Monday, November 30, 2015

You're About To Be TAGD

Tomorrow is TAGD. Or is that TAGD Day?

"TAGD" stands for "Tiger Athletics Give Day." So saying "TAGD Day" really is saying "Tiger Athletics Give Day Day."

Speaking of such semantics (and doing so alliteratively), when Trenton State College became The College of New Jersey, TigerBlog wondered about referring to, say, "the TCNJ football team," because you're really saying "the The College of New Jersey football team."

As TB said, semantics.

TAGD starts at midnight tonight Princeton time (Princeton time? Now that would be quite egomaniacal of the University) and runs for exactly 24 hours.

This is the second TAGD, or TAGD Day. The first one, held last year in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of Princeton Athletics, was an enormous, incredible success in every way.

The "Tiger Athletics Give Day" website (WHICH YOU CAN ACCESS HERE) has all kinds of information about how the day works, what's involved, what prizes can be won by the various teams and Friends Groups. There's also the "You've Been TAGD" video and other TAGD things.

And if you follow @putigers on Twitter, you've seen a steady stream of pictures old and new, with hashtags #showyourstripes and #TAGD.

For TigerBlog, the exciting part of TAGD isn't so much the total dollars raised. That part is nice, and the money is essential for Princeton to field the kind of teams it wants to and provide the kind of experience the Department of Athletics wants to for its current generation of athletes.

Still, it runs so much deeper than that. TAGD speaks to the kind of loyalty that exists at Princeton, and it's a testament to the fact that Princeton Athletics has in fact been successful in providing that great experience, the kind that makes people want to give back year after year, decade after decade. TigerBlog has said this many times before, but this is something that is special about Princeton.

TigerBlog would ask you to jump in and help like you always do, but he's pretty sure you already are thinking that way. Midnight to midnight. Princeton time.

Before TAGD can began, there's a men's basketball game tonight against Fairleigh Dickinson at Jadwin Gym. And before the basketball game, there's the final episode of "Who's the Tiger," the video series that has run throughout the fall semester leading up to TAGD. TB thinks it's been a pretty funny series - he might not be objective - and he likes the way the last one turned out.

Of course, before all of that, there's something that TB has waited the entire Thanksgiving weekend to mention. What is it?

The 104 points that the men's basketball team put up against Lafayette last Wednesday night at Jadwin.

TigerBlog did not need in any way to look up the last time Princeton reached 100 points in a men's basketball game. He knew that it was in 1971, against Yale. He looked that up a long time ago, and honestly, there have been basically almost no nights since he started watching Princeton play that he thought the Tigers would get there again.

Here is the list of games in which the men's basketball team has reached at least 100 points:

118 vs. Wichita State 1965
116 vs. Dartmouth 1967
110 vs. Colgate 1966
109 vs. Providence 1965
108 vs. Lafayette 1966
108 vs. Yale 1971
107 vs. Cornell 1965
106 vs. Brown 1954
104 vs. Lafayette 2015
103 vs. Dartmouth 1965
101 vs. Rutgers 1958
100 vs. Columbia 1957
100 vs. Dartmouth 1964

That would be 13 times in 2,714 all-time games. Or once every 209 games. And of those 13 games, eight of them came between 1964-67, or as TB likes to call it, "The Gary Walters Years." Okay, okay, Gary was on the freshman team in 1963-64. Yeah, yeah.

Princeton played 108 games between 1963-64 and 1978-68, reaching 100 eight times. That's once every 13.5 games. Factor that out, and Princeton has reached 100 points once every 521 games.

Lafayette isn't exactly a bad team. The Leopards are the defending Patriot League champ, and they defeated Penn Sunday. Princeton not only put 104 but also doubled up the 'Pards, winning 104-52.

The Tigers had five players in double figures against Lafayette and shot 17 for 35 from three-point range. Will Princeton shoot like that consistently? That's asking a lot. So is getting to 100 points again, given how infrequently it's happened in program history.

Still, there's a lot to like about this team in the early going.

Princeton is 3-0, still with a long way to go until the Ivy League season starts. There are some really nice matchups on the horizon in December, including trips to St. Joe's (Saturday), Maryland (Dec. 19) and Miami (Dec. 29).

Princeton is deep, and it plays well together. There are four players who average in double figures and four others who are at at least eight points per game. And, wildly enough, Princeton is outrebounding its opponents by 10 per game.

So there's the game tonight. And the "Who's the Tiger" finale today.

And TAGD tomorrow.

That's a busy few hours around here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

TigerBlog was in Dillon Gym yesterday morning.

There's an elevator in Dillon in the tower, where the offices for women's soccer, rowing and men's lacrosse are located. There's also a conference room up there.

TigerBlog usually likes to walk up stairs. It's extra, hidden exercise in his day.

Except in Dillon. He likes the elevator for some reason.

Maybe it's because it's old and slow and small. Maybe it's because it reminds him of the elevator in his grandparents' buildings.

MotherBlog's parents lived in Queens until both passed away, well into their 80s. FatherBlog's father died when he was 17, but his mother lived well past 90. She lived with her sister, who was also in her 90s.

MotherBlog's parents were Judy and Joe, and they lived on Talbot Street in the Kew Gardens section of Queens. FatherBlog's were Tobias and Bella. For most of the last half of her life, Bella lived on Quentin Road, a few blocks away from her daughter Edyth, over on Ocean Ave., off of Kings Highway. TB's Aunt Edie also lived well into her 80s before she passed away two years ago.

TigerBlog hasn't been in any of their buildings in a long time, but he can remember the elevators. They had a great New York City smell to them, the smell of cooking coming from all over the building, welcoming you into their collective homes.

TigerBlog spent more than one Thanksgiving in his youth in those buildings. They were times of true innocence, when the whole family got together to eat turkey and watch football. So many of them are gone now, some taken way too soon and others who lived for a long time. Only one person in TB's family ever died between their 60th and 80th birthdays, and that was MotherBlog's brother Larry, who was around 75 or so.

It was on the days that began in those elevators that TigerBlog developed his love for Thanksgiving, which is probably his favorite holiday of year.

He's written this before. Every year, actually.

Here's 2014.

Here's 2013.

And 2012.

And 2011.

And 2010.

And 2009.

If you're not going to click on the links, TB can sum it up with this, which is something that appears word-for-word in four of them:

As holidays go, you can't do much better than Thanksgiving. It's got it all, really: a huge meal (with turkey, no less), football, family, history (dates back to 1621), start of a four-day weekend for most people, leftovers. It's even a secular holiday, so every American can dive right in, regardless of religion.

The Lions and the Cowboys, obviously, always play at home on Thanksgiving, and the NFL has now added a third game (maybe a little too much). Beyond watching football, how many out there have played their own Thanksgiving football games, all of which, by the way, are named "the Turkey Bowl?"

The holiday may lag behind Christmas in terms of great Hollywood movies, and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is no match for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Still, there are some great moments in movies and TV shows around Thanksgiving.

Rocky and Adrian had their first date on Thanksgiving – "To you it's Thanksgiving; to me it's Thursday," Rocky said romantically – as did Meadow and Jackie Jr. on "The Sopranos" (it didn't quite work out as well as it did for Rocky and Adrian). "Everybody Loves Raymond" had two pretty good Thanksgiving episodes, the one where Marie makes a low-fat dinner and the one where Debra makes fish instead of turkey. As an aside, TigerBlog's Aunt Regina once made Cornish game hens instead of turkey, so he knows how they all felt. And of course, there was the Thanksgiving episode of "Cheers," which has the big food fight at the end.

The Woody Allen movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" starts and ends on two different Thanksgivings. "Miracle on 34th Street" is a Christmas movie, but it does start with the Thanksgiving parade in New York City.

And of course, there is the best of all Thanksgiving movies: "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." It'll make you laugh a lot and cry a little, and it ends on Thanksgiving.

Here at Princeton, there are teams that will travel and play this time of year. The men's hockey team is going to get on a bus tomorrow morning early for the long drive to Maine. Women's hockey is at RIT. The wome'ns basketball team will fly to California.

Oh, and there's home men's basketball tonight, at 7, against Lafayette. And the wrestling team is at Madison Square Garden this weekend.

For most of the athletic department - and school - the next few days, though, are a time to get away and relax and slow down.

These are crazy times in this world. TigerBlog doesn't have to tell you that. The news will do it for you, every day.

It's a time of great divides, among religions, races, nations, neighbors, basically everyone.

Maybe it's because he's an adult now or maybe because of the times he's living in, but TB has grown fonder and fonder of the Thanksgivings of his youth.

And maybe there's a lesson in that. Find something to be thankful for and cherish it.

Hopefully everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life's Timeline

TigerBlog must have changed dramatically through the years.

To those he hasn't seen in, oh, 20 or 25 years,  he's become downright unrecognizable.

It started when he saw Mary Ann Tarr Saturday night, by the front door at Mercer Oaks, where the Trenton Select Committee was about to start its annual banquet.

Ah, Mare. An old TigerBlog friend, colleague at the Trenton Times, mentor, sister-figure, heart-of-gold Mary Ann Tarr. How long had it been? A long time, that's for sure. She hasn't changed at all. Same Mare.

TigerBlog couldn't help but smile when he saw her. She couldn't help but not know who he was at all. Her only interest was in getting his check.

Once TigerBlog said who he was, then she knew. Then she hugged him. Then she said she would "have walked right past him and never know who he was."

Then there was Eric Hamilton, the former football coach at Trenton State College, which is now the College of New Jersey. TigerBlog hasn't seem him in a decade or two either. Way back when, though, TB must have covered maybe 30 or 40 of his games. He was always a TB favorite, a coach who was successful, creative, funny, always accessible.

And there he was, looking exactly the same as always. TB went over to say hi - and got a blank stare. He had no idea who TB was.

TigerBlog "introduced" himself to Hamilton, who told TB that he looks "better than ever" now and that's why he didn't recognize him. TB wasn't sure about what that said about how he looked in 1990 or so, but okay.

It was an entire room full of familiar faces, some who recognized him, some who didn't. Barb Ardery was another who didn't. Her husband, Vince, was the longtime AD at Notre Dame High School and then later at Neptune High School. She also didn't know TB from Adam, until TB spoke. Then she said his name and said his voice was exactly the same.

TigerBlog has lived two somewhat different professional lives. There was his 11-year tenure in the newspaper business, and there has been his time here at Princeton. They overlapped a bit, but they have given him two totally different experiences.

This past Saturday night was a reminder to him of how special both of his experiences have been.

And if he forgot about that, Tom McCarthy reminded him.

Tom was one of the people honored Saturday night. So was Kathy Quirk, the longtime field hockey, girls' basketball and softball coach at the Hun School of Princeton and the mother of former Princeton men's lacrosse player Bill Quirk.

And Rich Fisher. Wow, did he give a speech.

Rich Fisher is "Fish." TigerBlog has known him for more than 30 years and has never called him anything other than that. Odds are strong that if you're a regular reader of TigerBlog that you probably also read something by Fish in your life. He's written for basically every publication in the area, and he's covered a ton of Princeton sports through the years.

Fish was honored for his contribution to sports in Mercer County. TigerBlog couldn't believe that he wasn't honored earlier than this.

Fish was funny. He always is. He made fun of Princeton much everyone, which was to be expected. He got big laughs, which was also to be expected.

Then he turned serious. He mentioned his three biggest mentors - Harvey Yavener, George O'Gorman and Joe Logue. All three would be in the Trenton/Mercer County sportswriters Hall of Fame if such a thing existed. They are all Mercer County legends.

Fish mentioned what he learned from each. From Yav, he learned to interview, to take a random game on some random night and find someone who can make it into a story worth writing, and ultimately reading. From O'Gorman - it's hard to spell out exactly what everyone has always called him, but let's go with "OHJ" - he learned about work ethic, though he could have learned that from Yav too, as neither ever took a day off.

And from Logue - always Mr. Logue, to TigerBog - he learned about the responsibility that goes along with writing a story about a high school age or youth age athlete and the challenge to give them something that will make them proud and that they will cherish later on.

He wrapped it up by saying that he was being honored for outstanding contribution to Mercer County sports but if there was an award for outstanding contribution to Rich Fisher, it would go to Mercer County sports. That was really well put. TB knew exactly what he meant.

Quirk talked about her husband Bill, the longtime AD at Hun. When they met, she said, "I thought he was a jerk and he thought I was a jerk. In other words, it was love at first sight."

There were seven honorees in all, but the main attraction was McCarthy - "Boog," to many in attendance, after former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Boog Powell.

Today Tom McCarthy is a wildly successful broadcaster, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies on television. He also does NFL football and college basketball, including the NCAA tournament, on Westwood One radio.

TigerBlog met him a long time ago, when he was an aspiring writer as well. And TB was there when Tom first started to get his feet wet in broadcasting, with high school basketball from Trenton High.

And when he moved on to the fledgling Trenton Thunder. And then on ESPN radio, and then with the Phillies on radio and then the Mets on radio, before going back to the Phillies and television.

For TigerBlog, the most special moments, though, were when Tom was the voice of Princeton football and men's basketball, from the mid-1990s and then into the early 2000s.

TigerBlog was Boog's on-air partner for much of that time. They traveled all over this country, putting together countless hours in the car and countless miles in the air. To this day, TigerBlog has spent more time on airplanes with Tom McCarthy than he has with anyone else.

Tom thanked the Trenton Select Committee, and then he talked about TigerBlog and how they met, how TigerBlog looked over his shoulder one day to tell him he'd used the wrong "there," or "they're" or "their."a

And from there, he talked about how special his own memories of their travels together has been.

After that, he mentioned many of the other people in the room, those who had been a part of his career and life. He told a priceless story about how he got his picture in the newspaper at a big event in New York City, when he was the "unidentified man" in the picture with Paul Newman and the CEO of K-Mart.

Eventually, once he'd traced the steps of his career, he said something extraordinary, at least to TigerBlog. You people, he said, "are the timeline of my life."

TigerBlog is happy for his friend Tom McCarthy. He aimed high, and he reached his goals. He's still the same person he was when he and TB would drive together for hours at a time back and forth for a Princeton game, or fly off together to places like Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, West Texas and even Hawaii. And any number of other locations.

He's still the same guy who used to broadcast Eric Hamilton's games for that matter, or who wrote about high school sports in the area. He's kind, funny, genuine and loyal. What more can you say about someone?

TigerBlog is happy to be part of Tom's timeline. He knows for sure that Tom is part of his.

As were so many people in the room Saturday, whether they knew it or not or recognized TB or not. So many memories came flooding back, so many great moments of so many years ago.

Thanksgiving is two days away.

TigerBlog's mind thought about that as he listened to the speeches. He's thankful for the opportunities he's had in his life to share so many great experiences with so many of the people who were there Saturday, and for so many people here at Princeton.

Life's timelines, after all, are not about the "where" and the "what."

They're about the "who."

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Dillon Game

TigerBlog was watching the Jets-Texans game yesterday when he saw an aerial shot of NRG Stadium in Houston.

There, next to the modern home for Houston's pro football team stood the Astrodome, which was called "the eighth wonder of the world" when it was built in the mid-1960s. It was the first domed stadium, TB believes, and it served as the home of the Astros and Oilers for decades.

It was from the name "Astrodome" that the name for the first fake grass - or "Astrotuf" was born, as the new dome needed to figure out how to have grass grow, nor not have to grow, indoors. It was also where, in its later days, the fabled "Astrorats" ran free.

TigerBlog thought the Astrodome had long ago been torn down, but apparently that isn't the case. There it was, its unmistakable silver shape still alive, next to the much-larger new stadium.

TigerBlog watched a ton of games on TV from the Astrodome, most notably Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series, when the Mets outlasted the Astros in 16 innings to advance to the World Series. The building was also the home of one of the most famous college basketball games ever played, Houston's 71-69 win over UCLA in 1968, in front of 53,000 fans, at the time the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game.

There are so many stadiums that were staples of TB's youth that are no longer used. Most of them don't even exist anymore.

TigerBlog, for instance, was the only person who actually liked Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. And Shea Stadium.

But those are just two examples. There are so many that he never even went to but saw on TV all the time, like Jarry Park in Montreal or the old Boston Garden.

It's the nature of the beast. Out with the old. In with the new.

Princeton University is not immune to that.

Palmer Stadium stood from 1914 through 1996 as the home for Princeton football. It's incredible to TB how many people he works with now who never were in the old building.

Jadwin Gym opened in 1969 as a model of a multi-purpose facility. Today it's closing in on 50, and it actually looks pretty good for its age.

Among other things, Jadwin is the home of Princeton basketball. Before that, Princeton played in Dillon Gym, from 1944 until Jadwin was built.

Dillon still stands, right in the heart of the campus. It's the home of Princeton volleyball, so it's still been an intercollegiate venue all these years.

Mostly, though, it's the home of Princeton's Campus Rec, as well as the offices of, by TB's count, 13 Princeton teams.

As you probably know, intercollegiate basketball returned to Dillon Gym for the first time since Jadwin opened this past weekend, when Princeton hosted St. Peters.

TigerBlog's take on things like this is that he's in favor of trying pretty much anything new to see what happens. Back in 1999 - when the whole Y2K panic was in full force - Princeton played a New Year's Eve game at Jadwin against Holy Cross. Nobody really knew what to expect in terms of attendance on New Year's Eve in the afternoon. TB's take? Do it and find out.

The result was a crowd of 5,925. It was a great atmosphere.

So why not play in Dillon Gym?

The game was driven by head coach Mitch Henderson, who really wanted to do it. Maybe he thought it would a nice tribute to those who played there who are still close to his program.

Or maybe he just wanted to wear that jacket.

Dillon doesn't have the seating capacity it did back in the 1960s, and as everyone learned early on, bringing in new temporary seating wasn't possible.

And there were a lot of other issues to deal with. The Dillon game didn't just happen. It was the result of a lot of hard work, especially by people like Karen Malec in the events office and Greg Paczkowski and Jeff Graydon from the facilities office. And a lot of other people.

Once it was determined that the game could be played there, it was relatively smooth sailing.

So what to make of it? Well, the crowd at Jadwin was right on top of the court, and the building was mostly full. It makes for a different kind of experience.

Dillon isn't large enough to house most Princeton games, men or women. There are just too many people who come for the building to hold.

For one night though, it was pretty nice. It was easy for the students to get there, and there was a nice turnout. It was something of a party actually.

Plus Princeton got a win.

The Tigers opened the season with a win at Rider in which freshman Devin Cannady and junior Pete Miller had big games. The star Saturday night was Henry Caruso, who had a 25-point eight-rebound night.

Princeton isn't built around one player. It has a bunch of guys who play well together, and pretty much any one of them can be the one on any given night.

It's a good formula for success.

The Ivy League basketball season is way too early to draw any conclusions. Right now it's in the "enjoy the games, get to know the players, see what works and doesn't work" stage.

Next up is Lafayette Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving. Maybe attendance will be strong because people are home for the holidays.

Lafayette, by the way, also has a close win over St. Peters. And the Leopards are the defending Patriot League champ.

That game will be back in Jadwin, as are the rest of the home games. Hosting a game in Jadwin is way, way easier for the Department of Athletics.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying a game in Dillon

Or, perhaps, trying it again.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Moving Day

Well, this is it. Today's the day.

After five decades of having its home on the balcony level of Jadwin Gym, the Princeton University Office of Athletic Communications is moving to E level. And today's the day.

TigerBlog is excited about it. 

Actually, today's the day that the furniture is being delivered. And with eight people who need to relocate to E level - TigerBlog, four athletic communications types, two video dudes and the IT guy - it's not all going to get done today.

TigerBlog, though, figures he can move his stuff down there in one day. He's spent some time this week cleaning out his desk drawers and his closet, and he's come across a lot of stuff he didn't realized he'd saved.

You know, like job performance appraisals. And old pictures. And old bills. And the letter he got from human resources the day he was hired.

Oh, and he found something he's glad he's kept, a letter from John Doar, thanking TigerBlog for nominating him for the NCAA Inspiration Award, which Mr. Doar won.

He found some other notes as well. And some things that TigerBlog Jr. wrote when he was in first grade and second grade, little stories for school, all about Princeton Athletics.

He also found pictures of TB and Miss TigerBlog, back in her Little Miss TigerBlog days, each year at the elementary school father/daughter dances.

He kept all of that stuff.

He threw away a lot of other stuff. And shredded some stuff too. Like old pay stubs, which have been sitting in his desk, perhaps as a reminder of a world before all of that was electronic.

He still has a ton of other stuff in his office, most of which will not be making the trip. He has a closet in his current space that has a file cabinet that hasn't been opened in at least 10 years; he has no idea what's in it. Why bother looking now? If he hasn't used it in 10 years, how can it be important?

It's like going through your closet, trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. If you haven't worn it in at least a year, then chances are you're never going to again.

His new office doesn't have a closet. His stated goal is to keep his new space as clutter-free as possible. He's not liking the chances, but he can try.

TigerBlog isn't 100 percent sure who is moving into the soon-to-be-vacated OAC space. It's the only space on the balcony that has offices that are connected on the inside, as the three OAC offices can be accessed without going out into the hallway. This, TB supposes, makes them valuable.

There was a time that the OAC extended into what was then the "back room," where three interns and some student workers could sit. When TigerBlog first started coming into the OAC, there was a student worker who was on the women's soccer and hockey teams named Mollie Marcoux who had a desk back there.

Through the years, the OAC had all that space in the back room and then saw that space sealed off and made into other offices, which now are the home of head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson and compliance Assistant AD Kelly Widener.

Now? The OAC is packing up and moving downstairs. After nearly 50 years, more than half of which TigerBlog has been around it, the OAC can use a bit of a change.

So that's one big event for the weekend.

There are a few others in Princeton Athletics as well.

It's the end of the football season, for one, as Princeton is at Dartmouth tomorrow at noon. Another football season has zoomed by, and when TigerBlog remembers Princeton football 2015, he'll think injuries more than anything else.

The two biggest events for Princeton Athletics this weekend are also on the road, both today. Well, technically one is a neutral site.

The first is at 4 at the University of Virginia, where the Princeton women's soccer team will play the University of Southern California in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton advanced with a dominating 4-2 win over Boston College in Round 1, with a pair of goals each from Mimi Asom and Tyler Lussi.

The winner of the game advances to the Round of 16, where Princeton last was in 2004, when it reached the Final Four. Beating USC won't be easy, as the Trojans are an NCAA tournament regular and the 10th-ranked team in the country.

On the other hand, games at this time of year are supposed to be hard. And Princeton has been on a great roll of late, with a 6-0-1 stampede through the Ivy League and an unbeaten streak of 13 games.

The soccer game will be over by the time the women's volleyball match starts in Cambridge.

If the women's soccer team might not have figured to still be playing the weekend before Thanksgiving when the season started, at least by midseason there was a reasonable chance to think it might be the case.

For women's volleyball, at one point the Tigers were 0-3 in the league. After one trip through the double-round robin, Princeton was 3-4.


Princeton tore through the league in the second half, avenging all four losses while going 7-0. And the Tigers got all the help they needed along the way, the result of which was a tie for the Ivy league championship with Harvard.

Tonight at 7 in Cambridge, Princeton will have a one-match playoff for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton will be led by the Ivy Coach of the Year, Sabrina King, and the Ivy Player of the Year Cara Mattaliano.

In all the time TB has been here, he considers the current run by the women's volleyball team to be one of the best stories he's witnessed.

Of course, he's witnessed all of these things to this point from the Jadwin balcony. Today it all changes.

TigerBlog's view from his office has been out across the track and to the football stadium. It's a very nice view, especially on a nice day, when the sun splashes across both.

Yesterday, his last day on the balcony, wasn't one of those days. It was raining and gray outside.

Yeah. It's time to move.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


TigerBlog recently downloaded the "Shazam" app.

He doesn't really have a lot of apps on his phone. He's assuming he has way fewer than the average person.

He has Twitter. And one game that he likes to play, Scramble Words. He plays with a total stranger whom he's never met and knows nothing about, other than they're pretty evenly matched in Scramble Words.

What else? He has the Yahoo sports app, from which he can get scores. And Map My Walk. And Beat The Traffic. And WatchESPN.

That's really it.

To that list, he can know add "Shazam."

If you don't know what "Shazam" is, it's an app that listens to a few notes of a song and then tells you what the song is and who sang it. TigerBlog loves this.

He assumes the app connects to a few huge music databases, which is probably how it works. A brief search shows that the app claims to be able to identify 15 billion songs; TigerBlog didn't know there were 15 billion songs.

He's put it to the test, with some songs off his iTunes that might be a bit obscure, but the app has come through every time. Well, almost every time. TigerBlog was able to mess with "Shazam" on a few live versions of songs.

The app has proven to be especially valuable when TB and Miss TigerBlog are in the car together and MTB is insisting on playing her music, such as it is.

The other day was a good example. The two drove to Baltimore for a fall lacrosse tournament, and MTB of course dominated the radio. The frustrating thing for TB - other than how awful the music is that MTB listens to - is that MTB rarely knows who sang any given song.

So there was TB, armed with "Shazam."

Incredibly, he heard the same Selena Gomez song four times and never realized it was the same song, since he checked it each time. The same with Ariana Grande. And there was a Justin Beiber song. TigerBlog cringes.

Anyway, that's TB's new favorite app. "Shazam." Too bad it's not a sponsor of Princeton Athletics.

There's another new app that TB just got. It's the Tiger Universe app.

This one is run by Princeton's Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing Carolyn Cooper. It's a pretty cool app, with points awarded for attendance at Princeton events, prizes awarded for accumulated points, the ability to post pictures and other things.

As such, there are points to be won for attendance for five different sports this weekend at home. There is men's and women's swimming and diving. There is men's squash.

There is men's hockey, with St. Lawrence and Clarkson in town tomorrow and Saturday.

And there is the Dillon Gym men's basketball game Saturday night.

Ah, Dillon Gym. Where Bill Bradley played. Where Butch van Breda Kolff coached. Where Gary Walters played. Where Cappy Cappon coached - and ultimately died, after suffering a heart attack in the showers there in 1961.

The list of early Princeton basketball legends who played at Dillon Gym is a long one. Princeton has had 30 players in its men's basketball history who have reached the 1,000-point mark. Of those 30, there were nine who played in Dillon Gym.

Jadwin Gym has been Princeton's home for men's basketball since Jan. 25, 1969, when the Tigers and Penn played the first game in the new multi-purpose building. Before that, Princeton played its games in Dillon Gym from 1947-69.

Now, after all that time, Princeton will go back, as the Tigers will host St. Peter's Saturday at 9 p.m.

Princeton will wear throwback style uniforms. And play in the small, throwback gym.

It should be a fun night. Hopefully the students will attend in large numbers, drawn in by the curiosity of it and the proximity to the middle of the campus.

As for the basketball game, Princeton won its opener against Rider last Friday night and looked very good doing so.

St. Peters, for its part, beat Princeton 60-46 last year and then beat Brown 77-65 before losing in OT to Lafayette 87-86. Next up for the Peacocks is a home game tonight against Hartford.

This is the home opener for the Tigers, who will play their remaining 11 home games this year back in Jadwin, including Wednesday night against Lafayette.

Devin Cannady scored 17 points in his first game as a Tiger. His 17 points were the second highest total ever by a Princeton freshman on opening night, behind the 25 that Douglas Davis scored against Central Michigan in 2008. Just as it was obvious that night that Davis would be something special, it's just as obvious that Cannady has that kind of potential as well.

Plus he was just plain fun to watch in the first game. The second game will be fun for the location alone. 

Well, hopefully not alone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Do You Want?

What do you want from these people?

That's an actual question, by the way. And by "these people," TigerBlog means those in the Office of Athletic Communications.

He'll get back to that in a few minutes. First, he'd like to give you a sense of how it's been going in the Office of Athletic Communications during the crossover of the fall and winter seasons.

It started a few weeks ago.

Kristy McNeil is the sport contact for men's and women's hockey. And she's the contact for men's soccer.

So go back to Halloween, which was a Saturday. Because the men's hockey team played in Trenton at the same time the men's soccer team was home against Cornell, then Andrew Borders had to cover men's soccer for Kristy. Andrew covers the women's team, and it was a doubleheader.

Then, the next weekend, Kristy was on the road with men's hockey at Cornell and Colgate, so Andrew had to cover women's hockey at Baker Rink. And this past weekend, Andrew again did the soccer doubleheader, because Kristy covered three hockey games at Baker, including a women's/men's doubleheader last Saturday.

Kristy made it up to Andrew by covering women's basketball for Ben Badua Sunday, because Ben was at Syracuse for the NCAA field hockey quarterfinals. Bed, the women's basketball contact, covered Friday night's opener and then drove up to Syracuse Saturday morning, to see Princeton defeat Maryland.

Had the Tigers lost that game, Ben would have turned around and driven back for the women's basketball game Sunday. Instead, Kristy was pressed into service.

There has been a certain amount of luck in getting all of the events covered of late.

For instance, the women's soccer team was home Saturday night, instead of, say, away Friday. Had the Tigers played Friday - even at home - then Andrew wouldn't have been able to be at Rider for the opening night of the men's basketball season.

And the field hockey team wasn't sent to North Carolina, which meant Ben could be at the women's basketball opener.

And then there's Craig Sachson. Craig is the football and volleyball contact (among a bunch of other sports).

Because the women's volleyball team made its great run to share the Ivy League championship with Harvard, there will be a one-game playoff for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Because of the tiebreaking rules (TigerBlog heard that it has to do with how Princeton and Harvard did against Dartmouth), the match will be at Harvard. And where is Princeton playing football Saturday?

At Dartmouth. So Craig will drive to Harvard, watch volleyball and then drive to Dartmouth.

Had the volleyball been here, or playing Saturday afternoon, then Craig would have had a struggle to do both. Now, he'll be able to be where he needs to be, on both occasions.

TigerBlog can tell you that in all the time he's been here, there's never been an event, not one single event, that has gone uncovered. He long ago lost track of how many times he's covered for someone else or had someone cover for him. It's just how it goes around here.

Anyway, why did TigerBlog tell you all that? One, he'd like to publicly commend Craig, Kristy, Ben and Andrew for all that they do all the time, but especially during the crossover time.

And second, because it leads into his original question. What do you want from these people?

His point is, what content is it that Princeton's fans want to see, and it what way do they want it presented? Social media? Stories? Videos? What?

TigerBlog has been having a series of conversations with the OAC staff, including video dudes Cody Chrusciel and John Bullis, about the future of athletic communications.

Other than the people who have worked here through the years (and going way back before TigerBlog was here), the best part of Princeton Athletic Communications has been its willingness to evolve.

To do so, though, the OAC people have to be willing to ask themselves tough questions.

What has value? What doesn't? What is the target audience? In what way does that target audience want to receive content?

More than anything else, the question of "what is done well but doesn't move the needle" has to be asked. It's not an easy question to ask, and the answers aren't always easy to find.

For starters, there's no tangible way to measure this.

Suppose there is a video on that is viewed by 32 people. Is that worth doing? Depends who the 32 people are. What if they're a combination of top recruits, current athletes and members of the Friends' group for that sport? And suppose they all love it, and the video makes them feel more connected to the team and the department?

Then it's worth it. Actually, it's way more worth it than something viewed by 132 people that have no reaction to it.

And postgame stories? What do you want there? Do people still read postgame stories? What about pregame? How should the OAC balance the needs of the media with those of the target audiences?

Wow. So many questions.

There aren't right and wrong answers either. Or metrics to completely answer those questions. Just best guesses, and the hope that the needs of the audience are being met.

The OAC staff is a great one. That's something TigerBlog doesn't have to worry about at all.

The question remains the same though.

What do you want from them?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


If you look at the Princeton men's basketball year-by-year results, you'll notice two scores from November of 1997.

Princeton 62, Texas 56. Princeton 38, North Carolina State 36.

Those two games were played at the Meadowlands Arena as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. TigerBlog is pretty sure it was the first Coaches vs. Cancer event, or maybe the second.

It was also one of three games Princeton played that year at the Meadowlands. The other was against Wake Forest, also a Princeton win, that one 69-64, in the Jimmy V. Classic.

For the record, here are four things that TigerBlog didn't need to look up:

1) the scores of any of those games
2) the fact that Dick Vitale made the best speech TigerBlog has ever heard in person when he addressed the crowd in between games of the Jimmy V event. He was talking about the fight against cancer, and he was just incredible. It was riveting. It was startling to TB just how good Vitale was, and TB has never forgotten it
3) the winning points in the game against North Carolina State came when Brian Earl's shot was goaltended

And 4)?

The games against Texas and N.C. State were played in an experimental four-quarter format.

TigerBlog remembers some talk after the game about how the format helped Princeton, because it killed any momentum that Texas or N.C. State might have put together. Or something like that. None of that talk came from Princeton.

The premise was, though, that a four-quarter format would help a team that wasn't considered as strong. At least that's what they said that night. By the end of the year, Princeton would be 27-2 with the best record in Division I and ranked in the top 10 nationally, so "stronger team, weaker team" on that night was debatable.

Anyway, the quarterly experiment must not have worked, since men's college basketball remains two 20-minute halves.

This year, though, the women's game has changed, adopting the 1997 Coaches vs. Cancer format of four 10-minute quarters.

Based on the Princeton's women first weekend of the season, it's hard to draw any conclusions about the quarters versus halves format.

The score at the end of the first quarter of Princeton's first game, Friday night against a very good American team that won the Patriot League a year ago, was 7-2. Maybe it was the quarter format. Maybe it was the first game of the season rustiness.

Whatever it was, the final score of the game was 72-34 Princeton. The Tigers then followed that up with a 94-66 win over Duquesne Sunday afternoon.

So, uh, yeah, Princeton women's basketball is back in business.

The Tigers ran their regular-season winning streak to 32 straight games, after the 30-0 regular season last year, which was followed by the first NCAA win in program history.

Princeton honored Blake Dietrick, the 2015 Ivy League Player of the Year, at the game Sunday. Her absence means Princeton is without its leader from a year ago, as well as a great outside shooter, passer and finisher near the basket.

Still, Princeton has four starters back from a year ago. And a deep bench. And some newcomers. And a coaching staff that long ago figured it out.

Courtney Banghart has a career record at Princeton of 171-67. Of course, you need to keep in mind that she was 7-23 her first year and 14-14 her second year, so if you add that together, she was 21-37 her first two years.

So, with a little more math, you find out that in her last six years and one weekend, Courtney is 150-30. That is ridiculous.

Let's say that again. She is 150-30 in her last 180 games. That's a .833 winning percentage.

Here's another nutty stat. Annie Tarakchian is the first Ivy League Player of the Week for 2015-16. Add that to the fact that Princeton won the award every single week last year, and that's 15 straight Ivy Player of the Week awards for the Tiger women.

Having said all that, TigerBlog does not think Princeton will be unbeaten for the 2015-16 regular season. Hey, the next game - Thursday night at Seton Hall - will hardly be easy.

A year ago, the Pirates went 28-6 and reached the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Rutgers in the first round. Last night Seton Hall improved to 2-0 on this season with a 77-49 win over that same Rutgers team.

For Princeton there is also a trip to Ohio State out there, as well as home games against teams like Michigan, Pitt and Fordham.

Going 30-0 in the regular season isn't something that's going to happen a lot.

On the other hand, Princeton seems to have figured it out. They've won a lot. They often overwhelm their opponents. They shoot. They defend. They share the ball. They're fun to watch.

They do this with players who have won some of the most prestigious off-court honors Princeton has to offer, which makes it

And they've done this with more than one dominant class. It's not like the bottom fell out when Niveen Rasheed graduated.

Banghart and her staff have put together something very special here.

They're off to a 2-0 start this year, and they look to have picked up where they left off last year. Yes, there's a long way to go.

Still, Princeton women's basketball, much like last year, is not to be missed. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

As The Princeton Women Make History

As Princeton women's athletics continues its historic run through the autumn of 2015, TigerBlog would like to start with a hunch of his.

TB has a hunch that come the end of the current academic year, a pretty strong case will be able to be made that the best player across every sport in the Ivy League not to earn first-team All-Ivy honors in his or her sport will be Mimi Asom.

Or a shortstick defensive middie in men's lacrosse, but that's another story.

Let's get back to Asom, a freshman on the Princeton women's soccer team.

Asom was the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year but was just a second-team All-Ivy selection this fall, despite being a must-see, dominate-the-competition, relentless force for the undefeated Ivy champion. Perhaps there could have been another award, something like "most likely to simply overwhelm the other team" award.

Of course, for that one, she might have had to share it with Tyler Lussi, her teammate.

Lussi and Asom are a remarkable duo for the Princeton women's soccer team. They have given the Tigers two legitimate, consistent finishers in a sport where a team with one can go a long way.

As such, the women's soccer season continues, after Asom and Lussi both scored twice each to lead Princeton past Boston College 4-2 Saturday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Princeton, now 14-3-1, was simply the better team, better than its opponent from the ACC, which has six of the top 20 teams in the country, including four of the top eight.

The win by the women's soccer team was part of a remarkable weekend for Princeton's fall women's teams, who are putting together one of the greatest seasons in Ivy history.

There are four Ivy League fall sports for women - cross country, soccer, field hockey and volleyball. Princeton has won the championship in all four.

That has never happened before. No other Ivy school has ever swept the league titles for one gender in one season.

Until this past weekend, that is.

Princeton had already, well, "run" away from the league in women's cross country, winning Heps by 23 points. Then the women's soccer team clinched its championship. Then the field hockey team did.

Like the women's soccer team, Princeton wasn't content just to be there in field hockey or cross country either.

The field hockey team was a big underdog Saturday to Maryland in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but that didn't matter. Princeton was led by another dynamic freshman, Sophia Tornetta, who scored twice as the Tigers advanced with a 3-1 win.

Princeton had lost five straight to Maryland, including a 3-0 game earlier this season. So what. This one was all Tigers, who led 2-0 at the half and 3-0 before a late Terps goal.

And even after the 5-0 loss to Syracuse yesterday, Princeton's field hockey season ended with a 7-0 Ivy record and spot in the NCAA quarterfinals. In other words, it was a fairly typical season - one that pretty much every other school in the league would dream about, but something that Princeton does more often than not (literally, as Princeton made its 14th trip to the quarterfinals).

Even the women's cross country team won Saturday, without even competing. Princeton, who had finished third in a windy NCAA regional on West Windsor fields Friday, earned one of the 13 at-large bids to the NCAA championships in Louisville this coming weekend, joining the 18 automatic qualifiers who finished first or second in the nine regions.

Princeton's Emily de La Bruyere and Lizzie Bird had finished 2-3 individually in Friday's race.

And then there was the women's volleyball team.

If the other three fall champions dominated from start to finish this season, the women's volleyball team did it the hard way.

The Tigers started the season 0-3 in the league and then became the first team to climb out of such a hole to win an Ivy League championship. That would be in any sport, any gender.

Princeton won eight of its next nine after the 0-3 start to get to 8-4 heading into the weekend, one back of Harvard. The Tigers knew the likeliest path to the championship involved a sweep at Cornell and Columbia and a Harvard loss at Yale Friday night.

A win at Cornell? Check. A Harvard loss at Yale? Check.

That left Princeton needing a win over Columbia Saturday night to guarantee at least a share. Complicating the matter was Dartmouth, who was also tied with Princeton and Harvard.

What happened during the next two hours was fairly dramatic. Princeton and Harvard won Game 1. Dartmouth lost Game 1 at Yale, who would have created a four-way tie with a win and losses by Princeton and Harvard.

Then Princeton and Harvard lost Game 2 (Harvard was at Brown) while Dartmouth won. What next?

Harvard won Games 3 and 4, eliminating Yale and clinching at least a share of the title. Would it be an outright title? A shared title, and if so, would it be two teams or three?

Princeton won Game 3 as well, though it wasn't easy. The Tigers led 23-16, only to see Columbia storm back to tie it at 24-24. Then it went back and forth, until Princeton won 29-27.

Then it was Game 4. Princeton led. Columbia led. Princeton led. Columbia led. Columbia had a game ball. Princeton came back, saved that, and closed out the match with a 26-24 win.

Dartmouth would lose 15-13 in Game 5 to Yale, leaving Princeton and Harvard as co-champions. They will meet in a playoff this coming weekend to determine who gets the automatic NCAA bid.

No matter what happens there, Princeton women's volleyball has had an amazing last few weeks. As recently as Oct. 17, Princeton was 3-4 in the league.

Then it was a 7-0 sprint through the league the second time around, avenging all four losses along the way.

And giving Princeton women their sweep of the four Ivy League championships.

And as a salute to the Tigers, TigerBlog asks you to click HERE

Friday, November 13, 2015

Opening Tip

So DeAndre Jordan bailed on the Dallas Mavericks at the last minute, choosing instead to re-up with the Clippers.

And then he had to play in Dallas for the first time Wednesday night. Predictably, Jordan was booed from pregame warm-ups through the end of the game, every time he touched the ball.

It wasn't until yesterday that TB heard what Jeff Van Gundy said about Dallas fans, and it was one of the best things anyone has ever said on TV. This is what he said:
“I would also like the Dallas fans to acknowledge the sheer lunacy and absurdity that they’re booing DeAndre Jordan tonight, and they’ll be cheering someone like Greg Hardy on Sunday. That, to me, is absurd. All this guy did was change his mind.
How great is that?

TigerBlog struggles with the Cowboys, because 1) he's a Giants fan, 2) he's never liked the Cowboys, 3) every bandwagon fan when he was a kid was a Cowboys fan, 4) the Giants could never beat the Cowboys back then and 5) Jerry Jones.

On the other hand, the Cowboys are coached by Jason Garrett, a Princeton alum and a man of unquestionable character who has been thrown into an impossible situation with the whole Hardy mess.

As for Van Gundy's comment, it's so simplistically true. Hate the guy who spurned your team. Cheer for the guy who can help your team, regardless. Really, is there any place where the line would be drawn, or would you cheer for your team no matter what?

TigerBlog finds it hard to root for the Knicks because of the owner and top player, neither of who seems all that likeable. But maybe he'd feel better if they were winning championships together.

And he has to admit that one of his all-time favorite pro athletes is Lawrence Taylor, who isn't quite the citizen of the year.

Is it the responsibility of the Dallas fans to have perspective? Or is it enough to hate Jordan for bailing on them and root for Hardy because, if nothing else, law enforcement and the NFL is allowing him to play. Why should Dallas fans hold him to a higher standard than the authorities?

While TigerBlog ponders all this, the minutes are ticking away to the start of Princeton basketball season. In fact, today is opening day, with the men at Rider at 7 and the women home against American, also at 7.

The women's game will be preceded by a banner raising ceremony, commemorating the greatest season in the history of Ivy league women's basketball. Princeton went 30-0 in the regular season last year and won its first NCAA tournament game before losing to Maryland (TigerBlog still hasn't forgiven the committee for the unforgiveable eighth seed).

It's not easy to turn the page on such a great season. The next year doesn't start out with the same momentum that ended the one before it, even if four starters return, as do some key reserves - and a top freshman class joins in.

The opening night opponent is American, who went 24-9 a year ago, won the Patriot League title and lost to Iowa 75-67 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. American, you probably don't remember, played Princeton to a 63-56 game a year ago in Washington. That was the second-closest game Princeton had all year before its second-round NCAA tournament loss.

 Around here, the soccer and field hockey and lacrosse seasons seem to fly by. The hockey and basketball seasons have a much different life to them.

In fact, the women's soccer season will be in its 78th day when the Tigers take on Boston College tomorrow night in the NCAA tournament opener on Myslik Field. Between opening day tonight and the final game of the regular season in basketball? That's 126 days. In hockey it's two or three weeks longer.

In other words, in basketball you need to pace yourself in some ways. Hey, there are still two months until the first Ivy game and 2.5 months until the first Ivy weekend.

And for the women, they need to adjust back to opening night. The last time they played? There were 7,794 people in attendance, including a pair of Supreme Court Justices. The time before that? The President of the United States was there.

It's not easy to transition back to normalcy. And it's such a long road back to the postseason.  

The men's team opens at Rider. The Tigers are among the favorites in the league race, but that is so far in the future that it's not worth thinking about.

Like the women, the men return the bulk of last year's team and have added some nice looking recruits.

Like the women, the men are going to be a work in progress, readying themselves for the second season, the Ivy season, which isn't until January.

And it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

There was a time when basketball season didn't start til Dec. 1. Now, it's opening day all over college basketball.

Princeton has two teams well worth following this fall into the winter.

It's time for the opening tip.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Let's Go Yale ... And Mary

It's possible that the most annoying commercial TigerBlog has ever seen is the Geico one with Peter Pan.

Seriously. This is the most grating commercial TB has ever seen.

You've seen it. The setting is a reunion, but Peter Pan never grew up and blah blah blah. It's torture to watch.

Actually, TB doesn't watch it. He turns the channel anytime it comes on, because he just can't stand to watch it.

The commercial does do one important thing. It gets you to remember the product. There have been some incredibly creative, funny, well-produced commercials that are really well done - but you can't remember what the product was when they're over.

So in that respect, Geico has succeeded. On the other hand, it takes a special kind of hatred of your final product to get the viewer to want to pay more for his car insurance for another company. That's how awful it is.

TB isn't a huge fan of the "if you're so-and-so then you do so-and-so. It's what you do" concept of the Geico commercials. But he'll still take one piece of it here.

If you're a Princeton fan, you root against Yale. It's what you do.

Well, not always anyway. It depends on a few factors. 

And if you're a Princeton fan, then you're definitely rooting for Yale this weekend.

No, not Saturday at 1 in the football game. You'd never do that.

TigerBlog is talking about tomorrow night, when Harvard comes to New Haven in women's volleyball. It's a crowded field at the top of the Ivy League women's volleyball standings, and Princeton enters the final weekend with a shot at the championship.

That's not how it looked like it would go after the first three matches of the league season. All of those were losses for the Tigers - to Penn, Dartmouth and Harvard.

Since then, Princeton has ripped off eight wins in nine matches, surging to 8-4 in the league. The only loss along the way was at Yale.

Not that Princeton is alone in losing at Yale in the league. The Bulldogs are 7-5 in the league, with a 5-0 record at home and a 2-5 record on the road.

Princeton probably needs Yale to push that record to 6-0 at home for the Tigers to have a shot at at least a share of the league title. Then again, Yale definitely needs to get to 6-0 to have it own shot.

There are four teams still alive in the Ivy League women's volleyball chase. Harvard is currently 9-3, followed by Princeton and Dartmouth at 8-4 and Yale at 7-5.

It's still possible to have a four-way tie at 9-5, with obvious math. It's also possible for there to be an outright champion, which mathematically at least could be Princeton, Harvard or Dartmouth.

Right now, Princeton would take any piece of the championship it can get. And that can only be accomplished should Harvard lose at least once this weekend.

Princeton is at Cornell tomorrow night and Columbia Saturday night. Harvard is at Yale tomorrow night and Brown Saturday; Dartmouth has the opposite schedule from Harvard.

No offense to Brown, but the Bears are 4-8 in the league right now, so Princeton better root for Yale Friday night to stay unbeaten at home. Harvard beat Yale 3-0 in the first meeting, but then again Yale beat Princeton 3-0 the first time they played and Princeton came back to beat Yale 3-1.

So that's women's volleyball.

The basketball season starts for both the men and women tomorrow night. The men are at Rider. The women are on Carril Court against American.

Can it really be basketball season already? Well, not til tomorrow, but close.

Tomorrow brings more than American's women's basketball team to campus. Or Dartmouth hockey.

There will also be the matter of the several hundred cross country runners who will be at the West Windsor course tomorrow for the NCAA regional. Princeton has hosted this before, and it's quite a sight.

There will be 30 women's teams and 28 men's teams at the starting lines. Each team will have seven runners.

Doing that math, there will be 210 women for that race, which starts at noon, and 196 men for the second race, which starts at 1. Teams and individual runners will be looking to qualify for the NCAA championship race, which will be held next Saturday in Louisville.

TigerBlog, you might recall, is a huge fan of Ivy League Heps cross country. The regional will be even more colorful, with so many different teams there to compete.

One of them will be Loyola. And one of the runners for the Loyola women will be Mary Sutton.

Mary is the daughter of Stephanie Sutton, Princeton's longtime ticket manager. Mary basically grew up in Jadwin Gym, and there probably aren't too many people who've seen more Princeton basketball in the last 18 years than she has. Now she's coming back to her hometown to compete as a college freshman.

It has to be pretty exciting for her. She's done well at Loyola, consistently running in the top three for Loyola. She was the team's third finisher at the Patriot League championships, where she finished 44th overall.

So if you're a Princeton fan, you can root for Mary.

And Yale. But only in women's volleyball.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The 138th Meeting

This is what is known around here as the crossover season.

By TigerBlog's count, there will be 15 Princeton teams who compete this weekend. That's a lot. There are athletic departments that barely have 15 sports total, let alone that many competing in one weekend.

It'll be a busy few days on, as stories will fly through the front page and cycle off to their sports homepage in rapid succession. There's not really much that can be done about that, as the homepage has room for just six stories.

If TB's math is right, then those 15 teams will compete in 29 different events this weekend. That's an insane number.

Of those 29, there are 11 that will be at home.

This is what happens when fall and winter overlap. It's probably busier in February, when winter and spring collide.

This weekend is busy enough.

There is, among other things, three NCAA events on campus and a fourth on the road. It's also opening day for men's and women's basketball, and in fact there are three basketball games this weekend, two here at Jadwin Gym and another one about nine miles away.

Oh, and football.

Yeah, a big football game actually, Princeton vs. Yale on Powers Field, kickoff Saturday at 1.

So let's get back to the other stuff later in the week. Let's stick with football now.

TigerBlog has been fascinated this season by how the Tigers played six games in the first seven weeks that finished with a score the team had never had before. Well, five in seven weeks, unless you count winning 40-7 as something different, in that Princeton had lost 40-7 before. But that's semantics.

Then last week's score was 26-23 in favor of Penn. TB was pretty sure that was going to be the seventh different one, but lo and behold, in 1936, Princeton lost to Yale 26-23.

Princeton won the 1933 and 1935 national championships, going 9-0 both times. The 1934 season saw the Tigers go 8-1, with only a 7-0 loss to Yale.

The captains for the 1933 and 1935 teams, by the way, were Art Lane and Pepper Constable. Those are huge names in Princeton athletics history. In fact, the name Art Lane lives on today, as the senior athletes who make the largest contribution to sport and society at Princeton earn the Art Lane Award.

Princeton and Yale will meet for the 138th time when they get together Saturday.

Only one rivalry in college football has been played more than that, and that's Lehigh-Lafayette. On the one hand, Princeton and Yale are only 13 games behind Lehigh and Lafayette. On the other hand, they'll never catch them.

Any guesses on what the most played FBS rivalry is? A hint - these two teams will play for the 125th time in a few weeks, which would be tied for fourth on the FCS list. TB will get to that in a few paragraphs.

He's also going to look up the Division II and Division III longest rivalries. Give him a second.

Okay, he's back. In Division II it's Emporia State vs. Washburn for the 112th time and in Division III, his guess was right, as Williams and Amherst will meet for the 130th time, one more than Albion and Kalamazoo.

As for Division I, here are the top five, with the total after this year's games:
1. Lehigh-Lafayette (151)
2. Princeton-Yale (138)
3. Harvard-Yale (132)
4 - tie William & Mary-Richmond (125)
4 - tie Wisconsin-Minnesota (125)

Princeton first played Yale in 1873. Then they didn't play the next two years before playing again in 1876.

The two played ever year from then until 1917, when World War I limited Princeton to two games against non-colleges. There were three games in 1918, also against military teams (not service academies).

Princeton and Yale played in the last game of the season every year in 1890 through 1933, other than the war years. Since then, the two have played in the second-to-last game every year, other than the World War II-shortened year of 1944.

Why? Because Harvard replaced Yale as the last game of the year for the Bulldogs in 1934. Why? Nobody really seems to know.

Anyway, that's all kinds of history on display.

The present? It's two teams who will play really hard and, when the season is over, will be left to wonder what might have been were it not for all the injuries.

Princeton is 5-3 overall, 2-3 in the league. Yale is the same.

Oh, and speaking of the history, there's the case of Bailey Brower, Class of 1949. The game Saturday will be his 68th straight Princeton-Yale game and 69th overall. His wife, Taz, missed the first one, so it's only the 67th straight for her.

TigerBlog will get them on the videoboard Saturday. That'll be a nice moment.

But if you really want to appreciate how many times Princeton and Yale have played? Bailey Brower will be seeing his 69th game between the two.

That'll be exactly half.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Staying Home

When TigerBlog saw that it would be Boston College at Princeton in the opening round of the NCAA women's soccer tournament, the first person he thought of was Emily Behncke.

Without looking, TigerBlog can tell you that Behncke scored both goals in Princeton's 2-0 win over Boston College in the 2004 NCAA tournament. The game was scoreless until about 10 minutes were left, and then Behncke scored twice in about, oh, four minutes?

TigerBlog wrote that last sentence without looking it up. He was close, but not exactly right. Behncke's first goal came with 8:12 left. Her second came 1:34 later.

The win over Boston College in 2004 came in the Sweet 16 round. Princeton had already defeated Central Connecticut and Villanova and then would beat Washington in the quarterfinals to reach the Final Four.

When Princeton reached the Final Four, it took on a UCLA team coached by Jill Ellis, who would never win an NCAA title with the Bruins but did manage to win the Women's World Cup as head coach of the U.S. Women's National Team this past summer. As for 2004, Princeton's best season ever would end with a 2-0 loss in the national semifinals.

TigerBlog has always tried to figure out where that accomplishment, reaching the NCAA women's soccer Final Four, ranks all time for Princeton women's athletics, keeping in mind that Princeton has produced national championships in women's sports such as field hockey, lacrosse, rowing, fencing and squash. On the other hand, there are more than 300 Division I women's soccer teams, and no other Ivy League school has ever reached the Final Four.

So yes, it was a stunning accomplishment for Princeton. So was going unbeaten a year ago in women's basketball. Neither team won a championship, but that doesn't diminish the fact that their achievements are up there with anything that has been done at Princeton in women's athletics.

All four of Princeton's NCAA tournament wins in 2004 came on Lourie-Love Field, the former home of Princeton soccer. It was a nice place for a game, but it lacked any sort of frills in the least. In fact, all it was was a bunch of rickety old wooden stands around a field.

Today Princeton plays in beautiful Roberts Stadium, which is as nice a college soccer facility as you'll ever see. And it's an incredible place to see a game.

The win over Washington was the last NCAA tournament home game for Princeton's women's soccer team. Until now.

The game between Princeton and Boston College in the first round of the 2015 NCAA tournament will be held Saturday night at 7, after the season finale for the men's team against Yale at 4. It will be the first NCAA women's soccer game ever played on Myslik Field.

Princeton is 13-3-1 on the year, after starting out 2-3. The Tigers rolled through the Ivy League, going 6-0-1 to win the outright championship.

The reward is a home game against BC, who is 11-6-2 overall, 5-3-2 in the ACC. The teams have two common opponents, and those results would suggest a close game, as both beat Harvard 2-1 and both beat Columbia by two goals (BC won 2-0; Princeton won 3-1).

The 2004 Tigers saw Behncke (13) and Esmeralda Negron (school single-season record 20) combine for 33 goals - and also featured the otherwordly all-around game of longtime Canadian national team player and Olympic bronze medalist Diana Matheson.

 The 2015 Tigers are also led by a major 1-2 punch, with junior Tyler Lussi (13) and freshman Mimi Asom (10) having combined for 23 (in two fewer games than Behncke and Negron had).

Lussi herself has 41 career goals, which ties her for second all-time at Princeton, behind Negron's 47. That would be among all women - and men - who have ever played at Princeton.

This Princeton team has 10 other players who have scored at least one goal and another who has no goals but does have six assists.

It's been an outstanding year for Princeton women's soccer, and the reward was the opportunity to stay home. This is actually the third time Princeton and BC will play at Princeton in the NCAA tournament, as the Eagles won 2-0 in 1983.

Princeton is 6-2 all-time at home in NCAA women's soccer games. Away from home? Princeton is 1-8, the only win at West Virginia in 2012.

So yes, playing at home is a big deal.

And the Tigers earned it.

For the first time since 2004. The Boston College game that year was a great one. Princeton dominated but couldn't score, until Benhcke had her two late ones to make the Tigers winners.

The rematch? It figures to be two relatively evenly matched teams, playing an NCAA tournament game at a beautiful stadium.

You can't ask for much more for a November Saturday evening.

Monday, November 9, 2015


This was a fairly busy weekend for Princeton Athletics.

Among other things, the field hockey team won the game it needed to to get an outright Ivy title and automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. In overtime, no less.

The women's soccer team completed an unbeaten Ivy season and now awaits its own NCAA tournament selection. Will the Tigers get rewarded by playing at home?

The women's volleyball team continued its charge to the finish line with two more wins, including a massive on over Yale. As a result, the Tigers - who once were 0-3 in the league - enter the final weekend at 8-4, one game back of Harvard.

The men's water polo team repeated as CWPA Southern Division champ. The final saw the Tigers beat Johns Hopkins 16-12.

It wasn't all wins, or in the case of women's soccer a tie.

The men's hockey team lost twice, both by a single goal, at Cornell in the final minute and then at Colgate. Princeton gives every indication of being much improved in Year 2 under Ron Fogarty.

The women's hockey team also lost in the final minute Friday night to Cornell. The Tigers then came back to beat Colgate Saturday night.

There were other teams who competed too.

Men's soccer won at Penn. Football had a tough loss at Penn. Men's and women's tennis competed in the South.

With all that, though, the biggest story of the weekend had to be sprint football.

Princeton played its final game of the 2015 season Friday night against Chestnut Hill. TigerBlog saw the first meeting between the teams, in Week 1, the first sprint football game in Chestnut Hill history. That game ended up CHC 48, Princeton 13.

Since then, Princeton played three other games, against established CSFL veterans Army, Cornell and Penn. The final scores were 86-0, 52-18 and 75-12.

So with Chestnut Hill at Princeton Friday night, it figured to be more of the same, right, especially with Chestnut Hill at 2-2 on its first season.

This night, though, would be much, much different.

The first score that TigerBlog saw on @putigers_live (that's a plug for the in-game Twitter feed of @putigers; oh wait, that's another one) was 14-0 Princeton. That wasn't what TB was expecting.

Neither, apparently, was anyone else.

TigerBlog's phone started buzzing shortly after that. And kept buzzing.

By the time Princeton stretched its lead to 36-20 early in the fourth quarter, TigerBlog had heard from 12 people who either work at Princeton or used to work at Princeton. Was this really happening, they all wanted to know?

It looked like it might be the night. Princeton had lost 105 straight CSFL games, dating back to 1999. Most of those games were blowouts. Some were close. One was overtime.

This time, though, it felt different. Princeton was in the lead. Every time Chestnut Hill made a move, Princeton had an answer.

And then it turned, in a heartbeat. Two touchdowns and two two-point conversions tied it at 36-36. Then, with less than two minutes left, a Princeton fumble as it was driving for the winning points turned into an 85-yard fumble recovery for the winning TD.

Final score: Chestnut Hill 44, Princeton 36.

TigerBlog was crushed for the players and coaches. To lose like this was almost cruel.

It's not easy playing sprint football at Princeton. There are any number of reasons why the team struggles, none of which are the players' fault. The bottom line, though, is that competing isn't easy.

And so losing, week after week after week, always takes its toll. But for Princeton sprint football, the defining characteristic has always been the unwavering belief that next week is going to be the one. From TigerBlog's view, they play with great optimism.

The person who most personifies this is Sean Morey, the head coach. When TigerBlog talks to him, he gets the sense that he's more mystified as to why his team didn't win last week or the week before rather than resolved to the fact that the next loss is inevitable. And they all follow his lead.

It's really inspirational, actually.

That's why it would have been so great for the team to get a win. That's why it was so crushing that they come oh-so-close before losing.

As the game wore on Friday, TigerBlog began to believe. Well, not believe so much.

It was more hope than anything else. Hope that this would in fact be the night.

Of course it wouldn't be.

There are so many sports cliches about overcoming adversity and winning even when you lose. They've been played out so much that they've become trite.

In the case of Princeton sprint football, though, they have value.

This is a team that has come back week after week, against the longest of odds. Had they won Friday night, it would have been a feeling none of them ever would have forgotten.

It wasn't to be.

What it was was heartbreaking.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Princeton At Penn x 4

TigerBlog got this text message earlier this week from his friend Charlie, who was his roommate his senior year in West Philadelphia: "You damn well better be rooting for Penn."

Charlie knows better.

Back when TigerBlog was still rooting for Penn to beat Princeton, he played intramural football on Franklin Field. And softball. And co-ed football.

In co-ed intramural football, the rule was that the quarterback had to be a female. TigerBlog's team had a women who was very good at it, and as such made it all the way to the championship game.

The opposing team in the final had a quarterback who had long fingernails with bright red nail polish - and who could throw 40-yard spirals. TigerBlog was impressed, even as she shredded TB's team in the final.

Okay, maybe it wasn't the greatest game ever played at Franklin Field. It was still a pretty good performance.

TB isn't 100% sure when exactly he started rooting for Princeton instead of Penn. He had a buffer between being a Penn student and Princeton employee that consisted of his sportswriting days, and he figures he went from ardent Penn fan to somewhat objective observer to "hey, these Princeton people seem okay" to unapologetic support for Princeton.

And let's face it. While TigerBlog went to college at Penn, he is able to pay for his son to go to college now because of Princeton. That's a pretty substantial difference.

Not that he didn't like Penn. Far from it. He had a great experience there.

Gary Walters, the Ford Family Director of Athletics emeritus, used to tell TigerBlog that he had a "Penn diploma and Princeton education." TigerBlog isn't 100% sure what he meant by that, but it sounds pretty good and as such he's always liked it.

Gary can be that way. He says things that sound really good but who's meaning isn't necessarily obvious, and so the listener is left to figure out what it's all about. The best example of that is Gary's oft-uttered line of "you are what you hang on the walls of your mind," something that TigerBlog is still trying to get his head around.

Anyway, it's a big Princeton-Penn weekend in West Philadelphia, as the Tigers and Quakers match up in field hockey, women's soccer, football and men's soccer.

The field hockey game, which begins at noon, is a winner-take-most game. Doesn't TigerBlog mean "winner-take-all?" No, he means "most."

No matter what happens, Princeton is assured at least a tie for the Ivy League title, which is the 21st title in the last 22 years. And the year the Tigers didn't win? Penn did, in 2004, beating Princeton on a penalty corner that came after time expired (teams get to play out a penalty corner in that situation, as opposed to a corner kick in soccer).

Oh, and John Mack - the 10-time Heptagonal champion whose time these days is spent being a lawyer and changing his 10-month-old son Jacobi's diapers - checked in that Iowa once won 25 straight Big Ten wrestling championships, in response to TigerBlog's wondering how many teams anywhere have ever won 21 league titles in 22 years.

Should Princeton win, it would mean the outright championship and automatic NCAA tournament bid as well. Should Penn win, then there would be co-champions, but Penn would get the auto-bid by virtue of the head-to-head win.

The women's soccer game is winner-take-all, but only if Princeton wins. Princeton, led by first-year head coach Sean Driscoll, has already wrapped up the Ivy League's outright title and NCAA bid.

There are two things on the line in this game. First, there's the chance to go 7-0-0, something that's only happened six times in league history.

Then there's the chance to play at home in the NCAA tournament. Princeton, ranked 24th nationally this week, has an RPI around 30, which puts the Tigers right on the fringes of playing at home. Having a facility like Roberts Stadium can't hurt that cause.

A frustrating season for Princeton and Penn men's soccer is winding down, as both teams are 1-3-1 in the league but not that far away from contention. Penn, for its part, has been outscored 6-5 in its league games. Princeton has been outscored 8-5 in league games, but the Tigers are 7-2-1 outside of the league, which shows just how unpredictable and balanced Ivy men's soccer can be.

And then there's the football game. This one will have two male quarterbacks. Actually, it'll have more than that. Princeton has multiple quarterbacks on most of its plays.

Princeton is 2-2 in the league, while Penn is 3-1. Penn has also won three straight, convincingly, over Columbia, Yale and Brown.

Harvard is the lone unbeaten team in the league at 4-0 after its win over Dartmouth last week. Penn is at Harvard next weekend. The math is relatively easy to figure out.

Princeton's 2015 season has been a series of injuries that has robbed the Tigers of the chance to know how good they might have been. That's the nature of football.

It's also the nature of football that each week is its own mini-season. Princeton-Penn is a big mini-season.

There are four games at Penn tomorrow between the Tigers and Quakers.

Go Tigers.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Best Ivy League Football Game Since ... Two Years Ago

As TigerBlog saw it last weekend, there were four football teams that had a right to feel crushed when the weekend was over.

In reverse order of when the games were played, there was one NFL game. The Giants, if you saw it, lost 52-49 to the Saints on a day when Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes and had it not be enough.

Manning, in fact, moved into 10th place all time in NFL history in career touchdown passes with 276, as he moved past two players in the game. One was Joe Montana. The other? Vinny Testaverde.

Yes, part of that is how the game is played now. In fact, Manning only ranked second in the game Sunday in career TD passes, behind New Orleans QB Drew Brees, who threw seven of his own, giving him 411, good for fifth.

On the other hand, Manning, ranked 10th all-time in TD passes and only 14 away from Johnny Unitas and with two Super Bowl rings, has to be a Hall of Fame lock, right?

Anyway, New York led 49-42 late in the game. Then the Saints tied it in the final minute and forced a punt with about 15 seconds left. Did the Giants learn nothing from the DeSean Jackson debacle of several years ago? Apparently not.

The punt was returned, and a weird facemask penalty added 15 yards, leading to a game-winning 50-yard field goal on the final play. The penalty was weird not because it wasn't a facemask but because it came on a ball that was being illegally advanced. New Orleans recovered the fumble, but because it was fumbled forward and not recovered by the fumbler in the final two minutes, it can't be advanced.

It's not a penalty though. It's just returned to the spot of the fumble if the fumbling team recovered. So the Giants were done in by 15 yards tacked on on a ball that could not legally be advanced. Weird, right?

Two of the other teams played Saturday night.

One was Temple, which lost fair and square to Notre Dame 24-20 but came really, really close to knocking off the Irish and vaulting itself into the national championship conversation at least.

The other was Duke, who "lost" to Miami. By now you've seen the last play, the one with the eight laterals, three penalties, one downed player, several helmetless players who ran onto the field while play was still going, 20-minute replay review and ultimately suspended officiating crew.

Why, TigerBlog wonders, can't the ACC simply award the game to Duke? Because it's against the rules? That's a cowardly way out. Have the guts to say "hey, Duke won the game. The ACC will officially recognize it as such."

The fourth team is, of course, Dartmouth.

The Big Green dominated Harvard for 53 minutes or so Friday night in a huge Ivy League football game. Then Harvard did what happens so often in football - got a touchdown, stop and touchdown, pulling a 14-13 win out of a 13-0 deficit.

Yes, a 13-0 lead with seven minutes left seems big. No, it isn't. It can change so quickly. And it did.

TigerBlog watched the game, and it was a great one. He loves games like that, where yards and points are hard to come by. Dartmouth had a great, epic, one-for-the-ages goal line stand early in the fourth quarter, and it was what football in its purest form is supposed to be.

The game matched two 6-0 teams, and obviously the winner was going to have a huge inside track to the Ivy title. As TB said, the game was great - but he isn't ready to anoint it as the greatest game the Ivy League has seen in a long time.

Unless you count two years as a long time. And three years.

In case the short, 140-character attention-spanned world has forgotten, there was the matter of the two Princeton-Harvard games of 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, Princeton trailed 34-10 with 12 minutes left and won 39-34. That game was a great one.

The 2013 one was better. In that one, the Tigers won 51-48 in three overtimes. Both games ended with touchdown passes from Quinn Epperly to Roman Wilson. The 2013 win propelled Princeton to the Ivy League championship.

Oh, and that 2013 game? It was tied 21-21 at the half, 28-28 at the end of the third and 35-35 at the end of regulation. There were nearly 1,000 yards of offense.

So how do those three games rank, Princeton-Harvard in 2012, Princeton-Harvard in 2013, Harvard-Dartmouth in 2015?

TigerBlog surmises that it's a matter of taste. As he said, he loves defensive battles, but shootouts are fun too. And he assumes he can ask a fairly random group of Ivy football fans and get those games ranked in just about any order.

And what would TigerBlog conclude?

It's hard to beat that 2013 Princeton-Harvard game.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Who Are The Surging Tigers

TigerBlog and Kim Meszaros, who is the executive assistant to Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux, go way back.

In fact, of everyone who works in the Department of Athletics, only two - Kim and TB's colleague Craig Sachson, were at his 40th birthday party. So yeah, they've known each for a long time.

And yet TigerBlog was pretty comfortable that his comment to Kim the other day was accurate, back when he said "this is the strangest moment" of their relationship.

The two were standing in the Princeton Stadium elevator. Kim was wearing the Tiger costume. Well, not the real Tiger costume. The back-up one.

The occasion was the filming of the "Who's the Tiger" video prior to Halloween. Kim was the other Tiger, and she had to walk out of the elevator into the scene. Except she couldn't press the button to open the elevator with the Tiger paw on.

So TB stood next to her. Only he would be in the shot once the door opened, so he had to push the button and then quickly move to the back of the elevator, crossing behind Kim.

He can't remember now, but he thinks they did this about five times before the shot was right. At some point during the filming, TigerBlog mentioned to Kimmie that this was in fact the strangest moment of their relationship. He stands by that.

The "Who's the Tiger" video series has been a lot of fun. The Tiger (whoever the Tiger is) is a comedic genius who seems to be able to roll its eyes, even though the eyes on the costume don't move. And the Tiger has impeccable timing.

TigerBlog gets the same basic feedback from everyone about the videos: 1) they're very clever and 2) what's their purpose. To that, TigerBlog says "thanks, and their purpose is to be creative and have some fun."

There have been eight videos released so far. There are two others that have already been filmed. There will be a few others.

Haven't seen them? You can find all eight HERE.

TigerBlog's favorite is "The Audition." That's the one where Sam Gravitte of the men's lacrosse team sings and Riley Wilkinson of the softball team plays the piano.

It's a little different. First of all, Sam is a great singer. His mother, Debbie Gravitte, won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." Sam has played, among other roles, Jean Valjean in "Les Mis" and in a production called "Spring Awakenings" last spring at McCarter Theater. In fact, he did a doubleheader of men's lacrosse during the day at Maryland and "Spring Awakenings" at McCarter that night.

As for Riley, TB emailed the head coaches saying he was looking for a piano player, and he got about eight or so responses. Riley, a freshman, had to play the piano and say a few lines, and she did both flawlessly. Her timing was also great.

The Halloween one was also very good.

In this one, the Tiger and his three friends - women's volleyball players Kendall Peterkin, Cara Mattaliano and Anne Ferlmann - are waiting by the elevator for another friend, presumably in advance of a Halloween party. Ferlmann asks if Mattaliano's friend is going to be wearing the same costume as a year erlier, and when she's told yes, she responds that she didn't like it.

Then the second Tiger - Kim, another comedic genius - steps off the elevator, wearing the same costume as the Tiger, who is insulted by the fact Ferlmann didn't like the costume. Peterkin, in perfect deadpan voice, says "well that's awkward."

Very good stuff.

You know what Peterkin and her teammates haven't done since the video was filmed two weeks ago? Lose.

Princeton women's volleyball is on a role as the season heads into its final two weekends. Improbably, the Tigers are right in the thick of things.

Coming off its back-to-back 3-0 sweeps of Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend, Princeton is 8-4 in the Ivy League, tied with Dartmouth and Yale, one game back of Harvard.

It may surprise you to know that Princeton began the league season 0-3, with losses to Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth. Those would be the three teams that Princeton played since the "Who's the Tiger" video was filmed, and all three losses were avenged.

Princeton is home this weekend against Yale Friday night and Brown Saturday night. Princeton lost 3-0 to Yale the first time around.

The regular season ends the following weekend at Cornell and Columbia. Harvard plays the same four teams as Princeton, just on opposite weekends.

Princeton can't win even a share of the league championship without a little help against Harvard. Still, there's a long way to go, and this isn't one of those years where the best team is simply too good for the rest of the league.

In fact, since the Ivy League went to double round-robin for women's volleyball in 2001, only twice has the league champ had at least three Ivy losses. There was a four-way tie at 10-4 in 2004 and a two-way tie at 11-3 in 2001. That's been it.

Now, with two weekends left, everyone has at least three losses. And Princeton is in the Ivy title conversation, something that seemed unlikely when the team was 0-3.

Ah, but that was a long time ago. Now there's momentum heading into the final Dillon Gym weekend. And some big volleyball to go.

Who's the Tiger? Nobody knows.

Who are the surging Tigers? The women's volleyball ones, that's who.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Few Minutes With Chris Young

(photo courtesy of the Kansas City Royals)

Want to know what kind of person Chris Young is?

Less than 11 hours after Young and his Kansas City Royals had won the World Series, TigerBlog texted Young, saying congratulations and that he knew Young was busy but if he had a few seconds could he call TB back. He was looking to write something about Young and his experience.

And how long did it take him to get back to TB? Three hours? Two hours? Never? A promise to check in later?

Nope. How about 18 minutes. It took 18 minutes between when TigerBlog texted Young and when Young called him back.

TigerBlog and Chris Young go way back, to before the start of his freshman basketball season at Princeton in the 1998. Before the season, actually, all the way to when TigerBlog used to watch pickup games in Jadwin Gym and point out to Bill Carmody and his coaches that the big kid from Texas looked pretty good. TB didn't even know he also played baseball.

During the next two years, TigerBlog saw every game Young played except for one, the second of his freshman year, at UNC Wilmington. He got to know Young as a young man of the highest quality, one who was always polite, personable and humble as much as he was competitive and driven.

Nothing has changed now that Young is 36 and just finished with his 11th Major League season. This one ended a little differently, with a World Series title. And now as TigerBlog texted Young, he had a hunch it wouldn't be long before he heard back from him. 

Still it wasn't like he had nothing else going on. He probably hadn't slept much. His phone had probably been buzzing all morning.

The Royals were on the bus to the airport, heading back to Kansas City, where the next phase of the celebration was to begin. The background noise on TB's conversation with Young indicated that the celebrating had not yet abated.

And why would it? Kansas City defeated the Mets four games to one to win the World Series, the first championship for a franchise that last won one in 1985 and one that spent much of the time in between being basically a small-market irrelevance.

There was a 14-inning game and a 12-inning game, meaning that the five games totaled 53 innings. The Royals had the lead at the end of only 15 of them.

Much has been made about Kansas City's resilience in the postseason. Young had a front-row seat for it.

"It's incredible," he said of his teammates. "We're like a family. We never stop thinking we're going to find a way to win. It's an amazing group of guys."

Game 5 was the most dramatic example of this. Matt Harvey shut KC out for eight innings as New York took a 2-0 lead into the ninth. At home.

Here's what was at stake - Should the Mets have won then they would have had Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard for Games 6 and 7, with no reason to think those two would have been any less successful than Harvey.

By now, you know what happened. Harvey talked manager Terry Collins into letting him go back out to the Citi Field mound instead of closer Jeurys Familia. Harvey, seemingly invincible for eight innings, brought with him an incredible roar from the Mets fans, who wanted to see him polish off his shutout.

Instead, he walked one and gave up a double to Eric Hosmer, making it 2-1 and bringing Familia in. The Royals tied it when Hosmer raced home on an infield grounder from Salvador Perez, as Mets first baseman Lucas Duda threw wide of home plate when a good throw probably would have gotten Hosmer to end it.

Young watched it all unfold from the bullpen. He didn't figure to pitch in the game, but then he had no idea how long it would go and thought he'd "be a better option than a position player if it came to that."

What was the KC bullpen saying heading into the ninth?

"We thought," Young said, "that if they sent Harvey back out there that we'd find a way. We knew we'd tie it."

Once it was tied, there was the matter of untying it. The Royals had a huge edge in bullpen arms, and the KC relievers would combine to go six innings of two-hit, no-run ball in Game 5. The numbers could have been 60 innings of shutout ball if that's what was needed.

But no. KC got a run in the 12th on an RBI single from a player who, what else, hadn't batted yet in the postseason. Then the Royals tacked on four more. All that was left was for Wade Davis to get the last three outs.

"Once we got the lead, it was over," Young said. "We had Wade Davis. Everyone in the bullpen just started stretching. Nobody wanted to pull a hamstring running in to celebrate."

The last half-inning might not have had any drama, but there were certainly moments of huge drama in the series. And it's possible that the entire championship grew directly out of Young's first-game performance.

Game 1, if you recall, went 14 innings. Again, Kansas City had tied it in the ninth. Again, they won it long after midnight.

This time, though, it was Young who was center stage. He pitched the 12th, 13th and 14th, allowing zero hits, let alone runs. When Kansas City got a run in the bottom of the 14th, he was the winning pitcher.

As he watched, TigerBlog thought Young looked calm. Was he?

"Calm?" he said. "I'd say I was focused. Super focused. Just really locked in. I knew that if I gave up a run, we might lose. I needed to stay as focused as possible, concentrate on each pitch. I could not get caught up in the moment at all."

What about when it was over?

"No," he said. "I couldn't start to celebrate. I knew I had to pitch Game 4. I had to stay focused on that. I had to get ready for my start."

Game 4 was another turning point. Kansas City won the first two games and then lost Game 3. A loss in Game 4 and the series would be even, with Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard all ready to go.

Young went four innings in Game 2, four strong innings in which he gave up only two runs and kept the Royals in it. Of course KC came back to win.

Finally, when the Series was over, Young could reflect on the moment. His baseball career appeared to be over after a series of injuries seemed to rob him of his ability to pitch, but he came back strong a year ago in Seattle. This year, he signed with Kansas City, a team that was on the verge a year ago, when the team lost in the World Series in seven games.

"I signed in 2000," he said, not that any Princeton basketball fan doesn't already realize that. "This goes back longer than that. This is something you dream about from the time you start playing. I think now that it's over, I'll be able to appreciate the magnitude of it much better."

Young, as TigerBlog has often said, is probably the most universally well-liked Princeton athlete in all the time TB has been around here. Part of that has to do with the fact that he couldn't play his final two basketball seasons after he signed his pro baseball contract, leaving TigerBlog and Princeton fans to wonder what he might have accomplished those last two seasons.

Most of it, though, is about the kind of person he is. TigerBlog hears this all the time from anyone who comes into contact with him that they are almost startled by how genuine a person he is.

And a loyal one.

"When we were in Toronto, I got an email from a Princeton alum in Kansas City wishing us well," he says. "I turned to Liz [his wife, a former Princeton women's soccer player] and said that with support like that, how can you fail? I've heard from so many Princeton friends. It's just such a great support network."

And now it has a World Series champion to call its own. Princeton had already had a Stanley Cup winner (George Parros), an NBA champ (Bill Bradley) and a Super Bowl champ (Bob Holly). Now it can add the World Series.

Chris Young is a World Series winner. And the winning pitcher in a World Series game.

Those are accomplishments that will never come off his resume.

Chris Young is a champion. On the field, and off.

It took 18 minutes to hear back from him. Less than 12 hours after he won the World Series.

What else needs to be said about him?