Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mr. Compton Goes To Philadelphia

TigerBlog walked down the ramp to the Palestra floor about 45 minutes before the opening tip for last night's Princeton-Penn men's basketball game.

As he reached the bottom and started towards the far side, he made eye contact with a man wearing a blue baseball hat with a red Penn "P" on it. He nodded, and Brent Compton nodded back.

Who is Brent Compton?

Well, he's an Indiana State basketball season ticket holder with a sporting goods business right there on South 3rd Street in Terre Haute. And why was he in the Palestra, wearing a Penn hat no less?

Each year, Compton and the two buddies who were with him pick out a college basketball venue that they've never visited and plan a trip. This year's choice was the Palestra, for their first-ever Ivy League basketball game.

Compton saw TB's Princeton Athletics shirt and asked him what he did at Princeton. After TB explained, Compton started in with a barrage of questions.

How does financial aid work? Are there really no scholarships? Do the teams get to give out 50% aid to a certain number of kids, 25% to others? Do the better kids get more in aid? Is it really need based?

And admissions. And the competitive level of Ivy basketball.

Mostly, he talked about the Palestra, which was just starting to come to life for the night. Even before play began, Compton liked the building, the feel, the way that it gets loud even before it gets crowded.

Then it was TB's turn to ask the questions.

Did these guys have any connection to Penn or the Ivy League? The answer was no.

Where were they staying? What did they think so far?

How was Indiana State doing? The answer was that the Sycamores started well, hit a rough patch and now need to do well in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to have a chance at the postseason.

And, of course, where did they get the Penn hats?

Turns out they went to the Penn shootaround earlier in the day and met the Quaker coaches, who gave them the hats.

Then it was off to the radio and the promise to catch up at the end of the game, to see what they thought of their first Ivy game.

About two hours later, TB reconnected with Compton.

In between, TB came up with these thoughts of his own:

* Princeton was really, really hurt by the exam layoff, more so than in any other year that TB can remember. Why? In most years, exams would end on Saturday, and the Division III game would be Monday night, followed by a return to league play on the following Friday/Saturday. This time, Princeton had to play a league game two days after exams ended, and not just any league game, the one at Penn. Remember, it's not just not having played a game for 16 days; it's also not having practiced with a full team for all of that time.

* TB thought Penn would be hurt by not having played in nine days, and he thought the first five to seven minutes or so would be sloppy and low-scoring. Instead, Penn came out completely on fire, and the game was really decided in those first few minutes.

* TB said on the radio that that wouldn't happen, and he was 100% wrong about that. Of course, he pointed that out several times, in the interest of accountability and all.

* Brendan Connolly had a big game for Princeton. Ian Hummer, who was the focal point of Penn's defensive game plan, didn't force the issue in the first half and instead let the offense go through him to others, most notably Connolly. In the second half, Hummer was completely dominant and unstoppable. The more TB sees Hummer play, the more impressed he is with him. He is skilled in every phase of the game, and he has a level of explosiveness and fury that take him to another level.

* Maybe Princeton got to see Zack Rosen at his absolute best or maybe that's how he plays all the time. Either way, Penn's point guard put on an amazing show, beyond just his 28 points. He was in total control of every major point of the game, and he did so with total poise. Anytime Penn needed a play - start to finish - Rosen made it.

* TB loves what Penn did with the concourses of the Palestra about 10 years or so ago, with their retrospectives on the history of the building. Every time TB is there, he takes a lap around and sees all the displays, especially the one on the Princeton-Penn rivalry.

* As a Penn alum, TB was embarrassed for his alma mater by the behavior of its students. From the t-shirts that they wore to the roll-outs to the chants, the students showed no class - and maybe worse, no creativity. Maybe TB is among a small minority who thinks that there's still a chance in contemporary American society for some civility, but it was woefully lacking in the Penn student section last night. The word TB used on the radio was "disgrace," and he stands by that.

* At the same time, TB had nothing but praise for the Penn coaches and players, who played the game hard and clean, were classy on the court and off it, and clearly deserved to win the game. The same was true for Princeton's coaches and players.

* No matter what happens, TigerBlog will never walk into the Palestra again and not think back to the night in February 1999 when Princeton fell behind 29-3, 33-9 at halftime, 40-13 with 15 minutes left - and won 50-49. In the postgame radio interview, TB asked Brian Earl - who along with Gabe Lewullis and Mason Rocca - was one of the architects of that amazing comeback what he remembered most. Earl, Princeton's top assistant coach, said that he mostly thinks back to the timeout when Princeton had finally taken the lead and how he looked around at all of the stunned faces in the crowd.

Anyway, with all of those assessments, it was back to talking to Brett, to see what he thought.

As TB could have predicted, he enjoyed the game and the building and was impressed with the competitive nature of the night. His view of Ivy League basketball - and of the Princeton-Penn rivalry - was high.

Then he and his friends shot a few baskets and took a few pictures.

When it was time to leave, TB asked what they were doing and then made a suggestion.

"Get in a cab," TB said. "And tell him to take you to Geno's."

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Fighting City Of Philadelphia

TigerBlog's theory is that if you ask anyone - well, 95% of people - who have seen all of the Rocky movies, or at least I, II, III and IV what their favorite scene is, they'll give one of two answers:

* the training scene in Rocky
* the scene from Round 14 where Rocky gets knocked down through the end of the fight, especially the part where the announcer says "Apollo can't believe it."

How could those two scenes not be 1-2, if for no other reason than the music? Plus, at the time, they were very original, and there isn't anyone who watched the movie back in 1976 who didn't see Rocky run up the steps of the art museum who didn't want to fight Apollo Creed right then and there.

Whoever came up with the idea of having Rocky first fail to be able to run up the steps in the original "Philadelphia morning" scene and then use that as a symbol of his physical and emotional growth hit upon something that was pure genius, something that gives TigerBlog chills every time he sees it, which by now must be north of 1,000 times.

And the fight scene? TB loves the part where Rocky knocks Creed down in the first round and the look of total bewilderment that he has. Still, it's Round 14 into 15 that is the best part, when Rocky is down, Mickey is telling him to stay down and Apollo can't believe anyone could actually get up.

And yet Rocky needed to get up. It was at that moment that he realized that if he didn't, he'd be "just another bum from the neighborhood."

Beyond those two scenes, though, TB is relatively sure that if he asked 100 people what their next favorite scene is he'd get 50 different and wildly varied answers.

So that's what TB did last week. And he wasn't surprised that there was little consensus.

For instance, one of the people that TB works with said his next favorite scene is the one in Rocky II where, after waking up from her coma, Adrian tells Rocky that she just wants one thing from him.

TigerBlog Jr., who has watched every second of all six Rocky movies and who rarely goes a day without throwing out at least one line from the franchise, prefers the scene in Rocky IV where Drago first starts to bleed.

Still another person TB asked said that the best scene is the one in Rocky III where Apollo and Clubber Lang almost get into it before the second fight starts. Or when Paulie throws the turkey out the window on Thanksgiving, as part of the whole first date.

Or maybe it's just any scene that Rocky is in.

For TigerBlog, his favorite "other" scene is also in the original Rocky. It's the one where Mickey comes to Rocky's apartment to talk him into letting him be his manager, only to get the bitter wrath that has built up in Rocky through the years. Then, just when it looks like Mickey is being sent away, Rocky realizes that Mickey was right all along, that he "had the talent to become a good fighter, but instead of that, you became a leg-breaker for a cheap, second-rate loan shark."

And so Rocky swallows his pride and runs down the street chasing after Mickey. And again, in a moment of pure genius, the scene is shot from a distance, so their words cannot be heard. All that is known is that Rocky puts his arm around Mickey, says something to him and then they shake hands. It's as good as any moment TB has ever seen in a movie.

Anyway, the subject of Rocky movies is never that far away here in the OAC, where some Rocky-related conversation/quote/reference is on average uttered more than once per day.

TB won't be able to avoid thinking about Rocky later today as he drives along the Vine Street Expressway past the side view of the art museum across the Schuykill River, on his way to the Palestra and Princeton-Penn men's basketball.

For most of the last 30 years, Princeton at Penn has been TigerBlog's favorite annual sporting event. He's seen the rivalry first as a Penn student, then as a "neutral" sportswriter and now for nearly 20 years as a Princeton Athletics employee.

TB spent much of that time as the men's basketball contact, during a time when Pete Carril, Bill Carmody and John Thompson went head-to-head with Fran Dunphy, knowing full well that one or the other would win the league and go the NCAA tournament.

For those with no memory, let's keep in mind that Ivy League basketball did not start with Cornell's team of a few years ago or with the current Harvard team that is ranked in the Top 25. Or, for that matter, let's also keep in mind that it was Princeton who represented the league in the NCAA tournament a year ago.

So, for those who forget or never knew, here are your all-time Ivy men's basketball titles since the official formation of the league:

Princeton - 26
Penn - 25
Cornell - 4
Dartmouth - 3
Yale - 3
Harvard - 1
Brown - 1
Columbia - 1

Between 1963 and 2007, it was either Princeton or Penn in the NCAA tournament for the Ivy League every year except for three. That's a sustained record of competitive dominance that is unrivaled.

For tonight's game, Princeton is 1-1 in the league while Penn is 2-0. Harvard is the lone unbeaten at 4-0, including a very impressive win at Yale Friday night, leaving the Bulldogs tied with the Tigers with one loss.

Princeton hasn't played since Jan. 14, while Penn has only played once since then, with an 84-80 win over St. Joe's on Jan. 21, nine days ago.

It's a huge game for both.

Plus, there will always be something special about Princeton and Penn at the Palestra.

Maybe TB is a bit more lacrosse-centric these days, but he hasn't forgotten all of the great Princeton-Penn moments he's seen, after "we" won or lost, even though "we" hasn't always meant the same time.

And he definitely hasn't forgotten Ivy League basketball history.

Hey, that was his major at Penn, back when the Quakers were "we," something that changed years ago.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Three For All

TigerBlog gets a billion emails a day. Okay, not exactly a billion. Maybe it's just a few million.

Most of them are deleted immediately, since they're obviously worthless. They actually make TB wonder how his email address ended up on some of these distribution lists, as in "who sold them TB's email address?" The government has to be involved, right?

TB often thinks back to communications he had earlier in his life, in the pre-email days, and wonders how he ever put up with it.

For instance, back when TB first started working here, he used to have to actually mail photos back-and-forth with other Ivy League schools, especially for football game programs.

TB still has nightmares about having to piece together head shots, captains shot, four actions shots, head shot of the University president and athletic director and then send them off to Dartmouth, lest the late, great (and highly intimidating) Kathy Slattery not have them in time for her deadline.

TB remembers one time when Slattery called to remind him that she hadn't received that package, and TB went into Ralph Kramden mode, because he knew he had completely forgotten to do it.

These days, of course, there are no such things as actual photos, at least not in the athletic communications realm. Everything is digital and emailable.

Of course, the flip side of that is that the phone doesn't ring as much and as a result, interpersonal communication has suffered radically. As much as Slattery and TB would butt heads, there was still something nice about hearing her voice on the other end of the phone, even it was to scold TB.

These days, email have taken all that away. TB's phone rarely rings, and he can't remember the last time he had a conversation like the ones he used to have with Slats.

Most emails, as TB said, get deleted with out ever having been opened. Of the rest, a few are kept for a long time, and TB has emails archived from as far back as Sept. 9, 2003, an email from former publications director entitled "back in the day" and beginning with "You know you worked in the OAC in 2001-2002 if ..."

The message then has a bunch of bullet points, which, if you did work here then, makes you crack up like few other things can and if you didn't work here, makes you say "what's funny about that," such as:
* You get there early to make sure you get Tuna
* You're sure the record book is updated
* You've actually talked about squash at the water cooler
* You love Luis

Every now and then, TB gets an email that's a little out of the ordinary, such as the one the other day from a newspaper looking to put a story out that includes the No. 1 three-point shot in the history of each Division I school's men's basketball program.

Princeton has made as much out of the three-point rule (which turns 25 this year) as any team. The Tigers have made at least one three in every game since the rule's enactment, and Pete Carril recognized early the value of taking three points for a shot that his team had been getting two for for years anyway.

The Tigers have had some great three-point shooters, guys like current assistant coach Brian Earl, Sean Jackson, Bob Scrabis, Gabe Lewullis, C.J. Chapman, Mike Bechtold, Chris Marquardt, Matt Lapin and through today to Douglas Davis.

Even big guys like Steve Goodrich, Judson Wallace, Chris Young and others were reliable from the outside, a fact that was not lost on the media in Honolulu when Princeton played in the 1998 Rainbow Classic. Bill Carmody was asked about it, and his response, with TigerBlog next to him:
"You have to be able to hit the three-pointer here. Everyone in the program can. Our SID can."

So for all of the threes that Princeton has made, what was the biggest? And who made it?

TB began to think of a few of them, big shots at big times. Then he considered that it had to have huge historical significance, and then it was obvious that there were two of them.

And they were both by the same guy. In a span of a week. In 1996.

So it should be pretty obvious that TB is talking about Sydney Johnson.

The first was in the playoff game against Penn at Lehigh, when Johnson hit a three from the corner with a minute to go to snap a 54-54 tie and put the Tigers on top for good.

The second came in the NCAA game against UCLA, when Princeton fell behind 41-34 after a 7-0 UCLA run.

Johnson hit a long three-pointer that made it 41-37, and it was that shot as much as anything that set the tone for the rest of what happened. Johnson's shot was from well beyond the three-point line, and it came just after Charles O'Bannon missed a layup.

Instead of being up by nine, UCLA suddenly found itself up by only four.

So which shot was bigger?

TB will go with the one in the playoff.

As much as people remember the win over UCLA, imagine how different so many things would have been had Princeton not beaten Penn.

And if Johnson's shot didn't go in and Penn got the rebound? Who knows.

So there you have it. TB's choice for the top three-pointer in Princeton history.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Say What?

TigerBlog hates when he listens to interviews where the person asking the questions is clearly reading off a script and therefore isn’t able to adjust to the way the conversation is going.

This happens all the time. The person being interviewed takes the question to a different tangent, one that suggests a rather obvious follow-up. And what does the interviewer do? Asks the next pre-determined question, which has nothing to do with where the conversation was going.

TigerBlog has been interviewing people for nearly 30 years now, and he feels like he’s pretty good at it. At the least, he’s decent.

When TB was covering high school sports, interviews consisted of exchanges such as:
“How did you think your team did?”
“I’m really proud of how hard the kids played.”

Somewhere along the line, TB graduated to doing interviews during games on the radio, first while working on the student station at Penn, which was actually pretty good experience.

During most of his time doing Princeton games on the radio, TigerBlog was responsible for doing the halftime interviews, which was fine with him. He’d just look around for a guest and usually just have a conversation with the person, with no preparation in advance.

Sometimes the person he was talking to would be finishing up a particular answer while TB scrambled for another question, but he always came up with someone.

As an aside, the only person who ever turned down TB’s interview request was the late journalist Robert Novak, who sat courtside for a Princeton-Maryland game.

Anyway, most people are rarely either interviewers or interviewed, but it’s something TigerBlog sort of takes for granted. He is rarely the interviewed and almost always the interviewer, to the point of maybe 99.9% the latter and 0.1% the former.

One of the times that TB was interviewed was a few weeks ago, when a reporter from the Harvard Crimson called and wanted to talk about whether or no Princeton’s Department of Athletics had any policies to either limit or monitor the social networking done by its athletes.

TB’s answer was simple: “No.”

When asked why that was the case, TB’s answer sparked this exchange:

TB: “How old are you?”
Kid from Crimson: “18.”
TB: “If someone tried to tell you what to do, what would you do?”
Kid from Crimson: “The opposite.”

TigerBlog thought back to that when he saw on the news earlier this week a story about how Villanova University’s Department of Athletics had hired an outside company to keep tabs on the Twitter and Facebook posts of Wildcat athletes.

This is a complex issue at this point in time, when Twitter especially has become the primary way that people communicate their opinions, as opposed to when it used be done through interviews.

Because of how easy it is to set up a Twitter account and then say basically anything a person wants (in 140 characters or less, of course), the potential for saying the wrong thing is omnipresent.

Just look at the case of high school football player Yuri Wright, who lost out on several scholarship offers and was expelled from New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep for racially and sexually explicit Tweets (though he did make a commitment to attend Colorado).

Or the case of Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola, who was suspended for the NCAA quarterfinals (which Lehigh lost to eventual-champion North Dakota State) not even for what he wrote on Twitter but for what he forwarded.

So what is an athletic department to do?

Well, the best advice TB can give is to educate the athletes on what can happen and then hope they listen. To mandate rules or to censor? It’s not going to go over well.

Of course, the advice of "be smart" encompasses all kinds of things.

There are the obvious issues about staying away from the profane and the inappropriate. There are NCAA compliance issues. There are team issues. There are competitive advantage issues.

Ultimately, the main reason not to have a firm policy about any of this stuff is that it won't really matter in the long run anyway. Either the athletes are going to take the advice or they're not.

TigerBlog can't remember any issues that have come up to date at Princeton on this subject, or at least anything that caused a problem that even came close to rivaling the cases of Wright and Spadola.

Clearly, the potential is there for a similar situation. All it would take is a lapse in judgement by an 18- to 22-year old to start the ball rolling.

Is it going to happen one day?


Would imposing huge restrictions on the athletes stop it?

Not a chance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everyone's Friend

Herbert Springer was about as far from being a Princeton man as anyone.

A New York guy from start to finish, Herbert - TigerBlog's Uncle Herbie - fought in Europe and the Pacific in World War II, drove a cab in New York City and finally opened a drug store of sorts (cosmetics, candy, greeting cards, that kind of stuff) on the corner of Flatlands and Flatbush in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, as TigerBlog was driving his cousin Toby's best friend Esther from Brooklyn out to Long Island - on the occasion of Toby's funeral - Esther (who flew in from Colorado) asked what TB remembered about his uncle, who died just short of his 52nd birthday.

"Everything," TB said.

In fact, TigerBlog has never forgotten a detail about his uncle, a man who was a complete character in every way. He can still see his face and hear his voice, and most of all he can see the captain's hat he always wore.

What did TB remember, Esther asked.

TB remembers how his uncle would eat his eggs sunny-side up and runny (Esther suggests that he ate them three at a time), always in his boxers. How when TB would be there, his uncle would cut his bagel and put butter on one side and lox on the other.

He loved the beach, which always meant a summer in a bungalow in the Rockaways, where he'd put on his hat and play pinochle with his friends.

To be around Herbie Springer was to laugh, to carry on, to have a good time. He had friends, sure, but he was also the kind to make friends with everyone he encountered - strangers on the street, people who wandered into his store, friends of his nephew.

One day, when TB was about six or seven, he was in his uncle's store, where his uncle let him make change in the cash register for customers (and take candy off the shelves whenever he wanted). As his uncle stood behind him, TB gave the change to a man, though it turned out to be too much change.

His uncle watched, obviously aware that TB had given back too much money. The man with the money laughed and pointed it out and then returned the extra.

TB thought his uncle would be mad at him. Instead, he looked at TB and said: "if that ever happens to you, you give back the money, because it's not yours. You never take anything that's not yours."

Toby was the younger of Herbie and Edie's two children, and TB's aunt and cousin Gale were there yesterday as Toby was laid to rest next to her father. Upon arriving at the cemetery, TB saw his uncle's grave for the first time in years, and there, across the top, above where it said "Herbert Springer," were the words "Everyone's Friend."

Toby was 56 years old when she suffered a massive heart attack Saturday morning and then passed away a day later. In TB's family, death appears to come in the 50s, 80s or 90s, but never in the 60s or 70s. And it appears to be fairly evenly split, for reasons that escape TB.

Except for some time in San Diego, Toby lived her life in Brooklyn, spending her last years living with her mother in the same apartment on Ocean Avenue where Herbie had eaten all those sunny-side up eggs all those years ago. She survived two major car accidents, including one when she was six years old, which left her one kidney short for the rest of her life.

At her funeral, she was remembered by those closest to her - especially her long-time boyfriend Sam - for her love for her friends and family, for all of the cards that she would send for any and all occasions, for the way she could scribble so much onto the back of one little postcard.

They talked about her big heart and how, like her father, she too was "Everyone's Friend."

When TB thought of his cousin, he thought of her incredible ability to talk to people, any people, always with her thick Brooklyn accent. TB always said that she had a heart as big as her mouth - and he meant that with great affection.

TB's favorite story about his cousin is the one that BrotherBlog told about how when Toby came to visit him when he lived in an apartment building once, she woke up around 5 in the morning and went to the lobby, where she read the magazines out of everyone's mailboxes.

Another is the time that former equipment manager Hank Towns came into TB's office to talk about the 30 minutes he'd just spent on the phone with TB's "relation."

If you know Hank, you know that he's not the kind of person who wanted to be distracted from his task because someone wanted to make small talk on the phone.

At the same time, you also know that Hank's bark is way worse than his bite.

It took TB about two seconds to figure out which "relation" Hank was talking about. It had to be Toby, who 1) would get TB's phone number wrong, 2) get Hank on the phone and 3) wouldn't let him get off the phone.

Hank was more humored than annoyed by it, the way that Toby wouldn't let him off the phone, the way she talked about herself and grilled him on his life.

TB was out all day yesterday at the funeral.

He didn't miss much at Princeton, apparently, as first semester exams roll along.

Stories posted on goprincetontigers.com yesterday were limited, with a story about how men's basketball player Will Barrett is withdrawing from school because of his injury and a nice-looking information central page for the upcoming EIWA wrestling championships.

On a normal Tuesday, TB would have been wearing something that said "Princeton" on it, in orange and black, with a swoosh on it.

Instead, he was wearing a shirt and tie, at a funeral for someone else who died too young.

It was doubly sad for TB, especially when he stood in front of his uncle's grave, hearing FatherBlog point out that he's been there - buried with his captain's hat - for 34 years now.

TB thought about his uncle, and as he did, he couldn't help but wonder what he'd be like had he lived, what kind of impact he would have had on TB, how much TB would have liked to have spent time with him as an adult, not just as a child.

And then Toby's casket was placed next to the grave, and TB thought about all the times his talked to his cousin and said that he had to go, that'd he catch up with her later, another time.

Unfortunately, that opportunity is gone now, forever. Sadly.

And now she's next to her father. "Everyone's Friend," father and daughter.

Both cut down way too soon.

Aleha Hashalom, Toby.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If A Is Greater Than B ...

TigerBlog was a big geometry fan when he was in high school.

His teacher was a woman named Mrs. Mancuso, who was fairly straight-forward about it all, though hey, how exciting can geometry be?

TB remembers one test where he solved (proved?) the theorem, even though there was a typo in it and it was said to be unable to be done correctly. As a result, the rest of the class was given the question correctly, and TB and the other kid who solved it (proved it?) got extra credit.

Mostly, geometry appealed to TigerBlog for the same reason that physics did, because it sort of made sense just by looking at it.

Chemistry was the worst for TB, because it was all small reactions that had little rhyme or reason to it. Seriously, two moles of this and three moles of that make four moles of something else?

Who could keep that straight?

Biology wasn't TB's favorite either, since it was sort of messy. He did have a friend who had to dissect cats in advanced biology, and she and her partner named their cat "Pieces," which was funny, if not in questionable taste.

Meanwhile, back at math, TB always did well, regardless of the subject. Algebra. Geometry. Calculus.

As an aside, he can help Little Miss TigerBlog with her math more than he can TigerBlog Jr. with his, which means that TB is now operating on a middle school level.

Anyway, one of TB's favorite parts of geometry was the whole transitive property and all that.

You know if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.

It wasn't up there with the joy of one of those "solve for x" equations where there are all kinds of things going in numerators and denominators and then finally it ends up with something like x/5=25 or something simple like that and it was obvious that everything had been done correctly.

Still, there was something about having the absolute knowledge that if A was greater than B and B was greater than C, then there was nothing C could do about it, no matter how hard C tried.

Of course, TB has heard a million times that the transitive property does not extend to sports.

Therefore, it's not true that if Team A beat Team B and Team B beat Team C that Team A is definitely going to beat Team C.

That's a pity, because consider that the following four statements are all true:

In men's basketball this season ...
* Florida State beat Duke at Duke
* Florida State beat North Carolina by 33
* Florida State lost at home to Princeton
* Florida State lost on a neutral court to Harvard

In other words, Florida State is 2-0 against the two behemoths of the ACC and 0-2 against the Ivy League.

Alas, the transitive property doesn't apply to sports, as we know. Otherwise, Princeton would be better than North Carolina and Duke.

Of course, you could start one of those long chains with so-and-so beat so-and-so, as in:

Duke lost to Florida State who lost to Princeton who lost to Morehead State who lost to South Dakota who lost to South Dakota State who lost to North Dakota who lost to Bradley whose athletic director is Mike Cross, who used to work here at Princeton.

Ah, but that's just for fun. And why wouldn't it be?

Nothing's that big a deal around here right now, not with first semester exams ongoing.

Princeton's next men's basketball game is Monday, when the Tigers head to the Palestra to take on the Penn Quakers. Princeton is 1-1 in the Ivy League; Penn is 2-0.

By then, either Yale or Harvard will no longer be among the unbeatens, as the teams meet Friday in New Haven in a game that is already sold out.

Princeton will go from a long drought of no games (and longer with no Division I home games) to an all-out sprint in the league, as it always does.

Upon returning to the court, Princeton will in fact play 12 games in 36 days, as the Ivy League championship sorts itself out. The Tigers follow their trip to Penn with another to Yale and Brown, meaning that the first five league games will be on the road.

Princeton finally returns to Jadwin Gym on Feb. 10/11 against Dartmouth and Harvard. By then, it will have been 72 days - a shocking number - since Princeton played a home game against a Division I team.

Harvard is ranked in the Top 25 in one poll and is on the cusp in the other. Still, this doesn't look like a one-sided league race. Maybe a great deal will be learned Friday night in New Haven.

On the women's side, there are two unbeaten teams, Princeton at 3-0 and Harvard at 1-0.

For any of the schools who already has a loss, there is the need to sweep Princeton during the season, or get help from another school. For Harvard, there is the need not to lose a game to anyone else.

In other words, Princeton, the preseason favorite, is playing with some margin for error.

Meanwhile, nobody around here is playing anything, at least for another week, when there will be track and field and swimming and diving this weekend and then hockey in the beginning of next week.

So while the students study and take tests, TigerBlog has plenty of time to have fun with the transitive property.

Just like in the old days of Mrs. Mancuso's class.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Football Thoughts

TigerBlog pulled into the parking lot this morning to find assistant football coaches Bill McCord and Andrew Aurich leaving, on their way to the hospital to see running back Chuck Dibilio.

By all accounts, Dibilio is making progress and should be able to leave ICU for a private room, probably today.

In a world where attention span diminishes every day and the ability to get immediate answers is usually no further away than your phone, there is no simple or quick solution to the questions that everyone - Princeton fan or not - has about Dibilio.

Will he be able to return to school and be able to resume his work as if nothing happened?

Will he play football again?

Everyone is rooting for two yeses, though everyone would settle for yes to the first one.

This weekend was devoid of any Princeton athletic activity, as first-semester exam break is a week old.

Without any games to attend, TB found himself watching the ones on television - and thinking about some of the larger questions that sports in this culture raise.

It started with the news about Dibilio Friday.

Here was Princeton's top football player, a completely healthy, formidable 19-year-old, in the hospital with a stroke How does that happen? How does anyone even begin to get a handle on that?

TigerBlog watched the AFC and NFC championship games - except for a big stretch in the Giants-49ers game where he had to pick up TigerBlog Jr. at the train station and found that the roads were emptier at that moment than basically any other time he can remember - yesterday and couldn't help but wonder about the future of the sport.

The violence is getting so dangerous, and yet it seems so easy to fix. Require defenders to tackle with their arms, or make the rule that no part of the defender's body can contact the ball-carrier before the arms and hands.

In other words, no turning the body into a missile and leading with the shoulder or even worse, the head.

Maybe those hits look so much worse in super slow-motion, but it just seems like there's just too much force wiping these guys out. And it's needless, all designed not to achieve the end result of ending the play or breaking up the pass but to make a statement about how hard someone can hit or, even worse, just to get on the highlights or plays of the week.

The worse part, of course, is the example it sets for the high school or even youth players, the overwhelming majority of whom will never play on a level higher.

And yet for all its danger and excesses - and its attempt to use the instant replay rules to destroy the excitement of the game - there is nothing in American culture quite like football.

In the year 2011, nine of the top 10 highest-rated television broadcasts in this country were football games (the 10th was the Academy Awards).

What else would bring that many people out in weather as cold as it was in New England yesterday or as miserable as it was in San Francisco?

What else could attract that viewership?

What else could clear Interstate 95 on a Sunday evening?

The NFL Network series about Super Bowl champions entitled "America's Game" is pretty accurate. Baseball? America's Pastime? Maybe in a past time.

Today, it's all football, all the time.

The Giants are TigerBlog's favorite team, so he's naturally happy about the way the game turned out. Somewhat shockingly, a team that in the beginning of the year was being lambasted for its lack of aggressiveness in personnel moves compared to the Jets and Eagles is now in the Super Bowl.

As an aside, this most be galling to Rex Ryan.

An another aside, one of TB's all-time favorite Princeton athletes - Marc Ross - is the Giants director of college scouting.

As a further aside, with all the money spent on scouting and the draft and all, nobody figured out Victor Cruz was fast and had great hands?

For all of it, though, the one football-related issue that stuck with TB most this weekend was the death of Joe Paterno.

The legendary Penn State coach, who won more games than any other major college football coach ever, died after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 85.

Had Paterno died a year ago, or even a few months ago, his story would have been much different.

In many ways, Paterno was the major college version of much of what is sacred here at Princeton, a big-time embodiment of the phrase "Education Through Athletics."

For much of his career, Paterno was a philanthropist, educator, father-figure - a man of unimpeachable integrity and family values.

And then this fall happened, and all that was left to be questioned.

And, message to ESPN, nobody wanted to hear from Jerry Sandusky about what a great guy Joe Paterno was. It made TigerBlog's skin crawl - and TB is pretty sure that everyone else felt the same way.

Sandusky, of course, is an accused child molester, and though TB understands that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, it doesn't look like Sandusky is innocent here.

And nothing will ever convince TigerBlog that Joe Paterno didn't know - or at the very least, should have done more to find out - exactly what Sandusky was doing in his lockerroom, in his shower room.

TB has struggled through this whole story to figure out what Paterno's culpability is.

On the one hand, TB can't imagine a way that Paterno didn't know the exact details or enough of them that he should have put the safety of young boys well above anything else to do with his program.

On the other hand, if Paterno did know all that and didn't do anything to stop it because he valued the brand of Joe Paterno and Penn State football over the safety of little boys, then he's nothing short of evil.

And TB can't believe that Joe Paterno would know what was going on and sit on it that way. But at the same time, he had to have known, and he clearly didn't stop it.

When the news of Paterno's death came, those were TB's thoughts - that and the way he tried so hard to stay on as the football coach even after the scandal broke.

In a million years, TigerBlog would never have imagined that this would be the way the last four months of Joe Paterno's life would go. It is as shocking as any sports story TB can ever remember, except for O.J., and in some ways, this is worse. Actually, many ways.

TigerBlog Jr. played in the Keystone State Games last summer, and the tournament was held on fields outside Beaver Stadium. TB took a picture of TBJ with the Joe Paterno statue next to the stadium, and it was a pretty good one.

When the scandal broke, TB was too appalled to keep it, so he deleted it.

In years to come, when TB thinks back about Joe Paterno, part of him is going to remember all the good he did, all of the people he impacted for the better, the great influence he had one sport and society.

Then he'll think to the last four months of Paterno's life, and he won't be able to do that.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Get Well, Chuck

TigerBlog can't see without his glasses, so he wasn't 100% sure he was seeing the words of the early-morning text message correctly.

When he put his glasses on to confirm the words, he believed what he was seeing even less.

Chuck Dibilio, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year in football, had suffered a stroke? At the age of 19?

No way. No chance. TB had to be missing something.

All fall, TigerBlog was like every other Princeton fan, on the edge of his seat every time Dibilio touched the ball. And now he was being helicoptered from Princeton Medical Center to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, for emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain?

Dibilio ran for 1,068 yards as a freshman, earning first-team All-Ivy honors to go with the Rookie of the Year award. A six-time Ivy Rookie of the Week, he was a threat on any play to do something big, and he routinely turned two yards into 10 or 10 into 30.

He ran for 135 yards at Harvard. He went to Franklin Field and put up 130 yards.

As Princeton heads down the rebuilding process, Dibilio was the cornerstone of the program.

And now he was in a hospital with a stroke?

No wonder the words were so unbelievable.

TB would guess that everybody who hears the news goes through the same quick progression that he did: 1) this can't be true, 2) how is his health, 3) what is his prognosis, 4) will he be able to play football again, 5) how could anyone be thinking about football now.

The first thought is how he's doing, which isn't completely known at this time, though his father suggests some early positive words. There is no question that anyone would wish him a full recovery, even if it meant the end of his football career.

TB thought of Tedy Bruschi, the New England Patriots linebacker who suffered a stroke and returned to play in the NFL. Now on ESPN, Bruschi appears to be the picture of great health and physical condition.

And he thought about Jordan Culbreath, another Princeton running back who battled back from a life-threatening disease and returned to the football field. Culbreath is as inspirational as any athlete TB has come across in his quarter-center around here.

TB is hardly a medical person. He has no idea about any of this stuff, so all he can do is what everyone else can do, which is to keep Chuck Dibilio and his family in his his thoughts right now.

TigerBlog doesn't know Dibilio more than from a few postgame interviews and some interaction in Jadwin. He seems like a nice kid, one who took his success and the expectations that grew along with it in stride.

Now he's in a hospital bed.

The unfairness level of that is off the charts.

TB just glanced up and looked out the window as he frequently does, where outside sits the football stadium. TB can see the last booth on the end of the press box, from where he does the public address for home games.

He envisions three more years of watching No. 23 with the ball, of saying things like "Princeton touchdown by Chuck Dibilio" many times over.

He hopes with all his heart that Dibilio hasn't been robbed of that opportunity as a football player.

More than that, though, he hopes that this is just a minor setback for him in his life, that when he looks back through the years and tells the story, it starts out with "I'm fine; I'm lucky they caught it in time."

That would be the perfect ending to this story, one that began with words that TB didn't want to believe, words he doubts anyone else wanted to when they first saw them as well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's Over

TigerBlog is a longtime Knicks' fan, dating back to when FatherBlog yelled and then fell off the coach when Jerry West made his game-tying (would have been game-winning had the three-point rule been in effect), buzzer-beating shot from beyond halfcourt in Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals.

As an aside, the Knicks somehow regrouped and won that game.

The Knicks would win the 1970 NBA Finals and then win again in 1973. Since then, the closest the team has come to another title is 1994, when the Rockets beat the Knicks in Game 7 of an epic series. New York lost the last game 86-84 on a night when John Starks shot 2 for 18, including 0 for 10 in the fourth quarter.

To show you how much Knicks' fans liked Starks, he remains beloved to this day, rather than vilified for his epically bad night.

TigerBlog's least favorite college player of all time, at least until J.J. Redick came along, was Patrick Ewing. TB couldn't stand Georgetown of the mid-1980s, and Ewing was the face of the program.

Somehow, Ewing went from that to being one of TB's two favorite NBA players ever, along with Julius Erving. And Georgetown is now his favorite college team that doesn't play its home games within 30 feet or so of where he's currently writing.

The Knicks of today? Unwatchable. Unrootable. There was the briefest stretch last year when it seemed like the team was on the right path, but all that was erased when the team got Carmelo Anthony (nothing against him per se, other than the idea of building a team around as many stars as possible, rather than as a team).

Plus, the whole James Dolan part makes it even worse.

For all that, TB has found himself pulling for a team in the opposite direction from Princeton, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Why not? The team is doing well. The tickets are reasonably priced (honestly, they are). They have players and a coach who seem likeable.

TB was watching the end of the Sixers last night, instead of the Knicks. At the same time, he was texting with Craig Sachson, who works with TB in the OAC and who is, along with men's lacrosse coach Chris Bates, one of the two actual, legitimate fans of the Philadelphia 76ers that TB knows.

Anyway, the game got away from the Sixers, who lost to the Denver Nuggets.

Sachson is always good for some quality sarcasm, and his texts reflected his disappointment.

About an hour after the game, TB had another new message, and he expected more Sixers.

This one was from Sachson, only it wasn't about the NBA.

It said simply: "Yale 5, Trinity 4."

It was startling, causing TB to jolt. Yale 5, Trinity 4?

The streak was over.

After 252 consecutive wins, the Trinity men's squash team finally lost. For the first time since 1998, the Bantams were beaten.

If there was ever an "evil empire" of an opponent, it's been Trinity men's squash.

TigerBlog's contention is that had it been more of a mainstream sport, then the 2009 national final between Princeton and Trinity - won by the Bantams 5-4 in a six-hour gut-wrenching marathon - would be considered among the greatest collegiate sporting events of all time. As it was, anyone who was here that day, even for a small part of it, will never forget it.

This year figured to be the year that someone picked off Trinity.

Princeton's next match is at Trinity, though it is still two weeks away. Oh, did the Tigers want to be the ones to snap the streak.

Now, with the streak a thing of the past, the bigger question is this: Who will emerge as the national champion?

For the last billion years, it's basically been Trinity as the prohibitive favorite. This year? It could be any of four teams - Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Trinity.

The Tigers own a 5-4 win over the Crimson in the regular season. Yale just beat Trinity. Harvard beat Yale 5-4 in the Ivy League's preseason tournament, which doesn't count in the regular-season standings. Harvard is at Trinity Saturday and then plays Yale Feb. 12.

It all builds to the national championships, Feb. 17-19, in Jadwin Gym.

The last time they finals were here, they were amazing drama.

This year, it's a different kind of drama, more of a wide-open, nobody-knows-who's-going-to-win thing.

It's not to be missed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

To Hear Your Message, Press 1

TigerBlog was in all day departmental retreat yesterday, one that began at 8 am with some really good breakfast sandwiches (TB had the bacon and egg and followed it up with a bagel with lox) and ended around 5 with a nice antipasto.

In between was lunch, some snacks and a lot of discussion about the past, present and future of the Princeton University Department of Athletics.

It's a twice-a-year exercise, one that gathers a group of people who have vastly different roles, skills and backgrounds, all in the name of Princeton Athletics. It features some discussion, some reporting, some data analysis, some ragging on each other.

In all there were 29 people around the table, and TB wonders how many of them could take a blank seating chart today and correctly fill in where everyone was sitting. TB isn't 100% sure of what the order was at the far end of the table to his left.

Anyway, the group took a few five-minute breaks through the day, breaks that normally extended to 10 or even 15 minutes.

During those breaks, TB always looked on his computer to check his email (and considered getting a smart phone).

At no point of the day did he check his voicemail at work.

When TB first started working here, voicemail was a huge deal. Almost everything revolved around learning the voicemail system, which was pretty tricky.

Within the system, there are messages and mailboxes, passwords, menus and any number of other sometimes confusing elements.

The old Tiger Sportsline was all about the voicemail system, and it was important to update and erase messages rather than the mailbox headings themselves. A few times, people did it backwards, plunging the Sportsline into chaos.

Accessing voicemail at Princeton requires dialing 609.258.6423. Within the University, extensions are always listed as 8 and then the number, so in the case of voicemail, it's always listed as 8-6423, or VOICE using the letters on the keypad.

Once connected to the system, the first thing you'll hear is a woman's voice that says "thank you for calling voicemail at Princeton University." TB isn't sure who the woman is, but he does know that it used to be a man's voice and that man's name was Tom Heller. One day, Tom Heller came into the office here, and it was like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman had come in, with a voice so instantly recognizable.

At some point, your mailbox can't accommodate any more messages, and so the person attempting to leave one hears the dreaded "the mailbox belonging to so-and-so is full." TB thinks it might be 14 messages max.

In the mid-'90s, TB got dozens of voicemails a day and hundreds each month. The telephone office used to send a printout each month with the number of voicemails, and TB used to be impressed by how many people would call and leave messages needing stuff.

Of course, email has basically wiped out communicating by telephone. These days, TB hardly has any voicemails.

When he came in this morning, he realized that he'd never checked voicemail yesterday. The little black arrow next to the "message" button on his phone was lit, indicating that he had at least one.

To access voicemails, you have to dial into the system and enter the password, and then the lady's voice tells you how many messages you have. TB had one, and it wasn't even for him - it was for another person in the office.

For all that, the days of checking voicemail are dwindling. The University is going away from the voicemail system, and all voicemails will be sent directly to each person's email account, to be listened to via computer or phone.

TB is fine with that, as technology marches on.

Of course, whenever he thinks of voicemail, he'll think back to the day after Princeton beat UCLA in the 1996 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Sitting in the mammoth media room at the RCA Dome (which no longer exists, by the way), TigerBlog would check his messages (14?) and then, by the time he'd returned all those calls (almost all to radio stations or newspapers looking to talk to Pete Carril or a player), he'd check his mailbox again - and it'd already be full.

This went on for what seemed like hours. At one point, TB got manager Miles Clark on a radio station in, he believes, Detroit.

Eventually the rush calmed down - or so he thought. Upon returning to his hotel room, TB had another 25 messages waiting for him.

Anyway, that's what TB will remember most about voicemail, just something else that used to be an everyday part of working here that hardly exists anymore, if it exists at all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free Association

TigerBlog was driving TigerBlog Jr. somewhere Sunday when he got a text with the final score of the women's basketball game. Princeton 94, Columbia 35.

How much did Princeton win by, TB asked TBJ, who answered 59.

TB then followed that by saying "are you sure?" To that, TBJ fumbled, as if he'd gotten the original question wrong.

Before he could come back with a different answer, TB told him he was right the first time and that he shouldn't let TB talk him out of the right answer.

It was a flashback for TB, back to a time in high school when a teacher gave the class a test and then, before grading it, gave it back to everyone the next day and told them they could change any answers they wanted. It was all part of an experiment to see what would happen, and the result was that a high number of correct answers were changed to incorrect.

Later that year, the same teacher gave a true/false test in which every question was true (and relatively obviously so), only to learn that the students were largely afraid to put down "true" for every answer. TB caught on, as he recalls, and went "true" with every answer, even the very few he wasn't sure were correct.

TB was never a fan of true/false tests. He much preferred essay tests, which he viewed as tests of what he knew, rather than true/false or multiple choice, which he viewed as tests of what he didn't know.

At one point, TB was a high school baseball umpire, and to do so required passing a test that consisted of 50 true/false questions. TB got one wrong, and he knew the rule itself.

The rulebook, at least at the time, said that medical alert bracelets could be worn if they were taped to the player's chest, rather than simply as a bracelet.

On the test, there was a question that asked "are medical alert bracelets permitted?" Well, yes and no. So TB said true, only they were looking for false, since they couldn't be worn as bracelets.

Fortunately, TB knew the other rules, like three strikes and you're out and stuff like that.

So where were we? Free-associating? Okay, well, then:

* the 59-point Princeton women's basketball win over Columbia is, TB believes, the largest margin of victory by a Princeton team (men's or women's) ever at Jadwin Gym.

* when you're watching a game on TV and they come up with a stat like this one: "In their history, the Houston Texans have only won one game when they trailed by 14 points or more in the first quarter," how do they know that so quickly? TB wishes he had some mechanism like that at his disposal here, so he wouldn't have to look up every basketball game ever played at Jadwin Gym.

* that was a pretty big win in men's squash for Princeton over Harvard the other day, especially since No. 1 player and defending individual champ Todd Harrity lost his match. Princeton's win gives it a huge leg up in the league (though Yale among others is still out there), and there is always the brass ring of college squash, the chance to beat Trinity, preferably in the national finals Feb. 17-19 at Jadwin Gym.

* TB was playing squash Monday at Jadwin when the lights went out on D level, plunging court nine in total darkness. A let was played.

* BrotherBlog lives in Seattle, which means it snowed on him the last two days. Better him than TB.

* TB has only worn his heavy Princeton Athletics winter coat twice this winter to date, which is good. He's mostly been wearing his women's basketball jacket, which is more orange than black or white. It's very comfortable, but it's unlikely that TB would wear it if he didn't work at Princeton.

* Trivia quiz - Ian Hummer, who has 967 career points, has scored in double figures in every Princeton game this year. If he can maintain that for the rest of the season, he would become the first Princeton player since who to be in double figures in every game. Answer below.

* TB read a story that said that a researcher in England concluded that the third Monday in January (yesterday) is the most depressing day of the year, because of a combination of time elapsed from Christmas, failed New Year's resolutions, debt and weather. TB wasn't depressed at all yesterday. If TB had to guess the most depressing day of the year, it's the one when the clocks get turned back in the fall, when it first gets dark around 5.

* One thing TB wishes he could have looked up easily was the last time Princeton had two players score at least 25 points in game (Hummer and Douglas Davis did so against Florida State) and the last time before Hummer in that game that a Princeton player had at least 25 points and 15 rebounds.

* Did you see that Florida State beat North Carolina by 33? And the great quote from Roy Williams afterwards: "Princeton's defense must be a hell of a lot better than ours. They can hold them to 10 points in a half and we give up 8,000."

* Like Ian Hummer, Niveen Rasheed is closing in on 1,000, as she heads into exam break with 931 points. She would have about 1,250 or so had she not torn her ACL a year ago and missed 19 games, and that injury might cost her the all-time record of 1,683, held by Sandi Bittler.

* Niveen has been named the Ivy League Player of the Week this past week. It's her fourth honor of the season and seventh in her career, along with nine Rookie of the Year honors freshman year.

* If Niveen Rasheed isn't the Ivy League Player of the Year, something's wrong. And it has nothing to do with how many points she or anyone else scores. There's nothing she can't do on the basketball court (except dunk, TB presumes).

* Why have instant replay in sports if clearly obvious plays like the fumble by Greg Jennings in the Giants-Packers game aren't overturned? There is no point to the replay rule, which has deteriorated into a 50-50 guess that has no rhyme or reason and only serves to cause officials to be uncertain about calls and to disrupt the flow of the game.

* Princeton coach Courtney Banghart asked Little Miss TigerBlog who her favorite player was after Friday night's win over Cornell. LMTB said "No. 24." That's Rasheed.

* LMTB was there with her friend Wiki, and they met up with Dani, who plays on LMTB's basketball team, and another friend of Dani's. TB is pretty sure that Dani is in the top two or three on the basketball team in rebounds, despite the fact that she is the shortest player on the team - and probably the shortest player the team has seen all year.

* Not that it's easy to remember now, but the Giants lost their opener badly to the Redskins after a preseason in which there was a great deal of criticism for a lack of aggressive moves. It just shows that in the NFL, very few players are actual legitimate difference-makers. It's more important to have the right mix.

* Trivia question hint - it's not Bill Bradley. Or Brian Taylor. In fact, it's been in the last 25 years.

* TigerBlog has always thought Eli Manning was a top quarterback who played his best in big situations. Now he's starting to think he might be a Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

* The last time the Giants played the 49ers in the NFC championship game, TB watched the game at his friend Corey's house back when he was living in Woodbridge. TB is pretty sure that Corey's son Jonathan, now a Cornell sophomore, wasn't born yet. He also remembers that when he would go there after Jonathan was born, Corey would play with the baby toys and say "one day you'll understand."

* Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Trevor Tierney was one of three people with Princeton connections inducted into the New Jersey lacrosse Hall of Fame Sunday night, along with Peter Cordrey (goalie who graduated in 1982 and who was honored for his work in youth lacrosse in Summit) and head women's coach Chris Sailer (who is in the New England and Pennsylvania Halls of Fame, as well as the national Hall of Fame). TB thinks that Trevor has a pretty good shot at the national Hall of Fame as well - not too many have won NCAA, Major League Lacrosse and World Championships while also being named the top player at their position in a World Championship. He also has worked in youth lacrosse and has helped Denver to the NCAA Final Four as an assistant coach.

* Trevor also writes a blog. Interesting stuff: scroll down.

* Congratulations to Corporal Paul Deppi of the Newtown (Pa.) Police Department on his recent promotion. Deppi, known as Coach Deppi to hundreds of Lower Bucks Lacrosse players through the years, is the perfect youth coach for the average 3rd to 6th grader. His rate of getting former players to never forget him and to learn from him is about 100%.

* Princeton enters the 2012 men's lacrosse season with three players who were drafted in the MLL draft: Tyler Fiorito (seventh pick), Chad Wiedmaier (10th), John Cunningham (46th). TB, for one, cannot wait for the season, which starts five weeks from Saturday for the Tigers - and way earlier for some others in Division I.

* The men's hockey team had itself an outstanding weekend, going 1-0-1 against nationally ranked Colgate and Cornell. Princeton beat Colgate 6-2 Friday and then in what certainly felt like a win tied Cornell 3-3 after trailing 3-0 entering the third period.

* Didn't watch the Golden Globes. Won't watch the Oscars. Used to never miss the Oscars, except when it'd go head-to-head with the NCAA men's basketball championship game.

* Princeton is in fifth place in the ECAC men's hockey standings off that big weekend, though it has played more games than any other team. With the top 11 in the 12-team league separated by seven points, the goal is to be home in the first round (if a top four finish and first round bye doesn't happen).

* Do we think that the Packers would have won the game had they not rested Aaron Rodgers in Week 17? TB doesn't.

* TB saw "A Game of Honor" over the weekend, the documentary about Army and Navy football. Watch it, if you get the chance. Those people are amazing.

* TB tweeted during some of the recent women's basketball games. He's not really into it, though he gets it. For him, 140 characters is a little limiting. On the other hand, it's definitely replaced the concept of getting a quote from someone.

* On second thought, maybe he could get into Twitter. It certainly affords the opportunity to be creative. His problem with it is that it's all part of the culture of celebrity that is sort of destroying American society. Beyond that, it could be fun.

* Trivia answer? Alan Williams, in 1986-87. You didn't get it, did you?

Hey, this was fun.

TB will have to do it again sometime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Free At Last, Free At Last

When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

The United States has 10 officially recognized federal holidays.

They are:
New Year's Day
The Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Washington's Birthday
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans' Day

According to the official government website, the official name of "Presidents Day" is really "Washington's Birthday," and it offers this explanation:
This holiday is designated as "Washington's Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

In other words, only one federal holiday is named after a person who was born in the United States of America.

That's a fairly large group of people, a group that has accomplished some of the singularly greatest moments in the history of mankind, in every single area of human existence (science, religion, government, athletics, women's equality, economics, discovery and on and on and on).

Only one, Martin Luther King Jr., has ever been honored by a federal holiday in his name.

Dr. King was the driving force in the civil rights movement, and his non-violent approach helped achieve monumental successes in a struggle that had begun with an entire race of people literally in chains.

The major civil rights legislation that grew out of Dr. King's movement - with, by the way, considerable help from Princeton's John Doar - was 100 years after the end of the Civil War, which presumably was fought (at the cost of 600,000 American lives) to achieve many of the end results that would take another 10 decades.

And while the major victories of the movement weren't exactly bloodless, they had a much less violent path than anyone could have ever expected.

Ironically, Dr. King himself, a man of non-violence, saw his life cut short on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated in Memphis in most violent fashion. His role in the movement, as its centerpiece, made him an inevitable target.

It's easy to dismiss certain holidays as being nothing more than a day off from school or work (in some places), an occasion for a big sale or maybe the time for a summer picnic (beginning, middle or end).

In reality, these holidays exist to honor great people, great moments, great sacrifices in American history.

Only one of them honors a man who was born an American citizen.

Princeton University athletics have ground to halt for the next two weeks for first semester exams. It's something now unique to Princeton and its academic calendar, and it has the effect of shutting down the athletic program at a time when the rest of college athletics - especially basketball and hockey - heat up.

The Martin Luther King holiday always falls during exam break, either in the beginning or middle.

TigerBlog has come to associate the holiday with the exam break, as a Monday with no events to plan for the coming weekend.

As TB is writing this, the song "Manic Monday" by the Bangles came on his iTunes.

Around here, today is hardly a "Manic Monday."

In the country, it's hardly just "another Manic Monday."

It's a very special day, a day to remember a man who stood up, strong and unarmed, and led a movement that changed American society, very much for the better.

The only person born in America to have his own federal holiday is certainly most deserving.

From the "I Have A Dream" speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Hopefully, those words don't get lost in today's world, where so much of American society is centered around money and achieving fame for fame's sake, where so much of the political discourse is reflexively combative.

Hopefully, content of character can still be what's most important.

It certainly gives TB hope for the future.

Friday, January 13, 2012


For the last two days, TigerBlog has focused on what the future of writing - in sports in general and specifically to college websites - may or may not be.

Of one thing though, who is positive.

The more video, the better.

TigerBlog was certain of this before he watched the four-part series "24/7," which recently aired on HBO.

The documentary, which centered on the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers in the lead-up to the Winter Classic game played at Citizens' Bank Park on Jan. 2, cemented this point.

"24/7" was extraordinary in many ways, all of which take a backseat to the amazing level of access and candor that it was able to be granted. Nothing, it seemed, was off limits.

Beyond that, it seemed like the coaches and players embraced the access, either that or got used to it so quickly that they didn't even notice that cameras and crews were everywhere.

TigerBlog thought if any one area was embellished, it was in the cursing, which rivaled movies like "Goodfellas" and "Casino" for unending use of the F-bomb.

And if he had a complaint, it was with the fact that every scene that showed the players getting off a bus and walking to a lockerroom was done in the obligatory slow-motion, which makes the people walking look super cool.

Beyond that, it was an amazing look into the lives of professional athletes, who combine the ordinary day-to-day responsibilities and tasks that anyone else faces with another side that almost nobody else can possibly imagine.

On the one hand, there were players caught in traffic, players hanging with their little children, players celebrating holidays, players asking at a hotel breakfast if the second glass of orange juice was free.

On the other, there were chartered jets, adoring fans, autographs seekers, commercial opportunities, expensive restaurants and the rest of the lifestyle.

The absolute best moments, for TigerBlog?

* When the Rangers' Marian Gaborik gets his Christmas tree, for one; the site of how he carried the tree down the street to his Manhattan apartment was hilarious
* Anything that Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers' goalie, said or did
* The scene where one of the Rangers went to a game on the subway, completely unnoticed
* The time when the Flyers coaching staff went to dinner in a Manhattan restaurant and watched the Rangers game on TV

More than anything else, though, was the banter between the players. In their own lockerrooms, yes, but even more so on the ice, especially to the other players.

For instance, one of the players on, TB thinks, the Dallas Stars said to one of the Rangers that he was fifth in the league in face-offs and that he could check it on nhl.com.

Or the time that one of the Rangers called one of the Flyers the "ugliest player in the league." Or when one said to the other that he had scored two career goals.

Or when one dismissed another as "playing five minutes a night."

It all builds to the game at Citizens' Bank Park, which the Rangers won 3-2, withstanding a late penalty shot that seemed a little too made-for-TV.

Oh, and the ending is awesome.

What does this have to do with college websites?

Well, TigerBlog read a column in the Philadelphia Daily News by Stan Hochman, one of TB's all-time favorites, who had this to say about the show:
I hated it, every intrusive minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute of it. I loved the close-ups of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers' Russian goalie who pontificates about the vast universe. "Hue-mang-us" he calls it.
For the record, I hate the concept, strangers lugging cameras into places forbidden to writers, eavesdropping on conversations that are off-limits to the regular media covering the team.

It's an interesting sentiment, one TB hadn't thought of, that the access given to "strangers," in this case the HBO crew, was something that would never be given to the writers who cover the team all the time. Or probably wouldn't.

At the same time, no matter how well-written, it would be hard for a story to match the impact of the documentary.

Now yes, no college website can have that level of videography and editing.

But the idea being able to see what goes on behind the scenes is fascinating.

TB loved the "Real Ladies of Maples" series that he stumbled onto on Stanford's website, when Princeton played Stanford in women's basketball.

For that matter, he loves the videos that the OAC at Princeton has produced by giving a little flip-cam to a member of a team for a weekend and just seeing what comes back.

Of course, having video that goes to another level from what is currently done requires additional investments in staffing and equipment, which raises all kinds of other questions.

Still, the "24/7" lesson is clear, at least to TB.

People love what they can see more than what they can read.

Back on Wednesday morning, TB had merely stumbled across a new way of doing post-game stories on Rhode Island's website. At the time, he hardly suspected that it would be the start of a three-day look into how business is done and what works best.

Hey, you never know where inspiration is going to come from.

And if you haven't seen "24/7," do what you can to correct that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Guys Stink

Jon Kurian read yesterday's TigerBlog, which asked the question about what it is that people like to read and not read and gave his feedback to TB, which sort of validated the premise.

Kurian, who works in the business office (and rarely answers his phone), said that he skipped the part that had the reproduced postgame recap and went straight to the rest.

On the other hand, TB did hear from others who said that they will always value a well-written postgame story. Or that to not write one would be considered being somewhat lazy.

So, where's the answer?

TigerBlog left out one point from yesterday's discussion though, and it was a rather big one.

Actually, it's two points rolled into one.

It strikes TB that more than simply reading about a game, sports fans would rather read something that falls under the heading of "commentary." That's Point 1 that TB forgot yesterday.

Point 2, then, asks this question: Is there a place for commentary on a college website? Can a site whose very existence is built on a simple premise - "root, root, root for the home team" - balance that charge with some critical thinking, even if that requires the institution to come under scrutiny from within?

The answer is a resounding no. Just like a professional team's website isn't going to start ripping its quarterback, a college website is never going to be internally critical.

It's all about protecting the brand, controlling the message. Even when games are ridiculous blowouts or teams are struggling through terrible seasons, college websites are at least going to be objective reporters of scores and stats and more likely going to be spinning it somehow.

And as unlikely is the ability to be critical of opponents, officials, the league office - basically anyone else. It's not the purpose.

TigerBlog - the blog, not the person - is a bit unusual in college circles in that it's more like a newspaper column than it is a college website offering.

It started out as a way of doing in-game blogging for Princeton games, except that wasn't really practical, given a whole bunch of factors.

After that, it became a supplement to the website, a place for really small announcements or schedule changes or out-of-season competition notices.

The problem was that nobody read it, and it was deadly dull stuff.

Eventually, the blog drifted into what it's become, something in the way of storytelling.

In many ways, it violates much of what TB used to believe were the top rules of writing. The motto used to be "the news is the news; your reporting the news is not news."

Over time, that motto ceased to exist all across journalism, to the point where there are media members who are way more famous than the athletes they cover. And the line between the two has been ridiculously blurred.

Like most people, TB has seen the ESPN commercials, the ones with athletes pretending to be ESPN employees, mingling with the ESPN on-air types.

The one with Dwyane Wade is, like many of them, very clever. Wade sits in the editing room making his own highlights, while the SportsCenter announcer anxiously informs him that he's missed two deadlines already.

Yes, it's funny. But hey, how is ESPN supposed to objectively cover Wade now?

TigerBlog hasn't quite reached that point, but much of the blog is a first-person (okay, third-person) account of TB's experiences with Princeton Athletics, athletes, coaches, games and such - as well as his favorite movies, music, etc.

Much of it is about what he's seen and learned and heard away from the games themselves. Some of it touches up against issues of on-the-record and off-the-record.

The other side of TB is commentary (of sorts) on events - in the department, the league, nationally.

TB often will rip teams, refs even athletes and coaches, but he'll never do it where it's too close to home, as it were. Never within the league. Definitely never within the University.

He can take a stand on an issue, even if it's contrary to an established policy, but he has to be very, very careful when he does.

And that's a huge problem. The audience really wants to hear opinion, controversial and well thought out. And the audience definitely wants to have its voice heard as well, in the form of comments on the bottom of stories (something TB often skips directly to when he reads newspapers online) or from sites like the Ivy League sports board.

TB has a policy of allowing all user comments to be posted here, unless they cross the line into inappropriate language. If they are critical to the University, so be it, because Princeton has to be able to handle that if it takes all of the positive press it gets.

Still, there's no way - at least not right now - that a college website can allow itself to get too far down any road that takes it away from what its core mission is.

In other words, the words "you guys stink" can make for a nice tongue-in-cheek headline on a blog - but don't expect it to show up too many other places.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing? What's That?

TigerBlog wrote the post-game story for the first 14 women's basketball games this season.

He was just looking back at a few of them, and they weren't that bad, if he may say so himself.

Here's one, after Princeton's win over UMBC:
Just before the under-12 media timeout of the second half, UMBC's Erin Brown threw a one-handed bounce pass to a back-cutting Michelle Kurowski, who finished a reverse layup that might as well have been out of the 1998 Princeton men's basketball highlight video, most likely thrown by current men's head coach Mitch Henderson to current men's assistant coach Brian Earl.
For a team like UMBC, which has employed all kinds of elements of the traditional Princeton offense, that play was pretty to watch.
As for the Princeton women's team, its version of the Princeton offense is one that starts with defense, results in turnovers and takes small leads and turns them into big ones. From that perspective, the Princeton women's offense against UMBC early in the second half - which came as the result of six turnovers forced by the defense in a four-minute span that basically ended the game - was just as pretty to watch.
On a day on which the only number in double figures for the Tigers was the final margin of victory, Princeton defeated UMBC 56-41 in front of 612 at the RAC Arena.

TB's question is this: Does anyone read it?

TigerBlog's introduction to writing came when he was covering high school football (and eventually other sports) for the newspaper. Back then, the average story followed this format: three paragraph lead, quote from player on winning team, some play-by-play, quote from losing coach, some more play-by-play, quote from winning coach, wrap it up with some pithy line that reverts back to the lead.

Eventually, TB was able to write these in his sleep.

Most college athletic communications postgame stories have traditionally been strictly AP style, something like: Joe Smith scored 22 points, including a big three-pointer with 35 seconds left, to lead State University to a 71-65 win over University of State, followed by both teams' records and then a lot of play-by-play.

At first, TB figured school websites like goprincetontigers.com weren't the place for anything other than an AP-style story. Over time, he has done a 180 on that logic.

These days, very few people read a game story to find out the play-by-play, which is available in too many other ways, most likely on their phone, let alone computer.

So what are they looking for postgame?

Well, one of TB's theories is that they're not looking for much to read after a game and that the audience is much more interested in what's coming next than what just happened.

As it happened, TB stumbled upon the website for the University of Rhode Island, and what he found there was somewhat surprising. And extremely interesting.

Basically, URI isn't writing postgame stories at all on its gorhody.com site. Instead, its post-event offerings are somewhat unique.

What the Rams are doing is putting up a box score, each team's statistical leaders and then a few notes under the heading "inside the box score," ending with a "what's next" section.

Is this the future?

TB asked TB-Baltimore, who then referred him to Loyola's website and its recap from its most recent men's basketball game.

While the handsome young man in front of the camera may look and sound like a professional sportscaster, it's actually Ryan Eigenbrode, who is essentially the school's sports information director. Ryan works with a videographer, who then presumably puts together the package and posts it along with Ryan's story.

Is this the future?

Well, the problem with the Loyola model is that it requires choices to be made. Do you do it for every sport? Just, as appears to be Loyola's case, for men's basketball?

If you do it for every sport (especially at a school with 38 sports), you have to find multiple videographers. And you have to convert all of your athletic communications people into sportscasters.

For now, Princeton is still doing its postgame stories. Maybe, though, they're a waste of time.

Maybe the way Rhode Island does it is the right way. Or maybe the Loyola men's basketball way is better. It certainly fits with TB's belief that on college websites today, the more video the better.

What is the future?

And will there come a time when writing is obsolete?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

Raise your hand if 1) you watched the BCS Championship Game, 2) watched more than a few plays here or there of any bowl game and 3) recognize that college football has done everything it can to produce its most legitimate national champion.

TigerBlog's hand is down.

College football is in a weird place, because unlike any other major pro or college sport, it has the regular-season that matters most and by far the worst postseason.

The litmus test would be if you were to start completely from scratch. Say there was no postseason in the NFL, Major League Baseball, Division I football and basketball and you were tasked with coming up with one. Would you come up with one that:

A) selected a certain number of teams and had some form of elimination tournament, perhaps rewarding those teams that had done the best during the regular season with home games or byes?

B) schedule one meaningless game after another, with names that are even more confusing, with little to guide the casual fan as to what games are relevant and with no reward to the winner, while ultimately deciding the championship in a single game between teams that are chosen through a combination of computer rankings (the genesis of which are not made public) and two human polls (which scream conflict of interest)? Oh, and you'd wait five, six, seven weeks before you'd play these games?

Right, it'd be A.

The games just before the BCS Championship Game matched Arkansas State and Northern Illinois in the godaddy.com Bowl and SMU and Pitt in the BBCA Compass Bowl. Anyone know where those games were played (Birmingham and Mobile)? This is what the entire bowl season builds to?

TB used to love the bowls on Jan. 1. This year, he probably watched less than 30 total minutes of every postseason football game combined.

The NFL playoffs? Now that's a different story.

And though TB didn't get to watch much this weekend, he did see the last four minutes and the overtime (all 11 seconds of it) of the Denver-Pittsburgh game.

So what to make of Tim Tebow?

As TB was driving in this morning, he was listening to "Boomer And Carton" on WFAN as they talked about, what else, Tim Tebow. Carton made the point that so many make about Tebow, that they're turned off to him because he seems like he's too over the top with his religious side and that it has to be phony.

Why is this?

It's because of just how conditioned everybody is to being let down by their heroes, especially in sports. In fact, TB is pretty sure that this has helped the rise of trashy reality TV, because it's so up-front about horrific behavior that there is no chance of being let down.

Between steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, arrests, drunk-driving, fathering children with many different women, texting explicit pictures of themselves and on and on and on, it's not easy to have a sports hero these days. And it doesn't seem to matter who it is, how pristine they seem to be - nobody seems to be immune.

Could you have predicted, as such, what would happen with Joe Paterno?

The lyrics that Simon and Garfunkel wrote so long ago in the song "Mrs. Robinson" ring so true today - "where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Maybe Tebow is more Joe DiMaggio than God. Maybe he just gives the general public a chance to see someone who can excel without being a jerk about it, without having such a flawed character. And, because society is so cynical, there are large portions of the public who can't let that be and therefore need to either question its sincerity or simply attack it.

The Daily Princetonian had a column a few weeks ago about the way that the media and the general public view Ivy League grads in the NFL.

The crux of the column is that it's impossible to read about, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick without reading about the fact that he went to Harvard or scored so high on the intelligence test given to prospective NFL players.

The conclusion is drawn that there is a wide-ranging sense that these athletes have achieved the level of success they have as much for their mental skills as their physical. Somehow, the average fan thinks, Ryan Fitzpatrick has become an NFL quarterback because he has figured out how to manipulate the game on a metaphysical level - like the young chicken in the "Foghorn Leghorn" cartoons.

The reality is that intelligence is a valuable tool in sports, but to be a professional athlete, you have to have the raw talent.

For TB's money, the reason that Fitzpatrick is always mentioned in the same breath as his alma mater is the same that Tebow is such a polarizing figure.

It's unique.

In a world where the average professional athlete comes across as a spoiled, pampered, anti-social jerk, it's nice to see someone who presumably doesn't fit that mold. That's why they stand out.

They're normal-ish.

It's one of TB's favorite parts about being at Princeton and in the Ivy League. The athletes are NOT jerks.

They play hard and the games are important to them. They have their chippy moments. Some are here almost exclusively because it was the only place that recruited them.

But they're still not jerks. It's not all me-first showboating. It's not all trying to come up with the most unsportsmanlike response to every situation. It's not an endless series of whining, complaining, lack of hustle, self-congratulatory nonsense that plagues professional sports.

So good for Tim Tebow. And Ryan Fitzpatrick.

But also remember that society has gotten to this point, where not being a jerk can be celebrated as a differentiating characteristic.

It's a bit sad, actually.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Opening Statement

Back when the Philadelphia 76ers last won an NBA title, TigerBlog was living in the City of Brotherly Love.

He remembers clearly the night that the Sixers wrapped it up, defeating the Lakers in four straight, and how cars drove around all night honking their horns while others marched up and down the streets yelling, high-fiving, celebrating.

To this day, it's the only time TB has been the in the city itself of a team that just won a major professional sports championship.

The 1982-83 Sixers were an easy team to like. They featured some of TB's all-time favorite players and were led by a head coach - Billy Cunningham - who was also a favorite.

Who was on the team?

Moses Malone, of course. Maurice Cheeks. Andrew Toney. Bobby Jones (who was 0-1 in his carer as a college player for North Carolina while playing at Jadwin Gym, by the way). Marc Iavoroni. Earl Cureton.

And of course, Julius Erving.

Dr. J was as exciting as any athlete in any sport that TB has ever seen play except one. When he played, you couldn't turn away, because you might miss something so spectacular that it was likely that nobody had ever done it previously and that he didn't realize he was going to do it until he did.

While not quite Michael Jordan in this regard, he was as close as anyone TB has ever seen.

When TB was working for the student radio station at Penn, he arranged to do a halftime interview with Erving, which would be done after a Sixers practice at Temple. Never before or since has TB shaken hands with someone whose hands were as big as Erving's, and the Doctor could not have been nicer or more accommodating.

TB was at the Sixers' home opener Friday night for what turned out to be a perfect ending - the home team won and Georgetown's Greg Monroe had a strong game for the Pistons.

As part of the opening ceremonies, the Sixers honored some former players, including Malone, Jones, Cureton and World B. Free. The last member of that group introduced was Erving, and his arrival brought by far the loudest ovation of the night, eclipsing anything else that happened by at least a 2-to-1 margin.

As an aside, the biggest boos were for two of the NBA executives who were introduced and shown on the video board. Did it dawn on no one that this was a bad idea, showing two of the executives who were largely involved in the lockout, which is why the home opener wasn't until Jan. 6?

Anyway, the Sixers game was the first of two basketball games TB saw in Philadelphia this weekend. Twenty-four hours after the home team tipped off with the Pistons, TB was back, this time for Princeton-Penn women's basketball.

This game would be the Ivy League opener for women's basketball, and as such, there was something of an unknown factor pregame.

Yes, Princeton had won the last two Ivy titles. Yes, Princeton was 32-1 in its previous 33 Ivy games heading in. Yes, the Tigers were prohibitive favorites to win the league again. Yes, the RPI ranking for Princeton after its 14-game non-league schedule was 12th in Division I.

None of that really matters when you get into the league.

It all changes quickly, against teams that know your style and personnel so well. And so there was Penn, with a 7-3 record, on the bench opposite Princeton and six other Ivy schools with both eyes focused on the score to see what could be learned about where the rest of the league race is going.

Final score? Princeton 83, Penn 48.

Princeton led 6-1 early when Penn's Alyssa Barron - the Ivy's leading scorer - launched a majestic three-pointer from up top that splashed in, making it a 6-4 game. At that point, TB thought this had the potential to be a grind-it-out game in the 50s that would come down to which team executed the most offensively.

And just like that, it was over. Princeton went on a 24-2 run to make it 30-6, and Penn simply had no answers.

Princeton had five players in double figures, but again it was the defense that was too much for the opponent. At one point, the Quakers were shooting 3 for 32 as a team, with Baron at 3 for 15 and the rest of her team at 0 for 17. In fact, more than 30 minutes of the game were played before someone other than Baron scored a basket for the Quakers.

The current Ivy standings show that five of the league teams are over .500. Of the three that aren't, two - Cornell Friday night and Columbia Sunday afternoon - will be at Jadwin this weekend, before the long break for first semester exams.

The path to a third-straight title isn't going to be all about nights like Saturday. There will be those grind-it-out games, especially on the road, more likely on Saturday nights.

Still, TB is relatively certain that the other six schools saw the Princeton-Penn score and went "uh-oh," with an understanding that this Princeton team is for real.

The Tigers are deep, and their second unit often pushed the lead against Penn as much as the starters. The team has any number of scoring options, and it is led by a genuine superstar, Niveen Rasheed, who is non-stop pressure on the opponent on both sides of the floor at all times.

Penn clearly came into the game Saturday night fired up and ready for a big opening statement on the coming league race.

Unfortunately for the Quakers, they were on the wrong side of that statement.

In the end, it was Princeton's night. In a big way.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You're Hired

TigerBlog and Jon Kurian were reminiscing about Kurian's first day as a Princeton employee, which by now was a long time ago.

Kurian, who works in the business office, remarked that on his first day, nobody took him out to lunch, only to have TB remind him that on his first day, Kurian muscled his way into half of the sandwich brought by John Cornell, Princeton Athletics' second - and last - publications person, as the need for a separate publications specialists left long ago with Cornell.

The occasion of this discussion was Day 1 of the Diana Chamorro era in the Office of Athletic Communications.

Diana comes to Princeton from Seattle University, and before that she was at Santa Clara, her alma mater.

She replaces, essentially, Scott Jurgens, who left Princeton in the fall to become the marketing director at East Carolina, either because he felt that was a better career opportunity or maybe because he thought his dog looks better in purple than he did in orange and black.

When Scott left, Yariv Amir went from a 10-year run in the OAC to take over the marketing department, leaving an opening in communications.

Hiring is always a difficult process, because there are so many applicants with so many different backgrounds - and because the downside of hiring someone who cannot handle the responsibility is so huge, there's a huge necessity in getting it right.

And yet how do you know?

You can check references, read stories on line, listen to what people you trust say about a particular person, check out their work, all of it. Until they're actually in your office, there's no way to know what kind of job they'll do, what kind of work ethic they'll have and, equally as important, what impact they'll have on office dynamic.

The hiring process here used to be more of a nightmare, back when the OAC employed three interns who were essentially in two-year positions.

In some years, the OAC would have to hire two new interns, and then the following year, just one. The biggest pain would be that just when they were experienced and gaining institutional memory, they were booted out the door (many times to be hired by fellow Ivy schools).

Regardless, the process would begin each May with an ad in the NCAA News and elsewhere and then the flood of resumes. Because there were so many internships at the time in college athletic communications, the OAC often got letters that pointed out that the applicant was applying to a different school, and indication that the person had used the same cover letter for multiple inquiries.

The interviews themselves were often comical.

One candidate essentially made up everything on his resume. Another disqualified himself by saying that he had been a college athlete but could not remember his coach's name.

On one occasion, TB was interviewing the first of three candidates. When he got back to the office with the candidate, she asked TB about the timetable for the hiring. TB explained that she was the first of three candidates who were coming in, only to have the other two call and say they had taken other positions, all in the same two minutes. When TB hung up the phone from the second, he looked at the woman and said "when can you start?"

In fairness, the candidate - Jenn Garrett, the pride of Erskine College in Due West, S.C. - had made a great impression and is in the OAC intern Hall of Fame.

TB worked with 17 interns between the time he started here and when the positions mercifully became full-time. Of those 17, one lasted less than one day (yes, one day, actually six hours) and two others didn't come back after the first year.

The others? Most were A's, some were A+'s and a few were A++'s.

And they certainly did a lot of work, and for not a lot of money. Of course, they did get free housing, an apartment in the Hibben-Magie complex that the three of them shared.

Imagine that. You work for little money, long hours - and when you go home, two of the people from your office were there, offering you no escape.

Actually, as TB wrote down the names of the interns, most of them got along surprisingly well, to the point where strong friendships that continue to endure to this day - and will long into the future - were born.

And then there are a few who faded away. Longtime coaches will come in here every now and then and ask when the last time TB heard from this one or that one and then tell some stories about them.

Others? TB talks to some of them weekly and even daily.

Eventually, with Yariv's arrival, the positions became longer-term, and the constant need to replace interns each year ended.

Diana's hiring, for example, is the first in nearly four years.

TB wishes Diana good luck here, both for her and selfishly for the OAC as a whole. So far, so good.

Her hiring has reminded TB of all of the searches he was part of back in the intern days.

Like so many other things that were part of the OAC back then, TB has pretty good fondness for it - and is glad that he doesn't have to do it anymore.