Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Question No. 2

Remember last month, when TigerBlog got the comment asking for his feedback on several topics?

In case you don't, here's what it said:

Now that the academic year is over, just a word to encourage more of your feature stories which include your personal memories or historical compilations. Here are some unsolicited ideas: Greatest games or events you've witnessed, with and without regard to historical context
Happiest moments you've experienced due to Princeton sports
Weirdest fluke plays
Most improbable comebacks
Most inspiring student-athletes

He answered the first question back on June 18, when he ran down the greatest games he'd been to without regard to historical context.

Today he goes after the second question on the list.

What are the happiest moments he's experienced due to Princeton sports?

This is the most interesting question on the list, TB supposes, in that it's completely undefined. Happiest moments as in the thrill of a win? Happiest for a different reason? Happiest because of the people?

As TB considers this, he will say that he's pretty sure that tonight will fall someplace on this list.

TigerBlog will be the moderator at the "Night With Coaches" event tonight at Conte's. The evening features a panel of Jason Garrett, John Thompson III and Pete Carril, and let's face it, any Princeton fan knows who they are.

The idea is to raise money for the fight against A-T, a vicious, incurable disease that has affected the middle son of Steve and Nadia DiGregorio. Steve is a former Princeton assistant football coach and close friend of former Princeton basketball player and coach Howard Levy, and the two of them have mobilized much of the Princeton football and basketball communities in support of Derek's Dreams, named for Derek DiGregorio.

Seeing how people like Jason Garrett (less than two weeks from the start of training camp) and John Thompson (in the middle of summer recruiting) can drop everything to throw their support behind this cause is, for TigerBlog, much of what is great about Princeton Athletics.

As for the rest of the list?

Let's see. TigerBlog is going to throw some out there in no order, but he's saving his No. 1 happiest moment for last. Of what it is, he is 100% sure.

The only rule is that it has to have been something that he saw for himself first hand.

* Princeton's overtime win over Penn in the 1996 Ivy League men's basketball playoff. The win over UCLA in the first round of the tournament, was great, but the win over Penn in the playoff was a night of total happiness. It ended an eight-game losing streak to Penn, it was ridiculously dramatic and it was capped by Carril's announcement of his pending retirement.

* Gary Walters' retirement party. No, not because it meant Gary was stepping down. It was because of how many different people came from all over the country to be there and how much genuine emotion there was in Jadwin Gym that night, so much so that even Gary was visibly touched by it.

* The bus ride home from Dartmouth in 1991 after the men's basketball team clinched the Ivy title. TigerBlog has been on a bus for a road trip maybe five times or fewer since he actually started working at Princeton and hasn't been on a bus in years, but he took the bus all the time when he was with the newspaper. He's not sure why. Anyway, those trips were always great, but the ride home from Hanover in the middle of the night after the championship had been clinched was a non-stop party, complete with a singing Pete Carril.

* All six of Princeton's NCAA men's lacrosse championships, but especially 1998 and 2001. The 1998 one, because TB didn't want the Chris Massey-Jon Hess-Jesse Hubbard teams to lose their last game and knew at the time the historical significance of winning a third-straight title (it stamped them as immortals in the sport, and it hasn't been matched since). The 2001 one because Bill Tierney won with his two sons, beating a presumed unbeatable Syracuse team in the process.

* The women's soccer team's win over Washington in the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals at Lourie-Love Field, making Princeton the first - and to this day only - women's soccer team to reach the Final Four. There was a crowd of 2,500 fans at old Lourie-Love that night, and for the final 10 minutes or so, when it became obvious Princeton's 3-1 lead was impenetrable, it was a complete party atmosphere there.

* The win by the football team over Harvard in 2012, when Princeton came from 34-10 down in the last 12 minutes to win 39-34.

* Any of the trips TigerBlog made to basketball tournaments with Tom McCarthy. Especially the one to Hawaii. Now that was a great one. Princeton beat Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte on consecutive nights to win the Rainbow Classic. In Hawaii.

* Somewhat connected to the last one would be the long drives home in the middle of the night after men's basketball weekends, driving hundreds of miles long after midnight with people like McCarthy, Mark Eckel, David Rosenfeld and an army of others through the years.

* Any of the times TigerBlog Jr. went to a game between the ages of, oh, 3 and 11. And any of the times that TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog went to a sports camp at Princeton.

* The night that TigerBlog, John Mack, John Cornell and Ben Solomon (he's pretty sure it was Ben) took a reluctant Tom Milajecki to a Phillies' game and then Atlantic City for Tom's bachelor party. Mack, Cornell, Solomon and Milajecki combined to win 10 Heptagonal track and field titles at Princeton, with 10 for John Mack and none for the others, who all worked in the Office of Athletic Communications. Cornell had the unique distinction of having worked at three colleges, all of whom have sprint football teams - Princeton, Navy and Post. Counting his last name, that's four schools with sprint.

* The trips TigerBlog took with the men's lacrosse team to Spain and Ireland in 2008 and Costa Rica in 2012 and especially the time he spent on those trips with John McPhee.

* As weird as this sounds, the old Ivy League SID meetings. Back in the 1990s, the Ivy League SIDs met each summer for some of the, well, most inane, ridiculous discussions ever held, with hotly debated topics like how many postgame faxes a visiting team could ask a home team to send and of course standardized rosters. To this day, TB is amazed that he sat through a four-hour brawl that included whether or not it should be "position/class" or "class/position" and the granddaddy of them all, AP or postal abbreviations for states. But you know what? There was something nice, something charming, about being with all his league-wide colleagues at once. There was a camaraderie back then that long ago vanished in the league.

* The 12 games TigerBlog spent as the women's basketball contact during the 2011-12 season.

* The last game of the 2000-01 men's basketball regular season, when Princeton routed Penn at Jadwin to win the Ivy title in John Thompson's first season as Tiger head coach.

* And of course, the 1999 comeback win over Penn at the Palestra, which was the answer to Question No. 1.

TigerBlog is sure he's leaving some out. Off the top of his head, there were the men's lacrosse team's Ivy League tournament wins over Cornell in 2013 and this season, for instance.

His No. 1 happiest moment is also related to men's lacrosse, but not to an NCAA title. No, it came after Princeton defeated Cornell in the last game of the 2012 regular season.

The win completed a 6-0 run through the Ivy League for the Tigers. It also came in the season following the death of Ann Bates, the wife of head coach Chris Bates.

This was more than five months later, and now Princeton was the outright Ivy champion. Chris Bates and Nick, his son, 11 at the time, TB thinks, were sitting together on a bench in the team room at Class of 1952 Stadium, just the two of them, with the Ivy League trophy.

This is what TB wrote two days later:
TB can't remember the last time he was as happy for someone as he was for Chris Bates in that moment - and it'll be a long time before he forgets the sight of the coach and his son, alone on the bench, together in victory as they had, sadly, been together in tragedy a few short months ago. 

It still holds.

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