Friday, January 30, 2015

Seahawks 24, Cheaters 14

TigerBlog doesn't need an investigation about deflated footballs.

There aren't too many possible conclusions based on these three facts: 1) the referee of the AFC championship game certified that 2.5 hours before kickoff that the balls that the Patriots were going to be using were properly inflated; 2) at the half 11 of the 12 balls weren't; and 3) all 12 of the balls the Colts used were still properly inflated.

Because the balls for the Colts were still at the regulation weight, then no environmental factors caused the deflation.

So what can be concluded?

Either the ref is lying and the balls weren't properly inflated the first time (which is unlikely) or someone who had access to the balls for the Patriots deflated them. One of those two. That's it.

And if it's the second? Well, sorry, but TigerBlog will never believe that head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady didn't know about it. Any other conclusion is ridiculous.

So where does that leave the Super Bowl for Sunday, between the Patriots and the Seahawks? Well, it leaves TigerBlog to root for Seattle.

On the one hand, that's fairly easy. BrotherBlog lives in Seattle. He's rooting for the Seahawks, even if he's not quite a huge Xs and Os guy.

On the other hand? Seattle has some guys who make it easy not to root for them.

Take Marshawn Lynch. TigerBlog isn't quite sure what to make out of this situation, of one of the key members of a Super Bowl team who so openly mocks the media and, to be honest, embarrasses himself in the process by constantly repeating "I'm just here so I don't get fined" and then giving a rambling two-minute diatribe.

TigerBlog thinks Lynch is being a jerk. He's coming across as a typical spoiled athlete who feels no obligation either to the fans or to the media, who have clearly played a role in getting him where he is today.

On the other hand, it's better than listening to one of those "blah blah blah" press conferences where every comment is measured and nothing is actually said.

As for the on-field game, TigerBlog thinks the Seahawks will do enough to slow down New England and Russell Wilson will do enough to put some points on the board. He figures it'll be 24-14 Seattle.

Unless New England does something else to cheat.

In the meantime, another New England team is a bigger focus for TigerBlog this weekend. That would be Harvard.

Princeton takes on Harvard in men's and women's basketball tonight (men at home, women on the road). The men tip at 6 on Carril Court; ESPNU will televise it.

The women will wait an extra hour to tip-off in Cambridge. Hey, they've waited 20 days; what's another hour?

Both teams finish their weekends by playing Dartmouth at 6. By tomorrow around 8, then, there will be a lot more known about the Ivy basketball races.

Start with the women.

Princeton is 17-0, 1-0 in the league after dismantling Penn in the Ivy opener three weekends ago. Since then, Princeton has not played.

The Tigers are ranked 19th in the country, the highest ranking ever in Ivy women's basketball. They are also one of only two teams in Division I who remain unbeaten, along with No. 1 South Carolina.

None of that matters at all tonight.

Harvard is 1-1 in the league, having split with Dartmouth. A year ago, Princeton fell behind Harvard early, tried to come back and ultimately couldn't.

Did being off for 20 days factor into it? Who knows.

Princeton was playing so well before the break. Can that momentum be sustained or reestablished? Check the score after 14 minutes. In the game a year ago after break, Harvard led Princeton by 18.

If Princeton sweeps this weekend, it'll be, among other things, two games clear of Harvard. It'll possibly be two games clear of Penn as well, with two wins and a Harvard win over Penn.

On the other hand, a loss in either game changes everything. Princeton would still be the league favorite, but it won't be the prohibitive favorite that it is now.

In fact, a loss by the Princeton women will have the same effect that Harvard's loss to Dartmouth in men's basketball had last weekend. Harvard is probably still the favorite in the league race, but it's not going to be a cakewalk.

Right now, Yale is undefeated at 2-0, with Princeton at 1-0. Everyone else has at least one loss.

Is the men's race wide open, or was the stumble by Harvard last weekend a slight hiccup?

It starts to get sorted out more this weekend.

As for Princeton, preseason predictions and who may or may not still be the favorite aren't the issue tonight. For Princeton, tonight is about being in the perfect position to make its own statement.

The Tigers are at home. They are fresh after exams and the Division III tuneup win over Rowan Sunday afternoon. It's a great opportunity.

Right now, Princeton has played just one league game. Nobody has played more than two.

Clearly, nobody is going to win the league championship this weekend, on the men's side or the women's side. This weekend isn't about that.

It's about starting to shape the dynamic of the race.

In that regard, this weekend is huge.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Overrated Juno, Underrated Orban

TigerBlog couldn't help but laugh at the apologetic tweets of meteorologists in this area after they overestimated the coming snowfalls - dubbed Winter Storm Juno - by about 20 inches or so.

The forecast that originally was for a few inches ballooned Sunday to calls of up to 30 or more, eventually settling on about 18-24 for this area.

What happened? TigerBlog says there was about three or four inches.

Of course, the entire "the next storm of the century is coming" - or should that be "the sky is falling" - mode was triggered. This meant a run on the supermarkets and endless wall-to-wall television coverage, even when there was nothing to report.

Oh, and school closings. Based on the forecast, every school in the area announced it would be closed Monday afternoon or evening at the latest.

So what happened? It snowed a bit.

It wasn't a dusting or anything. It was a few inches, and it was definitely the most snow that's fallen around here so far this winter.

It just wasn't epic.

The ferocity of the storm missed this area and instead walloped New England. Boston, for instance, got a ton of snow.

Because the weather people got the forecast so wrong, there were more than just school closings. The New York City subway system was shut down. Driving on any New Jersey roads was banned.

These are big decisions that cost millions of dollars. And they were made based on the forecasts.

There was a great tweet from the Finnish embassy that showed a man sitting on a swing surrounded by snow everywhere, piled up over his head. He's wearing an undershirt with no coat.

What TigerBlog doesn't understand is why all of the meteorologists needed to say they were sorry. It's not like they tried to make a mistake.

As TB understands it, the difference between getting pounded by the blizzard and having it just miss was very subtle. It's not like the forecasts were for sunny and 45 degrees.

Of course, people jumped all over the incorrect weather people with their own tweets.

And why? It's because people love to jump on the mistakes others make. Hey, TigerBlog makes mistakes all the time. And people jump all over them.

Hey, it's part of putting something out there in the public domain.

So it's okay meteorologists. No biggie. Better safe than sorry.

And so now, for the first time all winter, there is noticeable snow covering the ground. This is when TB really hates winter, when he can't see the grass through the snow and when the snow turns black in the roads.

The snow arrived just a few days before the start of spring practices at Princeton. In fact, the first regular season men's lacrosse game is Sunday, when Delaware is at High Point.

Princeton opens its season against Manhattan two weeks from Saturday. This would appear to be fairly nuts.

Princeton will enter the 2015 season with two Major League Lacrosse draftees. The first is Kip Orban, the 2015 captain, who went in the third round to Charlotte; the other is Mike MacDonald, who went to Rochester in the sixth round.

It's TigerBlog's contention that Orban is as underrated a player as there is Division I lacrosse this year and, along with Sean Hartofilis of the Class of 2003, one of the two most underrated players he's seen at Princeton.

Of course, since TB is in charge of publicity for the men's lacrosse team, can the case be made that it's his fault that Orban is so underrated?

Orban was not a first-team, second-team or honorable mention All-Ivy League selection last spring. Of the 23 offensive midfielders on the Inside Lacrosse preseason All-America team, none of them are Kip Orban. He was not on IL's preseason All-Ivy League team.

On the other hand, guess who enters 2015 with the longest streak of consecutive games with at least one goal in Division I? Kip Orban, who has at least one in 26 straight.

There are only four players (three attackmen and Orban) in Division I who enter 2015 with at least goal in 16 or more games and only two (Orban and Yale's Conrad Oberbeck) who have at least one in more than 17 straight, which basically means that only four returning players had at least one goal in every one of his team's games last year.

Why is Orban so underrated? It's because he played on the same midfield line with Tom Schreiber and Jake Froccaro the last two years. Schreiber is one of the great college midfielders ever; Froccaro put up 10 goals in one game a year ago.

Orban? He's steady, solid, tough, effective, reliable. Just not high profile.

Even the draft pointed that out.

Orban was picked in the third round, the eighth offensive middie taken. With his size and strong outside shot, he could be an effective two-point shooter in MLL. The team he joins finished last in the league in scoring a year ago, so he has a chance to help right away.

Of course, when it came time for the Major League Lacrosse website to track the draft, one pick was omitted. Orban was selected right after Cornell's Matt Donovan, but, Orban's name never appears. It still doesn't, most of a week later.

Right. Of course it doesn't.

That's the kind of thing that happens when you're this underrated.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rest In Peace, Bob Callahan

Why?

That's TigerBlog's question. Why did Bob Callahan, of all people, have to be taken away so young, knocked down in his prime by a vicious form of brain cancer, one that he fought hard til the end, which finally came yesterday, long after it was supposed to.

There are no answers to this, of course. TigerBlog has asked this question before, about many others, including his own mother.

Why? Why would someone like Bob Callahan not be given the gift of longevity? Certainly he deserved it.

TigerBlog can't overstate enough just how great of a man Bob Callahan was, as a coach, a family man, an opponent, a co-worker, a friend - however someone knew him. 


 Bob Callahan was the men's squash coach at Princeton for more than 30 years. Before that, he played squash at Princeton, as an All-America and captain of a national championship team, before he graduated  in 1977, which made him a fixture in Jadwin Gym for as long as anyone.

He was a man of courage, grace, humility, humor and strength. He was a man of class, dignity, honor.

He fought this disease hard, harder than anyone could be expected to, long after it was obvious that he would not be the winner in this fight.

Back in the summer, Kim Meszaros, the assistant to the Director of Athletics, sent out an email asking members of the department to sign up to go see Bob on mornings when Bob's wife Kristen had to work at her job as a teacher at Mercer County College.

TigerBlog signed up for the first shift on the first day. It was Tuesday, Sept. 30. As it turned out, it was Bob and Kristen's anniversary. Their 36th.

Kristen explained to TigerBlog that morning that they had married young, at 23.

Bob's birthday was July 4. That made him 59 years old at the time of his death.

That morning back in September, Kristen explained that the doctors had given him two to seven more weeks to live. That was nearly four months ago.

That's toughness.

When TigerBlog was there that morning, Kristen warned him that Bob was in and out of it and that he'd probably sleep the whole time. Instead, he was the same Bob Callahan he'd always been - funny, alert, attentive, welcoming, considerate.

He remembered little details about TigerBlog's kids that TB couldn't believe he would. He joked with TB in that same, subtle, understated humor that he always did. He talked about the future with great anticipation.

Yes, his body was ravaged by then. He couldn't get out of bed. His voice was soft.

He was still Bob Callahan.

When TigerBlog left, he was sure it would be the last time he'd ever see Bob Callahan. As it turned out, it was.

In some ways, that's good, that TB's last memories of Bob mirror so much his earliest ones, going back a few decades.

Make no mistake, the man was a ferocious competitor. He won Ivy championships, national team championships. He coached individual champions.

TigerBlog remembers most the epic national final in 2012, when Princeton ended the 13-year run of national titles by Trinity in one of the greatest sporting events in Princeton athletic history.

Beyond the wins and the losses, Bob won every sportsmanship award there was. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Philadelphia in 2012, the genuine respect and affection that was afforded to him by those he'd coached against was obvious.

It was in between those two events, the national championship in the winter of 2012 and the Hall of Fame induction in October, that Bob found out about his illness. He poo-poohed it at first, making it seem like he had a small health issue, like a cold that wouldn't go away or something.

He actually sat in TigerBlog's office and described the radiation treatments he was receiving as "nice," as in how nice all the people there were. Nice? The man had just found out that his life had been shortened by decades, and he used words like "nice" to describe the situation.

TigerBlog knew the end was coming, but it was still a jolt last night to see the email that announced it. TigerBlog read the words that Kristen wrote and couldn't help but admire her too, her own grace and courage and toughness.

Mostly, TigerBlog couldn''t help but smile when he thought about Bob, walking around Jadwin, stopping in to joke about something, asking how TB was and genuinely caring about what the response was.

That's how Bob would want it. TigerBlog knows that's a cliche, but in this case it's true. He'd want people to smile and laugh when they think about his life.

His passing is unexplainable. It's unfair.
TigerBlog goes back to his original question. Why?

What forces in the universe could allow someone like him to not reach 60 years old? Or at the very least, how are those who knew him to ever make sense of it?

Besides Bob's family, the one who was probably closest to him was Gail Ramsay, the longtime Princeton women's squash coach.

It was back maybe 12 or so years ago that TigerBlog took up playing squash, encouraged by Bob and Gail.

TigerBlog's favorite memories of Bob are the ones in the middle of workdays on C level of Jadwin Gym, when TigerBlog would stand in the hallway outside of the two adjoining squash offices and either go over the pre-match strategy or report on what went right or wrong after the match.

Both coaches would laugh at TB and his lack of squash fundamentals. Hold the racket tight and hit the ball as hard as possible. That's about all TB knew.

But they both encouraged him. They both loved to hear all about it.

That's how Gail is. And it's how Bob was.

TigerBlog, when he closes his eyes, can see Bob, in his short white tennis shorts and windbreaker. He can hear that soothing voice. He can see his smile and still feel the warmth that accompanied him when he'd walk into the office.

Now he's gone. It's unfair.

He will always be one of the greatest people TigerBlog ever met and one of the finest who ever set foot in Jadwin Gym or represented Princeton Athletics.

He wouldn't want it or be happy to know it, but TigerBlog shed a few tears when he saw his friend was gone. He couldn't help it, and those tears were replaced by the flood of happy memories, of happy times they shared, up until the last time TigerBlog ever saw him.

He was a beautiful, wonderful man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snowballs and Basketballs

If, like TigerBlog, you have an iPhone, you know that your weather app can be a bit frustrating.

First of all, the temperature rarely is what the app says it's going to be. Second, it doesn't give any details to a forecast.

There have been about 20 times, or maybe even more, this season that TigerBlog's app has shown a little snowflake for the forecast. At various times, it's meant anything from a few flurries to a few inches to nothing at all.

In fact, for the entire winter of 2014-15 to date, the greater Princeton metropolitan area has seen very little in the way of snow, which is how TB likes it. He's definitely a summer guy.

A year ago, there were endless snowstorms and bitter, bitter cold throughout. This year? It's been cold but rarely horribly so, and there's been almost no snow.

Because of that, TigerBlog didn't take it all that seriously when he first saw a snowflake next to yesterday and today on his iPhone weather app. Even as late as Sunday afternoon, it didn't seem like it was going to be all that big a deal.

The forecast was calling for 1-3 inches. TB can handle that.

Then, late Sunday afternoon, it all changed. Dramatically.

In the span of about 10 minutes, the forecast went from 1-3 inches to 10-14 to "one of the worst storms in history," with forecasts for as much as 30 inches.

TigerBlog has been through some bad snowstorms, and he can remember a few with at least 30 inches. That's a lot of snow.

He remembers shoveling out from one storm and then walking through the rest of it down the street to a huge feast at a neighbor's house and wearing shorts while doing so.

He remembers as a kid when a storm wiped out an entire week of school.

TigerBlog hates shoveling snow, so he likes winters without much snow. He often wonders why he doesn't live in Florida.

Ah, but he lives here. And apparently "here" has dodged the worst of this one.

There is another little snowflake on his weather app for Friday, which would be a real shame, since Friday figures to bring the biggest crowd of the year to Jadwin Gym.

Princeton hosts Harvard in men's basketball, and to say this is a huge game for both teams might not be quite correct, given that Princeton has 13 Ivy games to play and Harvard has 12.

Still, there is a lot on the line for that game, even more so after what happened over the weekend.

Harvard is the preseason favorite and three-time defending league champion. The Crimson were close, if not in, the national rankings in the preseason.

When Harvard arrives at Jadwin Friday, it'll be doing so after having lost its last game to Dartmouth 70-61, done in by a 26-2 run by the Big Green. Using another app, TigerBlog saw the Crimson up by 11 in the second half and assumed it was over - and then he saw Dartmouth pull away to win.

Yale survived Brown Saturday, and Cornell beat Columbia. Penn, for its part, beat St. Joe's.

And even Princeton played, doubling up Rowan 96-48 in its return game after first-semester exams.

So where does it leave the Ivy League?

Well, right now, Yale in in first place at 2-0. Princeton is 1-0. No other team is unbeaten.

Harvard is 1-1, as are Columbia, Dartmouth and Cornell. Penn is 0-1. Brown is 0-2.

And what does that mean for Friday night?

It means a lot.

Harvard will come to Jadwin looking to reestablish itself. Princeton would be looking to deal the Crimson another setback, which would really change the shape of the race.

How many wins will it take to win the league? Will it be 11 or 12? If it's 12, then a 1-2 Harvard team would have no margin for error.

And Yale? The Bulldogs are 13-6 overall, with a win over UConn and a really close loss at Vanderbilt - and losses to Albany and NJIT. Yale needed to come back to beat Brown, and the Bulldogs held off the Bears 69-65.

Princeton has had moments of struggle and moments where it's looked really good so far this year. None of it matters now.

Now the Tigers are 1-0 with a 13-game sprint to the finish about to start. And it starts against a team that is in desperate need of a victory.

Yes, Princeton and Harvard have combined to play three of their 28 league games between them. But yes, it's a big game Friday night.

Hopefully that little snowflake goes away on the app.

A big game deserves a big crowd.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Back On The Ice

TigerBlog saw the video on goprincetontigers.com from the women's hockey team, where several members of the team answer the question of who would play them in a movie?

It's fun stuff, as the players chuckle their way through their answers. And the video includes a picture of the actress - or in one case, animated figure - who would play each player.

When Princeton Athletics went away from printing media guides in favor of video, this was the kind of thing that TigerBlog had in mind. It's simple, and yet it gives such a great look into the athletes and what they're really like.

Oh, and before he goes too much further, TigerBlog would like to answer the question for himself.

He feels like Albert Brooks would be a good choice, though he's a little older than TB. Maybe John Cusack, who is closer, though a little younger.

No, let's stay with Albert Brooks. He has TB's subtler humor and sarcasm down. It'll be up to him to figure out how to be younger. He can do it.

Speaking of the young Albert Brooks, there he was Friday night on "The Odd Couple," which is on MeTV Friday's at 10 and 10:30. The show is among TB's very, very favorites.

The second episode Friday night was the "Mandar Cologne" episode, in which Brooks plays an advertising man who forces Felix to use Oscar as a model. It doesn't go well. Felix, frustrated, ends up informing Brooks that "Mandar Cologne smells like a World War II undershirt."

And while he's on the subject, TB would also like to throw out there that he doubts the new "Odd Couple" will be any good.

With that out of the way, TigerBlog is back to the women's hockey team.

The Princeton women are on a two-game winning streak, the momentum of which vanished after the Tigers took two weeks off for first semester exams.

Princeton's opponent in its return from exams is also on a winning streak, one that is 10 times longer than Princeton's. The Tigers will be at Boston College this afternoon at 1, and if the challenge of playing after 16 days off isn't enough, well, how about when the opponent is the No. 1 team in the country?

Boston College is 23-0-1 on the year and the winner of 20 straight. It's only blemish is a 2-2 tie against St. Lawrence back on Oct. 11, which just happened to be the same day that Princeton played Colgate - in football.

After the game against BC, Princeton will have four more ECAC weekends left, with two straight at home and then two more on the road.

It begins this weekend, when the Tigers host Dartmouth and Harvard. Colgate and Cornell are at Baker Rink next weekend.

Then it's trips to Clarkson and St. Lawrence and Yale and Brown to end the regular season.

Princeton has already played all eight of those teams once this season and went 5-3-0 in those eight games.

Unlike the men's side of the ECAC, only the top eight of 12 teams among the women get into the playoffs. Princeton is currently in sixth place, and the Tigers are comfortably ahead of ninth-place RPI (seven points) for a playoff spot.

The goal, though, is to get to the top four and host a quarterfinal series. Right now, St. Lawrence and Cornell are tied for fourth, with 18 points, leaving Princeton on the doorstep and with some huge games to play down the stretch.

Admission for all regular-season women's hockey games is free, so that's four free women's hockey games in the next two weeks.

Of course, there's also the little matter of the game today. The one against No. 1.
And the video. Make sure you check that one out too.

That was something fun for the players during their 16-day break.

Now it's time to get back to work.

Friday, January 23, 2015

More On The Cheaters

Tom Brady thinks TigerBlog is stupid.

It's okay. TB isn't offended.

After all, Brady thinks you're stupid too.

In fact, he thinks everyone who listened to him yesterday try to "aw shucks" his way through his press conference is stupid. Brady might as well have stood up there and said he didn't realize the footballs were brown or that there even were footballs, for as much as it seemed like he was telling the truth.

Basically, this is what TigerBlog thinks happened:

Brady at some point (last week, five years ago, who knows?) mentioned to his head coach Bill Belichick that he can throw better with a slightly deflated ball and wouldn't it be funny if they took some of the air out. Then there was silence. Then they smiled at each other. Then they did it.

TigerBlog also thinks that they did the same thing against the Ravens two weeks ago, when New England won 35-31 and every edge mattered. And they figured why take a chance on another close game last week against Indianapolis, and so what if it ended up 45-7? They were ready if it was close.

TigerBlog thinks they're both cheaters. Arrogant ones at that.

Can he prove it? No.

TigerBlog saw a lot of references to "A Few Good Men," with Belichick as Colonel Jessup, ordering the code red and all, on Twitter yesterday. While we're talking about "A Few Good Men," remember a much-less famous scene, where they're practicing the interrogation and Tom Cruise goes one question too far and asks if there was any indication of anything wrong and Kevin Pollak, pretending he's the witness, says something like "other than the dead body?"

It's the same thing here. Oh, nobody got killed or anything. Brady mentioned that. He said this isn't ISIS and nobody's getting killed.

That part, by the way, gets translated this way: "can everyone please stop talking about this and move on so I don't have to be bothered by this anymore?" In fairness, Brady did play to his strength, which was to try to charm and smile his way through it.

Anyway, TB's point about the movie quote is that just like something killed Santiago, in this case somebody let the air out of the balls.

To hear them yesterday, neither Belichick nor Brady would even acknowledge knowing anything was amiss. To TB, that's not the point.

The point is that if they truly didn't do anything, they'd be angry about it. Not deflective or dancing around it. Angry. As in: "Hey, I had nothing to do with this and I demand the NFL find out what happened. When I found out who did this, I'm going to punch their lights out."

Something like that.

There is no way TigerBlog will ever believe that a ballboy or someone else took it upon himself to do this and never said a word about it. Sorry. And TB doubts too many others believe it too.

TigerBlog is willing even to make this trade-off: Patriots lose big next Sunday and the Yankees win the next World Series. That's much he's rooting against the Pats.

In fact, what if you are a Pats fan? How does all this make you feel? Can you blindly root for your team, knowing that they've been caught cheating multiple times?

TigerBlog didn't even want to talk about this again after yesterday. He figured one day was enough, and he could spend today talking about something better, like Princeton vs. Rowan basketball or something.

First semester exams are ending here, and Princeton's winter teams can return to competition beginning tomorrow.

The winter season is an odd one around here. There are games earlier and earlier in November, which leads to long stretches of no games in December and especially in January.

Then? It's a full out sprint.

For instance, there were 18 Princeton athletic events played from Jan. 1 through the start of exams. There will now be 46 more played between tomorrow and a week from Sunday.

The basketball teams play Harvard (men home, women away) a week from today. Those games mark a stretch in which the two will pack their remaining 13 league games into a 40-day run.

The next men's basketball game is Sunday, when the Tigers take on Rowan at 2 at Jadwin. Princeton has never lost in 26 games against a Division III team immediately following exam break, and only one of those games - against the College of New Jersey in 1998 - was closer than 10 points. Most have been complete blowouts.

Rowan is traditionally a strong D3 team, and the Profs are 12-4 before their game against Ramapo tomorrow. For the record, TigerBlog has covered games at Rowan (which is in Glassboro and used to be called Glassboro State) and at Ramapo, which is in north/west New Jersey.

There will be home men's hockey Tuesday against Army in another return-from-exams game.

The women's basketball team is one of two undefeated teams in Division I, along with No.1 South Carolina. In men's basketball, there are two undefeateds as well, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Virginia.

The Tiger women don't have a game to ease back into things and get their legs back. They'll jump into it at Harvard and Dartmouth after 20 days off.

Soon it'll be February, the shortest month of the year but one that is as busy as it gets in Princeton Athletics.

And also the month for the Super Bowl.

Hopefully the cheaters lose.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Deflated

Raise your hand if you're shocked by any of the following:

1) that the Patriots might have cheated
2) that Bill Belichick now claims he didn't know that the footballs in the AFC championship game were deflated
3) that Bill Belichick made Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman into the sentimental favorites for the Super Bowl

Here's what TigerBlog thinks:

Bill Belichick should be banned from the NFL for a year - starting with the Super Bowl next week - and the continued specter of cheating that has hovered over him and quarterback Tom Brady for the entirety of their time together should keep them out of the Hall of Fame in the same way that it has kept out the baseball players who were linked to steroids but who never failed a drug test.

Yes, TigerBlog believes that. Hey, if you can ban a coach in New Orleans for the bounties placed on opposing players, you can ban Belichick for again threatening the integrity of the game.

He also would guess that Belichick is lying through his teeth when he says he had no knowledge that the balls were deflated. He further would guess that last Sunday wasn't the first time this had happened, and he thinks this taints every single thing Brady has accomplished, as it does for a baseball player like A-Rod.

In fact, he can't help but wonder how else these two have cheated through the years. What would surprise you? Anything?

And the idea that the Patriots creamed the Colts anyway doesn't matter. The Patriots didn't set out to cheat with the idea that the game would be a blowout anyway; they did it to get any possible edge in the event the game was close.

Does Belichick think that the rest of the world is so dumb as to believe that he knew nothing about this? He can't be allowed to simply say that and then go on and prepare for the game, as if this is no big deal.

What this is is the latest in a long run of allegations, mostly proven, that suggest that the Patriots and especially their head coach and quarterback feel that the rules do not apply to them, that they can do whatever they want to gain advantage.

To TigerBog, that makes everything they've accomplished no longer matter, as every piece of those accomplishments can be called into question. And to those who say that everyone does it, who else has gotten caught? Anyone?

This is the NFL's worst nightmare. It's the one team with the one coach and the one quarterback that the NFL would least want to see in this situation.

Now it's going to be all about this subject for an entire week prior to the game. With a league already dealing with serious issues related to domestic violence and the physical well-being of its current and former players, now all of the sudden comes another Super Bowl that will be wall-to-wall Patriots cheating.

Let's see how much courage the league has now to drop the hammer on Belichick.

Is he a great coach? In the NFL, you can't be a great coach without a great quarterback, and Belichick never started to win like this until he had Brady. Now fans are left to wonder how much of Brady's edge has come outside the rules.

Belichick, if you recall, bolted from the Jets after being hired as their head coach in 1999. How long did he last? One day. Then he fled for the Pats.

Had Belichick stayed with the Jets, would all of this success have come his way? Hah. Hardly. Now with the litany of quarterbacks that the Jets coaches have been saddled with all these years.

So all of this leaves any casual football fan, like TigerBlog, with two choices come Super Sunday. Root for the Seahawks, who themselves are not easy to root for, or don't watch.

There is still a week until the Super Bowl.

There are still a few more exams to be taken at Princeton, but the winter teams will be returning to play soon enough after what will ultimately be a 13-day break.

It begins with men's and women's track and field here Saturday, as well as women's tennis in Alabama this weekend.

When Princeton was last in Alabama, it was for the NCAA tournament last spring. Princeton, if you recall, defeated Arizona State in the first round and then barely lost to Alabama, the No. 2 team in the country.

This came on the heels of a 7-0 Ivy League season, something that isn't easy to do in women's tennis. It also came without a senior in the lineup.

The event in Alabama is something a four-team kickoff tournament, with Princeton, Alabama, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Alabama is ranked seventh, while Princeton is 35th. Va. Tech and Syracuse are 56th and 57th.

As an aside, TigerBlog is not a fan of the word "respectively" inserted into obvious situations in sentences like the one he just wrote. It's obvious that Virginia Tech is 56 and Syracuse is 57. He doesn't need to add "respectively." In fact, it's among his least favorite words.

Anyway, the women's tennis team is clearly worth keeping an eye on this spring. The Tigers will play one home match in the next two-plus months, and that is in Jadwin Gym on Feb. 17 against Rutgers. The Ivy League schedule doesn't start until the final day of March at Penn, followed by a home weekend April 3 and 4 against Yale and Brown.

In the meantime, there's the matter of the rest of the winter sports season, which eases back into it this weekend and then begins the all-out sprint to the Ivy title finish line next weekend.

And then there's the Super Bowl.

Go Seahawks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Kid From Princeton

TigerBlog had just gotten into his car yesterday afternoon when he heard a caller on Rich Zeoli's show on 1210 AM say that he agreed with "the kid from Princeton."

TigerBlog had to laugh at that. After all, he's the "kid" to whom the caller referred.

It's been awhile since TigerBlog has been an actual kid. Multiple decades actually.

He's not sure who the last person who called him a kid was or when that was. It might have been Harvey Yavener, who was last a kid long before TigerBlog was.

This time, it was Chris from Langhorne who said "the kid from Princeton." TigerBlog isn't sure which he liked better, being agreed with or being called a kid.

TigerBlog would have made a lot of guesses about how he would end his Tuesday workday before he got to "being on the Rich Zeoli Show." There he was, though, at 4:30 yesterday.

To hear TigerBlog with Rich Zeoli, click HERE.

It started with yesterday's blog. Actually, more precisely, it started with Zeoli's show the day before, when he talked about the 161-2 girls' basketball game in California.

TigerBlog disagreed with some of what Zeoli said about the game and the larger context about whether or not there's an obligation on the part of a coach to keep a score down if possible and the even larger contexts of what that obligation or lack thereof says about modern society, the educational value of sports and the role that sports plays in preparing the young people who play it for the harsher realities of the real world.

You know, for when they're not kids anymore.

When TB posted yesterday's blog, he tweeted it to Zeoli. At that point, he never imagined that Zeoli would read it and want to include TB on his show later in the day to discuss their differences.

TB had no idea what to expect other than a comment Zeoli made on Twitter that said: "You left out some key points of my position. Care to come on the show today and discuss?"

Just before TB came on, Zeoli and his producer Greg Stocker were talking about something they'd seen about how showering every day can be bad for you. A caller named Heather then was on saying how she showers twice a week.

When TB came on the air, he thanks Zeoli for having him and mentioned that he'd already showered twice that day.

From there, the subject at hand was addressed immediately. TigerBlog agreed with Zeoli that the coach shouldn't have been suspended (he was given two games off) but for different reasons.

TB does believe that there is a responsibility to run a classy program, and that's the word that TB used a few times. There has to be an educational component to high school sports, possibly even more so than in college.

Pete Carril used to talk about good high school coaches with glowing respect. John Thompson once said of a bad high school coach that he should have been "taken out in the town square and flogged."

There are three points that TB hopes he made during his 10 minutes.

First, there's no excuse for winning 161-2. Running it up isn't always about the margin of victory, and TB wouldn't want to be the one who has to decide if 50 points is too many but 40 is okay or anything like that. But when you're a coach in a situation like the one that coach found himself in, there are any number of ways to keep it from becoming humiliating for the other team.

Second, when Zeoli asked TB about what he hopes the losing team took from the game, TB's answer was unequivocal. The lesson is that if those players didn't enjoy losing 161-2, what they can do is work harder to improve. As TB said, shoot another 50 shots per day and then another 100 after that. TB thinks this is something that too often is missing from today's kids. As Zeoli said, it's okay to fail. It's what you do about it afterwards that helps define you. Are you willing to work hard to improve? As TB said on the radio, the idea of not keeping score for little kids is nuts. It's okay for them to learn that there's a winner and a loser, and if you don't like losing, then work harder to get better.

Third, TigerBlog wanted to make sure that everyone listening understood that Princeton Athletics is in it to win. TB would never be able to handle an attitude of "hey, we have all these academic standards, how can we possibly compete?" Fortunately, that's not how Princeton coaches are. They are competitive, and they want to win. They use perceived disadvantages as advantages. At the same time, TB would also hate a win-at-all-costs attitude. Princeton Athletics understands that its role is equally to educate the athletes and to provide for the athletes an avenue for the personal growth that comes from athletics. Winning 161-2 doesn't fit in with that.

TigerBlog has done a lot of radio in his life.

He started out on the student station at Penn, and he's done a ton of games at Princeton for the last, oh, 25 year. He'll be back on WPRB this spring doing men's lacrosse games. He's also interviewed probably hundreds of people during those games.

Yesterday's experience was a little different. First of all, he was the interviewee. Second, he didn't really know what to expect.

In the end, he thought he did well. He was happy with how it went.

And ultimately, the word he'd use to describe it was "fun."

And there's nothing wrong with having a little fun, especially when you're a kid.

So thanks to Rich Zeoli for having him. Even if Zeoli was wrong about the issue. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Still No. 19

Did you see the score of that high school girls' basketball game in California that got the coach suspended?

The final was 161-2. Yes, one team won by 159 points. And its coach was suspended for two games.

The halftime score was 104-1. The team that won didn't play any of its starters in the second half.

So what to make of this? TigerBlog has heard a lot of opinions. Interestingly, most of them have come from non-sports commentators.

He saw one story that included a poll asking readers to vote on whether or not the coach should have been suspended. What do you think the results were?

They were astonishing to TigerBlog.

The options for voters were 1) No, the opposing team should have played better; 2) Yes, it crosses the line of good sportsmanship or 3) I'm not sure. 

An amazing 75.41 percent voted for "No, the opposing team should have played better."

TigerBlog isn't sure. He knows that he hated to see scores needlessly run up on the youth level, when it's more likely due to more prevalent disparities in skill and experience.

He knows that there is a point on the high school level where it gets unnecessary, but that point is beyond where it is on the youth level. The same is true in college. In the pros? Anything goes.

There's a difference between crushing a team and winning 161-2. To score 161 points in a 32-minute game, a team needs to average basically five points per minute. You can't do that unless you're pushing the pace a bit, and should you be doing that when you're up by that much?

On one show that TB listened to yesterday - he thinks it was the Rich Zeoli show from Philadelphia - the host (yes, it was Zeoli) kept asking this question: If winning by 159 points is too many, how many is okay? 100? 50? Less?

To TigerBlog, the issue isn't so much the score. It's knowing it when he sees it.

TigerBlog knows nothing about the game in California other than the idea that winning 161-2 is insane. TigerBlog would have voted not to suspend the coach, but his logic wouldn't have been "the other team should have played better." It would have been "if a coach wants to be classless, so be it."

Zeoli's point, echoed by several callers and several other commentators that TB heard on the issue, is whether or not there is a culture of, for lack of a better word, wussiness that is preventing people from saying "big deal, if you don't want to lose 161-2, get better."

There is something to that. But not 161-2's worth. Then it's just unneccessary.

Winning by a lot of points doesn't always equate to running up the score. Running up the score comes with not subbing, continuing to pressure the other team, shooting quickly, those kinds of things. No, you can't tell the backups to purposely miss shots or turn it over; you can tell them not to shoot or at least not to shoot until everyone has touched the ball twice or something like that.

Zeoli said that there is no mercy rule in business and when these kids get to the real world, who is going to be there to suspend the other person who beats them in that arena.

TigerBlog thinks this is ludicrous. There are, after all, supposed to be ethics in business. And there is supposed to be civility and class in general society.

These are among the lessons that athletics are supposed to teach young people. Winning a game 161-2? There's no educational value in that for anyone. And it's just classless.

The wussification, by the way, comes in suspending people for stuff like that. The suspension is meant to say "you were mean and hurt their feelings and you need to be punished." Not suspending the coach sends the message that "hey, not everyone has class or is going to be nice, but you need to worry about yourself, how you carry yourself and what you can do to improve, on the court and off."

And that's TigerBlog's take on that.

What else can he talk about today, what with Princeton Athletics still on first semester exam shutdown?

Well, he's definitely rooting for the following teams this week in women's college basketball: Boston College, Louisville, Wisconsin and Ole Miss.

Why?

Because those four teams are the next opponents for Duke, Nebraska, Florida State and Mississippi State, of course.

And why do those four matter?

They are the four teams ranked directly above Princeton in the AP Top 25 this week. Princeton was 19th last week and 19th again this week, though the Tigers went from 178 points in last week's poll to 219 in this week's.

Princeton was 93 points away from 18th last week. This week, Princeton is 48 points away.

On the other hand, Princeton did get jumped by Florida State, though the Tigers also passed Georgia.

Princeton did all this without playing, of course. Back in 1998, the Princeton men's team moved up several spots during first semester exams and then reached all the way to No. 7 by not losing after the break.

The Princeton women are the highest-ranked Ivy League team in basketball since the 1998 men and are the highest-ranked Ivy women ever.

What does it mean? Well, it's nice for Jan. 20.

It will matter little if Princeton comes back from the break 10 days from now and stumbles against Harvard and/or Dartmouth on that weekend trip.

And it really will matter little come March if Princeton isn't the Ivy champ.

In the meantime it's very quiet here in at Princeton Athletics for the rest of the week. The 19th-ranked women's basketball team in the country has its workouts when its players can get down here as a break in their academic schedules.

The other 24 teams in the Top 25 are in full conference mode right now.

So go Ole Miss and the others.

Give the Tigers a hand.



Monday, January 19, 2015

Chris Kyle And Dr. King

TigerBlog has never really understood the idea of applauding at the end of the movie.

Who is the applause for exactly? None of the people involved in the making of the movie are there. It's not like a concert or a game or a show. It's like applauding at the end of a TV show at home.

This past Friday TigerBlog went to see "American Sniper." While he's been at many movies where the audience applauded at the end, he's never experienced something like what happened at the end of this movie.

This time, when the movie ended and the credits began, the audience filed out in total silence. Not one person in the packed theater made a sound.

It was out of respect for what had just been shown on the screen and even more so out of respect for Chris Kyle, the title character of the movie. 

TigerBlog doesn't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, so he'll only say a few things about it.

First, it has set a record for money earned for an opening weekend for a movie in January with $105 million. The top box office records are set in the summer or at Christmas, and the top 10 opening weekends are all movies aimed at young audiences. No. 1, by the way, is "Marvel's The Avenger," if you can believe that.

Second, this is not a pro-war propaganda movie, as some have inexplicably called it. This is a movie about one man, his sense of duty and the moral and emotional conflicts and tolls it puts on him.

Third, Bradley Cooper is insanely good as Kyle.

Fourth, TigerBlog can't imagine how any other movie could beat this movie for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards. Then again, if "Shakespeare In Love" can beat "Saving Private Ryan," then TB won't be shocked when "American Sniper" doesn't win.

To sum it up, TigerBlog can't recommend this movie strongly enough.

TigerBlog has not seen "Selma," and apparently he's not alone among those who have seen "American Sniper" but not the civil rights movie. "Selma" earned $9.8 million this past weekend.

Selma is the town in Alabama where the marches to Montgomery that helped generate national attention that uncovered the incredibly low black voter percentages in the area and ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The big controversy in the "Selma" movie is, apparently, the portrayal of the relationship between President Lyndon Johnson - the architect of the "Great Society" that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 - and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader for whom today's national holiday is named.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has the distinction of being the only person born in the United States of America who has a federal holiday named for him. There are two other people who have U.S. federal holidays named for them, and neither was born before the U.S. was founded in 1776.

The two are Christopher Columbus and George Washington, as the holiday you know as "Presidents' Day" is actually officially called "Washington's Birthday."

TigerBlog studied the Civil Rights Movement in great detail when he was in college, and he came to have a great respect for the courage of some of its leaders, most notably Dr. King. This coming April 4th will mark the 47th anniversary of his assassination; had he lived, he would have turned 86 last Thursday.

Also had he lived, he never would have had a federal holiday named for him. Like many federal holidays, as time goes by, they become more and more about the three-day weekend that many have - though not at Princeton, where only five of the 10 federal holidays are official days off - and less about the reason for the holiday.

A good compromise today would be to go see "Selma" if you have today off, by the way. Like "American Sniper," it too was nominated for Best Picture.

There were three marches from Selma to Montgomery, none of which went off peacefully. The first was on March 7, 1965; the last was 15 days later, on March 22.

What was happening in Princeton Athletics in between? Well, the men's basketball team beat Penn State on March 8 in the opening game of the NCAA tournament. On March 20, Princeton defeated Wichita State in the third-place game.

Princeton was led then, obviously, by Bill Bradley, who would go on to become a United States Senator from New Jersey for 18 years and then a Presidential candidate. Was Bradley aware of the marches in Selma at time?

Was anyone here?

It wasn't until just now that TigerBlog put the two timelines together. He never spoke to Gary Walters about it; perhaps he will next time he sees him.

In the meantime, it's Dr. King's birthday today. Click HERE to to read the text of his "I Have A Dream Speech," by the way.

Or go see "Selma." Or "American Sniper." Or both.

They tell the stories of two great American heroes, one of whom has a national holiday named for him, the other whose heroism would have been lost to most were it not for the movie.