Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dog Days

Little Miss TigerBlog takes cello lessons once a week, at the home of a local high school student who appears in TigerBlog's contact list as "Cello Meg."

Each week, when TB drops LMTB off for her 45-minute lesson, Cello Meg's dog Sam - LMTB calls him "Samuel" - comes bounding to the front door, looking for a little affection.

As an aside, if you have to drop someone off for 45 minutes, what do you do in the interim? You can't really stay. You can't really go anywhere, because you have to turn around and come back. It's a weekly conundrum.

Anyway, Sam is a big black Portuguese something dog, one with a really long tail that he whacks back and forth against whatever gets in its way and with very sharp nails that he uses to scratch an unsuspecting visitor who has not been petting him enough.

Still, TB is a fan of Sam's. And Cello Meg has taught him a trick where he appears to do a dance, which is very cute.

Dogs are a lot of work. Maybe not as much as kids, but they're close. Mostly, it's the walking, before they turn your house into their own limitless toilet.

And then there's the whole overwhelming emotional attachment you can get to a the dog, knowing full well that it has a life expectancy of 10-14 years or so.

Of course, there is something special about a dog, especially when it looks at you and seems to be saying something that you can clearly understand, a thought of how the two of you are buddies and don't really need to be able to speak the same language or be the same species for that matter to both know what's going on.

TB had a dog when he was a kid, a toy poodle named Louis XVI, named by his cousin who named a whole litter of puppies after French Revolution figures (his parents were named Napoleon and Josephine, which sort of reversed history, but hey, they were toy poodles, not people).

One amazing thing about dogs is that they know that other types of dogs are still dogs, while things like cats and squirrels aren't, regardless of whether the other dog is five times the size or tiny or a different color or with wildly different ears or any of it. How does the dog know that's another dog?

LMTB plays field hockey on Saturday mornings, and TB is always amazed by how many people bring their dogs with them to the fields where the girls are playing.

Last Saturday, TB noticed a tiny dog in a red dog sweater, which was a good look for it. When a big dog came along, sweater dog hid under its owner's chair and wailed.

Shortly after that, another big lab-type dog strolled by, while a really, really tiny dog stood by. When they came close to each other, the little one jumped up to get face-to-face with the lab and stood for a second with its paws on the bigger dog for support. After falling, the little dog tried it again and actually landed on the lab's back, for a brief second at least.

Princeton's facilities have signs saying that dogs are not permitted, though that doesn't always stop people from bringing theirs in.

Class of 1952 Stadium is one such venue, and TB has seen people bringing dogs there since the facility first opened 15 years ago.

These days, Class of 1952 Stadium is home to the Princeton field hockey team, which has won 17 of the last 18 Ivy League titles and currently sits in first place again this year.

Of course, minus its four best players, who are currently competing with the U.S. national team in the Pan Am Games and are taking the 2011-12 school year off in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics, this is not quite a normal tear-through-the-league year for the Tigers.

In fact, there is a five-way tie for first place right now in Ivy field hockey, with Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and Yale all at 3-1 with three league games remaining. Penn is 1-3, while Cornell and Brown are both 0-4.

For TigerBlog, there's nothing quite like figuring out tiebreaking scenarios, but this one is a little beyond the ordinary.

It starts to sort itself out this weekend, as Princeton is at Harvard and Columbia is at Dartmouth. Still, this race almost by mathematical probability has to go to the last weekend.

In addition to the game at Harvard, Princeton is also home with Cornell and at Penn.

The Tigers have won three straight since dropping the league opener to Dartmouth, and a Dartmouth loss last weekend to Yale helped create the five-way tie.

It's not quite last year, when Princeton outscored its league opponents 46-3 in seven games. And with the return of the four next year, the race is unlikely to be as wide open again.

Still, there has to be something fun for the team about being involved in something this competitive.

The winner of the Ivy League hosts a play-in game this year against the Northeast Conference champ for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

If the next three weeks go well for the Tigers, that means the game would be at Class of 1952 Stadium, possibly against Rider.

No dogs allowed.


Brian McD said...

This loyal reader also has a daughter, now in ninth grade, who loves Field Hockey. I've learned that the surface has a huge impact on play, ranging from the misery of poorly maintained grass fields to the fast and true play that occurs on short turf like that at 1952 stadium. Little miss loyal reader plays a lot of games on field turf - which is vastly better than grass but not as fast as the turf at '52. Does TB have a crystal ball that can divine whether the University's excellent Field Hockey and Lacrosse teams can peacefully coexist on the same turf surface, since Lacrosse seems to be played more often on Field Turf?

Anonymous said...

Brian, astroturf is the preferred surface for collegiate and international field hockey because it is much faster than field turf. 68 of the 79 Division I programs have astroturf surfaces and the majority of the 11 hold-outs are very weak teams. Within the Ivies, only Penn plays on field turf and it hurts both recruiting of players and the retention of coaches. An assistant who left for Bucknell said that he would have stayed had Penn lived up to a promise to build a new astroturf facility.

So basically, the field hockey team cannot switch to field turf. Lacrosse of course is mostly played on either natural grass or field turf. I don't know whether the astroturf at '52 hurts the lacrosse teams in either recruiting or play. The ball rebounds off the ground much faster so I would think the shooters like that advantage on the goalies but, overall, there's more risk of knee injuries not to mention irksome turf burns.

I wonder if Princeton lacrosse goalies would have better statistics if the Tigers played on field turf. Right now, they're like pitchers whose home stadia are very hitter-friendly.