Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weekend Forecast

The water was gushing into the basement at a fairly rapid rate, and the resulting flood wasn't exactly a lot of fun to clean up.

The wet vac - like a snow blower, it's something you buy with the hopes of never using - says it holds 16 gallons at a time, and TigerBlog had to empty it nine times. Doing the math, that adds up to 144 gallons of water. If you think in terms of gallon jugs of milk, well, let's just say it was a lot of water - it took two-plus hours to finish the job.

The paper this morning that this month has been the rainiest March in the history of Central New Jersey. This of course comes on the heels of a most snow in any winter in Central New Jersey history, a record set by a wide margin.

And so, as today is the last day of March and spring is now ready for full bloom, what's next? Well, here's the forecast for Princeton for the next few days:
Today - Sunny and 65
Tomorrow - Sunny and 71
Friday - Sunny and 72
Saturday - Sunny and 71
Sunday - Sunny and 71

A few days ago, the forecast called for temperatures in the 80s, but TigerBlog is happy with 1) sunshine and 2) something resembling spring. A few years ago, this area went from having two glorious spring months to going directly from winter to summer. Spring is much better.

And, the great forecast for the next few days coincides with a great deal of bolded events on Princeton's all-sport schedule page. Bold, of course, stands for home games.

The Princeton campus will host 17 athletic events from Friday to Sunday, with a wide range of sports on display. Oh, and every single one of those events will be free of charge.

It starts Friday afternoon, when Princeton-Harvard softball and Princeton-Yale men's tennis both begin at 2. If you stand beyond the leftfield fence at softball, you can essentially watch both at the same exact time.

There's also the Sam Howell Invitational in men's and women's track, which starts at 5 on Friday and continues Saturday at 11 in the morning. Sam Howell, for those who don't know, was a 1950 Princeton grad who worked here for 38 years, including 21 years (1970-91) as an Associate Athletic Director. There is a plaque in Sam's memory outside the ticket office in Jadwin Gym, and it refers to him as "warm-hearted." TigerBlog didn't know Sam well, but he did know him; warm-hearted is a word TB would definitely have used to describe him.

The men's volleyball team, who is having a strong first season under new coach Sam Shweisky, hosts George Mason Friday at 7 and Ramapo Saturday at 1. The Friday match is a big one as the Tigers go for second-place behind national power Penn State. How big is it? The Princeton band will be playing at the match, something that is believed to be a first.

The softball team plays Dartmouth on Saturday beginning at 12:30, and the baseball team plays its home opener Saturday against Harvard (noon) and Sunday against Dartmouth (also noon). If there are two sports where records mean nothing heading into the league, it's baseball and softball, who almost never practice outside prior to their first games, which are usually against Western or Southern teams that have played 20 games or so by that point.

The men's heavyweight and lightweight crews row Saturday morning against Georgetown and Columbia, while the women's open crew rows against Rutgers and Columbia as well. The men's tennis team completes its weekend against Brown at 2.

There is also a women's lacrosse home game against Cornell at 1 in Princeton Stadium Saturday.

Seventeen events. All free.

If you want to pay some money and drive four-plus hours, you can go to the New England Lacrosse Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. That doubleheader begins with Cornell-Dartmouth at noon and concludes with Princeton-Brown at 2:30.

But if you're going to be in the Princeton area this weekend, you might as well stay on campus and go to something here. Take advantage of the weather.

And you can always listen to the men's lacrosse game on the radio.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hall Of Famers

If you starting heading west from the Palestra and Franklin Field, you will walk up a few stairs and then pass the Engineering school on your right. When you get across 34th Street, you'll walk up a few more stairs, and then you'll be entering the heart of the Penn campus on what is called "Locust Walk."

The Fine Arts building will be on your left, and it's a building most Penn students never go into in their four years, or at least that was TigerBlog's experience. That, of course, is a shame, since it's about as cool a building as there is on the campus.

Continuing west, you'll pass College Hall, with the big Ben Franklin statue in front of it and the big library whose name TB can't remember (with the big button sculpture in front). Eventually, you'll reach a row of fraternity houses, the Wharton School, the place where the bookstore used to be and then over the bridge over 38th Street and into the heart of Superblock, where the three 24-story high-rise dorms are.

Or, at least that's how the tour used to go, back in the days when TB went to school there. Penn is smack in the middle of West Philadelphia, but the way Locust Walk, without any cars permitted, cuts through the heart of the campus, it's easy to forget that you're in a city.

Locust Walk is flooded with people all day and night. Anyone who lives in the high-rises has to walk east to get to classrooms, the library, athletic facilities and any number of other spots. People who live in the Quad or in Hill House intersect with Locust Walk to get where they're going, and during peak class hours, basically anyone who goes to Penn is on Locust Walk.

TigerBlog walked a lot of miles up and down Locust Walk, and it's almost certain that he walked past Patty Kennedy on many of those occasions. Of course, he didn't know who she was at the time, but he can guess she was carrying a bag with her field hockey or lacrosse stick in it, hurrying off to yet another practice.

It seems odd to type the name "Patty Kennedy," since TB has never heard anyone call her "Patty." No, to everyone, she is simply "PK," and she is something of an institution here at Princeton.

As near as TigerBlog can figure it, there are three Penn alums who work for the Princeton Department of Athletics. PK is one. TigerBlog is one. Men's track and field coach Fred Samara is one.

Of those three, two are now members of the Penn Athletic Hall of Fame (or least will be when the current class if inducted on May 8). TigerBlog probably won't be inducted anytime soon, though he did have a standout intramural career in flag football, floor hockey and basketball.

Samara was part of the second Penn athletics Hall of Fame class, which was selected in 1998. PK will be part of the newest one.

PK was a field hockey/lacrosse standout, All-Ivy and honorable mention All-America in both, and she also won the Fathers' Award as the top female athlete of her Penn class. She played internationally with the U.S. in women's lacrosse on many occasions, and she has gone on to be a law school graduate, a lecturer at Princeton and a longtime assistant coach with the women's lacrosse team.

Her husband is Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach. They have a one-eyed dog named Petey, and you should never say the word "pupparoni" - the name of a dog treat - around Petey unless you want to see the beagle go nuts.

PK teaches a class called "Human Rights In the Age of Terror" as a freshman seminar. In her role as an instructor here at Princeton, she has taught any number of freshman athletes, helping them in their transition to college life and college athletics.

Princeton fans can rattle off the names of most head coaches, but there is an army of lower-profile assistant coaches without whom Princeton's athletic success wouldn't exist. TB has never known a head coach here who failed to acknowledge how valuable the assistants are.

PK is well-known and universally liked and respected in the department. She was a member of the women's lacrosse staff during their dominating NCAA championship runs in 2002 and 2003, and she returned to the program last year after taking four years off.

The motto of the athletic department is "Education Through Athletics," and Director of Athletics Gary Walters often speaks about the integration of athletics into the educational mission of the University. Few people here encompass that as much as PK.

Speaking of PK, it was a big weekend for her team and her boss, women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer. Princeton defeated Georgetown 15-14 in four OTs Sunday afternoon in D.C., and the win was the 300th for Sailer, making her just the second women's Division I coach ever to reach that milestone.

Princeton women's lacrosse dates to 1973, and the program had an all-time record of 62-79 before Sailer took over in 1987.

Since then, she has gone 300-104, winning three NCAA championships and nine Ivy League championships along the way. She was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame last year.

Last week, TigerBlog asked the question of whether or not Alicia Aemisegger is the greatest woman athlete in Princeton history. Today he asks the question of whether or not Chris Sailer is the greatest women's coach in Princeton history.

Like last week, TB does not answer the question, and there have certainly been some great female coaches past (Betty Constable, Cindy Cohen, Beth Bozman, Louise Gengler) and present (Julie Shackford, Gail Ramsay, Lori Dauphiny, Susan Teeter, Kristen Holmes-Winn), who have won big over an extended period of time (as always TB apologizes if he left someone out in his haste). And while a case can be made for almost of the ones listed as being the best Princeton has ever had, any such discussion has to include Sailer either at the top or near the top.

Sailer, of course, is one of the head coaches who has always credited her assistants for the program's success. In her case that has often meant giving PK her due, something Sailer has always done.

One Hall-of-Famer to another.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Burritos To Go

TigerBlog Jr. played the tenor sax for the middle school jazz band at the high school music festival this past weekend. One of the songs they played was entitled "Burritos To Go."

This piece, a nice catchy tune, apparently has no lyrics, and as is the case with all such music, it left TigerBlog to wonder why it's called "Burritos To Go." Really, it could be called anything. Why not "Apples and Oranges" or "Grass Stains" or "Stroll Down Fifth Avenue?" Who would be able to tell the difference?

TB has two containers of body wash in his locker in Caldwell Field House. One is called "Ocean Breeze," while the other is called "Mountain Fresh," both of which smell essentially the same. TigerBlog has spent much more time at the ocean than in the mountains, though he's spent enough time at both to know they have completely different scents.

In other words, it's all in the marketing. There were probably endless focus groups that concluded that "Ocean Breeze" and "Mountain Fresh" conjure up images of fresh air and happy times, and therefore the huge vats of body wash could be pumped into bottles that will then have alternating labels placed on them. Or maybe the composer of the piece felt that "Burritos To Go" sounded better than "Chicken Parmigiana Sub To Go."

And, in truth, the marketing works. TigerBlog was low on one body wash, so he bought the other. And, "Burritos To Go" is a catchy tune, and it comes across as having a little Southwestern/Mexican flair to it that it wouldn't have if it had been called "Stuck In The Mud In Ohio."

TigerBlog watched the NCAA basketball games this weekend, and it's his contention that the NCAA's "We're All Going Pro In Something Other Than Sports" campaign is perhaps the best example of branding/marketing he's ever seen.

If you've never seen the ads, they basically show athletes in a variety of sports balancing their academic and athletic responsibilities and always conclude with: "There are more than 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and most of us are going pro in something other than sports."

The message is crystal clear and it speaks to something TB has often said when asked about the state of college athletics. Big-time college football and men's basketball is the highest profile part of college athletics, but they are a small part of what college athletics is all about.

It has to make the NCAA cringe when stories come out about football and men's basketball players who get arrested or who get kicked out of school or any of the other headlines that are so common that they don't even raise an eyebrow anymore. And that doesn't even take into account all of the high profile coaches who bolt from one school to the next without any sense of loyalty to anyone or anything other than themselves and their bank accounts and egos.

And really, while that may be what college athletics seems to be to the casual observers, that's hardly what it is in reality. The NCAA is right. They do have more than 400,000 student-athletes, and almost none of them will ever play a professional sport. Most of them will never play in front of huge crowds or for coaches who make millions of dollars a year.

Their love for the games they play may not be greater than those who get more of the spoils of big-time DI football and men's basketball, and maybe the 99% who play at a much less visible level would gladly change places with those who fly charters and play every game on ESPN. But the point isn't if they would. It's that they can't, and they still put in all of that effort to compete.

There was another ad during yesterday's games about NCAA TV/broadcasting revenues and what the money actually goes to. It was a commercial TB had never seen before, and it essentially said that 96% of the revenue goes to funding most of the athletic programs that don't make any money. It ends with: "In other words, we're putting our money where our mission is."

It's another great ad. Basically, the point of the NCAA's campaigns is to show that college athletics are a positive, character-building endeavor that provides wide-ranging opportunities to many people who use that opportunity to the fullest.

Princeton had 19 teams compete this past week as the winter season championships continued to overlap with spring events. Of the 19 teams who competed, only two did so in games that were televised. The men's basketball CBI semifinal game was on HDNET, while the women's lacrosse game at Georgetown was on Verizon Fios 1, but only in Washington, D.C.

If you ad up the attendance for the 19 teams that competed, it pales in comparison to the crowds that the NCAA men's basketball tournament drew, and those crowds in turn pale in comparison to what an average BCS football game draws.

And yet the athletes who competed for Princeton this week make up exactly what the NCAA ads are screaming about. They were athletes who are committed to playing their sport at the highest level they can, to the best of their ability, and at the same time they are not shutting themselves off to the rest of what is available to other Princeton students. Through competition, they are learning valuable lessons for the rest of their lives, while at the same time making lifelong friends and having experiences they won't forget.

It is what we have branded "Education Through Athletics," which fits with the NCAA's broader themes.

Not every one of the 19 teams had a successful week in terms of wins and losses, but that wasn't the whole goal of what they were doing. No, these Princeton athletes, like so many in so many sports around the country, were participating in something very special, something very remarkable - intercollegiate athletics.

It wasn't about having the biggest stage or the richest coach or the fanciest plane. It was about doing what they love to do, until that day when they go pro - in something other than sports.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Noon Hoops

TigerBlog did something Monday that he hadn't done since May of 2008: He played squash.

TB, for some reason, thought he was capable of playing lacrosse against people half his age, and the result was a patellar tendon that needed to be sewn back together. And though it took nearly two years, TB made it back to his favorite form of exercise, playing squash. And, he's probably going to stay away from lacrosse again.

Squash is a tremendous workout, for those who've never played it. Also, if your response is "I've played racquetball," well, it's a completely different game from squash. For starters, the ball bounces all over the place in racquetball; in squash it hardly bounces at all. The result is that you have to chase the ball all over the court, and TB guarantees you'll be very, very sore the day after you play for the first time.

TB turned to squash about five or six years ago after being a regular in the Jadwin Gym lunchtime basketball game. Squash proved to be a great substitute, and TB was soon playing up to four or five times a week. Then, of course, lacrosse derailed it all.

One of the great parts of working in a gymnasium is the access to a workout during the day, and with the huge numbers of young people and former college athletes who work here, there are far more people who are exercising than those who don't.

On any given day, you can see people running, lifting weights, riding bikes, playing squash or pretty much anything.

Still, as far as Jadwin Gym and working out go, the granddaddy of them all is the lunchtime basketball game.

It's an even that dates back as far as the building itself, back to when Pete Carril would shoot 30 foot set shots against Hank Towns and Cap Crossland while smoking a cigar. It continues literally to this day, as there will probably be a game today.

TigerBlog first played in the mid-'90s, after watching for a few weeks after he started working here. His first-ever made basket at lunchtime was a hook shot from the baseline, which prompted then-assistant coach Bill Carmody to say: "who are you, Rick Hielscher?"

Just for some time context, and all.

TB once made a list of all the players he'd played against at lunchtime, and it was a list that had more than 200 names on it. They include Carril, Carmody, Joe Scott and John Thompson, four of the last five head men's coaches at Princeton, and playing with and against those guys was an education.

For starters, none of the four ever stopped talking while they played. If any of them played on Carril's team, they had hand signals and verbal signals that only they knew, which often resulted in back cuts, wide open looks and the like.

By the time TB began to play, Carril was way past his prime as a player, but he was a reliable shooter from as far back as he wanted to go. He was the worst player to have to guard, because you figured you needed to take it easy on him because of his age. As soon as you did, of course, he'd step further back and hit another set shot.

He was also, of course, funny, in his usual way. One time, when another player went down with a knee injury that turned out to be a torn ACL, everyone gathered around while someone ran to get an athletic trainer. In the silence, while the player was down, Carril walked up to him and said: "Now might not be the best time to tell you that you traveled."

Thompson is the most prolific passing forward in Princeton history, and he played the same way at lunch. He would rarely shoot, and would for the most part only shoot if the person guarding him dropped off to defend passing lanes. He spent the whole time moving people around, and he would always, always find the open man.

Scott played somewhat the same as Thompson, and his most famous lunchtime command was "stay wide," which basically meant "get out of the way of our offense." Alexander Wolff, the great writer from Sports Illustrated, actually participated in one of the games and wrote about his experiences as part of his book about basketball around the world entitled "Big Game, Small World." In it, he quotes Scott as telling him to "stay wide." He also mentions what a great passer TigerBlog is, but that's another story for another day.

Carmody could pass, dribble and shoot, and he was a tenacious defender. He was also a running commentary on the game, with quips like "What? You don't like layups?"

The games then were a combination of pickup game and Princeton offense, because that's how everyone wanted to play when Carril was on the court. It continued when Carril left and the other coaches remained, because that's how they wanted to play.

The game wasn't only about those four. It also attracted some less-well-known people, such as the guy named James who wandered in off the street one day and stayed for about five years. Turned out his was a psychology graduate student who became a regular, and he brought with him a quick first step, no defense and the desire to call too many fouls.

The football office has long provided great depth during lunchtime basketball, and this group has usually been 1) young, 2) in shape, 3) physical and 4) competitive. It's a pretty good combination.

TigerBlog remembers playing with a part-time assistant named Jeff Vartabedian, who stood about 6-4 and could have scored 1,000 points had he played basketball and not football in college. Vartabedian, it appears from Google, is now the head coach at Wilbraham and Monson Academy. When Vartabedian put up a 15-foot jump shot, it had about an 80% chance of going in.

The lunchtime game has a long history of including women, and there are several former women's college stars who rank among the best players to play at lunchtime. Jen Scanlon and Mary Gleason, assistant women's coaches here under Richard Barron, were both great three-point shooters who could also go to the basket. Leah Scott (formerly Spraragen), who is married to Joe Scott, was a point guard at Princeton during her playing days, and he almost never turned the ball over at lunch. Carrie Moore, who scored 2,216 points in college, today is among the leading scorers at lunchtime.

There have been others who have left quite a mark on the noontime games. Chuck Yrigoyen, now the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, played for decades first as a member of the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications and then after he moved to the Ivy League. Chuck could be relied on for shooting 12-foot shots with no arc that would either go in (50% of the time) or elicit comments like "I am the worst basketball player of all time" (the other 50% of the time).

Chuck Sullivan was an intern in the OAC when he played. Carril guarded him, and after Chuck managed to throw one in without looking, Carril announced that his man "has every shot in the deck." Today, more than 15 years later, Sullivan still regards that as among his proudest moments.

The game used to evolve from a bunch of early-morning phone calls and walks up to the basketball office and down to the football office. Eventually, TigerBlog put together an email list looking for people who were in. The goal is to get at least eight players, but 10 is better. There have been times where there have been twice that many and two games have been played. Usually, there's around 10-13 players, and those who lose are off for the next game, with the extra spots filled by making foul shots.

The email list was transfered from TB to John Mack, now at Northwestern, when TB turned to squash. Mack, a 10-time Heptagonal champion, turned over that job to Jon Kurian, who is the unofficial lunchtime basketball commissioner today. His daily email goes to 67 people, many of whom don't work here anymore.

One who recently left is Mike Cross, who went to be the athletic director at Bradley. Anytime Princeton athletics made a hire in the 10 years that Cross was here, his standard assessment was to suggest whether or not this person was "making us stronger at lunchtime."

See, for those who've played or continue to play, lunchtime basketball is more than just a game. It's one of those things that stands out about working here, something that has fostered great friendships and battles, classic games and even a fight or two.

TigerBlog is glad to be back on the squash court, and hopefully there won't be any more setbacks to playing.

One day, though, he'll venture back to the basketball court at lunchtime. When he does, all of the memories will come flooding back.

Like everyone else who's played there, TB will cherish those experiences forever.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lake Effect

TigerBlog was at an event at Little Miss TigerBlog's elementary school when he noticed one of those learning posters that hang on the walls.

This particular one was a math poster, done by a professional company, not by the school or a teacher or a student. And there, on the poster, was the following problem:
If three pounds of bananas cost $1, how much do 11 pounds of bananas cost?

The poster then solved the problem, except it solved it by figuring out how much one pound of bananas would cost. The mistake was either that it was supposed to say "how much does one pound of bananas cost" or be solved for 11 pounds of bananas. Of course, had it meant to be solved for one pound, it would have changed "do" to "does."

It all left TigerBlog wondering how in the world this poster ever made it past all of the eyes that have to have seen it without anyone's noticing this, from the production of it through the school itself?

As an aside, the correct answer is $3.67.

Since TB aced that little test, he came up with another one for himself.

If Princeton has 1,000 varsity athletes and the four rowing teams account for 200 athletes (using approximations, of course), what percentage of the Princeton athletics are rowers?

Or, even better than that, what percentage of the undergraduate population of 4,900 are varsity rowers?

The first answer, of course, is that approximately 20% of Princeton's varsity athletes are rowers. The second answer, let's see, 200 divided by 4,900, so that's two divided by 49 so that's, well, a little more than 4%.

In other words, if you're in a lecture with 200 random students, then eight of those 200 would be varsity rowers.

Each varsity program at Princeton has its unique features, and rowing certainly does. For starters, there are more rowers than any other kinds of athletes.

Each gender has two varsity programs within the main program, yet all four (men's lightweight, men's heavyweight, women's open, women's lightweight) consider themselves to be one entity of Princeton Rowing. All four share one office, with no sub-divisions within that office.

To say it's a close-knit group would be an understatement. It has great camaraderie among its coaches and athletes, and its alumni group is as loyal and supportive as any.

It's also a Princeton team through and through. There are four head coaches, three of whom are Princeton alums: men's heavyweight coach Greg Hughes, men's lightweight coach Marty Crotty, women's lightweight coach Paul Rassam. The one who is not a Princeton alum, women's open coach Lori Dauphiny, has been here for 19 years, 14 of which have been spent as head coach.

There are also five assistant coaches, of whom four are Princeton grads.

For a pretty good look at what life in the boathouse is like, you might try watching this video.

Rowing itself is a physically demanding sport, one that completely zaps its competitors each time out. It's much like cross country in that it leaves the rowers wiped out the second they reach the finish line, except that in rowing, there's the extra issue that each rower has to be completely aligned with the others in the boat or else the boat will not go in the right direction.

The 2010 Princeton spring rowing season opens this Saturday, with women's open racing at Princeton while the men's lightweights are on the road. This begins a stretch where for about two months there will be racing on Lake Carnegie on most Saturdays.

Racing days at the boathouse are huge athletic/social events, and they begin first thing in the morning with novice races and third varsity races and build their way up to the first varsity.

One of the best parts of crew is the history of it, as the sport dates to June 13, 1872, the date of Princeton's first-ever race.

Each week, the teams row against one or two or three opponents, often for exotic sounding prizes such as The Eisenberg Cup, The Class of 1984 Plaque, The Childs Cup, The Compton Cup and many others.

TigerBlog was the rowing contact in 1998, when Princeton won the men's lightweight and heavyweight national championships on the Cooper River in Camden less than 30 minutes apart. There is a picture in the boathouse of the massive post-race celebration, and TB remembers standing next to the photographer as it was taken.

It's a picture of complete joy, one of the great celebration pictures that TB has ever seen. It's blown up in the boathouse to be several square feet.

TB's experience with the rowing programs was brief, but it did show him what a unique sport it is and how much the people who compete and coach for Princeton love it.

Check them out one Saturday morning. They're well worth watching.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And The Ban Played On

TigerBlog isn't afraid of Shirley Tilghman. She's a very nice person, and she oversees a campus where dissenting thought and opposing viewpoints are encouraged.

So, with that in mind, TB decided to take up the issue posted by someone yesterday:
"You know, it may be too sensitive to address if President Tilghman has voted against Ivy participation in football playoffs, but...Could you address the, how to put it, anomaly of so many Ivy athletes participating in the post season when the League resolutely denies the football players the same opportunity?"

It's a legitimate issue. Currently, there are two Ivy League men's basketball teams who are still playing in the postseason, and there are two men's hockey teams about to start. In a few months, there could be as many as four Ivy men's lacrosse teams, and between the men and the women, there will be at least five or six lacrosse teams in the NCAAs.

Back in the fall, four Ivy men's soccer teams played in the NCAA tournament. The champion in almost every Ivy sport advances automatically to the NCAA tournament for that particular sport.

Except football, of course.

TigerBlog always chuckles when he hears people say things like "the NCAA should do this or that," because the NCAA has no actual power. All decisions originate within the member schools; the NCAA exists to enforce the rules. Think of the schools as lawmakers and the NCAA as the police.

It's the same with the Ivy League, where it's the eight school presidents who have the final say in all major athletic decisions. Most rules changes originate from coaches' groups to the directors of athletics, and most minor changes to league policies go unnoticed by people outside of those sports themselves.

For something like sending the Ivy League champion to the FCS playoffs, of course, the publicity would be much greater. And, to date, obviously, it's not something the Ivy presidents have wanted to do.

The argument that it's hypocritical for teams in every other sport to play in the NCAA tournament while football sits at home doesn't work for TB, because it's obvious that that's the case. It's not something that anyone looking at the situation couldn't help but notice, because it's completely apparent.

Clearly, decades have gone by with complete turnover on the presidential level within the league, and the situation hasn't changed. It's not because none of those presidents, past and present, is unaware that football is the only sport that doesn't get to go.

TigerBlog has always thought that the league can be progressive in any area it wants except for two - not offering athletic scholarships and no postseason for football - because those two points were what the entire league was founded on.

At the time that formal Ivy League competition began in 1956, Princeton had already played in two NCAA men's basketball tournaments. The first appearance by a Princeton team in the NCAA baseball tournament was in 1951. Its first NCAA golf championship was in 1914.

Basically, the precedent was already in place - football cannot play in the postseason, while other sports can.

Also, back in the mid-50s, there were no women's sports and no NCAA tournaments yet in sports like soccer (not until 1959) and men's lacrosse (not until 1971). TigerBlog has never read or seen any comments about whether or not there was discussion about whether or not Ivy League teams should be able to participate or if it was never even an issue.

Football competed at the Division I level until 1978, when I-AA was formed. That same year, there was a four-team tournament to determine the first champion of what is now the Football Championship Subdivision. For the first 22 years of formal Ivy football, then, the ban on postseason meant a ban on competing in a bowl game.

Patriot League participation in the I-AA playoffs dates back 17 years. It is really during that time that the "how can everyone else go and football can't" argument in the Ivy League really began to heat up.

It's also not like there's universal agreement below the presidential level that the Ivy champ should advance. TB would say that there's more "go" than "not-go" sentiment out there, but there is also strong opinions against it.

Much of that comes from the Harvard-Yale faithful, who like that their game is always the last for the teams in the year. And there are some who love the rhythm of an Ivy League football season - 10 weeks, 10 games, no off weeks, all building to the championship.

TigerBlog's position on these matters has no continuity, he admits. For instance, he is pro-Ivy League lacrosse tournament but anti-Ivy League basketball tournament.

And TB acknowledges that every Ivy League football player and coach knew when he signed up that there was a ban on participating in the postseason. And, to be honest, TB would rather see eight teams play an 11th game than one team play in the NCAA tournament.

But then TB comes back to how many Ivy League athletes in so many different sports he's seen have great NCAA tournament experiences.

So, for that reason, if push came to shove and the eight Ivy presidents called on TigerBlog to cast the deciding vote, he'd probably lean in the direction of sending the Ivy champion to the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CBI-St. Louis

There were four CBI games played last night. Of those four games, two went double overtime, while a third was a two-point game with 180 combined points. The fourth was a 93-86 game.

It leaves you with a CBI semifinal schedule of Princeton at St. Louis and Boston University at Virginia Commonwealth. And, for those who are chuckling about the CBI, consider this quote from VCU coach Shaka Smart after his team's win over College of Charleston in the 93-86 game:

“I said this after our first CBI game and it definitely applies to this one as well, this had to be a fun game to watch," Smart said.

Yes, the CBI and the CIT don't have the history and prestige of an event like the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament. And yes, Cornell's ascension to the Sweet 16 completely dwarfs Princeton's two CBI wins, with its game at St. Louis set for tomorrow at 9 Eastern.

Still, there are 347 Division I men's basketball teams, and only 32 are still playing. To be one of those 32 is a positive.

Besides, there is much to be gained from the CBI.

For starters, Princeton's team, despite its four seniors, is a young one, so any postseason experience is valuable. While Cornell has been the dominant team in the league the last three years, the Big Red will start four seniors against Kentucky Thursday night and be led by a coach who is being mentioned for every job open anywhere in Division I. Who knows what Cornell will look like next year.

Harvard, who battled Princeton for second place all season, had a young team as well, but its best player by far was Jeremy Lin, a senior.

In other words, the Ivy League is up for grabs next year, and the more Princeton's group plays together and plays well, the better it will be for 2011.

Look at the first two CBI games. Princeton had a chance to play a home game against an Atlantic 10 opponent and then a great double-overtime game at a unique building in Indianapolis. Now, with that, it's on to St. Louis for the semifinal.

Is it the NCAA tournament? No.

Is it, as Smart said, fun? Absolutely.

The big picture goal is to win the league and get to the NCAA tournament. To do so requires being able to win in difficult situations, and that's where playing together through the years pays off.

The bigger picture goal is to win in the NCAA tournament. For every team like Cornell that achieves in the tournament, there's always a previous season that it points to as having been invaluable in the process.

The Princeton women gained NCAA tournament experience this year against St. John's, a team that came within a point of the Sweet 16. Think Princeton knows it could play with St. Johns? Think the Tigers wouldn't love another shot? Think they're not going to use that as motivation to get back and improve on the result?

The men don't have that chance as for as the NCAA goes, but should Princeton take the next step next year, you will surely hear them talk about this year's CBI as having been a huge help.

And, keep one thing in mind: This team is two years removed from a 6-23 record and second consecutive last-place Ivy finish.

Today, they are 22-8 and on a bus to St. Louis to play in the CBI semifinals. Should they win, they would play for a post-season tournament championship for the second time in school history, after the 1975 NIT.

CBI? Don't laugh. Princeton is, as the VCU coach said, playing fun games to watch.

And getting a lot out of the experience.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Red Thoughts

As TigerBlog was driving to North Carolina a week ago, he heard an interview on one of the sports talk radio stations with Dan Guerrero, the chair of the NCAA men's basketball committee.

The interviewer asked Guerrero a pretty interesting question: Does the committee want the top seeds to win each game as a validation of the selection process?

It's a great question, especially in the face of what happened in Week 1 of the NCAA tournament.

In the East, you have the 1, 2, 11 and 12 seeds remaining. In the South, it's 1, 3, 4, 10.

In the Midwest? Well, how about 2, 5, 6 and 9? In the West, it's the 1, 2, 5 and 6.

In the first two weekends, double digit seeds won 11 games.

Is this a sign that the committee made some errors, or is it more a sign that after a few really strong teams, the next 40 or so were a toss-up? Or is that selection criteria tie the committee's hands?

Not that TB would ever suck up to anyone, but when Princeton AD Gary Walters was committee chair, the Final Four was three one seeds and a two seed. The final eight had four one seeds, three two seeds and one three seed.

Of course, in these parts today, the main story is about the lowest seed remaining, the 12th-seeded Cornell Big Red.

Cornell coach Steve Donahue's postgame press conference yesterday was on ESPNEWS, and he talked about how great his team's execution was. It was an understatement.

Cornell was awesome in its two games, dispatching Temple and Wisconsin, two teams who spent essentially the entire season in the Top 25. Wisconsin is a Big 10 school that also owned a win over Duke; Temple was the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament champion.

In 80 minutes between those two games, Cornell had the lead for 77 minutes, and neither game was ever really in doubt. How much did Cornell dominate these games? CBS went away from both because they were such blowouts.

Cornell's team, the first Ivy team to win two games in the tournament since Princeton in 1983 and the first Ivy team to reach the Sweet 16 since Penn in 1979, is proof that Ivy basketball teams can be successful if they have the following things happen:
1) find three stud players who slip through the cracks
2) have those players play together for four years
3) can shoot from the outside

TigerBlog isn't sure how Ryan Wittman wasn't playing for Wisconsin in yesterday's game, rather than Cornell. Or if not Wisconsin, then another Big 10 team. He's a big kid who can shoot with anyone whose father was a national champion as a player at Indiana and a coach in the NBA when the son was being recruited. How did he not get noticed?

Louis Dale? Jeff Foote? There are a lot of BCS conference schools who wish they could have a do-over on those guys. In other words, you don't need 25 stars to be good in basketball; your program can be built around three, if it's the right three.

After Cornell's win over Temple, TigerBlog was talking with M.A. Mehta of the Star-Ledger, who was Manish Mehta when he worked here at HQ 15 years or so ago. M.A. asked where Cornell ranked among Ivy men's basketball teams of the last 20 years.

TB, at the time, said third, behind Penn's 1993-95 Jerome Allen-Matt Maloney teams and Princeton's 1996-98 teams, a group that should be more than familiar to Tiger fans. Those three are the only Ivy League teams since 1983 to win in the NCAA tournament, something Princeton did in two different years (1996 and 1998) and which Cornell has now done twice in one year.

And now, three Princeton-centric thoughts, two of which TigerBlog admits are complete sour grapes:

1) Watching Cornell's men's team win two games this year after getting handled easily in the tournament the last two years made TB think of Princeton's women's NCAA game against St. John's. Perhaps, for a young Princeton team, that was the first step that Cornell took two years ago.

2) Princeton's 1998 team was the No. 5 seed, and the Tigers took out UNLV relatively easily in the first game (though not like Cornell did). The No. 4 seed that Cornell played yesterday wasn't quite on the same level as the No. 4 seed Princeton had to play. That No. 4 seed, Michigan State, started four players who would start together as the Spartans won the national championship two years later. If Princeton could have played a normal No. 4, it would have been a Sweet 16 team as well. Sour grapes No. 1.

3) Of the three teams that TB cited above, two of them (not Princeton) benefited tremendously, enormously, wouldn't-have-gotten-there-without-out-it-ly (not a word, but you get the point) without a key transfer (Penn's Matt Maloney, Cornell's Foote). Yes, TB is going to hear about Sean Jackson, but he wasn't on the 1996-98 team. Sour grapes No. 2.

Anyway, looking at it now, it doesn't matter who was the best of the three groups.

Cornell's team is in the Sweet 16, something the other two didn't accomplish, and the way they got there was beyond impressive.

Princeton fans should root for the Big Red Thursday night against Kentucky.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Time To Get Out Of The Pool

TigerBlog has met Alicia Aemisegger once, when she came into the office to be interviewed by a reporter.

As an aside, that was the last time Harvey Yavener, longtime Trenton Times sportswriter/columnist interviewed a Princeton athlete before he retired, so that makes Aemisegger the answer to one trivia question.

TigerBlog's other question about Aemisegger is much more subjective than who Yav's last interview at Princeton was.

No, what TB wants to know is this: Is Alicia Aemisegger the greatest female athlete in Princeton history?

Certainly TB and the rest of the staff at HQ thought she was the best athlete of the last decade, as she was named Princeton's No. 1 female athlete of the last 10 years this past December.

What about all-time?

Aemisegger is completing her Princeton career this weekend at the NCAA swimming and diving championships at Purdue University.

Aemisegger, who already owns eight individual Princeton records, 10 All-America honors and 12 Ivy League individual championships.

Aemisegger, who has placed as high as second at the NCAA Championships (2007, 400 IM), finished fourth in the 500 freestyle last night, and she will compete in the 400 IM today and the 1650 tomorrow.

Aemisegger is now an 11-time All-America, and she went 12 for 12 in her career in winning individual Ivy League championships. Review the Princeton women's swimming record book, and there can be no question that she has completely dominated the sport during her time here.

TigerBlog always thinks that it seems like athletes who play the same supporting role on a team for four years appear to be on a team for longer than their allotted time. In Aemisegger's case, it's not hard to accept that her time as a Princeton swimmer is ending, since everything she's done has been so high profile.

With the end of her career, it's time to start talking about her historical place at Princeton.

It's interesting to TB that while men's athletics predates women's athletics here by more than 100 years, it's easier to say who the best male athletes of all time at Princeton are. On the women's side, there's never been a clear answer.

According to TigerBlog, at least, there can be no debate that the greatest male athlete in Princeton history is Bill Bradley. Dick Kazmaier and Hobey Baker come next. The debate is for No. 4, and there TB can narrow it down to a group of 25 or so for the next spot.

In many ways, this is why starting a Princeton athletics Hall of Fame would be so hard. Do you start with those three and then wait a year for everyone else? Or, if you include a first group of, say, 20-30, are you devaluing those three?

On the women's side, there's never been any athlete or two who've been so clear-cut.

So who is the greatest female athlete in school history?

Is it Aemisegger? Is it someone like field hockey player Amy MacFarlane or field hockey/lacrosse player Lisa Rebane? Elizabeth Pillion (soccer/lacrosse) might be the best all-around female athlete ever to play here.

Going back earlier, is it Cathy Corcione, who swam in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and then became a great swimmer here? Maybe it's Emily Goodfellow, the only athlete in school history to win 12 letters.

The list of great athletes who have competed in track and field at Princeton is huge. Is Lynn Jennings the best Princeton athlete? Is Debbie St. Phard the one?

TB could go sport-by-sport and come up with great female athletes who could be considered. And who knows, maybe the greatest female athlete in Princeton history is just starting her career, perhaps Katie Reinprecht or Niveen Rasheed?

The bottom line is that if you ask 10 people knowledgeable about the history of Princeton athletics, you'll get back Bradley-Kazmaier-Baker 10 times. Ask the same people about the women's athletes, and you could get back 10 different answers.

Still, Alicia Aemisegger, whose Princeton career ends this weekend, is up there with any of them.

And, a case can be made that the greatest female athlete in school history has spent the last four winters in DeNunzio Pool.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not All Thursdays Are Created Equal

One of the great mysteries to TigerBlog is what happened to the 1996 NCAA tournament postseason guides.

TB diligently had them ready on time for Princeton's big game against UCLA. He shipped them to the RCA Dome, except when TB arrived on site, they weren't there. After a call to UPS, it was determined that the books had been shipped three-day ground instead of next day air, and they were on a freight train somewhere in Ohio at the time.

Panicking (remember, this is pre-web, so all information is contained in the guides), TigerBlog was fortunate to remember that he had brought an electronic version of the file with him.

Referred to a local printer, TigerBlog agreed to an expedited run that cost, as he remembers, somewhere around $4,000, an amount that UPS eventually covered. Those new books were delivered to the media room on time, and of course, any Princeton fan knows what happened in the game.

After Princeton defeated UCLA in what is obviously one of the greatest college basketball games of all-time, TigerBlog updated his information for the Mississippi State game two days later. The team lost that game, ending Pete Carril's Princeton coaching career.

By Monday, TB was back in Jadwin Gym. And then it dawned on him. Whatever happened to the original books? Using the UPS tracking system, it was determined that the book had been delivered to a the convention center attached to the Dome and signed for by a woman who answered the phone with TB called and basically had this conversation:
TB: "Did you sign for three boxes of NCAA postseason guides from Princeton University?"
Kindly, Grandmotherly Lady: "Why yes, dear, I did. They arrived Thursday morning."
TB: "What did you do with them?"
KGL: "Well, dear, I wasn't sure what they were for, so I put them in the recycling."

TigerBlog's first thought was "you work 100 feet from where the NCAA basketball tournament was going on and you had these three boxes of basketball books arrive at your desk and it never dawned on you that they might be connected?" That thought, by the way, was sprinkled with expletives.

But KGL was so nice and so apologetic and on the verge of tears at the thought that she might have done something wrong, all that came out was this:
"That's okay. We didn't need them. Thank you for being such a nice, kindly, grandmotherly type lady on the phone."

Or something like that.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament begins today for real (play-in game Tuesday didn't count). As TigerBlog thinks back on his career at Princeton, there is no single event that equals that night in March 1996, when Princeton defeated UCLA to give Pete Carril his 514th and final win here.

If you get into athletic communications at a place like North Carolina or Kansas or Texas or some place like that, your level of expectation for the tournament is somewhat different than if you work at Princeton. Some of it is circumstance, such as where you were from or where you went to school.

Some of it, though, has to do with the kind of university you want to work for, and there are balances that have to be done and concessions that have to made depending on your choice.

As Carril used to say, "one day I'm going to be dead, and two guys are going to walk past my grave and say 'poor guy, never won a national championship,' and I won't hear a word they say." It's one of the funnier of Carril's many, many funny lines.

But there is truth to it. Princeton isn't going to win the NCAA basketball championship. Getting to the tournament is a huge reward in and of itself for the Tigers and the rest of the Ivy League and leagues like the Ivy League.

To be able to actually win a game, as Princeton did 14 years ago in Indianapolis (and two years later against UNLV, though that time as a fifth seed), is something never to be forgotten.

To be the athletic communications contact for a team that does so is extraordinary. The media crush that descended after that game was insane, and TB actually got manager Miles Clark some airtime on a sports talk show (TB thinks it was in Detroit, but he got calls from everywhere in the country). Princeton was the hottest thing in the sports world that night, and to see it from the inside was unreal.

This wasn't Princeton's year for the NCAA tournament, so TB will be watching along with the rest of the country from afar. He'll be rooting for Georgetown and Richmond and against Duke. He'll watch Cornell-Temple with great interest.

And he'll think about the SIDs from the teams who are taking their shot at the once-in-a-lifetime shot at the extraordinary. If their team can pull it off, if they can be there when a 13 or 14 or 15 or even 16 seed wins, they'll find themselves inside something that is beyond their wildest dreams.

That's how it was for TigerBlog when Princeton knocked off UCLA. It was an amazing moment, frozen forever in TB's mind, a million details from that day never to be forgotten. Among them:

* kneeling next to the basket with CBS's Andrea Joyce waiting for UCLA's final possession, a stretch that took more than seven minutes before the final 2.2 seconds could be played
* winding our way through the cavernous structure to the media gate, with a huge sign that said "this is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome," a sign that came back to Princeton with former intern Vinnie DiCarlo
* saying to the man who was checking credentials who wished us luck: "we're going to win" and having everyone start to laugh
* the sheer volume of the Dome as everyone got on the Princeton bandwagon and how the fans booed Indiana Pacer star Reggie Miller when the camera focused on him and he turned his baseball hat from backward to forward, revealing the letters "UCLA"
* how the walk from the court to the lockerroom took the team past two sections of fans, all of whom clamored to high-five anyone from Princeton

On and on, those memories go. TB could go on all day.

But he'll cut it short. There are games to watch, memories for others to make.

Yes, not all Thursdays are created equal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Friends

Back about 30 years ago, TigerBlog and his friend Corey were commissioned to take down the old wallpaper in Corey's grandparents' condo and then paint the walls. How hard could this be?

Very, it turned out. By the time his grandparents came back, TB and Corey had basically destroyed one wall, causing hundreds if not thousands of dollars in damage.

TB thinks back to that day often and laughs to himself. What in the world, he thinks, made him and his friend Corey think they could strip wallpaper and paint a house?

TB and Corey had been friends for a decade by then, and they're still friends to this day. The whole question of friendship is an interesting one to TB, who makes a huge distinction between "friendly" and "friend."

A friend is someone who's there for the long haul, not just because circumstances have put two people in the same place at the same time.

Facebook, of course, has devalued the concept of being somebody's "friend." Now, with that social networking site alone, people can have hundreds of "friends" that they never see, never talk to and really have little actual human connection to.

TB and Corey are not friends on Facebook. Corey has about a billion Facebook friends, and he stays updated with people from back in the day. TB has no Facebook page, because he's more interested in the genuine article of friendship rather than a nostalgic view of it.

All of this came to focus again for TB for two reasons. The second we'll get to at the end.

The first is the men's lacrosse team's current stay in North Carolina, which began Sunday, continued with a game last night against the University of North Carolina and concluded today with the long ride home.

TB considers himself a reasonable observer of the team from years of seeing them on the road, with numerous trips to NCAA tournaments and with one trip to Europe. To see a team of nearly 50 players from that off-the-field perspective is fascinating.

We at Princeton often refer to how the undergraduate athletic experience - and really the undergraduate experience in general - leads to the making of lifelong friendships. People are met who become friends in four years and have friendships that last for 40 years beyond that, or in some cases even more.

It's one of the best parts of college, and being part of a team only enhances that.

TigerBlog could never figure out why one player becomes best friends with another player above any other on a roster, why a group of three or four become inseparable. Why those two? Why that group?

By playing the same sport at Princeton, any sport, athletes by nature are starting with a ton of common interests. Take, say, fencing. Fencers at Princeton have gotten there by being committed to that sport and to being top-level students. Yes, some come from different parts of the country or the world, but teammates at Princeton are essentially brought together by a similar background.

Sports, of course, can transcend almost anything that general society offers to keep people from becoming friends. Look at the Princeton women's basketball team, where much has been made of the longtime friendship between the Jewish Lauren Polansky and the Palestinian Niveen Rasheed. It's a great story because it's so simple: two kids are friends because they are basketball players and students and Americans, regardless of political backgrounds of their people. It may be - actually, it is - too simplistic to say that if those two can do it than any Palestinians and Jews can become friends, but hey, it does give some hope.

Their story is extreme, but athletics has made lifelong friends out of people of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, upbringings, etc.

When the men's lacrosse team arrived for its pregame walk-through Tuesday afternoon, the Princeton players came off the bus and onto a practice field at the same time that a high school team was leaving the same field after its practice. The high school kids stood, two or three together, watching the Princeton guys get their gear and get onto the field.

The college kids walked together with their friends. The high school kids stood and watched with their friends. A few of the high school kids recognized the Princeton players and said "there goes Tyler Fiorito" or "there goes Jack McBride" with a hint of awe, which was endearing in itself.

Who of those groups will be friends 40 years from now? Some from the Princeton group will be, and some from the high school group will be. They'll stay in touch, talking often, going to places together, be in each other's weddings, watch their kids grow up. They won't need a social networking site to stay in touch.

Why will some of these friendships last? No idea. TigerBlog has no idea why he and Corey have stayed friends all these years when other people have long ago faded away.

Oh, and the second point? Today is Corey's birthday. He's the same big kid he was when TB first met him in the third grade, and TB wouldn't change a thing about him.

Like all great friendships that have lasted, there's no need to wonder why they have. It's better just to appreciate that they did.

Why does one become friends with someone and not someone else? It's hard to say.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hold The Mayo

TigerBlog had to go to Chapel Hill for the men's lacrosse game between Princeton (ranked fourth in one poll and fifth in the other) and North Carolina (second in one, third in the other), which is being played tonight at 7.

Actually, there's a pretty good tripleheader if you're a Princeton/sports fan. Princeton and UNC play in baseball at 3 and lacrosse at 7, and then the Tar Heels host William & Mary at 9:30 in the first round of the NIT.

TB wasn't sure whether he should fly or drive to the Raleigh-Durham area. On the one hand, it's a pretty far drive, more than seven hours. On the other hand, by the time you drive to the airport, park, take the shuttle to the terminal, go through security, wait for the flight, hope it's on time, get on the plane, fly, get off, get to the rental car counter and get to the hotel, how much time are you saving? An hour? Two at the most?

So, TB decided to drive. It wasn't a bad drive, and the traffic was only bad in Northern Virginia. He wasn't sure what to eat for dinner on the way, so he went with a Whopper with no mayo from Burger King. You may or may not know this, but a Whopper has 39 grams of fat, while a Whopper without Mayo has a little more than half that total.

Because he was driving, TB missed the women's basketball NCAA tournament selection show, which apparently drew a pretty good turnout at Triumph, where the team gathered to watch the show with a large group that included University president Shirley Tilghman.

The crowd had to wait until the final bracket before seeing Princeton's name, but it was well worth it. This is Princeton's first trip to the women's tournament, and it comes in a year when the Tigers had unquestionably their best team ever.

When Princeton finally came up on the board, it's hard to imagine anyone was disappointed. The Tigers take on St. John's of the Big East in Tallahassee, Fla., this Saturday at 12:21 on ESPN2. Not 12:20 or 12:22. That's 12:21.

Princeton enters the tournament with a record of 26-2 overall and 21 straight wins. Included in that run was a perfect 14-0 Ivy League record. The result was an 11 seed, the best ever by an Ivy League women's team.

The Ivy champ in the women's tournament is 1-16 all-time, so clearly wins are clearly hard to come by in the NCAAs. And St. John's won't be an easy team to take out: the Johnnies only lost by 14 at UConn and they have a record of 24-6.

In addition, St. John's tripled its Big East wins from last year, going from four to 12. The sixth seed is the best in program history as the team makes its fifth NCAA appearance.

Still, the Tigers are a dangerous opponent. For starters, it's not always easy to get Big East players to take an Ivy League team seriously. In some ways, that's going to work against Cornell on the men's side, since Temple coach Fran Dunphy knows a thing or two about Ivy League basketball.

The other thing working in Princeton's favor is that it's used to winning. It's always better to play a mid-level team from a big conference that has lost 10 or so games rather than a top team from a lower conference that has lost only a few games. That team is used to doing what it takes to win.

The same is true of the Patriot champ in women's basketball, by the way. Lehigh enters the tournament as a 13 seed with a 29-3 record to take on fourth seeded Iowa State in Ames (where they have plenty of Burger Kings and every other fast food place, TB recalls from his two trips there).

On the other hand, Princeton is sailing in uncharted waters here. Obviously no Princeton player has been to the tournament before, though head coach Courtney Banghart played in two at Dartmouth (and assistant coach Milena Flores played in the Final Four at Stanford).

The great part about where Princeton - and every other lower-seeded team in both tournaments - is right now is that there's no way of knowing what's going to happen. The potential for a history-making win is there for every game, and the lower the seed, the more history it would make.

Yes, most of those teams won't win, and Princeton is certainly an underdog. But that hardly means it's not worth taking your shot.

Through the years, TB has been asked a familiar question: Is it better to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament or make a run through the NIT?

Princeton's men had a great NIT experience in 1999, when the Tigers defeated Georgetown and N.C. State before losing in the quarterfinals against Xavier. Certainly those games were more memorable than the 2001 NCAA tournament game against North Carolina, for instance.

But that's not the point. It's not the fact that Princeton didn't win in 2001 against UNC. It's that Princeton had the chance to win a game that people would remember forever.

The 1996 Princeton-UCLA men's first-round game is one of the greatest in college basketball history. So is Princeton's 1989 loss to Georgetown. The chance at pulling off something so memorable easily trumps the opportunity to have a successful run in the NIT. As someone who has been to many NCAA tournaments and seen the NIT up close as well, TB can tell you that without hesitation.

So, to the Princeton women's basketball team, enjoy your spring break trip to Florida this weekend.

You've already made history as the first Princeton women's team to play in the NCAA tournament. Maybe there's some more history waiting there.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rain, Heavy At Times

As TigerBlog was trying to leave the Jadwin parking lot after the lacrosse game Saturday, he saw that the regular exit onto Faculty Road was closed. He went out the other side, only to find the traffic bumper-to-bumper.

He was able to cut through the University League Nursery School parking lot and get to Broadmeade, and from there it was up to Nassau Street. And there, on the corner, what did TB see?

Yes, it was a giant tree stretched across Nassau Street. This tree, which was huge, was uprooted and laid out from one side to the other. TB had two thoughts as he looked at the tree. First, how old was it? Second, it must have been terrifying to be driving by as the tree fell.

For the next hour or so, TigerBlog maneuvered his way through a maze of roads that were closed by either downed trees as large as the one on Nassau or trees that had knocked down power lines or flooding. And when he finally got home, he was greeted by total darkness, as the power long-since had gone out. And why do flashlights run on those big batteries that nobody ever has laying around, and why flashlights never work?

It was an amazing storm that came through the Princeton area Friday into Saturday night, with some residual rain, thunder and lightning Sunday morning. According to Action News, the Princeton area had six inches of rain fall Saturday, along with winds that closed in on 60 mph.

Of course, this all came on the heels of four separate snowstorms of at least 15 inches that helped set the record for most snow in a winter in these parts. And temperatures that rarely got out of the 20s from January through early March.

So which was worse? The snowstorms or the rain? TigerBlog will take the rain. At least it means that spring is on the way.

Still, there is some winter still left, on the calendar (about a week) and on the sports schedule, where several individual winter athletes are competing in national competition and in baskteball, where both Princeton teams are still playing.

The women's team, of course, rolled through the Ivy League and will find out its reward tonight, when the selection show is held at 7 pm on ESPN.

The men also will play in the postseason, as the Tigers were rewarded for their 20-8 regular season and 11-3 Ivy record and second place finish with a bid to the CBI. Princeton will actually host a first-round game Wednesday night at 7 against Duquesne.

By the way, before anyone mocks the CBI, keep in mind that Princeton was 6-23 two years ago and has turned that around to 20-8 in Sydney Johnson's third year.

The men's basketball selection show was last night, and TB isn't sure what to make out of it anymore. It used to be that the selection show was the highest rated part of the tournament and in many ways the most dramatic.

Think about it. You have one group of teams that know they've won an automatic bid, another group that knows that no matter what it has an at-large bid and then another group that may or may not get in at all. And none of them know where they're going, whom they are playing, what their path to go deep in the tournament will be. They find out when everyone else does.

Today, though, the whole selection process is overdone. For starters, there is the endless "bracketology," a nice concept most notably done by a very nice guy, Joe Lunardi from St. Joe's. There is another mock ballot coming in a few days each week of the season, and much like the weather forecast it doesn't really matter if it's correct. In fact, even at its most thought-out level (like Lunardi's on, all it takes is one misplaced team to mess up the entire predicted ballot.

Then there's the non-stop over-analysis of the tournament. TB was flipping through the channels last night and stumbled on a panel of nine guys in suits on ESPN going through the bracket game-by-game. And this is still Sunday. Just wait as the week goes on.

Of course, from the inside, there's a euphoria that builds in the days leading up to participating in the tournament. It's a busy time for everyone involved with the program, and even if you knew weeks ago that you were going to the tournament, it's still impossible to get done most of what needs to be done until the actual matchups are set. There are any number of details, including travel arrangements, media needs, pregame preparation, local alumni functions and on and on.

For fans of Princeton men's basketball, the two natural teams to root for are Georgetown, the third-seed in the Midwest who opens Thursday with Ohio. Georgetown, of course, is coached by John Thompson, who led the Tigers to the 2001 and 2004 tournaments as head coach. Georgetown's road to the Final Four would probably involve beating Ohio, Tennessee, Ohio State and ultimately Kansas.

Richmond is the other team that Princeton fans will want to see win as the Spiders are coached by Chris Mooney, like Thompson a Princeton alum. Mooney, who began his coaching career at Lansdale Catholic High School, are the seventh seed in the South, and they would need to take out Saint Mary's and Villanova to get to the Sweet 16.

Then there is the other big issue for a Princeton fan. Do you root for Cornell to beat Temple? Cornell, the Ivy League champ, beat Princeton twice by three points, so it would make Princeton look good if the Big Red does well. On the other hand, Princeton is the last Ivy team to win a game in the tournament. Do you want to keep it that way as a Tiger fan?

And if you do, that means you root for Fran Dunphy, who used to be the Penn coach for all those years. And on his staff at Penn was Cornell assistant Steve Donahue.

Of course, all these questions get answered quickly. One of the most amazing parts of the tournament for TB is how the selection show is this Sunday and by next Sunday, 49 of the 65 teams are already done.

In the case of the women, it's 64 teams, 48 of whom will be done within a week. But, this is still the time for euphoria, so that won't matter tonight when the selection show is on.

Hopefully the power will be back by then.

Friday, March 12, 2010

So Long, Ty

When TigerBlog was stuck on the Major Deegan Expressway the other day, he began to wonder something that he had never considered in the previous 1,000 or so times he'd been stuck on that particular highway. Who, exactly, was Major Deegan?

Turns out he wasn't exactly a towering military figure
. He was more of a mid-level bureaucrat type who had the right friends.

TigerBlog also used to hear all the time that the Lincoln Tunnel wasn't named for Abraham Lincoln but rather was named after the engineer who designed it. This, it turns out, is incorrect.

In West Philadelphia there is a building called Irvine Auditorium, where as a student TigerBlog saw concerts by, among others, the Go-Go's, the Hooters and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. As an aside, if you're a fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and haven't listened to Southside, make sure you do.

Anyway, legend had it that Irvine Auditorium, a somewhat oddly structured building, was named for an architecture student who had created the original design for a project and had received an F. Years later, after a successful career, the architect donated the money to the school to build the facility, on the condition that his failed design be used.

Turns out that's not true either. And there really is no mention of who Irvine was.

There are so many places that are named for people that you rarely stop to think of who they were. The top award given each year by the Princeton men's basketball team is its Benjamin Franklin Bunn Award. TigerBlog was at a banquet once where Pete Carril, prior to giving out the award, basically said this:
"Nobody knows who Benjamin Franklin Bunn was, but this award is special not because of its name but because of the people who have won it."

The reality is that B.F. Bunn was a member of the Class of 1907 and the longtime timekeeper at Princeton basketball, as well as the manager of the U-Store for 40 years.

The point is that Carril wasn't quite right on this one. What makes the award special IS who won it, but that doesn't mean that its namesake should be forgotten.

For anyone who has ever parked in Lot 21 at Princeton (the one next to the football stadium, Jadwin, DeNunzio Pool and Caldwell Fieldhouse), you might have noticed the fields to your right as your face the facilities.

The second one in from the stadium is called Campbell Field and has been since 1962. How many people parking in Lot 21 know this? How many who know that it's Campbell Field know who Campbell was?

TigerBlog addressed this subject superficially two months ago, when Campbell Field and Finney Field (the one closest to the football stadium) underwent a transition from grass to FieldTurf. From that minimal research, TB found out that the field was named for Tyler Campbell of the Class of 1943, a lacrosse Hall-of-Famer who was killed in World War II. That's all TB really knew.

Since then, TigerBlog has spoken to other members of the Campbell family and people from Princeton who knew him and read letters written by Campbell and about Campbell after his death, and TB has learned almost everything there is to know about Tyler Campbell.

The short of it is that Campbell - who looked something like Hobey Baker - was a chemical engineering student from Baltimore who played 150-pound football, hockey and lacrosse at Princeton. He was president of his freshman class and then re-elected to the position. He left school early to join the Army, eventually attending Officer's Training School before being deployed to World War II.

After originally having a desk position, Campbell volunteered for combat, and he would ultimately be part of four landings in Italy and France. He'd be wounded twice and earn three major commendations, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star and an Oak Leaf Cluster to a Bronze Star Medal. Finally, on Sept. 21, 1944, Campbell was killed in action at the age of 22.

It was haunting to read a letter Campbell wrote to his brother Mac (Princeton Class of 1948 and at the time an ambulance driver in Italy) three days before his death. TigerBlog could picture him on a hillside in Southern France, stopping to take the time to write to his brother. From his own words, Campbell hardly seems like a person who felt like he was about to die; instead, he comes across as someone who wasn't even considering it. He spoke of the future, of the job to do, of the experience itself.

And then he signed it. "So long, Ty," was what he wrote.

TigerBlog also read letters written by a general and a corporal about Campbell after his death and a sermon delivered by his freshman and sophomore year roommate at Princeton nearly 14 years later. He spoke to members of the Classes of 1942 and 1943.

And then TB tried to sum him up in fewer than 2,500 words

Gary Walters stopped by this morning and mentioned that he was going to a St. Patrick's Day party tonight (yes, it's not St. Patrick's Day yet) that will be hosted by the McCarthy family. The elder McCarthy, Jack Sr., was also in the Class of 1943.

Jack Sr. is a World War II vet who was part of five major battles. He too was wounded and decorated in combat.

Today, as he closes in on 90 years old, Jack is still a regular at Princeton games, at St. Patrick's Day parties, at family gatherings. Tyler Campbell never had the chance at any of that.

Why is that? It seems so random. TB finds himself wondering what Tyler Campbell might have accomplished had he lived. There was talk that he might have entered the priesthood. Or maybe he would have run the family business in Baltimore. Or maybe politics?

And who knows what he might have accomplished. By every indication, he was headed for greatness. And then, it was all gone.

TigerBlog will never look at Campbell Field the same way again.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cornell Men, Princeton Women, End Of Story

So this is championship week, huh? Nice name for it. Quickly, though, can you name a championship game from a one-bid conference that you actually remember? Something that really stood out for its drama?

No? Neither can TigerBlog. In fact, the North Carolina-Duke men's lacrosse game on ESPNU last night was more interesting to TB, and he watched more of that game than he has of every conference tournament combined.

Every year, there are those who argue that the Ivy League should add a tournament for men's and women's basketball. The Ivy League, it is pointed out, is the only Division I league that does not have a postseason tournament.

TigerBlog makes the opposite argument. Unless you're a league like the ACC or the Big East or the SEC where your tournament is a big money-maker, how in the world can a tournament even remotely be justified?

When championship week first came along, it was a pretty good idea for ESPN. Take every conference championship game and put it on one of the ESPN networks, and shortly everyone started to tune in.

Princeton used to play Virginia in lacrosse this week, and every other year when Princeton was in Charlottesville for the game, TigerBlog made sure that he got to the hotel in time to watch the Patriot League final, which was on that Friday at 4. After that was the ACC tournament and the Big East tournament and other major conference events.

Over time, though, it all started to look the same. Somebody won. They celebrated. Their students got all dressed up with school gear and painted faces, all in the name of getting on television.

Back then, the championship games were usually the only games that those leagues would get on television. Then, the entire landscape of college basketball evolved.

Today, you can't turn on the TV on any night from November to February without having 25 college basketball games on 25 different networks. And, with all of the channels available everywhere, you're as likely to be able to see, say, Western Kentucky at North Texas as you are a local game.

The effect of conference tournaments is that the regular season means next to nothing in the one-bid leagues. In the multi-bid conferences, the regular season means a little more in terms of locking up spots in the NCAA tournament, but it's really all about the three weeks in March.

Take the Big East. Syracuse and Georgetown play today in the quarterfinals. Does it really matter who wins? Both teams are locks for the NCAA tournament, and the Big East tournament will really only affect seedings. What's more important than that, though, are the matchups you get. Georgetown as a fifth-seed could be a better position to make run deep into the tournament than it might as a third-seed if it has to play teams it may or may not match up with.

Sure, every now and then a team will make a run through a major conference and steal its automatic bid, knocking out another bubble team somewhere. But even then those teams never make a run deep into the NCAA tournament.

In one bid leagues it's amazing to TigerBlog what will be done in the name of having one game on ESPN. A game, by the way, that is probably lost in a sea of other games just like it.

There are three points that TB feels speak to not having conference tournaments.

First, the argument that teams that are eliminated early on during the regular season in the Ivy League deserve a chance at the end doesn't fly. Your motivation might not be making the tournament at that point, but athletes have an obligation to play their hardest at all times, regardless of the situation.

Next, a one-bid league will really make a name for itself only if its champion wins a game in the NCAA tournament. Or, even better, two games. How is a league going to do this? By sending its best team to the tournament, not the third-place team that snuck in by getting hot for three nights.

Lastly, and if you disagree with TB on the first two this is the most important, the regular season champion has earned the right to go to the NCAA tournament. It's taken two months of league games to get to this point; do you want to invalidate all of that effort?

Look at the Ivy League this year.

Were there a women's tournament and the top four seeds all won, the semifinals would be Princeton vs. Yale and Harvard vs. Columbia. Suppose Princeton then beat Yale and had to play one of the other ones. Princeton has already beaten both twice, but it's hard to beat a team three times. And suppose someone from one of the other teams got really hot on one night and knocked down 10 three's or something like that?

Look at the men's side. The semifinals if form held would be Cornell vs. Yale and Harvard vs. Princeton. Suppose Princeton or Harvard stole the championship game from the Big Red? How in the world would that be valid?

Princeton's women and Cornell's men are right on the cusp of being at-large worthy, but a loss in an Ivy League tournament would end those hopes.

TigerBlog apologizes if he's beaten this subject to death here, but as championship week rolls on, it's become more apparent to TB that his position is correct.

Cornell's men have earned the right to go to the NCAA tournament. Same of Princeton's women.

Only two things could come out of an Ivy tournament. First, that status would be reaffirmed, but at the cost of winning three games (probably in three days). Or, second, something would happen to deny the league of having its legitimate winner go.

And don't mention the Ivy lacrosse tournaments, which are designed to give the leauge a chance to have as many teams get at-large bids as possible.

No, in basketball, the Ivy League does it right. Hopefully the rest of college basketball will start to follow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The men's lacrosse game against Manhattan ended early, and TigerBlog wrote his story while sitting in his car in the parking lot on the top of 240th Street, above Gaelic Field. It was still light out, and there was a steady stream of Manhattan students who walked by, almost all of whom were either talking on their cell phones or texting from their phones or performing some electronically connected function.

TB, of course, was working from a laptop with a cellular internet connection, so he was wireless as well. Still, it wasn't long until he went from a world of infinite speed to one of, well, whatever the opposite of that is.

It took TigerBlog from the time he left the parking lot until he reached the first intersection with Broadway to get snarled in traffic.

That was just the start of it. TB needed about 10 minutes just to get through that mess and go one other block to the on-ramp for the Major Deegan Expressway. From there, the real fun was getting up the ramp to the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Okay, so it was rush hour. Still, if there are two lanes with one clearly going to the George Washington Bridge and the other clearly going towards the Bronx and Westchester, why did every single car in the right lane feel the need to cut back into our lane right at the end? Especially since there was no shoulder there. For awhile TigerBlog was pretty sure that someone was going to hit the three homeless men sitting on the ramp, holding signs that said "Homeless and Hungry." As an aside, TigerBlog gave a bagel to one of them.

TigerBlog is no stranger to New York City traffic. It started at a young age, when all of TB's relatives lived in Brooklyn or Queens or on Long Island. From that experience, he swore off the Belt Parkway, only to go back to it after getting stuck on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway one too many times. And don't get TB started about the Grand Central and the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State.

And the traffic reports on the radio are no help. They'll tell you about an accident on I-78 in Western New Jersey that had the right lane blocked but is now cleared, but they'll fail to mention that a million people or so are on the Cross Bronx. Perhaps they just assume everyone knows certain roads are always awful, so why bother.

How do these people deal with this every day? Around here, traffic consists of a mild backup on Route 1 or the light at Washington Road. In New York, everywhere in New York, the traffic is nightmarish all the time.

The other problem is that you don't know how long it's going to take to get anywhere. The men's lacrosse bus left at around 11:15 yesterday; TB left about 15 minutes later (and stopped at the bagel place to get lunch, which he would share later). Only there was no traffic going in at that time of day, not even at the George Washington Bridge, so everyone got the field early. The coaches had a brief discussion about possibly having left later, only to realize that they were just as likely to have run into miserable traffic that would have made them late for the 3 p.m. face-off.

Anyway, the traffic (which eased well on the Turnpike) kept TigerBlog from getting back to Jadwin Gym in time for the end of the women's basketball game, so he missed out on seeing the presentation of the Ivy League trophy and the cutting down of the nets.

The process of putting together a college athletic program in any sport is very, very complex. The recruiting process alone is so involved (and starting earlier all the time), and random factors like injuries, finances, grades, other schools, hidden gems and all of it go into deciding what athlete chooses what school and why.

Then, once the roster is assembled, there's the development of a team, the way each player meshes with the others and, of course, how they all mesh with the coaches and their system. And then once the season gets there, does anyone get hurt? Does everyone stay healthy? Did a flu bug wipe out a key weekend?

With everything involved, moments like last night's, when Princeton was cutting down the nets, are to be savored even more. Princeton's women's team is young, and arguably its two dominant players are a freshman (Niveen Rasheed) and a sophomore (Devonna Allgood). Does this guarantee that Princeton will win next year? Nope. As former Princeton men's coach Bill Carmody would have said, the woods are full of teams that everyone picked to win who didn't.

Going 14-0 in the league (and winning every one of the 14 games by double figures) is an extraordinary accomplishment, put together by this year's group with this year's team dynamic. Yes, the future does look bright, but that would have been little consolation had Princeton let it slip away at the end of this year.

There's another reason why this particular net-cutting was special. The Princeton women's basketball team has never before played in the NCAA tournament, but now the Tigers will do just that.

The men's basketball team made the first of its 23 NCAA tournament appearances in 1952. The men's lacrosse team made its first trip in 1990 and has been to 18 in all, a number one fewer than the women's team.

Women's soccer, men's soccer, field hockey, men's volleyball and men's water polo have played in the Final Four. In fact, every team at Princeton that competes in an Ivy League sanctioned sport that has an NCAA team tournament has reached that tournament - except women's basketball, which has now done so.

In extraordinary fashion, by the way.

It was a great night at Jadwin. Two senior nights honoring six seniors who helped turn the basketball fortunes at Princeton around. Two convincing wins over Penn.

The men's win gave Princeton 20 wins for the first time since 2004. The women's win gave Princeton a 26-2 record, building on its record for most wins ever by an Ivy women's basketball team.

The two wins left Princeton basketball at a combined 46-10; two years ago, in Sydney Johnson's and Courtney Banghart's first seasons as head coaches, Princeton was a combined 13-46.

Yes, it was a great night to be at Jadwin Gym. Even if the traffic out of the city was horrible.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Winter Of Wonder

TigerBlog's introduction to computers came back in high school, when he took a BASIC programming class. Not "basic," as in "simple," but "BASIC," as in a computer language at the time.

According to Wikipedia, it stands for "Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code." Basically (no pun intended), in BASIC, you wrote code for your program, and the program ran the instructions in numerical order of how they were labeled. Most of the time, your first line would be 10, your second would be 20, etc., and you could go back and add instructions in between if you needed to.

Also, if you wrote "new" as a command, it would tell the computer to erase whatever leftover instructions there were from the person before you. This is sort of a prehistoric version of closing your browser.

Anyway, TB once wrote "10 - New" for the first line of a lengthy program. Then, when TB hit run, the first thing the computer did was follow that command, which TigerBlog thought would clear whatever was there before. Instead, it erased everything that followed, which was TB's entire project.

Oh well. Live and learn. Back then, computer files were stored on regular cassettes, which for those who can't remember back before CDs and such were things that you could record music on and play in your car stereo, until the tape part inevitably got messed up.

From there, technology made a big leap forward to the floppy disk, which has long since been obsolete as well. When TB first started working here at Princeton, there was a big file that kept floppy disks, and there were a bunch of them entitled "Myslik System." Those disks held the year-by-year totals of what became the "Ivy League's All-Sports Points System" and, with a nod to former Ivy communications director Brett Hoover, it's current state of "Ivy League's Unofficial All-Sports Points Standings."

Now of course, all of these files make up the tiniest storage unit of TB's computer.

The current file is called "ivystandings.09.10," and it is almost two-thirds complete for the current academic year.

All that's left to fill in is whether or not Penn ties Cornell for seventh place in women's basketball (it would need to beat Princeton tonight to do so) and places 2-7 in men's basketball, which will be impacted by the Princeton-Penn men's game.

As an aside, the men's game has been moved from a 7 p.m. start to an 8.p.m. start.

The standings show Princeton with 130 points, plus either 7 or 6.5 more in men's basketball (a Princeton win gives the Tigers second place alone; a Penn win ties Princeton and Harvard for second). Harvard is in second place with 104, and the Crimson will get either 6.5 or 6, depending on whether or not Princeton beats Penn. No other team has more than 90.5 (Cornell).

It's been an extraordinary winter for Princeton and an even more extraordinary two weekends.

There are 13 Ivy League winter sports, and Princeton won the championship in seven of them (men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's fencing, women's basketball, men's and women's indoor track and field). The seven Ivy League titles ran Princeton's 2009-10 total to nine (keep in mind men's cross country lost to Columbia by one excruciating point), which is six more than the next-highest total in the league (Cornell and Harvard have three each).

Princeton needs one spring Ivy League championship (certainly not a gimme) to reach double figures for the 19th time in program history, all since 1979-80. The only other school to reach double figures is Harvard, which has done it five times.

The all-time record is 14, set by Princeton in 1999-2000 and matched the following year by Princeton and in 2004-05 by Harvard.

Still, all of those numbers aren't the most impressive part of Princeton's winter. As TigerBlog looked over the spreadsheet of numbers for each sport, he noticed that all 13 Princeton winter teams in Ivy sports finished either first, second or third.

There were the seven championships, as well as two second-place finishes and four third-place finishes.

Another impressive thing is that Princeton's athletic success isn't built around a handful of teams. A year ago, Princeton had eight Ivy League championship teams through the fall and winter. Of those eight, three (women's soccer, men's cross country, men's squash) did not repeat this year. That means that four of this year's Ivy champions didn't win last year: both fencings, women's indoor track, women's swimming and diving.

Going back two years, Princeton also had eight championship teams through the winter. Included in that list were men's hockey and women's volleyball. The list from the year before that shows eight championships through the winter, including women's squash and football.

The point is that Princeton's athletic success has been bigger than any one program, any one athlete, any one coach.

TigerBlog's post from last week about the five championships in 19 hours drew this comment:
"I hope you will have occassion to elaborate on the ingredients of this past weekend as a microcosm of the overall, sustained success of Princeton athletics."

The Ivy League Sports Board has a long thread about the same subject.

TigerBlog has his thoughts on Princeton's success and the reasons for it. Anytime he thinks about it, he comes up with a different point to focus on.

Yesterday's post mentioned some of the great movies of all-time, and one of them is "Patton," the story of the World War II general. The movie ends as Patton strolls through a courtyard, looking indestructible, as his voiceover speaks these words:
"For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph - a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

In other words, enjoy it, but don't forget it's not a guarantee for next year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

And The Winner Is ...

There used to be a place on Route 18 called "Movie City 5," which a long, long, long time ago used to show movies for $1.50. You'd wait on different colored lines depending on what movie you wanted to see, and a voice like that at an airport would instruct you to the right color.

TigerBlog has always loved the movies. He grew up going to the movies all the time, from the time he was a little kid through when he first was able to drive himself. The first R-rated movie TB ever saw in the movies? "Animal House."

There were two little movie theaters in West Philadelphia that TB went to all the time in college. These days, when obscure movies come on TV from those days, TB realizes that it's one of the movies he saw in those days. Movies like "The Right Stuff" and "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Sophie's Choice" and "Tootsie" and the like.

TB doesn't go to the movies much anymore. TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog love to go, though, so it's good to see the next generation following down the same path.

The best night to watch movies on television is the night of the Oscars. TigerBlog used to watch the Oscars, but now he's much more into watching the movies that are on TV instead.

As an aside, TigerBlog once wrote two stories about sports movies on the night of the Oscars back when he was the newspaper business, one of which was about the actual making of sports movies and the other of which was about TigerBlog's favorite sports movies ("Rocky" is No. 1; "Hoosiers" is No. 2) and performances in sports movies. He got more mail about those two stories (no email back then) than he did for every other story he wrote in 11 years combined, especially when he said "Field of Dreams" is the worst sports movie ever (because it glorifies the Black Sox scandal).

The Oscars, of course, were on last night. So were some of the greatest movies ever, like "Goodfellas," "Patton," "Saving Private Ryan," "Wedding Crashers." Okay, the last one isn't on the same level, but it's funny.

And, of course, "The Godfather," perhaps the greatest movie ever made, was on as well, followed by "The Godfather Part II."

"The Godfather" won the award as the Best Picture of 1972. If that seems like a long time ago, it was.

"The Godfather" was released on March 15, 1972. That release date was 42 days after the Princeton women's basketball team played the first game in program history.

Since then, Princeton has won some Ivy League championships in the pre-NCAA tournament days, tied for the title but lost with a bid on the line and played to a basically .500 record overall.

In all that time, though, Princeton had never played in an NCAA tournament game. All that changes this year, as the Tigers powered their way to an Ivy League championship that was cemented Saturday night with a win at Harvard.

Princeton is two years removed from a 7-23 overall record and 4-10 Ivy League record in Courtney Banghart's first year as head coach. During that season, Princeton went 0-4 against Harvard and Dartmouth, losing those four games by a combined 57 points. Of the 10 Ivy League losses, eight were by double figures.

Then there's this year.

The win over Harvard improved the Tigers to a ridiculous 25-2, setting the record for the most wins in a season by an Ivy League women's basketball team. Princeton is 13-0 in the league heading into tomorrow night's regular-season finale against Penn, and all 13 wins have come by double figures.

That's an accomplishment that even Princeton's 1998 men's team didn't pull off. TB isn't sure how many teams have ever won the Ivy League with all double figure wins, but it can't be many. Anyone wishing to look it up may feel free to do so.

Oh, and Princeton went 4-0 against Harvard and Dartmouth this year for the first time in program history. The combined margin of victory in those four games is 63 points.

Princeton has two seniors on the team, neither of whom start, and the freshmen and sophomore classes are dominant.

The result of all of this is that Princeton gets to play in the NCAA tournament for the first time. The latest ESPN women's "bracketology" has Princeton taking on St. John's in Norfolk on March 21, a Sunday.

More importantly, it gives Princeton a 12th seed, which is a great seed to have. It keeps you away from a dominant team in the first or second round, which is why so many 12 seeds have done so well in the tournament.

The women's selection show isn't until a week from today. During that time, Princeton will play Penn, see how the All-Ivy League teams shake out and enjoy the moment, hopefully, as the team that brought the first women's bid to Princeton women's basketball attempts to make some more history.

This is the 17th time the Ivy League champion has played in the NCAA tournament. The league is 1-16 to date, with the only win from Harvard over Stanford (a 16 seed defeating a No. 1 seed, though an injury-depleted one). Only three other times has the Ivy League champ lost by fewer than 10 in the first round.

Harvard's win over Stanford came in 1998, and the Best Picture of 1998 was "Shakespeare In Love." TigerBlog still can't figure out how that movie won instead of "Saving Private Ryan."

Of course, Academy Awards are subjective. In basketball, there's nothing subjective about it. You score more; you win.

Princeton women's basketball has won big all year. Their prize isn't a statue; it's the chance to play in the NCAA tournament.