Friday, June 6, 2014

Remembering, 70 Years Later

TigerBlog was talking to a man named Rick last night, and it turns out Rick is a history buff.

The two were talking about World War II when Rick's wife Kathie mentioned something that TB would have realized as soon as he looked at the date. Tomorrow, Kathie pointed out, would be D-Day.

Today is June 6, 2014. That means that 70 years ago today, some people did something extraordinary, something that required the highest levels of courage, something that many of them did not survive.

It was 70 years ago today that Allied forces invaded Normandy, France, in an all-or-nothing attempt to reestablish freedom on the main continent of Europe and destroy the Nazi regime and its self-professed "thousand year Reich."

As it turned out, Adolph Hitler's Reich lasted less than a year from the day of the Normandy invasion, and he himself would be dead less than 11 months later.

Not that it was easy. And not that there wasn't some good luck involved for the Allies.

The Germans had miscalculated where the main invasion would be, figuring that the Allies would attack at Calais, rather than Normandy. When it became apparent that the massive attack - the largest amphibious assault in human history - was headed to Normandy, the German high command did not send in its reserve Panzer units because it required approval of Hitler himself, and the highest ranking German generals were afraid to wake him up.

The massive invasion had been planned in secrecy in England, which was no small task, considering the number of German spies and sheer magnitude of men involved in the attack. The weather became an issue leading up to the planned date, and the Allied commander - General Dwight Eisenhower - famously made the decision to go ahead and attack on June 6, even though the weather hadn't completely cleared.

Eisenhower, by the way, did not go straight from being a general to being the President of the United States. He had one job in between. Any idea what it was? Check back in a few paragraphs.

Even without the reserve Panzer units, the Germans still mounted a formidable defense as the Allies - mostly Americans, British and Canadians - landed on the beaches. In fact the invasion came close to failing, and there was talk of withdrawing, retreating and trying again.

That, though, wasn't really an option. This was it, the one day, the one chance to rid Europe and the world of one the greatest evils that has ever been. And so those men on that beach on that day did what they had to do. 

They advanced. And they won.

It wasn't cheap. Nearly 5,000 Allied soldiers died on that day, died in the name of freedom.

TigerBlog has seen the movies - "The Longest Day," "Saving Private Ryan" - and even more than that has thought about the actual soldiers and sailors who made it happen. What must they have been thinking as they sat in the boats that took them across the English Channel in the darkness that morning? How petrified must they have been?

TigerBlog has met a few people in his life who actually were part of the invasion, and his reaction was basically one of dropping his jaw in respect and awe of what they did.

And that was 70 years ago today. Hardly anyone is left who participated in that attack. Even if you were just 18 on D-Day, today you're 88 years old.

It doesn't make it any less important for everyone who lives in freedom to remember what those people did on that beach - and to remember the 5,000 or so who died on it. TigerBlog would love to go to Normandy one day and see it firsthand, and also picture for himself exactly where the Allies came from and what it took to get inland.

June 6, 1944. Don't ever forget that date.

It's because of dates like that that dates like June 6, 2014, can be another day to pursue your life and your dreams. It's important that that fact never be taken for granted.

For instance, June 6, 2014, is Day 1 of The Basketball Tournament, a rather ambitious and fairly interesting event that begins tonight in Philadelphia.

The basic concept is that of a 32-team field in a basketball tournament. For the winning team, there is $500,000.

TigerBlog is rooting, of course, for PUBB Champions Tour. Why wouldn't he be?

It's a team of Princeton alums, including four players who scored at least 1,000 points in their Tiger careers - Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis, Dan Mavraides and T.J. Bray.

The rest of the roster includes Jimmy Sherburne and Will Barrett, who like Bray graduated this week. The remainder of the team features Kareem Maddox, Alex Okafor, Brendan Connolly and Pawel Buczak.

That's a pretty good lineup.

Another plus for the Tiger alums is the format. The games will be played under college rules, except with 18-minute halves instead of 20 minutes. And best of all for Princeton, there will be a 45-second clock.

If any team figures to be able to turn this into a more structured game and not just a run-and-gun pickup game, it has to be Princeton, right? And with 10 additional seconds to play with, it's possible that nobody will be ready for the amount of patience that Princeton could bring.

Of course, it could all be over after one game too. Princeton's first opponent is called St. Anthony's, a team made up of St. Anthony's of Jersey City alums. That's a school with a fairly good pedigree.

TigerBlog looked on the tournament's website and found more than one Ivy League school represented, including Cornell's Sweet 16 team from a few years ago. And there are some Penn guys on a few teams. And probably others. TB didn't look at every roster.

You know what he did see from the ones he looked at? A ton of familiar names, from the highest levels of Division I and even from the NBA.

Princeton plays its first game at 7:30 on Court 2 at Philadelphia University. The next two rounds are tomorrow, and the semifinals are Sunday. There are tickets required, and TB thinks they are $20, but don't quote him on that.

After this weekend, there will be 20 days until the championship game, at a site to be determined, depending on which two teams are left. And there are ways for fans to get involved in support of teams.

Yes, one team will win the $500,000, but this event figures to be more about the fun than the ultimate prize. And it also figures to have some pretty high quality basketball.

 If nothing else, if you're a Princeton fan, you have to be somewhat fascinated to see how the PUBB Champions Tour does. And what style of basketball gets played, which will be supremely important to Princeton's chances.

The Princeton team features eight players who were on the team that came within two points of beating Kentucky in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

TB isn't sure who is coming up with the $500,000, but that's not his problem. For now, he's going to sit back and see how Princeton does and who emerges from this weekend.

Someone had a great idea for this tournament. Let the games begin.

No comments: