Friday, May 31, 2013

An Award-Winning Night

The Princeton Varsity Club awards banquet had just ended, and TigerBlog was making his way to the front of the tent when he ran into Sue Walters, wife of Director of Athletics Gary Walters.

Sue introduced TB to Terry and Scott Maurer, parents of Lorin Maurer, the former Princeton friends' group fundraiser who was killed in a plane crash more than four years ago shortly after her 30th birthday.

Terry and Scott were on hand for the presentation of the Lorin Maurer Award, which is given at the banquet each year to someone form the Department of Athletics who "best reflects the passion, dedication and infectious enthusiasm that defined Lorin Maurer's character and her inspiring impact on colleagues and friends."

Last night there were two winners, former men's squash coach Bob Callahan and Adlay Bugg, who is also retiring after spending 14 years in the department, most recently in scheduling/programming/events.

TB spoke to the Maurer's for a few minutes and was struck by their spirit and appreciation for everything Princeton has done to keep Lorin's memory alive, especially to those who didn't know her. Earlier, Scott Maurer had spoken to the entire audience about how grateful he and Terry were that Lorin had had the opportunity to work at Princeton in the first place.

That's the kind of night it was, and always is, for that matter.

It's a night of celebration, with some genuine emotions mixed in. How could it be any different, with more than 200 athletes a few days away from graduation and with people like Callahan, Bugg and the Maurers on hand to share their own stories.

The average temperature for a PVC banquet appears to be 70, since it's usually either 90 or 50, as in sweltering or freezing. Last night was a sweltering one.

Still, the weather is almost never the big story, unless, like a few years ago, a massive thunderstorm comes along and wipes out the program.

Last night was clear, though very hot, but the show went on without a hitch.

There was the informal cocktail hour (actually 90 minutes), and then there was a celebration of Princeton Athletics and specifically the Class of 2013.

Princeton's Class of 2013 combined to win 49 Ivy League championships, which was 21 more than the next-best total in the league during the last four years. Princeton also won eight national championships, including four NCAA championships, in the 2012-13 academic year as well.

The highlights of the night are the presentation of the awards to the senior athletes and then the video, which recognizes each member of the class.

The von Kienbusch Award and Roper Trophy are given to the top senior female and male athletes.

As you might have noticed from, this year there were quite a few of both.

Seven of each, in fact.

For the women, there was runner Greta Feldman, soccer player Jen Hoy, basketball player Niveen Rasheed, field hockey players Katie Reinprect and Kathleen Sharkey, rower Heidi Robbins and fencer Eliza Stone.

For the men, there was runner Peter Callahan, football player Mike Catapano, squash player Todd Harrity, basketball player Ian Hummer, soccer player Mark Linnville,  tennis player Matija Pecotic and fencer Jonathan Yergler.

TigerBlog heard more than one person last night ask this question: If you had to pick one winner for each, who would it be?

It's an interesting question.

The answer is, why only pick one?

Some of those 14 - actually most of them - are among the greatest players in their sport that Princeton has ever seen. It's not their fault that they all happened to graduate in the same year.

Besides, that's the kind of class the Class of 2013 was.

And the kind of night it was as well.

Definitely one for celebration. With some emotion mixed in.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crossing The Road

It's been a pretty busy week for TigerBlog, what with the NCAA lacrosse championships and then a short week leading up to tonight's Princeton Varsity Club awards banquet.

And then tomorrow there's a meeting all morning, and of course Reunions are kicking off all over campus.

As a result, TigerBlog has been rushing to finish projects like the senior athlete video and the script for the program and a few items for tomorrow's meeting.

TB knows he had weeks to get these projects done. It's just not his style.

Maybe it's his newspaper background. Maybe it's ingrained in him, dating back to his time getting papers done for school at the last minute.

He remembers one time when he had to write back-to-back 25 page papers, one on FCC regulation of commercial television (which would be a radically different paper today) and the other on the origins of the Cold War, and he hadn't started either two days before they were due. He got them done. On a  typewriter, no less.

Anyway, despite how frantic the last few days have been, TB can still stop and appreciate something that is, well, he's not quite sure what it is.

TB is afraid of geese. They're mean. When you get near them, they hiss. And not in a friendly, inviting way. No, in a get-away-from-me-or-you'll-regret-it way.

If you've ever walked near a goose who has the little geese all scattered around, then they really get protective. They spread their wings. They'll even chase after you.

That's if you're walking near them. If you're driving and they're crossing the road, they could care less that you're barreling in on them. They take their sweet time.

No other non-human crossing a road would ever dream of doing this. Every other animal scurries away at the first hint that a car is coming, even if that means running directly into that car or another one.

Not geese. They just take their sweet time.

TB saw this picture of geese as they waddled across a road and was struck by a chicken/egg type question.

Is the sign with the geese there because that's where the geese always cross or did the geese see the sign and figure they were supposed to cross there?

Anyway, now that TB has that off his chest, he can talk about the banquet.

As always, TB would like to point out that there are only two times when the entire athletic class gets together with only the other athletes in that class, and that is freshman student-athlete orientation and the PVC banquet.

And the distance between the two flies by. At least that's what every soon-to-be graduate will say tonight.

TB has always been fascinated by that dynamic.

He's there for both.

At every freshman athlete orientation, he looks around the room and wonders what will happen for each of them, what kind of individual experience each will have, and ultimately whose bios will he be including for the Roper and von Kienbusch Awards.

The Class of 2013 has accomplished some amazing things together, and the number of award winners will reflect that. Some of the best athletes ever to play their sports at Princeton are members of this class, and that is no exaggeration.

There is so much that goes into the collective experience of an athletic class.

They come to Princeton from all over the country and in some cases the world, and they are thrown together under the heading of "Princeton Athletics."

And then they go down their own paths. They cross their own roads, much like the geese, only without a sign that tells each one of them where they're supposed to be.

And then the reach the other side.

Tonight is a chance for them to look back across the road that they traveled to reach the Grad College, in advance of graduation and with their college athletic careers behind them (except for a handful of track and field athletes and rowers, whose careers extend another week).

As for TB, he always has the same sense when he's at a PVC banquet, and that is that he can't believe another year has come and gone.

For the athletes, none of them ever believe that their four years have come and gone.

Tonight is a celebration of those four years, for the class of 2013.

It's been quite a class, and quite a four years.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nine For Oregon

TigerBlog was reading a comparison on, of all places, laxpower about, of all things, which movie is funnier, "Stripes" or "Animal House."

TB will now give his two cents.

"Stripes" is one of the funniest movies he's ever seen. If you've never seen it, go watch it. Bill Murray plays John Winger, a complete failure who is reaching his 30s and has no idea what to do with his life, until he sees a commercial about the Army.

On a whim, he signs up, along with his equally frustrated friend Russell Ziskey, played by Harold Ramis. As the two go through basic training under the encouraging eye of Sgt. Hulka, they meet all kinds of characters, including a not-so-lean, mean fighting machine named Dewey Oxberger, in John Candy's best performance.

The movie is one hilarious moment after another, right up until the end, where our heroes save America from the Russians, or something like that, all with the help of one "heavily armed recreation vehicle."

TB saw it on the day it came out in 1981, at the theater on Route 9 in Freehold. Not the one at Pond Road. The other one. Since then, he's seen it probably, oh, a million times, and there hasn't been a week that's gone by where he hasn't quoted at least one line from the movie.

It's in the top five of funniest movies he's ever seen.

It's not "Animal House."

For TB's money, "Animal House" is the funniest movie ever made. It's also the first R-rated movie he ever saw in the movies, also in Freehold, but at the theater that was across the street from the car wash, in the same strip mall as an Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips.

"Animal House" is a perfect spoof of college life, complete with perfect characters who accomplish something difficult, and that is to approach being caricatures without ever crossing the line and therefore remaining human - and hysterical.

TB has also seen this movie a million times, and it's funny every single time he sees it again. Also like "Striples," "Animal House" has been quoted by TB on a weekly basis.

In much the same way as it's impossible to do for "Stripes," it's also impossible for TB to pick his single favorite line, because there are just too many great ones.

TB always knew that "Animal House" was filmed at the University of Oregon.

What he didn't realize is that a bunch of other colleges passed on the opportunity to have it filmed there because of the crudeness of the movie. Oregon's president at the time, William Beaty Boyd, had been at another college in California that wouldn't allow "The Graduate" to be filmed there, and he felt like he had missed out on a chance to be part of something special.

At least that's what Wikipedia says.

And so it came to be that the University of Oregon was the host for the filming of the funniest movie ever made. That's what the school is known for.

Well, that and crazy football uniforms.

And track and field.

It's hard to argue against Oregon as being the one place to see a track meet. Beginning next Wednesday, nine Princeton athletes will get to see a meet at Oregon from the inside out, as they will compete at the NCAA championships.

Princeton will be sending six men and three women to compete at legendary Hayward Field, the host for the championships.

There were some big performances and big heartaches at the qualifying round last weekend, and the group of nine that advances is thought to be the most Princeton has ever sent to the finals.

Their events are pretty varied, from the 400 hurdles (Austin Hollimon) to two in the 10K (Chris Bendtsen and Michael Franklin) to a hammer thrower (Julia Ratcliffe) to a triple jumper (Imani Oliver).

Princeton's 4x400 men's relay team qualified, with Dinkins, Hollimon, Tom Hopkins and Daniel McCord. Greta Feldman will run the 1,500.

A year ago, Princeton sent six athletes to the championships and came back with an individual winner, as Donn Cabral won the steeplechase.

This year there is no Princeton athlete who is a clear favorite to win, though that was also the case in the winter, when Princeton won the distance medley relay NCAA championship.

And, beyond winning, Princeton does figure to come back with multiple All-Americas.

The Princeton track and field programs have had overwhelming success in the last few years, and this year has been no different.

The Tigers, one could say, are on quite a run.

And now that run takes them all the way to Hayward Field, for the biggest meet on the most famous stage.

Yes. Quite a run.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Other No. 3

The question leading up to the men's lacrosse Final Four was all about who could stop No. 3.

The consensus was that nobody could, and as a result, his team would run away with the championship.

As it turned out, everyone was right. It's just that they all had the wrong No. 3.

More on that in a minute.

This past weekend was TigerBlog's 19th NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four in 22 years, and as it always is, the event is one of his favorite weekends on the calendar. He offers his congratulations to Duke, who defeated Syracuse 16-10 yesterday to win its second title in four years.

The final is always on Memorial Day, and the significance of the day is never lost on those who are in attendance. It's a day to celebrate freedom - and a reminder that that freedom has come with a cost.

And, if the holiday itself fails to get that point across, there were a few other ways this weekend in which it was obvious.

First, there were the bomb-sniffing dogs that greeted the team buses before they were allowed to enter Lincoln Financial Field.

When TigerBlog pulled his car into the reserved lot inside the gates of the stadium, it was checked for explosives as well, with the mirror that goes under the car and with a search of the interior of the car. And with giant barricades that had to be lowered and raised as each car entered.

Actually, getting into the Linc was sort of like getting into the White House.

It's the world we live in these days, a world that has people who would put bombs in cars and drive them into crowded places, even at sporting events.

And then there are others who say, no, it's okay, it's not just about having an easy life, there's something more important out there. Those people go off to do something about it, and they do it so that the rest of us don't have to. And some of them don't come back.

And that's what Memorial Day is all about.

That's why TB always loves the moments before the start of each championship game, like the one yesterday, when a giant flag was unfurled on the field and players from both Syracuse and Duke helped participated, along with members of the military. Seeing the interaction between players who were about to play a huge game and members of the armed forces who do their work away from big crowds in big stadiums with big TV audiences was phenomenal.

As for the tournament itself, No. 3 was in fact the runaway MVP and No. 3's team was the runaway winner.

It wasn't Cornell's Rob Pannell, the No. 3 that everyone expected. Nope. Pannell's brilliant career ended with a five-goal, two-assist, 20-shot performance in the semifinals, when Cornell fell to Duke 16-14.

The No. 3 who ran away with the Most Outstanding Player - and who carried his team to the championship - was Duke's Brendan Fowler, who won 20 of 28 face-offs and had 14 ground balls. Because of Fowler, Duke was able to erase an early 5-0 deficit and sprint past the Orange with a 12-1 run.

At one point, Fowler won 13 straight face-offs. SU tried six different face-off men, including three different long poles, and nothing ever really worked until the game was way out of hand.

The first four games of the weekend (the two Division I semifinals, the Division II final and the Division III final) at the Linc were decided by a total of six goals. The Division I championship game matched that total all by itself.

Oh, and speaking of the Linc, TB couldn't believe how nice every single person who worked there was. Everywhere he went in the stadium he was greeted by cheeriness and smiles, which is somewhat the opposite of Philadelphia's reputation.

Those who think the face-off has too much of an impact on the game would point to a game like yesterday's as proof.  TB agrees to a point, but he wouldn't do anything to change the rules, like giving possession to the defense after a goal or something like that.

TigerBlog will remember the 2013 season as one that got away from Princeton in a few unfortunate moments, mostly against Syracuse and North Carolina. As a result, the Tigers had to watch the NCAA tournament, rather than play in it.

Next year? TB is already excited about the Tigers' chances, led by Tom Schreiber, who will be a senior, and a roster that loses only five seniors from this year. Princeton returns nine starters next year. Actually, the Tigers return 11, if you count Forest Sonnenfeldt and Tucker Shanley, who also return after missing this year because of injuries.

Ah, but that is nine months away.

This weekend? It was about the 2013 champion Duke Blue Devils.

And a reminder of what Memorial Day is really all about.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Athletic Diversity

TigerBlog has spent much of the week working on the video for next week's Princeton Varsity Club awards banquet.

Among other things, the video each year is a great reminder for TigerBlog of the amazing diversity of athletic talent that gathers under the heading of "Princeton Athletics."

TB long ago bought into the concept of having 38 varsity teams and 1,000 varsity athletes and the philosophy of treating all of them as equally as possibly. Not completely equally, which would be impossible.

Still, you can't be part of Princeton Athletics if you don't agree with that way of thinking.

Projects like the video always get TB thinking about how all of these athletes came to play the sports they played, and if athletic ability is interchangeable. TB has mentioned both of these a few times in the past.

Forgetting size considerations, could a good fencer be a good football player? Are all 1,000 of them just great athletes who, for whatever reason, drifted into one sport over another?

And how did that happen?

What role does fate play? How much of it has to do with where someone grew up and what sports were big in that area, or what sports didn't exist in that area?

The video is a once-a-year reminder of all of this.

The webpage is a daily one.

TB is always amazed at the randomness of the stories that make up the top seven on at any given moment. They could be almost anything at any time.

As TB sat down to write, the seven stories consisted of two on women's golf, one on men's lacrosse, one on each water polo team, one on track and field and one on men's tennis.

That's a pretty wild mix.

The first three were all about Princeton athletes in NCAA postseason competition, and all three are about not-to-be-taken-for-granted accomplishments.

Matija Pecotic's Princeton career ended yesterday with a loss in the second round of the NCAA men's tennis tournament. It was the last Princeton appearance for Pecotic, who came from Malta and became the first three-time Ivy League men's tennis Player of the Year - and the 11th in any sport.

As an aside, TB has some pretty good video of Pecotic bouncing the ball on the side of his racket.

Then there's the second story, the one about Kelly Shon at the NCAA women's golf championships.

Shon qualified the hard way, as one of six individuals who made the field of 126 during the qualifying rounds without having her team advance.

Shon sits at eight-over through three rounds, which puts her in the top half of the field. Shon, the second Princeton women's golfer to reach the NCAA finals, has one more round to play.

She finished her third round in 55th place, which is also third among the six individual qualifiers.

When Shon's final round is over, then the 2012-13 academic year will be down to just the national championships in rowing and track and field.

The first of three days of qualifying for the NCAA track and field championships was yesterday, and Princeton is at the Eastern regional, at North Carolina A&T.

Princeton has 23 athletes competing, all of whom are looking to advance to the NCAA finals in Eugene, Ore., in early June.

Twenty-three. That's a lot.

At Princeton, it's sort of taken for granted that track and field athletes will reach this level and even the finals. Why wouldn't it, when it seems to happen every year?

But it's not an easy path to get there.

Keep that in mind as you read the list of those who make it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Opening Kickoff

So what kind of conversation do you hear in the men's lockerroom in the middle of the afternoon, especially when a few football coaches are heading off to work out?

Well, if it's the Caldwell Field House lockerroom and it was yesterday, then the discussion turned to a relatively simple question: Who is the coolest animated or computer-generated character ever?

It actually started with whether or not Woody or Buzz Lightyear was cooler, though TigerBlog had them both in his top five or so. And if you don't know who Woody and Buzz are, well, TB isn't telling you.

There were some interesting choices thrown around, even when TB thinks there is only one possible answer, and it's Bugs Bunny, obviously.

When one of the assistant coaches said that Bugs wasn't really all that tough, TB reminded him of how many mob guys, pirates and Hessians Bugs had taken down by himself, not to mention the catch he made on the top of the Empire State Building.

Maybe one day in the summer TB will explore this topic in greater depth.

Today, he'd rather talk about actual humans.

It's not easy being a college football coach.

TB isn't sure what the exact ratio would be, though it has to be massively in favor of time spent recruiting over time spent coaching. It's not easy filling out a roster that size.

TigerBlog has always been amazed by the dynamic that exists for coaches, who put their final product out in public to be so easily judged. Either they win or they lose, and everyone in the building knows it.

At the same time, there's so much that goes into those moments, from identifying prospects to recruiting to off-season to preseason to practice and all.

If you're a spectator, you see the final product and go about your business to the next game. If you're the coach, it's never-ending.

And for football, it's even more pronounced, especially in the Ivy League. There are 10 Saturdays, all in a row, and then nearly 300 other days in the year to get ready for those 10 Saturdays.

Assistant coaches travel everywhere looking for players, and they seem to disappear and reappear in Jadwin as the NCAA's approved recruiting calendar dictates. It's easy to lose track of just how long they're on the road.

During yesterday's highly intellectual conversation, it dawned on TB that he hadn't even looked at Princeton's 2013 football schedule yet, so he did so after squash.

The 2013 season is a reversal of the 2012 season, with the same 10 opponents in the same order, only home is now away and away is now home.

That means a Sept. 21 opener against home against Lehigh, followed by a trip to Georgetown.

Then it's the Ivy opener at home against Columbia, followed by another home game against Lafayette.

After that, it's a two-game swing on the road at Brown and Harvard, teams that Princeton beat at home last year, the latter in somewhat dramatic fashion. The season's last four weeks go home with Cornell, at Penn, home with Yale, at Dartmouth.

The 2014 season has three different non-league opponents, with the season-opener at San Diego and the home opener against Davidson, as well as the return of Colgate.

Princeton went from 1-9 in 2010 and 2011 to 5-5 last year, including 4-3 in the Ivy League. The Tigers return key players on both sides of the ball, and of course there will be the newcomers as well.

The 2013 season figures to be a pretty good one for Princeton.

Of course, the 2012-13 academic year isn't quite over. Hey, the NCAA track and field regionals begin today, and Matija Pecotic and Kelly Shon are still competing in NCAA tennis and golf. The rowing national championships are still to come.

Still, TB couldn't help but think of the absurdity of how soon it will be before the 2013-14 one begins.

The first football game is less than four months away. It'll be here in a blink.

How wild is that?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Racket Man

TigerBlog played tennis in high school.

He's played squash for the last 10 years or so.

He played racquetball maybe once or twice in his life.

Actually, he's not sure how he got into playing tennis, rather than something like baseball. He was an above average Little League player, better glove than bat and maybe better pitcher than either, and yet he would never play again after he was 12.

He does remember the day when he hit a grand slam in the top of the sixth of a tie game, only to see the other team score five runs in the bottom of the sixth to win it. That sort of stole some of his thunder.

They didn't have lacrosse back then by the Jersey Shore, and in fact he never saw a game live until college. Now? Basically everyone is playing lacrosse there.

Anyway, he got into playing tennis in middle school. In fact, when he couldn't find someone to play, he'd ride his bike the one mile from his house to the middle school and hit against the wall there.

He turned into a reasonably good high school tennis player, certainly not nearly good enough to play on the team at Penn.

He first played squash at Penn against BrotherBlog, and he didn't really get it that one time they played.

Looking back, had he had the opportunity to play squash instead of tennis in middle school, he could have been a college squash player - or at least on the bottom of the Penn squash ladder.

TB thought back to whether or not he could have been on the Penn squash team yesterday in the supermarket, when he saw someone (whom he did not know or who didn't look remotely familiar) wearing a very familiar shirt, one that said "U of P I.A."

Back when TB was in college, those shirts were given to the athletes, and the letters stood for "University of Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletics." The guy in the supermarket, TB supposed, was a rower, since he had a hat with a rowing logo on it.

TB's friend Stephen Ehrlich walked onto the men's volleyball team at Penn and actually turned into a pretty good player in his career. He came back from tryouts adorned with all the gear. Had TB known about squash back in the 1970s, who knows. He too could have a faded gray t-shirt.

Of the three racket sports, raquetball is by far the most different. The racket is smaller and doesn't have strings. The ball bounces all over the place, so chasing it down isn't as hard as it is in squash, where the ball is smaller and harder and doesn't bounce as much.

A squash racket looks like a smaller tennis racket, in much the way that a pony looks like a small horse.

In squash, the ball doesn't bounce at all at first. As the match goes on, the ball gets hotter and hotter, which makes it bounce a little more. Still, it's on the player to chase the ball all over the court, rather than how it is in racquetball.

TigerBlog has only played tennis a handful of times in the last 20 or so years. He doubts he could even swing the racket now, since it's so much heavier than a squash racket. Again, think horse and pony.

About 98% of the squash that TB has played in his life has been with (or should that be against) his OAC colleague Craig Sachson. At one point, Sachson was playing squash with TB on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and tennis with then-OACer David Rosenfeld on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That's not easy to do. Not with the difference in the racket, ball, court and everything else.

The college squash season is a relatively quick one compared to tennis. Squash plays in the late fall, takes about two months off and then finishes with a February/March sprint.

The college tennis season goes and goes, starting early in the fall and continuing through the NCAA championships.

Princeton's Matija Pecotic plays in the NCAAs today, when he takes on Amerigo Contini of Virginia Tech in the round of 64. The tournament is being held at the University of Illinois.

Pecotic, reached the NCAA singles tournament last year as an unseeded player and lost in the first round, is the first three-time men's tennis Ivy Player of the Year in league history, and he is only the 11th athlete across all sports to accomplish that feat.

If TB understands the bracket correctly, the top eight are seed and then next eight are considered 9-16 seeds, and ostensibly randomly placed in the draw. Pecotic, a native of Malta, is a 9-16 and could meet the top seed, Mikelis Libietis of Tennessee in the round of 16.

Pecotic is the 15th ranked player in the country.

Though TB long ago bailed on tennis, he's still impressed with what it takes to play it well. It's a very athletic game, one that combines speed and power.

Pecotic, from the few times TB has seen him play, has both, as well as extraordinary on-court charisma.

Imagine how good he could have been at squash.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lacrosse Pioneer

TigerBlog is a fan of the "Winners/Losers" weekly feature on Inside Lacrosse's website.

He's a bit stunned, though, that this past weekend's biggest winner, by far, wasn't mentioned.

Bill Tierney's Denver Pioneers rallied to defeat North Carolina 12-11 Sunday to reach the Final Four. Denver had given up the first six goals of the game, in the first six minutes no less, and looked like it was going to be run out of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis by the Tar Heels.

As an aside, TB predicted a Denver-Carolina final before the seedings were announced and then predicted a Carolina championship once the draw was known. The Denver-Carolina game is the only one of the 12 played so far that TB has gotten wrong from his pre-tournament selections. 

Anyway, TigerBlog worked with Tierney for the final 20 of his 22 seasons at Princeton, and his admiration for the Hall of Fame coach is no secret.

Neither, by the way, is his admiration for Chris Bates, Tierney's replacement at Princeton, who had to do what is never easy, and that is follow a person who in many ways was bigger than the program itself. So many coaches have failed in that situation, because the pressure to follow such a big name is enormous.

And yet Bates from Day 1 established that this was his program, done his way. He is clearly the perfect person for Princeton lacrosse right now. In fact, were it not for a little bad luck at some inopportune moments against Syracuse and Carolina, Princeton would have gotten the chance to keep this season going - and it still might be going.

Either way, the Tigers are very well-positioned for 2014.

As for Tierney, his first season at Princeton was 1988. Prior to that, Princeton had last won an Ivy League championship in 1967 and had never once played in the NCAA tournament.

In his 22 years at Princeton, Tierney won six NCAA championships, made eight NCAA finals and 10 Final Fours and won 14 Ivy titles.

He then left Princeton for Denver, and a program that had made two NCAA tournament appearances and had never won an NCAA game prior to his arrival. Tierney has taken the Pioneers to four NCAA tournaments in four years, including a Final Four in 2011, a quarterfinal loss by one to eventual-champion Loyola last year and now another Final Four this year.

His record is extraordinary.

Actually, no, it's not. It's beyond extraordinary.

TigerBlog can't remember an NCAA tournament game Tierney had at Princeton where the Tigers came from six goals back, but he does remember two 8-4 third-quarter deficits that Princeton had to overcome (against Duke in the 1998 quarterfinals and 1998 semifinals). TB could imagine that Tierney had the same approach Sunday against Carolina that he had in those games, which was basically to stay focused, not get caught up in the moment and realize that there was plenty of time left.

Of all the thousands of things TB has heard Tierney say, one that has always stuck with him is this: When things are going poorly, stop and think what it is you do best and then go do that.

TigerBlog has found himself asking the question lately of what it is that has made Tierney excel beyond the level of even the greatest lacrosse coaches. Why is it that Tierney has been able to twice now take over programs that were afterthoughts and turn them into national powerhouses?

This wasn't John Calipari to Kentucky or Phil Jackson to the Lakers or Nick Saban to Alabama. It wasn't John Danowski to Duke. As acclaimed as the records of lacrosse coaches like Dom Starsia or John Desko or Dave Pietramala are, they are coaching at places (Virginia, Syracuse, Hopkins) where they have every possible advantage.  

What Tierney has done is even more impressive. There's a reason that Jackson had no interest in the Nets or Cavaliers. It's because he knew he couldn't win NBA titles there, and why would he want to tarnish his legacy by possibly failing?

Tierney could have failed miserably at Denver. It was a big risk.

Sure, he's a great Xs and Os coach. His defensive schemes at Princeton changed the sport. His offensive conversations with Pete Carril were legendary.

But it's beyond that. What is the one trait that he has, and is it common to the very elite coaches? 

TB has always been impressed by Tierney's ability to motivate, to get his guys to play so hard for him - and to play with something of a chip on their shoulders, even when Princeton had some of the best teams and players the sport has ever seen.

Maybe it's as simple as that. Maybe there's something way more sophisticated about it, but TB doesn't think so.

Either way, TB will be at his 19th Final Four in 22 years this weekend when the games are played at Lincoln Financial Field. For the ninth straight year, TB will be doing official stats for the five games (Division I semifinals, Division II and III finals and Division I final).

As such, there will be impartiality when it comes to his job and proper press box demeanor, which means no cheering.

Outwardly anyway.

Inside, he'll be rooting for Denver.

Actually, he's rooting not as much for Denver as he is for Bill Tierney, the greatest lacrosse coach of all time.

Monday, May 20, 2013

27 Years

There used to a show called "Make Me Laugh" in which comedians would have 60 seconds to make the contestant laugh and the contestant would get one dollar for every second he/she could go without laughing.

There'd be three rounds with three different comedians. If a contestant could go all 180 seconds without laughing, then the prize was doubled to the maximum $360.

Had those rules applied to the 71-minute running time of the series finale of "The Office," then TigerBlog would have won $8,520, assuming that it was doubled for going the distance.

There wasn't anything in the show that made TB laugh. The only line that came close was near the end, when Michael, who made an uninspired return for the finale, said something like "I feel like my kids have grown up and married each other. It's every parent's dream come true."

There was a time when TB wouldn't have won more than $60 on "The Office," because there was a time when "The Office" was as funny as any show has ever been. Some of the early episodes are beyond clever and creative, with that rarest of a combination of near-perfect writing, a near-perfect ensemble cast and the absolute perfect leading man, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, who has to be in the Top 10 - and maybe closer to Top 3 - of all-time sitcom characters.

And all of this wrapped around a great setting - a dull, barely existing paper company in Scranton, Pa. - with a format that was fresh and unique at the time.

Never mind the question of why a documentary would be made about these people and this company. It was just a part of the equation that made the show that much more creative.

Eventually, sometime after Jim and Pam got together, "The Office" started to fade. Then, when Carell left, it became the TV equivalent of a  Hall-of-Fame pitcher who bounces around team-to-team long after his prime.

It wasn't funny anymore. In fact, it was worse than that. It was just a soap opera, with characters who had become caricatures.

TB gave up on it long ago and actually was a bit surprised to see it was still on. In fact, he doesn't know too many people who stayed with it to the end.

In fact, the show got so bad and so unfunny that it made watching the reruns that much more difficult, because it was a reminder of just how great the show had once been.

"Seinfeld" is, in TB's opinion, one of the most overrated shows of all time. Interestingly, it too

At its best, "Seinfeld" was classic stuff, also as funny and clever as anything that had ever been on before, with its blend of a real-life Jerry and his fictionalized friends. What made it hilarious was the idea that people could watch it and say "that happens to me all the time." What made it stop being funny was its move into trying - way too hard - to drive pop culture and to have ridiculous fringe characters, and the result was a show in which the audience went from laughing at the absurdity of what real life situations can bring to an audience that laughed out of habit and tuned in each week hoping it would go back to what it once was.

Except it never did. It was too forced at the end. And its series finale was simply awful.

"The Office" series finale? It was cute. It did a good job of wrapping it all up. It just wasn't funny. 

The lesson? It's hard to do something really well for that long a period of time.

In anything.

TV shows. Music.

Even intercollegiate athletics.

The 2013-14 Ivy League year is over, having ended this weekend with the rowing championships. Princeton won the women's open rowing title - by a lot.

In fact, it was a nearly seven-second win over second-place Yale. In rowing, that's a blowout.

For the women's open rowing team, it means an automatic bid to the NCAA championships.

For Princeton Athletics, it meant a 12th Ivy League championship for the year. It also put the finishing touch on the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship.

Princeton won the championship, compiling 215 points for the year. Points, by the way, are awarded based on finish in Ivy standings (regular season or championship event, depending on how the league crowns a champ for that particular sport), with first worth eight points, second worth seven, etc.

If there is a tie, then the points are split, so that a tie for third means 5.5 points for both teams.

Princeton won last year's championship by a single point over Harvard, 191.5-190.5 .This year, the margin was comfortable, with Harvard second with 187.5 and then Cornell with 146.5.

Harvard was second in league championships won, with nine.

In addition to its 12 league champions, Princeton also had eight other teams finish in second place. Of its 33 teams that compete for Ivy titles, Princeton had 31 finish in the top half of the league.

And so for Princeton, that makes 27 straight years of having won the all-sports points championship.

And, as of today, everybody in the league goes back to zero and starts over again for next year.

Past performance, as they say, doesn't guarantee future performance.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Heavyweights, Lightweights And Opens

TigerBlog is looking pretty good these days.

Well, at least better than he looked two months ago.

TB has been dieting, and the result has been a loss of about 15 pounds. Mostly what he's done is eliminate red meat, pasta and bread from the daily routine, as well as anything that would be considered sweets.

Yup, that means not a single M&M for more than seven weeks. No ice cream. None of the mini Kit Kat bars that sat in a candy jar on the desk of a coworker.

TB has been at multiple events, including the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament, where there have been plates of cookies, brownies and cakes. Before the diet, TB would have put up big numbers with such a spread.

And now? Nothing.

It wasn't easy.

So what has he been eating? Lots and lots and lots of fruit, vegetables and fish. Lots of salad. Lots of baked potatoes, which, though being a starch, still fits in with what his doctor told him: If it comes out of the ground, you can eat it.

Baked potatoes make a good lunch. In fact, TB has his fourth one of the week waiting in the fridge as he writes this. No butter though. Well, just a little. And either peas, green beans, mushrooms and/or broccoli mixed in.

Oh, and salads? No smothering it in ranch dressing anymore.

TigerBlog loves cantaloupe, but it's a real pain to cut it up and all. The same is true if you buy an actual pineapple. Grapes are good, the red ones over the green ones.

Mostly he's eaten apples and bananas.

Apples come in all different varieties. TB likes the crispy crunchy kind, so he goes with gala. Also, it's a must to have cold apples, as opposed to room temperature ones.

And then there are bananas, which have to be about the toughest food in the world to figure out. Do you buy the green ones? The yellow ones?

How many days do you need to wait to eat them when you buy them, because they're rarely ready to eat at first. And then there are the old ones. They turn brown on the outside and look like they've rotted long before they actually have. So when do you throw the old ones out?

Can TB keep this new way of eating going? He hopes so.

TigerBlog has a long way to go before he'd be in the lightweight boat, so for as much as his diet has been working, he'd still be a heavyweight rower.

It's a big weekend for Ivy League rowing, as the men will compete in Eastern Sprints on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., and the women will be at the Ivy League championships in South Jersey on the Cooper River.

The Ivy League crowns 33 team champions each year. If you've forgotten, the five Princeton teams that don't compete for an Ivy League title are men's and women's water polo, sprint football, men's volleyball and women's lightweight rowing, who finished second last weekend at Eastern Sprints.

So far in the 2012-13 academic year, the Ivy League champion has been determined in 30 of those 33 sports, and as always, the rowing titles awarded this weekend will be the final ones of the year.

Princeton has won 11 Ivy titles this academic year. Harvard and Cornell have won seven each, so no matter what happens this weekend, Princeton will have won the most. Also, Princeton has already clinched the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship.

The Harvard men are the top seed for both the lightweight and heavyweight races. Princeton is the third seed among the lightweights and fourth seed among the heavies.

As an aside, as TB understands it, the lightweights are determined by the overall weight of everyone in the boat, rather than by a weight-limit for each individual.

The women switched from competing in the Eastern Sprints to having an Ivy League championship a year ago, largely because having an Ivy championship gets the league an automatic bid to the NCAA championships.

The NCAA champion is determined by the overall points totals awarded through races involving three boats, the first varsity 8, the second varsity 8 and the varsity 4.

The Ivy League champion is the first varsity 8 winner, but the automatic bid goes to the other two boats from that school as well.

Princeton, by the way, has twice had the first varsity 8 NCAA champion boat but not won the overall NCAA championship. Princeton is one of three schools to have competed at every NCAA championships since the event began back in 1997, along with Brown and Washington.

For this Ivy championship, the Princeton first varsity 8 is the number one seed, though it is hardly a lock that the Tigers will win. Princeton has defeated No. 2 Yale, who has defeated No. 3 Radcliffe, who has defeated the Tigers.

The weather should be perfect and the racing should be fast.

And if you'll excuse TigerBlog, he has a banana to go eat.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stronger Than The Storm

TigerBlog can't even remember what he was watching last night when the commercial came on. Maybe it's because the commercial was so good.

It was the "Stronger Than The Storm" commercial, the one with Governor Christie and his family and some others, inviting people back to the Jersey Shore this summer.

The title refers to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the Jersey Shore and other areas back on Oct. 29. The inference is that New Jersey is, as the title says, stronger than Sandy, and as devastating as Sandy was, New Jersey - and especially the Shore - is too tough.

When TigerBlog is asked where he grew up, he usually says near the Jersey Shore. Not on the beach per se. Just close enough to it to go whenever he wanted, without having to plan or rent a beach house or anything.

It wasn't until he got to college that he realized that people actually had to plan beach vacations and trips and all, rather than simply roll out of bed, decide it was a good beach day and know that toes could be on sand within 20 minutes.

The roller coaster that was demolished in the Atlantic Ocean off of Seaside Heights two days ago was part of a boardwalk and amusement park that TB went to often when he was in high school. His favorite ride there was, for the record, the pirate ship.

And then last October, it all was wiped out in one act of nature.

TB has been to the Shore since then, and it was a heart-breaking sight. Roads closed. Beach access denied. Houses wiped out.

Now, as Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start of the summer tourism season - closes in, the Shore is most of the way to it's comeback. And the mantra "Stronger Than The Storm" is perfect.

While he's been blessed to have traveled around the country and the world, TigerBlog has lived all of his life basically within a 50-mile radius of where he currently sits.

There is something different about New Jersey, which sits between New York City and Philadelphia and tries to fight its way out of the shadow of both, especially NYC. It's often the butt of jokes and not always a pretty state, politically or oil refinery-wise, but it has it's own personality, that's for sure.

The biggest news in college athletics in New Jersey yesterday was the hiring by Rutgers of its new Director of Athletics, Julie Hermann, who comes to the school after being the No. 2 person at Louisville.

The fact that she is the third female AD at a BCS school isn't nearly as big a deal as is the task in front of her, and she too will need to be stronger than any storm.

Rutgers finds itself reeling a bit these days after the Mike Rice situation, the forced resignation of its former AD (the very well-liked Tim Pernetti) and the recent revelation that new men's basketball coach Eddie Jordan isn't actually a Rutgers graduate.

Beyond that, Rutgers, much like the state itself, wrestles with finding its own identity in the shadow of some of the giants of college athletics, and that's only going to intensify more as the school moves to the Big 10.

Rutgers ended the winter tied for 102nd in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, tied with Brown, as a matter of fact. Princeton, as a point of reference, is 26th.

The hiring of Hermann as RU AD became a bigger story than the hiring of Pernetti was because of all the recent doings at the school, and because she's a woman, and because of her former employer.

TB is fascinated by it.

Rutgers is 20 minutes away from Princeton. The two played in the first college football game, back on Nov. 6, 1869. They continue to play annually in any number of sports, including men's and women's basketball and lacrosse.

On the other hand, Rutgers is heading into the Big 10, a league by the way for which it is a much better fit than it ever was in the Big East, and as it does so, its eyes are firmly on becoming a national big-time football power, and men's basketball to a slightly lesser extent.

Princeton is in the Ivy League and will be in the Ivy League forever.

Rutgers has basically been at the forefront of the conference realignment situation, and its move to the Big 10 is a huge piece of that puzzle. Its impact resonated throughout big-time college athletics.

Princeton enjoys a level of stability in the tumultuous world of college athletics these days.

When TB read the stories (and comments under them) about Hermann's hiring, they were mostly about her lack of direct oversight experience in football. There was almost no talk about a broad-based commitment, the kind that is the cornerstone of Princeton and Ivy League athletics.

The differences between Rutgers and Princeton have always fascinated TB, largely because they basically started in the same place athletically and academically.

Both were among the nine pre-Colonial colleges and universities (seven Ivies minus Cornell, plus Rutgers and William & Mary). Their roots from that first football game bound them for decades after that.

Rutgers long ago went in a different direction than Princeton.

Maybe TB's fascination with it all is what Princeton Athletics would look like today if this school had made some of those same choices.

Yeah, that's it.

Either way, good luck to Julie Hermann. Hopefully she has a great tenure on the banks of the Raritan, a place 20 minutes away - and in another universe.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remembering An Old Friend On A Day With Nothing To Say

TigerBlog has been procrastinating.

Why? Because he couldn't think of anything to write about.

It happens once every few weeks. Eventually he comes up with something. He will today, too.

TB has never missed his self-imposed noon deadline, and he won't today either.

Some weeks he has it all figured out in advance. This Monday. That Tuesday. That Wednesday.

Other times he has some things in his mind that he wants to talk about, and so he uses them as reserve.

Most days, though, something just sort of presents itself, either over his Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies or on the drive in or when he starts to look at the day's headlines.



With nothing jumping out at him today, TB figured he'd look back to see what he wrote about this time last year.

If you go back exactly one year, to May 15, 2012, then he wrote about how there were no more event meetings for the year. If you go back 52 weeks, to Wednesday, May 16, 2012, then there was a guest TigerBlog by men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, on the end of the Premier League season.

Perhaps inspired by the fact that Barlow wrote such a good piece, TB decided to ask the next coach who walked by to write a guest TB for him. That coach turned out to be water polo coach Luis Nicolao, which led to this exchange:

TB: Want to write a guest blog?
LN: Sure. Can I write about how great the Oakland Raiders' draft was?

TB isn't sure of which is more likely: the Raiders' draft class' dominating and returning the Silver and Black to prominence or Nicolao's writing a guest blog.

Intrigued, TB went back exactly two years and then 104 weeks to see what he wrote.

Back in 2011, the subjects were Princeton's league-record 15th Ivy League championship of that academic year and then how Sam Mulroy had inadvertently been named Ivy baseball Player of the Year, only to be told later it was a math error and then how Mulroy said that it was okay with him because he didn't want to win an award he hadn't earned.

In 2010?

The entry on this Wednesday was about how Princeton had locked up the Ivy League's all-sports points championship again. The entry on May 15? There wasn't one, because it was a Sunday. On Monday the 16th? TB wrote about how Princeton had lost a tough game to Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, to an ND team that would go on to lose in the championship game in OT.

The Princeton-ND entry centered around Chris Bates' comment that "the finality is hard to stomach," which remains perhaps the best commentary TB has ever heard about how harsh the end of college seasons can be, something that was true for both the men and women this year.

And in 2009?

On May 15, TB wrote about the next day's NCAA lacrosse quarterfinal between Princeton and Cornell and had a pretty good analysis of what might happen. He never would have in his wildest dreams thought that it was going to be Bill Tierney's final game as Tiger head coach and that Tierney would leave for Denver a month later.

That game, by the way, would be won 6-4 by Cornell. The Big Red led 5-1 at halftime, and Princeton then played ferocious defense the rest of the way, allowing only one second-half goal. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell short in a game that's in the top five all-time of outcomes that still bother TB (the men's basketball game against Michigan State in the second round of the 1998 NCAA tournament is first).

On the Wednesday of that week, TB wrote a more poignant piece about the death of Gary Pietruch, who was the long-time engineer at the studio for Princeton games on the radio. TB had talked to Pietruch a million times on his headset as he connected, checked levels and broadcast games, but he'd never actually met him.

Then, on that morning, TB had seen Pietruch's obituary in the newspaper. It was a shocking experience, one that TB remembers vividly.

He then sat down and wrote this:
TigerBlog spoke to him all the time and never once actually saw him in person. When TB stumbled upon the obituary, he was at a total loss for words. In fact, when TB first saw it and saw that he was 52 years old, the first thought was that it had to be the father, since TB would have guessed that Gary was much younger. Even after reading that he had graduated from Ewing High and was active on the alumni committee there and that he had then gone to Mercer County College and Temple, and even after seeing that it listed his passion as radio, TigerBlog didn't believe it was the same person.
There have been many occassions in the 20 years that TB has been broadcasting Princeton sports that there has been worry about the engineer. Will he show up? Will he be on time? What if he isn't? Then what? How are we going to get on the air?
With Gary, there was never any of that. In fact, during men's lacrosse broadcasts, we had developed a routine. TB would get to the location of the game and call in to connect the radio equipment. This would then enable TB to hear what was playing on the station at that moment.
Eventually, around 40 minutes before gametime, TigerBlog would call into the studio and ask for Gary. He was there, of course, 100% of the time. He'd always answer the phone the same way, with an elongated calling of TB's first name, starting high and then getting deeper.
We'd exchange a few pleasantries, and then we'd do a check of levels. Once that was done, he'd tell me that he was playing the open in 15 minutes or whatever it was, and that would be it. TB would put his headset on in 14:30 and then go when the cue was played.
During the games, TigerBlog would often hear Gary's voice through the headset, reminding him to take a station ID at the top of the hour or that we were getting either ahead or behind in breaks or sometimes even to comment on how the game was going. The only time TB even got remotely mad at him was when a two-minute break would be requested and Gary would only put on one minute of commercials. In the grand scheme of things, that's not quite a big deal.
TB could often imagine his sitting in the studio on a beautiful day, listening to a game that he often said he had never seen and knew little about. It's a pity that it took until reading his obit to realize that the studio was where he loved to be.
After reading Gary Pietruch's obit, TigerBlog felt like he'd lost a friend. Perhaps he was a friend TB had never met, but a friend nonetheless.

On a day when TB had nothing to say, there are worse things to do than remember Gary Pietruch.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sour Grapes

TigerBlog wrote last week about the NCAA men's lacrosse selections and said very clearly that his thoughts should not be construed as sour grapes.

Now, after watching the first weekend of the tournament, TB is back with something that is a little closer to the sour grape department.

The eight teams remaining in the NCAA tournament include two that Princeton beat (Yale and Cornell, who is the interest of full disclosure also beat Princeton) and two others that Princeton lost to be one (top five seeds Syracuse and North Carolina).

Cornell blasted Maryland in the opening round in a game that was never close. Yale, down big at the half, thundered past Penn State in the second half.

What does this tell you? That the Ivy League was pretty good this year.

Loyola lost a tough first-round game to Duke, falling in the second OT after a great performance by Greyhounds goalie Jack Runkel, who made 22 saves. The key moment of that game came in the final minute of regulation, when on the face-off after Duke had tied the score, Loyola coach Charlie Toomey called timeout when his face-off man Blake Burkhart reached the box - and a split-second before Burkhart shot and beat Duke goalie Kyle Turri, only to have it waved off.

It wasn't easy for Toomey, who led the Hounds to last year's NCAA championship, to have to explain after the game what happened, but he absolutely 100% made the right call. Burkhart had one goal on the year, and had he shot wide, Duke would have probably gotten the ball back with plenty of time to clear and score.

As the chair of the committee said, the Greyhounds were the last team in, while Bucknell was the first team out. TB presumes that Princeton and Penn were the second and third teams out.

The logic for including Loyola was that the Greyhounds had a top five RPI win, which as TB detailed last week, was against Ohio State back in March when OSU was ranked 16th (in the polls, not in RPI).

Bucknell was left out because it did not have a top five win, though Bucknell did beat Cornell when ranked second in the polls (not in RPI, which hadn't been released yet). In fact, Bucknell's win over Cornell would have been a top five win had Princeton not beaten Cornell in the Ivy tournament semifinals, but it dropped out of the top five after that and knocked Bucknell out of the tournament.

In truth, Princeton's chance to get in the NCAA tournament was to win the Ivy tournament, and the Tigers were tied with Yale 6-6 in the third quarter of the final.

The team's at-large chances disappeared when Lehigh beat Bucknell in the Patriot League final and Towson upset Penn State in the ECAC final.

And going by the selection criteria, yes, Princeton should not have gotten an at-large bid, so this isn't really a situation where TB feels that Princeton was done in by the committee.

No, it was the criteria.  That's the problem. The criteria are black and white, with no room for gray area. And choosing a field should be all about the gray area of deciding Team A had a better year than Team B.

How to do that? Well, if it's done relying on RPI, then nothing distinguishes wins in April and May from wins in March and even February, and losses by one goal and 15 goals are treated equally.

Bucknell's claim to an at-large bid was a four-day stretch in March when it defeated Cornell and Albany. Of course, a win over Cornell was something Princeton also had. And Bucknell beat Cornell in the snow on a Tuesday in early March in a game in which Cornell's Steve Mock didn't play.

Loyola's big win was Ohio State, followed by Fairfield (a solid win) and Johns Hopkins (a team Princeton also beat, only back when JHU was playing better). And the Ohio State win to TB gets a big asterisk, as Ohio State beat Loyola 18-11 in the ECAC tournament three days before the selections.

Anyway, TB's point is that he saw nothing last week to convince him that Princeton wasn't one of the eight best teams in the country that didn't get an automatic bid.

Unfortunately, the team didn't get its chance, and it made watching the first round a bit unsatisfying.

TB's pre-tournament Final Four picks were North Carolina, Syracuse, Cornell and Duke.

When he gets to Lincoln Financial Field a week from Saturday for the Final Four, he'll be very surprised if it's not Cornell-Duke in one semi and far less surprised if it's Yale-Denver in the other.

Denver can score with anyone and can win enough face-offs to have enough possession to outrun the Tar Heels in a game that TB figures will have more than the 33 goals in the Denver-Albany game last weekend.

Yale could definitely impose its will on Syracuse by winning face-offs and dominating possession time. The Cuse won just one face-off against Bryant last week, and while Yale doesn't figure to win 22 of 23 like Bryant's Kevin Massa did, it's still a big advantage for the Bulldogs, who are playing great right now.

Oh, and in case you couldn't guess, TB is rooting for Denver to win the title.

Still, Carolina - woefully underseeded at No. 5 - is TB's pick to win it all. And why is that?

Carolina is the best team that TB has seen this year.

Princeton lost to Carolina by one. At Carolina.

Sour grapes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finding Consolation

TigerBlog turned on the women's lacrosse videostream Friday evening just in time to see a disallowed Princeton goal and an over-the-back call on a draw control that took possession away from the Tigers when they needed it most.

TB isn't saying either was a bad call. Far from it.

What he's saying is that Princeton's 10-9 loss to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament was obviously a tough one, and the finality of such a loss in the postseason is always cruel.

Almost nothing separated Princeton and Duke Friday night, other than the fact Duke got to move on and Princeton had its season ended abruptly after the charging call on the Princeton non-goal in the first OT and then the turnover on the draw control that led to the only possession of the sudden-death part of overtime, as the Blue Devils cashed it in for the game-winner.

Duke is still playing, after having doubled-up Navy 10-5 in the second round to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with No. 1 Maryland. Princeton, clearly Duke's equal, got to come home after the loss.

It's not an easy way for a season to come to a close. In fact it's downright harsh.

It's also the reality of the NCAA tournament, and TB has seen it so many times, from both sides.

TigerBog has been in both lockerrooms at those moments, and the 180-degree change in emotions stems from a 1-degree separation between the teams during the game. It comes as little consolation at that moment that it was a great game or that it was a great season. In the moment, it just stings.

Another Princeton team that lost in the NCAA tournament Friday had a wildly different emotional experience.

TigerBlog can't think of any other NCAA tournament that has a consolation round other than the water polo tournaments. In the case of the Princeton women's water polo team this weekend, there was all kinds of consolation after losing the first game.

Princeton played a close game against third-seeded UCLA Friday in the quarterfinal round before falling 8-6. After that, it was a win over Iona in the first consolation game and then an OT win over fifth-seeded UC San Diego yesterday for fifth place.

Princeton's Ashleigh Johnson broke the tournament record for saves with 38, including 14 yesterday in the win over UC San Diego.

USC won the title 10-9 over Stanford in the longest game in NCAA championship history, as it went through the two play-it-out overtimes and then into the third sudden death overtime.

TB also doesn't understand why the team that won its first game and lost its next two gets to be fourth and the team that loses its first and wins its next two gets to be fifth.

Still, Princeton came home with a 2-1 record in an eight-team field that included five teams from California plus one from Hawaii.

Princeton water polo, both the men and women (both coached by Luis Nicoloa and Derek Ellingson), is on a tremendous run in the last few years, and their best moments have come in the consolation rounds, which don't exist in other sports. The men have twice finished third, while the women have now gone 3-1 in the consolation rounds the last two years.

The golf championships don't quite have consolation rounds per se, but they do have a format that allows individuals to continue to advance beyond when their team is eliminated. That's something of a consolation, no?

Princeton's Kelly Shon, the Ivy League champion, played three rounds at Auburn this weekend knowing that if she finished among the top two individuals after the players from the eight teams that would advance that she would earn a spot in the NCAA finals May 21-24 at Georgia.

It's a tough way to play, because it's hard to know who the competition is from minute to minute, unless it's clear that the players nearest to you are also there as individuals.

Shon shot a 71-68-70 to go seven-under and finish second overall, eliminating any of the suspense. Shon's bid to the NCAA finals is Princeton's second and first since Mary Moan in 1997.

It's a huge accomplishment for Shon and for the Princeton program.

And those were some of the headlines from Princeton's weekend.

Consolation for some.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Open Wide

TigerBlog went to the dentist yesterday.

His dentist, Dr. Brody, is a nice guy. A Penn grad, which doesn't make him a bad person.

The stereotype, of course, has the dentist carrying on a conversation while the patient tries to answer, despite having all kinds of instruments, suction devices, cotton balls and fingers jammed in his/her mouth.

Bill Cosby did a great spoof of this in his one-man show from the 1980s.

"So, you do much fishing?"


"Oh, I've fished there many times myself."

TigerBlog isn't sure why people become dentists. If you're going to go through all that trouble to go to school that long and work that hard, why not become a doctor?

Why spend all day every day with your hands in people's mouths? TB doesn't even like putting his fingers in his own mouth.

On the other hand, somebody has to be a dentist, and Dr. Brody has the perfect temperament for it.

He's very calm, very pleasant. He doesn't overdo it on the hysteria about gums and stuff. He cleans your teeth, tells you to floss more, does an x-ray or two every few years and sends you on your way for another six months.

Oh, and he gives you a new toothbrush and floss when you leave. How great is that?

Dr. Brody has a flat screen in his office so patients can watch TV while sharp metal instruments are used to probe their teeth.

Yesterday, while TB was in the chair, the TV was on a news channel, and for the entire time he was watching, the only story covered was the Jodi Arias murder trial. TB gets it: attractive woman, tawdry details. What he doesn't get is why strangers outside a courthouse would cheer so happily and chant "USA, USA" when a verdict is read.

Or, for that matter, why a woman would thrust her middle finger into the face of Joakim Noam of the Chicago Bulls in Miami the other night, but hey, that's another story for another day.

Dr. Brody, in mid-clean, lamented what this said about contemporary America, how it's getting harder and harder to separate reality TV from reality.

TB agreed completely and said so. It came out this way: "mbdlaefjaosda."

When TB got back from the dentist, he saw the women's lacrosse team finishing its last practice before heading to Annapolis for the NCAA tournament. The Tigers take on Duke tonight at 7:15, and the winner gets the winner of Navy-Monmouth Sunday to advance to the quarterfinals in the 26-team field.

The athletic year at Princeton is quickly winding down, with very little left on the schedule.

The men's golf team is at Washington State next weekend for the NCAA regionals. The Ivy League rowing championships are next weekend as well, with the national championships to follow.

Track and field is still going strong, with the IC4A/ECAC championships here this weekend and then the NCAA events after that. Matija Pecotic of the men's tennis team competes next week in the NCAA tournament as well.

Kelly Shon of the women's golf team is trying to become one of two individuals to move out of her regional to the NCAA finals, other than the players on the eight teams that will qualify. Her 1-under yesterday in the first round has her in contention, with rounds today and tomorrow.

And then there's women's water polo, which plays this weekend in the NCAA championships as well. Princeton, the sixth-seed, plays No. 3 UCLA this afternoon at 3:30 in the quarterfinals and then is guaranteed two more games after that.

Though it seemed like it just began, the 2012-13 academic year will be completely finished soon.

The PVC senior awards banquet is coming up. So is Reunions. And graduation. And summer.

Time continues to fly. It must mean TB is in the right profession.

Beats shoving his fingers into strangers' mouths all day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Off To Annapolis

One of the best games that TigerBlog has ever seen was the one where Bobby Nystrom scored in overtime to beat the Flyers and give the Islanders their first Stanley Cup.

Of course, since it was in May 1980, it wasn't quite the best hockey game that TB had seen that year.

The "Miracle On Ice" notwithstanding, that Islanders-Flyers game was an extraordinary one, even before Nystrom's game-winner. TB isn't going to look up all the details, though he does remember a controversial goal after the Islanders appeared to be offsides and a back-and-forth OT before Nystrom's goal off a perfect feed from John Tonelli.

TigerBlog doesn't watch much of the NHL during the regular season. Actually, he doesn't watch much during the Stanley Cup playoffs either.

If he had to pick a favorite NHL team, it would be the Islanders, who won four straight Stanley Cups beginning with the one in 1980. The team has been awful for years, and being saddled with a long-out-of-date arena hasn't helped.

Now the team is in the playoffs again for the first time in a long time, tied 2-2 with the Penguins heading into tonight's Game 5 in Pittsburgh.

Like most casual NHL watchers, TB does recognize the drama of playoff overtime.

Last night, TB stumbled upon the Maple Leafs-Bruins game just as it was going to OT, so he stayed with it until the Bruins' game-winner.

TB was in Toronto once and absolutely loved it. He likes Boston as a city, but he would never, ever root for the Bruins. Some teams are just like that.

The drama of playoff overtimes is obvious, and it's even more acute in a Game 4 where one team leads 2-1. Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs (why isn't it Maple Leaves?), the series turned against them in a major way when they lost that game. Instead of 2-2, it's now 3-1 in favor of the Bruins, who have two home games left. That's a lot riding on one goal.

TB doesn't understand why women's lacrosse plays two three-minute overtimes and then goes to sudden death, rather than just starting out in sudden death, like hockey and men's lacrosse (and college soccer).

The drama quotient is way higher when the next goal wins, and TB has seen so many wild overtime games on the men's side, especially in NCAA championship games (Princeton has won four of its six NCAA titles in OT).

TB also can't stand when the team that wins in overtime in women's lacrosse wins by more than one goal. He wishes he had the stats on how many times a team that scores first in OT ultimately loses.

Penn won this year's Ivy League women's lacrosse title, going 7-0 in the league while winning four of those games in overtime.

Princeton finished second in the league, going 6-1 with just a loss to Penn in, of course, overtime. The Tigers then fell last week to Dartmouth in the league tournament semifinals.

Those two results left Princeton on the NCAA tournament bubble, and it broke Princeton's way when the seedings were announced Sunday.

Oh, and why did the NCAA announce the men's and women's tournaments at the same time? With the way the men's selections were spread over an hour when a half-hour or even 15 minutes would do, why not combine the two selections into one show, rather than having the men on ESPNU and the women web-only?

Wouldn't that be a nice thing to do for the women's game?

Princeton's reward is a trip to Annapolis, where the Tigers will take on Duke tomorrow night in the opening round. The winner of that game will play the winner of eighth-seeded Navy and Monmouth Sunday.

The women's bracket has an oddly even number of 26 teams in it, largely because of the rule requiring at least an equal number of at-large bids to automatic bids.

The resulting bracket has some oddities, most notably some sites that have three teams and others than have four. Penn and Dartmouth also received bids, and they are both in three-team brackets, where the winner of their opening-round games will play a team that does not play a first-round game.

As for Princeton's opponent, Duke is a proven NCAA commodity making its 13th straight appearance. The Blue Devils and Tigers both average right around 12 goals per game, so it could be a high-scoring one.

TigerBlog has been to the Naval Academy for women's basketball, and it's an incredible place. Just seeing the Midshipmen as they walk around the campus is beyond impressive.

The lacrosse game will be a few blocks off the campus, at Navy Marine Corp Stadium.

Still, Annapolis in May?

Princeton's goal is to spend the weekend.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sir Alex

When TigerBlog saw the news that Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring as the manager of Manchester United, his first thought was to wonder if perhaps he was the greatest coach of all time in any sport.

Ferguson. Not TigerBlog, though his record in youth sports is pretty strong.

Then TB started to wonder who in fact is the greatest coach ever, keeping in mind that his criteria includes being overwhelmingly successful and being overwhelmingly successful on the biggest stages in the entire sports world, not just within a smaller sub-culture. The second criteria eliminates some great, great coaches, by the way.

So where does Ferguson rank?

Well, in his 26 seasons with ManU, he won 13 Premier League championships, five FA Cups and two Champions' League titles, as well as some other championships mixed in. He also was as instrumental as anyone in the explosion of the Premier League as an international, world-wide phenomenon, far beyond what it was even 10 years or so ago.

Ferguson helped turn Manchester United into something akin to the Yankees, a franchise that is bigger than the league itself, bigger than the sport itself.

TB isn't the most knowledgeable international soccer fan. He does know that Ferguson is easily the most recognizable name in soccer coaching, and even the most casual fan knows who he is.

Ferguson was here, on campus, nearly three years ago, when he had lunch with Civil War historian James McPherson and others. Turned out Sir Alex is a big Civil War buff.

So where does Ferguson rank among the world's great coaches?

Honestly, TB doesn't know how to compare his record in the Premier League and with ManU to that of, say, Vince Lombardi. Or Phil Jackson. Or Scotty Bowman.

He does know that Ferguson is in the conversation, which says a lot about his record and impact on the international sporting world.

Ferguson was with ManU for 26 years, which means that Princeton's current streak of winning the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports began the year before he arrived.

Princeton's current streak is at 27, as the Tigers have already clinched this 2012-13 championship, even before the final three Ivy titles - in rowing - are contested.

Princeton has 197 points to date, 31.5 points ahead of Harvard. Princeton will move past the 200-point mark at the Ivy League rowing championships, and TB has figured out that 200 points is the sign of great success for any given academic year.

As for Ivy League championships, Princeton now has 11. Harvard and Cornell have seven apiece. With only three remaining, Princeton will win that number again as well.

It's a far cry from last year, when it went down to the last event before Princeton held off Harvard 191.5-190.5.

If you're keeping score, Princeton's 11 Ivy League championship teams to date are: women's soccer, field hockey, men's cross country, women's fencing, women's basketball, men's swimming and diving, women's swimming and diving, men's squash, women's squash, men's golf and men's outdoor track and field.

Princeton has also had seven teams finish in second place.

TigerBlog is of the belief that one of these years, Princeton will not win this championship. It's an extraordinary run, 27 straight years of having the best overall performance within the league.

And not one of those 27 years should be taken for granted.

Certainly next year isn't. When 2013-14 begins, everybody goes back to zeroes.

For now, though, it's a time to be proud of the accomplishment.

Sir Alex put up 26 great years.

Princeton is now at 27 - and counting.

With a warning, as always, that all glory is fleeting.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Top Five Wins

Before the NCAA men's lacrosse pairings were announced, TigerBlog's pick for the national championship game would have been Denver and North Carolina.

Now that the field of 16 is out there, those two would meet in the quarterfinals next weekend in Indianapolis should they get out of the first round, something that is not a given for either, especially Denver, who has to play high-flying Albany and the amazing Thompsons. Carolina, TB's pick to win it all, has to get through Lehigh in Round .

Don't be shocked to see close to 40 goals in the game between Denver and Albany and then again a week later if the winner plays North Carolina.


The Tigers aren't playing anyway in 2013, which is a shame, because there's not a team in the country that Princeton cannot beat, only there won't be the opportunity to prove it. Still, now that the season is over, the Tigers can't really blame anyone but themselves, which doesn't make it any easier.

The Tigers played for an automatic bid Sunday and fell to Yale. Princeton lost six games in 2013, of which four were by one goal.  The Tigers had fourth quarter leads in all four, including a lead and the ball at North Carolina with just over a minute to go, before losing 16-15.

If Princeton had to pick the one game to win that it lost, TB would suggest that Carolina game, which would have given the team a Top 5 win to go along with its two Top 10 wins (Yale and Cornell) and quite possibly would have made all the difference.

 TigerBlog understands why Princeton is not in the NCAA tournament. It's how it is with the current selection criteria.

That's where TB finds fault, and this is not at sour grapes because Princeton didn't get in.

The last at-large bid went to Loyola. Why? Because Loyola had a top five RPI win.

Who was it against? Ohio State. On March 30.

The loss dropped Ohio State to 1-2 in the league at the time. The Buckeyes were ranked 16th that week (not in RPI but in the polls).

So how is that a top five win? Because Ohio State went on to win the ECAC tournament, beating Denver in the final. The Buckeyes moved all the way up to the third seed in the NCAA tournament, as a matter of fact.

And so Loyola has a top five win, which equated to an NCAA tournament at-large bid. By virtue of beating the No. 16 team in the country. In March.

Oh, and that's the same Ohio State that just beat Loyola 18-11 last Thursday in the ECAC semifinals. Does that matter? Nope.

TB doesn't really understand how all the math works, but it's possible that had Loyola beaten Ohio State and then lost in the final to Denver, then the Buckeyes wouldn't have been in the top five and Loyola wouldn't have had a top five win. In other words, losing to Ohio State last Thursday might have been the best thing Loyola could have done.

The criteria differentiates between wins over 1-5, 6-10 and 11-20. The difference between beating the fifth team and sixth team in the country is enormous, as is beating 10 rather than 11. It also doesn't matter if it's by one goal or 100 goals. A win is a win. A loss is a loss. Doesn't matter when, where or by how much. Or in what conditions. Or who might or might not have played.

And it wouldn't have been Princeton who got in the tournament had Loyola not made it. No, that would have been Bucknell. How did the Bison not get in?

Well, their big win was over Cornell, whose RPI last week was in the top five, before Princeton beat Cornell last week in the Ivy tournament, knocking Cornell's RPI down to the 6-10 range and knocking Bucknell out.

Cornell was ranked second when it played Bucknell, as opposed to 16th.

Of course, because teams don't play the same number of games as teams do in hockey and basketball, the sample size is much smaller.

There's also the little problem of deciding which team to play year to year. Last year, Colgate and Lehigh were top 10 teams. This year it's Ohio State and Penn State.

Should Princeton have dropped Hopkins and Hofstra to play Ohio State and Penn State? What if the Tigers do that for next year? Where's the guarantee that those games will be as significant?

TB understands the selection criteria. He doesn't like it.

The members of the committee should pick the teams that they think are best, not rely solely on numbers. They should have the courage to stand up and say "we as a committee think Loyola is better than Bucknell," not "Loyola has a top five win" when Loyola's top five win was against the No. 16 team in the country.

If not, why have a committee?

As for Princeton, the Tigers are loaded for 2014, and the disappointing end to this year would figure to drive the team in the off-season and into next year.

Also, Princeton does have the memory of Friday's 14-13 overtime win against Cornell, in what was one of the all-time great lacrosse games TB has ever seen and which featured what might have been the single greatest fourth quarter and overtime ever played.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, that was the highlight of the year. The NCAA tournament goes on without them.

TigerBlog is rooting for Denver to win it all, but he has to stick with North Carolina, the team he's said all year is the best one he's seen, though Syracuse is playing really well now.

How about a Final Four of North Carolina, Syracuse, Cornell and Duke.

Yeah, TB will go with them. And Carolina over Duke in the final.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Three Straight, 15 Overall

TigerBlog pulled into the Jadwin Gym parking lot close to six yesterday, just in time to see the aftermath of the Heps track and field meet.

TB knew he wasn't going to be back in time to see the men's 4x400 relay, the final event of the day. He'd been following the meet on Twitter while he drove back from Ithaca.

Relax. He wasn't driving and looking at Twitter. He was a passenger, in a car driven by Princeton's Senior Associate Director of Athletics Anthony Archbald.

TB and Archbald spent a lot of time together this weekend. They drove back from Ithaca after the men's lacrosse game Friday night, arriving in the wee hours. Then it was back to Ithaca Saturday night, arriving near midnight. And then the return trip yesterday afternoon.

Archbald has something in his car that TB does not have in his, and that is satellite radio.

If TB had satellite radio, it would almost always be on the E Street channel, when it wasn't on sporting events.

The two got to listen to Game 7 of the Nets and Bulls Saturday night, on the home station of the Bulls. TB could not believe what homers they were, including this stinging postgame interview question one of the broadcasters asked one of the players: "Who is smiling more now, me or you?"

Yesterday, it was Oklahoma City-Memphis Game 1 and Knicks-Pacers Game 1.

Both are Knicks fans from when they were little, but TB has renounced his loyalty for the remainder of these playoffs on the grounds that his team is the least likeable team in all of professional sports. Archbald was also rooting for the Grizzlies, who apparently gave it away at the end.

There's something odd about listening to an NBA game on the radio, in that it's almost impossible to follow,  simply because of how often the score changes. Inevitably it becomes background noise, until the second half of the fourth quarter.

Archbald's satellite radio display also had a function that kept the score updated on the screen itself. TB hoped that it did so automatically via some link to a stat feed, rather than having someone whose job it is to manually change the score as the game goes along.

Archbald was intently following the games, especially the Knicks, to a degree that TB admired for its sheer concentration alone.

And so as Archbald made the occasional hand gesture or barely audible sigh at a Knicks foul or turnover, TB enjoyed the passenger seat, something he's almost never in. He sent a few text messages, read Laxpower and Inside Lacrosse to see what speculation was out there about the coming NCAA selections, played a word game or two and followed Heps on Twitter.

It's really hard to keep track of track, and even field, based solely on the team score at any given moment. If you think there are radical swings in NBA games on radio, it's even more pronounced in a track meet on Twitter.

There are a certain number of events remaining to be contested, and there are certain strengths and weaknesses for each team, which means that losing, even by an apparently large margin, at a certain point is no big deal.

On the men's side, TB knew that it would be between Princeton and Cornell, as it always seems to be for the last 12 years or so.

TB also knew that the 4x400 was a Princeton strength, so the Tigers always had that to fall back on, especially when Cornell's lead was erased and the teams were tied at 142-142 with four events left.

Other than that, it was hard to know event-by-event where the meet stood.

Still, it was a fun way to follow what was going on, with pictures and videos on Twitter, not to mention others who were checking about the meet.

In the end, Princeton would win by an apparently comfortable 28 points. It was the third straight outdoor Heps for the Tiger men and the 15th overall.

Every Princeton runner scored points in the 1500, 110 hurdles, 400, 100, 800, 400 hurdles and 200.

It's easy to just look at the results and see that the Tigers won without giving it much thought, but Princeton this has been a glorious era for Princeton's track and field programs, both of which are filled with glorious eras.

As TB arrived back at Jadwin, the visiting teams were loading up buses, gathering their stuff and heading home. Princeton's post-meet celebrations were wrapping up. Parents of all athletes from all eight Ivy schools were everywhere.

TB was struck by the big difference between the event he had been at - the men's lacrosse tournament - and Heps track and field, and that is that Heps felt like a huge party, probably because it involves all eight schools and because it involves the men and women at the same place at the same time.

There are certain dates on the annual Princeton sports calendar that are a little more special than others, and anything that has the word "Heps" in it is on the list.

TB loves the cross country event each fall.

He was hoping to get there for the end yesterday, but he knew he wouldn't.

Besides, Twitter was a great way to follow what was going on, right up to the news that the Tiger men had won.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Track Talk

Miss TigerBlog is running and jumping on the middle school track and field team this spring.

It's her introduction to the sport, and she seems to like it. TigerBlog does too.

The meets are vastly different than the games for the other sports that MTB has played. They feature events for girls and boys, and both spend most of their time milling around together, waiting for their turn to compete.

It's a much different dynamic than, say, a middle school dance, where the boys would be on one side and the girls on the other. No, here they mix together in small groups, a few girls with a few boys, cheering the rest of them on.

Somewhere in there is a graduate psychology thesis on adolescent social interactions and the power of sport.

There was a meet yesterday, and TB couldn't help but notice the easy socialization.

And the fact that also unlike the other sports MTB has played, in this one there is the unmistakable sight of kids on cell phones, texting and talking to someone, quite possibly other kids on their team at the meet.

The kids all have been exposed to a variety of events, and TB is fascinated that even though they're all beginners and they're all new to this, they are already gravitating to certain events.

MTB's friend Wiki is a sprinter. Her other friend Olivia is already a distance runner - which in this case means the 1,600, which is the longest event. 

MTB's best event so far is the long jump, and she's also run the 100 hurdles and the 400.

Yesterday she had to go right from the 400 to the long jump, with no rest in between.

As she got closer to the start of track and field season, she asked her dad if she could come run on the track at Princeton, and so TB brought her a few times to do so.

It's the same track that this weekend hosts the Heptagonal track and field championships, which come to Weaver Track and Field Stadium tomorrow and Sunday.

TB supposes there are some similarities with Heps and the middle school meets.

For one, the men's and women's teams are competing at the same place and time, and they pull for each other the way the kids do. For another, there is considerable down time between events for each competitor.

The Princeton women were the outdoor runner up last year and have won nine outdoor Heps titles all-time, including in 2009 and 2011. Harvard won the indoor championship this past winter.

Among the women's subplots are Tory Worthen's quest to become the first Princeton women to win the same event at Heps eight times when she competes in the pole vault. Worthen, who has won indoor and outdoors in her first seven tries, is trying to become the seventh athlete overall to win the same event eight times.

On the men's side, Princeton lost to Cornell by one point at the indoor Hep, and those two figure to go at it again this weekend. In fact, in the last 11 years, only Princeton or Cornell has won the title outdoors.

Princeton, as a matter of fact, has won the last two and three of the last four.

Heps begins tomorrow at 10 am and Sunday at 11 am. The last events are the women's and men's 4x400 relays, which go off at 4:50 and 5 Sunday, followed by the awards ceremony.

TigerBlog hopes to be unable to make it Sunday, as his desire is to be watching Princeton in the Ivy men's lacrosse championship game in Ithaca.

But hey, no lacrosse talk today. TB will only mention that sport tangentially. And if he's not in Ithaca, then he'll be at Weaver, probably with MTB.

It should be a great event the next two days.

Heps always is.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let's Go Celtics

There is no team in professional sports harder to root for than the New York Knicks.

At least with the Yankees, you can have a little respect for the fact that they're committed to winning. With the Cowboys, you can be impressed with the glamor of it all.

With the Eagles, there is the passion of the fan base. With Duke basketball, there's ... there's ... there's ... well, nothing, but they're not a pro team.

The Knicks? There's nothing either.

TigerBlog first became a Knicks fan when he was a little kid, larger because FatherBlog was a Knicks fan. They won two NBA titles, back in 1970 and 1973, playing the ultimate in team basketball.

They had wonderful, lovable players, like Walt Frazier and Willis Reed and Earl Monroe and Dave DeBusschere and Dick Barnett and Phil Jackson (FatherBlog's favorite) and even Hawthorne Wingo. And Jerry Lucas, who could memorize phone books and take words and instantly put the letters in alphabetical order.

And of course Bill Bradley. When TB was a kid, Bradley was just another player on the Knicks, another player TB rooted for because of the uniform. Of course, TB never dreamed at the time that he'd come to know so much more about Bradley's college career at Princeton than he would his time with the Knicks.

Then there were the Knicks of the 1990s, the ones cursed by Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller. They too had players you loved to root for, like Charles Oakley and John Starks and especially Patrick Ewing, who was a complete warrior in every way. 

Fast forward to today, or at least last night, and how can anyone root for that team?

It starts with the owner, who by all accounts is a egomaniacal dictator who has no regard for fans and especially employees and whose only qualification is that his father started a successful cable company.

And then there are the players. Carmelo Anthony is the best player the team has, and yet he's nothing compared to LeBron James, in skill, ability to raise his game to a championship level and certainly likeability.

Actually, most them do.

And there they were last night, at home, trying to close out the Celtics. And what do they do? Show up in all black and talk about going to a funeral. For Boston. Less than three weeks after the bombing at the marathon.

TB, who has nearly 50 years invested in the Knicks, would like to see the Celtics win the next two games and advance after being down 0-3.

For this to happen, Boston will need to win Friday and Sunday.

The same is true for the four teams competing at the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments. If they want to win, they also have to win Friday and Sunday.

Is that an effortless segue or what? That's one of TB's best, he has to say.

The women's tournament is being held at Franklin Field, because Penn won the regular season championship. By the slimmest of margins.

Penn went 7-0 in the league, stunningly winning four of those games in overtime, including one over Princeton, who finished second at 6-1.

Right now, the Ivy League has four teams ranked consecutively in RPI. Princeton, at 19, is the highest, followed by Penn at 20, Cornell at 21 and Dartmouth at 22.

The matchups for the Ivy tournament tomorrow are Princeton-Dartmouth at 4 and Cornell-Penn at 7.

There are 26 teams in this year's NCAA women's lacrosse tournament, whose field will be announced Sunday. The bracket is a bit odd looking, with some first-round sites having four teams and others having three.

The Ivy League will have at least one, as the team that wins Sunday's final will get the automatic bid.

The Ivy League figures to have at least two, but possibly not three. In that case, with the RPIs so tightly bunched, the semifinals have the feel of NCAA play-in games.

The men's and women's lacrosse world is filled with huge games. Actually, it started yesterday with the CAA tournament and continues until the draws are announced Sunday.

Will Princeton be in the men's and/or women's NCAA field? Will the Celtics come all the way back?

That's what TB is rooting for, in all three cases.