Friday, October 25, 2013

Princeton vs. Harvard x 5

TigerBlog has always tried to get his kids - and other people's kids - to understand how to avoid trouble.

His basic rule is this: If they have to stop and ask themselves if what they're thinking about doing is a good idea, it isn't. When in doubt, don't do it.

He's recently added this corollary: the busier teenage kids are, the less likely they are to get in trouble. It can be sports, music, other extra-curricular activities, schoolwork - every hour they spend doing those things is one hour less that they can be bored and open to bad decisions.

Beyond that, when teenage kids do get in trouble, it usually seems to include one or more of these five things: hanging out with the wrong people, being out after midnight, drugs/alcohol, sex and/or gambling.

The last one isn't something that gets the attention of the others, but it can be just as devastating.

And it's everywhere, especially in the NFL, with its point spreads, over-unders, Super Bowl polls and everything else.

Gambling can become as addicting as drugs, and TB had a friend in college who fell into the pattern of losing and then trying to make it back on the next game, only to dig the hole deeper until it became a huge problem.

Few things pose a bigger threat to the integrity of athletics than gambling, and point-shaving scandals have been hugely devastating. That's part of the reason that the NCAA is so adamant about getting its anti-gambling messages out there.

And if you work at an NCAA school, you can't miss the message. Gambling - any gambling on any sport that the NCAA sponsors - is not permitted. In any form. No matter how small.

The OAC has an NCAA basketball pool each year, but for no money. Even if it was for a $5 or something like that, it would be a very big deal, and people's jobs could be lost over it.

TB and his co-workers are constantly making wager-like comments but never, ever would actually include money as part of the deal.

Wager-like comments?

Like yesterday, for instance, when this was the question:

"If you get two points for a win and one for a tie, who would win Saturday, Princeton or Harvard?"

It's a huge Saturday in Cambridge, as Princeton takes on Harvard - five times.

It starts at noon with field hockey and continues at 1 with football, 4 with men's soccer and women's hockey and 7 with women's soccer.

It's the weekend following midterms, which means that Princeton's teams will be either 1) tired or 2) chomping at the bit.

Princeton is currently in first place or tied for first place in the league in field hockey, football and men's soccer. Harvard is currently in first place or tied for first in football and women's soccer and is very much in the thick of it in men's soccer.

In other words, these games will be huge.

In men's soccer, for instance, Princeton is 2-0-1, tied with Penn and Yale. Harvard is 2-1-0, which leaves the Crimson right there as the league race is at the halfway point.

Of the eight men's soccer teams in the Ivy League, only three are currently over .500 overall.

In women's soccer, all eight schools are at least .500 and seven are over .500. Princeton has had some awful luck in its league games, and the Tigers season shows how hard it is to go 7-0-0, which is what they did a year ago.

Only five teams have ever gone 7-0-0 in Ivy women's soccer. Harvard is currently 4-0-0 and the only Ivy team that has a chance for a perfect league record and is 8-0-1 in its last nine games. Don't think Princeton wants to ruin all that?

The reverse is true in field hockey, where Princeton is alone in first at 4-0 and Harvard is 1-3, tied for sixth. Women's hockey season is just starting out.

And then there's football.

Princeton is 2-0 in the league. So is Harvard. So is Penn, for that matter. Princeton has looked great this year. Harvard is very strong. Penn is the defending champion.

And of course Harvard remembers what happened last year, when Princeton came from 34-10 down with 12 minutes to go to beat the Crimson 39-34.

At the time it seemed miraculous. Now? The idea that Princeton can score 29 points in 12 minutes hardly seems shocking.

The fall/winter overlap is starting, but even with that, the only home events this weekend are in men's water polo. The men's hockey team is close to home, playing at the Prudential Center in Newark in the Liberty Hockey Invitational today at 4 and tomorrow at 7.

The big games are in Cambridge this weekend though.

Princeton vs. Harvard, times five.

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