Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Worldwide Leader At Roberts Stadium

When TigerBlog was a kid, PBS used to have a weekly college hockey game on each Saturday. TB was fascinated by the broadcasts, which he sometimes watched on the tiny black-and-white TV that was in the room he shared with BrotherBlog.

For whatever reason, TB remembers that it always seemed like New Hampshire was one of the teams playing.

Back then, college sports on television were almost completely limited to football and men's basketball. And those sports were pretty limited in their distribution, with very few games on each weekend.

TB grew up halfway between Philadelphia and New York City (though he went to New York 100 times for every time he went to Philadelphia), and he was able to get the TV stations from both cities. Not on his cable system, of course, because there was no such thing as cable TV yet, at least until he was in high school.

Getting the channels of both meant actually walking over to the TV and changing the channel knob, to either channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 or 11 from New York or 3, 6, 10, 17, 29 or 48 from Philadelphia. There were also public TV options - 12 and 13 were the New York and Philly PBS channels, and 23 and 52 were New Jersey's.

TB remembers watching the Mets, Knicks, Rangers and Nets (from the ABA) on Channel 9 and the Yankees on Channel 11. Home games for basketball and hockey were never televised.

Of course, there were also Big Five doubleheaders from the Palestra on Channel 48.

Back then, the highlight shows were the best part of watching sports, especially football. "This Week In Pro Football," with Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall and its distinctive music, was a must-see every week.

As for college football, TB remembers a Game of the Week show that would focus on the top two or three games and would run Sundays at noon, before the NFL games started.

As for live games, there were a few, but not many.

Fast forward to today, and obviously it's all different. There were about 25 college football games on TB's cable system this past Saturday, and that doesn't include the additional games that are on Thursdays, Fridays and even Wednesdays.

When college basketball season starts, it'll be even more saturated, with about a million games on every night. More, of course, does not necessary equate to better; at some point, it all starts to look alike.

Princeton has a contract with ESPN to show a minimum of seven home events per year. It's a very nice situation for us to be in, especially since it gives us a chance to showcase a variety of teams.

TigerBlog starts each year working with ESPN on the schedule of events. This year, we were unable to make a football game work, after having one on for four straight years.

The ESPN people have long ago made it clear that their two favorite sports from Princeton are men's hockey and men's lacrosse, which fit in nicely with the big picture of their programming.

Still, they have been open to some other things, like, for instance, the first event of this year that was televised, men's water polo vs. Santa Barbara.

The next event will be this Sunday at 5, when the men's soccer game against Harvard will be shown (on ESPNU).

Early on, TB tried to sell ESPN on the idea of 1) televising a game on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium and 2) putting the cameras on the field turf side to shoot into the stands, so as to show off the facility. This year, he was successful on both counts.

The game itself is a huge one for the Ivy League men's soccer race.

Princeton and Penn are currently 3-0-0 each, while Harvard is in third at 1-0-2 after a scoreless tie with Brown last weekend. In Ivy League soccer, three points are awarded for a win and one for a tie, so technically Princeton and Penn have nine points, Harvard has five and Brown has four.

The Tigers will enter the TV game on a seven-game winning streak and with exactly three goals scored in each of the seven games. To put that in perspective, Princeton has scored 21 goals in its last seven games; it scored 21 for the entire 2008 season and 20 for the entire 2007 season, both of which were 17 games.

Penn still has games against Princeton, Brown and Harvard. Brown is still the highest ranked Ivy school.

It's unlikely Princeton or Penn will run the table. It's also likely that three or even four Ivy schools will get NCAA tournament bids, as Ivy men's soccer is among the most competitive of all league sports.

ESPNU chose the game in part to be a good partner with Princeton, but the result is a fairly strong matchup.

TB never could have envisioned back when he was a kid that an all-sports network would grow to what it has become and that sports like college soccer and water polo would be able to be seen on regular TV.

Still, that's where the world has gone, and it's been great for Princeton.

So watch your 25 college football games on Saturday. Then tune in for a big college soccer game, Sunday at 5.

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