Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Well Written

The first scene of "Top Gun" includes the moment where Maverick and Goose invert their F-14 above a Soviet MiG at a rather close distance.

The two American pilots take a Polaroid (remember those? They were completely wiped out by camera phones) and give an different kind of salute to the rival pilots and then fly away.

Later on, when they're at Top Gun school in California, they relate the experience to the instructor - with whom Mav sort of predictably falls in love - though they fall all over their words to explain the nature of their salute.

Apparently there was no ambiguity to that same salute when it came from Johnny Manziel Monday night, when the Browns played the Redskin. Manziel, in Goose's words, flipped the bird to the Skins.

Raise your hand if you're shocked that he did that.

Anyway, it led to this great first paragraph on the story:
Johnny Manziel raised his middle finger toward the Washington Redskins bench as he returned to the huddle late in the third quarter. It was one of the few times a Cleveland Browns quarterback actually found his intended target.

Now that's really good.

You want more really good writing? Let's go back to October 1939, after Princeton defeated Brown in football 26-12. This is from the Daily Princetonian:
A docile Bruin squatted on his hams and let a sure-footed Tiger pummel him for most of their four-round bout Saturday afternoon. Pluck, wind and a woeful Princeton pass defense enabled him to register 12 points to Princeton's 26. When Bob Peters took the ball on the first formation and loped 67 yards to the paydirt in the year's most beautifully synchronized pay, many of Palmer Stadium's 15,000 spectators expected the Tigers to stage a wholesale Bear slaughter for the balance of the game.

How great is that?

Early sportswriting was nothing like what it would become. It was flowery, in many cases poetry.

Take "Casey At The Bat," a famous story about the Mudville Nine, which is what baseball teams used to be called.

As an aside, when the Trenton Thunder first became a Minor League team, TigerBlog's colleague at the Trenton Times Mark Eckel used to refer to them as "The Local Nine."

A few decades (four of them, to be precise) after "Casey At The Bat," Grantland Rice wrote this after a Notre Dame football game, in 1924:
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

Hey, he's no Mark Eckel, but that's not too shabby either.

Fast forward to today. TigerBlog gets chills reading what Rice wrote about a college football game, still, 90 years after the fact. 

But do people want to read that sort of stuff again today?

What Rice wrote is 489 characters. That's more than three tweets. Who has patience to read that much today?

Suppose you oversaw a college athletic website. What would you think would be a priority for your readers?

Long, well-written postgame stories, with quotes and all? Or some bullet point facts about the game? Or an info-graphic? Or maybe just video highlights? Or something else completely?

TigerBlog has asked this question a million times before, and it's applicable again right now. What do people want to read?

He brought this up to a few of his colleagues and got complete, 180 degree different answers.

His question is simple: When was the last time you read a real postgame story? Do you already know everything that happened in the game from twitter or someplace else, so you don't really need that kind of in-depth recap?

Is it just a matter of providing a few tidbits about a game and them moving on to the next event?

TB isn't sure. He likes the challenge of writing a really good postgame story, but he doesn't want to invest time into something that is out of date.

So what's the answer?

He's still not sure.

Maybe the decline of newspapers hasn't been as much an economic thing as a reaction to the fact that people just don't want to read like they used to. Maybe the market for traditional sportswriting has dried up.

TigerBlog hopes not. He started out in newspapers. He writes this blog every day.

But he's a pragmatist. He'd yield to the wills of the audience - if only he knew how to figure out what those whims were.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Resurgence Of Chris Young

So the Giants are 3-0 in the preseason. Yay.

This record shows how meaningless the preseason is. The Giants haven't exactly lit it up with their first team players and instead of have relied on exciting - if not quite significant - comebacks to win all three times. Undrafted free agent wide receiver Corey Washington, from Newberry College, has caught the game-winning TD pass in all three games.

Of course, Washington isn't listed as a starter. In fact, he's hardly a lock to actually make the team, as he is listed as a fourth-string receiver, which explains why he's in the game at the end to catch the game-winning passes.

TigerBlog watched the end of the Giants-Colts game the other night. It was 26-0 Indianapolis when TB put the game on; the Giants won 27-26. Had this been a regular-season game, it would have been an epic comeback, an all-time comeback.

Instead, it was a bunch of guys trying to make the team.

Eli Manning - TigerBlog's favorite current pro athlete who did not go to Princeton and a two-time Super Bowl MVP - went 1 for 7 for six yards. Ryan Nassib, who has no chance of starting over Manning, went 11 for 15 for 158 yards and the game-winner to Washington.

When the game ended, it dawned on TigerBlog that he had watched more football than baseball since the start of the 2014 baseball season.

Seriously. He'd watched less than one quarter of one preseason football game, and that was more time spent watching football than baseball.

Thinking back to the 2013 baseball postseason, TB hardly watched any of it, and he can't remember watching any of the World Series.

There was a time he'd watch the Atlanta Braves on TBS pretty much every night. Then TBS went away from showing Braves games, and TB got more into lacrosse anyway. Lax? He's watched lots of it on TV.

Had you told TigerBlog 25 years ago that he would watch way more lacrosse and soccer on TV than baseball in a summer, he wouldn't have believed it.

TigerBlog hadn't even checked the Major League standings all season until last week. And what did he find?

The Kansas City Royals are in first place? How did that happen? And the Orioles are 7.5 games in front in the AL East? Again, who knew?

TigerBlog doesn't really have a favorite baseball team. He prefers rooting against the Yankees. He figured the Yankees were right in the thick of it, but it's not looking good for them in Derek Jeter's last season, as they are unlikely to catch the O's and are in fourth place in the wildcard race, three games back of three teams - the A's, the Tigers and the very surprising Mariners.

TigerBlog is all on board the Mariners' bandwagon now. For starters, BrotherBlog lives in Seattle, and TB went to a Mariners' game last summer when he was there.

And of course, there is Chris Young. TB clicked on Grantland yesterday and was greeted by a big picture of Chris Young.

Actually, all pictures of Young are basically the same. He has the same exact look on his face, with his lips tightly pressed together and all of his muscles straining on each pitch. He looks like he just jumped out of an airplane or something like that.

Young is having a great season with the Mariners, and this on the heels of a nightmarish stretch that saw him have 2012 wiped out by injury and 2013 spent in the minors.

After shutting out the Tigers for six innings Sunday, Young is 12-6 on the year for the Mariners, who are 67-57, largely because of their great pitching. The story on Grantland details Young's resurgence largely in the context of sabermetrics, which TigerBlog both understands and doesn't really love.

Yes, they are great predictors of success, way more than the traditional stats. Yes, a team would have be dumb not to embrace them.

No, TigerBlog doesn't love what they've done to sports, which will never be as cut-and-dry as a math test, where it's either right or wrong. Much of the beauty of sport is the intangible side, which can't be measured in advanced analytics.

Still, TB admits they do a pretty good job of explaining the success of a 6-10 pitcher who can barely break 85 on the gun. That 6-10 pitcher used to play basketball and baseball at Princeton, and he remains one of TB's all-time favorites to ever wear orange and black.

Actually, TB's belief is that Young is pretty much every Princeton fan's favorite. There haven't been too many athletes who have come through here who seemed to be as well-liked as Young. 

One of the most startling things in the story on Grantland was that Young is 35 years old. How is that possible?

When TB thinks of Chris Young, he'll always think of what might have been had he competed his final two seasons, instead of signing a professional baseball contract. And first, he'll think of the time Young put a very, very small TigerBlog Jr. on his shoulders on the side court at Jadwin so TBJ could dunk.

Young has had a very successful career in Major League Baseball. The Grantland story suggests that he's a leading contender for the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

And, of course, he's a major reason why his team is in the thick of the wildcard race.

TB is rooting hard for the Mariners.

If they get to the postseason, TB might actually watch it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friends, Old And New

Miss TigerBlog celebrated a birthday over the weekend.

Her best friend, Wiki, made her a card. It said on the front: "She is my best friend. If you break her heart, I will break your face." That's Wiki in a nutshell.

Actually, TigerBlog took it as a big victory when MTB told him that, when he takes her and five of her friends out to eat to celebrate, he will actually be permitted to eat in the same restaurant - though clearly at a different table. This was a change from the original proclamation that he would not be permitted in the same restaurant and would have to find someplace else to eat, though someplace close, since he needed to provide 1) transportation and 2) financing for their meal.

Speaking of MTB and Wiki, TigerBlog recently found an old box filled with pictures. There were some in the box that dated back to when he was a kid even. He had great hair back then. Oh well.

Mostly, there are pictures of TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog. Year after year, birthday and birthday, there is MTB - and there is Wiki next to her, in every single picture.

There are more pictures of MTB and Wiki than there are of any other combination of people. There they are, at the pool, both on their chaise lounges, both wearing their shades. There they are, no more than four or five years old, hugging each other while playing some sort of dress up game. There they are, on the first day of school last year at the bus stop.

In fact, there's a picture of them at the bus stop every year, starting in kindergarten and running until this past year. There won't be one of them this year, as they are going their separate ways for high school at least, as MTB will be going to the public school while Wiki will be going to a Catholic school.

They'll still be neighbors, and presumably - hopefully, actually - best friends.

TigerBlog Jr. had three best friends when he left middle school. He then went to a private high school, while the other three went to the same public high school that MTB will be going to. Now, three years later, TBJ is still best friends with one of the three - but hasn't really stayed in touch with the other two.

When TigerBlog got to high school, it was mostly all the same kids he had been with since kindergarten. In MTB's case, her high school feeds from three middle schools, which feed from 12 elementary schools.

In other words, when she went to middle school, she was with kids from four different elementary schools, which means that she had never gone to school with three-quarters of those kids before. Now as she goes to high school, she will be with kids who come from three middle schools, which means that she will never have gone to school before with two-thirds of the kids in her class.

Oh, and her class has about 950 kids in it.

One of the best ways to bridge the gap of unfamiliarity is with through athletics. In MTB's case, she tried out for the field hockey team last week and made it, giving her a leg up before she ever walks into the school.

In fact, her intro to high school was making that team, and it came two weeks before school even starts. TB is pretty sure it'll be helpful to her as she makes the transition into a world of the unknown.

The same applies even more so in college athletics.

A little later this week, the Princeton campus will be flooded with fall athletes, whose return for preseason practice will be Act 1 for the 2014-15 athletic year here. Princeton will go from quiet to busy in no time at all.

The first day of classes here is Wed., Sept. 10. That's still more than three weeks away.

By then, Princeton will be well on its way athletically.

For the incoming freshmen (Class of 2018, wow), the transition to Princeton life is made considerably easier by reporting now and then practicing and ultimately competing.

The athletic side is easier, because there is no schoolwork to make the adjustment to quite yet. So that goes without saying.

It's the other side of it though that is really helpful. At least in MTB's case, all of the kids in her high school class are from the same few towns.

In the case of Princeton athletics, they come from all over.

Take the men's soccer team for instance. There are six freshmen on the men's soccer roster right now. They come from: New Jersey (two of them), Michigan, Arizona, Illinois and New Zealand.

As an aside, it'll be hard for Daniel Bowkett to be Princeton's best athlete from New Zealand, the same country that brought NCAA hammer throw champion Julia Ratcliffe here.

Anyway, having the bond of being teammates is huge. It provides an immediate sense of belonging and gives all of them a foundation here. It's one of the biggest benefits of playing college athletics.

Then there's the other part of it. That's the part where they come back 50 years from now and talk about how they've been best friends all these decades and still remember the first day they met, how they came together on a field at Princeton.

Like it was yesterday.

Or, in this case, later this week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Falling Forward

TigerBlog opened the door this morning and was greeted by a preview of autumn.

The temperature was below 60, actually all the way down to 55, according to his phone. It was crystal clear, with almost no humidity.

You call this August in New Jersey? It felt more like late September, maybe even early October.

This has been a rare summer in these parts, in that it's never really gotten to be oppressively hot and humid or anything like that. Only three times this summer has the temperature reached 90 degrees, and the high for the season has only been 91.

Contrast that with last summer, when there were about a million days when it was at least 90, with accompanying humidity of course. TigerBlog is used to that, since he's basically had that for every summer of his life.

This one has been different though.

It's been mostly in the low 80s during the days and into the 60s at night. It's been, well, pleasant.

TigerBlog read a story about all this last week, though he can't remember where. It said that there is unlikely to be a heat wave - defined as three consecutive days with temps in the 90s - this summer, which would mark the first time in a decade that there would be no heat wave in this area.

As for August, it's half over already, which, given what TB wrote two weeks ago, would suggest that August flies by, rather than crawls, especially when the weather is like this.

If you're looking for other signs of fall, they're everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.

Miss TigerBlog is one full week into high school field hockey practice - TB can report that she made the team. When TB goes to either pick her up or drop her off, he sees every other fall team at the school in its first week of practice as well.

Beyond that, every park that TB drives by seems to have Pop Warner football practice, or soccer or something else.

The preseason has begun in the NFL - Caraun Reid had two tackles for loss last week for Detroit - and TV is also dominated by talk of the soon-to-arrive college football season.

Ah, but at Princeton? Not quite yet.

There is still a calmness on campus. The last of the summer camps has been wrapping up, and the wave of fall athletes has yet to arrive.

That all changes within a week. By next Friday, Princeton's campus will be flooded with athletes, team and practices. And it'll be the surest sign that fall is right around the corner.

TigerBlog has been counting down the weeks until the first day of competition for the 2014-15 academic year.

Today that countdown stands at three weeks. Just three short weeks between now and the first athletic events of 2014-15.

Coming up on Sept. 5 - 21 days from today - there will be field hockey at Duke, men's soccer at FDU, women's volleyball at Temple's tournament against Charlotte and Holy Cross and the first home event of the year, a women's soccer game against Rutgers.

Actually, that will be the fourth game of the year for the Scarlet Knights, who open their season one week from today against Stony Brook. RU also plays Vanderbilt and Seton Hall at home before its game here against the Tigers.

There are nine more events scheduled between Saturday, Sept. 6, and Wednesday, Sept. 10, including another home women's soccer game (Seton Hall) and a home men's soccer game (St. John's). There's also the men's water polo team's Princeton Invitational.

All of these teams report next week and start practicing. The football team and sprint football team also begin shortly, with opening day of the football season five weeks and three time zones away.

So what does all this mean?

It means that the weeks continue to zoom by. Can it really be Friday again? Can August really be half over? It just began. 

It also means that today is the last Friday of the summer here before the athletic department roars back to life. And it's a perfect Friday at that, another completely pleasant day, one that is going to start another completely pleasant weekend.

So go outside. If nothing else, go for a nice walk somewhere. Anywhere.

You owe it to yourself.

After all, summer won't last forever. Especially this one.

It might as well be fall already. It's started in most places.

It comes to Princeton Athletics within the week.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

House Of Cards

When TigerBlog has to write an essay on the first day of school about how he spent his summer vacation, he can probably sum most of it up in two words: Watched Netflix.

Actually, TigerBlog can't remember too many times, if any actually, where he was asked to write about his summer vacation on the first day of a new school year. Maybe at Penn, before finger-painting. That's how education is at Penn, right all you Princeton people?

Seriously, TB can't remember being asked to do write about summer vacation. He probably was at some point. He doesn't really remember much of second grade or third grade or anything like that.

TigerBlog went to a bunch of different schools between first grade and high school, as opposed to his own children, who will have gone to one elementary school for K-5, one middle school for 6-8 and then one high school (though different high schools from each other).

TB went to one school for first and second grades, another for third, yet another for fourth and then a different one for fifth and sixth. Then it was two years at the junior high school and four years at high school. That's six schools in 12 years, as opposed to three for his kids.

And that was all without ever moving out of his house. It was all with the same kids in the same school district the entire 12 years. It's just that there were a lot of buildings used.

TB used to think this was normal; in fact, he's guessing most people didn't do it that way.

Meanwhile, back at Netflix, TigerBlog yesterday talked about "Orange Is The New Black," which consumed 26 hours of his life in a short period of time.

Once that show was over, TB immediately started on "House of Cards," and he polished off all 26 episodes of that show in no time as well. Actually, he thinks that he went through "House of Cards" in fewer days than "OITNB."

If you've "binge-watched," you know what it's like. One episode ends, and you immediately want to watch another one. And then you look at the clock when that one's over and say "it's not too late; one more." The next thing you know, it's midnight, and you've spent four hours watching a show. And want to keep going.

"House of Cards" might be better than "Orange Is The New Black," but they're both outstanding. They're very different subjects, but they are both well-written and well-acted with great, great characters. And they both mix in humor with their serious foundations, though TB would hardly call either a comedy.

"House of Cards" is nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, four more than "OITNB."

If you don't know anything about "House of Cards," it's the story of Frank Underwood, the majority whip of the House of Representatives (at least in Episode 1; TB won't spoil what happens for you). The whips in the house responsible for keeping the party members in line and getting them to vote the way the party wants, usually with the need to exchange favors - or threats - to get compliance.

Underwood is played by Kevin Spacey, who is about as good in this role as Claire Danes is as Carrie Matheson in "Homeland," which means extraordinarily-over-the-top great. The entire cast is tremendous, with one great character after enough - the same kind of great supporting cast that "OITNB" has.

Rather than give away the plot, TB will simply say that the entire season makes him wonder how much of this is accurate portrayal of how the U.S. government works at its highest levels.

And to recommend that you get Netflix and start watching.

As with all binge-watching, the problem now is what show to watch next. He's thinking about "Breaking Bad," but he's not sure he has 85 episodes in him. On the other hand, that won't take him very long, given the way binge-watching works.

He watched the first episode of "Lilyhammer," another Netflix original series. This one stars Steven Van Zandt as a mob guy-turned-informer who gets sent to the Norwegian town (spelled "Lillehammer;" the title of the show is changed on purpose because of the name of Van Zandt's character's dog).

It seems like it would be right in TB's wheelhouse. Van Zandt sort of plays Silvio Dante from "The Sopranos" again, and it's more funny than serious. He fell asleep during Episode 1, but he may have to give it another go.

There are big lessons to be learned from Netflix and binge-watching about the evolution of viewing habits, and there are takeaways for Princeton Athletics.

First of all, Netflix released all 13 episodes of each season of "OITNB" and "House of Cards" at the same time, as opposed to one per week. It's like the shows were on Sunday at 9 or Tuesday at 10. They were just there - just like Season 3 will be, though not for awhile for either.

Second, TigerBlog watched some of the episodes on his TV, some on his computer and some on his phone. If he had a tablet, he could have used that too.

In other words, there's a lot of content out there, and it's accessible anywhere, not just on TV.

Since TigerBlog's first day here more than 20 years ago, television has always been a huge priority. Get games on TV. Any TV. A TV camera = good. No TV camera = bad.

That is changing rapidly.

TB still thinks that there is great value in television, especially Princeton's agreement with ESPN. It's perfect for Princeton, with a chance to put a minimum of seven events per year on an ESPN network, with the huge distribution that comes with it.

The other great part about that is that most of those events are on the WatchESPN app, which takes them from TV only to the mobile world, which is what people really want these days.

That's why the Ivy League Digital Network is such a great idea. Watch anywhere you are.

Unlike a TV show, live athletic events are meant to be seen live, though people do watch archived versions, though not in great numbers. The ability to provide streams to the target audience on their phones, tablets and computers is huge.

The problem is what do you do when the choice is streaming or television, because not all TV broadcasts can be streamed. In fact, most can't be.

What about networks that don't have the reach that ESPN does? If you a huge Princeton fan, would you rather have a game on TV on a network that you may or may not have or the ability to watch it on your phone wherever you are?

The flip side is that you have actually go to the Ivy League Digital Network. Non-Ivy League fans probably aren't going to be doing that, though they might stumble onto a game on television and be intrigued.

It's quite the issue these days. Keep in mind, the ILDN is not cheap for the eight schools and the league, and significant resources continue to be invested in the name of improving the product.

TB doesn't think the league is quite to the point where it doesn't need TV at all. On the other hand, building the ILDN should be a highest priority.

After all, it's the future. It's important to think in the long term and how to get there. The long-term is definitely producing as much original live content as possible. There's no doubt about that. It's what people want.

The short term? TV is still a big part of it.

And the shorter term? Finding the next show to binge-watch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Orange Is The New Black

TigerBlog saw the title of the show and figured it had to be about Princeton Athletics, no?

"Orange Is The New Black?" What else could it possibly be about?

Naturally he wanted to watch it. He wouldn't have felt the same way if the show as called "Red Is The New Blue" or "Crimson Is The New Black" or even "Carnelian Red Is The New White."

So "Orange Is The New Black" it was.

Guess what. It's not about Princeton Athletics at all.

Just to be sure, TigerBlog watched all 13 episodes of Season 1 and then all 13 episodes of Season 2 - all in less than a two-week span. And there wasn't a single Princeton reference to be found.

"OITNB" is actually based on a true story, though it's apparently a far cry from the book. It's the story of Piper Kerman, who spent a year in a minimum security prison for having been a really small part of an international drug operation.

The show is an original series on Netflix. TigerBlog binge-watched, as they say, even checking out the last 10 minutes of the last show of Season 1 on his phone on a lacrosse field at the University of Delaware, prior to a game for TigerBlog Jr.

That's how addicting it is.

The show is really, really good. Yeah, the premise can be summed up as "come to prison; it's not really that bad; you can make some new friends and have some laughs." And for some reason, it's considered a comedy for the upcoming Emmy Awards, for which the show received nine nominations.

The main character is still named Piper, though her fictionalized last name is Chapman. Her sentence is 15 months, and the first two seasons span about half of that time.

It has its funny moments, but TigerBlog wouldn't consider it a comedy. No, it mostly shows that prison, while it might have its lighter moments, is about loss of freedom, fear, loss of identity, loss of self.

As Red said in "The Shawshank Redemption," it's "a whole life blown away in the blink of an eye, with nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it."

Some of the women in "OITNB" are lifers. Others are like Piper, in prison for much shorter periods. The question is what will be different when they get out to make sure they don't come right back.

Piper had all the advantages that many of the women she meets didn't - education, money, stable family. And yet she ended up in the same place.

What makes the show great is the character development. "Orange Is The New Black" employs a pretty good vehicle for going behind the scenes with its characters, using flashbacks to their lives on the outside to show how they ended up in prison.

And some of the characters are just outstanding, in terms of the way they're written and the way they're acted. This applies to the inmates and to the staff, and at certain points it becomes hard to remember who has the moral superiority and stronger character between the two.

The show is really well done. TB isn't sure how Netflix got into the business of producing original content, but his sense is it came out of the company's evolution from a DVD mail-order distributor to a cutting edge, modernized operation that figured out what the TV-watching public wants in 2014.

This was TB's first Netflix original series experience, and it was tremendous. Even without any references to Princeton. Nothing about Princeton's school colors, how they became Princeton's school colors. None of it.

TigerBlog was pretty sure he knew the story of how Princeton adopted orange and black as its colors.

It started when Princeton first started to field athletic teams, which goes back to baseball in 1864 and of course the first football game, against Rutgers in 1869.

Somewhere along the line, the color orange was introduced as a tribute to William of the House of Nassau, for whom Nassau Hall was named and who was also the Prince of Orange. Eventually, black was added to orange.

When stripes were brought into the picture, a newspaper account referred to how Princeton fought like Tigers. Simple, no?

Actually, there was more to it.

Somehow, in all the time that TigerBlog has been here, he'd never read the Princeton Companion page on the school colors and their origin. And so, having exhorted you to watch Orange is the New Black, he leaves you today with information on the old Orange and Black.

It's really good stuff, and if you close your eyes, you can sort of picture how it all unfolded and imagine the world of Princeton University and Princeton Athletics in the 1870s and 1880s:

Princeton's orange and black came into use soon after the Civil War. On April 5, 1866, a freshman named George K. Ward 1869 observed at a class meeting that many other colleges had their distinctive colors but Princeton had none, and he suggested that orange would be appropriate since William III of the House of Nassau, in whose honor the first building had been named, was also Prince of Orange. His suggestion met with instant favor with his classmates but failed to win general approval in the other classes. Ward persisted, however, and a little over a year later, on June 26, 1867, when his teammates in the Class of 1869 Base Ball Club assembled at Princeton Junction for their trip to New Haven to play the Yale Class of 1869, he provided them all with badges of orange ribbon with ``'69 B.B.C.'' printed on them in black ink. It proved an auspicious occasion for the first recorded use of Princeton's colors. Sporting their badges, the team had a pleasant trip by train to New York and overnight on the steamer ``Elm City'' up Long Island Sound to New Haven; heard a speech by President Andrew Johnson who was making a tour of New England and happened to be in New Haven; came from behind with two runs in the ninth inning to win, 19 to 18; and, still wearing their badges, had supper with their Yale opponents at a New Haven hotel where the Yale players magnanimously sang ``Oh, here's to Nassau Hall / For she's bully at baseball!'' 

More general and formal use of Princeton's colors came a year later. In response to a petition from all four undergraduate classes, the Faculty on October 12, 1868 resolved to permit students ``to adopt and wear as the College Badge an orange colored Ribbon bearing upon it the word `Princeton.''' Two weeks later at the inauguration of James McCosh as eleventh president of the College, such badges, arranged for by the Class of 1869, were much in evidence and the use of orange (with black printing) became official. 

The combination of orange and black was accidental and the two colors were not associated in the undergraduates' minds until the fall of 1873 when a freshman named William Libbey, Jr. 1877, on a dare from his classmate Melancthon W. Jacobus, sported a necktie made of yellow and black silk which he had seen advertised in Cambridge, England, the preceding summer, as ``The Duke of Nassau's colors.'' His wearing of the necktie was used as evidence to prove Princeton's prior right to the colors to a committee from Rutgers that had become interested in orange and black. The following spring, Libbey arranged through his father, a New York merchant, for the manufacture in a Paterson silk mill of a thousand yards of orange and black ribbon for use at an intercollegiate rowing regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., on July 15, 1874. He gave pieces of the ribbon to members of the freshman crew for hatbands and sent the remainder to a store in the Grand Union Hotel at Saratoga, three miles from the lake where the races were rowed, to be sold as ``Princeton's colors.'' When the Princeton freshmen won the first race, the Class of 1877 commissioned one of its members, who happened to have with him a very fast trotting horse, to hurry to the hotel to buy up all the ribbon, but by the time he arrived every inch had been sold. 

Thereafter orange and black appeared in the attire of athletic teams and in 1888 as the title of a song that soon won a place in Princeton lore. In 1896, the year of the Sesquicentennial the trustees adopted orange and black as the official colors for academic gowns despite a plea by Professor Allan Marquand 1874 that Princeton's colors be changed to orange and blue, which he had discovered were the true colors of the House of Nassau (and of the Netherlands whence New York City gets its orange and blue). Professor Marquand made a strong case for his proposal, on aesthetic as well as historical grounds, but by now too much sentiment had been attached to the colors that had been in use for several decades to permit giving them up. ``It matters not whether we got them by accident or design,'' the feeling was said to run, ``We have them, and will never change them, so long as eye and voice can unite in praise of `dear old Princeton and the Orange and the Black.'''

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Depression

TigerBlog once wrote this about Robin Williams:

It [Two And A Half Men] is now preceded by "The Crazy Ones," featuring the single most overrated actor in American history - Robin Williams. Actually, that's not quite true. Let's clarify that. The single most overrated comedic actor. Other than Mork from Ork, what role did Williams ever play that was remotely funny? All he does is overact and try way too hard to be funny, something he almost never accomplishes. You know when Williams was great? In "Good Will Hunting." And why? Because he wasn't trying to be funny.

Robin Williams is dead now. He apparently killed himself yesterday at the age of 63.

Though Williams wasn't quite TigerBlog's cup of tea as a performer, TB will still acknowledge that Williams had a long and wildly successful career. He won an Academy Award for "Good Will Hunting" and was nominated for his second-best performance in TB's eyes, that of the DJ in "Good Morning Vietnam." He would lose to Michael Douglas, whose portrayal of Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street" would have won pretty much any year.

Williams exploded into American comedy with a 1978 appearance on the show "Happy Days." If you never got to see "Happy Days," you missed out on something good - at least until Richie Cunningham grew up and decided to direct classic movies like "Apollo 13" and "A Beautiful Mind," for which he won an Academy Award. "A Beautiful Mind," of course, tells the story of Princeton's Nobel Prize-winning Economics professor John Nash and featured many scenes filmed on this campus - including some with Princeton athletes as extras.

"Happy Days" was the story of a regular family who lived in Milwaukee in the 1950s. It capitalized on the nostalgia craze and the success of the movie "American Graffiti," which was released in 1973, was set in 1962 and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, which it lost to "The Sting." In case you wanted a short list of people in "American Graffiti," it included Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Cindy Williams (Shirley, from "Laverne And Shirley), Suzanne Summers and even Wolfman Jack.

And Ron Howard, who played the main character on "Happy Days," Richie Cunningham, a student at Jefferson High School and later the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who lived at home with his parents Howard and Marian and sister Joanie (and older brother Chuck in the first season; he simply disappeared from the show after that). Oh, and there was the local mechanic who rented the apartment attached to the house, a mechanic named Arthur Fonzarelli, known to most as Fonzie or "The Fonz."

Anyway, on one episode, Richie encounters an alien from the planet Ork whose name was Mork, played by the young Robin Williams. His performance was so extreme for the time, so energetic, so original that he became an instant cultural phenomenon, his mannerisms mimicked and his signature "na-nu na-nu" greeting/distorted handshake part of the lexicon, as was his presumed curse word -  "shazbat."

Williams' performance on that one show earned him a spin-off, "Mork and Mindy," that ran for five years. It also launched him on his career.

Maybe he tried too hard to replicate the energy and originality that was Mork. Whatever it was, his comedy always missed with TigerBlog.

It was when he wasn't trying so hard, like in "Good Will Hunting," where he plays the therapist to super-genius Matt Damon, that Williams could be extraordinary.

And now, at age 63, Williams has taken his own life.

TigerBlog has read how Williams suffered from depression, which makes the first question - what did he have to be depressed about? He had it all, didn't he? Fame. Wealth. All of it. He was the very top of the very top.

And he killed himself?

TigerBlog won't pretend to be anything remotely close to an expert on depression, though he does know people who suffer from the disease. And here's what he does know:

There is a huge difference between feeling depressed about the events of the day and suffering from clinical depression. They are not remotely the same thing.

Clinical depression is an illness, and it can afflict anyone. What they have, how much money they have, how good their life appears to be - these things don't make it any better.

And that's the problem. It's often impossible to know who is suffering, who is internalizing everything and hoping to get by each day, until it is too late.

TigerBlog is surrounded here by 1,000 Princeton athletes, young people who presumably have it all, who clearly have nothing to be depressed about.

But that doesn't mean that some of them aren't suffering from depression. Even scarier is that some of those who are probably don't realize it or realize it but don't seek out help for it.

They're Princeton students and high-level Division I athletes. They can handle it, right? They got this far.

But that's the scariest thought of all.

The University and Department of Athletics can't make this diagnosis. It can't look inside the minds of its athletes. All it can do is hope for that those who suffer seek treatment - and make sure they know such treatment is available.

And treatment is available. That's for sure. This University and its athletic department - like most, TB assumes - is ready to do almost anything for its athletes to ensure they get the help they need.

There have been headlines in the past of what can happen to those who appear to have the most to live for, the most going for them, if their depression gets the best of them.

It's awful to think about what could happen. Think it can't? Did anyone expect to get the news last night that Robin Williams of all people had killed himself?

TB just hopes Princeton's athletes - and anyone, really - asks for the help before it's too late.

The results could be tragic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

O'Bannon And O'Bannon

TigerBlog has no idea what the impact of the Ed O'Bannon verdict means.

Oh, he's certainly read enough about it. Here's what he doesn't get:

* does this trust of $5,000 per year applies to every Division I football and men's basketball player

* how does the other major news last week that schools from the power five conferences can now make rules that would include the full cost of attendance impact the $5,000 trusts, since they were meant to cover the difference between full athletic scholarships and full cost of attendance

* what does it mean to every other sport

* what does it mean in terms of Title IX

Mostly TigerBlog is just dizzied by the changes in college athletics. It started with conference realignment and has continued in a huge way with the two events of last week.

And yet as the hurricane rages around him, TB sits in the eye - a world of stability and calm known as the Ivy League. There's something very refreshing about that.

When TigerBlog thinks of the name "O'Bannon," he thinks not of Ed but of Charles, and the night of March 14, 1996.

The place was Indianapolis, and the building was the RCA Dome. Indianapolis is still there. The Dome isn't. It was replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium a few years ago.

In case you haven't gotten the obvious yet, TigerBlog is talking about Princeton-UCLA in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA tournament. Princeton, five days after beating Penn in an Ivy playoff game on the night Pete Carril announced his retirement, defeated defending NCAA champ UCLA 43-41.

Even 18 years later, every detail of that trip to Indianapolis is still vivid to TigerBlog, from the travel to the dinners he ate to having to buy extra clothes at a mall because he didn't anticipate being there the entire weekend.

He remembers the media crush. He remembers the media room. He remembers when Vinnie DiCarlo, then an OAC intern, stole the sign that said "This is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome." He wonders if Vinnie still has that sign all these years later.

He remembers the people, the ones from Princeton who made the trip and the ones he met while there. He remembers calling around finding a place to update his game notes and how everyone he talked to was suddenly a Princeton fan.

Mostly, he remembers the end of the game itself.

Princeton trailed 7-0 at the first media timeout. At halftime it was a one-point game, 19-18.

The key moment of the game has been largely forgotten through the years, with everything else that happened at the end. No, this came with five minutes left and UCLA up 41-34, after Princeton had tied it 34-34. The Tigers then turned the ball over, and UCLA had Charles O'Bannon all alone ahead of the field.

The inevitable seemed to be a dunk, a nine-point UCLA lead, a Princeton timeout and basically the end of the ballgame. Instead, O'Bannon caught the length-of-the-court pass a hair closer to the basket than he thought he was, and he missed his layup.

Sydney Johnson then drained a long three at the other end. Instead of being down 43-34, it was 41-37. You know the rest.

Princeton tied it at 41-41. Cameron Dollar missed both ends of the two-and-the-ball after an intentional foul by Johnson. Kris Johnson left a leaner in the lane short, the rebound to Steve Goodrich.

And then, after a timeout, perhaps the single most iconic play in the entire history of Princeton Athletics, Goodrich to Gabe Lewullis for the game-winning layup. Then there was the seven-minute delay - TigerBlog was kneeling next to CBS' Andrea Joyce, who was waiting to grab Carril for TV, all while TB thought to himself how crushing this was going to be if UCLA pulled it out - for a reset of the game clock and two timeouts before Toby Bailey's airball ended it.

Princeton 43, UCLA 41.

Lost on TigerBlog in that moment was another number - 31,569. That was the attendance.

Two days later, Princeton lost to Mississippi State in the second round. The attendance that day was 32,293.

Looking back, maybe the ridiculous part is that it took this long for athletes to begin to get their share of the revenue that they are clearly helping to generate, from gaudy attendance numbers that are often more than three times the numbers Princeton drew in Indianapolis for college football to the unimaginable numbers that television brings to the table.

With that much money on the line, it's incredible that it took this long to get to the point that was, well, the point of last week's two decisions.

First, the major schools who are responsible for most of the revenue don't want to share it with the likes of Princeton and everyone else. Second, the athletes figure they're entitled to their cut.

The Ed O'Bannon lawsuit started after he saw his image used in a video game without his permission. It's about the money that individual athletes are generating themselves, with their likenesses, and how they weren't getting any of the money for them. Jerseys. Video games. Those sort of things.

TigerBlog prefers to reminisce about the night that Princeton beat UCLA, the Charles O'Bannon part of college athletics, rather than read any more about the lawsuit, the Ed O'Bannon part.

In college sports, they coexist, today more than they ever have. It's a miracle that this didn't happen decades ago, actually.

And the future?

TB isn't sure. Nobody is.

He just hopes that the Charles part doesn't get obliterated by the Ed part.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Power Five

So last year, Team A had a home football schedule of Norfolk State, Eastern Michigan, Arkansas, Houston, Temple, Cincinnati and South Florida. Go back a year earlier, and it was Howard, UConn, Army, Syracuse, Kent State and Louisville.

This year?

Team A has a home football schedule of Howard, Penn State, Tulane, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. You can throw in road trips to places like Ohio State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Maryland.

Time to step up to the plate, Rutgers.

The State University of New Jersey is as big a winner as there is the conference realignment game. Rutgers went from what was left of Big East football to the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten.

As TigerBlog has said before, very few schools can say that they chased all the football money while also making the best possible decision for an academic purpose at the same time, but Rutgers definitely can. Other than the fact that the Big Ten used to be a strictly Midwest league, Rutgers is a perfect fit - a giant state university with strong academics and research.

Of course, if you're like TigerBlog's friend Corey, a Rutgers alum and loyal longtime football season ticket holder, then you are mostly interested in the fact that Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin are coming to the Banks of the Raritan.

For some reason, that makes TB think of the solicitations he gets from Penn for alumni donations, and they're always talking about how much the academic standing of the University has improved in the last few decades. They might as well say, TB supposes, that "the school is way too good now to take someone like you anymore," but he tries not to get offended.

Anyway, Rutgers went from rich, to richer to richest in a three-year span. Then, in one more day, it went to "so rich the rules no longer apply."

In case you missed it, the NCAA Board of Directors voted yesterday to allow the so-called "Power 5" conferences - the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC and the Big 12 - to essentially play by a different set of rules than the rest of Division I.

And by "different," TigerBlog means "more expensive." Way more expensive.

And not just expensive. The new rules mean there won't be any rules, or at least rules that apply to everyone else.

Well, that's not quite accurate.

And Five Conferences? Sounds a bit like "Five Families," no? 

As TigerBlog understands it, the 65 schools in those five conferences can make rules that supersede NCAA rules in some areas but not all. And these rules apply to all sports, not just football, so all of the rules of Title IX still apply.

There are things that these schools cannot do. They cannot decide to practice for 40 hours a week or have their players not go to school or simply pay them to play.

They can give additional stipends well above what the NCAA currently allows, and they can also do all kinds of other things that don't really impact the basic model of college athletics - athletes who are also students - but dress it up in really extravagant ways that other schools can't afford.

The five conferences can't simply go off and start doing whatever they want. They have to create their own set of rules, agreed to by four of the five conferences. Once these rules are passed, the rest of Division I can vote to approve them as well if they wish; it's just that they'd never be able to afford to do them.

For instance, the five conferences can agree on a rule saying that they will pay for unlimited travel for their athletes between school and home. Or they will buy their athletes suits or other formal wear. Or they will have athlete-only dorms with round-the-clock unlimited food service, like on a cruise ship.

How does this affect Princeton? It doesn't. Not really. Princeton's main selling point will never be its athletic dorms.

The schools most affected will be the Mountain West type schools, or UConn, which is still in the AAC. Those schools will not be able to match the Power Five dollar for dollar, and TB can see recruits bailing on those schools in favor of all the accessories.

And of course, there is the movement to have the Power Five only play other Power Five schools in football, which would really impact scheduling.

The real reason that the rest of D-I is going along with this is because there's no alternative. The Power Five bring in more money than anyone could ever count, and they don't want Princeton and, to use yesterday's randomly chosen school again, Sacred Heart telling them how to spend it. If this didn't pass, those schools would have left the NCAA, destroying the model forever.

Anyway, TigerBlog isn't all that worried about it.

First because the Power Five are already the dominant schools anyway. Yeah, maybe it'll be harder for a Boise State to crack into that elite level, but oh well.

And second because it's another Friday in the summer, another week zoomed past.

Now here at Princeton there are just four short weeks until the first events of the next academic year. August is more than a quarter gone. NFL exhibition games have started.

And here is another summer Friday. This summer has been nearly devoid of uncomfortable heat and humidity, with almost no days in the 90s, as opposed to a normal summer, where there are endless days in the 90s.

The forecast for this weekend around here is 85 and sunny for both days, with a zero percent chance of rain.

So get a jump on the weekend. Go. Now. Get outside. Walk. Sit under a tree.

And get ice cream. Lots of it. A milkshake. Go to Carvel and get soft ice cream with the crunchies. Get one Saturday and the other Sunday.

That's an order.

Send the bill to the Power Five conferences. They can afford it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Timer On

TigerBlog plugged his phone in to charge the other night, and when he woke up, it was dead.

This is quite the 21st century frustration, no?

So what does one do when there is a phone that won't charge? Well, TigerBlog figured maybe it was the cord and not the phone, so he tried a different cord, the only other one in the house at the time. And? Nothing.

Plugging the phone in to charge is a fairly simple part of the routine these days. TigerBlog isn't sure if he's supposed to let his phone get all the way to empty before recharging it or recharge it a little at a time, whenever it's starting to get below 50 percent or so and he has something he has to do soon and won't have power available.

The sound of the charger as it buzzes when it's connected to the phone is one that is taken pretty much for granted, until it doesn't happen. Then it's infuriating.

TB was stuck with the icon that instructs him to connect the plug, as opposed to the one that shows that the plug is connected. He loves the lightning bolt that comes up next to the battery level indicator.

TB is a bit fascinated by the fact that a smartphone can do so many, well, smart things but yet the battery can't stay charged for more than a half day or so, even on a new phone.

Speaking of new phones, TB's is pretty new. When he couldn't get it to power up after trying two cords and multiple plugs - and trying to charge it through his computer - he did a search for it. Of course, four million solutions came up - none of which worked.

TB also got an odd error message when he tried to charge it on his computer. It told him that the USB port was trying to draw too much power.

So he did a search for that, and another four million explanations came up.

TB figured he'd blame Jon Kurian, who works in the business office and who is in charge of getting people at Princeton their phones. Kurian must have told the phone people to give TigerBlog a substandard phone, TB surmised. Or no, Kurian dropped the box when it came in and never told anyone. Yeah, that must be it.

TB also figured he'd have to go to the Apple Store and figure it out. Short of trying two cords and trying to restart, that's about all TB was good for here.

Then he plugged in his car charger when he got into his car, and all of the sudden it began to charge his phone. And then he tried a third cord - and that worked as well.

No trip to the Apple Store. Apologies to Kurian for thinking ill of him - this time.

What are the odds of that? Two cords, neither of which worked. That was the problem.

Anyway, TB's phone got back to 100 percent charged, and he was able to go on with his day.

One of his tasks yesterday was to fulfill a request for the NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee, which is beginning its meetings next week to address possible rules changes for the sport. The committee meets in two-year cycles, so any rule changes that are made now are supposed to be for two years.

The biggest issue in men's lacrosse now is whether or not the college game needs a shot clock. TigerBlog would be shocked if the rules committee didn't vote to put one in, though the specifics of it remain to be seen.

Would a shot clock start upon gaining possession? Upon getting across midfield? Getting it into the box?

And then how long would it last? A minute? Longer?

Major League Lacrosse has a 60-second shot clock. It also has a two-point shot, similar to the three-point shot in basketball.

TB is pretty sure that when MLL first began, it viewed these two devices as gimmicks to 1) attract fans and 2) differentiate itself from the college game.

The current rules of men's college lacrosse put a great deal of discretion on the part of the referees to police the pace of the game. If the refs decided that the offense isn't attempting to go to the goal, after a certain amount of a time a call of "Timer On" is issued. At that point, the offense has 30 seconds to either score or get a shot on goal, or else it's a turnover. The first 20 seconds of this time is counted by a stopwatch on the refs belt; the last 10 seconds are by hand. The clock continues to run no matter what during the first 20 seconds, even if the ball goes out of bounds or a timeout is called by the offense.

There are inherent problems with this, yes. First, one group of three refs might have a different sense of when to call "Timer On" than another. Second, should the refs treat an end game situation differently than a first-quarter situation, or should they both take the same amount of time before the call?

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, nobody can see the countdown clock, because there isn't one, so it's not completely certain how much time is remaining.

TigerBlog might be the only serious lacrosse fan who thinks that the "Timer On" rule of two years ago - along with the rules about faster restarts - accomplished exactly what was supposed to be accomplished. The play is much, much faster.

Look at Princeton.

In the last two years, Princeton games have averaged 22.6 goals and 76.5 shots per game. The two years before that, those numbers were 16.6 goals 66.4 shots per game.

Was Princeton a fluke? TigerBlog chose another school completely a random, Sacred Heart University. The Pioneers averaged 22.9 goals and 75 shots per game the last two years and 19.7 goals and 69.3 shots per game the two before it.

 The problem with a shot clock is that it's not going to make the game move faster. Defenses will be able to react to the fact that the clock is winding down by packing it in. Teams may take more shots, but they won't necessarily be better shots. Scoring won't necessarily increase, because teams won't want to take bad shots late in the shot clock and risk transition the other way; instead they'll run the clock down, roll the ball into the corner and go set up on defense.

Besides, the sport doesn't need to keep making radical overhauls in its rules every two years. The current games are fast, well-paced. The ability to simply hold onto the ball and try to win 6-5 is gone - though TB is okay with games that end up 6-5 under the current rules.

The fact that the refs have too much discretion is something TB can live with. If anything, it adds to the drama, waiting for the "Timer On" call. The fact that nobody can see the clock? That's a pain, but a doable one.

But a shot clock? That won't really make the game better. Not in TB's mind anyway. He likes the current rules.

Maybe he's wrong about them. Maybe he's wrong about what the shot clock would do.

He's definitely in the minority though.

The shot clock is coming, he'd assume. He'll have to make the best of it.