Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Tale Of Two Soccer Coaches

TigerBlog saw a headline that read: "Bradley Resigns As U.S. Soccer Coach" and immediately thought he had resigned, not resigned.

Resigned, as in, "quit," rather than resigned, as in "put his signature on a contract extension."

Even now, TB is pretty sure that he's missing something as far as "resign" and "resign" are concerned. Is he spelling something wrong?

Anyway, the Bradley in question is Bob Bradley, who is the head coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team. Bradley, of course, is a Princeton grad and the former head coach of the Princeton men's team who took the Tigers to the 1993 NCAA Final Four.

Bradley was named interim coach of the U.S. team in 2006 and then was named permanent coach when Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German national coach, wouldn't agree to take the American job.

Bradley then led the U.S. to first place in the Concacaf group of World Cup qualifying. At the 2010 event in South Africa, the U.S. team won its group, finishing first against England, Slovenia and Algeria, before falling in the Round of 16 against Ghana.

Along the way, the American team generated considerable rooting interest among casual American sports fans, and Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in the final seconds to give the Americans the group title and advance them to the knockout round is one of the great moments in sports this year.

When the team didn't advance any further, though, there was talk that Bradley might not be back for a run in 2014. In fact, it seemed like he might be headed to Aston Villa in the English Premiere League.

Instead, he's back with the U.S. team, even after Klinsmann's name surfaced again. Bradley's new contract is for four years, which would make him the second coach (along with Bruce Arena) to take the U.S. to two World Cups if he can navigate qualifying for the 2014 event in Brazil.

Bradley's "resigning" was national and international news in the soccer world. Unfortunately, he was not the only soccer coach with strong Mercer County roots to make news yesterday.

Brin Welsh, known to many as "Maynard," was the boys' soccer coach at West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School for nearly 30 years, with a record of 344-180-48. He was also a social studies teacher at the school.

TB, like so many who knew him well, were stunned by the news that he had taken his own life Sunday at the age of 51. There were many details that were in the various reports that can be read about his marital problems and other issues, all of which led him to the train tracks in Hamilton over the weekend.

TigerBlog, back in a previous life, coached freshman and jayvee baseball at West Windsor-Plainsboro, where he got to know Maynard, who got his nickname from Maynard G Krebs from the "Dobbie Gillis" TV show. Maynard G Krebs was played by Bob Denver, who was also Gilligan from "Gilligan's Island."

This Maynard, like that Maynard, was, as Rich Fisher wrote today, "a trip." When TB read Fish's piece on Maynard, he was looking for the story that both of them told about the time when they were high school kids that Maynard dumped a milk shake on Fish in a McDonald's.

While at WWP, Maynard sent several players to Princeton, including Scott and Shawn Pierson and Mike Nugent, and he coached against current Tiger head men's coach Jim Barlow when he was a player at Hightstown High and women's assistant coach Ron Celestin when he was the boys' coach at Princeton High.

Through the years, Maynard was a semi-regular at Princeton games, in soccer and other sports.

TigerBlog never saw Maynard when he wasn't smiling, wasn't laughing, wasn't telling stories, wasn't making everyone around him laugh. He was a completely engaging man, one you never got tired of seeing, one who always seemed to be having fun and helping everyone else around do the same. He told great stories, and everyone had great stories about Maynard.

When TB found out that he was gone, he was shocked at first, like everyone else must have been. But when he thought back to the Maynard he knew - and not the one who went through such a rough time at the end - TigerBlog couldn't help but smile and laugh as he remembered his old friend.

Even as he writes this, TigerBlog isn't sure if he should be laughing or crying, and he's pretty sure the Maynard he knew would come up to him, put his arm around him like he always would and say something like "it's okay to remember the fun parts."

When TigerBlog thinks back about Brian Welsh through the years, those fun parts are what he'll remember.

Two of TB's favorite soccer coaches made the news yesterday, one for all the best reasons and one for the worst of them all. Best of luck to Bob Bradley as he moves forward with the U.S. team; best wishes to the family and many, many friends of Brian Welsh.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A One Hour MRI

TigerBlog has had a few MRIs in his life, including two on his neck. If you've never had an MRI on your upper body, it's a real treat.

Basically, you lie on your back and then get sent into the tube, which is no more than an inch from your face. If they're checking for certain things, you could be strapped in, which makes it even more fun.

TB isn't sure if he was claustrophobic before his first MRI; he's positive he was claustrophobic after it was over. From a realistic standpoint, there was plenty of air in the tube, and TB remembers thinking that he was only a few feet from being outside. From a "this is freaking TB out" perspective, the MRI felt like being buried alive.

When TigerBlog read the story of the 33 miners who are trapped 2,300 feet below the ground in Chile, his first thought was that he couldn't possibly imagine how he would last for five minutes, let alone for what they are going through.

For those who haven't followed the story, the miners became trapped on Aug. 5, but they were able to find refuge in an area big enough to accommodate them. They had enough food to last two days, but they were able to make it last until last week, when the mining company was able to reach them through three small holes. These holes have been used to establish communications with the men, as well as provide them with food, water and other supplies.

The three holes have enabled the men to film and send to the surface two videos, which show them to be in a unbelievably good spirits, especially considering their situation. One miner even sent a marriage proposal through the video.

There is a difference between being found and being rescued, though. The men will now have to wait until holes large enough to bring them to the surface can be drilled, and they will have to help out by moving tons of rocks out of the way.

In the end, they'll be raised through the holes, which will require them to have waistlines of 35 inches or smaller. As one person put it on the radio this morning, it'll be like being in a "one hour MRI." The trip from the mine to the surface will take each miner one full hour.

Oh, and it's going to take three to four months to dig the hole, which means that rescue will be sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

TigerBlog can't fathom it. He's 100% sure he'd flip out long before then.

To put that it a bit of perspective, these miners will have been trapped for nearly a month before Princeton plays its first athletic events of the year, and they'll still be trapped when the fall season is over.

Princeton has 38 varsity teams, of which nine play in the fall, 13 play in the winter (including men's volleyball, which starts in late January and goes into the spring) and 16 play in the spring.

The fall season begins Friday, when the women's soccer team and women's volleyball team compete. By the end of the weekend, men's soccer and field hockey will also have played, with men's water polo to follow shortly after that. Cross country, football and sprint football will then get under way.

Despite having fewer teams compete, the fall held its own a year ago, with two NCAA Final Four teams (field hockey, men's water polo), two Ivy League champions (field hockey, women's cross country) and two other NCAA participants (women's cross country, which finished fifth out of 340 in Division I, and men's soccer). Men's cross country fell one point short of an Ivy League championship, and women's soccer started seven freshmen one year after its seventh NCAA appearance in 11 years.

The fall is a great time, with the oppressive late-summer heat lifting and plenty of outdoor events played in perfect weather. After having no Princeton athletic events since early June, there are 60 in the month of September alone.

The fall of 2010 at Princeton has all kinds of storylines:
* how will the Tiger football team look under new head coach Bob Surace and his staff, and how will Jordan Culbreath do in his return?
* will the field hockey team return to the Final Four and possibly go even further?
* after back-to-back fifth place finishes in Division I, how will the women's cross country team handle some key graduation losses? Will the men be able to make up that missing point?
* the men's and women's soccer teams both have a ton of returning young talent. Will they both be playing in the postseason?
* how will volleyball do in Jolie Ward's second year?
* can the men's water polo team match last year's postseason run?

The fall is filled with "circle the date" events, including big games across all of the sports. One gamethat TB is looking forward to with great anticipation is Oct. 8 on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium, when the sprint football team takes on first-year program Post from Connecticut.

The start of the fall sports season is only four days away. The rescue of the miners in Chile is three to four months away.

TB will be keeping them in his thoughts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Part II

TigerBlog gets somewhat freaked out anytime he watches "The Silence Of The Lambs," especially the part where Buffalo Bill says: "It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose."

The first time he saw the original version of "The Hitcher," which ended around 11 or so (this was back in the mid-'80s, so the exact time is a bit vague), TB stayed up until around 2 a.m. watching reruns of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on Nickelodeon before he was calmed down enough to go to sleep.

For sheer scared-out-of-your-mind fictional terror, though, nothing TB has ever seen compares to the episode of the old TV show "Superman" when the Mole Men came out of the giant oil well.

The basic premise was that the world's deepest oil well is drilled in a small town, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane head off to check it out for the Daily Planet. What nobody realizes is that the well was dug so deep that it entered the home of the mole men, who are short and hairy with giant heads.

Anyway, the mole men come up through the hole into the town, where they terrorize the locals (inadvertently). Eventually, Superman saves the day for everyone, but not before one of the mole men is shot, the rest of the mole men break out their special weapon to get revenge and ultimately the well is destroyed by the mole men after they return to their hole.

After the first time TB saw it, he got in trouble because he told his friend Anthony Morelli from down the block that the mole men were going to come out in his backyard that night, and Anthony never got to sleep. Even this very day, TB got the chills a bit from seeing a picture of the mole men after a Google search.

The episode was scary enough, but it was even worse when the first 30 minutes were ending and it became clear that this would be a "to be continued ..." situation. How cruel was that?

It was a lot crueler than when TigerBlog finished off yesterday's Part I on the marketing of Princeton athletics.

As a quick recap, TB asked some basic questions about marketing, mostly focusing on the idea of whether or not there is a huge untapped audience out there that would attend Princeton sporting events or if that audience is tapped and Princeton is drawing at what could be considered a successful rate.

Through the years, Princeton has operated under the assumption that there are all kinds of people out there who would come to events here (ticketed and non-ticketed) and that all we have to do is figure out the best way to reach them.

To that end, we have tried essentially everything, never really sticking with anything for long. Big fancy color printed pieces featuring the top players that get mailed out. No, wait, feature the kids at the game and the experience of attending the game and not the players themselves and then print it and mail it out. No wait, print it but stuff it in local newspapers.

No, that's not right. It's all about schedule cards, simple information, saturating the area. No, forget all that and try getting into a mailer like Valpak. Don't print it at all. Send it electronically. Put it on the web.

Cut prices. Raise prices. Stress season tickets. Forget season tickets. Stress groups sales. Faculty and staff. No, students. No, make it local families with kids.

Focus on the tradition of Princeton athletics. No, don't do that. Make it all about the future.

Slogans? We've had a million of them, it seems. "We Want Your Tail In Our Seats." Remember that one? Or this was a good one: "Football. Family. Friends. For $5." Or how about: "Getting Into Princeton Has Never Been Easier?" And on and on.

And then how to approach it? Pour all of the resources into football and market the other sports from there. No, don't do that. Treat everyone equally.

We need print ads in newspaper. No, we need radio spots. No, we need TV. Or a billboard. Yeah, a big one on the Turnpike. No, we don't need third-party advertising at all. We need databases that we can target directly.

And money? There's no money for a TV commercial, but nobody realizes how much it costs to mail out a brochure to 60,000 people or so.

And in the end, what affect did any of it have? Has it, as current Bradley Director of Athletics Michael Cross used to say during his Princeton days, "moved the needle?" Sometimes TigerBlog has wondered if it would be better just to take the money spent on all these different ideas, go up to Nassau Street and pay people $5 each to go to a game.

One area that we have been severely limited in has been market research. There have been, in the last 23 years (one in 1987, one in 1998), two efforts that TB knows about to gain information about fan interest and behavior towards Princeton athletics.

In reading through those two, the basic conclusion is this: There are hundreds of thousands of people who can't wait to come to games at Princeton, if only the people at Princeton could figure out how to reach them.

And so, clearly, Princeton has tried to reach them.

This past summer, Princeton had an intern named Dan Coleman, who was here as part of a class at Temple. While here, Coleman was part of a group that put together two surveys, one to be emailed out and another for a face-to-face "can-I-ask-you-a-few-questions" audience.

The emailed one went to 17,000 people, a group that included ticket buyers, local youth sports groups, summer camp participants, people who had expressed interest in Princeton on the website and others. Of those 17,000, 216 filled out the survey, which isn't quite a huge feedback but is still better than nothing.

Princeton also requested permission from seven local places (malls, movie theaters) to do its face-to-face interviews, and the only one to agree was the QuakerBridge Mall. Coleman spent four hours there and was able to interview 97 people.

So, scientific or not, Princeton had some feedback. And what did it show?

Let's start with the QuakerBridge group, which was more random than the email group, which consisted of people who had at least some level of connection to Princeton.

Among the more interesting responses among the 97 surveyed:
* 70% didn't realize that Princeton had 38 sports
* 86% didn't realize that 33 of those 38 sports charge no admission
* 81% didn't realize that Princeton charges $30 for season football tickets and $8 for single game
* 39% (by far the highest total) said that game time was the No. 1 factor in determining whether or not they would attend.

In other words, this appears to support the idea that Princeton has not reached the audience out there. It also says that Princeton is competing against kids' games, activities and other events for fans, as TB interprets the answer of "game time" to mean "a time that doesn't conflict with what we're doing."

Of the emailed group, just under 50% lived within 30 miles of Princeton, including 36% who said they lived 0-15 miles from the campus. It also appeared to be an older group, as 74% said that they had children and 62% of that group had children over 16.

Interestingly, 68% of those who responded were not alums.

This group, unlike the other, had nearly 60% who realized that Princeton does not charge admission for most of its events. Nearly 85% had been to at least one Princeton football game, and 50% had attended more than five in the last five years (28% had attended more than 10). More than 60% said they like to watch college football on TV.

In terms of ticket prices for football, 57% thought Princeton season tickets were at least $50, with 33% who said they were at least $75. In terms of staying in touch with Princeton, more than 70% go to goprincetontigers.com more than once a week.

The issue of game times for this group was also interesting, in that 61% liked the idea of having football games start at 1. Logic, at least applied by TB, suggests that this runs completely contrary to what the other group was saying, in that 1 p.m. games are probably in direct competition with the majority of the kids' activities that prevent that group from attending.

For the email group, time of game ranked fourth among the most important considerations of attending. Watching the game itself was first, followed by weather and then ease of parking.

The email group also was asked for general comments, if they wished. Among them:
* "we love the 6 p.m. starts for basketball on Saturdays. Is it possible to move them even earlier?"
* "can you move the basketball start times on Saturday back to 7 or even 8?"

Some love the band; others hate the band. In other words, you can't please everyone.

On the other hand, several comments referred to the great atmosphere for kids at games and how much they love attending, and this is really up there near the top of what Princeton's goals are for its events.

So after all this, do we have any answers to our questions? Is there really this huge untapped audience out there, and is the onus on us to figure out how to reach it?

Or is attendance here at the top end of what the market will support?

TigerBlog, along with the rest of Princeton athletics, has no clear answer.

On the other hand, TB feels that after everything that's been tried through the years, the answer to the most effective way to market the 38 teams is by putting on the best possible events for the local community and then letting them know about the affordability (or in the case of 33 sports, the lack of admission charge) and accessibility of Princeton University.

And then develop reliable databases for people who are interested in each particular sport, and then contact them directly. Let them know what event is coming up, and have that come directly to their inbox. Combine this with a strong presence on Facebook, and don't rely on newspaper ads or radio spots or other things that might be expensive.

That, for 2010-11, is the focus. And if that doesn't work, hey, we can always start over.

We've done it before. Many times.

Question: Is there a huge audience out there that wants to come to Princeton games and just hasn't learned about them?

TigerBlog has no idea.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To Be Continued ...

When TigerBlog was a kid, there was nothing worse on TV then the dreaded "to be continued ..." It meant that the show you were watching was going to be spread out over two parts, and you'd have to wait an entire week to find out what happened.

On the TV show "Batman," all of the episodes were either Part I or Part II, so you knew going in for a Part I that it was going to end with Batman and Robin about to be ground up in a huge garbage disposal or sawed in half or something like, and even though you knew they weren't, it still was a pain to have to wait to see how they'd get out of it.

As an aside, think of how many problems the Joker or the Riddler could have saved himself by simply staying there to make sure that the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder actually did get dropped into the vat of acid when the sand ran out, rather than leaving the room and assuming it would happen as planned. The same holds true for James Bond movies, by the way.

And then there were all the shows that didn't usually have a Part I and Part II but every now and then snuck a "to be continued" in on you. Those were even worse than "Batman," because you rarely saw it coming until just before the end, when it became obvious that the story couldn't be wrapped up in time. There was an episode of "Seinfeld" where Jerry talked about this in his monologue.

Anyway, be forewarned. This edition of TigerBlog is the first-ever two-parter.

Today, TigerBlog is asking a few questions. Tomorrow, TB will be looking for some answers.

Here are the questions:

1) Is there a huge untapped audience out there who would attend Princeton sporting events but doesn't because this group doesn't know about them or has misconceptions about them?

2) Is attendance at Princeton sporting events good or bad?

3) What resources, if any and if so in what fashion, should Princeton put into trying to get more people to come to athletic events?

4) Should marketing be focused on the five sports that are ticketed or is it possible to market for 38 sports?

5) What affect is Princeton's marketing effort having?

6) What factors go into the decision to attend a Princeton event? Question 6A can be: Is having a winning team bigger than having a place for a great fan experience?

These are the questions that TB has always wondered about when it comes to Princeton games. Unfortunately, there is no way to definitively answer them.

Start with No. 2. Is attendance good? Depends how you look at it. At sports like football and men's basketball, there are usually more empty seats than filled ones. Is that bad? Or does the fact that there are still a few thousand people at men's basketball and usually near 10,000 (with some games above that total) at football an amazing amount, given the competition for the entertainment dollar and the proliferation of games on television?

The men's hockey team and men's lacrosse teams often approach (and sometimes reach) capacity. Women's basketball is gaining a larger following, and coming off a 26-3 Ivy League championship season with all five starters back, that following figures to at least stay the same or grow.

Here at Princeton, the operating assumption has always been that the answer to question No. 1 is "Yes, of course there are thousands of people out there who would come to Princeton events if they only knew about them."

All of Princeton's marketing efforts through the years have depended on having that answer be correct.

To that end, we've tried basically everything, from targeting different audiences to slashing ticket prices to trying to appeal to youth groups to different ticket packages to anything else. And yet audience doesn't seem to be impacted.

Does this mean the answer to one is No. 1 is no and the answer to No. 5 is none? Or, without the marketing efforts, would attendance fall apart?

Then there's the question about the five ticketed sports or all 38 sports? In this area, TB thinks that the opportunity exists to use emerging technologies to reach directly to specific people who are interested in, say, fencing or water polo. To do so, though, would require taking time away from marketing for the sports that are ticketed and have larger audiences. Is it better to focus energy on them and use attendance at those sports to promote the other teams?

TigerBlog's basic theories are this:

* Attendance is pretty good across the board
* Princeton has tried so many different things to get people to games that it's hard to say if any of it worked and if so what did and what didn't?
* There is evidence to suggest that winning teams do increase attendance, but there are just as many other factors (such as weather, game time, in-game experience, parking, for instance) that have an equal impact
* We should be reaching out to all 38 sports on some level
* We are competing with the movies, birthday parties and youth sports more than anything else in terms of getting people to attend events here

Okay, so those are all the questions. What about the answers? Can they even be found out, and if so, how accurately?

This past summer, Princeton Athletics had a polite young man named Dan who interned here. As part of his internship, he did two surveys, one on-line and one face-to-face, and he compiled what he learned into a 42-page document for his class at Temple.

TB has seen the data and read through the report, which is certainly interesting. Tomorrow, he'll take a look at some of what is out there.

In the meantime, he has to go untie Batman and Robin, before they are catapulted into the machine that will shrink them and freeze them.

In other words, to be continued ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Miracles, One Yard At A Time

Bob Surace, Princeton's new head football coach, ducked his head into TigerBlog's office last week and mentioned that Jordan Culbreath had been medically cleared to play for the Tigers again.

TigerBlog's first thought was "wow."

Culbreath spent the 2008 season ripping through defenses as the Ivy League's best running back. He spent the 2009 season fighting for his life as he battled aplastic anemia.

The idea that Culbreath was not only healthy again but also healthy enough to be cleared for football was amazing, worthy actually of more than one "wow." Add in the fact that he is looking at bi-weekly blood transfusions for the rest of his life, football or no, and you could put a few of TB's least favorite punctuation mark - the exclamation point - on the end of your "wows."

His story is extraordinary.

Culbreath was essentially a walk-on with the Princeton football team, and he worked his way up the depth chart and ultimately onto the field for the Cornell game on ESPNU his sophomore year of 2007. All he did that night was go for 145 yards and two touchdowns, one of which made its way onto SportsCenter's top plays for the day.

As a junior, he was easily the best back in the Ivy League. He rushed for 1,206 yards, tops in the league, and he reached 150 yards on five occasions.

His best game is also one of the best individual performances in school history. Heading into the final game of the year, against Dartmouth, Culbreath needed 70 yards to become the seventh 1,000-yard rusher in school history. He would get 58 on his first carry and blow past 1,000, not to mention 1,100 and 1,200.

For the day, he racked up 276 yards, the second-highest total in school history, behind only the 299 yards that Keith Elias had against Lafayette in Palmer Stadium in 1992.

As an aside, Elias had his 299 yards before there were computer stats. TigerBlog, in the press box, gave Princeton SID Mark Panus a (joking) hard time about not pushing Elias' total over 300.

Culbreath was primed for a big senior year, but it wasn't to be. He gained 67 yards on 15 carries against the Citadel on opening day, and he then had 25 yards on eight carries against Lehigh before leaving with what was thought to be an ankle injury.

Shortly after that, the awful truth came out: Culbreath was battling a disease called aplastic anemia, one that could have been fatal.

The result, though, was more uplifting than anything else. Culbreath fought his illness head on, and his teammates and the entire athletic community at Princeton rallied behind him with events like a bone marrow drive and other efforts to raise awareness.

The idea that Culbreath would ultimately be a Princeton graduate became more realistic. The idea that he would play football again was still not on anyone's radar.

In fact, when last year's senior athlete video was being put together for the Princeton Varsity Club banquet, there was discussion as to whether or not Culbreath should be included.

And then Surace came down and, in his mellow style, mentioned that Culbreath was going to be back out there this year.

How could you not root for him? After everything he's been through, who couldn't want to see him have the big senior year that he was denied last year?

Still, there's a long way to go. He hasn't played in a year, and there is of course a big difference between being healthy and being able to withstanding the pounding of being a feature running back in football.

But isn't it great that Culbreath and his teammates will get to find out?

TigerBlog hardly knows Culbreath. He interviewed him once at halftime of a basketball game on the radio, and that's the only conversation he's ever had with him. He certainly came across as a nice enough kid.

You don't have to be his best friend to be happy for him and to want to see him do well.

And how will that be defined? Does he need to be All-Ivy League? Does he need to reach 1,000 yards? 500?

Maybe Surace said it best:

"Our Princeton Football Association president, Anthony DiTommaso, said that every yard we get from Jordan this year is a miracle," the coach said.

Football practice starts today for Princeton.

The season is already a success.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Empty Nest

TigerBlog remembers visiting Jonathan Zucker on the day he was born and then continuing up to New England for Princeton's men's basketball weekend at Brown and Yale.

The Tigers swept that weekend to build a four-game lead in the Ivy League race. Sean Jackson, Rick Hielscher and Matt Eastwick were all in double figures in the 79-54 win at Brown, while George Leftwich had 12 to lead Princeton in the 46-35 win at Yale.

Those four names should be enough to let any Princeton fan know that the year was 1992, the only year that Hielscher played with Eastwick, Jackson and Leftwich. Princeton would win its fourth straight Ivy title (losing to Syracuse in Worcester, Mass., in the opening round of the NCAA tournament), Jackson would be the Ivy League Player of the Year and Eastwick would become the first (and still only) player in program history to start an NCAA tournament game in all four of his years.

TigerBlog remembers stopping to see the newborn and then heading to the basketball games like it was yesterday, as opposed to more than 6,700 yesterdays ago. And he thought about it last week, when Jonathan went to Ithaca to join the rest of the Cornell Class of 2014.

Jonathan's parents are like many other parents at this time of year who drop their kids off at college for the first time. It has to be somewhat surreal, especially when it's the oldest child in the family, and Jonathan's dad Corey was certainly emotional about the whole situation

TigerBlog works with someone here in the Department of Athletics who, when TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog were born, said these profound words: "Your job is to get them to age 18; after that, it's up to them."

The concept of having your kids grow up and leave home is sometimes called "empty nest syndrome." FatherBlog, back when he had two kids at Penn, referred to it as "empty wallet syndrome."

The whole experience was captured Monday in the New York Times, which ran a story about parents who take their kids to college and then stay for a few days. It even mentioned one case where the mother and father attended the first day of classes with the "child" and then made changes to their kid's schedule. TB is sure the kid was thrilled by that.

Princeton earned a mention in the story:
Formal “hit the road” departure ceremonies are unusual but growing in popularity, said Joyce Holl, head of the National Orientation Directors Association. A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs. As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, “subsequent orientation events are intended for students only.”
The language was added in recent years to draw a clear line, said Thomas Dunne, the associate dean of undergraduates. “It’s easy for students to point to this notation and say, ‘Hey, Mom, I think you’re supposed to be gone now,’ ” he said. “It’s obviously a hard conversation for students to have with parents.”
For evidence, consider a chat-board thread by new Princeton parents on the Web site College Confidential. “Do parents hang around for a day or two after orientation in case their kids need something?” one poster, mrscollege, asked. “I say no, but we have a friend who is planning to hang around for a while in Princeton for her son just in case.”

TigerBlog and the rest of the people who work in Jadwin have spent the summer coming to work without giving any thought to anything other than when construction projects have impacted road access. Even now, TB can look out his window and see the empty Weaver Track and empty Princeton Stadium, which are just part of the scenery around here.

At the same time, there are more than a thousand freshmen on their way to Princeton University in the next few weeks, and several of the members of the Class of 2014 are already here practicing with their fall teams. Some will play in games more than a week before they take their first class.

TB will spend the next two days in meetings to frame some of the key issues that the department in general and the OAC specifically face for the coming school year. During the course of those meetings, the idea that what is done here is done in the name of "enhancing the experience for the athletes" will come up many times.

In fact, it comes up so much that it's easy to take it for granted. And yet, that's something that shouldn't be forgotten.

Regardless of the agenda item, whatever is done here impacts the athletes directly. Perhaps it takes several layers to get there, but it has a big impact nonetheless.

There are so many different areas that touch the athletes that the athletes quite frankly aren't aware of and yet are so important to them. Friends' Groups. Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows. The Princeton Varsity Club. Compliance. Event management. Marketing. And many others.

As for the OAC, before the start of each season, the contact for each sport meets with the members of the team to give them an idea of what it is that is done for them out of this office.

Again, those who work here might know full well what is done and why it is done. Still, it's important to keep in mind who it is done for and the impact it has on them.

After all, parents are dropping off their most precious commodities here. With Princeton Athletics, they're doing so at a place committed to the student-athlete experience.

Those who work here should always keep that in mind.

And those who do the dropping off can take their time saying goodbye, as long as it doesn't run into a few days.

Oh, and good luck Jonathan. Hopefully your four years in Ithaca will be filled with a great education, great new friends, a lot of great times - and plenty of losses to Princeton.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lou Piniella, A TigerBlog Favorite

Way back in the summer of 1983, TigerBlog accompanied Jack McCaffery, then with the Trenton Times, and a few of Jack's friends to a game at Yankee Stadium that Jack had to cover.

Jack's brother Fran worked with TigerBlog in the psychology department at Penn, and it was through Fran that TB met Jack. It was through Jack that TB first got his job at the Trenton Times.

Anyway, Jack went to the cover the game, and TB and Jack's friends sat in the Yankee Stadium stands. After the game ended and Jack had written his story, everyone met up for the ride back.

The media people parked in the same lot as the players, and so as the group waited for Jack McCaffery, they saw the likes of Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, Ken Griffey (Sr., not Jr.), Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry and others stroll by, get in their cars and head out.

Eventually, Jack made his way to the parking lot, only to find out that his battery was dead. As people (mostly non-players) made their way to the lot, Jack asked if he could get a jump start, and everyone said no.

Until Lou Piniella came out, saw that the hood was up and came over to Jack. No problem, Lou said, and he then brought his Cadillac up next to Jacks' old car, hooked up the cables and got it started again.

Then, he hung around for a little while to make sure the car was good to go.

Since that day 27 years ago, Lou Piniella has of course been one of TigerBlog's favorite people in professional sports, first as he finished his playing career and then as a manager.

Piniella, now 66, announced yesterday that he was retiring immediately as the manager of the Chicago Cubs, rather than waiting for the end of the season. He gave family issues as the reason for his abrupt retirement.

The average baseball fan who has watched Piniella through the years will probably think first of his epic confrontations with umpires that led to his many ejections. Not TB. No, TB thinks back to a rapidly emptying parking lot at Yankee Stadium, all of the people (players and non-players) who could care less about a dead battery and how Lou Piniella couldn't have been nicer.

Of course, the sports world is filled with stories like that. TB is a huge David Justice fan. Why? Because TB once saw Justice - then with the Atlanta Braves - on a plane from Atlanta to Philadelphia, at a time when MotherBlog was in Piedmont Hospital during her fight against cancer.

TB, sitting in first class because MB had upgraded his ticket, was across the aisle and one row behind Justice. When TB mentioned to the guy sitting next to him that MotherBlog was in the hospital and that Justice was her favorite player, he said that TB should go talk to him, because "where could he go?"

Armed with that logic, TB wrote a note about how his mother had cancer, was in Piedmont Hospital and was a big Braves' fan and could he drop her a line or something. Then TB gave him the note to Justice, who nodded his head.

Later that night, TB spoke to MotherBlog, who said that David Justice had called her in the hospital and spoken with her for about 10 minutes. He followed up by sending her some Braves' stuff, including a ball autographed by 17 players and manager Bobby Cox.

Like Piniella, Justice earned a lifetime pass from TigerBlog.

With the coming of the new athletic year, TB is involved in discussions about marketing for Princeton athletics, as always. There are some pretty basic questions that TB always asks (a subject for later in the week, by the way), but one of the main ones is this: What are we selling here at Princeton?

There are 38 varsity teams at Princeton, and 33 of them offer no admission charge for regular season events. Of the five that do charge (football, m/w basketball, men's hockey, men's lacrosse), none of them have outrageous costs.

But what are we selling in general? Is it quality Division I athletics? The games themselves? The chance to watch championship teams? The in-game experience?

What's more important at football, to see Princeton play a big game late in the year or to have every game present a great experience? This isn't a question for the coaches or the athletic department, who obviously want to win games, but for deciding why people come or don't come?

Maybe all these years, we've been missing the boat a bit. Maybe it's the Lou Piniella-David Justice thing that should be our focus.

Come to Princeton games and get to meet the players. They are, after all, our best ambassadors, and what parent out there wouldn't want their impressionable kids to meet up with such great role models?

Yes, they're not Major Leaguers, but that hardly matters. It is still a thrill for the little kids (a huge target audience) to meet the players.

Maybe that's what we should be stressing more than anything else.

TB will certainly put it on the table for discussions this week.

As for Lou Piniella, you'll always been an all-time TigerBlog favorite. So will David Justice.

They both earned it years ago.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lack Of Lax

Has it really only been twice this summer that TigerBlog has written about lacrosse? How is that possible?

Yup. Twice, both times in July. And once in June, and that was back on June 1.

Take this as an apology from TB for the lack of lacrosse coverage. If he has the opportunity, he'll try to make up for it in the next few weeks.

Starting with today.

There are two interesting lacrosse angles for today, and why not talk about both of them?

Let's start with Inside Lacrosse and its week-long rankings of top incoming college players, as well as rising high school seniors and juniors. These online rankings accompany the mailing of the magazine's annual recruiting issue.

TB gives the people at Inside Lacrosse a lot of credit for the product they produce, on many levels. For starters, they are fully on board with the idea of multi-media, and the site is filled with video, podcasting and text, as well as reader feedback.

Second, like TigerBlog, Inside Lacrosse understands the need to update every day, so that readers get in the habit of coming to the site to see what's new. That habit is easily broken, and the best way to break it is to stop updating regularly.

IL also seems to agree with TigerBlog's theory that games are about the last thing that anyone wants to read about. To that end, IL rarely has written recaps of games but rather in-game blogs with a few notes at the end.

Instead of game stories, content is heavy on behind-the-scenes stuff and, of course, the rankings of incoming players and teams and players by position and best lacrosse towns and on and on. All of these rankings, which go on all year long, are highly subjective, and the result is a long litany of user comments that disagree, agree, critique, rip the IL staff and rip the other posters - all the while making sure they regularly come to the site.

As for the rankings themselves, how is it possible to accurately rank the top 100 incoming freshmen or the top 50 rising seniors? What differentiates No. 71 from No. 81, or No. 15 from No. 30? What guarantee is there that No. 50 will have a better career than No. 100?

For that matter, who's to say that No. 100 is better than any of the next 100, none of whom are ranked? The IL staff, that's who.

Princeton has three of the Top 50 players in the new Power 100: No. 2 (midfielder Thomas Schreiber), No. 27 (defenseman Rob Posniewski) and No. 48 (attackman Will Himler). Schreiber and Himler squared off in the Long Island Catholic final, won by Schreiber's St. Anthony's team in overtime on an amazing feed from Schreiber.

Of course, these rankings will mean nothing when the school year starts, for Princeton's three or for any of the others. How will they fit into the program? How do they match up physically? How early will they see the field?

Some of Princeton's most highly regarded players have not panned out, though the majority have. Still, there have been no guarantees for any of them.

If TB is remembering correctly, Princeton has had one No. 1 player in the Power 100 - defenseman Dan Cocoziello, who went on to be a first-team All-America with the Tigers. Had the Top 100 existed for the 20 years prior, Princeton would have had two others - goalie Scott Bacigalupo in 1990 and attackman Jesse Hubbard in 1994.

As for No. 1 recruiting classes, Princeton's classes of 1994, 1998 and 2003 would have been No. 1 (as was the class of 2008 and class of 2012). Out of that Princeton fashioned six NCAA championships and 10 NCAA Final Four appearances, accomplished with some can't miss greats and many, many more players who would have great careers without the hype coming in.

To sum up, the rankings are great fun and make for great reads, but ultimately they mean little.

One player who would have been No. 2 in the Power 100 was Ryan Boyle, who would have been No. 2 behind Mike Powell in 2000.

Boyle plays this weekend in the Major League Lacrosse playoffs, as his top-seeded Boston Cannons take on the host Chesapeake Bayhawks while the Denver Outlaws take on the Denver Outlaws in tomorrows semifinals. The championship game from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium will be Sunday at 1 on ESPN2.

Boyle led MLL in assists this year with 25, seven more than the next-highest total, despite missing two games. Boyle is one of two players in league history with at least 200 career assists, and his 202 trail only Connor Gill, who had 211 for his career.

Boyle is going for his fourth MLL title, having won three times with the Barrage. He also was on the 2001 Princeton NCAA championship team and the 2002 and, last month, 2010 U.S. national teams that won the title at the World Championships.

One thing that makes this quest different for Boyle is that of his six major championships, he has never won one without having fellow Princetonian Matt Striebel as a teammate. This year, Striebel was a key part of Team USA, but his Chicago Machine team has not made the playoffs.

And there you have it. A late-August lacrosse update.

TigerBlog apologizes for being so, well, lax on lax this summer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ohlendorf Update

One of TigerBlog's favorite musicals is "South Pacific," which follows two unlikely sets of lovers during World War II.

Cutting to the chase, Emile and Nellie end up having a better time of it than Joe Cable and Liat, Bloody Mary's daughter. Along the way, you have some classic Broadway songs, including "Younger Than Springtime," "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy," "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" and "Some Enchanted Evening."

The show first opened in 1949, and there is a revival at Lincoln Center that opened in 2008 and reaches the end of its run this weekend. The show was taped and has been shown on PBS a bunch of times recently as part of the "Live From Lincoln Center" series.

Not everyone lives happily ever after in "South Pacific," especially Cable. During the first act, Cable talks about growing up in Ardmore, outside of Philadelphia, before attending Princeton. At one point in the first act, he and Nellie sing about being so far away from home, including Cable's line of "Philadelphia, Pa., Princeton, N.J. - How far are they?"

Cable and Emile end up sneaking onto a Japanese island to spy on Japanese naval movements, and they end up helping the Americans to information that results in a major victory. For his efforts, Cable gets strafed and killed by the Japanese.

As Princeton alums go, it's hard to imagine someone getting less support from his team - though one person is coming close (at least since Cable is actually a fictional person).

In that vein, your National League ERA leaders from No. 31 through No. 37 go like this right now:

31. Mike Leake (Cincinnati) 3.78
32. Bronson Arroyo (Cincinnati) 3.87
33. Ross Ohlendorf (Pittsburgh) 3.90
34. Mike Pelfrey (New York) 3.95
35. Wandy Rodriguez (Houston) 4.04
36. Ricky Nolasco (Florida) 4.22
37. Derek Lowe (Atlanta) 4.29

If you take Ohlendorf out of that group, the combined record of the other six is 66-47. And Ohlendorf?

Well, the 2006 Princeton grad is having his second straight outstanding second half of the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just like a year ago, his first in the starting rotation for one of baseball's worst teams, Ohlendorf is pitching much better as the season goes along.

And what does he have to show for it? After last night's eight-inning, four-hit, two-walk, five-strikeout performance in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins, Ohlendorf stands at 1-10.

This was from the AP story after the game:
Ohlendorf, who gets a major league-low average of 2.1 runs of support per game, permitted only four hits over eight innings, but all four led to runs.
The right-hander hasn't received more than three runs of support while on the mound in any of the 20 games he's pitched, and he's won only once despite having a 2.34 ERA over his last 10 starts. No wonder manager John Russell said, "One of these days, we'll score him some runs."

It can't be easy for Ohlendorf, who continues to be strong game after game, only to come away empty each time.

The Pirates rank last in the NL and 29th out of 30 in Major League Baseball (ahead of only Seattle) in team batting average (.240) and runs scored (410, or 233 fewer than the Yankees). Pittsburgh was optimistic coming into the year about the possibility of ending a 17-year streak of losing seasons, but instead it's been a brutal season; the Pirates are now 40-80, and, with the recent surge by the Orioles, the owners of the worst record in baseball.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is San Diego's Will Venable, who went 2 for 5 in a 5-1 win over the Cubs yesterday.

Like the Pirates, the Padres were picked to be a last-place team this year, and in fact there were probably more people who thought the Pirates had a chance to be good than the Padres. Instead, the win yesterday put the Padres at 72-47, the best record in the National League and trailing only the Yankees and Rays in all of Major League Baseball.

As August winds down, the Padres are threatening to blow away the rest of the NL West, as they now are six up on the Giants and double figures ahead of everyone else. History does not show too many teams who have given away such leads in September.

Venable is seventh in the National League with 22 stolen bases, and he is one of only 10 players in the Major Leagues with at least 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His team is the No. 1 surprise story in baseball this year, and it's starting to look like he's a lock to be in the postseason.

The other Princeton-basketball-player-turned-San-Diego-Padre is of course Chris Young, who hasn't pitched since going six shutout innings on April 8 in his only appearance of the year. Still, Young is rehabbing well and could be back for the stretch drive and postseason.

For Ohlendorf, the postseason isn't going to happen this season, but hey, if the Padres can have this kind of turnaround after finishing 20 games out of first a year ago, maybe the Pirates can make a move next year. At least to getting back to .500, which would be a great step.

And maybe Ohlendorf can get a few runs in his next start, which will be early next week against the Cubs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Batting .600 Or So

The way that college athletic communications offices update their web pages is almost always done through the content management system of the company that houses the site.

There are a few - TigerBlog believes that the very attractive scarletknights.com is one of them - that are not maintained by one of the few companies that schools have turned to to be their host.

The goprincetontigers.com site started out more than a decade ago, and though the name of the entity that has housed the site has changed about six times, it's really only been with two different companies. The first is what is now CBS College Sports, and for the last, oh, five years or so, with what is now neulion.

For those keeping official score, it went from its original spot with Fans Only to OCSN, which was the Official College Sports Network, an outfit that took over Fans Only. Then CSTV (College Sports Television) took over OCSN, and CSTV then became CBS College Sports.

Before that move, though, goprincetontigers.com relocated to a company called XOS, which then became Jump TV and is now NeuLion.

There are other companies that do this sort of thing, and in the world of college athletic communications, there are those who are vehement supporters of one company over another and who absolutely hate one company over another.

As for TigerBlog, he was happy with both, but the best part of NeuLion is that it enables Princeton to have its other site, goprincetontigers.tv.

Anyway, all of these companies have sites that follow a basic format, so when you do a redesign, it has to follow one of the established setups already in place.

Not that any of them are bad or anything. And, for TB's money, layout isn't as important from an aesthetic standpoint as it is from a functionality standpoint.

To that end, you want your website to be as easy to get around as possible for those who come to see the content. If it's difficult, you'll lose your audience.

TB will leave it to those who regularly go to goprincetontigers.com to decide if it's easy to navigate.

Each of the companies has its own content management system, which is how the pages are updated. Basically, you log onto the site and follow the form, which enables the schools to control the headlines, pictures, text and everything else, without having to know HTML code or anything fancy.

When you're done, you hit "save," and then the story appears shortly thereafter. Of course, you're at the mercy of the servers of the web hosts, but they're almost always reliable - and when they're not, you can't really do much about it.

One point to keep in mind is that on a college site, the spaces are predetermined for what can go in them, whether it's a photo, a video, a story, an ad, a blog. On goprincetontigers.com, the spot to the right side underneath the "news," "tigerblog" and "podcasts" tabs is a house ad, meaning Princeton controls what goes there (as opposed to two spots down, which is a NeuLion national ad space).

If you go to the site today, you'll see it has a reference to the first home events of 2010-11, which are two weeks from Sunday, or two days after the first events of the year.

The start of any new year always gets TB thinking about what storylines will play out over the next 10 months, as each athletic year is unique.

It also gets TB thinking about the sheer volume of events.

In 2009-10, Princeton's 38 varsity teams combined to play 619 games. TB counts games as head-to-head contests that contribute to a win-loss record, so that total doesn't include things like cross country races or golf tournaments, as well as a few others.

Of those 619 games, Princeton had a record of 361-247-11, which is a winning percentage of .592. The women went 192-110-5, while the men were 169-137-6.

If you look at Ivy League games only, Princeton's record a year ago was 156-83-4, a winning percentage of .650. The women's teams again did slightly better, going 85-37-2 to the men's teams 71-46-2.

Princeton had a winning record against every other Ivy League school a year ago, when the program combined for 12 Ivy League championships and the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship for the 24th straight year.

Of course, with the new year two weeks away, Princeton - and every other Ivy school - is back to 0-0.

Will 2010-11 equal the previous years for athletic success? As TB always says, it's not guaranteed.

So let the games begin. And, as long as the content management system holds up, you can find out all the answers at goprincetontigers.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fresh Faces

A fierce thunderstorm rolled through parts of Mercer County yesterday afternoon, and the Jadwin Gym parking lot was one of those parts.

Everywhere TigerBlog looked on his way into the building this morning, he saw remnants of a violent storm. Downed tree limbs were everywhere, with smaller sticks and leaves almost covering the entire path.

Of course, just getting to the parking lot wasn’t that easy, as Faculty Road was closed between Washington and Harrison and a barricade was up on FitzRandolph at Western Way. The storm knocked out power in the general area, including Hopwell, which is the next town.

And where was TB while all this was happening? At a pool that’s about, oh, five or six miles away from Hopewell, with Little Miss TigerBlog and a few of her friends, who went off the high-dive and down the big slides without a cloud in the sky.

In fact, TB couldn’t believe it when he got an emergency notification message from the University about the storm damage, including word that a shelter had been set up.

Late afternoon thunderstorms are pretty common for Central Jersey in mid-August. In fact, the weather forecast each day is basically the same: hazy, hot and humid, temperatures in the high 80s or 90s, 30% chance of a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It’s all part of August’s charm, when the days are all sticky and sizzling and the Princeton campus is extraordinarily quiet.

And yet, the first athletic events for 2010-11 are two weeks from Friday. How wild is that?

Especially considering that no team has started practicing yet.

All of that will change in the next few days, when the landscape here will be dotted not with downed tree limbs but with soccer players, field hockey players, water polo players and volleyball players. Shortly after they report, the football players will come in to start their first preaseason under new coach Bob Surace and his staff.

For TigerBlog, it’s a fascinating time on so many levels.

First, the rest of the world on basically every level (including Pop Warner) has started football practice. NFL exhibition games are obviously in full swing, and college football openers are also only two weeks away (with some pretty big early games, including Boise State-Virginia Tech).

Sports other than football are getting into the act even earlier. Amazingly, the college soccer season actually begins this weekend.

Then there’s the fact that Princeton University in the late summer is a very sleepy place (when 60 mile per hour winds aren’t charging through). There are no more summer camps going on, and the campus is largely deserted.

And yet, within a few days, it will start to awaken around here. The first group of fall athletes will trickle in, and then it won’t be long before all returning students are here. The campus, to those of who have been here all summer, will become a completely different place.

Then there are the athletes themselves. For returning athletes, the new athletic year has all kinds of unknowns. A four-year collegiate playing career can have all kinds of ups and downs, and TB can think of any number of athletes who had tough years follow great ones and great ones follow tough ones.

Still, there is a certain sense of knowing what to expect when you’re returning to a team. The freshmen? That’s another story.

Right now, there are 200 incoming freshmen athletes who are, depending on the team, either a few hours or a few weeks away from coming to this campus. And none of them is quite sure what to expect.

TB remembers when he first went to college, nearly 30 years ago. He packed up all his stuff (including his brand-new electric typewriter and his stereo system with its turntable and big speakers), and off he went.

Looking back at it now, it’s hard to remember if there were nerves (probably) or a realistic expectation of what college would be (probably not).

For the Class of 2014, it’s all laptops and I-phones, but it’s also the same uncertainty of how life is going to change immediately.

In some ways, the last few days before going to college is like the last few days before becoming a parent. You know life is going to change radically, but you can’t really prepare for it.

Think about what it’ll be like for a freshman athlete, thrust into a new team, out of the comfort zone of being an established high school star academically and athletically (and, usually, a star long before high school), with the same core group of friends and support.

Now you find yourself randomly in a room with someone else, randomly on a team with kids from all over the country (or even the world), kids you either hardly know or have never met.

At the same time, these earliest days are going to lay the foundation for relationships that are going to in some cases last a lifetime. It sounds clich├ęd to say it, but TB has seen it over and over. The Princeton athletic experience creates a bond for the people who go through it, and TB knows alums in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and even older who are still rock solid best friends with the people they met on their first days on campus.

And yet now they all sit in their hometowns, getting ready to pack and move, unaware of what awaits them.

They’re coming to a campus that today is cleaning up from one storm. When they get here, they’ll be bringing another storm with them, a storm of activity and excitement.

There is a 100% chance of this late August storm.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Like A White Shadow

A few years ago, TigerBlog found himself laid up for nearly the entire summer after undergoing neck surgery.

As an aside, he's fine now.

When the Department of Athletics said that it wanted to send him a get-well gift and asked what he would want, TB didn't hesitate before saying this: "Season 4 of 'The Sopranos.' " That's the season that has Christopher's intervention, the episode where Ralphie insults Johnny Sack's wife, the hysterical one where the crew meets up with Lou DiMaggio's gang in Rhode Island and ultimately Carmela's infatuation with Furio.

Hey, what more could you want if you couldn't get off the couch for a few weeks?

As gifts go, entire seasons of your favorite shows on DVD are hard to beat. Maybe an I-tunes gift card comes closest.

In the same vein, TB received a gift a few weeks ago that equals "The Sopranos." And what was it? Season 1 of "The White Shadow."

If you're a male in TB's age range, then your response to the statement of "TB got season 1 of 'The White Shadow' " was this: "I loved 'The White Shadow.' " If you're, say, the head men's lacrosse coach at Princeton, your response was something like "I watched that every day in college. I get it next."

"The White Shadow" ran for three seasons and 54 episodes from 1978 through 1981. The title character was Ken Reeves, a former NBA player whose 10-year career (either mostly or all with the Chicago Bulls) ended with a knee injury and who subsequently became the basketball coach at Carver High, a fictional high school in South Central Los Angeles.

While there, he coaches a group of poor, mostly black kids who at first don't trust him and then ultimately come to respect the way he pushes them to achieve in basketball and life while at the same time giving them someone they can turn to when they need him.

The title comes from a line at the end of the first episode, when the coach informs his still-skeptical players that he's with them every step of the way and one of them replies "yeah, like a white shadow." Reeves was played by Ken Howard, who stood 6' 6" and was given the nickname "the white shadow" when he was the only white starter on his high school basketball team at Manhasset High School on Long Island.

The show includes some great characters, and the names Thorpe, Jackson, Hayward, Salami, Gomez, Goldstein and especially Coolidge are familiar to anyone who ever turned in. The show was very entertaining, and every episode had its moments of humor and basketball.

There were three things that really made the show stand out above just that.

First, the team was famous for singing in the shower after games or practices, and the players did their own a-capella work.

Also, before this, there hadn't really been a show on TV (at least one that TB can think of) that had this many prominent black characters who were allowed to be portrayed in an honest fashion. At the same time that "The White Shadow" was on, there was a show called "What's Happening" that was also on, and its predominantly black cast fit more of the stereotype of what TV execs thought largely white audiences would watch. "The White Shadow" completely challenged that notion.

Then there were the subjects that the show tackled, including: alcoholism, teen pregnancy, STDs, drugs, gambling, gangs, race relations, literacy, crime and more, including what is considered the first interracial kiss in an American TV show. Several episodes end with games that the team loses at the buzzer, and there is even one stunning moment in the show in which one of the most popular characters is shot and killed during a robbery at a convenience store.

In the context of late 1970s television, this didn't fit the formula of either breezy sitcoms with simple characters or police dramas with very clear good guys and bad guys.

"The White Shadow" isn't remembered as an important groundbreaking work of American television history, but it should be. There haven't been too many shows that have come along that have changed what was thought to be possible for a television show, but "The White Shadow" definitely did that.

Reeves, the head coach, was a Boston College grad, something referred to many times during the show. Princeton and Boston College have only played once, in the 1983 NCAA tournament, a game that BC won long after Reeves would have graduated. For the record, that game was played in Corvallis, Ore.

What Reeves would have done is played against Princeton alums in the NBA throughout his career.

Back in the 1970s, Princeton had six players who played in the NBA: Geoff Petrie, Brian Taylor, Armond Hill, Ted Manakas, John Hummer and of course Bill Bradley.

In fact, there are episodes of the show that refer to Reeves and his inability to guard Bradley.

Princeton's unofficial motto of "In the nation's service" has led a great many alums to go down the path of careers and volunteer work in cities all over the country and the world. Organizations like Princeton Project 55 or Teach For America and others have been great starting points for young alums.

What Reeves did in coaching Carver High is in keeping with that philosophy. In another ground-breaking way, the players at the team at times rebel against their coach and are skeptical of his intentions, often calling him a "white knight" who's "out to save the ghetto."

In the end, though, it's clear that his intentions were genuine and that he was a great influence on the players and the school. The late Marv Bressler always talked about how the best teachers are the ones who stay with their students long after their classes end.

Reeves clearly fit that profile, as well as the Princeton athletics motto of "Education Through Athletics, even if he wasn't a Princeton grad.

Or, for that matter, a real person.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Jets Stream

TigerBlog has never really known what to make out of the New York Jets. TB's favorite professional sports team is by far the Giants, and their win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years ago is probably his favorite non-Princeton, non-Miracle on Ice sporting event ever.

So where does that leave the Jets? Well, FatherBlog has always been a bigger Jets fan than Giants fan, and one of TB's earlier sports memories is watching the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Unlike, say, the Yankees, TB has never been able to work up a serious hate for the Jets, who were always second-class citizens in Giants Stadium all those years. At the same time, TB never really embraced the Jets as a second-favorite, and he could never figure out if he was rooting for or against the Jets when they played their big games (such as last year's AFC title game).

As for New York newspapers, again, it's not contest. TigerBlog's favorite is by far the New York Post, the greatest newspaper of them all. FatherBlog, who has worked his whole life in New York, brought the Post home every night, and young TB would read the sports stories every night and think "how great would it be to do that for a job?"

And so if all that's true, then why has TB read 10 times more about the Jets this preseason than he has about the Giants? And why has he read it in the Daily News, and not the Post?

Because TB likes to read what Manish Mehta has to say about the Jets, and to do so, he has to read the Daily News instead, where as a Jets' beat writer Mehta updates "The Jets Stream."

Manish, like TB, is a Penn alum. His resume showed up here one day looking for an internship in athletic communications, and as TB remembers, Manish choose working at Princeton over Brown.

From Day 1, a few things were clear about Manish: 1) he was an outstanding writer, 2) you were going to either love him or hate him, 3) he brought a large degree of humor to the office and 4) athletic communications wasn't going to be his thing long term.

After his two years here (back then, it was all two-year internships), Manish (whom John Thompson called "muh-NISH" rather than "muh-NEESH") worked at his alma mater briefly before heading into the newspaper business, first with a short-lived sports magazine of the Post and then with a very successful run at the Star-Ledger, where he covered among other assignments the Olympics, the NFL, Georgetown's run to the Final Four and Major League Baseball.

This year is his first with the Daily News, and he's stumbled on, among other things, the Jets' appearance on the HBO show "Hard Knocks" and the Darrelle Revis holdout.

Regarding the latter, the pressure on Manish to break stories and be ahead of every other outlet in a 24-hour cycle is relentless, and it's also not for everyone. Manish, though, seems to be doing well with it.

TB exchanged a few emails with Manish earlier this week, and it got TB to thinking about back to the days when he first started working here and how it was a never-ending search for interns. In fact, with the current level of stability that we have here, it's easy to forget how tough it was every year to bring in new people and train them, only to see them leave.

The structure of the office when TB arrived was this: a director (Kurt Kehl, who is now vice president of communications for the Washington Capitals), essentially an SID (that was TB) and three interns.

The internships went from August 1 until May 31 and then could be renewed for another year, for a maximum of two academic years. The positions paid very little (about $1,000/month, as TB recalls), though they did come with a little apartment in the Hibben-Magie compex (5T Magie). Of course, the apartment came with one stipulation - you had to live with the other interns.

At the same time, they were great entry-level positions, and they were also a springboard to full-time positions in sports information. Throughout the '90s, former Princeton interns worked at league schools Harvard, Yale, Penn and Cornell, as well as outside of the league at schools as varied as Florida, Georgia, Providence, Loyola, Johns Hopkins, New Haven and Muhlenberg.

As an aside, almost none of those people are still working in the athletic communications field.

The problem was that Princeton was investing the time and energy into training the entry-level people, and then all those other schools would get the benefit of plugging qualified people into their full-time positions.

Meanwhile, Princeton would have to go back to advertising in the NCAA News for a new group of interns. Depending on the year, it would be either one or two - and then they had to integrate with the existing group, not only at work but also at 5T.

Even with that, the OAC was able to adapt each year, largely because there were very few bad hires made. The people who didn't like it the most were the coaches, who had to have a different person with their team every year or two at the most. This led to almost no institutional memory, not to mention practical experience in gameday management and knowledge of what the program's expectations were.

Today, Princeton is lucky that the internship program went by the boards. This happened not as a department decision but rather a University-wide fair employment practices decision.

As a result, the OAC has had only one change in staff in the last six years. The result is that the level of content is far better than it could have been with constant turnover, and things like the video site have been possible.

TB loves the fact that the OAC staff has so much experience and ability; there really is no comparison with what is produced now and what used to be done, though emerging technologies deserve some of the credit as well.

Looking back, though, TB was lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a great group of interns through the years, some of whom he developed great friendships with that last to this day.

Including one with Manish. Just as the OAC has found its way, so too has Manish, who even as we speak is trying to figure out what Darrelle Revis is going to do for lunch.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Big Hole

The overwhelming majority of content that you see on goprincetontigers.com and goprincetontigers.tv is produced by four people: Andrew Borders, Kristy McNeil, Craig Sachson and Yariv Amir.

Between the four of them, 36 of Princeton's 38 varsity teams gets covered. TigerBlog covers one sport (men's lacrosse), and the whole group splits sprint football.

As an aside, happy birthday to Andrew today.

The first Princeton athletic events of the 2010-11 academic year come up three weeks from tomorrow, when the women's soccer and women's volleyball teams begin. By the end of that weekend, field hockey and men's water polo will also have played.

Every year, everybody everywhere says the same thing: "Can't believe how fast the summer went." And, again, all around here, someone is currently saying that right now.

In fact, it does feel like the summer of 2010 has sort of zoomed by. The last Princeton athletic event of 2009-10 was two months ago today, when Ashley Higginson finished third at the NCAA steeplechase.

The last game of 2009-10 was the men's lacrosse NCAA tournament loss to Notre Dame, a game played on May 16.

That leaves you with a gap of either 110 days between games or 83 between the last event of last year and the first of this year. Since there are 22 days until the new year starts, then either 80% or 74.5% of the summer is already gone.

This time of year is one of the more interesting around here, as the rest of Division I athletics is already in practice mode, while the Ivy League doesn't get started until next week. As such, there is the sense that a new year is looming, but it hasn't exactly gotten here yet.

By the time next year ends, Princeton's teams will have played in more than 600 athletic contests, which means that the four OAC people who do most of the work will have written preview stories, game stories, feature stories and such and produced videos, podcasts, game programs and everything else that goes along with the territory for, to some extent, every one of those events.

But for right now, things are still a little quiet around here.

And so it was yesterday that Yariv's wife Beth and his two little girls, Morgen and Alie, where in the office, when Yariv suggested that they go see "the big hole."

TB thought about it a little and came up with nothing, so he asked Yariv what he meant. Yariv then explained that "the big hole" was the DeNunzio Pool, which had been drained for maintenance, painting, etc. Apparently this happens once every three years.

Turns out that to fill DeNunzio Pool, it takes 1.3 million gallons of water, most of which is pumped through a system on the bottom of the pool and some of which came out of the eight, well, garden hoses that were in the pool as it began to be refilled yesterday afternoon.

By the way, the average backyard pool needs about 25,000 gallons of water to be filled.

And so, off went the Amir family to check out the empty pool.

For a midweek day in mid-August, it's what amounted to exciting around here.

Give it a week, though, and all of that will be changing.

Hey, the summer flew by, right?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

America's Game

Yesterday was a very, very big day for TigerBlog Jr. Why? Because Madden NFL 11 came out, that's why.

TBJ, armed with a GameStop giftcard, was able to secure his copy, complete with play-by-play from Gus Johnson.

TBJ is not the only one, apparently, who likes the Madden games. In fact, nearly 100 million copies of the game have been sold in the 22 years of the game's existence.

And, of course, if the jinx of being on the cover holds true, then don't invest too much on Drew Brees for your fantasy team.

TigerBlog is not a big fan of the Madden game, or any video game since Pong for that matter. Still, the Madden games are pretty fascinating.

While he was playing his new version of the game, TBJ had his back to the TV, which was set, as it often is, to the NFL Network. And if TB and TBJ don't agree on the video game, they both think that the "Top 10" shows are great and that the "America's Game" series is extraordinary.

If you haven't seen it, the shows are a must. They focus on the teams that have won the Super Bowl each year, telling the story through interviews with two or three key players and the head coach and getting narration from some top name actors, including James Gandolfini, Alec Baldwin, Laurence Fishburne, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Tom Selleck and Bruce Willis. The network has also recently come out with segments on great teams that didn't win the Super Bowl; these shows are called "The Missing Rings."

TB's favorite, of course, is the one that features Eli Manning, Michael Strahan and Tom Coughlin on the year the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots. Gandolfini narrated that one.

As for the series itself, TBJ has DVRed all of them. So there he was, with "America's Game" and "America's Video Game."

In TBJ's world, lacrosse is No. 1 and football is 1A.

As for the rest of America as a whole, there is no doubt what sport is No. 1 - football. It's not close or debatable. In fact, the only debate can be which is bigger, NFL football or college football.

In the NFL, they are simply printing money. The idea that they might have a work stoppage next year is unfathomable to TB.

On college campuses, especially BCS ones, football quite often drives the rest of the school, and not just athletically. Some of the decisions that are made in the name of maximizing football revenues amaze TB.

That's one of TB's absolute favorite things about working at Princeton: Football is not put above everything else.

At the same time, other than Reunions, there's nothing that brings people to campus like football games.

Last year, Princeton hosted five football games, and its attendance was this:
The Citadel - 7,885
Columbia - 10,738
Colgate (on a Thursday night) - 5,685
Cornell - 7,100
Yale - 9,483

Princeton last year was in the midst of its third straight 4-6 season, and the weather didn't cooperate for two of the four Saturday games. The only athletic event on campus last year that drew more fans that the smallest football crowd was the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals (8,260 to see Maryland-Notre Dame and Duke-Carolina).

Think about these football numbers in the context of any other public offering on this campus. Nothing compares. Football is just, well, different.

At the same time, football is one of 38 sports here at Princeton, where broad-based athletic participation is the philosophy.

So what do you do if you're looking to market Princeton sports?

Football is going to draw the most fans, so do you put your efforts into that and then, while they're here, try to get them to learn about the other sports? Or do you market to all 38 sports equally, given that the marketing staff here consists of one person?

The answer is somewhere in the middle. Princeton doesn't "tier" its sports, but it does acknowledge that there is a difference between football, men's and women's basketball, men's hockey and men's lacrosse and the others in that those five are ticketed events while the other 33 sports all offer free admission. There is a responsibility to try to maximize attendance at the sports where tickets are sold, but it shouldn't be all we do.

In fact, it is TB's contention that the biggest hurdle is getting people to come to their first event here, because it's there that we fight the myths that keep people away. TB has heard a bunch of times that the games must be sold out or that tickets are prohibitive or parking is brutal or Princeton is inaccessible and unfriendly.

All of these are, in fact, incorrect.

The flip side is that TB can't remember anyone who has come to an event here who didn't come away saying "that was great." TB's belief is that if you get people here once, they'll want to come back for more.

Like media, marketing is changing rapidly as well. In the past, marketing meant advertising in newspapers and on radio.

Today, it's direct to the consumer. In fact, the more direct the better. If you can put together an email distribution list of people interested in, say, soccer, then you can give them updates direct to their inbox. The key is not to overdo it, though, so that recipients don't simply start deleting them.

We're getting close to the start of another season for "America's Game" - and for the other games that Princeton teams will play.

The goal is to get as many people out to see these games, regardless of the sport.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sixth Sense

Back before the 1997-98 basketball season, the Ivy League media poll had Princeton as a unanimous No. 1 selection on the men's side.

At one of the few basketball media days that the league actually held - this one at the World Trade Center - then-Princeton head coach Bill Carmody had this to say when informed of the poll: "We should be."

As any Princeton fan knows, the Tigers tore through the league that year, going 14-0 with only one remotely close game (at Penn in the regular-season finale). Princeton went 27-2 overall that year, with losses only at North Carolina as the Tar Heels moved into the top spot in the national rankings and then to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA tournament (the Spartans would have four of its starters in that game start together two years later as MSU won the NCAA title).

Of course, TigerBlog cannot mention that team without saying this sour grapes-inspired comment: Had Princeton played the equivalent of Temple and Wisconsin in the first two rounds, it would have been a Sweet 16 team just as easily as Cornell was this past year.

And here's a non-sour grapes comment on TB's part: It would be great to somehow see that Princeton team, the Mueller/Jackson Princeton team, last year's Cornell team and the Penn teams of Maloney/Allen/Pierce, Jordan/Langel and Onyekwe/Archibong play some sort of round-robin to determine who the best Ivy team of the last 25 years was.

Anyway, getting back to today's point, the opposite of the 1997-98 men's basketball poll are the 2005 and 2006 football polls.

Let's start with the 2005 poll:
1. Penn, 120 (8)
2. Harvard, 119 (8)
3. Brown, 91
4. Yale, 66
5. Cornell, 63
6. Princeton, 57
7. Dartmouth, 36
8. Columbia, 24

And then the 2005 final standings:
1. Brown
Tie - 2. Princeton/Harvard
Tie - 4. Cornell/Yale
6. Penn
7. Dartmouth
8. Columbia.

In that poll, four teams sort of finished where they were supposed to, but the No. 1 preseason pick finished sixth and the No. 6 finished second (and very, very close to a tie for first).

A year later, the preseason poll was this:
1 Harvard (9) 116
2 Penn (2) 99
3 Brown (3) 94
4 Cornell 79
5 Yale (2) 77
6 Princeton 62
7 Dartmouth 31
8 Columbia 18

And the final standings?
Tie - 1. Princeton/Yale
3. Harvard
Tie - 4. Cornell/Penn
Tie - 6. Columbia/Brown/Dartmouth

In other words, Princeton was supposed to finish sixth in both of those years and finished third and then first. Penn was supposed to finish first one year and finished sixth. Harvard was supposed to finish first in 2006 and finished third, with losses to the preseason No. 5 (Yale) and No. 6 (Princeton), who tied for the championship.

The business of predictions isn't easy. Take Major League Baseball, for instance. This year, on Feb. 6, cbssportsline.com posted some preseason selections. Among them? Seattle to win the AL West and its manager, Don Wakamatsu, to be AL Manager of the West; the Mariners, at 43-70, fired Wakamatsu yesterday.

Of its six divisional selections, only one is in first place today: the Yankees. The Padres, picked last in in the NL West, are currently in first. The Reds and Rangers were picked fourth and third; they are both in first.

For that matter, MLB.com put together five baseball "experts," including heavyweights like Peter Gammons and Hal Bodley to make their preseason predictions. Of the 30 divisional winner selections they made between them (six divisions x five experts), nine of their picks are in first right now, as four picked the Yankees and all five picked either the Twins or White Sox, who are tied.

All five had the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs, which means that not one picked the Rays.

On the bright side, you can pick whatever you want, because if you're wrong, no one will remember and if you're right, then you can remind people.

Of all this leads us to this morning's release of the 2010 Ivy League football preseason media poll.

Princeton is, again, picked in what is probably its favorite spot - sixth. In the last three years, Princeton has been picked fourth once and fifth twice, but its best seasons in the last five were the two when it was picked sixth in the preseason.

In fact, going back to 1991, Princeton has averaged a better league finish when picked sixth that it has when picked third, fourth or fifth - and only slightly behind when it was picked second.

The bottom line? When the games get going, none of this is going to matter. Princeton has a new head coach in Bob Surace, which presumably means major changes from years past. Can anyone say right now what Princeton will look like in October and November? Nope.

Still, as TB has said for years, people love to read about what's going to happen next rather than what just happened. To that vein, the release of the poll plays to two important things:

1) people love predictions, whether they be Ivy football media polls, NCAA tournament bracketologies or political polls that say "would you vote for Barack Obama or the Republican, no matter who it is?" that are taken more than two years before the 2012 election.

2) people love football.

The release of the poll is a reaffirmation of the first and a sure sign of the second.

Princeton's No. 6? We'll see - but not in August.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Sure Thing

TigerBlog was waiting for the 10 a.m. episode of "The Sopranos" to start on A&E yesterday. It was the one where Janice takes care of Richie Aprile, solving a bunch of problems for her brother Tony, and it features this immortal line from Christopher: "It's going to be awhile before I eat something from Satriale's."

If you've seen the episode, you know the reference. And, by the way, even with all the editing, the show is still tremendous.

Still, it was only 9:30 or so, so TB had a half-hour to kill before "The Sopranos" started. That's when he stumbled on "The Sure Thing."

For those who've never heard of it, "The Sure Thing" is a 1985 movie that starred a very, very young John Cusack and a very, very young Daphne Zuniga and was directed by Rob Reiner. It received 3.5 stars (out of four) from Roger Ebert's review of May 1, 1985, in which he says this:
The movie industry seems better at teenage movies like "Porky's," with its sleazy shower scenes, than with screenplays that involve any sort of thought about the love lives of its characters. That's why "The Sure Thing" is a small miracle. Although the hero of this movie is promised by his buddy that he'll be fixed up with a "guaranteed sure thing," the film is not about the sure thing but about how this kid falls genuinely and touchingly into love.

Basically, the movie is about two college freshmen at an Ivy League-type school in the Northeast (the scenes for which were actually filmed at the University of the Pacific) who don't exactly get along on campus and then set out inadvertently to travel across the country together as they both sign up for a ride to Los Angeles on a ride board. Zuniga is going to visit her geeky boyfriend, while Cusack is off to see his best friend (a very, very young Anthony Edwards), who is fixing him up with a "sure thing," played by a very, very young Nicollette Sheridan.

It doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure out what happens. How they get there is at times very cute and very, very funny.

TigerBlog remembers clearly the first time he saw the movie, as it was the first movie he ever rented in a video store. TB and his friend Corey went to the new video store that opened up on Route 9, and the guy at the store recommended it.

The movie was, of course, on a VHS tape, which went into the VCR (TB knew a few people who clung to Beta until the bitter end). One of the great challenges of the late '80s and early '90s was hooking up your VCR to your TV and cable box, something that seemed so challenging then and seems so simple now.

Today, of course, DVDs have long since wiped out the VHS and Beta tapes, and DVDs themselves are on the verge of being wiped out as technology continues to evolve. The video store itself was a place where people would congregate and hope to get a copy of whatever movie had just been released on video, and people would agonize over what movie to bring home.

And don't get TB started on the stress of getting the movie back to the store before getting charged for an extra day.

Today, there's Netflix and On-Demand ad DVR and every other way of watching movies, none of which requires actually going somewhere and interacting with another person.

The VHS tape was a bit of a pain, because you had to rewind and fast-forward to get to where you wanted to be, rather than simply advancing the scene like on a DVD.

TigerBlog has a few VHS tapes in his closet, tapes of Princeton games from years ago. Among the tapes are the 1996 Ivy League men's basketball playoff game against Penn, the Princeton-UCLA NCAA tournament game and three NCAA championship games in men's lacrosse.

Of course, TB would have as much success holding them up to the light to watch them as anything else, as the last VCR long ago stopped working.

TB has mentioned often the way storage of files has evolved around here. When TB first started, old publications and such were kept on floppy disks, which were replaced by 44 MB cartridges (and then 88 MB cartridges) that looked like old eight-track cassettes. From there, it was the Zip disk, which gave way to the CD and ultimately the DVD.

Other than the CD and the DVD, none of the other ones are readable anymore.

Probably the No. 1 area this is going to affect in the long run is photography. Here in the OAC, we have a scanner, so anything that is an actual photograph is scannable. The problem is that most of what we have from the 1990s is in the form of either negatives (see, you used to have to put film in a camera and take it to a place to get developed, which meant creating negatives) or slides. Those are pretty close to useless now.

More than once, TB has been asked for a picture of a late-'90s athlete, which has created huge problems, because we just don't have that many of them.

And what about 10 years from now? Right now, we have binders and binders of CDs and DVDs (it used to take about six CDs to store all the pictures from one game that can now fit on one DVD). We also have a shared hard drive and a bunch of individual computers that have thousands of pictures electronically identified and stored.

But what about the pictures that aren't? What about when an athlete from the last 20 years becomes an astronaut or movie star or President of the United States, and we need to find pictures of him or her? Then what?

As long as we have a CD/DVD drive, we'll be okay. But, if the recent history of technology is an indication, we won't have those forever.

Will all of our CDs and DVDs become worthless? Will we be unable to find a way to make it work?

If TB had to guess, he'd say the day is going to come when we're no longer able to retrieve them.

In fact, he'd say it's probably a sure thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dinner With Yav

TigerBlog went to dinner with Harvey Yavener the other night. When Yav walked into the restaurant, he greeted his favorite waitress and apologized for not coming in more, explaining, as only he could, that: “Most of my friends are dead.”

Yav is coming up on 81 years old, and there is probably no current Princeton athlete who has ever met him or even knows who he is.

None of the current athletes - and most of the head coaches - have ever been interviewed by him. The last Princeton athlete whom Yav ever wrote about was All-America swimmer Alicia Aemisegger, who graduated this past year.

You can contrast this with, oh, 50 or so years of Princeton athletes who almost all knew Yav. And, for those who'd ever been interviewed by him, it was an experience that has certainly stayed with them.

TigerBlog can't begin to remember how many times a Princeton athlete talked about getting interviewed by Yav. To a man or woman, they all said it was unlike being interviewed by anyone else.

The first six years that TB worked in the newspaper business were mostly spent covering high schools. In the summer of 1989, one afternoon in the sports department of the Trenton Times, TB was sort of drafted by Harvey Yavener to be Yav's assistant covering local colleges, something Yav had already been doing for decades.

From then until TB came here, he and Yav covered five schools: Princeton, Rider, Rutgers, Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey) and Mercer County College. After TB came to Princeton, he worked with Yav until his retirement two years ago - "I didn't retire from the newspaper business; the newspaper business retired from me."

Yav didn't cover sports the way most people did, and his style differed from the norm in four ways.

First, to him, the worth of a game within the context of a particular sport is what mattered, not the sport itself. To that end, the biggest rowing race was as important as the biggest basketball or football game.

And, Yav almost never wrote about the game, choosing instead to write about an event's protagonist while barely mentioning the score.

Third, he never took a day off during the school year. There was always something to be written about. One time, when TB told Yav that he had assigned him something to cover for 37 straight days, Yav replied "yeah? You're about 3,000 off the record."

Lastly, nobody - and certainly not a middle-aged white man - covered women's athletics like Yav did. The amount of column inches that he devoted to women's college sports in the time TB worked with him, and the 20 or so years before it, has to dwarf the coverage that anyone else in a major newspaper was doing at the time.

A typical Yav spring Saturday would have him go to Princeton for the crew races, stay in Princeton for women's lacrosse and then stop at Rider for baseball on the way back. All three would get a big story the next day.

And after that, it was time to write "the wrap," or, as was the case on most Saturdays, "the killer wrap." Back then, TB and Yav would get faxes from all of the schools for every event that was played that day, and he would turn them into masterpieces that often reached more than 100 column inches.

TB and Yav would cover some big events that came into the area, usually the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Meadowlands or at the Spectrum. One night in 1992, Yav was going to go to the Spectrum for the Eastern Regional final but couldn't because of a killer wrap, so he sent TB instead. The result? TB got to cover Duke's 104-103 win over Kentucky in what many consider to be the greatest college basketball game of all time.

Of course, there were Yav's feature stories, which would see him talk to an athlete for, what, 45 minutes, an hour, more?, and then turn it into a story that often seemed like an old Clair Bee/Chip Hilton novel.

Anyway, there was Yav earlier this week, sitting in one of his two favorite places, a restaurant (a press box is the other), talking about his health, his 58 years in the newspaper business in Trenton at both daily newspapers, his experiences at Princeton (including going to every Tiger football game, home and away, for more than 30 years).

He talked about the ones who aren't there anymore, especially his old friend Bus Saidt, another legendary Trenton sportswriter, and of course Marvin Bressler, to whom Yav made a toast to start the evening.

Through the meal, Yav talked about his favorites from Princeton, including lacrosse coaches Bill Tierney and Chris Sailer, track coaches Fred Samara and Peter Farrell, any number of other coaches and athletes and of course, his all-time favorite at Princeton, Pete Carril.

This being a dinner with Yav, he also talked about the ones he didn't like, doing so in his usual matter-of-fact manner.

Sitting with Yav, TB heard dozens of stories he'd heard a million times before, recounting times that he had spent with Yav in the past. It wasn't always smooth sailing with Yav - TB once had Yav come up to him after a basketball game at Rider and say "come with me; I'm going to get in a fight with a guy - and certainly Yav was known to get into a verbal altercation or two, in the newsroom and at a game.

He remains one of TB's all-time favorite people, and TB worked hard for years to earn Yav's respect.

These days, TB doesn't call him or see him enough, but the times when he does remind him of how great it was to work for him and how special those newspaper days are to TB.

There's only one Harvey Yavener. Anyone who's ever met him can vouch for that.