Monday, March 1, 2010

Five In 19

Okay, everyone, repeat after TigerBlog: "While the 2010 Olympic men's hockey final was a great game, it was not in the same universe as the 1980 U.S. win."

TB couldn't take it anymore. National heroes? National pride? In yesterday's game? No way.

Canada's overtime win over the U.S. was an exciting game, filled with drama and huge swings in emotion. It was also great to see professionals playing so hard on teams filled with guys they'll be playing against and against guys they'll be playing with starting tonight. As sporting events go, you couldn't have asked for much more.

Still, to hear the studio commentators gush over this game - TB believes Jeremy Roenick was near tears - was ridiculous. One called it "the most anticipated hockey game of all time."

Sorry, but unless you're at least 40, you missed out on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice." And, as such, you should know that no sporting event will ever be able to recapture that magic, not only as sport itself but also in context of the international events of the day.

This game was American pros and Canadian pros. That game was American college kids and Soviet pros. Not Russians. Soviets. All while Americans were being held hostage in Iran and American national pride was at perhaps an all-time low. The hockey gold medal began to reverse that tide and helped propel Ronald Reagan into the Presidency nine months later.

And, if you're an American living in Pittsburgh who is a huge hockey fan, can you be that upset that Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal?

And, if you're a Princeton sports fan, how could you be upset about anything that happened this weekend?

Princeton did something amazing this past weekend. In a span of 19 hours beginning Saturday night, Princeton teams combined to win five Ivy League championships. Five Ivy championships in 19 hours.

It's a ridiculous achievement. Five teams - 192 total athletes - who won Ivy League titles this weekend.

It started with the women's swimming and diving team, who wrapped up the program's ninth league championship in 11 years Saturday night. Then, on Sunday, both indoor track and field teams and both fencing teams won their league titles.

The winter, of course, isn't over, and Princeton has a chance for two more league titles in the next week-plus as the men's swimming and diving team looks to repeat last year's title and the women's basketball team looks to close out its marvelous run this winter.

The men's swimming and diving team hosts the Ivy League championships at DeNunzio Pool beginning Thursday.

The women's basketball team takes a two-game lead into the final three games, a trip to Dartmouth (Friday) and Harvard (Saturday) before a home game against Penn next Tuesday. The women would have to lose all three and have Harvard win all three of its games (Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth) for the Tigers not to get at least a share of the title; the magic number is two for the outright title and NCAA berth.

But that's for the future. Let's get back to this past weekend.

Trying to get some historical perspective, let's go back to the eight league schools and their Ivy title totals for the last 10 academic years. That's eight schools x 10 years, for a total of 80 academic years.

Of those 80 academic years, a total of 46 ended up in fewer than five Ivy titles for the year. Another 12 ended up with exactly five. Factor out Princeton, and that's 70 years, with 46 having fewer than five for the year and 11 having five.

That's for a whole year. Not a season. And certainly not a 19-hour stretch.

Heading into the weekend, the 2009-10 academic year had Harvard in the lead with three Ivy League titles, while Princeton, Cornell and Penn had two each. Now, Princeton has seven, while Cornell (added men's basketball) and Harvard have three each (Yale joined the group with two by winning men's hockey).

Princeton had a 4.5-point lead over Harvard in the unofficial Ivy League all-sports points standings prior to the weekend. Today, with those five sports (plus men's hockey) added in, Princeton's lead stands at 24 points over Harvard and 36.5 points over third place Penn and Cornell. Should that lead hold up, it would be the 24th straight year that Princeton will have won.

TigerBlog often thinks of Princeton's sustained athletic success as remarkable and at the same time cautionary. It is not Princeton's birthright to win every year. It takes a strong commitment, especially from the coaches and athletes who make it happen.

And, don't forget, every other school in the league knows full well what Princeton has done, this past weekend and for the last 23+ years. And, TigerBlog suspects, they don't like it very much.

But that's for another time. Today is all about a remarkable weekend.

As TB was writing, an assistant coach stopped in the doorway and asked if five Ivy titles is a record for a weekend.

TigerBlog can't really look that up, but he's going to assume it is. And whether it is or not, it's still a great Monday to be a Princeton fan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TB: I assumed you would focus on the remarkable achievement of Princeton athletics this past weekend and you did not disappoint. I also appreciated your comments on Olympic hockey.

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 University has provided, over the years, the kind of facilities that enable success and attract blue chip recruits. Bill Bradley played in Dillon Gym and I don't know where the indoor track team performed. Now we have Jadwin. The swimmers were at Dillon pool. Now we have DeNunzio pool. I don't know where the fencers were, but they are now in Jadwin I assume.

The coaches are instrumental -- three veterans in Teeter, Samara, and Farrell, and a relative newcomer in Dudas(?). You cannot say enought about them.

A strong commitment to financial aid for all of our students. An admissions office that needs to be timely and sympathetic.

It all added up to a truly remarkable weekend that is difficult to comprehend fully in all of its success.