Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Name Is Bobby, And I'll Be Your Waiter

For the life of him, TigerBlog cannot remember the exact year it was.

He does know it was a trip to either Brown/Yale or Dartmouth/Harvard for men's basketball, and he was still the men's basketball contact, which means it had to be late 1990s or early 2000s.

Actually, it had to be between 1996 and 2002, because Bobby Valentine was the manager of the New York Mets at the time.

Vinnie DiCarlo, who used to be an intern here in the OAC, used to work in Stamford, just across the New York-Connecticut state line.

TB is pretty sure he was traveling with Tom McCarthy, who was the basketball radio man for Princeton at the time, and Mark Eckel, who was covering the team for the Trenton Times.

Both were big fans of Vinnie. How could you not be?

Vinnie was one of the big kids who was always smiling, always up.

TB has three vivid memories of Vinnie's time here at Princeton.

First, there was the time he played "America the Beautiful" instead of the national anthem before a men's hockey game, which wasn't that unusual back then. Except in this case, the version DiCarlo chose turned out to be a 17-minute instrumental version, and it never reached the "Oh Beautiful For Spacious Skies" part in the two or so minutes it played and was cut off as the crowd started getting restless, all while the players started banging their sticks on the ice.

Oh, and there was the time when DiCarlo came home from the 1996 NCAA tournament with a sign that said "This is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome."

And of course the DiCarlo family lamb roast, at his Aunt Connie's house. TB and Eckel stopped there on their way back from Brown, TB remembers, after a men's lacrosse game. That was quite a show.

Anyway, on this trip, the group met up with Vinnie for lunch on the way through Connecticut, and it was Vinnie who decided to go Bobby Valentine's restaurant.

It was probably around 2 or so when TB and company arrived, and the lunch crowd had emptied. In fact, there was almost nobody in the place, and there was one of those "Please Seat Yourself" signs that you see during off-peak hours.

As the group of four settled into a table, there was a guy with a hammer fixing the carpet a few feet away, and he was kneeling down facing the other way.

Then he stood up and walked over to the table, pulled out a pad and said "My name is Bobby, and I'll be your waiter."

Obviously, it was Bobby Valentine, who was working in his restaurant about a week before heading to spring training.

He couldn't have been a nicer guy, from the moment he joked about being the guy who has to fix the carpet until the group left as he said "thanks for coming in for a late lunch."

It is from such meetings that a lifetime of rooting for someone is born, and TB has never rooted against Bobby V since. It hasn't hurt that he's managed the Mets and Red Sox, as opposed to the Yankees.

Now that Bobby Valentine is going to be the Director of Athletics at Sacred Heart University, TB can see himself rooting for the Pioneers.

It's a great hire for Sacred Heart, one summed up perfectly by the University president with this quote from the release:
“We recognize that Bobby is an out-of-the-box selection, but we believe his entrepreneurial spirit, extensive sports background and love of athletics make him an ideal choice. He is a native son with strong name recognition, and his selection demonstrates Sacred Heart’s commitment to its athletic program and to innovation and excellence throughout the University,” said SHU President John J. Petillo.

TB has been asked why he thinks Valentine would want to be the AD at a smaller DI school like Sacred Heart.

In this case, it seems like a good fit. Like President Petillo said, it's strong name recognition. And for Valentine, he's clearly had enough of Major League Baseball, so this is a good segue for his competitive side. And he's a legendary Connecticut high school athlete.

Maybe the job will have some surprises for him that he's not anticipating. Maybe after his experiences he'll find it tedious.

Hopefully not.

TB is rooting for him.

Just like he has ever since the day that he was TB's waiter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Weisure Time

Richard Barron doesn't have a mean bone in his body.

This morning, he's amazingly lucky to have all of his bones still in his body, rather than broken and scattered all over I-95 outside Boston.

Barron, the former Princeton women's basketball coach, is now the head coach of the women's team at Maine. The Black Bears were traveling to Boston to take on Boston University when, according to reports, the bus driver had some sort of medical episode and passed out.

The bus was in the center lane going south on 95, and without the driver, it veered to its left, crossing one more lane on the southbound side and then the median and then the northbound lanes before smashing into some trees off the highway.

Somehow, the bus did all this lane crossing without ever hitting another vehicle. This has to be considered somewhat miraculous.

The driver was the most seriously injured. Barron, whose wife Maureen coached the Princeton softball team when they were here, apparently tried to grab the wheel when the driver passed out and had some bad cuts on his face when he fell.

College athletic teams spend hours and hours and hours and drive tens of thousands of miles on the highways around the country. In the winter, teams in the Northeast and the Midwest have to negotiate snow, ice, wet roads and all the elements of this time of year.

On top of that, they do this often at night - in the early morning hours, actually - returning to campuses or heading to the next game site. 

With all that, it really is amazing that this doesn't happen way more often - with way more tragic outcomes.

Anyway, TB hopes the driver is okay and is glad that Barron and the rest of the Black Bears seem to have come through with only minor injuries.

TigerBlog heard the news on the way back from New York City, where he spoke last night at a class on athletic administration at NYU.

TB did last year as well, and he must have been okay at it, he assumes, since he was asked back this year.

The professor is Connie Zotos, who spent 12 years at Drew University, a Division III school in North Jersey.

Her classroom was at 42nd and 5th, and TB didn't realize there were NYU classrooms that far uptown.

Here's something else TB can't figure out. How in the world do people put up with going into and out of New York City everyday? Or getting around town? It is definitely not for the weak, that's for sure.

The group that TB spoke to this year consisted of 32 grad students and five undergrads, which made for a large group up on the fourth floor. The class ran from 6:20 to 8:50, and just like last year, the time flew by.

Actually, it was as educational for TB as it was - hopefully - for the students.

For one thing, the evening served as a reminder of just how much athletic communications has evolved in TB's time here.

And for another, it was fascinating to see the number of questions the students asked and what the subjects of those questions were.

There seemed to be a genuine interest in how athletics in the Ivy League and at Princeton worked and how different the Princeton model is from, say, the BCS model.

Without question, the subject that the students were most interested in was social media.

Does Princeton has a censorship policy? What does Princeton tell its athletes and coaches about social media? Does Princeton encourage or discourage it?

TigerBlog talked about how Twitter has changed the way Princeton can get updated in-game scores to people who are interested in them, but also how that ability and Princeton's commitment to equality across its programs means that the OAC staff members spend a lot of time tweeting updates of events that they are not at, mostly during what would be considered non-work time.

TB saw this phenomenon referred to someplace as "weisure time," as the line between work time and leisure time gets blurred.

Not that long ago - and by not that long, TB means last year - the OAC track and field contact would have waited until Heps ended Sunday to write a story about it. This year, especially because the meet was so close, there were Twitter updates all day Sunday, and those updates kept up with the drama of the moment.

Of course, that meant someone had to do it all afternoon Sunday. Weisure time.

The group featured former college athletes - a man who played soccer at North Carolina State, a woman who played soccer at Southern Cal, among others - and non-athletes. They asked TB about student-athlete experience, about the integration of athletes on campus, about the faculty fellows.

TB ended the night by telling them that they need to understand the changing workplace that they soon will be part of, how TB can do almost all of his job simply with his iPhone, how their office isn't necessarily the place they'll spend most of their work hours.

Mostly, he told them to make sure they stay relevant, that it's on them to make sure their jobs evolve with the times.

Just like it's on the people who work here.

The ride back after the class was relatively simple, with no traffic and only some rain to contend with on the drive. And then the news that Maine's women's basketball team had been involved in the bus crash, which immediately led to thoughts of Richard Barron.

Hopefully all of the people involved will be all right.

And hopefully the students from last night learned something, or at least as much as they taught the teacher.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Game, Good Game, Good Game

TigerBlog sat at the end of the scorer's table as the final seconds of Princeton's 59-34 over Cornell in women's basketball ticked away Saturday night.

The game ended as Princeton dribbled out the clock near midcourt, so there were still a few seconds on the clock as Cornell head coach Dayna Smith walked towards the Princeton bench to shake hands.

The handshake line is a fascinating part of athletics, at least it is to TigerBlog.

The most famous handshake lines, of course, are the ones at the end of a playoff series in the NHL. Perhaps those were the original ones.

Aside from that, professional teams don't seem to do the formal postgame handshake line. Instead, it's something of a handshake here and there on the way to the lockerroom.

Every other level of sports has the postgame handshake.

TB has coached enough of his kids' teams to know how it works. Game ends, and everyone lines up.

In lacrosse, the team lines up behind the goalie, with the coaches at the end. When TB coached TigerBlog Jr., he never was really sure if he was supposed to be fist-pumping the other team's players' gloves or trying to actually shake their hands while they were wearing their gloves.

With Miss TigerBlog's basketball team, TB has the familiar routine of the high-five while saying "good game, good game, good game, good job, nice game, good luck, good game" and on and on - followed, of course, by a healthy dose of Purell at the finish line.

TigerBlog is a huge fan of something that is completely lacking in athletics today, and that's sportsmanship. The handshake line is a last outpost of that long-since-vanished concept, the one that says that you should play as hard as you can while having a healthy amount of respect for your opponent, who should be doing the same.

Too often today, it's more about showing up the opponent and glorifying your own self.

TB has seen way too much of it. And not just in the pros or in BCS football and basketball. He's seen it all the way down to the youth level, where, in fairness to the poor kids, what chance do they have with what they've grown up seeing on TV?

TB has always stressed the importance of good sportsmanship to kids he's coached, and the message has gotten across almost all - but not all - of the time. In the case of his own kids, TB hopes they realize that if they cross the line, their playing days would be over immediately.

The handshake line, though, at least gives TB hope.

It is there, in the few seconds when the teams cross paths, that there is an acknowledgement of the purity of the competition itself. Unless a brawl breaks out.

TB especially likes when two players who have gone at each other all night give each other more than just a little handshake, in a gesture that is purely about respect.

Meanwhile, back at the handshake line Saturday, Smith reached out to shake Niveen Rasheed's hand directly in front of where TB was sitting.

There was nothing special about it, as Smith continued one way and Rasheed continued the other.

As it happened, though, TB could not help but think of what was going through Smith's mind. It had to be something along the lines of "I am so glad I don't ever have to go through a handshake line with her in a Princeton uniform."

Rasheed was the Ivy League Player of the Week again, for the fourth consecutive time, the sixth time this year and the 13th time in her career - a career that was shorted a full Ivy season by a torn ACL.

Rasheed will be the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year again this year, and then she'll graduate after completing a career that makes her one of the three greatest women's basketball players in Ivy League history, along with Harvard's Allison Feaster and Penn's Diana Caramanico.

And you can make a case for her as the No. 1 of that group.

It's a relatively easy formula, actually: Talent rarely if ever seen in this league x an equal amount of determination = all-time, shake-your-head-at-how-she-plays-every-night, great.

This is a huge weekend for Princeton basketball.

On the women's side, Princeton is mathematically in a three-team race. The Tigers have gaudy numbers that include a league-record 33-straight league wins, with 24 straight by double figures, including every game last year and this.

Princeton is 37-0 in Ivy games in which Rasheed has played.

On the other hand, it can change dramatically in one night, Friday night, should Princeton fall to a Harvard team it beat by 16 in Jadwin two weekends ago.

Harvard is 6-3. Penn is 7-2.

Should Harvard find a way to beat Princeton, then Penn at least can get a least a tie simply by winning out.

Then again, for Princeton not to get to the NCAA tournament, it would have to lose two of its last five league games and then a playoff game.

The men's game at Jadwin Friday night is huge.

Princeton is 7-2; Harvard is 9-1. Every other league team has at least five losses.

A Princeton win, and the teams would be tied at two losses and possibly headed to a second playoff in three years. A Harvard win and the Crimson will be two games up with three to play.

On the women's side, Princeton could clinch an outright title this weekend with a sweep and Harvard and Dartmouth wins over Penn or a share of the title with a sweep and a Penn split.

Oh, and Princeton hasn't won three straight titles and put itself in this position to win a fourth just because it has Rasheed. The rest of the team? It's also very impressive.

Actually, it's more than that.

It's deep. It's athletic. It can shoot. It defends everywhere. It has a great balance of upperclassmen and younger players. It plays together at all times. It's confident. It plays hard.

It's not a coincidence that no women's basketball team has ever won more consecutive Ivy League games.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars And Heps

By the time Jennifer Lawrence fell on the way to collect her Oscar, TigerBlog had long since fallen asleep and given up on an Academy Awards show that was somewhat predictable and dull.

He did see Shirley Bassey sing "Goldfinger," which, even at the age of 76, she knocked way out of the park. He missed out on any "Les Mis" singing, and missed Adele as well. And Barbra Streisand.

Meanwhile, back at Jennifer Lawrence, apparently the star of "Silver Linings Playbook" tumbled heading up the stairs.

TB has never seen the movie, though he thinks he'd probably like it, and he couldn't pick Lawrence out of a lineup. In fact, the only picture he's seen of her is the one after she fell, and it's of the back of her head.

"Argo," another movie TB hasn't seen but knows he would like, won Best Picture last night, joining a list of elite movies that began in 1927 with "Wings," which TB had never heard of before he Googled the list of best picture winners.

He also didn't realize that there were 10 movies nominated for Best Picture from 1932 until 1943, when "Casablanca" won.

If you want to judge a decade by the movies that won Best Picture, then TB thinks it's hard to beat the 1970s.

Oh, the 1950s were pretty good, with movies like "From Here to Eternity," "On The Waterfront" and "Bridge on the River Kwai."

The 1960s had four musicals win Best Picture "My Fair Lady," "The Sound of Music," "West Side Story" and "Oliver."

But the 1970s? Here are the 10 movies that won Best Picture:
1970 - "Patton"
1971 - "The French Connection"
1972 - "The Godfather"
1973 - "The Sting"
1974 - "The Godfather Part II"
1975 - "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"
1976 - "Rocky"
1977 - "Annie Hall"
1978 - "The Deer Hunter"
1979 - "Kramer vs. Kramer"

TigerBlog would have taken three of the other movies nominated in 1979 - "All That Jazz," "Breaking Away" or "Apocalypse Now" - over "Kramer vs. Kramer," but who can argue with the other nine? That's an epic decade of Best Pictures.

The problem with the Academy Awards now, at least to TB, is that it might as well be called the Narcissism Olympics. Oh well. It is what it is.

And in what universe was Ann Hathaway better in "Les Mis" than Samantha Barks, who played Eponine. 

TB liked reading the tweets about last night's Oscars way more than watching them. They were mostly funny, and they mostly ripped on how bad the show was.

Maybe the show wasn't that bad. Maybe it's just that the show is so formulaic now.

TigerBlog was also caught up on Twitter following the Heps Indoor Track and Field championships from Harvard.

In particular, the men's competition provided amazing drama, which came down to the very end, a bitter end as it would turn out for Princeton. The Tigers had to try to come from behind against Cornell, and Princeton came close to pulling it off.

The last three events were the distance medley relay the 4x800 relay and the 4x400 relay.

Princeton won the DMR (after a great anchor leg from Peter Callahan, who also won the mile to share outstanding runner honors) and finished third in the 4x800. Heading into the 4x400, Princeton needed to finish two spots ahead of Cornell to win the team title.

Unfortunately, it went 1-2 with the Tigers and Big Red, and that second-place finish (by nearly a full second over Brown) was enough to give Cornell the team title by one point, 157-156.

On Twitter, it said that Princeton had edged "Bruno," which TB briefly mistook for a nickname for Brown, which would have given the Tigers the team championship. Instead, "Bruno" was the first name of the Cornell anchor.

As it was, Princeton saw its streak of seven consecutive Heps titles come to end, a very close one at that.

It was the closest men's indoor Heps finish since Princeton beat Cornell by 3/4 of a point in 1986. Princeton's women lost to an outdoor Heps title to Cornell by one point 15 years ago.

It had to be an amazingly intense end to the two days of competition, and TB would have loved to be there for the experience.

It's another example of what's great about Ivy athletics, and that is the wide variety of sports that all work so hard and compete so hard to earn the title of Ivy League champion.

This time, it went against Princeton.

Since TB followed it on Twitter, he'll give the last word to a tweet from former Tiger Trevor Van Ackeren, who offered this:

"And with that, Princeton relinquishes team title to Cornell. :(. But could there have been a greater meet?"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Phone, Black And White TV

TigerBlog wanted to watch Georgetown-DePaul the other day, only it wasn't on TV.

St. John's-South Florida was on the channel that TB thought Georgetown would be on.

So he did the next best thing. He watched it on his phone. At least for a little while, until Georgetown started to blow DePaul out.

As he did this, TB thought back to his room as kid.

TigerBlog grew up in a house where when you walked in the front door you either had to go up or down. For most of the time he lived there, his room was upstairs, until he moved downstairs as a high school junior.

When he was downstairs, his room looked up onto the front porch. One morning, just as the sun was coming up, TigerBlog opened his eyes and saw two eyes peering down at him from that porch - something that caused TB to scream, as he remembers.

As it turned out, the eyes belonged to the cat from the family next door. That particular family had five kids, all girls, and the second-oldest - Suzanne Zywicki - would be on the track and field team at Princeton. Her coach, Peter Farrell, is still Princeton's coach.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, upstairs in TB's old room.

That room had a telephone, a red one. And a TV, a black-and-white one.

The telephone was mounted into the wall and could only be removed by the telephone company, a monopoly that actually owned the phone. This was before there were jacks in the wall, and so the phone cord actually went into the wall itself.

The phone was actually a touch-tone phone, which was something unique back then. The television was small, and it had a dial on it that TB actually had to walk over to and turn to go to the different channels.

And how many channels were there?

Well, there were the network channels, 2, 4 and 7 from New York and 3, 6 and 10 from Philly. And there were a few independent ones, like channel 5, 9, 11, 17, 29 and 48. And PBS, which was channel 12 and 13. And NJN on channel 23.

And that was it.

TB would not in a kabillion years have ever dreamed that one day he'd be watching a basketball game on his small mobile phone. Or that he'd be a bit annoyed that the "Watch ESPN" app was taking a few extra seconds to load.

This weekend, Princeton will be videostreaming 11 events.

Okay, some of them aren't Princeton's; they're originating with the other school and are being shared with us.

Still, 11 events that can be watched on the computer? TB didn't exactly see that coming either when he was a kid.

To have 11 streamed events shows that it's a fairly busy weekend here at the U.

It's the start of serious overlap time, with events like Heps Indoor Track and Field (at Harvard) at the same time as the men's (at Hofstra) and women's (home with Villanova) lacrosse openers.

The men's squash national champion will be crowned this weekend at Yale, where Princeton is the No. 2 seed and where four teams (No. 1 Trinity, No. 2 Princeton, No. 3 Harvard and No. 4 Yale) all have a legitimate chance and even No. 5 Cornell cannot be discounted.

This is also a huge weekend in basketball and hockey.

If you want to go on the assumption that no more than three league losses will be good enough in men's basketball, then the race is between Harvard (7-1), Princeton (5-2) and Cornell (5-3). If you think two losses is the max, then 1) that means Cornell is out and 2) means Princeton better do some winning this weekend.

The perfect world for the Tigers has a sweep at Columbia and Cornell while either Brown or Yale knocks off Harvard. That would mean both teams would have two league losses heading into next Friday's game at Jadwin.

The worst-case scenario for Princeton is that it finds itself two games back of Harvard a week from tonight.

On the women's side, Princeton is 7-0, Penn is 5-2, Harvard and Dartmouth are 4-3. Princeton has already beaten every team in the league one, all by double figures and five by at least 30. TB leaves you to draw your own conclusions as the Tigers host Columbia and Cornell.

On the hockey side, this is the final weekend of the regular season for the women, who need to be in the top eight to reach the ECAC playoffs. Right now Princeton is in eighth after beating seventh-ranked Clarkson last weekend, and the Tigers head into the final two games with a one-point lead over Colgate and a two-point lead over Brown. RPI is in seventh but cannot be caught.

Princeton is at Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow; obviously the Brown game is huge. Yale is in 11th with nine points and is still mathematically alive.

For the men, there is Brown home tonight, Yale home tomorrow night and a trip next weekend to Harvard and Dartmouth.

Princeton can mathematically at least be anywhere from second to 12th when it's all over. Right now, the team is tied for seventh but with so many different possibilities that it doesn't really make sense to say anything other than the fact that the top four get a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals, the next four get home ice in the first round and the last four get to go on the road in the first round.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Answering Holtsledge

One of TigerBlog's favorite writers is a man - TB assumes he's a man - named "Holtsledge."

Come to think of it, what does "Holtsledge" mean? Is it a name? A nickname? A spoof of something?

"Holtsledge" writes on the Ivy League Sports Board, which if you've never been to it provides a pretty good overview of the pulse of serious Ivy League sports fans, probably as good a read as anywhere else.

TB goes to the board for many reasons. There's an entertainment value. There's the intrigue of wondering who some of these anonymous people are, if TigerBlog has ever met them in real life.

There's the amazement of how much information is on the board that is spot on, meaning it's being posted by people who are either on the inside (coaches? administrators?) or know someone who is and who gives them very reliable information.

The flip side is how much is wrong. What amazes TB every time is how he'll read something that he knows is completely inaccurate and yet at first believes it, questions what he knows to be true, simply because of one of TB's most etched-in-stone beliefs: People believe everything they read.

The best part of the board, as TB said, is to see what Ivy fans are talking about, what their views on Ivy League athletics is.

It is on the threads that talk about how the league's football teams should be scheduling or how the league and its schools should be marketing that he can really learn something.

Some of what is said is impossible, or pipe dreams, or not practical.

But it is educational, especially in a world where there is so little market research available. In that way, the board gives great feedback, directly from the most supportive customers.

Anyway, Holtsledge started two threads this week, one about the best current Ivy League athlete and another about the best Ivy athlete of all time.

As an aside, TB saw the thread about the best Ivy athlete of all time multiple times before he realized that there was an extra "of" in front of "Ivy athlete."

Oh, and if you're looking at one of the thing that makes Ivy athletics so unique, then how about a fan message board with the word "piffle" on it?

So who is the best Ivy athlete of all time? The people who replied came up with some great answers - and some who clearly aren't close to being the best.

TigerBlog never realized that the great marathoner Frank Shorter was a Yale grad. Or Olympic swimmer Don Schollander, for that matter.

Each school has its athletic icons. It's just that TB never thought about it beyond Princeton.

In the case of the Tigers, TB has always gone on the assumption that the three greatest athletes Princeton has ever had are Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley. And if he had to pick one? Bradley.

In fact, Bradley's accomplishments are so over the top that they're really rendered all kinds of things at Princeton irrelevant, such as who the greatest athlete is or if anyone can break the school record for points in a career.

Bradley played three years of varsity basketball, because freshmen were still ineligible. There was no three-point line at the time.

And yet he scored 2,503 points.

To put that in perspective, Douglas Davis is second with 1,550, followed by Kit Mueller with 1,546. Ian Hummer has joined the 1,500 club with one point to spare, and he takes 1,501 career points to Columbia and Cornell this weekend as he chases the No. 2 spot.

No. 1?

No chance. No way. Ever. For anyone.

Hummer is fourth all time at Princeton and yet is 1,002 points behind Bradley. That's nuts.

Bradley has the top 11 single-game scoring totals in school history. He holds the record for the most points ever scored by any player on any Division I team in a Final Four game with 58 against Wichita State.

Hey, TB's favorite note about Bradley might not be any of those. It might be that his career low was 16, as in he never scored fewer than 16 points in any game he played.

Think how much more interesting it would have been last year had Davis been chasing Mueller for the top spot at Princeton and how wild it would have been for him to get it by four points in his final game ever as a Tiger?

For that matter, think of the great debate Princeton fans would have knowing that Davis played in 15 more games than Mueller did.

And how great would it be that Mueller's record would have stood for 21 years and then probably been broken in back-to-back years?

But nope.

Bill Bradley ruined all that for everyone.

That's why TB thinks he's the greatest athlete in Princeton history. And maybe even Ivy history.

Or maybe it's Lou Gehrig.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

MTB On Title IX

Madison Hackman did something in a 7th/8th grade girls basketball game Sunday afternoon that TigerBlog has rarely seen anywhere else, on any level.

With her team down 5-0 early, Madison knocked down a three-pointer, got fouled in the process and then made the foul shot for a four-point play. Ultimately, her team would win 22-17.

TB is one of the two coaches for Madison's team, one that features Miss TigerBlog, as well as girls named Bridgid, Maura, Maya, Becky, Emily, Riley and Nadia, in case you were wondering what people were naming their girls 12 or 13 years ago or so.

The team is 5-9, though it is 4-4 in its last eight games and has gotten way better since the start of the year.

The plan originally was to try to run some very rudimentary elements of the Princeton offense, a plan that was scrapped in favor of a more John Chaney-centric approach, which means one focused always on defense first with just enough offense to get by.

TB understands full well that these are middle schoolers, so things like missed layups or bad passes or balls dribbled off feet don't bother him. What does bother him is a lack of effort, something that everyone can control.

Opening day was a 41-9 loss to a team that, the second time around, escaped with a 30-21 win - and that after a 10-0 run to start the game. TB called timeout when it was 10-0 and basically said "you have to try," because if they don't want to try, what's the point?

Oh, and he borrowed a great line from former Princeton men's basketball coach Joe Scott during that game Sunday, when he tried to get one of the girls to understand that she wasn't doing enough to take the ball from the girl she was guarding. Quoting Scott, TB said this: "You friends with that girl? No? Then take the ball away." The result by the way, was a steal and layup.

TB has coached boys and girls, and he's coached them both basically the same way. He can't remember thinking to himself at any point that he had to coach girls differently than boys; in fact, he finds the idea somewhat offensive.

Maybe it's his years and years of working here at Princeton, where the words "gender equity" are never spoken, largely because they don't have to be. It's just the law of the land here, something that is intrinsic in everything that is done, and everyone either has to buy in or keep it to himself.

As for his own Title IX-compliant children, TigerBlog Jr. and MTB have had the same access to playing sports. In fact, MTB has played a great number of them, having participated in soccer and tennis earlier and now playing field hockey, basketball and lacrosse.

TigerBlog knows full well that before Title IX, things were different.

In fact, in 1972, before Title IX became the law, there were roughly 3.7 million boys playing high school sports and fewer than 300,000 girls.

How does TB know this? He read it in MTB's paper on Title IX.

The assignment was to write a research paper on any topic the kids in the class wanted, and MTB chose Title IX.

To help her, TigerBlog put her in touch with Chris Sailer, the women's lacrosse coach at Princeton.

Sailer spoke to (a very nervous) MTB for about 10 minutes one night as MTB asked her questions about her own experiences with Title IX.

It was a pretty fascinating conversation.

See, it's really easy to forget the impact the law had when your main frame of reference is how things are now or how they've been for the last 20 years or so.

Going back before then, though, there was real discrimination against women athletically, and it was up to people like Chris Sailer to help change that. As a result, there are so many more opportunities for women athletes in college now, not to mention girls MTB's age.

Anyway, with help from Chris Sailer, here is MTB's paper on Title IX. A guest TigerBlog, of sorts:

Title IX
 There are many women in the U.S. and around the world who are phenomenal athletes and have very successful sports careers. There weren’t always so many opportunities for women to play sports, however. Up until 1972, women were discriminated against because of their gender, and could not participate in sports as much as boys. If they were on a sports team, girls did not have as nice equipment and uniforms, and had inconvenient traveling arrangements, unlike the boys. Then, in 1972 a federal law called Title IX was enforced. Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, under the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Title IX prohibits discrimination against girls and boys, women and men, students and employees, in all levels of education. It applies to all institutions with education programs and activities that receive federal aid. For example, it prohibits gender discrimination in faculties, access to courses, athletic and academic opportunities, career guidance, student financial aid, health and insurance benefits, and employment in educational institutions (“State Title IX Gender Equity Coordinators, Methods of Administration Coordinators & other State level Gender Equity Experts”). Since Title IX was enforced in 1972, women have been gaining more and more opportunities in education and in sports and have proven to the world that they are as equally talented as men. The opportunities for women and men in education in sports before and after Title IX show the impact it made on many young students and athletes.
First, before Title IX, women had very little equality, especially in athletics. In 1971 a high school athletic participation poll was taken, and 3,666,917 boys participated in high school sports in the United States, while only 294,015 girls did (“From ‘To Secure These Rights’ to Title IX”). Before Title IX, most women were unlucky with their sports careers.  “I was lucky to grow up outside of Philadelphia,” said Princeton University women’s lacrosse coach Chris Sailer, who was an athlete before Title IX. “I had a lot of opportunities in school and out of school. That was really unusual. Many women my age tell me that they had no opportunities. There were no sports available. I also hear that some coaches my age had to put over four girls in one hotel room when they traveled. They had no money for food on the road, and they traveled in vans” (Sailer) Before Title IX the primary physical activities for girls were cheerleading and square-dancing. Only one in 27 girls played high school sports. There were virtually no college scholarships for female athletes. Female college athletes received only two percent of overall athletic budgets (“Athletics under Title IX”). Even the best of athletes were affected by this discrimination. For example, after winning two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics, Donna De Varona could not obtain a college swimming scholarship. For women, college swimming scholarships did not exist (“Title IX Before and After”). Even though women had equal talents, they did not get the same treatment as men did.
There was also discrimination against genders in schools before Title IX. Many schools had separate entrances for men and women. Female students were not allowed to take certain courses such as auto mechanics or criminal justice; male students could not take home economics. Most medical and law schools limited the number of women admitted to 15 or fewer per school. Many colleges and universities required women to have higher test scores and better grades than male applicants in order to gain admission. Also, women who were living on campus were not allowed to go out past midnight. Women faculty members were excluded from faculty clubs and encouraged to join faculty wives’ clubs instead (“Title IX Before and After”). Women had to work much harder than men to succeed in the workplace.
Next, opportunities for men and women changed after Title IX was enforced. Gradually, women got more opportunities to succeed in athletics and in the workplace. Coach Sailer, whose life was changed by Title IX and who went to Harvard University, said, “Title IX had a huge impact on my life, first as an athlete, then as a coach. I went to an Ivy League school and was already ahead of the curve. We were very lucky again. We had access to good fields and practice clothes. There’s also no question that because of Title IX there are so many more opportunities for women as coaching.” (Sailer)
Noticeable improvements in the opportunities given to female athletics can be seen at any level, including high school, college, and professional sports. For example, Title IX has helped augment the number of women’s intercollegiate sports teams from 32,000 in a few years prior to its passage, to about 150,000 teams today. Also, in 1994, the number of women athletes was 2,124,755; a huge increase from 294,015 in 1971. Title IX really opened up sports opportunities for women (“From ‘To Secure These Rights’ to Title IX”).
Beyond sports, Title IX had an immense effect on the opportunities for females. Since 1970, the percentage of female doctoral degrees has shot up from a mere 13.3 percent to about 50 percent in 2001- an improvement that no one expected. More than just permission to play sports, Title IX put women in equal footing to men (“From ‘To Secure These Rights’ to Title IX”). Another improvement in women’s education was in 1994, where 63% of female high school graduates were enrolled in college, which is an improvement from 43% in 1973 (“Title IX Before and After”).
In conclusion, the opportunities for women and men before and after Title IX show the impact it made on many young athletes and students. Before Title IX, women had practically no sports opportunities and no opportunities in education. But after it was enforced in 1972, women began to have more opportunities in education and athletics. Women like soccer player Abby Wambach and gynmast Gabby Douglas show the world that women can be great athletes, just like men. People should not be judged by their gender, but by their abilities and their character.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

They Don't Care; They Dare

TigerBlog saw a picture the other day from Lourie-Lovie Field, the old soccer facility at Princeton.

It made him think back to all the games he saw there, between the men's and women's teams, going back to when Bob Bradley coached the men. When Princeton reached the 1993 NCAA Final Four in men's soccer, TB covered all three games that the team won along the way.

When the women's team reached the 2004 Final Four, TB was the team's contact. He remembers vividly the four games that Princeton won on Lourie-Love Field - defeating Central Connecticut, Villanova, Boston College and Washington - to reach the College Cup.

By the last game, a crowd of 2,500 had engulfed Lourie-Love and its old rickety, wooden stands, with no amenities of any kind, except for a dining services food truck and bathrooms in Class of 1952 Stadium.

Still, while it was just a generic little field, Lourie-Love was still a great place to watch a game, especially on an early fall day when the shadows started to come across the grass. The stands, such as they were, put the fans right next to the players.

Lourie-Love became a casualty of those huge crowds from the 2004 NCAA run by the women, when it became apparent that a new facility was necessary.

Of course, that new facility is Roberts Stadium, a college soccer paradise whose game field - Myslik Field - sits where Lourie-Love used to be. It's a perfect place to watch college soccer. Perfect.

Then there are the fields that TigerBlog saw in the documentary "Ladies Turn," put out by the organization of the same name.

The documentary was set in Senegal, where the organization put together a women's soccer championship tournament. The movie follows the players and organizers along the trail of the tournament and the issues that came up at every turn.

Some were logistics, like not getting approval to use the stadium for the championship game until hours before kickoff.

Most were cultural, and almost all of those related to the idea that women shouldn't be playing soccer.

Back at Roberts Stadium, such a discussion never enters into the equation. Of course the women should play. Of course they should have equal access to the stadium, the equipment, the coaching, the athletic trainers, the publicity that the men get. It's not even a thought in anyone's mind that they shouldn't.

The idea that the success of a women's team is what drove the fundraising for the new stadium is probably as foreign to the Senegalese women as the dialect that they spoke in the sub-titled movie.

And the fields they played on?

There wasn't a hint of grass on almost all of them.

So why did they do it?

Because they love to play. That's why. And that's what makes the movie so special.

It's obvious how important playing the game is to them. It's obvious that they weren't going to let anyone tell them no.

Even more, it's obvious while they are playing that they don't care who is watching, what the field is like, who told them they couldn't. In every gesture, every kick, every goal, the sheer joy these women have of playing the sport dives off the screen and smacks the viewer in the face.

The movie was shown last week at the Woodrow Wilson School, and among those in attendance were the members of the 2012 Princeton women's soccer team, who went 14-4-1 overall and 7-0-0 in the Ivy League while winning the outright championship and a first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

Also in attendance was a woman named Jennifer Browning, a Washington, D.C., native and Cal grad who by her own admission wasn't much of an athlete herself. She went to work for the U.N. and found herself in Senegal, where she was the driving force behind Ladies Turn.

Also in attendance was Gaelle Yomi, a Senegalese journalist and communications manager for Ladies Turn. She was asking questions of the Princeton players and coaches about how women's college soccer works in this country - and answering as many questions about her own experiences.

It was one of those great moments that is an offshoot of athletics, with an afternoon between people from wildly different backgrounds, drawn together because of a universal game.

TigerBlog's favorite moment of the movie was when the Senegalese women were described this way: "They don't care; they dare."

It's such a great sentiment.

Nobody wants them to play? Too bad. They're going to anyway.

It's a battle that the current Princeton women's soccer players haven't had to fight, since it was fought in this country a few generations back.

Still, it doesn't mean they don't dare in their own way. They dare to compete. They dare to succeed. They dare to work hard to make themselves the best they can be.

And they do it for the same reason as their counterparts in Africa.

Whether it's on a pristine field at an Ivy League college or on a dirt field in Senegal.

They do it because they love to play.

And nobody's going to stop them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

20 For 33

The first year of double round-robin Ivy League women's basketball was 1982-83. Before that, the league champion was decided in a tournament format.

Princeton went 4-8 in that 1982-83. For the two years after that, it was also a 12-game double round-robin.

The 1985-86 season featured 12 league games, though not a complete round-robin, as Columbia had a team for the first time. There was also an Ivy tournament at season's end.

It wasn't until the 1986-87 season that the full 14-game league schedule that still exists today.

Doing a little math, Princeton played four Ivy weekends for four years (TigerBlog says that equals 16) and then began to play six a year beginning in 1987. From that point until Courtney Banghart became head coach for the 2007-08 season, Princeton played 126 Ivy weekends (21 years, six weekends).

Add in the other 16 and you have 142 Ivy League weekends prior to Banghart's arrival. Of those 142 weekends, Princeton won both games by double figures 16 times.

Banghart is in Year 6 as the Tiger head coach. This past weekend was her 33rd Ivy weekend so far.

And how many of those 33 have been two wins, both by double figures?

The answer is 20.

Princeton's women's basketball team is on an extraordinary run right now, having won 31 straight Ivy games, including 22 straight by double figures. Princeton is 35-0 in Ivy League games in which Niveen Rasheed has played, and the team has won 53 of its last 54 Ivy games (Princeton went 13-1 in the season that Rasheed missed with a torn ACL).

Beyond the numbers, maybe the most amazing part of what Princeton has done in women's basketball came from the very real sense that there was something wrong with the Tigers because they didn't lead 25-0 at the first media timeout in either game this weekend at Jadwin.

Oh, Princeton still won. Both. Defeated Dartmouth Friday by 12 and Harvard by 16 Saturday.

And that's how high Princeton has raised the bar.

Princeton is now 7-0 in the league, having beaten each team once. Penn is next at 5-2, followed by Dartmouth and Harvard at 4-3.

In other words, for Princeton not to go to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers will have to lose twice in the next seven games, Penn will have go 7-0 and then Penn will have to win the one-game playoff.

Or, if Penn loses once, then Princeton would have to lose three times to be part of a playoff.

Disclaimer - past performance is no indication of future success, and no race is over until it's over. In athletics, anything can happen.

And so it's not quite time to judge this team in its historical context, only in the present.

Princeton is hardly a one-woman show, and Banghart has so many options to go with that she could put five backups on the court and still put up points.

In that way, it's a function of the team's mentality, which is simply this: Be relentless.

Defensively, the team never lets up. Offensively, the team is always in attack mode.

Either way, the opponent always feels the pressure. It comes in waves, and it offers no chance ever to let up. It is constant pressure on both ends of the floor.

As a result, tie games become 10-point games in the blink of an eye, and 10-point games become 30-point games just as quickly.

There were 1,715 fans in Jadwin Saturday night for Princeton-Harvard, and they were drawn by more than just free admission for wearing pink.

It was the chance to see this special group play, and sometimes marketing can be that simple. When there is must-see viewing, people will come to view it.

For everything else there is about this team - and for the always-present team dynamic that can't be missed by watching them play, or do almost anything - the price of admission (even on nights when there is admission charged) of watching Rasheed play is more than worth it.

She is not to be missed.

Rasheed is to Ivy League women's basketball what LeBron James is to the NBA. She is its best offensive player. She is its best defensive player. She is its best team player. She is its most imposing physical force.

And much like James, she is a threat to do something spectacular at any moment.

Against Harvard, it came in the first half, after the Crimson had led for the first eight minutes. Now it was 17-12 Harvard, an opponent who was clearly playing for its league life.

A Harvard win Saturday would have changed everything. It would have made it a legitimate three-team race, would have given the Crimson tremendous confidence for the rematch coming up in Cambridge in two weeks.

Instead, Rasheed took the ball at midcourt and attacked the basket in transition. She went up, brought the ball back down and scooped it under the Harvard defender. It was nothing short of spectacular.

At that moment, TigerBlog had one thought - game over.

Two minutes later, Princeton had gone from down five to up seven. Just like that.

And TB was right. The game was over. 

The Ivy women's basketball race is halfway through, and Princeton is in great position for a fourth straight title. Sure, anything can happen.

Still, Princeton has two more home games this weekend, against Columbia and Cornell, two opponents whom the Tigers beat by a combined 77 on the road earlier this year.

Again, it's a chance to see this amazing team do what it does, which is play at a pace that is overwhelming.

And to see its star, who somehow seems to have elevated her play for her final go-round as a Tiger.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Crushed, Again

TigerBlog was never that big of a Lance Armstrong fan, probably because he never really has been a cycling fan.

The Tour de France? Okay, TB understands how hard it is to do. It just doesn't make for fascinating TV, and TB would speculate that in all the years that Armstrong competed, TB probably saw a total of 15 minutes or less.

So when it came out that Armstrong was a drug cheat and a terrible guy, TB's response was basically "oh well."

Or maybe it's because he's so tainted that he thought that way.

Ray Lewis used deer antler spray? That's laughably funny. Manti Te'o's girlfriend wasn't real? Weird, somewhat funny, a bit hard to believe - but ultimately not a big deal to TigerBlog.

Joe Paterno was the biggest fraud who ever lived - and despite what his family and Franco Harris are trying to pull, a truly evil man who put his own need to stay the Penn State football coach above the welfare of children who were being molested under Paterno's nose? TB felt all kinds of emotions about Paterno when it all came out, and none of them was disbelief that a man appeared to be above the mess really was Ground Zero of the cesspool.

A pro athlete gets arrested these days, and it hardly merits a headline.

Looking at the PED debate now that rages all around professional sports, TB smirks and gives a sardonic chuckle to the new argument, that maybe PED's should be perfectly acceptable and a matter of personal choice for the athletes themselves. Hey, TB even has seen asked in multiple places what the difference is between taking PEDs and having surgery to repair an injury.

It's like Pete Carril said: When you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you.

Once upon a time, there were standards. There were rights and wrongs. To be a professional or international athlete was a privilege, and by accepting that privilege, there was a tacit understanding that you were going to be idolized, admired, held up as a role model.

Maybe because the money wasn't as great, the divide between a professional superstar athlete and the general public wasn't as pronounced.

Today, a baseball player who hit .228 with 12 home runs and 34 RBIs a year ago (sorry to pick on you Travis Hafner) is worth $13,000,000 for the 2013 season. Thirteen million dollars.

How is any professional athlete supposed to think that he has anything in common with the fans? Plus, in this culture of fame for fame's sake, professional athletes get lumped in with the endless parade of talentless people who have achieved their own grotesque wealth and have created a mindset that they are not accountable for anything they say or do.

Also, with all that money at stake, it's not hard to see why players would want to get any edge they could, even if it meant endangering their long-term life expectancy by taking whatever they could put into their bodies that they thought would give them an edge. And then they all say the same things when they get caught, including the most laughable of all, that they had no idea what it was they were taking. And none of them can answer why they go to these shady people instead of to, oh, a doctor.

TB can tell you exactly who the first athlete was to completely let him down, and it was Dwight Gooden. TB was sure that Gooden would win 300 games and lead the Mets to multiple World Series championships. Instead, he turned out to be a cocaine freak.

Today, to be a sports fan is to divorce yourself from the fact that a high percentage of the athletes you cheer for are terrible people. Or cheating. Or both.

TigerBlog thought he was beyond being able to feel an empty feeling by the news involving any athlete. Hey, his favorite current professional athlete (other than the ones who went to Princeton) is Eli Manning. If it came out that Eli Manning was arrested for driving drunk or something like that, TB would probably just roll his eyes.

But he was wrong when he said he though no news could make him flinch anymore.

The news about Oscar Pistorius was just crushing.

Pistorius is the South African runner who was born with no fibulas and had to have both legs amputated below the knee before he was one. Despite that, he became a great athlete, running not only in the Paralympics but also in the London Olympics last summer, running on prosthetic legs that earned him the nickname "the Blade Runner."

His story was amazing. To overcome what he did to compete in the Olympic games? To persevere like that? How many millions of people were touched by his story? How many were inspired to overcome their own obstacles?

And there he was today, crying in a courtroom in South Africa after being arrested for murdering his girlfriend, a stunningly beautiful model, by shooting her four times. He denies it was murder; either way, there seems to be little doubt that he was the shooter.

TB couldn't believe it when he saw the news. And he was mad at himself, mad for once again believing in an athlete, holding that athlete up to be more than he was, to be a great international citizen, when all he really is is a murderer who can run fast on fake legs.

Princeton University has 29 athletic contests this weekend, home and away. Some of them are huge ones.

The Ivy League basketball races will take a major turn in one direction of another by the time tomorrow night is over. The men's hockey team will have a better sense if it's headed to a first-round bye - or maybe even a first-round series on the road.

The national men's squash picture will still be muddied, but Princeton is playing Trinity in what is always an epic not to be missed. The women's squash team is playing for the national championship at Yale this weekend.

TigerBlog spends way more of his time watching Ivy League athletics than any other kind. Through the years, he's wondered what has always been the biggest lure of a league that doesn't just talk about "student-athletes" but also implements strict rules to make sure that the men and women who compete here are actually living up to that standard.

And that's why he has stayed here.

The athletic competition is genuine. It's real. It's not pre-professional, even if there are Ivy League athletes who clearly have professional aspirations.

TB is under no illusions that every Ivy League athlete is the greatest person, the best citizen. And he has no idea of how many Ivy athletes would, given the chance, put whatever they could in their bodies if the payoff was going to be countless millions of dollars.

Maybe he just doesn't want to know.

What he does know is that Ivy athletes, Princeton athletes, come here to compete and to get an education. They are approachable. They are great to the little kids who come and see them play. Maybe they just haven't had the chance to be tainted, but regardless, there is a purity to what they're doing.

That's the lure of being here, of watching these teams play week after week, year after year.

If the rest of the world was smart, it would be flocking to these people.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ice Time

TigerBlog was at a dinner at Catholic high school one evening when he found himself seated next to the priest who was the school principal.

TB remarked that he admired the great sense of community at the school, and the priest then asked TB if he had gone to a Catholic high school himself, to which TB remarked that he was "more of an Old Testament guy."

For the record, the priest laughed.

And why wouldn't he? It was funny.

TB, while an Old Testament guy, is fascinated by the story of Pope Benedict XVI and his retirement from the Papacy.

Benedict, the 265th Pope, is the first to abdicate since 1415, which is essentially 600 years ago. Before that, the last Papal resignation was in 1294.

TigerBlog, in addition to being an Old Testament guy, was a history major. As such, he's fascinated by the way the line of Popes can be traced back more than 2000 years, in an unbroken chain.

And about something that can happen in 2013 that hasn't happened since 1415.

If it goes the same way, then the next Papal resignation won't be until the year 2611. What will the world look like then? What will the Papacy be?

Will they still have Super Bowls then? Or any sporting events that currently exist?

TB wonders about stuff like that. Eventually, there won't be an NCAA tournament, right? But how will that evolution take place?

Will there be ECAC hockey playoffs in 2611? How about 2111? What did the people in 1913 think college athletics would be like 100 years later.

There will be ECAC playoffs in 2013, of course.

One of the great things about the ECAC is that year after year, the league reaches this point of February and there is very little certainty in the league standings.

The way the league works, the top four teams get first-round byes and get to host the best-of-three quarterfinal rounds after a week off. The next four get first-round home ice for best-of-three series; the last four go on the road in Round 1.

Right now, Princeton is tied for third, just two points out of second.

Or, if you're a glass-half-empty person, the Tigers are also just two points away from not even getting a first round at home, let alone a bye.

There are three weekends left, and Princeton is at home against Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend and Brown and Yale next weekend before heading out to Dartmouth and Harvard to end the regular season.

Princeton has 17 points in the ECAC, tied with Dartmouth and RPI for third, two points back of Yale.

One certainty this year is that Quinnipiac will win the league, as the Bobcats are 14-0-2 in the league with an 11-point lead over Yale.

St. Lawrence and Union have 16 points. Brown and Clarkson have 15 points.

In a 12-team league, seven teams have been between 15 and 17 points.

What does that mean? That one of those teams will not be home in Round 1. Actually, at least one, since Colgate has 13.

This seems to happen every year in the ECAC. Another thing that seems to happen is that a road team wins a playoff series, so even getting a bye or home ice in the first round doesn't guarantee anything once the postseason begins.

For Princeton, Baker Rink has been a friendly place fo rthe Tigers, who are 6-2-0 on home ice and 3-7-3 away.

On the other hand, two of those three away wins came last weekend, when Princeton defeated Colgate and Cornell on the road.

Baker Rink is a great place to watch hockey, and Princeton has drawn great crowds there this season.

Will there be playoff games at Baker in 2013? It's looking likely, but in the ECAC things change very, very quickly.

Will there be ECAC playoffs 100 years from now?

TB says yes. If he's wrong, come see him then.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eptitude And Extrication

The best college basketball game that TigerBlog has seen on television this year was not Notre Dame-Louisville, the five OT game from Saturday that kept TB up way later than he imagined.

In fact, ND-Louisville wasn't even the best game TB saw on TV Saturday. That honor would go to the Wisconsin-Michigan game, which had an ending that was just nuts and which showed just how awesome college athletics can be.

If you missed it, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a three-pointer with less than three seconds to play to put the Wolverines up by three, only to see Ben Brust hit a majestic three from halfcourt to tie it at the buzzer and force overtime.

Oh, and Brust hit a three-pointer in OT for the winning basket as well, as the Badgers won 65-62. TB senses that Brust had no trouble making friends on campus after the game.

TigerBlog is a huge fan of the "Beyond the Box" pieces that Wisconsin does on its webpage. He was even more impressed that the person who wrote it was willing to go beyond the obvious for the entries.

Wisconsin-Michigan was thrilling.

ND-Louisville, on the other hand, dragged on through five OTs largely because of end-game ineptitude, rather than end-to-end, well, eptitude.

The best game TB has seen on TV so far this year is unquestionably Gonzaga-Butler.  The runner-up is Indiana-Butler.

The most frustrating game he's seen so far was one he's seen in person, and it was this past Saturday night at Jadwin Gym.

Princeton never really got into its rhythm against Yale, which of course is a credit to the Bulldogs. It went like that from start to finish with only a few moments where it seemed like the Tigers were putting it together, and it reached a crescendo on Princeton's final possession, down two, shot clock off.

Instead of a shot for either the tie or the win, Princeton ended up with a turnover. And Yale, after sinking two foul shots, had itself a nice win - and a sweep at Penn and Princeton for the first time in 26 years.

As Princeton left the court Saturday night, it had to be thinking that it dug itself a hole in the Ivy League race out of which it might not have been able to escape. Instead, it took 24 hours to extricate itself.

TB went to check on the Harvard-Columbia score from Sunday (pushed back by the snowstorm), and somewhat shockingly he saw that it was 78-63 Lions.

Harvard has been playing with fire throughout the early part of its league season, with a miracle comeback win over Dartmouth and then wins after losing 20-point leads against Yale, Brown and Cornell. 

So here's where the Ivy League men's basketball race stands:

1. Harvard 5-1
2. Princeton 4-1

No other team in the league is currently above .500 (either in the league or overall, for that matter), and every other team has at least three league losses.

It's very hard to think that four league losses will be enough to get even a share of the league title, and that's been the case historically.

The league champ (or co-champ) has had no losses 13 times, one loss 15 times, two losses 13 times and three losses 11 times.

There have been four years where the champion had four losses, and all four were consecutively. From the first official season of Ivy basketball in 1956-57 through 1982-83, the league champ had never had four losses. Then four straight league champions did - Princeton in 1984, Penn in 1985, Brown in 1986 and Penn again in 1987.

Since then? No other four-loss team has won.

Of course, just because it hasn't happened in 26 seasons doesn't mean that it can't again. And clearly no team is dominant this year.

Still, Princeton and Harvard are clearly in the most advantageous positions.

The teams meet for the first time this Saturday at Harvard, after the Crimson host Penn Friday night and Princeton is at Dartmouth Friday. Neither outcome there is etched in stone either, by the way.

Still, if you were tied with a team, you'd probably want the first game on the road. At least with a loss, Princeton knows that if it can stay within a game of the Crimson, it would have the second meeting at home. Harvard, should it lose Saturday, would almost surely have to win at Jadwin.

For Princeton fans, this is a familiar occurrence. Just with a different opponent. 

Princeton-Harvard has replaced Princeton-Penn as the biggest rivalry in Ivy League men's basketball, at least for right now. For decades it was Princeton-Penn; will it get back to that? Or was it such an anomaly in the sport, having two teams dominate that way, that it'll be impossible to ever get it back to the way it was basically from 1961 through 2007?

Right now, though, it's Princeton-Harvard, and the last two years have featured five games between the two, all with great intensity, one greater than the Ivy playoff two years ago, when Douglas Davis sent the Tigers to the NCAA tournament with his now-epic buzzer-beater.

Round 1 between Princeton and Harvard is Saturday. If TB had to guess, he'd say that the league champ isn't going to have four losses.

He'd also guess that a possible Round 3 isn't out of the question.

Leaving Jadwin Saturday night, he had the feeling that Princeton might be in trouble. Heading into this weekend, the league race is back to where it was.

TB is looking forward to it.

And the fact that there is no Ivy League tournament makes the next month way better.

Why does any one-bid league ever have one? Oh, never mind.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lorin, You're Not Forgotten

TigerBlog works with two women who share the same first name, though they spell it different.

One is Kelly. The other is Kellie. They are by all accounts close friends in addition to colleagues.

TB is pretty sure that if he asked the next 10 people who walked by to correctly identify which one was Kelly and which one was Kellie, then maybe five would get it right. Hey, TB isn't always sure himself.

"Kelly" is Kelly Widener, who works in compliance. "Kellie" is Kellie Staples, who works with the Princeton Varsity Club.

Unless TB got that backwards.

Between them, they've had three children in the last four years, two for Kellie and one for Kelly. They are young mothers, so full of life, with a seemingly endless future in front of both of them, with their families, friends and work.

When TB pulled into the parking lot this morning, he saw Kelly and Kellie walking in together.

On most days, this wouldn't have been anything noteworthy.

On Feb. 12, though, everything around here is a little different. Something - actually someone - is missing. And today is a harsh reminder of that.

Lorin Maurer, who worked as an athletics fundraiser with the Princeton friends' groups, died four years ago today in a plane crash near Buffalo. In all, 50 people died that night, 49 on the plane and another on the ground.

It's such a waste.

Lorin died on her way to her boyfriend's brother's wedding. She was a few weeks past her 30th birthday.

TB will never forget the feeling of disbelief and the chill he got when he first saw the email saying that Lorin had died. One second she was there, this gregarious young woman with so much of her own life in front of her. And then she was gone, leaving everyone to process the epic tragedy that had touched this building.

TB had been in a meeting with Lorin the day of the crash, and Lorin had to hustle her way out of Jadwin Gym to get to Newark Airport.

As she left, she walked past TB's office, looked in, smiled and didn't say a word as she kept going.

It was typical of Lorin. Always smiling. Always up. Always with energy.

She was a people person, no doubt, and she was in the right job for someone with her personality. No task was a problem. No issue that came up was dismissed. Nobody who needed a hand ever had to ask.

It's hard to believe it's been four years since that day.

The details are still engrained in TigerBlog's memory. There was a women's basketball game that night here at Jadwin, and the news media descended on the building, looking for someone to talk to about Lorin. Some wanted to get into her office on D level to see where she had worked, what pictures she had on the wall.

TB was okay with it, even if it was typical media reaction to a tragedy. He was okay with it because he wanted to do what he could to let the world know what type of woman she was and what the world had lost with her passing.

TB and Lorin were friends, but not close friends. As such, TB left it up to those who knew her best to talk about her that night.

And that meant Kelly and Kellie.

Both struggled through tears. Both were stunned, obviously.

And yet they talked about Lorin, talked about her personality and her love of life and some of the funny things they'd been through together.

Since that day, the athletic department has experienced a large amount of turnover. There are so many people here who didn't know her, didn't work with her.

And yet those who did will never forget her.

TB got a text message a few minutes ago from Scott Jurgens, who was the marketing director here four years ago and who now is in the same position at East Carolina. He of course knew the significance of the date.

When TB pulled into the parking lot and saw Kelly and Kellie, he thought that Lorin would have been with them had she still been there, almost surely married to the boyfriend she left behind, very likely a young mother like her two friends.

To TB, it was almost like a Missing Man Formation, which military pilots do to honor one of their own who has been lost.

Of course, maybe Lorin would have moved on from Princeton by now, moved to another part of the country to continue her career and life.

Princeton, though, will never move on from Lorin Maurer.

Each spring, the athletic department honors one of its own with the Lorin Maurer Award, awarded "to that member of the Princeton Athletics family who best reflects the passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm that defined Lorin Maurer's character and her inspiring impact on colleagues and friends."

She is also an honorary member of the Class of 1978.

TigerBlog's lasting memories of her will always be about her smile, her laugh, how much "infectious enthusiasm" she really did bring to this department.

There are no words to describe the pain that her family has gone through in the last four years, and there are no words to describe how random it all was. Why Lorin? Why this young woman? Why then?

Why any of the people on that flight? Or the person on the ground that night?
 Today is a sad day around here. It's the fourth anniversary of the saddest day in the nearly quarter century that TB has been around here.

There are no answers to why it happened.

There's just a promise.

To always remember Lorin Maurer.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Five Day Weekend

TigerBlog figures it was after midnight by the time the Princeton women's basketball bus rolled back into the Jadwin Gym parking lot, which would mean that the Tigers' most recent Ivy basketball "weekend" stretched into a fifth day.

Princeton left Thursday afternoon for the trip to Brown and Yale knowing that it was heading into the heart of the winter storm. As it turned out, Princeton found itself spending a lot more time in a hotel in Providence than it otherwise would have wanted, as nearly three feet of snow fell all around them.

The schedule got a bit messed up, and playing the normal Friday/Saturday became maybe Friday afternoon, then maybe Saturday night, then definitely Saturday night and eventually Saturday/Sunday.

Oh, and the change in schedule didn't really hamper the team.

Princeton defeated Brown 68-37 Saturday and then followed that with a program-record 99-point effort against Yale last night in a 46-point win. For those who don't feel like doing the math, that made the final 99-53.

Princeton is now 5-0, one game ahead of both Dartmouth and Harvard, who are both 4-1 and who both had one game this past weekend postpone by the storm. Dartmouth and Harvard are at Jadwin Gym this Friday and Saturday.

If there's going to be a race in Ivy women's basketball, then Dartmouth or Harvard needs to beat Princeton. If Princeton sweeps this weekend, then it would have a two-game lead on both Dartmouth and Harvard, and the Tigers would have to lose two of their final seven just to fall into a tie.

The Tigers, who have won 29 straight games in the league, have won all five of their games this season by at least 30 points. Still, all it would take would be one slip up this weekend to change the league race dramatically.

Princeton's 99-point effort was two better than the old record, set in 1986 against LIU.

When TB saw that the women were getting close to three digits, he wondered when the last time an Ivy League team reached at least 100.

The Princeton women, he knew, never had done it. The Princeton men last got there in 1971, in a 108-64 win over Yale.

What about the rest of the league?

The Ivy record book lists only the all-time high scores, not the last time it happened.

On the men's side, it's 118 points, done twice, once by Princeton against Wichita State in the 1965 NCAA tournament third-place game, on the night Bill Bradley scored a program- (and Final Four-) record 58. The other time was by Columbia, who did so against Wagner in 1977.

In an Ivy game, the record is 116, by Princeton against Dartmouth in 1967 in a 116-42 win. Dartmouth famously held the ball the next time the teams played, when Princeton would win 30-16.

On the women's side, the overall and Ivy record is by Columbia, who scored 114 in what had to be the wildest Ivy women's game ever, a 114-111 win over Penn in 1988 in a game that did not go to overtime.

As for the last time, TB started down the path of going through year-by-year results on each school's website. He started with the Brown men, and found that the Bears beat Harvard 100-83 in 2004.

He also saw that Brown, on back-to-back nights in 1991, put up 102 and 115 points against Dartmouth and Harvard. That year, in two games against a Princeton team that went 14-0 in the Ivy League, Brown put up 104 total points.

He thought about going through the other 13 year-by-year results for the rest of the league's men's and women's teams, but then he realized that he'll throw the 2004 Brown game against Harvard out there and then someone will probably tell him if someone else did it since then.

Besides, what he really set out to write about was the women's basketball team and its weekend.

TB followed the trip through Twitter and on, and it seemed like the team did just fine killing time. Plus, it looked like an unbelievable storm, one that, luckily for TB, barely touched this area.

The women's basketball team has a way of coming across like it has a blast doing whatever it is doing, as long as it's doing it as a team. Whether that is hanging out in the lobby of a snowbound hotel or anything else.

Maybe that's why they play so well together. Maybe it's a by-product of playing well together.

Either way, the team is off to an extraordinary start to its Ivy season, in search of a fourth straight title. Princeton this year was going to be radically different from Princeton last year, after the graduation of 1,000-point scorers Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood.

Still, different doesn't mean worse, and Princeton is surging heading into its huge home weekend.

With no snow in the forecast, it's looking like it'll be back to normal Ivy weekend. Two games. Friday and Saturday.

Two big games at Jadwin Gym.

If you haven't seen this Princeton women's basketball team play, you owe it to yourself to be there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yeah. Yeah. Finding Nemo.

TigerBlog can never remember a winter storm with a name before.

Hurricanes get names. Everyone remembers the last one, with the name "Sandy."

So why is the storm that is currently taking aim at the Northeast named "Nemo?" TB doesn't get it.

Have all blizzards been named? Has TB been missing it? And if the hurricane was named "Sandy," then why does this one have an "N" name.

Oh, and the fact that this storm is named "Nemo" has led to endless headlines of a "Finding Nemo" theme.

"Finding Nemo" was a Pixar movie about a fish (voiced by all-time TB favorite Albert Brooks) who is trying to find his son, who was plucked out of the ocean by a dentist near Sydney, Australia. It's a nice, cute little movie.

As an aside, "Finding Nemo" seemed to play on an infinite loop in the waiting room at the pediatricians' office where TB's kids have always gone.

"Finding Nemo" is a level below "Toy Story," but it still has its great moments. TB's favorite line? "For a clown fish, he's not very funny."

If you're keeping score, his favorite line from "Toy Story" is when the "drunk" Buzz says to Woody "Did the hat look good? Tell me the hat looked good."

Anyway, the winter storm named for the son of Marlin the clown fish is apparently going to be thumping New England way worse than it will the Princeton area.

In fact, when TB was looking at the map that showed that the line between snow and rain went right through Princeton. A little to the north and it'll be a lot of snow. A little to the south and it'll be no snow.

The storm has forced a massive change to the schedule for this weekend.

The women's basketball team was supposed to be playing tonight and tomorrow night at Brown and Yale. Then the game against Brown was moved to noon today with the game against Yale Sunday at two.

Ah, but then Rhode Island's governor said that no vehicles could on the road after two today, so that meant pushing the game against Brown to tomorrow at 7, followed by the game at Yale Sunday at 7.

The result is that the women's basketball team will be stuck in the snowstorm in Providence. If that big mall is open, then there could be worse places.

The Ivy League fencing championships at Harvard are postponed due to the storm. So is the women's squash match against Trinity. And the ECAC women's tennis tournament.

It's not easy being a scheduler when a storm comes barreling down like this. It's a logistical nightmare, with so many moving parts - hotels, transportation, officials, making sure that each team in the league has the same basic schedule so that there's no perceived advantage of an extra day off or something.

Even if it snows around Princeton, it won't be that bad, which means that men's basketball will be going off as scheduled, with Brown here tonight and Yale here tomorrow night.

Brown is 2-2 on the season and almost threw the Ivy basketball race completely upside down last Saturday, when the Bears rallied from 22 points down to force two overtimes against Harvard before losing.

Had Brown won, then the Bears and Crimson would have been 3-1 each, with Princeton the only undefeated. Instead, Princeton is 3-0 and Harvard is 4-0, while everyone else has at least two league losses.

Princeton is at Harvard next Saturday, with three games between now and then. Yale and Dartmouth (next Friday's opponent) are both 1-3 in the league.

While Princeton and Penn host Brown and Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth are at Cornell and Columbia.

Harvard's four wins include one by three points and two in overtime, but 4-0 is still 4-0.

Hopefully the weather won't destroy attendance at Jadwin this weekend.

When the weekend is over, Princeton will have nine remaining league games, only two of which will be at home.

Also when the weekend is over, TB is hoping there will be no shoveling of snow involved. Hopefully Nemo doesn't make it down quite this far.


Whose idea was it to name the storm and how did it catch on?

Thursday, February 7, 2013


TigerBlog isn't all that crushed that Honduras beat the U.S. in the World Cup qualifier yesterday.

Hey, the U.S. fired Bob Bradley, Princeton Class of 1980, a head coach of the men's national team, and TB is holding that grudge. On the other hand, the Americans have Michael Bradley, and well, we are talking about the United States, which is by far TigerBlog's favorite country.

So he's back to where he's been with the U.S. soccer team since Bradley was let go. And TB now founds himself closely following the Egyptian scores, to see if Bradley's new team can reach the World Cup next summer in Brazil.

Of course, TB couldn't watch the Americans play yesterday, since the game was on beIN Sports, which is owned by Al Jazeera and which has the rights to the U.S. qualifiers.

At the same time, ESPN has the rights to the Mexican games for this final CONCACAF round of qualifying. There are six teams remaining: the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica and Honduras.

As an aside, TB is definitely rooting for Costa Rica to reach the World Cup. He could picture Diego, his guide when the men's lacrosse team was in Costa Rica last June, and his father Don Carlos - not to mention the rest of the country - living and dying on every minute of "Los Ticos" game at Panama yesterday, which ended at 2-2. TB went to the Costa Rica-El Salvador game in the first round of qualifying and has seen very few sporting events quite like it.

Anyway, ESPN, because it is showing the games involving Mexico but not the U.S., the overwhelming promotional arm of the network kicks in, so that it's all Mexican highlights and analysis, as opposed to just a small amount of attention paid to the Americans, which is sort of funny.

But hey, if that's how international soccer is going to be, then TB can at least consider not rooting for his home country.

Yesterday's game was tough on the U.S. players, most of whom are currently playing in winter leagues in Europe. And then they suddenly found themselves in Honduras, where gametime temperature was 93.

TB is sure he'll be disappointed if the U.S. doesn't reach Brazil, though right now the team is the only one in the group of six without a point. Not that TB knows a lot about it, but he assumes you're not really in trouble until you lose at home.

Still, you need some ties at least on the road (like Costa Rica and Jamaica got yesterday). On the other hand, because there were two ties, then the U.S. is only one point back of second.

The next qualifiers for this group are on March 22, when TB will really be torn, as the U.S. either hosts Costa Rica or is at Costa Rica, depending on whether the home team was listed first or second in the schedule he saw.

With a break of more than a month til the next games, TB can focus on more immediate concerns. In this case, it's squash and fencing.

The Ivy League squash season finishes up this weekend, and Princeton is in a very enviable position for both the men's and women's championship.

Both the men and women are 5-0 in the league with matches against Columbia and Cornell remaining this weekend. Should the teams do not worse than split, they would have at least a share of their championship. A sweep guarantees an outright title.

Of course, Princeton has never lost to Cornell or Columbia in women's squash. Columbia is winless in the Ivy League, and while Cornell is 3-2, one of its losses is by 9-0 to Harvard, a team that Princeton has defeated.

On the men's side, Cornell poses a legitimate challenge, though Princeton will be the favorite. And a huge favorite against Columbia.

Both teams have three huge events left after this weekend, with regular season matches against Trinity, the national team championships and the national individual championships. But the Ivy League is always goal No. 1.

As for fencing, the entire Ivy League round-robin will be contested this weekend at Harvard, and the men's and women's champions will be crowned by Sunday.

Princeton is a favorite for both the men and women, though not a prohibitive favorite for either.

TigerBlog is a huge fan of the way Ivy League fencing is decided, with two days of intense matches and then a champion.

Of every sport at Princeton, TB understands fencing least of all. What he does know is that Zoltan Dudas and his staff have done a great job of turning the Tigers into perennial contenders both in the league and nationally.

Last weekend, Princeton's men defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, while also losing to No. 3 Notre Dame. Both matches were 14-13. The one thing TB does know is that you need 14 points to win the match.

The other thing TB knows about fencing is that the coaches make coffee in the mailroom next to TB's office. They make very, very strong coffee apparently.

TB doesn't drink coffee. Never has. Can't get past the smell, the same smell that comes soaring into his office as a way of letting him know the fencing coaches are there.

He forgives them for that and still roots for him.

USA soccer? That's a little more complex.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"I'll Take That Up With God When I Get There"

TigerBlog was driving TigerBlog Jr. back from his high school last night when TBJ mentioned that the school had tied its big rival in hockey the night before.

Then he pointed out that it had been years since they'd beaten the other team.

TB pointed out that because it was a tie, they still hadn't beaten him.

Then he told him the story of when Pete Carril won his 500th game at Princeton, back in 1996, his final year with the Tigers. After the game, Carril was asked by the media to talk about some of his biggest wins, and he basically said "Well, you have the Georgetown game."

TB politely corrected him, saying "uh, Coach, you didn't win that one."

Carril can be forgiven for considering that game to be a win, because even as a loss, it was one of the biggest moments of his career. When Carril was being voted into the Hall of Fame, the selectors certainly had the night of March 17, 1989, at the Providence Civic Center, in mind.

TB thought he must have talked about the Georgetown game a million times to his son, though it dawned on him that he never actually had, probably because TB wasn't at that game.

TB's first year of covering Princeton was the newspaper was the 1989-90 season, which meant the year after the Georgetown game. Everywhere Princeton went outside the league early that season, the team was met by overflow crowds, all of whom wanted to see the team that almost knocked off top-ranked Georgetown, to see how these Tigers did it.

Remember, back then nobody else played what has become known as "the Princeton Offense." In 1989, Princeton was truly unique, and it made them a special team.

TB even wrote a story back then that made a comparison to the Harlem Globetrotters, though he's not exactly sure how he made the connection.

Anyway, TB tried to explain to TBJ the significance of that Princeton-Georgetown game. All these years later, as the NCAA tournament is approaching, the event owes a great deal to that one game.

In case you forgot, the Ivy League champions in 1986 (Brown), 1987 (Penn) and 1988 (Cornell) lost their first-round NCAA games by a combined 120 points, or exactly 40 points per game. The 1989 Tigers barely scraped their way to the league title, defeating Harvard on the final night, and then drew the No. 16 seed against the ultra-imposing, ultra-physical Georgetown Hoyas, the No. 1 team in the country.

Princeton was given no chance. Another 40-point Ivy loss seemed inevitable.

It was such a given that Princeton would get destroyed that there was talk that conferences like the Ivy League were about to lose their automatic bid, or a Division I-AA for basketball would be created.

Also, back then, the first two rounds were still on ESPN, since CBS didn't think there was value in the entire tournament. By the next year, CBS had spent more than $1 billion for the entire tournament.

So what happened?

Well, Georgetown won the game 50-49. Honestly, it's hard to watch the replay without thinking that Princeton had it and let it slip away.

Everyone knows the end, where Bob Scrabis and Kit Mueller had shots blocked by Alonzo Mourning, and then Carril's line asking if a foul should have been called: "I'll take that up with God when I get there."

TB went to YouTube to find some video of the game, which he's seen a bunch of times. He found a 22-minute version that had the ESPN studio with Dick Vitale famously saying Princeton had no chance, the announcement of the starting lineups and then the key plays from the game. It's a pretty good condensed version of what happened.

Princeton led 29-21 at the half. Were it not for some clutch foul shooting by Mourning, the Tigers would have won.

TB interviewed Scrabis on the radio years later, and Scrabis said that had the shot not been blocked, it was definitely going in.

The interest that the game generated came from the love of an underdog, the bigger the better, and there have been few underdogs bigger than Princeton that night. And TB isn't naive enough to think that there weren't racial undertones as well.

TB sees a few of the players for Princeton who played a huge role that night, guys now in their 40s, with kids of their own. This year will be 24 years since Princeton came oh-so-close to the biggest win Carril ever had, or at least a loss so big it felt like a win.

There have been great NCAA opening round games since then, including some big upsets. No 16 seed has beaten a one yet, though, still to this day, in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

So much of the excitement of the NCAA tournament is from the first day, with the "you-never-know" possibilities that hang over every game. And so much of that excitement owes its gratitude to Princeton in 1989 and Pete Carril.

Oh, and as for his biggest win?

There can be cases made for maybe five games. TB will go with this one.

The video isn't as high quality, but the ending is definitely better.