Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Flying Leap

Apparently, it takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds to make one complete revolution around the sun.

At least that's what Wikipedia says.

Back a long time ago, there was a slight miscalculation of all this, and Pope Gregory XIII led the reform to fix it in 1582.

At least that's what Wikipedia says.

As such, we have today, the 29th of February. A year from today, it'll be March 1. A year ago today, it was March 1. Today, though, is Feb. 29.

As everyone knows, today is Leap Day, part of Leap Year, which sees every fourth year have 366 days.

Why Feb. 29? Why not make a month with 30 days have 31? Why not June 31st? Or July 32nd?

Apparently, there is no leap day in years that are divisible by 100, such as 1800 or 1900, unless they are also divisible by 400, which is why there was a leap day in 2000. There will not be one in 2100.

At least that's what Wikipedia says.

TigerBlog doesn't know anyone who was born on Feb. 29. A scan of Wikipedia reveals that a few athletes and other moderately famous people - and the infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos - were all born on Feb. 29.

On the one hand, it'd probably be pretty cool to say that Feb. 29 is your birthday. On the other hand, you'd spend most years celebrating it on March 1, which isn't really your birthday.

TB didn't need Wikipedia to know that the whole idea of being born on Feb. 29 plays prominently into the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Pirates of Penzance," which TB and BrotherBlog saw with Kevin Kline as the Pirate King on Broadway circa 1981 or so.

TB also has "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General" on his iTunes, which includes the kind of lyrics that are rarely written today, such as "About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lotta news, with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse."

The month of February has flown by, another month of this "winter" gone by without TB's ever having worn his heavy coat. In fact, this February had many more days of temperatures in the 50s than 30s, and TB and many others wore shorts more than once this past four weeks.

Also during the month of February, no matter how busy everything around here got, there was always the "the first weekend of March is going to be way busier" vibe that was present.

And so it is.

As an aside, it's a weekend that will go off flawlessly, TB is sure, because of the work of a lot of people behind the scenes, especially the event staff of Karen Malec and Mike Doto.

Beginning tomorrow with Day 1 of the Ivy League men's swimming and diving championships and continuing through Sunday with the EIWA wrestling championships, the Princeton campus is going to be a busy place.

Among the events at Princeton:

* the Princeton men look for their fourth straight Ivy League swimming title, something Princeton hasn't accomplished since 1989-92. The Tigers and Harvard are, as usual, the favorites with perhaps a slight edge to Princeton. The event runs tomorrow through Saturday

* the EIWA (that's Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) championships will be held Saturday and Sunday in Jadwin Gym. At stake will be 46 automatic bids to the NCAA championships, the second-most behind the Big 10, which makes this a huge event in the sport. Princeton could qualify several wrestlers, and though the Tigers will not win the team championship (the last Princeton EIWA title was in 1978), the goal is to finish in the top half of the standings, which would be a huge accomplishment.

Cornell should win the team title, and there are two reigning NCAA champions (one from Cornell, one from Lehigh). In fact, Lehigh heavyweight Zach Rey and American's Ryan Flores met in the EIWA and the NCAA final a year ago, as Flores won at the EIWA and then Rey won at the NCAAs. They rank 1-2 this year.

Cornell's Kyle Dake is a two-time NCAA champ at 141 and 149, and he's wrestling at 157 this year. He could see Princeton's Daniel Kolodzik in the EIWA final; Kolodzik was the first nationally ranked recruit to come to Princeton under Chris Ayres.

* the wrestling mats will have to be picked up quickly to get ready for Princeton-Brown men's basketball Saturday, with tip-off at 7:30. Princeton also hosts Yale Friday at 7. Of the eight league teams, Princeton is the only one that will not playing at least one game this weekend that will help decide whether the champ will be Penn, Harvard or both - though the Tigers host the Quakers Tuesday night in a game that is likely to be huge.

* the men's lacrosse team, off to a fast 2-0 start and having scored 25 goals in two games after averaging 7.1 per game last year, hosts No. 2 Johns Hopkins Friday at 5. Princeton has beaten Johns Hopkins three straight times; Princeton has never beaten Johns Hopkins four straight times

* the women's lacrosse team hosts third-ranked Duke Saturday at 1. Princeton also has its home opener tonight at 6 against Rutgers. Princeton, who won the Ivy League tournament title last year, looked outstanding in its season-opening 16-3 win over Villanova.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

33 Championships

TigerBlog saw an interview the Sunday with Carl Edwards, the NASCAR driver, before the Daytona 500 was postponed by rain.

Edwards was wearing a pair of jeans and a button down shirt, one with a sponsor logo on it. He looked all the world like another fan showing up for the race, not one of the people who was going to get into his car and fly around the track.

TB has never been a huge fan of auto racing, though he's not anti-auto racing either. It's just that it seems like it's a huge investment of time to watch a race, and who knows, some sports just stick and others don't.

As an aside, did you see the reaction of the bowling guy when he won his fifth U.S. Open and completely lost it?

Anyway, TigerBlog has always wondered how a race car driver can drive to the track, race for 500 miles and speeds around 200 miles per hour and then drive the speed limit on the way out.

Doesn't it have to seem like they're not going anywhere? After that, driving 35 mph has to seem like going backward or something.

TB used to watch the Indy 500 as much as he could, and he'd probably watch some of the Daytona 500 most years, though he didn't this year.

Actually, he's not even sure what happened to Edwards in the race. Nor does he really care that much.

When it comes to getting quickly around a track this weekend, he was much more interested in the Ivy League Heptagonal championships.

On the men's side, Princeton won the indoor title, giving the athletic program seven Ivy League champions to date this academic year.

For the record, Princeton has now won Ivy titles in 2011-12 in: men's cross country, field hockey, men's fencing, women's fencing, women's basketball, men's squash and now men's indoor track and field.

The men's indoor track and field title was the second straight indoors for Princeton and, among the three running sports, Princeton men's fifth straight.

And for head coach Fred Samara?

Well, TigerBlog started to wonder how many Ivy League titles that made for the head coach of the men's track and field team. Now in his 35th year at Princeton, Samara hasn't always been the head coach of cross country - Steve Dolan, for instance, is now the head coach there - so TB didn't count the ones that Princeton has won when Samara wasn't technically the head coach.

TB counted them up on the Ivy League website, and then he figured he'd ask Samara if he knew how many he had.

Off the top of his head, Samara wasn't quite sure.

So what did he do? He opened his drawer and pulled out a piece of letterhead that listed Ivy titles on it. Except he had shortchanged himself by a few outdoor titles.

Anyway, here's your Fred Samara Ivy title scorecard:

outdoor track and field - 17
indoor track and field - 13
cross country - 3 (remember, Princeton has won way more than that; this only counts the ones where he was the head coach)

Add it up, and it comes to 33 Ivy League championships as a head coach.

Let TB repeat that: Fred Samara has won 33 Ivy League championships as a head coach.

TB didn't add up every coach in every sport, but he has to think that the list of coaches who have won more than that is very small, if anyone. In fact, it's possible that Samara ranks No. 1.

Yes, he has the advantage of having coached a sport that competes twice and sometimes for him three times a year. Still, that's an incredible record of success, consistent success.

And with the spring coming up, that could be No. 34.

Even if it stays at No. 33, TigerBlog promises to have looked it up by then and to report back if anyone has ever won anymore.

Either way, 33 titles? That's an insane amount.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And The Winner Is ...

TigerBlog used to watch the Oscars. Now? Not anymore.

For starters, he hardly goes to the movies anyway. And then there's the narcissistic self-absorption factor that covers the entire Hollywood scene and makes it, well, dirty.

Talent? That's for athletes, singers, doctors, engineers, writers and the like. Acting? All you need is the right look and the opportunity. There are 50,000 people in Hollywood who can act as well as George Clooney but won't get the chance; there isn't anyone else who can play basketball better than LeBron James but just needs to be discovered.

And some silent movie won? Why, so they can show everyone how much more sophisticated they are then everyone else?

There have been some great snubs for Best Picture in the past - TigerBlog thinks of how "Raiders of the Lost Ark" lost to "Chariots Of Fire" or how "Shakespeare in Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan."

If you go to the IMDB Top 250, two of the top four movies were from the same year (1994's "Shawshank Redemption" and "Pulp Fiction) and neither won Best Picture. The vastly overrated "Forrest Gump" did.

TB also didn't watch the NBA All-Star game.

There's a big self-absorption factor there as well, not to mention the fact that this shortened NBA season didn't need an All-Star weekend. Of course, if you were going to have an All-Star game, you had to figure out a way to get Jeremy Lin into it, right?

Besides, the basketball TB cares most about now is confined to five things - 1) can Northwestern get to the NCAA tournament, 2) can Denver win the conference tournament and get there as well, 3) can Georgetown win it all or at least get to the Final Four.

Four and five?

Those are the Ivy League.

Let's start with the men.

Harvard lost to Penn 55-54 Saturday night in what was a make-or-break game for the Quakers. Had Harvard won, then the Crimson would have been two games clear of Penn with two to play.

Instead, Harvard and Penn both have two league losses. Harvard finishes the regular season this weekend with games at Columbia and Cornell, while Penn is home with Brown and Yale (who already beat the Quakers).

Should either team win one game (likely), the Princeton would be mathematically eliminated - but it doesn't mean the season would be over.

Should Harvard and Penn both sweep or split, then Penn would come to Jadwin Gym next Tuesday needing a win over the Tigers to force a playoff, in the opposite of last year's season-ending game between Princeton and Penn at the Palestra. That would be a wild scene.

On the women's side, there will be no playoff. All there is is awe at what the Princeton women have done.

The Tigers became the first team - men or women - to clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament by wrapping up a third-straight Ivy title. Princeton did so at home, no less, with three games left to go in the season.

Princeton defeated Harvard - competing with Yale for the second-place spot in the league and the WNIT bid that goes with it - by 30 points Friday night, which gave the Tigers two wins over Harvard by a combined 58 points. The 94-57 win over Dartmouth Saturday clinched the championship.

Princeton is 11-0 in the league, with one win over Brown by 12 points and 10 wins by at least 25 points.

Think about that. Night in, night out, complete domination.

Princeton's win over Brown came after a 19-day break for first semester exams, and the Tigers didn't play a good offensive game.

Think about that - making excuses for a 12-point home win.

As for the Tigers, they are now 42-1 in their last 43 Ivy games, and even losses in their last three games would still give the team the best three-year run in Ivy history.

All season, this team has been focused on the NCAA tournament, as if it was a foregone conclusion that the team would win the league. Well, maybe not foregone, as three people voted for Harvard in the preseason.

Now that the team has demolished its way into the field, it can look to achieve its ultimate goal, which is to win at least one NCAA game. Seed and matchup will be huge, but it's not going to be easy.

If any team can do it, though, it would be this group of Tigers.

The preliminary round is over now, and the main event is just around the corner.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Slam Dunk

TigerBlog was watching "Nightline" on the night of April 6, 1987, back in his apartment in Plainsboro.

As an aside, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who was single in those days and who works in Mercer County now who didn't live in one of the Princeton Meadows apartment complexes at some point.

Anyway, watching "Nightline" was nothing unique for TigerBlog. This was back before the internet and 24-hour news cycles and cable news channels and all that, and in fact "Nightline" grew out of the Iranian hostage crisis with its debut in 1980.

On that night of April 6, 1987, Ted Koppel was discussing the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's having broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and one of his guests was Campanis, the longtime Dodger executive who had been close to Robinson.

As you probably know by now, Campanis said some pretty outrageous statements regarding the absence of blacks in managerial and general manager positions in baseball. To his credit, Koppel handled it about as flawlessly as anyone could have.

TB remembers being dumbfounded that somebody with Campanis' record, background and reputation could have said the words he was saying, and TB was positive he heard it wrong. In fact, he woke up his roommate at the time and made him watch the rest of the interview.

Not surprisingly, Campanis was forced out of his position with the Dodgers. Mention his name to anyone today, and the "Nightline" interview will be the first thing they say about him.

The interview became a huge issue obviously, even without the web to fuel the fire. And TB was about the only person who had actually been watching the show.

You know what else TB watched live? The 1976 ABA (not NBA, but ABA) slam dunk contest.

Back then, the dunk was a somewhat mystical event, and the coolest of the cool played in the ABA, with the red, white and blue ball and three-point shot.

The 1976 dunk contest featured the one where Dr. J. took off from the foul line and dunked, a first of its kind that has since been emulated by many, including most famously Michael Jordan.

Today, dunk contests are all over the place, from the NBA to college to even high school. These contests all follow the same basic format, and the idea is to come up with the most creative dunk, such as having Blake Griffin jump over a car with Baron Davis feeding him through the sun roof.

Or, as Iman Shumpert was planning to do this year, jump over a couch as Jeremy Lin pretended to be asleep, only to have Lin lob Shumpert the ball.

The Princeton Plays Pink commercial on was pretty creative as well.

In the commercial, women's basketball players Devona Allgood, Lauren Edwards and and Laura Johnson are sitting on the side court of Jadwin, appearing to chat among themselves. As the camera pulls back, Ian Hummer of the men's team leaps over the three of them and dunks.

Pretty creative stuff, no?

Both basketball teams are part of a huge weekend of sports, one that actually began last night with Day 1 of the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships.

Between now and Sunday, at least three and as many as five Ivy champions will be crowned. If you're a Princeton fan, you're hoping that number is actually four.

To wit:

* the women's swimming and diving championships began last night at Harvard, where the host Crimson are the favorite but the Tigers can never, ever be counted out, not after having won 10 of the last 12 titles. Princeton also had a very good first day, as the Tigers sit just three points behind the Crimson.

* the indoor Heps track and field championships for the men and women will be held at Cornell this weekend. The Princeton men are a heavy favorite to win their fifth straight Heps title (between cross country, indoor track and outdoor track), while the women are in a group of schools including Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth

* the men's basketball team is at Harvard tonight and Dartmouth tomorrow night. While this game against the Crimson isn't quite as make-or-break as the Ivy playoff game last year, it might as well be. Harvard has one league loss (two weeks ago to Princeton at Jadwin Gym), while Penn has two and Princeton and Yale have three each.

Here's what Princeton needs to get a share of the title: win out and have Penn beat Harvard. Should Harvard sweep this weekend, then the Crimson would clinch a tie for the title and need to win one of two next weekend at Columbia/Cornell, which essentially is a sure thing, to get the outright crown. Should Penn win out, it knows it's assured of at least a tie for the title. That means winning tomorrow, of course.

* on the women's side, Princeton can wrap it all up this weekend. The Tigers are 9-0 in the league, while Yale is 8-2 and Harvard is 7-3. Should Princeton sweep this weekend, then Harvard would be eliminated and the best Yale could do would be to tie. Princeton needs to win two of its five remaining games to clinch a tie and three of its five to win outright. All of these come against teams Princeton has already beaten by at least 12, and four of them are against teams Princeton has beaten by at least 25.

Quite the weekend, no?

And oh yeah, lacrosse starts as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Defense Of Men's Lacrosse

The last time that the Princeton men's lacrosse team played at the University of Virginia was in 2007.

The Tigers lost that game 7-6, and TigerBlog's biggest memory is that there was something of a controversy around the game-winning goal, which came with 26 seconds left. TB cannot remember what it was, and the game recap makes no reference to it.

The box score, though, says that George Huguely scored one of the UVa goals that day.

TB did the game on the radio, which means that he called Huguely's name at least that one time and possibly more and never really gave him any further thought. He was just another kid with another uniform number on another opponent.

Today, of course, Huguely is a convicted murderer, one who is looking at spending more than a quarter-century in prison after the jury in the Yeardley Love murder case recommended a 26-year sentence. He will not be formally sentenced until April.

TigerBlog read several accounts of the trial and verdict, and it was hard to find a headline that didn't include the word "lacrosse" or "lax."

And why wouldn't it? The case became national news because it seemingly had all of the ingredients: a rich white guy who played a country club sport and thought that none of the rules applied to him, combined with a pretty young victim whose deep blue eyes stared back at you anytime you looked at her picture.

This was all about the lacrosse sub-culture, right? Wrong.

This wasn't about lacrosse at all.

If you want a story that's about lacrosse, then read the one TigerBlog wrote about how the members of the Princeton men's lacrosse team have rallied around head coach Nick Bates and his 10-year-old son Nick after the passing of Ann Bates, wife/mother to the two.

This is a lacrosse story.

The sport of lacrosse is filled with people who do these kinds of things every day. Don't think so?

Go to the Lowe's Senior Class Award website and click on any of the 20 candidates for the award, which honors outstanding performance in the 4 C's of classroom, community, character and competition.

Go to any team in the country, and you'll find players who succeed in school, who give back to others, who are nice and polite and funny and friendly. You'll see little kids flock to them in hopes of getting a stick or glove or autograph and almost always come away happy.

You'll see people who play a sport because they love it, not because they're using it as a precursor to a professional career. For the most part, they're not there on a full scholarship.

Yes, many of them traditionally have come from rich backgrounds, but that is changing as the sport grows.

What happened in the George Huguely case is not a symptom of lacrosse. On balance, there is so much more great about lacrosse than bad, and the game continually gets an unnecessarily bad reputation.

Hey, some of the greatest people TigerBlog has ever met in his life have been college lacrosse players and coaches. Many of them are the kind of people you marvel at, wondering how this combination of intelligence, athletic ability, sense of community, sense of team and humility can be wrapped up in one person.

And TB can give you hundreds of examples of people like this, from Princeton and from any number of other schools that he's seen Princeton compete against, even schools that TB wouldn't root for in a hundred years. And yet TB will be the first to admit that their rosters have been stocked with great kids, the kind TB would have rooted for hard if they'd been Princeton Tigers.

That's not to say that the Huguely story is an isolated situation and that college athletic administrators and coaches don't need to look at the larger issue.

It's just that it's not about the sport of lacrosse.

It's about alcohol.

It's clear from any account of what happened that alcohol was a prime contributor, and not just on the day of the murder.

In fact, TB was talking to one of the people in lacrosse he respects the most about this very subject a few days ago, and they both agreed that it's fairly fortunate that there haven't been other stories like this through the years.

The prevalence of alcohol among collegians - and athletes who play all sports - and the pressure that some of these kids feel to consume it are enormous and inescapable.

And the reality is that alcohol consumption changes personalities, makes kids do things they otherwise wouldn't do, over time becomes addictive. There is nobody - prosecutors, jurors, anyone - who thinks that Huguely set out to kill Love, or for that matter would have had he not been drinking all day.

How many other young lives have been affected by alcohol? Maybe not to the degree of committing a murder, but how many DUIs, how many health issues, how many serious car accidents, how many innocents killed by drunk drivers have there been?

There isn't a college administrator out there who doesn't know what binge drinking can do to a campus, and there are no easy solutions to the issues.

The fact is that George Huguely was a few days away from graduating from Virginia, and the odds are good that he was headed down the path of being successful. Now, instead of career, marriage, children and all that, he's headed to prison for a long time.

And let's keep in mind that while that is awful for him and his family, it's not tragic. The only tragedy here is the death of Yeardley Love.

And let's also keep in mind that Huguely is not in the situation he is because he played lacrosse.

It's because of alcohol.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Playing Pink

TigerBlog got out of the shower and realized that he had given no thought to what he was going to wear to work today.

Then he tried to remember if this was an everyday thing or when it is that he figures out what he's going to wear.

Not that it's all that complicated for him. He has four pairs of pants to choose from, and then about 100 Princeton athletics shirts. Every now and then he'll wear the navy blue button down shirt, though that's about the only non-Princeton option in the closet.

TB's sense is that women plan out what they're going to wear more than men do, but it's possible that he's wrong. Not sexist. Just wrong.

When TB first started working here, he dress code required a tie every day between Labor Day and Memorial Day. As he looks at old pictures or of the remaining ones that hang in the closet, TB can conclude that he had some ugly, ugly ties.

As an aside, tying a tie is an important skill. TB learned it from FatherBlog, who would wear a suit and tie to the beach, and taught it to TigerBlog Jr., who has to wear a tie to school every day.

Anyway, these days, with Princeton's nearly perfect Nike deal, it's almost always something swoosh-related.

The result is that there is all kinds of orange and black in the closet.

One color TB doesn't have is pink, though he does have a key to Jadwin Gym, which will enable him to get into women's basketball this Saturday for free.

Anyone who doesn't have the key can also get in for free, simply by wearing something pink.

Well, not a small pink stripe across a sweater or something. It has to be a predominantly pink garment.

The occasion is Princeton Plays Pink, in conjunction with the Princeton-Dartmouth women's basketball game.

From the release:
The event, formerly known as Think Pink and Pink Zone, will support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, the YWCA Breast Cancer Resource Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

All fans wearing pink will get into the game for free. If you forget to wear pink, Pink Zone short sleeve t-shirts will be available for purchase for $10 and long sleeve shirts are available for $20, with proceeds going to local and national breast cancer organizations.

Fans will see pink around Jadwin Gym including balloons, decorations and programs. Princeton University Dining Services will provide free coffee, hot chocolate, pink cupcakes and cookies. Fans who wear the most pink will have an opportunity to win prizes throughout the game.

The coaching staff and cheer squad will all be wearing pink. The Princeton Tigers, who currently boast a 19-4 overall record and a perfect 9-0 record in Ivy League play, will weave pink laces in their sneakers and wear pink socks. The officiating crew will call fouls using pink whistles.

At halftime, members of the audience who have been affected by breast cancer will be asked to come down to the court and form a human pink ribbon at center court.

Donation boxes to support breast cancer research can be found in the lobby of Jadwin Gym, where Robert Wood Johnson Health System and the YWCA Princeton Breast Cancer Recourse Center will have booths set up to provide information and education about their organizations and breast cancer.

In addition to the pink experience, there is also the matter of the significance for the women's basketball team this weekend.

The Tigers are currently 19-4 overall and 9-0 in the Ivy League. No other team has fewer than three league losses (Harvard and Yale).

Princeton has five league games remaining. Here are the opponents and the margin of victory for Princeton the first time around (keep in mind that Princeton needs to go 3-2 in these five games to clinch the outright championship and NCAA tournament bid):
Harvard - 28
Dartmouth - 31
Yale - 25
Brown - 12
Penn - 39

In other words, Princeton's chances of winning a third straight title are pretty good. TigerBlog would never, ever crown a team before it's won, though if he was ever going to make an exception to that rule, this might be the time.

But he won't. Not until it's actually over.

Should Princeton defeat Harvard and Dartmouth, though, then Harvard would for sure be eliminated and Princeton would clinch at least a tie, or the outright title if Yale were to lose one of its two games this weekend (at Columbia/Cornell).

There is a lot of pressure that goes along with being the prohibitive favorite. Every team you play circles that date on the schedule and certainly is trying to bring its best that night.

The level of methodical consistency that Princeton has played with this Ivy season has been remarkable. Now on the verge of a third-straight NCAA appearance after never having played in the tournament before, Princeton is so close that it would be normal to start looking ahead.

But these Tigers won't.

Not until it's official. No matter how good it's looking now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

41 And Counting

TigerBlog's exercise of choice is squash.

When he tells the non-believers about the sport, the first response is always the same: Isn't that like racquetball?

Well, no, it's not. They're both played on courts where there are four walls and involve hitting a ball, though that's where it ends.

In racquetball, the ball does all the work, bouncing like mad all over the place.

In squash, if you take a ball before a match and drop it on the floor, it will hardly bounce at all. As the match goes on and the ball gets hotter, it starts to bounce more, but it's still the players who have to chase it all over the court to make shots.

Also, in squash, the shot has to be above the tin, which is 12 inches off the court.

There's something addictive about the game. Basically anyone here who gives it a chance gets hooked.

And why not? It's a great workout. And it's competitive.

If you don't think it is, try playing with former men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, or current basketball coaches Mitch Henderson and Brian Earl.

TB watched the squash championships here this past weekend - you know, the ones where Princeton ended Trinity's 13-year run as national champion - and thought that those guys were playing something of a different sport than TB when he plays.

It's not that they hit the ball so much harder. It's not even that they put the ball anywhere they want every time.

It's that they can cover any part of the court, have way fewer mis-hits and return almost any shot. TB? He can't do any of those things consistently, especially the court coverage part.

In watching them play, TB sometimes wondered if some of the points were ever going to end, as the players effortless tracked down shots that TB would never dream of reaching, extending the play what seemed like an eternity.

In the end, it came down to a perfect drop shot from Princeton's Kelly Shannon, and that was that.

For Princeton, it extended the rather remarkable national championship streak, one that dates back now 41 straight years with at least one team or individual who won one.

For the record, this does not mean an NCAA championship. Squash, for instance, is not an official NCAA sport.

It is, though, 41 straight years with at least one team or individual national champion in a varsity sport, which is remarkable.

Each year, TB wonders if this will be the one where the program's long-running streaks of success come to an end. In addition to the national championship streak, Princeton has also won the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship 25 straight years.

This year, Princeton had a few other opportunities for national champions, even if squash didn't win. It could have come down to the very end, when Donn Cabral and Conor McCullough could win NCAA track and field titles.

This time, though, the streak was pushed forward in February, thanks to the men's squash team.

For the record, here is the complete list:

2012 - men's squash
2011 - Todd Harrity (squash), women's open rowing (1st varsity 8)
2010 – men’s lightweight rowing
2009 – men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
2008 – women’s squash
2007 – women’s squash
2006 – women’s open rowing (1st varsity 8), Yasser El Halaby (squash),
2005 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2004 – Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2003 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Yasser El Halaby (squash)
2002 – women’s lightweight rowing, women’s lacrosse, Tora Harris (indoor and outdoor high jump)
2001 – women’s lightweight rowing, men’s lacrosse, Soren Thompson (epee fencing), David Yik (men’s squash
2000 – women’s lightweight rowing, Eva Petchnigg (foil fencing), Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash
1999 – women’s squash, women’s lightweight rowing, Julia Beaver (women’s squash), Peter Yik (men’s squash)
1998 – men’s lacrosse, men’s heavweight rowing, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s squash
1997 – men’s lacrosse, Katherine Johnson (women’s squash)
1996 – men’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, men’s heavyweight rowing, Max Pekarev (saber fencing)
1995 – women’s open rowing
1994 – men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s lightweight rowing, women’s open rowing, Harald Winkmann (epee fencing)
1993 – men’s squash, women’s open rowing
1992 – men’s lacrosse
1991 – women’s squash
1990 – women’s open rowing, men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Leroy Kim, Erik Osborn)
1989 – men’s lightweight rowing , women’s squash, Demer Holleran (women’s squash), Jeff Stanley (men’s squash), men’s swimming 200-yard medley relay (Mike Ross, Ty Nelson, Rich Korhammer, Rob Musslewhite)
1988 – men’s lightweight rowing, Jeff Stanley (men’s squash)
1987 – Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1986 – men’s lightweight rowing, Demer Holleran (women’s squash)
1985 – men’s heavyweight rowing
1984 – women’s squash
1983 – women’s squash
1982 – men’s squash
1981 – women’s squash, John Nimik (men’s squash)
1980 – women’s squash
1979 – women’s squash
1978 - women’s squash
1977 – men’s squash
1976 – women’s squash, Nancy Gengler (women’s squash)
1975 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1974 – women’s squash, men’s squash, Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash)
1973 – women’s squash, Cathy Corcione (100 butterfly, 100 free), 200-yard freestyle relay (Cathy Corcione, Jane Fremon, Barb Franks, Carol Brown)
1972 – Wendy Zaharko (women’s squash), Charlie Campbell (200-yard backstroke)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yeah, Bob

TigerBlog was just getting out of his car this morning when a Subaru pulled in at the same time.

Out stepped a man wearing a green jacket, white shorts that resemble the kind that players like Arthur Ashe and Rod Laver used to wear at Wimbledon, white socks and black sneakers. He held a green backpack and a plastic supermarket bag that held his lunch.

This is what the morning after looked like for Bob Callahan.

The Princeton men's squash coach was a few hours removed from a 5-4 win over Trinity to win the national championship and end Trinity's 13-year reign.

And now he was walking into the building like it was just another day. Callahan is unflappable, if nothing else.

Or seemingly.

Every time TigerBlog saw him this weekend, he sensed that underneath the relatively calm exterior, Callahan's heart was racing. Pounding.

Of course, you couldn't really be on C level of Jadwin during any part of the College Squash Association championships this weekend - especially during the championship flight matches - and not feel the energy and emotion.

Watching the action? That was a bit different.

At times when TB was there Friday and Saturday, the closest he could come to actually seeing the points was to try to get a view of the scoreboard on each court - and to hear the reaction of the jam-packed crowd.

TigerBlog isn't a huge fan of being wedged in like sardines in the first place, what with all the germs and stuff. And yet it was inescapable if you wanted to be part of the event.

For the final, Craig Sachson - the OAC squash contact - wedged himself between two courts and didn't move for five hours as he watched - and Tweeted.

As for TB, he couldn't get there yesterday, so he did the next best thing - he watched the videostream.

It actually was a great view of the courts, except for when someone would stand up right in from of the camera, and this didn't happen too often.

This plan apparently didn't make TigerBlog unique, as the coverage on Court 1 (there were three cameras set up) was the most-watched subscription videostream Princeton has ever had.

That means more people watched the squash yesterday than have ever watched a Princeton football game, or basketball, hockey, lacrosse or anything else for that matter (other that two NCAA tournament men's soccer games, which were streamed for free).

Each of the last three times Princeton reached the national finals, it lost 5-4 to Trinity. Included in that was the epic heartbreaker in 2009, when Princeton had two match balls to close out the Bantams and couldn't do it.

The win yesterday came down to the need for a Princeton sweep of the final shift of matches, with Todd Harrity at No. 1, Kelly Shannon at No. 4 and Dylan Ward at No. 7.

Ward won his match first, rallying after dropping Game 1 to win in four. Harrity won it three - at which time TB shifted over to the stream of Shannon's match and found him up 2-0 in games and pretty even in Game 3.

It didn't take long after that for Shannon to close out the match. The final point came on a perfect drop shot, at which point the feed disappeared behind a mass of humanity, leaving only the sound of loud cheers to confirm that the Tigers had indeed won the national title.

The win extended Princeton's national championship streak to 41 straight years (with at least one team or individual national champion), which itself is remarkable. But that's not what this is about.

This is about the men's squash team and the remarkable end of Trinity's streak and the incredible joy that came out of it on C level.

Afterwards, the Trinity people were extraordinarily gracious, which couldn't have been easy, given the pressure that exists to keep any long streak like that alive.

And then there was Callahan, who when asked how he celebrated said that he was going to go to Teresa's in Palmer Square because he had a coupon but there was a 30-minute wait, so instead he ended up ordering from Papa John's.

Oh, and opening a bottle of champagne.

And why not?

He was the coach of the team that won the national championship, that ended one of the most remarkable runs in the history of college sports.

TB has seen Callahan after enough tough losses to Trinity, seen how he handles himself with such total class, even at what have to be the most excruciating moments of his professional career.

To know that he was the coach who ended that streak, well, it couldn't have happened for a better guy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

CSA Welcome

If the Princeton men's basketball team can sweep its home games this weekend against Columbia and Cornell, then the Tigers would be 6-3 in the Ivy League.

With a Yale win over Harvard mixed in, then Princeton would be back in the situation of knowing that if it won the rest of its games, it would be assured of no worse than a tie for the league title.

As an aside, TigerBlog hates the term "controls one's own destiny," because your destiny is your destiny and as such just happens and cannot be controlled.

Disclaimer from above - if Cornell sweeps this weekend and gets the same help, then it would know the same thing.

On the women's basketball side, Princeton is two games clear of the field (in losses anyway). Princeton has already beaten every team in the league by double figures and has beaten six of the seven by at least 25, including Columbia and Cornell, this weekend's opponents.

For the women's basketball team, there are two issues. First, the second time around is rarely as easy as the first time around through the league. Second, there is the matter of not looking ahead to the NCAA tournament before the league is sewn up, or there could very well not be an NCAA tournament (though with an RPI of 24, the Tigers are looking pretty good).

There is a track and field meet this weekend at Princeton as well. It's not quite the Heps or anything, but there should be some pretty good events.

The hockey teams are making late-season pushes for the ECAC playoffs, especially the men, who still could get a home series in Round 1.

There are also home events in wrestling, women's water polo and men's tennis, all with their own significance.

Still, with all due respect to those, there is no doubt what the No. 1 event at Princeton is this weekend: men's squash.

Jadwin Gym currently has a banner out front flapping away in the warmish breeze that reads "CSA Welcome," and it is serving as an invitation to come in and head to C level, which will be jammed beyond anyone's wildest imagination for the men's national team championships.

The event begins today and runs through Sunday's championship match, which starts at 12:30 and should run most of the afternoon. Admission is free.

The top 16 teams are here at Jadwin, with the top eight in the main flight that will decide the champion.

For more than a decade, it's been merely a formality, as Trinity would almost without exception roll to another title.

One major exception, of course, was 2009, when Princeton pushed Trinity for more than six hours before finally dropping a 5-4 decision. That was the last time the event was held at Jadwin.

This time, it's as wide open as it's ever been.

Yale could win it all - or lose today to Cornell in the quarterfinals.

Harvard could win it all - or lose today to Rochester in the quarterfinals.

The No. 1 seed is Trinity, followed by the second-seeded Tigers. Yale is No. 3; Harvard is No. 4.

Yale beat Trinity earlier in the season. Princeton (the Ivy champ) beat Harvard and Yale but lost to Trinity.

In squash, home court is a huge thing, and not for fan support. It's the courts themselves.

Trinity plays with a white ball on a three-walled glass court. Yale has four-glass wall courts.

Each wall is different. The ball bounces differently on different floors.

TigerBlog has played on the courts in Dillon and Jadwin, and those are radically different. The Jadwin courts that will be used for the championships are most similar to those at Harvard, so maybe the Crimson can do well here.

Regardless, it will build to a wild scene come Sunday.

TB has said it before, but that 2009 final would have gone down as the greatest college sporting event of all time had it been the basketball or football equivalent.

Can this weekend match that? Who knows.

But also, who knows who the champion is going to be. Unlike most years, that alone makes this go-round special.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

School Night

This was an actual headline in this morning's New York Post: "Jeremy Lin inspires drink, food concoctions at New York restaurants."

This is the lead headline on as TigerBlog is writing: "Following His Lead - Jeremy Lin shared the spotlight, and the ball, in proving another point Wednesday night."

As TigerBlog drove into New York City yesterday afternoon, he listened to callers on the radio try to equate the Lin phenomenon with other events in the past - and this was on a political show. Over on the sports stations, it was all Lin, all the time.

At 4:10, there was an interview on WFAN with a spokesman from Time Warner Cable, who is locked in a dispute with MSG over the price of MSG's programming. As a result, MSG Network is unavailable in Manhattan if you have Time Warner, and the crux of the discussion was whether or not Jeremy Lin was going to force a conclusion to the dispute, because there might be rioting on the part of those who can't watch him on TV. Even without Time Warner's offering the games, MSG's ratings have skyrocketed since Lin began his current run.

At 4:30, there was an interview with Carmelo Anthony, who will return from injury in the next few days. About 90% of the questions related to whether or not Anthony feels like he can fit in with Lin.

If you google "Jeremy Lin," then you get 556,000,000 results in 0.14 seconds.

When Jeremy Lin hit the game-winning three-pointer against Toronto Monday night, the entire building exploded - and this was in Toronto.

When TB parked his car about 20 blocks south and four block east of where Lin would be playing last night, the attendant was wearing a Lin t-shirt.

As TB write this, Director of Athletics Gary Walters walked by, and he is wearing his Jeremy Lin jersey.

Right now, there is no bigger athlete in the world than Jeremy Lin. Think about it - when was the last time you heard the name Eli Manning. Or read a word about how the Giants won the Super Bowl 11 days ago?

Right now, it'd be hard to find two people on Earth who have a higher approval rating than Lin and Adele.

It's shocking, to say the least. What is it about Lin and his meteoric rise? Athletes have made an impact before, seemingly out of nowhere. Look at Victor Cruz with the Giants.

Why is Lin so special?

One, he went to Harvard. Two, he's Asian-American. Three, in basketball, the players are so visible, with faces not hidden by helmets. Four, he has been such a dominant player. He hasn't just been good; he has been Michael Jordan good for seven games now, all Knick wins. Five, he seems to be having so much fun out there. Six, he's not a huge jerk.

And seven, and most important, he seems like Everyman. It makes him so easy to root for and want to see succeed.

Regardless of the reasons, Lin is all anyone wants to talk about, and it was especially true in New York City, where TB overheard conversations about Lin, saw Lin t-shirts and jerseys and heard person after person say things like "it's been years since I've watched an NBA game, but I'll be watching tonight." Even without Time Warner.

TB was in New York to speak at a seminar in a sports management class at New York University. The class featured a mix of grad students and seniors, and it lasted from 6:20 until 8:50.

The professor is Connee Zotos, who had been the athletic director at Drew University for 12 years before returning to academia. TB met Zotos through the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey organization.

TB hopes the 15 students learned something from him. TB certainly learned from them.

TB was essentially talking about issues in marketing and communications in college athletics in general and Princeton specifically, with an emphasis on how it's all evolved in the last 20 years or so. Eventually, it became mostly a Q&A on anything and everything in college athletics, from marketing and communications to recruiting, conference realignments, NCAA rules, admissions and financial aid, the nightmare at Penn State, policing of social media and any number of other topics. Including, of course, Jeremy Lin.

The questions that TB was asked were fascinating, and they gave great insight into what the students were focusing on during the discussion and in general, beyond school.

The topic of Penn State and how Princeton would handle something similar was an important topic. So was the time spent on videostreaming and the money related to that.

As always, TB found some misconceptions about Princeton and Ivy League athletics. Specifically, there is the issue of tiering in college athletics, where sports are given varying degrees of institutional support depending on a bunch of factors. At Princeton, that is not the case.

A few times, TB asked general questions like "how many page views does get in a year" or "how much money does Princeton University allocate from its general funds budget for marketing," to see what the responses would be. He talked about "student-athlete experience," from Princeton's perspective and from the perspective of a BCS basketball player and how radically different those two definitions are.

As he articulated all this, it once again become crystal clear to him why he loves working at Princeton so much, how lucky he is to be here, how unique a place this is.

All in all, the seminar was a fascinating experience for TB, to see a group of students eager to here what he had to say. They scribbled notes at times, but mostly they just listened and engaged in dialogue, which is what TB was hoping would happen.

When TB sits at his desk and looks out across the track at the football stadium every day, handling that day's tasks, it's easy to forget that so much goes into running a Division I athletic program, especially one with 38 varsity sports and 1,000 athletes. How many subjects there are that can be discussed in detail, how many seminars could be devoted solely to how Princeton runs its program vs. how the rest of the league runs theirs vs. how the rest of Division I runs theirs.

At one point last night, TB looked up and noticed that most of the 2.5 hours had passed, in what seemed like seconds rather than minutes.

His hope is that the students had the same feeling.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brave New World

TigerBlog recently entered the iPhone crowd.

Now he can't figure out what he used to do in his spare time, back when he wasn't playing "Scramble Words" and getting second-by-second updates on Jeremy Lin.

TigerBlog used to love the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes." While it was no "Bloom County" and lacked characters like Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat, it was still a high-quality strip.

And who knows, maybe it was where the original idea for "Toy Story" came from, what with the way Hobbes came to life when nobody else was around.

There was one Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin asks his dad: "why aren't we hooked up to an on-line service so we can connect with other computers," to which his dad replies: "because it's bad enough we have a telephone."

In truth, it's hard to imagine how TB used to get by back in the days when he had just a flip phone, with only calls and texting available. Of course, those days were about two weeks ago.

It's not that he wants to be glued to his phone. Quite the contrary.

It's just that once the ease of staying in tune with email or taking pictures that can actually be used on the webpage or seeing that Lin had nine points and six assists at halftime against Toronto (by the way, TB can't believe how that game ended) or what the other Ivy scores are - not to mention playing Scramble Words - it's impossible to imagine not having that kind of instant access.

TB was a holdout, that's for sure.

That sort of immediate access comes with it a certain lack of privacy, so that people who are trying to get in touch with you expect you to respond immediately.

As an aside, TB still hasn't gone down the whole "Suri" path.

Anyway, TB's introduction to the iPhone came around the time he was interviewed (under an alias) by Jonathan Tannenwald for his very well-researched and well-written piece on the current state of Ivy League sports and television.

The two are not unrelated.

As TB understands it, Tannenwald's piece started out of a question about why last Friday's Penn-Harvard men's basketball game wasn't televised. From there, all kinds of questions grew about the bigger picture of where the Ivy League is in terms of a national television package and how Ivy League games come to be on TV.

Tannenwald was able to get fairly forthcoming comments from Ivy League executive director Robin Harris and Penn AD Steve Bilsky, as well as TB.

Basically, unlike a league like the Big East or SEC, the Ivy League schools have traditionally retained the TV/streaming rights to their home contests. Whereas schools from power conferences view TV rights as a revenue source - one that is enhanced by pooling the league's schools - the Ivy League is much more interested in the exposure.

One way to earn that exposure is to pay for air time, though that can be prohibitively expensive. Another way is to not pay but to also get no financial benefit, so that all advertising goes to the production company.

Princeton is fortunate to be in its ESPN and Verizon Fios arrangements, which guarantee multiple events across several sports in the case of ESPNU and greatly enhanced videostreaming quality (in the case of Verizon Fios).

Still, there are more questions than answers about TV right now:

* is there a large audience for Ivy League athletics on TV?
* is TV more important than videostreaming
* should Ivy schools move their streaming to a centralized website with a pay-once philosophy, so that fans can buy one Ivy package and get every school's feed, even if it hurts the revenue streams that have been created under the current setup?
* should it be a free or pay model for videostreaming (see above for revenue issues)?
* how much should be invested in improving streaming if the audience numbers aren't there now?
* would audience numbers go way up with higher quality streaming?

And most importantly: what's next?

These are questions to which TB does not currently have the answers. At the same time, he has some ideas of what he believes to be the case.

Right now, the league and its eight schools are working hard to figure out what the answers to those questions are and what to do about them.

This is all being done in the context of television possibilities as well.

For TB's money, there is no bigger issue that the league's athletic communications/marketing offices - and the league itself - is currently discussing.

Oh, and whatever happens, the idea of making sure that it can all be found on your iPhone - or whatever you're using now and whatever will replace it in three years - has to be part of the discussion.

In the meantime, TB has four games of Scramble Words to play.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Grammys And Tigers

TigerBlog did something the other night that he can't remember ever doing before.

He watched the Grammy Awards.

The show started at 8:00 Sunday night on CBS. Of course, TB couldn't have avoided knowing that, since he got four identical text messages within five seconds of each other, all announcing that Bruce Springsteen was going to be opening the show.

And so TB tuned in to see The Boss, and he stayed tuned in for most of it.

This came on the heels of a pretty strong weekend of Princeton Athletics, and it all left TB with these thoughts:

* The new Springsteen album comes out in a few weeks, and TB has pre-ordered it on iTunes. Springsteen could put out an album of Gregorian chants and TB would pre-order it.

* The men's basketball game against Harvard featured a great atmosphere in Jadwin Gym. The building was designed to be a multi-purpose facility and as such sacrificed some of the amenities that a basketball-only building would have (not to mention it's 43 years old), but when it's nearly filled like it was the other night, it's still a great place to see a game.

* The song "We Take Care Of Our Own" that Springsteen has released and then performed with the E Street Band at the Grammys is pretty good, and TB can see himself using it for the Princeton Varsity Club senior banquet video in a few months. When the band plays live, it just looks like they're having an insane amount of fun, as opposed to trying so hard for the right look or statement or whatever so many other groups try to do. It's part of what makes them by far the best.

* TB isn't a huge fan of the rushing the court phenomenon, but he understands why the Princeton students did so after the win over Harvard, a it was a very spontaneous expression of excitement. As with the four text messages that he got about the Springsteen appearance, TB got four text messages from people watching on TV who wondered why Princeton would rush the court after beating Harvard, something Princeton has now done 23 straight years at Jadwin.

* There is no doubt what the highlight of the Grammys was (shockingly, it wasn't Springsteen), and TB will get to that in a few paragraphs. Hint - it wasn't the appearance by Super Bowl champs Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham, but that was fun to write.

* Harvard has to really hate Princeton when it comes to men's basketball, after the way Princeton beat the Crimson last year in the Ivy playoff and then this year at Jadwin, knocking Harvard out of the Top 25 like that. From the opening tip-off Saturday, it was clear that this was not just another game, and the electricity was present in the building from start to finish. From what TB understands, the ESPNU broadcast did a great job of capturing it.

* While not THE highlight of the Grammys, TigerBlog thought the Beach Boys tribute was outstanding. Maroon 5 did a great job on "Surfer Girl," especially lead singer Adam Levine, who was handed a song that is not easy to do. And then the group that TB had never heard of - Foster the People - did an even better job on "Wouldn't It Be Nice." When the original Beach Boys came out for "Good Vibrations," TB thought there was no way they'd be able to harmonize the way they used to, but they came close enough for it to be impressive. Except for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, the Beach Boys are up there with any musical act TB has ever heard.

* The Princeton win over Harvard might not derail the Crimson from the league title and NCAA tournament, but it did make the challenge much greater. A Harvard win would have left the Crimson two games clear of the field, instead of the one-game edge that the team has over Yale and Penn (and two on Princeton and Cornell). Harvard has to play all four again, and Yale and Penn now know that if they win the rest of their games, they're assured of at least a tie for the league title. Had Harvard beaten Princeton, the race was over.

* Taylor Swift's performance was, well, impressive. As anyone who has a current middle school daughter can understand, TB has heard a million Miley Cyrus songs (from the days when elementary school girls couldn't get enough Hannah Montana) and very little Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift is a way better performer and doesn't appear to be heading towards the same train wreck that Miley seems to be embracing these days.

* Had Harvard's women beaten Princeton Saturday in Cambridge, then things would have looked much different in that race. Instead, Princeton defeated Harvard by 28 after leading by as many as 45, running its record to 7-0 in the league and, unlike the Harvard men, going up two games (in the loss column) on the field. Princeton has won its first seven league games by these margins of victories: 12, 25, 28, 29, 31, 35 and 59 points. TB is pretty sure that this year's Harvard and Yale women's teams are comparable to many teams that have won the league title; it's just that this Princeton team is extraordinarily special.

* TB has always been a Glen Campbell fan, and that part of the show was tremendous. Even if he's never heard of the country singers who did "Southern Nights" and "Gentle On My Mind," they were both awesome. Seeing Paul McCartney mouth the words of "Rhinestone Cowboy" was a little weird, and TB actually thought McCartney was borderline awful in his performances.

* Niveen Rasheed scored her 1,000th career point in the win over Harvard, which for any other player is a great accomplishment. For Rasheed, she can score two points or 30 points; she's the best Ivy League women's basketball player that TB has ever seen. And were it not for her torn ACL last year, she'd be at about 1,400 points right now. Still, scoring points isn't just what she does. She plays with ferocity, and she imposes her will on every aspect of every game she's in.

* TB was at the men's basketball game Saturday night when he found out that Whitney Houston had died. The Jennifer Hudson tribute at the Grammys was extremely well done, under difficult circumstances no less. When TB thinks of Whitney Houston, he will think of the inspirational version of the national anthem she sang at the Giants-Bill Super Bowl shortly after the start of the 1991 Gulf War. No other national anthem version has ever approached what she did.

* Princeton won the men's squash Ivy title with wins over Cornell and Columbia this weekend, and now attention turns to this weekend's national championships, here at Jadwin Gym. Princeton has as good a chance as anyone of coming away with the title, which Trinity has won 13 straight years.

* What in the world was Nikki Minaj thinking? And it was a little too much Chris Brown. And TB is not a fan of Bruno Mars, though he was pretty good in his performance. And Katy Perry fell into the category of "trying too hard."

* Princeton swept the fencing titles this past weekend, winning the women's championship as expected and defeated Harvard and Columbia 14-13 each to win the men's. That's five Ivy fencing titles between the team in the last three years.

* The duet of "It Had To Be You" with Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood? Pretty close to perfect. TB would love to be able to croon.

* Princeton now has five Ivy titles for the academic year. Reaching the 15 that set the record a year ago is probably not going to happen, but the goal is always double figures. Can the Tigers get there? TB thinks so, though he doesn't want to get too far ahead of anything with any team.

* Finally, the highlight of the Grammys was without a doubt the performance of Adele, who sang "Rolling In The Deep." Adele won basically every award there was to win, and why not? She is a startling talented singer whose voice overwhelms the audience from the second she opens her mouth. Add in the fact that she's just singing her song while wearing a nice, simple outfit and without having to perfect some "look" or "brand" or without having to be a jerk about it, and she's even more impressive. It was impossible to watch/listen to her without being mesmerized.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Remembering Lorin - Again

This was a pretty good weekend for Princeton Athletics.

From Friday to Sunday, Princeton won Ivy League titles in men's squash, men's fencing and women's fencing.

The men's basketball team swept a pair of home games, including a win over nationally ranked Harvard in front of a nearly full house.

The women's basketball team beat Dartmouth (head coach Courtney Banghart's alma mater) by 31 on Friday night and then in what figured to be the toughest test to date so far in the league beat second-place Harvard 84-56. And Niveen Rasheed went past 1,000 points for her career on top of that. included those results, as well as sports like men's volleyball tennis and women's water polo, a sign that spring is rapidly approaching.

And yet all of that is for tomorrow.

Today is about Lorin Maurer.

TigerBlog woke up three years ago today to an email that he had to read over and over and over to fully process. It brought the unfathomable news that Maurer - then Princeton's Friends' Group manager - had died in a plane crash the night before, on her way to Buffalo for her boyfriend's brothers wedding.

Three years later, and that entire day is still crystal clear. Princeton was playing home in women's basketball, and the building was descended upon by media, all trying to get a portrait of the woman who had died just past her 30th birthday.

TigerBlog directed them to the people who knew her best, her friends here, like Kellie Staples from the Princeton Varsity Club and Kelly Widener from compliance and Chris Brock from the business operations.

TB knew her from working with her.

She was one of those people who was easy to be around, because she seemed like she was always happy, always optimistic. She was funny and laughed all the time. She seemed like it was all going her way in her life, personally and professionally.

For whatever reason, TB remembers the time that he saw Maurer in the lobby of Jadwin before one of her events, a time when whoever was supposed to set up the tables and chairs and put out the table clothes and all that didn't. And so who did? Lorin. Without complaining. Without venting. Just did it.

TB's lasting memory of her is all of the times that she walked by his office, stopped, smiled, said nothing, and kept going.

It was her way. She was saying "gotta run, hope all's well, I'm fine" without saying anything.

Just by smiling.

A year ago, TB asked some of the people from Jadwin who knew Lorin to write a few words about her. Almost all of them mentioned her smile.

And now another year has passed.

Staples is expecting her second child in a few days, and Widener's first was in here last week, crawling around. Lorin never got to meet any of them.

There is a departmental meeting later this week. How many people there will started work after Lorin left us, never got to meet her, never got to see her smile?

TB isn't sure, but he'd guess 35% or so?

Somewhere around that number at least.

They never got to the meet the young woman who worked here not that long ago and who will never be forgotten by any of the ones who did know her.

Certainly TigerBlog will never forget her, never forget the incredible tragedy that took her - and 49 others - three years ago yesterday.

Gary Walters' office if lined with pictures all over the walls, pictures of great Princeton moments, pictures of his youth, pictures throughout his career, pictures of simple times here.

One such picture shows him with Lorin, on a sun-splashed day, at Clarke Field, home of Princeton baseball.

It was just a snapshot in time, situated next to so many others on a wall in an office.

Anytime TB is in there for a meeting or a conference call or even just to joke around a little, he sees the picture and stops and shakes his head at the great unfairness of it all. Why Lorin? Why then?

There is no answer to that question.

There's just the tragic reality of it all. One day she was here. The next day she was gone - with so much life in front of her.

She's remembered by those who knew her and miss her and wish that she was still here, smiling that same smile, laughing, moving onto the next meeting, the next event.

This past weekend would have been right in her wheelhouse. A bunch of teams at home. A big basketball game. Lots of Princeton spirit everywhere.

And yet she isn't here anymore to be part of it.

Sadly. Tragically.

Unfortunately, that's the unchangeable reality.

TB promises never to forget her.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Embraceable Us

TigerBlog heard last night that if he looked at the moon and then to the left, the small dot he would see would be none other than the planet Mars.

And so he did. And, if that really was Mars, then it was pretty cool.

It was also pretty small. Like tiny.

TB googled "size of Mars relative to Earth's moon" and found this pretty interesting website that offers such comparisons. In this case, Mars is just short of twice as big as the Earth's moon.

In the sky last night, though, the moon was about 20 times larger than Mars.

So how far is the moon from Mars? Apparently, the answer is 80 million kilometers, or 49.7 million miles.

That's pretty far, no?

When TigerBlog read the Wall Street Journal story this morning entitled "It's Time for the Ivies to Embrace Sports," with a subhead of "Jeremy Lin's Success Energizes Harvard, but the Ivy League's Athletic Prejudice Endures," he concluded that his view of Ivy athletics and the writer's were about as far apart as the moon and Mars.

The Ivy League should embrace athletics? Perhaps if this was the Wall Street Journal of perhaps 1850 or so, then yes.

The Ivy League embraces athletics like few other conferences anywhere. In fact, the rest of college athletics could do a lot worse than emulating the Ivy League in almost every way.

Let's start out with the obvious.

The Ivy League offers no athletic scholarships and has an Academic Index as part of a rigorous admissions process. Those two facts by themselves narrow the recruiting pool for the eight league schools.

Beyond that?

Well, here's what you have in Ivy League athletics:

* national competitive teams in any number of sports, including, by the way, basketball, where the Harvard men are currently ranked in the Top 25 in the human polls and more impressively the Princeton women are ranked in the Top 25 in RPI. Ivy League teams traditionally have been competitive with anyone in the country in sports like track and field, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey - and not just the "Ivy-ish" sports of squash, fencing, rowing, tennis and such.

* broad-based athletic participation that sees the eight schools compete in 33 official league sports and several other non-league sports, so that, for instance, Princeton can field 38 varsity teams with nearly 1,000 athletes

* a three-century old tradition of athletics as an extension of the overall educational mission of the schools, one that has bread generation after generation of alums whose ties to their alma maters and to the teams on which they competed are lifelong and rock-solid

* the stability of knowing that these eight schools will always be in the Ivy League and that expansion or contraction is not lingering around the corner, to be jumped at with the thought of squeezing every last dollar possible out of the athletic program

* a commitment to integrity, ensuring that Ivy League schools are in the business of educating and graduating their athletes and that their athletes are a representative cross-section of campus life

* the understanding that student-athlete experience - not just money - is a huge part of the equation and employing certain rules (limits on out-of-season competition, for one) that enable student-athletes to have that well-rounded experience

* integrity, as in not compromising on educational and University-wide standards in the name of athletics

* the ability to recruit and have athletes compete here and then go on to the professional ranks, in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse and soccer, in this country and internationally

Is there anti-athletic sentiment on Ivy League campuses? Yes. Absolutely.

Guess what. It's way worse on other campuses, where the academic end (especially economically) is often compromised by lavish spending on athletics, which leads to great resentment among non-athletes and especially faculty members. It's not easy when you're a great professor at a great school like, say, Penn State, and then an athletic scandal comes along and changes the whole dynamic.

Or when your budget is constantly being compromised, yet the football coach (who by the way never really won anything big) keeps getting more and more for himself and his program. TB has read a million stories that fit this plot line regarding Rutgers.

Ivy League schools have made a serious commitment to athletics. At Princeton, nearly one-quarter of the undergraduate population is varsity athletes. Given the competition for admission into schools like Princeton, that shows a strong institutional commitment to the athletic program.

As college athletics continues to morph into the power conferences whose football (and to a lesser extent men's basketball) programs become all-powerful, the Ivy League continues to be a beacon of sanity, education and athletic excellence.

Embrace sports?

The Ivy League did that decades ago and continues to through the present and into the future.

With great integrity and success.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Meaning Nothing

TigerBlog caught the end of the North Carolina-Duke game last night, and clearly it was a awesome college basketball game.

As an aside, TB has been in both the Dean Dome and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and there's no comparison between the two. The Dean Dome beats Cameron in any possible category, especially atmosphere.

Anyway, if you missed it, Duke trailed by 10 at 82-72 with 2:10 to play and won 85-84 on a three at the buzzer.

It took an extraordinary turn of events from UNC, including some missed foul shots, bad turnovers and something TB had never seen before - an attempt to rebound an airballed three-pointer that UNC's Tyler Zeller accidentally redirected into the basket.

TB was pretty sure that counted for two points, not three, and after a brief referee's meeting - complete with the requisite arms-around-each-other hugging - it was indeed a two.

And, of course, Duke got one huge break from the ref, as the three-pointer from Seth Curry that made it 82-78 (and really was the shot that made the game close again) came after Curry had taken, oh, five steps.

It was a game that had a little of everything - the big comeback, some really clutch shooting, big swings in momentum, a great crowd, a great rivalry.

One thing it lacked, though, was significance. In the scheme of this year's college basketball season, here's what that game meant: Zero.

Duke and Carolina are assured of NCAA tournament bids. They'll be two seeds probably, though one of them could move up to a No. 1 or down to a No. 3.

Their NCAA run will be dictated more by matchups than anything else. Do they get an easy draw? A run against teams that might pose problems for teams that have different strengths? Duke, for instance, might do well against Syracuse's zone because of its great three-point shooters.

Whatever happens, the winner of the Duke-Carolina game last night (or the loser) doesn't have the season impacted in any way.

The same was true with the Georgetown-Syracuse game last night. It was a great game, yes, but ultimately it doesn't mean anything.

In fact, it's the No. 1 problem with college basketball. The regular-season is almost completely meaningless.

For power teams, they're in the NCAA tournament.

For teams from one-bid conferences, they have to win the conference tournament.

Maybe there's a group of 10-20 teams in Division I that are playing for NCAA tournament spots from multi-bid conferences. For basically everyone else? Nope.

And the effect is to ruin the significance of the great games played at this time of year.

It is, of course, the opposite problem that college football has, where the regular season is great and the postseason is horrible.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious where all this is going.

The Ivy League is the lone Division I league without a conference tournament, and TB can't imagine why anyone would want to change that.

Look at this year's races.

On the men's side, Harvard is unbeaten and Yale and Penn have one loss. As much as Harvard is ranked in the polls, the Crimson are unlikely to get an at-large bid should the league title get away.

For starters, Harvard's RPI is 40 right now. Even should Harvard go undefeated in the league, that number will come down a little. Should Harvard lose the two games it would need to lose to not win, that number would come down a lot.

On the women's side, Princeton is unbeaten, while Harvard has one loss. Princeton's RPI of 25 is amazingly strong. Still, Princeton would have to lose two games to not win the league, and that number would come down. Princeton does have a bunch of quality wins, but the Tigers couldn't be confident on selection day without an automatic bid.

In other words, the Ivy League is only getting one men's bid and is almost surely only getting one women's bid.

Whichever team gets that bid will have earned it, through a 14-game regular season. It won't come down to a ball that bounces the wrong way in the 1-4 semifinal game in the league tournament.

And why should it?

Isn't the goal for a one-bid league to send its best team, so it can have the best chance of getting an NCAA tournament win? If it isn't, it should be.

Maybe a few years ago, getting that one game on television (the league final) was huge. Now? Who cares? Every game is on television or video streamed.

It's getting the best team in the league to the NCAA tournament that matter.

One-bid leagues all lose money of their conference tournaments. The atmosphere at every game up until the final is essentially horrible. A team that has dominated during the regular season is now asked, usually, to win three games in three days, when quality is sacrificed as the play grinds on.

Get rid of the tournaments in leagues that are getting one bid.

For the big conferences, if there's going to be a tournament, limit them to the top eight or six or even four teams. Do something to make the regular season more important.

The Penn-Harvard men's game tomorrow night is a big one, and the implication for the league race will be huge. It far eclipses the meaning of Duke-Carolina or Georgetown-Syracuse.

It's not on TV, though. At the same time, ESPNU is showing Iona-Loyola, a matchup of teams that are 11-2 and tied for first place in the MAAC.

That game means the same as Duke-Carolina: Zero.

Their RPIs are 54 and 90. In other words, one bid. In other words, it's as likely that neither team will be in the NCAA tournament as it is that one of them well. Both won't. That's for sure.

Once again, the Ivy model is the right one.

It should be emulated.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bird Watching

TigerBlog remembers reading somewhere that there are something like 100 billion birds on Earth, which means there are way more birds than people (seven billion or so).

Of the seven billion people, about a little more than 300,000,000 live in the United States.

Of the 100 billion birds, about six billion live in this country.

In other words, there are about 16 birds out there for every person in the United States.

Ever see the Hitchcock movie "The Birds?" It's a bit freaky, the way the birds seem to band together to attack humans, even as science suggests that is an impossibility.

As an aside, TB's favorite Hitchcock movie is "North by Northwest," though he's never seen a Hitchcock movie he didn't like.

At the end of "The Birds," the situation is very unresolved. Yes, the birds have done some serious damage, but have they really united, or is it all just coincidence that breeds paranoia?

There was one bird this morning - a red-tailed hawk - who sat perched above the dinky, looking down on the train and then flying away as it passed by.

TB would have assumed that the noise of the train would have frightened the bird away. Instead, the bird was mesmerized by the train, and it was only after the train left that the bird went on with its day.

Is this how it starts? Should TB worry about some kind of unifying bird situation that is it its infancy?

Nah, TB isn't too concerned that the 16 birds out there with his name on them are going to turn violent. Maybe messy, but not violent.

Still, if the birds are morphing into a higher form of intelligence - and if the red-tailed hawk wants to linger on campus for a few days - then he (or she) can see something that hasn't been seen at Princeton since, well, a long time ago.

The Princeton men's basketball team is at home this weekend, playing Friday night against Dartmouth and Saturday against Harvard.

The last time the Tigers were home? January 78, against the College of New Jersey.

The last time the Tigers were home against a Division I team? Not in January. Not in December, even. Nope, you have to go all the way back to Nov. 30, when the Tigers hosted Lafayette.

Princeton is now home for seven of its final nine games, but all of the travel - especially with five straight league games away from home - have taken a toll (and a lot of tolls), as the Tigers are 2-3 in the league.

Yes, Princeton dug an early hole with its loss at Cornell in the league opener, but coming out of exams at Penn Monday and then at Brown/Yale last Friday/Saturday was a bit much. In fact, it was fairly unfair.

The return of the men's basketball team to its home court is not the only big story for this coming weekend.

In fact, Princeton will have home events in men's squash, women's squash, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, wrestling, women's water polo, women's hockey and women's tennis. Between all those teams, there will be a total of 18 home events between Friday and Sunday.

And, of course, except for men's basketball, admission to all is free.

Between now and Sunday, the first four Ivy League champions of the winter will be crowned.

The Ivy League fencing championships (a two-day round-robin event being held at Yale) are Saturday and Sunday. Princeton is the defending champion and favorite on the women's side; the men's side is wide-open, with Princeton in the mix.

The men's and women's squash regular seasons end this weekend as well.

On the women's side, Harvard and Yale will play for the championship.

On the men's side, Princeton has already defeated Harvard and Yale and stands at 5-0 before hosting Cornell Friday and Columbia Saturday. One win means at least a share of the title, while two guarantees an outright title. Cornell, a much-improved team, is the clear No. 4 team in the league and will be a legitimate challenge.

And of course, lacrosse season is out there, just two weeks away for Princeton's men and women - and actually underway as of last weekend.

But hey, that's another story for another day.

For this weekend, there'll be plenty of in-season sports to watch around here.

And, presumably, plenty of birds, if that's preferable.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tiger Ref

TigerBlog thought he was all finished writing about the Super Bowl, until he got an email this morning from a member of the Class of 1971.

The email pointed out that side judge Laird Hayes, the man who made the correct call on Mario Manningham's reception at midfield that set up the Giants' game-winning touchdown, was a classmate.

TB had no idea that the side judge was a Princetonian, and a baseball player on top of that.

The email TB received referenced the column by Mike Pereira that called Hayes the MVP of the game and included this:
"On our biggest stage, in front of what may turn out to be the largest audience of any television program in history, Hayes faced the biggest call of his career — and he nailed it. When you stop and analyze it, we get replay after replay to dissect every close play. Hayes had only 1/26 of a second to make the right call. And he did."

Hayes made the right call, one that stood up after being dissected by the replay review. And it wasn't an easy call either, and certainly the circumstances of the moment made it tougher.

What impressed TB most about the call is that Hayes made it decisively, with none of the hesitation that is now commonplace due to the fact that officials know the replay review is lingering over their shoulders.

And even knowing that the replay review would be the ultimate authority on the call (which means that Hayes couldn't be looked at like Don Denkinger or other officials who have become infamous through a blown call in a huge spot), Hayes had to have a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that he got it right.

In many ways, making the call required the same amount of concentration as making the catch.

Of course, TB assumes that Hayes - whom TB has never met or spoken to or anything - was embarrassed by all of the accolades being thrown his way, as any good official would be.

So congratulations to Laird Hayes, who did the Princeton Class of 1971 proud at the Super Bowl Sunday.

Hayes, TB has noticed, has his own Wikipedia page, which mentions that he has a Ph.D. from UCLA and was officiating in his third Super Bowl.

As an aside, TB also noticed that several players - Manningham, Chase Blackburn for two - had their Wikipedia pages updated about their Super Bowl contributions. Who did that? Did they?

Anyway, with the Super Bowl now a memory, it was time for New York sports to move along. And who would replace the Giants in the New York sporting conscience?

Jeremy Lin, of course.

The Harvard alum has his second straight game of at least 25 points for the Knicks, this time going for 28 points and eight assists in a win over the Jazz last night. This came after Lin had 25 points against the Nets in is previous game.

Were it not for the Giant Super Bowl (which probably would have been the Saints Super Bowl had Alex Smith not had an unlikely winning drive for the 49ers in the playoffs), Lin would be the biggest story in New York sports right now.

TigerBlog remembers Lin when he played for Harvard as a great player, but at no point did TB think he was looking at an NBA player. In fact, TB thinks that if Lin can be an NBA "star," then there's a place in the league for Penn's Zack Rosen.

As a senior, Lin shot 7 for 24 in two games against Princeton, scoring 19 points with 6 for 16 shooting in a three-point Tiger win in Cambridge and then shot 1 for 8 with eight points in another three-point Princeton in Princeton.

Lin did have a 27-point game against Princeton as a junior and a 20-point game against Princeton as a sophomore. He hardly played in the two games against Princeton as a freshman, and he was 1-7 against the Tigers in his career.

And now he's an unstoppable presence in the NBA, at least for the last two games. He probably won't continue to average 26.5 points per game, but he does have a pretty good chance to become a steady contributor on a team desperate for a point guard.

TB, as a rule, isn't sure if he's should root for the Ivy League teams other than Princeton to do well nationally. In some cases, he does; in others, he vehemently doesn't.

Ivy athletes, though, are another story. He usually roots for them on the big stages, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick with the Bills and now Lin, especially since he's playing for the Knicks.

Of course, he's a bigger fan these days of the Tiger Ref.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eli And The Elis

Right about the time that the football just eluded Rob Gronkowski as Super Bowl XLVI, TigerBlog decided that if the Giants don't win a game in the next 10 years, he won't complain.

TB woke up today in a world where Eli Manning has won more Super Bowls than Peyton Manning and where Eli joins Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady as the only players with more than one Super Bowl MVP award.

The Giants, who lost twice to the Redskins and at home to the Seattle Seahawks, won their second Super Bowl in four year, doing so in eerily similar fashion to the one IV years earlier, right up to rallying past the Patriots with a late touchdown (aided by a sensational throw-and-catch by Manning to a wide receiver, though the one Mario Maningham made yesterday wasn't anything close to what David Tyree did) and then holding their collective breath waiting to see if Brady would pull off a miracle.

More Super Bowl thoughts:

* TB isn't sure if the Giants did the right thing by scoring the touchdown there, but it's not Ahmad Bradshaw's responsibility to stop short of the end zone, especially when he had already fumbled once. If the Giants had wanted to run the clock down and then kick a field goal with about 15 seconds left, then they should have had Manning kneel down in the middle of the field. Still, a lot could have gone wrong - a bad snap, a blocked kick, a simple miss, even a kickoff out of bounds that leads to a completion and long game-winner for the Pats. Making the Pats have to score a touchdown might not have been the worst idea ever.

* There aren't too many players who strike fear in TB the way Brady does. It seems like every time he touches the ball, he's about to do something to incinerate the other team. Manning doesn't really inspire that same emotion, but he's so surgical, especially in crunch time. He's clearly headed for the Hall of Fame.

* It's amazing that the Giants have now won two Super Bowls in years in which the call for Tom Coughlin to be fired was loud. The Giants have to be commended for not making the kind of knee-jerk decisions - not only with their head coach but also in personnel - that doom other teams.

* The holding call on Cornell's Kevin Boothe was weak, but it had a huge impact on the game. In fact, had the Giants not scored their last touchdown and the Pats run out the clock to win 17-12, that holding call would have been the biggest moment of the game.

* TB is happy for Marc Ross, the former Princeton wide receiver who is the Giants Director of College Scouting.

* Maybe the most overlooked play (and player) in the game was Chase Blackburn and his interception. Blackburn went from being released and becoming a substitute middle school math teacher to being the Giants third or fourth best defensive player during the last 10 weeks of the season. Maybe the fact that he was fresher than everyone else made such a huge difference?

* The only Super Bowl commercial that TB liked was the one with the big dog who gets caught burying the family cat and then bribes the owner with Doritos. All of the other commercials, it seemed, tried way too hard. Seriously, you can't get a better commercial with Jerry Seinfeld?

* Why is anyone suprised that M.I.A. gave her middle finger to the audience and cursed during the halftime show? The whole goal is to be noticed, right? Well, she got noticed. Doesn't matter why.

Anyway, the Giants fourth Super Bowl championship and second in four years puts TB in the position of never being able to complain again about anything the team does.

While TB was rooting hard for Eli, he was definitely rooting against the Elis. As in the Yale Elis.

Princeton split with Yale in basketball, as the women won 72-47 against a team that is either the second or third best in the league (along with Harvard). The men dropped a tough game in New Haven, but they should benefit greatly by finally getting to play at home.

And then there was this score:

Princeton 8, Yale 1.

That was the men's squash final score, in the match between the third-ranked Tigers and top-ranked Bulldogs, a match that almost surely was to decide the Ivy League championship.

Coming off a 7-2 loss to Trinity earlier in the week, Princeton might have been lacking confidence heading into the match against a Yale team that had beaten Trinity 5-4 earlier this season and who had narrowly edged the Tigers for the Ivy title the last two years.

When TB first checked out the score, the match was already over, as the Tigers had already rung up five wins.

The win should have a huge impact on the seedings for the national tournament, which really could be a four-team race, with Princeton, Yale, Trinity and Harvard all capable. The key is to stay out of the third seed and get an easier quarterfinal, and Princeton's win over Yale might have sealed that for the Tigers.

Besides, should Princeton beat Cornell (a very tough foe who lost 5-4 to Harvard) and Columbia, it would have an outright title. One win means at least a share.

And it's always good to have at least one of your major goals accomplished as the season winds down.

A big win over the Elis and a bigger win for Eli.

Not a bad weekend.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Super Weekend

It didn't take Eli Manning long to earn TigerBlog's highest respect.

Even when he was being derided as merely Peyton Manning's little brother - the ESPN commercial with them on the tour is tremendous - TigerBlog liked how he threw the ball down the field and especially his penchant for playing better as the game went along and the moment became bigger.

Now, two days from now, Eli can do something his brother never did - win a second Super Bowl.

Quite amazingly, the Giants have made a march almost identical to the one they made IV years ago, reaching the big game to find waiting there for them the New England Patriots.

This time, New England isn't undefeated, or for that matter undefeated against the Giants. In Super Bowl XLII, New England was going for 19-0 and a Giant win seemed so unfathomable; this time, it seems like either team can win.

FatherBlog was almost more of a Jets fans, and TB remembers watching Super Bowl III as one of his first sporting memories. One of TB's favorite early athletes was Joe Namath (the other was Tom Seaver).

It has been decades, though, since TB became a Giants fan.

And while there have been some brutal years and some awful losses, on balance, there haven't been too many better teams to root for all these years. The team has already won three Super Bowls and been to four, and two of the three Super Bowl wins came in some of the greatest games pro football has ever seen, including possibly the best ever the last time these teams got together in the big game.

TB's prediction - Giants 31, Patriots 21. This is his third prediction, after one abysmal one (Colts over the Saints easily) and one that was almost right on the nose last year (Packers over Steelers).

Bonus prediction - Victor Cruz wins the MVP award.

Of course, TB will have to miss the opening kickoff, because of the decision to schedule a basketball game for Little Miss TigerBlog at 4:30 Sunday. Must have been an Eagles' fan who did that.

Between now and kickoff, there is more than just LMTB basketball.

There is also a huge weekend in Princeton Athletics, including:

* Yale at Princeton men's squash, tomorrow at noon

The Ivy title is essentially Princeton's with a win, though not necessarily Yale's should the Bulldogs win.

So far in collegiate men's squash, you have Princeton 5, Harvard 4; Yale 5, Trinity 4; Trinity 7, Princeton 2; Harvard 5, Yale 4 (that last one was at the Ivy League's preseason scrimmage, so it doesn't count in the regular-season standings).

Harvard and Yale still have to play each other, and that figures to go either way. As for Princeton, wins over Yale and Harvard would basically seal the title, even with a very good Cornell team still to play.

This year, the national squash title is not a gimme for Trinity, obviously. In fact, depending on matchups, any of the top four could win it. Getting an Ivy title would be a big prize along the way.

* women's basketball vs. Brown tonight (7) and Yale tomorrow night (6)

Princeton hasn't played in three weeks, since its 59-point win over Columbia and 29-point win over Cornell, which followed a 35-point win over Penn.

The Tigers are the lone undefeated team in the league, but this weekend figures to be a challenge, with 2-2 Brown and 3-1 Yale (both are 11-7 overall) catching the Tigers after the long exam break.

Harvard and Cornell are 2-1 in the league, and Princeton is at Dartmouth/Harvard next weekend.

Princeton is bidding to become the first team to win three straight outright league titles since the start of double round-robin play in 1982-83. The Tigers are getting considerable national attention in polls, RPI, potential NCAA tournament scenarios and all the rest, but none of that will matter if the team doesn't take care of its business in the league.

This weekend should be a pretty good indicator if there will be a race or not.

If nothing else, Saturday night's game is a draw because of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which begins with an interactive athletic fair that includes several of Princeton's women's teams. It's one of the best events that Princeton does each year.

* men's hockey home vs. Dartmouth tonight (7)

Like the women's basketball team, the men's hockey team has been out of the league for three weeks. Unlike women's hoops, the men's hockey team did play a non-league game, defeating UConn 4-3 Tuesday.

The ECAC hockey standings are, in a word, bizarre. Princeton is currently ninth, though the Tigers are also two points out of sixth and three points out of fifth.

The goal as always is finish in the top four, to get a first-round bye, or at the very least finish in the top eight, to get home ice in the first round.

Princeton has only the game against Dartmouth this weekend. There is a Skate With The Tigers event after the game.

* men's basketball and Brown/Yale

Even with a 1-2 league record, Princeton knows at the very least that if it wins its remaining 11 games, it would probably have at least a share of the title (only Penn at 13-1 would be better than Princeton in that scenario). Regardless, there is still so much of the season to play, and this weekend if nothing else brings a halt to the ridiculous stretch of road games against Division I opponents.

Princeton is home next week (believe it or not) against Dartmouth and Harvard.

By that time, Ian Hummer almost surely will have reached the 1,000-point mark, as he enters this weekend 1) with 988 career points and 2) having been in double figures in every game this year.

* H-Y-P swimming

While it lacks the importance of knowing there's a league title on the line, anytime Princeton swims with Harvard and Yale there is significance.

The HYP event will be contested at Harvard, where the women will have the Ivy championships later this season. The men's Ivy championships will be in DeNunzio Pool.