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.


ArvA59 said...

The game vs.Lehigh was lost by the coaching staff making several errors in communication to the field. It was obvious that they wanted #12 to win the ballgame instead of the rotating system they used in the first half. It was obvious that this caused the loss of the ballgame. I was appalled for Princeton and the football team who had the personnel to win the game.

h'30 said...

Seems to me that regardless of which QB the coaching staff mat have wanted to win the game, it was lost by the field goal unit. The six points we gave away with the two blocked attempts were more than enough to win the game. We can't go through another season with a suspect FG unit.