Friday, December 28, 2012

Do You Hear The People Sing Of The Top 10 Moments In 2012

As TigerBlog said yesterday, he went to see the "Les Miserables" movie.

As a result, he will have the song "Do You Hear The People Sing" stuck in his head the entire time he runs down what are, in his opinion, the top 10 moments in Princeton's 2012 athletic year.

Again, as he said yesterday, this is a tough year to pick the top Princeton moment from the last 12 months. Since then, he's heard from a few people and has gotten no consensus on what the top story is.

That, alone, shows you what a great year it's been.

So, understanding that at least three national champions couldn't be No. 1, TigerBlog gives you his list of the top 10 Princeton athletic moments from 2012, with the full acknowledgement that not everyone's would be the same.

Oh, and the only caveat is that only what was done in a Princeton uniform counts, which eliminates the seven Olympic medals won by the Tigers. Otherwise, it's possible that Diana Matheson's goal in the bronze medal game or Caroline Lind's gold medal in rowing or Donn Cabral's eighth-place finish in the steeplechase might have been No. 1.

And with that said and the words "will you join in our crusade" playing over and over, here we go:

No. 10 - Men's swimming and diving wins fourth straight Ivy title.
Princeton's men's swimming and diving class of 2012 became the first in the program in 20 years to win the Ivy title all four years. John Christensen went 3 for 3 in finals at the Ivy championships as Princeton defeated runner-up Harvard by 79.5 points.

No. 9 - Men's lacrosse wins the Ivy League championship
Princeton, one year removed from an injury-destroyed 4-8 season, went a perfect 6-0 in the Ivy League to win the 26th league title in program history. Princeton, which outscored its six league opponents by a combined 81-35, defeated Cornell 14-9 on the final day of the regular season to clinch the title. 

No. 8 - Men's cross country wins the Ivy League and finishes 11th at the NCAA championships
Princeton went 1-2-4-7-12 to run away with the Heptagonal title, held on Princeton's own home course, as Chris Bendtsen and Alejandro Arroyo Yamin were the ones who finished 1-2. Princeton went on to finish 11th at the NCAA championship race, as Bendtsen (43rd), Arroyo Yamin (58th) and Tyler Udland (79th) all finished in the top 100.

No. 7 - Women's basketball reaches the national Top 25
The women's basketball team became the first Ivy League team ever to reach the national Top 25, as the Tigers moved into the No. 24 spot in the final poll of the regular season. Princeton went 14-0 in the Ivy League and was the only team in Division I - men's or women's - to have a perfect league record while winning every game by at least 10 points; Princeton, in fact, won 11 of its 14 league games by at least 20 points. The season ended with a three-point loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Kansas State.

No. 6 - Women's soccer goes a perfect 7-0-0 in the league and wins its opening round NCAA tournament game
The women's soccer team had the second-best season in program history (behind the 2004 NCAA Final Four team) and did something that no other Princeton team had ever done before. The women's soccer team, like men's lacrosse one year removed from a very rare losing season, had an 11-game winning streak in midseason that included a perfect run through the Ivy League, including a 4-2 win over Penn on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium to clinch the outright championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton then defeated West Virginia at West Virginia, winning on the road in the NCAA tournament for the first time.

No. 5 - Jonathan Yergler wins the NCAA epee title; Princeton finishes second
Jonathan Yergler earned a spot in the epee playoffs by the complex tiebreakers after the long qualifying session and then took full advantage, becoming the first Princeton fencer in 11 years to win an individual championship. Princeton also had its best finish in the combined team championship, finishing second behind Ohio State. Princeton swept the Ivy League championships for both men and women.

No. 4 - Donn Cabral wins the NCAA steeplechase championship
Donn Cabral ran away from the field at the NCAA's 3,000-meter steeplechase final in Iowa and in doing so, he became the first Princeton runner since 1934 to win an NCAA championship. Cabral's Princeton resume featured Ivy League championships and All-America honors in both cross country and track and field, and he went on from graduation to qualify for the Olympic team, reach the steeplechase final and then ultimately finish eighth.

No. 3 - Princeton defeats Harvard 39-34 in football
This football game is the only event on the list that didn't directly result in a championship, which shows you just how great a football game it was. Princeton trailed heavily favored Harvard 34-10 with 12 minutes to play and then came flying back, scoring three touchdowns with two two-point conversions to make it 34-32 and then having the dramatic final drive, which ended with Quinn Epperly's 36-yard touchdown pass to Roman Wilson with 13 seconds to play. It was a total classic, one of the greatest football games ever played in the history of the Ivy League.

And so this brings us to the final two, and TigerBlog is relatively sure that just about anyone's list of top events at Princeton in 2012 would end with these two. He's also reasonably sure that it would be split 50-50 as to which is No. 1.

This is how TB sees it:

No. 2 - Men's squash wins the national championship, ending Trinity's 13-year title streak
Trinity had won 13 straight national championships and had defeated Princeton to end the regular season. When the teams met again in the national final at the jammed courts in Jadwin Gym, Trinity held a 4-2 lead after the first two shifts and needed only one win in the final three matches to get its 14th straight title. Only it never came. Princeton won all three, with the deciding point from senior Kelly Shannon, to win 5-4 and spark a wild celebration. The party turned bittersweet when Princeton's beloved coach Bob Callahan was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after his team won the championship and then became an inspiration to everyone with the way Callahan continues to fight it.

No. 1 - Princeton wins the NCAA field hockey championship
Princeton had four players - Michelle Cesan, Julia Reinprecht, Katie Reinprecht and Kathleen Sharkey - miss the 2011 season as they trained for the Olympics. Their return for 2012 made Princeton immediately one of the main contenders for the NCAA title, but it would not be simple. Princeton stormed through the Ivy League at 7-0, outscoring its league opponents 45-1, but winning a national championship was going to be another matter. The previous 11 championships had all been won by teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Princeton had to defeat three ACC teams in its final three games, knocking off Virginia in the quarterfinals, two-time defending champ Maryland in the semifinals and then No. 1 seed North Carolina in the final. It was the first NCAA field hockey championship in Ivy League history.

Anyway, that's how TigerBlog sees it for 2012.

Hopefully it'll be just as tough in 2013 - and for the same reason.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reviewing Les Mis And Les Year

Ever since Roger Ebert called one of TigerBlog's all-time favorite movies "the worst-acted movie of all-time" and another reviewer gave it zero stars out of five, TB has taken critics with a big grain of salt.

After all, "Point Break" was a great movie.

He thought back to that when he read the review for "Les Miserables," the movie version that is, the one that was released on Christmas Day.

TigerBlog is among the many who has already seen the movie in its first two days of release. He also read a bunch of reviews for the movie, and they were about 50-50 between "it was great" and "it was trying too hard and missed the mark."

To the second 50 of that group, TB asks this question: "What were you watching?"

The movie is ridiculously good.

It's really hard to translate an epic musical that has played for more than a quarter-century on the stage into a movie. It lacks the intimacy, and it has to be more than just a movie version of the show.

It also needs to have some star power to attract an audience, which is something that the stage version doesn't need to do. In fact, the stage version creates stars, rather than the other way around.

To that end, the movie version of "Les Mis" features Russell Crowe as Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine, not to mention Broadway-veteran Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean.

One of the unique parts of this movie is that the performers all sang their songs live during filming, as opposed to in a studio separately after lip-syncing during filming. It's even more impressive considering that many of the leads - like Crowe, Hathaway, Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter - are not known for their singing.

And yet it works. In a very big way.

There are some others in supporting roles who are also tremendous. And of course there is the music itself, which is obviously can't-miss stuff. And, somewhat uniquely, is a rare show that doesn't have at least one great romantic ballad. In fact, it's most famous song is a bunch of guys singing about a revolution.

If you know the music, you'll love it. If you don't know the music, you'll probably go get the music after you see the movie.

Unless you're a critic.

"Les Miserables" will still end up on most year-end Top 10 lists and such.

This time of year, the week between Christmas and New Year's, is famous for its Top 10 lists, year in review-oriented content and such.

So why not look at the year 2012 in Princeton athletics.

By any standards, it was a ridiculously successful one.

Princeton had four national champions in 2012, two individuals (Jonathan Yergler in fencing and Donn Cabral in track and field) and two teams (field hockey, men's squash). The fencing team was the NCAA runner-up.

There were 11 Ivy League championship teams in 2012 - women's basketball, men's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field, men's cross country, men's lacrosse, women's soccer, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's squash and field hockey.

In other words, if you were making a list of the top three stories in Princeton athletics in 2012, then you'd have to leave out a national champion. Actually, at least one. As well as multiple league champions.

Beyond just those accomplishments, you have to add in what is arguably the best football game Princeton has played in, oh, a long, long time, its 39-34 comeback win over Harvard. Even though Princeton didn't win the league championship in football, it's possible that that moment would be in the top three.

TigerBlog still isn't sure what order he'd put everything in or what he would select as the No. 1 story for Princeton in the last 12 months.

In fact, he's going to take "One Day More" to think about it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


TigerBlog spent much of Christmas Eve listening to Christmas carols on the radio.

In general, these songs fall into a few different categories.

There are the newer ones, often from movies and often sung by someone famous who wanted to get in on the Christmas thing. There are the religious ones. There are the old-fashioned ones. There are the ones that are winter-centric, rather than Christmas-centric.

There are ballads. There are ones that rock, especially the Bruce version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

Like the effort of the Boss on that one, there are all kinds of remakes of classic songs.

The other day, TB heard a duet of Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper on that very same "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It was really good.

Elvis sang a lot of Christmas songs. So did Dean Martin. TB likes Dean's version of "Silver Bells."

It seemed like every station had Christmas music on it, except for the classic rock station in Philadelphia, which had its normal assortment. Although there were many TB favorites in there, it seemed very out-of-place compared to what was on all the other stops on the dial.

One of the stations had all Christmas music on it since before Thanksgiving. Actually, TB thinks that it was back to around Halloween.

And now Christmas is over.

TB saw a few of his favorites, like "A Christmas Story" and "It's A Wonderful Life."

The best Christmas-oriented production he saw this time around, though, was the video done by the Princeton women's basketball freshmen.

It is an incredibly well-done, well-thought-out, well-produced production - made all the more impressive by the fact that it was completely 100% done by the players themselves. It even comes with bloopers at the end.

As for Princeton basketball, TigerBlog was expecting to see the smallest crowd in Jadwin Gym history this past Saturday when Princeton hosted Bucknell in men's basketball.

It's not that the game wasn't attractive. Bucknell came it 11-1 with some pretty good wins (Purdue, George Mason). Princeton, coming off a nice win over Rider, looked like it might have gotten past the four games in which it gave up second-half double-digit leads and appeared that it might have righted its ship.

TB just thought that on the Saturday before Christmas at 7, there'd be very few people in the building.

He was wrong.

Bucknell brought a big contingent. Princeton had a nice turnout. The result was the best crowd of the year at Jadwin, though not the biggest. Rutgers had 60 more people (3,150 for that game; 3,090 for Bucknell), but it was nearly twice what Rider drew and it was much more into it than the Rutgers crowd had been.

It reminded TB of a game Princeton played on New Year's Eve afternoon in 1999 against Holy Cross. TB thought that game would draw nobody either - instead a crowd of 5,935 was in the building.

The game against Bucknell was a great one for Princeton, who led throughout, had all five starters in double figures and won by 12.

Princeton had to be feeling so much better about itself heading into Christmas than it was heading into the Rider game five days earlier.

Now the Tigers get back into it with consecutive road games, at Akron Sunday and then at Elon Jan. 5, before the Ivy League opener against Penn at Jadwin on Jan. 12 as part of a doubleheader with the women.

Princeton has done exactly what it's needed to do in November and December, which is to figure out lineups and combinations and individual strengths and weaknesses and position itself for the coming league season.

In Princeton's case, it also meant playing through some tough stretches, including the low point, the loss to Fordham that preceded this current two-game streak.

The last two games were tremendous for Princeton - and a reminder of why the Tigers were the preseason favorite in the league.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Richest Man In Town

When they sing of "the most wonderful time of the year," do they mean 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, when TBS begins its 24-hour, 12-straight-showings of "A Christmas Story" and NBC starts its annual screening of "It's A Wonderful Life?"

TigerBlog thinks so.

TigerBlog has seen both movies about a million times each, or at least enough so that there are no surprises in store at all in either. And in truth, he has DVD versions of both of them, so he doesn't need to watch them on Christmas Eve.

And, of course, there are the odd times in, oh, April or July or something, when TB will switch over to youtube for a quick fix of his favorite scenes.

From "It's A Wonderful Life," it's the moment at the end when Harry toasts George with "to my big brother George, the richest man in town." For the record, even typing the words gets TB a tad misty; it's impossible for him to watch the scene without tearing up, even after all the times he's seen it.

From "A Christmas Story," there is more than one.

If he had to pick just one, it would also be the end, in the wildly politically incorrect scene when the Parker family ends up in the Chinese restaurant on Christmas night.

Click on the link and watch the mother the entire time in the clip. They must have had to film that scene a billion times and finally gave up, realizing that she'd crack every no matter how many times they tried it.

Then there's the scene where Ralphie lets fly the "big one, the eff-dash-dash-dash" word. That's hilarious.

Still, there's nothing quite like watching them on Christmas Eve, in the moment themselves.

And those aren't the only great Christmas productions. There are dozens of them.

There are so many great holiday movies, especially the ones that mix in some laughter and hijinks along the way before the heartfelt ending. And the TV specials, like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" or any of them, especially the granddaddy of them all, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Every kid loves to watch them. Every adult loves them too, because of how they immediately take them back to their own childhoods.

Of course, just about every TV show has its Christmas episodes, so many of which are classics. And all of the Christmas carols, of which TB has more than 50 on his iTunes.

And there are the Christmas lights and ornaments and all. TigerBlog saw one street along the Delaware-Raritan Canal were each of 12 houses decorated as the "12 Days Of Christmas," with each house having a display of each of the nights in the song.

TigerBlog is a huge Christmas fan, which doesn't make him unique among people on Earth. Perhaps the whole being Jewish thing makes it not quite a religious moment for TB, but as he always says, Christmas is also a federal holiday, the only religious federal holiday in the United States.

TB loves to ask people what their Christmas traditions are, and it seems that just about everyone as the same routine for the holiday, whether Christian or not. Some of these traditions are decades and generations old, and TB knows that each time he asks someone, the response is always given with great fondness, as if they cannot wait for it to start all over again.

TB also knows some people whose birthdays are right around Christmas, including his 11-year-old friend William, whose birthday is today. And Nancy Donigan, who works in the compliance office here and whose birthday is Christmas Eve. And others - all of whom get offended at the suggestion that they might get one present to cover both Christmas and the birthday.

The world of Princeton Athletics grinds to a halt for Christmas, with a seven-day break between the men's basketball game tomorrow night at home against Bucknell until the men's hockey and wrestling teams resume play Dec. 29.

Other than exams, nothing else causes that big of a break in the athletic schedule here during the course of the academic year. Only Christmas.

The NBA has give games scheduled on Christmas Day, which might make for decent TV ratings but is an unfair burden on those who have to work at them, especially radio/TV/media relations/medical staff types who have to go on the road and can't even be home in the morning.

At Princeton, pretty much everyone can be home for the holidays, which is no small feat considering how many different directions they all have to scatter in to make that happen.

And that's as it should be.

This weekend gives you a last chance to get the Christmas shopping done, and then it's Christmas Eve on Monday and then the holiday on Tuesday.

TigerBlog will be back Wednesday, and as such, he wants to wish everyone the merriest of Christmases.

May everyone be, as Harry Bailey said, "the richest man in town."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Apocalypse Now

Welcome to the last-ever TigerBlog. Maybe.

By this time tomorrow, TB will no longer be able to write, as apparently the world is going to end shortly after midnight tonight. At least that's what some people seem to think.

Actually, TB is not among them. In fact, he's willing to bet anyone who wants to $1 at 100,000,000,000,000-1 odds that the world still exists tomorrow.

As TB understands it, the crux of the issue is that a calendar conceived by the ancient Mayans 5,000 years ago apparently ends tomorrow. As a result, some believe the world ends with it.

TB doubts that the physical properties of the Earth and the universe care at all about what a 5,000-year old calendar says.

He also thinks that if he could find a time machine and travel back to the days when the calendar was being made, the average ancient Mayan would have said something like "duh, it just starts over again. You had a time machine and could have gone to any moment in human history and chose to come here now and ask me this? Idiot."

Plus, what about leap years? Did the ancient Mayans foresee those? If not, then their calendar ended a long time ago, and we're still here.

TigerBlog has respect for the right of each person to have an opinion, any opinion, on any subject. It's supposed to be how America works.

That doesn't translate into respecting all of those opinions. And in this case, sorry, TB doesn't buy into the apocalypse theory.

On the other hand, if they're right and TigerBlog is wrong, then 148+ years of Princeton Athletics ends tonight with Princeton-Rider men's basketball.

There was a time when it seemed like a Princeton-Rider men's basketball game would be a sign of the apocalypse. Princeton and Rider didn't play between 1946 and 2001.

During much of that time, the mere suggestion that Princeton and Rider play was met with scorn and mocking laughter.

It never made sense to TigerBlog. Here are two schools, separated by six miles, who couldn't get together on the basketball court for 55 years?

The teams have played three times, in 2001 at Jadwin, 2002 at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton and then last year at Alumni Gym at Rider, where Princeton won on Mack Darrow's three-pointer at the final buzzer.

For the current Tigers, the history of the Rider series and why the teams never played in all that time is about as important as whether or not the world will end tomorrow.

Princeton is 3-6 but could be 7-2 had it not developed a troubling habit of allowing big leads to get away late, most recently in last Saturday's loss to Fordham at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.

To this, TigerBlog always has two thoughts.

First, it's almost a mental thing now, where as soon as the other team scores and knocks Princeton out of its comfort zone, there's almost a detectable "here it goes again" vibe that starts. All it will take is one game where a 10-point lead late in the game turns into a 15-point win, or even a one-point win for that matter.

The other thought is this: 0-0.

Princeton is 0-0 in the Ivy League.

The Tigers were the preseason favorite to win the league, and TigerBlog hasn't seen anything that makes him think that they don't still have a great chance to be the ones playing in the NCAA tournament come March.

Of course, 7-2 would look a lot better than 3-6. Even 6-3, assuming one had gotten away.

But it won't matter come Jan. 12, when the Ivy season starts.

As for the games between now and then, they've all certainly been entertaining enough. Tonight's should be no different.

And it might be your last chance ever to see a Princeton sporting event.

So don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Luis Nicolao - Sportsman And Santa

Way back when, there used to be a fan poll on

Each week or so, TigerBlog would come up with a new poll question, such as "what is your favorite Princeton venue" or "which athlete's performance this weekend was most impressive" or something like that. There'd be a few choices, and fans could vote.

The results would come up immediately, in the form of a bar graph, with different colors and everything.

When former women's basketball coach Richard Barron married former softball coach Maureen Davies, TigerBlog made the fan poll ask "who is getting the best of the Barron-Davies marriage," with the possible responses of "Richard Barron" and "Maureen Davies." TB then voted for Barron, had the bar graph come up with 100% for Barron, printed it out and the instantly had the next question come up.

The bride and groom both laughed.

If you're looking for a reason that the fan poll no longer exists, you can thank the swimming and diving and water polo teams.

The polls were only supposed to allow people to vote once. Somehow, the pool people figured out a way to vote thousands of times, thereby skewing all results.

When TigerBlog read that Luis Nicolao had been voted the College Water Polo Association Sportsman of the Year by fans on the association's webpage, his first thought was back to the fan polls that used to be done on

Then he quickly dismissed any thought of voter fraud, since there can't be a greater sportsman in the water polo world than Luis.

In fact, TB can't imagine how anyone else could ever win.

Actually, it was a good Princeton haul in the CWPA awards, starting when Yariv Amir and Diana Chamorro shared the athletic communications award.

Alex Gow became the next Princeton winner when he won the Save of the Year vote. If you're not impressed, then you try treading water in a pool that's 12 feet deep there and then making that save.

As for Nicolao, he's an ultra-successful coach, one who has taken both the men's and women's teams routinely into the national Top 20 and to the NCAA tournament. 

TB would like to think that the rest of the water polo world recognizes what Nicolao is beyond just wins and losses. After all, when you think of a sportsman, you think of someone with more than just a successful resume.

Nicolao reminds TB a little bit of men's squash coach Bob Callahan. Like Callahan, Nicolao has won a lot more than he's lost and has earned the respect of those in his sport for his team's performance.

But beyond just that, they're both extremely funny men who do not tolerate poor sportsmanship from their teams and who have the greater good of their sport in mind. Squash and water polo aren't exactly mainstream sports, after all, and both coaches are always aware of their responsibility as ambassadors who are charged with helping grow their games.

Nicolao is also in many ways a big kid who loves to have fun, loves to make people laugh and loves to be part of the larger family of Princeton Athletics. Callahan is very similar.

And so there he was at last week's Department of Athletics Christmas party, the CWPA Sportsman of the Year.

He was dressed in a suit, though in this case, it was actually a Santa Claus suit.

Little kids would come to sit on his lap, some in tears, some gazing up at him in complete awe that the Santa was at the party.

It takes a special kind of person to take on that role at the company's party. It has to be someone who is willing to sacrifice his own fun time in the name of making the little kids happy.

It has to be someone with a great sense of humor. Someone with a huge heart.

And that's Luis.

The fact that he's a winning water polo coach isn't what makes him the Sportsman of the Year. Neither is the chance that, TB assumes, the Princeton water poloers rigged the voting.

Doesn't matter if they did anyway.

The right man won.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Homeland" And Women's Basketball: A Guest TB From TC

The Princeton women's basketball team usually starts four seniors. It's another senior, one who comes off the bench, who has volunteered a guest TigerBlog to discuss the women's basketball team's obsession with "Homeland."

Amanda Roman was first introduced on TigerBlog before she even took her first class, back when she was an incoming freshman. TB had actually connected Amanda to the women's basketball coaching staff as a possible team manager, and the result has been an A+ for everyone involved.

The women's basketball team has gotten Amanda, who along with her fellow manager Jordyn Seni has been an invaluable addition to the team during games and practices and in various other administrative ways. Their personalities, Amanda and Jordyn, are very much intertwined into the fabric of the team's amazing chemistry, which, in TigerBlog's short time as the women's basketball contact last season, is impossible to miss.

During her time with the women's basketball team, Amanda - a Long Island native - has traveled the country and the world (as part of the trip to France and Senegal in 2011), and in fact right now is with the team in Illinois as it prepares to play two games there. She has also been to three NCAA tournaments, and the Tigers are the league favorite again this year.

Her experience with the women's basketball team has greatly shaped her overall Princeton education, and it has opened the door to friendships that will last forever. 

The competitions and practices and conditioning sessions are a huge part of the time that teams spend together, but championships can also be built at other times, like Sunday nights in front of the television. And, for the Princeton women's basketball team, the extraordinary show "Homeland" has been a staple.

Amanda, who chose to call herself "Tiger Cub" as a take-off of TigerBlog, offers a recap of this past Sunday night, and does so without giving away any of the key moments from the show, for those who haven't seen it yet:

When 11:05 p.m. rolled around this past Sunday, there came with it a conflicting sense of fulfillment and emptiness.

Tiger Cub and the rest of the women’s basketball team’s “9 to 11 club” sat in a silence only broken by Kate Miller’s poignant “That’s it?” And then the predictions for next season began as we waited for previews that obviously never came.

Our Sunday’s highlighted by "Homeland" have sustained us through the rigorous fall semester. No matter how many papers we had to write, tests to study for, early morning lifts to get up for—the greatest show on television brought us together and made us whole.

It begins at 9 with ABC’s "Revenge," which brings a majority of the team together.

Our only rules: bring food, someone take a team Boba order and send it to the freshmen, no speaking (a three-strike rule that TC almost got kicked out for breaking a couple of times), and first-come, first-served in terms of seating.

Once "Revenge" ends, the stragglers leave and the dedicated "Homeland" crew holds its ground, grabbing newly freed bed and futon space. The no speaking rule remains, but there’s no worry anymore—this group is all business from 10 to 11.

This Sunday was bittersweet as we sat on the edge of our seats with seemingly no action for the first half of the show.

TC compared it to Paranormal Activity—keeping you on the edge of your seat with the mundane actions of everyday life until the last 10 minutes - when it ends with a bang.

And boy did it ever.

While last season didn’t end with the explosion TC sadistically hoped for (mostly to prove Carrie right of course), this season did not disappoint. Without spoiling the show for everyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the club was pleased to see that the show seems to be set up nicely for a third season.

We are also taking suggestions for what to do on Sunday nights now because schoolwork is just not as attractive an option.

All of this Sunday night bonding got TC thinking about character comparisons, and here are a few she came up with.

First of all, even though TC got the greatest Secret Santa present ever that put her on the Homeland poster as Carrie (see image, credit Kate Miller), the only person who could possibly rival Carrie with her equally blond hair and similar neurosis is alum Laura Johnson. Niveen is Abu Nazir—a strong, fearless leader and of course, our resident Arab, though minus the murderous tendencies. 

Mariah Smith is a mix between David Estes and Tom Walker; a little mysterious, a little evil. Kate Miller is our wise old soul and is ready to take over the CIA as Saul Berenson (‘Manny Patinkin, holla’).

We’ll put Nicole Hung in as our realist Dana and even though she leaves after "Revenge," Blake Dietrick is Brody’s son Chris as both of them have the same favorite phrase; “This is awesome!”

Nobody has the neck to pull off Jessica and we’ll let Mike live on as everyone’s favorite under-the-radar character in "Mean Girls." 

As for TC, she’d like to compare herself to Quinn, who revealed himself as a good guy and a true badass in this season’s finale. Like Quinn, TC is also not afraid to stand up to authority—just ask TigerBlog.

Quinn of course brings us to our favorite comparison of all. Quinn Epperly is our leading man, Nicholas Brody. We give him a lot of flack for this carbon copy similarity but hey, Damian Lewis was named one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive so its not a terrible comparison.

And of course Princeton women's basketball embodies the whole nature of this instant classic—we come on strong and hope to sustain the momentum for another season. Can’t wait to see how our season unfolds, especially for this group of seniors—TC predicts they too will go out with a bang.

Hold on, got to get the door—Annie is here with our Boba.

And so Tiger fans, one season ends and one begins.  See you at Jadwin!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts And Prayers Are Not Enough

As anyone who has ever had to get little kids - or even bigger kids - out the door in the morning, there are few times more stressful than the last few minutes before the school bus comes down the street.

TigerBlog can't count the number of times that he thought there was plenty of time, only to have to wildly rush at the last minute to throw waffles into mouths, books into backpacks, lunches into bags, shoes onto feet, jackets onto bodies - and then make the final sprint to the bus stop.

And then, just when it appeared that the entire morning schedule was going to be thrown off, kids and bus converge at the same time, and off they go to school.

For the ones putting them on the bus, it's a moment of great relaxation, knowing that the mad scramble to get everyone out the door has come and gone, again successfully, and now the rest of the day - the adult part of the day - can begin. 

In all the times in all the years that TB watched the school bus roll away, there was never, ever, ever the remotest thought that he'd seen those kids for the last time, that some deeply disturbed, deeply maniacal, heavily armed person was going to walk into the school and start shooting, not caring in the least who was on the receiving end of the carnage.

For that matter, when TB was a student himself, he never had one second where he didn't feel safe in the school building, at least from a murderous attack from an intruder.

TigerBlog noticed Friday morning that there was a headline of a school shooting in Connecticut, and his first reaction as the same as always - oh no, not again, hopefully nobody was killed.

Then it turned out to be an elementary school, one less than two hours drive from Princeton.

Then it turned out to be 27 dead, including 20 children. Two weeks before Christmas.

How can anyone walk into a school and just start shooting at those angelic faces? What level of mental illness can there be to do that?

TB checked the news updates every few seconds to see what new information there was, and what he learned was that in the face of this tragedy, the American media embarrassed itself like never before.

First, there were two shooters. Then it was the other brother. Then it was the mother's classroom.

Basically, in the name of giving information first, the media just threw anything it could out there. In the end, almost all of it was wrong.

Also, it obviously had to become politicized even as the actual facts were starting to come out, with an instant debate on gun control and whether stronger gun laws would have deterred this horrific event.

TB was listening to Mike Francesa on WFAN as caller after caller spoke about their guns and how safe they are and the proper training and storage and all, leaving TB to wonder whether or not they realized that any actual point they had was being lost in the insensitivity of the moment. Eventually, Francesa, much to his credit, cut a caller off and said something about not wanting to hear anything else about somebody and their guns, that he'd had enough.

And now? The media can't put out pictures of the children fast enough, maybe motivated by honoring them in some way but also clearly exploiting them.

TB has read some of the stories of the heroics of the principal and some of the teachers who died trying to save the kids, and he cannot imagine what the moment must have been like.

And it's left him wondering what's next.

Is it all lip service?

Yes, it's nice that so many people have said that their "thoughts and prayers' are with the victims and their families. It's nice that so many people had written the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School on their sneakers or hats during professional sporting events.

President Obama was clearly moved by what happened, as much because he is as well the parent of a two school-age girls. His words on Friday were emotional and heartfelt, as were his words yesterday in Newtown.

But now what will he do? Is he ready to pursue what the right to bear arms actually means and doesn't mean? Is he ready to challenge a very powerful lobby, ready to take on legislators in both parties?

Is he ready to attack the mass media-produced culture of violence in movies and especially video games, which have completely desensitized so many people to the reality of what happens when bullet touches flesh?

This time, words won't cut it. Not after what happened Friday, an event so beyond the realm of comprehension that it appears to have shaken the country more than any event since 9/11.
Is the country ready to do something about it? Or are there just too many people who want to close their eyes, hope it doesn't happen to them and then go about their business with their iPhones and DVRs and vacations?

What does this have to do with Princeton Athletics?

Nothing, and everything.

Nothing, because this is a local tragedy that has nothing to do with college athletics. And everything, because it's touched every segment of American society.

For 30 years, TigerBlog has been able to hide from some of the realities of his own life that he wanted to put off dealing with in the moment because there has always been another game to go to, another game to write about, another event to occupy his mind and take him away from it all.

And then reality always reappears. It can no longer simply be hidden from, not even in a blog about college athletics that would much prefer to tell funny stories and then talk about what's going on in sports at Princeton.

So it's good to know that there are ways to get away from it all, but it doesn't change the reality of what's going on in this country now.

TigerBlog had to take Miss TigerBlog to the orthodontist recently. The front door to the school is locked, and he has to press a buzzer to get into the building. He assumes there is some hidden camera whereby the person pushing the button can see who's coming in first.

But there are also glass windows in every classroom, and side doors and such. In other words, anyone who wants to get into that school - or any school - is probably going to be successful.

It's never dawned on TB that somebody might want to actually do so. Not in that neighborhood. Not in that school. Not in his life.

Mercifully, the odds against it happening there are miniscule, just like they are any place else.

As TB tries to comprehend the sickening atrocity that occurred at another school that had those same miniscule odds, he's also left to wonder what this country - and its leaders - are willing to do, or can do for that matter, to drop them to zero.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is It Sunday At 10 Yet?

TigerBlog saw all 12 episodes of Season 1 of "Homeland" in a three days last September, watching it on-demand.

For Season 2, he's had to watch it one episode at a time, as the show airs Sunday nights at 10.

When last week's Episode 11 ended, TB wanted to reach into the TV and pull out the Season 2 finale immediately. Instead, he has had to wait an entire week to see what will happen.

As TB has found out, there are now two kinds of people: those who don't get Showtime and those who can't wait for Sunday at 10 to get here fast enough.

TB has heard "sorry, don't get Showtime, haven't seen it" and "this is the greatest show ever." He has not heard this from a single person: "yeah, watched it, didn't like it."


When last we left "Homeland," Abu Nazir was dead and it was basically Roya who gave away how to catch him, after she appeared to turn the tables on Carrie, only to have Carrie find the meaning in Roya's rant.

It was the kind of scene that separates "Homeland" from other shows, because of the way it is completely non-formulaic. There wasn't one person watching who didn't expect Roya to have the same kind of in-shackles hopelessness that Aileen had a few episodes earlier, the kind of "how did I get here; why did I flush my entire life away" regret that Roya at first appeared to have, only to remind the audience of the depth to which a hard-core, unrepentant terrorist believes in the cause.


In fact, the whole show is one big "what in the world is going to happen next" thrill ride, even when it morphs a little too much into an action movie.

And again, don't tell TB that it's a little too unrealistic, that real-life events would never play out that way.

The drama is so heart-stopping and the characters are so well-developed that that doesn't matter.

So what's going to happen Sunday?

When TigerBlog does radio, he always thinks it's his job to try to say what the next strategy of the game will be and then his responsibility to be accountable if he is wrong.

With that sort of backdrop, TB will say that he'd like to make a predictio n about Sunday's "Homeland," only that he has absolutely no idea.


If he had to guess, he'd say that it's possible that Brody has been working with Nazir the whole time and now he's going to go out and try to get revenge, probably against Carrie, who is going to figure it out eventually but not at first. Also, somehow, Saul has to figure into the plot prominently. And there has to be a secondary plot against the U.S. that Nazir had in place in the event of his death, though there really isn't anyone left in his terror group here right now, or at least that's obvious, though perhaps if there is a mole, then he's orchestrated the secondary attack.

So, TB will go with: Brody tries to draw Carrie in because he wants to kill her. Saul gets in the way. Brody kills Saul. Or maybe Quinn tries to kill Brody but ends up getting Saul instead. Brody vanishes - setting up Season 3.

And then Carrie figures out what the other attack is, which leads to a race-against-the-clock situation to end the episode.


Anyway, the "Homeland" finale is the big story for the weekend.

Well, that and the fact that Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake are on campus now filming some movie. TB puts both of them in the category of "usually their movies will hold interest."

It certainly isn't a big weekend for Princeton Athletics.

Here's the entire Princeton schedule for this weekend: wrestling home tonight against Chattanooga and men's basketball against Fordham tomorrow at the Barclay's Center, or, as someone here just called it, Princeton at Jay Z.

By the time the basketball game ends, there will be 16 days left in the year and only 10 more Princeton athletic events, including only three on campus - two in men's basketball (Thursday against Rider and then Saturday the 22nd against Bucknell, assuming the Mayans were wrong) and then one women's basketbal game (Dec. 31 vs. Drexel).

Besides the two basketball teams, only men's hockey and wrestling have competition remaining in 2012 after this weekend.

As for "Homeland," it only has one more left for 2012 and then it goes away for nine more months.

The coming attractions say that the Season 2 finale is unreal. The actor who played Abu Nazir said something like it has to be seen to be believed.

TB can't wait.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Long Weight

TigerBlog has been very fortunate in his life to have had the opportunity to travel.

He's seen much of the country, largely on Princeton's dime, largely because the men's basketball team happened to be playing someplace unique. As he has said many times, it has afforded him the chance to go to places throughout the United States that he otherwise never in a million years would have.

He's also been to Europe a few times, most recently with the men's lacrosse team in 2008. This past summer, he went to Costa Rica, also with men's lacrosse.

He's been to Hawaii (men's basketball) and the Caribbean (egads, Princeton didn't pay), and he'd probably go back to the Caribbean before Hawaii, simply because it's so much closer. And has places that are fairly close to paradise.

He's been to North America, South America and Europe. He's been to Istanbul, a city that spans Europe and Asia, though never on the Asian side. He's been to Israel, which is either in Asia or Africa, he thinks, though it does compete for a World Cup spot in the European group.

He's been to Russia, a long time ago anyway, when the country was the USSR and the city he was in was called Leningrad. He's been to 16 European countries - none of which are England, France or Italy (unless you count short says in the airports in Paris and Rome on the way to other destinations).

As an aside, if you were expecting to hear TB's thoughts on the 121212 concert for Sandy relief, he didn't get a chance to see it. Were he more cynical, he'd point out that the people who put on the concert could probably (actually definitely) donated the amount of money they raised directly to the relief fund without the concert and without telling anyone and therefore without any of the acclaim.

Good thing he's not more cynical.

Anyway, if you're looking for places that TB has always wanted to go to but never has, then the top of that list is probably Australia and New Zealand.

TB, for fun, checked out the web to see about flying to New Zealand. The first flight he saw went from Newark to Los Angeles to Melbourne to Aukland, took 35 hours from start to finish and cost more than $3,000.

Then he found another flight that went from JFK to San Francisco to Aukland and shaved 14 hours off the total flying time. It seems worth the additional $200 for this itinerary.

TB admits that flying for that long is daunting, and he's not sure he could do it. The longest flight he's done is Helsinki to JFK, which was nine hours. Or maybe Athens to New York, which might have been a little more.

This past September, TB was sitting in his office when a young woman ducked her head in and asked in an accent that TB couldn't exactly place if the women's track and field coaches were around.

It turns out that the woman was Julia Ratcliffe, and she was right off the plane from her native New Zealand, ready for her freshman year at Princeton.

TB had no idea about her other than that she was from New Zealand.

He learned quickly from an excited women's track and field coach, Peter Farrell, that she was the real deal, a weight thrower who had unlimited potential, and she was coming to Princeton after a fourth-place finish in the hammer throw at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last summer.

Since then, Ratcliffe and TB are on a wave-as-she-walks-past-his-office-on-the-way-to-the-track-office basis. Every time TB has seen her walk by on the balcony of Jadwin, he's wondered what life at Princeton has been like for the New Zealander, someone so far from home, thought she always seems to be smiling, which is a good sign.

Ratcliffe had her first competition for Princeton this past weekend.

And how did she do?

Well, all she did was break the Ivy League record - and Princeton record, obviously - in the weight throw. Actually, she broke the old record on three different throws.

Her performance earned her HepsTrack Athlete of the Week honors, as well as Athlete of the Week honors.

The meet last weekend was Princeton's only competition until after the New Year. There will be three home events this winter, and then indoor Heps will be at Harvard in February. 

If you're looking way ahead, then circle the weekend of May 4/5, when outdoor Heps will be at Princeton's Weaver Track and Field Stadium.

Ratcliffe, TB assumes, will play a leading role in her event.

He also assumes she will be back and forth to New Zealand, which seems to be a country of great natural beauty, one that TB would like to go to some day.

And so this concludes today's entry. Well, except to point out that that's four entries this week - including a guest piece by Howard Levy - without a single "Homeland" mention.

Spoiler alert - there will be plenty of "Homeland" tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12, 1,970 And 2,071

Today is 12/12/12.

When TigerBlog did a search of "12/12/12 meaning," he found a story that quoted a Las Vegas numerologist as saying this:

"Other-dimensional energy abounds; the veil between this everyday world and the spiritual dimensions is more easily pierced," he said. "The window to the higher planes is opened temporarily, more so on some dates and times than on others."

TigerBlog has no idea what that means. And he went to college and everything.

Then there's the story about the boy in Alabama who was born at 12:12 pm on 12/12/00, which means that he'll turn exactly 12 at 12:12 this afternoon, or 12 at 12:12 on 12/12/12.

Today's "12/12/12" follows by a  year, a month and a day the equally other-dimensional date of 11/11/11, another day on which nothing especially significant happened.

The next time the month, day and year will all be the same will be 10/10/10 - as in Oct. 10, 2110. Or possibly Jan. 1, 2101, which will be 01/01/01, though nobody writes it that way.

Either way, TB figures he probably won't be around for either one.

Of course, the world is supposed to end in nine days, on 12/21/12, which is the last day of the 5,000-year Mayan calendar. TB figures that ancient Mayans just assumed that it would start over again, if they gave it any thought at all, and so he's assuming that come 12/22, the world will still be here - and Princeton will play Bucknell in men's basketball.

As an aside, TigerBlog Jr.'s best friend is Matthew, whose younger brother is William, whose birthday is 12/21. William is concerned that because the world is supposed to end on his birthday, nobody is going to bother buying him presents.

Anyway, the numbers that TB is interested in today are not 12/12/12 or 12/21/12 or any of those.

Nope, they're 1,970 and 2,071.

Those were the attendance figures for men's basketball and men's hockey this past Saturday here at Princeton. The 1,970 for men's basketball meant that Jadwin Gym was about 1/3 full; the 2,071 for men's hockey meant that Baker Rink was close to sold out.

The men's basketball game was a 2:00 start against Drexel. The men's hockey game was a 4:00 start against Quinnipiac.

So what do the numbers say? Again, TB isn't sure what to think.

At the same time, he'd say all of these are worth discussing:

* Saturday afternoon during mid-December is tough, with holiday shopping, birthday parties, holiday parties, movies and a ton of sports on TV

* has the NHL strike helped attendance for Princeton hockey at all?

* how many people went to both games?

* would attendance have been higher had the two games been on separate days? In other words did roughly 4,000 people decide to attend one game on that day and would there have been greater overlap had they been on different days?

* is 2:00 the best time for the men's basketball game, better than say 6 or 7? TigerBlog thinks it is.

* is Princeton doing all it can to maximize the game-day experience for its fans?

* Lastly, is 1,970 a good attendance number for a non-league men's basketball game in early December?

The last one is a point that TB will expand on.

As he has said so many times, the general consensus is that attendance should always be higher. Maybe it should be, but what is the investment that schools should be willing to make to try to achieve that - or for that matter, what impact would greater investment actually have.

When Princeton tipped with Drexel the other day, there were four million college basketball games on TV, in addition to every other activity that one of Princeton's primary target audiences - families with younger children - had available.

So getting roughly 2,000 to come to Jadwin for that game? TB thinks that that's about what could be expected.

The other point is that a 1/3 full Jadwin looks much different than a full Baker, which begs this question: What if Princeton played one early-season men's basketball game in Dillon Gym and did everything it could to get as many students there as possible? Would there be attainable momentum from that moving forward to the rest of the schedule?

Again, TB has asked these questions for years and years. And, with no easy answers, he figures he'll keep asking them for years to come.

Unless the world ends next week, of course.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Son Remembers His Mother

You know who would have been all-in on RG3?

You know who would have spent the last 20 years lamenting the state of her beloved Washington Redskins? Who would have hated Daniel Snyder? And done all this while remaining fiercely loyal, convinced that the corner was about to be turned?

MotherBlog, that's who.

TigerBlog can't remember another team his mother ever cared about even a little. FatherBlog grew up as one of the few New York Giants' fans in Brooklyn (baseball, that is), and he's always liked the Jets more than the Giants in football. He's a Knicks guy, and he likes both of New York's current baseball teams, though he'd pick the Yankees over the Mets.

As for hockey, he's never been all that into it. When he's had a preference, it's been for the Islanders.

MotherBlog was different.

Her interests were in other areas, especially politics, politics and more politics. And social justice. And Steve McQueen.

She liked sports, though TB wouldn't necessarily call her a huge fan. It's not like she would go out of her way to watch a game on TV or anything.
Honestly, TB isn't sure what it was that got his mother into the Washington Redskins. What he does know is that she loved her team and that Giants-Redskins was as much a point of sometimes-teasing, sometimes-funny, sometimes-knock-down-drag-out arguing with her younger son as was the other biggest hot button topic between them - Ronald Reagan.

MotherBlog was a bit nomadic, and her she lived for awhile in Chevy Chase, just across Western Ave. from being in the District of Columbia. And while her initial love of that area was probably the Mazza Gallerie shopping center on the corner, it wasn't long before she owned, among other things, a Redskins hat and a John Riggins jersey.

MotherBlog died 18 years ago today, at the young age of 55, after a fairly tough battle with cancer.

TigerBlog woke up this morning realizing that he'd lived more than 35% of his life without his mother.  His first thoughts were about what kind of 73-year-old grandmother his mother would have made.

TB received dozens of cards, maybe a few hundred, after his mother's death. He's kept one in his desk all these years, and he quotes it directly: "She was the most courageous person I ever met."

Princeton played in a men's basketball tournament at the University of Illinois on Dec. 9 and 10, 1994.

TigerBlog went to Atlanta - the last of the many places his mother lived - on the 8th and found his mother to be at home and fairly stable. From there, it was off to Champaign for the tournament.

Princeton thumped Eastern Illinois in the first round, led by 16 points from Chris Doyal, 15 points from Steve Goodrich and 12 points and six rebounds from now-head coach Mitch Henderson. Goodrich and Henderson were freshmen that year, as was a third player in double figures against Eastern Illinois, James Mastaglio, who had 11 points with nine rebounds.

The Tigers played a horrible game in the final, shooting 14 for 44 in a 59-37 loss to the Ilini with no player in double figures.

After the game, TB remembers calling his mother and hearing that she was still doing okay.

He also remembers a party after the tournament at which Illinois' then-coach, Lou Henson, chastised the head of his booster group for bothering him about Princeton's travel plans, which had gotten messed up when their flight out of Champaign the next morning was cancelled.

As for TB, his own plans meant driving to Chicago's Midway Airport, flying to Cleveland and then flying on to Newark. He called from the pay phone in Cleveland (no cell phones at that point; how did the world get by?) and got no answer at his mother's house, where both BrotherBlog and his Uncle Larry were visiting.

TB assumed that his brother and uncle had gone to lunch and that his mother was asleep. When he got to Newark, he called again and got no answer and thought something might be up.

When he got back to his own house, there were messages on the answer machine (no voicemail) saying that he needed to be in Atlanta.

Sadly, he didn't get there on time.

That was 18 years ago today.

These days, TB still has his favorite picture of his mother on his shelf in his office, as she stands in Talkeetna, Alaska, in a shortsleeve shirt with a huge snowbank behind her.

And the memory of a wonderful woman who insisted on being called by her first name, who became livid at the thought that one of her sons might try to judge anyone else's life or lifestyle, who loved to hug the stuffing out of everyone she knew, whose door was always open to anyone who needed a place to stay, who loved to shop and wear nice clothes and eat in the best restaurants - all the while surrounded by her army of friends, all of whom knew that whatever they needed from her was theirs without even a thought. 

In her life, she made it to 49 of the 50 states, missing out on only North Dakota, as she went around the country teaching/lobbying on long-term care issues related to Multiple Sclerosis. She had friends in every one of those states.

TB knows his mother left a lot of fun times, a lot of glasses of wine, a lot of fun times with people of all backgrounds and persuasions, a lot of trips any number of destinations, a lot of f-bombs and a lot of arguments with her younger son on the table, not to mention the opportunity to meet her two grandchildren.

Today, as he always does on this day, TigerBlog has a candle that burns for his mother.

She packed a lot into her 55 years.

For TigerBlog, there's been something missing every day of the 18 since.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tall Tales - A Guest TigerBlog By Howard Levy

Howard Levy walked in Jadwin Gym Saturday afternoon wearing a Georgetown sweatshirt and a pair of gray sweatpants that left TigerBlog wondering where he gets sweats that long and how tough they must be to find.

Levy is the nearly 7-foot tall former Tiger center who holds the school record for career field goal percentage and then spent time as an assistant coach here under three different head coaches. In all, he went to two NCAA tournaments as a player and four as an assistant coach.

These days, he's the head men's coach at Mercer County College. And an all-time TigerBlog favorite.

TB's opinion is shared by Princeton fans, to whom Levy is universally well-liked and respected. Maybe more than any other Princeton player that TB can think of other than current Tiger assistant Brian Earl, Howard was also the biggest target for Penn fans, who hated everything about him. 

TB should know, as he was one of them at the time.

In keeping with TigerBlog's policy of turning things over to those who have something to say, today the floor belongs to Howard Levy, who reminisced about his time in the Palestra while taking his Mercer team there this past weekend to take on Penn's junior varsity.

As an aside, TB remembers vividly every incident Levy touches on:

As I pull the van up 33rd street, the memories start flooding back.

Will Roger Gordon be waiting for us outside? Is "the truck" still there for my ritual cup of coffee? (No and no, but Roger came to the game and spoke to my team afterwards.)

On this night, no one is heckling me or the Mercer County College men’s basketball team as we walk toward the Palestra for a game against Penn’s JV. We enter and walk past the Princeton-Penn exhibit; one of my players makes a crack about the all time series being 123-103 in Penn's favor.

On the court Penn’s varsity is practicing. I didn't realize that Ira Bowman was an assistant there; I have gotten to know him a bit since I've been at Mercer and he's a nice guy. I'm happy for him and Jerome [Allen, Penn’s head coach] as I know how special it is to coach at your alma mater with your friends. 

My first time at the Palestra was in 1981 as a Penn recruit to see a Tuesday night Penn-Princeton game with my dad and a couple of Suffern High teammates. We sat in the student section and put newspapers over our faces when the Princeton team was introduced. When I chose Princeton a couple of months later, my dad admitted he was rooting for Princeton all along.

Next was freshman year, sitting in the same dingy locker room that I sat in this weekend, with the same rug and chairs as far as I can tell.

The prelim game that night, Villanova-St. Joes, was in double overtime, but no one cared. All we heard was the constant refrain of "Princeton Sucks, Princeton Sucks." We lost that one, my only loss there as a player -- sophomore year we beat them at the Spectrum, then returned to the Palestra to beat Penn twice, not to mention win two NCAA tournament games there in 1983 (vs. North Carolina A & T) and 1984 (vs. Univ. of San Diego).

I remember the streamers and the Princeton response - throwing orange and black marshmallows on the floor after our first basket. What a great feeling it was to delay those streamers for a few minutes with some good defense.

I was involved in two "fights" there.

In our 1983 victory, I was the third man to jump into a scuffle between our John Smyth and Penn’s Bruce Lefkowitz. The fourth man in was a Penn bruiser named Rick Maloney. Rick and I took our recruiting trips to Penn on the same weekend, and he put me in a full nelson, and in a calm voice said, “Howie, you need to relax.”

The following year, Neil Bernstein, Penn's center at the time, accidentally fell on me, and as I shoved him off, I was met by the entire Penn team. That day I earned the respect of some Penn football players in the stands, who years later became my friends, and they vividly remembered me standing up to their team. I think that's why we became friends.

Lefkowitz and Bernstein became my teammates in the 1985 Maccabiah Games, where we won a gold medal, and to the chagrin of some of my Princeton teammates, we remain friends to this day.

The NCAA games were memorable for several reasons, most notably two victories and Moon Mullin's 38 point explosion against San Diego. I remember the N.C. A&T band, sounding like Earth Wind and Fire, and thinking I could not possibly jump any higher in layup lines, until the next year when I saw the USD cheerleaders and jumped even higher. USD's best player at the time was Mike Whitmarsh, who became famous as an Olympic gold medalist in volleyball and a top beach volleyball player and who tragically died a couple of years ago. Another player on that team was Al Moscatel, who subsequently transferred to the University of Washington and was another of my Maccabiah teammates and lifelong friends.

Coming back as a coach was a bonus.

Penn gave our 1998 team a tough game, taking us to overtime during our 27-2 season. The following year was the comeback from 27 points down with 15 minutes left. I remember walking into the locker room at halftime down by 24 and saying to then-head coach Bill Carmody, "Let's not lose the next game because of this one."

Actually we did lose the next game, costing us the title that season, but it didn't happen the way I anticipated. A good friend of mine, who is in the sports marketing business and has been to every major sporting event imaginable, still calls the comeback game against Penn the greatest sporting event he has ever seen live.

My worst moment was our loss to Yale there in the playoff game in 2002. I remember the coaches lost track of time, and we remained in the locker room until seconds before tipoff - my fault.  Our victory over Penn in the final game of the 2004 season in John Thompson's last Ivy game as Princeton coach was a terrific victory. 

As for our game this weekend, we played well and turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 56-41 victory in front of a few fans and family members.

Even without heckling fans chanting "Shave Your Back" (unfortunately that one I'll never forget), it's a special feeling to chalk up a win over the Quakers at this great old gym.

As we walked out, one of my players remarked, "We got number 104 for you, Coach." 

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's Up This Weekend

TigerBlog has never seen a college football game involving two BCS schools when one of the schools wasn't Rutgers except for the time he covered Georgia Tech-Penn State in the 1991 Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium.

In other words, he's never seen a BCS-level game on a campus other than Rutgers and not since long before Rutgers redid its stadium.

As cool as it would be to go one of the very biggest-time games on somebody's campus - or even to experience the game-day traditions at some of the next level big-time conference schools - if you asked TB what one college football game he'd most want to see in person, he wouldn't even have to think about it:


The game leaps out of the television each year with how hard every player on both teams plays on every down, regardless of how their seasons are going or what the score of the game is.

In general, TB loves to watch Navy run its option offense, and he's long thought that Navy (and Army to a lesser extent) is as close in college football as Princeton was in college basketball back when Princeton was the only team to run the Princeton offense.

The 113th meeting between Army and Navy is tomorrow at 3 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Among the venues that at one time hosted an Army-Navy game? Princeton's Osbourne Field, which was the site of the 1905 game.

Sadly, TB will be unable to watch much of tomorrow's game, as he'll be watching Princeton-Drexel men's basketball instead. Tip-off at Jadwin Gym is at 2.

In addition to the game, the NCAA-champion field hockey team will be honored at halftime. 

There are only four basketball games remaining to be played on Carril Court at Jadwin Gym in the calendar year of 2012.

The Princeton-Drexel game is one of three men's home games remaining on the December schedule, along with a Dec. 20 game against Rider and a Dec. 22 game against Bucknell. Princeton is also at the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn next Saturday at 2:30 to take on Fordham.

The only women's home game still to be played this month is also against Drexel, and like last year, the Princeton-Drexel women's game will be played on New Year's Eve afternoon. The women will be busy between now and then though, beginning Sunday with a game at Delaware.

It was a year ago that unbeaten Delaware and unbeaten Princeton met on Carril Court in a game that turned out to be a  showcase of the glorious all-around ability of Elena Delle Donne.

The Delaware star was so impressive that TB immediately began to think that this must have been what it was like to see Bill Bradley come to town back when he was at Princeton.

This time, Delle Donne might not play against Princeton, as she has only played once this year due to the same illness that slowed her two years ago, when she missed the game against the Tigers.

And this raises today's ethical question of: If you're Princeton, do you want her to play or not?

Princeton's chances of defeating the Blue Hens clearly go way up if Delle Donne doesn't play. Still, TB would much rather have Delle Donne on the court, because why would Princeton want to play Delaware when she's not there? It won't be nearly as much fun, win or lose.

Princeton is at Villanova Wednesday and then plays DePaul and Illlinois State before Christmas on a trip to the Midwest.

What else is there this weekend?

The men's hockey team is home for the third time this year and final time in 2012 when it hosts Quinnipiac tomorrow at 4. The teams meet tonight in Hamden, Conn.; the women reverse that, with a game here today at 4 and then another one tomorrow in Connecticut.

Quinnipiac, by the way, is ranked 13th nationally.

Princeton will be playing its 11th and 12th men's hockey games in the 44 days since the season began. After this, Princeton is off for three weeks before playing two games in an event at Vermong Dec. 29-30 and then have five home games in January, with home weekends Jan. 4/5 and Jan. 11/12.

There's also the chance this weekend to see the No. 1-ranked (and defending national champion) Princeton men's squash team take on No. 4 Rochester. The wrestling team is home today, and there is a track and field meet here Sunday.

In other words, it's a pretty busy weekend.

Put another way, there are 12 events this weekend involving Princeton teams. After this weekend, there are 13 more for the rest of the month.

Of those 12, seven are at home. For the rest of the month, there are just four more home events (two men's basketball, one women's basketball, one wrestling).

So you may have to miss out on the Army-Navy game.

But you'll be done in plenty of time for "Homeland" Sunday night.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Today is the first Thursday is December, which used to mean something much different for TigerBlog than it did today.

This particular first Thursday also happens to be the birthday of John Mack, the 10-time Heptagonal champion who would go on to work here for a few years after graduating before leaving for Northwestern.

TB remembers when Mack used to be able to run 400 meters in a little more than 46 seconds. TB has often asked Mack how far he could run in 46 second these days, assuming, of course, that he doesn't destroy his hamstring or something in the first five of those seconds.

Realizing that today was Mack's birthday, TB immediately texted his friend in Illinois and mentioned that he assumed that by now Mack must be older than TB is.

There was a pretty good Abbott an Costello bit in which Bud confuses Lou about how much older he is than a little girl:
ABBOTT: You’re 40 she’s 10. You’re four times as old as that girl. Now you couldn’t marry her, so you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, you’re 45. You’re only three times as old as that little girl, so you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, you’re 60. You’re only twice as old as that little girl.
COSTELLO: She’s catching up.
ABBOTT: Well, yes, yes. Now here’s the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age? Well?
COSTELLO: What kind of question is that?
ABBOTT: Answer the question.
COSTELLO: That’s ridiculous. What’s ridiculous?
ABBOTT: If I keep waiting for her she’ll pass me up.
COSTELLO: What are you talking about?
ABBOTT: She’ll wind up older that me. 

TB and Mack have gone through the same type of argument many times, and yet still, to this day, Mack has actually not caught up.

So anyway, happy birthday to John Mack. Jadwin Gym isn't the same place without him.

So that's what the first Thursday of this December means.

Previous first Thursdays?

For TigerBlog, for more than a 10-year stretch, the first Thursday in December (sometimes the second) usually meant getting ready for a trip to some exotic location for something that doesn't seem to exist too much anymore - the in-season basketball tournament.

And by exotic, TB means places like these: Green Bay; Milwaukee; Champaign, Ill.; Ames, Iowa; Fresno; El Paso; Muncie, Ind.; New Rochelle, N.Y.; East Lansing, Mich. and others.

Oh, and New Orleans. And Madison Square Garden. And even Honolulu.

They had very corporate names, too, like the Manufacturers Hanover Classic or the Oldsmobile Spartan Invitational or the Pepsi Oneida Nation's Classic or the First Bank Classic or the name of some hospital in El Paso, from which TB got a ghastly warm-up suit that had about eight colors in the jacket.

The in-season tournament was a huge staple of the men's basketball schedule, and TB used to love to see where he'd be going each year. Looking back on all those trips now, he's really grateful that he had the chance to be part of them, because 1) he got to see areas of the country that he'd never otherwise have seen and 2) Princeton won a lot more than it lost.

Brian Earl, now an assistant coach for the Tigers, was the MVP of four straight in-season tournaments, including one at Marquette that the Tigers won and where the team had to take two gigantic trophies back on the place, one for the team championship and one for Earl's MVP, and in the pre-9/11 days, the two trophies flew to Newark strapped into seats, instead of being checked or put in the overhead compartment.

TB isn't sure why those tournaments largely disappeared from the map. Maybe they were losing too much money. Maybe all of the preseason events wiped them out. Maybe the rise of the "mid-major" had something to do with it. Maybe the way the season starts earlier and earlier has had an effect.

Whatever it is, those tournaments were a lot of fun.  

TB would leave on Thursday (or sometimes on Friday) and would travel with Tom McCarthy, then the radio guy. There'd be games on Friday and Saturday and then a return Sunday.

Along the way, TB met all kinds of nice, interesting people who were working at so many of the schools where Princeton would go, or at the local media outlets that covered those schools.

Princeton has no in-season tournaments on its schedule this year. Iowa State, where TB went twice for tournaments, no longer is hosting one. Neither is Wisconsin-Green Bay. Or Fresno State. UTEP still is. TB hasn't checked all the others.

So for this Thursday, there is no trip in the offing.

Just the chance to wish happy birthday to a good friend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Record Breaking

Today's only "Homeland" reference will be to reprint here what is the greatest single comment from a reader in TigerBlog history, in response to yesterday's suggestion that Nicholas Brody - the maybe good guy/maybe bad guy from "Homeland" - and Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly look alike, to which someone anonymously said this:
According to the Homeland wiki site, former CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1999 with an AB in Arabic Languages and Literatures. Never mind that we call the department Near Eastern Studies, if Carrie Mathison '99 is to expose or assassinate Nick Brody, at least she had the good sense to wait until Brody completed the game-winning pass to Roman Wilson '14 to beat Harvard. That's school loyalty.

No more "Homeland" today. TigerBlog promises.

In fact, TB was thinking about how at one point, he had probably seen more New Jersey Athletic Conference athletic events than he had Ivy League events, or at least covered more.

Back in his newspaper days, TB covered Princeton and Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) more than he did any of the other schools (Rutgers, Rider, Mercer County College) in the area.

The New Jersey Athletic Conference is the Division III conference in which TCNJ competes.

Since the days when TB was around, the conference has changed in many ways, most notably adding four non-New Jersey schools (Western Connecticut, Morrisville State, Brockport and Cortland) as football members.

Like TCNJ, a few of the colleges have also changed their school names. Jersey City State then; New Jersey City State now. Glassboro State then; Rowan now. Stockton State then; Richard Stockton now.

TB has nothing but great memories of his time covering the NJAC. The coaches and administrators were almost all universally nice and thankful to have the media support. The athletes were also appreciative and accommodating.

As for the games themselves? TB saw some epics, with so many events that he'll never forget, with players and coaches who competed so hard against each other, often renewing rivalries that began in elementary school.

TigerBlog spent hours crammed into a TSC van, driving around the state of New Jersey with then-Trenton State SID Pete Manetas, to events like a football game at Ramapo that was played in the heaviest rain TB has ever seen or a baseball doubleheader at Montclair State where the media sat on top of one of the dugouts and was in direct line of more than one foul ball or a basketball game at Rutgers-Newark, which was the last place TB ever saw that did not have phone jacks and therefore required something called acoustic couplers to transmit a story postgame. Manetas, the mess on his desk not withstanding, was very organized and was able to produce the couplers almost on cue.

TB remembers the first time he ever saw a basketball game at Stockton. As a way of warning him what to expect, Manetas told TB that the fans would be literally on top of the court.

And he was right.

Back in Stockton's old gym, there was a catwalk over the court, and fans could ring the walkway and look straight down at the action. It was a tad intimidating - and all TB was doing was writing a story.

Stockton's men's basketball coach back then was a man named Gerry Matthews. As it turns out, Matthews is still the coach for the Ospreys.

TB confesses to not having paid that close attention to Stockton basketball much through the last few decades, so it wasn't until late last year that he realized that Matthews was still coaching there.

It was actually called to his attention by Stockton's marketing director, who informed TB that Matthews was closing in on Pete Carril's record for wins by a college basketball coach in New Jersey.

Carril won 514 games in his 29 seasons with the Tigers, and TB knew that number off the top of head. He wondered if Carril knew the exact number.

TB remembers when Carril won his 500th game at Princeton and was asked by the media to name his biggest wins. When the coach said: "well, you have to start with the Georgetown game," it was left to TB to respond: "uh, Coach, you didn't win that one."

Whether or not Carril knew of the number, TB is fairly positive that he didn't know that Matthews was on the verge of catching him. In fact, TB gives the people at Stockton a tremendous amount of credit for thinking to look it up, since such milestones are so easy to miss.

Anyway, Matthews caught Carril earlier this season and is now New Jersey's leader in career coaching wins.

To TigerBlog, the milestone is significant because of a few reasons, not the least of which is that Matthews had to beat a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame to do so.

More than that, it's a reminder that you don't always find the best coaches wearing the most expensive suits in the games that endlessly roll across ESPN night after night after night.

Just as Carril committed the majority of his career to being part of the program here, Matthews likewise has chosen to do that at Stockton as well.

The challenges that each faced in the name of education, recruiting, logistics and everything else might have been completely unique and far different.

But the basketball is still the basketball.

TB has no idea whether or not Carril has ever spoken to Matthews or gotten to know him at all. Maybe they've been close for decades; maybe they are strangers.

Either way, TB does know that Matthews is the kind of person who earns Carril's highest respect. Hard-working. Committed. Obviously a strong coach.

And now the owner of a record that was Carril's for, well, TB has no idea how long, since unlike the people at Stockton, it never dawned on him to check.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Catapano On The Sack

Since TigerBlog's pronouncement yesterday that "Homeland" is the greatest TV show of all time, he's read a few reviews of the most recent episode and heard from a few people directly.

Basically, the only criticism of the show is that some of the situations that arise are completely implausible. To this, TB says this: So what? If you want completely realistic, watch the news.

If you're going to sit there and nitpick about whether or not Brody would be able to get into the Vice President's office undetected, then you're missing the point. And the beauty of the show, especially the scenes where there is interaction between two characters, whether it be Carrie and Brody, Carrie and Saul, Saul and David, Brody and his wife, Brody and Mike, Dana and Finn and now especially Carrie and Abu Nazir.

So don't worry about whether or not Abu Nazir would actually have been able to get into the country. Just watch it for the drama.

Oh, and TB also got one other piece of feedback, one that said that Nicholas Brody (played by Damien Lewis) and Princeton sophomore quarterback Quinn Epperly are lookalikes.

Check it out for yourself here and here and draw your own conclusion.

TigerBlog spent 15 years either covering the Princeton football team or serving as the football team contact here, and he got to know most of the players in that time.

In his current role as public address announcer, he doesn't have the kind of interaction that he used to with the players, and so he hasn't gotten to know too many of them in the last decade or so. The same is true with men's basketball.

One of the best parts of working as a team sport contact is the opportunity to get to know such outstanding young people, and it's one part of the evolution of TB's career here that he hasn't liked.

As a result, TB has never met Epperly. In fact, he wouldn't know him unless he walked in here wearing a Princeton football uniform with the No. 4 on it.


So forgive TB for not having immediately recognized for himself that yes, Epperly does bear a striking resemblance to the man who just killed the Vice President - or at least the actor who plays him.

TigerBlog did spend much of his time as the PA announcer this fall saying things like "tackle by Catapano" or "sack by Catapano" or "Catapano on the stop; it'll bring up fourth down."

And yesterday was a big day for Catapano, who was honored in New York City as the Ivy League's Defensive Player of the Year.

The award was presented through a partnership the National Football Foundation at a reception at the Waldorf Astoria, which isn't exactly slumming it. At the very least, it's a huge step up from the old way of simply releasing the name of the winner along with the All-Ivy League team.

This was Year 2 of the Ivy League's new format of choosing an offensive and defensive winner and announcing those winners at the Waldorf.

TB was wondering if Catapano would have won the Bushnell Cup under the old rules, which simply had one winner (or two if there happened to be a tie in the voting).

History suggests that the offensive winner, Colton Chapple of Harvard, would have had a huge advantage had there only been one winner, as a running back (18 times) or quarterback (15 times) has been honored more than twice as many times as a defensive player (seven times).

The award has gone to a wide receiver four times, including once to Brown's Sean Morey, who now works in the Princeton Department of Athletics. Princeton offensive coordinator James Perry also won the award when he was a Brown quarterback.

No offensive lineman has ever won the award.

Dave Patterson, a linebacker on the 1995 Ivy League championship team, is the only Princeton defensive player who ever won the Bushnell Cup in the era when only one award was given. Jeff Terrell, who quarterbacked Princeton to the 2006 Ivy title, was the last winner prior to Catapano.

As for the new format, it's a nice way of doing it. There are two nominees on offense and two on defense (Brown's A.J. Cruz was the other on defense; Cornell's Jeff Matthews was the other on offense) and then the winners are announced.

TB had a hunch that Chapple would win, given the fact that the same coaches who voted him first-team All-Ivy and Matthews second-team All-Ivy also were voting on the player of the year award.

As for Catapano, it's not easy to compare a D lineman to a defensive back. On the other hand, only one defensive back - Penn's Tim Chambers in 1984 - ever won the Bushnell Cup.

Catapano was very gracious in his acceptance speech, which was a nice finishing touch to the event.

And both Catapano and Princeton head coach Bob Surace spoke about how the Tigers had begun their turnaround this year.

As TB has said often, a 5-5 season and winning Ivy record was a huge step forward for the Tigers.

Catapano's award was a nice cap to that, one last way in which the 2012 football season at Princeton was a special one.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Greatest TV Show Of All-Time

TigerBlog isn't a big fan of presenting opinion as fact, because of the implication that anyone who disagrees is by definition wrong.

So let him instead just say this: It would take a lot for someone to convince him that "Homeland" isn't the greatest show in television history.

If you haven't seen the show, you need to. It's worth the $10 or so a month that Showtime asks from you. If you have seen it, then you know exactly what TB is saying.

TB was first turned onto it in September, when he watched all 12.5 hours of Season 1 in a three-day span.

Last night was the 10th of 12 episodes of Season 2, which has been radically different than Season 1 but has, like Season 1, been so great that each week leaves TB thinking that yes, the most recent episode was the best in the series' history.

"Homeland" centers around POW-turned-terrorist-turned-hero-turned-Congressman-turned-who-knows-what Nicholas Brody and Carrie Mathison, the CIA agent/whack job whose obsession with him is almost as all-consuming as her desire to keep this country safe from Abu Nazir, the world's most-wanted terrorist (and Brody's father figure/controller).

TB isn't quite ready to say that Mathison is the greatest character in TV history, but she's definitely in the Top 5.

The show mixes in some peripheral storylines, mostly centered around Brody's relationship with his wife and two kids, as well as his old friend with whom his wife fell in love during Brody's eight years as a POW. It's a good blend of humanizing Brody without having it dominate the show, and the emergence of his teenage daughter as the character whom the audience can most identify with in a "that's how normal people would react way" has only enhanced the overall product.

At the core of the show is the idea of what's at stake and how, far away from the headlines, there are shadowy people just like Carrie Mathison, people with whom TB and every other American have trusted their very existence, people who live with the ramifications of life and death in every decision they make at work.

To see how these people - especially Carrie and Saul, played by Mandy Patinkin - go through their daily lives with that kind of reality is amazing.

Yes, the audience is asked to accept certain events that are implausible, such as the world's most wanted terrorist on a surveillance camera at a convenience store near Washington, D.C. (or near Washington, D.C., for that matter). But who cares?

It's so unbelievably well-written and well-acted, to a level that no viewer has a right to expect from a television show.

That is what really sets it apart. Well, that and the fact that it takes such amazingly radical (and non-formulaic) chances with its plot that the audience has no idea what is coming next.

"Homeland" goes in directions that no other show will go, and it leaves the audience with no idea what's going to happen next. And that's not easy to pull off.

In fact, there are just two episodes remaining in Season 2, and TB has no idea how it will turn out. None.

He does know he can't wait to find out.

"Homeland" has been renewed for Season 3, which leaves TB and other fans of the show wondering what could possibly be next.

Courtney Banghart is in Season 6 of her tenure as the head coach of the Princeton women's basketball team. Here is her year-by-year record:
Season 1 - 7-23
Season 2 - 14-14
Season 3 - 26-3 (Ivy League champion, NCAA tournament)
Season 4 - 24-5 (Ivy League champion, NCAA tournament)
Season 5 - 24-5 (Ivy League champion, NCAA tournament)
Season 6 - 5-2

Add it up and comes to 100-52 overall, with win No. 100 yesterday with a 93-46 decision over UMBC. Princeton led 25-1, 51-8 at the half and by as many as 53 in the second half.

For the record, assistant coach Milena Flores has also been part of all 100 of those wins.

For those who are mathematically challenged, Banghart was 21-37 her first two years and is now 79-15 the last three-plus.

She is now the second women's basketball coach at Princeton to reach 100 wins, and she trails only Joan Kowalik (a TB favorite), who won 163 games in 11 seasons. Five men's basketball coaches have reached 100 wins at Princeton; TB awards extra credit to anyone who got Frederick Leuhring's 100 wins between 1912-20 and Albert Wittmer's 115 wins from 1923-32, to go along with the other three: Cappy Cappon, Butch van Breda Kolff and Pete Carril.

Of the seven who reached 100 wins at Princeton between the men's and women's programs, only van Breda Kolff (130 games), Leuhring (132 games) and Carril (147 games) got there faster than Banghart has.

What's most impressive about Banghart, of course, is the way she has turned the program around. To go from 16 games under .500 after two seasons to 48 games over .500 in the beginning of her sixth season is amazing.

It's been a radical plot twist.

Maybe not on the level of "Homeland." And, unlike "Homeland," it was possible to see this one coming even in the early years.

Her next 100 wins? Can she get there in fewer than 152 more games?

TB, for one, wouldn't be surprised by that at all.