Friday, February 28, 2014

16 On Saturday

TigerBlog went to the eye doctor yesterday.

He likes his eye doctor, except for when she's putting those eye drops in his eyes, the ones that make his pupils gigantic - and burn like crazy.

By the way, did you hear about the cyclops teacher? Only had one pupil.

Anyway, the trip to the eye doctor was like every other one. A check of his vision, which deteriorates a little bit year-by-year. And then the drops, followed by the torturous part.

It starts with his chin on the little gadget that holds his head in place, so that his eye doctor can check him for glaucoma and some other things that eye doctors look for. And how does she do this? By shining extremely bright lights in his eyes from extraordinarily close distances.

The worst is the one with the sharp blue light on the end of a metal rod, which basically comes up to almost flush on his eyeball before stopping. That's always good for a few yucks.

Then there's the 15 minute wait until his pupils become completely dilated for one last check for something else, during which time TB has to pick out his new glasses. In loyalty to Princeton's official apparel provider, he only goes with the Nike brand glasses, and he gets the same basic frames each time.

Of course, once he's picked out essentially the same thing he's always had, he tries on the other ones, like the big black Buddy Holly framed ones. Then he realizes he'll always have the same glasses and goes with the Nike ones.

His eye doctor is an interesting woman. It seems like every time he's there, she and her husband are getting ready for some majorly wild trip, someplace like the Galapagos Islands or Fiji or something like that. This time they're heading out to Utah to go skiing, because as she said, Utah has the best snow.

Once TB leaves the eye doctor, it takes about three or four hours for his pupils to go back to normal. In the meantime, the light is just blinding.

All in all, it's a fun experience. At least it's only once a year. The drops alone would be nightmarish more than once a year.

So now he doesn't have to go back until at least February 2015. March of 2014 begins tomorrow, and it does so with a huge weekend for Princeton athletics.

How huge?

There are 16 teams that will compete tomorrow. Sixteen? That's insane.

Among the events are the Heps track and field championships (at Dartmouth), the men's Ivy League swimming and diving championships, the individual squash national championships and the ECAC women's hockey playoffs (best of three at Cornell).

There is also early-season men's and women's lacrosse, and of course the season-opening weekend for baseball (in California) and softball (in Florida).

There's also the end of the regular season in men's hockey and two basketball games against Brown, after the teams play Yale tonight, with the men home and the women on the road.

The Yale men desperately need to stay within a game of Harvard before their showdown next Friday in New Haven, and so the Bulldogs must win tonight at Princeton and tomorrow at Penn. 

As for the women, they are at Yale and Brown after a wildly successful weekend trip to New England last weekend. The Tigers are now 8-1 in the Ivy League, one game up on Penn (7-2). Harvard is 7-3 and needs a lot of help to get back to the top.

To have 16 teams play on one day is not something that happens too many times. There are some schools that don't even field 16 teams total, let alone 16 that can play all at once.

It's easy to look at the schedule the way it is and forget everything that goes into putting that many teams into competition at the same time. It takes so many different people from all over the athletic department, and actually every office in the department plays an active role in getting these teams to where they need to be.

Hey, there are 14 events today, and that pales in comparison to tomorrow.

It's something unique to the Ivy League, and it's one of the best parts of being at Princeton.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Saturday At 52

TigerBlog is all thawed out, finally.

To say it was cold at Manhattan's Gaelic Park Tuesday night would be something of an understatement. TigerBlog was wearing long underwear, pants, heavy socks, a long-sleeve t-shirt, one fleece, another fleece, his heaviest sweatshirt, his big heavy Princeton Athetics coat, gloves and a hat - and he was still freezing.

TB much prefers 95 degrees with high humidity to nights like Tuesday, when it was in the 20s with a gentle lazy wind blowing. A lazy wind, by the way, is a wind that is too lazy to go around you, so it goes through you.

The occasion was the Princeton-Manhattan men's lacrosse game. It's become something of a necessary evil to play lacrosse games beginning in February, weather notwithstanding, and so the early-season schedule is dotted with dates like "Feb. 25, Princeton at Manhattan" and just hope for tolerable weather.

Tuesday night didn't cooperate in the least.

TB assumes that the players are used to the cold, after practicing in it. And when you're young and moving around playing lacrosse, you probably don't feel it as much as you do when you're more than twice the age of any of the players and you're just standing there watching.

Gaelic Park sits under the subway tracks, and the No. 1 train that comes up Seventh Ave. and ends at 242nd Street and Van Cortlandt Park, a few blocks from the Manhattan campus. Several times during the game, the unmistakable sound of a subway train's brakes could be heard above the normal sounds of lacrosse.

The field itself is an enormous piece of field turf, one that is the home of Manhattan lacrosse, soccer and even softball. Unlike almost any other college lacrosse field that TB can think of, there is no fence directly behind one of the goals, only another 70 yards or so of turf field that is where the softball field is laid out. As a result, it gives the impression that the lacrosse game is being played on a gigantic piece of land.

The park is tucked into the city streets of the Bronx, which is actually where Manhattan College is. If you like cities, it's a nice little place.

It just doesn't happen to have a press box, though, which meant TB couldn't take refuge from the cold. He does recognize that this hardly makes him a sympathetic figure or anything.

He'll be back in the press box Saturday, when Princeton hosts Johns Hopkins at noon in the opening game of a doubleheader on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, one that concludes with the Princeton-Georgetown women's game.

Princeton-Hopkins is one of TigerBlog's favorite games each year. There was a time that Princeton lost 24 straight games to Hopkins, which meant that there were players who went from being born to graduating as Princeton seniors and never having the Tigers beat the Blue Jays in all that time.

The 0-24 streak was part of a 1-33 run that ended in the 1990 NCAA tournament, Princeton's first. Since then, the Tigers are 16-10 against the Blue Jays, including 3-0 in the NCAA tournament.

Recently it's been something of an odd series, in that the game has had little impact on the remainder of the season. The teams almost always play on the first Saturday of March, so it's not always easy to tell what direction either team is going to go in after they cross paths.

For instance, Princeton beat Hopkins 8-3 at Homewood Field in 2011. Leaving the field that day, TB would never have guessed that Hopkins would end up as the third seed in the NCAA tournament and that Princeton would struggle all year with injuries and tight losses.

Last year Princeton knocked off Hopkins 11-8, on a day when the Blue Jays were ranked third nationally. Big win for the Tigers, right? One that fit perfectly into the selection criteria for NCAA tournament bids, no?

Only Hopkins' 2013 season fell apart in a series of its own tight losses, and by season's end, that was no longer a big win - and neither team made the NCAA tournament.

The visiting team has had overwhelming success in this series as well. In the last 12 games played on one of the team's campuses - not counting the four games at M&T Bank Stadium from 2007-10 - the visiting team is a remarkable 10-2.

This year Princeton is 2-0 and Hopkins is 3-0. It certainly seems like both teams will very much be in the mix for the NCAA tournament and can even think about going deep into May, but hey, there have been other years like that where it didn't pan out.

In the meantime, the game features two high-scoring teams, as well as an opportunity to see two players who will probably end up being among the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy. Hopkins is led by Wells Stanwick, who has 13 assists in three games, while Princeton is led by the amazing Tom Schreiber, who has four goals and six assists in two games and needs one more assist to become the third Princeton player with at least 80 career goal and 80 career assists.

The second game matches two teams with 1-1 records. Princeton opened with a loss at Loyola before beating Rutgers last night on yet another very cold early-season evening. Georgetown defeated Delaware and lost to Towson.

No, it's not going to be a warm sunny spring day for the doubleheader.

Yes, it will still be worth attending.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Randy Neeff, Harvard Class Of 1990

TigerBlog was getting ready to walk out of Jadwin Gym Saturday night after the men’s basketball game when he ran into Randy Neeff, Harvard class of 1990, he believes.

She would have been class of 1989 had a bad car accident the summer after she graduated high school not pushed her back a year, so TB is pretty sure she was class of 1990.

TB met her after the accident, around when she had healed to the point of being ready to go to college but unable to do so until the following fall semester. He and his friend Corey became friends with Randy back then, and he stayed in contact with her while she attended Harvard. After that, they drifted apart.

TB remembers a time back in one of those summers when his friend Frank , who was living in Virginia at the time, invited him and Corey to a party he was having. TB immediately enlisted his then roommate Ed Mikus Jr., and right as they were leaving, Randy called to see what was up.

Told to be ready in 10 minutes, Randy said “why not?” and was in the car shortly thereafter. It was the kind of spur-of-the-moment weekend that can be had when you’re young and then be remembered long, long after the fact.

Randy Neeff was beautiful back then. Her smile was omnipresent; she laughed easily. She wore wayfarer sunglasses and had long reddish hair that, much like her face, sparkled in the summer sun. She had a zest for life that let her drop everything and head to a party four hours away at the house of someone she never met and coupled that with an intellectual drive that took her to the nation’s second-best undergraduate college.

TB, Corey and Ed Mikus Jr. have talked about that weekend at various times through the years, and the conversation has always come around to wondering whatever happened to Randy Neeff.

Now, all these decades later, she flashes the same smile from the same beautiful face and laughs just as easily. TigerBlog in seconds was taken back to Randy as a 19-year-old, even as she looked up at him from her wheelchair.

Perhaps it was the long-term effect of that original car accident. Maybe it was that zest that took her mountain climbing and on other adventures that ultimately led to one nasty fall from a cliff.

Whatever the cause, Randy these days sees the world from her chair. She struggles to talk and be heard, but she does not struggle to smile or laugh. She still has her zest, even if her mobility is severely hampered.

She and TB reconnected a few months back, through LinkedIn, of all things. They’ve gone to dinner, to see “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” talked about old times and new times.

TB didn’t know she was at the basketball game Saturday night until it ended and she was wheeling her way through the double doors into the hallway near the ticket office.

She has a live-in caregiver, an affable woman named Katie, and her family is in the area. She gets out as much as she can, whether it’s to dinner or the movies or even a Princeton basketball game against her alma mater.

By the time TB saw her, Harvard had beaten Princeton 59-47 in a game that was close for 35 minutes or so. Princeton was done in by an unfortunate sequence when it was a one-point game when Hans Brace missed a dunk and then Harvard came down and knocked down a three-pointer on its next possession.

Often turning points in games are hard to pick up on as they happen. This was not one of those times. Had Brace’s dunk gone in, Princeton would have been up one with about six minutes left, and the crowd would have raised the noise level considerably.

Instead, Harvard came down and dropped in a three-pointer. Princeton went from about to go up one to down four. Another minute later it was a six-point game after a Harvard dunk of its own.

In many ways, this defines the 2014 Ivy League season for Princeton men’s basketball. Close to breaking through – only to be knocked back down in a very frustrating manner.

Princeton is now 3-6 in the league, while Harvard is 9-1. Yale lost to Columbia Sunday to fall to 8-2 in what is a two-team race.

Princeton can make it essentially a one-team race by beating the Bulldogs Friday night at Jadwin. Yale desperately needs to be within one game of Harvard when they play the Crimson on March 7, and that means sweeping Princeton and Penn this weekend.

Or they could get some help, and if any team wants to knock off Harvard, it’s Columbia, who takes on the Crimson this weekend. Columbia, you may recall, came within a disputed block/charge in overtime of beating Harvard the first time around.

As for the Tigers, there is still the goal of winning out and finishing above .500 in the league. Regardless, the 2014 season will go down as one of the tougher ones, after the way the 2013 part of the season – the non-league part – went for Princeton, who gave every indication that it would be the other team in a two-team race with Harvard come late February.

Randy Neeff, of course, is rooting for the Crimson. TB doesn’t blame her. It’s her alma mater.

Katie had gone to pull Randy’s specially equipped van to the DeNunzio Circle, so TB waited with her for a few minutes. At that time, Gary Walters walked by, so TB introduced him to his old friend.

Gary strained to hear her soft voice talk about how she was a Harvard grad, how she jokingly apologized for her team’s beating Princeton.

Then it was off to the parking lot and into the van. She needs a neck brace to stabilize her as she is driven, and she needs her chair to lock into place on the passenger side, which has no front seat.

She joked to TB earlier that she had been able to renew her driver’s license and that nobody at the DMV even blinked at the fact that she was in a chair.

Her body has been beaten down through the years, but her sense of humor is still intact.

Corey got in on the reunion at P.F. Chang’s for dinner not that long ago, and as Randy motored her way through the door, he greeted her by saying “don’t get up,” in a manner that made all three laugh hilariously.

Someone who spent her days saying “why me” wouldn’t laugh at that. Randy Neeff did.

And she talks about the day when she will get up out of that chair and walk again and go back to climbing her mountains,  even if some mountains may now seem insurmountable.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keeping Up

TigerBlog would never watch "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" if he didn't have a good reason.

In TB's opinion, the Kardashian show more than any other captures so many of the ills of contemporary American popular culture - and really American society as a whole.

Let's face it. These are people who are narcissists and who will do anything for fame and fortune. They have no discernible talent, other than having been in the right place at the right time when reality TV kicked into high gear - and very little in the way of shame.

And so they've spent years and years living their lives with cameras pointed at them. In fairness, who wouldn't start to think that they were fascinating if every little piece of one's life were part of a TV show?  

Of course you have to hand it to them. They have achieved great fame and fortune, which is America today is what the whole goal seems to be. Find whatever shortcut you can to wealth and notoriety, and it was really the Kardashian family that wrote the playbook of how to do so.

TB hates when he's going through the channels and stumbles upon it for a second before he changes the channel. It makes him feel unclean just to see that much of it.

So if he watched a segment of it Sunday night, there must have been a good reason, right?

There was.

This episode centered around Bruce Jenner's birthday - and his daughter's coming 18th birthday and desire to buy a beach house in Malibu, because, you know, isn't that what 18-year-olds do?

Anyway, there was a time that Bruce Jenner was the studliest of studs, the Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, the greatest athlete in the world, a genuine American sporting icon. Seriously, after the 1976 Olympics, Jenner was to marketing in this country what Michael Jordan or Peyton Manning would become. That's how huge he was.

Now? He's just part of the trainwreck.

Anyway, his step-daughters wanted to do something nice for his birthday though, and they hit upon the idea of surprising him by inviting his 1976 Olympic decathlon teammates to California for his dinner.

Both of those teammates were named Fred. One of them is Fred Samara, the longtime Princeton men's track and field coach.

And that's how TigerBlog came to watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" Sunday.

Actually, he didn't watch the whole thing. He relied on his coworker Kristy McNeil, an avid fan of the show, to let him know when Fred was about to be on.

When TB put it on, he saw the barely recognizable Bruce Jenner dressed in a Princeton Track and Field shirt. And there was a part where Kim Kardashian looks up the 1976 Olympic decathlon team and then calls Fred to invite him the party.

Fred - both Freds, Samara and Dixon, actually - is then shown walking into where the family has gathered. Kim's concern was that Bruce wouldn't recognize the two Freds after all these years, but that's hardly the case.

TB remembers when Fred went out to California for the party/filming. It was awhile ago.

And there he was on TV Sunday night.

It went as well as it could have for Samara, with the Princeton Track and Field t-shirt and with a fairly respectable treatment by the narcissists, the ones who could have been condescending without too much effort.

When TB spoke to Samara yesterday, he was pleased with the way it went. And TB could tell he wasn't the first person to ask him about it.

If Samara was uncomfortable with the whole thing, he'll be much more in his element this weekend, when Princeton competes in the Ivy League Heptagonal championships at Dartmouth.

From his bio:
As head coach, Samara has guided the Tigers to 35 Ivy League titles, 17 indoor, 14 outdoor and four in cross country. Since 2000 alone, Samara had guided the Tigers to 12 Ivy League track & field titles, winning eight in indoor track and field and four in outdoor. His team posted an Ivy League triple crown in 2010-11 as Princeton became just the 10th program in NCAA history to sweep all six titles (men and women) in a single academic year and did it again in 2011-12.

As for indoor Heps,  the men's winner has been either Princeton or Cornell every year since 1994 except for one year, 1997, when Penn won the title. Princeton won in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before Cornell regained the championship last year.

Samara looks like he could still be a decathlete all these years later. His workouts are a standard part of daily life in Jadwin Gym, and he doesn't have an ounce of fat on him. 

Yeah, he's way more athlete/coach than reality TV star. 

His cameo appearance Sunday was more than enough for him. And for TigerBlog, who will watch again when another Princeton coach is on.

Monday, February 24, 2014


You know who had a bad weekend? The U.S. Olympic men's hockey team.

You know who had a good weekend? The Princeton women's basketball team.

Both teams played Friday and Saturday, and they had vastly different experiences.

The Princeton women's basketball team outscored the U.S. men's hockey team 156-0 in their two games this weekend. Okay, so it's not really fair to offer up comparative scores from basketball and hockey, so maybe it's better to say that the difference was the fact that the Princeton women got the points when they needed them, while the Americans didn't.

Oh, and they also got some help where they might not have expected it, in a way that speaks volumes about how sports can work.

Let's start with the Olympic hockey team.

A few hours before the Princeton women started their weekend, the U.S. men were confident and ready heading into a semifinal game against Canada. And then it all fell apart.

Canada defeated the U.S. 1-0 Friday to advance the gold medal game, which meant an extra day off. The Canadians, on a roll, thumped Sweden yesterday 3-0.

The loss Friday dropped the U.S. into the bronze medal game. For TigerBlog's money, there is no worse place to be and no game that has more pressure on it than the bronze medal game.

A day earlier, the gold is in your sights. This is immediately followed by the very real possibility that you could be going home with no medal at all.

And that's what happened to Team USA. One day after playing a very, very emotional game, the U.S. had to come right back against Finland, playing with the added problem of having to win to medal. Instead, it was all Finland, who won 5-0.

Tough loss one day? Hard to dial it back up the next.

Then there was the weekend for the Princeton women.

Back on Friday, Princeton, Harvard and Penn all had one Ivy League loss in women's basketball, while Dartmouth was winless. The matchups for the weekend were Princeton at Dartmouth and Penn at Harvard Friday and Princeton at Harvard and Penn at Dartmouth Saturday.

Clearly, there was going to be some sorting out of the league race this weekend.

If you're Princeton, you weren't really sure which team to root for in the Penn-Harvard matchup. If Princeton was going to beat Harvard Saturday, then it would be better for Harvard to beat Penn. If Princeton was going to lose to Harvard, then it would be better for Penn to beat Harvard.

Why? Because Princeton plays Penn in the final game of the regular season, March 11 at Jadwin. If Princeton had a second loss, then it would need Penn to have one loss, not Harvard.

Anyway, that was the background to the weekend.

So what happened? Princeton pasted Dartmouth by 41 Friday night. And Penn pulled away from Harvard to win 63-50.

At the midway point of the weekend, Penn was in the position of rooting for Harvard to beat Princeton, which would leave both with two losses. Surely Penn would cruise in Hanover against the 0-9 Big Green, right?

Well, let's see what happened next. Princeton had a back-and-forth game against Harvard, one that the Tigers sealed 69-64 with some clutch foul shooting, especially by Michelle Miller, who was 6 for 6 for the Tigers, who went 20 for 24 as a team. Princeton won despite a 1 for 13 shooting night from Blake Dietrick, the reigning Ivy Player of the Week and probably the frontrunner for Ivy Player of the Year, especially if Princeton wins.

With the win over Harvard in the bank, TigerBlog checked on the Dartmouth-Penn game - and found that it was 26-17 Green at the half. Surely Penn would come back, right?

Well, the Quakers did. But Dartmouth gutted it out, taking it 53-50, after Penn had taken the lead at 50-49 late in the second half. It was a shocking result on some levels, but on others it was understandable.

Huge Friday win? Just like with a tough loss, it can be tough to dial it back up 24 hours later.

It's what happened to Harvard after its win at Jadwin earlier this year was followed by a 29-point loss at Penn the next night. And it's what happened to the Quakers this weekend, after its emotional win over the Crimson Friday.

So now what?

Princeton is 8-1, with games remaining at Yale and Brown this weekend and then home with Columbia, Cornell and then Penn.

The Quakers are 7-2, hoping for a Princeton slip-up but knowing that they cannot afford one of their own and that they at the very least need to come to Jadwin within one game of the Tigers and then take their chances at two straight wins, one to force a play-off and then it the play-off itself.

Harvard now is 7-3, with no more games against the teams in front. Mathematically the Crimson are still there, but they need a lot of help from the rest of the league.

Princeton got the sweep it needed and the help from Dartmouth that it never expected to get. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend.

John Thompson, when he was Princeton's coach, used to say the goal was to be in first place at the end of each weekend. Princeton finds itself there now in women's basketball.

Sole possession of first, actually. It makes it somewhat sweeter, though there is a still a long way to go.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Busy Weekend?

Cara Morey, assistant women's hockey coach and wife of sprint football head coach/eternal optimist Sean Morey, wore a bright red sweatshirt and bright red hat to yesterday's monthly department meeting.

They were emblazoned with the word "CANADA" on them.

Given Morey's sport and nationality, it was obvious that she was rooting for the Canadians in the Olympic women's hockey gold medal game, which would be facing off shortly before the end of the meeting.

By now you probably know what happened. Canada won the game and the gold medal 3-2 in overtime, handing the U.S. a brutal setback after the Americans had led 2-0 late in the third period.

Canada broke through to make it a 2-1 game with three minutes left, tied it with just over a minute left after pulling the goalie and then won it in OT. The U.S. team almost wrapped it up when it was 2-1, when a shot at the empty Canadian net trickled gently into the post, about an inch or two away from sealing it. The Canadians then came down and tied it instead.

The U.S. and Canada were destined to be in the gold medal game in women's hockey, just like they were four years ago and just like they will be four more years from now, TB assumes. Because of that, coming home with another silver medal stings a bit, especially after having come so close to finally winning the gold.

It's pretty hard for TigerBlog to work up any kind of animosity for Canada, even more so these days, after he recently saw "Argo" for the first time.

The Olympics foster a great many things, including over-the-top amounts of jingoism. As TB said before the men's hockey quarterfinal game, he knows plenty of Americans he doesn't like but not a single person in the Czech Republic that he doesn't like.

Besides, the American women's team was dotted with players from Harvard and Cornell, which always brings TB back to one of his favorite questions. Do you root for the rest of the league when they get to championship competition beyond the Ivy League?

TB usually roots for Ivy Leaguers in pro sports. The Olympics are sort of an extension of that, but this wasn't one underdog Ivy League-type who made it big.

Add it all up, and TB was mostly rooting for a good game in the women's final, and he got it. He's definitely rooting for the U.S. team in the men's game today though.

If you want to root against current Harvard athletes, then you can come to Jadwin Gym tomorrow night at see the Princeton-Harvard men's basketball game, tip-off for which is at 8.

The Tigers are 2-5 in the Ivy League, so there will be no title this year. There is still a chance, though, to greatly impact who does win the title.

Harvard is 7-1 and tied for first place with Yale, and both teams still need to make the trip to Princeton and Penn. It might not be the kind of big game that Princeton envisioned when it was 11-2 prior to the start of the league season, but it will still be a big game nonetheless.

It's hardly the only Princeton event this weekend, though.

How many events are there? How about 34 between tonight and Sunday. And some of them are huge, such as the Ivy League women's swimming and diving championships and the women's basketball game at Harvard. And the Howe Cup women's squash championships, also to be held in Jadwin.

If you don't feel like leaving the Princeton campus tomorrow, you can be pretty busy. Men's lacrosse opens at 11 a.m. against Hofstra. The men's basketball game wraps it up.

In between is wrestling against Penn (1), men's hockey against Cornell (7) and the squash all day.

It's only going to get busier as the winter/spring overlap gets into full swing for the next few weeks. Of course, this weekend is busy enough.

The lacrosse game will be the first home outdoor event since Nov. 16, when there was home football and men's soccer.

The weather has been brutal all winter, and it's supposed to go back to being brutal next week. But there is a bit of a window this weekend, just in time for Princeton-Hofstra, which will be played apparently on a day that will be sunny with temperatures in the high 40s or low 50s, which will seem like August after what's been going on around here.

Either way, it's a big sign that spring is on the way.

Maybe today's rain and warm temps can melt a lot of the snow, or at least allow some of the grass to peak through in spots. It's enough with seeing snow as far as the eye can see.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Mt. Rushmore Of Women's Basketball Weekends

TigerBlog DVRd the movie "North By Northwest" the other day. He'll get around to watching it at some point.

So what that he's seen it a bunch of times? It's a classic, Hitchcock at his best, Cary Grant at his best, Eva Marie Saint not quite at her "On the Waterfront" best but pretty close.

If you've never seen it, it's worth the investment. Grant plays an apparently soft advertising man who unwittingly gets into the middle of a big espionage situation, falling in love with Eva Marie Saint along the way - even as he doesn't even wrinkle his suit while running through a corn field to get away from a crop duster.

The movie also has one of the great gaffes of all-time, as a young extra in one scene covers his ears before a gun is fired. Being that this is a Hitchcock movie, TB has always assumed that he did that on purpose.

The most famous scene in the movie takes place on Mt. Rushmore, a place that TB has never been but thinks would be cool to see.

Mt. Rushmore has been in the news in recent weeks in a mind-numbing way that is worse to TigerBlog than fingers or a chalkboard. Somehow, sports talk has become dominated by Mt. Rushmore, as in "who would be on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time NBA basketball players" or "who is on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time Yankees."

On and on this has gone, as if somehow there is one correct answer. As someone who just counted down his top 25 Princeton men's lacrosse players of the last 25 years, TigerBlog is okay with recognizing the best of the best and making the case for one player over another.

At the same time, it's enough with this "Mt. Rushmore" stuff. First of all, TB made it clear that it was his opinion and anyone else could have another one, as opposed to the whole "Mt. Rushmore" discussion, which has led to ridiculous conversations about how one person is so obviously right and the next person is so obviously an idiot.

And then there's the real problem. Can someone come up with something original?

Anyway, that's TB's take on the whole Mt. Rushmore situation.

Before he lets it go, though, he will say this: This weekend would be on the Mt. Rushmore of Ivy League women's basketball weekends. And don't even try to disagree with that.

Unless you want to. What does TB care?

The recent history of Ivy League women's basketball has been one of having a dominant team, which, by the way, for the last four years has been Princeton.

It's been since 2008 that the Ivy League women's basketball champ didn't win the league by at least two games. In fact, in the last 20 years, the Ivy women's basketball winner has won by at least two games 15 times - and by at least four games seven times.

This year, through the midway point, the race is way closer than it traditionally is.

It's a three-team race between Princeton, Penn and Harvard, who just happen to meet up with each other in Cambridge this weekend. Hence the Mt. Rushmore thing.

Harvard is 7-1 in the league, while Princeton and Penn are both 6-1. All three play each other once more this season, with two of those three meetings this weekend at Harvard, where the Crimson host the Quakers tomorrow and the Tigers Saturday.

The three are 1-1 against each other and 16-0 against the rest of the league to this point. Harvard had one close call with a 58-57 win over Yale. Penn has a seven-point win over Columbia.

Other than that, the other 14 games the teams have played against the rest of the league have all been in double figures.

Not that when they played each other it was any closer. Princeton lost to Harvard by 10. Princeton beat Penn by 31. Penn beat Harvard by 29.

It's possible that the three could be headed to 12-2 and three-way tie for the title, which would result in a random draw for the bye in the playoff. Or its possible that one will sweep the other two.

Given the way the rest of the results have gone, it's not a wise plan for either of the three to count on getting much help from the other five. It could happen of course, but it's not something to rely on.

And that means the games this weekend are incredibly huge.

Each of the three can make a case that its loss was an aberration. Princeton was coming off a three-week exam break, returned against Harvard, dug a huge first-half hole and almost came all the way back. Harvard lost to Penn the day after beating Princeton, in what was an understandable emotional letdown. Penn got hammered by Princeton but hasn't lost a league game since.

And now they have a huge weekend together.

Would you rather play Harvard Friday or Saturday? Penn gets the Crimson off the bat and then has to make the drive to Hanover to take on Dartmouth, who is 0-8 in the league. Princeton has to play in Hanover first, with an eye on the scoreboard and the game the next night.

Would you rather be Harvard, having to play the two big games back-to-back but knowing that 1) you're at home and 2) if you sweep then all you have to do is win out and you're in?

It's a fascinating weekend in Ivy women's baskeball, which historically doesn't usually get to this time of year with too many fascinating weekends.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Time Flies

Little Mason Sachson went for his first haircut yesterday.

A bit shy of his second birthday, Mason is the son of Princeton Assistant Director of Athletics Craig Sachson, who had the unenviable task of taking him for his first stint in the barber's chair.

Its a very stressful moment, taking a boy for his first haircut. There's no way he's going to be happy, not sitting in a chair, smock on, stranger taking scissors to his hair.

By all accounts, Mason had a typical reaction. His father reported that they made it through okay, even if it wasn't a lot of yucks.

TigerBlog remembers taking his own son to his first haircut like it was yesterday. He had the same experience, unpleasant, but ultimately successful.

It wasn't yesterday, though. Yesterday was Mason's turn. And even if it seemed like TigerBlog Jr. was Mason's age not that long ago, on the actual yesterday, when Mason was getting his first haircut, TBJ was taking his road test for his driver's license.

TigerBlog can report that his son was nervous on the way to the test, antsy waiting for the inspector to finish with the young man who went just before him and ultimately fine once he zipped through the parallel parking.

From first hair cut to driver's license. Time flies. It did for TBJ. It will for Mason too.

Parenting is partly about observing milestones and doing what you can to make sure that they're ready for whatever it is they've just achieved. It goes back all the way to the beginning, when they first roll over, and life becomes a series of steps towards independence - crawling, walking, talking, first day of school, first time on a bicycle, playing sports, going to high school, driving, college, adulthood.

Some are easier to handle than others. The driving one is downright frightening.

As for Mason's dad, he is the sport contact for 12 of Princeton's 38 varsity teams, which makes him one of the busier people in the world of athletic communications. In fact, TB can't imagine there are too many people - if any - who cover more teams in the world of Division I.

Craig is in his second tour of duty with Princeton Athletic Communications. His first was as an intern back in the 1990s, and then, after two years at Cornell, he's been back at Princeton since. Like TB, Sachson's background originally was in newspapers, the same newspaper as TB, for that matter.

When TB thinks back at the way it's evolved around here in his tenure, by far the No. 1 thing has been the advent of the webpage. That alone changed the whole show in so many ways.

For starters, it was the beginning - a dramatic beginning - of the shift from an emphasis on media relations to becoming Princeton's own media outlet. Back when TB started, there was really no way to get directly to the people who wanted the information other than to go through the media, which didn't really help Princeton fans who didn't live in the local area.

In other words, other than perhaps a team newsletter or a very small recruiting guide, there was no way to consistently get information out to, say, a Princeton swimming alum who lived in Texas. All of that changed overnight with

Before the webpage, very little was done for the teams whose games weren't covered by newspapers, which meant most of the teams. It wasn't that nobody cared about them; it's just that there was little that could be done other than write a short postgame release, fax it out to newspapers and hope they ran a sentence at least.

The web changed all of that. Suddenly there was a limitless opportunity to send out information. This led to the second biggest development in TB's tenure.

When Craig first started, he was an intern who couldn't stay for more than two years if he wanted. Shortly after the launch of (and not related to it, more related to changes in University policy), the internships were eliminated in favor of full-time jobs.

Instead of having a different sport contact every two years, every sport now had someone who was going to be around for awhile. With that came institutional memory and familiarity, and with that came way better coverage. And, with the webpage, the supply could finally meet demand.

It's no wonder that the coaches of Craig's 12 sports - and of all the sports that used to be so underreported - love how things are now.

Those two things - a webpage and experienced people to put information on it - did more to connect the athletic department and its fans all over the world than anything TB could have imagined back on his first day here.

Craig's 12 sports are football, men's and women's squash, wrestling, men's and women's volleyball, all four crews and men's and women's swimming and diving.

Back in the day, this would have meant a lot of work with one sport and hardly any with 11 others. Now? Just look at the webpage, where there is a ton of information about all of those teams, with stories, video and everything else.

It's a big weekend for Sachson's teams. The women's swimming and diving team chases another Ivy League championship. Wrestling tries to close out its best Ivy season in decades. Women's squash plays in the Howe Cup national championship tournament.

In the modern era of athletic communications, this keeps him as busy as a football game. And that's a very good thing, for so many reasons. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Comeback Kids

TigerBlog is in the market for a new cereal.

For essentially his entire life, he's gone with Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies. Actually, way back when, he went with their more sugary counterparts, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Krispies, something that he chalks up to youth and inexperience.

TB can't imagine how many Flakes and Krispies he's eaten in his life. He imagines that they're in the millions.

For some reason, he woke up a few weeks ago, looked at the Rice Krispies and decided he needed something new. He was still fine with the Corn Flakes, something that was equally as confusing as turning his back on a cereal that had carried him through breakfasts for five decades.

Breakfast has done a pretty good job of marketing itself. While lunch has mostly had catchy jingles about lunch meat and bologna and dinner has been all over the map with everything from frozen pizza to meat loaf, breakfast has kept its promotional efforts simple.

Ask anyone about breakfast, and they'll say it's the most important meal of the day. Even when everyone knows it isn't. TigerBlog ranks them 1) dinner, 2) lunch, 3) breakfast.

TigerBlog loves bacon and eggs, especially on a nice bagel, but he almost never has anything for breakfast other than cereal. And now he was staring at his Rice Krispies and thinking he needed a change.

After Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, the cereals that TB has had the most are Multigrain Cheerios and Golden Grahams. He went with a box of each to replace the Rice Krispies, and then he decided to branch out.

Ah, but where to go? He tried Crispix, which is a rice/corn cereal. It was okay, but nothing special. He tried Life, which he remembered having as a kid, but that was like eating cardboard.

Then he stumbled on one that seemed okay. Cinnamon Chex. Hey, it was pretty good. He's on his second box of it now, and it looks promising.

If you go to the cereal aisle in the supermarket, you're flooded with all kinds of options. Too many of them are way too sugary, even if that's part of their appeal. TB could eat Cocoa Puffs all day, except for the fact that there are 12 grams of sugar per serving, as opposed to 1.82 grams in Corn Flakes. The Cinnamon Chex have eight grams, which isn't great but is still way better than Cocoa Puffs, even if the fact that Cocoa Puffs can make the milk chocolaty is still pretty cool.

Rice Krispies, by the way, have 3.5 grams of sugar per serving.

A year ago, none of this would have mattered much to TB. Now, he's coming up on the anniversary of being somewhat diet-obsessed, one that has 1) ruined his ability to eat most of the things he loves and 2) had some really positive effects on his weight and overall healthy. It's the trade-off.

TB has hit something of a plateau in weight-loss, which is fine. He still weighs himself every morning though, and he's amazed that his weight can vary plus or minus a pound or two or even more from day to day.

TB was on the middle school wrestling team in eighth grade, but back then, he needed to gain weight, not lose weight, as he was about a 90-pounder wrestling at 98 pounds. It made him, he assumes, a rarity in the sport.

Even though TB wasn't a very successful wrestler and he never wrestled again after eighth grade, he doesn't have to be a genius in the sport to figure out that what Chris Ayres is doing with the Princeton wrestling program is extraordinary.

To say that Princeton wrestling has struggled in the last 20 years is a major understatement. Ayres, now in his eighth season as head coach, has never wavered from his belief that Princeton could be a significant player in Ivy League and Eastern wrestling, and it's starting to come true.

Lately, it's been in highly dramatic fashion.

Princeton rallied to defeat Columbia 18-16 after trailing 16-7 with three matches left last weekend. That followed a rally to defeat Boston University 23-20 after trailing 20-3.

In fact, Princeton is 11-2 overall, winner of six straight, and at 3-1 in the Ivy League assured of at least a tie for second place, behind national power Cornell. The Tigers host Rider Friday and then Penn Saturday afternoon.

At 3-1 in the league with one match left, Princeton is assured of its second winning league record since 1987. Princeton is in double figures in wins and will couple that with fewer than five losses, a combination the program last managed in 1981.

Princeton has had some success through the last decade individually, but it's been awhile since the team has had this much depth and success. It starts with the entire coaching staff, a group with successful backgrounds who have built the program from the ground up.

Ayres, especially, has an enthusiasm and optimism that is infectious. Even during the toughest times during his rebuilding project, Ayres has always been convinced that better days were ahead. It's been obvious in any conversation or interaction with him; he just oozes with positivity.

And now it's all starting to pay off.

Catching Cornell in Ivy League wrestling will never be easy. TB's sense is that Chris Ayres believes it's possible.

In the meantime, one of the best stories in Princeton Athletics is unfolding in Dillon Gym.

Princeton has a great history in wrestling, going back decades. The present is going pretty well also.

Princeton's wrestling revival hasn't been limited to just those two big comebacks.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shades of 88

If, like TigerBlog, you're in your 50s - or maybe even a little younger - then you have to chuckle when anyone tries to equate the U.S.-Russia Olympic hockey game from Saturday with what happened back in 1980.

Just to make it crystal clear, those two events are not in the same universe.

The U.S. win over the Russians in a shootout Saturday was a very exciting sporting event. What happened in 1980 was the single greatest sporting event that has ever been played or ever will be played, and the sporting aspect was only half of the story.

The United States defeated the Soviet Union - not Russia, the Soviet Union - in the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament 4-3 and then finished off the gold medal with a win over Finland. The tournament was different then, so the U.S.-USSR game was not a semifinal game.

It was the all-time underdog story, a bunch of American college players - amateurs - who defeated the mighty Soviet hockey machine. It was riveting, captivating stuff.

Then consider that it came a time when American pride around the world had been weakened, especially by the ongoing hostage crisis in Iran. And then here came a bunch of kids, our kids, and they went out and knocked off the most powerful, dominating athletic team in the world.

And that team was none other than the Evil Empire itself? It was a win for the American way of life. It was a win that reinforced the ideal that the United States could do anything. It made Americans feel good again. It lifted up the national spirit all by itself.

It was riveting sport. It was riveting politics. No sporting event can ever match what happened.

The game Saturday was a really good one. It had all the elements - close game, great individual performances, some controversy, an unlikely hero at the end.

That hero was T.J. Oshie, and if you're like TigerBlog, you never heard of him until the game. All Oshie did was make four of his six penalty shots during the shootout, including two that came when misses would have ended the game.

Oh, and while everyone else was calling Oshie an American hero, he actually came out with about the greatest quote of all time. "The American heroes are wearing camo," he said. "That's not me."

For all that, TB doesn't understand why there is the need for a shootout. Why not play overtime until someone scores. Going 4-on-4 in OT sort of guarantees that someone will score sooner rather than in the fourth extra period.

TB doesn't like the shootout. He hates penalty kicks in soccer. Hopefully the World Cup won't come down to them.

Meanwhile, back at the controversy, Russia appeared to take a 3-2 lead late in the regulation, but a video review showed that the net was off its moorings and the goal was disallowed. Of course, it was only an inch or so or less off its moorings, and it didn't appear to impact the goal at all.

And this was in Russia. And Russian President Vladimir Putin was in attendance. Now that's a gutsy ref.

As time goes on, replay becomes more and more ingrained in sports. If you've been paying attention to TB's position on the issue, you know he's very much anti-video, or at least the way it's being used now.

The intent is a good one. Get the calls right.

The problem is that the calls that most need to be corrected are often judgement calls, and the prevailing attitude towards video to date has been to avoid reviewing judgement calls, essentially to protect the officials, TB supposes. The problem is that all it does is open the refs up to criticism when they make one call and video clearly shows they were wrong.

Because judgement calls are often non-reviewable, what's left is a search for microscopic evidence that one foot came down out of bounds or the ball tipped off someone's fingernail before going out of bounds. These calls almost never impact a game.

If college basketball is going to stop games in the first half of a 12-10 game to see if the shot clock should be reset, it might as well allow refs to review the calls that really matter. For that matter, if the natural flow of a game can be destroyed like it was in the final minute of Pitt-Syracuse - now that was a great game - when the refs took about two minutes to figure out if the clock should have 49 seconds or 48 seconds on it, then why not give them the ability to check to see what really happened on a play?

The Harvard-Columbia men's basketball game Friday night had a controversial call near the end of the first overtime, when a charge was called on a potential game-winner for the Lions with 2.6 seconds left. Harvard won in the second overtime.

TigerBlog isn't suggesting that the call should have gone one way or the other, but if you're going to have all these ridiculous replay delays, can you at least give the refs the opportunity to confirm their calls at key moments - or if necessary change them?

No, you couldn't do this for an entire game. But in the last two minutes of a game that is within, say, two possessions? Or in overtime? Why not?

As far as the Ivy race goes, that call is huge. Don't you want the officials to have every chance to get it correct?

And no game comes down to a single call. And Columbia had plenty of chances to win the game other than that. But there's no doubt that if that's a block and not a charge, then Columbia's chances of winning the game would have been close to 100%.

Princeton defeated Brown Friday and lost to Yale Saturday in a thriller, 66-65 in overtime. This game had its own moment of controversy on a travel/no-travel call on what became Yale's game-winner with 4.4 seconds left in OT.

If you believe it was a block and a walk, then everything is even, as far as the Ivy race is concerned.

When it all settled for the weekend, Harvard and Yale were even in the league standings at 7-1 each. Brown is next, with three league losses, which makes it seem at least like a two-team race.

It's a big two weeks for Yale now, with four straight road games, this weekend at Cornell and Columbia (Sunday, not Saturday, for TV) and then at Princeton and Penn the following week. That leads the Bulldogs into their next home game, March 7, against Harvard.

As for the Crimson, they head to the road this weekend, going to Penn Friday and Princeton Saturday. Then it's come with Cornell and Columbia.

And Princeton?

The Tigers are 2-5 with their most unlucky team since 1988, John Thompson's senior year. That year, Princeton lost consecutive league games in midseason to Harvard, Yale and Brown, by scores of 52-51, 61-60 and 68-67.

Then, on the final day of the season, Princeton blew out Cornell, who had already clinched the league championship, by a score of 79-58.

The current Tigers are 2-5 in the league. Their losses are by one, one, three, six and nine. Two of the losses are in overtime, including the nine-point one. A bounce here or there, and the Tigers could be 6-1 or 5-2 and right in the thick of it.

Unfortunately, Princeton hasn't gotten those bounces. And so there will be no championship contention this year.

There is still plenty of time left to the year though. Princeton can get back over .500 in the league, can impact the outcome of the race with its games against Harvard and Yale at home.

The first of those is Saturday night, when the Crimson come to Jadwin Gym. The Crimson desperately need the win to keep pace; Princeton desperately wants to play well on its home court against the defending champion.

This comes after Friday's game against Dartmouth, who beat Princeton by nine in Hanover earlier this month. In other words, it's a big weekend for the Tigers.

What does it matter?

Well, look back to 1988. Princeton made a big statement in that game against Cornell. Did the momentum carry over?

Ask yourself who won the next four Ivy League men's basketball championships. Don't feel like looking it up?

It was Princeton, Princeton, Princeton, Princeton.

Friday, February 14, 2014

How To Kill A Mockingbird

Miss TigerBlog's friend Sonali is the nicest kid you'll ever want to meet.

She's also among the smartest. Like MTB, Sonali is a top all-around student.

More than English or social studies, though, MTB and Sonali are math/science kids, which is always good to see among girls, who traditionally have been steered away from those areas. In fact, TigerBlog could see either one of them ultimately as a doctor or an engineer, like Sonali's dad, an engineering professor at Penn.

Of course, regardless of intelligence, every now and then everyone says something that doesn't come out right. Even TB does it, as hard as that might be to fathom.

Last Saturday night, TB was taking the two girls to Princeton to see the men's basketball game against Cornell. Along the way, they were talking about books they were reading and later would have to read, and TB mentioned "A Catcher In The Rye," which neither had even heard of yet.

This started the conversation down the path of other books that they'd come across in high school, and Sonali offered up this classic of literature: "How To Kill A Mockingbird."

As she said it, she knew there was something wrong. TB pointed out that there is no "How" in the title, and that it's a riveting story about race, not a hunter's guide.

MTB offered up her take on "How To Kill A Mockingbird" with this: "Chapter 1. Get a gun."

Anyway, Sonali is way smarter than TB ever was or will be. And she good-naturedly played along with her little editing of Harper Lee's title.

They are fairly typical middle school girls, Sonali and MTB. They love to go to the movies. They are tethered to their phones, especially Instagram. Everything to them is an inside joke.

And of course they don't want TB sitting anywhere near them at a basketball game. That's okay. TB gets it.

Princeton beat Cornell 69-48 last Saturday night, and the highlight of the game was a behind-the-back dribble/layup move by freshman Steven Cook, who came to Princeton from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. Can you name the Princeton All-Ivy men's basketball player who also went to New Trier?

Princeton's win over Cornell was interesting in that more than half (35 of 69) of the team's points came from freshmen. Cook had 13, Spencer Weisz had a team-best 18, and Pete Miller had four.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the game the night before didn't go as well, as Columbia rallied with two late three-pointers to defeat the Tigers by one.

This weekend, Princeton was able to get out ahead of the storm and head to New England, where they will take on Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night.

At the same time that Princeton was beating Cornell, Yale changed the entire face of the Ivy League race with its 74-67 win at Harvard. Suddenly, instead of an undefeated Crimson team that was two games clear of the field, now there are four teams with one or two league losses.

Harvard and Yale are both 5-1, while Brown is at 4-2 and Penn 3-2.

Yale has six games between now and when it plays Harvard again on March 7. Should Yale lose a game to Harvard between now and then, it'll likely be faced with the prospect of having to beat Harvard in New Haven and then again on a neutral court in a playoff, meaning it would have to go 3-0 against the Crimson to get to the NCAA tournament.

This means that the pressure is on Yale every night, with two games against Princeton and Penn and one against Columbia and Cornell before it plays Harvard again. This is why TB loves the fact that there is no Ivy League tournament, because these games would be fairly meaningless if all that mattered was a three-day run in early March.

And yes, TB gets it that Princeton is probably out of it, with a 1-4 record, and yet would have as good a chance as anyone if there was a tournament. Still, TB loves the way the regular season means everything, rather than nothing.

Look at American, coached by Princeton alum Mike Brennan, whose assistant is fellow alum Scott Greenman. The Eagles are 11-2 in the Patriot League, tied with Boston University for first. And does it matter? Nope. Whoever wins the tournament is in the NCAA tournament. Whoever doesn't isn't. Regular season champion? So what.

By the way, neither of those two went to New Trier High School. That Princeton basketball alum is actually Rick Hielscher, a two-time first-team All-Ivy pick.

On the women's side, there is essentially a three-way tie for first, as Harvard, Princeton and Penn have one loss each (Harvard has one more win, having swept its travel partner). Yale, whom Princeton hosts tomorrow after taking on Brown tonight, has two league losses.

All three teams at the top have played each other once, and each is 1-1 against the other two. The average scoring margin of those three games, by the way, was 23.3 points.

The three go head-to-head again next weekend, when Penn is at Harvard a week from tonight and Princeton is Harvard a week from tomorrow night. Princeton ends the regular season March 11, when it again hosts Penn.

This weekend is big for a different reason, in that none of the three can afford a slip up along the way. Harvard, who beat Yale 58-57 last weekend, hosts Columbia and Cornell this weekend.

Again, the lack of a tournament makes it much better, at least for TigerBlog.

Think about how little these games would matter if it was all about seedings for a tournament.

Instead, you get incredibly important games, incredibly important possessions, every weekend.

Nobody will win an Ivy League basketball championship this weekend. It's possible someone will lose one.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

25 For 25

TigerBlog finds himself in the rather odd position of being jealous of the weather at the Winter Olympics.

While the temperature in Sochi - which is basically a summer resort on the Black Sea - has routinely made it in to the 50s during the first few days of the Winter Games, here in the Princeton metropolitan area there is yet another snowstorm falling all around.

What has possibly been the worst winter that TB can ever remember continues its hold over the area. In fact, in the last six weeks or so, the only two nice days have been the day before the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl.

Since then, it's been snow, followed by snow and ice, followed by temperatures that haven't made it much above 20 at any point. And now is the No. 1 snowfall of the season, with as many as 14 inches making their way down all over the place.

TigerBlog, of course, always has lacrosse season on his mind, and that's even more true now than usual, even with the terrible winter.

So let it snow all it wants. Princeton lacrosse starts in nine days.

The men will open their season at home against Hofstra a week from Saturday, at 11 a.m., on ESPNU. As is often the case for the opener, there figures to be stacked up snow on the sidelines.

TB looks forward to every lacrosse season. He's especially excited about this one.

For starters, it's the last chance to see Tom Schreiber in a Princeton uniform. For another, Princeton should be a pretty exciting - and pretty good - team, something that is a good combination.

The 2014 season will be TB's 25th with the men's lacrosse program. It doesn't really seem like it's been that long, until he mentions that it's a quarter-century. Then it seems like it's been a long time.

In advance of this season and after he realized that it's been a quarter-century, TB decided to put together a list of the 25 best Princeton men's lacrosse players of the last 25 years. It was his list, so anyone was free to disagree.

He released his list in five parts, with five players a week for five weeks.

He actually had 26 players on his top 25, with a wildcard to start (not to mention 18 honorable mention picks). That wildcard was Matt Striebel, who played his way from being a very good college player to a likely Hall-of-Famer with his professional and international career.

When it got to the top 10, it could have gone in many different directions, something that became clear to TB with the feedback he got from former players who were speculating.

Finally, got to the top five. And then the top three, which could really have gone in any order.

Ultimately, he had it down to Kevin Lowe, Scott Bacigalupo and Jesse Hubbard. All three are in the lacrosse Hall of Fame. Between them they were first-team All-America six times, first-team All-Ivy nine times and NCAA champion seven times.

Lowe is the leading scorer of all time at Princeton, with 247 career points, and all-time Princeton leader in assists, with 174. Nobody is really all that close to those numbers.

Bacigalupo is Princeton's career leader in saves, with 732, or 112 more than the next-best total.

Hubbard is Princeton's career leader in goal scored with 163. The next-best total is 146. The one after that is 126.

Ultimately, TB went Hubbard-Bacigalupo-Lowe. Why did he go with Jesse as No. 1?

It's because when he thought hard about the best player he's seen here, he came up with Hubbard. It was simple.

Hubbard's game was power. He could shoot it with anyone, and even the best goalies struggled to catch up to his shot. He had more games in his career with three or more goals than he did with fewer than three. Think about that for a second.

The entire exercise was fun, and a nice way to remember his quarter-century watching the Tigers playing lacrosse. And to get ready for this year. And to get some debate going.

TB also though about the team that Princeton would put on the field if it went with the highest ranked players at each position from the list. Doing it that way, this would be Princeton's starting lineup:

attack - Jesse Hubbard, Kevin Lowe, Ryan Boyle
midfield - Tom Schreiber, Josh Sims, Scott Reinhardt
defense - David Morrow, Ryan Mollet, Chad Wiedmaier
goalie - Scott Bacigalupo

No offense to any other teams for the last 25 years, but that's quite a collection of talent.

Ultimately, it was a chance to remember the great players and great people who have been part of Princeton lacrosse for the last 25 years. TB has been very, very fortunate to have his vantage point to see it all during that time.

He's not sure he has another 25 years of Princeton lacrosse in him. Maybe he does. Of course, that would put him in his 70s.

Still, a top 50 of 50 years would be fun, no?

Anyway, like he said, he's ready for his 25th season.

And for the snow to stop. Lacrosse is a spring sport, after all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lorin's Sad Anniversary

TigerBlog's Aunt Edee smoked and never exercised. Her idea of sport was going to Atlantic City or to the senior center in Brooklyn to play cards.

She lived to the age of 85 before passing away last month.

To honor his aunt, TB would share the last joke she ever told him, except he can't, because it's about a guy who opens a bar under a whorehouse and the punchline has a strategically placed f-bomb. Yes, that was the last joke an 85-year-old woman told him.

It was hardly the first time that she had told her nephew such a joke. It was her MO.

In her 85 years, she had her share of tragedy, probably more than her share, actually. Still, for TB, when he thinks back to his aunt, he'll remember the dirty jokes, the laughing, the loyalty, the way she never forgot an occasion, the way she made him feel like she would be there for him whenever he needed her.

And mostly he'll remember that she was happy. That's what she was. A happy person.

TB knew another happy person, one who died five years ago today.

Her name was Lorin Maurer, and she was an athletic fundraiser/Friends' group coordinator here at Princeton. She was killed along with 49 other people in a senseless plane crash near Buffalo.

Lorin was on her way to meet up with her boyfriend Kevin to attend his brother's wedding. She had just turned 30.

Lorin was rail-thin and worked out every day. She was young and healthy, in addition to happy.

One woman smokes and doesn't exercise and lives to be 85. Another is in top shape and dies at 30.

There's no way to answer the question of why that is. Why do some people live a long time while others don't. It's just part of the randomness of the universe, TB supposes.

He's always wondered why Lorin, ever since he woke up five years ago today to an email that said she had died. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now.

TB didn't believe it at first. How in the world could she be gone?

Lorin and TB were in a meeting the day of her death. Sometimes when you're in a meeting, you can tell when someone else there has to be someplace else and needs for this particular meeting to end. Hey, TB has been the "gotta-run" person many times himself.

It's those meetings that seem to drag on interminably. At this one, clearly Lorin had to be get out of there, TB remembers. She had a plane to catch.

He's pretty sure she excused herself a few seconds before it ended - or the fact that she had to go forced the end of the meeting. A few minutes later, when TB got back to his office, Lorin walked by, looked in, smiled and kept going.

It's what she did a lot. She would sometimes stop in to say hi, but usually she would stop, smile and keep going to whatever meeting or task was calling her.

And that's what happened on the last day of her life. She smiled the smile she always had and was off.

The last thing in the world TB ever would have dreamed of is what happened the next morning, with an email that Lorin had been killed. And then TB numbingly turned on the television to see the coverage of the plane crash, on approach to Buffalo, in bad winter weather, with apparently an inexperienced flight crew at the controls.

As the day went along, pictures of the other who were killed started to appear on TV and online. They were young and older, heading from Newark to Buffalo for all kinds of reasons, and then suddenly all gone.

As TB said, he can't begin to answer the question of why them. Why did his aunt live to be 85 and Lorin only 30? The answer is that there is no answer.
All TB can do is tell you about Lorin Maurer, so that she's never forgotten around here.

Lorin Maurer, as TB said, was a happy person.

She worked hard, and she was great at dealing with all of the different constituents who demanded her time. It's not an easy job, dealing with people who donate money and those who rely on that money to keep their programs going. There are endless events, endless details, endless people who want to know that their need is being taken seriously.

TB remembers a squash event, for instance, where he walked in to see Lorin as she was putting table cloths on the tables, since someone who was supposed to do it hadn't shown up. And he saved the last email he ever got from her, shortly before her death, which was basically one member of one Friends' group who was venting to her about seemingly little things.

Lorin had a lot of friends and was extremely well-liked, and likeable. She laughed easily. She loved her family and had found love with Kevin.

She had been a swimmer in college, at Rowan, where she was also an Academic All-America. She was starting to make her name in the profession, and she was committed to her professional development. By all indications, she was a rising star.

Beyond all of that, she was simply a nice young woman whose life was heading in the right direction.
She was funny and nice and personable and well-meaning.

And happy.

More than anything else, she was always happy.

Even now, five years later, there are still pictures of Lorin that hang in Jadwin Gym. She smiles in all of them, and it's easy to imagine her in the moment.

In one, she and Gary Walters are at a Princeton baseball game. In another, she and Kevin are at Yankee Stadium.

It was all part of her life, her happy life.

It's one that was extinguished way too soon, for reasons that nobody can ever know. It ended five years ago today, and for those who worked with her at Princeton, it's no easier to deal with now.

The best anyone can do is promise to remember her as she was and for who she was.

Lorin Maurer died five years ago today. TB will never forget her. Neither will anyone else who worked with her here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Coming Out

The last wedding TigerBlog went to had no bride and two grooms, one of whom was BrotherBlog.

TigerBlog was one of nearly 100 people who attended, including 30 or so who flew 3,000 miles to be there. It was basically like every other wedding TB has ever been to in his life, nicer than most, actually, with its picturesque setting on the Puget Sound.

Like many, TB was the best man at his brother's wedding. When it came time to give the toast, TB talked about what his brother had gone through as a teenager and a young man, when the reality of being gay set in for him.

TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog were there too, along with the entire family. TB referenced his own teenage son, who is going through all of the things that society throws at teenage boys. How it's all about being the best athlete, finding the hottest girls, being cool, not being overly emotional. TB looks at his son and his friends, he said, and realizes that they have an extraordinary amount of pressure on them to be what society wants them to be, all while trying to learn how to be themselves.

It's hard enough being a straight teenage boy, TB said to the group. 

Then he contrasted that with what his brother went through at the same time of his life, when he started to realize that he wasn't going to be what society wanted him to be, how lonely that feeling had to have been.

And then TB talked about the event they had all gathered for, how normal it was - and how neither of the grooms probably ever would have dreamed such a thing would one day be possible for them back when they first started to figure out who they really were.

This country is in a state of acceptance of gays that TB never imagined he would see. As someone who has gone more than 30 years since his only sibling told him of his orientation, TigerBlog has had a heightened sense of gay issues and societal tolerance.

It hasn't always been easy. TB didn't want to accept that fact that he had a gay brother at first, and he went out of his way never to talk about it to anyone else for years and years. When people would ask if his brother was married or had children, TB would always say he was "single."

TB isn't sure when exactly he reached the stage where he no longer cared what people thought, but it took awhile. Even today, when TB is in that situation, he still finds it a little unnerving to say that his brother is gay, because he never knows the response he is going to get.

Still, there's no doubting that the world has changed radically in recent years. TB remembers the way gays were portrayed on television and in the movies back in the ’70s and ’80s, as almost less than human caricatures or as predators, versus today, when gay characters are very much mainstream.

For all of this, the willingness of high profile professional athletes to admit they are gay is still lagging. It's easy to understand - lockerrooms are notoriously brutal places.

Michael Sam is going to find out how ready the NFL is for an openly gay player. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year from Missouri announced to his teammates before the season that he was gay, and he announced it to the world this past weekend, a few months before the NFL draft.

How will he be affected by this? By all estimates, Sam was expected to go in the third or fourth round. Will he still go that high, or will teams be afraid to select him for fear of adding an openly gay player to the lockerroom?

One thing that's obvious is that nobody will ever know if a specific team passed on him because he was gay, because they'd never admit it. But would they pass up a genuine speed-rusher because he's gay? Or do they only care if he can help them win or not?

TB isn't naive. He knows that homosexuality still frightens a lot of people, even with all the progress. And there are real anti-gay attitudes in NFL lockerrooms, with some players who will never accept an openly gay teammate, who would never use the showers at the same time as an openly gay teammate, who routinely use gay slurs in their workplace.

Sam's decision was national news, and it was debated everywhere on TV and radio yesterday. By all accounts, his teammates at Missouri didn't care if he was gay, and the highlights of Sam show that the other players embraced him - literally after some sacks and tackles.

TB also has no doubt that Princeton has its share of gay athletes. He could care less who they are and what teams they are on.
What he cares about is that they feel that they can be themselves while having their Princeton athletic experience.

TB has seen some of the "If You Can Play, You Can Play" public service announcements that some schools have been doing, including this one from Princeton's women's hockey team. They're all basically the same, with a montage of athletes, coaches and administrators making the point that it only matters how good an athlete someone is. If you can play well, they're saying, then you can play here with the rest of us.

Sam's announcement made TB think back to Dartmouth's men's lacrosse team in 2003 and All-America goalie Andrew Goldstein, who also came out to his teammates and then the world and was universally accepted.

TB hopes that if a similar situation happened here, the result would be the same. Of course, it didn't hurt that Goldstein was the best player on the team and led Dartmouth to its only NCAA tournament appearance that season.

What about the athlete who isn't a star? What about the athlete who is still struggling to come to terms with who he or she is? What about the athlete who is terrified that someone will find out?

Again, TB isn't naive. And he's seen from his brother the struggles that go along with with being gay.

Princeton's responsibility isn't to change other people's attitudes. It's to provide a safe, healthy environment of tolerance for everyone's uniqueness on all 38 of its teams.

For all TigerBlog knows, there are openly gay Princeton athletes who have had these conversations with their teammates and then had it become a non-issue.

Or, he fears, there are gay athletes who are afraid to have the conversation. To them, TB would say, be who you are. And if you think you can't, talk to your coach, talk to an administrator, talk to TigerBlog. You're not alone here. Don't be overwhelmed by a fear of not being accepted.

In 2014, not accepting is unacceptable.

If you can play, you can play, right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Not So Smart

TigerBlog can't figure out what makes one person a better ski jumper than another person, other than the aerodynamic makeup of one's body.

They all sit on the same little bench. They all go down the same hill and fly off at the same angle. Where's the athleticism?

To TB, this falls under the heading of "daredevil," not "sport." Brave, fearless daredevils to be sure. Just not athletes.

Don't get TB wrong. He loves the ski jumping. It's one of his favorite parts of the Winter Olympics. And there is no way that TB would ever be able to do it. No chance. No way. The word "terrifying" doesn't do it justice.

Back in 1976, TB was in Oslo for a summer vacation when he visited the Holmenkollen ski jump, and it's dizzying just to look out from the top, let alone actually put on skis and head down. The people who willingly fly off the hill are completely fearless.

It reminds TB of his college friend Paul, who once went bungee jumping and had this actual conversation with TB about the experience:
TB: "Was it scary?"
Paul: "Did you ever go up to the top of a really high bridge?"
TB: "Yes."
Paul: "Did you ever look over the side and see how far down it was?"
TB: "Yes."
Paul: "Did you ever jump off?"

TB is a little let down by the Olympics so far. It's a little too made-for-TV.

The fact that the U.S. won the gold in both slopestyles sort of proves TB's point that those events - no matter how cool they are - were added by NBC to up the American medal count. And the team figure skating was created simply to add more figure skating, which always is ratings gold.

Plus, some of the color analysts are a tad, uh, excitable. TB isn't sure if they're doing these events live or are adding commentary after the fact on tape, but can they stop screaming, especially at the midway point of a cross country ski race?

Another fascinating thing about the Olympics is how much it's being ignored by ESPN. TB would think ESPN would go out of its way to get the winners out there, in an effort to get people not to want to watch it in primetime on tape delay, as Sochi is nine hours ahead of the Eastern time zone of the United States.

Mostly ESPN hasn't played the Games up at all.

This weekend, the network was handed two stories in college athletics that made for an easy diversion from the Olympics. TB will look at one of these stories today and the other tomorrow, especially in the context of the way they could possibly play out at Princeton.

Tomorrow TB will take about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, who announced yesterday that he is gay.

Today TB will talk about Marcus Smart and how he shoved a fan during Oklahoma State's basketball game at Texas Tech Saturday night.

A long time ago, there was a pretty good high school baseball pitcher from the next town over from Princeton whose name was Scott Lord. Any time he won a game, the local papers would have a headline that played off his last name, like "Praise the Lord" or "Lord Saves the Day" or things like that.

TB thought about that when he started to see the Marcus Smart headlines, which included "Not So Smart" and "That Was Dumb" and others.

If you don't know who Marcus Smart is, he's one of the top players in college basketball and presumably one of the top players in the coming NBA draft, which could be as deep as any draft ever. Smart's Cowboys were trailing Texas Tech by two late in the game when Tech forced a turnover. Smart had to foul, and he ended up crashing into some people under the basket.

A second later, Smart ends up shoving one of the Texas Tech fans, who clearly had said something to him. Smart was given a technical foul but not ejected, and he was suspended by the Big 12 yesterday for three games.

Smart has a reputation for being a bit of a hothead, which doesn't help his situation.

The fan in question was identified as a Jeff Orr, an air traffic controller and Texas Tech superfan. Smart claimed that Orr made a racial slur; Orr and Texas Tech said that he didn't make any such comment, just that he called Smart a "piece of crap."

The most amazing part of all this to TB is that Texas Tech released a statement - that was the No. 1 story on its website - from Orr. Is this the responsibility of the athletic department?

Okay, let's start at the beginning. Calling someone a "piece of crap" at a game isn't exactly nice, but in 2014 it's pretty tame.

Also, even if Orr had dropped the N-word in there 10 times, it still doesn't make it in any way okay for Smart to shove him. He simply cannot touch a fan at a game.

What Smart should have done - the "smart" thing, as it were - would have been to immediately tell the officials, his coach or game officials that a fan had made a racial slur, if in fact Orr had. Either way, he just has to walk away from Orr.

TB gets that it's not always easy for college athletes to do that. Especially on the road in the final seconds, as the game has just essentially slipped away.

But it doesn't matter. Every athlete has to have enough self-control and poise to walk away. As a result, Smart is 100% culpable, and the punishment is a pretty fair one.

And what about Orr? Maybe he's a bit over the top in his demeanor as a fan. Maybe. Maybe not. TB finds him pretty much par for the course these days. Actually, "piece of crap" is a little below par.

You want to get rid of Jeff Orr? Fine. Get rid of every fan at every venue who says something to a player on another team. Here's where you can start - in the student section at Duke.

Orr didn't curse. He didn't use a slur. There's video and audio to support his claim.

This issue is an important one to TB.

He wants Princeton to be a place known for being classy, from the way its coaches and athletes carry themselves to the way the fans behave and to the way the event staff handles instances when fan behavior becomes an issue.

At the same time, TB wants Princeton to be a tough place to play. Loud, enthusiastic fans - especially students - can be a big part of making it tough for opponents to get comfortable.

So the question then becomes what's acceptable and what isn't. Is it okay for a Princeton fan to call an opponent a "piece of crap?" Is it okay for a Princeton fan to get the game program, see the first name of the opposing players and taunt them?

Does not cursing or using language that is generally recognized as offensive - racial, sexual, religious, orientation - mean that anything goes? Can you insult the opposing team's goalie's mother, as long as you don't do it using the above-mentioned language?

It's an especially tough question here because so many of the fans who attend games here are families with little kids. If they are offended by what they see and hear, they won't come back.

And really, what can an athletic department do? If Princeton tells the students not to do something, they're likely to do it. If a 50-something fan calls an opponent a "piece of crap," what can the department do to prevent that from happening?

TB hates situations where degrees of acceptable are debated. It's okay to say "piece of crap" but not piece of something else?

There's a fine line between creating a tough atmosphere and being classless. TB knows it when he sees it.

And to be honest, it's been crossed more than once here. The department does what it can to deal with those situations, but it's can be really, really tough to address.

None of that really matters though.

No athlete can ever touch a fan.

End of story.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Home, Finally

It's possible that the best collegiate men's lacrosse game of the 2014 season has been played before the Princeton men's basketball team has played an Ivy League home game.

Think about how nuts that is.

Last night in Charlottesville, Loyola and Virginia played what very well may end up being the game of the year in college lacrosse. Tonight at Jadwin Gym, Princeton plays its first home league game.

TigerBlog doesn't even have to look it up. He's not even going to bother. He knows that Princeton has to be the last team in Division I to play a league home game.

Let's go back to last night first, though.

Virginia missed the NCAA tournament a year ago and is looking to bounce back. Loyola won the NCAA title two years ago and lost in the opening round of the tournament last year.

UVa led 12-4 at the end of the third quarter, only to see Loyola go on an epic run. Every time TB checked the score on Twitter, Loyola had scored again. It got to 12-8, 12-10, 12-11 and then finally 12-12.

And then, with 17 seconds left, Loyola went ahead, 13-12. Game ends on a 9-0 fourth quarter run, right?


Virginia won the face-off, and just when it looked like the Cavs weren't going to get a shot off, Ryan Tucker buried one from the outside. The refs got together and ruled that it counted - they even put one-tenth of a second back on the clock.

As an aside, there was no instant replay in the game, so the refs had to make their best decision. It's possible that the shot didn't cross the goal line (not leave Tucker's stick) before all zeroes on the clock and that Loyola got robbed, but hey, isn't it wonderful not to have replay and as a result force good, decisive officiating?

Now even at 13-13, the game went to overtime, where UVa won it, this time on a goal by James Pannell, the younger brother of the former Cornell player. It was a great comeback.

It's hard to imagine a better game than that. Maybe there will be one.

Of course, this game could have huge implications come NCAA selection time. Loyola is the favorite in the Patriot League and figures to be a quality win at the end of the year, maybe top 10 or even top 5. When the selections are made, it'll be that "Virginia has a win over Loyola," not "Virginia has a win over Loyola at home in overtime on Feb. 6."

TB can't believe Princeton lacrosse starts in two weeks. Maybe it's because the weather has been so awful. It's even nuttier that Division I lacrosse games have already been played, beginning with the two last weekend.

The temperature at face-off in Charlottesville last night was 36 degrees. It got colder as the game went on. That is weather that suggests inside games, not outside ones.

Oh well. That's the new calendar in lacrosse. Outdoors in February.

As for Princeton men's basketball, the Tigers will be indoors tonight against Columbia (7) and tomorrow night against Cornell (6). As the most casual Princeton men's basketball fan knows, the Ivy season hasn't gotten off to a great start for the Tigers.

Princeton looked great for much of its pre-league schedule, including an amazing comeback win against Penn State during an eight-game winning streak. The Tigers were 11-2 heading into the Ivy opener against Penn, at the Palestra, against a Penn team that had been struggling mightily.

So what happened?

Princeton got off to a bad start in that one. Penn played way better than it has at any point of this season and built a big lead. Princeton made a run. Penn held the Tigers off at the end.

And just like that, 11-2 became 0-1. For three weeks, as the Tigers had to sit on that loss through first semester exams and then the Division III win over Kean.

That set up a huge game last Friday night at Harvard, the prohibitive Ivy favorite. This was supposed to be a matchup of the top two teams in the league, the ones who had generated talk of two Ivy NCAA tournament bids back in December.

The problem for Princeton is that when Harvard held on 82-76, the Tigers were now 2.5 games back of the Crimson. And that became 3.5 the next night, when Princeton fell at Dartmouth.

It's all very understandable. The loss to Penn dug an early hole. The game against Harvard was a chance to get out of it. The game against Dartmouth was 22 hours later.

The schedule didn't do Princeton any favors, with a return from exam break at Harvard. And no home league games until the second weekend of February.

So now what for Princeton?

There is still a lot for the Tigers in 2014. There's a chance to win as many games as possible. A chance to get on another roll. A chance to beat Harvard in the rematch.

Maybe it's too much to ask for Harvard to lose three of its final 10 league games, but hey, if the Crimson go 11-3, the Tigers would be kicking themselves if they weren't also 11-3.

And if the Ivy championship might be far-fetched, there's still second place and a possible NIT berth, which would mean quality postseason games in March.

And if nothing else, there's pride.

Princeton is way better than an 0-3 team in the league, and everyone affiliated with the program knows it. Maybe confidence is down a bit right now, but this is a very good team.

TB would be stunned if the Tigers didn't play really hard this weekend as they try to turn their season back around. Hey, they still have seven home league games to go.

The best lacrosse game of 2014 might already have been played, but it doesn't mean that basketball season is anywhere near over.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Going For Gold

The Winter Olympics from Sochi are underway.

The men's slopestyle qualifying kicked off the two weeks of the Games in the Russian resort town, which may or may not be ready for the crush. The answer to that would be not ready if you were to read the stories by reporters who are telling tales of showers with no curtains, toilets placed side-by-side (and with signs saying not to flush the toilet paper next to them), exhortations not to put the tap water on one's face due to their rather corrosive elements and other harrowing stories.

TigerBlog's prevailing theory is that sportswriters will always complain about a lack of amenities. Hey, he's seen them complain about free food for years.

And TB assumes that the average person's take on complaining sports media types is something along the lines of "shut up." The media is an easy target, with its free admission to events (often in the best seats), availability of prime parking and transportation and inside access to the athletes.

Still, this goes beyond the usual griping about cramped hotel rooms or spotty internet access. This could be an ominous sign for the Games, if the key infrastructure simply isn't ready.

That, of course, doesn't even take into account hovering threat of a terrorist attack, something that has scared off more than one visitor.

The Russians, too, are easy to blame. If there is a problem, then it must be because Putin did something to give his own athletes an advantage.

TigerBlog won't have to worry about any logistical problems for the 2014 Winter Olympics, other than more winter storms that bring more power outages. Yesterday, for instance, he was on his couch enjoying the ice storm by watching "Analyze That" when the power went out, and TB never found out what happened to Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal at the end, though he assumes they lived happily ever after.

TB absolutely loved the Olympics as a kid. And anyone within a few years of TB's age or older knows they will never see another sporting event to rival the Miracle on Ice from the 1980 Winter Olympics.

He went through a phase were he wasn't that into it, and now he's back. He watched a ton of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and even more of the 2012 Summer Games in London, and he assumes he will watch a lot the next two weeks.

Of course, it's not his favorite international sporting event of 2014. That would be the World Cup. Or maybe the World Lacrosse Championships. Nah, the World Cup. 

As for the sports at the Winter Olympics themselves, TB doesn't like any events that are judged, rather than those that have a score or a time to determine the winner. This means that he's never been into the figure skating, and he doesn't like any of the X-Games-type events that 1) have an element of judging to them and 2) were added, he thinks, at the insistence of NBC to boost American medal totals and ratings (he has absolutely no proof of this and just thinks it's the case).

So what does he like?

He loves the downhill. He loves the snowboard cross, which he concedes is an added X-Games event but is just a wild scene. He'll be into the hockey. He is a big fan of the bobsled, luge and sledding events, and he'll be rooting for LoLo Jones.

He's not wild about the speed skating. He likes the giant slalom more than the slalom. He likes regular speed skating more than the short track kind.

Still, he'll watch most anything during the next two weeks, with the real exception of the figure skating. He's always struggled with that, as it's the most-watched event every Winter Olympics, which means there will be a lot of it on, and he just doesn't like it.

He's always liked the Summer Olympics better than the Winter Olympics, and he always chuckles at how important some of the events will be the next two weeks, only to be completely forgotten for four years after that. Like the downhill.

Princeton has no athletes in the Winter Olympics.

Princeton had 16 athletes in the 2012 Summer Olympics, and seven of them won medals.

Of those seven, one is still an active Princeton athlete.

Susannah Scanlan won a bronze medal in fencing at the Olympics two years ago. This weekend, she'll be at Brown along with the rest of the Princeton fencing team to compete in the Ivy League championships.

When Ivy fans talk about the best sport in the league, the one that makes the biggest splash nationally, fencing rarely comes up, probably because it's not exactly high profile.

Then again, in what other Ivy sport is every single league team among the men and women either ranked in the top 10 or receiving votes in the national poll? Fencing can make that claim.

The way the Ivy League awards its championship is fascinating, as each team will compete in a dual match against each of the other Ivy schools in a two-day stretch at the same venue. At the end of the weekend, the teams in first place will be the champions.

Princeton is the defending NCAA champion in fencing, which is also pretty unique, in that it's a combined men's and women's team championship, rather than a men's champion and a women's champion. Were that the case, then Princeton's women would be the two-time defending NCAA champion.

Princeton is the four-time defending Ivy women's champion and is riding a 41-match winning streak. The Tiger women are ranked No. 1 nationally.

The men are ranked third nationally, behind No. 1 Columbia in the Ivy League.

Don't carve Princeton's name on the trophy for the women so fast though. Princeton may be No. 1 in the poll, but Harvard is No. 2. On the men's side, Harvard is No. 5.

If you've never seen fencing, it's incredibly fast-paced and physical, and it'll be a challenging weekend for whichever teams win.

The Princeton-Harvard matches will be Saturday at 1:15. The Princeton-Columbia matches will be the final matches on Sunday (1:45).

When it comes to attention and public interest, fencing isn't quite the downhill or hockey or even figure skating. It's more like the nordic combined or something like that.

It doesn't mean that it's not intense, and it doesn't make whoever wins the gold this weekend any less deserving.