Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Thoughts

So after all of the talk, much of it embarrassing, the temperature Sunday will be near 50 in the afternoon and in the mid-30s for kickoff of the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl.


TigerBlog doesn't want to know how much time was spent in the last two weeks analyzing the probability of a snowstorm and then an overkill discussion of whether this would help the Broncos, the Seahawks, the television ratings, all of it. And for all of that, it'll be cold in February in New Jersey.

No, it won't be like it's been the last two weeks, when it's been ridiculous. It'll be a normal kind of cold for this time of year.

Now if it's really windy, then that might be an issue. That's not supposed to be the case.

TB did a search for "Super Bowl Weather" and came up with 1,220,000,000 responses in 0.25 seconds. That's in the billions, people.

He didn't go through all of them, though he did stumble upon a great headline from the Allentown Morning Call: "Super Bowl Weather: Boring With A Chance Of Football."

In fact, because it's been so cold around here, it'll feel like it's 60 rather than the mid-30s.

Oh well. Super Bowl talk has been dominated by two things - the weather and Richard Sherman. The first will be a non-factor. The second?

That part may be up to Peyton Manning. Whether it's fair or not, it seems that a great deal of Manning's ultimate legacy is riding on what happens Sunday.

Manning is clearly one of the all-time great quarterbacks, maybe the best ever, yet he has a reputation of being an underachiever in the postseason. Consider these two players' postseason stats

Quarterback A - 22 postseason games, 538 for 840, 64% completions, 6,309 yards, 36 touchdowns, 22 interceptions
Quarterback B - 26 postseason games, 590 for 950, 62.1% completions, 6,424 yards, 43 touchdowns, 22 interceptions

Those are relatively comparable numbers. Quarterback A is Manning. Quarterback B is his nemesis, Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback who has a reputation for being one of the all-time great postseason players.

Brady has won three Super Bowls. Manning has won one (it's not like he's never won one). Brady also hasn't won a Super Bowl since his team was caught stealing other team's signals and plays in the Super Bowl. And Brady quarterbacked what had been at the time the No. 1 offense in league history with an 18-0 team and put up just 14 points in the Super Bowl while losing to Eli Manning and the Giants.

But Brady? He's Mr. Clutch. Manning (Peyton)? He's a choker.

TigerBlog likes Peyton Manning and will be rooting for the Broncos largely for that reason. Though he loves the fact that Eli has won twice as many Super Bowls as Peyton, he still would like to see Peyton tie for family lead.

TB's sense is that most people who aren't fans of one team or another will root for the Broncos instead of the Seahawks because Manning comes across as so likeable. And against the Seahawks, either because they don't like Pete Carroll or because of Sherman.

It makes TB wonder if there is a racial component to all of this. Will people root for Manning and against Sherman because of race?

Maybe some will. TB suspects the overall majority of people won't. It's a shame that race gets injected into the discussion, because what TB objects to is Sherman's antics, not his skin color.

There have been plenty of black athletes who have been nearly universally embraced by white fans. Ironically enough, the one who might have been at the top of that list was O.J. Simpson. Michael Jordan surely was. Tiger Woods. Today the most popular athlete in the world is probably LeBron James. TB loves Kevin Durant's game, on and off the court.

Yes, in some cases everything is about race. TB hopes that's only a small percentage. Maybe he's being naive?

Because it's the Super Bowl, TB recently received the standard department email on how any kind of gambling on the big game is against NCAA rules and could result in serious punishments. He'll get the same email when the NCAA basketball tournament begins.

TB knows how much money will be wagered on this game. He will not be wagering any of it. He will, though, offer this prediction.

Seattle has the No. 1 defense. Denver has the No. 1 offense. He read somewhere that this is the sixth time this has happened in a Super Bowl and the defenses are 4-1 in the first five. Still, he'll go with Denver.

TB's prediction: Denver 31, Seattle 21.

The big game is Sunday, by which time Princeton will have completed its trip to Harvard and Dartmouth in men's basketball (and men's hockey, for that matter). By the time kickoff rolls around, there will be a better sense of what to expect the rest of the way in the men's basketball race.

Harvard is the preseason favorite. Princeton was picked fourth. The two were clearly the best teams during the non-conference portion of the season, but Princeton was tripped up at the Palestra by Penn three weeks ago in its league opener.

As a result, Harvard is 2-0, Penn is 1-0, Princeton is 0-1. Columbia swept Cornell and is also 2-0. Brown and Yale split and are 1-1. Dartmouth is 0-2, along with Cornell.

Stunningly, these teams have played one or two league games each. The rest of college basketball has either played 10 or more league games or is closing in on double figures.

Anyway, the sprint begins tonight, with 13 league games in 40 days. And the biggest one could be tonight's.

A Harvard win puts Princeton two games back of the Crimson in the loss column. A win sends a huge message. Then there's the Penn factor. Can Penn beat Harvard tomorrow night, or was its win over Princeton going to be the highlight of its season?

TigerBlog can't imagine that even if Princeton loses tonight that it's out of the race. There's just too much time left. Still, digging a big early hole is not a good way to go.

And if Harvard wins tonight, then Princeton cannot win the league if it doesn't 1) beat Harvard in the rematch and 2) have someone else beat the Crimson along the way.

Harvard's gym is small, but it will be packed and get loud. Princeton always has a decent turnout of fans there as well.

Harvard lost to Florida Atlantic 10 days ago but came back to thump Dartmouth 80-50 last weekend. The Crimson have lost three times, to Colorado, UConn and FAU, who is 7-14 overall and tied for 12th in Conference USA.

Princeton has had three weeks, first semester exams and a win over Division III Kean to stew over its loss to Penn. Tonight is the one that has been circled on the calendar.

It's not make or break, but it is as close as it gets to that in the second game of a 14-game schedule.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Offer He Can't Refuse

Every now and then, TigerBlog is happy to take requests.

Today's came from Milena Flores, assistant coach for the women's basketball team. In case you missed it, "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" were on AMC back-to-back over the weekend. Shortly after TB noticed, he received this text from Milena:

"Was that punch by McCluskey once in a lifetime - or do you think he was in the jaw breaking business?"

Interesting question. McCluskey was the corrupt police captain who backed the wrong horse, in this case Virgil Sollozzo, and it ended up coming back to bite him a bit. On the other hand, he did break Michael Corleone's jaw, and TB would guess it wasn't his first broken jaw, as he responded to Milena.

Anyway, Milena's suggestion to TB was that he write one of those pieces that employs quotes from a movie or show or something and relates it all to a different topic, something that has been done a billion times before.

TB, though, will endeavor to do this for the first time in his career. To wit, "The Godfather" meets Princeton women's basketball:

"No Sicilian can ever refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day."

Despite how many times he's watched "The Godfather" or "The Sopranos" or "Goodfellas," TB will never be Sicilian. And hopefully his daughter's wedding day will be a wonderful occasion, though since she's not quite in high school yet, perhaps it can wait for awhile. Still, the request from Flores is one TB couldn't refuse.

"Nice college boy, didn't want to get mixed up in the family business. Now you want to gun down a police captain. Why? Because he slapped you in the face a little? What do you think this like the Army where you can shoot 'em from a mile away? No you gotta get up like this and, badda-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit."

Sonny is a bit taken back by Michael, who wants to go from civilian to the top of the Corleone family in one sit-down dinner/ambush of Sollozzo, who tried and failed to take out Don Corleone, with the additional bonus of McCluskey at the same time. Michael apparently is a Dartmouth grad, though TB doesn't remember any references to Dartmouth itself, only to the Ivy League, in the movie. As for Ivy League women's basketball, there are currently three undefeated teams: Harvard and Yale are both 2-0 (which makes Dartmouth and Brown 0-2) and Princeton is 1-0. Cornell and Columbia split their two games.

"How long will it be until I can come back? I'm not sure Mikey. A year. Maybe more."

After Michael takes out Sollozzo and McCluskey, he is sent away to Italy until the heat dies down. Of course, the heat follows him there, and of course, since he's Michael Corleone, it actually comes close to him without actually touchhing him. As for the Princeton women, it hasn't exactly been a year since they've played, but it seems like it. Princeton is 1-0 in the Ivy League after a 31-point win over Penn back in the league opener on Jan. 11 at the Palestra. Since then, it's been first semester exams, and so the Tigers return to action this weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth having not played for three weeks. Princeton is 10-5 overall and was playing its best prior to the break.

"It's not personal Sonny. It's strictly business."

Michael very unemotionally explains to his brother that he isn't going after Sollozzo out of anger or revenge. It's just business. Princeton and Harvard meet tomorrow night at Jadwin, and while Harvard is probably Princeton's biggest women's basketball rival, this game is business, not personal. Harvard is 12-4 overall and has to have been pointing to this game at Princeton all season.

"I don't know what to do, Godfather. My voice is weak, it's weak. Anyway, if I had this part in the picture, it puts me right back on top, you know."

Johnny Fontane was modeled after Frank Sinatra, a crooner who made it big in the movies. Only he was backed by the Godfather, which made getting the part a little easier, especially after Fontane's role in making Woltz, the head of the studio, look "ridiculous." And as we know, a man in his position cannot afford to look ridiculous. Anyway, the Godfather gets it to all work out for Fontane if not Woltz' prize horse. As for Princeton's women, they've been on top of the Ivy League for four years straight now. Harvard has finished second each of those four years. There is no chance that Harvard won't be chomping at the bit to get a crack at Princeton this year.

"They shot Sonny on the causeway. He's dead."

His father never thought Sonny would make a good Don, and he turned out to be right. Michael was much more suited all along to run the family, even when Sonny was involved in the business and Michael was a civilian. And then it came to a head, when Sonny took Barzini's bait and ended up a bloody mess on the causeway. As for shots, well, Princeton and Harvard make more of them than any other Ivy women's basketball teams. Princeton ranks first in the league in scoring offense at 74.5, while Harvard averages 72.6, second-best. No other Ivy team scores more than 67 points per game. Princeton and Harvard are tied for fourth in scoring defense at 66.0 points per game, which means that this one could end up being, no offense to Sonny, a shootout.

"You got everything you need? The chef cooked for you special, the dancers will kick your tongue out and your credit is good. Draw chips for everyone in the room so they can play on the house."

Moe Green was put into a difficult position, to say the least, by the Corleone family. And Fredo didn't really help the situation much. Anyway, Moe ran the hotel in Las Vegas that Michael wanted to buy, and well, you know, Michael is used to getting his way. And when he didn't? Well, let's just say Moe would have needed a new pair of glasses had he made it. And here he was, just trying to be a good host. Princeton? No interest in being a good host. Princeton has the first game between the teams at home, which TB has always thought wasn't the way you wanted it. Win at home and you've held serve. Win on the road and you have the hammer of knowing that the rematch is on your court.

"Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn't let him. Now, Johnny is my father's godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1,000"

Michael is telling Kay the story of how Johnny ended up becoming a big star, with the help from the Don. When Kay is bewildered, as any normal-thinking person would be, Michael explains how the bandleader ended up seeing it the Don's way: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. Princeton hasn't quite had to go to those extremes in the last four years, but the Tigers have been serious about dominating Ivy women's basketball. Princeton is 54-2 in the league in the last four years, but both of those losses have come to Harvard.

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."

Thc character of Michael's older brother Fredo is pure genius. Sonny, the hothead brother. Michael, the cool one. That would have worked. But adding Fredo and making him what he was, basically a naive buffoon, adds so much to the story. As for Princeton women's basketball, this weekend is Harvard tomorrow and Dartmouth Saturday. Dartmouth brings with it assistant coach Addie Micir, the Ivy League Player of the Year four years ago, when Princeton won its first of the four straight titles.

And finally:
"I knew Santino was going to have to go through all this and Fredo... well, Fredo was... But I, I never wanted this for you. I work my whole life, I don't apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That's my life, I don't apologize for that. But I always thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone, something."

For no reason at all. Just because TB loves that part.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Look For The Union Label

TigerBlog tries not to repeat himself if he can avoid it.

On the other hand, there has to be some sort of statute of limitations on telling the same story again.

For instance, when TigerBlog decided to talk about the movement out of Northwestern to attempt to unionize college athletes, his first reactions were 1) Miss TigerBlog's project today and 2) his own experiences in studying labor relations in college.

He told the story of MTB's project two weeks ago. He told the story about the labor history class in 2010.

He doesn't really want to repeat something from two weeks ago, obviously. And what about more than three years ago? Is that back on the table?

Anyway MTB's project is about whether or not college athletes should be paid. The assignment was to choose a topic that is contemporary and somewhat controversial, pick a side and make an argument in a Power Point and 15-minute speech. MTB's 15 minutes of fame, or at least of making her case, are today.

As for the labor history reference, that goes back to Walter Licht's class at Penn way back when. Unlike the story about MTB's project, the one from Dr. Licht's class is much older, and TB has only told it once, a long time ago.

So would anyone have remembered it if he told it again? Unlikely. Still he doesn't like to do that.

And if he runs out of actual life experiences to share? He can either go have some more of them, or make some up. By then he'll be so old he won't know what he's saying anyway.

By the way, have you ever been in a situation where you've told a story about something that happened to you so long ago so many times that you can't remember if the way you tell the story is really the way it happened or just how you remember it from telling the story so many times? That's a very philosophical question, and TB isn't in the mood for depth on multiple subjects today.

Anyway, TB studied a lot of labor history in college, including a class taught by Dr. Licht in which each student in the small seminar had to choose a book and a week of the semester to give a presentation on it. The order was determined by random draw, and TB ended up with the first pick. He choose Dr. Licht's book on railroad history and Week 1.

Or maybe he just remembers it that way because he's told the story so many times?

Anyway, labor unrest is a big story in college athletics today, thanks to the Northwestern football team. The story is that Northwestern, in conjunction with an organization called the National College Players Association, has filed the necessary paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board to seek to become a union.

This is a fascinating story.

First of all, the major question is whether or not college athletes can be included under the heading of "employees." If not, then there is no way to unionize.

Second, the NLRB only has the ability to impact private universities, not state universities. And apparently this is only about football and men's basketball.

TB doubts that this particular effort by Northwestern will be easily successful. The quotes in the story from the NCAA and the University indicate that neither is willing to consider the possibility that the athletes are employees.

Still, this, coupled with the whole controversy of whether or not athletes should be paid and the O'Bannon lawsuit that asks the question of who owns the rights to a college athlete's image have the ability to shake the entire enterprise to its foundation.

As TB explained to MTB about the issue of paying athletes, the entire concept of intercollegiate athletics has been based for more than 100 years on the idea of amateurism. Of course, this is a relatively cynical idea, since big-time college football and basketball generate millions and millions of dollars for power conference schools.

The extension of that is that these are students who are participating in a voluntary activity, not employees who are working out of necessity.

And yet the point that the athletes are making is a reasonable one. If they're the ones playing, shouldn't they have a say over the rules by which they play? Eligibility. Professionalism. Player safety. Student-athlete experience.

Right now, athletes have direct say over none of that.

They have indirect say in the form of organizations like each campus' Varsity Student Athlete Advisory Committee and then the league-wide and NCAA versions. For the most part, though, there is no way to address concerns.

The other part of that is that supply of college athletic spots falls far short of demand. For every college athlete, there are hundreds of high school athletes who never got the chance to continue to play, as much as he/she may have wanted to.

Whenever an issue like this comes up, TigerBlog always thinks about it in terms of how it impacts the biggest time college football and basketball schools and then how it translates to Princeton and the Ivy League.

Because of the absence of athletic scholarships and the fact that there is nothing binding athletes to their programs, the closest case for a monetary value to an athletic space here would be the admissions piece. That would never reach the threshold for being considered employees.

TB does get the idea of players at Northwestern or other schools like that who look around and see the big, big dollars they are directly responsible for and think 1) where's my piece of it and 2) if I'm not getting a piece, where's my say in how the rules are made.

TB would argue that graduated without student-load debt in this day and age is way more important than being unionized, but that's not the point.

Meanwhile, the world of college athletics continues to have its oldest tenets challenged. Who knows what might come when the tree finally gets shaken out.

TigerBlog assumes Princeton will be largely unchanged. The teams that dominate the television coverage?

They might bear little resemblance to what they do today.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Monday Night With Charlie

TigerBlog dined al fresco last night. Nice night for it, wasn't it?

Actually, it was 28 degrees on the thermometer inside TB's friend Charlie's rented car, and that didn't tell the whole story, since the wind chill was near zero. So why would reasonable people be eating outside on such a night?

For starters, there's no "inside" at the place TB ate. Or menus or waiters, for that matter.

For another, it's tradition.

And so there was Charlie, TB's roommate his senior year at Penn, waiting as TB pulled up to Geno's at 9th, Wharton and Passyunk in South Philadelphia, across the street from Pat's, its big rival. In case you don't know what these two eateries are rivals at, it's cheesesteaks. Philly cheesesteaks at their absolute finest.

Many people have told TB through the years that they'd love to have one from Pat's and one from Geno's and see which one they like better. TB might actually have done that himself way, way back when.

For whatever reason - perhaps because Pat's is a little more famous - TB and his college friends settled on Geno's. He wishes he knew how many cheesesteaks he had there in his four years at Penn, but the answer is "a lot."

And most of the time he was there, it was after midnight. This is what college kids in Philly do, and so there was always a line there, no matter how late.

Geno's never closes. As in ever. As in open all day, all night, all year. There are picnic tables in front, and the line usually flies by, as it is an assembly line of food preparation.

Ordering is precise. Cheesesteak at the first window - provolone with, where the "with" means "with onions." Fries and soda at the next window. It hasn't changed in years, and nor should it.

There was no line there yesterday around 7 when TB showed up. A few people came by, but TB's group was the only one that actually sat outside an eat.

Charlie had a long day. It started in Germany, where he was on business (and where he had left his hotel at 7 a.m. local time, or 1 a.m. in Philadelphia), and it ended in Atlantic City, for a trade show many hours later. Charlie has worked hard in his life and has a lot to show for it, but he's earned every penny. He has relocated his businesses from New York City, where he started out in some really awful neighborhoods, to Jacksonville, where weather like last night's isn't something that comes along.

He's a driven guy and has been since Day 1 when TB first met him, heads poked outside adjacent windows on the 22nd floor of one of the three high rise dorms above 38th Street, when Charlie saw an unfamiliar face who was interrupting his conversation with two people from the 21st floor, and uttered the first words he ever said to TB: "Who are you?"

Okay, there was an expletive that TB deleted between the "who" and "are" in that sentence.

If TigerBlog knows anyone more loyal than his friend Charlie, then the list is very, very small. As in maybe one or two other people.

And so when Charlie says "cheesesteaks January 27," TB knows to etch that in cement on his calendar.

Charlie went to the same trade show a year ago and the two had the same dinner plans. That night featured freezing rain, and yet they were there, out on the picnic benches eating. TB knew that there was no sense in saying something like "indoor restaurant, with menus and heat?", and so he just added some extra layers as was off to South Philly.

The weather did cut the outdoor part short, and there were still a few fries in the cups when they finally gave up and headed inside Charlie's rented car. With nowhere to go, they headed north a few blocks and then turned west, heading for the Penn campus.

Charlie doesnt' get back to Penn much. TB is there multiple times a year, essentially to root against his alma mater, something that Charlie struggles to come to grips with.

Like most college campuses, Penn is a combination of buildings that haven't changed in centuries and new construction. If you haven't been there in awhile, it looks freakish, with areas of great familiarity and others that distort your memories because of their newness. It becomes a lot of "that's where the freshman dorm was" and "there was where that class was" alongside "what used to be there?"

One building that hasn't changed is the McDonald's at 40th and Walnut, where Charlie once saw a female student get her purse snatched by a kid and then instinctively took off chasing the kid - and ultimately tackling him into an Action News van.

Charlie asked TB about the whole Princeton-Penn thing, and TigerBlog answered the way he always does.

He roots for Princeton now because he knows all of the people involved at Princeton and has a much stronger connection to Princeton now than he does to Penn.

Still, it doesn't change the fact that it used to be much different for TB, who as a student learned to hate Princeton, especially in men's basketball. It's part of the Penn culture.

TB was hired at Princeton at a time when there was no athletic director, and he and Gary Walters started on the same day. At one point early on, Walters told TB that he was lucky, because Walters never would have hired a Penn guy for that position at Princeton.

TB has always wondered how serious Walters was.

Many times through the years, TB has wondered what would have happened if he'd attended Princeton and not Penn, but he's always liked the perspective of being a Penn alum and longtime, loyal Princeton employee. Walters once referred to it as "a Penn diploma and Princeton education."

TB has gotten many dirty looks from Princeton people when they find out he went to Penn, usually in a funny way, and he's heard himself referred to as a "Penn guy" more times than he can count. He's always enjoyed it.

Princeton is a place where alums don't turn on their alma mater. TB always tells his Penn friends that, that there is no comparison between the connection Princetonians feel and Penn people feel to their schools. It's one of the best things about Princeton.

Still, TB will always be glad he went to Penn and will always cherish his time there. Yes, there aren't many Penn alums who have spent as much time as he has rooting against the Quakers and for the Tigers, but that doesn't mean he isn't proud of his school as well.

Last night was a reminder of that. A very cold reminder.

It was great to see his friend.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Fawning Spectacle Of Self-Absorption

As TigerBlog watched what little of the Grammys that he could stand last night, he couldn't help but think about something that made him smirk.

The Grammys are supposed to be a showcase of the best in the music business. Instead, it became a fawning spectacle of self-absorption and forced cool, and it didn't work on any level, at least not for TigerBlog, who doesn't usually going in for rampant narcissism.

There were so many moments of the show, at least the 45 minutes that TB saw, where he was begging someone to step up and put in a signature performance. He really hoped it would be Imagine Dragons, who came closest, or maybe Willie Nelson, who didn't.

Mostly it was just going through the motions, with some downright awful moments, like that incredibly weird country song by the cute young women who then won some award for it. The song was called apparently "Follow Your Arrow."

TB had long since fallen asleep when the controversial moment of the show happened, the 35 weddings that took place simultaneously, officiated by none other than Queen Latifah. Some of the weddings were between one man and one woman; others weren't.

TigerBlog isn't here to debate gay marriage and its merits. This is a basically non-political space. Besides, that's hardly the part that TB didn't like.

Mass weddings during the Grammy Awards? This is what it's come to? It's not that the music isn't enough? The Grammys also need to take the lead in being outrageous? Top that, Oscar?

That, of course, is the point. The music isn't enough. It should be, but it isn't.

Oh, it was when TB was a kid. He put the record on the record player - or the cassette in the cassette player - and all you heard was the music. Then came videos, and appearance began to trump music. And then it spiraled to become performance art more than anything else, and once the emphasis shifts away from substance and to flash, well, there's no going back.

And that's sort of the part that made TB smirk. It was thinking about shows like "the Voice" or "American Idol" or any of them. The premise is that anyone can walk in off the street and become a star, and many of those people through the years have. Isn't that an indication that the people on the stage at the Grammys were nothing special, just those who got the lucky break at some point?

TB has said this for years, but it doesn't work that way in athletics. There can't a show called "The Body" where contestants come in, win the game and end up in the NBA.

It makes athletics purer.

Take Caraun Reid, for instance, who, by the way, is a pretty good singer too. If he's going to make to the very top of his chosen field - a football field - then he 's going to have to earn it.

This isn't something that can be handed to him by opening the doors to just anyone and seeing whom the studio chooses or people at home send in texts as vote. This isn't something that thousands of people could do if only they got the chance.

Reid played in the Senior Bowl this weekend. TB watched a little of that as well, though he struggled at first to figure out which team the Princeton defensive tackle was on.

Then, when he figured out that Reid was on the white team, he knew that he wasn't wearing his regular No. 11 that he wore at Princeton. Not after he saw Auburn's Chris Davis return a punt while wearing No. 11.

Davis, as you might remember, put up the biggest play in college football in recent memory when he returned that field goal attempt 109.9 yards to beat Alabama And now here and Reid were, as teammates.

Pretty much everything that TigerBlog read about the game indicated that Reid helped himself as much as anyone all week.

He certainly did well in the game, with a pair of sacks on back-to-back plays, blowing by some highly regarding offensive linemen to do so. He's also coming along at a good time, when the defensive tackle position is becoming more important than it was not that long ago, when the key was finding speed rushing defensive ends and outside linebackers.

TigerBlog has met Reid and spoken to him, though only a little through the years. He's a big man with a soft voice and a very compelling story - strong family, very religious, Princeton background.

As much as anyone not named Epperly, Reid was the cornerstone of the resurgence of Princeton football. He's a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection and a two-time All-America, including a first-team selection this year.

And he's really easy to root for. He figured to get drafted before he did so well this week, in practice and game, and now he probably has helped himself a lot.

That's what talent is all about. Real talent. Unique talent.

Not what passed for talent at the Grammys.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Princeton Vs. Kean

TigerBlog covered more than his share of Division III athletics while in the newspaper business.

Most of it involved the College of New Jersey, which was known as Trenton State College when TB was writing about the school. Its basketball facility is called Packer Hall, and TB spent a lot of nights there when it was jammed with people, watching the Lions take on rivals like Stockton State, Glassboro State or Jersey City State, all of which have different names now, by the way.

TB would go on the road as well, also to small, packed buildings (with rabid fans), watching incredibly intense basketball games throughout the state, as he covered TSC (or TCNJ) in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.

It wasn't always pretty. It was always competitive.

It was a great contrast for TB, who would cover Division III games during the week and then Princeton games on the weekend. He would also mix in some midweek Rider games, mostly on the road, because Harvey Yavener didn't want to travel that much. Rider home games were usually off-limits, because that was strictly Yav's domain.

The Division III teams were filled with guys who were 6' 2" forwards or 6' 5" centers who scored tons of points in high school but whose bodies didn't translate to the Division I level.

What they were able to do was continue to score in college. It's the same on the lower Division I level, where players who put up huge numbers in high school are hugely successful, even if they're a few inches too short for the ACC or Big East.

TB has always loved to see those kinds of players, because they play with a chip on their shoulders as well. Why? Because they have the skill but never got the big-time opportunity, and they want to prove people wrong every time out.

Nights in the NJAC were filled with guys like that.

As TB became more immersed in covering Princeton and eventually working at Princeton, the annual Division III men's basketball game was always an interesting one for him.

Princeton used to return from first semester exams with games against Division I schools, often Davidson or DePaul, though also St. John's or Colgate. It was in the 1985-86 season that Princeton hosted Franklin & Marshall, a Division III power, to start the familiar tradition of playing a DIII opponent post-exams.

The point is obvious.

Princeton hasn't played in two weeks because of exams. It's jumping back into the Ivy League schedule for real the following weekend.

A Division III opponent gives Princeton the chance to get back into its game routine, get its starters a chance to get the rust off, usually get everyone in the game and then head back into its practice routine.

It's hard to get Division I opponents at this time of year, especially at home. Usually the Division III game is sloppy for the first five minutes while Princeton gets its legs back and then eventually becomes a blowout.

The Tigers have played a Division II or III opponent in its return from exams every year since that F&M game except for 2006 (Davidson), 2007 (Seton Hall) and 2012 (nobody). Princeton is 25-0 in those games (its loss to Carnegie Mellon in 2005 was in December).

The closest of those 25 games has been nine points, in Princeton's 59-50 win over TCNJ in the 1997-98 season. That was by far the most entertaining of these games, as a big crowd (4,320) came to see a 14-1 Lions team take on a 13-1 Princeton team, one that was on its way to the Division I Top 10 and was pretty close at the time, as the Tigers were ranked 11th prior to that game. Princeton had actually been ranked 15th heading into exam break and moved up four spots in two weeks without playing.

TCNJ didn't flinch at all in that one, and with a huge student turnout, kept it close throughout. In fact, that game would be closer than 13 of Princeton's 14 Ivy games.

TB also remembers the night 21 years ago tomorrow when Washington & Jefferson's Mark Johnson lit up Jadwin for 28 points, nearly half his team's total in an 82-60 Tiger win. When Johnson came out of the game near the end, the Jadwin crowd gave him one of the biggest ovations TB can remember.

This year's DIII game is Sunday afternoon, when Kean (an NJAC opponent) comes to Jadwin. If history is an indication, Princeton will win by a fairly comfortable margin.

But anything is possible. For Kean, it's a chance to play a Division I opponent in a Division I arena, something that none of those players may get again in their college careers. Like all of the DIII teams that have come to Jadwin, Kean is going to want to make the most of it.

After that, Princeton is at Harvard a week from tonight. Harvard, which lost to Florida Atlantic this week, is at Dartmouth Sunday at 4 before hosting Princeton and Penn next weekend. Princeton is 0-1 in the league, having lost to Penn in its opener.

It figures to be a wildly intense scene in Cambridge seven nights from now, when Princeton is in town.

Princeton vs. Kean is the first step back.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Polar Vortex

Somehow, TigerBlog made it into his 50s without ever hearing the term "Polar Vortex" before.

That's okay. The last three weeks have made up for it. "Polar Vortex" is everywhere now.

It's been freezing here, way more so than it normally is in the middle of winter. In fact, some winters around here have been more like autumns, with no snow and temps that rarely got below 40.

This winter? Nope. This one has been ridiculous.

First of all, there have been days in the 60s and even 70s, which is just weird. These days have followed major snowstorms, so the snow itself hasn't lasted that much.

On the other hand, there have been brutal stretches, including the one that's currently enveloping the area. Let's see, there was about a foot of snow the other day, and now the temperature hasn't made its way past 15 or so since. And it's not supposed to get much above 25 or so for the foreseeable future.

For some reason, the news appears to have become a contest to see who can say "Polar Vortex" the most of late, even though TB has never heard it before the last three weeks or so. TB is pretty sure that the word "freezing" would suffice, perhaps with some sort of modifier before it.

TB was listening to the radio yesterday when he heard a New York City weatherman say that, according to one model he's seen, there is a 50% chance of a major snowstorm within a 48-hour window before or after the coming Super Bowl.

Really, he said that. It's one of the funniest things TB has heard in a while.

TigerBlog remembered a line from an episode of "The Odd Couple," when Oscar takes his nine-month pregnant niece to his girlfriend, who also is a doctor, and she says that she is definitely pregnant and going to have a baby soon, to which Oscar responds: "My bookie could have told me that."

It was the same here. A 50% chance of a major snowstorm within a 48-hour window before or after the Super Bowl? That means there's a 50% chance there won't be. In other words, it'll either happen or not happen.

Hilarious stuff. Actually, it's hilarious in one respect and ridiculous in another, in that a non-story is created.

Fortunately, while the Polar Vortex is all over the place, TigerBlog can warm himself knowing that the Yankees have spent $491 million this off-season, including $155 million for Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese pitcher who went 24-0 last year in his native land. Will the Yankees never learn?

Anyway, it's just one more reason to hate the team. Didn't make the playoffs one year? Okay, great. Here's a check for $491 million. But hey, money has nothing to do with it.

There is no vortex in Mobile, Ala., this week. The forecast for Saturday there is sunny and 58 degrees, with similar weather all week.

Caraun Reid, the three-time first-team All-Ivy League defensive tackle, is in Mobile now, practicing for the Senior Bowl, which comes up Saturday at 4. The game can be seen live on the NFL Network.

At events like this, practice is as important as the game itself. Reid is, by all accounts, having a pretty good week there.

Reid is the second Princeton player to play in the Senior Bowl and the first since Hollie Donan played in the 1951 game.

TB was reading up about how Reid was doing, and he was came upon this description on an NFL draft site: "One could quickly tell that Reid spent more than his share of time in the weight room rather than just in the library as the Ivy Leaguer showed off a surprisingly well-built frame at 6-2 (and 1/8 inch) and 301 pounds."

Okay, it's a little stereotyping. It's part of making the jump from the Ivy League to the NFL.

The same site has Reid ranked as the No. 13 defensive tackle in the draft and projects him to go in the fourth round. Should he get drafted, and all indications are that he will, he would be the second Princeton defensive lineman in two years to do so, after Mike Catapano went to the Chiefs in the most recent draft.

During his career at Princeton, Reid had 168 tackles and 20.5 sacks.

His stats aren't what define him, though. He's been a dominant physical presence for the Tigers, one of the cornerstones of the transformation from back-to-back 1-9 seasons to the 2013 Ivy League championship.

It was obvious in watching him play that he was on another level. A Sunday level, rather than a Saturday level.

Now he's getting the chance to prove it.

In way better weather than what's going on around here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beach Pillows

It was three degrees when TigerBlog walked outside this morning to begin digging out from the nearly one foot of snow that fell in the Princeton area yesterday.

It was hardly weather that suggested lacrosse or the beach, yet those are two subjects that are never all that far from TB's mind. And sometimes, those two subjects get combined, like they did in the past week.

TigerBlog is a very good typist. He always says that the two most practical subjects he learned in school were typing and grammar.

He can type really fast, as fast as anyone he's ever seen, with the possible exception of an editor way back in the newspaper days, who could type a story, talk to 10 other people and probably edit another story all at the same time.

For all of the words he's typed in his life, there has always been one that has caused him to hit the brakes, because he just could never get it right the first time. That word is "Hartofilis."

Even now, all these years after Sean Hartofilis (Class of 2003) played lacrosse at Princeton, TB still can't type his last name without slowing way down. For some reason, he's always wanted to put an "i" after "Hart," or sometimes an "f" after "Hart." Either way, it never flows.

It's been like that since TB first started writing his name, which included sentences like "freshman Sean Hartofilis scored five goals against Virginia in Princeton's NCAA semifinal win" and "Hartofilis scored the game-winner against Towson in the NCAA semifinal."

Sometimes TB would write his name once and then hit the "copy" function and simply "paste" his name when he had to use it again, because of how problematic it always was to type it.

Princeton lacrosse has had some great players and great scorers through the years, and yet for some reason, Hartofilis always seems to be overlooked when the subject comes up.

Jesse Hubbard is Princeton's all-time leader in goals scored with 163. Chris Massey is second with 146. Hartofilis is third, with 126.

That's the top three. It's pretty good company, no? The next three on the list are Justin Tortolani (120),  B.J. Prager (118) and Wick Sollers (114). Those are names that are always mentioned among the great Princeton goal scorers - and in fairness to Sollers, he did it in three years, as freshmen weren't eligible when he played.

When TB thinks back to Hartofilis, he thinks about how underrated he's always been. And how clutch he was. His 126 career goals came in 60 career games, 51 of which were in the regular season and nine of which were in the NCAA tournament.

He scored 99 of his goals in the regular season, which was an average of 1.9 per game. He scored 27 of those goals in his nine NCAA tournament games, which is an average of 3.0 per game, or more than one full goal per game more when it counted most.

Hartofilis is tied with Hubbard in goals per game in the NCAA tournament in school history, trailing only Tortolani, who had 20 NCAA goals in six games (3.3).

TigerBlog is currently in the process of counting down the top 25 Princeton men's lacrosse players of the last 25 years, as the 2014 season - which somehow starts in less than 10 days with the first Division I games and for Princeton begins one month from today at home against Hofstra at 11 a.m. - will be TB's 25th with the program.

He had Hartofilis 18th on his list, as part of the group of 16-20 that was released yesterday, as TB is doing this is groups of five. TB had to chuckle a bit when he went back and looked, because maybe he again had Hartofilis underrated a bit.

As part of the series, TB has included what each player is doing now, and so he emailed each one last week to ask. He did not expect the answer he got from Hartofilis, who is currently writing and directing movies with his company Walls Farm Pictures.

It was quite a coincidence to find out that his first movie was being released the day after TB emailed him.

It's called "Beach Pillows," and it was written, produced and directed by Sean Hartofilis. The producer section of the credits does read like a bit of a whose who of Princeton lacrosse, as so many of his former teammates and former Princeton players helped him get his project off the ground.

The movie was released directly to iTunes and on demand, and TB decided to watch it. To say he was really impressed would be a huge understatement.

First of all, the movie stars some pretty familiar faces and names, including Vincent Kartheiser (a star on "Mad Men") and Richard Schiff (who was on "The West Wing").

Oh, and Annette O'Toole plays the main character's mother. TigerBlog has been in love with Annette O'Toole - who in addition to acting was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2004 - ever since she played Robby Benson's tutor in "One on One" back in the 1970s.

The lead in "Beach Pillows" is played by Geoffrey Arend, who has some good acting credits, as well as the distinction of being married to Christina Hendricks, also from "Mad Men."

The story is about Arend's character, who is trying to come to grips with where his life is and how it got off track from where he really wanted it to be. He's struggling with his career, which has taken him from wanting to be a writer to working in his father's furniture store, and with his girlfriend, who he thought would be his wife, though it doesn't quite work out the way he envisioned.

His best friend (Kartheiser) seems to have caused a lot of his issues, and yet he feels a real responsibility to him. Their relationship is what drives most of the movie.

The movie is funny and serious and is a tremendous first effort for Hartofilis. It has some really good character development and some outstanding moments, both of which are the sign of quality writing.

Hartofilis is one of three former players in the group of five TB had between 16-20 who is involved in the arts, along with Lorne Smith (guitar player in a band) and Peter Trombino (who is a live music event promoter while also being involved with a non-profit that promotes arts in New York City and in the NYC public schools).

Trombino came to Princeton after Hartofilis, from the same high school on Long Island and with the same uniform number (20). At one point in the movie, one of the characters wears a "St. Anthony's" pinnie, for the school that Hartofilis and Trombino attended.

"Beach Pillows" is definitely worth the investment to see. There is good chemistry between the main cast, Kartheiser is nothing like his "Mad Men" character, there are really good supporting characters - and O'Toole still looks great just past 60.

Beyond that, it took a real team effort to get it done. A Princeton lacrosse effort, led by one of its most underrated - and most clutch - members.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's Quiet

TigerBlog opens today with a little more on the NFC championship game.

First, to those who are okay with Richard Sherman's postgame rant, TB would quote Pete Carril: "When you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you."

It's not that Sherman is dumb. Hardly. It's not that he's a thug. Hardly.

It's that this is what society is all about these days. The more outrageous, the better. A week ago, how many people had heard of Richard Sherman, as good a player as he is? Who's the Seahawks other corner? Who are the Broncos corners?

And if you heard of him before, was it because of his play or because of his social media?

Richard Sherman? Household name now. In contemporary America, that's mission accomplished. Whatever it takes to achieve it.

Oh, and NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers linebacker and leading tackler this season who appeared to intercept a pass near the goal line, only to have the play be non-reviewable because it was ruled a fumble and a recovery by the Seahawks and such a play is not reviewable?

Well, Bowman tore his ACL and MCL on the play, which brought up another Pete Carril moment.

As Bowman was on the ground, at least he had the satisfaction of knowing that he'd gotten possession of the ball for his team - until someone went over and told him that he didn't and that it wasn't reviewable.

It reminded TB of the time at lunchtime basketball in Jadwin when an assistant football coach drove to the basket, only to tear his knee along the way. Carril, who was playing at the time, walked out over to where the football coach was on the ground, writhing away, while someone had run to get an athletic trainer.

And what did Pete say? Only this: "Now might be the best time to tell you you traveled."

Anyway, how could that play not be reviewable? Justice was served, of course, by a turnover on the net play that gave San Francisco the ball anyway.

But isn't the point of replay to correct awful mistakes? Games can be delayed interminably in the second quarter of Week 3 over microscopic analysis to see if a receiver had both feet in bounds or not, but an obviously incorrect call in the NFC Championship Game?

Oh well. Now we're on to Seahawks-Broncos, which can only mean two things - a lot of Richard Sherman and two weeks of talk about how many people want the weather to be awful.

Why do people want the weather to stink? Isn't a good thing that the Super Bowl is in this area? It's something different, but it's not like the NFL has never played postseason games in bad weather before.

TB is astounded by the number of people who want the weather to be below zero. TB gets people who want to see it snow, because that's cool. But freezing?

Why? Would the Super Bowl be anymore about corporate greed and excess if it was held in Hawaii? Nope.

Week 1 of the Super Bowl hype corresponds with the final week of first semester exams here at Princeton. As of today it's been nine days since Princeton had a sporting event, which makes this the longest stretch of the year without any competition - even with the rest of the week to go.

Princeton's next athletic events are this weekend, with men's and women's track and field, men's and women's tennis and men's basketball all in action.

Beginning Saturday, with both tracks and women's tennis, there will be at least one Princeton athletic event every day through the day of the Super Bowl. Some of those will be bigger events than others, with none bigger than the basketball games against Harvard (women here, men at Harvard) on Jan. 31.

For now, it's very, very quiet around here.

Elsewhere in college athletics, especially hockey and basketball, this is about as busy as it gets. Schools are back from exams and holiday breaks, and conference games dominate in January.

Creighton buried Villanova last night in men's basketball 96-68, shooting 21 for 35 from three-point range along the way. It was the seventh conference game for Creighton.

A bunch of schools - including every one in the MAAC - have played eight league games. In the Ivy League, every team, men's and women's, has played one.

One team that has played six league games, and won them all, is American's men's team. American is coached by Princeton alum Mike Brennan, and he has fellow Tiger Scott Greenman as an assistant coach.

Anyway, during exam break, teams here do not have formal practices. They have informal ones, featuring whoever can get down to work out as a break from studying.

That all ends soon enough. The games will be restarting and come next month, the winter/spring overlap will begin.

For today, though, it's much more relaxing. And it leaves TB to look out the window and wonder about issues other than Princeton athletics.

Like how do they know no two snowflakes are alike?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Another Chop At The Tree

It takes a lot to turn Michael Crabtree into a sympathetic figure. Richard Sherman succeeded.

It takes a lot to turn a guy who rose from the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles to play his final season at Stanford while working on his master's degree into a classless jerk. Richard Sherman succeeded at that too.

Well, maybe. Maybe not. Depends on what passes for acceptable behavior to you these days.

In case you missed it, and there's no way you did, it appears that Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback, isn't exactly a huge fan of Crabtree, the 49ers wide receiver. And he made that opinion fairly clear in his interview with Fox's Erin Andrews shortly after the Seahawks closed out the 49ers 23-17 to win the NFC championship last night.

To give a little context, Crabtree apparently said that he didn't think Sherman was the best cornerback in football, a comment he made last summer, by the way.

And so there was the end of the game, Niners driving for the potential winning score and a spot in the Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick underthrew Crabtree in the back corner of the end zone, and Sherman made a nice play - hardly a great play - to tip the ball away. It happened to float right to Seattle's Malcolm Smith, who clutched it to essentially end the game.

By the way, who made the decision in the TV truck to cut away from Sherman, who ran right at Crabtree in the middle of the end zone to provoke some sort of confrontation - or, giving him the benefit of the doubt, to shake his hand - and go to the Seattle bench, where people were predictably happy. 

Anyway, once Seattle completed the third of its kneeldowns, it was off to the field, where Andrews was with Sherman. Asking the typical insert-herself-into-the-situation question of "take me (with the vastly overrated Andrews, it's ME ME ME ME ME) through the last play," Sherman launched into his tirade about how he was the best corner in the NFL and Crabtree was a sorry receiver and why try him with a sorry receiver and all the rest of it.

Fox, perhaps understanding how far over her head Andrews was at that moment, went back to the broadcast booth quickly. Sherman never backed away even after he calmed down, later calling Crabtree "mediocre" and saying that he wasn't among the 20 best receivers in the game and that it was "insane" to go to him in a spot like that.

Way later, after Crabtree pointed out that Sherman didn't really do much else in the game, Sherman tweeted this: "A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of a sheep."

Once upon a time, sportsmanship was a very real thing in sports. Players were concerned about getting a reputation of being classless, something to be avoided at all costs.

And now? It's the opposite. The idea is to be as outrageous as possible. Talk as much trash as possible, even when "trash" is a synonym for "garbage."

In the context of the world TigerBlog grew up in, what Sherman did yesterday would have been unheard of. In today's world, it's not even all that stunning. In fact, on its face, it's even funny.

Between now and when the Super Bowl kicks off Feb. 2 about an hour north of Princeton, TB senses you'll have had your fill of Richard Sherman. If he had to guess, TB would also say that Sherman will also get burned at a key moment in the big game by Peyton Manning.

It just seems to be how it always works.

TigerBlog hates what's become of civility and dignity in this country. There are just too many examples in sports and entertainment of the me-first, narcissistic mentality that is fostered by athletes and especially reality TV stars.

At least Sherman is a skilled athlete. The average reality star brings nothing of substance to the table.

But what do they take off of it? Well, it's harder and harder to get kids to buy into the notion of self-control, of class, of understanding what behavior should be acceptable and what behavior traditionally has been reprehensible, only to be embraced today by so many.

That's why the Sherman thing bothers TB. You want to go on TV and act like an idiot, fine. But it's just one more chop at the tree, and eventually it will completely fall, if it hasn't already. And how many kids were watching him say those things who thought it was 1) funny and 2) something they should emulate?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's the only federal holiday in the United States of America that is named for a specific person. Martin Luther King Jr. was the face of the civil rights movement, and he believed in non-violent civil disobedience to change centuries-old ways of doing things.

When TB thinks of the civil rights movement, he thinks of John Doar, a Princeton basketball player in the 1940s who went on to have a huge impact on the changes that swept this country in his role as a lawyer with the Justice Department in the 1950s and 1960s. And by role, TB means a real hands-on, risk-your-life role.

Doar is a man of great modesty and dignity, and he has never talked about himself as having done anything special, even as he accepted awards like the Presential Medal of Freedom and the NCAA's Inspiration Award.

Today, there are too few people who follow that path. Too few, but they're out there.

Actually, they're around here too.

Princeton Athletics, and Ivy League Athletics, and much of college athletics is filled with classy people, coaches and athletes who compete hard and rejoice in winning and struggle with losing and do all of this without ever becoming jerks.

Sure, there are examples where lines are crossed, but in TB's time watching Ivy sports in particular, that's really, really rare. Maybe that's why he's stayed here so long. He couldn't take a steady diet of what he sees on TV.

So Richard Sherman, congrats on being the latest to take a swing at the tree. Don't worry. Princeton has one more week of exams and then games will start again.

It gives TB hope.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fitting In

You know what headline TigerBlog wasn't expecting to see on

"Where do the Harvards of the world fit in with big money football?"

And yet there it was.

And when he clicked on the link, you know whose picture he wasn't expecting to see? Quinn Epperly's. And yet there he was too.

Epperly actually figures into this later on as well, though we'll get back to him.

First let's answer the question. Where do the Harvards (and Princetons) of the world fit in with big money football?

It's a fascinating question.

On the one hand, NCAA rules apply to all schools on that particular level - Division I, Division II, Division III. On the other hand, applying the same standards to Princeton and Harvard that are in effect for Alabama and Texas seems a bit ludicrous.

For starters, there's no comparing the amount of money that a program like Florida State or Michigan generates with what's going on in the Ivy League or in any number of other leagues. It's easy to see why schools in the power conferences don't want to share that money any more than they have to, and why they see the NCAA as a hindrance to what they're trying to accomplish.

After all, the NCAA is there to enforce rules. The legislation itself comes from its members. And there are more non-power conference members than power conference members.

This has led to the natural question that many of the power schools have asked, which is essentially this: What do we need the NCAA for?

This is mostly true of college football, though. In fact, football at Alabama doesn't need the NCAA. Soccer at Alabama does.

On the other hand, is college athletics really about squeezing every penny out of it that a school can? Is this what it's become?

In many cases, the answer is yes. And if you're looking for unintended - or probably uncared about - consequences, consider the Syracuse men's soccer schedule. Nobody thought for a second about the impact of men's soccer in the ACC, as opposed to the Big East, when Syracuse joined the league this year. It was football driven, pure and simple.

But the SU men's soccer team played at Duke, at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina and at Wake Forest, all on Friday's during the fall. Presumably that meant leaving on Thursdays for a flight, which probably meant missing classes on Thursdays and Fridays for those four weeks.

Now multiply that out by how many different teams in any number of sports were thrown into how many different leagues simply because of the football revenue. And then how many other schools then had to scramble to find a league after their previous league - and geographically more realistic league - poached a bunch of other schools or collapsed because everyone else left?

Look at Joe Scott and Denver. He's on his third league in three years.

So that's the one hand. And the other hand?

Well, there is the quaint notion that universities exist for education first. And that's really where the Princetons and Harvards fit with big-time football. The trade-off is a simple one.

Ivy League schools and schools from other leagues get access to NCAA championship events across most sports. Hey, Princeton won four of those NCAA championships in the 2012-13 academic year, so they do more than gain access.

The current arrangement also gives all schools a say in the NCAA legislation. And a share of the money, at least from the men's basketball revenue.

The trade-off is that the power schools get to be associated with schools that are in it for the education as well as the athletics. This has always been important, either in fact or appearance.

It's getting to be less and less important as the money grab of recent years has become more unapologetic. The result could be the end of the NCAA, at least for football. Or as has been talked about, another NCAA division.

The big question these days is about paying athletes and whether or not it's something that should happen. It's a question that has trickled down to middle school projects, at least in Miss TigerBlog's case, as she is in the middle of doing something on the issue.

Unlike her father, who would have simply written a report on something, she is actually doing a Power Point presentation.

For her project, MTB interviewed three subjects. She started out with Epperly and field hockey player Julia Reinprecht, who not surprisingly said that they don't think athletes should be paid.

She also interviewed Paul Carrezola, who just finished his senior season as Rutgers' tight end. He also happens to be the older brother of MTB's buddy Bridget.

Paul's take is different. He thinks that athletes should be paid, largely because the time demands of playing a sport at that level. He's not talking about an extraordinary amount, just enough to pay for some incidental expenses.

He also thinks that it should be more for football or basketball players than for others. Perhaps it should be linked to what percentage of an athletic scholarship a particular athlete has. If a full scholarship football player gets $2,000, for instance, then a quarter-scholarship lacrosse player should get $500.

Paul, a fifth-year player, recently graduated with a double major in communications and labor studies. He took advantage of his full scholarship. Not every athlete does.

Those who disagree with Paul's position on paying athletes would point out that his education was free. Those who agree will say two things: 1) the demands of playing football preclude him from getting a part-time job and more importantly 2) Rutgers football brought in a lot of money, so shouldn't the players get at least a small share of the revenues that they've generated?

It's not an easy question to answer at all.

Princeton and Rutgers played the first football game in 1869. Nearly 150 years later, the two schools are way more than 20 miles apart when it comes to how their football programs are run and the way they impact their institutions.

It's a divide that will continue to grow as more and more money can be generated from big-time college football. 

Where do the Harvards of the world fit in with big-money football? They do and they don't.

Resolving this one way or the other will never be easy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mourning Dean Fred

TigerBlog walked past Fred Hargadon, who was seated where he usually was during Princeton football games, in the upper row of the press box, to the far side, in front of the closet nobody ever seems to have the key for, right next to the phones. TB said something sarcastic to Fred, who laughed in approval and agreement - and TB never dreamed it would be the last time he would speak to him.

If there was no student-worker available on a given Princeton home football Saturday, Fred would often answer the phone himself when it rang.

And why wouldn't he? He was a big, gentle, kid, always with a smile, always with a laugh, always with a friendly greeting.

Fred died last night, at the age of 80. TigerBlog took the news hard. He's lost a friend.

Fred Hargadon was the Dean of Admissions at Princeton from 1988-2003, after holding the same positions at Stanford and Swarthmore. He was a giant of a man with a deep voice, a gravelly yet soft voice, and a great sense of humor.

He would often come into TigerBlog's office in recent years and sit on the futon, just hanging out, talking about Princeton sports, telling stories of his days in admissions, asking about TB's kids, talking about anything and anyone.

One of TB's favorite stories from Fred - Dean Fred, as he was known - was about the time a long time ago when a freshman male student told him he hadn't admitted any good-looking women in his class, to which Fred replied "I just had a few female students telling me I hadn't admitted any good-looking guys."

He'd tell a story and laugh that laugh of his, also deep, also soft.

Fred Hargadon is a Princeton legend, with his acceptance letters that began the journey through this great institution with a single word - YES!

He was visible all over campus. How could he not be, what with his physical stature?

But it went way beyond that. He was a fan, of Princeton everything, and he brought that enthusiasm to every part of campus life.

Becoming a Princeton legend was probably not what he envisioned when he went to work in a suburban Philadelphia post office at the age of 14, or when he went into the Army. It was only after he left the Army that he went to college, becoming the first one in his family to do so, when he attended Haverford.

He retired from Princeton in 2003 in the aftermath of an incident involving Yale's admissions website, but he was still a very familiar and well-respected member of the campus community.

And now he's gone.

The news came to TigerBlog last night via text message and then later on by email, and it's news he wasn't expecting. He'd heard Fred was ill, and now that he thinks about it, he hasn't seen spoken with him since that last football game.

It wasn't the last time he saw him, though. That would have been out on Route 1, when TB drove past Dean Fred near the MarketFair, a few miles from campus.

TB was in a hurry, probably late for something, as he usually is. And there was this car going slowly in front of him, so TB had to change lanes to get around him.

As he glanced over, he saw it was Dean Fred who was driving. And so TB smiled. He tried to get his attention, but he never looked over.

And so TB pulled away, figuring he'd mention it the next time he saw him.

As it turned out, sadly there would be no next time.

There are so many people out there today who will hear the news of Fred's passing and think back to the singular word "YES!" as a reminder of the letter they got from him, the one that said an incredible door had just been opened for them.

TigerBlog thought of that word too, though he never got a note from Fred that started out that way.

What TB got instead was many years of friendship. Many years of listening to his stories of the places he'd worked, the people he'd met along the way, of when he was a kid.

Most of them were funny stories. Some were a bit poignant.

TB does know he was always welcome in his office, and it was always good to have him here.

Fred Hargadon was a beautiful person, more than anything else. He was the kind of person who made a real impact on the people who knew him.

TB can hear his voice now. His laugh. If he were here right now, on his way to the next world, he'd probably have joked about not being able to answer the phones next year at football.

Unfortunately, TB won't get another chance to talk to him. But he'll remember him forever.

As will many, many others.

Rest in peace, Dean Fred.

You were one of the really good guys.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bound For The Big Sky

Scott Jurgens recently became the Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing/Operations at Montana State University.

TigerBlog would like to take his proper credit for Scott's new assignment.

Scott Jurgens worked as Princeton's Director of Marketing for a little more than four years, and he always puts TB down as one of his references. As such, TigerBlog received a voicemail from Montana State shortly before Christmas.

The message was from one of the members of the search committee, who apologized for calling so close to the holiday but explained that the school was trying to move quickly. TB immediately called back and said that he would be around, that he recommended Scott highly and that he'd be happy to talk about Scott, even on Christmas, as TB was one of the chosen people.

A few days went by, and TB never heard back from anyone at Montana State. Then, after that, Scott himself texted TB, thanking him for his recommendation and saying that he'd gotten the job.

Okay, so maybe TB didn't really help him. He would have, though.

Scott Jurgens is one of TB's favorites in his time at Princeton. He's hard-working and a team player, which makes him willing to do anything to help out in any way, even if it's outside his job description. He's very loyal to the organization and to the people in it.

He is constantly looking to improve himself. He recognizes that in marketing, there are tons of ideas out there waiting to be stolen, and as a result he is at every convention, on every website, talking to every other marketing professional, always looking to find out what's new and different in his profession.

He's also personable, funny. He doesn't take himself too seriously. He's easy to work with, and he's the kind of person every athletic department needs.

See? TB would have given him a good recommendation.

Oh, and TB would have mentioned that Scott is way out ahead of the curve on social media.

For instance, as Scott drove from Greenville, North Carolina (home of East Carolina, his stop between Princeton and Montana State), and Bozeman, TB saw enough pictures and got enough updates on Scott's itinerary that he felt like he was there the entire way.

Actually, it was just Scott and his dog Barnaby, a resilient animal who has been with Scott since his days here and will now be a Big Sky dog. As for Scott, it's a homecoming of sorts for the Idaho native, and TB is very happy for him.

TB doesn't know much about Bozeman, having never been to Montana, though he does know that Sheldon had a bad experience there on an episode of the Big Bang Theory. And that Scott is looking forward to working for the Bobcats, who have a big men's basketball game tomorrow night against Northern Colorado. MSU is 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference, while Northern Colorado is 4-0.

As for Scott's chosen profession, it's always a challenge to be in college athletic marketing.

Princeton averages 1,796 fans for its five home games to date in men's basketball. Montana State averages 2,014 in the Worthington Arena, which seats 7,250. In football, Montana State averaged 19,704.

One of the advantages of being at Montana State, TB supposes, is that it is the only game in town for the most part. The nearest pro franchises are located in either Seattle (680 miles away) or Denver (695 miles away), which could make for an interesting two weeks in Bozeman should that become the Super Bowl matchup.

Still, there is also a much smaller population to draw from, as Bozeman is a city of fewer than 40,000.

Contrast that with Princeton. Within 680 miles of here are dozens of pro sports teams, and it's fewer than 680 miles from here to, say, Charlotte, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Detroit, not to mention the obvious cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Add in all of the Division I colleges that one would find within 100 miles or so, and it's a tough competition for the entertainment dollar, even if there are way more people in the area.

And then there's the situation that TB found himself in Saturday. His choices were 1) going to the Palestra and watching the Princeton-Penn basketball doubleheader or 2) watching the women's game on the Ivy League Digital Network and the men's game on NBCSN. He chose the later, partly because of the ease and partly because of other obligations during the day.

Still, it's so easy these days to see the game you want to see, as opposed to even five or 10 years ago.

Anyway, all that is for another time.

For today, congrats to Scott, who recently crossed the state line into Montana, and all the best for your stay with the Bobcats.

TigerBlog is looking forward to getting some Montana State gear. Then again, he never got anything from East Carolina.

Maybe he should take back his good reference.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Round 1 To The Champ

The Princeton women's basketball team has won the last four Ivy League championships, making it the only Ivy women's team to do so in the 30+ years of double round-robin.

Only once since freshmen became eligible 40 years ago has a men's program won four straight Ivy titles in men's basketball. That would be Princeton's run from 1989-92.

TigerBlog thought about how - and where - that first run ended before the start of Princeton's Ivy opener Saturday.

Back on Jan. 30, 1993, Princeton played at Penn in the third game of the league season for both.

Princeton had won the previous four championships, led by an army of players who had graduated in the prior two years and had been the cornerstone of the four straight titles. In case you forgot, maybe these names are familiar:

Class of 1992 - Matt Eastwick, Sean Jackson, Jimmy Lane, George Leftwich, Chris Marquardt
Class of 1991 - Jerry Doyle, Matt Henshon, Troy Hottenstein, Kit Mueller

The 1992-93 Tigers defeated Harvard and Dartmouth in the first Ivy weekend before taking on Penn at the Palestra in Game 3. Penn, likewise, was 2-0 after the sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth.

TigerBlog remembers going into that game thinking it was a fairly even matchup and that Princeton had a legitimate chance to make it five straight championships. Certainly nothing that happened in the first half made him think he was wrong, not when Princeton went in with a 26-25 lead at the break.

And then the second half happened. Penn went on a dominating run, and when it ended, the Quakers had a 64-46 win - and a major step in the direction of the league title. In fact, it was like a heavyweight fight that was pretty even for the first six or seven rounds and then ended in a dramatic knockout.

That's basically what it was, a knockout. Princeton's run as Ivy champ was basically over after that night, while Penn started down the path to three straight championships with a 42-0 record during that stretch.

As an aside, the game that night featured three current Division I head coaches among the 10 starters in the game. Can you name them? TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs to think about it.

Fast forwarding Saturday afternoon, and there were the Princeton women, at the Palestra, against Penn, in the Ivy opener for both.

Princeton's women, like the men, had graduated back-to-back extraordinary classes, and there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding a run for a fifth straight title.

And while Penn's current women aren't on the level with the 1993-95 Quaker men - one of the great teams in Ivy history - the team did come into the game having won eight straight games and, at 8-2, with the best non-conference record in Ivy women's basketball.

Would this be 1993 all over again? Would Penn end Princeton's run then and there?

Nope. Not on this night. For this night, at least, the champ was still the champ.


Princeton trailed in the first few minutes and then opened up the throttle, rolling to an 84-53 win over a Quaker team that came in allowing just 57 points per game.

It was a major, convincing statement from the Tigers, one that screamed that they will not be going quietly this year. And it's a score that the rest of the league was eagerly anticipating seeing, one that probably caused a bunch of "oh, nos."

It's just one game, of course. Princeton now has the difficult task of coming back from first-semester exams to take on Harvard at home. Harvard also won its Ivy opener, defeating Dartmouth by 10, and the Tigers and Crimson are now the only league teams in double figures in wins.

That one will be a huge game as well for Princeton.

So what about the 2013-14 Tigers?

Well, they certainly score points. That's for sure.

Here's Princeton's per-game scoring average for the last five seasons:

2010 - 70.7
2011 - 69.2
2012 - 72.0
2013 - 71.2
2014 (to date) -74.5

The four Ivy title teams between them averaged 70.8 points per game, which is a lot, by the way. The current Tigers are averaging nearly four points per game more than that.

Against Penn, Princeton was hardly a model of offensive perfection. The Tigers shot 43% from the field and were 7 for 17 from three.

But what they do is come after you in all directions, inside and outside, and the pressure to match them possession for possession is relentless. 

There's a long way to go before a fifth-straight title can be celebrated. Hey, there's a long way to go until Game 2 in the league, which is still 16 days away, and that game will set the early tone for the direction the race is going to go.

Round 1, though, went to the champ. In a big, hugely impressive way.

This was not to be the 1993 men's game all over again.

Oh, and speaking of that game, the three current DI head coaches who started were: Jerome Allen (Penn), Chris Mooney (Richmond), Mike Brennan (American).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Replaying The Game

Among TigerBlog's takeaways after watching Penn's 77-74 win over Princeton in men's basketball Saturday night - not live at the Palestra but instead on TV - is that Stan Van Gundy is a very good analyst.

Must run in the family. His brother Jeff is also tremendous.

Jeff is already established as one of the top color commentators for NBA basketball, not to mention a fixture in those fairly humorous commercials. Stan, whose coaching career lasted longer, is much newer to doing games on TV, and so he finds himself not at NBA games but instead at games like Princeton-Penn.

And yet he's a natural.

For instance, Penn's Darien Nelson-Henry was at the foul line with 5:41 to go. After he made his first, giving Penn a 66-63 lead, Van Gundy said that the next would be a very important one.

TigerBlog assumed he was going to fall back on the standard tools of broadcasting, such as chronicling how many possessions one team is ahead of the other. And so at that moment, TB would have bet big money that 1) Van Gundy was going to say it would make it a two-possession game and 2) TB would roll his eyes because there was so much time left to go that being a two-possession game wasn't a big deal.

So what did Van Gundy say?

He pointed out that Nelson-Henry was coming out of the game on a made foul shot and that Penn would be in a much better defensive situation without him in the game on the next possession, something that would require a made foul shot.

And that's what happened. He made the foul shot and came out. And the Princeton possession ended in a turnover.

That was a pretty sharp pickup by Van Gundy.

Then there was the final minute of the game, when the refs constantly went to the monitor, for extended periods that brought the pace of the game to a halt. What did Van Gundy say?

Basically this: "Everyone says that the important thing is to get the call right ultimately, but I disagree. Not when it disrupts the game this much."

From start to finish, TB was very impressed with Van Gundy.

TB is also long on record as being against replay, mostly because of the way the tempo of the game dissolves - and because refs love becoming the center of attention. Sorry, but he's seen it happen too many times not to believe that's the case.

And because what's the point of stopping a game midway through the first half to see how much time should be on the shot clock? Just play.

Now, after Saturday, TB adds another reason to hate replay. It can't correct major errors.

TB doesn't expect officials to get every call right. Not at all. And TB has almost never seen a game that was decided by refs, even with calls in the final seconds that were basically wrong. Even in those circumstances, the team that lost on a bad call at the end had ample time during the game to avoid being in that situation.

But if you're going to have these replay stoppages, at least give the refs the ability to correct an obvious mistake. TB saw it in two games on TV Saturday night, and in both, the replay simply enforced for the officials that they had made the wrong call. They couldn't do anything about it though.

In the Princeton-Penn game, Princeton's Will Barrett clearly got fouled on his offensive rebound/put back with 31 seconds left and the score 72-71 Penn. And Hans Brase didn't foul anyone on the loose ball after that, which should have just been a held ball, not a foul against Brase (his fifth) that resulted in two foul shots for Penn, which put the Quakers up three.

Of course, Barrett tied it on a three after that and Penn's Miles Cartwright clearly was fouled as he drove with five seconds left. And Cartwright calmly knocked both foul shots down, giving Penn the winning points.

And TigerBlog is in no way suggesting that Penn didn't deserve to win, that the refs were in on it, that Princeton has any sour grapes, none of that. Or, for that matter, would Princeton necessarily have won had Barrett gone to the line for two foul shots, 31 seconds left, down one.

It's just that the refs have no recourse in that situation to correct an obviously incorrect call, and if that's the case, why bother having replay reviews? The same thing happened for the refs in the Butler-Georgetown game, when the Hoyas' Nate Lubick fouled out on a play where clearly he committed no foul, something the replay showed definitively.

No, every call can't be subjected to replay review to see if it was a foul or not. The games would never end. But at least in a end-game situation, perhaps there can be some mechanism to correct such calls - since TB grudgingly admits replay isn't going anywhere.

And where does the loss leave Princeton?

Obviously the Tigers are 0-1 in the Ivy League and now have more than two weeks before the next league game, which just happens to be at Harvard on Jan. 31. Harvard is likely to be 2-0 in the league that night (if it can beat Dartmouth Jan. 26), while Princeton will definitely be 0-1.

It would seem like a must win for the Tigers, and certainly a win would help. But it's not make-or-break. There's simply too much season left.

A loss to Harvard would mean that Princeton could not win the league unless it ran the table after that and had Harvard lose to another team at some point. But hey, there's just too many games left to be writing anyone off yet.

TB said last week that winning in the Palestra wouldn't be easy. It never is, for starters.

And Penn, even with its seven-game winning streak, was a better team that its record, and a much better team with Nelson-Henry back. And the Quakers did the No. 1 thing they had to do - play from ahead, putting so much pressure on the Tigers, who, to their credit, did come back and take the lead.

And Princeton had one of those nights - 6 for 21 from three-point range - that can do in a team that relies so heavily on the long ball. And Princeton had to play with the pressure of knowing that it had three weeks off and Harvard next.

Oh, by the way, the last play by Princeton, that cross-court pass from T. J. Bray to Barrett on a sideline out-of-bounds, was a pretty gutsy call by Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson, who, if TB's memory serves,  himself executed it more than once, including in a win at Marquette in 1996.

So no, it wasn't the start that Princeton would have wanted in the league, especially after looking so good in its non-conference schedule.

But 0-1 isn't the end. TB doesn't even think 0-2 would be.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tipping Off In West Philadelphia

If you've ever been in the Palestra when it's basically empty, you can understand why it gets so loud when it has people in it.

It's such a small, confined space that the noise has nowhere to go. If you walk in on, say, a practice or shootaround where there are only a handful of people in the gym and only one or two who are speaking, even then it seems to be way louder than it really is.

TigerBlog knows a lot of people who think the building on 33rd Street in West Philadelphia is, to put it mildly, a dump. Certainly the building is old, and almost all of the seats are hard wooden benches.

Still, there is something really special about the place. Or maybe it's just the rivalry itself that makes it special?

You know the rivalry. Princeton vs. Penn, who meet for the 229th time in men's basketball tomorrow at the Palestra. The teams first played on Feb. 14, 1903, and have now played each other at least twice a year every year since.

Anytime TigerBlog walks into the Palestra through the front entrance and in through the first portal, he takes a quick look over his right shoulder, a few rows up from where he is standing.

It was there that he first sat for his first game ever at the Palestra, where he saw for the first time in his life a men's basketball game between Princeton and Penn.

Back then he was a Penn freshman, sitting in the overflow student section.

Fast forwarding more than 30 years, he has seen Princeton and Penn play men's basketball more than he's seen any two teams play any sport on any level. If he's remembering correctly, he's seen the two play each other at least 50 times, in the capacity of a student, broadcaster (and for that matter, student-broadcaster), alum of one school, employee of the other, neutral newspaper writer, athletic communications contact.

Almost all of the games he's seen Princeton and Penn play have had a direct effect on the Ivy League championship. And he came to the rivalry during the middle point of an extraordinary, unprecedented time.

And a time that probably will never be repeated.

Yale won the 1962 Ivy League men's basketball championship. Princeton and Yale tied for the title in 1963, and Princeton won the playoff to advance to the NCAA tournament. That, by the way, was Bill Bradley's sophomore year with the Tigers and Butch van Breda Kolff's first year as head coach.

Beginning in 1963 and going for the next 45 years, Princeton or Penn was the Ivy League's representative in the NCAA tournament 42 times, with only Columbia in 1968, Brown in 1986 and Cornell in 1988 as non-P NCAA qualifiers.

In fact, given that Princeton or Penn lost a playoff in five of those seasons, it's accurate to say that Princeton and Penn combined to win 47 Ivy League championships in 45 years.

Of course, it wasn't always just Princeton and Penn in those years. In fact, in the 42 seasons that Princeton or Penn went to the NCAA tournament from 1963 through 2007, the other finished in second place 19 times, while one of the other six schools did so the other 23.

That makes the fact that either Princeton or Penn won the league even more impressive, in that one had to leapfrog a few other schools to get back to the top.

There were times when it seemed like the shared domination of Ivy championships couldn't last. Penn won six straight from 1970-75, and in fact Pete Carril went to only one NCAA tournament in his first eight seasons at Princeton (in 1969), though he did get to two NITs, winning it in 1975.

Then there were the mid-1980s.

Princeton won in 1984 and defeated San Diego in the opening round before losing to UNLV.

Penn won in 1985 and lost by a respectable 12 to a Memphis State team that was the only non-Big East team to reach the Final Four along with St. John's, Georgetown and one of the great Cinderella champions ever, Villanova.

That was followed by Brown, Penn and then Cornell, who lost their NCAA games by a combined 120 points, or an average of 40.0 per game. As you know, this led to talk of taking away bids from league's like the Ivy League, and as you know, 25 years ago this coming St. Patrick's Day, Princeton ended all that talk with its 50-49 loss to No. 1 Georgetown.

Cornell won three straight Ivy titles from 2008-10. Princeton returned to the NCAAs in 2011; Harvard has been there the last two years.

This year? Well, tomorrow is the start of the Ivy League season, but it's clear that Harvard is again the favorite and that Princeton is the most likely challenger.

Penn? The Quakers have only two wins to date, but don't sell them short on their home court in their Ivy opener tomorrow.

The old building won't be packed like it used to be, like it was the first night that TB was there all those years ago. It'll still be a formidable place to play.

And it'll still be Princeton and Penn.

It's one of the most special rivalries in the history of men's college basketball.

And it always will be.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Weird Week

Greg Maddux is TigerBlog's favorite baseball player of all time. Well, either Maddux or John Smoltz.

Back when MotherBlog was living in Atlanta, TB became a big fan of the Braves. Actually, this predated when Maddux signed with the team, which was back in 1993.

TB remembers a night in 1989 when he and MotherBlog went to see the Braves play the Dodgers at Fulton County Stadium. He remembers that the Braves lost 7-0 and that nobody was in the building.

When TB checked out the box score, he found out that the game was on June 6, 1989, and that "Martinez" had pitched a complete game shutout for the Dodgers. It wasn't even Pedro. It was Ramon.

Anyway, TB got into the Braves because of MotherBlog, and because TBS showed all the Braves games back then.

Atlanta went 63-97 in 1989 and 65-97 in 1990, finishing sixth in the division each year. The team hadn't had a winning record since 1982, and in 1988 had actually lost 106 games.

And then, in 1991, everything fell into place, as the Braves began a remarkable run that saw them reach the World Series in 1991 and 1992 and then win it in 1995. TB is still bothered by the 1993 NLCS loss to the Phillies and even more by the 1996 World Series, when the Braves lost to the Yankees after being up 2-0 in the series and 6-0 in Game 4. Oh, and that game that Eric Gregg umpired against the Marlins in the NLCS in 1997.

Maddux pitched for the Braves from 1993-2003, winning three Cy Young Awards in the process. In 1997, a year he didn't win the Cy Young Award, he went 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA and 177 strikeouts and 20 walks in 232 innings. Who did win the Cy Young that year? Pedro Martinez, who was 17-8 but with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 241 innings.

Maddux had all kinds of years like that, with almost no walks and low ERAs. He finished his career 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA and 3,371 strikeouts and 999 walks in 5,008 innings. He did all this without ever coming close 90 mph on a radar gun - but with a ball that could start out six inches off the plate and tail back over at the last second.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. Shockingly, 16 votes chose not to include him on their ballots, including one who refuses to vote for anyone at all who played during the steroid era.

TB can't really blame people who won't vote for the McGwires and Sosas and Bonds. Hey, they clearly cheated, even if their non-steroid careers would have been good enough to get in.

But Maddux? What did he do?

The announcement of the baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014 came yesterday. It includes another Braves pitcher, Tom Glavine, who is also wildly deserving. Frank Thomas was elected as well, and while TB agrees that he's a Hall of Fame player, he's not one of the all-time greatest hitters.

TB has never liked the whole "he's a Hall of Famer but not a first ballot one." In fact, TB would prefer players to be on the ballot just once - either you are or you aren't.

As for the future, will anyone be unanimous? Mariano Rivera (whom TB considers to be the most overrated baseball player ever, but that's more about the nature of his position)? Derek Jeter? Anyone?

Smoltz is on the ballot next year, TB believes. He won't be unanimous, but he should be in on the first try. Aside from his regular season numbers (213 wins, 154 saves, 3,084 strikeouts), he was also 15-4 in the postseason.

The baseball Hall of Fame news followed the BCS championship game and preceded the NFL divisional playoff round in a huge sports week.

As far as Princeton is concerned, it's more of a weird week than a huge week, though there are some huge events.

This is always a weird week for Princeton, in that the holidays are over but first semester exams are coming. It means that while the rest of the college sports world gears up again after a slow time in late December and then has a huge month of January, Princeton has games this week and then is off for two weeks for exams.

The biggest events this weekend are on the road, though the men's hockey team is home against RPI and Union after its trip to Florida and Vancouver.

As for the big events on the road, he squash teams are at Harvard and Dartmouth. The women's match against Harvard, particularly, should decide the Ivy League championship, even this early in the league season. At the very least, the winner will be in major control on the way to at least a share of the title.

Then there is Saturday at the Palestra, where a basketball doubleheader begins with the Princeton-Penn women at 3 and continues with the men at 6. No Ivy men's or women's teams have played a league game yet.

The women's game features the Ivy League team with the best record to this point, and it's Penn, not Princeton. The Quakers are 8-2 right now and actually have won eight straight after opening with losses to St. Francis (N.Y.) and Notre Dame.

One sign that Penn is an improved team is the fact that Alyssa Baron, already a two-time Ivy scoring champion, is averaging a career-low 13.7 per game - and yet her team is 8-2. In other words, she's no longer a one woman show.

Princeton, at 9-5, is playing very well right now. The league season begins with two huge tests, at Penn Saturday and then home with 9-4 Harvard in the next game, though it is 20 days later.

Princeton has won the last four Ivy titles.

As for the men's game, Penn may be 2-10 while Princeton is 11-2, but they're both 0-0 in the Ivy League. It's a great opportunity for a struggling team to wipe the slate clean.

Also, remember that Penn was picked second in the preseason poll while Princeton was picked fourth. Yes, it's been a rough road for the Quakers through November and December, but it won't be easy for Princeton, who can't just show up and win.

And then it'll be off for two weeks, so any momentum that is gained this weekend won't last.

Still, these are huge games for both teams. Especially since both play Harvard in their next league game.