Friday, May 30, 2014

A Night At The Grad College

There's really only one place to start to talk about last night's Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet.

And that's with Luis Nicolao's butt.

There it was, Luis' butt, on display for all at the Grad College to see. Well, sort of.

At an event where the men wore suits and ties and the women wore dresses, Luis, the men's and women's water polo coach, wore, what else?, a Speedo.

TigerBlog isn't sure why. He thinks Luis promised Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters that he would wear it to the banquet, and so he did.

And this wasn't just any Speedo. This was one with Gary's picture and the words "Education Through Athletics" displayed on the, well, rear.

This was during the cocktail hour - 90 minutes, actually - of the event. It's a time for mixing and mingling, seeing some of the familiar faces that have been part of the landscape and fabric of Princeton Athletics for the last four years, a group of young people whose athletic journey at Princeton has come and gone in the blink of an eye and who now stand a few days away from graduation.

One of the first athletes that TigerBlog saw when he arrived was men's lacrosse player Jack Strabo, and TB was instantly taken back to his first interaction with the soon-to-be alum.

TB wanted to take head shots of the incoming freshman lacrosse players. Email Jack Strabo, head coach Chris Bates said. He'll arrange the whole thing.

And so he did. And Strabo did in fact set up all of those head shots. When the allotted time came, there were all of Princeton's freshmen men's lacrosse players. It was the first time TB ever talked to Tom Schreiber, and he remembers saying something about how he'd heard Schreiber was supposed to be pretty good.

That was back in September of 2010. That's a long time ago. To TB it seems like not that long ago at all. To the members of the Princeton Athletics Class of 2014, it must seem like yesterday.

Strabo wasn't as highly recruited as Schreiber. When he was arranging the head shots, he probably had no sense of what his road at Princeton would be like. It might never have dawned on him that he would become a four-year starter at shortstick defensive midfield, that he'd become one of the best to play that position at Princeton, that he'd also earn some other honors, like being named a team captain, Academic All-Ivy League and ultimately a USILA Scholar All-America.

They all took their own paths from September 2010 to last night. Some exceeded expectations. Others didn't.

Chris Clement thought he was going to be the starting point guard for four years and lead the Tigers in points, assists and steals each year, just as he had in high school. Ultimately, he would start only a handful of games in his career.

 How does TB know this? Clement said it in his keynote address, one of two given each year, one by a male athlete and the other by a female, Gabby Guzman of the women's soccer team in this case. It's always fascinating to hear what direction a senior athlete will take that speech, and in the case of Clement and Guzman, they spoke about their own experiences in the larger context of the experience of an entire class - and what ultimately they were able to learn about themselves during that experience.

The banquet included a warm welcome and ovation for Mollie Marcoux, after Gary introduced his successor. There was also the presentation of the annual awards.

Richard Stengel (longtime editor at Time magazine and now a member of the Obama Administration) and Roger Gordon (longtime, well, good guy who was always doing things for this group or that group and only years later did TigerBlog find out that he was also a judge in Philadelphia) shared the Citizen-Athlete Award for contribution to sport and society.

Neil Pomphrey, the assistant men's squash coach, was given the Bressler Award for his support for the University's athletes. His speech included a tribute to one of the greatest movies he'd ever seen on the squash bus, "The Big Lebowski," which sounded even funnier when he said it with his Scottish accent.

There were five winners of the Art Lane Award, sort of the Citizen-Athlete Award for the seniors: Jack Berger from men's hockey, Sarah Lloyd from women's lacrosse, Christina Maida from field hockey, Diane Metcalf-Leggette from women's soccer and Schreiber, from men's lacrosse. TigerBlog writes the first draft of Gary's script each year, and each year he marvels at what these students are able to do, all in addition to being students and athletes at Princeton.

A pair of divers - Rachel Zambrowicz and Randi Brown - shared the Class of 1916 Cup for having the highest GPA among the senior athletes. That's a lot of GPA one one diving board.

There were five Roper Trophy winners and five von Kienbusch Award winners for the outstanding senior male and female athletes. The Roper winners were Schreiber, football player Caraun Reid, track and field athletes Damon McLean and Tom Hopkins and baseball player Alec Keller. The von Kienbusch winners were field hockey's Julia Reinprecht and Michelle Cesan, fencing's Susannah Scanlan, golfer Kelly Shon and swimmer Lisa Boyce.

And then there was one other award, and it was for TigerBlog the highlight of the night. It was the Lorin Maurer Award, named for the former Friends' Group coordinator at Princeton who was killed in a plane crash more than five years ago and given to honor a member of the Department of Athletics.

When Clement was finished with his speech, he called up Frank Sowinski, the former men's basketball player and head of the PVC board. He then introduced the 2014 winner of the Lorin Maurer Award, Gary Walters himself.

Lorin's parents Scott and Terry Maurer were there, and Scott said a few words about what Gary had meant to his family, how appreciative he and his wife were of the fact that Lorin had the opportunity to work at Princeton in the first place and how touched they were that Gary had made that phone call back when ... well. He never finished the sentence. He didn't have to. Everyone knew what phone call he meant.

Earlier in the night, at the cocktail hour, Scott and Terry had spoken to TigerBlog about Lorin. They thanked TB for writing about her each year on the anniversary of her death, and TB tried to explain that he does so to keep her memory alive, as fewer and fewer people who worked with her still work at Princeton.

He found himself not finishing sentences either, because really some of those sentences are hard to finish. It's why he understood perfectly why Scott Maurer wasn't finishing his sentence, and why he didn't have to, because everyone understood.

Gary was touched by the moment, of course. He spoke briefly about Lorin and said what was so true, that the person being honored wasn't Gary but was really Lorin. From the perspective of someone who knew her and worked with her, TigerBlog knew it was a wonderful moment.

The night, as always, leads up to the senior athlete video, which used to be a TigerBlog project but which this year was taken over by John Bullis, Princeton's first full-time video creator. When TB showed Bullis, a professional filmmaker, his video of last year and asked for a grade from 1-10, Bullis said it was "a solid six."

The best part of the video is always the picture-by-picture tribute to each graduation senior, each with an action shot, each being cheered on by teammates and friends. Each year TB marvels at just how many athletes compete in each class at Princeton.

And now they're former Princeton athletes, except for the handful who are still competing and couldn't be there last night. Now it's time for Reunions, for all of the fun that goes along with it, and then graduation.

And then it's time to move forward from this University.

As Gary said: "Most of you will go on to careers and lives that will take you far from where we are currently gathered. Whatever path you take, I'm pretty confident that you too will remember Princeton University the way I do, as a place that challenged you every day, improved you every day, made you work as hard as you could to achieve and ultimately left you very much changed from the person you were when you arrived here."

Last night was to celebrate that path, the one that this class took together from back in late summer 2010 to last night, a chilly night at the Grad College.

Good luck to them all.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

And The Dillon Ping-Pong Champion Is ...

TigerBlog's mid-afternoon adventure started when he needed to get a copy of a key made yesterday.

He walked out of Jadwin to go to the hardware store at the Princeton Shopping Center, figuring that he could walk there and back in about 45 minutes and have that take the place of riding the bike.

As he made his way to Lot 21, he ran into Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, who had just finished with lunchtime basketball. Barlow was hurrying back to Dillon, hoping to catch the end of the championship match of the Dillon Gym ping-pong tournament between his assistant coach Steve Totten and field hockey assistant coach Mike Pallister.

Glancing at his watch, Barlow suggested the match might be over by then, and he and TigerBlog hopped in Barlow's car to head to Dillon to see the end.

Oh, and if you want to capture Jim Barlow in a nutshell, then all you had to do was see what happened when the two reached Dillon.

Parking in front of the building can be a bit hit-or-miss, and Barlow found the last possible place to park near the tower. In typical Jim Barlow fashion, he was 1) very concerned if the place he was parking was a legal parking spot and 2) if every other car around him could easily get out if he were to park there.

When TB and Barlow went inside, they found that the match had not yet started, let alone ended.

The ping-pong table was set up on the main floor of Dillon, as opposed to on squash court No. 16, where the rest of the tournament had been played. And what do two people do when they see an unused ping-pong table?

They play, of course.

Barlow beat TigerBlog 21-10 and 21-15, but TB is confident that he could get Barlow in a rematch or two down the road, as it's been awhile since TB played and of course Barlow is in top ping-pong shape.

A few minutes after Barlow held off TB, the two finalists came onto the court. Attendance for the championship match at one point swelled to at least 10 people, including Chris Sailer, the women's lacrosse coach, who insisted that she not only could beat either one of the two who were playing but also basically should have been an Olympic ping-pong player. TB could not for the life of him figure out if she was serious or not.

The final, unlike all of the previous matches, was best-of-five. Pallister, an Australian who goes about 6-7 or so, played more of a power game than Totten, who was methodical and steady and whose game was to try to force Pallister into losing his patience and going for the kill. Sometimes it worked. Other times it didn't.

Pallister got off to a quick start in the first game before Totten made it close, getting to 18-17 or so before Pallister won 21-18.

To TigerBlog, it looked all the world like both players were trying to make it seem like they weren't taking it all that seriously, even though both of them clearly were. Pallister played with a baseball hat on backwards and no shoes after kicking off his flip flops.

Back and forth it went, Pallister with some great putaways, Totten with some great saves. Totten won Game 2, and then Pallister went up two games to one. Game 4 wasn't close, as Totten rolled to a 17-4 lead at one point and cruised.

That set up the decisive winner-take-all Game 5. This time, it was Pallister who built the huge lead and was never really threatened at the end. TB thinks the final was 21-11.

The players switched sides after each game, and for some reason the player to the right looking from the front of Dillon won all five games. TB chalks that up to coincidence.

When it was over, Pallister was given a big trophy and the distinction of being the first winner of the Dillon ping-pong tournament.

Events like that are a small way of bringing the larger community of Princeton Athletics (in this case, the Dillon subset) together.

Tonight offers a bigger way.

Tonight will bring the 17th annual senior athlete awards banquet, now known as the Princeton Varsity Club Class of 1967 banquet. As is the case each year, it's the second time the entire class of Princeton athletes gathers, after the group was together early in its freshmen year at freshman student-athlete orientation.

There are awards to present - the Roper and von Kiensbusch to the top senior male and female athletes, the Lane Award for service, the Class of 1916 Cup for the top student. Others will be honored as well for the long-time service to the University's athletes and to society as a whole.

The night will begin with the informal reception and will end with the senior-athlete video, where every athlete will have an action shot in recognition of his/her time as a Princeton athlete. The video is always TB's favorite part, in that it shows the wild athletic diversity of Princeton University, with 38 different varsity teams and athletes who came here from incredibly different athletic upbringings.

The time between freshman athlete orientation and the senior banquet is substantial, even if it never feels that way. Universally the theme tonight and every other year is how fast that time flies by.

It's a special time for all of them. Reunions begins tonight. Graduation is on the horizon next week.

Tonight is a special night for them, and for all of Princeton Athletics. The athletes are the focus, of course, but their coaches and parents will be there to celebrate with them.

It's like the Dillon ping-pong tournament in many ways. In that way, whoever came up with the idea to have a bunch of co-workers play a single-elimination ping-pong tournament was a genius.

After all, it's what it means to be part of a special community.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Going Deep, Times Four

TigerBlog stayed in the Baltimore Hilton this past weekend.

Room 447, to be specific. It was a basic hotel room, with a few minor oddities tossed in.

First, the shower in the room was pretty good, except that when it was turned on, it was immediately scalding. Usually a shower is cold until the hot water kicks in, which takes different amounts of time in different showers. The common denominator is that they all start off cold.

Not the one in Room 447. Nope. This one started out at about a million degrees, even when the shower was turned to cold. Then it cooled off.

There was also the matter of the view.

The shades were closed when TigerBlog entered the room. When he opened them, he saw about the last thing he ever expected to see from a fourth-floor window: a sidewalk that went right up next to it.

It seems like the building next to the hotel has a garden or something on its roof, and this happens to be on the exact same level as the fourth floor of the Hilton. Either that, or it's part of the Hilton.

Anyway, it was a bit freaky for TigerBlog, who wasn't expecting to be able to walk out of his fourth-floor room and be in a courtyard. Of course, his window didn't really open or anything, but it was still an odd view.

Lastly, Room 447 is right next to the elevator, and the fourth floor is the floor that the pool is on. As a result, the hallway between the pool and the elevator featured a constant flow of foot traffic - or wet foot traffic, more accurately.

There was a front door and a side door to the hotel. If you walked out of the side door and made a right turn, you'd be in the alley that goes between the rightfield wall and the famous warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

TigerBlog didn't need a parking pass for M&T Bank Stadium, which is beyond the baseball stadium, because it was a short walk from the Hilton. He left his car in the hotel lot until Monday's championship game (he's talking men's lacrosse here), when he finally drove over to the M&T.

The Orioles were home Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at the same time as NCAA lacrosse at M&T Bank Stadium. As a result, TigerBlog couldn't walk through the alley on the way to the football stadium, and so he had to walk around the baseball stadium, which made it an eight-minute walk instead of a six-minute one.

TB did walk through the alley Monday morning, since apparently it's left wide open on non-game days. As a result, it made for a pretty good place to go for a walk on a really nice morning in Baltimore.

The entry point to the alley features a small monument park, with big concrete numbers of the retired numbers for the Orioles. TB has always liked the Orioles, because they can be a thorn in the Yankees side, and he was proud of his ability to match the concrete number with the corresponding all-time great for the franchise. The only one he struggled a little bit with was 33, until he realized that it was Eddie Murray obviously.

Somewhere in the middle of his big lacrosse weekend, TigerBlog read a tweet that mentioned that Mike Ford, the 2013 Ivy League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in baseball, had hit four home runs in a Minor League game.

And it turned out to be true.

TigerBlog isn't sure how in the case of a player like Ford he decides his future is as a hitter rather than a pitcher or the other way around. He assumes that this comes up a lot, since the best athletes in baseball tend to be great pitchers and hitters.

In Ford's case, the four home run day suggests that he may have made a good decision, so far at least.

Ford left Princeton as an undrafted free agent and signed with the Yankees. He is currently playing for the Charleston RiverDogs, and his four home runs came against the Hickory Crawdads.

Ford is hitting .318 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 44 games this year. His line is .318/.416/.522, which sounds pretty good.

It's probably a long way from that game to playing in places like Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but it's hardly undoable. Chris Young, for instance, began his professional career with the Crawdads.

In other Princeton baseball news, Ben Badua arrived yesterday. And who is Ben Badua? He's the newest addition to the Office of Athletic Communications, and he replaces Diana Chamorro, who left to go home to California.

Ben comes to Princeton from Amherst, where he was the head SID for one of the top athletic programs in Division III. He's a Rutgers grad.

With Princeton he'll be covering baseball, women's basketball, field hockey, sprint football and men's and women's water polo. Yesterday was Day 1 for him, hopefully of a very successful stay here.

So welcome Ben. TB is glad you're here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

420 Minutes Of Lacrosse

TigerBlog watched seven men's lacrosse games at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore this weekend.

He was there for the Division I semifinals Saturday, the USILA Division III North/South all-star game and then the Division III and Division II finals Sunday and then the USILA Division I/II North/South all-star game and ultimately Division I final yesterday.

That's a lot of lax.

Add it up, and that's 420 minutes of lacrosse in three days.

And yet for all of that, the single best moment of the weekend came not during one of those games but instead during a timeout in the first half of the DI final between Duke and Notre Dame.

The M&T public address announcer asked, in honor of Memorial Day, that all those who had ever served in the military please stand up. And so all over the stadium, sections that had a hundred or more people in them were now dotted by one or two people here and there who stood up.

To TigerBlog, it was a really telling moment.

It's a nation of freedom, freedom to do what you want, even to go watch 420 minutes of lacrosse in three days. It's a nation of opportunity. It's a nation where one's dreams are pursued, where each person can, regardless of any other factor, choose what road to follow.

For most, that means going to the right college, finding the right career, earning the most money, having the best, easiest, happiest life, the kind of life where all of one's needs are met.

For the one or two per section, it meant standing up to defend the right of the rest to do what they do. And maybe you're like TigerBlog in that you respect those in the military and what they do, even if you don't necessarily think about what they're doing day by day and the sacrifices that they make every single day, not to mention the ultimate sacrifice each is willing to accept simply by joining up and wearing the uniform.

And there they were yesterday, on Memorial Day, being recognized. None of them asked for the acknowledgement. Some stood up quite sheepishly, almost embarrassed by it.

The huge screens in each end zone flashed from section to section, picking out someone here, then someone there. They were younger and older. They were mostly males, but with a handful of females. This went on for the length of the timeout, probably close to two full minutes, and the ovation got louder with each person who came up on the screen. And the people on the screen cheered and clapped, not in the self-serving way that is so common these days but in recognition in turn of what, TigerBlog wondered. Their country? Those who hadn't come back with them? The people who applauded them?

The entire moment gave TigerBlog chills. It is again now, as he thinks back to it.

As for the lacrosse, TigerBlog was wildly impressed with Tufts, who beat Salisbury in the Division III championship game.

TigerBlog's job, as it was for the 10th straight year, was to be part of the official stats crew (he's in it for the free shirts). During the Division III game, he couldn't help but notice that one of the Tufts players had just scored his 53rd goal of the season, which TB immediately knew would have tied Jesse Hubbard's single-season Princeton record for goals scored.

On the 2014 Jumbos' team, that was good enough for fourth place. Not all time. Just for this season. There was another player who had 80 goals - 80?, who has 80 goals in a season? - another with 73 and another with 65.

The Division II title was won by Limestone, whose coach J.B. Clarke was a former Loyola assistant and who seemed to be a ridiculously nice man.

On the Division I side, TigerBlog wanted Denver and Bill Tierney to win, and the Pioneers made it close in their semifinal against Duke before falling 15-12.

TB got little right in the way of predictions for this one, but he did correctly pick Duke over Denver in one semifinal and then Duke to win it all. In the end, Duke was a pretty solid pick in that the Blue Devils were simply the best team, which made the final 11-9 victory for the Blue Devils acceptable to TB.

Notre Dame made a run at Duke in the fourth quarter and like Denver got it a one-goal game at one point, in the case of the Irish very, very late in the fourth quarter. It helped the ND cause that for all of Duke's great players, the best one on the field - at least yesterday - was Notre Dame freshman middie Sergio Perkovic, who scored five of ND's nine goals.

His fifth came in the final minute and made it 10-9, but Duke won the all important face-off and then scored an empty-net goal when ND goalie Connor Kelly was out chasing.

TigerBlog had hoped this year would have been Princeton's year. The first person he saw when he arrived in Baltimore Saturday was Tom Schreiber, who unfortunately was there not to lead the Tigers but instead to accept his many awards as the USILA All-America reception Saturday morning. Fellow Princeton senior Jack Strabo was there as well, accepting his award as a USILA Scholar All-America.

So maybe next year in Philadelphia. Maybe next year the Tigers will be back. TigerBlog will be.

So will Duke, he assumes, as the Blue Devils try to become the first team to win three straight championships since Princeton did from 1996-98.

The men's lacrosse championships are one of TB's favorite annual sporting events, maybe even his favorite. It's not just the lacrosse; it's the event itself.

At halftime during the Division III game, TigerBlog looked out of the stat booth to see a gentleman looking back at him. The two began to talk, mostly about what team the gentleman was watching, what he thought of the game, that sort of thing.

Eventually TB asked him where he went to school. The man said he was Princeton alum, Class of 1964. Jim Winn was his name. He went from Princeton to Washington & Lee law school. He'll be back on campus this weekend for his 50th reunion. Look for him in the P-Rade, he said.

That too was one of the best moments from M&T Bank Stadium this weekend.

There were 420 minutes of lacrosse, but not all of the fun was watching the games.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Go Denver

TigerBlog's first NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four was in 1992, at Franklin Field, when Princeton won the first of its six championships.

Since then, he's been to every Final Four except for three - in 1995, 1999 and 2003. For the past nine years, he's been part of the official stat crew at the championships, and he's heading to Baltimore for the weekend again.

The job requires doing stats for five games in three days - the two Division I semifinals tomorrow, the Division II and Division III finals Sunday and then the Division I final Monday.

TigerBlog is rooting for five close games, something that rarely happens. He'd love to see an overtime or two. And come Monday, he'd love to see Denver holding the big trophy.

To get there, Bill Tierney's team will have to get past top-seeded Duke in the semifinals. The winner of that game will then play the winner of Notre Dame and Maryland in Monday's final.

Sometime tomorrow, TigerBlog will tell his friends from Duke athletic communications that the stats will be fair, no matter how hard he's rooting for the Pioneers.

When Tierney left Princeton for Denver, the Pioneers had been to one NCAA tournament and had lost in one game. Now in his fifth year, Tierney is at his third Final Four and has been to the NCAA tournament all five years.

Now he's trying to pull off what would be an incredible feat, and that is to become an NCAA champion at Denver. To do so, he'd have to come out on top in a Final Four that features three ACC teams. It won't be easy.

Duke is going to score goals on Denver, whose offense in turn Duke probably won't be able to slow down either. The key will probably be face-offs, which figures to be an advantage for the Blue Devils, who have last year's Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Brendan Fowler.

Hey, in one game, who knows? Either way, TB is rooting for Tierney.

No matter what, though, the stats will be unbiased.

The lacrosse Final Four is a great event, one that is struggling to find the right way to curb the fall in attendance. When the championships first went to an NFL stadium, record crowds flocked. In recent years, those numbers have steadily fallen.

What's the issue? Is it that the game is too well-presented on television? Is it the cost? Is it that the thrill of college lacrosse in professional venues has worn off?

Maybe it's all of that. Maybe there are other factors.

Either way, TB still loves to go.

He would have loved it even more if Princeton had gotten this far, but that was not to be this year for the Tigers.

Still, the accolades continue to roll in for Tom Schreiber, the senior midfielder.

Schreiber was named a USILA first-team All-America when the team was announced yesterday. It was the third straight year in which Schreiber was a first-team All-America, and he is a four-time All-America after earning third-team honors as a freshman.

As for the historical significance of his third first-team selection, only two other players in school history have ever done so.

The first was goalie Scott Bacigalupo, who was a sophomore on that 1992 championship team and then won again 20 years ago in 1994. The other was middie Josh Sims, who won titles in 1997 and 1998 and took the Tigers to the 2000 finals.

Those two, and Schreiber. That's it.

TigerBlog has said this a million times, but Schreiber can do things on a lacrosse field that no other player TB has seen at Princeton could do. He was a marvel to watch.

TB would have loved to have seen him on the stage this weekend. It's not every player's destiny to get there though.

That's why those who are playing this weekend should never take it for granted.

TigerBlog certainly started to, figuring it was Princeton's right to play on Memorial Day weekend every year. The Tigers haven't been there since 2004, but TB goes into every season thinking this year will be the next one.

He can't complain, really. He's seen Princeton play in 10 Final Fours and eight finals, of which the team won six, four of which came in overtime. That's more than a lifetime's worth.

And in all honesty, Princeton lacrosse has been a wildly unlucky team over the last few years. Every season-changing bounce seems to go against the Tigers. 

TB wants to see at least one more. He wants to see Chris Bates get his team there, and why not next year, right?

As for this year, his original pick was Duke, and he'll stay with the Blue Devils, even as he's rooting for Denver. He'll go with Maryland on the other side and then Duke to win Monday.

TigerBlog will see if he's right - from the same seat he has every year at this event.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


If you're wondering where the Dillon Gym ping-pong tournament stands, it's down to the final two.

And Jim Barlow isn't one of them.

Barlow, TigerBlog's pick to win it all, fell in the semifinals to his assistant coach, Steve Totten. It takes a lot of courage to beat the boss, by the way.

Since TigerBlog picked Barlow to win the tournament, he's heard from several other people who said that they agreed with that pick, even though none of them had ever seen Barlow play the game. It just seemed to a bunch of people to be right up Barlow's alley.

And in fairness, he came close. The Totten-Barlow match apparently was the best one of the tournament so far, as Totten came from behind in Game 3 to pull it out.

Looking ahead, Totten now faces a tall challenge in the final.

Tall, as in Mike Pallister, the assistant field hockey coach. Pallister stands about 6-7, which makes TB wonder if being that big is an advantage or disadvantage in ping pong.

TigerBlog has seen Pallister drive a field hockey ball, and he does so with a ton of power. Pallister is from Australia, where he played field hockey at the highest levels.

In Australia, there are basically the same number of male players and female players, at least according to Wikipedia, which wouldn't lie about a thing like that.

In the United States the sports is played almost exclusively by female players. Probably 99% of the field hockey players in this country are female.

TigerBlog wonders why that is.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that it is played at the same time of year as football, which has probably the same kind of participation ratio as field hockey, only reversed.

There is a U.S. men's national field hockey team, which has qualified for the Olympics twice - in 1932 and 1996 - both times because it received an automatic bid as the host nation.

The women's national team is establishing itself as a much more significant player on the international stage, something that shouldn't be surprising, given the much larger pool of players available on the female side.

Princeton continues to be a huge part of the women's national team.

Princeton had four players involved with the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 - Kathleen Sharkey, Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Julia and Katie.

The Reinprechts and Sharkey recently played together in Scotland with the U.S. team at the Champions Challenge in Scotland. Next up for them is the World Cup, which begins May 31 in the Hague.

There are 18 players on the U.S. team, and three of them are Princetonians. That's a pretty good ratio.

The four Princeton players who have been part of the national team program were the cornerstones of the Tigers' 2012 NCAA championship team. That championship was a defining moment for the Princeton program, as it ended an 11-year run by the ACC for the national title.

There obviously is no NCAA men's field hockey competition, as there simpley aren't enough players to make it happen.

Maybe it's just the evolution of sports in this country, as opposed to the rest of the world. The men just don't play it here. TigerBlog never has.

In this country, it's a sport for women, and some of the best women's players have also played for Princeton.

As for men who coach in this country, they often tend to be international players, like Pallister. TB wonders what men's club field hockey looks like in Australia or on the highest levels in the world. He figures it's pretty fast-paced and athletic.

And so it will be the Australian against the assistant men's soccer coach in the Dillon ping-pong final. That figures to be fast-paced and athletic as well.

For TigerBlog, it's just another wrong prediction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meryl, Maks And Colleen Smith

Back when TigerBlog lived in a rowhouse on the corner of Chestnut and Deklyn Streets in South Trenton, his landlord/roommate/friend Jim Chesko had one rule for his home.

Nobody was allowed to watch "Full House."


While TigerBlog didn't love "Full House," he'd watch it every now and then. Not in Chesko's house though. Rules are rules.

To this day, TB isn't sure why Chesko hated "Full House" so much. It's not the kind of show that usually brings out that much animosity.

Yes, it was a cheesy little show and all. Still, it was good for a laugh every now and then. And it was certainly harmless.

Chesko was a human DVR long before such technology existed. He owned multiple VCRs, which for those under the age of 30 stood for "videocassette recorder." At the time, it was the cutting edge way to record TV and watch it later.

It relied on a videocassette, which was something that you actually had to buy at the store and put into the machine. A videocassette could record for either two, four or six hours, depending on the settings.

To watch, it was necessary to simply hit play. To move to a different part of the program, there was a fast-forward or reverse option.

Of course, the tapes had to be stored. And it took forever to fast forward or rewind, and you could never figure out exactly where you were on the tape, which made it a bigger pain.

And don't get TigerBlog started on the whole Beta vs. VHS debate. 

Chesko would edit the commercials out of the shows and store all of his tapes in chronological order, alphabetical by show. He had every episode of "Seinfeld," "Friends," and many others, including "The Gary Shandling Show," as TB recalls.

And yet he hated "Full House."

He was probably rooting against the oldest daughter from that show on "Dancing With The Stars," which had its season finale last night.

There were three teams left - the "Full House" daughter grown up, the woman whose legs were amputated below the knee after she had meningitis when she was 19 and the Olympic ice dancing gold medalist

TigerBlog is relatively new to "DWTS." As in about a week or so.

He watched enough to know he was rooting for the ice dancer, as compelling a story as the amputee was.

Her name is actually Amy Purdy, and her story is incredible. She by all rights should not have survived the illness, let alone come back to be a Paralympic champion and then a dancer on this show. To see her move now is incredible. 

TB had nothing against the "Full House" daughter, other than she clearly wasn't as good as the other two.

TB likes the show. It requires talent to do what they're doing, as opposed to some of the "fame for fame's sake" shows that pollute modern day television. He's not wild about Erin Andrews, but he likes the guy from "America's Funniest Home Videos" who is the host.

And the professional dancers? They're sort of ripped like no other.

The finale was spread out way too long, making it more of a spectacle than it needed to be. On the other hand, TB is relatively sure that there was a pretty sound business reason for it.

In the end, nearly three hours after the show came on, the first cut was made, and the "Full House" daughter was out. Then it was between Amy and Meryl Davis, the ice dancer, who had by far the best chemistry with her professional dancer of any of the contestants.

TigerBlog, by the way, was cracking himself up with how much he got into this whole thing.

TB thought Meryl was way better, and that it wasn't close. He wasn't ready to say that she would win, though, largely because of the sentimentality factor of voting for a dancer with no legs below her knees.

Then it was time for the requisite contrived drama before the announcement was made. And the winner? Meryl.

There was some sentimentality there. Maks, Meryl's partner, had never won. And let's face it, they were way better.

As for sentimentality, TigerBlog was happy to see Colleen Smith earned second-team All-America honors when the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches' Association team was released yesterday. Erin McMunn was the other Tiger honored, with a third-team honor.

Smith was injured just seconds into the Ivy League tournament semifinal against Cornell as she cut off the opening draw. Her injury wiped out her final postseason, as she missed the rest of that game and then the Ivy final against Penn, as well the NCAA tournament, where Princeton defeated Penn State and then lost to Virginia.

Smith is clearly Princeton's top defender, and so who knows what might have been different against UVa had she been able to play.

Well, maybe nothing.

In something of a statistical oddity, Princeton allowed 13 goals in all four games it played against Penn State and Virginia this season, with two games against both opponents, both of which were splits. There was one game with Smith and one game without Smith against each opponent.

Princeton lost to Penn State 13-12 in the regular season and then won 16-13 in the tournament. Princeton beat UVa 15-13 in the regular season and lost 13-11 in the tournament.

Obviously Smith would have been a big addition for the Princeton postseason. And it stinks to get hurt like that, especially as a senior.

It was nice to see her thought of so highly by the coaches. Hopefully it was some consolation to her after the injury.

As for DWTS, it's over, just when TB started to get into it. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hammer Throw Is The New Steeplechase

Miss TigerBlog needed $5 for her middle school track and field team postseason party and another $5 for lunch money.

TigerBlog Jr. had a $10 bill, a $5 bill and five $1 bills, and so he traded that for a $20. MTB took the $5 and the five $1s and then said which of the following:
1) thank you
2) is this mine too, as she pointed to the $10 on the table.

If you guessed the first, then you're a tad naive. If you guessed the second, at least you can know that she did it without any hesitation. She didn't even flinch.

It reminded TigerBlog of the time that he was in the Des Moines, Iowa, airport with the Princeton men's basketball team. This would have been just before Christmas in 1995, when Princeton played at Iowa State's tournament, which he believes was called the Cyclone Classic.

Princeton lost a tough one to Iowa State in the first game, which was a semifinal in the tournament because it was set up for TV. During that game, Pete Carril got a technical foul for yelling "catch the ball, Stevie" at Steve Goodrich. Carril didn't curse, didn't even look at the refs. TB was sitting next to Carril on press row and he can vouch for the fact that it was one of the worst calls - or blatant examples of homerism - he's ever seen.

Princeton then came back and destroyed Nicholls State in the consolation game.

Anyway, when it was time to fly home, Carril and manager Miles Clark were discussing whether or not Miles had given enough of a tip to the guy who had helped with the bags. Miles assured Carril that he had, but Carril disagreed and gave Miles another $20 to give him.

Miles, in one motion, said "okay" as he was putting the bill into his pocket. It was like something out of Abbott and Costello, with Miles as Abbott.

That episode came back to mind when MTB tried to pocket the extra $10.

The $5 for the team party is fairly standard stuff these days. Every team, every sport, every season. There's no fighting it. Just keep giving out the money.

MTB is on the middle school track and field team. She runs the 100 or the 100 hurdles and a leg of the 4x100 relay. She's also done the long jump in a few meets.

The hurdles are the first event of each meet, followed by the 100. The 4x100 relay is near the end.

This means that at a normal meet, MTB will be on the track for one of those two races and then the relay, which is about an hour or so later. Or, if you don't want to do the math, it means that she's on the track for about 30 seconds over 90 minutes.

TB isn't sure his daughter really likes track and field competition as much as she likes the social aspect of co-ed middle school track.

The meets have the 100, 100 hurdles, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 for the boys and girls. There are also two relays - the 4x100 and 4x400.

On the field side, there's a high jump, long jump and shot put.

There is no hammer throw, which for Princeton fans is the new steeplechase.

As an aside, TB wonders when that way of speaking became part of the lexicon. This is the new that. He guesses it was when someone first said "40 is the new 30," and it took off from there.

Back when Donn Cabral was winning an NCAA championship and reaching the Olympic finals, the 3,000-meter steeplechase was the event to see. Now that Julia Ratcliffe is beginning her assault on an NCAA title, hammer throw is the can't-miss moment.

Speaking of can't-miss stuff, check out the video on about Ratcliffe

TigerBlog remembers when he first met Ratcliffe, after she had gotten off the 17-hour flight from her native New Zealand and first arrived at Princeton. Women's track and field coach Peter Farrell could barely contain his excitement at the prospect of how good she would be.

Now a sophomore, Ratcliffe has won nine hammer throw events this year, including most recently at the ECAC championships this past weekend. Her throws at the Ivy League Heptagonal championships earned how Outstanding Performer of the Meet honors.

TigerBlog isn't sure exactly where she stands nationally, though he knows she's the top-ranked hammer thrower in women's track and field right now. And that she's had the best 10 or so throws as she heads into the NCAA regionals next weekend and then the NCAA championships in early June.

The video is more about her odyssey to Princeton, how she ended up here, what she thinks of being so far from home, how much her teammates have helped her deal with being so far away.

There's also some training footage.

The hope is that it pays off with in Eugene next month. She was 11th last year at the NCAA championships.

This year, she has loftier goals.

Winning, for one.

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Amazing Race

The season finale of "The Amazing Race" was on last night.

It's not a show TigerBlog watches a lot. He just happened to stumble on the show last night.

If he were to watch any reality show, though, he'd probably settle on that one. From what little he's seen of it through the years, it comes across as something fun, as opposed to dripping with the phoniness and narcissism of most reality shows.

"The Amazing Race" offers a pretty interesting concept.

The two-person teams go through a series of challenges and adventures, all while risking being eliminated for getting to that week's end destination last. Apparently the most recent season covered 23,000 miles, 22 cities and nine countries before ending in Las Vegas.

The winning team was a father and son combination who appeared to be nice enough, or at least worth rooting for along the way. TigerBlog was okay with having them win as opposed to the annoying team that came in third.

It was a man and woman, as opposed to the two women who finished second, and TB isn't sure what it was about the man and woman team that he didn't like. Maybe it was the sequins. He just knows he didn't like them.

The last scene was pretty good.

The season ended with a skydive from a helicopter to the Las Vegas Speedway, and it was filmed from above, with a great view of the lights of the city below. It made for a great piece of video.

There was the requisite commercial break before the viewers could see which team was ahead, and it turned out to be the father of the father/son team. After he landed in the infield, he had to make the short run over to the finish line, where he was informed that he and his son had won the big prize.

Then it was time for the season finale of "The Good Wife." TigerBlog had no interest in that. Alicia is so pretentious and condescending.

Anyway, the team that won "The Amazing Race" won a prize of $1 million. TigerBlog wondered what the runner-up team got, and he learned that they got nothing.

That's a pretty big drop-off from winning to coming in second. Think about it. The distance between first and second over those 23,000 miles was a few seconds, and yet one team got the $1 million and everyone else got nothing.

TigerBlog assumes that if he won the $1 million, he'd do something for the teams that didn't win. Get them a gift card or something. Maybe, oh, go as high as $100 each.

The gap between the winning team on "The Amazing Race" and the runner-up was only slightly greater than the gap between first and second on another amazing race Sunday.

This one was the Ivy League women's rowing championship.

Brown was the No. 1-ranked team in the country prior to the event. The story on started out this way:
Preparing for the top-ranked team in the country, the Princeton open rowing team believed it had gained enough speed to make for a dramatic 2000-meter showdown in the Ivy League championships. The Tigers were wrong. They gained so much speed that all of the drama was behind them.

TigerBlog liked that. He didn't write it. Craig Sachson did. That's pretty good stuff, no? 

It's a far cry from the legendary release of years and years ago that began with "the boats were even at at the start." TigerBlog doesn't remember who wrote that one, or even what school wrote that.

TigerBlog won't pretend that he knows much about rowing, other than you have to be in sick shape to be good at it. And he liked the all-access video from the webpage on the heavyweight men's rowing team. 

He does know that the Princeton women's open rowing team put on quite a show yesterday. The Tigers clearly weren't the favorites, but they led wire-to-wire, building a formidable lead after 500 meters and rolling from there.

By the time the race was over, Princeton had set a Cooper River course record of 6:15.412, for a 4.3-second win over Brown. In rowing terms, that's an astonishing winning margin.

For Princeton that's two straight championships and three in four years.

For head coach Lori Dauphiny, it was her sixth Ivy League championship.

Up next will be the NCAA championships in Indianapolis May 30 through June 1. Princeton gets the Ivy League's automatic bid, and Brown figures to get in as well.

In fact, since the NCAA championships originated in 1997, Princeton, Brown and Washington are the only three schools that have qualified each year.

Once in Indiana, Princeton again won't be the favorite.

Of course, after Sunday's amazing race, don't count the Tigers out.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Updated Brackets

Navigating the treacherous waters of a one-and-done tournament is never easy.

A bounce here or there in the earliest rounds can make all the difference between going on a serious run towards a championship or getting bounced quickly.

It makes predicting a tournament bracket something of a matter of chance and luck as much as prognosticating skill. After all, while the best might win four games to one in a best-of-seven,  that doesn't help much in a one-and-done tournament if the best loses the first one.

TigerBlog still has his ultimate champ but no other chance for a correct Final Four selection for the latest tournament for which he did a bracket. It's never an easy thing to do.

He's talking of course about the Dillon Gym staff ping-pong tournament, which apparently is down to its final six players.

TigerBlog has men's soccer coach Jim Barlow as his ultimate champ, and he is still in the hunt, with a tough match against rowing assistant coach Hank Zimmerman in what appears to be a quarterfinal match this morning. Men's golf coach Will Green plays field hockey assistant Mike Pallister in another quarterfinal.

There are already two players through to the semifinals. Men's soccer assistant Steve Totten knocked off men's lacrosse coach Chris Bates in one quarterfinal, and evening supervisor Mike Mix defeated assistant director of campus rec Dan Bennett.

TigerBlog had a Final Four of Barlow, Bates women's volleyball coach Sabrina King and women's lightweight rowing coach Paul Rassam.

He didn't do so well.

His men's lacrosse picks were even worse. At least when it comes to ping pong and the Dillon Gym staff, he was basically going blind.

Lacrosse? TB is supposed to know something about that.

There were eight games played last weekend, and TB went 3-5. He was right about Duke, Denver and Hopkins and wrong about everything else.

He was especially wrong about the Ivy League. TB thought the league would do well and picked all three teams to win. Instead, all three lost.

Penn looked like it was in control against Drexel before Dragon face-off man Nick Saputo went off, scoring three first-half goals after having three for the entire season prior to that. Saputo also won 21 of 30 face-offs.

The biggest damage was done in the final seconds of the first half. Penn led 6-4 when Jules Raucci scored for Drexel to make it 6-5 with 17 seconds left. Okay. It happens. Take the lead into the intermission and go from there.

Instead, Saputo won the face-off and scored with 12 seconds left to tie it. And then won the face-off and scored with six seconds left. The two goals looked like identical twins, the second one a perfect instant replay of the first.

Suddenly it was 7-6 Drexel at the break - and 11-6 Drexel midway through the third. And that doesn't even include Saputo's other goal, which came with one second left in the first after Penn had scored with nine seconds left.

Those goals are killers.

Anyway, the quarterfinals are set for this weekend, tomorrow at Hofstra and Sunday at Delaware. TigerBlog offers up new predictions for the rest of the tournament, to be taken with the usual skepticism.

He'll stay with Duke over Hopkins and take Denver over Drexel. He'll go with Maryland over Bryant (who beat Syracuse in a great game), even though Bryant has two great pieces to start with - the best face-off man and best goalie in the country.

And then he likes Albany over Notre Dame. Albany is led by the dazzling Thompsons, and TB thinks it would be awesome for lacrosse to have them at the Final Four.

He will still say Duke over Denver, though he's rooting hard for Denver. And he'll take Albany over Maryland. And then Duke over Albany.

For Princeton, the Final Four will be about seeing if Tom Schreiber is named first-team All-America for the third straight year. TB can't imagine a way that he won't be.

If he is, he'll be the third three-time first-team All-America Princeton men's lacrosse has ever had, along with Josh Sims and Scott Bacigalupo. It'll be a small consolation for Schreiber (who scored his first Major League Lacrosse goal last week) and Princeton, who had been hoping to be playing this weekend and beyond.

It didn't work out for the Tigers. Or the other Ivy teams.

TigerBlog was wrong about it all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Have A Slice

When TigerBlog was in high school, he could ride his bike (or eventually drive) about a mile to the nearest pizza place. He's pretty sure a plain slice was 80 cents.

During his time in the newspaper business, he'd often get two slices and a medium cherry coke for lunch at a pizza place in West Windsor. He's pretty sure the total bill was $2.40.

TigerBlog has always liked the thicker crust pizza, as opposed to the thin crust, though he always has liked the pizza at Conte's, which is definitely thin crust. He can't figure that out in the same way he's never been able to figure out why he doesn't like peanut butter but likes Reese's peanut butter cups.

When TigerBlog used to take the bus with the Princeton men's basketball team during his newspaper days, the team would often get pizza for the long rides after games. TigerBlog used to get his with mushrooms, and he'd split a pie with the only other person on the bus who wanted mushrooms on his pizza, Sean Jackson, the 1992 Ivy League Player of the Year.

Back then, pizza was cheese, bread, sauce and maybe a topping if you wanted. If you've ever had a pizza, you're familiar with the normal toppings - sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers. Those are the normal ones.

If you're looking for maybe the greatest movie moment involving pizza, it's hard to beat the opening credits of "Saturday Night Fever," when John Travolta stops off for a slice on his way back to the hardware store in Brooklyn.

TB isn't sure exactly when he first noticed that pizza toppings had gone from simple to ultra-complex.

TB stopped off for a slice yesterday around lunchtime at a pizza place he'd ever been to before, and he was amazed at all the different combinations. He can't even begin to remember them all.

There was buffalo chicken. Caesar salad. One that looked like a salad with artichokes on it. Chicken parmigiana. Cheesesteak. Meat and more meat.

In all, there had to be nearly 20 different kinds of pizza sitting there.

Off in the corner, there was also a plain pie. It made TigerBlog wonder if anyone can ever look at all of those different choices and ask for plain.

Of any place that TB has ever gone that has pizza but isn't a pizza place, the one with the best pizza is Frist Campus Center, by the way.

TB was out of the office yesterday, though he has plenty he needs to get done.

He has to send a bunch of stuff to the Tewaaraton Trophy people for Tom Schreiber, one of the five finalists. He has a ton of stuff to do for the Princeton Varsity Club senior athlete banquet, which is two weeks from today.

That little fact, by the way, guarantees that two weeks from today will be 90 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms.

Because the banquet is so close, it means that the academic year is winding down. The banquet always corresponds with the first day of Reunions, which is followed by graduation, and another year will have come and gone.

There are still athletic events to be contested, of course.

Princeton has a maximum of 19 more competitions, depending on how many teams and individuals qualify for national championships.

This a huge weekend for rowing, with the Ivy League championships for women in Cherry Hill and the Eastern Sprints - which determine the Ivy champ for men's heavyweight and lightweight - in Worcester, Mass.

TigerBlog has never been to Eastern Sprints or to the Ivy women's championships, but he has been to the national championships, which are quite a show. This year's IRA national championships will be May 30-June 1 in West Windsor.

In addition to rowing, there is IC4A and ECAC track and field at Weaver Stadium this weekend.

In fact, other than one NCAA women's tennis singles participant (freshman Alanna Wolf), all of the rest of Princeton's athletic schedule for this year is rowing and track and field.

It ends June 11-14 with the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., where Julia Ratcliffe will probably be among the contenders in the women's hammer throw.

And then it'll be summer.

Speaking of which, you know where they have great pizza?

On the boardwalk.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thoughts On The Donald Sterling Case

TigerBlog is not here to defend Donald Sterling.

Far from it. The guy is a freak.

By now you know what Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, had to say on the subject of race relations. The recording has been everywhere, and it's gotten him banned from the NBA for life in a move in which new NBA commissioner Adam Silver screamed "there's a new sheriff in town."

Silver handled the situation perfectly, flawlessly. His waited until he had the facts, and then he acted swiftly and decisively. It was great leadership.

TigerBlog doesn't have an issue with how Sterling's been treated. Not in the least.

He sees it as an interesting societal commentary though.

So again, everyone repeat this: TB is not defending Donald Sterling.

And he's not 100% sure he understands who is who in this drama. Is the woman who recorded his girlfriend? And what's up with the wife, who is vowing to keep control of the franchise?

What's interesting is that a man with a long record of racially divisive actions as it relates to housing Southern California was ultimately done in by words, words that he said in private.

Are you no longer able to speak privately? Is there no such thing anymore?

If ever there has been an easy villain, it's Sterling. His an old white billionaire who clearly has a screw or two loose.

TigerBlog wonders how many of the people who jumped all over Sterling did so in a "look at how offended I am by this; doesn't this make me enlightened" way would want all of their private conversations to suddenly become public, to have everything that they've said that they thought they thought no one would ever hear be everywhere.

Is it possible that Donald Sterling is the only NBA owner or pro sports owner who ever privately said anything that would destroy his/her career? TB can't believe that's the case.

How can it be, with primarily white billionaires who employ primarily black multimillionaires. TB can't begin to image what these billionaires have said in private.

Sterling of course had to go. He had to go a long time ago, with his mismanagement of the franchise and his obvious disregard for fair housing practices. What's truly stunning is that he was supposed to receive an award from the NAACP, right?

And in every case like this, TB worries about penalizing people for their words, rather than their actions. Who decides when the line has been crossed? Who is in charge of saying "okay, that's a bit offensive but that's over the top offensive, so you're okay and you're not."

So what does this have to do with Princeton Athletics?

As always, whenever a story like this breaks, TB looks at it from his perspective in Jadwin Gym and wonders what would be the worst case scenario for Princeton and especially its coaches and athletes.

First of all, TigerBlog always tells the teams he speaks to that they have to think that everything they tweet or put on FaceBook or write someplace or so in public will be read by all of the following people: their coaches, their teammates, their opponents, refs, friends, parents, the admissions director at the graduate school of their choice, the person interviewing them for their dream job - all of them.

And they have to understand that putting the wrong thing out there in that situation can have a big impact on their futures, even if they don't intend it to be offensive.

Even beyond that, he tells them that it used to be that to get in trouble for saying something stupid, you had to have someone to say it to and that person had to be in a position to reproduce it for a mass audience. Now you can do it all by yourself with your phone, tablet, laptop or anything else.

But next year, he's going to add something for them to consider, and that is the fact that there is no more privacy.

Never, ever assume that what you say isn't being recorded. Or that you're on video.

It's hard for Donald Sterling to deny he said these things, even if he didn't know he was being recorded. And once they're out there, they're out there.

It's a scary thought. Your privacy continues to disappear.

TigerBlog has always said that he hopes that the day never comes when a Princeton coach or athlete is caught up in the middle of one of these "gotcha" moments.

As technology advances and privacy dwindles, he gets less and less confident that that day will never arrive.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Princeton's Newest

There is a chance that the President of the United States will read this.

Why wouldn't he? His niece is mentioned in it.

Better he should read about how his niece - her name is Leslie Robinson - is coming to Princeton to play basketball as one of the members of the Class of 2018 than he should read the one from last Friday, when TigerBlog gave some of the worst predictions in the history of predicting when he came up with his NCAA men's lacrosse tournament thoughts.

Let's see. There were eight games over the weekend. TigerBlog got three right.

He missed on all three Ivy League teams. He was wrong about Albany against Loyola. He was wrong about Bryant against Syracuse (okay, everyone was).

He still has a shot at the national champion if Duke wins. He has Denver in the Final Four as well. On the other side of the bracket, his prediction of Loyola and Syracuse in the Final Four and Loyola in the final isn't going to happen.

The entire tournament is turned completely upside down. In fact, either Maryland, Bryant, Notre Dame or Albany will play for the national championship on Memorial Day, and would it shock anyone if that turned out to be the high-flying Great Danes and the incredible Thompsons?

Anyway, even though the President is an affirmed prognosticator of his own, he seems more interested in basketball than lacrosse. Actually, TB has no idea if President Obama is any kind of lacrosse fan at all or if he's ever held a lacrosse stick.

Basketball? That's another story. The news accounts through the years have been filled with stories and pictures of Mr. Obama on a basketball court, shooting, playing.

It's a basketball family clearly.

The Princeton connection comes from Mrs. Obama, who is a member of the Class of 1985. Her brother Craig graduated from Princeton two years before she did, and he remains now one of only two Princeton players ever to be a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year in men's basketball, along with Kit Mueller.

Leslie Robinson is Craig Robinson's daughter. She comes to Princeton from Corvallis High School in Oregon, where she averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and 3.4 assists a year ago while earning all-state honors.

Maybe the President and First Lady will come to a game during her time here. Maybe they'll wait until after his term expires in January of 2017, which would leave the Ivy League portion of her junior year and then her entire senior year.

TigerBlog has met two U.S. Presidents in his time here - Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both after Princeton teams won NCAA titles. Whatever your political beliefs, it is a huge thrill to shake the hand of the sitting President of the United States. 

Robinson is one of three members of the incoming class of women's basketball players. 

The other two are Kenya Holland from Virginia and Tia Weledji from Kansas. That's a pretty good geographical range.

When TB first saw the names of the new recruits, he thought of Weledji and wondered how long it will take Princeton public address announcer Bill Bromberg to get it right.

Then he thought ahead, to some night in February or March 2018, when these three will presumably, hopefully be together again, this time on Senior Night at Jadwin.

TigerBlog is always fascinated by that juxtaposition. The newbies haven't even arrived on campus. And then in a blink of an eye, four years will fly by and it'll be senior night.

The goal is to win Ivy League championships and play in NCAA tournaments, something that Princeton did four straight years before falling just short this past year. The Tigers did get into the WNIT and did win a first-round game in that tournament.

The program is one of extremely high standards, beginning with the coaching staff. A season like last year's - a game off an Ivy title and a postseason win - still left everyone involved with Princeton women's basketball feeling like the big prize got away.

Now these three women will be joining the program, hoping to get it back to where everyone involved works all year to get it. The Ivy title. The NCAA tournament.

It's become a great program, filled with players who have had great experiences in their four years.

The clock for the Class of 2018 will start ticking soon.

So anyway Mr. President, TigerBlog hopes you liked reading this. He can send you some links to others if you'd like.

Just let him know. 

And of course, it's written every day, so if you want to get in the habit of checking it out on a daily basis, that's good too.

It's always good to have new readers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Big Weekend In Alabama

TigerBlog had an awful shopping cart at the supermarket yesterday.

There are three kinds of shopping carts at the supermarket TB regularly uses. There are the traditional ones, with the deep basket and the place for young child to sit. There are the ones that have a miniature car for the little kids to sit in while the parent pushes from behind fills in the cart in the back.

And then there's the one TB likes. It's smaller than the normal-sized ones, and it has no place for a child to sit. It has a top rack and much smaller bottom rack, and it's about the right size for what TB usually gets.

Yesterday he grabbed the first one in the row of carts that were all stacked together in the corridor between the store and the parking lot and went inside. He didn't even make it to the first row of produce before he realized that this cart was terrible.

It's not just that the wheels weren't aligned. They couldn't even all touch the floor at the same time.

He thought about going back to the stack of carts and getting a new one, but he wasn't getting that much stuff so he figured he could tough it out. That turned out to be a mistake.

As he put things in the cart, it got even worse and more out of balance. Eventually it would only go to the left unless TB sort of picked it up off the ground and redirected it.

Of course, when he was done, he just put it back at the end of the row of carts, leaving it for someone else to have to deal with, as opposed to taking it out back and burying it. 

TigerBlog was wondering how old these carts are - how many miles they have on them, as it were - and how often the average supermarket replaces them.

Years? Decades?

If TB's cart dated back to early 2010, then it was as old as it had been since Princeton had beaten a Top 25 team in women's tennis - until this past Friday.

The women's tennis team had a remarkable weekend at the NCAA tournament. It began with a 4-3 win over No. 25 Arizona State in the first round and then continued with a 4-2 loss to second-ranked Alabama in the second round in a match that could have gone either way when it was 2-2 with a third set in the other three matches.

When you think of the great accomplishments of Princeton teams in the NCAA tournament, this weekend's stay by the women's tennis team probably doesn't leap to mind. That's a shame, because what the Tigers did was extraordinary.

Alabama is the second-ranked team in the country in women's tennis, a sport that has enough teams to justify a 64-team NCAA tournament field. That's something reserved for sports like basketball and soccer on the women's side.

Princeton went toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide, and did so with a lineup that featured no seniors.

It started with the win over Arizona State, a perennial NCAA tournament participant, one that has played in 27 straight postseasons. Princeton was playing in its fifth all-time and first since 2010.

The win was Princeton's first ever in the NCAA

Alabama is a team thinking national championship, not getting bounced in the second round by a team from the East, let alone a team from the Ivy League. Princeton pushed the Crimson Tide to the brink and did so after going five hours in its match against ASU.

And with the lineup the Tigers have, next year and beyond figure to be exciting.

All in all, it was a remarkable effort by the Tigers. If it had been in, say, basketball, it would have been national news.

Okay, the women's tennis tournament isn't what the basketball tournament are. So what?

That doesn't diminish what Princeton did this weekend.

Maybe it wasn't the 1965 men's basketball Final Four or a lacrosse championship.

It was still a great performance. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Women's Lax, Women's Tennis, Track And Field - And Ping Pong

The good people of Dillon Gym are sort of their own subculture.

It's a mix of coaches and campus rec over there, centrally located in the middle of campus. For every one person who wanders into Jadwin Gym, TigerBlog figures 20 or so probably walk into Dillon.

TigerBlog is part of the Jadwin crowd. It's a mix of coaches, administrators and staff over here, a little bit off the beaten path of the University campus, though with much, much better parking.

The Dillon people and the Jadwin people work together in that they are all part of the same department but don't really work together on a day-to-day basis. It's hardly a regular occurrence when one of the Dillonites wanders over to Jadwin or vice versa.

They're not like the Hatfields and the McCoys or anything like that. Far from it. They're just separated by a huge part of the campus, and they don't always get to see each other all the time.

TigerBlog has been a Jadwin person for a long time. In all that time, he can't remember anything like what's currently going on with the McCoys, as it were, where apparently there is a staff ping-pong tournament going on.

TB saw the bracket yesterday, which was Day 1 of the competition, which according to the bracket will lead to a championship match in two weeks. Apparently the big opening round upset was women's volleyball coach Sabrina King's win over men's lightweight rowing coach Marty Crotty.

TigerBlog has only see one of the 27 people in the field play ping-pong. For whatever reason, he'll go with men's soccer coach Jim Barlow to win it all, even though he's one of the 26 he's never seen play. It just seems like something he'd be good at.

He also likes men's lacrosse coach Chris Bates, who would meet Barlow in the semifinals. On the other side, he'll stay with King - though she'd have to get past men's golf coach Will Green - and go with women's lightweight rowing coach Paul Rassam as his other person in the Final Four.

He has no idea if any of these people are actually any good in ping pong.

Women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer isn't in the field. She's busy right now anyway, what with her team at Virginia for this afternoon's opening round game of the NCAA tournament against Penn State. The opening draw is at 4, and the winner plays Virginia Sunday.

Princeton and Penn State are hardly strangers. They meet for the 35th time overall and second time in three weeks, after Penn State won 13-12 in the final game of the regular season.

About two hours before the lacrosse game starts, Princeton will be playing Arizona State in Alabama in the opening round of the NCAA women's tennis tournament.

Laura Granville has the Tigers in the NCAA tournament in her second year. Arizona State coach Sheila McInerney has a little more experience - she's been there for 30 years.

Come to think of it, TigerBlog figures Granville is probably a good ping pong player too.

The other really big event this weekend is Heps track and field, which will take place at Yale.

Princeton's men are the three-time defending champion. The women are looking for their 10th Heps title and first since 2011.

Princeton is loaded with individual contenders among the men and women, most notably Julia Ratcliffe in the hammer throw on the women's side. Ratcliffe has the Ivy League's best throw this season - and the NCAA's best throw, for that matter.

Those are the big events of the weekend.

The ping pong tournament picks up again next week.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Oh So Close

TigerBlog isn't sure whom he likes in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.

He knows what he doesn't like about it. Princeton isn't in it.

TigerBlog had pretty high hopes for Princeton for this season. In the hit-or-miss world of college lacrosse, sometimes the breaks go your way and sometimes they don't, and when they don't, there's no room for error.

To succeed in Division I men's lacrosse, more than anything else, a team must win close games. There were 21 Ivy League men's lacrosse games played this season, and 10 of those - one fewer than half - were decided by one or two goals.

If you take out the six that Dartmouth played, of which none were decided by one or two goals, then the 15 games that involved the other six teams saw 10 decided by one or two goals. Princeton went 2-4 in the league, with three one-goal losses and one two-goal loss.

Those numbers don't include the Ivy League tournament, where two of the three games were one-goal games. 

In games like that, little things make a huge difference. For Princeton, the season began to get away in back-to-back losses at Yale (16-15) and Brown (11-10), putting the Tigers into a hole from which they never managed to escape.

And what did Princeton in those two games? The Tigers were missing Justin Murphy, the face-off man, due to an injury. In those two games, Princeton won 20 of 60 face-offs.

Murphy won 55% of his face-offs for the year. Even if he only won 50% in those two games, that would have meant five more possessions that Princeton would have had and five fewer that its opponent would have had in each game. Would that have been enough to sway those two games? Would that in turn have changed the entire season?


Princeton went 7-6 with three one-goal losses and two two-goal losses, and one of those two-goal losses was to North Carolina, who scored with 13 seconds left or else it would have been another one-goal game.

Compare Princeton to Penn. Princeton did not reach the Ivy League tournament or NCAA tournament. Penn won the Ivy League tournament and is the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Want to know what separates Penn from Princeton? Penn is 7-0 in one- or two-goal games. Want to know a game that Penn didn't win? Princeton 15, Penn 12, in the Ivy opener for both.

It's subtle. A team wins a few close games and gets its confidence that it can do it again. A team loses a few one-goal games and the "here we go again" vibe starts the next time the game is close.

TigerBlog knows that Princeton could play with any team in the country. He also knows that doesn't matter, that a few moments here or there derailed the entire season.

Okay, it happens sometimes. Seasons get away. TB gets it.

What he doesn't want is for the fact that the Tigers didn't reach the postseason to detract from the career that Tom Schreiber had at Princeton.

TigerBlog saw every game Schreiber played at Princeton. He is an extraordinary player who can do things that TB has never seen anyone else who ever played at Princeton do, and his unmatched career numbers don't begin to capture his greatness, as impressive as they are.

Schreiber is one of five players in Ivy League history - and the only Princeton player and the only middie on the list - with at least 100 career goals and at least 90 career assists. Think about that. For a middie to have 100 goals is rare enough (only Josh Sims at Princeton has ever done it besides Schreiber; Jake Froccaro has 51 goals in two years), but 90 assists?

His ability to feed and to shoot with either hand is awesome. He continually wowed crowds every time he touched the ball, and he was as unstoppable as any player who ever played at Princeton.

Beyond that, he's a fierce competitor, a natural leader, a great clutch player - and real class act. He's all of those things.

Unfortunately, his career at Princeton is over. His lacrosse career isn't.

TigerBlog figures Schreiber will be a force in Major League Lacrosse and ultimately on the U.S. national team for years. His post-Princeton career, TB figures, will be fairly similar to Matt Striebel's, another Princeton middie, who holds the MLL record for career games played and who has won multiple professional and international championships.

As for the 2014 NCAA tournament that Princeton won't be in?

TigerBlog didn't see that one team this year that he thinks will roll through. He's rooting for Denver and Bill Tierney, of course. And he thinks the Ivy League will do well this weekend.

He sees the quarterfinals as Duke-Hopkins, Penn-Denver, Syracuse-Cornell and Loyola-Harvard.

He sees a Final Four of Duke, Denver, Syracuse and Loyola. He sees a final of Duke and Loyola.

He'll go with Duke to win it all.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Sharp Round Thing

Miss TigerBlog decided that she was going to make one of those homemade pizzas last night, and she needed to open a can of sauce or tomatoes or something.

The only problem is that she'd never actually soloed on the can opener before. It's not an electric one. It's an old school manual one.

TigerBlog wasn't around to open it for her, so she called to ask how. And this put TB in the really weird position of trying to explain over the phone how to do such a simple task, one that he has done about a billion times in his life.

At first, TB tried to think back to when he opened his own first can. He has no idea.

Anyway, think about it. How would you begin to describe to someone how to use a can opener? TB certainly struggled.

It's a can opener. Use it to open the can. How hard can it be?

TigerBlog used terms like "long arms" and "sharp round thing" to try to explain it. He felt a great deal of satisfaction when he heard MTB say "got it." She was pretty fired up about it too.

And to think how close TB came to simply ordering a pizza to be delivered.

TigerBlog is fascinated for some reason by that story. It was such a simple question. How does the can opener work? And yet it was so hard to explain it over the phone.

Okay, now that you're in the whole can opener thing, TB can get to the point today.

Before he does, he also wants to mention that as he's writing this, he has "The Pope of Greenwich Village" on in the background. If you've never seen it, the movie from 1984 and is one of those movies that 1) is great and 2) can be seen a million times. Darryl Hannah just slapped Mickey Rourke in the face in one of the best scenes in the movie.

Anyway, the NFL draft is coming up. TigerBlog doesn't understand in the least why the NFL draft has become the big show that it has. It's everywhere. People have built lucrative careers around it. ESPN would probably go out of business without it.

What's the attraction? Most of the time, nobody had ever heard of the players who get picked until some draft guide or guru mentioned them.

And then there's whole hit-or-miss side to the draft. Teams spent millions of dollars on evaluating talent, on workouts, on combines, on all of it - and still miss more than they hit when it comes to who eventually pans out and who doesn't.

Princeton football coach Bob Surace spent nearly a decade as a coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was in the office the other day talking about some of his experiences with how the draft works, the unpredictability of it all, the way coaches will root for teams in front of them to take a certain player so they don't get stuck with him when their turn comes.

The No. 1 pick in this draft could be Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina, whose entire lure appears to be from one massive hit in a bowl game two seasons ago. Can there be more red flags from a player than Clowney has shown?

He didn't have a dominant season. He doesn't seem to really be all that interested in playing, from reports at least. He's the kind of ridiculous physical player who impresses in every workout and looks like he has limitless potential.

These players fail at a high rate. And yet Clowney will be snapped up very, very early. TB won't be shocked if he never pans out.

TigerBlog is much more interested in a different player in this draft.

Caraun Reid figures to give Princeton a defensive lineman who is drafted for the second straight year, after Mike Catapano went in the seventh round to Kansas City a year ago. Reid figures to go way earlier than that.

Reid was featured recently in the New York Times, which wrote about his unique background, beyond just being a Princeton athlete.

Reid isn't what you think of when you think of an NFL draft pick. Oh, physically he is. He's a 300-pounder who moves with quickness and fierceness. He helped himself considerably at the Senior Bowl and in pre-draft workouts, and now he's ready to see where he lands.

What makes him different is that he's more than just a football player.

He's deeply spiritual, the son of a minister. He's a singer, and the NY Times story mentions how he couldn't sing after the press conference announcing Mollie Marcoux as the new AD, along with his teammates Roman Wilson and Seth DeValve.

He's a quiet, soft-spoken man. He is very engaging, and his experience at Princeton has been everything that is great about college athletics.

He came to Princeton as a native of the Bronx, which is hardly a football area. He leaves Princeton with a degree, a well-rounded undergraduate experience and a chance to fulfill his NFL dreams.

Oh, and his team went from 1-9 to 8-2 and Ivy League champion.

How much better could it have gone?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oh Yah, You Betcha

TigerBlog stumbled on "Dancing With The Stars" last night.

Ordinarily, something with the word "Stars" in the title wouldn't hold TB's interest unless it was on PBS or National Geographic and was about astronomy. This time, TB was actually impressed with what he saw. There was real talent involved, and the teams seemed to be working really hard to be on top of their games.

He saw enough that he might watch it again.

He will definitely watch "Fargo" again. And again and again.

If you haven't watched it yet, you have two options. One is to go on-demand and watch the first three episodes so you're caught up. The other is to wait a few weeks and watch the entire season all at once. Not watching at all? That's a bad option.

"Fargo," as everyone knows, was a 1996 movie that won two Academy Awards, one for Best Actress for Frances McDormand and one for Best Screenplay for the Coen brothers. Ethan Coen, by the way, is a 1979 Princeton grad.

The movie was about a quirky policewoman who pursues quirky criminals while encountering other quirky people along the way, all of whom have quirky accents.

The show has those same elements, but without the same exact characters. It's actually a pretty good idea, take a famous movie name that conjures up the quirkiness and then change it around so it keeps some of what made the movie great without actually having the characters be watered down versions of the original.

It's not easy to turn a movie into a TV show. Some have succeeded, such as Hall-of-Fame shows like "The Odd Couple" and "M*A*S*H." Many more have flopped.

The TV show version of "Fargo" is off to a great start, largely because of how great the new characters are, especially Billy Bob Thorton as the really bad guy and whoever it is who is playing the policewoman. Actually her name is Allison Tolman, and this is her first big part.

Episode 4 is on tonight. TigerBlog thinks Season 1 is just eight episodes long, which will take it to June 3.

Princeton Athletics won't be quite over by then, unless no Tigers qualify for the NCAA track and field championships, which is unlikely.

Still, it's getting quiet around here. At most there are around 20 more competitions left for the 2013-14 academic year.

The next two  are NCAA tournament opening round matchups: women's tennis between Princeton and Arizona State, to be held in Alabama Friday, and women's lacrosse against Penn State at Virginia.

There are still five Ivy League titles to be award, beginning this weekend with the men's and women's track and field championships at Yale. Next weekend are the three Ivy League rowing championships.

And that's it for Ivy titles for this year.

Every May is like this. The calendar of events starts to get shorter, and the last chapters of the academic year are written.

This time, of course, it's all different.

The last event of this year will also be the last one of the 20-year tenure of Gary Walters as Ford Family Director of Athletics. TigerBlog hasn't seen the schedule yet for next fall, but whenever the first field hockey or soccer or women's volleyball game is contested, Mollie Marcoux will be the AD.

It'll be a big summer of transition from Gary to Mollie. This is all going to be new for almost every  person who works here.

But that's still a few weeks away.

Now it's time to compete for championships for the remaining sports.

And for the final five episodes of "Fargo."

It's not quite Season 1 of "Homeland." It's close, though. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

One Tournament Down, One To Go

TigerBlog's job at the Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament was to enter the stats into the computer. He did it for all three games, Friday's two semifinals and yesterday's final.

At the same time, he also watched the men's tournament games on ESPN3 on a different computer, sort of paying attention when he could.

At one point yesterday, there was a timeout in the women's game at the same time there was a goal scored in the men's game. As the men's teams lined up for the face-off, TB reflexively entered it into the stats for the women's game and then deleted it when he realized what he was doing.

The men's game, of course, has face-offs. The women's game has draw controls.

Of any sport that men and women both play, lacrosse is by far the most different. Actually, other than having sticks with pockets - and those pockets are radically different - and the basic concept of putting the ball in a goal, the two sports have almost nothing in common.

They don't play on the same size field. They have a different number of players on the field (10 for the men, 12 for the women). The rules about contact, defending, basically everything are different.

For years, TigerBlog couldn't believe that women's lacrosse didn't play with fixed boundaries, as opposed to having the game simply stop when the play got too close to the bench or the fence and then picked it back up. Eventually, those rules were changed.

The men's game in recent years has made great strides in improving the pace of play, and these changes have all been for the better, especially the restarts. TB thinks the women's game could benefit from quicker restarts as well.

TB also doesn't understand why women's lacrosse doesn't enter some sort of timing rules for clearing the ball and some sort of stalling rules, especially for the end-game.

Penn defeated Princeton 9-6 in the women's final yesterday. The Quakers survived in double overtime against Harvard in the semifinals, while Princeton pasted Cornell.

Penn ran out to a 6-2 halftime lead against Princeton yesterday. The Quakers outshot Princeton 21-3 in the first 30 minutes.

Princeton was able to settle things down in the second half and put together some offense. Penn, taking advantage of the fact that there are no timing rules, possessed the ball for huge stretches in the second half, when it took just three more shots.

Why shoot? There was no need to. And it worked out perfectly for the Quakers, who even repeatedly passed up the chance to go straight to the goal on free position shots.

In the end, Princeton ran out of time to finish any kind of comeback. For Penn, it was a well-executed second-half strategy.

Princeton and Penn are the Ivy League co-champions. Both teams were pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament once they won their semifinal games Friday, and that's how it turned out last night, when the draw was announced.
Princeton's draw is a strange one, in that the Tigers play Penn State at Virginia, with the winner to play the host team. It's strange, in that Princeton and Penn State played little more than a week ago, when Penn State defeated the Tigers 13-12 in Happy Valley. Princeton has also played UVa during the season, in a game the Tigers won 15-13.

Penn, on the other hand, drew Canisius in the first round, with a shot at No. 1 Maryland for the winner.

In the end, the 2014 Ivy women's tournament was a very nice showcase for the league's top teams, and it did give Cornell and Harvard a crack at earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but neither did.

TB is a huge fan of the Ivy lacrosse tournaments. The Ivy League is almost always a multiple-bid for both the men and women, and in fact five Ivy teams are headed to NCAAs.

Women's lacrosse is a game of athleticism. The way the game is played, the No. 1 commodity is speed, which creates scoring opportunities and also leads to free position chances.

Princeton's Erin McMunn set a tournament record with 10 goals in two games, including seven against Cornell. Blake Dietrick, the first-team All-Ivy women's basketball player, had one - but it might have been the nicest one of the weekend.

After the game against Penn ended, TB brought the computer and printer from Class of 1952 Stadium back to Jadwin, as there are no more games at 52 this year. As he walked back to where his car was parked, he walked past a Princeton player wearing sweats with the No. 15 on them, which led TB to surmise it was goalie Annie Woehling, who had been strong in both games.

TigerBlog nodded to her and told her she had played well. Woehling said thank you and kept going. She had the look of a player who knew that it hadn't been her team's day but that there would be at least one more day to come on this season, something that was confirmed a few hours later when the NCAA field was announced.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament had a nice run on Sherrerd Field. Now it's time to look ahead to the other tournament, the one with the bigger prizes at stake.