Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Honored

One of the very first people that TigerBlog got to know in the world of college lacrosse was Doyle Smith, who was the sports information contact at Virginia and an unparalleled giant in the game. He was a kind man who treated TigerBlog like a nephew of sorts, perhaps because he saw how much TB was embracing the sport.

Today in Baltimore, TB will be accepting the Doyle Smith Award, given by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association in Doyle's honor each year to recognize a person who, like Doyle himself, has contributed to the promotion of the sport. Last year's winner was another friend from UVa, Michael Colley. Unfortunately, both Doyle and Michael passed away tragically young, and TB would have been happier had they both been there to share in the event.

If given the opportunity to speak, TB will thank Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters for giving him the chance to be as creative as he would like. He will also thank current assistant coaches Greg Raymond and Stephen Brundage, long-time program consilere Bryce Chase, former associate head coach David Metzbower, former head coach Bill Tierney and current head coach Chris Bates, as well as all of the great young men who have played lacrosse at Princeton in the last 22 years.

TB-Baltimore, who has spent more than his share of time listening to TB talk about the game, took it upon himself to write a guest entry. TB, who knows that much of that time that TB-Baltimore spent listening was against his will, was extremely touched by the gesture:

TigerBlog takes plenty of good-natured ribbing from friends and colleagues about his devotion to lacrosse, whether the Princeton variety or TB Junior’s various youth teams. Occasionally, he even takes some serious criticism from readers of this blog, who apparently enjoy reading the “labels” on the right in the hope that one day all of Princeton’s 38 sports will have the same number of TigerBlog entries.

TB’s devotion to the sport has now earned him more than the occasional comment. It’s earned him the Doyle Smith Sports Information/Media Award from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, one of several honors that the USILA will present at its annual meeting this week.

Doyle Smith was a long-time sports information officer at the University of Virginia who is credited with standardizing the statistics of modern-day lacrosse. He began his own love affair with the game as a student at Johns Hopkins in the 1960’s; by the time he retired from UVa, in 1999, he was regarded as the game’s ultimate historian, a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of college lacrosse. In 2000, he became the first and only person who never played or coached to be inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Smith suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which eventually took his life in 2004.

In 2006, Hopkins and UVa began playing each season for “The Doyle Smith Cup.”
While readers of this blog may know about TB’s own encyclopedic knowledge of the last 20 years or so of Princeton lacrosse, they may not know about his other contributions to the promotion and media coverage of the college game.

Just two years ago, he joined with a group of colleagues to create a new official NCAA lacrosse statistics manual, one that the group dedicated to Smith’s memory. For the past six years, he’s served as the chief statistician for the NCAA championship weekend in May. With the possible exception of a few writers for the fantastic Inside Lacrosse magazine and website, no person has done more or better long-form feature writing about lacrosse in the last 15 years.

Like Smith, TB didn’t grow up with lacrosse. He came to it later, bringing both his experience as a newspaper reporter and his love of college football and college basketball to the table. The newspaper background always gave him a good sense of what made a great story, whether it was written by him or someone else. As for the latter, he was one of the first in his field to begin to treat lacrosse with the same kind of respect given to football or basketball. To TB, and others like him, lacrosse was “big-time” well before the NCAA championship game was played in front of 45,000 fans in NFL stadiums.

TB would be the first to tell you that his love of the game never would have existed if not for his friend Bill Tierney and his Princeton lacrosse program; being around for six NCAA championships in 10 years and watching stars like Justin Tortolani, Scott Bacigalupo, Kevin Lowe, Jesse Hubbard and Ryan Boyle would have that effect on a lot of people. Being around one of the sport’s great dynasties has done more than just give TB great memories, though. It’s given him a great respect for the game itself, respect that he’s transferred to the next generation and to many his own age.

Promoting lacrosse isn’t always easy. The game is seen as insular and lacking in diversity, played first at prep schools in a relatively small area of the country and then on the collegiate level at a relatively small number of institutions. The game is sometimes seen as being important solely to “the lacrosse community”; there would never be a reference to the “football community” or “basketball community,” since it’s assumed that there is such a large following that those communities are almost universal.

Debating those perceptions is fodder for another time. The fact is that the media coverage of the college game has grown exponentially since the beginning of the 21st century; as TB often says, fans that used to be happy to find one college game a week on TV anywhere now have to miss games they want to watch because there are too many on television. The NCAA Division I semifinals were played in prime time last season.

Being there myself, it was simply an electric atmosphere under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium when UVa met Duke in one of the classic NCAA tournament games ever played.
Men like Bill Tierney and his Hall of Fame coaching colleagues have a lot to do with that, as do all of the great players who starred for Coach T and his fellow coaching greats.

But you shouldn’t forget about the men and women whose love of the game, whether lifelong or just for a few years, made it much easier for fans to follow and enjoy the fastest sport on two feet. They’ve been a big part of it too.

So congratulations, TB. The world of college lacrosse wouldn’t be the same without you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, TB. Those of us Princetonians who enjoy making a visit to the blog every day are pleased to see "the lacrosse community" and the larger sports information sphere honor you for the contributions that we have enjoyed for years.