Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Silver Linings

TigerBlog got off the elevator and walked into the press box at MetLife Stadium Saturday afternoon and was greeted by Eli Manning.

Well, not Eli Manning himself. More like a life-sized picture of him.

There are a series of pictures of all-time Giants and Jets greats, and of course they got TB thinking about a few things.

First of all, the picture of Manning identifies him as the MVP of Super Bowl XLII. And yet he was also the MVP of Super Bowl XLVI, right?

Patriots fans, correct TB if he's wrong.

TB couldn't help but wonder how nobody has noticed that and corrected it.

Then there were the pictures of the great Jets, which left TB to also wonder how long after he left that Darrelle Revis' picture was removed. Perhaps it had hung in the spot where the random defensive lineman now was showcased.

The occasion was the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, a men's lacrosse doubleheader that started with Princeton-Cornell and concluded with Notre Dame-Syracuse. A crowd of nearly 20,000 was on hand, and as usual there was the thrill of playing in an NFL stadium.

TB hadn't been to the stadium since the first Big City Classic, back in 2010, which happened to be the first events at the new venue. Like that time, TB came to the same general conclusion - he liked Giants Stadium better.

The two games from Saturday ended up being comfortable wins for Cornell and Syracuse.

Now, somewhat amazingly, there will be rematches of both games less than a week later.

Princeton and Cornell meet Friday in the Ivy League semifinals. Notre Dame and Syracuse meet Thursday in the Big East semifinals.

For Princeton, it'll be the first time since 1889 that the Tigers will play consecutive games against the same team within a week. Back then it was against Berkeley Athletics.

Actually, TB is wondering what lacrosse in the 1890s looked like. And if the people who played the sport then had any idea that it would be played in mammoth coliseums 123 years later.

Anyway, you get the point that rematches in such a short turnaround time are rare in lacrosse.

The question is, what will be different, if anything?

Princeton can look at a million silver linings from the game last Saturday, starting with the fact that it gets another chance right away to turn its season completely around. A win over Cornell Friday leaves Princeton one game away from gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament or possibly even on the right side of the at-large discussion.

And then there's the game itself. Princeton outscored Cornell 10-9 over the final 37 minutes. Or at least that's how an optimist can see it.

For the pessimists, there is the fact that Cornell had built an 8-1 lead to that point.

Princeton averages 14.3 turnovers per game, or 3.5 per quarter. The Tigers turned it over twice that many times - seven - in the first quarter against Cornell the other day.

Partly as a result, Princeton shot 36 times, or 6.2 shots below the season average.

And on top of all that, Princeton also knows that it had several chances in the third quarter and early fourth to get as close as three goals, and every time - five in all - Cornell was able to build it back to five.

On the other hand, Cornell will come in dripping with confidence and playing at home.

The game was the second in the first 74 between the two in which both teams reached double figures. It's likely that Friday night's game will be the third.

Perhaps the first quarter will tell the whole story. Princeton never knocked Cornell out of its comfort zone the first time around. Perhaps if it's 5-4 midway through second instead of 8-1 then the pressure will shift from Orange to Red.

Either way, it's a great opportunity for the Tigers.

Princeton lacrosse history is filled with situations where the team that won the first game lost the second, most notably in 2001, when Syracuse ripped Princeton during the regular season and then Princeton came back to win in the NCAA championship game.

Or in 1990, when Princeton turned a 12-goal loss to Johns Hopkins into a one-goal NCAA tournament win. Or in 2002, when the Tigers again reversed a loss to the Blue Jays in the Final Four, this time in the semifinals.

A year later, of course, Princeton wiped out Mikey Powell in a regular season win and then had Powell go for eight points in an NCAA quarterfinal blowout the other way.

Of course, there is precedent for a repeat.

Like in 1889, when Princeton and Berkeley tied twice in a seven-day span.

Last week TB's prediction was that both teams would reach double figures.

This time, it's that there won't be a tie.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Six Kids, Four Dogs, One Cat, Ten Championships

TigerBlog has never put a bumper sticker on any of the cars he's driven through the years.

He's okay with those magnets that have the school name or a club or something. He's had two of those.

Were he going to go down the bumper sticker route, it wouldn't be one of those catchy/funny things or about how his kids are either honor students or beat up your honor students or endorsements of presidential candidates. Nope. It wouldn't be any of them.

Or really anything.

And if he did get a decoration for his car, he definitely wouldn't go with the increasingly popular ones that he sees all the time, with the little depictions of the father, mother and each child and pet, each with a little soccer ball or golf club or instrument or something.

It's not that he's opposed to traditional family values. Far from it. There's just something about those that he finds unnecessary. It's like a year-round version of the Christmas letters that people send out detailing how happy they are and hoping that you are not.

TB was at a light the other day when he noticed that the car in front of him had the longest string of those little stickers he'd ever seen. He actually took a picture of it and then counted it all up.

The totals? One father, one mother, six children, four dogs and one cat.

The driver, presumably the father, was the only one in the car at the time, and TB surmised that he was relishing the quiet.

Since then, TB has shown the picture to a few people, all of whom have cringed in fear of what that would be like.

As an aside, it also made him wonder about the legality of taking a picture of someone else's minivan and then using it publicly.

Anyway, TB wanted to ask the driver what his life was like, but then the light turned green. The minivan turned right, leaving TB to assume that his house was to the left.

Add up the kids and the dog and leave out the cat and you have the number of Ivy League championships that Princeton has, now that the men's golf team defeated Yale by five strokes to win the league title for the first time since 2006.

TB isn't a golfer at all. He's played it enough in the past to realize how frustratingly hard it is to be good, and he knows how easy it is to give away a stroke here or there.

A five-shot win over the course of three rounds is insanely close. A final score of 883-888? Insane.

Even more insane is a one-shot loss over the same three rounds, and that's how close the Princeton women came to making it a sweep. Harvard ended up winning, defeating Princeton 909-910.

That's a combined 1,809 strokes, with one separating the two teams.

Princeton did have both individual champions, as Kelly Shon won the women's title in a playoff and Greg Jarmas won for the men.

The fact that the women came so close stings, but it doesn't take away from what a great weekend it was for the Tigers. It's especially more impressive considering that last year, the men finished fifth and the women finished sixth.

As for the total number of championships, Princeton now has 10. It marks the 21st year that Princeton has reached double figures in Ivy League championships, including each of the last five.

Harvard has reached double figures in Ivy titles five times total. No other team in the league has ever done so.

The Crimson currently have seven Ivy championships for the academic year, with seven remaining. Neither Princeton nor Harvard is in the baseball or softball championship series, so they are competing for two track and field titles and three rowing titles.

Winning 10 Ivy championships each year is a lofty goal, one that Princeton doesn't take for granted.

The men's golf team put Princeton over the top for 2012-13.

The women came close to matching it.

TigerBlog will call it a great weekend of golf for Princeton, one that was a razor-thin margin away from being perfect.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The New World Of Ivy League Streaming

TigerBlog sort of remembers the first time he watched a game on his computer.

It was Princeton-Cornell football, a game from Ithaca, though TB can't recall exactly what year it was. Still, he does remember being fascinated by the concept, that there was a game on the computer, rather than the television.

Would it catch on, TB wondered? Would people really want to watch games on their computers?

At the time, the picture wasn't very easy to see, and it kept buffering. It was a far cry from what TB was used to from watching games on TV.

TB also remembers a meeting along time ago, when a few coaches talked about wanting to expand Princeton's videostreaming efforts. At that meeting, one coach - who is no longer at Princeton - said that it was important to do it just to be able to tell recruits that it was being done, rather than worrying about how good it was.

And TB sort of saw the logic.

Today, videostreaming is a huge deal. Princeton streams nearly all of its sports, probably a higher number of sports than any other school in the country.

It has become an every day part of doing business, not just at Princeton but throughout college athletics. 

The news today is that the Ivy League has partnered with NeuLion - Princeton's current web provider - for the league's first conference-wide digital streaming initiative. Beginning with the 2013-14 academic year, Ivy fans will be able to see all live and on-demand streaming as part of a single network.

Each school and the league will have its own "channel," and all Ivy League events will be available.

In the past, each school had its own streaming effort. If it happened to overlap with another school's - two schools with the same provider - then it could possible be provided as part of the other school's package.

If not, then fans had to sign up for the other school's subscription if they wanted to see their own team's away game.

TB understood. In fact, he made the comparison to tickets. If you were a season-ticket holder at Princeton, you still had to buy a ticket for the game at Cornell.

That was two years ago.

Since then, TigerBlog has been part of the Ivy League's Digital Strategies Committee, a group that took the idea of creating this one league-wide platform and worked to create the news that came out today.

It's a big win for Ivy fans, and a nice step forward for the league.

Fans will no longer have to buy multiple subscriptions. The league will be able to pool its streaming efforts.

And in NeuLion, the Ivy League has a partner that is cutting edge when it comes to streaming - and to marketing. NeuLion's streaming partners include more than 100 colleges and leagues, not to mention the NHL, NFL and NBA.

The commitment is to bring streaming to more than just the laptop. From today's announcement:
Available to subscribers in August, The Ivy League Digital Network will be accessible on multiple devices, including PCs, smartphones and tablets, allowing for an all-new nine (9)-channel network of Ivy League action anytime, anywhere. 

And that's really the future.

Yes, television is important. TB cannot imagine a world where the league's streaming numbers eclipse the audience size for a game on television (like tomorrow's Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse game on ESPNU at 4).

But the sheer quantity of content that can be brought to league fans now is far beyond the number of games that will ever be televised.

And the ability to have those games reach the people who are interested in them on their phones or tablets, in addition to their computers, is also a huge part of the equation.

Today's announcement is a major one in the history of Ivy League athletics, especially in the promotion of Ivy League athletics.

The network starts this summer. Make sure you're tuned in.

It'll be far easier to do so than ever before.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Once In 73 Meetings - Once More On Saturday?

Today is Take Your Kids To Work Day here in the Department of Athletics, which explains why TigerBlog's business day started with a conversation with Morgan and Alie Amir, the four- and three-year-old daughters of Princeton's Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing Yariv Amir.

By the time they were done, Alie had talked TB out of one of his two bananas and asked if that was TB in the picture on the wall - when it was actually a picture of Hobey Baker. And both had basically charmed everyone who wandered by.

There's something about pre-school kids that turns adults to goo. It's not like talking to babies, which bring out the bizarre speech patterns and enunciations that seem to be brought out only by babies and dogs.

No, talking to the average pre-schooler usually consists of a deadpan, quasi-serious question, followed by an inquisitive look from the child, who comes up with the inadvertent and perfect punchline.

Alie, for instance, was asked if the woman who was standing behind her was her mother. She turned, looked up, looked back and said "that's not Beth."

The Take Your Kids To Work Day program is a nice one, with some swimming, lunch with the Tiger, a visit to the facilities, some games, some prizes.

For TB, taking his own kids to work back when they were in the general age range of those participating today usually meant taking TigerBlog Jr. to a game. Lots and lots of them.

TB remembers when he was about Morgan and Alie's age, when he turned around, looked up and saw Ryan Boyle behind him after a game. "Look," he said. "A lacrosse man."

TBJ was a little older than Yariv's girls back in 2004, when Princeton lost 12-11 in overtime to Cornell at Class of 1952 Stadium in men's lacrosse.

TB remembers some things about that game, though he can't say for sure if TBJ was there. He just assumes he was.

When TB thought back to that game, he remembered how Princeton scored three times in the final two minutes to force the OT and then how Cornell won it on the first possession. When he read his story, he realized he had those details correct.

One thing missing from his story - mostly because of the fact that it never dawned on TB - was that the 2004 game was the first - and still only - game in the history of the Princeton-Cornell series in which both teams reached double figures.

The 74th edition of the series will be played Saturday at MetLife Stadium as part of the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, with face-off at 4, followed by a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame.

And in the first 73 meetings, only in that 2004 game have both teams reached double figures. It almost happened last year, when Princeton defeated Cornell 14-9.

Still, 73 games, one time for both in double figures. TB was stunned when he looked it up, so stunned that he looked it up again and then a third time to make sure.

Here's TB's prediction on this year's game - it'll be the second time.

Certainly the numbers suggest that.

Cornell averages 14.31 goals per game, second in Division I. Princeton averages 12.33 goals per game, tied with Johns Hopkins for sixth in Division I. Both teams have been in double figures in every game but one; Princeton’s season-low is nine, against Dartmouth, while Cornell scored eight against Bucknell.

The two teams rank 1-2 in the Ivy League in all of the following categories: goals per game, assists per game, ground balls per game, points per game, shots per game, shooting percentage, fewest penalty minutes per game and fewest turnovers per game.

Princeton and Cornell have the players who rank first (Cornell’s Steve Mock), second (Princeton’s Mike MacDonald), fourth (Princeton’s Jeff Froccaro), fifth (Cornell’s Rob Pannell), eighth (Princeton’s Tom Schreiber, who is first among Ivy midfielders) and tied for 10th (Cornell’s Max Van Bourgondien and Connor Buczek) in goals scored per game in the Ivy League.

Panell and Schreiber are 1-2 in assists per game.  The teams have six of the top 10 Ivy leaders in points per game.

That's a lot of offense. And the potential for a lot of goals Saturday.

It's a huge game for both teams. Neither is a team you want to have to play in the NCAA tournament, not with the offense that they can put on the field, and either could get to Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia. If they have the chance, that is.

There's a long way to go between now and when the NCAA field is announced. Cornell, with an RPI of five, seems safe - for now. Princeton, with an RPI of 18, seems like it has some work to do.

Either way, the winner Saturday will be feeling a lot better heading into next weekend's Ivy tournament.

TB can't wait to see this one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cat In The Draft

If there's one event every year TigerBlog doesn't get, it's the NFL draft.

Well, actually, there's "American Idol" too. He doesn't get that in the least.

Anyway, TB went on this rant last year, too, when he had this to say about the NFL draft:

The NFL draft amazes TigerBlog. It's like giving the weather report, except that there are millions of dollars at stake. And yet the teams are so consistently wrong in their evaluations. Oh sure, sometimes they're right. Probably more so than they're horribly wrong. It's just that with all of the attention and money and time and film and workouts and everything else, can't someone figure out that, say, Victor Cruz is fast?

It's way more of the same this time around.

The build-up is endless, on TV and the web. And, TB supposes, in what remains of newspapers.

Hours and hours of coverage. Endless mock drafts. Endless evaluations of players whose stock is rising and falling.

TB just went to ESPN.com to find a mock draft to see how many players projected to go in the first round he's even heard of.

As an aside, before he got there, he checked out the Major League Baseball standings for the first time this year and found that eight teams are playing at least .600. Can you name the eight?

Meanwhile, back at the mock draft, there were 32 players in the first round, and TB had heard of exactly two: Manti Te'o, who was 32nd and going to the Ravens, and the tight end from Notre Dame whose name he didn't know (Tyler Eifert), who was going 17th to the Steelers.

The rest? Never heard of any of them.

Contrast that with the Major League Lacrosse draft, where TB had heard of every player picked in every round, but hey, that's another story.

Speaking of the Ravens, they won the Super Bowl last year with Joe Flacco, the 18th pick in the 2008 draft. Of the 31 first-round picks that year (New England lost theirs for "Spygate," which is actually a nice way of saying, "cheating"), how many have made the Pro Bowl at least once?


How many picks in the 2008 draft after Round 1 have made the Pro Bowl?

Yes, eight. In other words, there is no difference between those in the first round and those in the remaining rounds.

And there in a nutshell is the NFL draft. A ton of hype over players nobody has ever heard of and who have a somewhat random and equal chance of becoming great players or busts.

At least this time around, there's something for the Princeton fan.

Will Mike Catapano get drafted, and if so, where will it be?

Catapano was the 2012 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, and he certainly earned it. A year ago, Catapano was a force, as he led Princeton to a four-game improvement from the previous season, not to mention a heart-stopping win over Harvard.

He led the Ivy League with 12 sacks and ended the regular season ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision with 1.2 sacks per game. He ranked second in the Ivy League in tackles for loss with 15.5, which was only a half tackle off the League lead, and ranked ninth nationally in that category.

His 12 sacks were the most for a single season at Princeton since David Ferrara '00 recorded 12.5 during the 1998 season.

Since then, Catapano has been focused on preparing himself for the draft.

At his pro day, he benched 225 pounds 33 times. TigerBlog has no idea how that measures up to everyone else in the draft, but it sounds like it's pretty tough to do.

Because the formula now in TV sports is "find something people seem to like and then completely overdo it," the draft is now a three-day event, one that begins tomorrow night and lasts through Saturday.

For Catapano, the big day figures to be Day 3, when he will see if he is in fact drafted or will have to go the free agent route. Either way, he'll be in someone's camp this summer.

Back in 2000, TB wrote a feature about Ross Tucker, the former Princeton lineman, and he said he was hoping to get in an NFL camp just to see if they let you keep the helmet when you get cut. As it turned out, he played for six years or so and now is a successful commentator who presumably has spent a lot of time on his satellite radio show talking about the draft.

TB can't imagine the anticipation and then eventually the waiting that Catapano has to go through, hoping the phone will ring, seeing who is on the other end.

For a player like Catapano, the draft is an exciting time.

To TB, it's sort of dull. And he doesn't really get it.

But he's rooting for Catapano.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Regular Season Finales

So we're down to one more episode of Season 1 of "The Following," and TigerBlog can't believe he's still watching this show.

If you haven't seen it, this is the Kevin Bacon show where he's an FBI consultant trying to track down the serial killer he arrested a long time ago yet who twice escaped from death row and who, from death row, put together this elaborate plan for, well, nobody knows yet, with the help of the members of his cult, that he also was able to assemble from death row.

At times, it's simply awful, because it's vaults way past the acceptable level of "that could never happen" and becomes a head-shaking farce in which FBI agents turns their backs on suspects, guard central figures with two people, storm houses with bad guys in them with no backup and other such ridiculous moves.

At it's best, it has very dramatic, nobody-saw-it-coming plot twists, though they're often so contrived that nobody could possibly see them coming.

Still, there's something that has kept TB hooked for 14 episodes, with just one to go. Surely it's not the need to find out what happens, because whatever it is, it'll be somewhat silly.

TB can buy Bacon in his role. He struggles with the woman from Law & Order in her role as a leader in the FBI, in that she is so inept that her decision making has left her buried alive in a box with her hands and feet bound, though according to the coming attractions, she is somehow able to 1) access her cell phone, 2) call Bacon and 3) get reception in the middle of the woods while buried in a box.

As an aside, TigerBlog couldn't handle being in the box out in an open field somewhere, let alone in the box buried in the ground in the woods in the pitch dark. At least not since he had an MRI.

The real problem with the show to TB, though, is the serial killer guy, who, as TB said before, looks a little like Hugh Jackman.

He's just not a convincing arch-villain. He's trying to be one of those really creepy-understated-seems-nice-enough-you-forget-he-kills-everyone-he-sees type of guys. Sort of like another seemingly good guy, Hannibal Lecter.

For whatever reason, it's not working. Maybe it's because TB can't get past the idea that he ever would have walked out of death row simply by altering the video camera that was watching the exit.

Either way, he's just not convincing. He's more of a parody of a serial killer.

And for all that, TB is 14 for 14 in watching so far. With one more episode left. He'll definitely tune in for that one too.

Between now and then, there is the little matter of Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse, which takes place Saturday at MetLife Stadium as part of the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, which begins with the Tigers and Big Red at 4 and concludes with Syracuse-Notre Dame at 6:30. Like Episode 15 of "The Following," Princeton-Cornell will be the regular season finale.

Both teams are already assured of being in the Ivy League tournament. Cornell, which won the Ivy title, will be the host team, and Princeton and Yale will be in it, along with either Harvard or Penn.

For Princeton, it's not about getting to the Ivy tournament. It's about getting to the NCAA tournament - and then making some noise when there.

Princeton has shown in its one-goal losses against North Carolina (No. 1 in the coaches' poll) and Syracuse that it can play with anyone.

It controlled John Hopkins from start to finish on Hopkins' home field, when the Blue Jays were undefeated and before Hopkins lost in OT to Carolina. It beat Hofstra by three, just before Hofstra beat Notre Dame (No. 1 in the media poll) and long before Hofstra lost four one-goal games.

The Tigers are 8-4 overall, and all four losses are by a single, excruciating goal. The result is that Princeton is not a lock for the NCAA tournament by any stretch, though with an RPI of 18 and some huge games to be played, it still has a good chance of getting in.

The best way would be to win two games in Ithaca next weekend, winning the Ivy tournament and getting the automatic bid. Or to beat Cornell, whose RPI is now five.

Of course, Princeton could also play Cornell Saturday and then in the Ivy semifinal, and should the Tigers lose both, they would be firmly on the bubble.

The good news is that Princeton has all kinds of chances in front of it. Yale's RPI is now 11; should the Bulldogs win the Ivy tournament, then that would certainly push them into the Top 10, and Princeton owns a win over Yale.

The NCAA selections are complex, and made even more difficult by the need to rely on such a small sample size of games, of which there are some huge ones this weekend.

No team has more to gain Saturday than Princeton. A win would be huge; a loss wouldn't by any means end the Tigers' chances.

TB will be there. And he'll be watching "The Following" later on.

He's rooting for Princeton and Kevin Bacon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Write And Wrong

TigerBlog has a bookcase behind his desk that has all kinds of stuff in it.

There's a folded up flag with a big orange "P" on it. There's a DVD copy of the 1999 Princeton-Syracuse men's lacrosse game. There's a Passover seder plate.

And there are old publications. Lots of them.

There are binders of old football game programs, nicely saved year-by-year in black hardcover, with a similar one of men's lacrosse guides. There are some that are unbound as well, and those seem to be have been randomly thrown in there a long time ago.

TB doesn't like to touch the bookshelf, because there is an equal amount of dust - and possibly some spiders - that also hasn't moved in years.

TB doesn't have to look to know that the 1994 football guide is in there somewhere. It's the first publication TB ever did when he started working here, way back when.

And, if that was the first book he did, then the first page of the first book he did was supposed to have a picture of senior captain Carl Teter, an offensive lineman. Only TB put in a picture of someone else and then labeled it as Teter.

Then he printed 2,500 copies of it.

Then he noticed the mistake.

And that wasn't even the biggest mistake he made in misidentifying someone in a picture. Nope, that was in the game program for the last game at Palmer Stadium.

The cover was very creative. It had the horseshoe shape of Palmer Stadium with a collage of pictures of prominent people and events in the stadium's 83-year history.

And in the middle was a big picture of Dick Kazmaier. It was a great picture, of Kazmaier, in his No. 42 jersey, about to let a pass go.

Except it wasn't Kazmaier. It was someone from before when Kazmaier played.

Of course, it was of No. 42 as he threw a pass. And it was labeled "Dick Kazmaier" on the back of the picture. Only it wasn't him.

How does TB know this? Kazmaier told him. Very politely. Very nicely. Very unassumedly, as is Kazmaier's way, almost as if he felt like it was his mistake for not being the person in the picture, not TB's for not using a picture of the wrong person.

It's part of how it works when you're in communications. You look at a proof version of something a million times and then as soon as you get it back, you see the mistake you never saw before.

Or you put out something publicly that is wrong, and you hear about it rather immediately.

It's inevitable. Everyone who works in the field has done it. Unintentionally. With no goal of misleading anyone. It just happens.

TB did it last week, with his first Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament scenarios. TB had one of the very, very, very obscure tiebreaking rules incorrect, and so he concluded that Yale had not clinched a spot in the field when it fact the Bulldogs had.

Word got back to him, and he corrected the mistake.

After this weekend's games, TB updated the scenarios, which granted became much easier, what with only two games remaining that can impact the final outcome (Princeton vs. Cornell, Harvard vs. Yale) and with one game this weekend (Dartmouth vs. Brown) that cannot.

Still, with just four possible outcomes, TB stared long and hard at the screen before hitting the "send" button.

There's a huge difference between the issues of making such mistakes in 1994 and 2013.

Back then, you printed something and then couldn't unprint it. Like the guide with non-Teter on Page 1, it was going to be there forever. Granted, it's on some dust-covered bookshelf under a seder plate, but it's still there - and it's not going anyway.

In 2013, TB was able to fix the mistake. But the audience is so much larger, and the ability for people to immediately point out the mistake is so much greater.

And more importantly, the expectation for information has grown, and it has to be immediate.

The last week has been a reminder of that. How many "facts" came out about the Boston Marathon bombers, about who they were, about what their motives were, about how the investigation was progressing, what the status was - and how much of that was proven to be wrong?

See, it's rule No. 1 for TB - people believe everything they read.

Ever see "All the President's Men?" If the movie is to be believed, then Woodward/Bernstein never printed anything without confirmation from three sources.

Today? No way. It's throw it out there and be first. Being first is No. 1. Being right is a distant second.

On a much smaller scale, college athletic communications offices everywhere are using things like Twitter to get scores and information out to as quickly as possible. Every now and then, something is going to be wrong.

Like this past weekend, when @putigers tweeted that Brown had beaten Penn in women's lacrosse, giving Princeton a share of the Ivy title. Only Penn had beaten Brown, in overtime, to win the outright title.

Once the mistake was realized, it was deleted in less than a minute and a correction put in its place.

But in 2013, that tweet was already retweeted by the time it was deleted. And of course that started the inevitable spread of the incorrect information that Princeton had tied for the league title.

And once the barn door is open, well, you know the rest.

All TB can do is apologize for the error. It certainly wasn't done to take anything away from Penn's achievement or anything nefarious.

Nope. It was just a mistake. And TB apologizes.

Just like he will after the next one.

And the other after that.

Friday, April 19, 2013


TigerBlog awoke to text alerts of an MIT police officer killed, of mass transit in Boston shut down and of a massive manhunt for the bombers from Patriots' Day and the Boston Marathon.

By the time he was able to turn the TV on, one of the two suspects had been killed and the other was on the run, which continues to be the case as TB writes this.

There was video of a middle-of-the-night shootout, with the sounds of gunfire that sounded like something out of a battlefield scene on the Military channel. There are scenes of armored vehicles on the streets of Watertown, complete with very heavily armed law enforcement officials with very big guns.

TigerBlog has gotten lost in Watertown, which is next to Newton, right outside of Boston. When Princeton plays at Harvard, the teams often stay at either the Newton Marriott or the more frequently, the Crowne Plaza Newton, which sits directly above the Mass Pike and used to be a Sheraton.

TB has wandered into Watertown many times, usually to get gas. It's a quiet place with quiet streets, which have now been invaded by the realities of the world today.

Now it's the entire city of Boston and its nearest suburbs, all on lockdown, with hundreds of thousands of people in their homes, uncertain of what will happen next. A week ago, they were looking forward to a weekend and then Patriots' Day, one of the great days of the year in one of the great cities on Earth.

And now it turns out that the suspect still at large as TB writes is a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, the same school where Patrick Ewing went, the same school where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck went. There is a report on one network that he was a lifeguard at Harvard at one point.

TB is sitting in basically stunned shock as he watches all this. He assumes that basically everyone else is as well.

Boston is a vibrant place, a beautiful city, a city that seems to create a fierce loyalty among its residents and natives. TB knows a ton of people who didn't grown up near Boston but went to school there; he doesn't know a single one who didn't fall in love with the place.

And now it looks like a war zone. Now its streets are empty.

TB is flipping back and forth between several news channels, and he continues to be amazed by how much information is put out there in the name of being first, rather than being correct. It makes it hard to believe what is true and what isn't - and for that matter, hard to believe in the contemporary media in the first place.

As TB watches this, there is so much he can't understand.

Why were these two brothers still in the area, as opposed to on the first plane out of Boston? What does that say?

How could the one that's still on the loose ever gotten away when his brother was killed? And what could have happened to a 19-year-old, who two years ago was a high school wrestler, to turn him into someone who could put a bomb down on a street and kill three innocent people, including an eight year old, and seriously hurt nearly 200 others?

And what does this mean for this country in the future?

Princeton hosts Harvard tonight in men's lacrosse.

TigerBlog was also greeted this morning by emails wondering if Harvard had gotten here, and the Crimson team did, traveling yesterday. What must be going through their minds now, as they sit in a hotel in New Jersey and watch the news from their backyard.

TB has spent his life taking shelter from the realities of his world - his small, personal world - in whatever the next game he was to attend. They've always provided diversion, if only for an hour or two, and they've given him a chance to clear his head, step away from whatever the issue was and focus on something else.

The next game he has to attend is the men's lacrosse game today.

It'll be both another welcome respite and a reminder that today, he cannot simply hide from the world at another game. Not today. Not when the visitors are from Boston, a city that has had an awful week and which is now essentially completely shut down, all while the authorities chase after a 19 year old, one who along with his 26-year-old brother have brought such terror to such a beautiful city.

And now if you'll excuse TB, he has to go get ready for a big lacrosse game.

The first order of business is to finish the moment of silence to be read before the face-off.

Today, it appears that no diversion will be strong enough to shut out reality.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

One Classic Down; Another To Go?

TigerBlog likes the signs on highways that tell drivers how many miles and how long it will take to get from some upcoming point to another point some further distance down the road, even if he doesn't always believe what they say.

For instance, when TB was driving to North Carolina for men's lacrosse recently, there was one on I-95 south of Richmond that said there was a big delay coming up. TB immediately tried to figure out how to get off 95 and take other roads to I-85, which goes to the Raleigh-Durham area (and eventually to Atlanta).

Apparently, he wasn't alone, since the next exit was swamped. So TB stayed on 95, and he found no delay between there and 85.

That seems to happen just enough to make TB cynical about believing the signs warning of delays.

He's gotten off of enough highways to try to bypass enough delays, only to figure out in the end that he probably didn't save any time, to be unsure what to do in those situations anymore anyway. On the other hand, if you're moving the whole time, isn't it better than sitting in traffic, even if it takes a little longer?

Yesterday, the sign on I-95 south mentioned that it would be 60 minutes to on a nine-mile stretch a little past Center City in Philadelphia. Fortunately for TB, he was going north.

The traffic the other way was probably more commuters than those going to the Princeton-Penn women's lacrosse game, which is a shame, because the game was a classic, even if you were rooting for the team that lost.

Penn ended up beating Princeton 10-9 in overtime in a game that was huge for the Ivy League race. With the win, Penn clinched at least a share of the league title, something Princeton would have done had the game gone the other way.

Penn would clinch the outright championship with a win at Brown Saturday. With a Penn loss to the Bears, the winner of the Princeton-Dartmouth game would get a share of the championship as well.

One thing Penn did do was clinch home field for the Ivy League tournament, which means the winner of the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will be celebrating on Franklin Field.

Penn has now defeated both Dartmouth and Princeton by a single goal, in a five-day span, after the three teams had all reached all 4-0 in the league.

TB continues to be fascinated by how many close lacrosse games are being played this year, and more importantly how significant the difference between winning and losing in a close game can be. When it comes to NCAA tournament consideration, there is no difference between losing 10-9 or 110-9.

No matter what happens Saturday, Princeton and Dartmouth will play again in one semifinal of the Ivy tournament 13 days later. If Brown - who only lost by one to Dartmouth (and by seven to Princeton) - can upset Penn, then the Princeton-Dartmouth winner would get a share of the league title.

Actually, the Penn-Brown women's game is followed by a very similar Cornell-Brown men's game in Providence, in which a Brown win would open the door for Princeton, Yale or both to get a share of the men's championship, whereas a Brown loss would mean an outright title for the visitor.

The upcoming games are all significant, and after the last five days, the winner of the Princeton-Dartmouth game will be drooling over another shot at the Quakers.

As for the game last night, TB watched the videostream (he has to tip his hat to the job Penn does with its production), and the tension and drama of the entire night was obvious, as neither team ever led by more than two.

TB doesn't know the women's game like he does the men's, but he's definitely not a fan of the way that women's teams can hold the ball with immunity, rather than be forced by either the rules or the defense to have to push the pace.

And he would much prefer if overtime were sudden death, as opposed to two three-minute OT periods.

And he also thinks that the officials have too much discretion when it comes to fouls that result in free position shots, especially when the ramifications are so huge.

In the game last night, there were 19 total goals - six of which were on free position shots. Looking further, two of the first 14 in the game were on free positions, and then four of the last five were as well, including the game-winner.

That's a huge impact on the outcome for judgement calls.

Even with his lack of understanding, TB still had no trouble figuring out how dramatic the game was, right down to Princeton's last possession in the overtime.

And he does have enough understanding to know the Ivy tournament should be pretty intense.

After last night, it'll definitely be at Franklin Field.

The host team is set. The team that will be celebrating when it's over?

There's a long way to go for that.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


When TigerBlog can't sleep, there's nothing he likes more than getting up and watching three or four pre-dawn episodes of "Two And A Half Men."

TB only started watching the show this past September, when the new season began. That would be Season 10, for those keeping score.

Today's trivia, to be answered later, is this: Five teams have won the Ivy League championship in their spors for at least 10 straight years. Name the five teams. Four of the teams did it 10 straight years; one did it for 11 straight and therefore holds the record.

Hint - four are men's teams, one is a women's team. Bonus hint - only two schools are represented.

Meanwhile, back at "Two And A Half Men," TB had never seen an episode before the start of this season. Now, as he continually DVRs them, he's pretty sure he's seen all 221 of them.

Hey, he's not a great sleeper. What do you want?

He started watching the Ashton Kutcher version of the show, and he immediately thought it was funny. Then he started watching the Charlie Sheen versions in syndication, and there's no comparison. It was better with Sheen.

It's still really funny with Kutcher. It's just that it's gone from an A to an A-. Or an A to an A, just not as close to an A+.

What's amazing is how the show was able to withstand the loss of its central character and still be good. TB can't think of another show that has accomplished that.

The closest would be "Cheers," which lost Shelley Long and added Kirstie Alley (if you only know her from the last few years, check out an episode from "Cheers" that she was in).

Maybe "NYPD Blue," which lost David Caruso and added Jimmy Smits.

But really, "Cheers" was centered around Sam Malone and "NYPD Blue" was centered around Sipowicz, who really is one of the most underrated characters in TV history.

Remember the time when the guy they arrested told them where to find the money they'd stolen during the murder and bring it to him because he'd need it for a lawyer, and Sipowicz replied "if anyone at your trial tries to say you were the mastermind, call me as a witness."

Anyway, TB is a big "2.5 Men" fan. And, of course, his favorite character is Charlie, followed by Rose.

It's great, mindless stuff, with somewhat predictable jokes. But it works, for whatever reason.

Oh, the trivia answer ...

Cornell's wrestling has won 11 straight Ivy titles, and, by the way, shows no sign of letting up.

Cornell men's gymnastics (which is no longer an Ivy sport) won 10 straight from 1968-77. Cornell men's lacrosse won 10 from 1974-83.

Princeton's men's lacrosse team also won 10 straight, from 1995-2004. The Tigers, interestingly, won the 1994 NCAA championship but not the 1994 Ivy League championship, which they lost to Brown before beating the Bears in the NCAA semifinals.

On the women's side, the Princeton field hockey team won 10 straight, from 1994-2003. Princeton didn't win in 2004, but has won the last eight since.

The third-longest active streak, behind Cornell wrestling and Princeton field hockey, is the six straight won by the Penn women's lacrosse team.

Should Penn wish to make that seven straight, then winning tonight is a big deal, though not necessarily make-or-break. If Princeton wants to end that streak, then tonight is a must.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse race is pretty simple right now.

Penn is 5-0. Princeton is 5-0. Dartmouth, which lost Saturday to Penn, is 4-1. Princeton is at Penn tonight at 7 and then at Dartmouth Saturday.

Simple, no?

If Penn wins tonight, it will clinch at least a tie for that seventh straight title and would clinch the outright title with a win at Brown (9-4 overall, 2-3 Ivy) Saturday.

Should Princeton win tonight, it would clinch at least a tie for the championship. Dartmouth is rooting hard for Princeton, obviously, since a Princeton win tonight would open the door for a three-way tie for the championship, should Dartmouth then beat Princeton Saturday.

The Ivy League tournament is two weeks away, and Princeton, Dartmouth and Penn will be three of the teams. Cornell would clinch the fourth spot with a win over Yale (1-4 in the league) Saturday.

As for the host?

Well, that would be Penn if it wins tonight. It would be Princeton if the Tigers win their next two.

And in a three-way tie? If TB understands it correctly, then it would be decided by goal differential in the head-to-head games between Dartmouth, Princeton and Penn, with a max of six goals awarded in any game.

The Ivy League champion is the team or teams that win the regular season. The automatic bid to the NCAA tournament goes to the team that wins the Ivy tournament.

Longest Ivy League Championship Streaks - complied by Scottie Rodgers at the Ivy League Office:

Ivy League Consecutive Championships Streaks

11            Cornell Wrestling (2002-03 to Present)
10            Cornell Men’s Gymnastics (1967-68 to 1976-77)*
10            Cornell Men’s Lacrosse (1973-74 to 1982-83)
10            Princeton Men’s Lacrosse (1994-95 to 2003-04)
9            Princeton Men’s Lacrosse (1956-57 to 1964-65)
9            Columbia Men’s Fencing (1959-60 to 1967-68)
9            Harvard Men’s Indoor Track & Field (1961-62 to 1969-70)
9            Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey (1982-83 to 1989-90)
9            Princeton Men’s Swimming & Diving (1983-84 to 1991-92)
9            Harvard Men’s Squash (1990-91 to 1998-99)
9            Cornell Men’s Lacrosse (2002-03 to 2010-11)
8            Yale Men’s Swimming & Diving (1962-63 to 1969-70)
8            Harvard Men’s Heavyweight Rowing (1963-64 to 1970-71)
8            Penn Men’s Fencing (1975-76 to 1982-83)
8            Columbia Men’s Soccer (1978-79 to 1985-86)
8            Dartmouth Men’s Cross Country (1984-85 to 1991-92)
8            Columbia Men’s Fencing (1985-86 to 1992-93)
8            Cornell Men’s Outdoor Track & Field (2002-03 to 2009-10)
7            Harvard Men’s Squash (1961-62 to 1967-68)
7            Harvard Men’s Cross Country (1964-65 to 1970-71)
7            Cornell Men’s Ice Hockey (1966-67 to 1972-73)
7            Penn Men’s Outdoor Track & Field (1970-71 to 1976-77)
7            Harvard Men’s Swimming & Diving (1977-78 to 1983-84)
7            Harvard Men’s Squash (1982-83 to 1988-89)
7            Cornell Wrestling (1986-87 to 1992-93)
7            Penn Wrestling (1995-96 to 2001-02)

10            Princeton Field Hockey (1993-94 to 2002-03)
9            Brown Women’s Soccer (1981-82 to 1989-90)
8            Princeton Field Hockey (2004-05 to Present)
8            Harvard Women’s Tennis (1982-83 to 1988-89)
7            Cornell Women’s Outdoor Track & Field (2001-02 to 2007-08)
7            Princeton Softball (1982-83 to 1988-89)
7            Harvard Women’s Lacrosse (1986-87 to 1992-93)
6            Penn Women’s Fencing (1982-83 to 1987-88)
6            Penn Women’s Lacrosse (2006-07 to Present)

*Discontinued as a conference sport following the 1981-82 academic year.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running To The Blasts

TigerBlog can't imagine what runs through someone's mind as he or she runs toward where the bomb just went off, rather than away from it.

Is someone born with that sort of courage, to run to the bomb, to the danger, to the uncertainty - when 99.9% of people run away, as fast as possible.

TB would be one of the 99.9%, he's pretty sure. He doesn't kid himself.

He's awed by the firemen who ran up the stairs of the World Trade Center nearly 12 years ago, and he's awed by those who ran to help yesterday, when bomb blasts once again ripped into a peaceful American day, this time near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

This happened on Patriots Day, which is up there with Christmas among favorite days on the annual Bostonian calendar, as TB understands it.

Maybe it's a product of the world of immediate information that we live in, but the thirst for answers is matched only by the inability of the media to say "there are no answers yet."

As always happens with horrific stories like this, the media has the need to devote all of its coverage to the incident, even though there's almost nothing new to say. The results are often the worst moments in American media.

For starters, there is the need to constantly be offering up something, anything, even though everything being offered is either speculation or the 100th recitation of "the bombs went off 20 seconds apart."

And then it gets politicized. By both sides. And that's something that's easier to have happen in the Twitter age.

Meanwhile, far away from the spotlight, the real-life version of "Homeland" is being played out, with law enforcement on one side and whoever did this on the other.

And once again, in this world that we've been forced into, Americans are left to balance all of the emotions: fear, anger, uncertainty, bewilderment.

Are you a coward because you're afraid? Are you a coward because you're comfortable in your day-to-day life and don't want to think about how close it can all come to where you are?

And can you hide from it? Can sports provide the diversion necessary, the sanctuary?

TigerBlog thinks the answer is yes and no.

As he drove yesterday afternoon, he flipped back and forth between WFAN with Mike Francesa and CBS sports radio, with Doug Gottlieb, who is quickly becoming a TB favorite, by the way.

Francesa spoke only of the terrorist act in Boston. Gottlieb referred to the events in Boston while also conducting the sports side of his show, all in the context of having it be a diversion.

TB wasn't sure which one was right.

Hey, in his blog today, he's not even sure what he should be doing. Somehow, though, it didn't seem right just to talk about women's lacrosse and the big game at Penn tomorrow night.

That can wait for another day.

Today, TB feels an obligation to stay focused on what happened in Boston.

How reality intrudes into every day life, whether he wants it to or not. How he came away a little shaken, a little fearful.

And yet again, in awe, of so many people.

The 78-year-old man who was knocked to the ground by the blast and who got up and finished the race. And the runners who came across the line and kept going, after 26.2 miles, to Massachusetts General Hospital, where they gave blood.

And again, to the first responders, the ones with the courage to run to the blasts, unsure if there were more explosions to come, if they would be next.

Especially to them.

That's real courage. That's real commitment. That's heroic.

Sports? They produce a different version of those three things, and not the kind of version that really merits discussion here today.

No, today is for letting all of the emotions of Patriots Day in Boston come out, to think about the ones who were killed or hurt, to think of all the lives that have changed, and to think again about how the world today is not what it was when TB was a kid, when the only threat was from a nuclear warhead fired by the Soviet Union, something that never would happen but yet caused so much panic for so many years here.

Tomorrow will be a day to talk Princeton-Penn women's lacrosse. And everything else that reflects normalcy around here, around this country, as the real-life Homelanders continue to go about their business.

After all, that's how America wins.

By going forward with business as usual - even while being just a little bit more afraid than before.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thanks Bob

It was a typical spring weekend for Princeton Athletics, which means that it was a busy weekend.

The website had one story after another, as team after team competed, most more than once.

And yet TigerBlog can only remember one story from the last few days, and to him, only one thing happened this weekend:

Bob Callahan retired.

The rest is just a blur.

TigerBlog figured out a long time ago that the games will always be a blur. A very important blur, a very competitive blur.

The games are at the core of what Princeton Athletics is all about, especially for the athletes themselves, who only get to play for four years. To them, every weekend - like this past one - is one to be cherished.

TB loves the games. It's just that the people stand out more to him.

And few if any have stood out more than Bob Callahan, who has been the men's squash coach for 32 years. To TigerBlog, it's hard to imagine the department, let alone the squash program, without him.

TigerBlog never really imagined that Pete Carril would coach Princeton basketball forever or that Bill Tierney would coach Princeton lacrosse forever. His first thought when he heard that Callahan was retiring was to wonder if there could possibly be a squash team without him.

Callahan is in the middle of his battle with a brain tumor, and every time TB sees him, he has the same one-word thought: wow. To see how Bob has approached all of this for the last year, what other thought could someone have?

It's hard to fathom that someone fighting such a disease can be so upbeat all of the time. Not 99% of the time. 100% of the time.

And now he's retiring from his job as the men's squash coach. What's his legacy?

It's going to be all of the wins, all of the Ivy League championships, all of the teams that won national championships, all of the individuals who did the same.

Beyond that, though, it'll be how he carried himself during those 32 years, after the big wins and even the excruciating losses.

Simply put, there has never been anyone who has coached college athletics who has been more of a gentleman, more of a sportsman, than Bob Callahan.

If you don't believe that, then you should have been at Drexel back in October, on the night that Callahan was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame. You couldn't walk into the room without being knocked over by the genuine emotion, from his friends and colleagues and from his rivals as well.

When TB thinks back about Bob Callahan in the years to come, he'll remember seeing him at the big matches, days when Jadwin was jammed with spectators wedged into the squash gallery. And there was Bob, stopping, greeting everyone, thanking them for coming.

And then there are the times near those same courts, when TB would be playing squash, a sport that he was introduced to by Bob and women's coach Gail Ramsay, who were sort of like his squash parents, so proud that TB was making an effort to learn their sport.

There was 32 years of Bob Callahan, wearing his sport coat and tie on game days, and the same white shorts and sneakers on non-game days.

And now he's retired.

TB assumes Bob will still be around Jadwin, will still come into his office and talk lacrosse and pretend he actually cares about what TB is saying. He'll still be making fun of TB's squash game and basically everything else, with the same understated dry tone he always has.

And there will be men's squash next year at Princeton, led by a new coach, led by someone who walks into a situation where the bar has been raised pretty high in every possible way.

The man who raised that bar? He's also the most unassuming person who ever walked into the building as well, so he'll predictably poo-poo every nice thing that anyone says about him now that he's entering retirement, all while being embarrassed about the fuss.

So let TB embarrass him a little more.

TigerBlog loves going to the games. You can't work in college athletics if you don't.

Again, though, it's way more about the people.

And TB has never met a better one than Bob Callahan. Anywhere.

Here's to him on his retirement. May it be as long as he blessed Princeton as its squash coach.

Friday, April 12, 2013

TigerBlog Country Club

TigerBlog's can't-miss money-making plan is to have a four-hole golf course.

Four holes. A par 3, two par 4's and a par 5. Come to TBCC (TigerBlog Country Club), play four holes in less than an hour and be on your way.

TigerBlog has never been a huge golf fan, for a bunch of reasons. It's expensive. It's frustrating. He's not very good at it.

For all that, his No. 1 complaint has always been that it takes way too long. Like more than four hours worth.

By the time TB reaches the 12th or 13th hole, he's completely done.

So why not a four-hole course? It's perfect.

TB's attitude towards playing golf isn't that much different than his attitude towards watching it on television.

A few holes is okay. To watch 18? Way too much.

This weekend is The Masters. MotherBlog, at one point, lived in Augusta, Ga., for a year.

TB, when he went to visit her there, drove past the country club, like basically everyone else who goes to Augusta must. And, like everyone else, TB looked out the window and said "this is it?"

From the outside, Augusta National looks like nothing special. On purpose, TB assumed.

Anyway, all TB knows about The Masters is that he's rooting for anyone except for Tiger Woods.

Who's he rooting for this weekend?

Lots of Tigers. Hey, it's a spring Ivy weekend. Princeton must have 100 teams playing.

Oh, and he was rooting for an all ECAC final at the Frozen Four, which, when he first saw the field, seemed like one of those Christmas tournaments, or a round-robin where Yale and Quinnipiac got two teams to come to New Haven.

Anyway, the biggest event on Princeton's campus this weekend is probably the men's tennis match between Princeton and Harvard, who happen to be the last two unbeaten teams in the Ivy League. The teams face each other tomorrow at 2; Dartmouth is at Princeton Sunday.

By the way, all eight Ivy men's tennis teams are at least .500 overall, which could explain why so many Ivy matches end up 4-3 one way or the other.

The women's lacrosse team hosts Harvard tomorrow at 1 in a game that begins a huge eight-day stretch for the Tigers. Or actually a nine-day stretch, if you count tonight, when Dartmouth plays at Penn, which is followed by Princeton at Penn Wednesday and then Princeton at Dartmouth a week from tomorrow.

Right now, Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth are all unbeaten in the league. Every other team has at least two losses.

The baseball and softball teams are at Penn for four games, two each tomorrow and Sunday.

This is the first weekend of inter-divisional games in the two sports.

Princeton and Penn are tied, with Cornell, at 5-3 in the league, one game behind Columbia, in the Gehrig Division baseball race.

On the softball side, Princeton is two games back of first-place Penn in the South Division, so obviously these four games are somewhat important.

There is also golf, rowing, men's lacrosse, women's tennis, track and field, water polo and volleyball.

It's a typical spring weekend.

When it's over, if you need to relax, come play four holes at TBCC.

Oh wait. It's not open yet.

Oh well. He can dream.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"I Don't Want Any Trouble"

The commercial where the guy goes into the convenience store wearing the ski mask over his face is a great one.

The implication, of course, is that he's there to rob the place, and the man behind the counter says "I don't want any trouble," implying that he's cooperating with the "thief," who replies, perfectly, "I don't want any trouble either."

Then the ski-mask guy leaves and drives away with his friends, who are also in ski masks and are apparently on their way to, well, ski. And one of them says "you know you forgot to take your mask off."

That's a great commercial. Really, really clever. Really, really well-produced.

Yesterday, TigerBlog was at one of TigerBlog Jr.'s games when one of the parents there mentioned that commercial. TB asked him the same questions he always asks when someone loves a commercial, and that is this: What is the product?

In this case, the answer was "uh, not sure, maybe Doritos."

Nope. It's a Volkswagen commercial. And that's often the problem with great commercials. The production and creativity are what you remember, not the product itself.

When the game ended, TB and TBJ rushed back to watch the Cornell-Syracuse men's lacrosse game on ESPNU.

Cornell-Syracuse began at 6, and it would be until nearly 7 before TB and TBJ were in front of the TV, on which the game was being DVRd. This led to the dilemma of whether or not the two should watch the game from the start, or pick it up where it happened to be at that moment.

The choice was to see it live, and so TB only saw it from the third quarter on.

TB, in case you didn't notice, is a big lacrosse fan, and this is a great time to be a big lacrosse fan, since the sport is exploding on television.

It used to be that when there was a game on TV, the reaction was "wow." Now when there's a game that's not on, the reaction is more of "hmmm, why not?"

Lacrosse, of course, has a long way to go until it's like college football and basketball, where oversaturation of the sport on TV becomes an issue. For now, it's a lacrosse fan's paradise.

Syracuse's last two games have been on ESPNU, and both were 13-12 wins. One was last night against Cornell. One was Saturday against Princeton, who followed that loss with a 13-8 win over Rutgers Tuesday night.

Princeton is 7-3, with all three losses by one excruciating goal, all in games in which Princeton had the lead in the fourth quarter. That's how close Princeton is to being 10-0.

Princeton is also scoring goals at an exciting pace, having reached double figures in each of its first 10 games, something only the 1951 team had ever done before to start a season.

Cornell is even closer, if it's possible, to being undefeated than Princeton. The Big Red have two one-goal losses, one in the snow to Bucknell (much like Princeton's loss at Penn) and the one last night, which ended when Connor English hit the crossbar from point-blank range, or else that one would have been headed to overtime.

TB isn't a fan of comparative scores, but the fact that Syracuse beat Cornell and Princeton by identical 13-12 scores in a four-day span must say something about how close all three are.

Princeton and Cornell meet April 27 at the Meadowlands on the final day of the regular season. For Princeton, that game might as well be 100 years from now, since there are two huge games to play between now and then.

Cornell is off from last night until April 20, when it is at Brown.

Princeton is at Dartmouth Saturday and then home against Harvard next Friday, April 19 (another ESPNU game). Should the Tigers win both, then that April 27th game will be either for the outright Ivy title or a share of the Ivy title, and the winner would host the Ivy tournament.

If Princeton loses either of those games? Well, a lot changes. Hey, Princeton could still not even reach the Ivy tournament, let alone host it.

 In other words, there's no looking past either Dartmouth or Harvard. 

Cornell is unbeaten in the league, and Princeton has one loss. Penn, Yale, Brown and Harvard all have two league losses.

The Ivy tournament is in its fourth year. Each of the first three years have had wild finishes to fill out the field. The tournament has completely rejuvenated the league regular season (in a way a basketball tournament wouldn't, since it would make the regular season completely meaningless, rather than meaningful, unless it was a similar format where not every team made it).

In the three years of the Ivy tournament, no team with three or more league wins has failed to make the field and no team with two or fewer league wins has made the field. Going back 25 years before that, only three times would a team have gotten to three wins and not made a four-team tournament field had one existed.

Princeton has two so far. With three games to go. It's possible mathematically that the three-win threshold this year might not hold up; TB hasn't figured out all the possibilities yet.

Getting into the Ivy tournament is the first goal of the year.

It's not the last one.

It should be a wild few weeks of lacrosse around here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thoughts From The Banks Of The Ol' Raritan

Getting from Princeton to Rutgers for a 7:00 men's lacrosse game on a Tuesday night is not easy.

Traffic on Route 1 is a nightmare at that time, though maybe not a nightmare to someone who is used to having to go through, say, the Lincoln Tunnel. Still, to TigerBlog, it's nightmare enough.

What do you do? Leave at 4 to beat the traffic and get there at 4:30? Or wait until 5:15 and tough it out, not arriving until 6:15 or so?

TB decided to go with the second yesterday, and advancing up Route 1 traffic light to traffic light was about as much fun as he imagined it would be.

Rutgers is about 15 miles away. At that time of day, it seems like 1,500.

And then when TB arrived, it felt like he'd traveled even further, like all the way to another universe.

As he went to park near Yurcak Field, he drove past High Point Solutions Stadium, which used to be a rickety old wooden facility known as Rutgers Stadium back when TB covered the first-ever Big East football game, between the Scarlet Knights and Boston College.

Of course, BC long ago left the Big East. Rutgers is leaving as well. The Big East? Well, it sort of exists, though TB isn't quite sure if the schools that are leaving or the ones that are coming in will be the Big East and the other will be that American conference group.

As TB walked around Rutgers last night, he kept having the same thought - this is going to be a Big 10 school very soon.

It's a fitting place for Rutgers, at least once you get past the fact that the Big 10 used to be a Midwestern league. Rutgers has 31,000 students and is a major public land-grant research University. It never really fit the profile of the Big East, with its smaller, private, mostly Catholic colleges.

TB remembers when Rutgers was in the Eastern 8, which was the forerunner to the Atlantic 10, and then eventually the A-10 and Big East.

All of those leagues, at least, were primarily Eastern at least.

As TB saw what's become of the football stadium, how it's grown into the mammoth High Point Solutions-sponsored facility, he couldn't help but be impressed. He imagined game days now, with Ohio State or Michigan or Wisconsin in for league games.

The place certainly had a different feel. A bigger-time feel.

And an uneasy feel.

Everywhere TB has gone in the last week, the subject of Rutgers Athletics has come up, and not in the way RU would want it. No, it's all about the scandal involving former men's basketball coach Mike Rice, one that has cost four people - to  date - their jobs, including former athletic director Tim Pernetti.

Miss TigerBlog plays lacrosse with a girl whose brother is a football player at Rutgers. TB was talking to the parents this weekend, and TB assumes they basically sum up the feelings of most of the Rutgers people - especially those involved with the football program - in that they couldn't say enough good things about Pernetti and especially about his commitment to student-athlete welfare and experience.

It's ironic, but that is what ultimately did him in, the idea that he could rehabilitate Rice, rather than simply dismiss him. And it might have worked, had the video never gone public and 100% of the people who saw it and weren't affiliated with Rutgers immediately wondered how anyone could have watched that and concluded anything other than the coach had to go at once.

Being on campus last night, TB heard any number of Pernetti-related comments, along with the expected uneasy laughs about how the lacrosse game wasn't quite the biggest story of the week there.

TB contrasted what Pernetti had done with what Rick Pitino has done, and which TB doesn't have to repeat here.

Why did Rice and Pernetti have to go and Pitino got to stay and win a championship?

Was it because there was video of what Rice did? Was it because Pitino's foible was self-destructive, while Rice's was destructive to the athletes themselves? Was Pernetti unsavable because he signed off on something that was directly against the athletes themselves?

Or is it just about winning?

TB read an interesting piece on Grantland about a love/hate relationship regarding college basketball, and what was interesting about it was the author sort of equated college basketball and college athletics as the same thing.

They're not. And this is what drives TB nuts.

Big-time college football and men's basketball generate roughly 100% of the revenues for college athletics and get roughly 99.9% of the media attention generated. They also comprise a tiny percentage of the people who compete in college athletics.

Here's what he had to say:
The NCAA will continue to violate the now-laughable ethic of "the scholarship athlete." It will continue to broadcast its commercials about "going pro in something other than sports" during March Madness. 

To TB, those spots are perfect. They show what college sports are really about, which is taking advantage of the gift of being a top athlete to open educational doors that otherwise might not be there and then turning around and making the commitment to take full advantage of that opportunity.

This is what Princeton Athletics is all about.

It's about the educational opportunity that exists for Princeton's varsity athletes and how they in turn immerse themselves in the entire culture of the University, both in their four years here and then beyond, when they become some of the school's most accomplished and loyal alums.

This is so far away from the games that have been on TV the last few weeks, or from the coming football playoffs, or from the cesspool that can be those two sports.

TB didn't have to do stats or radio last night, so he spent most of the game standing on the sideline, watching the game up close.

The players for both teams played hard, competed to win. At the same time, TB could see how much they simply love to play their game, in much the same way that athletes from other sports love to play theirs.

They were at these two schools for varying reasons, but they were there to take advantage of the chance to get an education and to play their sport at this elite level, something that tens of thousands - hundreds of thousands - of high school athletes don't get to do.

For TB, it was what makes college sports great, and so to him, it was a great night to be of college athletics.

Even at a place where the other side of the coin had recently landed.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Only Fitting End

The men's college basketball season could not have ended in a more fitting fashion.

No, not with the No. 1 overall seed as the champion.

To TigerBlog, the only fitting ending the season was the way it played out - with one more ridiculous, no-effect-on-anything video review.

Oh, and before he forgets, it took TB a little while to realize who Michigan's Mitch McGarry looks like, and then it hit him - former Princeton great Steve Goodrich, right down to his facial expressions and the way he walks.

Anyway, Louisville was 1.1 seconds away from the championship, headed to the line for a one-and-one. The coaches had basically started to walk to shake hands. The Cardinal players were celebrating; the Michigan players knew it was over.

Oh wait, though. Let's go to the monitor. And set the clock back to 2.4 seconds.

Does common sense never exist? Who cares if it was 2.4 or 1.1? Let it end.

And it's only going to get worse. The NCAA is talking about allowing refs to check the monitor in the final minute to determine any call they want. Don't think this will add to the nightmare that is the endgame in college basketball, what with timeout after timeout, foul after foul? Now you'll be able to add replay after player to the mix.

How many times in the tournament did the refs go to the monitor and give a team that was out of timeouts an extra timeout? At least make it so that if the refs go to the monitor that the teams cannot go to their benches.

As for the final itself, it was a brilliant display of basketball for 34:51. It started with a ridiculous performance by freshman Spike Albrecht, who averages 1.8 points per game and scored 17 in 16 minutes of the first half. And it continued with similar scoring from Luke Hancock of Louisville, which made a great run at the end of the first half to turn a 12-point game into a one-point game.

The first 15 minutes of the second half were back and forth like TB has rarely seen in a championship game. The teams had one highlight play after another, answering alley-oops with alley-oops and amazing finishes with other amazing finishes. It was unbelievably entertaining stuff.

And then, with 5:09 to go, the refs destroyed the game in one moment.

Trey Burke, who scored 24 points despite only playing six minutes of the second half due to foul trouble, made one of the greatest - and cleanest - blocked shots of all time. Instead, it was called a foul.

Louisville was up 67-64 at the time, and had the block stood, Michigan would have had the ball and all the momentum. Instead, Peyton Siva made both foul shots, making it a five-point game and jump-starting a 7-2 run. It would never be a one-possession game again.

Anyway, TigerBlog corrected predicted what would happen. Louisville-Michigan in the final, with Louisville the winner.

Well, after his can't-be-much-more-wrong original pick of Georgetown over Gonzaga in the final.

College basketball finds itself in an interesting place right now, in that it has become of a victim of having created a postseason tournament that is so popular that it has rendered the regular season almost completely meaningless. And the source of the popularity is the same culprit that is destroying the game.


With so many games on, ratings have plummeted for the regular season, to the point where there are dozens of games that earn a 0.0 rating. Of course, the fact that players can go to so many different schools and be on TV has helped create the parity in college basketball that makes the tournament - especially the early rounds - so compelling.

Attendance as well continues to go down.

What does this mean at Princeton?

During the 2012-13 season, Princeton averaged 2,667 fans for home games. That placed the Tigers second in the league, behind only, right, Penn - at 3,751.

The average crowd for an Ivy League men's basketball game this year was 1,921 fans. Harvard, the league champ, averaged 1,786.

TB can't begin to tell you how much time, money and human resources have gone into talking about and acting on ways to increase Ivy League basketball attendance, interest and everything else that goes along with it?

And now, at the end of the year, what do the numbers say?

Again, TB isn't sure. Are they good or not good? Is attendance where it should be? High? Low? If people aren't coming, why is that?

TB's sense is that the glut of games on television doesn't help schools like Princeton draw fans to its games, especially at the slightest notion that the weather might not be good on a particular winter night.

Beyond that, though, TB wonders if it's just that the only thing that matters to casual college basketball fans is the postseason. Maybe the over-saturation of games turns off the casual fan.

And that leaves only the die-hard fans, the ones that TB sees here at every game.

Again, as is usually the case, when it comes to marketing Ivy sports, TB has all the right questions - and very little way to get the answers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Not Mad

Try as he has, TigerBlog just can't get into "Mad Men."

Last night was the season premiere of Season 6, and again, it wasn't doing it for TB.

He's not sure why. It seems like it would be something he would like. Set in the ’60s, which takes him back to his earliest memories. Intriguing characters. A mix of funny and serious.

Nope, it's just not doing it for him.

Maybe it's because he didn't jump on from the beginning or because he hasn't even seen every episode. Then again, that didn't stop him from completely catching up on a show like "Two And A Half Men," which he is pretty much up-to-date on.

Maybe it's all the smoking. Maybe he just doesn't have a can't-miss character on the show.

Last night, TB was half paying attention to the new season while he was doing his pregame story for the Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse game, which comes up tomorrow night in Piscataway.

Anyway, while "Mad Men" droned on about something in Hawaii and some missing kid who didn't get into Julliard and something else about headphones, TB was more focused on the game tomorrow night.

As such, he was back-and-forth on Princeton's website and Rutgers' website. As is usually the case, he was easily distracted.

And why wouldn't he be? The baseball story on Princeton's site from Sunday was ridiculous.

Princeton put up 32 runs in two games at Harvard and yet only came away with a split. The Tigers won Game 1 13-1 and then lost Game 2 20-19.

Game 1 took 1:47 to play. Game 2? How about 3:58?

And why wouldn't it? The teams combined for 39 runs (not a record), 38 hits and nine errors in the second game. Of the 18 times at-bat, there were seven half-innings with at least three runs scored.

Of the 38 hits, 29 were singles. There were also 24 men left on base. Princeton trailed 17-15 entering the ninth inning and then scored four times to go up 19-17, only to see Harvard come back to win.

The Ivy League baseball and softball races are two weekends old and has three weekends left. There are few league sports that compare when it comes to how quickly it all unfolds.

So far, the teams have all played twice against the four teams in the other division. The next three weekends will see back-to-back doubleheaders each weekend against the other other three division opponents.

The Gehrig Division in baseball (in softball it's just North and South) is the stronger of the two apparently, as all four teams are over .500. In the Rolfe Division, no team is.

Princeton, Penn and Cornell are all 5-3, one game behind 6-2 Columbia. Princeton is at Penn next week for four.

The same is true in softball, where Princeton will be at Penn for four games.

The Tigers are two games behind the Quakers, who are 7-1 in the league. Columbia and Cornell are each 4-4. 

In the North, Dartmouth and Harvard are 4-4 , with Yale at 3-5 and Brown at 1-7.

The divisional winners in both sports meet in the Ivy League Championship Series, and the winner of that gets the league spot in the NCAA tournament.

The races are sprints, with 20 games in five weekends. Clearly every game is big, and this is an exceptionally big weekend for both Princeton teams.

TB was able to catch up on all this last night, while "Mad Men" once again was sort of white noise in the background.

And so he was able to get his work done.

Would he ever dream of doing that during the first episode of the new season of "Homeland?" Are you insane?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Orange vs. Orange

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is an interesting animal, in that it gets progressively less interesting as it goes along.

Actually, you could make a case that its most interesting moments occur from the Selection Show - which is great theater in its own right - until play actually begins. That's the time when everyone puts together brackets, talks about which teams will reach the Final Four and agonizes over whether or not to pick one double-digit seed so early in the tournament.

And then there are the first two rounds (no, not the play-in round).

That Thursday and Friday are awesome. Wall-to-wall games. All day and night. And if one game is a blowout, well, then there's always another one that's heart-stopping, probably with some team from some small conference trying to pull a massive upset.

After the first two rounds, though, it starts to slow. And now that it's the Final Four, well, most of the steam is gone.

It happens every year.

The big story from this tournament won't be whoever wins. Even the fact that a ninth-seed (Wichita State) is in the Final Four isn't that big a deal.

No, the big stories will be Florida Gulf Coast's "Dunk City" act and of course the injury to Louisville's Kevin Ware. Hey, nobody will be a bigger winner from this tournament than Andy Enfield.

Anyway, TigerBlog will stick with his picks from earlier. Louisville and Michigan in the final. Louisville to win.

For TigerBlog, the big event involving Syracuse this weekend isn't the men's basketball semifinal against Michigan.

It's the men's lacrosse game between the Orange and Princeton, to be played tomorrow (unless you're reading this Saturday, in which case it's today) at 5 on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

Of every non-Ivy League rivalry that TigerBlog has experienced with Princeton, his favorite is the men's lacrosse one with Syracuse.

TigerBlog remembers putting together the schedule for the 2001 men's lacrosse season, and at the end, he put NCAA quarterfinal, NCAA semifinal and then finally NCAA championship game vs. Syracuse.

It was a joke of course, one he didn't intend to go in the final product. Except he never changed it back before he sent it out.

Actually, it's not funny. TB knows of all kinds of examples where people did that, even to the point of losing their jobs, as well as others who caught it at the last minute or else they would have lost their jobs.

Anyway, Princeton and Syracuse did play in the 2001 NCAA final. And the one in 2000. And the one in 2002. And 1992. The teams split those four games, three of which were one-goal games and two of which were overtime (both of which Princeton won, on goals by Andy Moe in 1992 and B.J. Prager in 2001).

 Every year from 1992 and 2003, Princeton's lacrosse season ended with either an NCAA championship (six times) or an NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse (six times). Princeton was 4-6 against Syracuse and 21-0 against everyone else in NCAA tournament games during those 12 years.

TigerBlog remembers leaving Rutgers after the 2001 NCAA semifinal win over Towson, before Syracuse and Notre Dame finished their game. While driving on Route 1, TB was hoping Syracuse would win, because he thought an NCAA championship that year without a win over Syracuse in the final wouldn't be satisfying.

There have been epic games between the two besides the NCAA championship games, and TB could write forever about the intensity of some of those meetings. 

The 2013 meeting between Princeton and Syracuse is big for both, since the winner will walk away with a likely Top 10 win and a huge leg up in the at-large criteria, should either not win its conference's automatic bid.

The teams are somewhat mirror images right now.

Both are 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the league. Both have two losses by one goal, and not just any one-goal losses, but losses of 16-15 and 11-10.

Princeton has scored 100 goals in eight games. Syracuse has scored 101. Princeton has allowed 72. Syracuse has allowed 70.

The game should end around 7, which means Syracuse will be on its bus about the time of tip-off for the basketball game. As TB understands it, the bus has satellite TV, so the team can watch it on the way home.

TB will half pay attention as well.

After all, it's the men's basketball Final Four. Only it's not as big a deal to him as the first weekend of the tournament.

Or as Princeton-Syracuse men's lacrosse.