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.

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