princeton now has no player on the year with more than two goals but six who have at least one. That's pretty good balance.

Next up for the Tigers is Fairleigh Dickinson, Saturday night at 7 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. The Ivy League opener is still a week away in men's soccer.

This weekend, though, marks the start of the Ivy League season for three teams, all of whom are the defending Ivy champ.

The field hockey team plays Dartmouth Saturday at noon on Bedford Field. Princeton isn't just the defending Ivy League field hockey champ; the Tigers have owned Ivy League field hockey for more than two decades.

In fact, Princeton has won 11 straight Ivy League championships and 21 of the last 22. The only blemish in that run was in 2004, when it took a Penn goal on a penalty corner after time had expired (penalty corners are played out even if the clock reaches 0:00 in field hockey, unlike corner kicks in soccer) to keep Princeton from that championship as well.

Princeton has played a brutal schedule to date this season. Of its six games, five have been against teams ranked in the top 14 at the time they played the Tigers, who are 3-3.

The field hockey team is the only one of the three defending champions to open the league season at home.

The women's volleyball team will be at the Palestra Saturday night to take on Penn. If you remember women's volleyball from a year ago, Princeton went 3-4 the first time through the league (including an 0-3 start) and then 7-0 the second time through to tie Harvard for the Ivy title. It was one of the great comebacks any Ivy team has ever had, from 0-3 to a share of the championship.

Princeton is off to a 6-3 start this season. So far this year, Princeton has had two different players - Devon Peterkin and Maggie O'Connell - win Ivy League Rookie of the Week, including most recently O'Connell, after earning MVP honors at the tournament at Rutgers that saw Princeton defeat Seattle, Rutgers and Seton Hall.

Oh, and if Peterkin's name is familiar, it should be. Her older sister Kendall graduated from Princeton a year ago after being a three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection.

The final team to start its Ivy season this weekend is the women's soccer team, who opens at Yale Saturday. That game starts at 4.

Princeton went 6-0-1 in the Ivy League a year ago. The 2016 Tigers are off to a 7-1 start, with the loss to No. 2 West Virginia.

The initial RPI rankings for the year were announced this week, and Princeton came in at No. 34. The next best Ivy team? Brown at 88.

Don't get fooled by those numbers though. Of the eight Ivy League teams, six are above .500 and five are above .700 to date. Yale is 4-3-2 heading into the league season.

Playing at home in this series has been no guarantee of success. Princeton defeated Yale 3-0 a year ago at home; the visiting team had won seven straight before that.

It'll be the first three Ivy League openers for Princeton for this academic year.

Sunrise on the Ivy League schedule, as it were, after a gorgeous sunset at Drexel.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Feeling Good, Feeling Old

TigerBlog feels pretty good these days.

He knows this is important to you. After all those years of playing lunchtime basketball or squash or working out in the weight room, he's taken his exercise outside these days, on the bike. He's thinking he could keep doing that except for the coldest and snowiest winter months. Then it'll have to be back inside.

He's figured out that he needs a better bike. That's for sure.

He also needs another car. This one is tricky. Miss TigerBlog will be getting her license in February (if she passes her test, which TB senses she will). TigerBlog Jr. already claims the car that just went over 200,000 miles and wants to take it to school.

TigerBlog can't envision the massive fighting that would take place between his two kids over one car. It would be like the Wii all over again. All these years later and TB still cringes at those memories.

Having a child in college and another who will be there soon doesn't make TB feel old. Having one kid who drives and another about to get her license doesn't make him feel old either.

Like he said before, he feels pretty good. Not old at all.

You know when he'll feel old?

He's said it for a long time. He'll feel old when there's a Princeton athlete whose mother or father competed here when TB was already here.

So far, it hasn't happened. At least not that he knows.

TigerBlog first started covering Princeton Athletics in 1989. The athletes from that time are slightly younger than TB, so they probably have kids about to reach college.

What will it be like when a men's lacrosse player is the son of a former player? TB isn't sure he's ready for that. There might not be enough miles on the towpath for him to ride his bike to make him feel young after that.

All of this brings TB to Patrick McCarthy.

TB's earliest memory of Patrick McCarthy is from the 1997 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Wake Forest. Patrick's father is Tom McCarthy, who back then was the radio play-by-play man for Princeton basketball and football and who today does the Philadelphia Phillies on TV, as well as the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament.

So yeah, Tom has made it big.

Back in 1997, Tom and his wife Meg were in Winston-Salem with their only child, Patrick. TB's biggest memory of Patrick from the trip was when Meg was trying to get him to eat french toast at breakfast and calling him "angel" every time he did.

Today, Tom and Meg have three other kids. Patrick has grown into a rather large angel, a 6-5, 220-pound angel, if his height and weight off of the baseball roster of the College of New Jersey is to be believed.

Patrick is a right-handed submarine pitcher for the Lions. He's also a communications studies major, and he, like his father, has an eye on being a broadcaster.

And there was Patrick on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium Saturday night, making his Princeton radio debut. He was the sideline reporter (including a halftime interview with Ashleigh Johnson), with Dave Giancola as the color commentator and Cody Chrusciel as the play-by-play man.

Cody is actually one of Princeton's two multimedia and video people, along with John Bullis. Cody is also a natural radio man, something that was obvious on his job interview, when TB first heard his voice.

Cody did play-by-play for men's lacrosse this past spring and a few other events. He's the new football man.

Come men's basketball season, the plan is to have Princeton's established - and very, very well-liked - team of Derek Jones and Noah Savage do the away games on radio and the home games on the ILDN alone. For those home games that Derek and Noah are on the videostream, there will be a separate radio broadcast.

And a new radio play-by-play man. And who is it? Patrick McCarthy.

Tom sent TB a video of Patrick's play-by-play work on TCNJ athletics, and TB was impressed. Like really impressed. And he figured having Patrick do a handful of games here would be a great starting point.

TigerBlog did a ton of games with Tom when he was here. Come this season, he'll probably do those games with Patrick.

Even if it will make him feel really old.

After the game the other day, TB asked Cody how Patrick did. Cody gave him high marks.

TB then ran into Patrick on the way out.

What did he say to him? Stick with him, kid.

Look what he did for your father.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tigress Athletics

The Olympic video hadn't stopped playing on the board, and TigerBlog hadn't read one word yet of his script over the PA system.

Already, though, the crowd was cheering wildly for the woman at midfield.

Ashleigh Johnson is back at Princeton after a summer in which she led the United States to a gold medal at the Rio Olympics in women's water polo. And there she was Saturday night, at halftime of the football game against Lafayette, being honored on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

First there was a video tribute to all 13 of Princeton's Olympians, including bronze medalist Diana Matheson (women's soccer) and silver medalist Gevvie Stone (rowing). When it ended, TigerBlog had a few sentences to read about Johnson, though he's pretty sure that not a single word of it was necessary, since everyone in attendance seemed to already know who she was and what she had done.

This spring, when Johnson again takes to DeNunzio Pool to play with the Princeton women's water polo team, she will become only the second athlete in school history to win and Olympic gold medal and then return to school to compete as a Tiger.

The first? Bill Bradley, who won men's basketball gold in Tokyo in 1964. Maybe it's fitting that they are the two who share that accomplishment, because it's very likely that they are the greatest male and greatest female athletes in Princeton history.

As halftime continued Saturday night, Johnson posed for pictures and signed autographs. Lots and lots of them. TB has no idea how many people got their picture taken with her, but he does know that she didn't say no to anyone.

Yeah, she's a very, very special one.

And TB's statement about the best athletes in Princeton history? On the men's side, there's Bradley, Dick Kazmaier and Hobey Baker.

The women's side has always been much more wide open.

Women's athletics at Princeton date back less than 50 years, as opposed to more than 150 for men's athletics, but Princeton's women athletes have more than made up for the lost time. Princeton has an incredible record across the board in women's athletics, including a ridiculous 10 Ivy League championships by women's teams alone in 2015-16. That's the first time, by the way, that a school has been in double figures in Ivy titles in a single gender in one academic year.

Ashleigh Johnson is the most recent Princeton woman to win an Olympic medal. Do you know who the first was?

Her name is Carol Brown, and she won a bronze medal in rowing in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Brown was part of a symposium last week at the Chicago Princeton Club entitled "Tigress Athletics: Princeton, Olympics and Beyond."

The moderator of the event was University of Chicago Director of Athletics Erin McDermott, who spent more than a decade on the staff here at Princeton and who during that time became an extraordinarily well-respected person on this campus. As an undergraduate, McDermott played basketball at Hofstra.

Erin was joined on the panel by Brown and more recent Tigers Meg Bowen and Cheryl Stevens from the basketball program and Jen Hoy from the soccer program.

The evening focused on the incredible success of Princeton's women's teams, with a particular focus on the success of the women athletes beyond Princeton, either in the Olympics (where there have been 34) or professionally (where there have been 16).

There was more to the conversation than just that, though. There were really good questions raised about the kinds of women's athletes who attend Princeton and how does Princeton turn out such high quality teams year after year.

Brown, a 1975 grad and one of the pioneers of women's athletics, talked about how prior to Title IX, the law in Illinois banned girls from playing high school sports. And how when she got to Princeton, women weren't permitted in the weight room.

It's nothing that the other three Princeton athletes could possibly relate to, given their experience here four decades later. Stevens was on the first women's basketball team that went to the NCAA, which means she was part of a program that went from 7-23 to 26-3.

Bowen? She was on teams that played in four NCAA tournaments in four years. Hoy? She played in the NCAA tournament and was the Ivy League Player of the Year.

The weight room? Yeah, they were all allowed in. Actually their attendance there was mandatory.

Practice facilities? Athletic training? Uniforms? Travel? Publicity? There was never even the remotest thought by anyone who works here that these are things that should be reserved only for the men.

Events like the one last week are important in many ways, not the least of which is to serve as a reminder that it wasn't always that way. It took a lot of effort from a lot of people to make it so, and TB has incredible respect for the early women athletes of Princeton, who laid the groundwork for what exists today.

Carol Brown brought her bronze medal with her to the event. Ashleigh Johnson wore her gold medal on the field Saturday night.

Without one, there never would have been the other.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Opening With A Win

The captains came out first. The team bounced in the tunnel, straining to get out on the field and finally kick of the 2016 football season.

The head coach? Well, he walked out after his captains but before the rest of his team. He didn't bounce or bound or anything like that, though he did stop to high-five a few of the band members, who stood in formation just outside the tunnel to welcome the players from the locker room.

Or maybe he just was excusing himself for having to get through their line. That's how Bob Surace is.

And with that, another season of Princeton football was ready to begin.

Princeton opened its season with a 35-31 win over Lafayette Saturday night on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Before TigerBlog says anything else about the game, he will say that the stadium continues to look great for night games.

It's always good to win the opener, especially when you're playing a team that is playing its third game. The big question, though, is what does the opener tell you about the rest of the year. TB will get back to that.

When TigerBlog first started covering Princeton football, the season-opener meant an Ivy League game, either Dartmouth or Cornell. In an effort to keep Princeton and Penn from having to go to Hanover and Ithaca in November, the teams alternated year-by-year, opening at either Dartmouth or Cornell and then ending the season at home against the other.

Actually, from 1954 through 1975, the first game of every Princeton football season was against Rutgers. The Dartmouth/Cornell thing lasted from then until 1990, when Princeton simply started opening the year against Cornell and finishing it against Dartmouth.

It was in 1991 that Princeton finally played at Dartmouth to end the season. The weather that day? Cloudy, some rain, temperature in the 50s.

By 2000, the idea of opening the season with an Ivy League game vanished. Since then, the first game has almost always been against either Lafayette or Lehigh.

It's probably the best way to do it. You don't want to be 0-1 in the league three hours into the season and then have to climb out the whole way.

For TigerBlog, the 2016 season is his 12th as the public address announcer for Princeton football. This time, the PA booth has an addition - a guy named Jordan, whose job it is to play music.

In the past, it's almost always been just TB, without a spotter. He'd look at the play, figure out who carried it, who made the tackle and announce it - and hope he got the numbers right. With Jordan there to do the music, he was also able to help TB with identifying numbers.

Of course, there's a lot of down time, which leads to plenty of time to talk.

Among other topics of conversation, Jordan asked TB if Triumph is a good place to eat, and TB replied in the affirmative, suggesting it is his favorite place in Princeton for lunch. Oh, and Jordan will be going with his wife to Australia soon.

What else? The best subject had to do with Lafayette wide receiver Rocco Palumbo. The question was this: If Jordan was going to write a movie with a main character named Rocco Palumbo, would he be a good guy or a bad guy and what would his profession be? Jordan said "good guy, probably detective." TB agreed, but said maybe one of those financial geniuses who figures out the bad guy's evil plot.

So yeah, that's what goes on in the PA booth.

As for the game and where Princeton is after Week 1?

There were a lot of positives. First and foremost, there was the win. Princeton has now won back-to-back openers, the first time it has done so since 2005 and 2006. Between then and last year? Princeton was 0-8 in openers.

And Princeton had to come from behind to do so. Lafayette had three leads in the game (14-7 21-14, 24-21), and Princeton erased all of them. When you're in Week 1 and the other team is in Week 3, that's not always easy to do, especially on a warm night.

Among Princeton's standouts were Joe Rhattigan, who had a career-high 137 yards rushing while scoring three touchdowns. Rhattigan was incredibly consistent, with a long run of 23 yards. He also paired well with Charlie Volker, the Ivy League sprint champion, who carried eight times for 38 yards (Volker will break a long one at some point this year).

Princeton rushed for 182 yards and five touchdowns, with three from Rhattigan and two from John Lovett. If you're looking for a player who's just fun to watch, it's Lovett, the first-team All-Ivy League selection a year ago who does a little of everything.

His line against Lafayette? How about: nine carries, 26 yards, two touchdowns rushing; four receptions for 23 yards; 1 for 3 passing. Whatever Princeton needs, Lovett can do.

Chad Kanoff made some excellent throws. Isiah Barnes caught five passes for 102 yards. And Princeton had great balance, with those 182 rushing yards joined by 178 passing yards.

Defensively, Rohan Hylton put up 11 tackles on the night he was on the cover of the game program, second-best on the team behind Luke Catarius. There were eight players who had at least five tackles, though, as Princeton showed great depth on defense.

Added up, it came to 35-31, and a record of 1-0. And then a really good fireworks show.

The Ivy League went 5-3 in its first week of non-league games. Are there any big takeaways? Not really. There's no way to tell what will come next.

Princeton is at Lehigh Saturday (12:30 kickoff). Lehigh topped Penn 49-28 Saturday night. TigerBlog would say that comparative scores in the first two weeks won't mean much either.

For now, it's about figuring out what's what, where improvement is needed, what is looking good.

The next nine weeks will sort themselves out. The goals? Win the Ivy opener and play meaningful games as deep into November as possible.

Week 1? It won't matter much at that point.

But, hey, it went pretty well for the Tigers.