Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Forecast

Pete Carril used to have this big blue behemoth of a car that, as TigerBlog remembers, was an Oldsmobile. It was part of his contract when he was the men's basketball coach here.

After he left Princeton, the car became property of the motor pool, and TB first drove it to the 1997 men's lacrosse game at Penn State. It was an awful weather day, with rain and snow and sleet and ice and all, and it actually drove the game inside into a football practice facility.

TB noticed that Carril had left an umbrella in the car, and TB used it in an effort to stay dry that day. When he got back to Princeton, he called Carril and said that he had left his umbrella in the car and did he want it back, to which Carril probably said something funny that added up to "you keep it."

And so TB did. For years, TigerBlog used Carril's old umbrella, a red, white and blue one that was a little smaller than a golf umbrella but bigger than one of those little ones that snap open. It was sturdy, held up to the wind and was perfect, at least as umbrellas go.

And then one day? It was gone. TB took it to an event at Prospect House on the other side of campus and never saw it again. Whoever took it, TB hopes they gave it a good home, treated it with respect and all that.

Since then, TB never really found a good replacement umbrella. They were either too big or too small and too brittle. Eventually, TB gave up on the whole umbrella thing, choosing instead to just go with the hood on the waterproof windbreaker and hope for the best.

Besides, umbrellas are tough. The wind easily makes them turn inside-out, and it's a constant struggle to keep them from turning the holder into Mary Poppins.

And then there's the whole umbrella etiquette. If one person is walking with an umbrella and another person doesn't have one, is the first person supposed to hold the umbrella over both of their heads? If so, what if the distance between the two people is such that the umbrella is only covering three-quarters of each of them?

Or, what if one of them is tall and the other is short? Then there's the problem of making sure that the person holding the umbrella isn't poking the taller one in the eye or anything.

For all that, TB is going to try it again. He's got himself a brand-new umbrella - and just in time, apparently, as the immediate forecast around here is a wet one.

In fact, northwest New Jersey could get as much as six inches of snow tomorrow, with a headline on one story that read: "April Fools' Day Snow Is No Joke."

Around here, it should be rain and wet snow with no accumulations until late Friday before clearing up to be a pretty decent weekend, with no real chance of precipitation and temperatures in the low 50s.

Compared to the last 10 days around here - or ever since spring started - it'll seem like summer.

Of course, a nice weekend around here would come just in time, as there are no fewer than 21 home athletic events between tomorrow and Sunday. There are also four on the road - two in men's tennis, one each in women's open rowing and women's lacrosse - for a total of 25 athletic events in about 46 hours or so.

It's a classic example of what broad-based athletic participation looks like on a spring weekend.

Actually, the biggest events could be the two men's tennis matches on the road at Brown and Yale. Cornell is the highest ranked team in the league nationally at No. 49, followed by Princeton at No. 58, Penn at No. 61 and Harvard at No. 70.

In other words, it's a fairly balanced league, so each match is huge. Brown might not be ranked, but the Bears are 13-2, and really no match in the league is a gimme. Princeton is 1-0, with a win over Penn in the only league match played so far.

Then there's baseball and softball.

Both of those teams play their first four Ivy games this weekend, starting a 20-game, 30-day sprint from 0-0 to the end of the season. If sports like hockey and basketball take months and months to get to the end, baseball and softball are lightning quick.

Princeton is home against Brown Saturday and Yale Sunday in both. Next week will be trips to Harvard and Dartmouth, followed by doubleheaders against Penn, Columbia and then Cornell. Opening day on April 2; closing day on May 1.

Besides those games this weekend, there will be rowing, lacrosse, track and field, volleyball, water polo and women's tennis on campus this weekend.

Looking for something to see and have less than 10 minutes to do so? Then be at Weaver Track and Field Stadium tomorrow night at 6 to see Donn Cabral run in the steeplechase, an event in which he was the NCAA runner-up last year.

And hey, bring your umbrella with you. The rain will just be letting up around then, clearing the way for a sunny weekend, one that's loaded with Princeton athletic events.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Go On To The Next Page

TigerBlog always hated the achievement tests that he had to take when he was a kid. These were the state-mandated tests that measured something, TB assumes, long before there was the "No Student Left Behind Act," which has spawned a new generation of testing.

The teachers - and the booklets - always gave the instructions as if every single person taking the test was a complete idiot. There were big stop signs instructing you to, well, stop, as opposed to the big arrows pointing you on, saying "Go On To The Next Page."

The tests were always in sections, and TB always reached the "stop" with plenty of time to go in that particular part of it, so he had to wait for long stretches before being told to "go on to the next page."

And don't get TB started on coloring in the little circles and what a complete pain that was.

With that background, TB is not unsympathetic when his own kids have to take such tests, which is what has been happening for the last few school days.

Yesterday, TB overheard TigerBlog Jr. and his friend Matthew as they talked about the essay question - TB doesn't remember having those, but maybe he did - on their test. Essentially, the question was something along the lines of: What three things would you put in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years and why?

For TB, the answer obviously would be a CD of "Born To Run," the book "A Prayer For Owen Meany" and a can of Yoo-hoo.

TBJ said he would have included a lacrosse stick, an I-pod and something else that TB can't remember.

Matthew, for his part, mentioned that he would include a textbook.

"A textbook?" TBJ asked. "Which one?"

"Doesn't matter," Matthew said. "Just so they would have a book. They probably won't have books in 100 years."

It's amazing to think what technology is doing to staples of society that have long been taken for granted and that ultimately will be obsolete. The first example of this that TB remembers is the old-fashioned phonograph record, of which TB had a few hundred back in the day.

Eventually, they became worthless, because nobody had a record player anymore. CDs wiped out records, cassettes and 8-tracks all at once, and CDs themselves were essentially wiped out by I-pods and especially the I-tunes music store, as well as similar devices.

As for Matthew's statement, it is correct, though he's almost surely going to be a few decades behind in his prediction.

How many people already have a Nook or Kindle?

Is it that hard to imagine a world without printed books, without televisions as they have existed for years, ultimately without what there is now because the next technology is coming around the corner.

TigerBlog has two meetings scheduled for today, and both are about the future of videostreaming.

It's something that makes him laugh, since what is that future all about? Will streaming exist the way it does now, or is the next handheld device going to make everything that is out there now just as obsolete as its predecessors?

One of the meetings involves decisions to be made for three and four years down the road. The other involves looking into new technologies that are becoming available.

A week ago, Gary Walters asked TigerBlog, as part of an annual review process, to put down on paper what the main issues facing the OAC at this juncture are.

TB came up with a list of a few, but really it could all be about streaming and mobile apps.

When he was done with the exercise, TB compared it to a similar memo from 2003 and another from 1999. The two older ones were pretty similar; the one from this year had almost nothing in common with those two and what was in common between them was there only because TB threw in some traditional sports info stuff for the 2011 version.

What really struck TB was that the other two were four years apart, but not much had changed in that time. The 2015 version will probably have moved so far beyond 2011 that it won't be recognizable.

That's the challenge in making decisions now for the near future. Are you banking on a world that is similar to the one that currently exists?

If you are, that could be a mistake.

By the time today's meetings reach "stop," it'll already be time to "go on to the next page."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday

TigerBlog remembers the first time he ever came across TB-Baltimore.

His name was just another one on the top of another resume in a pile of literally hundreds. The OAC was looking to hire two interns - this is back in 1995 - and the big pile had already yielded one promising candidate, Vincent DiCarlo Jr., and now the task was finding a second.

One by one, the better ones were eliminated, leaving TB-Baltimore to join DiCarlo and the lone holdover of that year, a woman named Laura Stange, as the three OAC interns of 1994-95.

The whole system back then revolved around finding quality interns, because without them, nothing good could happen around here. It was at the same time rewarding, because the track record was pretty good, and frustrating, because they could only stay two years, and by the time they were trained and running at maximum efficiency, they were out the door.

Looking back now, TB can't always remember what order they all came in. Chuck Sullivan, Laura Stange and Emmy Zack were here when TB got here. Chuck and Emmy left - Chuck went to UMass-Boston, Bentley, Harvard and ultimately the Big East; Emmy went to Oregon and then fell off the OAC map from there - and TB-Baltimore and Vinnie came in.

Eventually, maybe 10 years ago or so, the University changed its human resources policies to essentially wipe out the internship program, which paid next to nothing ($1,000/month) but did offer a free apartment (5T Magie, in the Hibben-Magie complex). TB spent many an interview process trying to explain to the candidates that it might only pay $12,000/year, but with the apartment factored in and the resulting amount of money that would be necessary to be earned to afford it, the salary was really more like $10,000,000.

The result of the elimination of the internship positions has been that salaries to many people on this campus have come way up to make them actual full-time positions. The trickle down to the average reader of has been that instead of constant turnover/hiring/training/turnover, the OAC is lucky to have great continuity.

That has allowed the website and all the other communications functions here to reach close to their fullest potential. What Princeton - and many other schools that used to have the same intern model - is able to offer in athletic communications far exceeds what otherwise would have been possible.

Still, there was a certain charm to the whole internship model.

It would start each year with an ad in the NCAA News (the actual printed one) and several other industry publications, and then the resumes would come rolling in.

Some were comically unsuited for the job, such as 50-year-old lawyers who would say how they needed the career change and always liked sports, and others applied to a bunch of internships with the same cover letter and forgot to change the name of the school on top.

The interview process was always a nightmare. There was so much riding on picking the right people, and so much was going to be asked of them right off the bat, that making big mistakes would be a disaster.

Plus, there were the ones who would come in and immediately say or do something unbelievably dumb and therefore disqualify themselves right off the bat. Or the ones who wouldn't say anything dumb but would make it obvious after the first 30 seconds that they weren't the right person.

Eventually there'd be one or two new people each year, since there were three interns at any given time. Almost universally, they were good choices, though they had wildly varying personalities.

It couldn't have been that easy for them, either. Here they were, just out of college, thrown into a job that required long hours and then on top of that forced to live with the other two interns, meaning that they really had no way to get away from it all each night.

Still, those days were good ones, for the interns and the ones who hired them.

The interns got some great work experience and to experience some great events, like for Vinnie and TB-Baltimore at the 1996 NCAA basketball tournament win over UCLA. Vinnie came home with a sign that said "This is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome;" TB-Baltimore mugged for the CBS camera behind Pete Carril as he was interviewed postgame.

Others got trips to exotic spots, like Hawaii, out of the deal. Still others got to go to Bemidji, Minnesota, in December with hockey.

Ultimately, what really came out of some of these hirings were some great friendships, several of which last to this day.

Yes, some have drifted away, but even they left their mark. Late last week, women's track and field coach Peter Farrell came in and asked if anyone still talked to "Jiyen," which as anyone who worked here at the time knows, refers to Jenn Garrett, the pride of Due West, South Carolina, who left here to go to Georgia and now is at parts unknown.

When TB thinks back to those years, he thinks of what a great opportunity it was to meet these people just starting out and hopefully help them down the path to their current professions.

Regardless of where they are, TB is pretty sure they look back on their time here with great fondness and great memories and that wherever they are today, work isn't quite as much fun as it was when they were here.

For TB, he's stayed closer to some more than others through the years, but none more so than TB-Baltimore, who's gone from a name on the top of a resume 16 years ago to become a highly trusted friend, a valuable voice of reason and advice, a person with whom TB has shared all kinds of good times and even some bad.

It's great to have people like TB-Baltimore on your side, knowing that no matter what, they're always there for you, they'll always listen to you, they'll often make fun of you and they'll never let you down.

So happy birthday, TB-Baltimore. Thanks again for all the insults and jokes at TB's expense - and ultimately for reminding TB that regardless of what else is going on in his world that he always has a friend out there.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Joey Rodriguez For President

TigerBlog didn't watch the VCU-Southern Cal game nearly two weeks ago, and his only interest in the result that next day was generated by the fact that the winner played Georgetown.

"VCU?" TB probably thought. "Great. Easy win for Georgegtown."

That was before VCU went down the path of what is up there with the Giants run to the Super Bowl a few years ago as the second-greatest sporting accomplishment that TB has ever seen. Always, always keep in mind that nothing can touch the Miracle on Ice.

Still, a national championship for VCU would come pretty freaking close. And at this stage, who's to say it can't happen?

Virginia Commonwealth, in a span of just 10 days, won five NCAA tournament games, defeating team from the Pac 10 (USC), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue), ACC (Florida State) and Big 12 (Kansas).

Oh, and for everyone who's currently saying/writing that the Big East was overrated, those words would have a little more meaning had they been written during the season, rather than after the NCAA tournament started. And the Big East does have a Final Four team, which is more than any other BCS conference other than the SEC can say.

Meanwhile, back at what VCU has done, consider this is a team that lost by 10 to Georgia State, by 11 to Northeastern and just a month ago dropped four of five with losses to Old Dominion, George Mason, James Madison and Drexel.

The Rams, in fact, have lost 11 games this year, though they've also won 28, which means that their Final Four game Saturday will be their 40th of the season.

And that 40th game will be against Butler, which means that one of those two will have to be in the championship game.

And somewhat amazingly, VCU has turned Butler into a team that almost nobody is going to root for come Saturday.

So who's your favorite player on VCU anyway? You have to like Bradford Burgess and Jamie Skeen, who basically carried them offensively the last two games, but you have to love Joey Rodriguez, the point guard generously listed as 5' 10". And then there's the head coach, Shaka Smart, who much like Butler coach Brad Stevens, always reacts as if everything that's going on is exactly how he wants it.

Add it all up, and the Final Four is a team from the Big East (UConn) against a team from the SEC (Kentucky) and a team from the Horizon (Butler) against a team from the Colonial (VCU).

There are no No. 1 seeds, or No. 2 seeds for that matter. There's a three, a four, an eight and an 11, one that would have been a 12 had the field not expanded (and one that was blasted by many for being in the tournament in the first place).

The Horizon League? The Colonial?

Does that mean an Ivy League team could have made such a run?

Well, Butler beat the No. 1 seed (Pitt), the No. 2 seed (Florida) and the No. 4 seed (Wisconsin) in its region, as well as No. 9 Old Dominion in the first game. VCU's wins were over the other No. 11, No. 6, No. 3, No. 10 and then No. 1.

Could Princeton have done something like that?

Princeton, as everyone knows, lost by two points to Kentucky in the first round of the tournament. Kentucky then beat West Virginia by eight, top-seed Ohio State by two and second-seed North Carolina by seven.

On the one hand, it's true that Princeton played Kentucky as close as anyone in the tournament. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine Princeton could have run through West Virginia, Ohio State and UNC.

Then again, it's hard to believe that VCU did it.

A year ago, Cornell reached the Sweet 16, though TigerBlog continues to hold onto his firm belief - and grudge - that it was because of equal parts ability (Cornell had a great team), experience (the Big Red was senior dominated) and luck (the draw gave them Temple and Wisconsin, two teams that aren't quite the 2011 Kentucky team that Princeton played and nothing close to the 1998 Michigan State team Princeton played in the second round).

To get on the roll, you have to do just that - get on a roll. The VCU team that built a huge lead against Kansas and then turned it back on after the Jayhawks looked like they were going to storm all the way back was, TB assumes, a much different team than the one that lost four of five a month ago.

And the great thing about the tournament is that you don't have to win four of seven against a team. All you need is that one win. And with each one comes a greater sense of confidence.

On the women's side, Princeton wasn't looking so good after its loss to Georgetown, except now it looks much better since the Hoyas blew away Maryland in the second round and barely lost to UConn yesterday, falling by five.

So could Princeton's men have made the same kind of move had it gotten past Kentucky that VCU and Butler did?

Hey, did VCU think it was going to? Butler? Probably not.

It's not easy, but thanks to the Rams and Bulldogs, it's certainly doable.

Maybe an Ivy League team will be able to do the same one day.

In the meantime, Princeton can feel pretty better about its NCAA performances - both of them - based on what its opponents have since done.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thinking About Crunch On Opening Day

Tomorrow marks opening day for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Youth Lacrosse Association, an organization that actually includes teams from New Jersey and Delaware as well as Pennsylvania.

TigerBlog Jr. first played in SEPYLA seven years ago, and this will be his final season before he reaches the age limit.

TigerBlog hit upon the brilliant idea of volunteering to make the schedule for SEPYLA's Northern Division, with the basic though being that he'd be able to make sure that none of TBJ's games (for which TB serves as a coach) conflicted with Princeton's games.

TB forgot one small thing, though. There are three age groups, with seven different divisions, with nearly 500 games to be scheduled. All of these games had to be compatible with field availability, and then they had to be stacked so that multiple games would be played on the same field back-to-back-to-back for the sake of assigning refs.

And that was before he got one email from other coaches, all of whom had their own scheduling requests and needs. In fact, TB would receive 350 emails in the last two weeks about scheduling, or 70% as many emails as there are games being played.

Forget for a minute that 15 years ago, almost all of these kids would be playing baseball. That's not really the issue right now.

TBJ's Lower Bucks team opens against Central Bucks, its biggest rival, at least in the spring. Central Bucks' coach is an amiable man named Brian Vetter, who also happens to be an outstanding youth lacrosse coach.

In the summer, TBJ plays on a different team, which consists of three Lower Bucks players, a few players from other teams that TBJ will play against this spring, a few who travel quite a distance to get to the summer team and a bunch of Central Bucks kids, and it is Vetter who coaches that team as well.

It's added a little something extra to the Lower Bucks-Central Bucks rivalry, since many of the kids know each other so well and because they spend much of their summer together.

Win or lose, the Central Bucks game is just the start of a spring season that runs past Memorial Day.

In fact, with the schedules for all of the teams finally done, all over the area, an army of kids and their parents will be heading to all the fields that TB had to enter to play lacrosse.

Through the years, TBJ has played against all kinds of teams in all kinds of areas. Robbinsville, which is about 15 minutes from Princeton, isn't a SEPYLA team, but Lower Bucks has played against that program a few times in non-league games.

Unlike college or, TB assumes, high school, where there is a ton of scouting information available, very little of that exists on the youth level. The game tomorrow, where the other team is so well known, is a rarity.

Also, because lacrosse is a sport where every kid has a helmet on, it's not always easy to recognize any particular kid, except for those who really stand out. And even then, they're known as, say, "No. 88, the face-off kid from the Skyhawks," rather than by their names.

Because of that, it's impossible for TigerBlog to know if he ever saw Christian Regulski play lacrosse.

Christian, who was known as "Crunch" to the Princeton men's basketball team, played for Robbinsville. He was two years younger than TBJ, which meant he would always have been in the age group under the one TBJ was in and so wouldn't have played in any of those games, but in the many trips to Robbinsville, it's possible that Crunch was practicing or playing on the next field.

Crunch, for those who don't know, came to the attention of the Princeton basketball team because he was suffering from a brain tumor. The relationship began as part of the Friends of Jaclyn program, which looked to match children with brain tumors to college athletic teams that could supply support and friendship.

It's unlikely the program ever produced a better match than Crunch and Princeton. They would hang out together, go to the movies together, sit on the Princeton bench during games together.

As the boy's health began to turn once again, Princeton's coaches and players were there with him the whole way.

Sadly, the story didn't end happily, as Crunch passed away - at the age of 11 - last month.

When Princeton played in the NCAA tournament in Tampa last week, TB received an email from a local news writer who was doing scene-setting pieces on the eight teams traveling to the site. He asked some questions, including:

* who are three famous alums? (TB gave him James Madison, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Bradley)
* what is a fun fact about your school? (TB said that three of the nine current Supreme Court Justices were Princeton grads).

He also asked for non-basketball stories about the team itself, and TB pointed him in the direction of Crunch and the "MARV" patches that the team wore in honor of Marv Bressler, who had passed away last summer.

As a result, the Tampa Tribune ended up with a story about the two and their influence on the Tigers. The writer - Rob Shaw - asked if the relationship between Crunch and the team was a real source of inspiration for the team and if they would be thinking about him during the tournament, and TB unhesitatingly said yes.

In fact, Shaw had gotten quotes from Regulski's father Matt about how much it meant to the whole family to have Princeton basketball's involvement with his son during his last months. Matt Regulski also posted this comment under TB's entry from when Crunch had passed away:
TB - your article was very moving and in the very best of taste. As Chris'(Crunch)dad, I had the honor of enjoying the same relationship with the team as Chris did, and yoiur observation of his appearance of pure joy is directly on target.Rather then repeat myself, perhaps you might want to visit and enter "crunch" as the site you wish to visit.I think it will give you even more insight into how special these men were and are - but I believe you already know that. Thank you for your kind words.

TigerBlog remembers the day last month when he saw Princeton coach Sydney Johnson coming in the side door of Jadwin during the middle of a workday. Johnson was wearing a suit and holding a lacrosse stick, and TB at first thought it was some sort of joke.

Then Johnson told TB that he - and his whole team - had just come from Crunch's funeral and that the stick had been Crunch's and that he'd be finding a special place to put it.

Tomorrow morning, for opening day, TB's thoughts will be on Central Bucks and how to stop its great face-off guy Jack Auteri, its big lefty shooter Jeff Circuit and all the other really strong, really physical, really gifted young men on the team.

At the same time, he'll also think about another youth player, one who, in a more just world, would be getting ready to start his own season, getting ready to be another of the lucky kids outside playing a sport - any sport, for that matter - that they love to play.

Instead, his stick is wherever Sydney Johnson put it to honor Crunch's memory.

His stick is in good hands. It's just not in the right ones, his own.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

All Things Being Equal

As TigerBlog remembers the sweater, it was definitely something out of the early 1990s. It was black, and it had all kinds of color to the front.

When the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game was on ESPN Classic the other night, TigerBlog could see the sweater looking back at him from behind the Kentucky bench. TB was there covering the game for the newspaper, and he saw what is widely considered the greatest college basketball game ever played from a seat that put him almost in the middle of the Wildcat huddle, basically able to hear every word Rick Pitino said all night.

All while wearing what now would be considered a ghastly black sweater.

TigerBlog still gets rolled eyes and strange looks from people when he tells them that, if all sports were judged equally, then the 2009 national squash championship match between Princeton and Trinity would be considered among the greatest, if not the greatest, collegiate championship event of all-time.

In that match, Princeton fell just short of ending Trinity's winning streak, which had reached 202 at that point. The match took more than six tense hours in Jadwin Gym, and the team in control seemed to go back-and-forth every minute of those six hours.

Duke-Kentucky ends up on ESPN Classic. Trinity-Princeton gets rolled eyes.

Why? Because long ago, basketball became a mainstream sport, while most of the general sporting public doesn't know what squash is and has never seen it.

When TB worked at the newspaper, he found maybe the only person he's ever seen who looked at every sport as exactly equal, and that was Harvey Yavener. To Yav, a big squash match was equal to a big basketball game, and to some extent, it was that logic that led Yav to pass on Duke-Kentucky and send TB in the first place.

At Princeton, the mandate has always been to treat every sport equally, and for the most part, that's how it's done around here.

For instance, a look at the top seven stories on at this moment shows that tennis, rowing, basketball, lacrosse, track and field, fencing and golf are all represented. No decision is ever made to feature one sport over another.

Of course, not everything is completely equal. For instance, Princeton only charges admission for five sports - football, men's and women's basketball, men's hockey and men's lacrosse, and almost all of the in-game promotions are centered around those five.

And back when media guides were produced, some sports had much bigger ones than others. And the football game program isn't quite the same as the one for, say, soccer or baseball or track and field.

Still, things around here at more egalitarian than they are at many places, and that's one of the best parts of working here. As TB loves to say, the football coach doesn't run the University.

And hey, let's pretend for a minute that everything is equal. In that case, today's bury-the-lead question is: In which sport is the Ivy League strongest nationally?

The usual answers are sports like squash and lacrosse and rowing, which make up the majority of the national championships Princeton has won during its current 40-year streak of having at least one team or individual win one.

TB will put men's soccer out there as well, with four teams having made the tournament a year ago and two of them having advanced to the quarterfinals.

Some others are as well, including wrestling and hockey.

One sport that gets overlooked, though, is fencing. Ivy League fencing is up there with any other sport.

As TB writes, the NCAA championships are just getting underway at Ohio State. Two things jumped out at TB from the release on

"In the final USFCA poll released Tuesday, March 22, the Ivy League champion Princeton women's team was ranked second behind Notre Dame, which received top billing in both polls. The Princeton men's team was ranked sixth. All seven Ivy League women's teams were ranked or receiving votes, as were five of the six Ivy men's programs."

and ...

"Princeton has had a Top 10 national finish in 18 straight trips to the finals."

TigerBlog will be the first to admit that he doesn't know much about fencing. Still, he has great respect for how competitive the Ivy League is and what a great job Zoltan Dudas and his staff have done of bringing Princeton back to the sport's elite.

Princeton has qualified the maximum number of fencers (12) that a school can, and it should be an interesting weekend in Columbus.

No, it'll never make ESPN Classic, and yes, the NCAA basketball tournaments, especially the men's, will completely eclipse the fencing as far as the public is concerned.

But in the Ivy League, it's different, and so fencing will have its share of the spotlight this weekend.

As it should be. It's part of why the Ivy League is a unique place.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

With Violet Eyes To Die For

Elizabeth Taylor, in case you didn't hear, died today at the age of 79.

She was a little before TigerBlog's time, though he certainly has seen enough of her movies through the years to appreciate that she was more than just her looks and body and propensity to get married, divorced and married again.

For much of the 1950s and ’60s, she was the heavyweight champ of Hollywood actresses, with no real competition out there at all. She burst onto the scene at the age of 12 when she was in National Velvet, which made her an international star, and she would go on to win two Academy Awards for Best Actress, as the rather-troubled Gloria in BUtterfield 8 and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

She also played the title role in "Cleopatra," for which she earned $1 million - and the first of her two marriages to Richard Burton.

If TigerBlog had to name his two favorite Liz Taylor movies, he'd go with "Giant," set in the Texas oil fields (it was James Dean's third and last movie, and "A Place In The Sun," starring TB favorite Montgomery Clift.

By the time TB was watching TV on a regular basis, Taylor was mostly known for having been a huge star in her day, for her turbulent personal life and for her philanthropic activities.

There was also a Doonesbury strip from Jan. 11, 1979, that referred to her time married to John Warner, a senator from Virginia, and used the phrase "a tad overweight but with violet eyes to die for" to describe her.

Her healthy declined through the years, and she finally passed away earlier today. Her death marks the end of a career that will be nearly impossible in this day and age to duplicate.

Nearly to the end, Taylor's was a familiar face on television, mostly in commercials that made her look exceedingly glamorous.

That wasn't quite the look the NCAA was looking for when it came up with its "Still Think We're A Bunch Of Dumb Jocks?" campaign.

If you missed the commercials during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, they show various former college athletes going through strenuous workout regimens, as they drip sweat throughout.

The voiceovers talk about the successes that college athletes have in terms of graduation rates, academic achievement and overall educational accomplishment, especially compared to non-athletes.

From the NCAA's website:
“NCAA student-athletes, particularly African-American males, are graduating at a higher percentage than their counterparts in the general student body in almost every category,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “In a 10-year timeframe that begins after high school, nearly 90 percent of student-athletes graduate. I am thrilled to share these facts with the world through our PSAs.”

TigerBlog has said this before, and he'll say it again: Whoever came up with "there are nearly 400,000 student-athletes, and almost all of us will be going pro in something other than sports" is a total genius.

The latest NCAA spot builds on that and makes it more to the point, which is that stereotypes notwithstanding, participation in college athletics overwhelmingly leads to staying in school, graduating and doing well post-graduation.

There is a perception that all of college athletics mirrors that of BCS football and big-time Division I men's basketball. Yes, those are by far the most visible sports on the college landscape, and they certainly are the ones that generate all of the revenue.

Unfortunately, much of the public's views of what college athletics is stems from those two sports. The result is that all college athletes are lumped together, with the idea that they're only on campus to pursue pro careers, that they all drop out once their eligibility is exhausted, that they aren't real students, that they didn't earn their way into school, that they are taking classes that lead to maintaining eligibility and not to being challenged, that they are segregated from the rest of the students on campus.

Certainly there are examples where this is the case. But it's such a small percentage of what college athletics is all about.

At Princeton, there are 38 varsity teams and nearly 1,000 athletes, or roughly 20 percent of the undergraduate population. The stereotypes that the athletes here fight against aren't that they're going to leave to pro but go to the question of why a school like Princeton would have Division I athletics in the first place.

The answers aren't that simple. For instance, if you were starting the Ivy League today, you probably wouldn't have Division I teams.

But Ivy League athletics started two centuries ago, and the amount of history and tradition coupled with the amazing successes that the teams continue to have and the example that they set across college athletics can never be minimized or taken away.

And of course, there's the reality that athletic success can bring a campus together in a way that nothing else can match. Don't believe TigerBlog? Ask anyone who saw Douglas Davis on campus last week.

Of course, all of the good about college athletics will never be enough for some people, and hey, they're certainly entitled to their opinion.

But that's also why spots like the NCAA's "Still Think We're A Bunch of Dumb Jocks" are so important, and why it's so important that they're done correctly.

Here at Princeton, there are roughly 1,000 athletes, and most of them will be going pro in something other than sports.

And before they do, they'll be some of the greatest examples of what makes Princeton University such a special place.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Ahead

TigerBlog knew it was officially spring yesterday when he wiped the snow off his windshield in the morning. Okay, it wasn't quite a blizzard or anything. Still, March of 2011 hasn't quite gotten this whole "comes in like a lion; goes out like a lamb" thing down.

If anything, this month has gone lion-lamb-lion-lion-lamb-verylamb-lion. Temperatures this month around here have ranged from the 20s to the 80s - and back.

For the first day of spring, there was a little of everything: rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, wind, no wind. Today is a fairly average day, though tomorrow's forecast includes snow showers.

Still, it is spring, and the winter is over, officially and in Princeton athletics. Only men's volleyball remains, and that sport is sort of a winter/spring hybrid.

The winter was a tremendous one for Princeton teams, and the Tigers enter the spring having won 11 Ivy League championships in the academic year, including seven that came in the winter.

The men's indoor track and field team set a Heps record for the most points ever scored; the women's team and the men's swimming and diving team won extraordinarily close championships of their own.

Women's basketball overcame the loss of a top player to win the league going away. Womens' fencing ran through the league undefeated, and women's swimming and diving also was the dominant Ivy team.

The men's basketball team used an epic moment at the end of the Ivy League playoff game to get into the NCAA tournament and then nearly knocked off powerhouse Kentucky, losing by two in the first round.

Men's squash player Todd Harrity did something that hadn't happened since 1990 - he became an American player who won the national collegiate championship. He also did so in style, without losing a single game in the tournament.

Hey, but that's all in the past. Ahead is the spring, and there's a lot on the line for Princeton in the next two-plus months.

Among the storylines:

* can Princeton break the Ivy League record for championships won in an academic year? The record is 14, something Princeton has done twice (1999-2000/2000-01) and Harvard has done once (2004-05). Can Princeton get three more to tie and four more to win?

* will Princeton have an NCAA individual track and field outdoor champion? Last year, Donn Cabral finished as the runner-up in the steeplechase, while Ashley Higginson was third on the women's side.

* what will crew season be like? The lightweight men are the two-time defending national champion; the women's open crew opens the season ranked second nationally.

* how will the softball team play in the aftermath of the death of teammate Khristin Kyllo?

* can the women's tennis team win a third-straight Ivy title? Will the men come out of a fairly even group?

* will the men's lacrosse team get healthy enough to make a run this season? Can the men or women reach the NCAA tournament, something that at least one of them has done every year since 1989?

There are other teams and athletes and storylines.

Aside from lacrosse, tennis and water polo, no spring team has had a home event yet, something that begins to change this weekend with softball and rowing.

Each season at Princeton has its own feel to it. The fall begins with hot weather and the promise of a new, uncertain academic year. The winter is a marathon, with events running from late October until this time.

As for the spring, it's something of a sprint to the finish. The weather starts out unpredictably and gets steadily better. Eventually, there will be events on days when it'll be sunny and 70 or 80, and the games will almost feel like they're being played on the beach.

Between now and then, Princeton teams have a lot that can be accomplished. History, for instance, should the spring yield at least three more Ivy championships.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Into The Shredder

TigerBlog has a shredder under his desk. Every now and then, for no reason at all, he'll take a few pieces of paper and put them in the shredder, which provides an unlikely source of entertainment.

The best thing to put in the shredder are unused tickets. Putting them in without separating them results in a long trail of shredding, which, again, is an unlikely source of entertainment.

TigerBlog might as well put his NCAA tournament bracket into the shredder right now. Oh, the compliance people can relax, as there are no money or prizes at stake in the OAC's annual NCAA tournament picking contest, which is dubbed "The Completely Compliant With The NCAA's No-Betting Policy Tournament Pool."

If you work in college athletics, you can't help but be inundated with anti-gambling messages, especially around the time of the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament. And this is rightfully so, especially considering what's at stake if it ever comes out that a coach or players were involved in gambling on the tournament.

Still, here in the OAC, everyone fills out a bracket, just for fun. There's not even a candy bar to the winner.

And TB's bracket? Well, consider his Final Four of North Carolina (still in), Notre Dame (gone), Pitt (gone) and Texas (gone).

The first two (okay, three) rounds of the men's tournament and the first round of the women's tournament show just how different the two events are.

On the men's side, a team like Virginia Commonwealth from the CAA can fly under the radar to the point of having to play in a play-in (okay, first round) game just to get into the main draw, and yet the Rams beat USC (from the Pac 10), Georgetown (from the Big East) and Purdue (from the Big Ten) - all by double figures - and do so in a five-day stretch. It's one of the most remarkable NCAA tournament feats TB can remember, as a matter of fact.

Speaking of Georgetown, TB was rooting hard for the Hoyas, who were never really in the game. Georgetown was one of 11 Big East teams to get a bid - and one of nine who's already lost. Only UConn and Marquette are left from the Big East, and both got to the Sweet 16 by beating another Big East team.

TB has a theory as to why: These teams beat each other up so badly all season that they were just too worn out to be effective this late into March. That makes UConn even more impressive, especially considering the Huskies won the Big East tournament with five games in five days.

And TB can't help but be happy for Richmond and head coach Chris Mooney, a 1994 Princeton grad and all-time TigerBlog favorite, as the Spiders have reached the Sweet 16.

Meanwhile, back at the difference between the men's tournament and the women's tournament, it can be summed up fairly easily.

On the women's side, three double-digit seeds won their first game, two 10s and an 11.

On the men's side, six double-digit seeds won their first game. That group was a 10, three 11s, a 12 and a 13. In addition, six other double digit seeds lost their first round game by three points or fewer, including, of course, No. 13 Princeton against No. 4 Kentucky.

Of the six double-digit seeds who won in the first (okay, second) round, four won again to reach the Sweet 16.

As an aside, any Princeton fan now has to root for Kentucky to get to the Final Four, something that would give the Tigers' performance even more credibility.

Anyway, the deck was stacked against 12th-seeded Princeton yesterday before it took on No. 5 Georgetown in the women's tournament.

While having a 12 beat a five on the men's side is somewhat routine, it's not something that happens for the women. All time in the women's tournament, No. 12 seeds are now 19-88, a winning percentage of .178. Seeds lower than 12, by the way, are 9-288, so at least the 12's have a small chance.

On the men's side, 12 seeds all-time are 55-107, which is a winning percentage of .340, or nearly twice that of the women's.

The difference between the number of good women's teams and good men's teams is still significant. Perhaps the gap will close in the next few decades, but it's not there yet.

For Princeton, there was the extra challenge of having played the Ivy League season the last two months. Yes, Princeton was challenged more this year than it was last year, but the Tigers, even after a loss to Harvard early, were the prohibitive favorites in the league.

As TB watched the women's game yesterday, he thought back to the game he saw at Rutgers, when Princeton lost a one-point game with four seconds left against a team that yesterday beat Louisiana Tech by 25 in its first NCAA game.

Against the Knights, Princeton was fast and physical, and it still had Niveen Rasheed at the time. If Princeton had a steady diet of Big East teams through January and February, it would have been ready for the quickness, pressure and physicality of the Georgetown women.

Unfortunately, Princeton got off to a tough start against that pressure, and the result was a 20-point halftime deficit.

Even with the loss, it was a great infomercial for Princeton women's basketball on ESPN yesterday, as announcers Bob Picozzi and Rebecca Lobo constantly talked about the great work that Princeton had done all year and what a great team it was.

The highlight was when they talked about how assistant coach Melanie Moore couldn't be at the game after giving birth last week. Picozzi mentioned that Tristan Moore was nine pounds, 15 ounces and then went on to talk about something else, and when he came back to Lobo - a mother of four - to ask her her thoughts, she said that she couldn't get past nine pounds, 15 ounces.

Still, the idea that Princeton's women basketball team could be disappointed after its NCAA tournament game shows you how far things have come around here. Not to offend anyone from years past, but Princeton had seven losing seasons in eight years before Courtney Banghart and her staff showed up, and of those seven losing seasons, five were single-digit wins.

Going from single-digit wins to a double-digit seed for the second straight year is very impressive.

Winning an NCAA tournament game is not easy. The Princeton men and women took their shot this year, and it'd be great if one or both will be back next year to try again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Your Turn

TigerBlog's two favorite Thursdays of each year are Thanksgiving and the one that happened yesterday.

How can you beat either one? On Thanksgiving, you get turkey and football.

And yesterday? Wall-to-wall college basketball in the first round (excuse TB, the second round) of the NCAA tournament. The games begin at noon and run to midnight, with almost no breaks in between.

This year, the fact that the games were all on their own network made the quality of viewing go up about 100 percent, since viewers were no longer at the mercy of CBS to decide which game to show and when to go from game-to-game. All it took was a remote, and you too could be your own director.

Add to that the huge extra benefit of having Princeton play in the tournament, and it was a great day to have a television.

The Tigers' game against Kentucky tipped around 3, after the West Virginia-Clemson game.

By now, everyone knows what happened.

Princeton went toe-to-toe with the Southeastern Conference champion, and all that separated the two at the end was a tough floating layup that banked in with two seconds to go.

For Princeton, it was quite a run in a nine-day one.

Consider that Princeton was eight points down with 17 minutes to go against Penn last Tuesday at the Palestra in the regular-season finale. Think about that. That game was only nine days before the NCAA game. And yes, you're forgiven if you thought that game was a few weeks ago.

Had Princeton not turned that one around, then Harvard would have been the outright Ivy champ. Instead, Princeton won that one, setting up the trip to Yale for the playoff game for the NCAA bid.

For those who lost track, that game was five days before the Kentucky game. By itself, that game was one of the great ones in program history, with one of the signature plays ever by a Princeton athlete to win it at the buzzer just to get Princeton to the tournament.

As was the case in 1989 vs. Georgetown, 1990 vs. Arkansas, 1991 vs. Villanova and 1997 vs. California, Princeton in 2011 came oh-so-close to pulling off a big one. If anything, it shows why the 1996 game vs. UCLA is so special, because there's a big difference between doing what Princeton did yesterday and winning.

Still, the 2011 Princeton team didn't have the luxury of any previous NCAA tournament experience, or, for that matter, the luxury of having entered the program when either it or Penn was winning every year.

For a program that has so much history and such a great postseason tradition, there will always be something special about the 2011 team. This group of players and coaches did something great this year, something that will resonate forever.

When they stepped off their charter flight at Trenton-Mercer Airport late last night, they had every right to 1) be disappointed and 2) be proud.

The Princeton-Kentucky, as awesome as it was, will not rank as one of the two greatest NCAA tournament games in school history.

The Princeton-Georgetown women's game Sunday will be in the top two for that program. For that matter, it'll be the second ever, as opposed to the 41 the men have played.

In many ways, that's all you need to know about the job that Courtney Banghart and her assistants Milena Flores and Melanie Moore have done in their four years at Princeton. While the task for Sydney Johnson and his staff was to restore the program to its previous level, Banghart and her staff had no such tradition to build on.

And what has happened? A 7-23 first season became 14-14 and then 26-3 and now 24-4 heading into the tournament.

Princeton was an 11 seed last year and is a 12 seed this year, and those are the two best seedings an Ivy team has ever had.

Last year in Florida, Princeton struggled after the first few minutes against St. John's, and it's possible that the first NCAA tournament for the program was a bit overwhelming.

This year, it's a team dripping with experience, one playing closer to home in College Park, Md. Tip-off against Georgetown will be 2:30 Sunday.

Oh, by the way, if you want to watch the game, here's how it works:
* ESPN will be doing whiparound coverage of the four games going on at the time
* ESPN2 will be televising the four games in a regional fashion, which means Princeton will probably be on in this area
* will have all four games in their entirety

Looking at Georgetown's results and comparing them to Princeton's is somewhat favorable for the Tigers - as well as utterly useless.

This will come down to making shots and getting off to a good start. If the game is close at halftime, then Princeton will be in it for good.

It's the second chance for a Princeton team to get an NCAA basketball win this season.

The first one might have broken a few hearts at the end, but it was still a great game. And a last performance by a very special team.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

History Lesson

Going back exactly 22 years from today, back to March 17, 1989, Princeton nearly knocked off Georgetown in the opening round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The Tigers, seeded 16th, had barely scraped their way into the tournament that year, knocking off Harvard in Cambridge on the final night of the season - rebounding from losses to Penn and Dartmouth - to finish the Ivy League at 11-3, barely ahead of the 10-4 Big Green.

With a regular-season record of 19-7 (two of which were against Division III schools) and representing a league that had lost its three previous NCAA appearances by a combined 120 points (that'd be 40 points per game, by the way), Princeton was the lowest-regarded team in the field.

Georgetown, mighty Georgetown, was the biggest kid on the block. The Hoyas weren't just good; they were nasty, a bunch of vicious defenders and intimidating figures who were ranked No. 1 in the country.

The Hoyas were fresh off beating Boston College, Pitt and Syracuse - by an average of 21 points - to win the Big East tournament. They brought with them a 26-4 record into the NCAA tournament.

Nobody gave Princeton much of a chance. In fact, most of the talk before the tournament was about how league's like the Ivy League shouldn't have an automatic bid anymore, and there was a real chance that the future of the NCAA basketball tournament would resemble what the BCS football championship has become - something that is hard for a team from a non-power conference to crack.

Also, the Princeton-Georgetown game was ESPN, not CBS, which didn't feel that there was enough interest in the early rounds to justify the expense of televising them all. Instead, CBS would pick up the tournament in its later stages, when interest would rise.

And that was the scene heading into the game at the Providence Civic Center. As tip-off approached, TigerBlog was, well, not even paying attention.

TB was still a few months away from jumping on the college beat, and with his alma mater not in the tournament, he was barely interested in seeing how much Georgetown was going to beat Princeton by.

Instead, he was on a date in Philadelphia with a young woman he'd met a few weeks earlier at a Super Bowl party at his friend Frank's house. That was the Super Bowl between the 49ers and Bengals, by the way, the one where Joe Montana brought the Niners back in the final minutes and ultimately won it on a pass to John Taylor; legend has it that Montana said "isn't that John Candy?" to the team in the huddle before the start of the last drive.

Just to give you an idea of how long ago it was and all.

Anyway, TB saw none of the Princeton-Georgetown game on television, though he does remember hearing David Brody do the radio play-by-play until that faded away. By the time the radio signal was lost, it was clear that something special was happening in the game, especially when Princeton went up 29-21 at the half.

As TB recalls, getting additional scores from that point was tough. What he does remember clearly was that he heard that it was tight midway through the second half. As TB knows now, that was after Georgetown made its move back from being down 10 to create a back-and-forth game in which neither team had more than a two-point lead for the final 11:44.

Think about that. For the last 11:44 of an NCAA tournament game neither team ever led by more than two.

In the end, as everyone knows, Georgetown prevailed, 50-49, as Alonzo Mourning blocked shots by Kit Mueller and Bob Scrabis in the final six seconds. TigerBlog didn't know the final score until he got back in the car and heard it on a sports report.

By the start of next basketball season, TigerBlog was covering the team, and that began what is now a nearly-quarter-century odyssey with Princeton basketball.

TB has seen the Georgetown game on video or ESPN Classic a million times (Princeton should have won), and he's basically memorized the box score. He got to know every Princeton player and coach who participated in the game, and he routinely gets emails from several of them all these years later.

But on that day, TB was just another Penn alum who could care less about the Princeton-Georgetown game. He never would have guessed at that moment how close he would get to the Princeton program and how much he'd come to learn about a game he didn't pay attention to that night in Philadelphia.

That game, and the Princeton-UCLA game in 1996 that TB was very much at, have important historical contexts, but they also show exactly what it will take for Princeton to have a shot today against Kentucky in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

The prevailing theory is that Princeton needs to come out and shoot 10 for 15 from three-point range to have a chance. While that certainly would be great, it's not the main blueprint.

Princeton does not have to play a perfect offensive game. In fact, if you combine the Georgetown and UCLA games, the Tigers shot 38 for 90 (42.2%), including 13 for 43 (30%) from three-point range. Princeton also was 3 for 10 from the foul line and outscored 17-3 from the line in the two games combined.

Obviously, in neither game was Princeton an offensive machine.

Also, while Princeton led for most of the game against Georgetown, it had the lead for fewer than three minutes of the game against UCLA and trailed 7-0 at the first TV timeout, establishing early on that Princeton would have to play from behind.

So what's the key?

Well, there are two.

The first is that Kentucky has to miss shots. Some of them will be open ones, perhaps even ones that the Wildcats usually make. In this game, though, they have to not go in. Especially from three-point range.

Georgetown and UCLA combined to shoot 34 for 81 (41.9%), despite having a huge physical advantage that would figure to have allowed them to dump the ball inside for dunks and easy layups.

Even more importantly, the two were a combined 6 for 28 (21%) from three-point range.

The other key is tempo. The game cannot get out of the 50s, or Princeton will be in real trouble. For one thing, Kentucky averages 76.4 points per game, so playing a game where the points aren't coming like they normally do will frustrate the Cats.

Princeton doesn't figure to get many easy baskets. Against UCLA and Georgetown, Princeton was outrebounded 66-37, and the two opponents combined for 22 offensive rebounds to 11 for Princeton. In other words, the chance for some easy putbacks isn't what it normally is.

Yes, Princeton averages 69.6 points per game and is comfortable pushing the ball, and that's fine to a certain extent. But an up-tempo game will create way more easy chances for Kentucky than Princeton.

Basically, Princeton's best chance is to get into a game that is sloppy and mostly half-court.

If that's the case and Kentucky's missing, then that's the best chance for an upset.

In other words, it's more important that Kentucky shoot 35% than Princeton shoot 55%.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Required Reading

Back when TigerBlog was in college, he was assigned a book called "Thomas Jefferson And The New Nation," written by a man named Merrill Peterson.

The book was a tan cover with yellow lettering, which TB supposes was done intentionally to make the book look old, even when it was new, and therefore, by extension, wise. TB also has a theory on the length of the book.

In all, TJ and the New Nation numbers 1,006 pages, and TB's assumption is that Mr. Peterson went to the publisher and asked that the type for the book be set so that it reached at least 1,000 pages.

The syllabus for the class asked for the book to be read in two weeks, half one week and half the next.

When TB graduated from college, he remembers taking all of his books and storing them in the basement at his Uncle Larry and Aunt Regina's house in Fair Lawn, and he has no memory of what happened to them next. As both Larry and Regina have since passed away and the house was long ago sold, TB surmises the books are long gone as well.

All except for "Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation," which TB still has. Because he never came close to reading the entire book for the class, TB vowed that one day he'd be able to say that he read the entire thing, cover to cover.

And so the book sits on a shelf, waiting for TB to get back at it. And hey, he only has, oh, 1,006 more pages to go.

That was required reading three decades ago.

Today's required reading comes from Sean Gregory on Time Magazine's website. If you are a fan of the NCAA basketball tournament and Princeton in particular, then you must stop whatever it is you're doing (which, obviously, is reading TigerBlog) and go read the story by the man whose nickname here was Bones.

The rest of TB will wait. Go ahead.

There. All finished? Very good.

What'd you think? TigerBlog will tell you what he thinks. It was an extraordinary piece of writing, well-researched and well-presented, and it tells the story of what transpired through that wild time 15 years ago in a way that brings it all back to anyone who saw it.

For TB, it also validates that he remembers everything pretty much as it happened, since all of the stories told by the many people that Bones spoke with confirm that TB's memory is good.

Bones does a great job of telling the story, and he does an equally great job framing it in the context of 1996, just before the explosion of the internet. It's hard to think back to a world without that kind of immediacy and volume of information, video, etc., because it's such an ingrained part of the world today.

Back then, though, the world was just on the cusp of it, and that is part of why this game was so special. It's because Princeton was unique, in that the "Princeton Offense" had not spread throughout basketball and in that almost nobody saw the Tigers except in the NCAA tournament.

The story in Time works best, though, because it's told from the inside, with a bit of self-deprecation that doesn't get tedious and with access to all of the key players in the drama - minus the kid from Duke who asked UCLA coach Jim Harrick if he'd been outcoached by Pete Carril.

Also, a distance of 15 years is a great vantage point for the story. It's old enough that its historical context is well-defined, yet not so long ago that nobody really remembers the details.

As for the details, TB remembers them all:
* the loss to Penn at the Palestra
* the conference call prior to the playoff game during which Carril, not realizing that the speaker phone was not on mute, insulted Penn during a rundown of the logistics
* the playoff game itself
* the postgame celebration/Carril retirement announcement
* the selection show
* the trip to Indy
* the game
* the aftermath

TB can see it all in his mind still. He can see the words that Carril scribbled on the blackboard in the lockerroom at Lehigh, his way of saying he was retiring, when only Carril and TB were in the room, which left TigerBlog knowing exactly what was about to happen and therefore in position to gauge reactions.

He can see the cavernous media room and interview area in the RCA Dome, which, by the way, no longer exists. He can see himself huddled with Andrea Joyce, kneeling in front off to the end of the court, waiting to grab Carril and the players should Princeton's 43-41 lead hold up (which it did), wondering during the seven-minute or so delay between Lewullis' basket and the end of the game, wondering the whole time if UCLA would pull it out and have this one hurt forever. In fact, TB remembers during that wait - through timeouts and officials' huddles - seeing a friend from the old neighborhood, a rather interesting figure named Brian Linky, who long ago had vanished from TB's world, coming down through the Mississippi State band yelling out TB's name; turns out Linky lived in Indianapolis.

When TB thinks back to Princeton-UCLA after all this time, he mostly realizes what an amazing few days it was and how unbelievably lucky he was to have seen it from the inside and been, in his way, a part of it.

So thanks, Bones, for bringing it all back.

The story, like the game, is a classic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hoop Heaven

Back before 660 AM in New York City was WFAN sports radio, it was WNBC radio, which played, as TigerBlog remembers, played top 40 music most of the day.

In fact, TB probably heard for the first time most of what now is called "classic rock" on that station.

Even way back then, though, the mornings on the station belonged to Don Imus, who was already doing a show called "Imus in the Morning." TB remembers listening to Imus probably from the first time he was on in New York, which was 1971.

Eventually, WNBC became WFAN, which may have been the first all-sports station (TB isn't sure about this one).

What TB is relatively sure of is that the station that would have failed completely had it stayed with Greg Gumbel as a morning sports talk host, no offense to Mr. Gumbel. Instead, the decision was made to revive "Imus in the Morning" from 5:30 - 9 each morning, even though it wasn't a sports-oriented show. Famously, Imus' show ended each day with a read that called it the "entertainment and revenue-generating portion of the broadcast day," and it wasn't that far from the truth.

As everyone knows, Imus was eventually taken off WFAN for the incident involving the Rutgers women's basketball team - which, TB said at the time, while not being a nice thing to say wasn't even in the top, oh, 50 or so offensive things that Imus had said on-air.

Of course, given his ability, Imus knew he'd be back on the air soon enough, and there he is today, on WABC AM 770 in New York, again with a whole network of stations and a TV simulcast.

The WFAN morning show is the Boomer and Carton Show, with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton (if you go to Wikipedia, look at how Boomer's last name is spelled in the banner in the picture).

Boomer and Carton are no Imus, but then again, nobody is. They are more of a sports talk show than a news/politics/entertainment/sports show like Imus, and Boomer and Carton - like most on the radio - often confuse vulgar and funny.

Still, Boomer and Carton have a nice show, and TB will often flip back and forth between them and Imus on the drive into Jadwin.

This morning, Boomer and Carton interviewed Kenny Anderson, who had been a phenom at Georgia Tech 20 years ago before going on to a long career in the NBA.

Interestingly, Anderson said that even with his 14-year NBA career and all the money he made from it, there was nothing he'd ever done in basketball that compared with playing in the NCAA tournament. Even now, after all this time, the emotion was clear in his voice when he spoke about his experience in the tournament.

Anderson is not the first person TB has heard say this. In fact, it's true of pretty much anyone who has ever been a part of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Right now there are 68 men's teams and 64 women's teams heading ready to see what kind of run they can make. On the women's side, there are probably three teams with a legitimate chance to win the title, and on the men's side, there are probably 10-15.

By Sunday night, there will be 16 men's teams left, which means that 52 will already have lost. On the women's side, 48 of 64 will be out by a week from tonight.

For many of the teams, just getting out of the first round would be a huge accomplishment.

In fact, for the majority of the teams, the best part of the tournament is the part happening now, between the clinching of bids, the selection show and then the buildup to the games themselves.

Here at Princeton, with an athletic program that dates back to when Abraham Lincoln was President, there aren't too many things that can happen that haven't happened at least once before. Still, this week, there is.

For the first time ever, both the men's and women's basketball teams are in the NCAA tournament at the same time.

Sunday night was the men's turn, as they found out they'd be playing Kentucky in Tampa Thursday.

Last night, the women's draw was announced. Unlike the men's draw, in which Princeton was in the first half of the first bracket announced, the women were in the first half of the last bracket.

The Tigers, in their second NCAA trip, earned a 12 seed and will take on Georgetown in the first round Sunday at the University of Maryland. Princeton's experience against St. John's in last year's tournament will be a big plus this time around, though it would have been nice to have a healthy Niveen Rasheed.

Georgetown is 22-10 on the season, with only one win in its last five games. On the other hand, the Hoyas are out of the tough Big East, and Princeton saw a year ago against St. John's what that can be like.

Princeton lost to Rutgers by one; Georgetown lost to Rutgers by 17. Georgetown beat La Salle by four; Princeton beat La Salle by 40.

Of course, Georgetown beat Tennessee.

Can Princeton win? That's a question for Sunday for the women and Thursday for the men.

For now, it's about making travel arrangements, getting on a plane (for the men), scouting, doing interviews and taking in the excitement that is the NCAA tournament.

There is, quite simply, nothing like it.

Don't believe TigerBlog? Just ask Kenny Anderson.

Monday, March 14, 2011

To The Victors

As the NCAA men's basketball brackets were being announced, the drama ended quickly for Princeton and harshly for Harvard.

Hey, to the victors, as they say, even if the margin for the victors is razor, razor thin.

To say that it was an extraordinary weekend for Princeton men's basketball would be an understatement.

It began with the Ivy League playoff game to determine the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and continued through the selection show last night. The playoff game itself has already vaulted itself into one of the Top 10 moments in the history of a program that has had more than its share of top moments.

How could it not? With an NCAA bid on the line, Princeton was playing to complete the basketball revival that Sydney Johnson with the men and Courtney Banghart with the women began when they were hired four years ago.

In Princeton's case, getting to the tournament would mean going through a Harvard team that was the brash new kid on the block, one playing to get to the tournament for the first time since 1946, a team led by a high-profile coach who came to Cambridge and has ruffled many a feather since.

TigerBlog was walking up the stairs to the balcony in Jadwin Friday when Dan Mavraides came down the other way. Mavraides scored 11 points as a freshman on a team that went 6-23, and when that season was over, his wildest dreams for his career probably didn't take him to where he was at that moment.

And yet there he was Friday afternoon, a 1,000-point scorer, team captain, member of an Ivy League co-championship team, leader of a team that more-than-reversed that freshman record to 24-6.

Still, with all that, TB couldn't help but think that Mavraides' entire career would be framed by what happened in the playoff game. It's not that a loss would have ruined it all, but TB is sure that it would have left Mavraides - and fellow seniors Kareem Maddox and Bobby Foley - with a nagging feeling that might always be there.

And that's what was at stake Saturday at about 6 p.m., after it appeared Harvard would pull away and after Princeton (with a huge contribution from Brendan Connolly) had made it a tight game and after there had already been three lead changes since the 1:01 mark, including a basket by Harvard with 11 seconds left and then finally a blocked shot, possession to Princeton, with 2.8 to play.

As an aside, somewhat stunningly, neither coach chose to call timeout during the up-and-down flow of the final minute, as both teams kept scoring. In fact, from the under-four media timeout through Princeton's timeout with 2.8 to go, there was only one called timeout by a team, which came from Princeton with 1:41 to go. As a result, the final two minutes of the game took about four minutes to play, rather than 15 or so that it normally might have.

TigerBlog has been following Princeton basketball up close for more than a quarter-century, and he knows a lot about the years before he started covering the team, going all the way back to Year 1 in 1901.

He can cite from memory career statistics of people he's never met, who died long ago. He knows what happened in games from decades ago, let alone from the games he's seen through the years.

With all that background, he can honestly say that there haven't been many moments to eclipse what happened at the end of the game Saturday.

Mavraides inbounded the ball to Douglas Davis
, who as everyone has seen everywhere by now, dribbles right, ducks back to his left and then calmly swishes a shot to ignite a massive celebration with the final score: Princeton 63, Harvard 62.

TB's first thought as he watched the celebration was "what if it didn't leave his fingers on time?" As the refs went to review it, TB couldn't help but think: "What in the world will happen if it's ruled to be no good? Would there ever have been such a reversal of competing emotions in a building split down the middle?"

Thankfully for Princeton, the shot was clearly out his hands before the clock went all zeroes, and it was Princeton who was off to the NCAA tournament.

The selection show, for Princeton fans, didn't last all that long, as the Tigers were in the first group of games shown. For Princeton, it'd be a 13 seed and a date with Kentucky in Tampa Thursday (2:45, CBS).

And Harvard? Well, TigerBlog was convinced that the Crimson would get an at-large bid, what with wins over Colorado and Boston College and an RPI of 35. And TB was more and more convinced that Harvard was in as team after team with RPIs in the 40s, 50s and even 60s got at-large bids.

But no, Harvard would not get the Ivy League's first at-large bid. Instead, the Crimson have to travel to Oklahoma State for the first round of the NIT.

Princeton has no easy task against Kentucky, and clearly the Tigers will be big underdogs. But hey, they were underdogs the last time they went into the tournament after winning an Ivy League playoff.

That was back in 1996, when Sydney Johnson was a player for the Tigers on the team that beat Penn and then UCLA in the first round of the tournament.

This time around, Johnson is the head coach, making him the first Princetonian to play in the NCAA tournament and then coach the Tigers in the tournament as well.

And how fitting is it?

More than anyone else, the Princeton basketball resurrection has been about Sydney Johnson. He came here with a last-place team and with three years experience as an assistant coach at Georgetown.

But more than anything else, he brought with him a love for Princeton basketball, a loyalty to a program that he felt obligated to restore to its glory days.

It's almost like he felt guilty, that here he had this great, championship, NCAA tournament experience at Princeton and how dare he not achieve that for the players who now were on his teams here?

And that's what drove him, drove him hard, and that's what made him so emotional after his team won Saturday.

He hadn't just won a game. He'd lived up to what he thought he owed Princeton.

It was a great weekend for Princeton basketball, especially the game Saturday.

It was a moment that, as Johnson casually said this morning, people will remember for awhile.

Even for a Princeton basketball program, one that has had more than its share of glory, this was something special.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cycling Through

TigerBlog had a speaking role at yesterday's monthly department staff meeting, something that happens once every four or five meetings or so.

TB's topic was a general update of the department's webpage, which, in the one-month period leading up to yesterday, had 1.2 million page views.

TigerBlog also mentioned that in the period beginning one week ago today and lasting through the weekend, there were 53 stories posted to He also told the story of how he posted his men's lacrosse story after the Johns Hopkins game and then, by the time he drove back to New Jersey, it had cycled all the way through off the front page.

There were no Princeton athletic events yesterday, and still 12 stories were posted.

As an aside, one of those 12 stories was a feature on Randy Evans of the Class of 1969 and his efforts to bring the sport of lacrosse to inner-city kids in Jacksonville. The results have been tremendous, with success not only athletically but also educationally.

Back at, because there are seven stories in the main section (the one with the big pictures) and then four more under the "news" tab, which is where the stories 8-11 go before being cycled off the front page, that means that on a day with no game stories, the first story posted in the morning was gone by the evening.

Yes, this is a busy time of year around here, with the winter season about to wind down and the spring season just getting into high gear.

The department policy is to treat all sports equally, which means that there are no value judgments made about whether a story from one sport is bigger than another. For TB, it's one of the best parts about working here.

Every now and then, certain stories will be kept on the front page in an ad space someplace, such as the ones that are currently there about Princeton's 25th place finish in the Directors' Cup after the fall or the seven winter Ivy League championship teams.

But almost exclusively, each sport is given its place in line, only to be pushed off by the next story.

This weekend, there are 11 teams competing, down from 17 last weekend.

By far, the most significant event involving a Princeton team this weekend will be the men's basketball playoff game against Harvard. TigerBlog can't help but think back to the 1996 playoff game against Penn as a night of the kind of sheer drama and emotion that only a winner-take-all game can generate.

That 1996 game is one of the most significant moments in Princeton athletic history, largely because of what happened next. First, Pete Carril announced his retirement immediately after the game. Then Princeton beat UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a win that gave Carril's career extra validation and helped him get into the basketball Hall of Fame two years later.

Tomorrow night's game won't have that kind of historical context to it, but it does offer the winner the chance to do something big in the NCAA tournament.

But still, it's not the only game for Princeton this weekend.

TigerBlog is sure that it's that attitude, the one that says everyone is treated the same, that has helped the program win 24 straight Ivy League unofficial all-sports points championships.

Will this be Year 25? It's nearly mathematically impossible for it not to be at this point.

Princeton, through the winter, has 132.5 points, ahead of second place Harvard's 103. No other school has more than 90.

For Harvard to catch Princeton, it would have to pick up more than two points per spring sport, which would mean finishing two places ahead of Princeton in eight of the spring's 13 Ivy sports and three places in five of them (or some other similar mathematical combination).

Should Princeton hold on, as is likely, then that would be a quarter-century in which Princeton fielded the top athletic program (unofficially) in the league, at least in terms of assigning points to Ivy League finishes.

TigerBlog, for one, is impressed. And, as always, he offers a cautionary tone, that just because it's been a quarter-century doesn't mean that next year is a guarantee.

Also for the meeting yesterday, TB put together a short video recapping the winter success.

For the music, TB chose the theme from "Patton" (though he did get an email from a coworker who said that he loved the music, loved "Animal House" and thinks of the scene with Blutarsky as he slides down the banner at the end every time he hears it).

Part of the reason for the music choice was the scene at the end, when Patton, fresh from conquering the Germans, walks alone and reminds himself and the audience, with the last words of the movie, that "all glory is fleeting."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1.7 Seconds To Go

The end of the Rutgers-St. John's game was already a disaster before the Johnnies Justin Brownlee traveled, stepped on the sideline and threw a dead ball with time still on the clock into the stands - and got away with all three.

TigerBlog was sort watching the game in his office, with the TV behind him, so he was only half paying attention when something got his attention. At one point, he heard the announcer remark that exactly two minutes remained in the second half, and TB decided to time how long it would actually take to play those two minutes.

As it turned out, only 1:58.3 was actually played - and it took just short of 18 minutes.

At various parts of the last two minutes, four different people wandered past TB's open door, ducked in, saw the time and score, stayed to watch and then left because it was taking forever.

And this wasn't even one of those games that featured an endless parade to the foul line as the team behind kept fouling. This was a game with one tie and three lead changes in the last two minutes.

But there were four called team timeouts in the last two minutes, er, 1:58.3 of the game. Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, was one of the four people who stopped in, and after one of the timeouts, he simply couldn't take it anymore.

As for the end of the game - oh wait, it's still not over - TigerBlog would offer the following points:

* TB has no idea how the three officials missed the walk and the stepping on the end line, but he doesn't buy into the conspiracy theorists who say that the league wanted St. John's to kee playing
* TB can never remember a conference issuing a statement so quickly after an official debacle like the one the Big East sent out yesterday
* what in the world was Brownlee thinking and why hasn't anyone written or said that if he had simply dribbled inbounds or even passed to either of two wide-open teammates, none of what happened next would have ever come up
* it was immediately obvious by the replay that Rutgers was owed 1.7 seconds or so, with a chance to inbound ball the ball near midcourt ... that's plenty of time to pass, catch and shoot
* were TB commissioner of the Big East, he's not 100 percent sure what he would have done, but he has a hunch
* stop talking about the officials as if they're stars; they're supposed to be invisible

To elaborate on some of the above, let's start with the replay.

If it's true that the play became non-reviewable because none of the officials made a call, so there was no call to review, then that's ridiculous. Brownlee's tossing of the ball into the stands by itself made it clear that even if there had been no travel or stepping on the sideline that the ball was no longer in play.

Even without a call per se, that becomes reviewable. How many times has the clock at a game kept going when it should have stopped and reached 0.0, only to have time added back onto it? No call was made in those situations, and yet time was put back on the clock.

Besides, the point of replay is to correct game-changing, game-ending, egregious errors. It's not to stop games for two or three minutes to see if there should be 14 or 15 seconds on the shot clock with 10 minutes left in the first half of a 19-18 game and then have the refs huddle with their arms around each other at midcourt (there is no one who can convince TB that the refs are doing that for any reason other than because they're on TV).

And then there are the refs themselves. All TB heard yesterday from Mike Francesa (who actually did a great job in many ways during the one-hour rant TB listened to) was that these were "Hall of Fame" refs. Please, refs should be anonymous. They shouldn't be bigger than the game.

As for Francesa, he often doesn't know the rules or procedures of things he's railing against, like earlier in the day, when he said that the three play-in games that were added were strictly for the No. 16 seeds (not true). But when he talked about the Rutgers-St. John's ending, he was speaking for every fan who watched the game and felt cheated out of an ending that never happened and seemed so easy to correct.

Which brings TB to the notion of what he'd have done had he been in charge, and that's this: He would have made the teams come back on the court and play the final 1.7 seconds.

And hey, Rutgers had time to pull it out at that point.

TigerBlog hopes the Ivy League playoff game Saturday night in New Haven doesn't include any such controversy at the end.

Yesterday was a steady stream of people in and out of Jadwin until all the tickets here were sold, as were the ones that Harvard had to sell and the ones that Yale sold. Every seat in the John J. Lee Amphitheater has been sold.

As for the game itself, it features the Ivy League Player of the Year (Harvard's Keith Wright) and Defensive Player of the Year (Princeton's Kareem Maddox).

Both teams had one first-team All-Ivy League selection (Wright and Maddox) and two second-team selections (Harvard's Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry and Princeton's Dan Mavraides and Ian Hummer).

In other words, the teams have what the coaches believe are six of the top 10 players in the league.

Also, for whatever it's worth, which is not much, this will be Princeton's eighth time in an Ivy League playoff game.

In six of the previous seven, Princeton and its playoff opponent split their regular season games. The only exception was 1996, when Penn swept Princeton during the regular season and Princeton won the playoff.

Of the six times that Princeton and its opponent split during the regular season, in five of those years, the team that won the first game and lost the second won the playoff game.

The only exception that pattern came back in 1963, when Princeton beat Yale in the first meeting between the two, lost the second and the lost the playoff. In 1959, 1968, 1980, 1981 and 2002, the team that won the first and lost the second won the playoff.

Of course, Princeton won the first and lost the second against Harvard this year.

And, of course, none of that historical stuff will matter if it's a one-point game with two minutes to go Saturday.

If it is, be prepared. The last two minutes will take close to 20. It's how college basketball works these days.

Not playing the last 1.7 seconds? That's not how it's supposed to work.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On To New Haven

TigerBlog walked into Jadwin Gym this morning from Lot 21 and saw an unusual sight as soon as he came in the side door, under Gary Walters' office.

It was a line. An actual line of people, waiting outside the ticket office, waiting to buy tickets for the Princeton-Harvard men's basketball playoff game, which Princeton forced with a huge second half last night at Penn that turned an eight-point deficit into a 70-58 win.

The result is that Princeton and Harvard both finished 12-2 in the league, and as such they are co-champions of the Ivy League. The playoff game Saturday - at 4 p.m. at Yale - decides who will represent the league in the NCAA tournament.

As TigerBlog looks around the landscape of college basketball the last few days, he sees conference tournaments that 1) bounced the best team in the a particular league from representing that league in the NCAA tournament or 2) in the bigger conferences mean next to nothing.

And once again he is convinced that the last thing in the world the Ivy League should do is go to a conference tournament and that in fact traditional one-bid leagues should abandon theirs.

Fairfield? Won the MAAC title by two games over the field and by four over a St. Peter's team that beat the Stags in the semifinals and then took out Iona in the final. The result is that St. Peter's, a team that went 17-13 in the regular-season, will now take the league's bid over a team that was 23-6.

Which won would have a better chance of getting a win and making the MAAC a big story next week?

Want an even better example? In the America East, Vermont won the regular season at 13-3, one game ahead of Boston University and five games ahead of fifth-place Stony Brook. So what happens? Stony Brook gets to the semis and beats Vermont, sending a 23-8 team home and a 15-16 team to within a game of the NCAA tournament (Stony Brook meets BU for the bid Saturday at noon).

There's no way a league should risk lowering its NCAA seed - and destroy its chances for a win that the entire sporting country will notice - to have a conference tournament.

In the Ivy League, Princeton and Harvard have spent the last 14 games establishing 1) that they are by far the best teams in the league and 2) on a given night, either could lose to another team in the league (Princeton lost to Brown; Harvard lost to Yale).

What if there was an Ivy tournament, and the same thing happened again? Where would the sense be in that?

And TB said the same thing each of the last three years, when it was Cornell that won the regular-season title.

Again, the Ivy League knows that the winner of Saturday's game is giving the league its best chance to win next week in the tournament. And that's how it should be.

For you history buffs out there, this will be the eighth playoff since the formation of the Ivy League, and Princeton will have been involved in all eight.

Of the previous seven, Penn has been in four, Yale two and Dartmouth and Columbia one each. If you noticed that that adds up to eight, it's because the most recent playoff, in 2002, came after a three-way tie between Princeton, Penn and Yale.

If you're expecting a great, down-to-the-wire game Saturday, you might not get one, if the past is an indication.

There have been eight Ivy League men's basketball playoff games all-time, beginning with Princeton-Dartmouth in 1959. That year, the teams were both 10-0 in the league and then, in a weird bit of scheduling, played a game Saturday and then again the following Friday, as each team won once. They won out from there, going 13-1, and then Dartmouth beat Princeton 69-68 on Rudy LaRusso's buzzer-beater.

In 1980, Penn beat Princeton 50-49 in the only other playoff game to be decided by a point.

Of the remaining six games, five were decided by at least 12 points (Princeton over Yale in 1963). The others in that group: Columbia by 18 over Princeton in 1968, Princeton by 14 over Penn in 1981, Yale over Princeton by 16 in 2002 and then Penn by 19 over Yale that same year.

The remaining game? Well, that was the classic of all classics, Princeton's 63-56 overtime win over Penn in the 1996 game at Lehigh. As every Princeton fan knows, that was the night that Princeton finally beat Penn after losing eight straight, including one by 14 four days earlier at the Palestra, and then the night that Pete Carril announced the end of his 29-year coaching career at Princeton.

Princeton then beat UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The main man that night for Princeton was Sydney Johnson, who made every big play in the overtime (none bigger than his corner three to beat the shot clock with just under a minute to play). Johnson will be New Haven Saturday, this time as the Tigers' head coach. In fact, Johnson will attempt to become the first person to win an Ivy playoff game as both a player and head coach.

Both Princeton and Harvard took great pride - rightfully so - in earning their share of the league championship. For Harvard, it was the first one ever.

For Princeton, it was the 26th, and first since 2004. Johnson has already coached his team to a 24-6 record in just his fourth season, a career that began when his team went 6-23 three years ago.

And hey, it's possible that the loser of the playoff game Saturday could end up in the NIT and make a real run, while the winner of the playoff gets bounced quickly in the NCAA tournament.

But it's also possible that Saturday's winner does something magical next week, something akin to Princeton in 1996 or Cornell a year ago, something that people will talk about reverently forever.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Turning 80 and 40

In the movie "On Golden Pond," Henry Fonda plays a retired professor named Norman Thayer Jr. from, of all places, the University of Pennsylvania (there's a scene where a story about him from the Daily Pennsylvanian can be seen framed on the wall).

TigerBlog grudgingly saw the movie in New York City when it opened in 1981, and he's had a love-hate thing going with it ever since. On the one hand, 1) it wasn't his first choice of what to see that day and 2) he's never been a big fan of Jane Fonda, who plays Norman's daughter in the movie as well; on the other hand, he can respect how well made the movie is.

In fact, "On Golden Pond" won four Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Fonda and Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn (who had not only never worked together before but had never even met). And the shots of Golden Pond itself - which was actually a lake in New Hampshire - are spectacular.

Early in the movie, Norman is celebrating a milestone birthday, and which leads to the following exchange:
"What's it feel like to be 80?"
"Twice as bad as it did to be 40."

TigerBlog hopes the opposite is true for a newly minted octogenarian, Princeton's own John McPhee. On a campus crawling with fascinating people, there aren't many who can give Mr. McPhee a run for his money.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 28 books, McPhee also teaches a writing course here each spring semester. His connection to Princeton goes back as far as he does, as his father Harry was the Princeton athletics doctor - and the U.S. Olympic team doctor - for decades, and John is a product of the Princeton public schools, with a postgrad year at Deerfield mixed in. He then attended Princeton and graduated in 1953.

His writing career began at Time magazine, and his big career break came when "The New Yorker" published his piece on Bill Bradley's senior year entitled "A Sense of Where You Are," which referred to Bradley's ability to adjust his shot depending on where he was on the court. The magazine piece was eventually expanded into McPhee's first book.

Since then, he has written 27 more non-fiction books and countless pieces for the magazine. His books have been on a wide variety of subjects, and TigerBlog has read ones about the history of growing oranges in Florida, the evolution of family practice medicine in Maine, the New Jersey Pine Barrons, a plane without wings, a conservationist who shares the name John McPhee and how that caused problems for him and others.

His most recent book is "Silk Parachutes," a compilation of short pieces, mostly from the magazine. Among the stories is "Spin Left, Shoot Right," McPhee's story about the sport of lacrosse.

McPhee is an academic athletic fellow for the men's lacrosse team, and he was TB's roommate on the team's trip to Spain and Ireland in 2008. Since then, TB has gotten to know McPhee fairly well, and he ranks him in the top five of interesting people he's ever met.

McPhee was a longtime tennis opponent of Pete Carril's, and the two played basketball together at lunchtime for years as well. These days, McPhee gets his exercise on a bicycle, and he and TB ride indoors together when the weather doesn't let him get outside.

During those times on the stationary bike, McPhee tells one story after another - all of which amaze TB. Translate those to his books and magazine stories, and it's easy to see why he's one of the great American non-fiction writers of all time.

So happy birthday to Mr. McPhee.

And how old was John McPhee the last time Princeton didn't have a team or individual win a national championship for an academic year?

Not 70.

Not 60.

Not 50.

Yup, 40. Princeton's streak is now at 40 years and counting after Todd Harrity won the men's squash individual national championship this past weekend at Dartmouth. With some national contenders for both teams and individuals in the spring, perhaps Harrity will not be the only winner this year.

But he'll be at least one, and that will keep the streak alive.

Yes, not every year has produced a team NCAA champion. And yes, Princeton has a huge advantage towards winning a national championship each year, given its strength in sports like rowing and squash.

But so do a few other schools, and they don't have a streak that nearly compares to Princeton's.

So congrats to all of Princeton's national champions of the last 40 years:

2011 - Todd Harrity (squash)
2010 – men’s lightweight rowing
2009 – men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
2008 – women’s squash
2007 – women’s squash
2006 – women’s open rowing (1st varsity 8), Yasser El Halaby (squash),
2005 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2004 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2003 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2002 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Tora Harris (indoor and outdoor high jump)
2001 – women’s lightweight rowing, men’s lacrosse, Soren Thompson (epee fencing), David Yik (men’s squash
2000 – women’s lightweight rowing, Eva Petchnigg (foil fencing), Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash
1999 – women’s squash, women’s lightweight rowing, Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash)
1998 – men’s lacrosse, men’s heavweight rowing, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
1997 – men’s lacrosse, Katherine Johnson (women’s squash)
1996 – men’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, men’s heavyweight rowing, Max Pekarev (saber fencing)
1995 – women’s open rowing
1994 – men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s open rowing, Harald Winkmann (epee fencing)
1993 – men’s squash, women’s open rowing
1992 – men’s lacrosse
1991 – women’s squash
1990 – women’s open rowing, men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Leroy Kim, Erik Osborn)
1989 – men’s lightweight rowing , women’s squash, Demer Holleran (women’s squash), Jeff Stanley (men’s squash), men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Rich Korhammer, Rob Musslewhite)
1988 – men’s lightweight rowing, Jeff Stanley (men’s squash)
1987 – Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1986 – men’s lightweight rowing, Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1985 – men’s heavyweight rowing
1984 – women’s squash
1983 – women’s squash
1982 – men’s squash
1981 – women’s squash, John Nimik (men’s squash)
1980 – women’s squash
1979 – women’s squash
1978 - women’s squash
1977 – men’s squash
1976 – women’s squash, Nancy Gengler (women’s squash)
1975 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1974 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1973 – women’s squash, Cathy Corcione (100 butterfly, 100 free), 200-yard freestyle relay (Cathy Corcione, Jane Fremon, Barb Franks, Carol Brown)
1972 – Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash), Charlie Campbell (200-yard backstroke)