Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Andi And Josh Find Love

TigerBlog knew Andi was going to pick Josh over Nick.

So did anyone with a brain. Well, except for Nick himself, who didn't quite take it graciously.

TigerBlog refers, of course, to the season finale of "The Bachelorette," which aired last night. Depending on your point of view, the show is either breezy, soap opera-ish entertainment, another sign of the collapse of American culture and society or something in the middle.

TigerBlog has little tolerance for most reality television, especially the ones that are merely showcases for increasingly abhorrent behavior, the ones that make people rich and famous for doing things that not that long ago would have resulted in some parental scolding and admonishment, not to mention major societal disapproval.

Today? Whatever it takes to be famous, right? Celebrity at all costs, right?

There are some shows that fall under the "reality" genre that are pretty good. "The Amazing Race," for instance, is a fun show with a pretty good premise - contestants in groups of two go all over the world facing various obstacles and challenges, and the first one to the final finish line wins.

TB saw a little of "Dancing With The Stars" and admired the actual talent and hard work it took to be successful at that. The same is true with "American Idol." He's watched almost none of the other shows were contestants have to sing or dance, but he assumes the same thing applies to them.

Make no mistake. If TB never saw another minute of any of these shows, he'd be fine. Give him Turner Classic Movies, repeats of some of his favorite old shows or a handful of current dramas and he'll be just fine.

As for "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette," these are somewhere in the middle. They're not exactly shows that require actual talent, but they're also not shows that make TB want to break his television and weep for the future of America.

Yeah, TB does sort of believe that love should be found and cultivated in private between the two people doing the falling, rather than on a television show with cameras everywhere. Can they really get to know each other when they're constantly worrying about how they look for TV or getting another sound check or all of that, all with ubiquitous cameras (and people holding them)?

And yeah, the idea that one man or woman is definitely going to fall in love with a random stranger from a group of 24 or however many start out is a little far-fetched. But hey, it's a popular show and hey, 50% of marriages fall apart anyway, so who's to say Andi and Josh won't make it simply because they met on a TV show.

As for last night's season finale, it was obvious early on that Josh was the one. TigerBlog only saw two brief moments of the show this season. The first was when the guy from Iowa got dumped because he was from Iowa and then he gushed tears, only to have some random woman from the audience come onto the show and ask him out. TB suggest that that was staged.

The second was a bit of last night's finale. Nick had no chance, even if he didn't think that way. Sorry Nick. To quote "On the Waterfront," "kid this ain't your night."

As an aside, TB would rather watch "On the Waterfront" for the 1,000th time than most anything else.

Anyway, it came to be that Josh was the winner, he and Andi are going to get married and Nick came in second and was fairly bitter about it. And, TB supposes, America is no worse off because of it.

Josh was once the 48th player selected in the Major League Draft, by the Brewers, though he never made it to the Majors. His brother Aaron was the quarterback for the University of Georgia the last few years, and he was drafted by the Chiefs this past spring.

TigerBlog always thought Murray was a pretty good quarterback, and TB thinks Murray has a good chance to make the Chiefs, who currently have four quarterbacks listed on the roster, including starter Alex Smith and backups Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray.

As for the Chiefs, TB is much more interested in the defensive line, where Princeton alum Mike Catapano is heading into his second year with the team.

MotherBlog always hated three NFL teams - the Cowboys, the Raiders and the Chiefs. TB could never figure out why she lumped the Chiefs in with the other two, but TB has always sort of liked Kansas City. And now they have Catapano, a Princeton player, on top of that.

Catapano made the team last year as a seventh-round draft choice, and he had four tackles and one sack as a rookie, when he played mostly on special teams. There's a great picture of Catapano on his bio page on the Chiefs' website.

TigerBlog figures Catapano has a pretty good chance not only to make the team again but also to have an expanded role on the defense.

Joining Catapano in an NFL training camp this year is Caraun Reid, who was the 158th pick of the most recent NFL draft. That breaks down to being the fifth round pick of the Lions.

Reid is a defensive tackle on a team with two of the best defensive tackles in the league. Still, Reid has a great chance to make the team as well. For starters, when a team has that much money invested in two defensive tackles, it needs to have inexpensive depth.

Here is what it says about Reid on the Lions' website:
Reid will learn from two of the League’s most dominant duos in DT Nick Fairley and DT Ndamukong Suh in 2014, and is expected to provide key depth to the defensive line unit as a whole.

As it is the last week of July, NFL training camps are in full swing. The first preseason game is the Hall of Fame Game this coming Sunday, when the Bills take on the Giants.

TB will be back to rooting for the Giants, who were awful last year. Still, with their two recent Super Bowl wins and four total, TB can't complain about anything for the next few years.

So he'll be fine with some other teams if they do well. Like the Chiefs and Lions.

Just not Dallas.

Or worse, the Eagles.

At least Dallas is coached by a Princeton guy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Valley, Revisited

TigerBlog was driving east on Pennsylvania Route 322 near Harrisburg yesterday afternoon when the sky darkened, the lightning crackled and the rain started.

In the lane next to him was a car driven by an older gentleman and, presumably, his wife. Their car was a convertible with the roof down, so the two of them were getting wet, as was the interior of the car. TB can't remember the make and model.

Now how do two people know that a storm is approaching but continue to drive with the top down? And, perhaps most stunningly, they didn't really seem to care that it was raining on them inside their car. They didn't pull over or speed up or anything like that. Eventually, TB presumes they did something about it, but they had to have been soaked by then.

If TB was on 322 heading east near Harrisburg, then it's a good bet he was coming from Penn State, which is about 90 minutes or so from the state capital.

It was bright sunshine at Penn State all weekend, and the thunderstorms didn't come to that part of the state until a few hours after the end of the Keystone State Games lacrosse tournament, which is what brought TB there. For those keeping score, TigerBlog Jr.'s team came home with a gold medal.

It was the second time TBJ played in the event. The first came back in 2011, when he won bronze. And when TB wrote this:
At Penn State, the single most famous person in the history of the school is football coach Joe Paterno. In fact, there is a statue of JoPa outside the stadium, one that stands about seven feet tall, with a little side drive in which people can pull in and get their picture taken. It appeared that there was a steady stream of people doing just that all weekend.

Back in 2011, Joe Paterno was still the most powerful person on that campus, and possibly in the state. He answered to no one at PSU, obviously.

There was something quaint and charming about Penn State in 2011. It's called Happy Valley, after all.

 It's a giant state university, but State College has the feel of a very small, folksy town, one where everyone knows everyone else - and where the entire Penn State universe stopped on football Saturdays.

Back then, it seemed somewhat idyllic. Paterno, for his part, had the public persona of being a beacon of integrity in the unseemly world of big-time college football. He donated money for libraries, for Pete's sake.

Then, a few short months after TB was there in 2011, the entire facade came crashing down with the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, one that touched the upper echelon of the University administration and did something that losing seasons and old age couldn't do - it brought down Paterno, the man himself and even his statue, which served as a symbol of the place he had in State College society.

Paterno died shortly after he was fired from his job as head football coach, done in ultimately by lung cancer at the age of 85. He remains a wildly polarizing figure, with staunch defenders to this day who refuse to see the obvious, that a sexual predator was operating on his watch, long after Sandusky left the coaching staff, and that Paterno did nothing to stop it, all in the name of keeping his job.

Walking around State College this weekend, TigerBlog again had the feel of being in a really nice, really friendly really special college town.

At the same time, he couldn't help but sense that it will be a long time before the university is completely past what happened, even as all of the major players in the scandal have faced the music. Paterno is dead. Sandusky is in prison for the rest of his life. The administrators who turned a blind eye have been disgraced and face their own legal issues.

Still, there is the unmistakable pall that hangs over Happy Valley, that something awful happened there and that it can't simply be wiped clean without understanding the root cause of it. And that root cause is still there, on the northernmost spot of the campus, a giant, unmistakable reminder of everything that makes the place great - and what can come from that when left unchecked.

Beaver Stadium - the Keystone State Games lacrosse tournament was held on fields that were across the street from the mammoth facility, so TB spent his entire weekend looking up at it - seats 109,000 fans now. That would be four times the size of Princeton Stadium.

At its best, it brings together an entire community in a way that nothing else can. The pageantry, the school spirit, the sheer pride, the history - it's all there. There's something wondrous, beautiful, about it.

And yet underneath that, there is the reality of what can go on away from Game Day. A stadium with 109,000 seats brings in a ton of money, as does a top football program. And where there is that much money, well, you already know the rest.

Penn State's other athletic facilities surround Beaver Stadium, and they too are beautiful to look at. It's what a major Big 10 school does with its athletic facilities.

But make no mistake. Football drives everything there. And look what came of it. Look what was allowed to happen there, and why? Because the football team was "too big to fail," as it were.

Is it naive to wonder what else is out there across the BCS football landscape, under the surface, away from the beauty? Hardly. It's naive not to think that way.

TB wrote it when the scandal first broke and he believes it even more now. Maybe the best thing about Princeton is that nothing - not any part of the University or individual person - can be bigger than the Princeton name itself.

As a result, everyone here is accountable to the Princeton name. Nobody here can think that the rules don't apply to him or her.

At Penn State, Beaver Stadium is the sun that everything else on campus revolves around.

Here, there is no sun, per se. Not like that, anyway.

TigerBlog just looked up from his desk and out the big Jadwin Gym windows, across the track and at the football stadium. This might as well be a different planet from where TB spent his weekend, at least in terms of college football.

The people that TigerBlog met at Penn State this weekend couldn't be nicer. Their town is friendly and welcoming. Their campus is pristine and beautiful.

They deserved better from their hero.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thoughts On Another Summer Friday

Well, it's the next Friday in the summer. Another blink of an eye come and gone, another week closer to the start of the 2014-15 athletic year.

Those numbers now read six weeks from today until the first games of the new year and eight weeks from tomorrow until opening day of the football season.

The lead story on goprincetontigers.com as TigerBlog writes this is the announcement of the 2014-15 men's hockey schedule. Opening day for that sport will be Oct. 31, Halloween. That is a little more than three months away. That's about the same amount of time between opening day for hockey and opening day for lacrosse.

On and on it will go.

Speaking of hockey, Princeton will be playing the Russian Red Stars (TB has no idea who they are, but they have "Russian" in their name so they must be good at hockey) in an exhibition game on Jan. 3, followed by a game six days later against the defending NCAA champ. Off the top of your head, can you name the defending NCAA hockey champ?

TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs to mull that over. In the meantime, the big story in college sports this week was the comment by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby that essentially said "cheating pays" in college sports.

Again, TigerBlog has the same reaction. There are two separate and completely unequal worlds of college sports: World 1 is big-time football and men's basketball; World 2 and everything else. The everything else comprises 95% of the athletes and loses a ton of money; the first two are a small piece of athletes and billions of dollars.

There will always be coaches and programs in World 2 that skirt the rules. The majority of the rule-breaking is going to come from World 1.

And why? That's the easiest question ever. It's the money. When coaches are being paid that much and there is so much at stake financially for these institutions, what do you think is going to happen, especially when you factor in how competitive your average big-time coach is.

TB always laughs when people say the NCAA should make tougher rules or simplify its rule book, as if the governing body of college sports can unilaterally make up regulations. It can't. They come from the member schools.

Have you ever read the rulebook? It's long, bulky and in many ways weird. Read it for five minutes, and you won't be able to prevent yourself from wondering who in the world came up with some of this stuff.

The answer is that these rules came about because there were simple rules that someone figured out a way around. So they had to be tightened up here and there, except then someone else figured another loophole. And so on and so on.

The NCAA enforcement office shot back that it was in fact on top of the cheating in college sports and that most cheaters are eventually caught. Maybe that's true. Maybe that's not.

The problem is that college athletics has all kinds of issues these days, and those issues are calling into question the very future of what college athletics will be and what they will look like. And it's World 1 that is causing 99% of the problems.

TB isn't as bleak on the future of college athletics as some are. Maybe that's because he spends his time in World 2, where the coaches are just as competitive but the money isn't as prevalent, which makes it all somewhat purer.

Plus, TB figures that it'll all work itself out in some way, and that 100 years from now, the Alabama-Auburn football game will still be huge and Princeton will still be playing Harvard, Penn and the rest in a bunch of sports.

Maybe he's wrong about that. He has a hunch he isn't.

Meanwhile, back at the trivia question, the defending NCAA men's hockey champ is Union.

And it's still a Friday in the summer. The last Friday in July, for that matter.

What do you have this weekend? Hopefully it's something good.

Two weeks ago, TigerBlog suggested it was too nice out for people to be at work, so they should all tell their bosses that TB said it would be okay to take the afternoon off. The weather is actually nicer around here today than it was then, if that's possible.

The summer is made for days like this, weekends like this one coming up. Make sure you're spending it outside. Go the beach. Or at least the pool. Have a BBQ. Get up early and go out to breakfast and then take a long walk. Go to an outdoor concert.

Six months from now will be the last Friday in January, which means Jan. 30 (even though it's only the 25th of July). On that night, Princeton will be at Yale in men's hockey. Yale won the NCAA title the year before Union.

TB's sense is it'll be much colder that weekend than it will be this one. Cold. Maybe snowy. Windy for sure. It'll be a weekend to bundle up and all that, and to think about how summer is out there somewhere in the distance, somewhere far off at that point.

So enjoy it while it's here.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking Requests

TigerBlog used to love to listen to Saturday Night Oldies on the radio.

That's when oldies were oldies. As in doo-wop and early rock ’n roll and that kind of stuff.

Now when he turns on an "oldies" station, what does he hear? Soft rock from the ’70s and ’80s. Disco. The Beatles and Stones. That kind of thing.

That's not oldies. That's Top 40 from when TB was a kid.

And since TB is hardly old, then the music from when he was a kid can't be oldies, right?

TigerBlog's favorite music is termed "classic rock." Well, that and show tunes. He even likes a lot of the same indie rock that TigerBlog Jr. does. He has to draw the line at the music Miss TigerBlog likes, whatever it's called. Just put on FM 106.1 around here and listen for awhile and you'll hear it.

TB is for the most part fine with the music that plays on the oldies stations, even if it's not really oldies.

The 1970s were an interesting - and great - time for music. Within a few weeks, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band released "Darkness on the Edge of Town," the Village People released "Macho Man," REO Speedwagon released "You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish," Van Halen released "Van Halen" - which has "Runnin' With the Devil" and "You Really Got Me" on it - Barry Manilow released "Even Now," Jimmy Buffet released "Son Of A Son Of A Sailer" and Andy Gibb released "Shadow Dancing."

And that doesn't even count one album that outsold all of them, and most of them combined - the soundtrack from "Saturday Night Fever."

In other words, there were all kinds of competing genres, and yet they all had broad - and enduring - appeal.

For all of that, there was something special about Saturday Night Oldies. That was mostly music from the 1950s and possibly early 1960s. And that's it.

Segueing from music, TigerBlog can also take requests, as he has done often in the past. This time is a little different.

This one comes from Glenn Adams, Class of 1963, who posted this comment yesterday:
Could you please post the breakdown of the points total of the various 8 Ivy schools for all sports within the 2013-2014 school year? And could you please provide the number of Ivy Championships for each school? As the recent issue of the PAW pointed out, Princeton's laudable 27-year streak of winning the Ivy's unofficial All-Sports Championship ended this year as Harvard topped Princeton for the lead this past year. Thanks, Glenn Adams '63

TigerBlog knew this day was coming, through the years and years and decades and decades when Princeton won the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points standings. One year, he knew, Princeton wouldn't win.

To illustrate his point, TB often referred to the final scene of the movie "Patton," one of the greatest scenes in movie history. Patton is walking triumphantly, defiantly, after the Nazis had been defeated and he had confronted the Russians, and yet as his outside projects an unassailable confidence, in his mind he is mulling over the words that "all glory is fleeting."

So what was he supposed to do when that day happened? Mention it? Ignore it? To mention it would be to publicize the end of a streak. To ignore it would be to lose some credibility for integrity.

As Adams said, for 27 straight academic years, Princeton won the unofficial Ivy all-sports points championship. That is an incredible run, year after year.

This is not an official award. The Ivy League office has never taken ownership of the award and in fact has been adamant about the fact that this something it wanted no part of, ever. At some point, TB stuck the word "unofficial" in to appease Brett Hoover, who was then the communications director at the league office.

The standings are determined by how a school finishes in each of the 33 official Ivy League sports. Eight points are awarded for first, seven for second and so on down the line. If there are ties, the points are split.

Once during the time that TigerBlog has been compiling the standings, Princeton won without having the most Ivy League championships. This past year, Princeton won six Ivy titles, finishing second to Harvard, who had 14.

As for the all-sports points standings, Harvard had 207 points to 189 for Princeton. The next-best total was 144.5.

There. TigerBlog put it out there.

Of course, maybe he'll just word it this way:

Princeton has won 27 of the last 28 Ivy League unofficial all-sports points championships.

The quest for 28 of 29 will begin shortly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Year In Review

The last athletic event of the 2013-14 athletic year was the last event of the NCAA track and field championships, which were June 14.

The triple jump, to be exact.

Using that as a starting point, there would be 83 days between the end of 2013-14 and the start of 2014-15, which would make the halfway point Day 42, or July 26, which is Saturday.

Because this is still the first half of the summer break, TigerBlog can still look back to the year that just happened, as opposed to fully ahead for the coming year. And that, of course, means the 2013-14 Year in Review.

TigerBlog loves the calendar on his phone. And the fact that it can be used instead of a watch.

Anyway, TigerBlog is always fascinated by the Year in Review, which he used to write for inclusion in a bunch of places, most notably the media guides that are no longer printed.

These days, it turns up in the annual report, a compilation of mostly statistical information with some text mixed in. It’s also in the Unified Appeal, which is sent out to Friends’ Groups and some others.

What fascinates TB about it is that at the beginning of an academic year, there is no way to know where he will be starting when it comes time to write the year in review.

A year ago, for instance, he wrote about four NCAA championships. Who would have guessed that when 2012-13 began?

This year? Where would you start?

You’re a Princeton fan. Where would you have started when it came to writing the year in review?

TigerBlog will give you a second to think about it. In the meantime, he’ll talk about what else fascinates him about his phone.

TB has never been a huge fan of wearing jewelry. He used to have a watch – actually a few – all of which he got from basketball tournaments, either the NCAA, NIT or Christmas tournaments.

His favorite was the one from the Rainbow Classic, which he got in 1998 in Hawaii. It was very colorful, like, you know, a rainbow.

Mostly he’d keep the watch in his pocket and then look at it when he wanted to know what time it was. Eventually, the need for the watch faded away as he got a cell phone.

Think about everything that a phone has wiped out. TigerBlog no longer needs a watch, a calendar, a camera, an alarm clock, a map, a GPS – even a home phone for that matter. Or a hairbrush, but that has nothing to do with his phone.

Okay, come up with what you would write about?

TigerBlog started with Julia Ratcliffe and the NCAA hammer throw championship that she won. After all, it was Princeton’s last chance to preserve a decades-long streak of having at least one team or individual national champion, something that had eluded the Tigers for the entire athletic year to that point.

And then Ratcliffe ripped off the three best throws and won the title that she was the favorite to win. And in doing so, she extended Princeton’s remarkable streak to 43 straight years.

Think about that what it takes to have a national champion for 43 straight years. And think about the pressure that Ratcliffe had knowing she was the last chance to keep that streak going.

Yes, she was a big favorite. And yes, she had a lot of margin for error. But still, that’s some unnecessary extra pressure. TB wonders how much of it she felt, if any.

So that was where TigerBlog started. It doesn’t mean it’s the right starting point. This one is subjective.

For instance, TigerBlog would understand if you started with the football team.

Princeton, if you’ve forgotten, went 1-9, 1-9 and 5-5 under Bob Surace and his current staff prior to last season and then exploded into an offensive force that set Ivy records for points and yards in a season. Actually, Princeton set those records before its last game even began.

The Tigers also went 8-2 and earned the first Ivy League championship for the team since 2006, not to mention a second-straight bonfire for sweeping Harvard and Yale.

The next biggest team story from 2013-14 largely flew under the radar, and that was the women’s tennis team’s Ivy title, NCAA tournament win over Arizona State and then near-miss against No. 2 Alabama – all without a senior in the lineup.

Of course, you could also start with an event that wasn’t an event at all. Maybe the changing of the guard for the Ford Family Director of Athletics was the biggest story of 2013-14.

As of Sunday, it’ll be time to look ahead. A new year. A new year in review to be written in slightly less than a year’s time.

Where will TB start on that one?

Your guess is as good as his.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Small World

Here's how small the world has gotten: TigerBlog sent a text message to former Princeton men's lacrosse manager Allison Binns the other day and within minutes got a response saying "I'm in Zanzibar."

Think about that. The world is tiny. A text message from New Jersey and a response from Zanzibar. In a few seconds.

Think about how mass communication has changed. TigerBlog was telling his friend Todd yesterday about how when TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog were in nursery school, it was his job to create the phone list for when the weather was bad. If school was closed, then someone would call TigerBlog and he in turn would start the phone calling chain from there.

Now if school is closed, TB gets a voicemail, email and text before he ever wakes up. Phone lists? Hah. What are those?

Todd countered with the idea that if a typhoon were to happen somewhere in a remote area of the Pacific, it would be international news in minutes. If the same thing happened 20 years ago, how would word ever spread?

TigerBlog has sort of wondered how basic news traveled as recently as 100-150 years ago? How did word get around, for instance, that a new President had been elected? Or how did vote tallies get sent on to where they were centrally counted?

TB would say it made it easier to cheat in elections, but in some ways it seems like it's never been easier. But hey, he digresses.

Actually, he isn't digressing, since he hasn't actually gotten to the point yet.

Oh yeah. Communication.

TigerBlog was watching the final between the U.S. and Canada at the World Lacrosse Championships when the broadcast crew began to interview Bill Tierney, the former Princeton men's lacrosse coach who is currently the head coach at Denver, where the tournament was held.

In addition to talking about how the game was going, Tierney also talked about how he had played in the over-60 division in the tournament. TB knew that Tierney was going to be doing this, since he had seen Tierney the week before the World Championships and Tierney had mentioned it.

TB wanted to ask Tierney how he did, so he texted him. A few moments after the interview, Tierney responded, saying he'd scored four goals in four games, the U.S. had won and he had sore Achilles.

Canada defeated the U.S. 8-5 in the final. The game was played at an excruciatingly slow pace, but it was perfect for the Canadians, who got the lead and sat on it. The rules had stalling warnings but no shot clock, and the U.S. defense could force the Canadians out of possession until it was way too late.

As an aside, Tierney said he would be shocked if there wasn't a shot clock in men's collegelacrosse next year and that he would welcome it. TigerBlog would be okay with it, though he has to be the only one who thinks that the current rules are pretty good, with the so-called invisible shot clock after a timer-on is declared by the refs. Maybe clarify the rules to have more uniformity to when the timer on is called.

Anyway, as of now, the Canadians have won the championship for the third time. The U.S. has won eight. Nobody has won any.

Also, nobody is getting all that close to winning one. The Iroquois are the third-best team, and they only lost to the Canadians by one the first time around. They then were hammered by the U.S. in pool play and by the Canadians in the semifinals.

Australia is the fourth best team, but there's no way the Australians are beating the U.S. and Canada. Israel, for that matter, almost got the Australians, falling 9-8 in the quarterfinals.

The dominance by two countries helps keep lacrosse out of the Olympics. On the other hand, the lacrosse world is growing significantly.

Tierney mentioned that when he coached the U.S. team  in 1998 - the Americans won - there were 11 nations who competed. This time, there were 38 teams in Denver.

Among them was Uganda, who not only became the first team from Africa to play in the World Championships but also won two games. The Ugandan offensive coordinator is Princeton alum Tom Schreiber, who described his guys as "truly amazing."

Clearly they were the rock stars of the tournament. Everywhere the Ugandans went, they were met by crowds who roared their approval. And why not? This was a country that didn't have lacrosse maybe three years ago, and here they were, playing and winning games in Denver.

The ESPN coverage of the event was tremendous.

Almost all of the U.S. games were on the TV networks, and many other games were on ESPN3. TigerBlog watched a few of those games on his phone.

It's how a sport grows.

And how the world gets smaller.

Monday, July 21, 2014

RIP, James Garner

Hendley was the new man in the "X" organization, an American surrounded on all sides by the British, save for two other countrymen.

Why three Americans were put here with all of the British officers wasn't exactly clear. Still, it worked out, at least in the short run, since Hendley - the scrounger - was exactly what the British needed for their escape - their "Great Escape," as it were.

Of course, in the end - after 50 of them were dead, 23 were returned and only three got away - it was Hendley who asked the obvious, yet almost completely unspoken question: Was it worth the price?

Hendley had guts, that's for sure. He took charge of the blind man. He stole a plane from a Nazi air base and flew it most of the way to Switzerland before he realized that he'd stolen a plane that didn't work. He survived the crash. He mourned his friend, the blind man, who couldn't see the ambush he was walking into until it was way too late, and even though, as he lie dying, all he said to Hendley was "thanks for getting me out."

The movie "The Great Escape" is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorites. It's a collection of tough guys who stand up to the Nazis and organize an incredible escape effort, only to realize that getting out of the camp and getting out of Germany were two different things.

It's also based on a true story, which means that there really were guys this tough in real life. And, in fact, there still are guys (and women) that tough, which gives TigerBlog hope for the world still.

Of all of the characters in "The Great Escape," TB's favorite has always been Hendley. Maybe it was the quiet, rational, realistic cool that Hendley had, instead of the overt bravado of some of the others.

Or maybe it was just the actor who played him, James Garner, who died over the weekend at the age of 86. When TB first heard the news, it struck him more than it does when most celebrities pass away.

For TB's money, the three coolest actors of all time are Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and James Garner. As of this weekend, all three are gone.

McQueen, MotherBlog's all-time favorite, lived to be only 50 before he died in 1980. His best role too was in "The Great Escape," where he played another American, Hilts, who is the king of the bravado cool. And the king of the cooler.

As for Garner, playing Hendley was the role TigerBlog remembers the most. It was hardly his only one.

He is most famous, probably, for playing Jim Rockford in "The Rockford Files." He was also a television star in "Maverick," and his movie credits surpass the 50 mark, including "Murphy's Romance," for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and "The Americanization of Emily," for which amazingly he was not.

TigerBlog loved Garner in "The Rockford Files" for many of the same reasons he loved him as Hendley, his quiet toughness, his ability to see everyone around him for what they were and for how grudgingly but forcefully he put up with the nuttiness around him.

For all of that, perhaps his best role came alongside Mariette Hartley in late 1970s and early 1980s Kodak commercials, where he was the henpecked husband and she was the relentless wife. There was an episode of "Barney Miller" where one of the side characters is talking about how the whole world is upside down, and to make his point, he says this: "Look at James Garner in 'The Great Escape.' Nazis couldn't build a prison big enough to hold him. And now he's gotta take lip from that snotty broad in those camera commercials. And she ain't even his wife."

Garner played off Hartley so perfectly while she did the same to him that it was impossible for the American viewer to believe they weren't actually husband and wife.

In reality, James Garner was married to the same women for 58 years, from the day in 1956 when they wed until the day he died. In fact (or at least according to Wikipedia), they had known each other for 14 days when they got married in 1956, and they never looked back.

Garner played a war hero in "The Great Escape." In real life, he was a soldier, wounded twice in the Korean War and earning two Purple Hearts. He turned to acting when he returned from the war, first in commercials, then on television and finally in movies.

He met his wife Lois at an Adlai Stevenson for President rally in 1956. Stevenson ran twice against Dwight Eisenhower and lost both times, in 1952 and again in 1956.

Stevenson was a Princeton grad, Class of 1922, which meant he graduated in the spring before the football season in which Princeton's Team of Destiny would go 9-0 and win the national championship. As part of that season, Princeton and Bill Roper defeated the University of Chicago - coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg 21-18 in Chicago in the first game ever broadcast on radio.

Does that count as enough of a reference to Princeton Athletics for today?

No? What if TigerBlog threw in that Erin McDermott, formerly the Executive Associate AD at Princeton, is now the Director of Athletics at Chicago? Is that enough?

What if threw in that John Mack, a 10-time Heptagonal champion, lives in Chicago and recently graduated from Northewestern Law School and passed the Illinois bar exam? Mack is also a former Roper Trophy winner, and the trophy is named for Bill Roper.

C'mon. That's like four paragraphs on Princeton Athletics.

Oh, here's another Princeton reference. TigerBlog didn't realize that Adlai Stevenson's father was Vice President of the United States under Grover Cleveland, who retired to Princeton and is actually buried in town.

Okay, one more. Yesterday TigerBlog was talking with a bunch of people when someone asked who the 14th President of the United States was. TigerBlog knew Lincoln was the 16th and that Buchanan preceded Lincoln. As he pieced it all together, he realized that the 14th was Franklin Pierce, and Franklin Pierce University plays sprint football now. Princeton is at Franklin Pierce on Oct. 3.

And that's all you get today. Give TB a break. It's not easy getting from James Garner to Princeton football.

And today is all about James Garner, one of TB's all-time favorites.

The world is a little less cool a place without him.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Think About Your Life, Pippin

TigerBlog and BrotherBlog share the same last name, and for that matter, the same last four letters of their first name.

Somewhere floating around in their cells, they have some genetic similarities. DNA and all that stuff.

For the most part, that's where it ends. The two have almost nothing in common, in almost any way. It's not that they don't get along. It's just that they are two completely different people.

This isn't a bad thing per se. Like TB said, it's not like they don't get along. Quite the opposite.

It's just that they don't have a lot of shared interests - or beliefs or temperaments or anything else. They probably wouldn't be friends if they weren't related, but hey, they are. And they each only have one sibling, so common sense would suggest that there's no reason to let a little thing like being nearly 180 degree opposites get in the way.

The result has been a lifetime for the two of them of reaching out to his brother's world, seeing what that world is all about, figuring out what makes the other tick. This has often taken both brothers way out of their comfort zones, and there have been really rocky moments. Still, it's been way worth it, since now, all these decades later, they have reached a place of what TigerBlog would consider to be a real understanding of each other. 

And it's also been a lifetime of finding areas of commonality. Places like the Music Box Theater, for instance.

Maybe it's because their parents introduced them to Broadway theater at a very young age. Maybe it's because each sees something in a musical production that appeals to something vastly different in each brother.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is a sign that they do in fact have at least one thing that they share for exactly the same reason. It's their genetic starting point, perhaps.

They both agreed that the current tenant of the Music Box is tremendous. "Pippin" is currently playing there, and both brothers raved about it.

TigerBlog has always loved "Pippin," which is among the most-performed musicals among high schools, which was in fact TB's introduction to the show long ago.

The part of the Lead Player was originally played on Broadway by Ben Vereen. TigerBlog remembers watching the Tony Awards on TV with his brother back in 1973 and seeing how Vereen ran down the aisle and did a flip onto the stage. TB has no idea why he remembers this; he just does.

The show itself is a mostly fictionalized account of the life of someone who may or may not have been Pippin the Short, an obscure eight century monarch. It is mostly a collection of breezy songs around a not exactly hard-hitting plot, yet there is something really endearing about it. And enduring.

Vereen's Tony Award was matched 40 years later by Patina Miller, making them the only two actors of different genders to win Tony Awards for the same role. For that matter, back in TB's high school days, Tara Meany played the Lead Player, showing that it could be either a male or female.

The current Lead Player is Ciara Renee, and she was extraordinary in the role as well. So was the one who played Pippin (Kyle Dean Massey), whose bio said he was on "The Good Wife" as well. Really the entire cast was great, especially the supporting players, who could sing, dance and perform the incredible circus acts and magic tricks that were built into this production.

The real show stopper was the only big name in the show - Annie Potts, who at the age of 61 plays Pippin's seductress/grandmother. She too sang and danced and did the circus stunts, and she did them effortlessly.

TigerBlog hasn't gone to many Broadway shows in the last few decades, but he really loves to do so. There are few experiences like spilling out of a theater at 10:30 or so and seeing just how alive the entire area is, with the people, the lights, the energy. It's incredible. It's rejuvenating. It's impossible to be tired, even as the hour gets later and later.

Meanwhile, back at BrotherBlog, TB doubts that his brother sees in the theater what TB does, which is a huge correlation between what it takes to be great at theater and what it takes to be great at sports.

Gary Walters, the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus, has talked extensively about the similarities between performing arts and athletics, even to point of suggesting that they because they are so similar, there should be academic credit given for athletics like there is for the performing arts. It's a radical view, but there is perhaps merit.

TigerBlog hasn't really given that much thought to it. What he does know is that athletics, like theater, require team efforts. They require those in starring roles, and those who have important supporting roles. There is also the need for those in the supporting roles to know that they are helping the team that way and be okay with not being in the starring roles.

The preparation for both is intense, done in private in advance of very public performances. They both take a serious toll physically and mentally, and as such, successful people in both fields need to take care of their minds and bodies at all times.

Nobody keeps score or wins or loses in theater, so the biggest different between the two comes in the area of competition. And yes, that's a huge part of what sports are all about.

Mostly, they take real, genuine talent to reach the highest level. Nobody on the stage at the Music Box could fake their way through it. They had to be the real deal. It's the same in sports. If you're not good enough, you get exposed.

TigerBlog would love it if TigerBlog Jr. would share his father's and uncle's love for musical theater. Maybe one day he'll get there. Miss TigerBlog is already all in on it, and she has loved her limited experience with seeing shows to date.

Meanwhile, it's another summer Friday here. A week ago, TigerBlog mentioned that there were eight weeks until the first games and 10 weeks until the first football game.

Now, in a blink of an eye, those numbers are seven and nine.

And if the curtain goes up in seven weeks, then rehearsals start in around five weeks. A few more blinks of the eye, and they'll be here.

Last week, TigerBlog told everyone to go enjoy the summer afternoon.

This week, his recommendation is to go see a show. Go see "Pippin." Or really any other one that's playing, like the one next door to "Pippin" - "Les Miserables." Or the one across the street, "The Elephant Man," starring Bradley Cooper.

Nah, scratch that. Go see a musical. TB isn't into plays.

When he left the theater, he was whistling, humming - "oh, it's time to start living. Time to take a little from this world we're given." It's from the interactive part of the song Potts sings.

It's what going to the theater is all about. Taking it with you when you leave.

TigerBlog gets it.

So does his brother.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yoo-Hoo, Mr. Pirate

TigerBlog was driving along I-95 the other day when he saw a fairly freakish sight.

There was a truck in front of him, far enough in front that he couldn't exactly see what was on the back of it but close enough that he could tell that it was one of those trucks that transports carnival rides. In this case, it was a pirate ship.

When TB was a kid, his favorite ride on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights was the pirate ship. It was the one that swung back and forth like a giant pendulum.

TigerBlog never loved the rides that went around and around, but he was okay with the up and down ones, like roller coasters and the pirate ship. It started out slowly and then picked up speed and height, with the added bonus that it looked out over the ocean.

Hurricane Sandy, of course, destroyed it - temporarily.

Anyway, it's been years and years - decades, actually - since TB has been on a pirate ship ride. He's fairly certain that even if he lives for 50 more years, he won't go on it again.

Still, the truck with the pirate ship did bring back some pretty good memories for TigerBlog.

And as he got closer to it, TB also started to get freaked out. See, there seemed to be a man on the back of the truck waving to the cars that went by. He was out there in the open, seemingly surfing on the bed of the truck while dodging the interstate traffic.

As he got closer, it got worse. It wasn't a real person, just a fake pirate, like a wax figure or something, one who was set up to wave to the passing cars. Except he was completely life-like, only about eight feet tall or so. Freaky. Yeah. Definitely.

As an aside, one of TigerBlog's favorite exchanges between Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam is when Sam is on a ship chasing after the rabbit, and Bugs yells "yoo-hoo, Mr. Pirate." When Sam still chases after him, Bugs says "are you still sore? What a nasty disposition." Hah. That always gets to TB.

Anyway, after TB had a few nightmares about the eight-foot-tall fake pirate, he got to thinking about the carnival world. Miss TigerBlog and her friend Wiki went to one such carnival a few weeks ago, and they had a great time - along with the hundreds of others who were jammed in.

And why wouldn't they be there? Who doesn't like a great carnival?

They're all over the country, and people like the people who run the pirate ship truck go all over the country to work at them. It becomes normal to them, TB supposes.

The nature of work is fascinating. Things that TB takes for granted in his job as standard everyday stuff is probably completely foreign to the pirate ship people, and vice versa.

TB's college friend Ed Mikus Jr. got a new job. He described it this way: "Primarily product support. We deliver tools to analyze mortgage backed securities and I focus on those bonds collateralized by commercial real estate."

TigerBlog has no idea what any of that means, other than he assumes it pays well.

As for TigerBlog's world, his job is very seasonal.

Right now, in the summer, the main staple of his job is missing. There are no games.

They'll be back soon (seven weeks from tomorrow). This is about a week shy of the midway point between the end of last year and the start of next year.

People ask TB all the time what he does in the summer without the games to worry about. Or if he has to work at all.

One of this summer's big projects is the redesign of goprincetontigers.com, the official website of Princeton Athletics. It has had the same basic look for the last nine or so years, which is fine in that it works.

The athletic website is the single best thing that happened in athletic communications in TigerBlog's time here - and really for any college anywhere.

Before there was an athletic website, the ability to communicate directly to those most interested - fans, alums, recruits, donors - was essentially nonexistent. Now? It's the easiest thing in the world.

The amount of content on the website is extraordinary. The problem is that over time, the website has clearly gotten a bit crowded.

Plus, a new look is good every now and then.

The goal is to make the site less busy and easier to navigate while giving priority space where it should be given.

The new site will be live with the start of the new academic year, which leaves another seven weeks to get it done. So far, the process has gone very well, and TigerBlog thinks that Princeton will be offering a very much improved product.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer. Go to a carnival.

Head onto the pirate ship ride, even if TigerBlog won't be there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Going Camping

There are six words that Miss TigerBlog says that make her father cringe: "Do you want to play Monopoly?"

There are any number of combinations of six words that a 14-year-old girl can say to her dad that are way, way, way worse than those six, of course. Those would make TigerBlog do way more than simply cringe.

It's not that playing board games with MTB isn't fun. It's not that TB doesn't want to hang around with her, even if, as is the case with the average early-teenage girl, she treats everything her father says as the absolute dumbest thing anyone in the history of the world has ever said and is 10 times more likely to roll her eyes at her dad than she is to smile at him.

That likelihood goes way up, by the way, when one of her friends is around. There's some equation that can actually calculate that, TB assumes. Or probably at least an app. "My father is so embarrassing" or something like that. It has to be out there.

Oh, and speaking of phones, have you ever spent time around a group of early-teen girls? They all have phones, and they all are always on them. At all times. If TB is driving MTB and her friends someplace, he will glance at them every now and then and see that everyone of them is on a phone.

What makes this sort of frustrating to TB is that he can't always get MTB to respond to his text messages or answer the phone when he calls. It's not like she can use the excuse of "I wasn't on my phone," since they're all on them all the time.

Despite the standard teenage girl stuff, MTB is a great kid. She's funny. She's smart. She's hard-working. She's personable. She's tall. She has a lot of friends. She plays multiple sports (field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, track and field) and one musical instrument (the cello).

Her friend Sonali's dad is an engineering professor at TigerBlog's alma mater, and MTB has gone with her friend and her friend's dad to a bunch of seminars, classes and workshops designed to introduce kids to engineering. MTB is on the record as saying she wants to study engineering there when it comes time for college, prompting TB to explain to her that Princeton has a good engineering school too.

At her best MTB has perfect comedic timing, and she also has the perfect foil in her brother. If TB had to equate them with a famous comedy duo, he'd go with Bugs and Daffy.

So it's not that he doesn't want to hang out with her. It's that playing Monopoly, TigerBlog has decided, is horrifically boring.

TigerBlog played Monopoly as a kid and then didn't play at all for decades until for some reason MTB became engrossed with the game. If TB looked on her phone, then he'd find next to the "my father is embarrassing" app another app, the Monopoly one, which enables her to play on her phone.

On a funny note, there's also a dice roller app that MTB uses because her game box no longer has its own dice in it.

There are all kinds of problems with playing Monopoly.

First, everyone seems to play by different rules. Then there's the issue of game strategy, which TB has never figured out. Buy up every property? Pass on some to build monopolies? What if you never get any?

Mostly, the problem is that the game can last forever, even long after it becomes apparent that one player is going to roll over the other.

Anyway, TB always feels like he's letting his daughter down if he says no to Monopoly. He needs to get her into a different game, maybe a good card game. Or chess and checkers. Something that doesn't take hours and hours.

Actually, TigerBlog thinks there are societal parallels to Monopoly. It used to be a fun, family-oriented game, TB supposes, and the fact that it took a long time to play was its charm. These days, everyone is too impatient and too focused on other things - like phones - to put that kind of time into something as low-tech as a board game.

TigerBlog is wrestling with this one. He doesn't want to contribute to the decline of American society, but he also doesn't want to get dragged into playing Monopoly all the time.

He doesn't have to worry about it tonight. He told MTB that he would practice field hockey with her this evening.

MTB has been playing all summer for her club team, called Mystx. She has school tryouts coming up, and she will also be heading to two camps, the first of which starts tomorrow here at Princeton.

Even by the standards of the overscheduled world of today's youth, MTB had a busy week last week. It began Thursday when she played field hockey and lacrosse and continued with more field hockey Friday and then more lacrosse over the weekend.

MTB has one bag that she uses for both sports, and she is constantly taking field hockey sticks out and putting lacrosse sticks in. TB often wonders if it's easy to keep track of the rules and subtleties of each sport, especially as she bounces back and forth between them so much.

MTB loves going to camp here, as TigerBlog Jr. used to as well.

TigerBlog thinks it's great for kids to stay in the dorms here and be exposed to a basic sample of what to expect from living at a college, even at young ages.

Princeton University hosts 64 sessions of summer camps across 18 sports, bringing a few thousand kids to this campus each summer. Each week in prime camp season there are any number of different sports represented, and TB can hear boys basketball going on behind him while he looks out across the track as another group is doing something.

In a little while, other groups will emerge to walk to lunch.

The camp life here is great. There are some day camps, but most are overnight.  The kids get to sleep in the dorms. Eat in the dining halls. Play their sport all day and night. Eat pizza. Meet other kids from around the country and in some cases the world.

It's a great experience for the kids involved. It's why the programs are so successful.

Some, like the younger group of boys playing basketball, are introductory. Others, for the high school kids, are competitive.

Either way, they're a huge part of the campus fabric in the summer.

There are way worse things for kids to be doing with their time.