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 USCHO.com 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.

1 comment:

Tad La Fountain '72 said...

In light of the president of Liberty (Jerry Falwell, Jr) calling for Liberty students to secure concealed carry permits so that this "Christian" university could be protected from Muslims, could Ahmed El-Nokali and Niveen Rasheed serve as honorary co-captains tomorrow evening? It would be a great way to show that Princeton disapproves of this nonsense, and that we are an inclusive community that treasures all the diverse backgrounds that are represented on our teams.