Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A TAGD Thank You, And An Overdue Congratulations

Here's the breakdown of athletic apparel that TigerBlog owns, by college represented:

Princeton - 80 percent
Sacred Heart -19 percent
Denver - one lacrosse sweatshirt

Yes, TigerBlog understands that the math here would mean he has exactly 100 such items, so this isn't quite an exact measure.

Oh, and he has a University of Louisiana-Lafayette "Ragin' Cajuns" t s-shirt. How in the world did he forget that?

When it comes to comfortable, the Princeton water polo longsleeve t-shirt is way up there, though the Princeton lacrosse sweats, longsleeve dri-fit and pullover are all right in the ballpark. So is the red Sacred Heart lacrosse pullover.

When TigerBlog went to Portugal, he was in the Jadwin parking lot waiting to get on the bus to go to the airport when he decided he should probably go back to his office and grab his white Princeton Athletics pullover. That one is really comfortable as well (and he's glad he got it, since he wore it basically every day he was there).

The most comfortable, though, is the Denver sweatshirt. It's gray, and it says "Denver Lacrosse" on it in red. It's a little too big for TigerBlog, which is how he likes his sweatshirts. And it's soft, very soft.

TigerBlog literally wears his loyalties on his sleeves. And anywhere the logos go.

These are his loyalties. Princeton, because he's been a part of the athletic department for nearly 30 years. Sacred Heart, because it's where his son goes to college. Denver, because of Bill Tierney, which is really about loyalty to Princeton taken to another level.

What TB doesn't have is anything that says "Penn" on it.

This has always been a fascinating concept to people he's met here at Princeton. They don't understand how someone can turn on his alma mater like that, because here it simply isn't done.

TigerBlog has said this many times through the years, but there is something really special about the loyalty that develops between Princeton and Princetonians. It starts before the first classes freshman year, and it lasts forever.

There's nothing that approaches this where TigerBlog went to school. And maybe anywhere else.

Yes, people are very passionate (most, anyway) about their alma maters, and they root for them forever. And wear their stuff. And have very fond memories about their time there.

It's just different. As a Princetonian, you wouldn't understand it.

Because you're Princetonians, though, you again came out in a big way for TAGD yesterday. TigerBlog checked out the leaderboard on the website a few times through the day, and the gifts were coming in.

Why? Because that's what Princetonians do. They support the school. They support those who are following in their footsteps here.

It's a very, very special thing.

There will be a lot of thank yous coming your way in the post-TAGD time. And they're sincere, because everyone here at Princeton Athletics knows how many things get done because of your support and wouldn't get done without you. And these are all areas that go directly to the student-athlete experience, which is what this is all about. 

The work around the third TAGD took up a lot of the beginning of this week, but TigerBlog does not want to let what the men's hockey team did this past weekend fade away without mentioning it. In fact, he'd like to apologize for letting it go this far.

Princeton went into the weekend at 0-6-1. Its opponent, Bemidji State, was 11-2-1, ranked 10th in Division I and playing at home (in a town that is actually closer to Winnipeg than it is to Minneapolis).

So what happened?

Princeton swept the Beavers, winning 4-1 Friday night and 3-1 Saturday night. It was quite a weekend in Minnesota for Princeton.

The star Saturday night was backup goalie Ben Halford, who made 43 saves for his first win. Meanwhile, Princeton took leads into the third period both nights and was able to close out the wins, something that had been elusive to this point of the year.

It's one thing to think you're getting better. It's another to have some tangible proof of it, in the form of wins. Any wins would have been great. A pair against the No. 10 team in the country was even better.

Princeton is home this weekend, against Union Friday night and RPI Saturday. Both games face-off at 7.

Union is ranked 18th in the country this week. It doesn't really matter, though. Princeton should be a confident bunch as it plays on its home ice at Baker Rink.

So belated congratulations to the men's hockey team.

And sincere thanks to for everyone who made a gift yesterday during the 24 hours of TAGD.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tigers, Tigers, Tigers - And Mark Turgeon - You've Been TAGD

Okay, Tigers, Tigers, Tigers and more Tigers. Wherever you are Tigers. All over the country and the world, Tigers.

Today is TAGD.

That's Tiger Athletics Give Day. The third one, to be precise.

TigerBlog was at his desk yesterday when two-time TAGD champ Luis Nicolao, the men's and women's water polo coach, walked in to say hi.

TigerBlog had done Luis a favor back when he was in Portugal with men's lacrosse a few weeks ago, buying him a pin at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lisbon. Unfortunately, TB forgot to use Luis' rewards number, so he had to give him the receipt so Luis could get the credit to his account, on top of the pin.

As TB was going through a bunch of stuff the other day, he found the receipt. And on the receipt, it mentioned how to get rewards credit online, so TB brought it with him to give to Luis.

For the record, TigerBlog paid for the pin, Luis offered to pay TB back and TB wouldn't take Luis' money. Also, some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet work at the Lisbon Hard Rock Cafe.

Anyway, when Luis came in to get the receipt, he was wearing a TigerUp t-shirt. He's ready for TAGD. TigerBlog could tell yesterday how much he wants to win again, how competitive he is.

That's one of the best parts about TAGD. It takes incredibly competitive people and pits them against each other to see who can do the best job of mobilizing their alums and Friends.

TAGD goes from midnight to midnight, Eastern time. The first two TAGDs rank 1-2 in the most gifts ever given to Princeton in a single day.

If you want more information on TAGD, go to the event website right HERE.

And again, the money that is raised goes directly to helping Princeton's athletes and coaches have the best possible experience they can. It goes right to what each team needs most.

Also, one of the best parts about TAGD is that it's also a competition for the most total gifts, not just the most money, so every single gift is important.

One person who should be giving some money to Princeton's Friends of Basketball is Mark Turgeon, the head coach at the University of Maryland. Will he? No. But he should.

After all, it's the least he could do.

Turgeon is 3-0 against Princeton alums this year, with three wins by a combined 13 points, all three of which were heartbreakers for the former Tigers.

Maryland defeated Mike Brennan and American 62-56 in a game American led with six minutes to go and trailed by one at the under-4 media timeout.

Then it was the Georgetown game. Against John Thompson's Hoyas, Turgeon trailed by six with 37 seconds to go and then rallied to win 76-75. TigerBlog wasn't watching and could only follow on his phone, and he had to refresh it a few times before he believed it was true.

Finally, there was the game Friday against Richmond and Chris Mooney. This time, Maryland needed overtime before it would win by six.

That's three wins in three games, all of which could have gone the other way.

So c'mon Turgeon. You can give a little here to make up for it. Buck up, buddy. You can be a Friend of Princeton Basketball.

As for the current men's basketball team, the Tigers will be playing at VCU. That's Virginia Commonwealth, by the way, a school in Richmond that will be playing in front of its 86th straight sell out crowd.

VCU is 5-1 on the season, with its only loss by eight to Baylor, a Top 10 team, at the Paradise Jam in the Bahamas last week.

Princeton comes in after putting up 108 points in its last game, against Rowan. The Tigers allowed 46. You can do the math.

Yes, Rowan is Division III team. Still, only four times in program history has Princeton scored more points than it did the other day, and all four of those games were between 1965 and 1967.

Next up for Princeton? A trip to Hawaii, to take on Cal and Hawaii at Pearl Harbor. It's see-the-world time for the Tigers.

And again, a little reminder for the Tigers from all over the world. It's TAGD. Have fun, and help out if you can. You know your gift is important, and you know it's appreciated.

That goes for Tigers everywhere. Tigers, Tigers, Tigers - and Mark Turgeon

Monday, November 28, 2016


If you rang the doorbell on MotherBlog's apartment back when she lived in Chevy Chase, it would play one of her two favorite songs.

That would be "Hail to the Redskins." The other, which didn't play when you rang the bell, was "Do You Hear The People Sing," from Les Mis.

TigerBlog's favorite NFL team has always been the Giants. This used to cause issues at least twice a year between TB and his mother.

TB remembers the Super Bowl when the Redskins beat the Broncos 42-10, the one in which Doug Williams went off in the first half to make it a total rout. The game was played in San Diego, and TB is pretty sure his mother was in California on business at the time. He's positive she called him to make sure he was aware of who was winning the game.

Because of his loyalty to his mother, TB has always had a soft spot for the Redskins. He was rooting for them on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys, even though Dallas is coached by a Princeton alum, one TB likes a lot.

TB was also rooting for Detroit. One day, the Lions will win the Super Bowl, and TB will be happy - because it'll make the only legitimate lifelong die-hard Lions fan he knows happy, and that's former Roper Trophy winner John Mack. 

Mostly, though, TigerBlog rooted for the radio announcers in the Thanksgiving games.

Why? Because they were Tom McCarthy for the Lions-Vikings game and John Sadak for the Redskins-Cowboys game.

If you don't remember those names, they're former Princeton radio play-by-play voices. TigerBlog will take the credit for molding them and sending them on their way to the big time.

TigerBlog had his first experience of doing a basketball game with Tom's son Patrick Friday afternoon, when Princeton took on Rowan. Patrick is a senior at The College of New Jersey, where he is a baseball player and a budding broadcaster.

TB has done hundreds of games on the radio, dating back to his own student days at Penn. He's done Princeton football, basketball and lacrosse at various times.

TigerBlog can say with complete confidence that doing the game the other day with Patrick was one of the best broadcasting experiences he's ever had.

As November comes to a close, the Princeton Athletic calendar starts to slow a bit as well. The fall/winter crossover is nearly over, other than women's volleyball in the NCAA tournament.

There is one huge date to circle this month still, however.

And that day is tomorrow. TAGD is coming.

This will be the third TAGD - Tiger Athletics Give Day. In just a short time, TAGD has become a highly successful, highly competitive and highly, well, fun day for Princeton.

Basically, TAGD is a 24-hour fundraising day for Princeton's athletic friends groups and the Princeton Varsity Club. The first two days generated more gifts than any other days in Princeton history.

The first TAGD grew out of the 150th anniversary of the first Princeton athletic event. At the time, nobody really had any idea what to expect.

Now? It's clear that Princeton Athletics is made up of some highly competitive people. Each team began to compete against the others to see who could get the most gifts and the most money, and it was obvious that they loved the competition.

It exploded on social media. The teams came up with their own videos, their own Instagram posts, their own tweets.

It was fun. And it was competitive.

This year's TAGD began with a video narrated by Ashleigh Johnson of the women's water polo team. Ashleigh, as you might recall, won a gold medal at the Olympics this past summer.

As part of Ashleigh's script, she mentioned some of the many, many benefits of TAGD that go directly to the student-athlete experience. The money raised has gone to things like locker room upgrades, out-of-region travel, international trips, advances in technologies, championship rings, new equipment, community service trips, recruit hosting and so much more.

TAGD will begin at exactly midnight and run for exactly 24 hours. You can find out more information, and see Ashleigh's video and a bunch of other social media postings, at the event's official website:

TigerBlog is constantly amazed and impressed by the loyalty that Princeton Athletics has generated through the years. Those who have come before feel an obligation to provide for the current generation, who in turn will do the same when it's their turn.

It's most visible at events like the Peter Farrell retirement party earlier this fall, when all of those generations are gathered together in one place at one time.

It's most real on a day like TAGD, when so many people accept the challenge to contribute. And you do this because of what a great experience you had here and how important Princeton Athletics are to you.

So thank you in advance for helping out again. That's tomorrow. Midnight to midnight, Eastern time.

It's almost TAGD 3.0. In a short time, it's become one of the better days around here. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow, as you know, is Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for? Really, truly thankful for?

Maybe this is a good time to stop and think about it. And then go tell anyone and everyone you're thankful for so they know it too.

TigerBlog loves Thanksgiving. He's written about it before.

Like last year.

And 2014.

And 2013.

And 2012.

And 2011.

And 2010.

And 2009.

He can sum it all up basically with this, which he copies and pastes each year:

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

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

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

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

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

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

As TigerBlog reads back over that, he can't believe he left out "Scent of a Woman" for all these years. Al Pacino drags Chris O'Donnell to New York City from his posh prep school for Thanksgiving break, and they have quite an adventure to say the least, including having the blind Army Colonel (Pacino) drive a Ferrari guided by the petrified student (O'Donnell). Before that, Pacino dances the tango with Gabrielle Anwar, and before that, he and O"Donnell go to Pacino's brother's house for a rather awkward Thanksgiving dinner.

TB will have to add that one to the list next year. It's a great movie, and Pacino won an Oscar for his performance.

If you want a little pre-Thanksgiving Princeton basketball, the men play at Lafayette tonight.

There won't be any events on Thanksgiving Day itself. There are nine events between Friday and Sunday, all involving the men's and women's basketball teams (home doubleheader Friday, with the women against Rutgers at 2 and the men against Rowan at 5), the men's (at Bemidji State in Minnesota) and women's (at Boston University) hockey teams and the wrestling team (at Madison Square Garden).

TigerBlog once found himself at a Princeton men's basketball game against Ohio the Friday after Thanksgiving. That game was played in, of all places, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Oh, and it's a pretty good Thanksgiving in the Surace house. Princeton's head football coach was named the unanimous Ivy League Coach of the Year, and 18 of his players earned All-Ivy honors, including six first-team picks: John Lovett, Mitchell Sweigart, James Gales, Dorian Williams, Kurt Holuba and Luke Catarius.

That's four from the D and two from the "O" side of the ball, though Lovett makes the impact of several all by himself. When the "O" Player of the Year Award is announced, TigerBlog will be stunned if it's not Lovett, who should also be in the All-America conversation.

Meanwhile, as Thanksgiving arrives, it continues what is usually the quickest time of the year, from Halloween to New Year's. In a blink it'll be Christmas and then New Year's and then 2017.

For now, though, enjoy the holiday.

Enjoy the turkey. And stuffing. And potatoes. And of course the green bean casserole.

That's TB's favorite.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Starring Sam Gravitte

The Berlind Theater was packed, each one of the nearly 400 seats filled.

Beyond the top level of the orchestra seats, there was standing room around the railing. Most of those who stood up there were members of the Princeton men's lacrosse team.

If you wanted to see what intercollegiate sports are really all about, then the Berlind Theater was the place to be.

It was Friday night, right around 8. The occasion was a production of the stage version of the movie "Once," which begins with an informal 10 minutes or so of Irish music on the stage and then moves into the main part of the show. 

And it began with Sam Gravitte and his guitar, center stage, all alone.

TigerBlog was in the audience. Before the first note came from the guitar, TB had counted about 25 men's lacrosse players, two coaches and one academic athletic fellow. He knew that some of them had been there for earlier productions of the show the weekend before. He's pretty sure that every member of the team would end up going to at least one of the six shows that ran.

Here's what TB was wondering: How many of them are into theater?

How many of them had ever been in show in high school? For that matter, how many had been to Broadway shows?

TigerBlog has been around Princeton lacrosse players for nearly 30 years. He's heard them talk about all kinds of subjects. He can't remember one time that he heard any of them talk about a love for the theater.

And yet here they were, jammed into a theater. Why? Because it was their teammate's big night, and when it's your teammates big night, you're there to show your support, even if it's taking you way out of your comfort zone.

And that's what intercollegiate sports are really supposed to be all about, right? Yes, it's about competition and winning championships. More than anything, though, it's about the people you compete alongside, and practice alongside every day, and just how strong the bond that is formed from being thrown together, almost randomly, as 18 year olds on a common campus grows over a four-year stretch. That bond lasts forever.

TigerBlog has always been a huge fan of musical theater. And of sports. He sees the similarities between them, with the preparation behind the scenes that culminate in a final display that is open to the public and with the strong connections that form among the players, whether on the field or on the stage.

Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, introduced TigerBlog to "Once" a long time ago. TB has seen the movie at least 20 times, and he saw the stage version on Broadway.

It's a great story. Set in Dublin, it tells the story of "Guy," who is never named, and "Girl," who also has no name.

He works in his father's guitar repair shop. She works as a maid. They have little in their lives, other than a shared love of music, which he plays first at night on the Dublin streets and then later, with her, in a music store and eventually in a recording studio.

The movie has some great music ("Falling Slowly" is the most famous of them; it won an Academy Award for Best Song) and some amazing scenes. The show requires some leaps of faith about sets and settings, and it also requires wildly talented actors and actresses, all of whom have to be able to sing, dance and act - all while playing an instrument, as there is no pit orchestra.

This was the ambitious show that Gravitte was part of the last two weekends in Princeton.

Sam Gravitte is no ordinary Princeton student or ordinary Division I lacrosse player. His mother Debbie is a Tony Award-winner for Best Actress in a Musical for "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." Let that sink in a little. A Tony Award. His father Beau is, among other things, an actor and director.

Sam himself has been in shows in high school and here at Princeton, even on the stage at McCarter. He is an anthropology major, but he also is earning certificates in theater and music theater. 

As a lacrosse player, Sam Gravitte is a superior athlete. He is a strong and fast. He is also versatile. During his career, he has played close defense and longstick midfield with a longstick and shortstick defensive midfielder with a shortstick. He's faced-off and played the wings on face-offs and has also played man-down.

To TB's knowledge, or at least off the top of his head, he can only think of two other Princeton players in the last 20 years or so who have done the same - Ryan Schoenig and Chris Berrier. Apologies if he's forgetting someone.

The show Friday started at 8. A few hours earlier, Sam Gravitte was at lacrosse practice. That's a big balancing act.

And then it was time for the show to start. Sam started playing the guitar and singing, and from Note 1 he had the entire audience awed. The same was true of the female lead, Maddie Meyers, another senior, who was just as amazing. And if you've never heard the music, these are not easy songs to sing. They require some pretty serious range.

In all the cast consisted of 13 people, of whom 12 are Princeton undergrads. They were all incredible.

As for Sam Gravitte, he carried the production, something that isn't easy to do. It requires talent, and it requires star power, and he has plenty of both.

Afterwards, TigerBlog hung around to greet Sam and to meet Sam's mother.

She was genuinely impressed with her son's performance, and she was clearly touched by the overwhelming support of the men's lacrosse players.

And speaking of them, they were in the theater lobby too. As Sam talked to a few people, they waited patiently for him. They eventually started a soft chant of "Sam, Sam, Sam," and he walked across to where they were standing to a big group hug.

It reminded TigerBlog of the reaction that a player gets after scoring a goal. There's always the hug.

It's an acknowledgement that one of them did something special, and it's a reminder that the one is part of a larger whole.

On Friday night it wasn't on a lacrosse field. It was in a theater.

But the lesson still resonated.

This is what being a team is all about.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Closing Out A Championship

TigerBlog stood at the bottom of the stairs that lead down from the Princeton Stadium concourse to Weaver Track, near the tunnel where the home football locker room is.

There were about two hours until kickoff for the Princeton-Dartmouth football game. The sun was shining. The temperature was in the mid-60s.

One by one, or sometimes two by two, Princeton football players walked by, on their way to get ready for the game. They all looked serious. Focused.

There was a lot on the line for this game. Win, and Princeton would be Ivy League champion. Lose, and Princeton wouldn't be, unless both Harvard and Penn also lost.

As they walked by, TigerBlog had one constant thought: If this one gets away, they'll remember it forever.

Actually, he also thought that this wasn't going to be an easy one for Princeton. Dartmouth had beaten the Tigers six straight times, all six years that Bob Surace had been the Princeton head coach.

Plus, TB was sure he wasn't the only one who had that same thought. That was the mental hurdle. When you play a game with so much on the line, it's hard to block that thought out and just go out and play.

Princeton entered the game with one loss in the league, tied with Penn and Harvard. None of those three had lost to any of the other five teams.

Before the season started the Tigers were picked to finish fifth in the league. TigerBlog would ask his colleague Cody Chrusciel, also the team's radio play-by-play man, at what point of the season did he start to think that Princeton looked like a championship team, and he said it was partly when Princeton ripped off touchdowns on seven-straight possessions against Columbia and partly when he noticed that Lehigh, who had beaten Princeton in Week 2, was rolling.

Whenever it was, here was Princeton. The Tigers were playing great defense. The offense was balanced, tricky and relentless.

All that was left was to beat Dartmouth and celebrate.

TB was right. It wasn't easy.

Princeton went three-and-out on its first possession, punted and then saw Dartmouth drive right down the field and score a touchdown. This was against a D that had allowed seven, zero and three points in its previous three games, including zero, zero and three in the first half.

By intermission, it was 14-10 Dartmouth, but actually it could have been worse. At least it seemed that way. Princeton seemed to be struggling to get into its rhythm, but hey, there was still a half to go.

It was quite a half. It was total Princeton domination.

Dartmouth's first six possessions of the second half went like this: punt, punt, punt, fumble, interception, interception.

And the "O?"

While Dartmouth was being completely wiped out, Princeton went touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.

Final score: Princeton 38, Dartmouth 21, after the Big Green scored in the final seconds, long after the outcome had been decided.

And that, friends, is how you close out a championship season.

What might have been a tri-championship became a co-championship when Penn beat Cornell but Yale beat Harvard. That left the Tigers and Quakers tied for the title, and, while it hardly matters in the official standings, TB will point out that Princeton did beat Penn 28-0.

Football championships cannot be won with just one star, and Princeton's 2016 team is way more than just one player. The Tigers are a team in the truest sense, and if you asked 10 people who followed the team closely who the second-best player was, you'll get a bunch of different answers.

Dorian Williams? Luke Catarius? Kurt Holuba? Rohan Hylton? Isaiah Barnes? Chad Kanoff? Someone else?

The best player? Well, that's John Lovett.

TigerBlog has written about Lovett before. And why not? There aren't too many players anywhere quite like him.

In case you didn't realize it, Lovett had at one rushing touchdown, at least one reception and one completed pass - in every game this year. That's just nuts.

In six games this year Lovett had at least one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and one reception. In five games this year he ran for at least two TDs and threw for at least one.

Yeah, that's just nuts.

Is there any other player in college football who can make those claims? Who was the last one to do so? TB wishes he could look it up easily.

Lovett's fingerprints were all over Princeton's win over Dartmouth.

He had two rushing touchdowns, giving him 20 for the season, which broke Keith Elias' school record of 19, a record that had stood for 23 years. Lovett had his 20 touchdowns on just 98 carries, by the way. Elias had 305 the year he scored 19.

His 19th rushing touchdown came in the first half. The record came in the third quarter, putting the Tigers up for good. His 10th passing touchdown of the year made it 31-14 early in the fourth.

Oh yeah. Add that to the list of accomplishments. Who was the last college football player to have 20 rushing and 10 passing touchdowns in the same season?

The 2016 football championship was the second in four years for the Tigers. There was not one fluky thing about this one. This was just a championship team playing consistent, championship-level football for pretty much the entire season.

Even as he watched Saturday, TigerBlog felt that there was no real turning point to that game. It was just the better team as it eventually overwhelmed its opponent.

And closed out a championship in the process.

Those players who walked down the stairs a few hours earlier? Now they celebrated on Powers Field, on a glorious afternoon - one that they will, in fact, remember forever.

For all the best reasons.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Playing For Championships, And Other Things To Do While Waiting For The Gilmore Girls Sequel

You know what is just a week away?

Hint - it has nothing to do with post-Thanksgiving shopping. It's the release of the four 90-minute sequel episodes of "Gilmore Girls."

Do the episodes start streaming at 12:01 am?

While TigerBlog was in Portugal with men's lacrosse, a discussion about "Game of Thrones" broke out near the front of the bus, with pretty much every member of the coaching staff and support staff involved. This wasn't just a "did you see that episode" conversation. This was an in-depth analysis of the show, its themes, its hidden meanings.

TigerBlog? He's never made it past the first five minutes of the first episode.

As a side conversation, he and Erin, the girlfriend of defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt, started having a similar analysis of "Gilmore Girls." TB said that he's going to be mad if: 1) Lorelei and Luke don't end up together and 2) Rory does end up with either Logan, Dean or Jess and really, really, really mad if 3) Lorelei ends up back with Christopher.

How in the world will TigerBlog last seven days until he gets to find out the answers?

Fortunately, this is a big weekend for Princeton Athletics, so he has something to take his mind off "Gilmore Girls" for awhile.

There will be one team that plays for an NCAA championship and another that plays for a chance to get to the NCAA championships. There will be two teams who play in football stadiums, only one of which will be playing football, though that game is huge.

In all, there will be at least 23 events (and maybe 25) this weekend, with six today, 13 tomorrow and four (or maybe two championship games) Sunday. The complete schedule is HERE.

TigerBlog will end with football.

He'll start with the postseason.

The field hockey team, as you know, left Wednesday morning for a stop at Temple for practice and then on to Norfolk, which is home to the Final Four. Princeton and Delaware play today at 4:45, the second game after North Carolina and UConn. The championship game is Sunday at 1.

As TB has said twice this week, Princeton has already beaten Delaware this year, which means nothing at all, since Princeton had already lost to both Penn State and Virginia, the teams the Tigers beat to reach the semifinals.

The other team in postseason mode is the men's water polo team, who will host the Northeast Water Polo Conference tournament this weekend. The Tigers are the second seed, behind Brown and ahead of Harvard.

This is the first year of the Northeast Water Polo Conference. It's a split from last year's College Water Polo Association format, but the bottom line is that the winner of the tournament this weekend at DeNunzio will advance to a play-in game and then to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton's road to those prizes begins tomorrow at 3:30, when the team takes on the winner of the game between MIT and Harvard in one semifinal. That game will be followed by Brown against the winner of St. Francis (N.Y.) and Iona.

The championship game will be Sunday at noon.

As for the football stadiums, the two teams that will be competing in them tomorrow are the football team and the wrestling team.

The wrestling team will be at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers for the "Battle of the Birthplace." It's an outdoor match between Princeton and Rutgers, who is currently ranked 10th nationally.

Princeton and Rutgers have done a lot in recent years to raise the profile of New Jersey wrestling. They've drawn excellent crowds to Jadwin Gym last year and three years ago, and now they're taking the show outside.

The weather appears to be ready to cooperate with people in singlets. It's supposed to be sunny and in the mid-60s, which is rather perfect for the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

So far, more than 14,000 tickets have been sold. Expectations are for more than 20,000 in attendance. 

Closer to home, but also in perfect weather will be Week 10 of the Ivy League football season. You can't really ask for much more than you're getting if you're a Princeton fan.

The Tigers host Dartmouth at 1:30. If you are holding in your hand right now a ticket to that game, then get there early and go see Princeton-Dayton women's basketball. Tip for that game is 12, and your football ticket gets you into the women's basketball game too.

As for the football game, here's where it stands in the Ivy League:

Princeton 5-1
Harvard 5-1 (home vs. Yale)
Penn 5-1 (at Cornell)
everyone else out of it

Princeton, Penn and Harvard are 1-1 against each other and 12-0 against the rest of the league. Should that number get to 15-0, then there would be a three-way tie for the championship.

There have been four of those in the history of the Ivy League, by the way, in 1966, 1969, 1982 and last year.

If that above number gets to 14-1, then there will be co-champions. If it's 13-2, then there will be an outright champ. It it's 12-3, then you'll be back to tri-champions.

Dartmouth is 1-5 in the Ivy League, which might be the most irrelevant number out there. The Big Green have won six straight against Princeton and would like nothing more than to derail the Tigers' hope for a championship.

This game will not be easy.

Another number to keep an eye on is 19. Right now, John Lovett has 18 rushing touchdowns heading into the Dartmouth game. The school record is 19, set in 1993 by Keith Elias.

By the way, Elias is the most charismatic athlete TigerBlog has met at Princeton. There are others who are up there, but nobody has ever matched Elias. When he walked into a room as a Princeton undergrad, everything stopped.

Elias had his 19 touchdowns on 305 carries. Lovett has 18 on 88. If Lovett had 305 carries and scored at the same rate he does (an impossibility that TB acknowledges), he'd have 62 touchdowns.

Anyway, Lovett's quest for the record is a subplot. The big story is the run at another Ivy championship.

It's one of the many big storylines for this weekend.

And yes, there is a "Gilmore Girls" marathon on the Up network that will show all 153 episodes in order. But you can skip out on a few of them to come see the Tigers.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gus And The Bus

Let's see.

Should TigerBlog start today with the bus? Or with Gus?

Let's go with Gus.

TigerBlog and Miss TigerBlog were at a lacrosse tournament Sunday afternoon at one of the Baltimore prep schools. TigerBlog had the trifecta going - Princeton lacrosse hat, Denver lacrosse sweatshirt, Sacred Heart lacrosse chair.

As he sat in his chair overlooking the field, he turned his head brieflly and found himself face-to-face with, of all things, a basset hound. You know, one of the hush puppy dogs.

The dog's owner was walking him around the campus. TigerBlog was looking at the dog, not the woman who was walking him. He asked her how old the dog was, and she responded that he was 14.

Then TB realized the dog's name was Gus. Then he put it all together: the year 2016 minus 14 years plus the name Gus plus outside of Baltimore. And what did it equal?

Ryan Boyle.

Back when Boyle was a Princeton men's lacrosse All-America, he had a puppy named Gus. Boyle then graduated in 2004 and went on to a long professional and international career, and now, in addition to being one of the greatest players of all time, he might just be the greatest lacrosse color commentator of all time as well.

TigerBlog looked up at the woman walking the dog and mentioned that he knew a lacrosse player who had a dog named Gus. Had she ever heard of Ryan Boyle? Turned out it was Boyle's mother.

Her question for TigerBlog was simple. How in the world did he remember the name of Ryan's dog from all those years ago?

It's a gift. TigerBlog can remember lots and lots and lots of facts. Like dog names - and birthdays and song lyrics and scores of games he's been to and the fact that Boyle had 232 career points at Princeton, second only to Kevin Lowe's 247.

So that's the part about Gus.

The bus? That would be the one parked in the apron outside Jadwin, Caldwell Field House and DeNunzio yesterday morning.

It was the one that would be driving the Princeton field hockey team to Norfolk as its November ride literally continued. Before the bus pulled out, though, there would be a sendoff, with athletic department staff, the Princeton band (a recording of the band, anyway) and some Dunkin Donut-type goodies.

It was a nice little morning party, and it was well-earned by the Tigers.

And it was one that seemed sort of unlikely a few weeks ago. Back at the end of October, Princeton lost back-to-back overtime games to Harvard and Cornell. At that point, it seemed like a promising season might be over.

Ah, but it was only starting.

Princeton came back to thump Penn in the regular season finale and then exhaled when the NCAA selections were announced. The Tigers? They got an at-large bid.

And they've made the most of it. Princeton knocked off Penn State and Virginia (on Sophia Tornetta's goal as time expired) last weekend to advance to the Final Four for the seventh time in program history.

Next up is Delaware, tomorrow afternoon, at Old Dominion, in the second NCAA semifinal, after North Carolina and UConn play in the opener. The championship game is Sunday.

Princeton has already beaten Delaware this year. Then again, Princeton had already lost to Penn State and Virginia this year. 

The NCAA field hockey championship has been dominated by a select few schools. The tournament began in 1981, and since then, in 35 years, only 10 schools have won a championship.

In recent years, it's been even more exclusive. The last 12 years have seen only five schools win all of the titles - Maryland, UConn, Syracuse, North Carolina and of course Princeton, who won it all in 2012.

UConn followed Princeton's win by taking the next two championships. Syracuse, last year's champ, is not here. Delaware is making its second Final Four appearance and first since 1982.

North Carolina has been the runner-up in four of the last six years (including to Princeton), and the field hockey team will be looking to match the NCAA titles that the Tar Heel men's and women's lacrosse teams both won in the spring.

The bus that rolled away yesterday morning took with a team that has 13 freshmen and sophomores and eight juniors and seniors. In fact, there are just three seniors on the team, though leading scorer Cat Caro is one of them.

Throw in the coaching change, and it's easy to say that this might have been a year with some growing pains. Regardless, though, here is Princeton, in the Final Four again.

It can be a winding road sometimes, but in the end it can take you where you want to be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Early Baskets

TigerBlog is a big fan of most things that take him back to when he was a kid.

You know. Like M&Ms (which, by the way, he hasn't had in a long time). And Yoo-hoo. And Bugs Bunny. And "The Odd Couple." Stuff like that.

Speaking of "The Odd Couple," TB's friend Digger texted him "Happy November 13th" the other day. He does that every year. Why? Because that was the day that, in the opening credits of the show, "Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence" as it showed the exterior of the building where Felix then went to live with Oscar, a building that was either on 72nd Street or 74th Street near Central Park West.

Anyway, you can add to that list something from TigerBlog's Monday night.

Back when he had a bedtime, his parents used to let him stay up a little later on Monday night's in the fall so that he could watch the opening kickoff of "Monday Night Football." This was back when the kickoff was at 9.

Eventually, he was old enough where he could stay up until halftime, when he could watch as Howard Cosell narrated the highlights of the games from the day before. Back then, there was no other way to see those highlights, something that is impossible to believe these days.

On special occasions, there'd be a game that would start late or a big game that was going to run late. Then he would receive special permission to stay up late to watch.

He'd make certain bargains, of course. For instance, he'd take a nap earlier, so that he could stay up late and not be tired for school the next day.

As he thinks back to this, he senses his parents probably laughed at him at the time. Sure, take a nap. And then stay up until midnight.

Invariably, TB would attempt to take a nap, either successfully or unsuccessfully. Then he'd fall asleep long before the game ended, or likely before it ever started.

Anyway, that's where he was Monday night. Well into his 50s and with nearly 20 years experience as a parent himself, he was back to being a kid, hoping to stay up to see the Princeton-BYU men's basketball game that tipped at 10 on ESPN2.

One channel down, the Giants were playing the Bengals in the Monday Night Football game.

So that was TB's challenge. Watch the Giants. Stay up for Princeton.

Should he nap before he tried all this? Did he have any chance to make it to midnight? Would he be tired for school, er, work if he did?

Somewhere MotherBlog was laughing at him.

As it turned out, TigerBlog lasted until halftime. Next thing he knew, it was after 3.

Oh well. He's not the only one, he assumes, he couldn't make it to the end.

The basketball season is young at Princeton so far, with three games total, two by the women and one by the men. What is known from those results?

Let's start with the women.

Here's what TigerBlog knows: Bella Alarie is really, really good.

The freshman scored 24 points and had eight rebounds in her first game, Friday night's 70-62 loss to Rider. She came back with eight points and five rebounds Sunday in a 56-45 loss to George Washington, giving her 32 and 13 in two games.

Alarie, the daughter of former NBA player Mark Alarie, stands 6-4 but plays more like a guard. She can handle the ball. She can drive - and get there really quickly. She can hit three-pointers (she's already matched Niveen Rasheed's entire freshman three-pointers made total with four). She's very smooth around the basket.

At the same time, she's 6-4. That makes her (tied with teammate Jackie Reyneke) the tallest player ever to play for Courtney Banghart at Princeton. And, with her athleticism, she can do 6-4 things, like alter shots, close out quickly on the perimeter and rebound.

Yes, it's only been two games. No, that's not too soon to say that Alarie is well worth coming to Jadwin to see. She is just a different kind of player. That much is obvious.

The start of the 2016-17 season for Princeton's women was supposed to be difficult. Keep in mind how much the team graduated from a year ago. Do names like Alex Wheatley, Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian ring a bell?

TigerBlog saw Wheatley before the game Friday night, and she said it was "weird" not be playing anymore.

It actually reminded TigerBlog of the start of the 1998-99 men's season. Princeton had graduated the bulk of its team - including current head coach Mitch Henderson - from the epic run that saw the Tigers win three straight Ivy titles and in 1998 move into the national Top 10. The next season started with talent in new roles, and a dynamic freshman named Chris Young. It took a little while, but Princeton went on another big run, with two NCAAs and three NITs in the next six years.

Courtney Banghart, Milena Flores and the Tigers will figure it out. You don't go to six NCAAs in seven years without knowing what you're doing. And TigerBlog will guarantee that Bella Alarie doesn't leave to play Major League Baseball.

As for the men, that was a tough task, going out to BYU to play a really good and really experienced team. Of course, Princeton has a really good and really experienced team as well, and hopes are high for the Tigers for this season.

What does TigerBlog know about this game? Other that it was a struggle to stay awake?

Well, Devin Cannady is really, really good. There's nothing he does on a basketball court that fails to inspire confidence. It's a great quality to have.

TigerBlog saw this stat: Princeton was 9 for 12 from the foul line and BYU was 30 for 41. That's a huge difference.

On the other hand, BYU was pounding the ball inside and Princeton was putting up 35 three-pointers. Of those 35 threes, only 10 went in. There will be a night when 20 of them go in. On that night, Princeton can beat anyone.

Princeton also has the benefit of depth and experience, meaning any one of really eight or nine players can step up on any given night.

The game Monday night might not have ended the way Princeton wanted. Again, though, there's no reason for a dip in the optimism. 

Next up for the women is Dayton here Saturday at noon, before the football game. Next up for the men is a trip to Lehigh Sunday.

It's really early in the basketball season.

Both teams have already shown that they will be entertaining to see for nearly 60 more games.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Princeton Loves Penn, Princeton Loves Penn

TigerBlog is pretty sure that you're more in love with Penn now than you were Friday, when he first suggested you were.

TigerBlog certainly is.

Back when the weekend started, the Princeton football team couldn't win a piece of the Ivy League championship without a Harvard loss in one of its last two games. It was mathematically impossible.

Whatever else could happen, no Harvard loss, no championship.

Harvard had two games left, this past Friday at Penn and then this coming Saturday against Yale. Harvard will be a prohibitive favorite against Yale, so that really meant Princeton needed Penn to come through.

For about 54 minutes or so, it looked like it was no problem for the Quakers. The defense was in complete control. The offense was doing enough.

Penn led 14-6, but it felt like more. Except it wasn't.

Back came Harvard, first with a touchdown drive and then with a two-point conversion that featured a direct snap to a running back and a pass by a receiver to a quarterback, making it 14-14 with 3:23 to go.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that most Princeton fans had an "oh no" gasp and feeling that the Tigers' best chance had come and gone. Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen had other ideas.

All Torgersen did from there was go 8 for 10 for 80 yards, the last two of which came for a touchdown to Justin Watson with 15 seconds left. The touchdown, by the way, was Torgersen's 51st, a school record, so congratulations to him.

Penn would then tack on another TD on the final play on a fumble return. Final score? Penn 27, Harvard 14.

Say it with TigerBlog: Princeton loves Penn, Princeton loves Penn, Princeton loves Penn.

That was Friday night.

TigerBlog saw the end of the game on TV. He also saw on Twitter that Princeton's women's volleyball team had a great rally from 5-0 down in Game 5 against Cornell to pull out a 3-2 victory at Dillon Gym.

Had Princeton lost that one and Yale won its match at Harvard, the Tigers would have been tied with the Bulldogs heading into the final night of the regular season. Instead, Princeton got its win and then the help that made its life easier, as Harvard rallied as well to beat Yale.

That made Princeton the outright Ivy League champion. There was a great video on Twitter that showed the team's reaction to learning Harvard had won and that the Tigers were headed to the NCAA tournament:

That moment when live stats tells @PrincetonVolley that they are the OUTRIGHT @IvyLeague champion and NCAA-bound!
— Princeton Tigers (@PUTIGERS) November 12, 2016

Meanwhile, back at football, Penn's win gave Princeton a clearer path to a share of the championship. No longer was Harvard unbeaten, as they and Penn were now 5-1.

Princeton had beaten Penn but lost to Harvard. Penn had lost to Princeton but beaten Harvard. Doing the rest of the math, Harvard had beaten Penn but lost to Princeton.

None of the three had lost a game to another team in the league. If that continued, there'd be a three-way tie for the league championship for the second straight year.

So now, all Princeton had to do was come back a few hours later in New Haven and take on Yale, in the 139th meeting against the Bulldogs, an opponent who came in 2-6 but would do anything to prevent one, or, even better, both of its most bitter rivals from winning a championship. The perfect end for the season for Yale would be an outright Penn title - because Yale beat Princeton and Harvard to end the year.

This wasn't going to be easy for Princeton. It's easy to say "hey, we got the help we needed" and lose focus on what's next. In this case, for the Tigers, there was Saturday's game at Yale and then the season finale at home against Dartmouth this Saturday.

Win both, and it's an Ivy championship.

Princeton checked off the first box, defeating Yale 31-3 Saturday. The Tigers did it by continuing to do what they've been doing of late - playing ridiculous defense. Make that "championship-level" defense.

In Princeton's last three games since the Harvard loss, the Tigers have allowed seven, zero and now three points. Princeton is now also 5-1 in the Ivy League, and four of the six Ivy opponents have scored seven points or fewer.

Yale's only points came on a field goal that capped a four-yard drive, after the Bulldogs took over on the Tiger 11 after an interception. No matter.

In fact, Princeton has allowed one touchdown and one field goal in its opponents last 44 drives. That's nuts. 

There was also some more John Lovett, who had three more rushing touchdowns, giving him 18 for the year. The school record for rushing touchdowns in a year is 19, set by Keith Elias.

With the Yale game done, all that's left is Week 10. It'll be Harvard to host Yale and Penn at Cornell.

And Princeton home against Dartmouth. Any of the three one-loss teams that gets a win will get at least a share of the title. And yes, if all three lose there will be a three-way tie, and if only one wins, there will be an outright title.

But in all probability, there will be two or three champions.

Princeton's task is Dartmouth, a team it hasn't beaten since 2009. Given that hurdle, and where Princeton was when the weekend started, a share of the championship would be very sweet.

Win, and it's a championship season.

In Week 10 in Ivy League football, that's all you can ask.

Monday, November 14, 2016

To The Final Four, In A Second

TigerBlog is driving his old car these days. It's sort of a long story.

Well, actually not really. He needs to take the old car in to get inspected in November, so he gave TigerBlog Jr. his other car to drive until Thanksgiving.

TBJ's car has more than 200,000 miles on it. Thankfully, it still runs well, though it is showing its age.

For starters, there are a few dents on it. And some scratches. And a hole in the floorboard on the driver's side. And some other things.

Like the radio. It doesn't work anymore. Sometimes it does for a few minutes, but then it switches over to another frequency, makes a bit of a bang and then stops working completely.

As a result, TB listens to music off his iPhone in the car.

Yesterday he got into the car, put on his music and hit the "shuffle" button. The first song that came on was "America," by Simon and Garfunkel.

It's not his favorite song by the duo. Nope, not with "The Sounds of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Still, it's a good song. And it gives a mention to TigerBlog's favorite superhighway, when they sing "counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike; they've all come to look for America."

Ah, the New Jersey Turnpike.

It's highway of beauty and character, just like the state of New Jersey itself, with something for everyone. It reaches from the Delaware Memorial Bridge in the south to the George Washington Bridge in the north, all in the span of just 18 exits.

It runs the gamut of sites to be seen, including a major international airport, the site of a Super Bowl, farmland, commercial centers, industrial centers, educational centers, a major seaport, oil refineries and some of the most spectacular views of Manhattan anyway.

By going one way off an exit, you can connect directly to the Jersey Shore. By going the other way, you can be in Princeton in 10 minutes.

When TigerBlog was in college, anytime he'd say he was from New Jersey, the question was "what exit?" It wasn't original or funny or anything, and TB didn't really know how to answer anyway.

Coming from one direction? Exit 11. Coming from another? Exit 8.

It's a much-maligned highway. It has millions of cars on it at all time, and it can have way more than its share of traffic. People who aren't from New Jersey point to some of its miles, especially those that go past those oil refineries, as a sign that the Garden State isn't so pretty.

To them, TB says "you're not seeing it the way TB is." The Turnpike? It's a symbol of beauty.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is also mentioned in a song. Billy Joel has a song from his early days called "You're My Home," which says "home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Indiana's early morning dew. High up in the hills of California. Home is just another word for you."

Yeah, it's got nothing on Simon and Garfunkel.

Princeton teams spend hours and hours each year on the New Jersey Turnpike. They're rarely on the Pennsylvania counterpart, since no Ivy League school is located as you head west from the Philadelphia area.

There is one school that you need to head out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to reach, and that's Penn State. If you happened to see a bus with Princeton athletes on it on its way back from there yesterday, well, chances are there was some celebrating going on inside.

The Princeton field hockey team spent the weekend at Penn State and had an amazing time. The Tigers, the 14th-ranked team in the country and unseeded in the NCAA tournament, took out the host Nittany Lions Saturday and then Virginia yesterday.

The end of the game yesterday was particularly dramatic, as Sophia Tornetta scored in the final second for the game-winner. Here are the highlights:

As a result, Princeton is one of the last four teams standing in the NCAA field hockey tournament.

Getting this far is hardly new for the Tiger field hockey program. This will be the seventh time Princeton has reached the Final Four, and it's only been four years since Princeton won the championship.

This one, though, is a bit unlikely. For starters, Princeton didn't win the Ivy League this year, so the team needed an at-large bid just to get into the tournament in the first place. Also, Princeton had already lost to both Penn State (4-2) and Virginia (2-0) in the regular season.

Also, this is Year 1 under new head coach Carla Tagliente and her top assistant, Dina Rizzo. And it's a young team, one that lost Tornetta to injury in midseason for eight games.

And despite that, the Tigers are still playing.

Princeton's next opponent will be Delaware, whom Princeton beat 4-2 back in the fourth game of the year. Of course, the Tigers have seen so far what regular season results mean in the postseason.

The Princeton-Delaware game will be Friday at 4:45 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. The other semifinal will match UConn and North Carolina.

It's a great story for Princeton, reaching the Final Four this way. This is definitely the hard way.

As an at-large team. With less than a second to spare.

Yes. That had to be one happy bus ride back, regardless of which Turnpike it was.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Thank You To The Veterans

Today is Veterans' Day, a day about which TigerBlog once wrote this:

Take a minute to think about what the significance of today is. Veterans' Day lacks the family feel of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It doesn't conjure up the start of summer like Memorial Day or make you think of a barbecue in the backyard and watching fireworks like the Fourth of July.
Mostly, it's just another day for many people, a day to go about business as usual. Except that we do it in a country that is free, and because today salutes those who made it that way and continue to make it that way, it's nothing short of the most important day of the year.

And this:

TigerBlog woke up this morning like he does every other morning: free. It's certainly not through his own doing, and it's certainly something he takes for granted. TigerBlog is free to do what he wants. Go to work. Not go to work. Work here. Quit today. Live here. Pick up and move 3,000 miles away. Whatever he wants. Why? Because that's how it works in America, and it works that way because of the sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have made in various wars during the last 240 years. Today is Veterans' Day, obviously. For those who weren't paying attention in school, Veterans' Day is usually Nov. 11 (it can be moved if it falls on the weekend) in honor of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. TigerBlog can't imagine the horror of fighting in a war, and he saves his greatest respect for those who have. His uncle Herbie fought in Europe and the Pacific in World War II. His uncle Larry fought in Korea and never spoke a word about his experiences there until the day more than 50 years later when he died.

And this:
MotherBlog, at one point, worked for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, at a time when each wheelchair was home to someone who left part of himself in Vietnam. She was involved in a tangential way with the construction of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and if you've ever been there and haven't shed a tear, well, then you're as much made of stone as the monument itself.

All of that still stands. Some days shouldn't be taken for granted, even if they are every year.

So before TigerBlog looks ahead at the weekend in Princeton sports, he wants to say "thank you" to all of the veterans out there, to anyone who has ever had the courage to serve in uniform to defend this country.

As for the games this weekend, well, this is big-time crossover season.

Between today and Monday, there are 21 Princeton athletic events. As for coming attractions, there are 25 next weekend, including a remarkable 16 a week from tomorrow alone.

In true crossover fashion, there are championship events mixed with season-opening events this weekend.

Princeton will be well-represented at Penn State, where it will take on the Nittany Lions in the NCAA field hockey tournament tomorrow morning at 11:30 and also compete in the men's and women's NCAA cross country regionals. The field hockey team is there with an at-large bid, something that speaks volumes about the challenging schedule Princeton plays each year.

Closer to home, the women's volleyball team will be in Dillon Gym tonight at 7 against Cornell and tomorrow at 5 against Cornell as it goes for the Ivy League championship. Right now Princeton is 11-1, followed by Yale at 10-2. Everyone else has been mathematically eliminated.

Assuming Yale sweeps, Princeton needs one win for a tie for the championship and two for an outright championship.

Tonight is also opening night for the women's basketball team. Princeton received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament a year ago, a first for an Ivy League basketball team of either gender.

For Princeton it was the sixth NCAA trip in seven years, which means that Courtney Banghart and top assistant Milena Flores have shown they can turn the program over and still win big. That is this year's challenge, as the Tigers have graduated four starters, including Annie Tarakchian, Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley.

This year's team is going to be young, obviously. The opener is tonight, also at 7, at home against Rider.

As for hockey, a quick update on Mike Condon - he finally gave up his first goal of the 2016-17 season Wednesday night. Still, he did make 31 saves and win 2-1 in the shootout for his new team, Ottawa, over the Buffalo Sabres. Condon, the Princeton grad, has now played 145 minutes and allowed just one goal.

Speaking of Princeton hockey, the men will be home this weekend against Harvard tonight and Dartmouth tomorrow night, both at 7. There is also home men's and women's swimming and diving today and tomorrow.

Speaking of Princeton in the pros, Seth DeValve caught his first NFL touchdown pass last night for the Cleveland Browns. Caraun Reid, another Princeton alum, tweeted his congrats but pointed out that he, a defensive lineman, still has the lead, with two NFL touchdowns.

And of course, there is a football game this weekend, as Princeton heads to New Haven for the 139th meeting with Yale. Only Lafayette and Lehigh have played more in Division I football.

Before that game ever kicks off (which will be at noon tomorrow), there's another football game of importance tonight, when Penn hosts Harvard. Princeton fans, repeat after TigerBlog: "Let's go Penn. Let's go Penn."

If you're a Princeton person, you've never loved Penn more than you do right now.

Princeton is currently 4-1 in the Ivy League football race after last weekend's 28-0 win over the Quakers. Penn is also 4-1. Harvard is 5-0. Obviously Princeton cannot get back into the championship picture unless Harvard loses a game.

So say it again: "Let's go Penn. Let's go Penn."

And of course Princeton has to take care of its own business.

Let's go Penn. Hmmm. When was the last time Princeton people needed to root this hard for Penn?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hello Jen, Goodbye Yurko

Jen Cross didn't need to tell TigerBlog to be nice to her, even though she did.

TigerBlog can't remember the last time he saw Jen, the wife of Mike Cross, who used to be the No. 2 person in the Princeton Department of Athletics. It had been years, though, enough years that somehow her two little boys are now in 9th and 8th grades.

Jen was one of the first people TB saw when he walked in to the annual meeting of the College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey, an organization for which TB once served as president. Jen was there to give a presentation on the dreaded Millennials and how college athletic administrators can better understand them, advise them, coach them, motivate them.

She asked if TB was going to write about this. When TB said yes, that's when Jen asked him to be nice.

Mike Cross is one of TigerBlog's all-time favorite co-workers. It started from the very first day TB met Mike. There are just some people you meet that you're immediately drawn to, right?

TigerBlog and Mike Cross spent a lot of time together, working on any number of projects. They laughed more than anything else, especially when, no matter what the issue of the day was on the table, Mike would reassure TB that they had "never been closer" to have it resolved.

Mike is a member of the lunchtime basketball Hall of Fame, or would be if there happened to be such a thing. He started out overseeing compliance, and he ended up overseeing intercollegiate programming. Back when Gary Walters, then the Princeton Director of Athletics, was the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, Mike was basically in charge at Princeton for a full year. 

Mike left Princeton to become the Director of Athletics at Bradley. These days, he's a senior administrator at Penn State.

Jen is a consultant. Her presentation yesterday was a good one. She's polished, with a lot of energy and funny quips mixed in with the points she makes about her subject. She kept her audience engaged and interested, and the 90 minutes or so during which she spoke flew by.

The CAANJ event always has a speaker who tries to address a subject that is germane to athletic administrators from schools from Division I through junior colleges. As someone who has helped put some of these together, TB can tell you it's not always easy to do.
Jen's talk managed to accomplish that. Plus it was good to see her.

There. That was nice. And she didn't have to ask.

The second part of the CAANJ meeting is the awards luncheon.

Princeton won both of the Division I/II student-athlete of the year awards. Emily de la Bruyere, from women's track and cross country, was the women's winner, though she wasn't able to be there, as she is studying in France this year.

The men's winner was Chad Powers, the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in baseball and one of the main reasons that Princeton went from seven wins in 2015 to the Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament in 2016. Powers pitched a great game in the NCAA regional at Louisiana-Lafayette, a game Princeton ultimately lost 5-3.

Princeton also won the CAANJ Cup as the top athletic program in Divisions I/II in New Jersey. There are also team winners from Division III (Stevens Tech) and junior college (Rowan College of Gloucester).

TigerBlog accepted the CAANJ Cup for Princeton and as such had to make a few short remarks. He spoke about how fortunate Princeton is to have the resources it does and how he respects everyone in the room for their own commitments to the values that Princeton calls "Education Through Athletics."

Then he gave the Cup, a rather heavy trophy, to Ryan Yurko, the Associate Athletic Director for Finance and Administration. And what did Yurko do?

He broke it.

About 30 seconds after TB gave the trophy to Yurko, the base was on the floor while the glass cup was still in Yurko's hands.

Destroying the trophy will be one of the last things Yurko ever does at Princeton. He is leaving, heading back to his native Indiana, having taken a job with the Indiana Pacers.

It would be hard to find someone at Princeton who doesn't like Yurko. Certainly TigerBlog does.

Yurko is a Midwestern boy, through and through. He's nice and polite, and he has a great work ethic. He's spent seven years at Princeton, and yet somehow he still looks like he's about 16 or 17. Maybe 18 tops.

Yurko is always smiling. He will help anyone do anything at any time. He is completely focused on what his responsibilities are, and he'll give a hand to anyone in the department who needs one. Yeah, he always say, I can help you. No problem .

When TB spoke while accepting the Cup, he mentioned how fortunate he is to work at a place with such a great group of people.

Now one of those great people is moving on. TB is happy for him. He's moving back home, and he'll be working for an NBA team.

It's part of how it is at Princeton. People come and go. They move on to other jobs, move up in their careers.

Ryan is just the latest to do so.

TigerBlog wants to thank him for everything he's done, whether it's been something specific from the business office or just for making Princeton Athletics a fun place to work.

And say that he will miss Ryan Yurko. 

Just like he misses Mike and Jen Cross.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Let's Go Ottawa

The last pitch of the 2016 World Series that TigerBlog would see was in Kennedy Airport before he got on his flight to Portugal.

That was Game 4, which the Cleveland Indians won to go up 3-1 in the Series. They wouldn't win another game. TigerBlog had to get on the plane in the eighth inning. He saw a little of the game on one of the TV's at the gate.

Game 5 would start after 11 in Portugal. the last two games would start after midnight. There was no coverage of any of those games where TB was, and even if there had been, the games wouldn't have ended until well past 3 in the morning. The best way to figure out who won was to simply check the score online in the morning.

And so that's how TB figured out that the Cubs had won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Theo Epstein has now ended two of the most infamous droughts in sports history, the long championship-less runs of the Red Sox and Cubs.

When Princeton men's lacrosse team was in a restaurant last Monday in the Algarve region, a replay of the Eagles-Cowboys Sunday night game came on the TV that was on. TigerBlog saw the first few plays before the team left.

Other than that, it was soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer and a little tennis on Portugese sports TV. Anywhere there was a television on, there was almost always a soccer game showing, from Portugal or somewhere else in Europe.

There was nothing American, other than the replay of that one football game.

It's actually been three full weekends since TigerBlog has seen a down of NFL football on television live. He watched a little of the Sixers opener so far this NBA season, and he watched almost no baseball on TV again this year.

Why is that? Why has TigerBlog lost almost all interest in professional sports? He's not really sure.

He's certainly watched a lot of them in his life. Some of his earliest memories were of watching games on a little black and white TV that was in his room and on another TV that was downstairs in the house where he grew up.

He watched ABA games at one time. He watched almost every New York Mets game that was on, with Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner as the broadcasters. He watched the Knicks and Rangers on channel 9 in New York, before there was cable, back when Bill Bradley was a Knick. There were years when he didn't miss a Giants game on TV.

Now? He can take it or leave it. Mostly leave it.

Why is that? He'll have to think about it and get back to you.

In the meantime, he's definitely on the Ottawa Senators bandwagon. As of yesterday, that is.

It wasn't until then that he realized that Princeton's Mike Condon was now on Ottawa. The former Tiger goalie started his first game last Thursday and made 27 saves in a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

Condon had an interesting time before that game.

He started his career last year with the Canadiens, and he did a very good job as the fill-in starter after Carey Price missed most of the year with an injury. Montreal was TB's favorite team last year. Now he's down on the Canadiens for giving up on Condon and for giving him so little offensive support last year, even if the team has the best record in the NHL now.

Condon ended up on the Pittsburgh Penguins to start this season. He was on the ice when the team had its opening-night banner-raising ceremony to celebrate last year's Stanley Cup.

Condon would play one period for the Penguins and not allow a goal on the seven shots he saw. Eventually, he was traded to Ottawa for a fifth-round pick.

To join his new team, Condon had to fly to from Los Angeles, where the Penguins were going to play Anaheim, to Toronto and then Ottawa, arriving at 3 in the morning. With almost no sleep, he practiced with his new team and then shut out the Canucks.

So yeah, TB is all over the Senators' bandwagon.

Condon's college team has played three games so far this year, none of which has been all that close to Princeton (at Michigan State and then at Clarkson and St. Lawrence). That changes this weekend, when the Tigers play their home openers against Harvard Friday and Dartmouth Saturday.

The games this weekend will be the only two home games for the men's hockey team this month.

Next weekend, the Tigers will head up to Colgate and Cornell, which means the first chance to play in Colgate's brand-new Class of 1965 Arena. Beyond that is a trip over Thanksgiving to Bemidji State. That's in Minnesota.

Baker Rink could be the best place at Princeton to see a game. Basically anyone that TigerBlog knows who has been to a game there loves it. The seats are right on the ice. The games are fast. The atmosphere is great. Princeton will be home six times in December. 

And twice this weekend.

Ottawa, on the other hand, is in Buffalo tonight after playing in Nashville last night. TigerBlog is up on his Senators.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Selection Day

Today, as you may have heard, is Election Day.

TigerBlog will endorse ... voting. He'll simply say that a lot of people have died throughout this country's history to give you that particular right.

And he'll leave it at that.

TigerBlog also wanted to say one more thing about his Portugal trip. His packing was great. He was away for eight days, and he wore everything he brought except one pair of socks and two shirts. That's pretty good.

Lisbon, if you remember, was where the plane went in the movie "Casablanca," with passage to America from there. Lisbon was also renowned for its World War II spies, and there are those who credit the Allies success on D-Day to the misinformation that was spread in the city.

And that, friends, is the last TigerBlog will mention of Portugal for awhile.

Wait. Wait. Not so fast.

TB found that one of the best ways to get information out during the trip was through Instagram. This was something completely different than on his previous international trips with men's lacrosse, to Spain and Ireland in 2008 and Costa Rica in 2012.

TigerBlog posted some short videos to the Princetonlax Instagram feed, and then he would be amazed by the number of views they would get.

He posted one from one of the practices, a play that ended with a goal by Drew O'Connell, and it got more than 3,000 views. This was topped by a video from a drill from the joint practice with the English team; it had nearly 5,000.

TB isn't sure if Instagram offers better exposure than Twitter or if it just counts views easier. Either way, he used Twitter as well, largely for short videos.

One of the better ones was the one of assistant coaches Jesse Bernhardt and Justin Tuma as they interviewed the tour guide, Francisco. That one reached 2,000 on the lacrosse account and then got 700 more on the regular athletic account when TB reposted.

He didn't want to repost - using the app "Repost," by the way - everything, so he just picked a few.

Halftime of the game against England Sunday morning was about 9:15 in Lisbon, which made it 4:15 in the eastern United States. TigerBlog posted a picture on Twitter and gave the halftime score. It had retweets in no time.

TB still wrote a story and blog each day. And the blog got big numbers (thanks, everyone). But the social media piece is the real difference-maker, he thinks.

There's another Instagram video that TigerBlog couldn't help but like. It was of the field hockey team as it watched the NCAA selections the other night.

That one was just pure, undeniable joy.

Princeton didn't win the Ivy League championship this season, but that didn't keep the team out of the NCAA tournament. Princeton earned an at-large bid and will travel Saturday to take on No. 6 Penn State.

The Tigers are regulars in the NCAA tournament and will be there for the 12th straight time and 21st time overall. Princeton has made 14 quarterfinal appearances and reached four Final Fours. The 2012 team won the NCAA title.

Princeton was on the bubble this time. That didn't matter when the show came on and the team saw its name called, and the result is obvious on the Instagram video.

All selection show has drama with them. Even if you have an automatic bid, there are still the great unknowns of where and whom.

When you're the bubble team? Then you react like Princeton did.

Princeton has played Penn State 10 times already in the NCAA tournament. That's the most Princeton has played against any opponent.

It's also the first year for head coach Carla Tagliente, and it's great to see her continue the team's tradition of playing in the postseason.

This is a good cross-over weekend, with the end of men's soccer season, the second-to-last football game, the NCAA cross country regionals and the end of women's volleyball's regular season with women's basketball's opener and men's and women's hockey.

And so what was already a busy weekend for Princeton Athletics has added another event. A big one.

And you can watch the celebration for yourself on Instagram.

Insta. Like Instant. Like "see for yourself in an instant."

It's part of the new world in athletic communications. TigerBlog couldn't have imagined it 10 years ago.

Or actually four years ago, when he was in Costa Rica.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Obrigado, Portugal

The Lisbon airport is a monument to commercialism.

Departing passengers go through check-in and security and then are immediately greeted by stores and restaurants on both sides of them, completely surrounding and enveloping them as they attempt to reach their gate. TigerBlog has never seen anything quite like it, though he thinks it's pretty smart.

Plus, it gave him a chance to do a few things, including finally being able to find a hat for Sporting Club of Portugal, the team in the Portugese Liga NOS, the country's first division. It's the favorite team of Francisco, the tour guide for Princeton men's lacrosse during its eight days in the country that ended yesterday, when the team flew home.

The walk through the airport also enabled TB to get his second croissant of the day, a ham and cheese one that was pretty good.

Earlier Sunday he had a chocolate croissant at the cafe at the National Sports Center, where Princeton was playing its third and final game of the tour against the English national team. Princeton and England split the first two games, and Princeton then won 13-5 yesterday.

The National Sports Center features a 30,000-seat soccer stadium, which serves as the host for the final of the Portugal Cup.

Beyond that, it has field after field lined for sport after sport. There are grass fields and turf fields, tennis courts, a pool and even a golf course. There are soccer fields, of course, and fields lined for field hockey, team handball and rugby, not to mention one grass field that for the past few days has been lined for men's lacrosse.

There is a paved walkway that circles the park, with bridges that go back and forth over the stream that goes down one side. Each time Princeton was at this park, there were joggers, walkers and bike riders, many of whom would stop, watch the lacrosse for a few minutes and then move on.

When Princeton and England were practicing together Saturday, TigerBlog wandered around and saw a rugby game. It had to be have been some sort of high-level league. TigerBlog could tell that by watching, even if he doesn't know the rules.

When he got back to where the lacrosse field was, he could also see a field hockey game between two men's teams. They were also playing very seriously.

The practice started at 3:30 local time, which meant 11:30 Princeton time, which meant just about start time for Princeton-Penn football. TigerBlog followed the game on Twitter, checking in just in time for the blocked punt that started Princeton on the way to a convincing 28-0 win, for its first shutout win over Penn since 1978.

Each time TigerBlog refreshed the Princeton football Twitter feed, it was good news for Princeton, starting with the blocked punt for the touchdown and going from there. Even when Princeton wasn't scoring, it was getting stop after stop on defense.

TigerBlog got to his hotel room in time to see the end of the game on the Ivy League Digital Network. By then it was 21-0 and essentially over. 

It was a little weird, being 3,500 miles away, knowing that he would be returning to where the stadium was in a little more than 24 hours. One of TB's first thoughts when he put the game on the ILDN was about how his car was in the parking lot there.

It looked like it might be the perfect day for Princeton when Harvard trailed Columbia at the half before the Crimson rallied to win. The Tigers need Harvard to lose one of its last two, either at Penn or home against Yale, while Princeton needs to win out against Yale and Dartmouth to get at least a share of the title. 
Francisco has seen only one American football game and didn't like it. He did love what he saw of lacrosse. He tried to learn how to throw and catch, though he was slowed by a bad ankle, injured playing volleyball.

It doesn't seem like a more than a week has gone by since Francisco met the Tigers at the same overcommercialized airport when the trip began. 

The last night of any long trip, especially an international one, is always bittersweet. You want to enjoy, but your mind is also on packing, airports, check-ins, flights, logistics, that sort of stuff.

For their last dinner in Portugal for this trip, Francisco recommended a restaurant near the beach area, about a five-minute cab ride from the hotel (and about three minutes back, thanks to a cabbie who should be driving for a NASCAR team). There was a group of 11 that made its way to the restaurant, which opened out to the ocean.

Before they could order, they were deluged by food - empanadas, different breads, prosciutto, cheeses, things TB already forgot. Then it was a shrimp appetizer. Then it was the main dish.

The main dishes were huge. They're meant for two people, though three can make due easily. There was fish. Meat. Chicken. Rice. Potatoes. TigerBlog saw - and ate - the biggest mussels he's ever seen.

It was a total feast - and a nice final night in the country.

The trip to Portugal was a great one. It's a magnificent place to visit. The weather was nearly perfect, especially for Western Europe in November. The team got to see two very distinct parts of the country, the Algarve coastal region in the southeastern part of Portugal and then Lisbon, a quaint, charming city.

TigerBlog asked a few people on the trip what city Lisbon reminded them of the most. For TB, the answer was none. He's never been to a city quite like Lisbon. It doesn't really have a classic city design, with wide streets crisscrossing each other under huge skyscrapers.

It's a whole city of narrow streets, little shops, charming neighborhoods, pastries on every corner.

It was great there. The whole week was great. Portugal rocks. TB recommends it highly.

When Princeton's flight took off yesterday, it swept over the city, showing off those little neighborhoods once again. From his window seat on the left, TigerBlog could see the 25th of April Bridge, the one that the team bus had passed over each time it had to come back into the city from its hotel. The bridge is modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge and looks just like it.

Off beyond the bridge was the area where Princeton stayed. TigerBlog could see the ocean reach the point a bit to the right of where the hotel is, and he could pretty much see exactly where they had eaten dinner the night before.

Within maybe seven minutes the plane had cleared land and was out over the ocean, with the rest of the seven-hour flight in front of them and the memories of their week in Portugal behind them. 

TigerBlog only had his window seat because he switched with sophomore Dawson McKenzie. In the three games with England, McKenzie - whom they call "Daws" - had scored three goals and had seven ground balls.

His biggest lacrosse contribution, though, might have been Saturday before the practice with the English, back when the Tigers visited a school that at one time would have been described as an orphanage. TigreBlog asked Francisco about it, and he said the school has a good reputation for getting good educations for kids from that tough beginning.

It was on the field there that McKenzie and Strib Walker spent about 15 minutes with a little girl who looked to be about 12 or so. They taught her to throw and catch, though she spoke no English. She was pretty good. Then they showed her how to throw behind-the-back.

Who knows what her back story is. If she was at that school, TigerBlog's sense is it isn't good.

And here were Walker and McKenzie, making her smile and laugh and showing her the sport that they play at one of the greatest universities in the world. It was great to watch.

Shortly after that, it started to rain fairly hard, the only time all week it actually did rain on the Tigers. Some of the kids hid under some stone bleachers to get away from the water that cascaded down, and the Princeton players milled around near where the opening was.

TigerBlog took a lot of pictures in Portugal. His favorite is the one he took during that rain. It's of Sam Bonafede, a Long Island kid and Princeton junior who has the world at his fingertips. "Bono," as they call him, could be the perfect Princeton ambassador, always upbeat, always supportive. He's the kind of kid you look at and know that he's going to make a real difference in the decades to come.

And, in this case, on a rainy Saturday in Lisbon.

In the picture, he's next to one of the little girls, who is wearing a slightly oversized Princeton Lacrosse t shirt. He's kneeling down, arm around her. They're both smiling.

It's an amazing picture. They're two people separated by an ocean, and not just the literal one. And here they were, together, in a moment they'll both remember for a long, long time.

Yeah. Those are the kinds of kids you want to spend a week internationally with - and Portugal is as good a country as you can find to spend that week.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thanks, Francisco

The last time TigerBlog saw Francisco, the tour guide for the Princeton men's lacrosse team during the current trip to Portugal, he was doing something that TB wouldn't have guessed he could.

He was making assistant coach Jesse Bernhardt look foolish at ping pong.

There's a table it the basement of Princeton's hotel outside of Lisbon, in a game room that connects the stairs and elevator to the room where the Tigers eat. It was after dinner last night that Jesse and his girlfriend Erin started to play, when Francisco jumped in and grabbed the paddle.

When he served, Jesse couldn't return it. Not because of the power. Because of the spin. Francisco was like a magician on his serves. They would bounce and take off in some random direction at some random speed.

Who would have guessed that about Francisco?

A few hours earlier, Francisco was being interviewed, as it were, by Jesse and fellow assistant coach Justin Tuma. Francisco had just seen his first lacrosse game, Princeton's 15-5 win over the English national team, and now the two coaches were asking him about it.

Eventually, Francisco pointed out what every first time observer of the sport says. He couldn't believe how much they whack each other with their sticks.

If you haven't seen the interview, it's on Princeton men's lacrosse Instagram and Twitter. It's definitely worth checking out.  

It was all in good fun. So was the ping pong. So is everything about Francisco.

To pull off a trip like the one Princeton is currently on, you need someone who can keep everyone organized and on schedule and most importantly who can read his audience. You need someone who laughs and makes the group laugh. You need someone who can teach you about the country without making it seem like you're in a classroom.

Francisco is great at all of that.

He's low-key. Nothing seems to bother him. He's just a nice guy.

When Princeton was at the field for the game yesterday, Francisco asked how many chairs he needed to get for the makeshift scorer's area. When TB offered to help, Francisco simply shrugged and said he was on top of it. Then he came back carrying five plastic chairs at one time.

More than the organizational piece, you need someone who has a genuine love for the country and who wants to share that with the strangers who have never been here before and may never be back after this week. TigerBlog had that with the guide in Costa Rica four years ago, a man named Diego, who was largely responsible for why TB had such a great experience there.

Francisco is different than Diego. For every 100 words Diego said, Francisco says maybe one. Diego narrated Costa Rica to the group. Francisco is the Portugese cousin who has his large family in town for a week and is showing them around.

He rarely speaks into the microphone on the bus, and when he does it's usually to make fun of someone or something. He's figured out the personalities on the team quickly. He had an instant rapport with head coach Matt Madalon, and the two of them work together seamlessly.

Francisco is 31. He grew up not far from where the team is staying. He is a season ticket holder for one of the soccer teams in the Portugese first division, though TB doesn't remember which one. He speaks five languages and toggles back and forth between English and Portugese like it's nothing. Actually, Portugese is an interesting language. TigerBlog expected it to sound like Spanish, but it sounds more like Italian or even Russian than anything else.

As for Francisco, he has made a real difference in this trip, in ways you can't see and ways you can. It's been great to see him embrace a sport like lacrosse that he had never seen before, and the group of lacrosse players who have wandered into his world.

Francisco does this all the time. It's his job. TigerBlog has the sense that the tour guide will miss this group a little more than the others, though maybe that's just the sign of a great tour guide, that he leaves you with that sense.

Princeton has two more games against the English, this morning and Sunday morning before the flight home.
Meanwhile, because there is more going on in the sporting world than just Princeton's trip to Portugal (by the way, nobody here seemed interested in the World Series), TigerBlog would like to mention two events this weekend involving Princeton teams.

The first is the women's volleyball match tonight in New Haven against Yale. Should Princeton win that match, it would clinch at least a tie for the Ivy League championship with three matches left. Should Yale win, Princeton's lead over the Bulldogs would shrink to one match with those same three to play.

The other event is the football game tomorrow at home against Penn.

Right now the Tigers are 3-1, one game back of both Penn and Harvard, who are both 4-0 and who play next week in Cambridge. The Ivy League race changes in a major way depending on who wins the game tomorrow at Princeton (kickoff is at 1).

TigerBlog hasn't asked Francisco about American football yet. He's running out of time to do so.

TigerBlog told Coach Madalon that at the end of a trip like this, you want to know that you have a good feel for what the country is all about. TB will leave Portugal in two days knowing that he has had that, and grateful for what Francisco did to make that happen.