Monday, December 5, 2011

Lug Nuts

TigerBlog was heading down 95 Saturday morning on his way to Baltimore for the women's basketball game at UMBC when he heard a rather unfortunate sound emanating from under his car.

He didn't even need to wait until he pulled off to the side a little past the Philadelphia airport to know that he had a flat tire.

As he thought about it, the issue might have started back by the Walt Whitman Bridge, where he felt the car suddenly jolt a bit. Either way, his right rear tire was destroyed.

TB is not the handiest person who ever lived. Still, he learned a long time ago how to change a flat tire, something that has come in handy a few times in the past. This time, he struggled to get the lug nuts loose, and then it was time to put on the spare.

As is always the case, the spare was one of those smaller tires, not quite the tiny donut tire but not big enough to make it all the way to Baltimore and back. So off TB went to try to find a tire place, and he stumbled upon a Pep Boys, where he learned 1) his old tire wasn't able to be patched and 2) the other tire would probably melt before he made it Baltimore.

So, he had no choice but to get a new tire. This would have been annoying no matter the circumstance; it became even more annoying considering that TB had recently gotten new tires for his car.

Anyway, after about a half-hour, he was back on the road, arriving at UMBC about 30 minutes before tip-off.

He went up to the third floor conference room where there was pregame media food, surprisingly finding some pretty good soup and sandwiches and a great brownie, one with chocolate chips in it.

As he ate his lunch, TB looked at the pictures on the wall, of past UMBC championship teams in a variety of sports. The most interesting part, other than the evolution of hairstyles, was that they were in three different leagues: the Big South, the Northeast and now the America East.

It served as a reminder to TB of how lucky Princeton is, to be in the most stable league in college athletics, the Ivy League.

There's no way a team is going to leave the Ivy League, and there's no way a team is going to come into the Ivy League. There is no other Division I conference that can make the same claim, as recent headlines and the championship pictures in UMBC's conference room show.

And speaking of the Ivy League, Princeton has won the league's unofficial all-sports points championship each of the last 25 years.

The fall season ended officially yesterday, when Princeton defeated UC San Diego 9-7 at Cal in the third-place game at the NCAA men's water polo championships.

For the Princeton men, it was their second national third-place finish in three years, including two years ago, when the championships were held at DeNunzio Pool.

It's a very impressive accomplishment, defeating a California school in California in the national tournament. And to do so one day after falling 17-4 to USC in the semifinal, as was the case two years ago as well, when Princeton rebounded from a one-sided loss to USC to defeat Loyola Marymount.

The end of fall Ivy play actually came a few weeks ago, and men's water polo isn't an Ivy League sport.

And, back at the all-sports points total, Princeton finishes the fall not in first but actually in fourth, as the field is fairly bunched right now.

Yale is actually in first, with 39.5 points, followed by Columbia with 37.5, Dartmouth with 36 and then Princeton with 34.

It was still a pretty strong fall for Princeton, with two Ivy titles (men's cross country, field hockey) and the men's water polo third-place finish (as well as strong showings nationally in men's and women's cross country).

Princeton has trailed at the end of the fall before in the all-sports and even once trailed after the winter (2005) before winning.

And there are more sports in the winter and spring than in the fall.

A year ago, Princeton outscored Yale by 27 points, Columbia by 41.5 points and Dartmouth by 47.5 points in the winter season alone. Should Princeton approach those numbers this year, it'll almost surely be back in first by the end of the winter.

As TB always says, the year will come when Princeton doesn't win the all-sports championship. Still, it's not about being first by the end of November, and there's a long way to go before Princeton's streak is in jeopardy.

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