Thursday, April 26, 2018

Next Stop

TigerBlog can speak for, presumably, a great number of listeners of WFAN sports radio in New York City when he says the following three things:

First, he can say that he can't stand Mike Francesa, who is nothing but a gigantic ego maniac who knows about 20 percent of what he thinks he knows.

Second, he used to listen to Francesa a lot.

Third, he never once has listened to the show that replaced him after Francesa retired.

There. That about sums up why Francesa is coming back to WFAN.

Even if you're not from the New York area, you're probably familiar with Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo. They were "Mike and Mad Dog," and they were the ones who started sports talk - radio and TV, and ultimately social media - down the path it has gone.

Francesa is all the things that TigerBlog said he is. He's also the best who ever did sports talk, or at least he and Russo are.

Without him, rating went down on WFAN. TigerBlog certainly doesn't listen anymore. He'd rather sing show tunes as he leaves work.

The big news earlier this week was that Francesa was coming back to save WFAN. Apparently, from what TB read, Francesa's ego has taken over, he made a big power grab, he didn't care about the three people who replaced him, blah, blah, blah.

The bottom line, though, is that if Francesa is back on in the afternoon, TigerBlog will probably listen again. So will, he presumes, much of the audience WFAN lost when Francesa left.

Someone that TigerBlog knows listened to "Mike and the Mad Dog" was Joe Scott, who himself would be really good at doing sports talk radio, now that TigerBlog thinks about it. Scott actually would be a natural at it.

Instead, Scott is a basketball coach. His career has been the kind that coaches often have, with a lot of stops along the way.

Scott played for Pete Carril at Princeton before graduating in 1987. He then went to law school before starting down the path of his coaching career. In fact, according to a story that TigerBlog just read, Scott has been in the coaching profession for 27 years.

Carril spent 29 years as the head coach at Princeton. In his 27 years as a coach, Scott has gone from:
Monmouth to Princeton to Air Force (head coach) to Princeton (head coach) to Denver (head coach) to Holy Cross and now to his latest stop, Georgia, where he was just hired as an assistant coach.

Scott's most recent position, at Holy Cross, was under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody. Now he moves on to the Southeastern Conference with, TB presumes, the hopes of getting a head coaching job again.

Joe Scott is one of TigerBlog's favorite people. He's a driven, competitive guy, but he also has depth to him that very few people TB has met can match. He's a very deep thinker, and he's extremely loyal. And he's hilarious.

Coaching isn't the easiest profession. Scott has been lucky actually, since so many other coaches spend a year here, two years there, another year someplace else, and never get to be a head coach.

Carril could have left Princeton during his nearly 30 years here. He chose not to, and it's part of what his legend is. TigerBlog has often said that he's not willing to concede that John Wooden was a better college coach than Pete Carril, and he'd love to somehow know what Princeton basketball would have looked like had Wooden been its coach for those 29 years.

Instead, Carril stayed loyal to Princeton, where he coached players who benefited from the way Carril ran his program - tough, no BS, everything earned.

Would Carril have stayed for 29 years if he got here today?

It's been 22 years since Carril retired from Princeton. That alone is sort of whacky.

Since then, Princeton has had Bill Carmody, John Thompson, Joe Scott, Sydney Johnson and now Mitch Henderson as its head men's basketball coach. Each time they were hired, TB thought they'd be here as long as Carril. He still thinks there's a chance Henderson will be.

The first four, though, all left to become head coaches someplace else. It's just how it works, TB supposes.

If you're looking for someone who could be Carril-like, it might be Courtney Banghart. She's already been here 11 seasons, and she's built a program that has won six Ivy titles and played in seven NCAA tournaments and two WNITs. Carril, if you forgot, won 13 Ivy titles and played in 11 NCAAs and two NITs (winning it in 1975).

Banghart is starting to get in the neighborhood of those numbers.

At the same time, it's a lot to imagine a coach who stays at the same place for nearly 30 years. Who knows? In another 19 years, it wouldn't really shock TB if Banghart is still here. Then again, it also wouldn't shock him if she was a United States Senator.

In the meantime, Joe Scott is off to another stop along his road.

And TigerBlog can now add Georgia to the list of teams he'll be rooting hard for come next basketball season.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Big Games On Sherrerd Field

The Princeton men's lacrosse team is in an odd spot as it heads into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Tigers can win and not reach the Ivy League tournament. The Tigers can lose and still reach the Ivy League tournament.

As Princeton heads into its regular-season finale Saturday against Cornell on Sherrerd Field (1 face-off), its reality is that it cannot get into the Ivy tournament at all if Dartmouth does not defeat Brown. The Big Green, who have lost 22 straight Ivy games, did push Penn to overtime a week ago.

If Dartmouth beats Brown, then Princeton is in the Ivy tournament with a win over Cornell or a Harvard loss to Yale. Simple, right?

Well, no. There are all kinds of possibilities, including three-way and four-way ties at 3-3, and Princeton is on the short end of the tiebreakers for most of those situations.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that Princeton doesn't hold the tiebreaker with Penn or Brown, because of losses earlier in the season. Princeton would have the tiebreaker with Harvard in a head-to-head situation after last week's win, but then Princeton and Harvard could only end up in a three-way tie and Brown would get to 3-3 with a win over Dartmouth and Penn is already 3-3 and on and on and on. It gives TB a headache. The bottom line is that Dartmouth has to win.

Yale is locked in at No. 1. Cornell is locked in at No. 2. Dartmouth will not be in the tournament.

That leaves Princeton in a battle with Penn, Brown and Harvard for the last two spots.

The Ivy League men's coaches voted to add a few layers to the tiebreaking procedures from years past, with the goal to eliminate ever having to rely on a random draw. You can read the tiebreakers HERE.

Princeton would have benefited greatly from a slight change in the order of those tiebreakers, at least for this year. If the goal-differential tiebreaker had been inserted before, instead of after, the one about how teams did against the team at the top of the standings and then on down, then Princeton would be in great shape.

Oh well. Even if Dartmouth doesn't come up with a win, TigerBlog is still in favor of tiebreakers that don't include random draws. There should never be one of those.

Meanwhile, the women's side is a bit different.

Princeton hosts Penn tonight (7) on Sherrerd Field. The Tigers know they will be in the Ivy tournament next weekend regardless of what happens tonight, or what happens Saturday at Columbia.

What Princeton doesn't know is where the Ivy tournament will be. And whether or not they'll win a championship this year.

The Ivy women's tournament will either be at Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth. Right now, Penn is 5-0, followed by 5-1 Dartmouth and 4-1 Princeton. Should Princeton win out and Penn and Dartmouth win Saturday (Penn is at Yale, Dartmouth is at Brown), then there'd be a three-way tie for the championship.

Where would the tournament be in that case?

Well, it would be an unbreakable tie, since the teams would all be 1-1 against each other and then unbeaten against everyone else, and, like last year when it was Princeton with Penn and Cornell, it would come down to goal differential between those three.

Penn has already beaten Dartmouth 13-11. Dartmouth has already beaten Princeton 15-12. The math is somewhat obvious at that point. Princeton needs to win by at least five tonight to take the lead head-to-head on goal differential.

Right? Maybe it's not obvious. Anyway, TB is pretty sure that's the case. Dartmouth is plus-1 (beat Princeton by three,  lost to Penn by two). Princeton is currently minus-3. Penn is plus-2. Princeton, TB is pretty sure, would lose the tiebreaker to Dartmouth with a win over Penn that puts the Tigers even with the Big Green, because they lost the game to them earlier this season.

On the other hand, if Penn wins tonight, then it clinches at least a share of the title and would be the host team for the tournament. Princeton would then be locked into the third seed and would definitely play Dartmouth in the Ivy semifinals, no matter what happened Saturday.

By the way, if you're wondering when the last time there was a year in Ivy women's lacrosse where one of either Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth didn't win at least a share of the title, it was 1992. In fact, Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth have combined to win 15 Ivy titles in the last 10 years.

Princeton, also by the way, has won the most Ivy League championships of any women's lacrosse team with 13.

Anyway, there are two huge games this week on Sherrerd Field, tonight against Penn for the women and Saturday against Cornell for the men.

Will there be others beyond that on that field?

You'll have a better sense after tonight's game.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In The Nation's Service

TigerBlog will get to the video he saw on yesterday in a second.

First, there was huge news out of Princeton yesterday.

The academic calendar is changing, after a vote by the faculty. You can read the University's official story HERE.

The main change, of course, is that beginning in the 2020-21 academic year, first semester exams will no longer be after the holidays. They'll be in December instead, like they are essentially everywhere else. There's more to it than just that, but that's the most notable part of the change.

If you're a Princeton alum, then you spent four years going home for the holidays and then coming back to campus for reading period and then final exams. This was your ritual each of your four years, when all of your friends who went to other schools had already taken their exams.

This, of course, probably leaves you with some pretty strong feelings about the change of the calendar. Did you love it? Hate it? Do you love the fact that it was something very unique to Princeton? Did you want your winter break back?

Miss TigerBlog will, hopefully, be a junior in the 2020-21 academic year, which means she'll have two years the old way and two years the new way. Perhaps after graduation she'll write a guest TigerBlog about what she thought of each.

TigerBlog, of course, went to Penn, which has long had a traditional academic calendar. He only knew having first-semester exams before the holidays, and that was fine with him.

Since he's been at Princeton all this time, he's gotten used to the way the academic calendar has been. And one of the more unique components of it was the way it impacted athletic schedules.

Most college teams shut down their athletic programs for first semester exams in December. At Princeton, that break came in January.

As you know as a Princeton fan, this would mean that there would be no athletic events during basically a three-week stretch in January. It's always meant that the winter season was broken up into completely separate components - and that Princeton would be sidelined while the rest of the college athletic world would be at its busiest.

What will the effect be on the athletic calendar? TigerBlog isn't sure. He hasn't talked to enough people - coaches, administrators - to get a real feel for things.

He does know that he'll miss the winter breaks. They come at a very good time and have always provided a natural break for those who work here.

Of course, he also got to take his exams before Princeton, so what does he know? Actually, one thing he does know is that the post-holiday exam break went back decades and decades and that he's not sure exactly when it first started to be like that. Maybe it goes back centuries.

And now it'll be changing. That's huge stuff.

And now he can talk about the video.

TB's colleague John Bullis did a piece on two Princeton female athletes who are also in ROTC, sophomore Casey Bersh of the women's water polo team and junior Mikayla Blaska of the softball team. You can watch the video HERE.

By the way, TigerBlog puts links to stories and videos here all the time. He always has the links bold and italicized. Do people click on them?

Anyway, Bersh and Blaska talk in the video about their decisions to take a path that most college kids would never even consider. It's a calling for them, and they are embracing that piece of their experience. They also talk about the connection to their athletic experience at Princeton.

The University's official motto is "In the Nation's Service and the Service of All Humanity." In the Department of Athletics, the goal is to give those who compete here the opportunity to "Achieve, Serve, Lead." These two young women clearly buy into both aspects.

TigerBlog especially liked when they talked about what they were going to do in the future, after graduation, when they're in the Army. Blaska talks about active duty and the infantry. Bersh talks about military intelligence or the JAG Corps, which is military law and justice.

The best part is the way both smile as they say the words. They are very serious and very proud of what they want to do - but at the end they both sneak in a small smile, one that says they're really looking forward to it.

They're definitely special. That's for sure.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Championships For Women's Golf And Women's Tennis

TigerBlog starts today with men's lacrosse. Navy men's lacrosse.

Actually, it's not a men's lacrosse story. It' s a heartwarming story.

It's actually one of the nicest moments TigerBlog has ever seen in a sporting event.

Navy played at Syracuse Saturday. The Mids had the lead for most of the first three quarters, trailed by two in the fourth and then tied it with 9. 5 seconds to play. That set up the final drama and ultimately the heartwarming part.

The two face-off men in the game were brothers. Joe Varello took all 27 face-offs for Navy. Dan Varello took all 27 for Syracuse. Joe is the older one.

Joe would win 16 of them, including the last one. It set up this (and you need to watch it all the way until the end):
Is that great or what? If it doesn't touch you, then you need to rethink some things.

And that's all TigerBlog has to say about lacrosse today. He'll be back with more lax another day.

For today, he wants to talk about Ivy League championships won by Princeton this weekend.

Princeton won two Ivy titles, in women's golf and women's tennis. They are the seventh and eighth Ivy championships of the academic year for the Tigers.

As a reminder, Princeton has also won Ivy titles in 2017-18 in field hockey, women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's cross country, men's indoor track and field and women's basketball.

The women's tennis team won the Ivy title for the fourth time in five years with wins over Harvard Saturday and Dartmouth yesterday. The Tigers went into the weekend at 5-0 in the league, tied with Harvard, which meant that the match Saturday wasn't quite winner-take-all but might as well have been.

Princeton and Harvard could have finished in a tie for the championship had the winner of Saturday's match lost yesterday and the loser of that match won yesterday. Regardless, the winner Saturday was headed to the NCAA tournament.

With that on the line, Harvard started out the day winning the doubles point, which meant Princeton needed to win four of the six singles matches to get the team win. And that's what the Tigers did, with wins by two sophomores (Clare McKee, Gaby Pollner), a freshman (Nathalie Rodilosso) and a senior (Katrine Steffensen).

You can see a video of the celebration HERE.

Princeton then defeated Dartmouth yesterday 5-2 to wrap up a perfect run through the league. That is not easy to do in women's tennis. 

Princeton head coach Laura Granville is one of the best collegiate women's tennis players ever, with two NCAA singles championships when she played at Stanford. She was also a long-time touring pro.

This is her sixth year at Princeton. She is completely humble and understated, always with a smile and a sincere "how are you?", and she and assistant coach Elizabeth Begley just continue to churn out championship teams year after year. And run a program that represents all of the good things that Princeton Athletics special.

As for the women's golf team, Erika DeSanty has a lot of the same friendly qualities that Granville does. DeSanty is in her fourth season as the Princeton head coach. She led Princeton to its first Ivy title in 12 years when the 2017 Tigers sprinted away from the league, defeating second-place Harvard by 31 strokes. That was just one off the record for the largest margin of victory in Ivy women's golf history.

This year, it was Princeton in first and Harvard in second, though it was quite a bit closer than it was a year ago. Like, tied after 54-holes close.

Princeton and Harvard were tied for second heading into Sunday's third round, and they were tied for first after it. Both teams shot a six-over 294 Sunday, going from three back of Brown to six ahead of Brown in the process.

And did you see the round-by-round scores?

Harvard shot a 313 for the first round; Princeton shot a 314. That's a one-shot difference. Then, in Round 2, it was Princeton 303, Harvard 304.

So Princeton lost by a shot in the first round and then won by a shot in the second round. Then Princeton and Harvard tied in the third round.

TigerBlog finds that extraordinary.

It set up a playoff for the championship, with four golfers from each team on the same hole. Amazingly, two teams that were inseparable for 54 holes were then separated by six shots on the 55th, as Princeton's four shot two-under and the Harvard four shot four over.

Championship to Princeton.

Actually, for this weekend, it's two championships for Princeton.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Click HERE For More Info

TigerBlog attended the monthly head coaches' meeting yesterday.

He decided that he would leave his phone in his desk while he was there, and so he spent about two hours disconnected from the world outside of the room where the meeting was. It's actually a pretty fascinating experience.

TigerBlog was nearly 40 when he got his first cell phone. It was one of those giant analog phones. He was well past 40 when he got his first smart phone, and he was hesitant about that because he knew how addicting it would be.

The average kid these days goes from learning to walk to learning to talk to learning to text and use Snapchat. Back when TB was a kid, and even when he was a younger adult, communications were vastly slower.

TigerBlog can hardly remember what it was like to feel disconnected. The phone has become a method of speaking, writing what used to be considered letter-writing (when was the last time anyone actually wrote a letter?) and so much more. Like an encyclopedia. Like a newspaper. Like a camera. Like a wristwatch. It's all those things and more obviously, which is the point.

As TB has said before, there a million times where he's watching something on TV and sees someone who has been in another show or movie at some point. What does he do? He goes to IMDB to figure out who it is.

He's started watching the show "Nurse Jackie," which is pretty good. It stars Edie Falco, who of course was Carmela Soprano on "The Sopranos," which might just be the best show ever. On this show, she's a nurse in a hospital who is balancing some pretty interesting dynamics in her life. There's another character from the hospital who looked really familiar. TB checked it and then gave the "oh yeah" when he figured out who it was - Father Intintola from "The Sopranos."

What did he do before? Nothing. Just was annoyed that he couldn't figure it out.

Really, what did he do in high school or college when he was running late or was lost or was trying to get in touch with someone?  How about when he first started in the work force, or here at Princeton? It's fascinating to think back on how radically life changed with the advent of just the smart phone.

Or did it just get more convenient, and really things would have been the same anyway? Philosophy 101?

When you're used to having your phone around all the time, you tend to reach for it a lot when it isn't there. You feel phantom vibrating, as if you're getting endless text messages, even though you don't have it with you.

It's a very strange experience actually.

When he got back from the meeting, he had a bunch of texts and emails. He hadn't checked laxpower or Twitter or even played one of his two-minute scramble word games.

And yet he survived.

As for the coaches in the meeting with him, a bunch of them have busy weekends, with some huge games to be played and some championships to be decided.

Where to start? How about with the three championships that will definitely be decided this weekend.

Women's Tennis
Princeton and Harvard enter the weekend at 5-0 each as they meet tomorrow in Princeton. Harvard will then to go Penn, while Princeton will host Dartmouth Sunday. Regardless of what happens Sunday, the winner Saturday will get at least a share of the Ivy League title and will definitely get the Ivy League's bid to the NCAA tournament. So this is a huge one. You can read more HERE.

The Ivy League golf championships get underway for both the men and women today and run through Sunday. Princeton's women are the defending league champs. The women's event will be at the Metedeconk National in Jackson (about a half hour from Princeton), and the men will be playing in Elverson, Pa., at Stonewall. TigerBlog had no idea where Elverson was, so what did he do? He looked on his phone (it's a map too) and went to the Waze app, which shows that it is 83 miles from Princeton, out the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Both Princeton teams have been here before, with three of the top four women and four of the top five men back from last year. More info is HERE.

Men's Volleyball
Princeton upset top-seeded George Mason in the EIVA semifinals and will now face Harvard tomorrow at 7 in the championship match. Princeton last won the EIVA title in 1998 and started out this season at 0-4 in the league. HERE is the recap.

The league championships are still a few weeks away, but every Saturday is busy for the rowing teams. The lightweight men and women are both home this weekend, while the men's heavyweights and women's open are away. There's a ton of information HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

Women's Lacrosse
When last we left the Princeton and Cornell women's lacrosse teams, they were playing three wildly intense games in four weeks, including the Ivy League tournament final and the NCAA tournament second round. Princeton won all three. The teams meet again tomorrow (1) on Sherrerd Field in a huge matchup for the Ivy championship and tournament. Princeton (3-1) is in a three-way race for the title with Penn (4-0) and Dartmouth (4-1), while Cornell is one of three 2-3 teams (along with Yale and Columbia) looking to get into the postseason, which will be here very shortly. For more info, click HERE.

Track and Field
Princeton will be hosting the Larry Ellis Invitational today and tomorrow, which means nearly 50 teams will be competing in the men's and women's events. For a lot more info, and especially the schedule, click HERE.

There's more this weekend, of course. The men's lacrosse team is at Harvard. The baseball and softball teams play at Columbia. The men's tennis team is at Harvard and Dartmouth.

You can follow it all on your phone.

Just make sure to keep it with you at all times.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Court Report, Spring Version

TigerBlog noticed that this is entry No. 2,503 in the history of this little venture of his.

If you're a Princeton fan, specifically a Princeton basketball fan, you know that the number 2,503 is a special one - and not for how many times you've been here to read something.

No idea? Well, TigerBlog will get back to you on that one in a few paragraphs.

In the meantime, you know how when you reset your password on certain things you'll get a text message with a code in it? This happens all the time. It happened to TB yesterday.

You request a new code, and it gets texted to your phone. The one TB got yesterday was 8059.

When TB saw the code, it also made him think of Princeton basketball. Specifically, a men's game back in the 1998-99 season between Princeton and Maryland.

Why? The final score. It was 81-58. He couldn't remember an 80-59 game, and that was the closest one he thought of.

Do you remember that game? It was at the Baltimore Arena. Princeton shot 56 percent for the game and lost by 23, largely because of 29 turnovers against the fierce Terps pressure.

Did you figure out what 2,503 stands for by the way?

That was the career point total for Bill Bradley. It's worth the reminder every now and then of Bradley's accomplishments, which include that astonishing point total in just three years, with no three-point shot.

He remains, 50 years later, 878 points ahead of the next-best total in program history, the 1,625 scored by Ian Hummer.

Devin Cannady will go into his senior year with 1,224 career points. If he matches this past season's point total of 484, that would leave him in second, at 1,708, which would still be 795 away from Bradley.

While TigerBlog is talking basketball, he'd like to mention that he and Princeton head women's coach Courtney Banghart did their first off-season podcast yesterday.

This episode is the first in what will be a semi-regular series of them as the spring and summer roll along. They are a follow up to the regular podcast that TB an Banghart did each week through the season.

As TigerBlog says near the end of this episode, he's been asked a million times through the years if the jobs of the head coaches at Princeton are full time or not. The answer is yes, of course.

Banghart followed that up by telling a story of her own, one that involved Katie Couric and an awards banquet. It's a really good story.

Oh, by the way, HERE'S the link to the podcast.

The point about how coaching is a year-round profession can be seen throughout TB's talk with Courtney. It's always there with her, what she can be doing for her program at any given time.

Princeton is coming off a huge season, one that saw the Tigers win the Ivy League regular season championship, with the Ivy League tournament championship and return to the NCAA tournament, someplace Banghart has taken the Tigers seven times, with two WNIT berths mixed in.

The big news from Princeton women's basketball since the end of the season was that Leslie Robinson was chosen in the third round of the WNBA draft. It's a huge honor for Robinson, who had a monster senior year and who improved herself as a player as much as anyone TB has seen around here has, in any sport.

Perhaps you remember that it was Robinson who had the first triple-double in program history this past season, en route to first-team All-Ivy League honors. Now she'll have to a chance to try to compete in the WNBA.

It'll be interesting to see what the pro future is for other current players, especially Bella Alarie, the Ivy League Player of the Year this past year. Alarie, luckily for Princeton fans, has two more years left at Princeton.

Banghart also talked about the NCAA tournaments, especially the drama of the women's Final Four and the dominance on both ends of the Villanova men. She talked about the NBA playoffs; she is a huge Celtics fan, but more than that, just a huge basketball fan. There were other subjects too, including the way she tries to go to as many other events as she can. 

TigerBlog enjoys doing the podcasts, and Courtney is really good at them. TB wasn't really sure what to think when they first started doing them, but they've been really well-received. The off-season ones seem to be worth it as well, at least the first.

Coaching, after all, is a year-round thing, so why not podcasting too.

Oh, and blogging. That's 2,503 of them.

When you've done something as much as Bill Bradley scored points at Princeton, then you've done something a lot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The First Fish

TigerBlog has spent countless hours riding countless miles on his bike with author John McPhee.

It's given the two plenty of time to talk. The subjects of their conversations have run the gamut of pretty much every conceivable topic, though there have been some recurring themes.

You know. Like Princeton sports, both contemporary - usually from TigerBlog's perspective - and historic - usually Mr. McPhee put a personal spin on coaches, teams, players and games that are from before TB's time.

And writing. And books, especially the ones that Mr. McPhee has written. And places around the world that one or both of them have visited.

Oh, and fishing. There's been a lot of talk about fishing.

A lot of that talk has focused on McPhee's decades and decades of being a successful, knowledgeable fisherman literally all over the world and all of the writing he's done about it through the years. And a lot of that talk has focused on the fact that TigerBlog had never, ever caught a fish.

It's not that he hadn't been fishing. He even knew what it was like to hook something on his line.

One time he reeled in a wooden plank. Another time he actually saw the fish on the end of the line and was about to get him out of the water when he got loose. TB is pretty sure the fish rolled his eyes at him as he swam away.

One day, TigerBlog always vowed, he'd catch one. One day, Mr. McPhee said, he'd take him out on the water and see for himself.

That day was supposed to be more than a year ago, except a hurricane wiped out that plan. An actual hurricane.

It led to more miles on the bike where the subject was fish, and the hope that one day, the big one wouldn't get away. Or even the little one.

That day was last Thursday.

Mr. McPhee arranged for a guide, the extremely affable Captain Dieter, to take him and TB out on the Delaware, fishing for shad. If you're a McPhee fan - and Captain Dieter definitely is - perhaps you've read his book "The Founding Fish," about the history of the American shad.

TigerBlog read it. He learned a lot from it. The storytelling was, of course, fascinating. As with everything else TB read of McPhee's about fishing, it made him wonder what it would be like to be out there with him.

And then he got to find out.

It was really windy out on the river, but it wasn't cold, though it would have been freezing had it been about five or 10 degrees cooler. Captain Dieter found a spot he liked, and then it was time to drop lines into the water.

TigerBlog of course had no idea what he was doing. He was just hoping to find some wandering shad that happened to swim onto the end of his line.

Shad apparently don't eat in the river, so they aren't drawn to bait. Instead, they snap at the hook because it's annoying them as they swim. In other words, TigerBlog was going to nab his first fish by annoying it.

Mr. McPhee got one first. Then it was TB's turn. The line in the water snapped back and forth. "Fish On," Captain Dieter yelled.

And so TigerBlog gingerly started to reel him in. The fish put up quite a struggle, something that shad are known for doing. TB figured this one was going to get away too, but he kept reeling anyway.

Then he could see it, the shad, coming closer to the boat. This was it. A lifetime of wondering what it was like to actually catch a fish, and it was just seconds away.

Now it was up to TigerBlog not to lose this one. He kept figuring something would happen, that the fish was just toying with him.

Only this time, that wouldn't be the case. Eventually TB got him out of the water, and Captain Dieter scooped him up in the net.

Or her, actually. TigerBlog figured the fish was about 20 pounds or so. Okay, so it turned out to be about three pounds.

But it was TB's fish. His first fish. Captain Dieter took a picture of TB and Mr. McPhee with the fish - and then he tossed her back in the river.
At one point, there was a big lull, with nobody who was biting. Mr. McPhee explained that at that time, they were waiting for "the 6:14 from shadville to come by." And it did.

By the time they were done, TigerBlog had caught 14 shad, all of whom were released back into the Delaware. Mr. McPhee and Captain Dieter assured him he hadn't caught the same fish 14 times.

Mr. McPhee caught 11 of his own. He could have caught twice that many if he wanted, TB presumes.

It was a mesmerizing afternoon on the river. The boat stayed anchored just above the rapids, no matter how fierce the wind. Had TB just stat on the boat that entire time it would have been worth it, just for the scenic beauty all around him. It was really relaxing, even as the river churned furiously.

Throw in the fact that he also managed to do something he'd always wanted to do, and, well, it was an even better Thursday evening. And to do so with someone who knew how much TB wanted to do this, and who is so accomplished with a rod and reel, made it even better.

Eventually it was back to the dock and the parking lot where they'd started.

As TB started to get into his car, he heard Mr. McPhee call to him from behind.

"Hey," he said. "Have you ever caught a fish?"

TigerBlog just looked back and smiled.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Degrees For Every Goal

TigerBlog promises that this will be the last time he talks about the weather this month.

Okay, if there's more snow he'll bring it up, but hey, what are the chances of that?

With the way this month has gone, it can't be more than 50-50.

Look at the last two weeks or so. There's been any kind of weather you might want - snow, ice, torrential rain, sun, wind, heat. Heck, most of those have been in the last three days alone around here.

The temperature Saturday around 9 at night was 38 degrees. About four hours earlier, it was around 80, with sunshine. It was summertime, if only briefly.

The high Saturday, in fact, was 84. That would be two degrees for every goal scored by Princeton's men's and women's lacrosse teams in their doubleheader.

The men defeated Dartmouth 24-13. The women defeated Yale 18-4. That's a combined 42-17.

That's a pretty good day on a pretty nice day.

The men's team had three players reach pretty significant milestones. Actually, Michael Sowers reached more than one.

Sowers had a 10-point game (3G, 7A), making him the ninth player in program history to reach double figures in a game. To give you a sense of how extraordinary he is, Sowers now has five games of at least nine points, in 26 career games. The rest of Princeton men's lacrosse combined for its entire history has 17 such games.

Anyway, the milestone TigerBlog was originally referring to was the 48 assists that Sowers now has, a number that ties the school single-season record, set in 1997 by Jon Hess and equaled in 2003 by Ryan Boyle.

If you'd like a little perspective, then 1) Hess and Boyle both played 15 games those years, while Sowers has gotten there in 11 and 2) Hess and Boyle are two of the greatest feeders in college lacrosse history.

Sowers, named the Ivy League Player of the Week, now has 72 points for the season, which ties him for fourth-best in program history, with Jesse Hubbard in 1996. Ahead are only Hess (74 in 1997), Mike MacDonald (78 in 2015) and Sowers himself (82 last year as a freshman).

The other two players who had major milestones? Riley Thompson and Austin Sims, seniors who both reached 100 career points Saturday. It reminded TigerBlog of the two times that the women's basketball team has had two players reach 1,000 career points in the same game.

TigerBlog was rooting for Thompson and Sims to get there on the same goal. Instead, they had to settle for the same quarter - the third - when Sims fed Phillip Robertson for one his 13 goals in the two games last week and then Thompson fed Dawson McKenzie (his fellow Canadian and high school teammate at Culver Military Academy).

Princeton is at Harvard Saturday and then home against Cornell April 28. Both games are a must to even think about getting into the Ivy League tournament.

As for the women, the game against Yale was 8-1 at halftime. Kyla Sears continued her amazing freshman year with four more goals and an assist, running her season totals to 35 goals and 13 assists.

Princeton had great balance in the game, getting goals from eight different players. Even beyond that, there was great balance between classes, as each one produced a player who had at least three goals: Sears, sophomore Tess D'Orsi, junior Allie Rogers and senior Ellie McNulty.

Seriously, how often has that ever happened, anywhere, in any sport? One player from each class with at least three goals? TigerBlog wishes he had a way to look that up.

In the league race, every team except for Princeton and Penn has played five league games. The Tigers and Quakers will finish the regular season with three games in eight days, including a matchup between the two a week from tonight on Sherrerd Field.

Before that, Princeton hosts Cornell Saturday at 1. A year ago, Princeton went 3-0 against the Big Red, the last two in the final of the Ivy tournament and then in the NCAA tournament second round.

This year, Penn is unbeaten, and Princeton and Dartmouth have one loss each. Should Princeton win out, it would have no worse than a share of the league title.

Princeton has not clinched a spot in the Ivy tournament yet, but a win over Cornell would take care of that. At least TigerBlog thinks so.

Hey, it's also possible that Princeton could host the women's tournament.

For now, there are two huge home games coming up, Cornell Saturday and Penn in a week.

The weather for those games should be, well, TigerBlog has no idea. He refuses to look.

Whatever it is, he won't be shocked.

And that's it for the weather talk for this month.

Monday, April 16, 2018

TV Time

TigerBlog remembers Johnny Newman, the former basketball player.

Just not Johnny Neumann, the former basketball player.

Johnny Newman played for, among others, the New York Knicks, back when the Knicks were a watchable team. Before he was in the NBA, he played at Richmond, and TigerBlog remembers when he scored somewhere around 30 against Rider in the 1984 NCAA tournament first round. Richmond then beat Auburn and Charles Barkley in the next round.

That game against Rider, by the way, was part of an NCAA doubleheader at the Palestra. Princeton defeated San Diego 65-56 in the other game, backed by 38 points from Moon Mullin. It remains the most points a Princeton player other than Bill Bradley has scored in an NCAA game.

That was that Johnny Newman.

The other one, with the different spelling, was a Memphis high school legend who went to Ole Miss, where he led Division I in scoring as a sophomore in 1971. Then he left for the ABA, where he started out with a $2 million contract that was unheard of back then. He never really became a star, though he bounced around for awhile in the ABA and then into the NBA after the merger.

He was a very selfish, very immature player in college, and he didn't have many friends. It took him a long time - and five marriages - to mature a bit, to the point where he went back to Ole Miss and eventually graduated nearly 45 years later.

TigerBlog didn't know any of that until yesterday, when he saw a documentary about Neumann on ESPNU. It was a pretty good story.

It also taught TB something else he never knew.

During the course of the documentary, a still picture appeared on the screen of Neumann's coach when he was with Memphis of the ABA. It was a really familiar face to TB - Butch van Breda Kolff.

TigerBlog did not know that van Breda Kolff coached in the ABA.

He did know that van Breda Kolff was Bradley's coach at Princeton and that he led the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA Final Four. He also knew that he coached the Lakers and the Jazz in the NBA before coaching Lafayette and Hofstra.

He didn't realize that he'd also coached in the ABA. And there he was, somewhat running Neumann out of Memphis.

The documentary on Neumann came on immediately after the Princeton women's water polo team defeated Harvard on the same network.

Princeton has had a relationship with ESPN that goes back a long way. It has given Princeton a minimum of seven events each academic year on one of the networks, almost always on ESPNU.

Somewhere along the way, ESPN began to love doing water polo, and so each of the last five or more years, TB supposes, there has been a men's game in the fall and a women' game in the spring on ESPNU from DeNunzio Pool.

The difference between the game yesterday and the games in previous years was that Becca Dorst was the interim head coach for this one, as she has taken over for Luis Nicolao, who left Princeton to become the men's coach at Navy.

After Princeton's 13-9 win over Harvard yesterday, Dorst was interviewed on TV. She came across not as an interim coach but as someone who has been doing television for years. In fact, TB thought she'd probably make a great color commentator for water polo.

She didn't stumble over her answers. She didn't speak in cliches. She complimented Harvard's effort without coming across as disingenuous. She talked about what the season is building to and how she is challenging her team.

Her best comment was about how practice is hard and games are fun, the opportunity to compete and do so in front of family and friends. That was really good.

As for her team, Princeton's win over Harvard was followed by a 12-5 win over Bucknell later in the day that gave the Tigers the top seed in the upcoming CWPA tournament.

For the day yesterday, Chelsea Johnson and Haley Wan had five goals each. Linsdey Kelleher had four, all against Bucknell, whom Princeton would shut out for the second half.

Princeton, who recently ended Michigan's 20-game winning streak, came in ranked 11th in the country.  It's been a very good spring for the Tigers.

And all of that was showcased yesterday on the ESPNU game.

Princeton - its pool, its team and its interim head coach - couldn't have come across much better.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Instant Summer

The monthly Princeton Department of Athletics staff meeting was held yesterday at the boathouse.

As TigerBlog walked from Jadwin to the meeting, he walked down the back stairways behind the building. And what did he see?


Not a lot, but snow nonetheless, still in a few small piles.

When Princeton played men's lacrosse at Siena Tuesday, there was a huge snowbank on the far side of the parking lot. And it snowed during the game on top of that.

Yeah, it's been a strange April so far. Or a cold one. There have been two separate snowfalls, and it's been insanely cold, pretty much like it was February. Actually, it was worse than February, because your body knows it's supposed to be really cold in February. In April, the body isn't ready for it to be as cold, and so it just seems like it's way colder.

At least that's what TB's theory is. A 35-degree night in April feels a lot worse than a 35-degree night in February. 

Then, after all that, along came yesterday, when it was in the 60s. That would make yesterday spring, TigerBlog supposes. 

Actually, if you look at the 10-day forecast, it'll be mostly in the 50s and possibly around 60 next week, with one day where the high will be 46.

Ah, but today and tomorrow? Instant summer, if not endless summer.

The high today and tomorrow in Princeton will be 80. Where in the world did that come from?

Either way, it's just in time for another busy weekend at Princeton.

The forecast calls for rain Sunday, so some games have been shuffled around. The softball and baseball teams had their weekend games moved up a day, which means the softball team will play a single game at Yale today and then a doubleheader tomorrow.

The same schedule applies to the baseball team,  who will be home against Penn today at 3:30 and then for a doubleheader tomorrow, with Game 1 at 11:30.

The Ivy League baseball standings show that four teams have played six games and four teams that have played nine games. Princeton is one of the six-game teams, with a league record of 4-2 now.

Remember, this is the first year of the new format, where the top two teams in the standings will meet in the Ivy League championship series. Each team is now playing three games against each of the other seven teams, for a total of 21.

Right now, Yale is 7-2, followed by 4-2 Princeton and 3-2-1 Dartmouth. Princeton is about to enter the busiest stretch of the year, with the three against Penn this weekend followed by three more in the middle of the week at home against Harvard - those are makeups due to the great weather this spring - and then three more at Columbia next week.

That's nine league games in eight days. That requires a lot of arms.

Princeton has home events this weekend in baseball, men's tennis, women's open rowing, men's lightweight rowing, both lacrosses and women's water polo.

Of particular interest on that list is the matchup between third-ranked Princeton and top-ranked, and defending national champion, Cornell in men's lightweight rowing for the Platt Cup.

And, weather notwithstanding, it's a big weekend of women's water polo, including an ESPNU match against Harvard Sunday at 10:30.

HERE is the complete weekend schedule, by the way.

As for the lacrosse doubleheader, the men are home against Dartmouth at noon tomorrow and the women are home against Yale at 3. It's Military Appreciate Day for the men's team, with military members admitted free and with a halftime ceremony to honor Princeton's lacrosse alums in the military.

The games are both huge.

The men are currently 0-3 in the league, as is Dartmouth. Princeton does lead the all-time series with the Big Green 56-9, including 31-1 all-time in Princeton.

The last two years in this series have been relatively strange, as Dartmouth has outscored Princeton 8-3 in the two first halves, only to have Princeton outscore the Green 20-1 in the two second halves.

Princeton finishes the regular season with games against Harvard and Cornell. The Tigers desperately need to get back to 3-3 in the league to get into the Ivy tournament.

As for the women, Penn is the lone Ivy unbeaten at 3-0, followed by one-loss Dartmouth (13-11 to Penn) and one-loss Princeton (15-12 to Dartmouth). Then there are three other teams - Yale, Columbia and Cornell - with two losses.

The top four reach the Ivy tournament.

Princeton is thinking of league championship, as well as tournament bid. The game tomorrow directly impacts that.

Clearly there are huge events on campus this weekend, ones that will impact the directions that seasons will take. That makes them worth seeing.

So will the weather.

It's summer. For two days, anyway.

Maybe the last of the snow will disappear?