Friday, January 30, 2015

Seahawks 24, Cheaters 14

TigerBlog doesn't need an investigation about deflated footballs.

There aren't too many possible conclusions based on these three facts: 1) the referee of the AFC championship game certified that 2.5 hours before kickoff that the balls that the Patriots were going to be using were properly inflated; 2) at the half 11 of the 12 balls weren't; and 3) all 12 of the balls the Colts used were still properly inflated.

Because the balls for the Colts were still at the regulation weight, then no environmental factors caused the deflation.

So what can be concluded?

Either the ref is lying and the balls weren't properly inflated the first time (which is unlikely) or someone who had access to the balls for the Patriots deflated them. One of those two. That's it.

And if it's the second? Well, sorry, but TigerBlog will never believe that head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady didn't know about it. Any other conclusion is ridiculous.

So where does that leave the Super Bowl for Sunday, between the Patriots and the Seahawks? Well, it leaves TigerBlog to root for Seattle.

On the one hand, that's fairly easy. BrotherBlog lives in Seattle. He's rooting for the Seahawks, even if he's not quite a huge Xs and Os guy.

On the other hand? Seattle has some guys who make it easy not to root for them.

Take Marshawn Lynch. TigerBlog isn't quite sure what to make out of this situation, of one of the key members of a Super Bowl team who so openly mocks the media and, to be honest, embarrasses himself in the process by constantly repeating "I'm just here so I don't get fined" and then giving a rambling two-minute diatribe.

TigerBlog thinks Lynch is being a jerk. He's coming across as a typical spoiled athlete who feels no obligation either to the fans or to the media, who have clearly played a role in getting him where he is today.

On the other hand, it's better than listening to one of those "blah blah blah" press conferences where every comment is measured and nothing is actually said.

As for the on-field game, TigerBlog thinks the Seahawks will do enough to slow down New England and Russell Wilson will do enough to put some points on the board. He figures it'll be 24-14 Seattle.

Unless New England does something else to cheat.

In the meantime, another New England team is a bigger focus for TigerBlog this weekend. That would be Harvard.

Princeton takes on Harvard in men's and women's basketball tonight (men at home, women on the road). The men tip at 6 on Carril Court; ESPNU will televise it.

The women will wait an extra hour to tip-off in Cambridge. Hey, they've waited 20 days; what's another hour?

Both teams finish their weekends by playing Dartmouth at 6. By tomorrow around 8, then, there will be a lot more known about the Ivy basketball races.

Start with the women.

Princeton is 17-0, 1-0 in the league after dismantling Penn in the Ivy opener three weekends ago. Since then, Princeton has not played.

The Tigers are ranked 19th in the country, the highest ranking ever in Ivy women's basketball. They are also one of only two teams in Division I who remain unbeaten, along with No. 1 South Carolina.

None of that matters at all tonight.

Harvard is 1-1 in the league, having split with Dartmouth. A year ago, Princeton fell behind Harvard early, tried to come back and ultimately couldn't.

Did being off for 20 days factor into it? Who knows.

Princeton was playing so well before the break. Can that momentum be sustained or reestablished? Check the score after 14 minutes. In the game a year ago after break, Harvard led Princeton by 18.

If Princeton sweeps this weekend, it'll be, among other things, two games clear of Harvard. It'll possibly be two games clear of Penn as well, with two wins and a Harvard win over Penn.

On the other hand, a loss in either game changes everything. Princeton would still be the league favorite, but it won't be the prohibitive favorite that it is now.

In fact, a loss by the Princeton women will have the same effect that Harvard's loss to Dartmouth in men's basketball had last weekend. Harvard is probably still the favorite in the league race, but it's not going to be a cakewalk.

Right now, Yale is undefeated at 2-0, with Princeton at 1-0. Everyone else has at least one loss.

Is the men's race wide open, or was the stumble by Harvard last weekend a slight hiccup?

It starts to get sorted out more this weekend.

As for Princeton, preseason predictions and who may or may not still be the favorite aren't the issue tonight. For Princeton, tonight is about being in the perfect position to make its own statement.

The Tigers are at home. They are fresh after exams and the Division III tuneup win over Rowan Sunday afternoon. It's a great opportunity.

Right now, Princeton has played just one league game. Nobody has played more than two.

Clearly, nobody is going to win the league championship this weekend, on the men's side or the women's side. This weekend isn't about that.

It's about starting to shape the dynamic of the race.

In that regard, this weekend is huge.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Overrated Juno, Underrated Orban

TigerBlog couldn't help but laugh at the apologetic tweets of meteorologists in this area after they overestimated the coming snowfalls - dubbed Winter Storm Juno - by about 20 inches or so.

The forecast that originally was for a few inches ballooned Sunday to calls of up to 30 or more, eventually settling on about 18-24 for this area.

What happened? TigerBlog says there was about three or four inches.

Of course, the entire "the next storm of the century is coming" - or should that be "the sky is falling" - mode was triggered. This meant a run on the supermarkets and endless wall-to-wall television coverage, even when there was nothing to report.

Oh, and school closings. Based on the forecast, every school in the area announced it would be closed Monday afternoon or evening at the latest.

So what happened? It snowed a bit.

It wasn't a dusting or anything. It was a few inches, and it was definitely the most snow that's fallen around here so far this winter.

It just wasn't epic.

The ferocity of the storm missed this area and instead walloped New England. Boston, for instance, got a ton of snow.

Because the weather people got the forecast so wrong, there were more than just school closings. The New York City subway system was shut down. Driving on any New Jersey roads was banned.

These are big decisions that cost millions of dollars. And they were made based on the forecasts.

There was a great tweet from the Finnish embassy that showed a man sitting on a swing surrounded by snow everywhere, piled up over his head. He's wearing an undershirt with no coat.

What TigerBlog doesn't understand is why all of the meteorologists needed to say they were sorry. It's not like they tried to make a mistake.

As TB understands it, the difference between getting pounded by the blizzard and having it just miss was very subtle. It's not like the forecasts were for sunny and 45 degrees.

Of course, people jumped all over the incorrect weather people with their own tweets.

And why? It's because people love to jump on the mistakes others make. Hey, TigerBlog makes mistakes all the time. And people jump all over them.

Hey, it's part of putting something out there in the public domain.

So it's okay meteorologists. No biggie. Better safe than sorry.

And so now, for the first time all winter, there is noticeable snow covering the ground. This is when TB really hates winter, when he can't see the grass through the snow and when the snow turns black in the roads.

The snow arrived just a few days before the start of spring practices at Princeton. In fact, the first regular season men's lacrosse game is Sunday, when Delaware is at High Point.

Princeton opens its season against Manhattan two weeks from Saturday. This would appear to be fairly nuts.

Princeton will enter the 2015 season with two Major League Lacrosse draftees. The first is Kip Orban, the 2015 captain, who went in the third round to Charlotte; the other is Mike MacDonald, who went to Rochester in the sixth round.

It's TigerBlog's contention that Orban is as underrated a player as there is Division I lacrosse this year and, along with Sean Hartofilis of the Class of 2003, one of the two most underrated players he's seen at Princeton.

Of course, since TB is in charge of publicity for the men's lacrosse team, can the case be made that it's his fault that Orban is so underrated?

Orban was not a first-team, second-team or honorable mention All-Ivy League selection last spring. Of the 23 offensive midfielders on the Inside Lacrosse preseason All-America team, none of them are Kip Orban. He was not on IL's preseason All-Ivy League team.

On the other hand, guess who enters 2015 with the longest streak of consecutive games with at least one goal in Division I? Kip Orban, who has at least one in 26 straight.

There are only four players (three attackmen and Orban) in Division I who enter 2015 with at least goal in 16 or more games and only two (Orban and Yale's Conrad Oberbeck) who have at least one in more than 17 straight, which basically means that only four returning players had at least one goal in every one of his team's games last year.

Why is Orban so underrated? It's because he played on the same midfield line with Tom Schreiber and Jake Froccaro the last two years. Schreiber is one of the great college midfielders ever; Froccaro put up 10 goals in one game a year ago.

Orban? He's steady, solid, tough, effective, reliable. Just not high profile.

Even the draft pointed that out.

Orban was picked in the third round, the eighth offensive middie taken. With his size and strong outside shot, he could be an effective two-point shooter in MLL. The team he joins finished last in the league in scoring a year ago, so he has a chance to help right away.

Of course, when it came time for the Major League Lacrosse website to track the draft, one pick was omitted. Orban was selected right after Cornell's Matt Donovan, but, Orban's name never appears. It still doesn't, most of a week later.

Right. Of course it doesn't.

That's the kind of thing that happens when you're this underrated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rest In Peace, Bob Callahan


That's TigerBlog's question. Why did Bob Callahan, of all people, have to be taken away so young, knocked down in his prime by a vicious form of brain cancer, one that he fought hard til the end, which finally came yesterday, long after it was supposed to.

There are no answers to this, of course. TigerBlog has asked this question before, about many others, including his own mother.

Why? Why would someone like Bob Callahan not be given the gift of longevity? Certainly he deserved it.

TigerBlog can't overstate enough just how great of a man Bob Callahan was, as a coach, a family man, an opponent, a co-worker, a friend - however someone knew him. 

 Bob Callahan was the men's squash coach at Princeton for more than 30 years. Before that, he played squash at Princeton, as an All-America and captain of a national championship team, before he graduated  in 1977, which made him a fixture in Jadwin Gym for as long as anyone.

He was a man of courage, grace, humility, humor and strength. He was a man of class, dignity, honor.

He fought this disease hard, harder than anyone could be expected to, long after it was obvious that he would not be the winner in this fight.

Back in the summer, Kim Meszaros, the assistant to the Director of Athletics, sent out an email asking members of the department to sign up to go see Bob on mornings when Bob's wife Kristen had to work at her job as a teacher at Mercer County College.

TigerBlog signed up for the first shift on the first day. It was Tuesday, Sept. 30. As it turned out, it was Bob and Kristen's anniversary. Their 36th.

Kristen explained to TigerBlog that morning that they had married young, at 23.

Bob's birthday was July 4. That made him 59 years old at the time of his death.

That morning back in September, Kristen explained that the doctors had given him two to seven more weeks to live. That was nearly four months ago.

That's toughness.

When TigerBlog was there that morning, Kristen warned him that Bob was in and out of it and that he'd probably sleep the whole time. Instead, he was the same Bob Callahan he'd always been - funny, alert, attentive, welcoming, considerate.

He remembered little details about TigerBlog's kids that TB couldn't believe he would. He joked with TB in that same, subtle, understated humor that he always did. He talked about the future with great anticipation.

Yes, his body was ravaged by then. He couldn't get out of bed. His voice was soft.

He was still Bob Callahan.

When TigerBlog left, he was sure it would be the last time he'd ever see Bob Callahan. As it turned out, it was.

In some ways, that's good, that TB's last memories of Bob mirror so much his earliest ones, going back a few decades.

Make no mistake, the man was a ferocious competitor. He won Ivy championships, national team championships. He coached individual champions.

TigerBlog remembers most the epic national final in 2012, when Princeton ended the 13-year run of national titles by Trinity in one of the greatest sporting events in Princeton athletic history.

Beyond the wins and the losses, Bob won every sportsmanship award there was. When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Philadelphia in 2012, the genuine respect and affection that was afforded to him by those he'd coached against was obvious.

It was in between those two events, the national championship in the winter of 2012 and the Hall of Fame induction in October, that Bob found out about his illness. He poo-poohed it at first, making it seem like he had a small health issue, like a cold that wouldn't go away or something.

He actually sat in TigerBlog's office and described the radiation treatments he was receiving as "nice," as in how nice all the people there were. Nice? The man had just found out that his life had been shortened by decades, and he used words like "nice" to describe the situation.

TigerBlog knew the end was coming, but it was still a jolt last night to see the email that announced it. TigerBlog read the words that Kristen wrote and couldn't help but admire her too, her own grace and courage and toughness.

Mostly, TigerBlog couldn''t help but smile when he thought about Bob, walking around Jadwin, stopping in to joke about something, asking how TB was and genuinely caring about what the response was.

That's how Bob would want it. TigerBlog knows that's a cliche, but in this case it's true. He'd want people to smile and laugh when they think about his life.

His passing is unexplainable. It's unfair.
TigerBlog goes back to his original question. Why?

What forces in the universe could allow someone like him to not reach 60 years old? Or at the very least, how are those who knew him to ever make sense of it?

Besides Bob's family, the one who was probably closest to him was Gail Ramsay, the longtime Princeton women's squash coach.

It was back maybe 12 or so years ago that TigerBlog took up playing squash, encouraged by Bob and Gail.

TigerBlog's favorite memories of Bob are the ones in the middle of workdays on C level of Jadwin Gym, when TigerBlog would stand in the hallway outside of the two adjoining squash offices and either go over the pre-match strategy or report on what went right or wrong after the match.

Both coaches would laugh at TB and his lack of squash fundamentals. Hold the racket tight and hit the ball as hard as possible. That's about all TB knew.

But they both encouraged him. They both loved to hear all about it.

That's how Gail is. And it's how Bob was.

TigerBlog, when he closes his eyes, can see Bob, in his short white tennis shorts and windbreaker. He can hear that soothing voice. He can see his smile and still feel the warmth that accompanied him when he'd walk into the office.

Now he's gone. It's unfair.

He will always be one of the greatest people TigerBlog ever met and one of the finest who ever set foot in Jadwin Gym or represented Princeton Athletics.

He wouldn't want it or be happy to know it, but TigerBlog shed a few tears when he saw his friend was gone. He couldn't help it, and those tears were replaced by the flood of happy memories, of happy times they shared, up until the last time TigerBlog ever saw him.

He was a beautiful, wonderful man.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snowballs and Basketballs

If, like TigerBlog, you have an iPhone, you know that your weather app can be a bit frustrating.

First of all, the temperature rarely is what the app says it's going to be. Second, it doesn't give any details to a forecast.

There have been about 20 times, or maybe even more, this season that TigerBlog's app has shown a little snowflake for the forecast. At various times, it's meant anything from a few flurries to a few inches to nothing at all.

In fact, for the entire winter of 2014-15 to date, the greater Princeton metropolitan area has seen very little in the way of snow, which is how TB likes it. He's definitely a summer guy.

A year ago, there were endless snowstorms and bitter, bitter cold throughout. This year? It's been cold but rarely horribly so, and there's been almost no snow.

Because of that, TigerBlog didn't take it all that seriously when he first saw a snowflake next to yesterday and today on his iPhone weather app. Even as late as Sunday afternoon, it didn't seem like it was going to be all that big a deal.

The forecast was calling for 1-3 inches. TB can handle that.

Then, late Sunday afternoon, it all changed. Dramatically.

In the span of about 10 minutes, the forecast went from 1-3 inches to 10-14 to "one of the worst storms in history," with forecasts for as much as 30 inches.

TigerBlog has been through some bad snowstorms, and he can remember a few with at least 30 inches. That's a lot of snow.

He remembers shoveling out from one storm and then walking through the rest of it down the street to a huge feast at a neighbor's house and wearing shorts while doing so.

He remembers as a kid when a storm wiped out an entire week of school.

TigerBlog hates shoveling snow, so he likes winters without much snow. He often wonders why he doesn't live in Florida.

Ah, but he lives here. And apparently "here" has dodged the worst of this one.

There is another little snowflake on his weather app for Friday, which would be a real shame, since Friday figures to bring the biggest crowd of the year to Jadwin Gym.

Princeton hosts Harvard in men's basketball, and to say this is a huge game for both teams might not be quite correct, given that Princeton has 13 Ivy games to play and Harvard has 12.

Still, there is a lot on the line for that game, even more so after what happened over the weekend.

Harvard is the preseason favorite and three-time defending league champion. The Crimson were close, if not in, the national rankings in the preseason.

When Harvard arrives at Jadwin Friday, it'll be doing so after having lost its last game to Dartmouth 70-61, done in by a 26-2 run by the Big Green. Using another app, TigerBlog saw the Crimson up by 11 in the second half and assumed it was over - and then he saw Dartmouth pull away to win.

Yale survived Brown Saturday, and Cornell beat Columbia. Penn, for its part, beat St. Joe's.

And even Princeton played, doubling up Rowan 96-48 in its return game after first-semester exams.

So where does it leave the Ivy League?

Well, right now, Yale in in first place at 2-0. Princeton is 1-0. No other team is unbeaten.

Harvard is 1-1, as are Columbia, Dartmouth and Cornell. Penn is 0-1. Brown is 0-2.

And what does that mean for Friday night?

It means a lot.

Harvard will come to Jadwin looking to reestablish itself. Princeton would be looking to deal the Crimson another setback, which would really change the shape of the race.

How many wins will it take to win the league? Will it be 11 or 12? If it's 12, then a 1-2 Harvard team would have no margin for error.

And Yale? The Bulldogs are 13-6 overall, with a win over UConn and a really close loss at Vanderbilt - and losses to Albany and NJIT. Yale needed to come back to beat Brown, and the Bulldogs held off the Bears 69-65.

Princeton has had moments of struggle and moments where it's looked really good so far this year. None of it matters now.

Now the Tigers are 1-0 with a 13-game sprint to the finish about to start. And it starts against a team that is in desperate need of a victory.

Yes, Princeton and Harvard have combined to play three of their 28 league games between them. But yes, it's a big game Friday night.

Hopefully that little snowflake goes away on the app.

A big game deserves a big crowd.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Back On The Ice

TigerBlog saw the video on from the women's hockey team, where several members of the team answer the question of who would play them in a movie?

It's fun stuff, as the players chuckle their way through their answers. And the video includes a picture of the actress - or in one case, animated figure - who would play each player.

When Princeton Athletics went away from printing media guides in favor of video, this was the kind of thing that TigerBlog had in mind. It's simple, and yet it gives such a great look into the athletes and what they're really like.

Oh, and before he goes too much further, TigerBlog would like to answer the question for himself.

He feels like Albert Brooks would be a good choice, though he's a little older than TB. Maybe John Cusack, who is closer, though a little younger.

No, let's stay with Albert Brooks. He has TB's subtler humor and sarcasm down. It'll be up to him to figure out how to be younger. He can do it.

Speaking of the young Albert Brooks, there he was Friday night on "The Odd Couple," which is on MeTV Friday's at 10 and 10:30. The show is among TB's very, very favorites.

The second episode Friday night was the "Mandar Cologne" episode, in which Brooks plays an advertising man who forces Felix to use Oscar as a model. It doesn't go well. Felix, frustrated, ends up informing Brooks that "Mandar Cologne smells like a World War II undershirt."

And while he's on the subject, TB would also like to throw out there that he doubts the new "Odd Couple" will be any good.

With that out of the way, TigerBlog is back to the women's hockey team.

The Princeton women are on a two-game winning streak, the momentum of which vanished after the Tigers took two weeks off for first semester exams.

Princeton's opponent in its return from exams is also on a winning streak, one that is 10 times longer than Princeton's. The Tigers will be at Boston College this afternoon at 1, and if the challenge of playing after 16 days off isn't enough, well, how about when the opponent is the No. 1 team in the country?

Boston College is 23-0-1 on the year and the winner of 20 straight. It's only blemish is a 2-2 tie against St. Lawrence back on Oct. 11, which just happened to be the same day that Princeton played Colgate - in football.

After the game against BC, Princeton will have four more ECAC weekends left, with two straight at home and then two more on the road.

It begins this weekend, when the Tigers host Dartmouth and Harvard. Colgate and Cornell are at Baker Rink next weekend.

Then it's trips to Clarkson and St. Lawrence and Yale and Brown to end the regular season.

Princeton has already played all eight of those teams once this season and went 5-3-0 in those eight games.

Unlike the men's side of the ECAC, only the top eight of 12 teams among the women get into the playoffs. Princeton is currently in sixth place, and the Tigers are comfortably ahead of ninth-place RPI (seven points) for a playoff spot.

The goal, though, is to get to the top four and host a quarterfinal series. Right now, St. Lawrence and Cornell are tied for fourth, with 18 points, leaving Princeton on the doorstep and with some huge games to play down the stretch.

Admission for all regular-season women's hockey games is free, so that's four free women's hockey games in the next two weeks.

Of course, there's also the little matter of the game today. The one against No. 1.
And the video. Make sure you check that one out too.

That was something fun for the players during their 16-day break.

Now it's time to get back to work.

Friday, January 23, 2015

More On The Cheaters

Tom Brady thinks TigerBlog is stupid.

It's okay. TB isn't offended.

After all, Brady thinks you're stupid too.

In fact, he thinks everyone who listened to him yesterday try to "aw shucks" his way through his press conference is stupid. Brady might as well have stood up there and said he didn't realize the footballs were brown or that there even were footballs, for as much as it seemed like he was telling the truth.

Basically, this is what TigerBlog thinks happened:

Brady at some point (last week, five years ago, who knows?) mentioned to his head coach Bill Belichick that he can throw better with a slightly deflated ball and wouldn't it be funny if they took some of the air out. Then there was silence. Then they smiled at each other. Then they did it.

TigerBlog also thinks that they did the same thing against the Ravens two weeks ago, when New England won 35-31 and every edge mattered. And they figured why take a chance on another close game last week against Indianapolis, and so what if it ended up 45-7? They were ready if it was close.

TigerBlog thinks they're both cheaters. Arrogant ones at that.

Can he prove it? No.

TigerBlog saw a lot of references to "A Few Good Men," with Belichick as Colonel Jessup, ordering the code red and all, on Twitter yesterday. While we're talking about "A Few Good Men," remember a much-less famous scene, where they're practicing the interrogation and Tom Cruise goes one question too far and asks if there was any indication of anything wrong and Kevin Pollak, pretending he's the witness, says something like "other than the dead body?"

It's the same thing here. Oh, nobody got killed or anything. Brady mentioned that. He said this isn't ISIS and nobody's getting killed.

That part, by the way, gets translated this way: "can everyone please stop talking about this and move on so I don't have to be bothered by this anymore?" In fairness, Brady did play to his strength, which was to try to charm and smile his way through it.

Anyway, TB's point about the movie quote is that just like something killed Santiago, in this case somebody let the air out of the balls.

To hear them yesterday, neither Belichick nor Brady would even acknowledge knowing anything was amiss. To TB, that's not the point.

The point is that if they truly didn't do anything, they'd be angry about it. Not deflective or dancing around it. Angry. As in: "Hey, I had nothing to do with this and I demand the NFL find out what happened. When I found out who did this, I'm going to punch their lights out."

Something like that.

There is no way TigerBlog will ever believe that a ballboy or someone else took it upon himself to do this and never said a word about it. Sorry. And TB doubts too many others believe it too.

TigerBlog is willing even to make this trade-off: Patriots lose big next Sunday and the Yankees win the next World Series. That's much he's rooting against the Pats.

In fact, what if you are a Pats fan? How does all this make you feel? Can you blindly root for your team, knowing that they've been caught cheating multiple times?

TigerBlog didn't even want to talk about this again after yesterday. He figured one day was enough, and he could spend today talking about something better, like Princeton vs. Rowan basketball or something.

First semester exams are ending here, and Princeton's winter teams can return to competition beginning tomorrow.

The winter season is an odd one around here. There are games earlier and earlier in November, which leads to long stretches of no games in December and especially in January.

Then? It's a full out sprint.

For instance, there were 18 Princeton athletic events played from Jan. 1 through the start of exams. There will now be 46 more played between tomorrow and a week from Sunday.

The basketball teams play Harvard (men home, women away) a week from today. Those games mark a stretch in which the two will pack their remaining 13 league games into a 40-day run.

The next men's basketball game is Sunday, when the Tigers take on Rowan at 2 at Jadwin. Princeton has never lost in 26 games against a Division III team immediately following exam break, and only one of those games - against the College of New Jersey in 1998 - was closer than 10 points. Most have been complete blowouts.

Rowan is traditionally a strong D3 team, and the Profs are 12-4 before their game against Ramapo tomorrow. For the record, TigerBlog has covered games at Rowan (which is in Glassboro and used to be called Glassboro State) and at Ramapo, which is in north/west New Jersey.

There will be home men's hockey Tuesday against Army in another return-from-exams game.

The women's basketball team is one of two undefeated teams in Division I, along with No.1 South Carolina. In men's basketball, there are two undefeateds as well, No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Virginia.

The Tiger women don't have a game to ease back into things and get their legs back. They'll jump into it at Harvard and Dartmouth after 20 days off.

Soon it'll be February, the shortest month of the year but one that is as busy as it gets in Princeton Athletics.

And also the month for the Super Bowl.

Hopefully the cheaters lose.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Raise your hand if you're shocked by any of the following:

1) that the Patriots might have cheated
2) that Bill Belichick now claims he didn't know that the footballs in the AFC championship game were deflated
3) that Bill Belichick made Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman into the sentimental favorites for the Super Bowl

Here's what TigerBlog thinks:

Bill Belichick should be banned from the NFL for a year - starting with the Super Bowl next week - and the continued specter of cheating that has hovered over him and quarterback Tom Brady for the entirety of their time together should keep them out of the Hall of Fame in the same way that it has kept out the baseball players who were linked to steroids but who never failed a drug test.

Yes, TigerBlog believes that. Hey, if you can ban a coach in New Orleans for the bounties placed on opposing players, you can ban Belichick for again threatening the integrity of the game.

He also would guess that Belichick is lying through his teeth when he says he had no knowledge that the balls were deflated. He further would guess that last Sunday wasn't the first time this had happened, and he thinks this taints every single thing Brady has accomplished, as it does for a baseball player like A-Rod.

In fact, he can't help but wonder how else these two have cheated through the years. What would surprise you? Anything?

And the idea that the Patriots creamed the Colts anyway doesn't matter. The Patriots didn't set out to cheat with the idea that the game would be a blowout anyway; they did it to get any possible edge in the event the game was close.

Does Belichick think that the rest of the world is so dumb as to believe that he knew nothing about this? He can't be allowed to simply say that and then go on and prepare for the game, as if this is no big deal.

What this is is the latest in a long run of allegations, mostly proven, that suggest that the Patriots and especially their head coach and quarterback feel that the rules do not apply to them, that they can do whatever they want to gain advantage.

To TigerBog, that makes everything they've accomplished no longer matter, as every piece of those accomplishments can be called into question. And to those who say that everyone does it, who else has gotten caught? Anyone?

This is the NFL's worst nightmare. It's the one team with the one coach and the one quarterback that the NFL would least want to see in this situation.

Now it's going to be all about this subject for an entire week prior to the game. With a league already dealing with serious issues related to domestic violence and the physical well-being of its current and former players, now all of the sudden comes another Super Bowl that will be wall-to-wall Patriots cheating.

Let's see how much courage the league has now to drop the hammer on Belichick.

Is he a great coach? In the NFL, you can't be a great coach without a great quarterback, and Belichick never started to win like this until he had Brady. Now fans are left to wonder how much of Brady's edge has come outside the rules.

Belichick, if you recall, bolted from the Jets after being hired as their head coach in 1999. How long did he last? One day. Then he fled for the Pats.

Had Belichick stayed with the Jets, would all of this success have come his way? Hah. Hardly. Now with the litany of quarterbacks that the Jets coaches have been saddled with all these years.

So all of this leaves any casual football fan, like TigerBlog, with two choices come Super Sunday. Root for the Seahawks, who themselves are not easy to root for, or don't watch.

There is still a week until the Super Bowl.

There are still a few more exams to be taken at Princeton, but the winter teams will be returning to play soon enough after what will ultimately be a 13-day break.

It begins with men's and women's track and field here Saturday, as well as women's tennis in Alabama this weekend.

When Princeton was last in Alabama, it was for the NCAA tournament last spring. Princeton, if you recall, defeated Arizona State in the first round and then barely lost to Alabama, the No. 2 team in the country.

This came on the heels of a 7-0 Ivy League season, something that isn't easy to do in women's tennis. It also came without a senior in the lineup.

The event in Alabama is something a four-team kickoff tournament, with Princeton, Alabama, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Alabama is ranked seventh, while Princeton is 35th. Va. Tech and Syracuse are 56th and 57th.

As an aside, TigerBlog is not a fan of the word "respectively" inserted into obvious situations in sentences like the one he just wrote. It's obvious that Virginia Tech is 56 and Syracuse is 57. He doesn't need to add "respectively." In fact, it's among his least favorite words.

Anyway, the women's tennis team is clearly worth keeping an eye on this spring. The Tigers will play one home match in the next two-plus months, and that is in Jadwin Gym on Feb. 17 against Rutgers. The Ivy League schedule doesn't start until the final day of March at Penn, followed by a home weekend April 3 and 4 against Yale and Brown.

In the meantime, there's the matter of the rest of the winter sports season, which eases back into it this weekend and then begins the all-out sprint to the Ivy title finish line next weekend.

And then there's the Super Bowl.

Go Seahawks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Kid From Princeton

TigerBlog had just gotten into his car yesterday afternoon when he heard a caller on Rich Zeoli's show on 1210 AM say that he agreed with "the kid from Princeton."

TigerBlog had to laugh at that. After all, he's the "kid" to whom the caller referred.

It's been awhile since TigerBlog has been an actual kid. Multiple decades actually.

He's not sure who the last person who called him a kid was or when that was. It might have been Harvey Yavener, who was last a kid long before TigerBlog was.

This time, it was Chris from Langhorne who said "the kid from Princeton." TigerBlog isn't sure which he liked better, being agreed with or being called a kid.

TigerBlog would have made a lot of guesses about how he would end his Tuesday workday before he got to "being on the Rich Zeoli Show." There he was, though, at 4:30 yesterday.

To hear TigerBlog with Rich Zeoli, click HERE.

It started with yesterday's blog. Actually, more precisely, it started with Zeoli's show the day before, when he talked about the 161-2 girls' basketball game in California.

TigerBlog disagreed with some of what Zeoli said about the game and the larger context about whether or not there's an obligation on the part of a coach to keep a score down if possible and the even larger contexts of what that obligation or lack thereof says about modern society, the educational value of sports and the role that sports plays in preparing the young people who play it for the harsher realities of the real world.

You know, for when they're not kids anymore.

When TB posted yesterday's blog, he tweeted it to Zeoli. At that point, he never imagined that Zeoli would read it and want to include TB on his show later in the day to discuss their differences.

TB had no idea what to expect other than a comment Zeoli made on Twitter that said: "You left out some key points of my position. Care to come on the show today and discuss?"

Just before TB came on, Zeoli and his producer Greg Stocker were talking about something they'd seen about how showering every day can be bad for you. A caller named Heather then was on saying how she showers twice a week.

When TB came on the air, he thanks Zeoli for having him and mentioned that he'd already showered twice that day.

From there, the subject at hand was addressed immediately. TigerBlog agreed with Zeoli that the coach shouldn't have been suspended (he was given two games off) but for different reasons.

TB does believe that there is a responsibility to run a classy program, and that's the word that TB used a few times. There has to be an educational component to high school sports, possibly even more so than in college.

Pete Carril used to talk about good high school coaches with glowing respect. John Thompson once said of a bad high school coach that he should have been "taken out in the town square and flogged."

There are three points that TB hopes he made during his 10 minutes.

First, there's no excuse for winning 161-2. Running it up isn't always about the margin of victory, and TB wouldn't want to be the one who has to decide if 50 points is too many but 40 is okay or anything like that. But when you're a coach in a situation like the one that coach found himself in, there are any number of ways to keep it from becoming humiliating for the other team.

Second, when Zeoli asked TB about what he hopes the losing team took from the game, TB's answer was unequivocal. The lesson is that if those players didn't enjoy losing 161-2, what they can do is work harder to improve. As TB said, shoot another 50 shots per day and then another 100 after that. TB thinks this is something that too often is missing from today's kids. As Zeoli said, it's okay to fail. It's what you do about it afterwards that helps define you. Are you willing to work hard to improve? As TB said on the radio, the idea of not keeping score for little kids is nuts. It's okay for them to learn that there's a winner and a loser, and if you don't like losing, then work harder to get better.

Third, TigerBlog wanted to make sure that everyone listening understood that Princeton Athletics is in it to win. TB would never be able to handle an attitude of "hey, we have all these academic standards, how can we possibly compete?" Fortunately, that's not how Princeton coaches are. They are competitive, and they want to win. They use perceived disadvantages as advantages. At the same time, TB would also hate a win-at-all-costs attitude. Princeton Athletics understands that its role is equally to educate the athletes and to provide for the athletes an avenue for the personal growth that comes from athletics. Winning 161-2 doesn't fit in with that.

TigerBlog has done a lot of radio in his life.

He started out on the student station at Penn, and he's done a ton of games at Princeton for the last, oh, 25 year. He'll be back on WPRB this spring doing men's lacrosse games. He's also interviewed probably hundreds of people during those games.

Yesterday's experience was a little different. First of all, he was the interviewee. Second, he didn't really know what to expect.

In the end, he thought he did well. He was happy with how it went.

And ultimately, the word he'd use to describe it was "fun."

And there's nothing wrong with having a little fun, especially when you're a kid.

So thanks to Rich Zeoli for having him. Even if Zeoli was wrong about the issue. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Still No. 19

Did you see the score of that high school girls' basketball game in California that got the coach suspended?

The final was 161-2. Yes, one team won by 159 points. And its coach was suspended for two games.

The halftime score was 104-1. The team that won didn't play any of its starters in the second half.

So what to make of this? TigerBlog has heard a lot of opinions. Interestingly, most of them have come from non-sports commentators.

He saw one story that included a poll asking readers to vote on whether or not the coach should have been suspended. What do you think the results were?

They were astonishing to TigerBlog.

The options for voters were 1) No, the opposing team should have played better; 2) Yes, it crosses the line of good sportsmanship or 3) I'm not sure. 

An amazing 75.41 percent voted for "No, the opposing team should have played better."

TigerBlog isn't sure. He knows that he hated to see scores needlessly run up on the youth level, when it's more likely due to more prevalent disparities in skill and experience.

He knows that there is a point on the high school level where it gets unnecessary, but that point is beyond where it is on the youth level. The same is true in college. In the pros? Anything goes.

There's a difference between crushing a team and winning 161-2. To score 161 points in a 32-minute game, a team needs to average basically five points per minute. You can't do that unless you're pushing the pace a bit, and should you be doing that when you're up by that much?

On one show that TB listened to yesterday - he thinks it was the Rich Zeoli show from Philadelphia - the host (yes, it was Zeoli) kept asking this question: If winning by 159 points is too many, how many is okay? 100? 50? Less?

To TigerBlog, the issue isn't so much the score. It's knowing it when he sees it.

TigerBlog knows nothing about the game in California other than the idea that winning 161-2 is insane. TigerBlog would have voted not to suspend the coach, but his logic wouldn't have been "the other team should have played better." It would have been "if a coach wants to be classless, so be it."

Zeoli's point, echoed by several callers and several other commentators that TB heard on the issue, is whether or not there is a culture of, for lack of a better word, wussiness that is preventing people from saying "big deal, if you don't want to lose 161-2, get better."

There is something to that. But not 161-2's worth. Then it's just unneccessary.

Winning by a lot of points doesn't always equate to running up the score. Running up the score comes with not subbing, continuing to pressure the other team, shooting quickly, those kinds of things. No, you can't tell the backups to purposely miss shots or turn it over; you can tell them not to shoot or at least not to shoot until everyone has touched the ball twice or something like that.

Zeoli said that there is no mercy rule in business and when these kids get to the real world, who is going to be there to suspend the other person who beats them in that arena.

TigerBlog thinks this is ludicrous. There are, after all, supposed to be ethics in business. And there is supposed to be civility and class in general society.

These are among the lessons that athletics are supposed to teach young people. Winning a game 161-2? There's no educational value in that for anyone. And it's just classless.

The wussification, by the way, comes in suspending people for stuff like that. The suspension is meant to say "you were mean and hurt their feelings and you need to be punished." Not suspending the coach sends the message that "hey, not everyone has class or is going to be nice, but you need to worry about yourself, how you carry yourself and what you can do to improve, on the court and off."

And that's TigerBlog's take on that.

What else can he talk about today, what with Princeton Athletics still on first semester exam shutdown?

Well, he's definitely rooting for the following teams this week in women's college basketball: Boston College, Louisville, Wisconsin and Ole Miss.


Because those four teams are the next opponents for Duke, Nebraska, Florida State and Mississippi State, of course.

And why do those four matter?

They are the four teams ranked directly above Princeton in the AP Top 25 this week. Princeton was 19th last week and 19th again this week, though the Tigers went from 178 points in last week's poll to 219 in this week's.

Princeton was 93 points away from 18th last week. This week, Princeton is 48 points away.

On the other hand, Princeton did get jumped by Florida State, though the Tigers also passed Georgia.

Princeton did all this without playing, of course. Back in 1998, the Princeton men's team moved up several spots during first semester exams and then reached all the way to No. 7 by not losing after the break.

The Princeton women are the highest-ranked Ivy League team in basketball since the 1998 men and are the highest-ranked Ivy women ever.

What does it mean? Well, it's nice for Jan. 20.

It will matter little if Princeton comes back from the break 10 days from now and stumbles against Harvard and/or Dartmouth on that weekend trip.

And it really will matter little come March if Princeton isn't the Ivy champ.

In the meantime it's very quiet here in at Princeton Athletics for the rest of the week. The 19th-ranked women's basketball team in the country has its workouts when its players can get down here as a break in their academic schedules.

The other 24 teams in the Top 25 are in full conference mode right now.

So go Ole Miss and the others.

Give the Tigers a hand.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chris Kyle And Dr. King

TigerBlog has never really understood the idea of applauding at the end of the movie.

Who is the applause for exactly? None of the people involved in the making of the movie are there. It's not like a concert or a game or a show. It's like applauding at the end of a TV show at home.

This past Friday TigerBlog went to see "American Sniper." While he's been at many movies where the audience applauded at the end, he's never experienced something like what happened at the end of this movie.

This time, when the movie ended and the credits began, the audience filed out in total silence. Not one person in the packed theater made a sound.

It was out of respect for what had just been shown on the screen and even more so out of respect for Chris Kyle, the title character of the movie. 

TigerBlog doesn't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, so he'll only say a few things about it.

First, it has set a record for money earned for an opening weekend for a movie in January with $105 million. The top box office records are set in the summer or at Christmas, and the top 10 opening weekends are all movies aimed at young audiences. No. 1, by the way, is "Marvel's The Avenger," if you can believe that.

Second, this is not a pro-war propaganda movie, as some have inexplicably called it. This is a movie about one man, his sense of duty and the moral and emotional conflicts and tolls it puts on him.

Third, Bradley Cooper is insanely good as Kyle.

Fourth, TigerBlog can't imagine how any other movie could beat this movie for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards. Then again, if "Shakespeare In Love" can beat "Saving Private Ryan," then TB won't be shocked when "American Sniper" doesn't win.

To sum it up, TigerBlog can't recommend this movie strongly enough.

TigerBlog has not seen "Selma," and apparently he's not alone among those who have seen "American Sniper" but not the civil rights movie. "Selma" earned $9.8 million this past weekend.

Selma is the town in Alabama where the marches to Montgomery that helped generate national attention that uncovered the incredibly low black voter percentages in the area and ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The big controversy in the "Selma" movie is, apparently, the portrayal of the relationship between President Lyndon Johnson - the architect of the "Great Society" that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 - and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader for whom today's national holiday is named.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has the distinction of being the only person born in the United States of America who has a federal holiday named for him. There are two other people who have U.S. federal holidays named for them, and neither was born before the U.S. was founded in 1776.

The two are Christopher Columbus and George Washington, as the holiday you know as "Presidents' Day" is actually officially called "Washington's Birthday."

TigerBlog studied the Civil Rights Movement in great detail when he was in college, and he came to have a great respect for the courage of some of its leaders, most notably Dr. King. This coming April 4th will mark the 47th anniversary of his assassination; had he lived, he would have turned 86 last Thursday.

Also had he lived, he never would have had a federal holiday named for him. Like many federal holidays, as time goes by, they become more and more about the three-day weekend that many have - though not at Princeton, where only five of the 10 federal holidays are official days off - and less about the reason for the holiday.

A good compromise today would be to go see "Selma" if you have today off, by the way. Like "American Sniper," it too was nominated for Best Picture.

There were three marches from Selma to Montgomery, none of which went off peacefully. The first was on March 7, 1965; the last was 15 days later, on March 22.

What was happening in Princeton Athletics in between? Well, the men's basketball team beat Penn State on March 8 in the opening game of the NCAA tournament. On March 20, Princeton defeated Wichita State in the third-place game.

Princeton was led then, obviously, by Bill Bradley, who would go on to become a United States Senator from New Jersey for 18 years and then a Presidential candidate. Was Bradley aware of the marches in Selma at time?

Was anyone here?

It wasn't until just now that TigerBlog put the two timelines together. He never spoke to Gary Walters about it; perhaps he will next time he sees him.

In the meantime, it's Dr. King's birthday today. Click HERE to to read the text of his "I Have A Dream Speech," by the way.

Or go see "Selma." Or "American Sniper." Or both.

They tell the stories of two great American heroes, one of whom has a national holiday named for him, the other whose heroism would have been lost to most were it not for the movie.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lighten Up

TigerBlog dealt with a pretty serious issue yesterday, freedom of speech in the world today.

Today will be a little lighter. Much lighter actually.

Why not? There are no athletic events here at Princeton as first semester exams roll along. While the rest of Division I athletics is in the heart of every winter season, Princeton has its unique two-week mid-January break.

So let's start out today with something that can make even the gruffest old dogs among you smile. And what would that be?

Right, a dog who can ride the bus by herself.

Eclipse is a black lab retriever mix in Seattle. Her owner sometimes takes too long to get on the bus to take her to the dog park, so she figured out how to get there herself.

How cute is this? TigerBlog told you so.

What can be sweeter than a dog who can ride the bus in a big city by herself? TigerBlog is feeling all warm and fuzzy just watching the video.

Okay, moving on to another subject.

TigerBlog read a story earlier this week about study that determined how many slices of pizza the average American eat in a lifetime. Any guesses?

Take a few paragraphs to think about it.

There are two things that TigerBlog thinks everybody likes, and that's pizza and the Journey song "Don't Stop Believing." The only real debate on pizza is what to have on it.

TigerBlog isn't sure when pizza started to get all dressed up. When TB was a kid, a fancy pizza had two toppings, like peppers and onions or mushrooms and sausage. Now you can get almost anything on a pizza.

TB's favorite is probably chicken parmigiana pizza. He's waiting for the study to prove that it's low-fat.

Anyway, apparently the average American eats 6,000 slices of pizza in a lifetime. TB lost track a long time ago, but he senses he'll get there.

Next up on "Keep It Light Friday" is TB's trip to the supermarket yesterday. What would you do in this situation?

TB bought 13 items, but four of them were baguettes. So would you have gone to the "10 items or less" line? After all, if you count the four baguettes as one item, then TB had nine items.

He didn't. He went to the regular one, but he chose really poorly and got stuck behind someone who took forever. Why do people move so slowly sometimes? Are they that unaware of the world around them? That tortures TB.

A Seattle-New England Super Bowl will torture TB as well, though he's pretty sure that's where this is heading this weekend. In that case, he'd root for Seattle, because 1) BrotherBlog lives there and 2) because of Eclipse.

Oh, and back at the supermarket. TigerBlog doesn't think he'd be a good checkout person, because he'd constantly be making comments to the people about what they were buying. Sarcastic comments, probably.

Let's see, anything else to cover? Two pieces of business, TB supposes.

First check out the Princeton football references in this piece about what Ohio State could do with its three quarterbacks.

Also, Sean Driscoll joined the staff here this week as the head women's soccer coach. He comes to Princeton after spending five years as the associate head coach at Fairfield, Before that, he was the head coach at Manhattan, and he led the Jaspers to a 12-5-2 record his final year for the best record in program history.

When TB met Driscoll when he was here earlier this week, he asked him about his experiences with the Jaspers. Driscoll told the story about practices at Von Cortlandt Park, where his team would have to move homeless people out of the way before training sessions began.

Now he comes to Princeton, where he may have to move a grad student or two off of Plummer Field before his team can get started.

The Tigers scored a lot of goals last year, and they will return eight of their top nine scorers for 2015, including Tyler Lussi, who has 28 goals in her first two seasons and has two years to get 19 more to tie the school record.

Driscoll seemed wildly enthusiastic about taking over at Princeton. He mentioned his first time on the campus, when he made a stop here while at a nearby camp and thinking that it would be incredible to coach her one day.

Now the job is his. But opening day is months away. Even spring practice is a few weeks away.

For that matter, the next athletic event in any sport is still more than a week away.

It's a quiet Friday around here.

It's a good day to lighten up.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To The Defenders Of A Great Freedom

TigerBlog realizes that this is a Princeton Athletics blog, and as such, he always steers clear of politics.

If you've been reading what TB has to say for the last six or seven year and don't know him personally, you probably can't figure out his political leanings, which is how he likes it. Maybe he gave up on writing about himself, something he used to think he'd never do.

His political views though? At least he can stay true to a time when writing was supposed to be objective and the writer's political views weren't supposed to matter.

Still, TigerBlog feels an obligation to mention the following people:
    •    Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby
    •    Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb. In 1996, Brinsolaro was one of those who evacuated 46 French citizens threatened by the Taliban in Afghanistan
    •    Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
    •    Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist. The only woman killed in the shooting.[85]
    •    Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
    •    Philippe Honoré, 74, cartoonist
    •    Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
    •    Ahmed Merabet, 42, a Muslim police officer of Algerian descent, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside
    •    Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor, an Algerian resident in France for 40 years
    •    Michel Renaud, 69, founder of Rendez-vous de Carnet de Voyage, a travel-themed art festival in Clermont-Ferrand, a guest at the meeting who was due to guest-edit an upcoming issue of Charlie Hebdo
    •    Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
    •    Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist

These are the people who were murdered last week in Paris at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

TigerBlog mentions them for the unbelievable courage that they showed in defense of one of the cornerstones of French – and American. Freedom of speech. It's not something that is taken for granted in many, many parts of this world still.

Here? Every high school kid knows that freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. It's actually in the First Amendment.

It's one thing to sit here and acknowledge that. It's another thing to exercise that right in the form of the satire that Charlie Hebdo routinely did, understanding full well what it could - and, horrifically did -  lead to for those who exercised that right.

Would TigerBlog have had that courage? Would you? TB is pretty sure he wouldn't.

In the world today, it's easy to fall into the idea of trading a little bit of liberty for the hope of a little bit more security. This is a very, very dangerous path to go down.

Pete Carril, Princeton's Hall of Fame basketball coach, once said "when you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you." He's right, and it's even more true in the world today.

TigerBlog doesn't think everything that Charlie Hebdo did was funny. He doesn't think a lot of satirical things are funny. He, in fact, gets offended by some of what he sees and hears.

This doesn't mean he wants to silence those people. Quite the opposite. TigerBlog is a big believer in the idea that everyone has the right to be a jerk if that's what he or she wants.

And besides, who decides when the line is crossed? What offends you might not offend the person next to you. Who decides?

The old saying used to be "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Ever hear that one?

Words. Easy to say. Do you have the courage to back it up? 

The sports department at a newspaper, at least back when TigerBlog was in that business, was called "the toy department."

Here at Princeton Athletics it is somewhat similar. They both have a certain innocent charm to them, with sports as a diversion to life.

TigerBlog knows all about that. First-hand.

For much of his life, he's been able to find relief from any of his life's woes in the next game he attended. He remembers very vividly back in his own newspaper days when he was in the middle of a huge family issue that he had to interrupt to go cover a high school football game at Princeton Day School. He's pretty sure the opponent was Newark Academy.

This wasn't quite the biggest game ever played. For TB, it couldn't have come at a better time. He can remember right now, more than 30 years later, the feeling he had on the sidelines of that game, of just how grateful he was to have an outlet like that.

He's had that feeling over and over again during his time at Princeton. When he thinks back to the low points in his adult life, he was able to be helped through them by the next game.

When his mother died, for instance, TB can state definitively that Princeton men's basketball helped him through it.

That's what the toy department is supposed to offer.

These days, it's important to have that escape into the toy department. Or into the Academy Award nominations. Or into whatever it is you need to get through it.

But keep in mind that this is just an escape.

The real world is a treacherous place now. It calls for real courage sometimes, and the good guys don't always win.

The people who were murdered in Paris last week?

TigerBlog salutes their incredible courage. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Scholarship Or The Dollars?

With the way the San Diego Padres have rebuilt their outfield this off-season, TigerBlog can't help but wonder what the future holds for one of the team's incumbents, Will Venable, Princeton Class of 2005.

The Padres have added Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers. Venable? There's no room for four starters.

Still, Venable has value to the Padres, for his defensive ability, baserunning, left-handed bat. He would make a pretty good fourth outfielder if the team keeps him, or would have a chance to do well someplace else, perhaps in a more hitter-friendly place.

TigerBlog started thinking about Venable while he read stories about the college football playoff and all of the money that it generated. Give him a minute. He'll explain.

The college football playoff was a long time coming. Interestingly, had Ohio State not been included in favor of TCU or Baylor, nobody would have complained. Instead, the Buckeyes snuck in and won it all.

The semifinal games were the two highest-rated programs in cable TV history - and that was before the ratings for the final. TigerBlog hasn't seen them yet, though he assumes that will join the two semifinals.

TB, for his part, watched almost none of the final. He's more fascinated by the off-field parts.

For starters, there is Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, who first came to fame as a third-stringer, largely because of his infamous "we ain't come here to play school" tweet. Jones then became the starting quarterback when the first two were injured - and all three are back next year if they don't go to the NFL.

Here's what TigerBlog wants to know: What kind of student did Jones become? What did he learn from the negative backlash to his tweet?

Then there's the salaries of the coaches. Urban Meyer of Ohio State makes more than $5 million per year. Mark Helfrich of Oregon makes about half that, when you included bonuses.

The money that flows from college football is absurd. And, with that, comes this inevitable question: shouldn't the players get some of it?

That ties in to the intent of Jones' tweet. And let's not lose track of the fact that even though it might have been an unfortunate moment on his part, there was a lot of insight hidden in what he said.

TigerBlog hears two sides of the argument. On the one hand, why are colleges subsidizing - and profiting from - a minor league football system. If there is going to be huge money coming in, shouldn't all pretext to what's going on be ripped away and just give the players their cut?

On the other hand, statistics everywhere show the value of a college education versus not having one, and it's a substantial amount of money, on average more than $1 million over the course of a lifetime. And since even on the biggest big-time level the number of athletes going to the NFL is low, shouldn't giving young men like Jones a chance at a college education be more valuable than a salary for four years?

TigerBlog's though? Leave it up to the athletes. But only for football and men's basketball at the five power conference schools.

Those athletes get a choice: a full scholarship under the current rules or a yearly salary with no academic requirements at all for five years, with four years to compete. TB isn't sure how much the athletes would get paid. Maybe some scale. Who knows.

He wonders how many would choose the free education though, as opposed to the short-term money and then an uncertain future. 

That's where Venable came into it. Venable, and Chris Young and so many other Princeton and Ivy athletes, have made their way into the professional ranks and done very well financially. They came out of a system that isn't broken and needs no fixing (perhaps other than to say that Young could have played basketball after signing a baseball contract; not knowing how much better Princeton basketball would have been in 2000 and 2001 with Young on the team still bothers TB).

The same is true for professional athletes from the non-power conferences. They came to "play school" and found that they could still achieve at the highest level athletically.

The power conferences? If they want to make it all about the money, then give the athletes the choice. TigerBlog would hope that almost all of them would take the scholarship and education. But who knows? Maybe he's being naive.

TigerBlog keeps coming back to the idea that there are two Division I's. There is power five conference football and men's basketball, and there is everything else, including Princeton.

Holding them all to the same standards and rules is silly.

The power five conferences realized this and decided to change some of the rules, but this still doesn't really address the reality.

Give these guys the choice between a scholarship or the money.

And then it'll be possible to find out who came to play school and who didn't.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Replays And Rivals

The easiest thing in the world to say to a Dallas Cowboy fan right now is that there's no complaining about the officiating this week after what happened last week.

And there is some truth to that. After all, a reversed pass interference call went a long way to giving the Cowboys a playoff win over Detroit last week. An overturned call on a Dez Bryant catch/no-catch near the goal line late the in the fourth quarter went a long way to knocking Dallas out against Green Bay this week.

Karma, right? What goes around comes around, right?

Well, there's way more to it than that. It really goes to the heart of what replay is supposed to be.

The use of instant replay grew out of the furor surrounding a bad call in the 1979 AFC championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers, when Houston's Mike Renfro caught a pass in the end zone with both feet inbounds in the fourth quarter, only to have it ruled incomplete. When the TV replays showed Renfro was really in, the first call to use replay in games emerged.

And that was the point. To correct horrible mistakes like that.

Instant replay first was used in the 1986 season. Since then, it has evolved from the idea of correcting obviously wrong calls to what it is now, which is an agonizing look for the slightest difference between fumble or no fumble or catch or no catch or first down or no first down.

Case in point was the call against Bryant and the Cowboys. If there was no replay and the call was a catch, there would have been no outcry about the play. It would have just been first-and-goal, like Dallas touchdown, and ball to Green Bay to try to win it at the end.

That's what it should have been. Instead, the call was reversed.

Remember, replay isn't trying to make the call. It's trying to decide if the call that was made was correct. And it's supposed to take indisputable evidence to overturn it.

To TigerBlog, that means that the official should get to look at it once from every available angle, and if it's not obvious after that one look - which should take about 10 seconds - then the call stands.

And TB doesn't understand how there was evidence to overturn the Bryant catch. Unless TigerBlog is misunderstanding the rule, he hasn't seen a replay that shows that the ball definitely hit the ground. If it never touched the ground, isn't it a catch? And if there is no replay that clearly shows that it hit the ground, shouldn't the play have stood?

As for the TV presentation of the game, it was the first postseason meeting between the teams in Green Bay since the famous Ice Bowl. At one point, it was called "Ice Bowl II," which TB thought was a bit much.

The Ice Bowl was played on New Year's Eve 1967. A few weeks later, Columbia defeated Princeton 92-74 in the Ivy League men's baskeball playoff game at St. John's to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Going back before that, it was Yale in 1962 who went to the NCAA tournament. And then there was Brown in 1986 and Cornell in 1988.

Other than that, every one of those years from when Yale went in 1963 until Cornell went in 2008, the Ivy League was represented by either Princeton or Penn in the NCAA tournament. That's every year except for three between 1963 and 2008.

That's nearly half a century, by the way.

It's ridiculous to think about just how much Princeton and Penn dominated Ivy League men's basketball and for how long.

As a result of this dominance, every game between the schools was huge. Each game was an event.

In the entire history of Ivy League athletics, there is only one rivalry in any sport that comes close, and that's Harvard-Yale football. There have been other great ones (Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse is one) that have had their moments, but those two have really stood out.

But Harvard and Yale in football haven't come close to dominating the league championships the way Princeton and Penn did in men's basketball.

The teams met again this past Saturday, when Princeton came from 15 points back in the second half to beat Penn 78-74. The win came in the Ivy League opener for both.

Princeton is now off until Jan. 25, when it plays Rowan in its Division III game. Then it's a home weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth after that. The game against Harvard will help shape the league race and give a glimpse into what Princeton's role in it will be.

TigerBlog is looking forward to that game. The current Tigers are certainly scrappy, and they have some really likeable players to watch, including a bunch who are in their first or second years. It should be an interesting game, when the Crimson come to Jadwin.

But that game is still almost three weeks away.

For today, TigerBlog can't help but wonder if the Princeton-Penn rivalry will ever again be what it once was. TB has had to explain to some of the newer people in the department what Princeton-Penn used to be, and while he does, it takes him back to some of the greatest days of the rivalry, which TB has experienced as a Penn student, Princeton employee and neutral sportswriter (who was rooting for Princeton on the inside).

It's unrealistic to expect two teams to dominate a league the way Princeton and Penn did over such an extended period. Maybe it'll again be what it was.

TigerBlog can hope at least.

Monday, January 12, 2015


They play together so perfectly, in such perfect time and rhythm, with such incredible power and speed, that it's impossible not to be impressed.

They aren't just successful when they take the court; they overwhelm the court. The audience is forced to notice and sit back in awe, and ultimately there is nothing left to do but applaud, cheer and rise to its collective feed in recognition.

This was obvious once again this past Saturday afternoon on Jadwin Gym's Carril Court. Even a casual observer with no real connection to those members of the team or an allegiance to the uniform they wear was left almost speechless. And was left to admire the passion of the team's leader, which showed through in every way.

TigerBlog speaks, of course, about the members of the group "Drums Of Thunder." If you were in Jadwin Saturday afternoon, you know exactly what TigerBlog is saying.

The Drums of Thunder is a percussion group made up of fourth- and fifth-graders from the Hillside Elementary School in Montclair, about an hour north of Princeton. Let's see. Fourth- and fifth-grade? Then we're talking about kids who are probably, what, 9? 10?

And yet they were incredible. Their performance consisted of synchronized drumming, mixed with some synchronized dance-type movements, all under the watch of an enthusiastic leader who must be some sort of miracle worker to get a group of children that age to do all of that with such precision and mastery.

If TigerBlog had to pick one word to describe the group, he would use "dazzling."

Of course, basically anything he said about Drums of Thunder applied to the Princeton women's basketball team, who was also dazzling Saturday afternoon in its 83-54 win over Penn. The win pushed Princeton to 17-0 and, with losses this weekend by Mississippi State and Texas, left Princeton and South Carolina as the only undefeated women's basketball teams in Division I.

Princeton never trailed against the defending Ivy League champion, who had ended Princeton's four-year run last year in the season finale at Jadwin with an 80-64 win in which the Quakers had never trailed.

This time, Princeton controlled everything. The tempo. The boards. The score. Everything.

The only reason the game was even remotely close at the half was that Princeton missed some shots in the first half that it usually doesn't. By the end of the game, Princeton was at exactly 50 percent (33 for 66), which meant a blistering 19 for 29 (65.5 percent) second half.

And that was against one of the top defensive teams in Division I.

In the end, a 10-point halftime lead grew to 21 on an 11-0 run to start the second half and then to as many as 33. Princeton, ranked 22nd in one poll and 24th in the other before today's are announced, are now headed into a nearly three-week break for exams.

Princeton won four straight Ivy titles before last year on teams that featured all-time great players like Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood, not to mention the best player Princeton has ever had, Niveen Rasheed.

So what's up with this year's team?

Well, it's led by a senior, Blake Dietrick, who went over the 1,000-point mark Saturday. Dietrick can make threes or go to the basket, and her quickness is a huge weapon. She is joined in the starting lineup by four juniors - Annie Tarackchian, Michelle Miller, Alex Wheatley, Amanda Berntsen - with a pretty strong supporting cast of the bench.

The result is a team that plays incredibly well together, you know, like the Drums of Thunder. In all seriousness, this is what can happen when you have a team with four juniors and senior.

Princeton moves the ball incredibly and is constantly finding the right person. Everyone can shoot. Everyone gets out in transition. Points come in volume.

Ah, but when they don't? When shots don't fall?

Well, consider this: In the Ivy clincher last year, Penn's Sydney Stipanovich and Katheen Roche combined for 36 points on 12 for 23 shooting. That's 52 percent, by the way.

The game Saturday? The two combined for 10 points on 3 for 17 shooting. That's 18 percent.

In other words, this team defends.

Right now, everything is going great for the Tiger women. They are nationally ranked. They are unbeaten. They are getting media coverage from all over, including a nice piece in the New York Times. 

Talk everywhere is about a 14-0 Ivy run, which would mean a 30-0 regular season.

TigerBlog hates to throw cold water on the enthusiasm, but let's stay grounded for awhile.

For starters, Princeton's next game is at Harvard on Jan. 30. Last year, Princeton beat Penn by 31 at the Palestra in the Ivy opener, took its exams, and then lost to Harvard at home in the first game back.

And then there's the Penn situation. Last year, Princeton beat Penn by 31 at Penn in the opener and lost by 16 at home in the season finale.

If you're the Quakers, you're definitely hanging your hopes on a repeat of history.

As for Harvard, the Crimson lost 76-61 to Dartmouth this weekend in their Ivy opener. Princeton is at Dartmouth Jan. 31, and the Big Green are currently 10-5.

Hey, there's a long way to go from 17-0 to 30-0, or even from 1-0 in the league to actually regaining the league title.

For now, it's study time, with that 17-0 out there for everyone to see.

It's been a great start to the season and the Ivy season.

It's been, in a word, dazzling.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Home For 15

TigerBlog was wrong. For all these years.

All this time, TigerBlog thought that the first Princeton-Penn men's basketball game he ever saw was the one preceded by a women's game between the two schools that went into overtime. Instead, that OT game was actually a few years later.

Ah, but TigerBlog can still see it.

The women's game began with almost nobody in the building. It ended with 9,208 - the capacity of the Palestra back then - on their feet chanting "choke, choke, choke" at a Princeton women's player who was on the foul line in overtime. She didn't. And Princeton won. 

The Princeton-Penn women's basketball rivalry has never approached what the men's rivalry has been. It couldn't possibly, unless those two win, say, 30 of the next 32 Ivy championships between them.

Of course, they've won the last five between them, four straight by Princeton interrupted last year by Penn, who won the title with a commanding victory over Princeton in the winner-take-all regular-season finale. Penn won that game 80-62 and dominated, as in Penn never trailed and the only time the score was tied was at 2-2.

Princeton has lived with the vision of Penn's celebration on Carril Court for nearly 10 months now. The first meeting between the teams since comes up tomorrow on Carril Court - tip is at 2.

It's not quite winner-take-all, as it is just the first of 14 Ivy games for both. Still, it's the defending champ against the team that unquestionably has dominated the non-league portion of Ivy League women's basketball.

Princeton, as you probably now, is 16-0 and ranked 22nd in one poll and 24th in the other. Princeton has demolished almost every opponent, with 15 of 16 wins by double figures. There have been two wins against the ACC and one each against the Big East and Big Ten. Most recently Princeton has beaten two very strong teams - Fordham and Hampton - by double figures.

The Tigers have been led by senior Blake Dietrick, who is the reigning national Player of the Week.  She also needs seven points to become the 22nd Princeton women's basketball player to reach 1,000 career points.

Penn comes to Jadwin tomorrow at 7-4 and off of clinching a first-ever Big Five women's championship.

Princeton ranks first in the league in scoring offense and first in scoring defense. Penn is second in scoring defense but only seventh in offense. The teams have two common opponents, Hampton and Drexel, both of whom beat Penn and lost to Princeton.

Still, do not expect an easy game if you're Princeton. If Princeton expected an easy game last March, it saw what happened. And even without Penn's second all-time leading scorer, the graduated Alyssa Baron, the Quakers have some players who were hugely important to the championship a year ago. They will not go quietly.

The women's basketball game is one of 15 home events this weekend for Princeton Athletics, which will then shut down for most of the rest of January due to first semester exams.

If you're interested, you can see Princeton men's and women's hockey, men's and women's basketball, wrestling, women's indoor track and field, men's and women's squash and men's and women's swimming and diving on campus this weekend.

There will be a bunch of doubleheaders, including, obviously, the basketball one.

The men's game is the 231st in a series that dates to Valentine's Day 1903. Since then, the teams have met at least twice every season without interruption, even due to World Wars or anything else. Penn leads 124-106.

Some of the greatest sporting events TigerBlog has ever seen in his life have been Princeton-Penn men's basketball games. For a long time he looked forward to the two annual meetings - or sometimes the third, in an Ivy League playoff game.

The teams begin the Ivy season tomorrow against each other. They finish it together in March. Will that last meeting be relevant to a championship? There's no way to know now, and that's part of the beauty of opening day.

A bigger question is whether the rivalry - historically one of the best in Ivy athletics history, along with Harvard-Yale football - will ever again be what it once was. 

In the meantime, just enjoy the doubleheader tomorrow.

There are also two hockey doubleheaders at Baker Rink, with the women's games today and tomorrow at 3 and the men at 7. The women play Yale and Brown; the men play Union and RPI.

There is a wrestling doubleheader at Dillon Gym tonight, as Princeton hosts Sacred Heart at 5 and Hofstra at 7. TB isn't necessarily rooting for Sacred Heart, though he did just send the school $1,500 as a deposit for TigerBlog Jr.'s spot in the school's Class of 2019.

There is also swimming and diving against North Carolina State in DeNunzio today and a women's track and field meet in Jadwin, all of which is at 5.

Squash? Harvard's men and women are here tomorrow. Dartmouth is here for both Sunday.

If you want to see Princeton on the road, your options are limited to men's track and field at Penn State and men's volleyball in Califorinia.

And if you want to see Princeton for the two weeks after this weekend, then you're completely out of luck.

So take advantage of the busy weekend.

You have something better to do?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Take A Bow

If you divide 1,989 by 365, you get roughly 5.5.

And that's all TigerBlog wanted to say today about that.

Actually, no, that's not the case. On the other hand, if TigerBlog stumbled across that sentence all by itself, he'd be fairly curious what its significance was.

He'd guess the 365 referred to the number of days in a year, which is even more logical right now, in that it's the first week of the new year.

The 1,989? He'd have no idea. When TB sees "1989," the first thing he thinks of is "Georgetown 50, Princeton 49."

Anyway, if you're still here after that little intro, the 1,989 refers to the number of articles posted to in the calendar year of 2014. The 5.5 refers to the number of stories per day. This is just articles, not bios or stats or things like that.

Obviously some days are busier than others, like a Saturday in early November or March. And the summer isn't as busy and all.

Still, 1,989 is a lot of articles, it seems to TB.

Here's another number - 515. That's the number of original videos that were posted to the website in 2014. That's 515 original videos, all of which were produced in-house.

And that doesn't even count the tweets that were sent out. TigerBlog can't figure out how to find out the exact number for putigers, though there were nearly 3,000 in just four months for putigers_live. There had to be three or four times that number on putigers.

In case you're wondering about the people who do all this, here are their names (alphabetically) and the sports they cover here:

Ben Badua - women's basketball, field hockey, baseball, men's and women's water polo, men's and women's indoor track and field, sprint football (note - Ben took over for Diana Chamorro in mid-2014, so Diana contributed to those totals for the first few months)
Andrew Borders - men's basketball, women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf
John Bullis - videographer
Kristy McNeil - men's and women's hockey, men's soccer, women's lacrosse, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's outdoor track and field
Craig Sachson - football, men's and women's volleyball, wrestling, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's rowing, men's and women's squash

Oh, and TigerBlog covers men's lacrosse. 

As for the videos, John does the longer videos, such as the Tiger All-Access ones, and he does a great job. He is incredibly creative and talented, and he is also a great combination of the quirky artist and a big energetic dog.

The overwhelming majority of the videos - postgame highlights, interviews, individual features - are created by the sport contacts. And these are people who had no background in video and in fact, other than Ben, were hired with the idea of creating publications as much as anything else.

Anyway, TigerBlog wants to publicly recognize these people. They do a ton of work, and they get very little in the way of recognition. When they do, it's usually because of a mistake, which fortunately is a rare occurrence.

Creating that much content isn't easy. It's even harder when the day is interrupted by stories that need to be posted but weren't planned for, and this happens all the time.

Look at Ben, for instance. In the middle of a busy week with what is now a nationally ranked women's basketball team, all of the sudden here comes water polo coach Luis Nicolao with the news that Ashleigh Johnson has been named the Swimming World Magazine women's water polo Player of the Year.

By the way, there's a pretty good chance that Johnson might just be the best female athlete in Princeton history. With two years to go, she is a must-see at DeNunzio Pool, and your first opportunity to see her this year comes up with the Princeton Invitational Feb. 6-8.

Can Johnson really be the best female athlete at Princeton ever? TigerBlog will revisit this during exam break when he has some more time.

Let's see. What else?

The ECAC has 12 hockey teams. Only one school has the same athletic communications contact for both its men's and women's teams. That would be Princeton.

In fact, it is TigerBlog's understanding that there are only five schools in Division I that have a woman athletic communications contact for men's hockey. Again, Princeton is one of them.

So you would think that would keep Kristy fairly busy. And yet here comes word that Maise Devine, a 2011 grad and women's lacrosse player, was named to the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 for enterprise technology.

TigerBlog can refer to those two examples because they are the most recent. They happen to Andrew and Craig all the time as well.

TigerBlog talks a lot about how much this profession has changed since he first started here. Back then, this was all about media relations and publications, and the work requirements were much different.

Now, the quantity of work produced here has skyrocketed. So too has the ability to produce it quicker and more efficiently, so there is that balance.

Still, Ben, Andrew, Kristy, John and Craig do a ton of stuff, and they don't get nearly the credit they deserve. It's okay, because this isn't the place to go if you have a big ego.

It is the place to go if you want to have a positive impact on the experience of the athletes, work with the great coaches and help alums, parents, friends and fans stay connected to Princeton Athletics, from basically anywhere in the world.

It's the marriage of that interest and the dedication of the people to supply the fresh content that works so well here. So well, in fact, that there were nearly 10,000,000 page views on in 2014.

So not that they want to, but go ahead guys.

Take a bow.

It's well-deserved.

Then get back to work.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Attendance 13,000

TigerBlog was standing near the east stands of Jadwin Gym about 30 minutes before tip-off between Princeton and Norfolk State and making small talk with men's lacrosse consigliere Bryce Chase.

Brycie asked TigerBlog if he knew what the largest crowd in Jadwin history was. TB responded that the 1991 game against Loyola Marymount was the largest crowd he had seen in the building and that he'd seen announced crowds of nearly 8,000 in box scores from the 1970s, though Jadwin's capacity is not close to 8,000.

The biggest crowd, TB told Bryce, was for a 1981 high school game, though. It matched Camden and Neptune, back when Camden was thought to be an unstoppable force, led by future Louisville stars Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson.

Both teams were undefeated, with Camden ranked No. 1 nationally and Neptune ranked No. 5. Camden averaged more than 100 points per game but would score only 65 on this night - March 6, 1981, to be exact - while giving up 85.

When TigerBlog counted down the top 40 moments in the first 40 years of Jadwin Gym back in 2009, he had the Camden-Neptune game ranked No. 7 and had this to say about it:
March 6, 1981 – Undefeated Neptune High, ranked fifth nationally, defeats undefeated Camden High, ranked first nationally and averaging 103 points per game, 85-65 in the NJSIAA Group IV semifinal. Security fails to hold back those who didn’t originally get into the building; crowd estimates rank as high as 13,000.

If that seems incredibly high for the number of fans in the building, check out the youtube clip of the game. TB has no idea if there really were 13,000 here that night, but it certainly seems completely jammed.

Brycie already knew the answer and was testing TigerBlog. Or at least that's how it felt.

Anyway, the game last night won't be making the list of top 50 events for the first 50 years, which TigerBlog presumes he will be doing in four more years.

It was, though, a nice 71-61 win for Princeton over a solid team in its final tuneup before the start of the Ivy League season, which comes up Saturday in the nightcap of the Princeton-Penn doubleheader. The women play at 2; the men at 5.

The player of the game last night was Henry Caruso, a sophomore who put up 14 points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes. Caruso went 4 for 6 from the field and attacked the basket for his points, all of which came in the second half and most of which came at crucial points, with Norfolk State still very much hanging around.

Princeton is now 6-9 on the season, but that record converts to 0-0 come Saturday afternoon.

The Ivy League is one of four Division I leagues that has not had any conference games played yet, along with the Atlantic Sun (Lipscomb's league), Big West and WAC.

By the way, if you asked TigerBlog a few minutes ago to name the members of the WAC, he would have gotten it dreadfully wrong. He remembers the WAC with Boise State, Fresno State, Utah State, San Jose State, schools like that.

Here are the current members of the WAC: Grand Canyon, Seattle, New Mexico State, Utah Valley State, UT Pan American, Missouri-Kansas City, Cal State-Bakersfield and Chicago State. That's a random collection, no?

As for the Ivy League, the best records at this point belongs to 9-3 Harvard and 10-5 Yale. Of course, they, like Princeton, go back to 0-0.

Princeton plays Penn and then is off for two weeks for first semester exams, with its next league game not until 20 days later, when the Tigers host Harvard.

In between, each of the other three sets of travel partners will play each other home and away.

Princeton needs to do this year what it did not do last year, which is defeat Penn in the opener in the game before exams and not have an 0-1 record and a return-to-the-league Friday game against Harvard hanging over it for three weeks.

The worst-case scenario was last year's: lose to Penn, lose to Harvard, season basically done at that point.

The best-case scenario? Beat Penn, who is 3-7 and knock off Harvard at home, completely changing the league race before the end of January.

It's Penn first, though.

Regardless of where each team is now, it is still and always will be the best rivalry in Ivy League men's basketball, and there is something special about each time the teams get together.

The next time is three days away. And it's a big game.