Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Do You Want To Talk About?

As Princeton University rolls into the heart of first semester exams, there are no athletic events on the horizon.

So what would you like to talk about?

How about "Homeland?" TigerBlog has "Homeland" - a show about how a small group from the CIA tries to stay one step ahead of the baddest of the bad guys - as one of the top six shows he's ever seen.

Why not top 5? Because there are six: "Homeland," "Breaking Bad," "The Odd Couple," "Gilmore Girls," "Hill Street Blues" and "The Sopranos."

Why get rid of one just because it pushes the number to six? Remember John Nolan, a Syracuse grad who did some broadcasting here before moving on to do the Fort Wayne TipCaps in Minor League Baseball and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne basketball? He used to wonder about America's obsession with round numbers, and for some reason, that stuck with TigerBlog.

Anyway, Season 6 of "Homeland" started this past weekend. To get ready, TigerBlog rewatched Seasons 1, 2 and 3, and it brought back for him why he thought the show was so great originally.

The show that has so many great characters - Saul, Quinn, Dar, Dana among them. The best character by far, though, is the central character, Carrie Matheson, who is brilliantly played by Claire Danes and is one of the greatest characters in TV history. Carrie is a genius (and a Princeton grad, by the way), but she's also wildly flawed. The balance of the two and the way they intersect are fascinating.

TB came away from watching Season 3 the first time thinking that they lingered with the whole Brody thing way too long. This time, watching it again, he disagreed with himself. It was actually better than he remembered.

The show makes you really think about the bigger picture of terrorism and especially terrorists. Much like Tony Soprano, the terrorists are made human, with motivations that are perfectly justifiable to them, and it forces viewers in both cases to remember what it is these people are actually doing.

And what really makes the show special is that there really are people like this, on both sides, who live their lives like this every day. The CIA people live in a shadowy world, where the line between right and wrong gets blurred and where there is so much riding on the outcome of what they do.

The first episode of Season 6 was definitely attention-grabbing, and it sets an interesting tone for the rest of the season. As with every other season of "Homeland," it's hard to judge where the show is going by the first few episodes, and it won't be until much later on that everything from Episode 1 comes into focus.

One thing TB did not like at all about the first episode is what they've done to Quinn. At the same time, TB is relatively sure that by Episode 12, Quinn will have taken out at least one bad guy.

TigerBlog wanted to immediately be able to watch Episodes 2 through 11, but sadly he cannot, since this is not on Netflix. This is one of those antiquated notions of one show per week for 12 weeks. How old-fashioned.

What else do you want to talk about?

Well, colleague Andrew Borders is the only San Diego Chargers fan that TB knows. Or former fan.

Now that the Chargers have moved to Los Angeles, Andrew has, like many fans, disavowed any knowledge of the team. He used to have some Chargers stuff in his office, like a newspaper from when the team last reached the Super Bowl, but that's all gone now. From now on, Andrew is on the Eagles bandwagon.

Why wouldn't he just stay with the Los Angeles Chargers? It would be the same, he said, as if his beloved Eagles moved to Long Island.

When TigerBlog saw that the Chargers were going to be playing in a 30,000 seat stadium next year, he figured that it would essentially the same as having an NFL team play here on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

So that's Andrew and his ex-team.

Speaking of the NFL, TigerBlog picked an Atlanta-New England Super Bowl before the playoffs began. He'll stay with that heading into the conference championship games. 

Colton Phinney went over the 3,000-save mark last weekend for the Princeton men's hockey team. It's a first in school history.

Not all saves are created equal, of course. Phinney was honored by the NCAA with its No. 2 Play of the Week for one of his saves last weekend. Actually, for three of his saves, in one flurry, though the third was definitely the best of them.

You can see all five of them HERE.

TigerBlog, by the way, would have ranked the plays in a different order. No. 3 would have been No. 5. No. 1 would have been No. 4 (it looked way harder than it was). No. 4 would have been No. 3. No. 2 would have stayed the same. No. 5 would have been No. 1.

Up next? Annie Tarakchian.

Annie is a former Princeton women's basketball player who plays professionally in Switzerland. She was in attendance at the women's games this weekend at Jadwin, and loyalty to the program runs very, very strong among alums, especially those from the last seven years or so.

You can see a video with Annie HERE.

Tarakchian, by the way, is one of those names that it takes a few times to learn to spell. Princeton has a freshman lacrosse player named Arman Medghalchi, and it took TB a few times to get that one right as well. The same is true of Greg Paczkowski, another of TB's colleagues here.

Lastly for today, there is Myles Stephens. His name isn't hard to spell per se, once you figure out it's "Stephens" and not "Stevens."

If you've been listening to TigerBlog on the radio at all this basketball season (and of course, TB appreciates it), you know that TB has predicted that at some point of his career, Stephens will be an All-Ivy League player. If he keeps playing the way he has been, it'll be this year.

Stephens was named Ivy Player of the Week after his monster weekend against Brown and Yale, one that saw him have 37 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 16 for 23 and playing outstanding defense as the Tigers won twice. Stephens was the third straight Tiger to be honored, after Devin Cannady and Steven Cook.

Stephens scored 18 against Brown to tie his career high and then broke that the next night with 19 against Yale. He was completely unstoppable in both games.

So what else can TigerBlog tell you today? Just shake your head yes, and that's enough for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three Grand For Phinney

Great news, everyone.

You know what's one month from today? That's right. It's opening day for Princeton lacrosse.

The women host Temple at 1. The men host NJIT at 3. Make your plans now to be there.

Actually, lacrosse season starts for men on Feb. 2, which is two weeks from tomorrow. The first game will be Vermont at Furman.

There will be 41 Division I men's lacrosse games played before Princeton-NJIT. Or 66 games, if you count the 25 that will be played on Feb. 18 alone before the Tigers game against NJIT begins.
If it seems early to you, it is. There was a time when college lacrosse didn't start until March 1 at the earliest, and the subject of the early start is one of the biggest issues in the game now.

The newest team in Division I men's lacrosse this year is Cleveland State. The Vikings, coached by former Princeton assistant coach Dylan Sheridan, play their first game Feb. 4 against Michigan, and the inaugural schedule includes teams like Denver, Duke, Air Force, Virginia, Penn State - and Sacred Heart.

TigerBlog Jr. started practice with Sacred Heart earlier this week, and most of Division I has already begun preparations for the season. Ivy League schools don't start until Feb. 1, which is the right time, at least according to TigerBlog.

As you may recall, TigerBlog Jr. is a goalie. He and his friend Jared were at the Princeton-Cornell men's hockey game Friday night, and TB asked the two of them if they thought being a goalie in one sport translated into being a goalie in other sports.

In other words, are there common traits to being a goalie in lacrosse, hockey, soccer, field hockey?

TigerBlog would suggest that yes, there are common attributes. You know, like maybe goalies don't want to have to run (or skate) as much as non-goalies. It's also possible that they all got their starts the same way - the team didn't have a goalie and needed one and they either volunteered or were volunteered. They also need to be a bit, uh, what's the word - nuts, to stand in the goal and have a ball or a puck fired at them.

There are differences between the sports, of course. For instance, in soccer, the ball is much bigger and softer (not soft, just softer), but the goal is gigantic compared to the other ones.

Still, it takes a special personality to be the goalie. There's the one main similarity that all goalies must have to be successful. They have to be leaders. They have to embrace being the one in charge of the defense, the one who directs all the traffic. They have to take command from start to finish, in constant communication.

Actually here's another - they need short memories. When TBJ first started playing goalie, one of his first coaches taught him how to say "no memory" in Latin. If you give up a goal, it can't stay with you - or you'll give up others.

Anya Gersoff probably has as interesting a take on the position as anyone. Gersoff, who graduated last year, was the goalie on the field hockey team and a 79-goal scorer in lacrosse.

Can this be usual? Can you have the mentality of a scorer in one sport and goalie in another? Does it help you to be able to look at the game from the point of view of both the scorer and the goalie?

This past weekend was a big one for one Princeton goalie.

Colton Phinney broke the 34-year-old Princeton record for saves in a career in men's hockey Friday night and then surpassed the 3,000-save mark Saturday night. That's a lot of pucks that have been thrown at him in his four years.

In addition to the career total, Phinney made 1,058 saves a year ago, which is the school single-season record. He heads into exam break with 3,005 saves for his career and, with at least 11 games to go and with an average of just under 30 saves per game, he could put the record out of reach for a long time.

The first of Princeton's 11 games, by the way, will be Jan. 28 (a Saturday), at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (home of the Sixers and Flyers) against a former Princeton coach (Guy Gadowsky). That's a lot of parenthesis, by the way.

Princeton will then have eight more league regular-season games and at least two playoff games, possibly even at home, depending how those eight games go.

Phinney's 3,005 saves are extraordinary. There aren't too many Princeton athletes who have ever gotten more than 3,000 of anything.

Certainly not points. Not goals. Not rebounds, assists or steals. Not attempts.

About the the only thing that TB can think of is yards. There have been two running backs (rushing) and 11 quarterbacks (passing) who have more than 3,000 career yards.

Other than that, who else has gotten to 3,000? Is TB missing anyone?

And as far as 3,000 of something, that's 3,000 (actually 3,005) times that an opposing player has shot a hard rubber puck that would have gone in the goal had Phinney not stopped it first. With his stick. Or blocker. Or body. Or head. Or anything else.

Would you want to do that even once?

Congratulations to Colton Phinney on his accomplishment. The common denominator for goalies?

It's not easy to be one.

Oh, and it's really, really not easy to be the parent of one. TigerBlog can vouch for that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talk To Me Goose

What's the best offer you've ever gotten?

TigerBlog was flipping around the channels yesterday when he came across a certain movie at a certain moment when a certain character said "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

The movie, of course, is "The Godfather." The line is actually used three times, if TB is correct:
* Michael references how his father had made such an offer to the bandleader to let Johnny out of his contract
* Vito tells Johnny that he's going to make a similar offer to the studio head so that Johnny can get the part in the movie he wants (apparently, this is how Frank Sinatra got the part of "Maggio" in "From Here to Eternity," for which Sinatra won an Academy Award
* Michael says he is going to make Moe Green an offer he can't refuse for his share of the hotel in Las Vegas (this is the one that TB saw yesterday)

Some offers you can't refuse because they just are great offers. Others you can't refuse because Luca Brasi is holding a gun to your head.

TigerBlog isn't sure how many times he's seen "The Godfather," but it's a lot. He can still watch it over and over still and not get tired of it.

The same is true of "A Few Good Men," which for some reason seems to be on a lot lately. Each time, it holds TB's attention.

On the other hand, "The Karate Kid" was on yesterday too, and TB couldn't bring himself to see a minute of it another time. And, as much as this pains him to admit, he hasn't watched much of "A Christmas Story" either of the last two Christmas Eves.

One movie that TigerBlog has seen enough to nearly memorize is "Top Gun." Much to his amazement, he found out that TigerBlog Jr. has never seen the movie.

TB showed his son the trailer for "Top Gun," and TB insists that TBJ would love it, even if he described the trailer as "cheesy ’80s stuff."

That, of course, is the point. Tom Cruise as the great loner fighter pilot? Val Kilmer as his steely-eyed rival? Anthony Edwards as Cruise's tragic sidekick? Kelly McGillis as the instructor who predictably falls in love with Maverick?

Is anything cheesier? 

TigerBlog referred to "Top Gun" during his most recent radio broadcast for Princeton basketball, during Saturday night's 66-58 win over Yale. As he did, it never dawned on him that his partner, Patrick McCarthy, is only two years older than TBJ and might not have ever seen "Top Gun" either.

TB will have to ask him. Oh, and a few days after the fact, TB cannot for the life of him remember how "Top Gun" came up on the radio, but he can remember details of games played 10, 20, 30 years ago. Should this concern him?

The win over Yale was a big one for Princeton, who also defeated Brown 97-66 Friday night. The sweep pushed the Tigers to 3-0 in the Ivy League heading into the break for first semester exams.

There are three unbeaten teams in Ivy basketball now. Princeton is 3-0. Harvard and Columbia are 1-0 each.

This is a different year in Ivy hoops, as you know, with the advent of the league tournament in March at the Palestra. It certainly has made for a different feel, that's for sure.

For instance, Penn is now 0-3 in men's basketball. But if Penn can right the ship and get the fourth spot in the tournament, it knows it'll be playing at home. And, since the Quakers have a lot of work to do to get there, then they'd by definition by on a bit of roll.

The race for fourth place will be big because only the top four get into the tournament. The race for first will be big because the regular-season champ will be the official Ivy champ and because at the very least, that will guarantee a spot in the NIT.

Princeton won the game against Brown easily. Princeton would have won against pretty much any team in the country it played if it could put up these numbers - 37 for 57 shooting from the field (65 percent), 12 for 24 from three-point range (you can figure that percent yourself) and 10 offensive rebounds. Yeah. Any team.

The game Saturday wasn't easy. Yale is the defending champ, and the Bulldogs have added some strong young players to their equation. It's early, but it appears that the three league favorites are Princeton, Yale and Harvard. As such, any game between them will be huge, especially on your home court.

Princeton did not carry the hot shooting over from Friday night. Instead, the Tigers were below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from three-point range.

To be precise, Princeton was 7 for 24 from three-point range against Yale, one week after going 3 for 19 against Penn. That's 10 for 43 from three-point range on Saturday nights.

When Princeton shoots like it did against Brown, yeah, it'll be an easy night. When it shoots like it did against Penn and Yale, it's not going to be easy. It's going to be challenging, and it's going to show a lot about the team.

How Princeton reacted both times was impressive.

What Princeton showed is that it can raise its level when it's needed most. It did so after the 26-5 run Penn put together to tie that game, and it did so against Yale on a night when neither team would lead by more than six until the Tigers took control at the end.

Mitch Henderson has found the lineup he likes. Myles Stephens, who scored 36 points on 16 for 24 shooting and played an incredible all-around game all weekend, is an emerging star. Devin Cannady already is one. Amir Bell has been great coming off the bench.

Princeton does have two concerns. One is that the momentum from this weekend will disappear over the next three weeks, though the win over Yale will stay with the team during exams.

The second is that from now on, Princeton has 11 remaining league games, of which seven are on the road.

That's for down the road. For now, Princeton can be pretty pleased with how the Ivy season has started.

Oh, and "Top Gun." TigerBlog was referring to a time when either Cannady or Spencer Weisz did a ball fake to get a defender in the air and then took a step back to shoot a three.

It was like in the movie, when Maverick hit the brakes and let them fly right by.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rooting For Jason - But Not His Team

TigerBlog wasn't sure if he should be writing today.

It's Martin Luther King Day. For the first time at Princeton, this federal holiday is also a day off from work. TB does not write on Labor Day and Memorial Day, so perhaps he could have gotten away with not writing today.

He probably wouldn't have, until the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys yesterday.

Dallas, of course, is coached by Jason Garrett, a Princeton alum and the 1988 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

TigerBlog was in Jadwin Gym a long, long time ago when he saw a quarterback working out on the track area. At first he had no idea who it was, until he got closer and saw that it was Jason Garrett. Yes, Jason may have been a back-up for his career, but make no mistake - he could throw a football.

To this day, TB can still see how Jason threw it, with perfect spirals and deep passes that seemed to go the entire width of the building.

Also, TigerBlog can tell you that there are few people he's ever met who are the class act Jason Garrett is. He is humble. He is personable. He works hard. He gives a ton of his time and money to charity. He is one of Princeton football's most loyal fans.

You can't have any easier person to root for than Jason Garrett. And yet, it's the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys. Can TB ever root for them?

TigerBlog's NFL rooting interests go this way: 1. Giants. 2. Redskins. 3. Almost everyone else. 4. Eagles. 5. Cowboys. 7. Every other possible scenario in the world. 8. Patriots.

It's hard enough to root for the Redskins if you're a Giants fan, but TigerBlog does, for several reasons. Actually, as he thinks about them, it's harder now to root for the Giants, with Odell Beckham as both the face of the franchise and the face of almost everything that's wrong with professional sports.

Root for Dallas? That's tough.

Mike Condon can get TB to root for the Canadiens and now the Senators. Chris Young can get TB to root for the Royals. Seth DeValve can get TB to root for the Browns.

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys? Hmmm. Nope. How about putting it this way: If anyone could ever get TigerBlog to do it, Jason Garrett would be the one.

This year was his best as the head coach of the Cowboys. With fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott forced into the role of starting quarterback, Jason led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, with losses only to the Giants (twice) and the Eagles (once, in the final week of the season, in a meaningless game).

Dallas had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, but it also had to contend with Aaron Rodgers in the first game. It started out as a rout. It didn't end up that way.

Jason is in a very tough spot. The team owner is also the GM. He hasn't always given Garrett the best hand with which to compete. In addition, the expectations of the franchise, from the owner to the fans, is to win a Super Bowl every year.

Unfortunately for Dallas, it hasn't done so since Jerry Jones decided to become GM as well as owner. Dallas won three in four years from 1993-96, but since then, nothing (it's worth noting that the Giants have won two since then).

Since its most recent Super Bowl, Dallas is now 2-8 in playoff games. Jason Garrett is now 1-2 in the playoffs in his six-plus years as head coach.

Still, was the loss yesterday his fault? Hardly. First, Dallas was down big quickly in the game, and it was Jason Garrett who kept his team composed and focused and able to make the move it made to get back into it.

Then there's the fact that Rodgers is on quite a roll. And that it took two field goals, of 56 and 51 yards (Dallas had one of its own from 52 in between, all of this in the last 93 seconds), and one of the great clutch throw-and-catch moments in recent history to do in the Cowboys. And when the game-winning kick left Mason Crosby's foot, it looked all the world like it was going to fade badly to the left.

Unfortunately for Jason and the Cowboys, that's not what happened. It broke back to the right and through the uprights, and the great season that Dallas had ended abruptly.

One thought TB had during the game was to wonder who the Atlanta Falcons would rather have seen in the NFC title game, Dallas on the road or Rodgers and the Packers at home.

Anyway, maybe one day, after he's done coaching, Jason Garrett will go into television. TigerBlog is positive that he - and John Thompson - would be great TV analysts.

And maybe there is a Super Bowl title in his future.

If he got there, it would be hard for TigerBlog to root against him - especially if the Cowboys were playing the Patriots.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Hills Are Alive

TigerBlog walked outside yesterday morning and was greeted by temperatures near 60.

This was in the middle of January in Central New Jersey. The warmth felt so good against his face that he wanted to start singing, like Julie Andrews in the beginning of "The Sound of Music."

Okay, so this wasn't Salzburg, Austria, a place where TigerBlog has been, by the way. In fact, it's one of the most beautiful places he's ever been.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the first movie he ever saw in a movie theater was "The Sound of Music." His grandmother Judy took him, to a movie theater that used to be across the street from what is now the Freehold Raceway Mall.

He's positive the first R-rated movie he ever saw in a movie theater was "Animal House."

"The Sound of Music" is the kind of movie that would never get made today. Imagine the meeting:

"I have a great idea. It's a musical about how a family stood up to the Nazis through their ability to sing together."
"What? No zombies?"
"Nope."
"Any violence?"
"Well, there is a scene where two nuns disable the cars of the Nazi leaders by removing some wires."

The original version of "The Sound of Music" was a Broadway show. The movie version, starring Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as as the Captain, came out in 1965 and won an Academy Award for Best Picture, one of four musicals in the 1960s to do so. Can you name the other three? Can you name the only musical to win Best Picture since?

TigerBlog will give you a paragraph or two to think about it.

In the meantime, TigerBlog will tell you why a movie with so much cheesy dialogue and next to no action remains one of his all-time favorites. First, there is the opening scene, the one where Julie Andrews sings "The Sound of Music" with the Salzburg scenery all around her.

Then there are all of the other songs. Top to bottom, they're pretty much all great - "Do-Re-Mi," "Climb Every Mountain," "Maria," "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," "So Long, Farewell" and, TB's favorite, "Edelweiss."

The movie also has some funny moments, especially with the nuns at the abbey and the Captain's sarcasm. And it's very uplifting, with the way the Captain and Maria come together with their "love conquers all" story and then win their small battle against an overpowering opponent.

TigerBlog also loves the way he can see any part of the movie and love it. Turn the movie on at any point, and you'll hear one of those songs or see one of those scenes.

Oh, and the other three musicals in the 1960s to win Best Picture? They were: "West Side Story," "My Fair Lady" and "Oliver," all of which are TB favorites as well. After Oliver won the year after "The Sound of Music," no musical would win until "Chicago" in 2002.

How did TigerBlog get on this? Oh yeah. The weather yesterday.

It's supposed to cool off a little this weekend, but it's still pretty nice out for January. This weekend is a big one in Princeton Athletics, which then will shut down for first semester exams.

It's a unique academic calendar, and the trickle down to athletics is that Princeton won't be competing at all at a time when pretty much everyone else is in full competition mode.

Before exams, though, Princeton has a full weekend, with 16 events featuring 10 teams beginning today and running through Sunday.

TigerBlog hasn't looked this up, so it's possible this isn't correct, but he's going to go out on a limb and say that his weekend will be the first time that Jadwin Gym hosts Ivy League basketball doubleheaders that don't feature games against Penn.

Princeton will be home with Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night, with the women at 5:30 and the men at 8. The home weekend is necessitated by the start of final exam period, and Princeton will be at Yale and Brown next month, in doubleheaders there, which will mark the first empty weekend in Jadwin in February in a long time.

The men's team defeated Penn last week in its league opener, while the women lost a close game to the Quakers. There's a long way to go in both races, and of course this is Year 1 of the Ivy tournament.

Neither Brown nor Yale has played an Ivy League game prior to this weekend in men's or women's basketball. 

The men's hockey team is also home this weekend. If you wanted, you could see women's basketball at 5:30, men's hockey at 7 and men's basketball at 8, depending on how they're all going. TB is sure someone will do the tripleheader.

Princeton is home tonight against Cornell (standing room only tickets left) and tomorrow against Colgate. Princeton lost to both on the road in November before going on the run that energized the team before the long holiday break. The Tigers were swept at Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend, but the team played much better Saturday than Friday after the layoff.

There's also home women's swimming and diving this afternoon (3) in what will be the final home appearance for head coach Susan Teeter, who is retiring after 33 years. There is also home men's and women's squash against Dartmouth and Harvard tomorrow and Sunday.

And then it's exam time. It'll probably get cold again.

It certainly wasn't yesterday. In fact, TigerBlog went to lunch with his friend Corey, and when he got into his car after, the temperature read "66."

A few minutes before he got into his car, TB walked out of the restaurant and was taken aback by how warm it was. It was like late spring had dropped out of nowhere.

It may have been January 12 in New Jersey, but he could feel the sun on his neck - and it felt heavenly.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Back Here At Halftime

There are days when TigerBlog sits down to write and the words just come pouring out.

There are others when he can't for the life of him figure out where to start. This is one of those times.

As you read this paragraph, you should know that TigerBlog has already written and deleted five other ideas he had. None of them were any good.

Some days, you don't have your fastball. You have to tough it out anyway.

And that's where TigerBlog is right now. No idea where to go. So how to get there?

Sometimes when he's in this situation, he'll go back a year and see what he wrote on that day. One year ago today, he wrote about Patrick Stevens, whose Twitter account says that he's a "media free agent covering college football, basketball and lacrosse, 140 characters at a time."

Patrick had covered four men's basketball games in the D.C. area in one day and wrote about his trip. TigerBlog followed up with the fact that two of the four games were coached by Princeton alums - Mike Brennan at American and John Thompson at Georgetown.

Two years ago on this day? He wrote about how good "The Drums of Thunder" were at Princeton's basketball game that weekend. The same group - TB believes they are fourth- and fifth-graders from Montclair, N.J. - performed at Jadwin at halftime of the men's basketball game this past weekend as well.

Their shows are tremendous. It's all percussion, and it has a lot of power and energy behind it. This year's visit added a new wrinkle, as the Jadwin lights were turned off in the middle, and the only light came from the drums themselves.

TigerBlog couldn't completely focus on the "Thunder," since he was doing a halftime interview with Mike Mahoney, his counterpart at Penn. It dawned on TigerBlog that Mahoney had worked with men's basketball coach at Northwestern and had been the athletic communications contact for women's basketball at Dartmouth when Courtney Banghart played.

Plus, Mahoney is a good guy. And TB didn't have anyone else to talk to anyway. As a bonus, Mahoney did a very good job as the interviewee.

It's not always easy being interviewed, not when you're the one used to asking the questions. That's certainly TigerBlog's experience.

TigerBlog doesn't really remember how many years it's been since he regularly did radio for men's basketball. He actually started doing radio before he worked here, back in 1989, when he worked with David Brody and Rich Simkus on WHWH. He did a lot of basketball radio for the next 15 years or so, or more really.

Eventually, Noah Savage, who graduated in 2008, approached TB about doing games on the radio, and TB said sure, he'd give him a shot. He had tried the same with Ahmed El-Nokali, who would have been an all-time great. As it's turned out, Noah is also really good, and he and Derek Jones make a really good announcing tandem.

This year, those two are doing radio for away games and just the Ivy League Digital Network - which has a much larger audience - for home games. TB is on with Patrick McCarthy for the home radio games.

The experience has been fun so far. And one thing that TB realized is that he really enjoyed all of the interviews he did at halftime through the years.

TigerBlog can only guess how many halftime interviews at basketball games he's done through the years. It's probably 200 or more.

There have only been a handful of times were he went into the game with a prearranged halftime guest in mind. Usually he just looks around at the crowd, figures out who would make a good guest and goes over and asks during a timeout.

For all of the times he's gotten guests for halftime, only one person has ever said no to him. Just flat out no. He's had others who have said they couldn't because they didn't have the time or their kids were there, but that's been rare. But only one person has ever just said "no," and he did so with such disdain that TigerBlog can still see the look on his face, more than 15 years later.

It was when Princeton was playing Maryland at the Verizon Center in the the BB&T Classic. As the first half went along, TB saw Robert Novak, who at the time was on a show called "Capitol Gang" on CNN, a show that MotherBlog had loved. In fact, she and TB would watch it "together," as it were, with MB at her house and TB at his. Then they'd compare notes. It's too bad they couldn't simply text each other back-and-forth during the show.

As TB saw Novak on the other side of court, he thought "perfect." Here he was, in D.C., and he would have a political commentator on at halftime.

So TB walked over to Novak during a timeout and asked him in his most polite voice if he'd like to be on Princeton radio at halftime. And what did Novak do?

He sneered "no" at TB. He didn't even look up at him. Just sneered.

TigerBlog has interviewed three governors, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Congressman, active professional athletes, active NBA coaches, retired Hall-of-Famers, University presidents, journalists, TV personalities, and pretty much anyone else from any walk of life who would make an interesting guest.

Robert Novak is the only one who ever said no.

When Novak died in 2009, TigerBlog thought back to that exchange, and that look still gave him shivers.

And there you have it for today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Walter Riggs' Tigers

TigerBlog fell asleep early in the third quarter of the Alabama-Clemson game Monday night.

He watched the first half, which he found to be fairly dull. At halftime, he watched a little of an episode of "NYPD Blue," a show that he probably should have liked more than he did, and "Saving Private Ryan," which TB considers to be one of the two best movies ever made, along with "Schindler's List."

He wouldn't call either a favorite, because they are both so hard to watch, but that's precisely why they need to be watched, so that the subjects of the two movies will never be forgotten.

As for "NYPD Blue," TB liked it but didn't love it.

As police shows go, he was much more into "Hill Street Blues," "Kojak," "Quincy" (that counts, right?), "Law & Order" and even now "Blue Bloods" than he ever was into "NYPD Blue," which is weird, because Sipowicz was basically the same character (also played by Dennis Franz) as Detective Buntz on "Hill Street," only with a bigger role in "NYPD Blue."

Oh well. There's no explaining why people get into one show and not another.

For instance, TigerBlog tried to get into "The Walking Dead" and couldn't. "Breaking Bad?" Devoured it (get it?). "Mad Men?" "Game of Thrones?" Never happened. "The Crown?" It fit.

Oh, and how did John Lithgow not win for his performance as Winston Churchill? That's absurd.

He's watched the first few minutes of a few random shows on Netflix and gone no further. He watched the first few minutes of a show called "Fauda" and was immediately hooked. He tore through the entire season in no time, and it was great - even with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles (it's the story of an Israeli special ops team and its pursuit of a terrorist who has been presumed dead).

Why Fauda? Why any show over any other show? Who knows. It would probably make a good thesis for a psych major.

As for the football game Monday night, when TB woke up, Clemson was down by three and time was running out. He's pretty sure he saw the last three plays, including the touchdown with one second left that gave Clemson the national championship.

It's hard to root for Alabama. It's like rooting for IBM or Microsoft. It's also hard to root for Clemson too. They're hardly an unheralded underdog.

On the other hand, it became easier to root for Clemson when TigerBlog checked something out. And so thanks, Walter Riggs, for your role in all this.

Riggs was the football coach at what is then the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina in the 1896 season, the first in program history. Before that, he had coached at and attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, which today is called "Auburn University."

Auburn has been the Tigers ever since it first fielded a football team, back in 1892. Riggs graduated from the school that same year. As for "War Eagle," that's Auburn's rallying cry, not nickname. On the Auburn athletics website, it says that "we are Tigers who yell 'War Eagle.' " Simple.

TigerBlog read a long time ago that schools in the South adopted nicknames of major Northern schools, which explains, for instance, why Georgia and Mississippi State became the Bulldogs - after Yale's teams - and why Alabama became the "Crimson Tide," after Harvard.

As for Auburn, it became the Tigers in 1892 after Princeton's Tigers. And when Riggs went to Clemson, he brought the Tigers nickname with him.

According to another reputable website, Wikipedia: "In 1896, football coach Walter Riggs came to Clemson, then Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, from Auburn University. He had always admired the Princeton Tigers, and hence gave Clemson the Tiger mascot."

Hey, it's on Wikipedia. It must be true.

If all of that is true, then the game Monday night was really a relative of Princeton against Harvard. And Princeton won.

And hey, who wouldn't admire the Princeton Tigers. On the other hand, TigerBlog can't figure out what it was that drew Riggs to Princeton. He was born in South Carolina on Jan. 24, 1873 and died two days short of his 51st birthday. He had no connection to the North that TB can find.

By the time Riggs graduated from what is now Auburn, Princeton had played only one team in its history that wasn't a Northern school, and that was Michigan.

The home of the engineering school at Clemson these days is called "Riggs Hall" in his honor. Maybe he sat around and thought "I should invent the internet, and that would make it way easier for me to follow Princeton."

As an aside, the first season that football scores began to have point totals was 1883. The 1882 season at Princeton features scores like "Princeton 5g, 6t - Rutgers 0." In 1883, that score was "Princeton 20, Rutgers 0."

In the first four years of that scoring system, Princeton averaged 43 points per game.

In the four most recent years of Princeton football, the Tigers have averaged 34.1 points per game. That's an extraordinary number.

A championship number, actually.

Yup. The 2016 football season. Championships for Tigers, both Princeton and Clemson.

Somewhere, ol' Walter Riggs is smiling. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bella Ball

There's still a home phone line in TigerBlog's house, even though he never uses it.

Almost never, that is.

It was Sunday afternoon that the home phone rang. When the phone rings, the caller ID comes up on the TV, and this time, it was said "Quinnipiac University."

TigerBlog remembers when call waiting and caller ID first came out. This was long before cell phones.

Call waiting was basically the end of the busy signal. When TB was a kid, if you called someone on the phone and that person was already talking to someone else, you got what was prehistorically known as "the busy signal." This would be a beeping sound, one that indicated that the person was, well, busy.

You could, of course, call back as often as you wanted. As long as the person was still on the phone, you'd still get the busy signal. And, as hard as this is for young people to understand, there was no way the person on the other end would know that you were trying to reach them.

If you were trying to get in touch with someone for something important, the busy signal was highly frustrating. It would beep and beep at you, no matter how many times you called back. Finally, you'd hear the phone ring, which would cause you to say to yourself "about time" as the phone rang.

Then, along came call waiting. Instead of a busy signal, the phone would ring, and the person on the other end would get a beeping sound, which would make the immediately cut off the first conversation because, hey, it might be someone more important on the other line.

As for caller ID, TigerBlog told a friend of his in college that once that caught on, nobody would ever pick up his calls. It's possible that TB was right.

Yeah, the simple act of talking on the phone has changed radically through the years. For that matter, TB wonders how many text messages he sends for every phone call he makes. He may have to track that one day, but it's probably in the neighborhood of 100 to one or so.

Anyway, when TB saw "Quinnipiac," he narrowed it down to two things.

Either someone wanted to talk to him about the upcoming Princeton-Quinnipiac men's lacrosse game, which, by the way, is March 7, or less than two months from now. It's also Princeton's fifth game of the season, and the last of five straight home games to start the year.

And there's your men's lacrosse talk for today.

So yeah, it was unlikely that that was why Quinnipiac came up on his caller ID. The more likely reason was that someone was conducting a poll.

TigerBlog answered the phone, and as it turned out, he was right. It was a poll. About the current state of American politics.

TB's big objection to the poll was that the choices were limited. Do you agree or disagree or do you not have enough information? Well, TB has plenty of information, but he doesn't agree or disagree. He's somewhere in the middle. The man doing the survey wasn't interested in that answer.

The first question TB was asked was what he considers himself politically. TB answered "cynical."

The pollster did not laugh at that. It didn't seem like he had much of a sense of humor. On the other hand, it was a Sunday afternoon during the NFL playoffs, and he was calling randomly generated numbers and asking them 10 minutes worth of political questions.

Speaking of the NFL playoffs, the Giants lost. Just knowing that you were rooting for them because of TigerBlog more than makes up for the fact that 1) they lost badly and 2) their best player does everything he can to make you not want to root for him.

You want someone easy to root for? Try Bella Alarie of the women's basketball team, and not just because she shares a first name with TB's paternal grandmother, who was the shorter of TB's two grandmothers.

TigerBlog will give you two season stat lines:

Player A - 12.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 35 assists to 20 turnovers, 41 percent shooting
Player B - 12.0 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, 28 assists to 20 turnovers,  41 percent shooting

Those are pretty even lines, right? Player A has made 18 three-pointers, while Player B hasn't made one yet, which is part of the reason that Player A doesn't have a better shooting percentage.

But those numbers are eerily similar, right?

Player A is Alarie. Player B is Penn's Sydney Stipanovich. Alarie is a freshman who has played 14 college games. Stipanovich is a senior who was the Ivy League Player of the Year a year ago and is one of the most dominant inside players Ivy League women's basketball has seen in a long time.

Clearly, Alarie is making an immediate impact.

For all of the great players Princeton has had through this run of six NCAA tournaments in seven years, there has not been a player like Alarie. At 6-4, she is tied for the tallest player Courtney Banghart has played - and about 18 inches taller than TB's grandmother. On the other hand, she has the offensive skills of a guard (that she isn't primarily a low-post player probably explains the rebounding differential between Alarie and Stipanovich). She can shoot three-pointers or drive to the basket from outside the three-point line as the shot clock winds down and do both with ease.

If you wanted to see it all on display, then there was Saturday night's game against Penn, which the Tigers lost 62-57. it was 58-53 Penn with a little more than a minute to go when Alarie scored, came down the other end and blocked the shot of another first-team All-Ivy player, Penn's Michelle Nwokedi, and then drove to the basket to score to make it 58-57 with 26 seconds left.

Alarie finished the game with 17 points, more than any other player on either team. She earned Ivy Rookie of the Week honors for the fifth time this year, and she already has two Ivy Player of the Week honors as well.

Alarie is the subject of a current video feature on goprincetontigers.com. You can see it HERE.

And you can see Alarie and the Tigers at home this weekend, against Brown Friday night and Yale Saturday night. Actually, it's late afternoon, with 5:30 tips for both games.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winning Time

The Princeton men's basketball team pushed its lead over Penn to 21 four minutes into the second half Saturday, and over on the radio, where TigerBlog was situated, it was getting perilously close to garbage time.

You know. Game over. Lot of time left to talk. So find something to fill the time.

TigerBlog was doing the game with Patrick McCarthy, who continues to improve each time he does a game, by the way. Patrick is the son of Tom McCarthy, the veteran broadcaster who did a lot of Princeton football and men's basketball early in his career and now is, among other things, the Phillies' TV play-by-play man and a national voice for the NFL and NCAA basketball.

Patrick is a college senior, at The College of New Jersey. He was pretty nervous for his first Princeton game, back in November against Rowan. Was that really nearly two months ago already?

The Penn game was the fourth that TB and Patrick have done together.

Princeton was 3-0 in the first three games, with an average victory margin of 39.7 points. If you take away the 62-point win over Division III Rowan, it was still 28.5 for the two games.

In other words, that's a lot of garbage time.

When you're broadcasting, garbage time gets tricky. What are you supposed to do? As an announcer, you can feel your audience dwindling as the game goes along, until only those who really care are left. The game itself is no longer captivating, but at the same time, you don't want to turn your broadcast into a circus. That wouldn't be respectful of the players on the court.

Still, things can get a little looser.

For instance, Patrick is coaching a middle school boys' basketball team. On one of the earlier broadcasts, he mentioned his love of the box-and-one defense, something that TigerBlog hates. At the same time, TB will admit that that the box-and-one can definitely help you win middle school games, since middle school teams often have one dominant player. Stop that one player, and you'll be in good shape.

It's not something that usually works once you get past the middle school, which is why TB doesn't like it. You can also full-court press in middle school and cause held ball after held ball, something that TB saw when Miss TigerBlog was on her middle school team. The average elapsed time between whistles in those games was about six seconds.

Anyway, with Princeton up by 21, TB and Patrick began to talk about his team, which is 4-1. Before they could get any further into that, or talk about other things, a rather strange thing happened.

The game turned on a dime.

Princeton was up 39-18, in total control. Princeton wasn't playing its best, and certainly wasn't shooting its best, but Penn had made just one three-pointer, wasn't getting production from its two leading scorers - A.J. Brodeur and Matt Howard - and didn't really give the sense that it was capable of making a run.

Of course, that's exactly what happened next.

Turning the game on a dime, Penn went on a 26-5 run, turning the game into a 44-44 tie with seven minutes left. Timeout, Princeton.

Garbage time vanished. It was crunch time. Winning time, as it's known.

A 26-5 run is pretty astonishing. How many teams have lost a game in which they've had one? On the other hand, it wasn't quite as much as the 27-0 run Penn had against Princeton at the Palestra in the famous 1999 game, when Princeton led 3-0 before that monster run.

Penn would built that lead to 40-13 with 15 minutes left, but Princeton would come back to win that game 50-49. That's a win in a game in which Princeton allowed a 27-0 run. Again, that doesn't happen too often.

Meanwhile, back to the game Saturday, Princeton now found itself in a position that TigerBlog actually wanted to see. A tough league opponent. A night when the three-pointers weren't falling. How would the Tigers respond?

Let's be honest. There's no team in the league that can beat Princeton on a night when the Tigers shoot better than 50 percent from three-point range. It's possible any team in the league could beat Princeton on a night when the team is 3 for 19 from three-point range.

Possible, but not definite.

On the radio, TigerBlog told Patrick, a college pitcher, that Princeton was out there on a night when the team didn't have its best fastball. Now the team had to figure out a way to win using its other pitches, maybe locate better.

Out of the timeout, the ball went to Devin Cannady, the sophomore who just exudes confidence every time he touches the ball. Cannady took one step inside the three-point line to duck under a Penn defender and then calmly swished a 17-footer.

Then, after a steal by Spencer Weisz, Miles Stephens swished a three from the corner. Then it was Steven Cook, with a pair of foul shots.

Within 90 seconds of the timeout, Princeton was up by seven. Penn would never get closer than four again. The Tigers would win by nine, by a final of 61-52.

For Princeton, it was the best possible way to start the league season. Penn is an improving team, one that will certainly challenge for one of the four spots in the league tournament, which will be played on its home court. To get a win, a nine-point win at that, on a night when your strength was a weakness is not easy to do.

It also helps a lot more down the road.

Princeton knows that it can win a game when the threes aren't falling. That it can tough out the final seven minutes of a game against a team that had all the momentum on its side. That it can win a little ugly if that's what it takes.

Next up for Princeton is a pair of home games this weekend, against Brown and Yale. Then it's first semester exams. That doesn't leave a lot of time to focus on the game from the other night, but that's okay.

Some wins are impressive because of their beauty. Other wins are equally impressive for just the opposite reason.

Actually, make that more impressive.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Loving Princeton And Penn

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend.

While TigerBlog will be rooting for the Giants, he won't be crushed if they lose to Green Bay Sunday. He doesn't see anyone who can beat New England in the AFC, at least not in Foxboro. In the NFC, he can see basically any of five teams - other than Detroit - who could get to the Super Bowl. He'll go with Atlanta, though.

One team not in the playoffs is the Washington Redskins. TigerBlog was rooting for the Redskins last Sunday, even though they were playing the Giants, because he wanted to see Washington get into the postseason, for multiple reasons, including the fact that MotherBlog was a huge Redskins fan in her time.

In fact, in an effort to possibly taunt her son, MotherBlog repeatedly bought TB Redskins gear. TigerBlog actually wore most of it, including a great hat, one of those winter ones with a pom pom on top and the team logo in front.

Athletic loyalties are fairly strong, so TB has to wonder how many people have ever rooted for the Redskins at one point and the Giants at other times.

Or, on a much bigger scale, Princeton and Penn.

TigerBlog is a Penn alum, as you might recall. He has great fondness for Penn. He was going to apply to a bunch of other schools, but he got a likely letter from Penn early in his senior year, so he simply took the rest of the money FatherBlog gave him for college applications and spent it instead on records.

You know. Records. They went on a turntable and needed a needle with which to play them.

How old do you have to be now to never have owned a record, or for that matter seen a record player?

TigerBlog's first Princeton-Penn men's basketball game was nearly 40 years ago. One time, when interviewing Pete Carril for a pregame spot before a game at the Palestra, he told the Hall of Fame coach that this was where they'd first met, when Carril was coaching and TB was chanting "sit down Pete" with the rest of the Penn fans.

His path from Penn student/fan to Princeton employee/fan had a buffer zone of about 10 years, when he was in the newspaper business. At a Penn-Princeton game around 1990, Chuck Yrigoyen, then of the Ivy League office, asked then-sportswriter TB which team he wanted to see win. TB first said he was, of course, impartial. Then, pressed by Chuck, he admitted he was rooting for Princeton.

Princeton hosts Penn tomorrow night, with tip-off at 7. It's the second game of a doubleheader that begins at 4, when the Princeton women host the Penn women.

Princeton and Penn men combined to win every Ivy League championship from 1963 through 2007, with the exception of just three years - 1968, 1986, 1988. It was a record of prolonged excellence that makes it, to TigerBlog, the No. 1 rivalry in the history of the Ivy League.

The longest stretches in which one or the other of Princeton and Penn won every Ivy title were 1969 (Carril's first NCAA tournament trip) to 1985 and 1989 (Princeton lost to Georgetown that year) through 2007.

The women's rivalry hasn't quite reached that level yet, but either Princeton (five times) or Penn (twice) has won all of the last seven Ivy titles. A year ago, Princeton and Penn became the first two Ivy League teams to both reach the NCAA basketball tournament in the same year, as Princeton earned an unprecedented at-large bid.

This year, Harvard has the best non-league record in Ivy women's basketball at 11-1 and Penn is the preseason favorite. Princeton? The Tigers have played a really challenging schedule, have gotten better on a weekly basis and now are ready to head into league play.

On the men's side, both teams have played very challenging non-league schedules, and they are both one game over .500. Princeton and Penn have played at least twice a year, every year, since they first met, on Valentine's Day 1903.

This year, of course, is different than any other that has preceded it in Ivy League basketball. Why? Because this is the first year that the path to the NCAA tournament goes through a conference tournament at season's end.

The games this weekend begin the regular season, and whichever team (or teams) on top of the league standings at the end of that regular season will earn the Ivy League championship. The NCAA tournament bids, though, will go to the winners of the men's and women's tournaments.

The tournaments will be four-team events, both played at the Palestra. This means that Goal No. 1 for each team is to be in the top four in the league standings.

Princeton's men and women will both be home again next weekend, against Yale and Brown. After that, it'll be four home games and seven road games the rest of the way.

TigerBlog has seen 50 or so Princeton-Penn men's basketball games in his life, and he'll be there again tomorrow, on the radio, this time with the ever-improving Patrick McCarthy.

Of those 50 games, TB has rooted for Princeton way more than Penn, but he has rooted for both.

How many others in Jadwin will be able to say that?