Friday, April 17, 2015

A Bunch Of Big Events

So this is a fairly big weekend for Princeton sports.

One team is playing for an outright Ivy League title. Another is playing for a share. A third could get a share with a win and some help. Another is playing to get into position to get an Ivy title.

Even some teams that aren't playing for a league championship have huge rivalry games.

And there's also the added benefit of having many of these events on campus.

So where would TigerBlog like to start today? Of course.

With that ESPN reporter who went off on the person where her car was towed. Did you see this?

First of all, TigeBlog had never heard of Britt McHenry before he saw the story yesterday about how she was suspended by ESPN for a week after her awful tirade. You can see for yourself HERE if you haven't seen it yet.

Okay, two things.

First, did she have to touch every stereotype of TV personalities all at once? Admit it. What did you think when you saw her? Typical female TV sportscaster, chosen for her looks and nothing else? And now that she's on ESPN, she feels she's some sort of special class who is several stratospheres above the lowly people who watch her on TV?

Well, did you know this about McHenry: She has a master's degree from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, after graduating magna cum laude from Stetson, where she played on the soccer team? She actually sounds like someone who could have had a lot of credibility, only to throw it away completely in one ridiculous temper tantrum.

Seriously. Who will ever think of her as legitimate ever again?

And then there's the second thing, and it's a lesson that continues to bite people every day, from small things to career-defining moments to events that rise all the way to defining national attitudes on the biggest of issues.

Assume at all times that the camera is on you. Somewhere, somehow, for whatever reason - assume everything that you do is being videotaped.

Anyway, Britt McHenry, you could not have come across as a worse person if you had set out to try to make yourself look bad, if that was actually your goal.

And now back to the weekend at Princeton.

It starts this evening on Sherrerd Field, where the men's lacrosse team hosts Harvard. If you can't make it, the game is on ESPNU.

Should TigerBlog share that with you? Isn't the goal to get people to the game, not to remind them they can watch it at home? Or does he have a responsibility to share that information?

He's reading too much into it.

Anyway, it's a huge game in the men's lacrosse race. There are two weekends and six Ivy games left. Princeton and Cornell are headed to the Ivy tournament. Harvard, at 1-3, can still get in. In fact, every Ivy team is still mathematically alive, though that cannot be the case after this weekend.

Harvard is out with a loss tonight. Princeton? It is playing for the league championship and home field for the Ivy tournament.

The regular season ends next weekend at Cornell, who like Princeton is 3-1 and with a share of first place. Cornell is at Brown tomorrow.

The other big event on campus tonight is at Dillon Gym and has become one of the best events of the athletic calendar at Princeton. What would that be? Penn State at Princeton men's volleyball.

Last year's match was a classic, one that Princeton won against the power of Eastern volleyball. It was an intense night with a packed house. This year figures to be more of the same, even if Penn State is again a huge favorite.

If you're in New York City this afternoon, you can see the women's tennis team play at Columbia.

Princeton has already won at least a share of the Ivy League championship and needs a win against either the Lions or home Sunday against Cornell to wrap up the outright title and the NCAA tournament bid. Will it be easy? Hardly.

Princeton is ranked 40th this week nationally. Columbia is No. 46. Cornell is No. 75.

Then there is women's lacrosse.

The Tigers have a really quick turnaround after their huge win Wednesday night over Penn, 9-7 in Philadelphia. Up next is Columbia, tomorrow at 1 on Sherrerd Field.

A win in that game would mean that Princeton would definitely host the Ivy League women's tournament and would earn no worse than a share of the Ivy title. Princeton would get an outright title with a win tomorrow and then a win next weekend over Brown, also at home.

Columbia and Brown are both 1-4 in the league. Brown beat Princeton a year ago.

Admission to the women's lacrosse game is free. And it's supposed to be 75 and sunny. So there is no reason not to be there, right?

Well, unless you decided to go to the softball games at Penn.

These are also huge games. Princeton enters the weekend 6-4 in the division. Penn is 7-5. The Tigers have four games in Philadelphia this weekend.

To earn a shot at the division title and a chance to play in the Ivy League championship series, it seems like a split at the very least might be necessary. A team that wins three this weekend would be putting itself in the driver's seat.

Being a spring weekend, there's also water polo (away), baseball (away), rowing (home and away) and a huge track and field meet (the Larry Ellis Invitational).

And, after having started with that ESPN reporter, TigerBlog will finish the day with Larry Ellis.

When TigerBlog first came around Princeton Larry Ellis was the men's track and field coach. He was also the U.S. Olympic Track and Field coach.

One day, TigerBlog was walking down the balcony, when he heard a conversation between Ellis and an athlete, who asked Ellis what he would have to do to achieve his goal of a certain time in his event.

And what did Ellis say?

"Run faster."

There's genius in that answer, by the way.

Enjoy your weekend. Go to at least one Princeton event.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trying To Win In Philly

TigerBlog wanted to start out writing about the NBA draft lottery situation and then get into the women's lacrosse game against Penn from last night.

He even knew how he was going to segue. Talk about the Sixers. How they played in Philadelphia last night. And then mention how the Princeton-Penn women's lacrosse game was in Philadelphia as well.

Maybe say something about how there were two big games in Philadelphia last night, except in one of them both teams were trying to lose.

Yeah, that's how he was going to do it.

Instead, though, he feels the need to start with something serious. The Aaron Hernandez case.

It wasn't that long ago that Hernandez was considered a better NFL tight end than his New England teammate Rob Gronkowski. And now?

Hernandez is a convicted murderer. He is now serving a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

Ironically, the prison in which he will serve that sentence is located two miles from Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots. As he begins his life sentence after his conviction yesterday, Hernandez is barely past his 25th birthday.

This is an awful story all around. TigerBlog cannot imagine how someone can go from where Hernandez was - a rising NFL star with a contract that was to pay him $40 million - to where he is now. How can anyone make the kinds of decisions he made, with the kinds of outcomes that resulted.

And now look at him. Again, TigerBlog long ago tried to give up on the idea that sports stars are automatically smart, well-adjusted, heroic people. In fact, as he's said before, he knows exactly when that started, back when he found out that Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were hooked on cocaine.

These days, he doesn't put much faith in any athletes. That way he can't be let down.

But this? This is so beyond the pale that he can't even comprehend it. He can't even begin to imagine how something like this is even possible.

And, as he sits in a prison cell having completely flushed his life away, what is Aaron Hernandez thinking?

Anyway, that's enough of that.

As for the NBA draft lottery, TigerBlog's memory is that it began to prevent two teams who were heading to the worst record in the league from tanking. Now? It's all tanking all the time for teams that are out of it. 

Worse, these teams gut their rosters to make it happen. And then they make trades that have picks that are protected under certain circumstances and not under others.

Look at the Knicks. They got hammered the other night by the media and their fans - by winning. 

The result of the lottery last night was a game in Philadelphia between the Heat and Sixers that both teams desperately needed to lose. Of course, the players still go and play hard. It's not like they shoot the ball in the wrong basket or anything.

The easiest solution is to get rid of the lottery. It lessons the incentive to tank, at least for most of the teams.

And that's enough of that.

As for the game that was played in Philadelphia last night that both teams actually tried to win, it was the women's lacrosse game, between No. 13 Princeton and No. 11 Penn. That was, by the way, a pretty good segue.

Princeton and Penn were both 4-0 heading into the women's lacrosse game last night at Franklin Field. The winner had the inside track to winning the Ivy League and hosting the Ivy tournament.

And the winner was Princeton. The Tigers erased a one-goal halftime deficit and pulled away to win 9-7.

It's a huge win for the Tigers.

Princeton is now 5-0, with home games against Columbia and Brown, beginning Saturday at 1 against the Lions. A win in either of those games means that Princeton clinches at least a share of the league title and the host role for the Ivy tournament.

Columbia and Brown are both 1-4 in the Ivy League. Brown did defeat Princeton in the Tigers Ivy opener a year ago.

Since then, Princeton has not lost an Ivy League regular season game, winning the final six last year to earn home field for the Ivy tournament and now winning the first five this year.

Princeton is already in the Ivy tournament. There are four other teams - Penn, Harvard, Cornell and Yale - in the running for the other three spots.

Had Penn won last night, it would be the Quakers who would need one win in the last two to get a share of the title and home field for the ILT. Penn led 5-4 at the break, but Princeton's Olivia Hompe scored twice to start the second half. Penn tied it at 6-6, but a 3-0 Princeton run basically ended matters.

The first of those three goals, by the way, was from Erin McMunn, who became the sixth player in program history to reach 200 career points.

It was a big night in Philadelphia for the Princeton women's lacrosse team, who won the game it needed to win. It was a big night for the Sixers too. They lost when they need to lose.

Both teams went home happy, TB supposes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day

Not that you need TigerBlog to remind you of this, but today is Tax Day.

There are very few days on the calendar that are as identifiable with something year after year after year as is today, April 15. What else matches that?

The Fourth of July? December 25? January 1? That's about it, right?

TigerBlog spoke to his friend Todd yesterday, and Todd had to cut the conversation short because he was finishing his taxes. TB would never have pegged him for a procrastinator.

The tax laws in this country are insanely complex. And TigerBlog's own tax situation has evolved radically since he first filed them way back when, using the 1040EZ form, something that took him about three minutes to complete.

The lingering deadline of April 15 always hangs over people. It starts probably in mid-February or so, when people first think about getting their taxes done.

If TigerBlog had to guess, he'd say that more than 90% of people wait until April to actually do anything about filing their taxes, and probably 75% get them done within 72 hours of the deadline.

Back when TB first started filing them, it was a bit tougher, because they actually had to be mailed. On the other hand, it made for good theater, and the news was always filled with those who were mailing their taxes as the midnight deadline closed in.

Now, everything is e-filed. It makes getting the refund a lot easier, that's for sure. Oh, and the refund? That's just your money, not a bonus you get from the government of anything. It's the money you had withheld above what you should have.

You know who probably won't be cheating on his taxes?

Kyle Hagel.

If you happened to stop by goprincetontigers.com yesterday, you might have noticed that, in between the pictures of volleyball, golf, tennis, softball and lacrosse was one lone hockey picture, perhaps somewhat out of place here in the spring.

The picture went with a story about Hagel, a 2008 Princeton alum who won the American Hockey League's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the Man of the Year. Hagel was given this honor for his service to the local community as a member of the Charlotte Checkers.

Each team in the extremely large AHL has a local winner of the award, and then the league-wide winner is chosen among them. Of the 30 team winners, three were Princeton alums, with Mike Moore of the Hershey Bears) and Mike Sdao of the Binghamton Senators also honored.

Princeton had more representatives than any other college. From the release about Hagel, by the way: A five-time recipient of his team’s Yanick Dupré Award nomination, representing five different AHL cities, Hagel has been the face of the Checkers’ efforts in the Charlotte community this season. He has spent countless hours at school and community appearances delivering toys to patients at a children’s hospital, leading school assemblies to promote healthy living and the importance of hard work, bringing lessons of hockey to both physical education and science classes, and much more. Hagel also implemented the successful “Stick to Reading” program that he created in his previous AHL cities, contacting administrators at a local middle school, laying the groundwork for the program and encouraging his teammates to participate. Hagel captained the Checkers’ efforts during “Movember” to raise funds for men’s health causes, and also remained involved in two endeavors he helped develop earlier in his career: Shnarped, a popular mobile app that directly connects hockey players with fans; and Hockey Players for Kids, a non-profit organization made up of hockey players dedicated to improving the communities they live in.

You know who else is unlikely to cheat come tax time? The woman in the softball picture next to Hagel's on the website.

Last time, it was Skye Jerpbak, the catcher, who was all smiles in an action picture on the website. This time, it's Kelsey Smith, who also has an ear-to-ear grin while getting ready to hit.

Why are all these softball players so happy? Maybe it's because the team is in first place in its division heading into a huge weekend series at Penn.

Princeton is 6-4 in the South Division, while Penn is 7-5. Dartmouth at 11-1, is three games up on Harvard in the North Division.

The two division winners meet, at the home of the team with the better record, in the Ivy League Championship Series. The four games this weekend in Philadelphia could push one of the teams in a big way in the right direction should one get three or even four of them.

On an ominous note, Penn has won at least three from Princeton every year since 2008. Does that impact this year? 

Princeton still has two games with Yale and four with Cornell. After this weekend, Penn will have just four with Columbia, whom Princeton swept last weekend.

Princeton is doing all this is a year when it played its home opener on Saturday and had its senior day on Sunday, due to awful weather and construction on its home field.

Speaking of races between Princeton and Penn, there's a huge one tonight at Franklin Field between the teams in women's lacrosse.

Princeton and Penn are the only unbeatens in the Ivy League, at 4-0 each.

The Tigers have already clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament. Penn has not, mathematically at least, though that would change with one win its final three league games.

Princeton and Penn are thinking bigger than just getting in the field, though. The winner tonight will have taken a huge step towards winning the championship and hosting the tournament.

On paper, Princeton has the easier schedule for the last two weekends with home games against Brown and Columbia, who are both 1-4 in the league. On the other hand, Brown defeated Princeton a year ago in Providence.

Penn still has to play Harvard - tied with Cornell at 3-2 for second - and Yale, who is 2-3. Yale appears to be in with a pair of wins and can even get in with a 3-4 record if the right things happen.

Princeton's Erin McMunn, already the program's career leader in assists, needs one point to reach 200 for her career, which would make her the sixth player in program history to reach that milestone. Another Erin, Slifer, leads the team with 44 points.

Princeton is ranked 13th. Penn is ranked 11th.

The weather should be perfect in West Philadelphia for this one.

So if you haven't done so yet, e-file and then get to the women's lacrosse game.

TigerBlog's advice is to not mess around on your taxes. After all, that's how they got Al Capone. It wasn't murder or anything like that. It was income tax evasion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Serving Up Another Championship

TigerBlog was driving back from Dartmouth Saturday afternoon when he had to stop in the Connecticut town of Darien to get gas.

Most of the time that TB gets gas, it's in New Jersey, where he doesn't have to pump it himself. In fact, it's the law in New Jersey. Presumably, the point was to create jobs, TB has always assumed.

In Connecticut, TB had to pump it himself. So he got out of the car and went to put the fuel in his tank.

That's where he noticed something that boggled his mind.

On the gas pump was a TV screen, and it was showing a video. In this case, it was a clip from one of the talk shows on daytime TV.

Is this what the collective attention span of the American consumer has reached?

Nobody can stand there for two minutes to pump gas without having to be entertained? Or is this just another vehicle to squeeze an extra penny or two of advertising?

In protest, TigerBlog refused to look at the video screen.

A few hours earlier, TigerBlog had been in Hanover for the men's lacrosse team's 16-5 win over Dartmouth. The game began at 1 and ended around 3, and TB was done with everything he needed to do shortly thereafter.

Before beginning the long ride home, though, he decided to step into the tennis center to see if Princeton-Dartmouth women's tennis was still going on. As it turned out, he had timed it just perfectly.

First, for those wondering why the match was indoors, the weather in Hanover Saturday didn't quite match the weather in Princeton. Nope, it was in the 30s and windy in the morning, and of course, there is still plenty of snow on the grass up there, well into April.

When TB walked into the tennis building, he could see that there were only two matches going on, one on Court 2 and the other on Court 6. The big scoreboard on the wall said the match score was 3-2 in favor of Princeton and that it was about to become 3-3 when the match on Court 2 ended, which was in the next minute or so.

That put it all on the match on Court 6.

This was not ordinary Ivy women's tennis match, though. This was a huge one, as the undefeated Tigers were playing a Dartmouth team that was ranked above them nationally - actually 16 spots above No. 53 Princeton at No. 37 - and was playing to force a tie at the top of the league standings.

And it all came down to the match on Court 6.

TigerBlog was staring at a long ride home, but he knew he wasn't leaving until the match was completed. It didn't take all that long, either, as Princeton's Katie Goepel went from up 2-1 to winning it at 6-1 in virtually no time.

With her deciding point, the match went to Princeton, 4-3.

TigerBlog has seen a ton of lacrosse. And football and basketball. And more than his share of other sports, like hockey, soccer, field hockey and others.

Princeton prides itself on its broad-based athletic program and fields 38 varsity teams with about 1,000 varsity athletes. Other than the fact that Princeton had just won a huge match, TB was happiest about the chance to see how the Princeton tennis culture played out.

There was a very loyal Princeton contingent in Hanover. TB assumed they were mostly parents.

And it was easy to tell this was a close-knit group. Maybe that's a by-product of winning, or maybe that's part of why a team wins.

And they were a welcoming one. Maybe TB's "Princeton Athletics" shirt was a giveaway that he was on some level one of them, but everyone who saw him had a smile and hello.

With the end of the match, TB wished head coach Laura Granville good luck and then started out for the long drive back. Granville and her team were on their way to Boston, where they would play Harvard the next day.

As it turned out, Princeton had a bigger Sunday than Saturday, with a win over Harvard and a Columbia loss to Brown, which left the Tigers with at least a share of the Ivy League championship. Princeton is at Columbia Friday and home with Cornell Sunday; a win in either match means the outright title and a return to the NCAA tournament.

A year ago, Princeton went 7-0 in the league and defeated Arizona State in the first round of the NCAAs before falling to No. 2 Alabama in a very close match.

The wins this weekend ran Princeton's league winning streak to 12 straight. It also put the Tigers back on the brink of heading back to the postseason.

From TigerBlog's perch above the courts in the gallery Saturday, it was more about offering a little support for the program - and then staying around to see the end of what was a pretty exciting few hours of tennis.

It was a nice end to the day in Hanover, and the start to a great weekend for the Tigers.

A championship weekend. For the second year in a row.

Monday, April 13, 2015

CU77 Says It's True

The Princeton men's lacrosse team has clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament.

At least TigerBlog has it from a reliable source. Who is the source you ask?

Why it's CU77, of course.

And who is CU77? TigerBlog has no idea.

TB can surmise a few things about him. From the moniker, he's a 1977 Cornell grad. He's either a former Cornell lacrosse player or a huge fan of the program

And, much like TigerBlog, he's fascinated by the permutations of the various scenarios for the Ivy League tournament.

In recent years, today would have been the day that TigerBlog went through all of the remaining possibilities and posted a story about it on goprincetontigers.com. This year? Why bother.

CU77 already did it.

CU77 is a poster on the laxpower.com message board. He (for that matter, TB assumes he's a he) went through the last six games - three each for the next two weekends - and came up with the 64 possible outcomes.

All 64 have Princeton and Cornell in the Ivy tournament.

Don't believe TigerBlog? Click HERE and see for yourself. 

Is he right? He is if he interpreted the Ivy League's tiebreakers correctly, which TB assumes he did, since he started out by posting them before he listed all the possibilities.

So instead of doing it himself, TB will simply tip his hat to CU77 and say thanks.

It is, after all, a daunting task. TB wonders how long it actually took him to do.

Still, the lingering question for TB is whether or not he can make the definitive claim that Princeton is in the Ivy tournament. And if so, does he need to give attribution? And if so, to whom? A relatively anonymous person on a message board?

Anyway, TigerBlog does know some things about the upcoming Ivy League tournament. Let's assume Princeton and Cornell are both in, though the Tigers can be anywhere between the outright champion and top seed and tournament host to the No. 4 team.

The winner of the Princeton-Cornell game is guaranteed at least a share of the Ivy League title. That game will be a winner-take-all showdown for the title and top seed if both win this weekend; if one wins this weekend and the other loses, then the winner earns a least a share of the Ivy title before the showdown the following week.

The tournament can only be played in Princeton, Ithaca or Providence, though only 10 of CU77's 64 outcomes result in the tournament at Brown. The only chances for Brown to host involve a win over Cornell this weekend - even TigerBlog could figure that part out.

Princeton hosts Harvard Friday evening at 6 on ESPNU. After that, it's the trip to Cornell for the regular-season finale on April 25.

Princeton's first goal this year was to reach the Ivy League tournament. Goal No. 2 is the NCAA tournament.

That second goal was starting to look like a relatively safe proposition when Princeton was 6-1, but then the Tigers lost three straight - to Brown, Stony Brook and Lehigh. That turned around Saturday, when Princeton sprinted past Dartmouth 16-5.

It's amazing how seasons have their ebbs and flows, and how in a season as short as in lacrosse, how those ebbs and flows can turn on a dime. Princeton left Lehigh Tuesday night in the rain and cold on the short end of a 16-15 score and wondering what was in store for the rest of the season.

And then Saturday in New Hampshire, Princeton played as well as it has all year, on offense and defense. Its third quarter was nearly perfect, as the Tigers outscored Dartmouth 7-1 to break open what had been a 5-3 lead at halftime.

So now the stretch drive begins.

If CU77 is correct, then Princeton has a minimum of three games remaining.

The Tigers have been ravaged by injuries this season and have essentially played the entire year without Will Reynolds, Mark Strabo and Jake Froccaro. In the preseason those three would have been three of Princeton's six or seven best players.

There have been players who have emerged this year to pick up the slack. Ryan Ambler made a jump from freshman year to sophomore year and has made another one this year. Gavin McBride is having a big year in the midfield, going from no points as a freshman to 17 goals and nine assist so far as a sophomore.

Sam Gravitte was supposed to be Reynolds' backup, but he's stepped up to be a solid longstick midfielder who is basically on the field every time the ball is on the defensive end. Shortstick midfield figured to be an issue with the graduation of last year's top three, but Austin deButts, Bobby Weaver and Austin Sims have all been excellent.

There are others too.

Mostly, though, this team is being driven by two seniors having extraordinary years, all-time years at Princeton for that matter. Both of them have great stories.

Mike MacDonald came back from having surgery on both of his hips to have one of the greatest offensive seasons in Princeton history. He already has 38 goals, 22 assists and 60 points, and no player in program history has ever had a season with at least 40 goals and 20 assists.

The other is Kip Orban. TigerBlog told anyone who would listen that they were missing the boat on Orban, who wasn't even an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection a year ago, let alone an All-America or preseason All-America.

So what has he done? So far he's blasted his way to 33 goals, an extraordinary amount for a Princeton middie. Among all-time Princeton greats middies who never put up 33 goals in a season are Tom Schreiber, Lorne Smith and Scott Reinhardt.

TigerBlog has been watching Princeton lacrosse for a long time, and there aren't too many examples he can come up with of players who have been this unstoppable game after game after game. Those who make the list are the very elite of the all-time great players he's seen here.

Led by these two, Princeton has already achieved its first goal, with its second still out there.

The Tigers, after missing out last year, are back in the Ivy League tournament.

At least if CU77 is right.

If nothing else, TB owes him a thank you, for taking care of those scenarios for him. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Prom Night

Depending on whom you ask, tonight is either a huge night for TigerBlog Jr. - or a hugely overrated night.

It's senior prom night for TBJ, another milestone on the way to graduation, college, career and then, hopefully, financially supporting his father.

So what about you? What are your memories of your senior prom? Big deal, or no big deal?

TigerBlog's senior prom date was a young lady named Nancy. He's pretty sure that he saw her only once after graduation, and he has no idea whatever happened to her.

On the other side of the spectrum is his friend Mark. His senior prom date was a young lady named Martha.

Today? They have three kids and a really big dog.

TigerBlog will go out on a limb and suggest that TBJ's prom experience will be something in between.
 If nothing else, this won't be the only prom for the two of them, as TBJ will be taking her to her own prom in a few weeks.

Of course, TBJ is not without prom experience, having attended two a year ago as well, though with two different young ladies, one to his own prom and the other to hers.

TBJ goes to an all-boys high school, and the prom there is a combined junior/senior prom. The athletic communications professional inside TigerBlog wonders how many different high schools will be represented by the girls at the prom for TBJ's school, which has approximately 120 boys in each class.

What's the breakdown of public school versus private school? And, how many reciprocal prom dates will there be?

Proms don't seem to have changed much since TigerBlog went to his. There will be dates, tuxes, formal dresses, pictures, other pictures with the bigger group at a friend's house, a limo to the prom, a post-prom party.

By the way, TigerBlog knows he has his senior prom picture someplace. Maybe he'll dig it out. He can't remember what he was wearing back then, but it was probably pretty stylish.

TigerBlog wishes TBJ - and all high school prom goers this season - a good, and safe, time.

This goes for the more than 200 high school seniors who recently were accepted to Princeton University as recruited athletes.

The first of the stories announcing these classes was posted yesterday, with the announcement of the newcomers of the men's basketball team. The rest will be coming shortly.

It's an interesting time in the lives of these athletes. As recruiting has gotten earlier and earlier, these young men and women have been focused on being part of Princeton Athletics for awhile.

Now that all of their acceptances have been received and the official offers of admission have been accepted, it's much more real to all of them.

They are a few months away from coming to campus as Princeton Tigers. When they get here, they will have the luxury of being part of a a team, giving them a great starting foundation to make the adjustment to college.

TigerBlog knows the names of very few of those who will make up the Princeton Athletics Class of 2019. Within a few months of their arrival, many will already have started to make a name for themselves.

Now? They're still high school seniors. They're looking forward to their own proms, to finishing their high school careers, to graduations, to choosing their classes for college, to enjoying their last summers before they become Princetonians.

Once they do? It'll stay with them forever.

TigerBlog has heard generation after generation of Princeton athletes talk about their earliest days on this campus and how they met friends within the first few hours who became among the best friends they've ever had. The same will happen for the 2019s.

As for the announcement of recruiting classes, they are among the most read pieces that are on goprincetontigers.com. TigerBlog likes to see where the new athletes are coming from, if any of them are local, if any of them went to his own high school. TB assumes other people do the same.

Of course, there's no guarantee as to what kind of experience any of those names will have once they get here. They will each have to make their own way once September rolls around, and then moving forward for the four years that follow.

TB hopes they all realize what a great gift they've been given, to compete in the sports that they love beyond their high school days, and to do so at the No. 1 college in the country. When they start college, they'll be doing so in a department that is committed to maximizing their experience, from Day 1 through graduation.

There's no way for them to know that now though. They'll have to wait and experience it for themselves.

All in good time, of course.

In the meantime, have fun being high school seniors, with everything that goes along with it.

Like proms.

They will very shortly become the Class of 2019.

For now, they're still the Class of 2015, wherever they are.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Apple Z

At 10:01 last night, TigerBlog sent an email to four of his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues looking for a specific piece of information.

He didn't say he needed the answer ASAP or anything like that.

He heard back from all four of them by 10:39. That's 38 minutes. Late at night. All four still connected to work.

It just shows how the world - especially the work world - is today. Always connected. Especially when you're in the business of providing information. The demand is always for more, and faster.

Oh, how it has changed through the years. 

For some reason yesterday afternoon, TigerBlog started to think back to when he first started to use a computer.

When he was in college, he had an electric typewriter. It had a built-in correct tape, which meant that he didn't need white out.

It was cutting edge.

That might as well be a million years ago.

His first experience with a computer was actually a word processor, which he used during a summer job in New York City after his freshman year of college. His first actual project was when he had to mail a bunch of books all over the world, and he used the word processor to do the mailing labels.

Again, cutting edge.

It wasn't until he first came to Princeton that he was exposed to the wonders of the Mac. It makes him chuckle to think about how rudimentary the first Macs he had here in the OAC were, how slowly they moved, how much harder simple tasks were than they are now and how wired they were to one specific spot.

And yet, it was cutting edge.

TigerBlog may have exaggerated his computer background a tad on his interview here. Maybe he didn't, actually - he can't remember at this point. And to be honest, the statute of limitations on that has long since expired.

He does know that when he first began at Princeton, he barely knew how to turn his computer on. Actually he probably couldn't turn it on.

Enter, then, Chuck Sullivan.

Back then, Chuck was an intern in the OAC. Today, he is the assistant commissioner for communications for the American Athletic Conference. And one of TB's favorite tweeters.

Anyway, the weekend before TB started at Princeton, Chuck taught TB how to use the computer. He taught him about shortcuts, using the "control" and "alt" and "apple" keys.

TB distinctly remembers learning how to use the "apple-Z" function. This was a stroke of genius from whoever came up with it.

If you've never used a Mac, "apple-Z" enables you to undo the last move the computer made. It's even better than a built-in correct tape.

TB doesn't think he'll ever forget how Chuck taught it to him. It was like, Chuck said, the appeals play in baseball. It had to be done before any other move or else it wouldn't work.

That was the case back then. Today "apple-Z" just takes you back and back and back, undoing move after move.

TigerBlog remembers being a good student. Or more likely, Chuck was just a really good teacher. 

TB has probably "apple-Z'd" more than he's done any other function on the computer, except for copying, cutting, pasting and of course selecting all.

TigerBlog's first Princeton computer had a tiny monitor and made weird noises when it was working right. Every computer in the office was connected to the same printer, and no two people could print at the same time.

Now? TigerBlog can sit on his couch and print to the printer in the office.

It's incredible how much technology has evolved in the time TB has worked here. It's good to remember back every now and then what it used to be like, when the world was just starting to be connected - to the internet - but still moved really, really slowly.

Actually, it was known as the World Wide Web, or, as it was often written, "the information superhighway." When was the last time you used either of those expressions.

TigerBlog can trace the history of every car he's ever had, back to his first car, the 1977 Dodge Diplomat he used to have. Computers? He's not sure how many he's had.

His current version is a MacBook. He thinks it's his third.

He does know that the MacBooks did the most to change the dynamic, since the advent of the MacBook is what enabled the people in the OAC to literally take their work home with them. TigerBlog doubts an evening goes by when the people in his office aren't on their own MacBooks, doing work that used to have to be done in the office.

The job didn't used to be a 24/7 sort of enterprise. Well, maybe not 24/7. But way more than 8/5. Back then, it was necessary to do the majority of the work from the office, because the computers weren't portable.

They became portable as reader demand for more and faster content mushroomed. These things happened together. It's how the job works.

Last night's email experience was just the latest confirmation of that.

TigerBlog doesn't have an iPad or any other tablet. He does have an iPhone.

When he was at the men's lacrosse game at Lehigh Tuesday night, TB did the live tweeting on putigers_live from his phone, rather than his computer, because of the rain. He did it standing on the Princeton sideline for much of the first half.

He's seen the commercials for Apple's watch. What else is out there? What else is coming down the tracks?

It's imperative to stay current on technology and to be ready - and open - to what's next.

For TigerBlog, though, it's always fun to think back to the good old days - the 1990s - when all of this started to become part of everyday work.

Hey, his kids and all of their friends seem to know how to use all of these things instinctively.

TigerBlog had to learn it on his own. Well, with a big assist from Chuck Sullivan.

He's not sure why all of this came back to him yesterday afternoon. It was after he an "apple-Z" though, he thinks.

Today, the laptop has knocked down the walls of the office. Figuratively, not literally.

But the office is everywhere, and it's always open.

It's way more fun this way.

Of course, there's no "Apple-Z" in life. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Court Report

When TigerBlog was a kid, anytime he and his family went anywhere, FatherBlog would always count the number of bags that they took with them.

That way, when it came time to get the luggage from baggage claim, he'd know exactly how many pieces the entire family needed to have.

It seemed like a relatively efficient system. In fact, TigerBlog has used it often throughout his life, though he has altered it a bit.

For instance, if he knows he needs a handful of items at supermarket, he'll just remember that he needs five things. Then, when he gets there, he doesn't need a list. He just knows he needs five things, and then he remembers what the five are.

Or maybe he knows he has to do three things before he leaves at the end of a given day. Or remember to feed two children.  

When he leaves for work, he'll use the same system. He knows he needs to take X number of things with him, and it doesn't really matter what they are. When it comes time to go, he figures it out.

This morning, though, he couldn't remember if he brought his lunch with him. It was one of the four things he needed to bring with him.

Then, as he was driving, he couldn't remember if he'd brought his lunch.

TigerBlog likes bringing his lunch in. Leftovers, usually. And fruit. Grapes and an apple. The red grapes, not the green ones. Cantaloupe, when it's in season.

And it's so easy to just get the lunch out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave. No muss, no fuss.

For years, TB went out to lunch. He went through his bagel place phase. And Panera. And Frist. Now? Just get it out of the fridge.

Fortunately, he had it with him. The other items he had to bring? His computer bag, a new pair of shorts for his locker and two extra layers to wear later, when he goes to TigerBlog Jr.'s lacrosse game.

Why two more layers? Because, despite being April 8, it's back to being freezing. Today? Ugly. Cloudy, gray, chance of rain, high in the mid-40s.

It's supposed to warm up again this weekend, with sunshine and temps back in the 60s. And that'll work out just fine for Princeton Athletics, who has some huge events this coming weekend.

The month of April is when the bulk of Ivy League spring competition takes place. And the seasons zoom by.

In fact, it'll only be two more weekends before Ivy League champions are crowned in both men's and women's tennis. Of course, only one full weekend has been played, but already the season is at the midway point.

Imagine soccer or lacrosse or field hockey if they played two games each weekend and one against a travel-partner tucked in. Or basketball if it was only single round-robin, instead of double round-robin.

That's what Ivy League tennis is.

You know what else Ivy tennis is? Loaded.

Anyway, to date, each team has played three league matches and each will play four more by next Sunday, two this weekend and two next.

Princeton is the lone unbeaten on the women's side and is also 3-0 on the men's side, along with Columbia. Both the men and the women play Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend, with the men at home and the women away.

The Princeton women are ranked 53rd, which leaves them third in the league in rankings, behind No. 37 Dartmouth and No. 46 Columbia. Dartmouth lost 6-1 to Columbia, who has a 4-3 loss to Cornell.

Princeton's women went 7-0 in the league last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the Tigers almost knocked off the No. 2 team in the country, Alabama. A perfect league record. A first-round NCAA win. A strong showing against a national power in the second round.

Sound familiar? Okay, it didn't get the attention that the women's basketball season just got, but it was still one of the great accomplishments in Princeton Athletics in the last few years.

The Princeton men are 18-4 overall and 3-0 in the league. The program record for wins is 20, set in 1995.

Princeton is ranked 30th nationally, ahead of its two visitors this weekend. Dartmouth ranks 54th, while Harvard is 34th. Princeton and Harvard have split a pair of matches this year, and Princeton defeated the Crimson 4-3 in San Diego in the most recent of the two.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and allow the matches to be played outside at the Lenz Center. If not, they'll be in Jadwin Gym.

Ahead for both teams are matches against Columbia and Cornell. And that'll be that for the Ivy tennis regular season.

 Just in time for the really nice weather.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Or Something Like That

TigerBlog was right. Even if he was rooting for that not to be the case.

Back when the Office of Athletic Communications first was putting together its ONLY-FOR-FUN-NO-MONEY-INVOLVED NCAA tournament pool, TB picked Duke to win the championship. He thought it would be the Blue Devils who knocked off undefeated Kentucky.

Then, last Thursday, he wrote that he was rooting for Wisconsin, though asking the Badgers to beat Kentucky and Duke back-to-back would be tough.

Yesterday's blog had his predicted final of 78-71 Duke, "or something like that." Does 68-63 count as "something like that?"

Close enough.

The NCAA championship game has become quite a spectacle, with packed domed football stadiums that bleed every dollar possible out of a paying public and corporate sponsorship, and shooting sightlines be damned.

To its credit, though, the NCAA has resisted having the obligatory musical act at halftime and making halftime grow to twice its standard length.

TigerBlog has heard enough visiting coaches and players talk about the tough sightlines in Jadwin Gym. He can't imagine how tough it is to shoot from the outside in a dome like that.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is odd, in that the excitement dwindles as it goes on. The best parts for most people are the selection show - so they can start to fill out their brackets - and then the first two days, when there are wall-to-wall games from morning to night, upsets here and there by smaller schools and incredible moments from players nobody's ever heard of before that game - you know, like Gabe Lewullis.

By the time the Sweet 16 rolls around, it's back to being the big names from the power conferences. By the end, it's the same teams that are always on TV, to the point where it seems like those first few rounds weren't part of the same event.

Anyway,  there were two real losers in this NCAA men's tournament.

The first was Kentucky, who along with Duke, has completely bought into the one-and-done movement. The Wildcats were 38-0 heading into the weekend and then came up short against Wisconsin. After that, there was the Andrew Harrison incident where he didn't realize that the mic was on when he made a reverse racial slur against Frank Kaminsky and a general backlash against the program's unlikeable coach.

The other loser was the officiating. These are the best of the best when it comes to refs?

Jahlil Okafor committed about 10 fouls against Wisconsin, including four or so in the first three minutes that weren't called. There was the missed shot-clock violation against Wisconsin in the Kentucky game.

There was the possession where Duke's Justise Winslow stepped on the end line right in front of one official; the no-call led to a basket by Okafor as Duke erased the Badgers' lead. 

Those are just a few examples. It was actually astonishing to see how poorly officiated the Final Four games were.

Oh, and who can forget the key call in the title game, when the ball appeared to go off of Winslow and change directions, only to have the officials watched the replay for a minute or two and then give the ball to the Blue Devils. That came when it was a five-point game in the final two minutes.

As for replay, just ref the game. The funniest part of that replay was that, in fairness to the Blue Devils, was that Wisconsin clearly fouled Duke before the ball went out of bounds, but of course that's not reviewable. Oh, and there was a clear slap in the face in the Kentucky-Wisconsin game that wasn't called after the video review. What were the refs looking at that the rest of the viewing world couldn't see?

Replay is destroying the game rather than doing what it's intent is, which is to change egregiously incorrect calls. Instead, the limits on what is reviewable and when make that goal impossible in some key moments, while the game slows to a crawl at other times to check on laughably unimportant things.

And why can't replay be used to reverse judgement calls, if it has to be used? Ahhhhhhh. TigerBlog hates replay.

The women's tournament ends tonight as UConn takes on Notre Dame.

It was amazing to watch UConn in the semifinal do to Maryland what Maryland did to Princeton. That's how good the Huskies are.

In some ways, it's a shame for the women's game, because there is such a gap between the top small handful of teams and everyone else and then another big gap between those teams and UConn.

TigerBlog still hears from a lot of people about the Princeton women, what a great season they had, how it would have been great for them to not have to play Maryland at Maryland in Round 2.

Of course, there's no guarantee that Princeton would have done what it did, which is win the opening round game, had it been a four or five seed. Still, it would have been nice to see a few things: 1) the NCAA tournament at Jadwin Gym (sightlines and all), 2) Princeton in the Sweet 16 and 3) a shot at Maryland on a neutral court.

On the other hand, no Ivy women's basketball team has ever been to the Sweet 16 (in fact, Princeton is only the second ever to win a game). TigerBlog doesn't even have to ask the Princeton coaching staff to know that the chance of being the first to do get two rounds in is the program's goal now.

And that's it for college basketball in 2014-15.

Oh, except for a prediction on the women's final. TigerBlog predicts UConn 83, Notre Dame 71.

Or something like that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Little More Hoops

Back when Princeton lost to Michigan State in the second round of the 1998 NCAA men's basketball tournament, it was TigerBlog's job to get the players and get them to the interview area.

The game was played at the Hartford Civic Center, and TB and the Princeton players were waiting in a holding area behind the platform where the Michigan State players were already speaking.

Princeton's players were upset, obviously. They had put together a season of historic proportions, one in which the Tigers had gone 26-1 in the regular season, moved into the top 10 of the national rankings and won an opening round game against UNLV.

Then, for 40 minutes, Princeton went toe-to-toe with Michigan State, unaware that two years later, four of those same Spartans would be in the starting lineup as they won the NCAA title. 

And then it ended. Boom. Or more like Swish, as in the swish of a Mateen Cleaves three-pointer that snapped a tie game in the final minute.

And now, a few minutes later, the players were sent to meet the media.

As the Michigan State players answered their questions, the Princeton players stood there frustrated, waiting their turn. If there had been a microphone nearby, it would have picked up the muffled sound of a curse word or two, muttered under someone's breath.

TigerBlog thought about that, and every other time he's seen that situation play out, when he read about what Andrew Harrison muttered about Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky after his Kentucky Wildcats saw their dream of a 40-0 perfect season destroyed in the 71-64 loss to Kaminsky's Badgers Saturday night.

Was it the classiest moment of anyone's life? No. Is Harrison really, really lucky that this wasn't a case where their races were reversed? Yes. If that had been the case, Harrison would have been done.

To his credit, Kaminsky said it's no big deal and that he's over it. 

It's something that TB is surprised doesn't happen more often. He's seen athletes on the losing side of a billion games in a billion big spots - at the NCAA basketball tournament and lacrosse Final Four especially.

It's remarkable that as many athletes keep their composure as do and that examples like this are few and far between.

What's the point anyway of asking kids who lost questions? What questions get asked? How do you feel? When did it get away? That kind of stuff.

What answers do you get? Well, we tried to win, we wanted to win, have to give them credit. That's about it.

Maybe it's time to revisit the procedure. Just send the losing coach into the interview room. Let the players talk inside or just outside their lockerroom, where it's less formal and there's a greater chance to maintain composure.

Either way, Kentucky will not be 40-0. Like the Princeton women, they ended up with one loss. Princeton's season ended two weeks ago, with a loss in the second round to Maryland.

Still, there were accolades to be awarded, and Princeton is getting its share.

Courtney Banghart was named the winner of the U.S. Basketball Writers' Association Coach of the Year. She received her award in Tampa yesterday before the women's Final Four.

If the way the 2015 season played out is any indication, it's that the top programs in women's college basketball have achieved great separation from the rest of the field and have every advantage in the world.

For a team like Princeton to do what it did this year? How could anyone else be the Coach of the Year?

Oh, and the picture of her on the story on goprincetontigers.com? It's a great one. It shows her to be calm, focused, determined, competitive and totally in control. 

Then there's Blake Dietrick, who was the Ivy League Player of the Year and a seven-time Ivy League Player of the Week. Dietrick earned AP honorable mention All-America honors, becoming the second player - along with Niveen Rasheed - in program history to be an All-America.

Dietrick also competed in the national three-point shooting contest. She didn't advance out of the first round after making 14 three's, finishing fifth. The top four advanced, and the score to beat in Round 1 was 17.

TigerBlog turned on the three-point contest on TV just in time to see the slam dunk part. TB hates slam dunk contests. And home run derbys. Anyway, the closest he came to seeing Dietrick was when she was standing in the background on the court with the rest of the competitors during the dunking.

And that's hoops season for you.

Oh, except for a prediction for tonight's championship game.

TigerBlog picked Duke to win before the tournament started, and he thinks the Blue Devils will win tonight. He's rooting for Wisconsin, of course, but he thinks it'll be Duke.

Maybe 78-71. Something like that.