Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Top 13 Princeton Athletic Moments Of 2013

At first, the goal for New Year's Eve is to stay awake until midnight. Then, several decades later, the goal is to not care if you're not awake at midnight on New Year's Eve.

In between, the struggle is to find something to do on New Year's Eve, even if you'd rather do nothing at all.

Whatever it is you do tonight, if you're out and about, have a great time - and be safe and careful. And Happy New Year to all.

Before 2014 rolls in, TigerBlog offers up the top 13 moments in Princeton Athletics for the year 2013. This is his list, put together without soliciting any feedback from anyone else, which means that it's his fault if it's completely off base.

Also, TB didn't want to just do the top games, because it leaves too much out, so he has settled on moments, which could be games or other happenings.

Anyway, here is TB's top 13 for 2013:

13. Princeton golf has a huge weekend
One year after the women finished sixth and the men fifth at the Ivy League championships, Princeton came within one shot of sweeping the team championships in 2013. The men won by five shots, with an 883-888 win over Yale to win the first Ivy title for the program since 2006. The women almost matched that effort but lost by one excruciating shot, 909-910, to finish second. Princeton did have both individual champions, as Kelly Shon won the women's title in a playoff and Greg Jarmas won for the men.

12. Princeton field hockey wins another Ivy League championship
Princeton once again dominated Ivy League field hockey, going 7-0 in the league to win its 19th championship in 20 years. Princeton outscored its seven league opponents by a combined 32-5 and beat second-place Penn 5-1 on the final day of the regular season for the outright title. Princeton then beat Penn State in the NCAA opening round and came within one goal of a return to the Final Four in a 3-2 loss to Maryland in the quarterfinals. Princeton won the 2012 NCAA championship.

11. Princeton defeats Cornell in the Ivy League men's lacrosse semifinal
Less than one week after Cornell easily handled Princeton at MetLife Stadium, Princeton came back to defeat the Big Red 14-13 in overtime in the Ivy tournament semifinal in one of the great games in program history. The game was tied 7-7 at the end of the third quarter, but there would be 13 more goals scored in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a wild, wild stretch in which the game went from 10-10 with less than four minutes to go to 13-13 three minutes later. Mike MacDonald had a ridiculous night with seven goals and two assists, including one on Kip Orban's game-winning laser late in the first OT.

10. Princeton finishes fifth at the NCAA women's water polo championship
Princeton rallied to defeat UC San Diego 12-10 to finish in fifth place at the NCAA championships for the best finish in program history, as well as the best finish ever by a CWPA team in the current eight-team format. Princeton, who advanced to the NCAA tournament by winning the Eastern championship, was led by freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson, who had 14 saves in the fifth-place game and set an NCAA tournament record with 38 saves in three games. She also would represent the U.S. at the World Junior Championships, where she win a gold medal and be named the top goalie.

9. Princeton sweeps the Ivy League swimming and diving championships
Princeton's men entered the final day of the 2013 Ivy League men's swimming and diving championship with a 23-point lead over Harvard. By the time it was over, the final margin of victory was 68 points. The Princeton women actually trailed in the team standings at one point on the final night of their Ivy championship meet before winning by 100.5 points. For the men, it was the fifth straight Ivy title. For the women, it was the 11th Ivy title in 14 years.

8. Princeton comes from 20 points back in the final eight minutes to defeat Penn State in men's basketball
Playing in Penn State's Rec Hall, Princeton trailed by 20 at 56-36 with 8:29 to play before rallying to pull it out 81-79 in overtime. In other words, Princeton scored 36 points in the first 31:31 of the game and then scored 45 points in the final 13:29, connecting on 12 of its final 17 field goal attempts. Will Barrett scored 21 of his 24 in the second half and at one point scored 16 of Princeton's 25 points, while T.J. Bray broke the school record with 13 assists. The extraordinary win was Princeton's first against a Big 10 team since 1985 and first on a Big 10 team's home court since 1955.

7. Bob Callahan retires as Princeton men's squash coach
Bob Callahan played squash for four years at Princeton and then coached the sport for 32 before retiring after the 2013 season, going out in style after winning the Ivy League title. Since taking over the program he captained to the 1977 national championships, Callahan led Princeton to 314 victories, 11 Ivy League titles and three national championships (1982, 1993, 2012). He also coached the individual national champion 10 times. Callahan, a beloved figure in the Princeton Department of Athletics, has inspired his players, co-workers and competitors with his courageous fight against brain cancer.

6. Princeton wins its fourth-straight Ivy women's basketball championship
Before the Class of 2013 arrived at Princeton, the women's basketball team had never appeared in the NCAA tournament. When the Class of ’13 graduated, it did so with four Ivy League championships and four NCAA tournament appearances. Princeton's women's basketball Class of 2013 went 96-20 record (the 96 wins are the most ever by an Ivy women's basketball team in a four-year period) with four Ivy titles, a 54-2 Ivy record, the four best seeds by an Ivy team in the NCAA tournament (11, 12, 9, 9), the first national ranking by an Ivy team.

5. Princeton wins the NCAA fencing championship
Princeton's men's team kept it close and the women's team dominated, giving Princeton the combined co-ed NCAA fencing championship for the time in program history. Princeton had finished eighth, sixth, fourth and second the last four years before winning the national title in 2013. The win for the Tigers is even more impressive considering that Penn State, Notre Dame and Ohio State - the three schools who finished 2-3-4 behind Princeton - had combined to win 19 of the 23 championships in the current format. In addition to the co-ed team title, Princeton's Eliza Stone won the individual women's saber championship.

4. Dick  Kazmaier passes away
Princeton has had three athletic icons who have always stood above all the other great athletes who have competed for the Tigers during the 150 years that the school has fielded a team. One of them was Hobey Baker, the football/hockey legend who died in 1918. One is Bill Bradley, who is probably the greatest athlete in school history. The other was Dick Kazmaier, the 1951 Heisman Trophy winner who led Princeton to perfect seasons in 1950 and 1951. Kazmaier came to Princeton from Maumee, Ohio, as an undersized back who was given little chance to make an impact for the Tigers, but instead he became a passing/rushing/punting threat, not to mention the personification of the student-athlete ideal. He went on to a long career in business and philanthropy while remaining one of Princeton's most loyal and respected alums, as well as a lifelong supporter of the football program. Kazmaier passed away on Aug. 1 at the age of 82.

3. Princeton wins the NCAA indoor track and field distance medley relay
In one of the great individual performances Princeton has had in years, Peter Callahan ran a brilliant final lap to break open a close race and give the Tigers the 2013 NCAA distance medley relay championship. Michael Williams led off in the 1,200, followed by Austin Hollimon in the 400 and Russell Dinkins in the 800 before it was turned over to Callahan. As he battled with runners from Penn State, Arkansas and Villanova, Callahan stayed near the front until the bell lap, at which point he seemed to find a different gear, turning a close race into a, well, runaway. Callahan ran a 4:01.1 leg, and Princeton would win by nearly a full second over Penn State.

2. Gary Walters announces he is stepping down as Princeton Director of Athletics
Gary Walters came to Princeton as a freshman in 1963. Nearly 50 years later to the day, Walters stood a few yards away from where his father had first dropped him off and announced to the Department of Athletics coaches and staff that he was stepping down as the Ford Family Director of Athletics at the end of the current academic year, completing a 20-year run as AD, during which time his on-field record is extraordinary. Princeton has won the Ivy League's unofficial all sports points championship each of his 19 years, and Princeton has won 216 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 also been 48 national championships, including at least one team or individual national champion each of his 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. Beyond the athletic success, he has also been a tireless advocate for Princeton's coaches and athletes while holding them to his high ethical standards. He has worked to provide Princeton's athletes with the best possible undergraduate experience, and his belief in the co-curricular value of intercollegiate athletics became his signature philosophy of "Education Through Athletics." In addition, he has overseen a complete overhaul of Princeton's athletic facilities and has also been a national voice in the NCAA, including a five-year run on the Division I men's basketball committee.

1. Princeton football wins the Ivy League championship
If you were a senior on the Princeton football team, then you lived through consecutive 1-9 seasons to start your career, not to mention a 1-3 finish to your junior year that had you 7-23 overall and 5-16 in the Ivy League through three years. Then you were part of a magical senior year that saw Princeton break the Ivy League records for total offense and points in a season, reach the 50-point mark five times, sweep Harvard and Yale to have a bonfire and ultimately win a share of the Ivy League championship. Princeton, picked to finish fifth in the league's preseason media poll, lost its opener to Lehigh and then ripped off eight straight wins, culminating in a 59-23 win over Yale on a brilliant fall afternoon in front of a partying crowd at Princeton Stadium that nailed down the league title and the bonfire. It was a completely balanced effort on offense and defense, but it was led by Quinn Epperly, who won the Bushnell Cup as the league's Offensive Player of the Year after, among his many other amazing achievements for the year, accounting for 43 touchdowns (25 passing, 18 rushing) and setting an NCAA record by completing his first 29 passes against Cornell.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Get Packing

TigerBlog doesn't remember all the details of his parents' three-week trip Down Under way, way back when.

He does remember a few things. Like one of the stops, in addition to Australia and New Zealand, was Tahiti, since for weeks before they left, FatherBlog kept singing "Tahiti sounds the greatest, of all the crazy places that you've been."

In case you didn't get the reference, that's a line from the title song in "Mame." Is it any wonder TigerBlog grew up to be so cool?

TB also remembers that it was in the summer, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. At some place along their route, it was the dead of winter, while in other spots it was winter but summer year-round, probably Tahiti.

Anyway, what TB's parents did was take their winter stuff and ship their summer stuff to the hotel where they would be when it came to be summer weather. Then they shipped the winter stuff home. Ingenious, no?

TB thought about that when he saw that the Princeton men's hockey team was going to spend eight days split between Fort Myers, Florida, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The high temperatures in Fort Myers have been in the 80s. The low temperatures in Vanoucover will be in the low 20s, with highs in the high 30s or low 40s.

So what do you pack? Summer stuff and winter stuff, all for less than the 50 pounds a checked bag can be? That's not easy to pull off.

The Tigers go from the Florida College Hockey Classic to the Great Northwest Showcase, with a little New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fun thrown into the mix.

Princeton lost to Maine and New Hampshire in Florida and will play Canadian universities Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia Friday night and Saturday night. Princeton is struggling this season, but there is plenty of time for a second-half run, especially with such key players as Andrew Calof now healthy.

And besides, the trip to Canada is were such a seasonal turnarounds can begin.

Another Princeton team that played in a tournament this past weekend was the women's basketball team, which had a very successful run at the Cavalier Classic at the University of Virginia.

The Tigers reached the championship game, falling to the host team 69-57 as UVa won its own tournament for the 10th straight time.

To get to the game against Virginia, Princeton blew out Alabama 79-59 Friday for its first win ever against an SEC opponent.

It's not just that Princeton beat Alabama. It's that Princeton beat Alabama by 20 points.

The Tigers are rounding into top form just when necessary, with the start of the Ivy season coming up. Princeton will spend the next two Saturdays in Philadelphia, with a game this weekend at Drexel and then the Ivy opener Jan. 11 at Penn.

After that is a 20-day break for first semester exams, followed by a showdown at home against Harvard.

The loss to Virginia ended a five-game winning streak for Princeton, which included four blowout wins over Navy, Binghamton, Illinois State and Alabama and one overtime win against a very good Delaware team. The loss to Virginia, a perennial ACC power, was very competitive.

Blake Dietrick had 36 points in the two games, and she was joined by Kristen Helmstetter (26 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists in the two games) on the all-tournament team.

As an aside, every time TB hears about all-tournament teams, he thinks about what Pete Carril once said, when told that one of his players in an in-season tournament had made the all-tournament team: "Yeah? So did the guy he was guarding."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hey Coach

TigerBlog was rooting hard for Bowling Green last night in the, um, well, in the bowl game that Bowling Green was in.

TB knows it was in Detroit. And that it was named for a pizza company. Turns out it was the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

And why was he rooting for Bowling Green? Its interim head coach, Adam Scheier.

As it turned out, the game was a pretty good one. Pitt beat BG 30-27 on a late field goal as freshman James Conner ran for 229 yards while also playing defensive end.

So Scheier went 0-1 as BG's interim coach. He took over for Dave Clawson when Clawson was named the head coach at Wake Forest.

This seems to happen every year in bowl games, when teams from leagues like the MAC always appear at least to have lost their head coach to a BCS conference school that had recently fired its old coach.

Bowling Green hired Dino Babers from Eastern Illinois to replace Clawson, which means that Scheier appears to be on his way to Wake Forest to reunite with his old boss. That's why it would have been nice for Scheier to get to 1-0 in his head coaching career, because there is no guarantee for an assistant coach that there will be another chance to be the head man.

Consider Scheier's resume - Wake Forest now. Bowling Green before that. Lehigh before that. A Dartmouth grad who once blocked two punts that were returned for touchdowns in the same game (click here and scroll down a bit), he began his coaching career at his alma mater before moving to Columbia.

And then? He spent two years at Princeton, where he was special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. TigerBlog remembers Scheier mostly for being one of the best passers in Jadwin lunchtime basketball history.

It's not easy being an assistant coach in any sport. There are way more people who want to be head coaches than there are head coaching spots, and most assistants will never achieve the top spot.

TB thinks it's hardest in football, maybe because there are so many more coaches on a staff that the math suggests the odds are longer of becoming a head coach. Plus, when the head coach is fired (which happens all the time in football), the assistants almost always lose their jobs as well.

Princeton has had pretty good consistency in its football coaching staffs in TB's time, probably more so than most schools.

Bob Dipipi, one of the assistant coaches that TB worked with passed away recently, at the age of 78. Dipipi was a tough football guy who worked on Steve Tosches' staff and then was the head coach of the sprint team for a few years.

Some of the former assistant football coaches have gone on to become high school head coaches. TB can't think of one who became a head coach on the college level. Maybe he's missing someone.

And maybe someone on the current staff will get there. If TB had to guess, he'd say the odds are pretty good that at least one will.

Still, these are the realities that these guys live with.

Yes, not every administrator in college athletics will become an athletic director. It's a little different existence, though, as people like TB don't have to consider that if the football team doesn't win that his job is at stake.

And while some people in administration bounce around from school to school, it happens much less frequently than it does in coaching, especially among football coaches - who often go from school to school against their will.

Even at Princeton, where the staff is stable and the team is coming off its best season in years, TB didn't see much of the football assistant coaches for the month of December, during which they are always away recruiting all over the country.

Another head football coach with Princeton connections is Jason Garrett of the Cowboys, who was the quarterback at Princeton when current Tiger head coach Bob Surace was the center. Garrett has achieved the highest level of his profession, only he has to live with the weekly "will he be fired, will he not be fired" discussion.
Yes, he makes a ton of money. Still, his job perhaps rides on the outcome of one game, this Sunday against the Eagles, when the winner makes the playoffs and the loser goes home.

As an aside, TB isn't sure which team he's rooting for in this one, as they are tied for first among his least favorite NFL teams.

Anyway, it was good to see an old friend like Scheier on TV, with an opportunity to be the head coach for a game. It was good to see him in all the closeups, good to hear commentators debating his decisions.

Hopefully he gets another chance.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Play Of The Year

Sometime yesterday afternoon, TigerBlog experienced the opposite of a Christmas miracle.

He got sick of Ralphie.

He never could have imagined it. There he was, watching Ralphie and his classmates at school, when he suddenly realized he'd had enough of "A Christmas Story."

Will this be a one-year thing, or is he done with it forever? Is there an expiration date? Are there a finite number of times TB can watch "A Christmas Story?" He's certainly never reached that number with, say, "The Godfather" or Bugs Bunny.

He is glad that the end of "It's A Wonderful Life" still had its usual effect on him, especially when Harry makes his toast at the end.

One of the highlights of TB's Christmas was the video that his colleague Craig Sachson texted him of his five-year-old daughter Maddie's reaction when she found that Santa had left her the Barbie Dreamhouse. Now that was Christmas at its best, a little girl who got exactly what she wanted - even adding in the perfect ending, when she nudges her younger brother away and reminds him that "Mason, this is for me."

Does it get better than that?

December 25th is the day that is circled on everyone's calendar. The Barbie Dreamhouses and whatever else is on the list for the nice kids - and adults - have to be under the tree by Dec. 25. Then they're torn open, wrapping paper thrown everywhere, piles of opened presents stacked around, in, oh, about 10 minutes, after weeks of preparation.

And getting the presents bought, delivered (if you're smart enough to buy them online) and wrapped - TB is an awful gift-wrapper - is only a small part of what needs to get done. There's the tree, the decorations, the food (if people are coming over), the parties, the plans and all of it.

December 25th is the deadline day.

December 26th is a little different.

Now it's all about taking down trees and ornaments, about cleaning up. It's about taking down the Christmas lights, unless you're the people who leave them up until February or even all year round.

Next up is New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and then getting back to work.

Between now and next week, there will be all kinds of Year in Reviews, Top People of the Year, etc. etc. TigerBlog saw one of them on ESPN yesterday, when it ran down the top 50 plays of the year.

The problem with choosing the top plays of a year is what the criteria is. Are you looking for the most significant plays or the best plays, regardless of their context?

Sometimes, if you're lucky, the best plays occur in the most significant moments, as was the case in 2013. It's really hard to argue against the two plays that were co-No. 1 on ESPN's list, the game-winners for Auburn football against Georgia (the long Hail Mary pass that got tipped right to the Auburn wide receiver) and then the missed field goal return against Alabama.

They were both incredible plays, and because of them, Auburn will play for the BCS championship against Florida State.

There were many other plays in the top 50 that were wild but had no context. There were others that were routine but tied together the biggest moments of the year.

What about at Princeton?

The biggest play of the year in 2013 at Princeton is probably Quinn Epperly's touchdown pass to Roman Wilson in the third overtime against Harvard. It was the biggest play because it gave Princeton a 51-48 win over the Crimson and had Princeton not won that game, it wouldn't have won a share of the Ivy League championship.

The play itself was a pretty good one. Epperly fakes like he's running and then flips it into the corner to Wilson, who pulls it down over a Harvard defender. The Ivy League Digital Network named it to the top play of the year in Ivy football.

If you're looking for a better catch, then Wilson's TD against Cornell was a bit better, with his body turned around and his ability to just get his foot inbounds. That one was part of Epperly's 29 straight completions to start the game against the Big Red and earned No. 3 on the list.

TigerBlog knows that there were any number of plays in any number of Princeton games across all sports that were probably wilder than the football ones. Hey, there were other football ones too for that matter.

Off the top of his head, TB is thinking of two men's lacrosse plays - the one where Tom Schreiber ripped the net in the Ivy final against Yale and Kip Orban's game-winner in overtime against Cornell in the Ivy semifinal.

Still, for the significance of the moment, it's hard to beat the play against Harvard in the third overtime.

TigerBlog will go with that as the Play of the Year for Princeton Athletics.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

TigerBlog was in the car last night when Karen Carpenter's voice came on the radio, singing one of the classics, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."

It's actually not a Christmas carol per se, as it originally is from another classic, which TB will get to in a second.

Late last week, TB heard Gary Walters sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in the hallway and asked him if he knew what show that it was originally from. He did not come up with "Meet Me In St. Louis." TigerBlog was almost positive that Walters would, in an attempt at humor, say "Fiddler on the Roof" and was actually a bit disappointed that he didn't.

A few minutes after TB heard Carpenter on the radio, he was home, where he found "Meet Me In St. Louis" on Turner Classic Movies. It was in the middle of the movie, when Tootie - the youngest of the Smith children - heads off for Halloween.

He stayed with it until the end, which means he got to see Judy Garland's original version of the song, which Garland sings to a very upset Tootie, who like the rest of the Smith family has to move to New York because of Mr. Smith's promotion, something that will force them to leave their hometown and miss the 1904 World's Fair.

Not to ruin it for you, but it all works out in the end for everyone.

Here's something (from Wikipedia, at least) about the song TB didn't know, even after hearing versions by, among others, Carpenter, Garland and Walters in a one-week span:
Some of the original lyrics that were penned by Martin were rejected before the show began. They were: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last/ Next year we may all be living in the past / Have yourself a merry little Christmas / Pop that champagne cork / Next year we may all be living in New York.When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics. Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat. For example, the lines "It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past" became "Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight." Garland's version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.

TigerBlog doesn't think of "Meet Me In St. Louis" as a Christmas movie.

When he thinks of Christmas movies, he thinks of tonight at 8, when "It's A Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story" both come on. The difference is that "A Christmas Story" will continue 11 more times after its first go-round.

"It's A Wonderful Life" stars Jimmy Stewart, Princeton Class of 1932. Stewart was a cheerleader and the member of the Triangle Club at Princeton.

In the movie, Stewart plays George Bailey, who lives in Beford Falls, near Buffalo. His lifelong dream is to get out of Bedford Falls, of course, since all he wants is to see the world. At least that's what he thinks he wants.

It's not until Clarence, his guardian angel, jumps into the freezing waters below the bridge and shows George the impact his life has had on all of those around him and what Bedford Falls would have become had he never been born that George finally gets it.

Sometime around 10:50 tonight, Harry Bailey will say "to my big brother George, the richest man in town," and TB will get a bit misty.

By then, he'll also have seen Ralphie do all kinds of hilarious things, like drop the "F dash dash dash" word on the side of the road while his father is changing the tire, panic when it comes time to tell Santa what he wants and sit with his family while a duck meets a rather sad fate in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas night.

Then he'll watch those things 11 more times. Well, maybe not 11, but multiple.

Princeton Athletics is made up of athletes, coaches and staff who come from all over the country and in some cases the world.
For some, getting home means a very short car ride. For others, it means long drives or flights.

It's not often that most, if not all, of them find their way home. Today and tomorrow is probably as close as it gets.

The Tigers are scattered now. They'll be back soon, back in orange and black, back on campus, back practicing and competing, not to mention studying for and taking first semester exams. Or, in the case of those who work here, doing all the things that they do every day to make the experience for the athletes the best it can be, and to enable Princeton to put on its events.

Well, not every day. Not today or tomorrow.

It's Christmas Eve, which to everyone means something different. More than any other time, people seem to have a tradition that they follow for the next 36 hours, one that doesn't vary from year to year to year.

The more TB asks people what they do for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the more he realizes that these traditions are pretty much etched in stone. There's something incredibly special about that.

Whatever yours is - even if it's Chinese food and the movies - TigerBlog wishes you and your family a very merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Princeton 68, Honolulu 66

TigerBlog checked the weather app on his phone yesterday in the late morning and found that it was actually warmer at that moment in the greater Princeton area than it was in Honolulu.

Yup. According to TB's phone, it was 68 degrees around here and 66 degrees in Honolulu.

In fairness to the Hawaiian capital, it was barely sunrise there. And it was clear, as opposed to cloudy and rainy here.

Oh, and there was also the five-day forecast, which in Honolulu calls for five straight days of sunny with a high of 81. TB assumes that's also the 500-day forecast there as well.

Here? It's warm again today. Tomorrow it goes back to what one would expect, with highs in the 30s.

All in all, it got TB wondering how many moments in the last 100 years or so had there been a moment in December when it was warmer in Princeton than Honolulu. It can't be too often, if it's ever happened before.

The rain and temperatures that set records around here destroyed any chance for a white Christmas in Princeton. The odds were pretty good a few days ago, after three snowfalls in seven days and temps in the 20s and 30s sort of guaranteed plenty of snow for awhile.

And now it's all gone, which is fine with TigerBlog, who is never a snow fan.

He's no fan of reality TV either. In fact, he's appalled by it, and the effect it's had on American society, which now values fame over substance to such an unhealthy degree that people will engage in any sort of behavior to achieve it, no matter how reprehensible.

Given his views on the subject, TB has never - nor will ever - watch "Duck Dynasty." In fact, he had no idea at all what it was about until one of the stars of the show said something recently that you might have heard about.

TB isn't quite sure what the fuss is all about. Why are people shocked by any of this? Some guy from Louisiana has a disparaging opinion of homosexuality? Who cares? Plenty of people all over the country agree with him; way more don't.

Who cares? Isn't it okay in America to have a disparaging opinion? Does this automatically mean that he has to be kicked off his show?

And why? Because he might have offended someone? So what? Offend anyone you want. Let the public decide if they still want to watch.

Plus, who could care this much about "Duck Dynasty?" It's not like he's part of the public trust.

Again, the idea is to be outrageous, except not so outrageous that you actually cross some line, only nobody knows where that line is. The "Duck Dynasty" guy is a pariah? Google "homophobia in rap music" and see what you find.

Anyway, TB wanted to say that last week at some point but couldn't slip it in. And since today he's mostly just rambling anyway, it seemed like as good a time as any.

Jadwin Gym is really, really quiet this morning. The parking lot was essentially empty when TB got here, and there are few souls in the building.

Christmas Day is Wednesday. Christmas Eve is tomorrow, obviously. Most people are off between Christmas and New Year's, and that left today and then next Thursday and Friday as the iffy work days.

In fact, most schools are closed until Jan. 6, meaning two full weeks off for most kids. Contrast that with what happens when Christmas and New Year's are on the weekend. Kids get cheated in those years, comparatively.

Meanwhile, Princeton University returns for reading period on Jan. 6, followed by the start of exams on Jan. 15.

In other words,  there's not a lot in the way of Princeton Athletics for the next few weeks. In fact, between now and Jan. 25, there are 29 athletic contests, only seven of which are at home.

The next athletic events aren't until Saturday. The only home game remaining for 2013 is the men's basketball game against Kent State on New Year's Eve day.

The time between Christmas and New Year's always includes a major shift from shopping commercials and scenes of snowy homecomings to year in review stories and thoughts of wildly ringing in the new year.

TB will join in the fun, at least as it relates to reviewing the Princeton Athletics year, after Christmas.

And he'll be back tomorrow, talking Christmas.

For now, he will enjoy the last few hours of warm weather before the cold front comes in. The high temperature yesterday was 70. Tomorrow's low will be 19.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What Happens In Vegas

Want some friendly advice? Never split 10s, jacks, queens and kings.

Gambling, TigerBlog knows, is a very, very dangerous thing. He's seen first-hand lives that have been ruined by gambling, which can become as addicting as alcohol and drugs and can have similarly devastating consequences.

He's told his children many times the dangers of gambling, which in many ways is easier to fall into than drugs and alcohol, largely because it seems so innocent at first. Drugs are illegal. Gambling is advertised on TV.

In fact, there have been more and more gambling ads on local TV lately, now that online gambling in the state has become bigger and bigger.

TigerBlog warns anyone who gets involved to be very, very careful.

Having said that, TB also knows that he's had a lot of fun in his life in the casinos of Atlantic City, at least when he was in college.

Atlantic City is little more than an hour from Philadelphia. Or, if TB's friend Charlie was driving, about 45 minutes.

TB remembers many late nights when a trip to AC became a very spur-of-the-moment thing. Over the Walt Whitman Bridge, onto the Atlantic City Expressway, over to AC and then back for cheesesteaks at 3 or 4 am.

Back then, the Atlantic City casinos were relatively new, and table minimums were often as low as $2, though usually $5, which they haven't been in years and years.

TigerBlog learned to play blackjack and shoot craps, the only two games he'd ever try. Not that the odds ever favor the players, but if you know how to play, you help your chances immeasurably.

One night he lost $100, which back then was a lot. Because he had a job as a vendor at Veterans Stadium at the time, he could also work events at JFK Stadium, which was next door. The day after he lost his $100, he worked at JFK at a Journey concert (it was a pretty good show) and made his money back.

TB can't remember losing much more than that. He also remembers winning a little too.

He gets that the adrenaline starts to flow when people gambling. He also gets the idea of trying to get it all back when someone starts to lose, only to dig a deeper and deeper hole. It's not easy to cut one's losses, and it's not easy to walk away when up a little.

His friend Charlie always used to say that the casinos weren't opulently designed on their own money; they were using your money to do that. He also had a rule that nobody could talk to him during a hand, for fear of jinxing him.

TB's friend Corey one time had two face cards showing against a four or five for the dealer at the blackjack table one night, and TB made the mistake of suggesting that he was in good shape for that hand. When the dealer ended up with 21, Corey said something like this in an agitated voice: "Here's $20; go away."

Almost all of TB's gambling experience is in Atlantic City. He's never been the Las Vegas, which he hears is sort of an exciting place. Apparently what happens there stays there, or so the saying goes.

The Princeton men's basketball team has been there before, back in 1990, when it took on UNLV back when the Runnin' Rebels were the biggest show in the sport, and in some ways all sports. That night, UNLV beat Princeton 69-35 on a night that began with indoor fireworks and a celebration of UNLV's 1990 NCAA title, complete with a banner raising.

Princeton is there again this weekend, for games tonight against Pacific and tomorrow against Portland. From the game notes:
Princeton's setting this week is the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic, an event that runs five days in total with 14 games between Thursday and Sunday. A total of 14 programs between Division II men's, Division II women's and Division I men's teams are competing. Princeton by far wins the award for the furthest travel to the event at 2,220 air miles, beating out the University of West Florida men (1,650 miles) as the only programs from the Eastern Time Zone at the event.

The Tigers are about one week and 2,500 miles removed from last Saturday's amazing comeback win over Penn State. In case you forgot, which you haven't, Princeton came from 20 points down with eight minutes to go to win in overtime.

Princeton is now 8-1 and the winner of seven straight, with only a three-point loss at Butler as a negative.

The first game in Vegas is against Pacific, which is 8-1 as well with only a loss to Oregon, ranked 12th or so this week. Pacific, also the Tigers, won the Big West tournament last year to reach the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Miami in the first round (second round, whatever) as a 15th seed.

This year, Pacific is in the West Coast Conference, as is Portland, who comes in at 6-4, with a 69-52 win over Columbia as one its victories.

The other Division I team at the event is Bradley, whose Director of Athletics is Mike Cross, former Princeton No. 2 man. The West Coast Conference commissioner also has Princeton ties, as Jamie Zaninovich used to be a Senior Associate AD here. In addition to being the WCC commissioner, by the way, Zaninovich is also on the NCAA basketball committee.

For Princeton, it's an exciting trip, to Las Vegas for the weekend.

What happens there this time will actually be on WPRB FM 103.3 and goprincetontigers.com.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


TigerBlog heard a bad sound coming from the basement the other day.

The washing machine was on, and from upstairs TB could hear a sloshing sound that wasn't quite right. He thought it might be the normal cycle, only to figure out relatively quickly that he'd never heard it before in all the loads he'd done.

When he went downstairs, he immediately saw that there was an issue. The water hadn't stopped filling into the machine even when it went past the point it should have, and it eventually overflowed and starting flooding the basement.

Fortunately, TB figured it out when he did, before it got to be too bad down there.

The moral of the story is that you never want to turn the washing machine on and then leave, figuring you can put the clothes in the dryer when you get back. Had TB done that, the time with the wet vac would have been far longer. In fact, the basement would have been replaced by an indoor swimming pool - inadvertently.

TB counts doing the laundry as one of his best skills. He's certainly one of the great folders of all time.

Doing the laundry is a bit of a pain, and it's one of those chores that never seems to be completely finished. Really, by definition, it can't be, because there's always something that can be washed - towels, sheets, the clothes currently being worn. Everything can't be clean all at once.

Folding clothes for babies is a nightmare. Everything is so small that one load can have about 10,000 items in it. Well, not really, but you get the point.

TB's kids have reached the point where they do their own laundry, which is very helpful. As for TB, his own laundry needs are on hold, at least until this afternoon, when the washing machine is being fixed.

Or at least he hopes it's being fixed. What he wants to hear is that some hose came loose somewhere. What he doesn't want to hear is this: "It's an old machine and isn't worth fixing so go buy a new one."

Less than a week before Christmas isn't the right time to have to purchase major appliances.

TB loves the car commercials where the husband gives the wife the small box and then watches as she opens it, finds a set of keys and gives him a quizzical look. He then points to the driveway, where the brand-new car with the big ribbon is sitting (always in the snow; people in Florida don't do this?).

The implication is that he's just bought his wife a very expensive gift. TB's take is that they needed a new car anyway and so he's really cheap and getting away without buying a real gift.

From TigerBlog's view out of his office door, it's hard to miss the fact that Christmas is around the corner.

Softball coach Lisa Sweeney and her assistant Jennifer Lapicki went around putting wrapping paper on several doors on the Jadwin balcony, including TB's. Beyond the door is the railing, which for the first time in TB's memory has Christmas lights on it.

The railing stretches the length of the balcony, from Courtney Banghart's office on one end to the mailroom on the other. There is one strand of lights that is wrapped around it, with colored lights, not the white ones. TB prefers the colored ones.

TB assumed it was the work of the softball coaches, but it turns out it was actually done by Gary Walters, who has never done that before.

Christmas and New Year's Day are both on a Wednesday this year. It makes the work weeks a bit fuzzy, with the big holidays and Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. TB assumes he won't see too many people around here for the next two weeks.

It's not all that crowded right now, what with people out shopping (or getting their washing machines fixed).

There is only 10 athletic events remaining for Princeton Athletics in the calendar year, and of those 10, almost all - nine - are on the road. There are two men's basketball games in Las Vegas this weekend, two women's basketball games next weekend at UVa, two men's hockey games in Florida after Christmas and three days of wrestling that weekend as well.

The only remaining 2013 home event is a New Year's Eve afternoon men's basketball game at noon against Kent State. TB is interested in seeing what attendance for that game will be.

And so, before TB runs out of here to get the washing machine taken care of, he leaves you with this question:

The basketball game against Kent State is the last home athletic event in 2013. How many home athletic events did Princeton have in 2013 across all sports?

This takes into account all home events that counted, so exhibition games and scrimmages are not on the list. Also, if the men's heavyweight rowing team had a home event with three schools competing across five different boats, that all counts as one.

Brad Pottieger, Princeton's Manager of Intercollegiate Programming, very nicely took the time to figure this out for TB this morning.

Give up? TB's guess was 252, and he wasn't that far off.

The answer is 226.

As in 225 down, one to go, 12 days from now.

And with that, it's time to find out if TB will have a new washing machine by then. He hopes not.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

There In Black and White

Miss TigerBlog is into this show "The Goldbergs."

TigerBlog has seen it once. It didn't take, which is a bit surprising, since a sitcom set in the 1980s figures to be right in TB's wheelhouse.

TigerBlog did tell MTB about a show that he loved awhile back, one set in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He told MTB that if she liked "The Goldbergs," then she'd love "The Wonder Years."

And what did she say?

Did she ask if it was still on? If she could see it someplace online? What the story was?


Here's what she said: "Was it in black and white?"

It was one of those glorious moments when your child basically says "you're old."

No, "The Wonder Years" wasn't in black and white. TB hates to admit this though, but it was back when he was a kid first starting to watch TV that many shows were in black and white and just starting to be filmed in color.

In fact, it was a big deal back then to advertise a show as being "in living color." TB remembers some shows that were in black and white in their first seasons and then color later on.

The college football marathon on Turner Classic Movies that was on last week was all in black and white, and why wouldn't it be? Every movie that was on was from the 1930s or early 1940s.

TB loves moves from that era about college football, even if they do serve as a reminder that the game back then was played by rich white kids. On the other hand, they either involve actual football powers of the time, such as the Ivy schools, Army, Navy and Notre Dame, or they're about fictional colleges that are sort of Ivyish.

The game sequences are tremendous. They're either actual film of contemporary college football games, complete with great crowd shots, or completely awful staged shots that don't exactly look realistic.

Of course, that's always been the biggest problem with sports movies, but that's a whole different story.

TCM had a full day of college football movies, and TB watched some of them. He DVRd only one though, and that was the best of all of them, "Knute Rockne All-American."

If you've never seen it, then you should. It's tremendous.

Pat O'Brien plays the title role of the longtime legendary Notre Dame coach. Ronald Reagan plays George Gipp, who died in 1920, two weeks after he was named Notre Dame's first All-America. Legend has it that Gipp said this Rockne on his deathbed:
"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."

Speaking of college football, here are a few numbers to consider from the 2013 season:

Player A completed 68.0% of his passes. Player B completed 67.9% of his passes.

Player A had 43 touchdowns. Player B had 42 touchdowns.

Player A had 270.7 yards of total offense per game. Player B had 308.7 yards of total offense per game.

Player A averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Player B averaged exactly half of that, 2.5.

So who are these two guys with such fairly even stats?

Player A is Quinn Epperly, Princeton's quarterback and the Ivy League's Offensive Player of the Year, the one who led Princeton to an 8-2 record and a share of the Ivy League title.

Player B is Jameis Winston, Florida State's quarterback and the Heisman Trophy winner. Winston will play in the BCS championship game with the Seminoles against Auburn.

Okay, TB isn't suggesting that Epperly is better than Winston or that Epperly should have won the Heisman Trophy. Of course, Epperly's 43 touchdowns (25 passing, 18 rushing) came in three fewer games than Winston's 42 (38 passing, four rushing).

Oh, here's an interesting fact of Winston vs. Princeton, which rhymes, by the way:

Winston averaged 293.8 passing yards per game. Epperly averaged 213.7 passing yards per game, which isn't really close to Winston's.

Except Epperly spent most of the year splitting the position with Connor Michelsen. So how many passing yards per game did Princeton as a team average?

Winston - 293.8. Princeton - 293.8.  The exact same amount.

Anyway, TB wasn't sure what he'd find when he started comparing Epperly and Princeton. He certainly didn't expect it to be as even as it was.

Hey, it's all there.

In black and white.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

End Of Season 3

TigerBlog is on record as saying that "Homeland" is the greatest TV show of all time.

That's what he said shortly before the end of Season 2, by which time many people had already begun to turn on the show. TigerBlog didn't; he still thought it was amazingly well done, and he chalked up the anti-"Homeland" sentiment to nit-picking over the extraordinary standard the show had set for itself.

Go back to Season 1, for instance.

TigerBlog watched all 12 episodes in a three-day span, which is an average of four hours per day. It was time well spent.

TB had no idea what to expect when he first started to watch. He'd never heard of the show and had no expectation for it. He didn't even realize that he was watching Part 1 of 12, and he had no idea how he'd be captivated the way he was.

The first season set up the two main characters and the main storylines - Carrie and Brody, their relationship and whose side exactly is Brody on.

Season 1 was ridiculous. Season 2 was also ridiculous.

At least TigerBlog thought so. The many critics thought the plot had become a bit contrived, and TB can't tell you how many times he read something about how "that would never really happen," such as "Brody would never have been left alone with the Vice President."

To TB, that's obvious, but it's also something that has never bothered him about the show. The viewer has to suspend reality a bit, otherwise none of the plots would work.

And besides, the writing and acting and especially intense character development more than made up for any shortcomings in reality suspension. To TB, each episode was incredible.

All of which brings us to Season 3.

Most"Homeland" fans aren't nearly as high on the show now as a year ago. TigerBlog isn't among them. Whereas many think Season 3 was bad, TB thinks it was pretty good, that it got off track a little and that it got on a really strong run at the end.


What it also did was try to cling too long to the original Carrie/Brody dynamic, and that's ultimately what dragged it down a little. Brody - described the the quasi-doctor in Caracas as a "cockroach" for being unkillable - had outlived his usefulness as a character.

TB thinks the show would have been much better had Brody's death come not in Teheran in a public hanging at 4 a.m.  but instead in Episode 4 or 5 in Caracas or somewhere else, when the viewer never would have see it coming. Had that been pulled off, then the rest of the season could have gone down the whole Iranian storyline without having to figure out how to integrate Brody into it.

And TB is a bit disappointed that Brody's daughter Dana was phased out so badly in the second half of Season 3. Her performance was so breathtaking that in many ways she stole the entire show while she was given a chance.

So what's up for Season 4?

TB thinks there are some who don't believe Brody is really dead, but they can't bring him back. No viewer would put up with that. There's still a big place for Saul in the show, as the one who operates outside the company but who figures out what's coming next.

And there's still Carrie. Will she keep the baby? Will she move to Turkey? Who will be the next villain?

The show has a great number of storylines that it can explore. TB might advocate for a prequel, or at least a few episodes of prequel, that show what happened to Brody while in captivity during the war and Carrie's early CIA career. This would enable "Homeland" to use Damien Lewis as Brody again without completely destroying its credibility.


Anyway, TigerBlog still gives the series very, very high marks. It's not what it was in Season 1 or 2, but it's still riveting television, and the last three episodes of Season 3 were awesome.

The women's basketball team had a weekly "Homeland" watch party last year, and TB isn't sure whether or not that was a graduation loss with the Class of 2013.

He does know that graduation took names like Niveen Rasheed and Elena Delle Donne out of the Princeton-Delaware women's basketball rivalry, but Sunday's 81-79 Princeton win over the Blue Hens at Jadwin was still a very entertaining game, and a very good win.

Delaware came in at 6-1 and with some serious size and talent. Princeton had control most of the game but was pushed big-time as Delaware took the lead with a little more than five minutes to go. The Tigers would never lead again in regulation, tying it at 70-70 with 2:29 to go and then again at 74-74 after trailing 74-70 with 90 seconds left.

Delaware led 76-74 and 78-76 in the OT, but Princeton tied it and then took the lead for good when Blake Dietrick knocked down a three-pointer with 1:05 to go. Dietrick finished 22 points and earned Ivy Player of the Week honors for her performance.

The biggest thing for Princeton through the early part of the 2013-14 season has been figuring out what to do during "winning time" without Rasheed and the other graduates the last two years, the one who always took over when things got tough.

Now, in 2013-14, Princeton can't go to Rasheed or Lauren Edwards or Devona Allgood or the others.

Against a very good Delaware team, Princeton showed it has multiple weapons. Four players were in double figures, and Kristen Helmstetter had an 18-point, 11-rebound afternoon in addition to Dietrick's 22.

Beyond just the points, Princeton had five players with at least four rebounds, the team shot 25 for 32 from the foul line and the defense held the Blue Hens to 38.9% shooting and just a single three-pointer. In fact, the three-pointer that Delaware made was reviewed to make sure it was a two and not a three.

Princeton hosts Illinois State Wednesday night and then is off until playing at a tournament Dec. 28/29 at Virginia, where the Tigers take on Alabama and then either UVa or Coppin State. The first game of 2014 is at Drexel, and then it's into the Ivy League.

Princeton opens at Penn on Jan. 11 and then is off for three weeks for exams, returning to host Harvard in a matchup of the teams that are 1-2 in the preseason poll.

The Tigers are 6-4 through a tough 10-game stretch. They can definitely score points, and they continue to be an exciting team to watch.

It's not easy the "year after," as it were, but Princeton is still the four-time defending champ.

There's a lot of pride that goes along with that.

It was evident down the stretch Sunday that that is something that won't go away easily.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Not The Best Comeback Ever But Pretty Close

TigerBlog is sick of winter, and it's still fall.

This may or may not be a good sign.

Just because it's been cold with snow and ice pretty much every day for the last week doesn't mean it's going to be an entire winter like this. Once winter gets here, that is.

Still, the greater Princeton metropolitan area has gotten more snow so far this season than it did all of last winter.

It wasn't a huge downfall Saturday. Just a few inches. This was followed by a slight warming period, which changed everything to rain and then ice overnight.

TigerBlog was watching the news Saturday night and saw that the temperature in Wildwood had reached into the 50s. This was while snow was still falling around here, and it left TB wondering if people were on the rides on the boardwalk.

The forecast had been enough to turn what figured to be a busy day into one with a whole bunch of postponements and cancellations. The only event that went on as scheduled was Miss TigerBlog's winter league lacrosse game, which was mercifully indoors.

The game started at 2:15, which meant TB would have to miss most of the men's basketball game at Penn State, which started at 2 and was being shown on the Big Ten Network.

By the way, this has nothing to do with anything, but how in the world did Tennessee not go for two at the end of regulation to win the game, and how did the Titans not go for two after the Cardinals were offsides on the extra point that tied it, meaning Tennessee only had to get one yard for the win. Tennessee deserved to lose, which is exactly what happened.

Anyway, TB actually forgot all about the men's basketball game against Penn State was going on until after MTB's game ended. The first time he checked the score, the Tigers were down by double figures.

Because the basketball game was an apparent rout, TB let MTB listen to her awful music on the way home, instead of listening to Derek Jones and Noah Savage on WPRB.

By the time TB got in front of the TV, Princeton was still down by 16 or so, and TB didn't even bother watching. Instead, he had to get MTB to the movies for her friend's birthday, and then he put the game on the radio.

And he found that Princeton was down by 12.

By the time he got to the supermarket, it was a six-point game. And all he heard from Jones and Savage was how Will Barrett kept drilling threes.

He sat in his car outside the supermarket waiting for the end of the game, to see if Princeton could pull it off. And as it turned out, the Tigers did.

Princeton trailed by 20 at 56-36 with 8:29 to play before rallying to pull it out 81-79 in overtime. In other words, Princeton scored 36 points in the first 31:31 of the game and then scored 45 points in the final 13:29, connecting on 12 of its final 17 field goal attempts.

The extraordinary comeback gave Princeton its first win over a Big Ten team since 1985 and first at a Big Ten school since a 1955 win at Northwestern. It came at Rec Hall, which was packed, as opposed to the Bryce Jordan Arena, which would have been about a third full.

It came against a team that came into the game at 8-3, so it was used to winning, It improved Princeton to 8-1 on the year with its seventh straight win.

Barrett went off in the second half, knocking down three after three on his way to tying his career high with 24 and during one stretch scoring 16 of Princeton's 25 points. T.J. Bray had a school-record 13 assists, breaking a nearly 30-year-old record held by Bill Ryan.

To make a comeback like this one, a team needs to catch fire and get on a massive run, needs some help from the opponent and needs to make some plays that ordinarily don't get made. Princeton got the first to get back in the game and then the last two on one play to tie it.

The biggest one came with the Tigers down 66-63 with 16 seconds left and Bray on the line. Bray made the first and missed the second, and PSU's Ross Travis grabbed the rebound. Just before stepping on the end line, Travis tried to save possession for his team, but he ended up throwing it right to Princeton freshman Spencer Weisz, who was fouled and went to the line with 13 seconds left with a chance to tie it.

And that's exactly what he did, calmly dropping in both foul shots to make it a 66-66 game. Penn State missed a shot, and off to OT the game went.

Princeton built a 71-66 lead and seemed in total control, but Penn State tried to have its own rally. The Nittany Lions came really close, but a great length-of-the-court pass at the end of the OT ended up in a missed layup, and Princeton had an epic victory.

Of course it's not the greatest comeback TB has seen for a Princeton basketball team. Nope.

Anyone who was in the Palestra that night in 1999 (Feb. 9, 1999, to be exact) will always yawn and roll his or her eyes at the idea that any other comeback could match that one. That night, Princeton was down by 27 at 40-13 with 15 minutes left and rallied to win 50-49.

This one?

Not even close.

Well, actually it was pretty close. Really close.

It's going to be awhile until anyone forgets Princeton-Penn State 2013. It was an amazing performance by Princeton.

As comebacks go, this one was second, to be sure, but a very, very close second.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Christmas Party

As Santa Clauses go, you can't do much better than Princeton water polo coach Luis Nicolao.

In fact, TigerBlog thinks there's a chance that Nicolao is the actual real Santa.

There he was last night, at the Princeton Athletics Christmas party, ho-ho-ho-ing his way into the back of the room at the Shea Rowing Center with his bag of toys for the assembled children. Clearly he was a huge hit for the under-six crowd.

TigerBlog loves the whole little kid-Santa dynamic.

On the one hand, kids will ask all kinds of skeptical questions about the whole Santa experience, or they'll tell each other that the one at the mall - or at the Christmas party - isn't the "real" Santa.

Clearly it makes little sense when viewed with the lens of reality. One man, riding a sleigh driven by eight reindeer, flies all over the world in a 24-hour window, delivering presents to every single child on Earth who makes the "nice" list. Yeah, not too practical.

And yet children want to believe so strongly that they suspend any sense of reality in the name of Santa. Hey, starting in September really, parents of young children can get them to do almost anything they don't want to do simply by saying three words: "Santa is watching."

What's hard to do with little kids is get them to understand that 1) Santa is real but 2) people who are more fortunate often will purchase gifts for families who are less fortunate at this time of year. This becomes problematic because the dynamic shifts from one of nice vs. naughty to one that is money-centric.

TB remembers telling TigerBlog Jr. a long time ago that a gift was purchased for a poorer child as part of the department's Giving Tree, and TBJ - probably in the four or five year old range then - said something along the lines of "why doesn't Santa just get him something; was he naughty?"

The fact that children are so willing to believe in a Santa is so refreshingly innocent that TB can't help but smile at the thought of it. And the sight of Nicolao in his best red-and-white outfit last night, surrounded by the kids? It was wonderful.

The party was the second department-wide gathering of the day. The first was at the monthly staff meeting, the highlight of which was clearly when Kim Meszaros, Gary Walters' assistant, put "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" on the speakers while Anthony Archbald, the Executive Associate Athletic Director, was talking about following departmental rules or something like that.

Fun stuff.

Gary wrapped up the meeting by saying he'd see everyone at the Christmas party, which immediately sparked the debate as to whether it's a Christmas party or Holiday party. As a Jewish person, TB is completely offended by the idea that calling something a Christmas party is somehow supposed to be offensive to him.

It was a Christmas party. It had Christmas songs, Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies - even quite possibly the real Santa, or at the very least, as close as anyone is going to get to having the real Santa. No other holiday was mentioned or suggested other than Christmas.

And that's fine with TB.

Christmas is a federal holiday with a great message of peace and goodwill. Had it been a called a Jesus party, TB might have objected a bit. Christmas? Never a problem with TB.

Gary mentioned that it was his 20th such party as Director of Athletics, and the last one before he steps aside from his position. He referred to the term "swan song" and wondered what it's origin was.

TB had no idea, so he checked out Wikipedia:
The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song in the moment just before death, having been silent (or alternatively, not so musical) during most of their lifetime. This belief, whose basis in actuality is long-debated, had become proverbial in Ancient Greece by the 3rd century BC, and was reiterated many times in later Western poetry and art.

It was also TB's 20th Christmas party. He remembers when it was held in the lobby of Jadwin or at Charlie Browns, a nearby restaurant in Kingston.

He can't remember exactly when it hit upon its current location, the boathouse, but it's the perfect place for the party, except for the lack of parking that becomes more problematic when the grass has snow on it.

Still, it's a really, really nice event each year.

Princeton's athletic department is separated into different spots on campus. Some are in Jadwin. Some are in Dillon. Some are at the boathouse. Some are at the tennis center.

Factor in the people who come to the party from different places on campus, such as the administration or campus life or other areas, and it really is a group of people who all know each other but aren't all together too often.

Princeton fields a highly competitive Division I athletic program, with 38 varsity sports and 1,000 varsity athletes. The school's athletic success has long been a huge source of pride among those who work here, and it's been well-documented here and on goprincetontigers.com and elsewhere.

Standing in the boathouse, though, TB was really struck by the fact that all of this happens with relatively few people - especially compared to the rest of the schools that Princeton regularly competes with in the Directors' Cup, for instance.

There they were last night, at the boathouse. A small, hard-working, dedicated group of people whose commitment to providing the best possible student-athlete experience drives them all in what they do.

It's something everyone there takes pride in, that their job is part of this, that their role has a direct impact on the current day of that long, great athletic tradition - and directly on the lives of a group of 18- to 22-year-olds who have the great good fortune to compete at Princeton as athletes and students and who can't possibly be expected to know that all of these people in the boathouse work every day on their behalf.

That's what makes Princeton Athletics so special for TigerBlog, and always has. And always will.

They're an extraordinary group of people, his co-workers are.

And so celebrating the Christmas season with his co-workers and colleagues is always a really special day for him, even though he's a Jewish kid from Penn.

Last night was no different.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Scouting Report

TigerBlog was copied on an email yesterday from Victoria Rosenfeld, Princeton's sports dietician and nutritionist.

Victoria was asking for help in publicizing the article she had written for NACDA's "Athletics Administration" magazine, about the rise of sports nutritionists in college athletic departments.

TB had never really give the matter much thought, though it does make perfect sense these days. In the world of college athletics - in the world in general - fitness and wellness are huge issues, and yet the idea of having a professional advise on something so significant to that cause - food, drink - is relatively new.

Victoria's article was well-written, something TB doesn't always take for granted. In an effort to help, he tweeted the link to the article, and that's when he stumbled onto Brian Earl's epic tweet from yesterday.

Brian is an assistant men's basketball coach at Princeton, as well as one of the program's top players of all time. He is seventh in scoring at Princeton and first in three-pointers made, and he was the 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year.

His father Denny played at Rutgers in the 1960s, and he had apparently given Brian a copy of the RU scouting report before the 1964 Princeton-Rutgers game. Brian then tweeted a picture of it.

To say it's fascinating is an understatement, largely because it's the first time TB has seen a scouting report of, among others, Bill Bradley, the greatest player in Princeton history, and Gary Walters, the Director of Athletics for the last 19+ years.

Interestingly, TB went to the section on Walters first.

"5-10, fast, quick, a real quarterback who controls the team and the tempo of the game for Princeton."

It says he's a decent outside shooter and they should extend to him if they go zone, to bother his shooting and passing. Says he has quick moves defensively. Advises to run him off screens since he may foul off the drive.

All in all, it's a pretty respectful, flattering account of Gary's game.

As for Bradley, it says that Rutgers needs to keep him from getting the ball. Says he can go left or right. Is a good passer. Follows his shot. Gets defensive rebounds and looks to start the fast break himself. Like with Gary, it advises trying to get him to foul on drives defensively.

It seems like it is underselling him a bit.

Bradley in the 1964-65 season was already an Olympic gold medalist, the Sullivan Award winner and the best player in college basketball. It's not like Rutgers was unfamiliar with him, having seen him twice already.

In reality, RU had done a pretty good job against Bradley, "holding" him to 25 as a sophomore and 21 as a junior. Princeton won both games fairly easily, 84-69 in 1962 and 79-50 in 1963, so perhaps Bradley didn't play much down the stretch.

Bradley's last game against Rutgers was played on Dec. 14, 1964 at Rutgers. Princeton won again, this time 92-79, and Bradley put up 35 that night. Gary added 13 in the win.

The scouting report is interesting in that it was clearly typed - a secretary perhaps? - and then apparently dittoed (remember how those smelled?). Other than that, it seems like the kind of scouting reports done today.

It made TB wonder how teams scouted back then. Could they get film? If so, how? Did it all have to be done in person, something that is now against NCAA rules? Was RU able to get such an in-depth scouting report because Princeton is so close? 

Princeton was back at Rutgers last night, three days shy of 49 years to the day of that 1964 game.

Princeton won again, this time 78-73.

The Tigers are now 7-1 on the year, with only a three-point loss at Butler as a blemish. Princeton has also won six straight.

The story last night was three-point shooting. Princeton was a ridiculous 16 for 34 from long range,  and exactly two-thirds of the Tigers' shots (34 of 51) were from three-point range.

Princeton is essentially unbeatable when it shoots 16 for 34 from three-point range. Actually, pretty much any team is.

On the other hand, six for 34 shooting from three-point range is a whole different story, and there will inevitably be nights like that as well for teams that rely so heavily on outside shooting.

The way to overcome that? Defense, rebounding, finding other ways to score.

Rutgers shot 50% from the field and outrebounded Princeton, but hey, there weren't too many misses from the Tigers to go get. For the year, Princeton is holding teams to 43% from the field and 30% from three-point range, and the Tigers average three more rebounds per game.

As for finding other ways to score, Princeton isn't relying just on one or two players to get points. They can come from anyone.

Last night the Tigers had four players in double figures. They entered the game with five averaging in double figures, and that didn't include freshman Spencer Weisz, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win over FDU Saturday night.

The leading scorer for the Tigers, last night and on the year, is senior T.J. Bray, who had no points late in the first half and then finished with 23 points, not to mention eight assists. Bray shot 7 for 11 from the field, including 5 for 7 from three-point range,

Princeton leads the all-time series with Rutgers 75-45. Its next opponent is Penn State, Saturday at at 2, in a game being played in the old gym there, Rec Hall, rather than the beautiful Bryce Jordan Center.

The real season - the Ivy season - begins Jan. 11 at Penn, and the first meeting against everyone's presumptive league favorite Harvard is Game 2, though it's three weeks later, after first semester exams.

How far away is the Harvard game at Jadwin? It's the same day as opening day for lacrosse season.

So yeah, there's a lot of time before the 2013-14 season reaches its make-or-break point.

After eight games, though, TB can sum Princeton up in a four-word scouting report.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Living The Dream

This is an actual conversation that TigerBlog had yesterday:

Co-worker: "Were you the men's basketball contact when Chris Young played here?"
TigerBlog: "Yes."
Co-worker: "Is he the nicest person of all time?"

The correct answer is "if he's not, he's way, way up there."

Young stands a shade below seven-feet tall, which means he stands out in any room he's in. Like yesterday afternoon, when he was at the Shea Rowing Center, one of the four Princeton alums in Major League Baseball who came back to campus as part of the Princeton Varsity Club Jake McCandless ’51 speaker series.

Young was joined by Will Venable, who like Young was also a first-team All-Ivy League men's basketball player, Ross Ohlendorf and David Hale first at a luncheon and then in the evening in McCosh 50.

Both times they spoke about their experiences in the Major Leagues, how Princeton helped prepare them and basically anything else they were asked about.

An athletic department - and a University for that matter - can't ask for much more out of four alums than Princeton gets from Young, Venable, Ohlendorf and Hale. They are smart, well-spoken, gregarious men who speak from the heart, laugh easily and genuinely appreciate the good fortune that they have been given.

All four are graduates, despite the fact that three of them were drafted before they completed their eligibility and had to completely dedicate themselves to graduating with their classes.

In the me-first, big-money world of professional sports, these four are a beacon. They are so easy to root for, and not just because they are from Princeton.

TigerBlog has never met Ohlendorf or Hale. He saw every basketball game that Young played at Princeton except for one and almost every basketball game Venable played here during his career.

As TB said earlier in the week, he'll always be left to wonder what Young would have done had he played his final two seasons, instead of losing his eligibility for basketball when he signed his professional baseball contract.

It was actually a bit of fluke that Young left when he did, as he was eligible for the 2000 draft by less than a week, since his 21st birthday came less than a week before the draft, even though he had only completed his sophomore year. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to be selected until after his junior year, which would have meant another season at least of basketball.

Instead, his Princeton basketball career ended after two seasons, just shy of 1,000 points and the school record for blocked shots. Had he played all four years? He would have probably bettered 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

He also would have given Princeton an NBA-level center for two more seasons. The 2001 men's basketball team won the league in John Thompson's first year as head coach; Young would certainly have made that much easier. He also would have been the difference a year later, when there was a three-way tie for the Ivy title.

Ah, but TB will get over it one day.

Besides, if Chris Young isn't the nicest person he's ever met, like TB said, he's way up there. Anyone who has ever come in contact with him has reached the same conclusion.

TB has heard it so many times through the years, from broadcasters, writers, Penn fans - anyone who has ever met Young. TB is pretty sure Young would still be on an NBA roster today if he'd gone the basketball route, but it's hard to argue with his success in baseball.

Venable probably wasn't an NBA player, but he too was a dominant basketball player in the Ivy League. In fact, TB doesn't remember too many nights when Venable wasn't the best player on the court, and that includes when the Tigers played at, say, Duke, or against Texas in the NCAA tournament.

And, like Young, Venable was very easy to work with from TB's perspective during his time as a Princeton basketball player. Venable always seemed to have a grin on his face, and it was the same grin he had yesterday, when TB saw him for the first time in years.

It was great to see both of them yesterday, now both in their 30s, established Major Leaguers - and rich ones at that.

And yet they seem unchanged by it all. They've hardly become what TB fears most rich professional athletes become - unapproachable, distant jerks.

And that's the best part of all four of them. They spoke about their experiences with a sense of awe, of modesty. They were just very human, much like anyone other lower-profile Princeton grads would be, in front of a room talking about their professional lives.

The questions asked of them varied, and there some great ones. What was your debut like and how did you feel? What sort of rookie hazing experiences had they had (TB hesitates to use the word "hazing," though all four told stories of being subjected to initiations)? Had you ever met your idol and if so what was that like? What is drug testing like and how often are you tested?

There were questions about their time at Princeton and how that helped get them ready. About how they finished their schoolwork as professionals, especially Young, who graduated with his class despite signing as a sophomore. There were questions about how Scott Bradley, Princeton's baseball coach, prepared them. They were asked if they'd experienced any stereotyping as Major Leaguers because they came from the Ivy League.

Hale talked about his debut, which came last September for the Braves (his hometown team and the team he grew up rooting for), and how nervous he was beforehand and how focused he became once he was on the mound. He would go five innings that night, allowing no runs and four hits while striking out nine, only to have his bullpen give it away and come away with a no-decision.

The first batter he faced was Venable, whom he struck out, something the two were able to joke about.

Ohlendorf spoke about how he was in the Yankees bullpen on his first night in the Majors and how nervous he became when the phone rang in the sixth, in the seventh, before he finally got in in the ninth.

Like Hale, Young made his debut with the team he grew up rooting for, the Texas Rangers. He talked about his debut, with 200-300 familiar faces in the stands. He also mentioned the voice in the back of his head that every player must have, the one that whispers "can I do this?"

They all can. Young is battling back from injuries after a long career that has included an all-star game appearance.

Venable is a borderline all-star now in his prime. Ohlendorf is an established veteran. Hale is just starting out, but his future looks bright after his brief time up last year, including his Major League win, which came against the Phillies.

Listening to them yesterday, TB could see big things for any and all of them when their playing days are over. GM. Team president. MLB commissioner. Politics. Anything.

Princeton Athletics is about many things, including on-field success, entertainment, its coaches.

Mostly, it's about the athletes who come through here.

Four of them were back yesterday. Four of the great ones. Four who represent everything good that there is at Princeton.

They excelled athletically. They were dedicated students.

They didn't have to sacrifice their goal of playing professional baseball to get an Ivy League degree. In fact, the two have gone hand-in-hand for them.

They're now proud graduates - and graduates in whom the University can be decidedly proud.

They put on an amazing show yesterday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cold, Wet And Flakish

TigerBlog heard a pretty good spoof of weather-related broadcasting while driving in this morning, as snow fell all around him.

It was on one of the Philadelphia stations, and the host was basically mocking how over-the-top TV and radio get when it's snowing.

"Well," he deadpanned at one point, "they're putting salt on the salt trucks, just like they have every other time it's snowed since they invented salt spreaders."

He also invited listeners to call in and make fun of the storm coverage, and the really funny part was how many people called in to give actual updates, rather than what he was looking for. Actually, it turned out to be much funnier, since they didn't get the joke was on them.

Only one person called in and actually got it, and he said something like "the snow is white, and it's cold and wet. It also appears to be falling in a flake formation."

To that, the host said "so you're saying it's cold, wet and flakish?"

That's the morning around here. Cold, wet and flakish.

TigerBlog much, much, much prefers hot, sunny and humid, if he had to pick between the two.

The ride actually wasn't that bad, since everyone went pretty slowly. For the record, snow started around 7:30 and is expected to last until late afternoon, with accumulation between three and six inches. Inconvenient and annoying, but hardly a blizzard.

This comes on the heels of Sunday's snow event, which left very little snow around here but nearly in foot in Philadelphia.

If you saw the Eagles-Lions game the other day, you had to be love it. The field was completely covered by snow, except for where TV superimposed the numbers on the field.

There couldn't have been anyone who watched the game and didn't think how great it was, football in the snow. For TigerBlog - and about 50 million other people, give or take - it took him back to when he was a kid, and any snowfall meant football in the snow.

The Super Bowl is seven weeks from Sunday, if TigerBlog has added it up correctly. Maybe six, if he hasn't. No, seven.

Unlike any other Super Bowl before it, this one will be played in a cold weather area without a domed stadium. More specifically, it'll be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, home of the Jets and Giants, neither of whom will be in it.

What if the weather is that day is like it is today?

Odds are against it. In fact, it's way more likely to be clear and around 40 or so than it is to snow. TB is pretty sure that this area has already gotten more snow this week than it did all last year combined.

TB watched "PTI" yesterday, and Tony Kornheiser asked Mike Wilbon if he would like to see snow like at the Eagles game for the Super Bowl, and Wilbon replied that he'd like to see three times as much. Who wouldn't?

Meanwhile, the college football bowl schedule is out, and there are exactly two games of interest for TB. First is the national championship game between Auburn and Florida State; there can't be anyone other than a Crimson Tide fan who is sad that Alabama is not in it.

The other game? The Pinstripe Bowl between Rutgers and Notre Dame. That's a great one.

Oh, and TB once again renews his belief that the BCS championship game should be the first bowl game, not the last.

Ivy League football ended a few weeks ago, and with it came the end of one of the great seasons Princeton has had in a long time.

The perfect ending would have been an outright championship and a sweep of the offensive and defensive Bushnell Cups. In the end, Princeton would have to share both with Harvard, but hey, that's okay.

Quinn Epperly won the league's Offensive Player of the Year award, in what should have been a surprise to no one. Epperly had a ridiculous season, throwing for 25 touchdowns and running for 18 more, making him the first Ivy League player ever with at least 40 touchdowns of total offense. The 25 TD passes tied the school record; the 18 rushing touchdowns were one off the school record.

Considering those records are held by a quarterback in a pass-happy offense (Doug Butler) and a running back in a power offense (Keith Elias) - oh, and they are the all-time leaders in passing and rushing at Princeton - to have one player tie one and come that close to the other in the same year is ridiculous.

Epperly set a bunch of records. TB will simply quote the story on goprincetontigers.com:
He set an NCAA record with 29 straight completions in Princeton’s 53-20 victory over Cornell; that followed Princeton’s 51-48 triple-overtime win at Harvard, when Epperly set Princeton single-game records for both completions (37) and passing touchdowns (six). He set an Ivy League record by earning the Offensive Player of the Week honor six times, including five in a row; all six of his honors followed Princeton’s six Ivy League victories.
He ended the season ranked first nationally in points responsible per game (26.6), sixth in both completion percentage and scoring, and seventh in rushing touchdowns. Epperly is the only player in Ivy League history to account for more than 40 touchdowns in a single season; he had 43 during the Ivy championship performance.

More than the numbers, though, Epperly was a mesmerizing performer all season, a can't-take-your-eyes-off-him player who had a ton of highlights - and huge moments when they were most needed.

On the defensive side of the ball, Caraun Reid was one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup, along with Harvard's Zach Hodges. Unlike the offensive player, this one was a toss-up, and the winner turned out to be Hodges.

The 2013 Princeton football will always be an amazingly special one.

And the future? Princeton figures to be a co-favorite next year along with Harvard. With its depth now on both sides of the ball, Princeton appears to be more than a one-hit wonder.

At least that's the hope.

What made 2013 special was how unexpected it all was. The memories of the season are still vivid, of the comebacks, of the championship, of the bonfire.

Perhaps 2013 will be end up being remembered more for being the year Princeton football turned the corner.
That would be the best possible legacy for this team.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Home Plate

Miss TigerBlog wanted to play Monopoly the other day, so she broke out the game, set up the board, got out the pieces and divided up the money.

Then she realized that there weren't any dice with which to play.

Back when TigerBlog was in middle school, the only solution would have been to steal the dice from another game. Eventually, when it was time to play that game, nobody would know where the original dice went.

So what does a 2013 middle school kid do when she can't find the dice?

Right, she downloads a dice app onto her iPhone. TigerBlog then did the same. And that's how they played.

For the record, TB won, employing a strategy of getting all four railroads and putting hotels on the green properties and red properties.

And now he has a dice app on his phone.

It was during the Monopoly game that TB first saw the news that the Seattle Mariners had signed Robinson Cano, the former Yankee, to a 10-year, $240 million dollar contract. To that, TB has one question - what in the world are the Mariners thinking?

TigerBlog attended a Mariners game last summer when he was in Seattle. If you've never been to that city, make sure you go. And do it between June and September, during the dry season.

It's a beautiful city, and the ballpark is also beautiful. TB saw the Mariners lose in 13 innings to the Twins after Felix Hernandez looked unhittable for eight innings.

TB understands why the Mariners would want Cano. He has no idea why they'd agree to that much money for that much time.

Do these people never learn? When was the last time a team gave a player that kind of contract and had it work out? Never?

Cano is a great player. But he's not a game-changing player. He's a second baseman. He's a really good piece on a really good team, not a player to build a championship around.

Besides, didn't anyone learn from the Red Sox last year? Take the money, divide it up among five or six really important pieces and build a winning team.

TB would love to see one of Princeton's Major League alums on a World Series winner.

He'll have to settle for seeing them back on campus, their home plate, as it were.

Will Venable, David Hale, Chris Young and Ross Ohlendorf will be back at Princeton tomorrow as part of the Jake McCandless ’51 PVC Speaker Series. The four will talk about their experiences as Major Leaguers and Princeton athletes and alums tomorrow evening at 7:30 in McCosh 50; the event is free and open to the public.

Young and Venable were two-sport athletes at Princeton who actually were much better known for their basketball careers as undergrads. Young could have had a long NBA career, TB supposes, and Venable was a thousand-point scorer and great defender, not to mention an explosive highlight reel type player.

Venable played all four years of basketball and his last three in baseball. Young only played two years of each before signing a contract after being drafted by the Pirates, which in the Ivy League rendered him ineligible in all sports. In the rest of Division I, he could have played basketball after signing a pro baseball contract.

TB will always wonder what Young would have done in basketball had he been able to play his final two seasons. TB senses it would have been a lot.

Like Young, Ohlendorf and Hale are both pitchers, and Hale made his Major League debut last season with the Braves. The first batter he faced was Venable, an outfielder with the Padres.

TB isn't sure what Young's future in baseball is, after he's had trouble the last two years staying off the DL. Ohlendorf is an established reliable pitcher, and Hale is just starting out.

As for Venable, he's in his prime. If he can get off to a good start next season, something he's struggled to do in his career, he could be an all-star, something Young was in 2007.

The life of a Major League baseball player is certainly an interesting one, with all the travel, all the money, all of the issues regarding steroids and PEDs. The perspective of four Princeton alums should be fairly fascinating.

And free.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Draw It Up

Guess what today is?

The World Cup draw for 2014.

TigerBlog didn't realize that when he woke up this morning. Now he can't wait.

As he has said before, TigerBlog went from not watching one minute of the 2002 World Cup to watching a lot of the 2006 World Cup to watching all of the 2010 World Cup.

Now, as 2014 looms, he can't wait for the next one.

The big lure in 2010 was the U.S. team, coached by Princeton alum Bob Bradley. For 2014, TB has been rooting for Egypt, coached by Bradley through the qualifying tournament. The Egyptians came pretty close to making it into the 32-team field before getting wiped out by Ghana in the play-in for one of Africa's five spots.

TB has also been rooting for Costa Rica, from the time he went there in June 2012 and saw Los Ticos play El Salvador in an opening-round qualifier at the national stadium in San Jose. TigerBlog has never seen anything else quite like that.

So now the 32 teams are set, and it's time for the draw. It's not quite random, and it's likely that it won't be long afterwards before someone refers to the U.S. as being in the Group of Death.

At least that's TB's pre-selection prediction.

TB assumes he'll end up rooting for the U.S. when the event in Brazil begins. Still, he'd like it better if Bradley had not lost his job, especially since he actually led the U.S. to first place in the group stage in 2010.

By the way, the NCAA basketball tournament would be so much better if the selections were done the same way as they're done for the World Cup. Seed the teams, then assign them randomly.

The World Cup is about six months away. The Winter Olympics are about two months away, right?
Actually, they start two months from tomorrow.

TB will take the World Cup over the Winter Olympics, though he'll watch the Olympics when they're on.

As he thinks about it, TB really hasn't watched that much sports on TV lately. He watched almost none of the baseball playoffs. He's watched hardly any of the NFL season. The NBA? He watches his new favorite team, the Sixers, because 1) the Knicks are completely unwatchable and 2) the Sixers have Hollis Thompson, a Georgetown guy.

Hockey? Nah.

College basketball? There's certainly enough of it on, as TB has said all week.

TB will watch the Princeton-FDU game tomorrow night at Jadwin Gym (tip is at 7). It's a pretty good day around here, actually, even before the basketball game.

It starts with the New Year's Invitational track and field meet and the Big Al Invitational swim meet.

There's also home women's hockey against Union at 4, with a Skate with the Tigers event when it's over.

Everything except the basketball game, of course, comes without an admissions fee.

And that's about it for today.

Oh wait, not it isn't.

Today is John Mack's birthday. TigerBlog is a big birthday guy, and he likes to wish people well on their big days.

John Mack is a little different, of course. A 10-time Heptagonal champion as a track athlete and Roper Trophy winner as a Princeton undergrad, Mack is now one of the "old alums" who comes back every now and then and remarks about how different everything is.

And by old, TB is saying mid-30s or so.

John Mack worked in the athletic department at Princeton after he graduated and then went on to Northwestern's athletic department and now law school, from where he will graduate this coming spring.

TigerBlog's big regret from Mack's most recent visit, which was the weekend of Heps and the Cornell football game, was that he didn't get a current track athlete to go up to Mack and call him "sir." That would have been great.

Anyway, happy birthday to John Mack. TB apologizes for not sending a card, so this will have to do.

And now that really is all for today.