Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year In Review, Part 2

The biggest moment in Princeton Athletics in 2015?

It's easy for TigerBlog to narrow it down to two things. Picking between them isn't easy.

Was it when the Office of Athletic Communications moved downstairs? Or was it the "Who's the Tiger" series?

Okay, okay. Neither one of those really was the No. 1 moment.

TigerBog counted down from No. 15 to No. 8 yesterday. If you missed it, just click HERE.

Today, before the frivolity of however you choose to spend your New Year's Eve, TigerBlog gives you the rest of the list, Nos. 7 through 1.

Before that, three things:

1) this is TigerBlog's list, so your choices might be different
2) only performances with Princeton Athletics count, so the incredible year that Princeton alums had in pro sports aren't part of this list
3) be careful this New Year's Eve, and have a great 2016

In case you didn't click above, here's Nos. 15-8:

No. 15 - Men's water polo gets to the NCAA tournament
No. 14 - Quinn Prchal wins the Ivy golf title
No. 13 - A Swimming and Diving sweep
No. 12 - Both tennis teams play in NCAAs at Virginia
No. 11 - Field hockey team wins another Ivy title and gets an NCAA win
No. 10 - Orban and MacDonald have monster senior years
No. 9 - Men's track and field wins the "Triple Crown"
No. 8 - Women's lacrosse runs through the Ivy League and to NCAA quarterfinals

And the rest of the top 15:

No. 7 - Lizzie Bird and the women's cross country team run wild
Lizzie Bird crossed the finish line at the Ivy League Heptagonal individual title. Then it was time to wait for the second-place finisher. One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. Three-Mississippi. Four-Mississippi. Five-Mississippi. Six-Mississippi. Seven-Mississippi. Eight-Mississippi. Then the next runner arrived. Bird's eight-second win at Heps propelled the Tigers to a dominant team win. It also started Princeton on the way to a great November, which included a 2-3 finish by Emily de La Bruyere and Bird at the NCAA Regional (held at Princeton) as the Tigers earned a spot in the NCAA championships, where Bird would finish 58th and Princeton would finish 21st.

No. 6 - Princeton wins all four women's Ivy titles in the fall
First it was the women's cross country team. Then it was field hockey and women's soccer. Then women's volleyball. Four women's teams compete in Ivy League sports in the fall. All four won Ivy League championships. In the entire history of the Ivy League, that had never happened before. Before Princeton's women in 2015, no school had swept every sport in one gender in one season.

No. 5 - Tyler Lussi and Mimi Asom score a lot of goals
The Princeton women's soccer team ran away from the field in the Ivy League, going 6-0-1 to earn the title and a spot in the NCAA tournament under first-year head coach Sean Driscoll. Playing at home, Princeton then defeated Boston College 4-2 before a second-round loss to USC ended the season at 14-4-1. Oh, and of Princeton's four goals against BC? Tyler Lussi scored two, and Mimi Asom scored the other two. Was this out of the ordinary? Nope. Asom, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, tied the Princeton record with 12 goals. And Lussi? She went for 15 goals and 35 points, both of which led the Ivy League, and she'll enter her senior year with 43 goals, four off the school record. She was the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year for the second-straight year and a second-team All-America.

No. 4 - A record five wrestlers reach the NCAA championships
Maybe he hasn't gotten the acclaim that some of Princeton's other coaches have, but it's hard to overstate just how great a job Chris Ayres has done in building Princeton wrestling into a national factor. Princeton wrestling had won one Ivy match total in the five years - and had lost 18 straight -  before Ayres became head coach in 2006-07. Turning the corner wasn't easy, but Ayres has now had three winning records in the league, including each of the last two years. The 2014-15 season ended with a program-record five Princeton wrestlers advancing all the way to the NCAA championships: Abram Ayala, Chris Perez, Brett Harner, Jordan Laster and Jonathan Schleifer. Once there, all five - all of whom returned this year - advanced to the second day of the competition. Princeton has continued to build on that success in the first half of the 2015-16 season.

No. 3 - A comeback for the ages
On Oct. 17, the Princeton women's volleyball team lost 3-0 at Yale to fall to 3-4 in the Ivy League. The preview story for the next match, against Penn, started out with the idea that no team had really established itself but cautioned that head coach Sabrina King was "less focused on the standings and more interested in her team's performance against the Quakers, who opened the Ivy League season with a 3-1 victory over the Tigers at Dillon Gym." In other words, it seemed like Princeton was playing for some pride in the second half of the season. Then a funny thing happened. Princeton knocked off Penn to get back to .500. Then it avenged its other three league losses, stampeding through the league 7-0 the second time around. Going into the final weekend, as many as four teams were still alive for the championship. Princeton did what it needed, sweeping Cornell and Columbia on the road, and got the help it needed too, as Harvard fell to Yale, leaving Princeton and Harvard as co-champs. Princeton became the first team ever to start a season 0-3 and win an Ivy title in any sport with a double round-robin.

No. 2 - Two of the greatest ever
If the greatest male athletes of all-time at Princeton are Hobey Baker, Bill Bradley and Dick Kazmaier, then who is the greatest female athlete, or athletes? There's no clear-cut answer, and a case can be made that the two best competed at Princeton in 2015 and will be back next year. First, there's Julia Ratcliffe. The 2014 NCAA hammer throw champion, Ratcliffe finished second in 2015 - despite throwing further in 2015 than she did when she won it all. The other is Ashleigh Johnson, the goalie on the women's water polo team. Johnson sent NCAA tournament records for saves in a game with 22 against UC-Irvine and saves in a tournament with 50 in three games, as she led Princeton to a sixth-place finish nationally. Both Ratcliffe and Johnson are complete athletes, with speed and strength that transcends almost any realistic expectation of a collegian. In fact, both are international-caliber in their sports, and both are taking the 2015-16 academic year off to train for the Olympic Games. They'll be back in 2016-17 as seniors, when they will complete their careers and put the final chapters on their cases to be the best who've ever played here. What they've done so far might be enough to make that claim regardless of what comes next.

No. 1 - What else would it be?
There can really be one top story for Princeton Athletics in 2015, with all due respect to all of the great teams, athletes and coaches who wear the orange and black. In 2015, the No. 1 story is the women's basketball team. Princeton put the finishing touches on a 30-0 regular season, unprecedented in Ivy women's basketball history and done only once in men's Ivy basketball, and then defeated Wisconson-Green Bay 80-70 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in what TigerBlog would consider the Game of the Year in Princeton sports. The season finally ended with a loss to Maryland, who would reach the Final Four, in the second round, on Maryland's home court by the way, as Princeton ended its season 31-1. Princeton had its first NCAA win in program history and just the second ever by an Ivy women's basketball team, and the Tigers finished the year as the highest ranked team in Ivy women's basketball history with a No. 13 national ranking. In addition to an endless number of individual honors that team members won, Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart won the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award. By season's end Princeton women's basketball captured national attention from almost every major outlet (not to mention the President of the United States and two Supreme Court Justices, all of whom attended the NCAA tournament games), and it galvanized the local community in a huge way, as Princeton women's basketball games became can't-miss at Jadwin Gym. The team represented the very best of Princeton University, with one engaging player after another, one award-winning scholar after another, one service-conscious team member after another. Princeton will not have a second-straight perfect regular season, but the Tigers have already drawn nearly 2,000 fans to Jadwin for a huge, nationally televised win over Michigan and continue to play at an extremely high level. The No. 1 story of 2015? The women's basketball team.

What will be the No. 1 story of 2016? TigerBlog is looking forward to finding out.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to everyone. And again, be careful and safe tonight.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year In Review Part 1

Well, this is just about it for 2015.

Another year come and gone. And now it's almost time for next New Year's Eve.

Is it a big party night for you?

TigerBlog wrote about the evolution of New Year's Eve a year ago. He quotes himself directly:
The evolution of New Year's Eve goes like this: 1) try to stay up til midnight, 2) desperately try to find something fun to do at midnight, 3) pretend you don't care if you have something fun to do at midnight even though you do, 4) don't do anything other than stay up to watch the ball drop at midnight while sneering at those who are in steps 2 and 3, and finally 5) not care that it's New Year's Eve.

TigerBlog ran into assistant women's basketball coach Milena Flores before the team left for Marist the other day. When the subject turned to New Year's Eve, TigerBlog mentioned that he's not interested in going to Times Square on the moment of the year that it's the least crowded, let alone on New Year's Eve.

Up next is 2016. You might have heard that there's a Presidential election in the coming year. And that there will be the next Summer Olympics.

There will also be another calendar year of Princeton Athletics.

First, though, it's the top 15 stories in Princeton Athletics from 2015. Keep in mind, this is TigerBlog's list, so direct all complaints to him.

Also, TigerBlog is limiting this only to events that happened at Princeton this year. If he had an alumni division, then Chris Young's performance in helping the Kansas City Royals to the World Series title would have vaulted to either No. 1 or No. 2. 

TigerBlog will offer up Nos. 15 through 8 today, with the top seven left for tomorrow. This isn't as easy as you'd think, since 2015 was another ultra-successful year at Princeton.

No. 15 - Men's water polo gets to the NCAA tournament
Thomas Nelson scored four goals to lead Princeton to a 7-6 win over Johns Hopkins in the championship game of the Collegiate Water Polo Association to advance to the NCAA tournament. Princeton, who had won the CWPA Southern Division title, lost the NCAA play-in game to UC-San Diego to finish the season at 22-5.

No. 14 - Quinn Prchal wins the Ivy golf title
Quinn Prchal had a record-setting run at the Ivy League championships. His three-day total of 210 won the individual title by three strokes and tied the league record for three rounds, and his final round 67 also tied the Ivy record for a single round. Prchal shot another 67 in his final round at the NCAA regional, where he finished 37th.

No. 13 - A Swimming and Diving sweep
The men led wire-to-wire to win the 30th Ivy title in program history. This one was over from Day 1, when the Tigers built a triple (not double)-figure lead after the first session. The women? They had a little more drama than the men. The women had to rally from 92 points down with six events to go, but they did it, winning the final two events to zoom past Harvard to win the 22nd Ivy title in program history.

No. 12 - Both tennis teams play in NCAAs at Virginia
The women's tennis team made its second-straight NCAA tournament appearance and fourth in seven years after winning the 12th Ivy League title in program history. The big wins along the way were a pair of 4-3 matches, indoors at Dartmouth and outdoors on a beautiful spring Sunday at home in the clincher against Cornell. The men didn't win the league title, but they still advanced to the NCAA tournament, earning an at-large bid that put the Tigers in the field for the first time since 1988. Both teams would play at the same site, Charlottesville, Va., in the NCAAs.

No. 11 - Field hockey team wins another Ivy title and gets an NCAA win
Princeton went 7-0 in the Ivy League to win its 21st championship 22 years. It got pretty dramatic at the end, as Princeton played Penn in the regular season finale, with an NCAA spot to the winner and the game headed to overtime after the Quakers tied it with three minutes left. Ryan McCarthy's goal 2:35 into overtime, though, made the Tigers winners and sent them off to the NCAA tournament, where they kept the season going with a 3-1 win over No. 5 Maryland, behind two goals by Sophia Tornetta, before falling to eventual-champion Syracuse.

No. 10 - Orban and MacDonald have monster senior years
Kip Orban and Mike MacDonald destroyed the Princeton record book while leading the men's lacrosse team to a share of the Ivy League title. Destroyed, actually, might not be a strong enough way to describe it. MacDonald, the Ivy League Player of the Year, set the program record with 78 points (48G, 30A), and he became the first Princeton player ever with at least 40 goals and 30 assists in a season. MacDonald finished his career as the third-leading goal-scorer in Princeton history with 132, and his 208 points are fifth all-time. Orban annihilated the record for goals in a season by a middie as he finished his senior year with 45. He also had 101 for his career, making him the third middie at Princeton to reach 100.

No. 9 - men's track and field wins the "Triple Crown"
The men's track and field team put the finishing touches on a seventh "Triple Crown," a sweep of the Heps titles in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field, as the Tigers continued to be the only Ivy men's team ever to accomplish the feat. The Princeton women, who have done it twice, are the only ones on the women's side who have done it. The 2015 Princeton men did it in two varying ways, setting the record for the largest margin of victory in the 67-year history of the indoor event and then having to rally for a 3.5-point win in the outdoor event. The "Triple Crown" wasn't secure until Stephen Soerens won the decathlon in the final event of the day.

No. 8 - Women's lacrosse runs through the Ivy League and to NCAA quarterfinals
The Princeton women's lacrosse team went 7-0 in the league and then charged through the Ivy tournament. The Tigers outscored their league opponents by a combined 80-54, with the closest game a 9-7 win at Penn against the second-best team in the league on a night when Olive Hompe scored three times and Erin McMunn became the sixth player in program history to reach 200 points. Princeton then won twice in the NCAA tournament, including an 8-4 win over sixth-ranked Stony Brook as Abby Finkelston scored four goals, before falling to Duke in the quarterfinals.

TOMORROW - The top seven

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Best Macaroni Salad Ever

This is the time of year where TigerBlog can never tell what day of the week it is.

This year is a little easier, since Christmas and New Year's are on a Friday. On the other hand, the weekend seemed like it started earlier than a Friday, and now it's a few days later and all.

As such, TB cannot remember what day it was that he watched the Harvard-Oklahoma men's basketball game. It was the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, and the unbeaten Sooners won 83-71.

Harvard led by six late in the first half and two at the break, but Oklahoma came out and built a 20-point lead in fewer than seven minutes of the second half.

TigerBlog sensed that even as Harvard was staying close to Oklahoma that the pace would be too much at some point. And that's how it played out.

There were two parts of the Harvard-Oklahoma telecast that stood out to TigerBlog.

One was Harvard athletic communications colleague Andrew Chesebro, who could be seen at the scorer's table next to the Crimson bench. TigerBlog emailed Chesebro during the game and asked him how much weight he's lost, and the answer was 50 pounds. That's pretty impressive.

The other was the external shots of Diamond Head, and especially of Duke's, a restaurant on Waikiki Beach.

And by on the beach, TigerBlog means on the beach.

Back in 1998 - during this week, so TB doesn't know what days of the week it was - Princeton played men's basketball at the University of Hawaii. That time it was called the Rainbow Classic.

TigerBlog has been doing this for a long time, and there haven't been too many better weeks than that one in Hawaii.

TB and Tom McCarthy (he was then Princeton's play-by-play announcer on the radio; now he does the Phillies on TV and a bunch of other events, including Kentucky-Louisville on CBS the other day) left Newark Airport Christmas afternoon and flew to San Francisco, where they then changed planes and got on a packed 747 to head to Honolulu. They arrived in Hawaii around 10 at night and then got the hotel around 11.

It wasn't until the next morning that they realized that their hotel was an open-air hotel, with the beach out the back of the lobby. And at the rear of the lobby?


It's named for Duke Kahanamoku, the Waikiki native who would be an early Olympic swimming champion. The restaurant looks out over the Pacific Ocean, with Diamond Head to the left.

TigerBlog's time in Honolulu went like this: wake up, go to the University of Hawaii to update game notes for the next game, come back, go to the beach, eat at Duke's, to go to the game. This schedule depended on having Princeton win each night, and the Tigers obliged, defeating Florida State, Texas and Charlotte to win the tournament championship.

As for Duke's, TigerBlog always go the same thing - the fish of the day, which came with two giant scoops of macaroni salad. It remains the best macaroni salad he's ever had. It was incredible.

Has it really been 17 years?

Anyway, it's not easy to beat a Top 25 power conference team when you're an Ivy League team. The way to do it isn't to beat them at their own game or to hope that you shoot 80% from three-point range, though that would help.

No, the way to do it how Princeton did it to UCLA in the 1996 NCAA tournament. Make them play an imperfect game. Take them out of their comfort zone.

The next chance to prove TigerBlog's theory comes up tonight in another warm-weather venue, as the Princeton men take on Miami. Though the Hurricanes are ranked 13th and 15th and the Sooners are ranked 2nd and 3rd, they're probably fairly similar teams.

Princeton hung tough with No. 4 Maryland earlier this month, also leading by six in the first half and then trailing by only four at the break. The Terps then turned it on after halftime to win 82-61.

Miami is a deadly offensive team, shooting better than 50% overall as a team and better than 41% from three-point range while averaging 86.1 points per game. The defense isn't terrible either, as the Canes actually shoot better from three-point range (41.7%) than it allows its opponents to shoot from the field as a whole (41.3%).

If Miami shoots like it normally does, well, that's not going to be a good recipe for Princeton.

You can watch the game on ESPN3.

Or even better, on the WatchESPN app. From Baker Rink, so you're going to go to the Princeton-Quinnipiac men's hockey game.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Before The Year Ends

TigerBlog hopes that everyone had a tremendous Christmas.

If you have a little kids and celebrate the holiday, then you probably spent hours shopping, wrapping, planning and all. And then they tore the wrapping off the presents, glanced at the box and moved on to the next.

If you have older kids and celebrate the holiday, then you probably figure you could pay for college with the money that you used on Christmas presents that barely got used.

Oh well. It's part of the fun.

Now that it's post-Christmas, it's time for one of the odder weeks of the year, the week between Christmas and New Years. All of the buildup is for Christmas, but once it's over, people are instantly ready to put it behind them and get started on the New Year.

Everything transitions from Christmas to year-in-review on a dime, all leading up to New Year's Eve. And then, it's the new year, with the heart of winter looming on the horizon.

And lacrosse season. At least that's how TigerBlog will see it.

TigerBlog will spend most of this week focusing on the 2015 year in review. Just not quite yet. After all, there's still a little more of 2015 left.

The idea of having a 2015 - or any other year - review for an athletic program is a little strange, in that it's just about the middle of the academic year. The right time for the year in review and recognition of the best of a year is actually at the end of the academic year and the senior awards banquet, which comes up the Thursday of Reunions.

Still, with an end of the calendar year, it's natural to look back at what went on in the last 12 months.

For 2015, there are still four teams with six events left for Princeton Athletics. Of those events, one of them is at home.

And of these events, they're all tough. Like, really tough. For all of the teams who are competing.

The men's hockey team will play its travel partner, Quinnipiac, home-and-home, with a game at Baker Rink tomorrow night at 7 and then one in Connecticut Wednesday.

The other teams are all on the road. The men's basketball team plays tomorrow night at Miami. The women's basketball team is Marist tomorrow night. The wrestling team is at a two-day tournament at Northwestern.

Let's start with men's hockey.

Quinnipiac is 15-1-2, 6-0-2 in the ECAC. The Bobcats are ranked No. 3 in the poll but No. 1 in the RPI and PairWise rankings. And that's two games in two days.

Princeton is tied for seventh in the ECAC and 4-9-0 overall as Ron Fogarty's rebuilding process in Year 2 continues. Princeton won four games each of the last two seasons, and the Tigers have already matched that.

As for basketball, Miami is ranked 13th in one poll and 16th in the other. The Hurricanes are 9-1, with only a one-point loss to Northeastern keeping them from being unbeaten.

Miami has handed ninth-ranked Butler its only loss, and it also has a win over Utah, who most recently took down Duke. So yeah, this one won't be easy.

Neither will the women's trip to Poughkeepsie to take on Marist.

The Red Foxes are 3-8, which is a bit misleading. For one thing, they were 0-7, against a very tough schedule, which means that they've won three of their last four.

And for another Marist is always good at women's basketball. A year ago the team won 23 games, finished second in the MAAC and played in the WNIT. Marist played in three of the last four NCAA tournaments before that.

As for Princeton, the Tigers have lost two straight after being swept by two very strong teams, Ohio State and Dayton, in Ohio. The last time Princeton lost two straight? How about November 2013, against Georgetown and St. Joe's.

And the wrestling team?

The wrestling team is at the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. How competitive is this field?

There are 94 wrestlers who are ranked in the top 20 in a weight class nationally who will be on the mats at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Three of those are from Princeton - Chris Perez (20th at 149), Abram Ayala (16th at 184), Jonathan Schleifer (13th at 174).

And that's the rest of the calendar year for Princeton Athletics.

Four teams. Six events. No gimmes.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

Does Bryce Chase really dress up like Santa Claus and ride his bike around Princeton on Christmas Day?

Or was he just messing around when he told TigerBlog that before Princeton's 89-77 win over Bucknell in men's basketball Tuesday night? TB is going with yes, Bryce - the longest tenured member of the Princeton men's lacrosse program - really does do the pedaling-Santa thing.

Bryce was just one member of the Princeton Athletics family - the team around the team - in attendance Tuesday night. It was like one big party.

Princeton led by as many as 25 in the game. Freshman Devin Cannady led the way with 17 points, tying his season best and continuing to show himself to be a player with an incredibly bright future here.

So does Myles Stephens, another freshman. In fact, Princeton's top eight players consists of four juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. The future looks good.

So does the present. In fact, TigerBlog is looking forward to the Ivy League season, which starts after the new year and which will be a fairly competitive one, it appears.

But hey, let's get back to the real story for today. It's Christmas Eve.

The basic sentiment in the Princeton area has been that it doesn't seem like Christmas is closing in, largely because the weather suggests it's more like September or October. The calendar, though, does not lie.

Bryce, in addition to talking about his Santa-on-a-bike thing, also pointed out how the last game at Jadwin before Christmas a year ago was played on a freezing, icy, windy, awful night. Last night? Another no-jacket-required December day.

Still, it's Christmas Eve. 

Christmas is a federal holiday. Yes, its origins are with the birth of Jesus Christ, but at the same time, it's more than a Christian day.

Hey, Princeton Athletics doesn't stop for any other religious holiday other than Christmas. TigerBlog has been to games on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Easter, as well as during Ramadan, not to mention Thanksgiving, New Year's and any other time.

Christmas? TigerBlog presumes that the basketball teams would play in the right tournament over Christmas, but this year is like most. There are no athletic events between the game Tuesday night (the 22nd) and this coming Tuesday (the 29th), when both basketball teams, the men's hockey team and the wrestling team all compete.

Other than first semester finals, Princeton Athletics never shuts down for as long as it does for Christmas.

TigerBlog, who is Jewish, loves Christmas. He loves Christmas movies - the classics, and the cheesy Hallmark channel ones. And Christmas episodes of TV shows. And Christmas songs.

His favorite Christmas movie is "It's a Wonderful Life," especially the part at the end that always, always makes him tear up. You know, when Harry makes his toast for George. You can see it HERE.

"To my big brother George, the richest man in town." That always gets TB.

One of the best traditions this time of year is the 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" on TBS. The movie is hilarious, and it's really a series of unrelated scenes tied together loosely, which makes it perfect for checking in and out over the course of 24 hours.

Yeah, yeah, TigerBlog knows. He says the same thing about Christmas every year.

He posts the same links to the same clips. You know, like the one from "It's a Wonderful Life." And these:

* the end scene from "A Christmas Story"

* bonus scene from the same movie

* Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in "Meet Me In St. Louis"

* Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree

* you'll love this one

* you'll love this one too

There are others. TB will have these and more next year, he hopes.

At the same time, this year is a little different. It's an uneasy time, a difficult time on so many levels. It's a time of strife and war and terror.

But at the same time, hope.

That's the Christmas message. Maybe some day, one day, however improbably, there will be peace on Earth.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to you and your families and friends. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Don't Blame Condon

It's December 23rd, and that can only mean one thing.

The Winter Classic is coming.

Well, okay, it means more than that. There's that Christmas holiday and all coming up.

And then after that will be New Year's. And that means the Winter Classic.

TigerBlog has had his moments of being an NHL fan. Back when he was in high school and college, he liked the Islanders, who went from being awful to winning four straight Stanley Cups. He hasn't really had a favorite team since then, though he liked the Devils, who were the first team to proudly claim to be from New Jersey.

He has always liked the Winter Classic, largely because he loved HBO's "24/7" pieces that chronicled the travels of the two teams leading to the big New Year's Day game.

As you've probably figured out by now, the Winter Classic has been played on New Years' Day each of the last seven years. It's played in an outdoors stadium in a cold weather city in the winter. That's the novelty.

In 2014, the NHL adopted the "if some is good, more must be better" approach and had the Winter Classic and the "NHL Stadium Series," which featured four other outdoor games, including one in Los Angeles of all places. Last year, there were two outdoor games. This year there will be three.

Of course, it's hard to argue with the success of the outdoor games. They have had enormous crowds, stands filled with people willing to 1) sit outside in the freezing weather and 2) sit far away from the ice. Still, TigerBlog wonders if the NHL is overdoing it, with the inevitable diminishing returns to follow.

The first of the three outdoor games for this season will be the eighth Winter Classic, to be held in Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. It'll feature the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.

TigerBlog has followed the Canadiens closer than he has any other professional sports team of late, at least since the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. And why? The same reason.

A Princeton alum. This one is a little different, though.

TB's interest in the Royals was due to Chris Young, the former Princeton basketball/baseball player. TigerBlog saw every game Young played in his two year basketball career at Princeton, home and away, except for one.

In the case of the Canadiens, the Princeton alum is Mike Condon. Though TigerBlog saw a handful of Condon's games at Princeton, he has never met or spoken to him.

This is strictly brand-loyalty.

Condon, a 2013 grad, beat out Dustin Tokarski for the No. 2 goaltender job for the Canadians in the preseason. It figured to be a great gig for a young player - play a few games here and there but mostly sit behind Carey Price, the best goalie in the league.

It certainly started out that way. Montreal came out of the gate fast, going 9-0-0 to start the year. Price played seven of those games, leaving two for Condon.

Then Price got hurt. And Condon had to play every game. At first Price was only out a few games, and Condon did well.

Then it came out that Price would miss six weeks. Tokarski was brought back as Condon's backup, and it has been anything but smooth for the Canadiens since.

In fact, the team has struggled big time. The goalie position has been a merry-go-round between the two, and in fact the team has used both in three of the last five games.

TigerBlog watched Montreal's 6-2 loss to Dallas Saturday night. Condon got pulled in the third period, but really, his teammates did next to nothing to help him out.

TigerBlog then watched the last two periods of last night's game against Minnesota, won by the Wild 2-1. Condon played very well and made some big saves down the stretch to give him team a chance.

But still, just a single goal, which came down 2-0 late in the third period. And what proved to be the game-winner came after a turnover in the neutral zone.

In fact, Montreal's offense has scored more than two goals in a game only twice since Price last played, which was on Nov. 25, and one of those games was in OT. That's been in a 13-game span.

Hey, don't blame the young goalies. Blame the offense. And stop saying "Price would have made that save." How does anyone know that? Plus, even if he did, he wouldn't skate down the other end and score, which is what Montreal really needs.

Condon figured to play about 10-15 games all year. He's already played in 23, starting 20.

It's basically like seeing the best quarterback in the NFL get hurt and having a rookie step in to quarterback a veteran team.

Anyway, Price won't be back until after the New Year, which means he'll miss the Winter Classic. That means it'll be either Condon or Tokarski in goal for Montreal.

It's been a good year for Princeton athletes in the pro ranks. Caraun Reid scored a touchdown for the Lions. Mike Catapano got to play with his favorite team, the Jets. Young, obviously, won a World Series.

And Condon has gotten his shot with the Canadiens.

Now he needs his teammates to make a few of theirs.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

End Of Season 5

TigerBlog, for the third time, would like to mention his lone experience with "Star Wars."

It was back when the movie first came out, back in 1977. TB and BrotherBlog were in New York and went to see it, only they went at the wrong time, so they watched the second half of the movie.

And that's the extent of TB's "Star Wars" experience. BrotherBlog went on to see four of the first six and now has tickets to see the new one in IMAX Sunday.

TigerBlog is probably in the minority of adults in this country in terms of the amount of "Star Wars" he's seen. He's okay with it.

TigerBlog Jr., technically an adult these days, has seen every minute of every "Star Wars" movie, most of them more than once. He was there for "Star Wars - The Force Awakens" this past weekend, at a midnight show no less.

He is not the only one to go see the movie in the first weekend it was out. Basically, the "Star Wars" people were just printing all the money they wanted once the movie hit the theaters.

For this past weekend, TigerBlog was more interested in the final episode of Season 5 of "Homeland" than the movie. While he's hardly seen any "Star Wars," TB has seen every episode of "Homeland."

TigerBlog mentioned when this current season started that no show he's ever seen has done a better job of reinventing itself than "Homeland." Of the 22 characters listed in Season 1 as either "main" or "recurring," only two - Carrie and Saul - were still on the show in Season 5.

That's bold.

Like the other seasons, this past season had 12 episodes, which might have been two or three more than necessary. Still, by mid-season "Homeland" had found its storyline and stride, and it ended up being a great ending to the season. The final episode wasn't as dramatic as the two that preceded it, but it was still pretty good.

The best part of "Homeland" remains that it forces the viewer to realize that in today's world, this is not just fiction. There really are Carries and Sauls out there, and their jobs are real-life dramas that involve life and death, saving the first and preventing the second for people who will never know just what goes into keeping them safe.

If you're only going to watch 12 episodes of one TV show and that's it, watch Season 1 of "Homeland." It's the best season of any television show ever made, in TB's opinion. Season 5? It's not as good as Season 1, but it's still well worth watching.

So that's the TV viewing from this past weekend.

Well, that and the Princeton-Maryland men's basketball game.

Princeton lost 82-61 to Maryland in Baltimore Saturday night. Yes, Princeton lost by 21, but hey, don't be shocked if Maryland is the last team standing come NCAA tournament time.

As for Princeton, the Tigers were again led by Henry Caruso, who had 17 in the loss. Caruso is averaging 18.3 points per game for the 6-3 Tigers.

TigerBlog said this last week: TB wondered who possibly stopped Caruso in high school. His bio doesn't mention his career point total, only that he averaged 21 as a senior, 16 as a junior and 12 as a sophomore and that he was the second-leading scorer in Juniperro Serra High School history. TB will find out how many he had and who had more than he did. Regardless, Caruso is a natural, pure, innate scorer.

Well, TB's colleague Andrew Borders had the answers.

Caruso scored 1,453 points in his career at Junipero Serra High School in California. The all-time leader with 1,490 is Tim Kennedy, who went on to play at Loyola Marymount.

The last Princeton athletic event before Christmas is tonight, when the men's basketball team hosts Bucknell at 7.

Bucknell brings a 3-6 record to Jadwin, but don't sell the Bison short. Bucknell is always good.

A year ago, Bucknell won the Patriot League regular-season championship. In fact, that's four Patriot League regular-season titles in five years. The Bison lost in the Patriot semifinals a year ago and then payed in the NIT, losing 73-67 to Temple.

So yeah, Bucknell will be a good test.

If nothing else, this is the last Princeton home men's basketball game for nearly five weeks (Bryn Athyn is at Princeton in the post-exam game Jan. 24)  and the last home game against a Division I team until the Harvard/Dartmouth weekend Feb. 5 and 6.

Oh, and the first 500 fans in attendance receive a Princeton beanie. TigerBlog has one. They're definitely worth it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Root At Your Own Risk

Forget for a minute the fact that the Carolina Panthers ended up beating the Giants 38-35 yesterday anyway.

Actually, don't forget it. Let's start there.

As a Giants fan, TigerBlog wasn't shocked by either of the two big storylines of yesterday's game. First, the Eli Manning brought the Giants back from 35-7 down late in the third quarter to tie it with 1:46 left. Second, it was obvious the Panthers were going to kick a field goal at the end and win, which is what happened.

It's what has defined the Giants this year. Losing late. New York is 6-8, but if games ended with 1:30 left, then they'd be 11-2-1.

The other thing about the Giants is that they are awful in the final two minutes of a half. They make the kinds of mistakes that make TB wonder how a team with so many coaches on the sideline can make so many calls that defy the slightest logic.

Anyway, that's not what TigerBlog wanted to talk about.

No, he wanted to talk about Odell Beckham Jr. It's TB's position that Beckham is the best player in the NFL. Yes, a case can be made for others, but at the very least, Beckham is an otherworldly talent.

And yet yesterday, he completely melted down. He picked up three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and he's likely to be suspended for his massive cheap shot on Josh Norman in the third quarter - for which he should have been immediately ejected. For large periods of the game, it seemed like winning was the last thing on Beckham's mind and that he was completely oblivious to the fact that he was killing his team.

For all of that, though, Beckham was never taken off the field by his coaches. Why? Because they needed him, and sportsmanship, class, sanity be damned.

Beckham has a history of being a show-off, but he doesn't have a history of being a dirty player. His outburst yesterday will be hard to overcome, though.

But hey, this is how it is to be a pro sports fan today. You can root for your team at your own risk.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin summed it up best during a halftime interview with Tracy Wolfson, the top sideline reporter for CBS who by the way got her start covering Princeton sports for a local cable station. "What about the team's chippiness?" Wolfson asked him.

"The chippiness isn't why we're down 14. I'm more worried about our execution," was the response.

What does that mean? It means that if you play well, you can be as big a jerk as you want.

It's not easy to be a pro sports fans now. Pretty much every team in every sport has someone who is a jerk, or way worse. Hey, can TigerBlog root for the Knicks if they have Carmelo Anthony? No.

Maybe this is why fantasy sports are so big. Fans can pick and choose different players, and instead of rooting for them out of loyalty, they can root for them to make money. Makes it easier to tolerate the nonsense, TB supposes.

While he watched the Panthers-Giants game on his TV, he had Princeton-Dayton women's basketball on his iPad. Like the Giants, Princeton found itself down big, came back to tie it and then lost at the end. In Princeton's case, it was 85-81.

The Princeton women were swept on their weekend trip to Ohio, falling 90-70 to No. 10 Ohio State Friday before the Dayton game. Still, at this time of year, it's not the wins and losses.

Perhaps you remember Dayton from last year's NCAA tournament? The Flyers led UConn at the half 44-43 before losing 91-70. Only Notre Dame, who lost by 10 in the NCAA final, played UConn closer in the posteaseason.

And what round did Dayton lose to UConn? It was the regional final.

So that was the team that Princeton had to play on the back end of its Ohio trip. This weekend might not have brought the Tigers any wins, but it probably made them a better team.

Princeton trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter and was still down 11 with fewer than seven minutes left. Against a really good team, on the road.

Did Princeton quit? Nope. The Tigers, down 71-60, scored six in a row to make it 71-66 and then, with just under five minutes left, played an amazing defensive possession. Dayton tried everything to get a look, but there were swarming Tigers at every pass. Eventually a turnover was forced.

TigerBlog thinks it was as good a defensive possession as he's seen Princeton have, and Princeton is a team that has had a lot of great defensive stands during its current run of a dominating five Ivy titles in six years.

Teams often respond to great defensive plays, and so did Princeton, getting a Michelle Miller three and a Vanessa Smith layup to tie it.

Eventually, it would go the way of Dayton, by four. It was a game in which, to quote Pete Carril, Princeton "gave a good account of itself."

No, Princeton won't be unbeaten this regular season like a year ago. But yes, this team is getting better.

Next up is Christmas and a nine-day break until a game Dec. 29 at Marist. Then it's Hampton at home on Jan. 3, with nothing but Ivy League games after that.

Princeton will be ready for that gauntlet. This weekend helped in every way except for getting Ws.

Oh, and the players on the team? TigerBlog can tell you they're easy to root for across the board.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Snow? No. Big Hoops? Yes.

The Princeton women's basketball team is at Ohio State tonight. The Buckeyes are 6-3, with losses to UConn, South Carolina and Notre Dame.

Want to guess where they're ranked? TigerBlog will let you think about that. In the meantime, he'll talk about the weather.

If you're a little confused by the weather lately, imagine how the average perennial feels.

You know, the plants and trees and all that bloom each year. They think it's spring now, and so flowers are starting to come out.

TigerBlog's friend Todd was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, and he said that the cherry blossoms were in bloom. Now that's wild. 

It's been a warm December, that's for sure. TigerBlog has yet to wear a heavy coat, or any coat for that matter. He went outside this morning in a shortsleeve shirt with no jacket of any kind.

It's supposed to cool off, for two days anyway. It'll be back to the 50s and 60s by Sunday and into next week. The long-range forecast for Christmas Day is not for a white Christmas. No, it's for sunny and almost 70 degrees.

TigerBlog read a story yesterday about the number of times there have been snowless Decembers in New Jersey. Apparently, since 1895, there have been 25 years in which there have been less than an inch of snow in the state in December, and of those 25, there have been seven without so much as a flake: 1943, 1953, 1965, 1994, 1990, 2006, 2011

Unless the forecast is wrong or the weather changes dramatically after Christmas, then 2015 will be added to the list. If you remember 2011, of course, that was the year that it snowed heavily on Halloween weekend, greatly impacting Heps cross country and a home football game against Cornell. Then it didn't snow again that winter.

The average snowfall for December in New Jersey is five inches. In 2009 and 2010, New Jersey had more than 15 inches of snow on the ground.

A year ago? TigerBlog can't remember. He does know that it got really, really cold at some point and didn't let up until, well, May.

Is that what is in store for the rest of this winter? Will it be another frigid lacrosse season? Or will it just stay like this all the way through?

Even yesterday, when the area was pounded by rain, it was still warm. As in light jacket and umbrella.

As TigerBlog walked in in the morning, the rain had just started to fall. Jon Kurian, TB's colleague, remarked that it was December and therefore it should be snow. Not this December.

Jadwin Gym saw a bunch of rain during the day and then men's basketball at night, as Princeton defeated Liberty 77-72. Henry Caruso had a career-high 29, scoring somewhat effortlessly throughout.

As TigerBlog watched the game, he wondered who possibly stopped Caruso in high school. His bio doesn't mention his career point total, only that he averaged 21 as a senior, 16 as a junior and 12 as a sophomore and that he was the second-leading scorer in Juniperro Serra High School history.

TB will find out how many he had and who had more than he did. Regardless, Caruso is a natural, pure, innate scorer. 

The Liberty game was the start of five Princeton basketball games in six days, with three for the men and two for the women. The next two match up Princeton against very highly ranked teams.

The first one is tonight, when Princeton's women are in Columbus to play Ohio State, ranked 10th, or 12th, depending on which poll you like. Ohio State also features one of the best players in the country in sophomore Kelsey Mitchell, who averages 24.4 points per game.

Want to be really impressed? Watch THIS.

Oh, and remember when TB started with how Ohio State is 6-3, with losses are to UConn, South Carolina and Notre Dame?

Want to know what they're ranked? How about first, second and third. 

The men's team then tips off Saturday at 7 in Baltimore against Maryland. The Terps just happened to be ranked sixth, or seventh, depending on which poll you like.

Maryland is 9-1. Its loss is to North Carolina, the preseason No. 1.

The Princeton-Maryland game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

The women finish their weekend in Ohio at Dayton, who is also 6-3. There's no game Monday, and then the men are home against Bucknell Tuesday.

Then there are no more Princeton events until after Christmas.

In the meantime, enjoy the warm weather. And the hot hoops matchups.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

On The Rhodes

Frank Sinatra Tuesday. Adele yesterday. That's enough music for one week.

Let's talk about Nick Barton instead.

TigerBlog has no idea what kind of singer Nick Barton is. He does know that Barton is good at all kinds of other things.

Like squash, for instance.

Barton is a member of Princeton's men's squash team. He's also a Bermuda native, making him the only Princeton athlete from Bermuda that TB can think of off the top of his head.

He'll be spending the next two years all the way across the Atlantic, however. He'll be at Oxford after being named a Rhodes Scholar.

There are few honors that a college student can earn that eclipse being named a Rhodes Scholar. The award is named for Cecil Rhodes, and it dates to 1902.

There have been more than 7,000 honorees since. The winners are selected from this criteria:
  • Literary and scholastic attainments;
  • Energy to use one's talents to the fullest, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports;
  • Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship;
  • Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.
At least that's what it says on Wikipedia.

TigerBlog learned all about Barton from a video on that his colleague Craig Sachson narrated. You can see the video HERE.

Did you watch it? If you did, you have to be impressed.

Astrophysics. Doesn't seem like that would be the easiest major out there.

Princeton men's squash coach Sean Wilkinson was right when he said in the video that "it's mind-boggling what these kids are doing." Wilkinson has the best line in the video, when he says that on bus trips he's watching cartoons on his iPad while the rest of the team is immersed in more, uh, serious studies.

Who is TigerBlog to judge Wilkinson? TB knows way more about Bugs Bunny than he does about science.

So congratulations to Nick Barton. That's an impressive feat, and now he's off to two years at the University of Oxford, where he will study mathematical modeling and scientific computing and then applied statistics - after his thesis, which he is writing on two binary star systems.

There have been other Rhodes Scholars among Princeton athletes before. In fact, Barton will be Princeton's 24th athlete to be so honored.

TigerBlog believes this is the complete list (if it isn't, let him know who's missing):

1931-Byles, Julius (Football)
1933-Billings, Frederick Tremaine (Lacrosse, Football)
1948-Douglas, John Woolman (Football)
1948-Harr, Jr., Karl Gottlieb (Football)
1957-Stewart, Michael MacCracken (Football)
1960-Sachs, Daniel Martin (Football)
1965-Bradley, William Warren (Basketball)
1965-Smith, Michael Edward (Football)
1966-Spence, A. Michael (Ice Hockey)
1967-Peters, Charles (Football)
1970-Hicks, David Vern (Rowing)
1975-McCaffery, Michael Gerard (Swimming)
1976-Perles, Suzanne (Field Hockey)
1977-Stengel, Richard Allen (Basketball)
1977-Fournier, Daniel Edward (Football)
1990-Dechet, Andrew John (Soccer)
1992-Hessler, Peter Benjamin (Track & Field, Cross Country)
1993-Ticktin, Miriam Iris (Swimming)
1995-Babik, Jennifer (Field Hockey, Softball)
2003-Shackelton, Laura A. (Track & Field)
2005-Miller, Jeff (Basketball)
2008-Stankievech, Landis (Ice Hockey)2015-Skokowski, Rachel A. (Cross Country/Track & Field)
2016-Barton, Nicholas (Men's Squash)

The most famous name on that list is the fourth from the top, a certain William Warren Bradley.

Bill Bradley is pretty much the embodiement of a Rhodes Scholar. He's also the greatest basketball player in Princeton history and, for TigerBlog's money, the best athlete Princeton has ever seen.

He was also one of two Princeton athletes to be named a Rhodes Scholar in 1965, along with football player Michael Smith. Princeton also had two athletic Rhodes winners in 1948, with John Douglas and Karl Harr, who were football teammates, and in 1977, with Richard Stengel (basketball) and Daniel Fournier (football).

Barton joins this illustrious list.

It's certainly not an easy one to get onto. Princeton Athletics has produced only five this century and eight in the last 25 years.

In fact, Princeton has not had more than five winners in any decade.

Is there anything else TB wants to say today?

Oh yeah, there's men's basketball at home tonight. Princeton hosts Liberty at 7, with another home game Tuesday, when Bucknell comes to Carril Court.

The only other home event of 2015 will be men's hockey against Quinnipiac on Dec. 29.

That doesn't really have anything to do with the Rhodes Scholar winners, but TigerBlog did want to remind you of those upcoming games. 

And Nick Barton?

His accomplishment is to be celebrated and appreciated.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When The Game Ends

TigerBlog yesterday talked about Frank Sinatra and how great a singer he was.

Who's the best singer of the 21st century? To date at least?

TigerBlog will go with Adele. The British vocalist certainly knocked it out of the park in her first concert in three years with her performance at Radio City Music Hall, highlights of which were shown Monday night on NBC from 10-11.

If you're looking for the two best voices that TB has heard in this century, he'd go with Adele and Lady Gaga. If you think Lady Gaga can't sing, just listen to the first note of THIS.

It's the rest of the act that clouds what a great singer Lady Gaga actually is.

Adele? There's no act. She stands up there and sings her songs.

And yes, most of her songs are fairly similar, with a familiar theme. That doesn't matter.

Okay, she doesn't have Sinatra's charisma. You know what she does have?

She has the voice. It's powerful. It explodes.

TigerBlog was one of the four million of so who bought Adele's "25" album on iTunes. He can't remember the last time he bought an entire album, but it's been awhile. It was either Bruce or Train. But it's not something he does often.

When Adele sang on the NBC show, TigerBlog's thought was "wow." It was enough to get him to switch off the Giants-Dolphins Monday Night Football game.

The Giants won the game 31-24 to surge into a first-place tie in the division with three weeks left. Okay, maybe "surge" isn't the right word.

The Giants are 6-7, as are the Eagles and Redskins. Someone has to win the division. It might as well be the Giants, though they don't have any of the tiebreakers.

TigerBlog hasn't watched much of the Giants for the last few years, not since the team won its second Super Bowl in five years and fourth overall. Since then, he's had an "eh" attitude towards the NFL, possibly because he said he wouldn't complain at all about anything the Giants do for 10 years after the two recent improbable Super Bowl runs.

He does want to say two things about the team though. First, Eli Manning should be a Hall-of-Famer when his career ends. Second, it's very possible that Odell Beckham Jr. is the best player in the NFL.

And, while he's on the subject of football, TigerBlog wants to talk about Chuck Dibilio. That's pretty good. Adele to the Giants to Chuck Dibilio in a few short paragraphs.

Coming up Jan. 5 in the Taylor Auditorium in the Frick Chemistry Building will be the premiere of "When The Game Ends," a 35-minute documentary about Dibilio put together by John Bullis, Department of Athletics video dude.

The plan is to produce one such documentary each year. This is the first in what hopefully becomes a series.

The subject is Dibilio, who was going to be the centerpiece of the rebuilding of the Princeton football program after becoming the only true freshman in Ivy League history to rush for more than 1,000 yards, which he did in the 2011 season.

By 2013 Princeton had won an Ivy League title. Dibilio, though, didn't get to experience it the way he would have wanted.

Instead, Dibilio - 19 years old, in apparently perfect physical condition - shockingly suffered a stroke two months after the season ended. He would never play again.

Today, Chuck is a Princeton senior, a year behind his original class. If you see him today, you'd never ever suspect that anything could hurt him, let alone a stroke. He is strong, muscular and fit. What would you expect from someone who is dedicated Cross-Fitter?

His story is a fascinating one. The movie talks to him, as well as those who have been with him through this rather improbable road from record-setting freshman to soon-to-be graduate.

TigerBlog knew Dibilio's name, accomplishments and story before the filming began. What he didn't know was the person himself.

TB's role in Bullis' movie was to be the interviewer. He talked to players, coaches, staff, family and friends about Dibilio. And he talked to Chuck himself.

He's a remarkable young man. Maybe he didn't set out to be remarkable. Maybe he just wanted to be a football player. But that wasn't his destiny, and he had no choice but to face a different path. 

"When The Game Ends" will be shown Jan. 5 at 7:30. There's a reception at 7 and a Q&A after it.

Yes, that's still a few weeks away. Don't worry. TigerBlog will remind you the week leading up to it.

In the meantime, here's a little more information, including the trailer. Actually, it's HERE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In Honor Of Frank's 100th

TigerBlog's favorite musical group of all-time is without question Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

If you've read this for a few years, you already knew that.

TB's second favorite? There are a few contenders. If he had to pick one, though, he'd go with another New Jersey guy, Frank Sinatra.

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken on Dec. 12, 1915, which means that his 100th birthday would have been this past weekend. Sinatra died in 1998, at the age of 82.

You could live to be 1,000 and not pour as much living as Sinatra did into those 82 years. The Rat Pack? Movies? Songs? Starlets? He was the Chairman of the Board.

Cool? Name someone who ever lived who was cooler than Frank Sinatra. Maybe, maybe Paul Newman.

TigerBlog thought Sinatra was great in "Von Ryan's Express," a largely overlooked World War II POW movie in which he plays a tough, gutsy American who leads a few hundred British soldiers on a path through Italy to the Alps and freedom. And he was tremendous in a bunch of other movies, often playing likeable lugs in breezy comedies and musicals (or musical comedies).

His best role, though, was nothing of the kind. No, that would be as Maggio, a tough, stubborn private stationed in Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in "From Here To Eternity." He and Montgomery Clift as Prewitt, the other tough, stubborn private in the movie, never back down from anything or anyone, and it ends up costing both of them in different ways.

The movie earned Sinatra an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, one of seven Oscars for "From Here To Eternity." Burt Lancaster beat out Clift for Best Actor; the movie won Best Picture.

And so what if Sinatra needed a little help to get the role. You know, the kind of help that Johnny needed from Don Corleone in "The Godfather," which apparently was based on Sinatra's landing of the role of Maggio.

Mostly, what Sinatra was was the singer with perhaps the greatest voice of all time. He had hit after hit after hit, and what's left all these years later is some of the best music ever made, still sounding as soulful as the day it was recorded.

TigerBlog has no idea how many songs he recorded, but it's a ton. His own songs. Other people's songs.

TigerBlog's favorites? Well, he lists them here:

* The Summer Wind
TigerBlog first heard this one in the movie "The Pope of Greenwich Village" and was hooked on it immediately. It's one of his two favorite Sinatra songs.

Speaking of summer, Princeton alum Chris Young will be spending the next two of them in Kansas City. It seemed a few years ago that Young's Major League Baseball career was over due to shoulder and back injuries, the price of pitching at 6-10. Now he comes off of back-to-back very strong seasons, and he had the highlight of his career this past season, when he was a key member of the Royals as they won the World Series.

Young himself had a great postseason, including three tense hitless relief innings to earn the win in Game 1 and starting the key Game 4, which the Royals won to take a 3-1 lead before closing it out in five games. Young just resigned with Kansas City for two years and $12 million. Not bad at all.

* Come Fly With Me
Okay, the lyrics are a bit hokie. But the tune is great. It gets into your head and stays there for awhile, and that's always a good thing.

The Princeton men's basketball team plays Liberty at home Thursday night and then plays two of its next three games against teams in the top 15 this week in the AP poll, with a game in Baltimore against No. 6 Maryland and then, after a stop at home against Bucknell next Tuesday, a game at Miami Dec. 29.

Back when TigerBlog was the men's basketball contact, late November and December always meant flying all over the country (and sometimes out of it) to see the Tigers play. Where did he go? Iowa twice. Kansas. Texas twice (El Paso and Fort Worth). California (Fresno, not quite La Jolla or anything). Indiana twice (Bloomington and Muncie). Wisconsin twice (Milwaukee and Green Bay in December; that was eight days without one ray of sunshine). Cincinnati a few times. Michigan, which was actually the first place he flew to see the Tigers (a tournament at Michigan State).

There were some warmer places too. New Orleans, for one. Oh, and Honolulu. That was a good one, with Hawaii and three wins in three nights, over Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte to win the tournament.

* The Way You Look Tonight
TigerBlog first heard this song in a commercial. He's not sure what the product was. Maybe a car. Or beer. Or something else.

This song is vintage Sinatra, with its combination of soothing melody, strong vocals and romantic lyrics. "Some day. When I'm awfully low. I will feel aglow. Just thinking of you ... And the way you look tonight." Nice.

The way the women's basketball team looked last night was interesting. Princeton defeated Fordham 55-44 in a game that looked like it was going to be a rout when it was 9-0 Princeton and then looked like it was going to get away from Princeton when it was 40-37 Rams late in the third and 40-38 at the end of the third.

TigerBlog mentioned yesterday that Princeton had been outscored 39-19 in its last two fourth quarters, but those were both total garbage times. This time Princeton needed to execute down the stretch, and it did - outscoring Fordham 17-4 in the final 10 minuts.

TigerBlog is still getting used to the four-quarter system for women's basketball this year. One thing he's noticed about it is that there seems to be a greater sense of urgency when it's close early in the fourth quarter than it seemed like there was when it was the same score but 10 minutes left in the second half. Maybe it's a mental thing - it's the fourth quarter, crunch time.

Maybe TB is imagining it.

* New York, New York
This is one of the songs that Frank Sinatra was most closely associated with, and TB is pretty sure you've heard it a million times. If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere. That's the basic New York attitude.

New York's Madison Square Garden is the site of the 2016 NCAA wrestling championships. Princeton's wrestling team put together a really good video and a really good poster with the theme of getting on the train to New York, sort of symbolizing the goal of making it to the Garden.

A year ago Princeton sent a program-record five wrestlers to the NCAA championships. It's astonishing how far Princeton wrestling has come under Chris Ayres, who took the program from basically rock bottom to a team that is steadily moving its way up in the national picture.

Cornell continues to dominate Ivy wrestling, and that fact perhaps obscures a bit just how meteoric the rise of the Princeton wrestling program has been. When he first started at Princeton in 2006, Ayres struggled to field a complete lineup. Now? Princeton has made a name for itself in the sport, and it is looking forward to the chance to match last year's record number of NCAA qualifiers.

No, Chris Ayers has not won an Ivy title at Princeton. Yes, he's on the short list of Princeton's best coaches.

* Luck Be A Lady Tonight
Frank Sinatra played Nathan Detroit in the movie version of "Guys and Dolls." He's a bit of a better singer than the movie's Sky Masterson, who happened to be Marlon Brando (in his only singing role).

Luck has nothing to do with the success of the women's hockey team. TigerBlog knows this, because he figured he was the one bringing the team luck. He'd been to the team's wins over Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend and went to the game Friday night against Penn State, another win.

But then Saturday, Princeton knocked off Penn State again, even though TB wasn't there.

Princeton in fact has won six straight and finds itself at 11-4-1 through 16 games. Game No. 17 isn't until New Year's Day, when the Tigers host Brown (with Yale the next day). Princeton is 5-4-1 in the ECAC, good for 11 points and a second-place tie.

Princeton is the first team in the "others receiving votes" category of the poll, which ranks a top 10. More importantly, Princeton is tied for sixth in the PairWise Rankings, which are a good predictor of where teams stand for NCAA tournament spots.

*  My Way
Maybe this is the one that most people would choose if asked to pick the one song they think of when Sinatra comes up.

For some weird reason, "My Way" is the first song that TigerBlog Jr. ever learned to sing. Somewhere, in a recording he can't find and even if he could in a format that TB probably can no longer use, he has a video of TBJ, maybe three, belting out "And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain."

TigerBlog isn't sure about the final curtain, but the opening curtain of lacrosse season is, gulp, about two months away. In fact, Princeton has a doubleheader on Sherrerd Field in, gulp, nine weeks, with the women against Virginia and the men against NJIT on Feb. 20.

It'll be here before you know it.

* Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
TigerBlog has a great version of Sinatra's singing this Christmas classic, which is actually from "Meet Me In St. Louis."

Sinatra sang a great deal of Christmas music. The other ones that TB has on his iTunes are "Silver Bells" and "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow."

Princeton has one home event between now and Christmas, and that would be Thursday, when the men's basketball team hosts Liberty.

And, lastly:
* Witchcraft
This is TigerBlog's other favorite Sinatra song.

Those fingers in my hair. That sly, come-hither stare. That strips my conscience bear. It's witchcraft.

They don't write 'em like that anymore.

And they definitely don't sing 'em like that anymore. The best ever at it? He was born 100 years ago this week.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hoop Report

TigerBlog's cousin Paul - and his wife Maureen - have a very nice little porch out the back door of their house in Montclair, which is a little more than an hour north of Princeton, outside of New York City.

The porch is typical, with a table, some chairs, a nearby grill and some shade. It's a great place to be on a warm afternoon in the summer, or, sometimes, the second weekend of December.

If you live in the general Princeton area, it was easy to forget that Christmas is less than two weeks away. Not with the weather this weekend.

There were convertibles with their top down. There were people eating outside at restaurants. Everywhere TB looked, he saw signs of summer, or at least late spring or early fall. 

TigerBlog himself sat out on his cousin's porch in shorts and a shirt, with no sweater, sweatshirt or jacket, let alone coat. He did this in mid-December.

TB's cousin Janet was there as well. Janet is Paul's sister; their late-father Larry was MotherBlog's brother.

TigerBlog mentioned to BrotherBlog a week ago or so that when he writes about his childhood, he's also writing about BB's, and he wonders if he remembers things the same way his brother does. The same is true of Janet and Paul, who were there were so many holidays, so many special moments, so many get-togethers going back as long as TB can remember.

Janet is two years older than TigerBlog. She has a heart of gold and a great sense of humor, and she sees everyone for exactly who they are. She's impossible to B.S., which means she sees right through anyone who tries.

Like TB, for instance. She's one of the few people TB knows who make him feel like he's still a kid, all with this simple look that she gives him when he's trying to B.S. her. She never falls for it, even if everyone else around does, and that look is her way of saying so.

At the same time, she's fiercely loyal and supportive, and TigerBlog knows she would never let him down. That's a good combination - always there for him while also holding him accountable.

Janet is a regular TigerBlog reader, she says. She's not much of a sports fan, though, so she says that usually tunes out once the parts about Princeton sports begin.

So Janet, if you're reading this - TB has never really taken the time to tell his cousin how special she is to him, and he just wanted to do it now.

And now you can stop reading, because the rest is about Princeton sports. Specifically basketball, for which there are two home games this week, one each for the men and women.

The Princeton women have been outscored in the fourth quarter of its last two games by a combined 39-19, which would be troubling were it not for the fact that Princeton outscored its last two opponents by a combined 123-78 in the first three quarters.

In its most recent game, Princeton defeated Pitt 61-47. Pitt, by the way, plays in the ACC.

The final score hardly tells the story. Princeton started the game on an 18-0 run and pushed it to 28-2 before the end of the first quarter.

Princeton is home tonight at 7 against Fordham. The Tigers are 8-1 this year, which makes them 39-2 in their last 41 games.

Princeton destroyed the Ivy League a year ago with a 14-0 run that included one game closer than 10 points, and 13 that were over basically after the began. This year? Ivy women's basketball might be a bit tougher.

As of right now, five of the eight league teams are above .500 and a sixth is at .500.

Princeton is actually tied for the best record in the league with Brown, who is also 8-1. The Bears have a win over Providence, who is 3-6 but owns a win over Monmouth. This comes a year after Brown was 10-18 overall, 4-10 in the league.

Princeton has been to five NCAA tournaments in the last six years. Penn went to the other, two years ago. So far this year, the Quakers are 5-2, with one of their losses a tight one against Duke.

The Tigers open the Ivy season Jan. 9 against Penn at the Palestra, as part of a women's/men's doubleheader.

As for the men, Princeton defeated Lipscomb 78-64 Saturday in Tennessee to improve to 5-2. Next up for the men is a home game against Liberty Thursday at 7.

In Princeton's five wins, the Tigers have scored 82.4 points per game. In their two losses, that number is 63.5.

As for the rest of the league, there are three teams above .500 and a fourth at .500, with Princeton's 5-2 the best record.

It's hard to draw too many conclusions this early into the season. In fact, it's too hard until teams start to play in the league, and that is still awhile away. Even at this point last year, did anyone realize that Princeton was going to destroy the league the way it did on the women's side?

For now, it's still about figuring things out, who is in the rotation, what offense and defense works, who can be on the court with whom and who cannot be on the court with whom. Things get more intense after the new year.

So enjoy the two games this week.

As a reminder, it's the women tonight at 7 against Fordham and the men Thursday at 7 against Liberty.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Holiday Party

At one point during last night's Department of Athletics Holiday Party, TigerBlog looked out across the room and saw his current and former bosses dancing.

The Ford Family Dancers, as it were.

Turns out, they're both pretty good. In the case of Mollie Marcoux, the current Ford Family Director of Athletics, that's not too surprising.

In the case of the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus, Gary Walters, well, that's not quite what TigerBlog expected. TB does have to admit it, though. Gary can move.

For the most part, though, it was a young crowd out on the dance floor. And by young, TigerBlog means single digits. If the current generation of Princeton's athletic department has a wallflower or two, the next generation looks like it was born to dance. There was an army of them out there dancing to the music, at least after they got done in the bounce house.

Nobody better embodied this youth movement than Chase Dubuque, the son of wrestling assistant coach Joe Dubuque. How does a kid his age (apparently he's 8) learn to dance like that?

TigerBlog figures in the Dubuque house, it's hurry through dinner and homework and then let the dancing begin. It was a real family event, with Chase and his parents out there.

TigerBlog is not a dancer. It is not his thing at all. He doesn't like it, and he's awful at it. That's a bad combination.

Because he's so bad at it, he has a real appreciation for those who are good at it. And for those who aren't but are willing to put themselves out there, something TB has never wanted to do.

That's why he has to tip his cap to Ryan Yurko of the business office, who finally, finally worked up the courage to get out on the floor. And to John Bullis, video dude, who at one point was the only man who was dancing.

TigerBlog has been to more than 20 holiday parties. Last night's was the best one yet.

Maybe it's because it transitioned to Jadwin Gym's lobby, after spending quite a few years at the boathouse. The lobby at Jadwin gave the party more room and a much bigger dance floor.

Or maybe it's because, children notwithstanding, the Department of Athletics appears to be getting a bit younger. and with that comes more energy and more, well, life.

TigerBlog has been to all kinds of holiday parties. At one, Gary had asked TB to write Christmas jokes, which he dutifully did. They were good ones too; TB could have made them work. Gary? He didn't get so much as a chuckle. So what did he do? Threw TigerBlog under the bus, that's what, saying to the crowd "hey, he wrote them."

There were holiday parties in restaurants. One was at the top of Fine Tower, and it was interrupted by a fire alarm that caused the building to be evacuated. There was one that had a 45-minute slideshow celebrating the 250th anniversary of the University. That would have been back in 1996. There were many, many, many that featured a gift exchange. You know, somebody gets a gift and then the next person gets to either take that one or choose an unopened one.

The party last night basically said "the food is here, the drinks are over there, the dance floor is there, go have fun." It was simple, and it worked.

TigerBlog has spent a lot of time with a lot of the people who were there last night. They go to meetings together. They go to games together. They pass by each others offices and say hey and get back to work. They play basketball together at lunch. Or they go out to eat.

Most of the time, they're focused on the day's tasks. And the big picture of putting successful teams on the various playing fields.

TigerBlog thinks that people who work in athletics are united with a fairly strong bond, one that comes from being a collective group that is charged with representing the University against other colleges. It makes everyone who works in that group a member of the team - the "team around the team," Marcoux calls it - rather than a bunch of individuals who are just doing a job.

As a result, having a night like the holiday party is a chance for that team to be together in a way-more-relaxed way than normal. And it makes that bond even more obvious.

For TigerBlog, there were several highlights of the party.

One was a chance to see Mike Cross, himself a veteran of several Princeton holiday parties, before he left to be the AD at Bradley and now is at Penn State. He's back in town to see women's hockey tonight and tomorrow.

Cross has been gone from Princeton for six years. He quickly pointed out to TigerBlog how different the campus looks, even on the walk from Baker Rink to Jadwin.

Another highlight was seeing Kristen Callahan, who gave TB a reminder that not everyone he'd want to have been there was able to be there. Kristen is the widow of Bob Callahan, the longtime men's squash coach, who passed away in January. Bob fought brain cancer hard, and he fought it with grace and class and humility.

In death, Bob was an inspiration. In life, he was one of the absolute best people TigerBlog has ever met. Kristen and TB got to spend a really nice few minutes talking about Bob; it made TB smile and tear up, all at the same time. Bob would have laughed at that.

There were other nice moments too. Hey, anytime there's the chance to see water polo coach Luis Nicolao as Santa Claus is a nice moment.

Mostly, though, it was the chance to spend time in a casual, happy, festive setting with a group of people who work really hard together all year round.

They're good people. They're dedicated people. They're the kind of people you want to be around for all that time, as everyone tries so hard to make Princeton even more of a special place, to make Princeton Athletics even more successful, to give the athletes an even better four years.

Princeton Athletics is something special. It's not just because of the history and the winning teams and all of the on-field success.
It's the people. All of them, who together make up Princeton's Department of Athletics.

And, as last night showed, it's a group that knows how to have fun at a party.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Tippy Martinez Story

So this is the Tippy Martinez story.

Back in the early 1980s, the Baltimore Orioles had a really good lefthanded reliever named Tippy Martinez. He was part of a 1-2 combo in the bullpen that featured a righthander named Sammie Stewart.

Apparently, post-baseball life hasn't gone well for Stewart, by the way. When TigerBlog did a search to make sure he had the right guy, he found out Stewart spent about 10 years in and out of prison, including from 2006-13, before trying to turn his life around.

Anyway, about 20 years before that, Stewart was having a relatively unhittable relief outing against the Yankees on a late June night.

It was June 23, 1984, to be precise. TigerBlog was there. It was the only time he ever went to a game at Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium, which was the longtime home of the Orioles and the Baltimore Colts, before they moved to Indianapolis.

TigerBlog made the trip with his junior year roommate Eric Weiss, who these days is a lawyer. Eric grew up in the Long Island town of Merrick, so you can figure out for yourself that his first name and hometown rhyme.

TB is pretty sure he and Weiss sat in the upper level down the first base line as the Orioles took the lead and looked in control. It was 4-2 into the ninth, and Stewart stayed in to get an out before Martinez, with one on, came in to face a lefty, Steve Kemp.

The idea of a seventh-inning pitcher, an eighth-inning pitcher and a closer hadn't evolved yet. Back then, it was mostly righty vs. righty, lefty vs. lefty that managers tried to get for their pitchers. And so that was the logic.

It didn't quite work, as Kemp hit a ball that now, 31 years later, is probably still going up, tying the game at 4-4. The Yankees then won it with a run in the 11th.

As TB and Eric left, they heard behind them someone who said that the O's should never have taken Stewart out. In that moment, TigerBlog had crystallized for him the concept that the outcome does not determine whether or not the decision was a good one. It's the logic behind it is the decider.

And the fact that the Orioles lost? Immaterial.

So that's the Tippy Martinez story.

TigerBlog has referred back to that hundreds of times since, mostly about coaching decisions. Like the one Tom Coughlin made Sunday not to kick a field goal. Get a first down (with two yards) or a touchdown (with four yards), and that's a win for the Giants.

TB was fine with the logic, so it was the right decision.

As TB said the other day, he watched the end of the Giants game just before the start of the Princeton-Michigan women's basketball game, where he was one of nearly 2,000 in the building.

The crowd was a bit smaller Tuesday night for the game against Monmouth, but TigerBlog was there. So was men's lacrosse consigliere Bryce Chase.

As TB and Bryce talked at halftime, Hal Feiveson, an Academic Athletic-Fellow who had a long career in the Woodrow Wilson School before retiring a few years ago, walked by. TigerBlog assumed Bryce and Hal knew each other for a long time, but as it turned out, they had only met casually at some point, they both thought.

TigerBlog then guessed that, perhaps somewhat conservatively, Bryce and Hal had attended the same Princeton sporting event at least 1,000 times.

If they want to push that number up, they're running out of chances in 2015.

Princeton has 11 home events remaining in the calendar year, of which eight are this coming weekend. And the ninth is Monday.

There is the New Year's Invitational track and field meet for men and women tomorrow in Jadwin. There's women's hockey tomorrow night (7) and Saturday afternoon (3) against Penn State. There's wrestling at Dillon at 7 tomorrow against Navy.

The women's basketball team hosts Pitt - an NCAA tournament team a year ago - Saturday at 3 and then Fordham Monday at 7.

And there's the men's hockey game against the U.S. U-18 team Saturday at 7.

After those nine? Men's basketball Thursday against Liberty and then Dec. 22 against Bucknell.

There are a bunch of road events too. There are 10, in fact, meaning there are only 21 events left in 2015.

Of course, the schedule picks up right in 2016, actually on Jan. 1.

Still, the next few weeks will be fairly quiet around here.

Well, other than that whole Christmas/New Year's thing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Perfect Weekend

TigerBlog was at the women's hockey games this past weekend.

Late in Saturday's game, TB was standing next to Gary Walters, when a woman who TB surmises is Kelsey Koelzer's mother approached the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus.

"I know you," she said.

What did she say next? You were the AD here for 20 years? You were the head of the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee? You were on some of the best teams Princeton has ever fielded in any sport?


"You were the Tiger," she said.

TigerBlog couldn't help but laugh at that. The woman told Gary how she'd seen him in the last "Who's the Tiger" video, which ends with Gary in the Tiger suit as he mops the Jadwin court. It's funny stuff.

The way TB figured it might be Koelzer's mother was that she mentioned how she's seen them all and that, TB thinks she said, her daughter was in the first one. That would be Koelzer, who had one of the most subtly funny moments of the 12-part series, when she sat in a study session in a hockey uniform with her skates up on the desk.

That's funny.

Koelzer had a nice supporting role in the series. She had a lead role this past weekend for the women's hockey team.

It was Koelzer's goal in overtime that beat Harvard 2-1 Friday night to start the Tigers to their big weekend, which concluded Saturday with a 4-1 win over Dartmouth.

The sweep vaulted Princeton into a tie with Harvard for second place in the ECAC with 11 points,  though Princeton has played one more game to date. The Ivy League standings are even more favorable than the ECAC ones, as Princeton is now alone in first place at 4-1-0, for eight points. Dartmouth is in second, with five.

Those standings are even more unreliable now than the ECAC ones. Princeton, for example, has played five Ivy League games. Cornell has played one, which just happens to be a 2-1 win over Princeton.

For those who don't know, the Ivy League hockey standings are determined by ECAC league games between Ivy teams. In other words, those games sort of double count, in the ECAC and the Ivy standings.

Of course, that hardly matters at this point of the season.

What does matter is that Princeton has shown it belongs. TigerBlog won't pretend he knows much about hockey, but he does know that Princeton looked really good in the two games he saw this weekend.

The Tigers shared the puck well. They got some really good goaltending from Kimberly Newell. They didn't panic when they trailed 1-0 in both games, on Friday night into the third period and into the second Saturday.

In fact, Harvard took its 1-0 lead just about midway through the third, after 50 scoreless minutes. Princeton? It took 1:02 for Princeton to get the equalizer. And then, after failing to convert a 5-on-3 advantage late in the third, Koelzer took matters into her own hands, basically challenging
three Harvard defenders by herself on her way to the game-winner (which you can see HERE).

In Saturday's game, it was 1-0 Dartmouth on a first period goal, and it stayed that way until 9:30 was left in the second, when Princeton tied it. Then it took 33 seconds to make it 2-1. And less than four more minutes to make it 3-1.

The Princeton women weren't the only ones to have a big weekend.

The men's team also swept, winning at Brown and Yale, giving Princeton a women's/men's ECAC sweep in the same weekend for the first time since 2011.

The men are in Year 2 under Ron Fogarty, and it's obvious the team is making progress. A year ago, Princeton went 4-23-3 and never won back-to-back games. Now, through 12 games, Princeton is 4-8-0, with its modest two-game winning streak. Actually, in ECAC games, it's a three-game winning streak.

And of those three wins, two are against teams that were ranked, Clarkson who was No. 20 and Yale who was No. 10.

Next up for both teams is Penn State, which means a date for the men with former Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky, who took the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in 2008 and 2009.

The men are at Penn State Friday night. The women are home with Penn State Friday and Saturday, when the men host the U.S. U-18 team.

There are no league games left for the women until Jan. 1. The men play home-and-home with Quinnipiac on Dec. 29 and 30.

Then it'll be time for the 2016 portion of the schedule.

If the ECAC playoffs started today, Princeton's men would be hosting. That would be a huge accomplishment if it happens in a few months.

For now, it's a good chance to look ahead to this weekend and then the holidays - and look back on a perfect weekend.

For the women and the men.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Princeton Versus The Hawks

TigerBlog can look up all kinds of facts, though some are lost to history and others are just too impossible to track down.

He's wondering the last time the Princeton men's and women's basketball teams both played games on the same night against opponents from two different schools but with the same nickname.

You know, like tonight, when the men are at the Hawks of St. Joe's and the women are home with the Hawks of Monmouth.

If he wants to try to research it with the archives that are stored on E level, he can just walk down the hallway now.

It's official. The Office of Athletic Communications is now on E level of Jadwin Gym. It's been about a week now since everyone has really been moved in, and yesterday afternoon the last piece of the new equation arrived.

It was the new refrigerator.

All that was left was to collect the keys from the old space, which is now basically empty, except for old furniture that will be removed shortly. Pretty soon, it'll be a brand-new space for someone else, the OAC's nearly 50 years there just a memory.

The new space is great. Almost everyone in Jadwin has been to visit - pretty much once each. Now that the newness is wearing off, it'll be easier to tell what the normal visitor flow will be.

The big concern about being downstairs is the absence of daylight. For his entire Princeton career, TigerBlog has looked out across his desk at a window, a balcony, a huge glass front and beyond it the football stadium. Since 1998, the track has been outside the stadium.

Now? If he looks up from his desk, he sees a wall.

So far, it's been fine. Actually, one big difference came up Sunday, when instead of being able to run up to his office before a basketball game, he had to go all the way down to E level.

While he was down there, he watched the end of the Giants-Jets game. He doesn't blame Coughlin for going for it on that fourth down, and neither would anyone else if it had been successful, the Giants got a TD and the game basically was over there.

It's the Tippy Martinez story all over again. TigerBlog will tell that story one day, but the short version is that the outcome after a decision doesn't decide if the decision was correct or not. The logic of the decision was. And in this case, Coughlin's decision-making was good.

Anyway, TB also wanted to watch the beginning of the Princeton-Michigan women's basketball game on television for a few reasons.

One, he wanted to see how Jadwin looked for the women's game, and it looked tremendous. Second, the game was an "at home" broadcast, and TB wanted to see if he could tell the difference.

By "at home," ESPN means that its announcers and most of its production staff are not at the site of the game. Instead, they are in Charlotte or Bristol, watching the game on monitors and producing it from there. The obvious advantage is reduced production and travel costs, as the on-site staff was 18 people instead of the usual 40 or so.

TB would prefer not to have known that the announcers weren't here to see if he could figure it out. He sensed it was a little different, since they couldn't sense the atmosphere in the building and feed off of that energy at times, but maybe he was just thinking that because he knew it was the case.

Speaking of "at home," the Princeton women's basketball team is at home for a bunch of games in a short time. The Michigan game - an impressive 74-57 Tiger win - was the first of four home games in an eight-day stretch.

The run continues tonight, when Monmouth is at Jadwin.

Hopefully the Monmouth women are as entertaining as the men. Surely you have seen something already about the Monmouth men's team's bench, whose members have been featured basically everywhere for their celebrating techniques, especially after the Hawks defeated Notre Dame.

Monmouth's women are 2-4 on the season, though the Hawks are coming off a 23-point win over Niagara in their last game.

After Monmouth, Princeton will host Pitt Saturday at 3. Pitt is 5-3 before tonight's game at home against Mt. St. Mary's (including an 82-45 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor last week). The last of the four game stretch will be Monday night against Fordham, a WNIT team a year ago.

That's four chances in eight days to see a show well worth seeing, the Princeton women's basketball show. And nearly 2,000 fans were here Sunday for the first one.

TigerBlog isn't sure the last time Princeton women played four non-league home games in eight days. Obviously consecutive home Ivy weekends add up to four home games in eight days, so TB isn't counting that.

After the Fordham game, Princeton will be home in women's basketball once in the following 46 days, with a Jan. 3 game against Hampton.

As for the men, they have their Hawks tonight too, as TB said. The ones from St. Joe's.

Princeton is coming off its first loss of the year, a 91-77 decision at Stony Brook Saturday. St. Joe's is 5-2, with losses to Florida and Villanova - and an 80-78 win over Columbia in its most recent game.

The men are in a stretch of playing eight of 10 games on the road, with home games Dec. 17 against Liberty and Dec. 22 against Bucknell. In fact, those will be Princeton's only two home games in a 54-day stretch.

On the other hand, Philadelphia isn't too far.

So pick one of the games and get to it.

Princeton versus the Hawks. Two different ones, for that matter.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Sunday Afternoon Party At Jadwin

It was halftime of the Princeton-Michigan women's basketball game yesterday afternoon at Jadwin Gym when TigerBlog saw an instantly familiar face.

It was Damani Leech, Class of 1998. Damani was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League football player at Princeton, an achievement not too many others have matched.

Joining Damani on the "first-team All-Ivy in three different years" list are Derek Graham, Matt Evans, Dennis Norman and Caraun Reid.  TigerBlog thinks that's it. If he's missed anyone, he apologizes.

Beyond his on-field accomplishments, Damani was also responsible for two technological firsts for TigerBlog.

The first was TB's inaugural experience with auto-correct. TigerBlog typed "Damani" in Microsoft Word, and it autocorrected it to "Ad Man." And this was long before "Mad Men" became a show.

The second was that TB had a great picture of Leech, an actual photograph. It became the first one TB ever scanned.

TigerBlog hasn't seen Leech in years. He knew that Damani had a big position with the NCAA for years, and now Damani is working for the NFL in New York City.

Damani was in Princeton to participate in the Princeton Varsity Club's Insiders Look at Careers in Sports event. And for the basketball game.

It was sort of a mix of sporting event and party at Jadwin yesterday afternoon. The exclamation point on the party was supplied by Michelle Miller with a minute to go.

Miller was trapped a few feet behind the three-point line as the shot clock was about to expire when she heaved the ball in the general direction of the basket. Of course it swished in.

That's how it went for the Princeton women's basketball team.

The opponent, Michigan, was 7-0 coming into Jadwin Gym. The Wolverines were a WNIT semifinalist team a year ago. They are in the Big Ten. They averaged 88 points per game coming into the game. This was no pushover.

Add to that the fact that Princeton had beaten Michigan by 30 a year ago, which certainly must have been on the team's collective minds before the game.

None of it mattered. Princeton won the game 74-57, holding the Wolverines 31 points below their average.

This was no ordinary game for Princeton. In addition to playing such a big-name team, the game was on ESPN2, which brought with it a large national audience.

Princeton has worked hard to make its name on the national scale. It's come with five NCAA tournaments in the last six years, including last year's 30-0 run through the regular season.

Each year, Princeton has had to prove that it's more than just one player or one class, that each year is its own challenge and ultimately its own success story. This year's team won't have a perfect regular season, not with a 71-64 loss to 21st-ranked Seton Hall.

But that doesn't mean that this team has fallen out of the national conversation for this year. Far from it. In fact, the Tigers looked great against Michigan.

Princeton shot exactly 50% for the game, while holding Michigan to 38% shooting. Playing against a team known for its pressure D, it was Princeton who forced 22 turnovers.

Beyond the numbers, Princeton continues to simply look the part of a good, confident, veteran, athletic, multi-faceted, balanced team. It's easy to tell just by watching them play.

Jadwin looked great, with fans on both sides, many of them dressed in orange. Princeton, TB led 3-0 on an Annie Tarakchian three-pointer with 1:24 gone in the game, and the Tigers would never trail or even be tied the rest of the way.

Miller led the Tigers with 24, including 6 of 8 three-point shooting. Alex Wheatley, Amanda Berntsen and Vanessa Smith were all great as well.

Going head-to-head with the NFL, Christmas shopping and any number of other options, Princeton-Michigan drew just short of 2,000 fans to Jadwin. That's in addition to all the people who watched on television.

It was good to see Damani.

Back when he played football at Princeton, TigerBlog isn't sure he ever would have imagine the heights that the women's basketball team has reached. He's not sure he would have imagined an ESPN2 audience, a large Jadwin crowd, a nationally relevant program.

That's what Princeton women's basketball has become.

To TigerBlog, what speaks the loudest about what Courtney Banghart has done is the number of men and boys who are her team's game. They know. They appreciate what they're seeing.

It's extraordinary, really. Don't underestimate or gloss over how incredible an accomplishment that is. 

Yesterday afternoon was more than a game, though. It was, as TB said, a party. A Sunday afternoon Jadwin party.

One that was all Princeton.