Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Play Of The Year - And Maybe Any Year

The entire month of December seems to build to one day - one morning, really - and when Dec. 25 has come and gone, the entire attitude of the country seems to change.

It morphs quickly from the Christmas rush and everything that goes along with it - shopping, Christmas songs, Christmas movies, Christmas cards, Christmas lights, and on and on - to a desire to put all of that as quickly as possible into the rearview mirror.

As December reaches the 25th, the holiday itself is highly sacred, whereas its conclusion immediately brings along the secular.

And the secular part of the month builds much quicker, lasting six days, until New Year's Eve.

It used to be hugely important to have something - anything - to do on New Year's Eve. These days? TigerBlog figures it'll still be 2012 when he wakes up Sunday.

Anyway, the wildest part of the week between Christmas and New Year's is that nobody ever knows what day of the week it is.

Christmas and New Year's Day are a week apart, so they obviously always come on the same day of the week. Unlike, say, Thanksgiving, though, that day can be any day of the week.

Because there is little or nothing going on during the holiday week, every day feels like the weekend. Only it's not. Today is, TB is pretty sure, Wednesday.

Of course, if you asked him what day yesterday was, he might have been a bit more hesitant. About 10 times in the last two days he's thought about what day it was, and he's had to stop and figure it out first.

College athletics are measured in academic years, not calendar years, and the current "year" is really only 40% played out. For instance, pretty much every Princeton fan knows that the Tigers won 15 Ivy League titles last year, but really that means 2010-11, not just 2011. In the calendar year, Princeton has won "only" 13 Ivy titles.

Still, it's the end of 2011, and with that there is no way to escape looking back on the last 12 months and remembers what stands out. Hey, all you have to do is look around the Web for five minutes and you'll find at least, well, 2,011 different stories recapping 2011.

For Princeton, there was no shortage of interesting moments from 2011.

TB doesn't need to recap them all here. He can just mention "double-triple" or the baseball championship or women's open rowing or field hockey or women's basketball or both swimming and diving teams or open rowing or on and on.

In many ways, it's not that much different than 2010 or 2009 or any other year, all of which had their championship teams and top athletes.

But 2011 at Princeton Athletics was more than just that, and it was because of one single play, a moment that instantly became one of the all-time greatest in the entire history of Princeton sports.

Of course, everyone knows what TigerBlog is talking about. Obviously, it's Douglas Davis' shot that beat Harvard in the Ivy League playoff game and sent the Tigers into the NCAA tournament.

Harvard and Princeton tied for the men's basketball title, and the playoff game was to be held at Yale. Harvard seemed to be in control for most of the game, but the Crimson never were able to shake the Tigers.

Eventually, though, Harvard went up 62-61 on Brandyn Curry's layup with 11 seconds left. Davis raced the ball up the court but had his shot blocked, and it rolled out of bounds to Princeton under the basket with 2.8 seconds to play.

2.8 seconds. TB doesn't need to remind any fan of either team how much time was left.

Of course, 2.8 seconds doesn't seem very long, but it's an eternity in basketball.

The ball was inbounded to Davis, who had the presence of mind - and the time - to dribble to his right, come back to his left and drain a shot that just beat the buzzer.

For a moment, a single moment, it's hard to beat that one.

It was the biggest single basket for Princeton since Gabe Lewullis' to beat UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament, but had Lewullis' shot not gone in, that game would have gone to overtime. This one was all or nothing - and with an unbelievable prize for the winner.

In fact, of all of the plays that TB has seen in every Princeton sport in the last 25 years, he can't remember one that tops Davis' shot. Maybe Jeff Terrell's touchdown after Rob Toresco flipped him the ball on fourth down in the second overtime against Penn in 2006, except there wasn't a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line.

And sure, there are others that have been huge, including four NCAA championship-winning overtime goals in men's lacrosse.

Still, when TB thinks about it, he always comes back to Davis' shot. And in many ways, it transcended athletics themselves.

TB walked Davis around campus doing media interviews in the day or two after the big shot, and everywhere Davis went, every single person he walked past recognized him, congratulated him, shook his hand.

This included sports fans and non-sports fans alike, people whom TB has known for years and knows for a fact that they are not sports fans.

This moment was bigger than all that, of course. It was a moment of great accomplishment, and it was a moment that every member of the campus was able to share.

For all those reasons, Davis' shot is the Play of the Year - for 2011, and maybe every other year.

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