Monday, September 30, 2013

Homeland's Back

Had it been an option, TigerBlog would have selected the opportunity to watch the remaining 11 episodes of Season 3 of "Homeland" one after the other, for the 11 hours immediately following last night's first episode of the new season.

He could have done it too. Last night's episode ended at 10, so he would have been tied up watching "Homeland" until 9 a.m. this morning. He would have been fine with it, and he certainly wouldn't have fallen asleep.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the first two seasons, you can't start watching in Season 3. You must go back to Season 1, Episode 1, and go from there.

Also, TB promises not to give away any plot details here, for those who are watching on demand.

TB has heard people talk about "Homeland" in terms of "jumping the shark," something that makes him cringe. He handle it, having a show that has been this amazing for its first two seasons ever doing that to him.

Not to worry. Episode 1 did a great job of setting the stage for the rest of Season 3, and TB cannot wait for Sunday nights at 9 from now until Dec. 15.

"Homeland" is in a tough position, because it couldn't stay with what it was in Season 1 (is Brody a terrorist) or Season 2 (okay, he's sort of a terrorist but nobody really knows that). Instead, it established last night that the entire country views him as a terrorist and traitor, and now Season 3 sets up as being about how much Carrie will be able to prove that or disprove that, all while being fought at every turn by the Congress (expected) and CIA, especially Saul (very unexpected).

And then there is the overriding question - did Brody do it or not?

Then there is the subplot of Brody's family, especially his daughter. In almost any other show, this would be something of window dressing, and the family drama would be forced and overdone with stereotypical characters. Here? It's a perfect blend of very human people being tossed into something they never wanted any part of or expected.

As Mrs. Brody said last night, "he was only supposed to be in the Marines for two years, but then 9/11 happened." Imagine what their life would be had that not happened?

They'd be just another happy, well-adjusted suburban couple (albeit with a son who was such a bad actor that they actually replaced him with another actor in Season 3). On the other hand, Morgan Saylor, the 20-year-old who plays the Brody's daughter, is so off-the-charts good that she in many ways carries the show through the non-CIA parts the way Claire Danes does the rest of it.

The episode last night did a great job of catching everyone up on last season and setting up what's coming next. It did this, in a stroke of genius, without ever having Brody on camera.

TigerBlog gives Episode 1 an A. He gives the coming attractions of the rest of the season an A+.

And while the subject is "things that were set in Washington, D.C. this weekend," there was the Princeton football game.

The Tigers played at Georgetown Saturday in a game that TigerBlog was not at, though he was following it on Twitter closely. These were the scores in the first quarter:


Those are not exactly normal scores, but okay. Since Princeton had the 22 at the end of the quarter, the Tigers were fine with them.

Since that 22 grew to 50 by the time the game was over, it was even more acceptable.

Princeton put up 50 points in a game for the first time since the year 2000, when David Splithoff went off in a 55-28 win over Brown.

Princeton had some amazing numbers in the game, including rushing for 326 yards and six touchdowns while not having any player rush more than 11 times. Of course, that didn't stop Princeton from having a 100-yard rusher of the second straight week, this time Brian Mills, after DiAndre Atwater did so last week.

And then there's Quinn Epperly. You don't think this guy is fun to watch?

How about 3 for 6 for 19 yards, not to mention five carries for 69 yards - and four touchdowns. In other words only one of his five carries did not result in a touchdown.

Actually, what TB said about Epperly applies to the whole team. It's just a fun team to watch.

So through two games, the Tigers are 1-1, just a few tough breaks against nationally ranked Lehigh from being 2-0. Up next is Columbia, in the Ivy opener.

Harvard and Yale are both 1-0 in the league, off their wins last weekend over Brown and Cornell. The race has a long, long way to go to see how it's going to shape up, and Princeton needs a good showing against Columbia to vault itself into the conversation.

TB was optimistic after last week's game against Lehigh, even with the loss.

Now? He's excited to see the Tigers this Saturday.

And "Homeland" the next 11 Sundays.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mrs. Guacamole

TigerBlog was at Miss TigerBlog Back To School Night last night.

It was standard middle school stuff, going through her schedule, with abbreviated 12-minute periods to meet each teacher, hear what they'll be doing for the school year, that sort of thing.

The highlight of the night was clearly when MTB's science teacher, Mrs. Giacomelli, said that when her name is entered on an iPhone, it autocorrects to "guacamole." She pointed out that this was ironic, as she doesn't like guacamole.

TigerBlog does. He's a big fan of the avocado.

Anyway, TB had to scramble to get there on time, because he was doing freshman men's lacrosse head shots and bios. TB always likes meeting the freshmen for the first time, putting faces to the names he's heard so much about through the recruiting process.

The bio process always goes basically the same way, with the same basic questions. How many letters in lacrosse? Other sports? Team championships? Individual honors? Stats? Club team? Academic honors? Community service?

What's your date of birth? Parents names. Alma maters. Were they athletes? Siblings?

Then, at the end, TB always says the same thing: "Anything else you'd want to include? Jumped out of an airplane? Climbed a mountain? Caught a 400-pound fish? Sang with the church choir in China?"

And after all the years of doing this, finally, yesterday, someone answered yes to one of those. Freshman men's lacrosse player Jack O'Brien jumped out of a plane this summer while in Cape Cod.

And then there was another first, when freshman Sam Gravitte, asked about what his mother does, responded that she was a Tony Award-winner, for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, for her performance in "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." Sam? He played Jean Valjean in a high school production of "Les Miserables."

Then there was the part when TB realized that these freshman were born for the most part after he'd already started working here. That means as they've gone from babies to Princeton lacrosse players, TB has been right here.

When TB first started covering college sports, he wasn't that much older than the people he was writing about. Eventually, the dates of birth were after he'd graduated high school, after he'd graduated college. And now? They're covering his entire tenure at Princeton.

This, by the way, ends the week of nostalgia, the one that included TigerBlog Jr.'s driving Monday and TB's realization yesterday that it's been 30 years of doing this

Just as he has for every September since these freshmen were born, TB is looking forward to a pretty big athletic weekend involving Princeton teams.

Fall weekends are not quite like winter or spring ones, simply because there aren't as many teams. And those weekends are nothing compared to the crossovers between seasons.

Still, it's a busy one for Princeton Athletics, with 18 events on the schedule between today and Sunday.

The football team is at Georgetown, where it will be homecoming for the Hoyas. Georgetown football isn't quite like Georgetown basketball, but the Tigers and Hoyas had a pretty entertaining game last year. This time around, it'd be great for Princeton to be 1-1 heading into the Ivy League opener next Saturday against Columbia.

The field hockey team hosts Yale tonight at 7, and the official Bedford Field dedication will be held at halftime. Don't look for the namesake to be there though; Paul Bedford was in the Class of 1897.

The sprint football team is back after having to forfeit last weekend. The Tigers play at Post, and the team came within one scramble off of a fumble in overtime of winning that game.

There are three soccer games at Roberts Stadium this weekend, as the men host Florida International (7) and Florida Gulf Coast (4) tonight and Sunday and the women play Yale tomorrow (4). The Princeton-FGCU soccer game is on ESPNU Sunday.

Florida-Gulf Coast is, of course, the team that came from nowhere to the Sweet 16 in men's basketball last year. The soccer program was also an NCAA tournament team last year.

The women's volleyball team hosts Penn tonight in its Ivy opener.

There's nothing else on campus this weekend - unless you count the men's lacrosse alumni game tomorrow at 1:45.

TB loves the busy home weekends, when there are a ton of events, sandwiched around home football.

This weekend isn't quite on that level, but it's still a good one.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Anniversary

TigerBlog's week at work has included things like doing PA at a football game, taking head shots of freshman lacrosse players, resolving issues related to shooting video at games, writing about Princeton sports, writing, writing, writing.

There was a meeting at the Center For Jewish Life, where the subject involved Princeton's Jewish athletes.

There were other meetings. Discussions about Academic Athletic Fellows. Videostreaming. Upcoming games. The atmosphere at football game days.

You know, the usual stuff that comes in athletic communications.

Ah, how different it all might have been had TigerBlog said "no" instead of "yes" to Jack McCaffery 30 years ago this week.

TigerBlog wrote this three years ago, when he saw that Pennington was playing at Academy of the New Church in football. It took him back to his first assignment in the newspaper business, which was that very same high school football game.

Jack is the older brother of Fran McCaffery, now the head basketball coach at the University of Iowa. Back then, Fran was a grad assistant at Penn, and TB was his co-worker in the psychology department basement, spending hours making copies of reading assignments on a copy machine that couldn't collate.

It was through Fran that TB met Jack, and it was Jack who offered TB a job at the Trenton Times covering high school football. His first game was Pennington at ANC.

It was 30 years ago this week. To be exact, it was Sept. 23, 1983.

Thirty years. Come and gone. It makes TB think like Red in "Shawshank," except TB has enjoyed almost every minute of it.

TB will never forget the first time he picked up the newspaper and saw his byline. It's hard to believe that was 30 years ago.

He had the newspaper in a political science class. He was a history major at Penn, and his career goal coming in had been to go to law school.

To say he got sidetracked is an understatement.

He forgot all about his 30th anniversary in this business, or at least in Part 1 of this business, which was his time in the newspaper business, until he saw that it was the anniversary of when Steve Carlton won his 300th game. That was the lead story in the sports section that day.

TigerBlog remembers the second football game he covered was the day after Pennington-ANC was Bordentown vs. Maple Shade. The following week was Hun vs. George and then Council Rock vs. Abington.

He can't remember the order after that.

Now, 30 years later, he wonders how many games he has gone to because it was his job to do so. The answer has to be thousands of them.

High school games. Summer league games. And then college games. Lots and lots of college games, almost all of them Princeton games.

He contrasts this with how his life might otherwise have gone, had he said "cover high school games for a newspaper? Thanks, Jack, but no thanks."

What in the world would he have ended up doing?

Law school? Maybe. Maybe not. TB was never a great student or, more specifically, a great studier. Maybe he would have figured out a way through law school, and then where would he be now?

And if he hadn't gone down that path, then what?

Would he have found his way into athletics in some capacity? Would he not ever have known that such careers existed?

He is willing to guess that he wouldn't have had nearly as enjoyable a career. What was he going to do, get up every morning, put on a suit and head into the business world?

He actually tried that for a few months, and it was a disaster. He ran as fast as he could to get back to the newspaper.

And so now it's been 30 years of memories, most of it on this campus. Thirty years going to all kinds of games - many forgettable and some among the greatest games ever played in their sports.

Still, it's been 30 years of having a game to look forward to, another one after that, another one down the road. He's been fortunate to be here at Princeton, where so many of those games ended up as wins, rather than losses.

And then there are the people. The best part of the last 30 years has been the people TB has had the chance to meet and get to know. Athletes. Coaches. Administrators. Writers. Editors.

Some of them have become the best friends he's ever had.

He's had so many great opportunities and experiences these past 30 years. He's traveled throughout this country and out of this country, all because there was a game to cover waiting for him to get there.

Maybe he could have been richer had he gone down another path. Maybe everything would have been different for him, but he'll never know.

These past 30 years?

He wouldn't change them for anything.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


TigerBlog has now watched his first two episodes of "Modern Family." He thinks it has the potential to be pretty funny.

His impression of the first two episodes, at least, is that the characters are a bit stereotyped but the writing is pretty good.

Apparently it's hilarious. At least that's what people say.

And it won the Emmy for Best Comedy. Again. For the fourth straight year.

Can you name the last show to win the Emmy for Best Comedy five straight times? TB will give you a chance to think about that for a few paragraphs.

TB is willing to invest in "Modern Family" on one condition. He has to be able to watch the show out of sequence, since catching up means seeing the episodes in syndication, and they probably won't be shown in order.

This, by the way, is why "Law & Order" was so perfect. Miss a week? No problem. There were no carrying over storylines.

So back at the Best Comedy Emmy Awards, the last - and only - show ever to win the award more than the four times that "Modern Family" has done so is not one of TB's 10 favorite sitcoms ever. Might not even be in his top 20.

To prove it, here are 20 comedies that TB liked more than the one that won five Best Comedy Emmys (in no particular order):

"The Odd Couple," "Taxi," "All In The Family," "Get Smart," "Barney Miller," "Bob Newhart Show," "M*A*S*H," "Seinfeld," "Night Court," "Cheers," "Family Ties," "Friends," "Big Bang Theory," "Two And A Half Men," "The Wonder Years," "The Cosby Show," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Married With Children" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

That's 20 easily.

And none of them is "Frasier," the only five-time Emmy Award winner for Best Comedy and a show TB just never got into. He did like Frasier's character on "Cheers;" the spin-off never did it for him.

So TB is going to try the whole "Modern Family" thing and see if it works for him.

This weekend is also the start of Season 3 of "Homeland." If you've read TB for awhile, you know that he considers "Homeland" to be the greatest show in television history, even after only two runs of 12 episodes each. And he's not the only one to think this way.

And the next season starts Sunday night. And please, don't tell TB that "Breaking Bad" won Best Drama. It's not even close between those two shows.

By the time Princeton alum Carrie Mathison starts to sort out what happened with the car bomb that ended last season, her alma mater will have had two more teams begin their Ivy League seasons.

The women's volleyball team hosts Penn Friday night, one year after the teams split a pair of 3-2 matches.

Princeton finished tied with Columbia for second in the league last year, but it wasn't exactly close to first when the season ended. Yale was a perfect 14-0 in the league in 2012, while the Tigers and Lions were five games back.

In fact, Yale went 42-6 in games in Ivy matches a year ago and never lost more than one in any match. Princeton was one of the teams to take a game off of the Bulldogs last year.

Yale is again the favorite, though not as prohibitively as a year ago. Princeton is at Yale Oct. 12 and home with Yale Nov. 15, which means the race can take shape a little before those meetings.

The other Ivy opener is in women's soccer, as the Tigers host Yale Saturday at 4.

Princeton is 4-1-2 this year after going 14-4-1 last year, which included a 7-0-0 run through the league.

Tyler Lussi has been the answer to the question of "where would Jen Hoy's goals come from this year." Lussi has six of them in her first seven college games. In fact, Lussi has six of Princeton's 11 goals through seven games, including two in the Tigers' most recent game, a 3-1 win at Fordham Tuesday night.

The Ivy League women's soccer race figures to be really wide open. In fact, of the eight schools in the league, six are at above .500 and a seventh is at .500. And the one that's under .500 is Dartmouth, which figures to be right there at the end as well.

Penn is 4-0-2 to date and has two common opponents with Princeton, St Joe's (both beat the Hawks 1-0) and William & Mary (both tied).

The Ivy openers are just part of a very busy weekend schedule for Princeton Athletics.

And when it's over? Season 3 of "Homeland."

And a few "Modern Family" episodes before then.

TB will give it a chance.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can I Drive?

For TigerBlog, there was a long time when a trip pretty much anywhere in the Ivy League other than Columbia, Penn and maybe Yale meant an overnight stay.

Gradually, TB ventured further and further into the up-and-back philosophy, which meant leaving day of event and coming back when it was over.

He started with a trip to Cornell, back when he was still in the newspaper business.

Tim Bennett, who has spent the bulk of the last 20 years or so with Yale athletic communications, was an intern at Princeton, where he was the baseball contact, among other sports.

Princeton was playing Cornell in a season-ending doubleheader with the league title on the line - this was before there were two divisions, TB recalls - and Timmer (as everyone calls him) was going up and back for the games. TB decided to tag along and write a story for the paper.

To help get out of there faster after he had written his story, TB helped Tim call some of the other newspapers, back when actually calling the newspaper's sports department and speaking to a human being was a daily part of athletic communications work.

Anyway, TB was calling the Star-Ledger, and kid in the newsroom on the other end of the phone
was asking TB to go through the entire box score, even though he was only going to use a sentence or two. So TB decided to try to cut to the chase, which was surprising to the kid, which led to this exchange:

TB: So and so was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple.
Kid in newsroom: What was his other hit?
TB: Huh?

It's possible TB said something sarcastic after that. Actually, it's probable.

Once he'd gone up and back to Cornell, he started to do so to other schools as well. Brown, especially one Yom Kippur way back when. Harvard, the day there was a field dedication up there for lacrosse and the game was at 7 at night.

He even did it for Dartmouth once, also for lacrosse. That was pushing the envelope of how far he'd be willing to drive in one day, he's pretty sure.

All of this brings TB to yesterday, when TB and TigerBlog Jr. had to make a five-hour trip for a school function. The point of this story isn't the function itself; it's the getting there and back.

Most of the time that TB has made these drives, it's been to Princeton athletic events. He's written this often in the past, that he has estimated that he's driven so many miles to games that he could have gone around the Earth at the equator multiple times.

He's taken TBJ with him many times in the past. In fact, it's been one of the absolute greatest parts of TB's life, to take TBJ with him to so many Princeton games through the years of his youth. When TBJ got a little too old for it, TB felt a void, and a sadness, knowing that his son had outgrown that wide-eyed joy that comes with being a kid.

But now? There's a completely different element to it.

For all those trips, all those miles, TigerBlog drive, TBJ rode along. At first, it was in a car seat, back when he first went to watch Princeton-Lafayette football one day long ago and sat there perfectly still for three hours, without fidgeting, whining or anything, which led TB to believe that he was on to something here.

Eventually, he outgrew his car seat. And eventually he was old enough to sit in the front.

And now?

TB and TBJ rolled out around 7 am yesterday, which mean that TBJ, like most teenagers, was asleep in about two minutes. After he woke up, about an hour and half into the ride, he said his most common sentence these days: "Can I drive?"

And so TB turned the keys over to his son.

On the way back, TBJ offered to let his father drive to start out and then he would take over once he'd finished eating his Wegman's pizza.

By the time their day was over, they'd driven more than 10 hours together. The split was about seven hours behind the wheel for TBJ and three for TB, who loves the passenger seat by the way.

It's not always easy for a parent to be in the car with their child behind the wheel. When TBJ first started driving, TB found himself reaching for an imaginary brake pedal a few times.

Yesterday? No. There was TBJ, out on the highways, passing trucks, getting passed himself by some others, putting the cruise control on and going from there. One white car zoomed past him, which led TBJ to what TB believes was his first career moment of minor road rage, which itself was followed by a state police car that pulled the white car over, leading TBJ to think that there is justice on the road.

TB even fell asleep for a few moments when the hour got later and later. He was awakened by his son, who was singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" as the Duran Duran song played on the radio.

At various times on the trip, they took turns playing their personal favorites on their iPhones. TB always struggles with his son's musical tastes when it comes to telling which one is the name of the band and which one is the name of the song.

As for TB's music, TBJ puts up with it, even likes a lot of it, and while he says he has to draw the line at "Les Miserables," he mysteriously knows all of the words to "Do You Hear The People Sing."

Maybe TBJ likes it because clearly TB's musical taste is far superior.

Or maybe he heard it so often at such a young age, back when he was in the back seat, driving with his father to game after game, mile after mile along the same roads that he was now driving on himself yesterday.

TB was fine in the passenger seat, even as he couldn't help remember back to those days when his son couldn't even reach the pedals, let alone use them - and how those days are now behind both of them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

An Optimist's View Of The Opener

Lehigh had just taken a one-point lead with 2:45 to go in the game Saturday night when Gary Walters walked into the PA booth.

Walters asked TigerBlog what he thought, and TB said he was pretty sure that Princeton was going to rally and pull it out.

TB is an optimist.

This time, he was wrong.

Still, after watching the first 60 minutes of Princeton football for the 2013 season, TB could conclude that there was much to be optimistic about.

Princeton lost 29-28 to Lehigh.

The pessimists can say these things:

* Princeton was outscored 26-6 in the second half after leading 22-3 at the break

* Lehigh's Brandon Bialkowski completed 42 of 57 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns

* Lehigh gained 513 yards of offense

The optimists, however, have much more on their side.

Princeton gained 501 yards of offense itself.

DiAndre Atwater carried 13 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average of 8.5 yards per carry, by the way.

Roman Wilson caught nine passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. That's 18.7 yards per catch.

In all, nine different players caught at least one pass for Princeton.

And then there was the night that Quinn Epperly had. 

Ostensibly a quarterback, Epperly was 6 for 8 passing for 100 yards and a touchdown. He carried the ball five times for 19 yards and another touchdown. And he caught two passes.

How many players will ever throw eight passes, run five times, catch two passes and have a passing and rushing touchdown, all in the same game?

Princeton was creative offensively, with big play capability running and throwing the ball. And the Tigers were creative. Super creative.

Princeton played much of the game will multiple quarterbacks on the field, something that few teams do and which poses all kinds of issues for the defense. For Princeton, having depth at the position and a player like Epperly - with so many different skills - is a great luxury.

It's also how you win in football. Get your best athletes on the field, your best playmakers, and put them in position to make plays. Even if it requires thinking outside the box a little.

The biggest problem Princeton had on opening night wasn't its schemes or personnel. It was the fact that this was Game 1 for the Tigers and Game 3 for the Mountain Hawks.

There's fitness. Then there's game fitness. That's what is in TB's mind the biggest issue with having such a late season opener.

And this was a very humid night, one that ended with rain as the fourth quarter wound down. It was not an easy night to being playing for the first time.

Now there are nine games left for Princeton. The Tigers are at Georgetown next weekend and then home against Columbia for the Ivy opener in two weeks.

TigerBlog thinks Princeton Stadium is a great place to see a football game, especially under the lights. The illumination of the field enhances the appearance, and that was the case Saturday night.

It helps to have an exciting game, and an exciting home team.

Princeton had both of those on opening night. It didn't have a win, something that would have ben great to pull out at the end.

But hey, there are nine more games to go, including seven in the league.

TigerBlog is very optimistic.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tee It Up

TigerBlog is trying to remember the first Princeton football game he saw in person.

He thinks it might have been the 1981 game against Penn, held at Franklin Field. He's pretty sure that was it.

The first football game he saw on this campus? The 1984 Princeton-Penn game, which was also his first trip to Palmer Stadium, even though he'd grown up not all that far away.

He's pretty sure, as well, that he saw every Princeton game of the 1990, 1998 and 2000 seasons and all but one game of eight other years.

In all the time TB has been around Princeton football, he's only been to one game at Dartmouth, due to a variety of circumstances. That game was the 1993 game, which is one of the best games TB has ever seen, the final game for Jay Fielder and Keith Elias, a game that was played in sunshine, a blizzard and then sunshine again, a game where neither team could afford to tie and so took remarkable chances late in the fourth quarter before Dartmouth ultimately won 28-22.

TigerBlog will be at Princeton-Lehigh tomorrow night. It'll be the season-opener for the Tigers, and TB will again be the public address announcer.

In his time watching Princeton play football, he has been a fan, a sportswriter, a broadcaster, a media relations contact and a PA announcer.

He figures he's closing in on his 200th Princeton game attended, though he's not sure of the exact number.

He thought about that two weekends ago, when Princeton was still in preseason and he was turning on the Michigan-Notre Dame game, played in the Big House.

TigerBlog has never been to a big-time, big-time college football game. The closest he's come is at Rutgers, which is not what he's talking about.

No, TB means a game at a place where everything stops on a Saturday when the team is at home, where all of the town and gown unite behind the team on gameday.

He saw the sheer pageantry of a game at Michigan, or last Saturday, when he saw the start of UCLA at Nebraska. Stands packed; everyone wearing the same color.

He imagines that the other gameday activities at one of those schools or any number of others is pretty wild in its own right. He figures it's a routine, people who have been meeting in the same space for the last few decades and have the same pregame and postgame tailgates.

Ivy League football is a much different animal.

There are way smaller alumni groups and student populations at Ivy League schools, and the stadiums themselves are way smaller. Princeton Stadium seats 27,800; there will be more empty seats than full ones tomorrow night.

Still, Ivy football has its own personality, its own charms. Gamedays here may be on a smaller scale, but they're still fun. They're special days, and football still brings more people to this campus than any other events other than Reunions and commencement.

Princeton is entering Year 4 of the Bob Surace era.

The Tigers went 1-9 and 1-9 his first two years before improving to 5-5 a year ago. The improvement began in Game 1, after Princeton went down 17-0 to Lehigh before almost pulling it off, falling 17-14.

This year, Princeton has depth, experience - and somewhat higher expectations.

Which is how it should be.

Princeton is past the point where a win is considered an upset. It's past the point where merely being competitive in games would feel like a win.

The Tigers are still young for 2013, and the team figure to be better next year. Still, there is the chance to take another big step forward this season.

It starts against a Lehigh team that is 2-0 and ranked 22nd in the FCS. The Mountain Hawks will be minus four players who will be suspended, though which four remains a mystery.

And irrelevant.

Princeton is ready to get started in 2013. One thing that distinguishes this league from basically any other is the start date. Like TB, Princeton has been watching games on TV to this point.

Now it's almost time for opening night.

TB will be there. He's looking forward to it. He's watched Ivy League football for more 30 years now, and he still gets excited for the start of another year.

It's big-time enough for him.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

March 10, 1977

Where were you on March 10, 1977?

TigerBlog knows where he was. He'd actually forgotten all about it until this morning, when he was listening to the "Boomer and Carton Show" on WFAN on the way to work.

The hosts were interviewing a writer named Brian Touhy, who is coming out with a book about how the FBI was investigating the Knicks back in the 1981-82 season about possible point shaving. This was all related to the team's wide usage of cocaine.

TB isn't sure about the first, though it wouldn't shock him were it true; he has no doubt about the second.

Anyway, Touhy was telling stories about other suspected point shaving allegations, and he brought up a story about Earl Monroe, the great Knicks (and previously Baltimore Bullets) guard.

Back on March 10, 1977, the Knicks were playing the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. New York was up 108-102 in the final seconds, as in the final one or two seconds, when Monroe shot the ball into his own basket, making the final 108-104.

Knicks win. So what's the big deal?

Well, the betting line was five points, so if you bet on the Knicks, you would have won had Monroe done anything other than shoot it into his own basket. Instead, you lost, since the two points counted and meant that the Blazers had covered.

TigerBlog was in the building that night.

FatherBlog had gotten tickets long before that game, because the 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers were one of the greatest teams in NBA history. That is, when Bill Walton was healthy. With him, the Blazers won nearly 70% of their games and then won the NBA title.

Without him that year, they were 5-12 in 17 games, including the one that March night in the Garden.

TB took the bus into the city, and he's pretty sure it was the first time he'd ever done that alone. He met FatherBlog in the Port Authority building.

His instructions were to get off the bus, find a police officer and ask him where the designated meeting spot was, which happened to be a giant sign that said "Information" on it. As it turned out, the first member of the NYPD that TB saw was standing about 10 feet from FatherBlog, so TB bypassed that step.

Anyway, later that night, the Blazers hit a bucket with only a few ticks left, making it a six-point game. The Knicks inbounded to Monroe, who shot a baseline jumper (as TB remembers it) into his own basket as time expired.

TigerBlog doesn't remember the reaction of the crowd as the buzzer went off. He's pretty sure he didn't realize the gambling implications at the time either.

In fact, he remembers vividly all these years later the feeling that it was no big deal, since the game had already been won. Monroe, TB remembers, might as well have thrown the ball in the stands or dribbled it out. It was like an instinctive move - catch the ball, shoot it, run off the court.

As TB listened this morning, he realized that it could have been something more sinister, though Monroe was investigated and cleared by the league.

If he had been shaving points that night, he didn't do a very good job. Monroe, who averaged 19.9 per game that year, scored 24 and shot 6 for 8 from the line. If you're going to shave points, missing foul shots, TB supposes, is a good place to start.

Plus, Monroe left it to the very last second to cover the spread, if that was his intention. And a baseline jumper? Not a high percentage way to do it.

And TB always liked Earl the Pearl, so he gives him the benefit of the doubt.

He always liked Bill Walton too. So did Bill Carmody, who as TB has said before, came into TB's office one day and said that the greatest college basketball player of all time was in the Jadwin men's room.

Walton was there as part of his son Nate's recruiting process at Princeton. Nate Walton, as any Princeton fan knows, was a key member of some of the great moments in the last 25 years of Tiger basketball, including the 1997 and 1998 league championship teams as a reserve and then as the leader of the 2001 Ivy champ.

The 2000-01 season was going to be one of great uncertainty at Princeton. Carmody had left to become the head coach at Northwestern. Assistant coach Joe Scott left to take over at Air Force.

The reigns at Princeton fell to untested John Thompson, in his first season as a head coach. Princeton's roster had lost some thought-to-be irreplaceable players, such as Chris Young (pro baseball) and Spencer Gloger (transferred to UCLA before coming back).

Penn was the league's prohibitive favorite that season, with a roster that included Ugonna Onyekwe, Koko Archibong, Geoff Owens and Lamar Plummer.

Princeton defeated Penn at the Palestra in midseason after the teams had entered the game tied for first in the league at 5-1. The win improved the Tigers to 11-8 overall, and Thompson, when asked after the game where this win ranked for him, said somewhat famously "well, I have 11, and this one's definitely in the top 10."

The teams met again at Jadwin on the final night of the regular season, with Princeton at 10-3 and Penn at 9-4, meaning a Quaker win would force a playoff and a Tiger win would mean an outright title.

The game was close at the half, with Princeton up 31-26, but the Tigers went on a big run in the second half to take control. The final was 68-52 Princeton, in front of an announced crowd of 7,133.

As for Walton, he played a nearly perfect game, with nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals.

Princeton was sent to New Orleans for the NCAA tournament, and Julius Peppers - the longtime NFL defensive lineman and All-Pro - and North Carolina took it to Princeton. But it didn't matter to TB.

The 2000-01 men's basketball season remains one of TB's all-time favorites. So does Nate Walton, who is one of the best natural leaders - and funniest people - TB has ever met.

A year after 2001 season, Walton called TB to tell him there was a mistake in Thompson's bio in the media guide. It said basically that Thompson had led a team without a star to the Ivy title, and Walton said "that's not true. I was a star."

Not too many people could get away with that.

Anyway, TB's ride to work started with a game from long ago that he was randomly at, and as he thought about more and more, he got all the way to Nate Walton and the 2001 men's basketball team.

Both are really good memories.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Andy Reid was lying.

He knew it. The media knew it. Any casual fan paying the remotest attention knew it.

Reid is now the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent the last 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs play the Eagles, in Philadelphia no less, tomorrow night.

The obvious question for Reid is what it will be like to play against the Eagles. The obvious answer is something like: "I had a great experience there. We did a lot of great things. They fired me last year. I want to beat them badly. I've had this game circled since the schedule came out."

Something like that.

Instead, Reid said all the expected things, how the game is what matters, it's not about him, blah, blah, blah.

What would have been the sin of answering honestly?

Then again, TigerBlog doesn't understand why media people don't call out coaches when they are either lying or are acting as if the media people don't get it when the questioning turns to something other than what they want to say. Why didn't someone say to Reid: "are you honestly saying that you have no special emotions about this game?" or even "hey, Andy, nobody here is buying it."

How about last week, when reporters were asking Alabama's universally loathed football coach Nick Saban about reports of violations. Saban went into "I will talk about the game" mode rather than admitting that he at least understood why someone might have the temerity to ask.

Why didn't someone say: "Hey, Nick, do you get it at all?"

Of course, that would require the backing of the higher ups at whatever publication it was, something that was insanely lacking on the part of one South Carolina newspaper. Did you see this story?

How could any self-respecting reporter work for The State, knowing that the publisher would do that to one of their own? And what does it say about the influence that the football coach can have over a state, not that anything bad could ever come of that, well, er, um, you know what TB is talking about.

Anyway, TB digresses.

Despite Reid's unwillingness to be honest about his emotions in returning to Philadelphia, TigerBlog will still be rooting for the Chiefs in this one.

First, he never roots for the Eagles. Unless they're playing the Yankees, which they don't usually do.

Two, the Chiefs have Mike Catapano, the Princeton alum who is a rookie defensive lineman for the team.

Reid's return to Philadelphia comes a few days before the Princeton women's soccer team hosts William & Mary. That game will be Sunday at 1 and is the only home soccer game of the weekend.

Princeton coach Julie Shackford is a William & Mary alum, which makes it somewhat similar to the Reid vs. the Eagles storyline, except that she didn't play at William & Mary last year or anything like that.

In fact, this will be the fifth time Shackford coaches against her alma mater, though her own college coach, John Daly, is still the Tribe head coach today. That has to make it even more emotional.

As for the rest of the Princeton coaching staff, there are many examples of those who coach against their alma maters. Actually, it happens way more than TigerBlog thought it did before he actually looked into it.

Harvard alum Chris Sailer does it every year in women's lacrosse. United States Naval Academy grad Luis Nicolao does as well in men's water polo.

Courtney Banghart goes head-to-head with Dartmouth, her alma mater, twice each year. Up until this point, she has been coaching against Chris Wielgus, who had been her head coach in college.

Penn alum Fred Samara has coached against the Quakers in track and field and cross country for decades. The men's hockey coach, Bob Prier, is a St. Lawrence grad.

The women's golf team, headed by alum Nicki Cutler, is competing this weekend at Vanderbilt's tournament. Susan Teeter has coached the women's swimming and diving team against Tennessee. Scott Bradley has coached Princeton against North Carolina many times in baseball; Lisa Sweeney coached against Lehigh twice in softball last spring.

TigerBlog isn't sure if he's missed anyone. If he has, he apologizes.

And hey, he can relate to the whole concept of competing against the alma mater.

He's happy to know he's part of a long list of Princeton traitors.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Going For A Walk

TigerBlog was about 15 minutes into his walk around the campus Saturday evening when he came to the metal Tigers at the head of the football stadium.

It was nearly 6, and TB was struck by the fact that there was barely anyone else in his view, even if he turned 360 degrees.

Then he hoped that wouldn't be the case exactly one week later, which would be this Saturday at 6, when Princeton opens its football season against Lehigh. Hopefully at that moment there will be at least a few people, or a few thousand people, at the stadium.

For last Saturday, though, there was nothing but calm. In every way, it was calm.

The weather was perfect. School had just started, so the students weren't flooded with work. It was still early, so nobody was all that concerned about how to spend Saturday night.

Nope. It was just calm.

TB took a huge loop around the campus, starting in Lot 21, heading up past the football stadium, onto Prospect Street, across Washington Road, past McCosh, over to the chapel, past Nassau Hall, up to Nassau Street, back down around Mathey, across towards Dillon, down past Prospect House, back to Elm Road, past the softball field, past Roberts Stadium and the Lenz Tennis Center, across to Class of 1952 Stadium, up past the new neurosciences building, across the bridge over Washington Road, past the chemistry building, past Jadwin and back to Lot 21.

Then he did an abbreviated version. In all, it took about 75 minutes. It's how old people exercise. When they're not playing squash, because people who shall remain nameless but who happen to be the head men's lacrosse coach keep saying things like "today's no good but definitely tomorrow."

When you're on the Princeton campus basically every day for a quarter-century or so, you start to take the place for granted. That was the best part of TigerBlog's walk. It reminded him of just how special this campus is.

For starters, he works in a basketball arena. People pay money to come into this building to watch games. The back part of his office slopes upward, because it's underneath the balcony seats.

As he walked up onto campus, he came to the chapel.

Every time he goes by it, he thinks of the weddings he's attended there - and the funerals. He also thinks about how Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there.

Mostly he thinks about its insane beauty, with its stained glass with the perfect amount of light, all housed in a building that makes TB think that whoever designed it back in 1928 knew exactly what he was doing.

Then there's Nassau Hall.

There was activity outside on the grass, mostly families and little kids running around, kicking balls and such, taking pictures on the little statues. Nassau Hall is another beautiful building from the outside, and when you walk by it so many times, it's easy to forget that this building was once the capitol building of this nation and that the Continental Congress had met there.

Maybe TB's favorite spot on campus - or at least non-athletic venue - is probably the Prospect Gardens.

As TB walked by there Saturday, a wedding was about to begin. Or at least TB guessed it was a wedding, with the way the chairs were set up.

TB can't imagine how much effort, and yes money, goes into keeping those gardens looking the way they do year-round. He assumes it's significant.

Along the way of his walk, he stumbled upon any number of people who were doing the same thing he was.

He saw a husband and wife on Prospect Street, with the husband's wearing a "Santa Clara Water Polo" hat. Santa Clara water polo was on campus last weekend for the Princeton Invitational, which included Princeton's first ESPNU event of the academic year.

TigerBlog has never been to Santa Clara's campus, though he has a sense it's pretty nice. He wondered what the visitors' take was on Princeton's campus, but on this day, they had to be impressed.

Diana Chamorro, Princeton's water polo contact, is a Santa Clara graduate, so she can now relate to what it's like for TB when Princeton plays Penn. Anyway, Diana said that Santa Clara's campus is much smaller than Princeton's but is nonetheless beautiful, that it's nicer than Stanford's campus and that it's the oldest institution of higher learning in California (something that TB never would have guessed).

Meanwhile back at Princeton, TB also came across different pockets of students.

He saw one group of five women debating what the first name of a sixth, who had just peeled away from their group, was. He heard someone yell through a dorm window "anyone have a car I can borrow?"

He saw a bunch of guys - he believes they were hockey players - playing sand volleyball in a courtyard.

It was typical college stuff.

He also saw a group of larger young men wearing Princeton football shirts or shorts.

Unlike every other football player in the country from Pop Warner through the NFL, their season was still a week away.

Exactly one week later, they'd be much busier. They would be at their most intense, their most focused, their most emotional.

For this idyllic Saturday, though, they were like everyone else TB found on his walk around the campus.

They were calm.

So was all of Princeton University.

It really is a beautiful place. TB's walk was a perfect reminder of that.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday Afternoon At Bedford And Roberts

TigerBlog parked his car, walked down the path towards Roberts Stadium and Bedford Field and heard the roar of the crowd.

Clearly, someone had scored in the field hockey game. Clearly, it was Princeton, which had cut Penn State's lead to 4-3 with, as it turned out, 13 minutes left.

By the time he got to Bedford Field, there were about seven minutes to go. TB got to see the final frantic minutes of the game, which seemed headed to a late tying goal and then OT.

Unfortunately, it never happened. This time, Princeton had no late magic, and Penn State was able to escape with a 4-3 win over the defending NCAA champion.

After that, it was time for the two minute walk over to Roberts Stadium, for Princeton's men's soccer home opener against Seton Hall. Princeton would win 1-0, on freshman Bryan Windsor's first career goal, which came midway through the second half.

Let's go back to field hockey for a minute.

The first thing TB noticed was that crowd at Bedford Field was huge. And from where TB stood, behind the goal, it looked awesome.

Princeton had several chances in the seven minutes that TB saw but just couldn't convert. Each time Princeton had possession, and the buzz would grow, only to be end in an unsatisfying "oooooooohhhhhhhhhh" as the ball just didn't find the cage.

And yes, it would have been nice had Princeton gotten the equalizer. Still, TB was more focused on the big picture.

He thought back to the first Princeton field hockey games he ever saw, which were played on Gulick Field, which was the field above Lourie-Love Field. If you stood by the benches on Lourie-Love, Gulick - the field next to it - was slightly elevated.

Today those two fields make up Roberts Stadium. The hill that Gulick Field was on was smoothed out to create Plummer Field, the FieldTurf practice field next to Myslik Field, the soccer game field.

Back then, Gulick was an immaculately maintained grass field with small wooden bleachers and no amenities. The key word here is grass, as in the surface field hockey used to be played on, back before basically every college team switched to artificial turf.

The ball flies on the turf, as opposed to natural grass. No matter how much TB liked Gulick Field (with its huge parking lot behind it, a parking lot that is now the neuroscience building), it's impossible to argue that the sport is so much faster, so much more athletic, on artificial turf.

TB has seen pictures of the earliest days of Princeton field hockey. He thinks that the players in those pictures have to marvel at what has become of the sport that they helped mold at Princeton.

Today Princeton plays at a field hockey-only facility. The crowd at yesterday's game dwarfed any TB ever saw at Gulick.

And who was there to watch? Men. Women. Boys. Girls. It was a perfectly pristine late summer day, and families and fans came out to see field hockey.

There was nothing odd or special about it. And that's the real story. It's a real victory for women's athletics when fans come out to support them like that, and it shows how mainstream women's sports are, especially at schools like Princeton.

Sometimes marketing can be tricky. And expensive. Other times it can be simple and free. Here is the defending NCAA champion, stocked with Olympians and national team players, not to mention a roster of seemingly likeable women. It's a recipe for marketing success.

Then there was the soccer game.

TB loves to watch games at Roberts, where no matter where one goes there is a perfect view of the field, combined with one familiar face after another, one familiar youth jersey after another.

TB's favorite spot to watch is from behind the goals, where he can stand, kibbitz and watch the game.

For the Seton Hall game, TB spent about 20 minutes behind the goal and the rest of the game in the press box.

It was the debut of John Nolan, who is doing the audio for Princeton men's and women's soccer this year on, as part of the Ivy League Digital Network.

John is a Syracuse alum and the radio voice of the Fort Wayne Tin Cats, the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. His presence will greatly enhance the videostreaming, which previously has not included any audio.

Windsor's goal was all the Tigers would get and all they would need. They would come close to getting a few more but couldn't convert, but the team that deserved to win did so in this one.

Princeton is now 1-2, having played the tough New Jersey trio of FDU, Rutgers and now Seton Hall.

TB was happy for Jim Barlow that his team won, especially with the way the Tigers had clearly outplayed the Pirates.

Beyond the win and the loss, though, TB's time Sunday afternoon was a reminder of what a great product Princeton offers to the local community at these two venues - and for free.

When the weather is perfect, like it was Sunday, it just makes it even that much better.

Yes, getting a sweep would have been great.

On this Sunday afternoon, though, it was still a pretty good place for a Princeton fan to be.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Not Yet

TigerBlog was just procrastinating. He does that sometimes. Actually, he does that a lot.

For instance, even as we speak, TigerBlog has a load of laundry in his dryer that he has not yet folded, though each of the last two mornings he has taken what's he's needed out of the dryer and left the rest, to be folded at another point in time.

That's quality procrastinating.

As for today, Bob Surace came in about 45 minutes ago, did some dance about the Yankees while singing their theme song (the best thing about the Yankees, by the way, is that song) and then used a PG-13 rated word to describe this weekend for an Ivy League football coach.

Ah, but before TB started down the path of agreeing with Surace, he flipped around the web for a little while.

The high point might have been when he read the New York Post headline "Beauty Queen - Miss America 'Fat As Bleep.' " TB didn't read any further; he didn't have to.

The low point was when he found out the Jumble page is under construction and today's puzzle couldn't be played. What does he do about that?

Somewhere in the middle was the story about how Raiders' kicker Sebastian Janikowski was angry because the kicker for the Jaguars said that Janikowski had told him that roots against the A's because the sooner the baseball season ends, the quicker the dirt infield is gone and Janikowski doesn't have to worry about not kicking on grass. Janikowski said he never said that.

The surprising part for TB was the idea that the Raiders and A's are the only football/baseball teams that share a stadium.

When TB was a kid, almost everyone in the NFL shared a stadium with a Major League Baseball team.

The Jets and Mets shared Shea Stadium. The Yankees and Giants shared Yankee Stadium.

The Phillies and Eagles were the Vet. The Steelers and Pirates were at Three Rivers. The Reds and Bengals played at Riverfront. The Orioles and Colts played at Memorial Stadium.

Pick a city. The teams were co-tenants.

Then the whole smaller, baseball-only revolution began, followed by football teams with gigantic stadiums that don't exactly bring cities their money's worth. If they're lucky, they're used 40-50 times a year.

The dirt infield covering the football field was a staple of NFL games in September. These days, that only happens in Oakland.

Football season starts in high school and college in August. The NFL is in Week 2.

The Ivy League? Nope. A week away.

This is always the toughest week for league teams, who are ready to finally get to play someone else but have to wait one more week to get started.

TigerBlog's idea is a great one.

Start this weekend. Play five weeks in a row. Take Week 6 off. Play five more weeks. That's 10 games, 11 weeks, one week for everyone to rest in mid-season.

If it ever came to be that an 11th game was added, then the season could start a week earlier still. The idea of having the whole league off in the middle is perfect for resting and healing.

Not that it isn't a busy weekend for Princeton sports.

Among the highlights:

* women's soccer at Seton Hall tonight after being postponed last night by thunderstorms and then  Sunday at Rutgers

* men's soccer at Rutgers tonight and home with Seton Hall Sunday

* field hockey home with Michigan State tonight and Penn State Sunday

* sprint football at Mansfield tomorrow at 7:30, on ESPN3 no less

* men's water polo all weekend, with the 6:30 game tonight against Santa Clara on ESPNU

There's also about 1,000 college football games on television and the NFL weekend, minus last night's horrible Jets-Pats game.

Just no Ivy League football just yet.

They'll get around to that next week.

And TB? He'll get around to folding his laundry at some point.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Is it possible that TigerBlog has finally seen enough of "The Sopranos?"

TB saw each episode multiple times when the show had its first run on HBO. Then he watched the edited reruns on A&E for years.

Now, as the show is repeated every night on one of the HBO channels, TB has been DVRing them and watching them again.

In this iteration, he has now seen each season two or three times through. And maybe, finally, he's had enough.

The show is currently in Season 3, and Tony's mother just died. TB started out watching it and then deleted it instead, opting for "Two And A Half Men," another show he's seen over and over. For some reason, seeing "2.5 Men" over and over is better than "Big Bang Theory" over and over, even if "BBT" is probably a better show. TB can't figure that out.

He's never seen an episode of "Modern Family," though he may be giving that one a chance now that it's coming to syndication. He tried to get into "How I Met Your Mother" but it didn't take. He's heard "Modern Family" is hilarious.

As for "The Sopranos," TB couldn't help but wonder if the reason the show is different now is because 1) he's seen each episode so many times or 2) because of the death of James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano.

He doubts it's the first, at least based on his history of watching the same show or movie a million times. Maybe it's tied to the second.

Either way, he doesn't really have a go-to show right now. He's getting ready for Season 3 of "Homeland," obviously.

He tried to get into "Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" with little success, and he will never be into a reality show. 

He's actually taken to watching, of all things, some Major League Baseball games of late. Oh, not a complete game or anything. But he's paying closer attention these days than he has in years, possibly because of how little else there is to watch.

He can't stand the Yankees, of course. And yet here they come, after a year of showing little in the way of promise for any kind of run.

He can't stand Alfonso Soriano, but the Yankees desperately needed a presence like his in the lineup. And A-Rod? He's played well enough to give them way more production than they'd been getting at third base, even if he's an unrepentant cheater who can't possibly have a friend on his team or any other.

Seriously, how can he in good conscience pretend he's being honest about anything? Right now, he's fifth all-time in Major League history in home runs, seven away from Willie Mays, and sixth all-time in RBIs, 29 away from Lou Gehrig. He has 2,936 career hits.

And yet he has absolutely zero chance of ever being in the Hall of Fame.

He was supposed to challenge Barry Bonds for the all-time home run record (if one acknowledges that Bonds is the legitimate home run champ). Instead, he's challenge Bonds for the all-time revulsion record.

And yet there are the Yankees, just a game behind the Rays for the final A.L. wild card spot, which is going to be the wildest part of September baseball, as the Yankees, Orioles, Indians and Royals are all within two games of the Rays, who are 2.5 games behind the Rangers.

In the National League, the playoff teams are set with the Braves, Dodgers and three Central teams - the Cards, Pirates and Reds, who are fighting it out for first place, which avoids the wild card game.

The Pirates are this year's feel-good story, after not having a winning season since well before Bonds decided to start his long career of cheating.

TB's fear is that the Yankees will come all the way back, get into the playoffs and win it all. Oh well.

TB has been following Will Venable's season pretty closely.

The Princeton alum had a great August, and he now has 21 home runs and 51 RBIs and a .271 batting average. He also earned a two-year contract extension, worth $8.4 million.

Venable figures to be in the lineup tomorrow night in Atlanta, where the Padres will take on the Braves. San Diego definitely won't be in the postseason and would need to finish 15-3 to get to .500, but the team has at least been competitive for most of the season.

On the mound in Atlanta tomorrow night will be David Hale, who will become the latest Princetonian in the majors when he makes his debut for the Braves.

Here's what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said about him:
Hale, a Marietta native and Princeton University graduate, was 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games (20 starts) for Gwinnett, and seven of his last eight games were quality starts of six innings or more with three earned runs or fewer.
“He’s got some good stuff,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after that outing. “Getting out of that jam… He’s got pitchability. He’s got some quality pitches. He elevated the fastball, he can sink it. He’s been impressive.”Hale had 77 strikeouts with 36 walks in 114-2/3 innings at Gwinnett this season, after posting 124 strikeouts with 67 walks in 145-2/3 innings at Double-A Mississippi in 2012. He had one or no walks in five of his last seven starts for Gwinnett.
A third-round draft pick of the Braves in 2009 out of Princeton, Hale returned to school for consecutive fall semesters after minor league seasons ended in order to complete work on his degree in economics. He said his dream was to pitch in the major leagues, but he wanted to make sure he had a solid fallback option if it didn’t work out.

While at Princeton, Hale was a .291 hitter with seven home runs and 29 RBIs in addition to his pitching success.

And now he's making his Major League debut. Against Will Venable, who sometimes leads off, which would mean the first batter Hale ever faced would be a fellow Princeton alum.

TB would root for Venable to hit a home run and then Hale to settle down for six strong innings in a win.

And for a Yankee loss.

His sense, though, is that this will be a bad fall for the anti-Yankee crowd.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years Later

If you're looking for something about Princeton sports, you're here on the wrong day.

Not on 9/11. Never on 9/11.

Today isn't about Princeton sports, or anything else, for that matter. It's about remembering what happened not that far from here 12 years ago today, on the single worst day in the history of the United States of America.

So, no, it's not a day to talk about anything else. TB's fear is that if he stops, and everyone else little by little stops, then the horror of that day will recede from all of our minds, and that is something that can never, ever, ever happen.

TigerBlog has written this each of the last few years, and he'll repeat it each 9/11 as long as he can.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the worst day in this country's history. It was a day that changed forever how the country and the world think and operate. No day has gone by for any of us since then that hasn't been touched by the events of that day.

Everyone has a story from that day.

TB's friend Corey was flying here and was diverted to Nashville, from where he had rent and car to drive back. FatherBlog was in his office in midtown working and ended up having to walk a few miles to get to a ferry to get back across the river.

He knows one person who landed at Newark about an hour before the first plane hit the World Trade Center and was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike and could see the twin towers.

He knows another person who was in Ireland and watched in on television, wondering if it was real and then, when finding out it was, wondering what coming home would be like, or, for that matter, how in fact coming home would be accomplished in the first place.

He knows several people who were in the towers that morning. He knows one - former Princeton men's lacrosse player John Schroeder - who didn't get out alive.

TigerBlog's own experience was from a safer distance, and yet he was petrified by the end of the day, in a way he's never been before or since. TB considers himself to be a pretty laid back person, able to roll with the punches, able to be optimistic, able to always wonder "what's the worst that can happen."

Except for that night.

He stood at the end of his driveway in the darkness and looked up and the clear night sky. There wasn't a plane to be seen anyway, all aviation in this country having been stopped.

It was the eeriest moment of TB's life.

That Tuesday started out as a day of total serenity, with a bright blue sky, no humidity, pleasantly warm, the kind of day that is a reminder that summer is ending and autumn is just about here.

Miss TigerBlog was very Little Miss TigerBlog back then, having just turned one, and TB had to drop her off at her babysitter, about three miles north of Princeton. After that, the routine was to drop TigerBlog Jr. off at the University League Nursery School, across FitzRandolph from the Jadwin parking lot. TBJ was four.

As he dropped him off, TB heard the office manager for the school mention that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. As with pretty much everyone else when they first heard the news, TB's first thought was: "How is that possible on such a crystal clear day?"

The rest of the day isn't a blur at all. Each detail is right there, as it unfolded 12 years ago. How TB tried to get in touch with FatherBlog to make sure he was okay. How the only television here back then was in the Caldwell Field House athletic training room, where people from the department gathered in silence, filtering in and out, unable to watch it in large doses.

And then eventually it was time to go back and get the kids, first TBJ. And TigerBlog found him and his nursery school pals on the swings, oblivious to the fact that the innocence of their world - if not their childhoods - was gone.

Of course, there were a lot of kids in their age-group who had the innocence of their childhoods gone as well, the kids who had one parent or even two not come home that night.

And that night was so surreal, with the quiet of the neighborhood - and in the skies - and the inability both to watch the television and to turn away.

And with that, TB wants to rerun what he said here two years ago to the day, changing only the "10" to "12." So here goes:

TB wondered that night on the driveway whether or not the United States would be able to survive such a shadowy enemy, wondered what a post 9/11 world would look like, whether or not he could take for granted that Princeton University would still field athletic teams.

And then an amazing thing happened. The sun came up the next day, and the resilience of New Yorkers - especially then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani - began to inspire the entire country.

TB remembers one quote from Giuliani more than any other: "We will honor those who died by living our lives."

And that's what's happened.

If you asked TB to write down the best moments of his life, many of them have happened in the last 10 years.

As for Princeton, some of the greatest moments in Princeton athletic history have happened in the last 12 years. Today, Princeton is heading off into a new athletic year with athletes who were, what, in elementary school on 9/11?

One thing that TB has struggled with in these last 12 years is watching the events again on TV. In a world where it's so hard to separate reality and fantasy, TB has always felt it's somewhat voyeuristic and disrespectful to watch the planes hit the tower again, watch the towers fall, see the people jump out the windows because it was a better option for them - almost like it was watching a war movie or some episode of a cop show.

But the last few days, when TB has seen those images, it's served as the best reminder of the biggest heroes of that day, equal to the ones on the flight that crashed outside of Pittsburgh when the passengers fought back - the New York City police and firefighters who ran INTO the buildings, helping evacuate them before they collapsed.

In the aftermath, there were all kinds of fundraising events, including a huge one at Madison Square Garden. TB remembers a New York City firefighter who was on the stage and said his name and address into the mic and dared Osama Bin Laden to have the guts to come to his house.

TB heard an interview yesterday on the radio with one of the firefighters, a man who was trapped for 13 hours before being rescued. He talked about people he worked with who died, talked about the horror of the day.

Then he talked about resilience, how New York City came back, how the people got up off the canvas and went about their business and how proud that makes him.

And he's right.

It's been 12 years since the worst day in American history, one that left TigerBlog and tens of millions of others afraid about what the future would look like.

Twelve years later, the world has changed, but the American people haven't. They've lived their lives, as Giuliani said.

They've gone to work and gone on vacation and had children and sent them to college and gone to their weddings. They've played sports and watched sports and gone to the movies and gone to concerts. They've argued politics. They've cleaned out flooded basements and gotten sick and gotten better.

And every morning, they've gotten up.

It's 12 years later.

The terrorists won big on 9/11.

America has won big since.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meet The 17ers

Had TigerBlog not overheard a casual remark about how early this year's freshman student-athlete orientation was going to be, he would have assumed it was at noon, just as it has been every other year going back as far as he can remember.

Instead, it was at 8 a.m. this time around. Were it not for that little moment, TB would have missed it completely.

Instead, he was there bright and early, along with more than 200 members of the Class of 2017, freshly arrived on campus, about to pick their classes later today and then actually start them tomorrow.

TigerBlog didn't realize that freshmen hadn't picked their classes yet. He tried to remember back to his first semester of college and when he picked classes, and he thought it was done long before he arrived on the Penn campus.

Maybe it wasn't. No, he's pretty sure it was. So then he started to think about what classes he took his first semester freshman year, and he's pretty sure it was this: Economics 1A, German, some political science class and calculus.

That particular college, by the way, was tied for seventh in the U.S. News and World Report rankings that came out today.  Along with MIT and Duke.

The No. 1 school on the list is, again, Princeton, followed by Harvard, Yale, Columbia and then a tie for fifth between Stanford and Chicago, whose athletic director is Erin McDermott, who worked at Princeton for more than a decade and was earlier at Columbia.

The fact that Princeton had been named No. 1 again drew a nice round of applause from the freshmen.

It was Gary Walters who mentioned the new rankings, mentioned them in his opening remarks, which included the fact that minds like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer lectured in McCosh 50, the same room where the orientation was taking place.

TigerBlog had two thoughts when Walters said that.

First, this was the first time since Walters made his announcement last week that he is stepping down as Director of Athletics at the conclusion of this academic year that it dawned on TB that this would be a year of lasts with his boss, and this was the first "last," as it were, his last freshman student athlete orientation session.

It was a weird thought.

TB's second thought was that, as he looked around the room, he wondered if the group of young people assembled in it realized the great good fortune they have to be part of something like Princeton Athletics. Just to get to that room, they all had to excel athletically and academically far above the norms of both.

He hoped that they appreciated it. Maybe you don't when you're 18 or 19 or however old they are. Or maybe you can't when you've always excelled at everything.

Or maybe you do. TB isn't sure.

What he is sure about is that this event is always fascinating to him.

He writes this every year, but he can't help as he sits there but to look around and wonder what's in store for everyone.

Some will get hurt. Some will quit. Most won't. Most will have great four-year experiences.

And some will win the Roper Trophy and the von Kienbusch Award - as the top senior athletes - at the end of their four years, when the same members of the class gather at the senior awards banquet.

It seems so far in the future, that day. And yet it'll be here soon enough.

The program at McCosh 50 started with a video (TB's lone actual contribution) of some Princeton highlights, along with some Princeton Athletics facts - and the Angels and Airwaves song "Call To Arms."

Then there was a video of a speech Adam Berry, the former football receiver, gave a few years back on diversity at Princeton. Berry is very, very impressive.

Then came the speakers. The students heard about the McGraw Learning Center, about the medical staff and its policies and procedures, from the Office of the Dean of the College. Lastly, they heard from Jack Berger, the captain of the hockey team, about his own experiences here, as a student and an athlete.

Mostly what he said is to enjoy it, because it won't last forever.

TB's advice?

Reach out when they have questions, need help or feel alone. There are people here to talk to, people whose job it is to make their experiences better.

Make as many relationships as they can on campus. Take advantage of your time here.

When it was over, TigerBlog left the building and made his way back to Jadwin. As he walked, he thought about all the times he's gone from that side of campus back to his office and yet for all these years, he's never figured out the absolute best path to take.

After all, there are so many different ones.

As for the members of the athletic Class of 2017, they too left the room, headed down their own individual paths.

TB wishes them all the best.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

TigerBlog can't remember in what class he first read the novel "Candide," or even if it was an English class.

It might have been senior year of high school English, in Mrs. Danielson's class.

He had American literature as a sophomore with Mr. Ridley, where he was first exposed to "The Great Gatsby" and "The Catcher In The Rye," two of his five favorite books, as well as some Hemingway, two Arthur Miller plays and something by Steinbeck, not to mention one of the two most practical things he ever learned in school, grammar. The other, by the way, was ninth-grade typing, which was done on a manual typewriter.

Junior year meant English lit with Ms. Nastaj. That was Shakespeare and "The Canterbury Tales" and that kind of stuff, which never really appealed to TB. As for Ms. Nastaj, TB's level of respect for her grew throughout the year and then really grew when he got to college and beyond, when he had a much better appreciation of what it was she tried so hard for 10 months to get across in her classroom, which was basically to think for yourself.

Mrs. Danielson's class was world literature, including some fascinating stuff, including a study of the Bible as literature. And "Candide." TB thinks. Because it could also have been in a world history class as well.

No, he thinks it was world literature.

As an aside, TB would rank all three in the top five of teachers he had in school, and that includes four years at Penn.

Meanwhile, the title character in "Candide" was a simple little sort who thought "all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Sort of an optimist, ol' Candide was.

Anyway, he stumbles across El Dorado, a utopian city where the streets are paved with gold. TB's memory is a little fuzzy on this part, as he hasn't read it in more than 30 years, but he either gets tired of utopia or someone explains to him that because everything is perfect all the time that it becomes mundane and he can no longer appreciate it.

Oh, and somewhere in there he says that someone must clearly be the happiest person on Earth because "he is above everything he owns," to which he is told "the best stomachs are not those that reject all foods."

Meanwhile, the part about not appreciating utopia has long resonated with TigerBlog. He thought about it again Friday as he wandered back and forth between field hockey and women's soccer, which were the first home games of the 2013-14 academic year at Princeton.

What made him think of Candide? The weather.

It was perfect. No, it was beyond perfect. It can't get any better than the weather was here Friday night.

And if it was like that all the time, would TigerBlog appreciate it? Or does he need a cold, rainy February day or a 95-degree, 85 percent-humidity day in July to enjoy Friday night to its fullest?

Whether it was the weather (homophones can be fun), both games had big crowds, despite the fact (or possibly because of the fact) that they were played at the same time, about 100 yards apart.

It would be a good weekend for both teams, as each won Friday night and then again later in the weekend, also at home.

The field hockey team had a great 3-1 win over Duke Friday night and then a we're-the-defending-NCAA-champ-everyone-is-coming-after-us-because-beating-us-would-make-their-year win over Fairfield Saturday.

Princeton outshot Fairfield 12-0 in the first half - 22-6 for the game - but had to fight off the Stags 4-3. That's what happens when people come after you that hard, which is what happens every game when you won the NCAA title the year before.

As for women's soccer, the Tigers beat Richmond 2-0 and Army 3-0, with three of those five goals from freshman Tyler Lussi and the other two from junior Lauren Lazo.

A year ago, when Princeton went 14-4-1 and 7-0-0 in the Ivy League, Jen Hoy had 18 goals, while Lazo had 11. With Hoy now a graduate in the professional league, the biggest question was if Princeton could come close to replacing her production; Lussi, through two games, seems to be the best bet for that.

Beyond just the wins Friday, the games themselves were great events. There were kids everywhere, and both facilities looked great, even with the construction still ongoing at Bedford Field.

As TB said Friday, events like those offer a great opportunity, especially for kids, to see all that is positive about intercollegiate athletics.

Neither game disappointed.

The season is under way around here.

It got off to a great start.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Opening Night, Big Night

While TigerBlog is pretty fired up for the start of games for the 2013-14 athletic year here at Princeton, even he will acknowledge that there are bigger sporting events in the world today than those that can be found involving the Tigers.

In case you forgot, there are two games on campus this evening, both at 6, as the defending NCAA champion field hockey team hosts Duke at 6 on Bedford Field, while about 100 yards away on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, the defending Ivy League champion women's soccer team hosts Richmond, also at 6.

Admission is free.

Again, admission is free. So is parking.

Given that the weather isn't this good on the nicest days in heaven and that the games are free, there is absolutely no reason not to go.

Think about it. What else in the entertainment world can provide this kind of value? You have two games within one minute's walk of each other, high-level Division I games at that, for no charge.

And you get to see the kind of athletes and athletics that will make you forget all of the headlines about conference realignment and Johnny Manziel and all of the things that make the sporting public shake their head about college sports.

When the game's over, walk up to one of the athletes and say hi. Bring you kids, boys and girls. They'll love it, and so will you.

There are around 125 FBS college football teams and about 100 players on each (scholarship plus walk-on). That comes to 12,500 FBS football players.

There are 330 Division I men's basketball teams. Figure they average 13 players per roster. That's another 4,300 athletes. Add them together, and you get 16,800. Round it to 17,000.

Then according to that commercial, there are approximately 400,000 NCAA athletes. That means roughly 96% of them don't play FBS football or Division men's basketball.

Unfortunately, all of college athletics gets labeled together way too often, especially in the national media. TB once challenged Kevin Blackistone, then with the Dallas Morning News (and now a professor and regular on "Around the Horn"), to come to Princeton and see for himself what goes on here after he'd written a series of articles critical of college athletics.

Blackistone took TB up on it and came to a Princeton-Lafayette football game. He also spoke to several Princeton athletes and coaches. He told TB that he thoroughly enjoyed the perspective here and his experience here, and TB could tell he meant it.

So that's what will be on display here tonight. Come and check it out.

In the meantime, the biggest sporting events in the world today are the World Cup soccer qualifiers.

TB's focus, like most in this country, is on the U.S.-Costa Rica game, which will be held at the national stadium in San Jose, beginning at 10 tonight Eastern time.

TB imagines Diego Quesada will be watching.

Diego was one of the three tour guides the Princeton men's lacrosse team had during its trip to Costa Rica 15 months ago. It was a great experience for everyone who made the trip, including TB.

One of his top memories is from attending the WCQ match between Los Ticos, as the Costa Ricans are known, and El Salvador, in the preliminary round.

To say it was wild is an understatement. To say the home crowd was into it is an understatement.

TB assumes that will all be multiplied out by a factor of about 10,000 or so for tonight's game. For starters, the stakes are higher, as both are on the verge of clinching spots in the field for Brazil next summer.

And then there's the first game between the two, in Denver in March, when the Americans won 1-0 in a blizzard. The Costa Ricans are still a tad miffed that the game was played in such conditions, and apparently there has been little in the way of accommodation for the U.S. team made for the return leg.

Right now the U.S. leads the group with 13 points, followed by Los Ticos with 11. Mexico is next with eight, followed by Honduras with seven, Panama with six and Jamaica with two.

The Americans have a bunch of players one yellow card away from having to sit out the next game, which is Tuesday at home against Mexico. And the country of origin for the ref tonight? Yup, Mexico.

Costa Rica, on the other hand, goes to Jamaica Tuesday. The final games are next month, with games on Oct. 11 and Oct. 15.

The top three teams in the group automatically qualify for the World Cup. The fourth place team plays New Zealand home-and-home for a spot in Brazil.

It's going to be hard for the U.S. and Costa Ricans to play their way out at this point, but goofier things have happened.

Tonight's game should be a great one, though it is on BeIn Sports TV, which TB doesn't get. Oh well.

He'll have to be content with opening night here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all. Happy 5774.

That's 5,774 continuous years of the Hebrew calender, one whose years run of a similar but not exact length to the Gregorian calendar. Because of that, and the fact that not all Hebrew months and years are the same length, the Jewish holidays fall in similar but not exact spots each year.

TigerBlog recently read something interesting about that subject.

All Jewish holidays begin at sundown, so for instance Rosh Hashanah this year actually started last night, not today.

Hanukkah this year starts on sundown Wednesday, Nov. 27, which is the absolute earliest it can start. The next day, Nov. 28, is Thanksgiving, which means the first day of Hanukkah will be on Thanksgiving Day. This is also the latest that Thanksgiving Day can fall, since it is the fourth Thursday in November.

The last time Hanukkah was on Nov. 28 and Nov. 28 was the fourth Thursday of the month was 1861, before Thanksgiving was an actual holiday. And because of the way the Hebrew calendar is just out of sync enough with the solar year, Hanukkah won't be able to fall on Nov. 28 again until the Hebrew calendar cycles through the Gregorian calendar, which would be in the year 79,811.

TB won't be around then.

Meanwhile, Rosh Hashanah falls insanely early this year as well. It's almost never this early in September.

In fact, Jewish holidays are never on time. As TB wrote a year ago:
In Jewish culture, the High Holy Days never come on time. They're either early or late, as in "the holidays came really early this year," which is said at every family celebration as a way of suggesting that the hostess was caught completely off guard, what with the end of the summer and all, and therefore couldn't create a proper meal for the occasion. This is usually followed by a general agreement that "we should only be together on wonderful occasions."

Rosh Hashanah is the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, an eight-day period of celebration and introspection that culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when TigerBlog's people fast for 24 hours to atone for their sins.

The customary greeting for today, though, is simply "Happy New Year," as that's what Rosh Hashanah is, the start of the Jewish new year.

So happy 5774, one and all.

TB has always thought that this is a good time for the new year, as opposed to Jan. 1. New school year. End of summer. Change of seasons. All of that suggests a turning of the page.

And so it is at Princeton Athletics, as the wildly successful 2012-13 academic year is officially in the rearview mirror and the curtain is rising on 2013-14.

The first games of the new academic year are a little more than 24 hours away.

Princeton hosts two games tomorrow, as the field hockey team begins defense of its NCAA championship when it takes on Duke at 6 on Bedford Field and the women's soccer team follows up on the second-best season in program history when it hosts Richmond, also at 6.

Combine those two from a year ago, and you have a 35-5-1 overall record, a 14-0-0 Ivy record, a 6-1 NCAA tournament record (all games played away from home) and one NCAA championship. That's not too bad.

The field hockey team is also home Saturday, this time at 4, against Fairfield. The women's soccer team hosts Army Sunday at noon.

There's no admission charge for either sport, by the way.

The men's soccer team is at FDU tomorrow at 7. Jim Barlow's team has its home opener as week from Sunday at 2 against Seton Hall, after playing at Rutgers next Friday.

The women's volleyball team also plays tomorrow, when it begins its season at the George Mason tournament.

All of these opponents, by the way, have already played multiple games this season. Princeton teams start a weekend or two later, and it takes a few games to achieve full fitness levels.

Still, it's the first games of a new year.

What will 2013-14 have in store?

The first games are always exciting, the start of a run into early June at the NCAA track and field championships.

Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gary Walters Steps Down

Gary Walters ducked his head into TigerBlog's office last Thursday morning and said he wanted to talk to him about something later that day. When TB asked what it was, Walters said he'd just tell him later that afternoon.

Now when the boss says he wants to have a few words, the mind runs the gamut from "minor issue" to "campus safety will be escorting you out and don't ever come back."

TB spent about five hours pretty sure it was closer to the first one. As it turned out, it was hardly minor.

Walters told TB that he'd be stepping down as the Ford Family Director of Athletics at Princeton at the end of the 2013-14 academic year and that he wanted to make the announcement at the department's annual kickoff meeting a few days later.

TB has spent hours and hours meeting with Walters in the AD's office. If he had to add it all up, TB imagines it adds up to multiple weeks worth of time through the years.

As Walters broke the news to TB that this would be his 20th and final year in charge of Princeton Athletics, TB couldn't help but think back to the first of their meetings, back in July 1994.

TB and Walters started at Princeton on the same day. TB was actually hired when there was no athletic director, and his second-to-last story at the newspaper was the about the press conference announcing Walters' hiring.

One day earlier in Walters' tenure, he and TigerBlog had a quasi-interview. TB had already been hired obviously, so there wasn't really much at stake in the way of actual employment.

Still, TB remembers clear as day that Walters brought him down for a get-to-know-you session. TB's biggest memory? When Walters said TB was lucky because he wouldn't have hired a Penn guy for that position.

To this day, TB isn't sure if Walters was serious or not.

There is a lot about his boss of the last 19+ years that TB is sure about.

For starters, TB has always said that had Walters come to Princeton with a things-are-going-well-don't-fix-it-if-it-ain't-broke attitude that the athletic program wouldn't be anything close to what it is today.

Instead, Gary rebuilt Princeton, to the point where nothing is remotely close to what it was before. His charge as AD was to fully integrate athletics into the larger campus community, and that's exactly what he has done.

He worked tirelessly through the years to fight for the causes he believed in on this campus and nationally, for the coaches and the athletes and the Princeton name. The harder the fight, the more he relished it.

It's easy to sum his tenure up in wins and losses, of which there have been enormously more of the first than the second.

Princeton has won the Ivy League's unofficial all sports points championship each of his 19 years. There has been at least one team or individual national champion each of those years as well. Princeton has been the highest finishing Ivy League school in the Directors' Cup 16 of the 19 years it has been awarded, and the Tigers routinely finish in the top 40 nationally, usually as the top non-BCS conference school.

Princeton has won 214 Ivy League championships in his time as AD, a total 82 higher than the next highest total in the league during that time. There have been 48 national championships.

It's sometimes easy to forget how amazing this record is. Consider that Princeton won four NCAA championships last year - four - at a school with small enrollment and the highest admissions standards of any school in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Actually in the world.

So that's part of his legacy. It's not his complete legacy. It includes:

* winning

* the ability to hire young, unproven head coaches and give them the tools and guidance to be successful. This began with his first head coaching hire, Julie Shackford, who came from a small Division III program to become the greatest women's soccer coach in Ivy League history. It includes people like Kristen Holmes-Winn, who won the NCAA field hockey championship a year ago, and Scott Bradley, who has taken Princeton to so many NCAA tournaments in baseball that TB can't remember them all, and Courtney Banghart, who wasn't even 30 years old when he hired her and watched her turn the women's basketball program into a national power, and John Thompson, who had been the second assistant with no head coaching experience when he was elevated to head basketball coach, and Kathy Sell in women's tennis and Guy Gadowsky in hockey and so many others that TB is sorry if he left out any obvious ones. In all, 17 of his hires who came here with no previous Division I head coaching experience have won at least one Ivy League title.

* the co-curricular elements of intercollegiate sports, which he refers to as "Education Through Athletics." The concept has been in place since Day 1, long before ETA became the department motto. Drawing on his own experiences here with the late (and great) Marv Bressler from his own days as a men's basketball player, Walters established the wildly successful Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program, which has given Princeton's athletes a voice to turn to for any number of reasons and which has brought so many faculty and staff members into the inner circle of teams. But it's more than just the PAAF. He created a Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee before it became an NCAA rule to do so. He has met thousands of times with University committees, advocating for so many causes that impact the athletic departments and athletes. There have been victories and defeats, but there has been a constant presence on the other side of Washington Road.

* holding his staff, coaches and athletes to the highest ethical standards at all times. He has been unwavering in this respect, and he has stressed what he has always referred to as either Values Based Coaching or Character Based Coaching.

* mentoring senior staff mentors who have gone on to become athletic directors or conference commissioners. There have been no fewer than seven of those.

* a total overhaul of Princeton's facilities and fundraising. He created the Princeton Varsity Club, which supports the Performance, Values and Community of Tiger Athletics. He has worked to allow Friends' Group support to reach unimaginable levels.

* a place in the national debate in college athletics through his work with the NCAA, most notably (but not limited to) his work on the Division I men's basketball committee.

* a complete commitment to providing the best possible experience for Princeton's student-athletes.

When TigerBlog sat down in Walters' office that day in 1994, his title was Manager of Sports Media Relations. Since then he has been promoted six times, to the point where he is now a Senior Associate Director of Athletics. From that day to today, his salary has tripled.

Each time, it was Gary Walters who was doing the promoting. Walters has been very, very good to TigerBlog.

This isn't to say that there haven't been hurdles along the way. There have been many disagreements, some of which TB was able to win and most of which he wasn't.

On the whole, though, coming to work in the 19 years that TB has been here has been, more than anything else, fun. When people say it must be fun to work at a place where you go to games all the time, TB thinks that it is, but it wouldn't be at a place that didn't have the onfield success and didn't have a sense of proper values about how to achieve that success.

Gary Walters deserves much of the credit for that.

And now it will be winding down.

TB sensed that this might be Gary's last year. He had said a few years ago to TB in passing that he thought he wanted to put in 20 years. It was the only time he ever mentioned anything like that to TB, but it stuck in TB's mind.

Gary hasn't exactly mellowed or slowed in his passion and commitment to Princeton and its athletes. In fact, he even announced his recommitment to his former staple, the 7 a.m. breakfast meeting. TB doubts his 20th year will be anything different.

Walters made his announcement to the staff this morning, he started out by saying that it had been 50 years since his father dropped him off at 345 Pyne Hall for his freshman year at Princeton. He had come from Reading High School, where his basketball coach had been Pete Carril.

He spoke for about two or three minutes about that first day, and how he met his first roommate, from Hawaii. How Pyne was next to Dillon Gym, which kept him from reaching the library as much as he should have.

Then he went through the rest of the meeting.

Eventually he came to the end of his agenda, and it was time to let his secret out.

It was an emotional time for him, and why wouldn't it be? So much of who he is has been tied to Princeton, in his 50 years. As a point guard on a Final Four basketball team. As an assistant coach. And for the last 19 years as Director of Athletics.

With one more to go.

He received a long ovation from the coaches and staff who were gathered at Dillon Gym. He spoke at a podium set up on the basketball court itself, on the court where he first played 50 years ago. TB wondered, as he watched, if anyone else was struck by how it has come full circle for him.

Princeton University has seen few people in its long history who have been as loyal, as dedicated, as committed to the institution as Gary Walters.

He read to the staff from a prepared script. He spoke from the heart, and said he couldn't believe his great good fortune in life.

The staff listened intently, and when he was done, he was given a long, long ovation.

Gary is not a product of privilege. In his talk, he called himself the son of a welder with an eighth grade education.

He came to a place of privilege, and he gave every single thing he had to give.

His final year figures to be more of the same Gary. He will fight his battles. He will hold everyone to his standards.

And then in June, he will step down. There will be parties, TB assumes. There will be testimonials. There will be honors.

They have been more than earned.

Gary Walters has been one in a million at Princeton University. He has given far more than he has gotten back.

Princeton is lucky to have had him all these years.