Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From 30 to 127, At Least

The news of the big upset came in the form of a subject line in an email.

It read "Pallister out." It came from men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, and it had no additional text. It didn't need any.

It meant that Barlow had beaten Pallister, the two-time defending champion, in the Dillon Gym ping-pong tournament. TigerBlog assumes the match had a little "Rocky IV" feel to it.

The Jadwin tournament has reached its conclusion. The champion is Mollie Marcoux Samaan, who defeated Mitch Henderson in two games.

The Dillon tournament is a bit slower to move along, though it did have nearly twice as many entries. It's possible it could be heading to an all-soccer final between Barlow and his top assistant, Steve Totten.

Today is the last day of January. Princeton Athletics has featured more ping-pong matches than it has intercollegiate athletic events in the month that ends today, what with first-semester exams. Actually, that's more truth than hyperbole, as there were 30 Princeton events in the 31 days of this month, including the women's hockey game at Quinnipiac today at noon, and 31 ping-pong matches between the two tournaments.

Now that's a great stat. There were 30 events and 31 ping-pong matches in January.

Anyway, women's hockey on a Tuesday at noon? That's a great time for a game.

Princeton should do that every week. Have a special event every Tuesday at noon. What? School gets in the way? Oh yeah. Scratch that idea.

The women's hockey game is a big one. It's not the first of the season between the Tigers and Bobcats, and it's possible that it won't be the last either. As for the schedule to date, these two teams will have met at the wildly unlikely times of New Year's Day and then a random Tuesday at 1.

There are 12 ECAC hockey teams, and 10 of them have played 16 games on the women's side. The game today is the last between travel partners, which will bring the Tigers and Bobcats up to 16 played each as well.

Princeton and Quinnipiac are both 9-4-2 in the ECAC, tied for fourth. Unlike the men, only eight women's teams make it to the playoffs, so the top four will host first round series. Princeton won the first game between the teams, so a win for the Tigers would mean the tiebreaker should the teams stay tied for fourth at the end of the season.

Princeton and Quinnipiac have 20 points each. The third place team is currently Cornell, with 23 (the Big Red also lead Princeton in the Ivy League standings with 14 points to 10 for the Tigers). Also the chasing the home ice for the playoffs is Colgate, one back of Princeton and Quinnipiac with 19. The league leaders are Clarkson (29) and St. Lawrence (27).

So that's the 30th event of January.

There will be more than 30 events in February by the end of the day Saturday, just the fourth of the month. Anyone want to guess how many events are on the schedule for the month of February? How about 127.

And February is the shortest month of the year.

If TigerBlog is counting correctly, then Princeton will have 18 teams who will compete in the next month. That's a lot of teams.

Princeton teams came back from exam break slowly this weekend, with three events Saturday - two women's tennis matches (5-2 wins over both Delaware and Seton Hall) and the men's hockey win over Penn State. There were more events Sunday, with men's volleyball against No. 2 UCLA (a competitive showing for the Tigers, whose coach, Sam Shweisky, also lost to Barlow in ping-pong, as an aside) and the HYP men's and women's track and field meets at Yale.

On the women's track and field side, Katie Hanss set a school record for the 1,000 in 2:46.20 as the Tigers won handily. The men did likewise, and their dominant performance (Princeton 110.5, Harvard 41, Yale 28.5) included a 7.96 60-meter hurdle performance from freshman Joey Daniels. His time marked the first time someone went under 8.0 seconds in the HYP meet and was the 41st best in the country so far this year.

For the rest of the week, there are as many events in Princeton as there are in Texas. The women's hockey and women's basketball teams will both be home this weekend.

Oh, and TB forgot to count the women's hockey ECAC playoff games that will be held the last weekend of February in the total number of events next month.

If it goes the distance, that would mean three more games, or 130 for the month. After 30 this month.

In other words, it's about to get really busy around here. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wells Fargo Wildness

TigerBlog first felt like he was getting a sore throat last Monday. Then it went away. Or so he thought.

It came back Wednesday night into Thursday. Then it became a full-fledged sinus nightmare. Eventually it dripped into his chest, making its way, hopefully, to his feet, or wherever it goes.

The worst was Friday, into Saturday. It started to improve yesterday, thanks for asking.

TigerBlog hates being sick. He likes to think that it'll pass in a few minutes, that it's just a few sneezes or coughs or something. Hey, all that hand sanitizer has to be doing something, right?

Yeah, yeah. TB knows. It can only do so much. When that one germ has your name on it, well, there's nothing you can do.

And so there was TB, sicker than he's been in awhile, waiting it out, watching his new show, "Sons of Anarchy." It - being sick, not the show - prevented him from getting to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

It was quite a four-day stretch for the arena in South Philadelphia, that's for sure, with or without TigerBlog.

It started Thursday night, when the Flyers beat the Maple Leafs 2-1. Then, the next night, the resurgent 76ers lost a close game to one of the NBA elites, the Houston Rockets, in a game that included a triple-double complete with 51 points by James Harden.

And those were the two least exciting events of the four days.

The building yesterday played host a college basketball game between defending NCAA champion Villanova, who was ranked No. 1, and another power, Virginia, who was ranked 12th. Virginia was ahead most of the game somewhat comfortably, before Villanova made its move.

TB followed the game on his phone while watching Clay, Jax and the boys (that's from "Sons of Anarchy," in case you've never watched it). He finally switched over to the game for the final minute, in time for three timeouts, three ties and then the game-winner from Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo as the Wildcats won 61-59.

That game drew nearly 21,000 fans to the building. It was played about 16 hours after 15,127 fans were there Saturday night to see college hockey, between Princeton and Penn State.

The Tigers were playing for the first time in two weeks, due to first semester exams. The opponent was no ordinary team, for a few factors:
1) its coach, Guy Gadowsky, coached at Princeton from 2004-11, leading Princeton to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2007 and 2008. He is ridiculously competitive, as TB said the other day, a lesson he learned from playing squash with him during those years. Hint - if you ever play Guy Gadowsky in squash, he doesn't really distinguish from "side walls" and "boards" in terms of aggressiveness
2) Gadowsky left Princeton to start the program at Penn State. Now, in 2017, he had the Nittany Lions ranked No. 1 in the country two weeks ago before heading into the game against Princeton at No. 4

Princeton trailed 4-2 after two but then tied it with two goals 1:20 apart early in the third. The game stayed that way until just 1:26 to play, even through a Penn State 5-on-3, when Ben Foster's goal gave Princeton a 5-4 win, much to the shock of the huge crowd and the opponent.

Princeton is now 8-11-2 on the year, and an astonishing five of those wins have come against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time. Princeton is 8-5-1 after an 0-6-1 start, but more importantly, the Tigers are clearly pointed in the right direction in Year 3 of the Ron Fogarty era.

In fact, the most astonishing thing about the wins over the top five teams is that none of their were flukes. The game Saturday night was well-played and fast-paced from start-to-finish, with shots in favor of Penn State at 47-41.

The next question is how much it helps Princeton. It certainly doesn't matter in the ECAC standings, where Princeton currently sits in 10th.

The goal, with four weekends to go, is to get to eighth, which would mean hosting a first-round ECAC playoff series. With all of the teams finally at the same number of league games played, Princeton is currently four points back of eighth place Dartmouth and two behind ninth-place Colgate.

The race from here will be quick one, but Princeton has to be excited about where it is and where it's going. Home or away, Princeton is going to be a tough out in the playoffs, with a young team that will be back in complete sync by then and a senior goalie (Colton Phinney) who is capable of making a playoff run basically by himself.

As for the game Saturday night, there haven't been too many nights like for Princeton hockey, or Princeton athletics in general, for that matter.

A win over the No. 4 team in the country, against the former coach, in a professional venue, with a huge crowd like that? Yeah, it was special.

TigerBlog is sorry he missed it. He's feeling better though.

He appreciates how much you worry.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Guest TigerBlog - Enter Marshon, By Howard Levy

It's been a big week for TigerBlog in terms of people who have told him they knew someone else with whom they shared a name.

Some were even fictional.

For instance, men's soccer coach Jim Barlow said that there was a bad guy on an episode of "Law & Order" named Jim Barlow. Only he wasn't sure if it was "Law & Order." 

Whether it was that show or a different one, it's really hard to imagine a less-fitting name for a bad guy on a drama than "Jim Barlow." It would be like having a Hallmark movie where the really nice guy who finally gets his true love is named "Charles Manson."

Among other people who checked in, there was ticket manager Stephanie Sutton, who said that a friend of her daughter Mary's from high school and a friend of Mary's from college shared the same name, though one was male and one was female. David Rosenfeld, the head of the Baltimore bureau for the Office of Athletic Communications, sent along the bio from an office at Johns Hopkins of someone who shares TB's name.

Then there's Howard Levy. This whole thing started when TigerBlog met another person named Howard Levy while having cheesesteaks for breakfast earlier this week with his college roommate Charlie. The real Howard Levy, you know, the one who played basketball at Princeton, then told TB that he had met two other Howard Levys in his life, bringing to four the number of Howard Levys TB heard about this week.

TigerBlog hasn't heard of anyone else named Guy Gadowsky, who was the men's hockey coach at Princeton before heading off to essentially start the program at Penn State. The Tigers will take on Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (it's where the Flyers and Sixers play).

And where is Penn State ranked? Well, the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 1 last week before a loss dropped them to No. 4. Yeah, Gadowsky can coach. TigerBlog can attest to his competitive nature first hand. All he needed to do was play squash against him a few years ago.

Meanwhile, back at Howard Levy, it's been a challenging season for the Mercer County Community College Vikings. Howard, the head coach, reports in:

It’s been a trying season for the Mercer Vikings. It started with a lot of hope with what we thought was a well vetted, talented enough recruiting class to go along with a couple of returners. When 18 people showed up for an organizational meeting in August prior to the start of classes, we were flying high. That had never happened before. Preseason went well, again with good attendance and enthusiasm.

Maybe we should have been concerned that the numbers were down to 11 or 12 when the first practice rolled around on October 1, but I was happy that I didn’t have to cut anybody.
Initial practices were OK, but a few guys got injured early, so from the beginning we struggled to have 10 guys at practice, which made building a team difficult as we moved forward. We began to see a group of talented guys that were difficult to coach, showed up late, did not communicate, and unfortunately this included one of the returners that I had made a captain. There were some good guys with good attitudes, but unfortunately, most of our coaching time was spend trying to bring the other guys in line, which caused lots of frustration, which unfortunately I did not do a very good job of hiding. (Lesson learned for next year.)

Ultimately, the losses started coming and the frustration grew. We changed some things in our offense, basically to take the ball out of the hands of the guys who were not running the offense, and that led to some positive developments and personnel changes. A REVELATION—play the guys that listen and don’t play the guys that don’t! (This also gave me some new insights as to how to better teach our offense to get quicker “buy in”—again a good lesson for next year). We started playing better; we won a game and were in all of the others until the end, and for the most part the team resembled a Howard Levy-coached team. I was off the ledge, and I knew what we needed to work on (competitiveness, conditioning) for the team to take the next step.

Then, the semester ended. As usual, we lost a couple of guys for grades, and had a couple taking mid-semester classes to regain their eligibility (I note that at the junior college level, students cannot maintain their eligibility if they fail a single class, unlike the Ivy League.) As a result, we knew that we would be shorthanded for a couple of weeks in January. One guy, a sophomore, quit the team (at least I think he quit since he hasn’t showed up for anything since December 17), and he was the daily ride for another guy, so I figured I lost him as well. But I was expecting seven or eight guys for practice on Jan. 3. Then, my two guys from NYC withdrew from classes—one of them called me to tell me that the living situation was too difficult and thanked me for the opportunity; he is the one we miss.

OK, so six guys, we’ve done it before. It’s a great coaching challenge to figure out how to practice effectively with six. We lost our first three games back, but played very well, taking the 12th ranked team in the country (Niagara County CC) to the last couple of possessions and giving Monroe College, a perennial D1 juco power, a game in the first half before running out of gas. By the way, who is the idiot that keeps scheduling these great teams?

The Monroe game was on Thursday Jan. 12, with the next games a weekend trip to Rhode Island to play two more good teams. On Friday, we learned that one of our guys sprained his ankle, and another player had a death in the family, and needed to stay home with his seven year old sister. So we were down to four guys, and what are we going to do?

Enter Marshon. Marshon is a great kid from Willingboro, NJ, good student, was the soccer manager, did not play high school basketball. When my athletic director saw the personnel issues we were having, he asked if Marshon would come out for the team. So on Friday, I met Marshon, and was told we are going to Rhode Island in a big bus to play the games. After an initial period of shock and depression, I started thinking practically—how are we going to play two games with 5 players, one of whom is not a basketball player and has no idea of how we do things.

OK, how do you run a Princeton Offense where one player doesn’t ever get the ball and doesn’t get in the way? What spot would he play? Well I came to the conclusion that the center spot, which has often been called the most important position in the offense, is also the least essential to its function. OK Marshon, if it is a man to man defense, your job is to stand in the middle of the foul line and pretend that you want the ball. If it is a zone, stand on the baseline and go from side to side depending on where the ball is. On defense, stand in the middle of the 2-3 zone and do the best you can, and by the way, everyone, PLAY SLOW.

Game one starts, and IT’S WORKING! We are in the game, the other team is changing defenses, pressing, you name it, throwing the kitchen sink at us. We are getting open shot after open shot. The other coach is using his time outs (as I am for rest) and screaming at his team. It’s amazing. We make it to the second half. Marshon is hanging in there but is obviously exhausted and having a tough time getting up and down the court. I asked the official if I could sub him out and play with 4 while he got a rest. The ref looked at me as if I had two heads and said “let me check on that.” Before he got back to me with the answer, there was a play down the other end of the court and Marshon is on the ground, writhing in pain with cramps, so we took him out and played with four guys for three or four minutes while he recovered.

(By the way, the rule is that I could have subbed him out only by taking a time out, but then he could sub back in at any time.) Anyway, we went on a 10-0 run with 4 guys, the other coach called a time out to berate his team, they changed defenses twice, including putting on a full court press (which pissed me off a bit). In any case we hung in there until the last two or three minutes and lost by 10 or 12. I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of a team than I was after that game.

I complimented them, including and especially Marshon, and told them that their reward was that they get to do it again tomorrow against a better team, Genesee CCC (NY). We had played Genesee the last two years in this event and beaten them both times. Their coach, a really nice guy from NYC, thinks I am a total sandbagger because two years ago when our team was terrific (24-4), I told him we were “OK”, and last year when we stunk, I told him we stunk, and he thought I was lying and we beat them. So this year I told him we were great and that if we win, you should be fired.

It was a game much like the first, where we hung in there, caused a lot of frustration, but ran out of gas and lost another close one. I felt good and proud however, proud of the small group of guys who have withstood so much adversity to hang in there without too much positive reinforcement, proud of Marshon, who stepped into a crazy unexpected situation and did great, and also proud of myself and my assistant coaches (Stan Tuchez and Rich Brennan, former Princeton player and current American head coach Mike’s brother) for holding it and ourselves together during a difficult year, and now we know how to play Princeton basketball with four guys.

How many coaches have even had to think of stuff like that?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Who Can Turn The World On With Her Smile

About the scariest movie that TigerBlog has ever seen is "The Hitcher."

It stars Thomas C. Howell as a young guy who is driving out on some desert highway. Rutger Hauer is the hitchhiker he picks up - and comes to seriously regret doing so. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the women Thomas C. Howell likes, and she ends up regretting that he picks up Rutger Hauer even more than he does.

TigerBlog saw it alone one late night around, oh, 1987 or 1988. He figured it was just another movie. Then, about two hours later, it was after midnight and TB was far too freaked out to go to sleep.

So what did he do? He flipped the channels and found that there were back-to-back episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" about to start. He watched both - actually, it might have been more than two, but he watched as many as there were.

By the time Mary, Lou, Murray, Ted and the gang were done, TB had calmed down enough to go to sleep without having to wake up an hour or so later screaming in a cold sweat.

In case you missed it, Mary Tyler Moore died yesterday at the age of 80. The news made TigerBlog, and many others, sad. If TB had to pick a word to describe her, it would be "beloved." It seemed like everyone loved Mary Tyler Moore.

From TB's point of view, he has always been grateful to Mary for getting "The Hitcher" out of his mind that night long ago.

Ah, but there's more than that. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is one of the greatest shows TB has ever seen. Beyond that, it has, without question, the greatest theme show any television show has ever had.

You know how it goes, the pleasant tune with shots of Mary as she lives her life in, of all places, Minneapolis, complete with the tossing of her hate into the winter air at the end.

"Who can turn the world on with her smile?" You don't find too many smiles anywhere that can do that.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is more than just a show about a wholesome, perky young woman who is trying to make it on her own (as the associate producer for a television news show), as the song said. For starters, single women who left their hometowns to try to make it on their own were basically unheard of on television back on Sept. 19, 1970, when the show debuted.

It ran for seven seasons and 168 episodes, and it won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series three times. Actually, it would win 29 Emmy Awards, then a record - not broken until "Frasier" (not a great show, in TB's opinion) nearly 30 years later.

As for Mary herself, she won three Emmys for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. Keep in mind, this was during a golden age of television sitcoms, and the Emmy competition was fierce.

Mention "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to most people who saw it, and they'll tell you they remember the show for being really cute, really down-to-earth, with its great characters, especially Lou Grant (crusty, cynical, tough boss), Ted Baxter (inept news anchor), Rhoda Morgenstern (transplanted New Yorker who would get her own spin-off show), Phyllis Lindstrom (snooty landlady), Murray Slaughter (sarcastic news writer) and Sue Ann Nivens (host of a homemaking show and master of the backhanded compliment/insult).

And then, of course, there was Mary herself. She couldn't hurt a fly, desperately wanted to avoid conflicts and had a heart of gold. She was impossible not to love, and because of her personality, she was also constantly attracting a weird assortment of dates. Oh, and she threw awful dinner parties.

The show was more than just cute, though. It's really hilarious. The writing is brilliant, and the characters mixed together perfectly. It's hard to watch a single episode without having something make you crack up.

Remember the funeral for Chuckles the Clown? Mary scolds everyone in the newsroom for making fun of the way Chuckles died, in a parade while dressed like a peanut, shelled to death, as it were, by an elephant. Then, at the funeral, during the eulogy, Mary is the one can't contain herself, as she bursts out laughing, only to start bawling a few seconds later. 
 The three Emmys she won were not her first. Nope. Her first two came in 1964 and 1966, for her role as Laura Petrie, the wife of the title character in "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Laura Petrie was almost as peppy and nice as the role she'd play in her own show a few years later.

Not to be typecast strictly as Mary Richards or Laura Petrie, Mary Tyler Moore then played the exact opposite character in the 1980 movie "Ordinary People." In that movie, she plays the mother of two boys, one who is killed in a boating accident and the other of whom attempts suicide.

Mary, as the mother, is cold, distant, unfeeling, concerned only with public appearances. She gives her husband a hard time for the color of his shirt at the funeral of their older son, and she cannot bring herself to hug her younger son for a photograph.

It was a shocking role for someone so beloved from her signature TV role, and if you've ever seen the movie, you completely hated her character, which is what you were supposed to do. The movie won four Academy Awards - Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford), Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton, as the son). Judd Hirsch was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Hutton, and Mary Tyler Moore was nominated for Best Actress, losing to Sissy Spacek for "Coal Miner's Daughter."

She did win a Golden Globe for the role, and she also won a Tony Award that same year for her performance in "Whose Life Is It Anyway."

So that's more than 900 words on Mary Tyler Moore, and TB hasn't even gotten to anything about Princeton Athletics today.

That's okay. Every now and then, Princeton can take a backseat, and today, Princeton takes a backseat to Mary Tyler Moore.

Besides, it's still first semester exam break, and nobody around here has played anything competitive other than ping-pong for nearly two weeks.

For some reason, the break this year seems like it's taking longer than it does most years. Or maybe it always seems to take this long, and TB just doesn't remember. Still, the last week has seemed like it's taken 100 years.

Ah, but fear not. Athletic events resume in two days. As TB said yesterday, there will be men's hockey at the Wells Fargo Center against fourth-ranked Penn State, coached by former Tiger head coach Guy Gadowsky, Saturday at 7. There's also home women's tennis Saturday at 10 and 3 in Jadwin Gym, against Delaware and Seton Hall.

The heart of the winter season, which is a total sprint to the finish of all of those teams, will be here in no time, as will the dreaded winter/spring overlap, which will see the busiest weekends of the year around here. Unlike now, there will be nothing but action, with 18 events on Feb. 4 alone and 25 on the Friday and Saturday a week later.

That'll keep everyone really busy, and the calm of winter break will be a long distant memory.

So for today, TigerBlog will leave you with his favorite exchange on the show might have been from the very first episode, when Mary is interviewing with Lou. It goes something like this:
Mr. Grant - "What religion are you?"
Mary: "Uh, Mr. Grant, I don't think you can ask me that on a job interview."
Mr. Grant - "Why not?"
Mary: "I think it's against the law."
Mr. Grant: "You gonna call a cop?"

After Mary is hired, Lou says to her "You've got spunk. I hate spunk."

Of course Lou Grant hated spunk. But he loved Mary.

Every one did.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

And It's Marcoux Samaan vs. Henderson

It's been five days, and TigerBlog still hasn't had a chance to talk to you about the inauguration.

In keeping with official TigerBlog policy, he will avoid every aspect of the situation except for one. In this case, it's the coverage by the cable news networks.

It bordered on hilarious. There was not one objective thing about any of the coverage. On one network, nothing but positives. On another network, watching the same exact stuff, there was nothing but negatives.

Of course, this is how the world works these days. If you're wondering why the polarization seems worse than ever, it's because there is almost no place to go for unfiltered information. Instead, the world of information has become not about learning about events or studying events but about surrounding yourself with points of view that reinforce your own.

It's too easy to do. You can follow people on Twitter or Instagram. You can go to websites. You can watch TV networks. All of these can simply serve to mirror what you already think and make you less inclined to consider that there might be merit to another point of view.

Social media can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a blurring thing, as in blurring the ability to see another side. It's a constant bombardment of reinforcement. That's hard to get past.

And the events of last Friday? The networks were an extension of that. TigerBlog flipped back and forth just to see the obvious differences in their interpretations and opinions. It was hilarious - and predictable.

Everything else about the inauguration? TB is leaving that alone other than to say things seem nastier than ever before.

TigerBlog also hasn't had a chance to get back to you about his pre-playoff Super Bowl prediction. Let's go back to Jan. 6, when TB said this:While TigerBlog will be rooting for the Giants, he won't be crushed if they lose to Green Bay Sunday. He doesn't see anyone who can beat New England in the AFC, at least not in Foxboro. In the NFC, he can see basically any of five teams - other than Detroit - who could get to the Super Bowl. He'll go with Atlanta, though.

He was right, as it turns out.

At this point, he will, in the interest of full disclosure, point out that most of his sports-related predictions haven't quite worked out in the recent past. For instance, for the 2015 season, his preseason pick for the Super Bowl was the Eagles and the Ravens, who won about five games each that year.

And he's been really wrong on NCAA picks for basketball the last few years. He'll probably be bad again this year.

So he'll have to bask in the glory of having gotten a prediction right. That's the best part about predictions. Nobody remembers them, so if you're wrong, you don't have to remind people and if you're right, you can copy and paste the paragraph - and put it in italics, for good measure.

Inauguration? NFL playoffs? There are much more important things going on around here now.

Athletic events? Not quite yet. It's still first semester exam break, which runs through this weekend.

Princeton gets back into it with three events Saturday: two women's tennis matches at home (against Delaware at 10 am and Seton Hall at 3 pm, in Jadwin Gym) and a men's hockey game against Penn State at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at 7.

There will be seven other teams who compete during the week after return from exams: men's tennis, men's squash, women's squash, men's volleyball, men's track and field, women's track and field and women's hockey. Not too many of those events are at home.

What is taking place in Jadwin is a ping-pong tournament, but you already knew that. Men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson advanced to the finals last week, and the second semifinal was played yesterday.

This one matched Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan and head softball coach Lisa Van Ackeren. TigerBlog lost track of the final score, but Mollie won the best-of-three match in two games.

And that means it's Mollie against Mitch for the championship. Game time has not yet been set.

TigerBlog lost his opening round match to Mitch, and TB is the only one to take a game off of him so far. Just reminding you of that.

There's a simultaneous tournament in Dillon Gym. Actually, the Dillon people went first, with a tournament the last two years, both of which were won by Mike Pallister, assistant field hockey coach. The winner of the Jadwin tournament will play the winner of the Dillon tournament; TigerBlog thinks there should be a match between Jadwin and Dillon similar to a squash match, with  a lineup of nine players each.
Anyway, the final between Mollie and Mitch will match two super-competitive people. It's not necessarily easy to play the boss, but TB has a sense Mitch will find a way past that.

The ping-pong table appeared in the Jadwin lobby a few weeks ago. There would be 15 total matches in the four-round tournament, but the table has been used basically every day since it showed up, by those in the tournament and those who aren't.

If the idea was to give the people who work in Jadwin something to bring them closer together, it's certainly worked.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Nice To Meet You, Howard Levy

Here is a picture of TigerBlog's usual breakfast:

And here's a picture of TigerBlog's breakfast from yesterday:

One is a bowl of Corn Flakes, which has accounted for probably 90 percent of TigerBlog's lifetime breakfasts. The other is a cheesesteak from Geno's in South Philadelphia, which TB is pretty sure he'd never had for breakfast before yesterday.

The cheesesteak-for-breakfast actually started at 3:53 Monday morning. No, not the eating of it. That wasn't for nearly six more hours.

TigerBlog's phone buzzed at him in the middle of the night, which usually means either really good news (that can't wait) or really bad news (that also can't wait). TigerBlog looked at his phone and saw that this was neither.

This time, it was his friend Charlie, who had been his roommate his senior year in college. Now, more than 30 years later, TB still hears from Charlie on a weekly basis.

Charlie lives in Jacksonville. A Wharton School grad, Charlie is a businessman, running a few of his own, and he comes up to this area for a convention this week each year. He's always met TB back at Geno's for a cheesesteak, though it's always been for lunch.

His flight this year was supposed to get to Philadelphia at 11, which would have put him at Geno's around noon. Perfect, right?

Ah, but the weather did not cooperate. Because the forecast was awful (really bad winds, lots of rain), Charlie changed his flight to get in earlier. Then he texted TigerBlog, at 3:53 am, to inform him of the change and give him the new details.

TigerBlog, though, was already awake, so he texted Charlie back immediately. It's hard to tell which one of them was more surprised by the exchange.

Anyway, Charlie's text said he'd be getting in at 8. That put him at Geno's around 9.

TigerBlog gave Charlie the option of meeting someplace that had breakfast and a roof, but Charlie said no, it was cheesesteaks or nothing. If you're wondering what time Geno's opens, the answer isn't really clear, since it never actually closes. As in ever.

Charlie said that he would be there with a co-worker and a friend who worked in the area. TigerBlog had never met either.

TB pulled up to Geno's a little before 9:30. Charlie and the co-worker were already there, and then, as they all said hello, a well-dressed man in a well-coordinated outfit that included a tie, purple sweater and classy overcoat walked up to join them. He stood about 5-8 or so.

As Charlie introduced TigerBlog as his roommate senior year at Penn, the well-dressed man reached out his hand, shook TB's and said "I'm Howard Levy. Nice to meet you."

TigerBlog's first thought was "huh? what?" In fact, he asked him to repeat it.

"Howard Levy."

TigerBlog, of course, laughed.

Howard Levy, the one that TigerBlog has known for more than 20 years, stands nearly seven-feet, or about 16 or so inches taller than this Howard Levy.

The Howard Levy that Princeton basketball fans know is a 1985 graduate and then a long-time assistant coach with the Tigers before becoming the head coach at Mercer County Community College.

Howard is the all-time leader in field goal percentage in Ivy League history - not just Princeton history - and by a fairly wide margin. His .647 is first, followed by Yale's David Tompkins (.619) and then Princeton's Alan Williams (.614).

Very few players who ever played for Pete Carril made the kind of Carril progress that Howard Levy did. He played very little as a freshman, but he went on to become an All-Ivy center as a senior. In addition to the Ivy record for field goal percentage, Levy also won the Bunn Award in 1985, as essentially the team MVP.

During his time as an assistant coach under Bill Carmody, John Thompson and Joe Scott, Howard helped Princeton to four NCAA tournaments (1997, 1998, 2001, 2004) and three NITs (1999, 2000, 2002).

Howard was a very underrated part of those coaching staffs, but he was an important one nonetheless. He is intense, focused, smart and ultra-competitive as a coach; he is genuine, confident, funny, understated and fiercely loyal as a human being. TB could also describe the three head coaches Howard worked with at Princeton the exact same way.

Actually, he could describe Charlie the same way, substituting "as a businessman" for "as a coach."

TigerBlog saw Howard play for Princeton against Penn when he was a student. So did Howard Levy. The one from yesterday, that is.

When TigerBlog explained to the other Howard Levy that he had a good friend also named Howard Levy, Howard (the other one) said yes, he played at Princeton. TB was wearing a Sacred Heart sweatshirt, so it's not like he gave away the Princeton part.

How, TB wondered, did he know that?

Howard explained that he grew up in Scranton and went to the University of Scranton but that he came to the Palestra to see Howard Levy play for Princeton because, well, "he had the same name."

Yes. He did. TigerBlog spent much of the rest of the day wondering if he'd ever met anyone who had the same name as someone else he knew. He's sure he must, but he can't think of too many. He's met Amherst men's lacrosse coach Jon Thompson, but that doesn't count, since it's not spelled the same way.

He's definitely never met anyone else who has his name. You don't see too many people named TigerBlog.

What about you? Ever met anyone who has the same name as you? Ever see something with a fictional character who has your name?

Let TB know. He'd love to hear from you.

It can even be at 3:53 am.

As for the cheesesteak breakfast, it was nice, though not something TB would regularly do. His doctor probably wouldn't be okay with it either.

It was good to see Charlie. And good to see Howard Levy.

As it always is.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Both Of You

If today is your birthday, then you share your big day with, well, nobody all that big-time.

You get Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the plane that landed on the Hudson River. And Tiffany Amber Thiessen, from Beverly Hills 90210. And some athletes. That's about it.

If your birthday is tomorrow, you did a lot better.

TigerBlog went to look up who was born today, and he accidentally clicked on Jan. 24, not Jan. 23. If your birthday is Jan. 24, then you share it with, among others, John Belushi. Sadly, Belushi only celebrated 33 of his birthdays; TigerBlog has not watched "Saturday Night Live" since Belushi died, in 1982.

On the other hand, today is a great day to have a birthday, because your birthday is 1-2-3. As in, 1/23. You know. January 23.

If you are celebrating a birthday today, one other person you share it with is TigerBlog's paternal grandmother. Or maybe maternal grandfather.

Today is the birthday of one of them. Yesterday was the birthday of the other. TigerBlog could never remember which was which. He used to send out birthday cards on the same day, and he'd often call them on the one that wasn't theirs.

TigerBlog's grandfather Joe - Papa, TigerBlog and his cousins called him - would have been 108, TB believes. Joe, MotherBlog's father, ran a driving school in Queens. He was a good man, one who valued his family, one who was married to his wife Judy for what TB believes was 62 years. He was also locked into his ways, up every day around 4, lunch around 10, dinner around 4 in the afternoon, bed around 8, always with his little transistor radio.

TigerBlog's grandmother Bella would be turning 116 today, or yesterday. Her husband Toby passed away in 1953, well before TigerBlog was born, and Bella would be alone for the last 42 years of her life.

Well, not quite alone. She lived on the sixth floor of a building in Brooklyn with one of her sisters, while her two other sisters lived on the second floor. She was also a few blocks away from her daughter, TB's Aunt Edie.

One Thanksgiving, back in the early newspaper days, TigerBlog went to cover a high school football game - it was Morrisville against Bristol, a very old rivalry, by the way. It was a cold, rainy day, and by the time TB got to Thanksgiving dinner, he was wearing muddy jeans, old sneakers and a soaked sweatshirt.

What did his grandmother say to him? This is what she said: "This is how you dress for business?"

TigerBlog was with the men's basketball team in California, at a tournament at Fresno State, in December 1995, when Bella passed away. TB flew back after he got the news, missing the championship game between the Tigers and the home team.

Princeton, who would win that game 59-54, would start, as TB has said before, three players who are currently Division I head coaches - Princeton's Mitch Henderson, Cornell's Brian Earl and Fairfield's Sydney Johnson. Can any lineup at any other school for any other season make the same claim?

All three of the head coaches, by the way, were in double figures in the game. Henderson led Princeton with 18 points that night, all of which came on his 6 for 15 three-point shooting, while Johnson had 16 and Earl had 11.

Fast-forwarding more than 21 years, it's first-exam break, but that doesn't mean that the competitive side of Mitch Henderson has to be put aside for nearly two more weeks. Nope.

The Jadwin Gym ping-pong tournament has been progressing slowly, but it's reached its crucial rounds. On one side of the draw, there's a semifinal match between Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan and softball coach Lisa Van Ackeren. TB has never seen Mollie play, but he understands she's pretty good and pretty intense.

The winner of that match will then advance to the championship match, where Henderson will be waiting. Mitch knocked off TigerBlog in the first round and then departmental IT guy Brian Fitzwater and then TigerBlog's OAC colleague Craig Sachson back-to-back Friday afternoon in the next two rounds.

TigerBlog could point out that of the three, he's the only one who took a game off Mitch.

TB isn't sure what the schedule is for the rest of the tournament. He does know that there is talk of videostreaming the finals, or maybe just the ultimate championship match between the Jadwin winner and the Dillon Gym winner, who TB assumes must be field hockey assistant coach Mike Pallister.

If anyone wants a scouting report on Henderson, by the way, TB is pretty sure he has one.

In the meantime, happy birthday. To both of you.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Presidential Championships

TigerBlog would talk about almost anything else here before he'd touch the Presidential election of 2016.

Perhaps you noticed that it was somewhat polarizing, no? Let's just leave it at that.

Today, of course, is Inauguration Day for Donald Trump. Whatever your own personal feelings about the new President, there is one undeniable truth about him: He went to Penn.

Whatever your own personal feelings about the outgoing President, there is one undeniable truth about him: He went to Columbia undergrad and Harvard Law School.

TigerBlog can keep writing that same sentence for awhile.

George W. Bush? Yale undergrad and Harvard Business School.

Bill Clinton? Yale Law School.

George H.W. Bush? Yale undergrad.

You have to go back to Ronald Reagan to find a President with no Ivy League connection. Reagan went to Eureka College.

If you're looking for Princeton connections, there have been two - Woodrow Wilson and James Madison. It's been awhile, though Bill Bradley (in 2000) and Ted Cruz (this past year) have made serious runs.

Don't fret, Princetonians. You can brag that three current Supreme Court Justices - Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito - did their undergrads at Princeton. And if Princeton had a law school, then it surely would have had more than two Presidents.

Princeton women's basketball player Leslie Robinson, the niece of Barack Obama, had a big final weekend for her uncle's time in office, with back-to-back double-doubles and averages of 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

TigerBlog has a game program from the 1906 Princeton-Yale football game that has pictures in it of three U.S. Presidents - Teddy Roosevelt, who was the President at the time, and then-Princeton president Wilson and then-Yale president William Howard Taft. 

Princeton's athletic program has won 454 Ivy League championships all time. That would be 51 more than Harvard, who is second, and 231 more (or more than twice as many) as third-place Cornell's 223.

The first academic year of official Ivy League play was 1956-57. Quick - who was the President of the United States then?

Correct, it was Dwight Eisenhower. He was not an Ivy League grad, by the way. Ike went to West Point. He did, though, have an Ivy connection? Do you know what it was? TigerBlog will give you a few paragraphs.

Princeton won four Ivy League championships in 1956-57 - in tennis, squash, lacrosse and lightweight rowing. That would all be men's sports, by the way; Princeton didn't have women yet.

So which U.S. President was in office for the most Ivy League championships for Princeton?

Before TigerBlog gets to that, he'll answer his question from above. In between World War II and when he became President of the United States, Eisenhower was the president of Columbia University.

Ike, as President, was in office for 13 Princeton Ivy League championships. The lowest number belongs to Kennedy, whose term in office was cut short in one of the great tragedies in this country's history. Kennedy, before his assassination, was in office for 10 Princeton championships.

LBJ served more than four years, and used that time to set the record to that point, with 17 titles. 

Nixon was the President from January 1969 through August of 1974. Ford, who took office when Nixon resigned, served from then until January of 1977, or less then half the time of Nixon, but Princeton won the same number - 13 - under each.

You can insert your own punchline.

The first women's Ivy championship was won in 1973-74, by Radcliffe in women's rowing. Princeton's first came the next year, in women's basketball, won by the Tigers as Watergate was just about to end the Nixon administration.

Carter won 33 championships, or at least Princeton did in his four years in office. That was actually more than any two of his predecessors combined.

Carter is also the answer to this trivia question - whose is the only Presidential library that TigerBlog has visited? That was an easy one. It's in Atlanta, where MotherBlog lived before she passed away.

Reagan, as the first President to serve two full terms after women started to compete for Ivy titles, shattered the record, with 64. George H.W. Bush, who would not win re-election, won just 31.

Ah, but then came the Bill Clinton years. Princeton would win 92 Ivy League championships in his eight years as President, the most under any administration. TigerBlog doubts that the fact that the Clinton family already owns the record will be of any consolation for Mrs. Clinton today.

As for George W. Bush, he's second with 85. Mr. Obama checks out with 83 on his resume.

If you're a pure partisan, that's 235 for Democrats and 219 for Republicans, though the GOP figures to regain the lead sometime in the next two or three years.

Anyway, that's as political as TigerBlog is willing to get.

He will say that he hopes to see a former Princeton athlete win the White House one day.

Oh, and this has nothing to do with Presidential championships, but it is interesting. Of the first seven U.S. Presidents, four served two full terms - Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson. Of the most recent six, four have served two full terms - Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton and Reagan.

In between, only six served two full terms (or more, in the case of FDR): Grant, Cleveland (though not consecutively), Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Eisenhower.

So that's four of the first seven, six of the next 31 and then four of the last six.

How is this explained?

And that's enough politics.

Now let's talk religion ... 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Do You Want To Talk About?

As Princeton University rolls into the heart of first semester exams, there are no athletic events on the horizon.

So what would you like to talk about?

How about "Homeland?" TigerBlog has "Homeland" - a show about how a small group from the CIA tries to stay one step ahead of the baddest of the bad guys - as one of the top six shows he's ever seen.

Why not top 5? Because there are six: "Homeland," "Breaking Bad," "The Odd Couple," "Gilmore Girls," "Hill Street Blues" and "The Sopranos."

Why get rid of one just because it pushes the number to six? Remember John Nolan, a Syracuse grad who did some broadcasting here before moving on to do the Fort Wayne TipCaps in Minor League Baseball and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne basketball? He used to wonder about America's obsession with round numbers, and for some reason, that stuck with TigerBlog.

Anyway, Season 6 of "Homeland" started this past weekend. To get ready, TigerBlog rewatched Seasons 1, 2 and 3, and it brought back for him why he thought the show was so great originally.

The show that has so many great characters - Saul, Quinn, Dar, Dana among them. The best character by far, though, is the central character, Carrie Matheson, who is brilliantly played by Claire Danes and is one of the greatest characters in TV history. Carrie is a genius (and a Princeton grad, by the way), but she's also wildly flawed. The balance of the two and the way they intersect are fascinating.

TB came away from watching Season 3 the first time thinking that they lingered with the whole Brody thing way too long. This time, watching it again, he disagreed with himself. It was actually better than he remembered.

The show makes you really think about the bigger picture of terrorism and especially terrorists. Much like Tony Soprano, the terrorists are made human, with motivations that are perfectly justifiable to them, and it forces viewers in both cases to remember what it is these people are actually doing.

And what really makes the show special is that there really are people like this, on both sides, who live their lives like this every day. The CIA people live in a shadowy world, where the line between right and wrong gets blurred and where there is so much riding on the outcome of what they do.

The first episode of Season 6 was definitely attention-grabbing, and it sets an interesting tone for the rest of the season. As with every other season of "Homeland," it's hard to judge where the show is going by the first few episodes, and it won't be until much later on that everything from Episode 1 comes into focus.

One thing TB did not like at all about the first episode is what they've done to Quinn. At the same time, TB is relatively sure that by Episode 12, Quinn will have taken out at least one bad guy.

TigerBlog wanted to immediately be able to watch Episodes 2 through 11, but sadly he cannot, since this is not on Netflix. This is one of those antiquated notions of one show per week for 12 weeks. How old-fashioned.

What else do you want to talk about?

Well, colleague Andrew Borders is the only San Diego Chargers fan that TB knows. Or former fan.

Now that the Chargers have moved to Los Angeles, Andrew has, like many fans, disavowed any knowledge of the team. He used to have some Chargers stuff in his office, like a newspaper from when the team last reached the Super Bowl, but that's all gone now. From now on, Andrew is on the Eagles bandwagon.

Why wouldn't he just stay with the Los Angeles Chargers? It would be the same, he said, as if his beloved Eagles moved to Long Island.

When TigerBlog saw that the Chargers were going to be playing in a 30,000 seat stadium next year, he figured that it would essentially the same as having an NFL team play here on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

So that's Andrew and his ex-team.

Speaking of the NFL, TigerBlog picked an Atlanta-New England Super Bowl before the playoffs began. He'll stay with that heading into the conference championship games. 

Colton Phinney went over the 3,000-save mark last weekend for the Princeton men's hockey team. It's a first in school history.

Not all saves are created equal, of course. Phinney was honored by the NCAA with its No. 2 Play of the Week for one of his saves last weekend. Actually, for three of his saves, in one flurry, though the third was definitely the best of them.

You can see all five of them HERE.

TigerBlog, by the way, would have ranked the plays in a different order. No. 3 would have been No. 5. No. 1 would have been No. 4 (it looked way harder than it was). No. 4 would have been No. 3. No. 2 would have stayed the same. No. 5 would have been No. 1.

Up next? Annie Tarakchian.

Annie is a former Princeton women's basketball player who plays professionally in Switzerland. She was in attendance at the women's games this weekend at Jadwin, and loyalty to the program runs very, very strong among alums, especially those from the last seven years or so.

You can see a video with Annie HERE.

Tarakchian, by the way, is one of those names that it takes a few times to learn to spell. Princeton has a freshman lacrosse player named Arman Medghalchi, and it took TB a few times to get that one right as well. The same is true of Greg Paczkowski, another of TB's colleagues here.

Lastly for today, there is Myles Stephens. His name isn't hard to spell per se, once you figure out it's "Stephens" and not "Stevens."

If you've been listening to TigerBlog on the radio at all this basketball season (and of course, TB appreciates it), you know that TB has predicted that at some point of his career, Stephens will be an All-Ivy League player. If he keeps playing the way he has been, it'll be this year.

Stephens was named Ivy Player of the Week after his monster weekend against Brown and Yale, one that saw him have 37 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 16 for 23 and playing outstanding defense as the Tigers won twice. Stephens was the third straight Tiger to be honored, after Devin Cannady and Steven Cook.

Stephens scored 18 against Brown to tie his career high and then broke that the next night with 19 against Yale. He was completely unstoppable in both games.

So what else can TigerBlog tell you today? Just shake your head yes, and that's enough for now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three Grand For Phinney

Great news, everyone.

You know what's one month from today? That's right. It's opening day for Princeton lacrosse.

The women host Temple at 1. The men host NJIT at 3. Make your plans now to be there.

Actually, lacrosse season starts for men on Feb. 2, which is two weeks from tomorrow. The first game will be Vermont at Furman.

There will be 41 Division I men's lacrosse games played before Princeton-NJIT. Or 66 games, if you count the 25 that will be played on Feb. 18 alone before the Tigers game against NJIT begins.
If it seems early to you, it is. There was a time when college lacrosse didn't start until March 1 at the earliest, and the subject of the early start is one of the biggest issues in the game now.

The newest team in Division I men's lacrosse this year is Cleveland State. The Vikings, coached by former Princeton assistant coach Dylan Sheridan, play their first game Feb. 4 against Michigan, and the inaugural schedule includes teams like Denver, Duke, Air Force, Virginia, Penn State - and Sacred Heart.

TigerBlog Jr. started practice with Sacred Heart earlier this week, and most of Division I has already begun preparations for the season. Ivy League schools don't start until Feb. 1, which is the right time, at least according to TigerBlog.

As you may recall, TigerBlog Jr. is a goalie. He and his friend Jared were at the Princeton-Cornell men's hockey game Friday night, and TB asked the two of them if they thought being a goalie in one sport translated into being a goalie in other sports.

In other words, are there common traits to being a goalie in lacrosse, hockey, soccer, field hockey?

TigerBlog would suggest that yes, there are common attributes. You know, like maybe goalies don't want to have to run (or skate) as much as non-goalies. It's also possible that they all got their starts the same way - the team didn't have a goalie and needed one and they either volunteered or were volunteered. They also need to be a bit, uh, what's the word - nuts, to stand in the goal and have a ball or a puck fired at them.

There are differences between the sports, of course. For instance, in soccer, the ball is much bigger and softer (not soft, just softer), but the goal is gigantic compared to the other ones.

Still, it takes a special personality to be the goalie. There's the one main similarity that all goalies must have to be successful. They have to be leaders. They have to embrace being the one in charge of the defense, the one who directs all the traffic. They have to take command from start to finish, in constant communication.

Actually here's another - they need short memories. When TBJ first started playing goalie, one of his first coaches taught him how to say "no memory" in Latin. If you give up a goal, it can't stay with you - or you'll give up others.

Anya Gersoff probably has as interesting a take on the position as anyone. Gersoff, who graduated last year, was the goalie on the field hockey team and a 79-goal scorer in lacrosse.

Can this be usual? Can you have the mentality of a scorer in one sport and goalie in another? Does it help you to be able to look at the game from the point of view of both the scorer and the goalie?

This past weekend was a big one for one Princeton goalie.

Colton Phinney broke the 34-year-old Princeton record for saves in a career in men's hockey Friday night and then surpassed the 3,000-save mark Saturday night. That's a lot of pucks that have been thrown at him in his four years.

In addition to the career total, Phinney made 1,058 saves a year ago, which is the school single-season record. He heads into exam break with 3,005 saves for his career and, with at least 11 games to go and with an average of just under 30 saves per game, he could put the record out of reach for a long time.

The first of Princeton's 11 games, by the way, will be Jan. 28 (a Saturday), at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (home of the Sixers and Flyers) against a former Princeton coach (Guy Gadowsky). That's a lot of parenthesis, by the way.

Princeton will then have eight more league regular-season games and at least two playoff games, possibly even at home, depending how those eight games go.

Phinney's 3,005 saves are extraordinary. There aren't too many Princeton athletes who have ever gotten more than 3,000 of anything.

Certainly not points. Not goals. Not rebounds, assists or steals. Not attempts.

About the the only thing that TB can think of is yards. There have been two running backs (rushing) and 11 quarterbacks (passing) who have more than 3,000 career yards.

Other than that, who else has gotten to 3,000? Is TB missing anyone?

And as far as 3,000 of something, that's 3,000 (actually 3,005) times that an opposing player has shot a hard rubber puck that would have gone in the goal had Phinney not stopped it first. With his stick. Or blocker. Or body. Or head. Or anything else.

Would you want to do that even once?

Congratulations to Colton Phinney on his accomplishment. The common denominator for goalies?

It's not easy to be one.

Oh, and it's really, really not easy to be the parent of one. TigerBlog can vouch for that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talk To Me Goose

What's the best offer you've ever gotten?

TigerBlog was flipping around the channels yesterday when he came across a certain movie at a certain moment when a certain character said "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

The movie, of course, is "The Godfather." The line is actually used three times, if TB is correct:
* Michael references how his father had made such an offer to the bandleader to let Johnny out of his contract
* Vito tells Johnny that he's going to make a similar offer to the studio head so that Johnny can get the part in the movie he wants (apparently, this is how Frank Sinatra got the part of "Maggio" in "From Here to Eternity," for which Sinatra won an Academy Award
* Michael says he is going to make Moe Green an offer he can't refuse for his share of the hotel in Las Vegas (this is the one that TB saw yesterday)

Some offers you can't refuse because they just are great offers. Others you can't refuse because Luca Brasi is holding a gun to your head.

TigerBlog isn't sure how many times he's seen "The Godfather," but it's a lot. He can still watch it over and over still and not get tired of it.

The same is true of "A Few Good Men," which for some reason seems to be on a lot lately. Each time, it holds TB's attention.

On the other hand, "The Karate Kid" was on yesterday too, and TB couldn't bring himself to see a minute of it another time. And, as much as this pains him to admit, he hasn't watched much of "A Christmas Story" either of the last two Christmas Eves.

One movie that TigerBlog has seen enough to nearly memorize is "Top Gun." Much to his amazement, he found out that TigerBlog Jr. has never seen the movie.

TB showed his son the trailer for "Top Gun," and TB insists that TBJ would love it, even if he described the trailer as "cheesy ’80s stuff."

That, of course, is the point. Tom Cruise as the great loner fighter pilot? Val Kilmer as his steely-eyed rival? Anthony Edwards as Cruise's tragic sidekick? Kelly McGillis as the instructor who predictably falls in love with Maverick?

Is anything cheesier? 

TigerBlog referred to "Top Gun" during his most recent radio broadcast for Princeton basketball, during Saturday night's 66-58 win over Yale. As he did, it never dawned on him that his partner, Patrick McCarthy, is only two years older than TBJ and might not have ever seen "Top Gun" either.

TB will have to ask him. Oh, and a few days after the fact, TB cannot for the life of him remember how "Top Gun" came up on the radio, but he can remember details of games played 10, 20, 30 years ago. Should this concern him?

The win over Yale was a big one for Princeton, who also defeated Brown 97-66 Friday night. The sweep pushed the Tigers to 3-0 in the Ivy League heading into the break for first semester exams.

There are three unbeaten teams in Ivy basketball now. Princeton is 3-0. Harvard and Columbia are 1-0 each.

This is a different year in Ivy hoops, as you know, with the advent of the league tournament in March at the Palestra. It certainly has made for a different feel, that's for sure.

For instance, Penn is now 0-3 in men's basketball. But if Penn can right the ship and get the fourth spot in the tournament, it knows it'll be playing at home. And, since the Quakers have a lot of work to do to get there, then they'd by definition by on a bit of roll.

The race for fourth place will be big because only the top four get into the tournament. The race for first will be big because the regular-season champ will be the official Ivy champ and because at the very least, that will guarantee a spot in the NIT.

Princeton won the game against Brown easily. Princeton would have won against pretty much any team in the country it played if it could put up these numbers - 37 for 57 shooting from the field (65 percent), 12 for 24 from three-point range (you can figure that percent yourself) and 10 offensive rebounds. Yeah. Any team.

The game Saturday wasn't easy. Yale is the defending champ, and the Bulldogs have added some strong young players to their equation. It's early, but it appears that the three league favorites are Princeton, Yale and Harvard. As such, any game between them will be huge, especially on your home court.

Princeton did not carry the hot shooting over from Friday night. Instead, the Tigers were below 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from three-point range.

To be precise, Princeton was 7 for 24 from three-point range against Yale, one week after going 3 for 19 against Penn. That's 10 for 43 from three-point range on Saturday nights.

When Princeton shoots like it did against Brown, yeah, it'll be an easy night. When it shoots like it did against Penn and Yale, it's not going to be easy. It's going to be challenging, and it's going to show a lot about the team.

How Princeton reacted both times was impressive.

What Princeton showed is that it can raise its level when it's needed most. It did so after the 26-5 run Penn put together to tie that game, and it did so against Yale on a night when neither team would lead by more than six until the Tigers took control at the end.

Mitch Henderson has found the lineup he likes. Myles Stephens, who scored 36 points on 16 for 24 shooting and played an incredible all-around game all weekend, is an emerging star. Devin Cannady already is one. Amir Bell has been great coming off the bench.

Princeton does have two concerns. One is that the momentum from this weekend will disappear over the next three weeks, though the win over Yale will stay with the team during exams.

The second is that from now on, Princeton has 11 remaining league games, of which seven are on the road.

That's for down the road. For now, Princeton can be pretty pleased with how the Ivy season has started.

Oh, and "Top Gun." TigerBlog was referring to a time when either Cannady or Spencer Weisz did a ball fake to get a defender in the air and then took a step back to shoot a three.

It was like in the movie, when Maverick hit the brakes and let them fly right by.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rooting For Jason - But Not His Team

TigerBlog wasn't sure if he should be writing today.

It's Martin Luther King Day. For the first time at Princeton, this federal holiday is also a day off from work. TB does not write on Labor Day and Memorial Day, so perhaps he could have gotten away with not writing today.

He probably wouldn't have, until the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys yesterday.

Dallas, of course, is coached by Jason Garrett, a Princeton alum and the 1988 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

TigerBlog was in Jadwin Gym a long, long time ago when he saw a quarterback working out on the track area. At first he had no idea who it was, until he got closer and saw that it was Jason Garrett. Yes, Jason may have been a back-up for his career, but make no mistake - he could throw a football.

To this day, TB can still see how Jason threw it, with perfect spirals and deep passes that seemed to go the entire width of the building.

Also, TigerBlog can tell you that there are few people he's ever met who are the class act Jason Garrett is. He is humble. He is personable. He works hard. He gives a ton of his time and money to charity. He is one of Princeton football's most loyal fans.

You can't have any easier person to root for than Jason Garrett. And yet, it's the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys. Can TB ever root for them?

TigerBlog's NFL rooting interests go this way: 1. Giants. 2. Redskins. 3. Almost everyone else. 4. Eagles. 5. Cowboys. 7. Every other possible scenario in the world. 8. Patriots.

It's hard enough to root for the Redskins if you're a Giants fan, but TigerBlog does, for several reasons. Actually, as he thinks about them, it's harder now to root for the Giants, with Odell Beckham as both the face of the franchise and the face of almost everything that's wrong with professional sports.

Root for Dallas? That's tough.

Mike Condon can get TB to root for the Canadiens and now the Senators. Chris Young can get TB to root for the Royals. Seth DeValve can get TB to root for the Browns.

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys? Hmmm. Nope. How about putting it this way: If anyone could ever get TigerBlog to do it, Jason Garrett would be the one.

This year was his best as the head coach of the Cowboys. With fourth-round draft pick Dak Prescott forced into the role of starting quarterback, Jason led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, with losses only to the Giants (twice) and the Eagles (once, in the final week of the season, in a meaningless game).

Dallas had homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, but it also had to contend with Aaron Rodgers in the first game. It started out as a rout. It didn't end up that way.

Jason is in a very tough spot. The team owner is also the GM. He hasn't always given Garrett the best hand with which to compete. In addition, the expectations of the franchise, from the owner to the fans, is to win a Super Bowl every year.

Unfortunately for Dallas, it hasn't done so since Jerry Jones decided to become GM as well as owner. Dallas won three in four years from 1993-96, but since then, nothing (it's worth noting that the Giants have won two since then).

Since its most recent Super Bowl, Dallas is now 2-8 in playoff games. Jason Garrett is now 1-2 in the playoffs in his six-plus years as head coach.

Still, was the loss yesterday his fault? Hardly. First, Dallas was down big quickly in the game, and it was Jason Garrett who kept his team composed and focused and able to make the move it made to get back into it.

Then there's the fact that Rodgers is on quite a roll. And that it took two field goals, of 56 and 51 yards (Dallas had one of its own from 52 in between, all of this in the last 93 seconds), and one of the great clutch throw-and-catch moments in recent history to do in the Cowboys. And when the game-winning kick left Mason Crosby's foot, it looked all the world like it was going to fade badly to the left.

Unfortunately for Jason and the Cowboys, that's not what happened. It broke back to the right and through the uprights, and the great season that Dallas had ended abruptly.

One thought TB had during the game was to wonder who the Atlanta Falcons would rather have seen in the NFC title game, Dallas on the road or Rodgers and the Packers at home.

Anyway, maybe one day, after he's done coaching, Jason Garrett will go into television. TigerBlog is positive that he - and John Thompson - would be great TV analysts.

And maybe there is a Super Bowl title in his future.

If he got there, it would be hard for TigerBlog to root against him - especially if the Cowboys were playing the Patriots.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Hills Are Alive

TigerBlog walked outside yesterday morning and was greeted by temperatures near 60.

This was in the middle of January in Central New Jersey. The warmth felt so good against his face that he wanted to start singing, like Julie Andrews in the beginning of "The Sound of Music."

Okay, so this wasn't Salzburg, Austria, a place where TigerBlog has been, by the way. In fact, it's one of the most beautiful places he's ever been.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the first movie he ever saw in a movie theater was "The Sound of Music." His grandmother Judy took him, to a movie theater that used to be across the street from what is now the Freehold Raceway Mall.

He's positive the first R-rated movie he ever saw in a movie theater was "Animal House."

"The Sound of Music" is the kind of movie that would never get made today. Imagine the meeting:

"I have a great idea. It's a musical about how a family stood up to the Nazis through their ability to sing together."
"What? No zombies?"
"Any violence?"
"Well, there is a scene where two nuns disable the cars of the Nazi leaders by removing some wires."

The original version of "The Sound of Music" was a Broadway show. The movie version, starring Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as as the Captain, came out in 1965 and won an Academy Award for Best Picture, one of four musicals in the 1960s to do so. Can you name the other three? Can you name the only musical to win Best Picture since?

TigerBlog will give you a paragraph or two to think about it.

In the meantime, TigerBlog will tell you why a movie with so much cheesy dialogue and next to no action remains one of his all-time favorites. First, there is the opening scene, the one where Julie Andrews sings "The Sound of Music" with the Salzburg scenery all around her.

Then there are all of the other songs. Top to bottom, they're pretty much all great - "Do-Re-Mi," "Climb Every Mountain," "Maria," "My Favorite Things," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," "So Long, Farewell" and, TB's favorite, "Edelweiss."

The movie also has some funny moments, especially with the nuns at the abbey and the Captain's sarcasm. And it's very uplifting, with the way the Captain and Maria come together with their "love conquers all" story and then win their small battle against an overpowering opponent.

TigerBlog also loves the way he can see any part of the movie and love it. Turn the movie on at any point, and you'll hear one of those songs or see one of those scenes.

Oh, and the other three musicals in the 1960s to win Best Picture? They were: "West Side Story," "My Fair Lady" and "Oliver," all of which are TB favorites as well. After Oliver won the year after "The Sound of Music," no musical would win until "Chicago" in 2002.

How did TigerBlog get on this? Oh yeah. The weather yesterday.

It's supposed to cool off a little this weekend, but it's still pretty nice out for January. This weekend is a big one in Princeton Athletics, which then will shut down for first semester exams.

It's a unique academic calendar, and the trickle down to athletics is that Princeton won't be competing at all at a time when pretty much everyone else is in full competition mode.

Before exams, though, Princeton has a full weekend, with 16 events featuring 10 teams beginning today and running through Sunday.

TigerBlog hasn't looked this up, so it's possible this isn't correct, but he's going to go out on a limb and say that his weekend will be the first time that Jadwin Gym hosts Ivy League basketball doubleheaders that don't feature games against Penn.

Princeton will be home with Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night, with the women at 5:30 and the men at 8. The home weekend is necessitated by the start of final exam period, and Princeton will be at Yale and Brown next month, in doubleheaders there, which will mark the first empty weekend in Jadwin in February in a long time.

The men's team defeated Penn last week in its league opener, while the women lost a close game to the Quakers. There's a long way to go in both races, and of course this is Year 1 of the Ivy tournament.

Neither Brown nor Yale has played an Ivy League game prior to this weekend in men's or women's basketball. 

The men's hockey team is also home this weekend. If you wanted, you could see women's basketball at 5:30, men's hockey at 7 and men's basketball at 8, depending on how they're all going. TB is sure someone will do the tripleheader.

Princeton is home tonight against Cornell (standing room only tickets left) and tomorrow against Colgate. Princeton lost to both on the road in November before going on the run that energized the team before the long holiday break. The Tigers were swept at Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend, but the team played much better Saturday than Friday after the layoff.

There's also home women's swimming and diving this afternoon (3) in what will be the final home appearance for head coach Susan Teeter, who is retiring after 33 years. There is also home men's and women's squash against Dartmouth and Harvard tomorrow and Sunday.

And then it's exam time. It'll probably get cold again.

It certainly wasn't yesterday. In fact, TigerBlog went to lunch with his friend Corey, and when he got into his car after, the temperature read "66."

A few minutes before he got into his car, TB walked out of the restaurant and was taken aback by how warm it was. It was like late spring had dropped out of nowhere.

It may have been January 12 in New Jersey, but he could feel the sun on his neck - and it felt heavenly.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Back Here At Halftime

There are days when TigerBlog sits down to write and the words just come pouring out.

There are others when he can't for the life of him figure out where to start. This is one of those times.

As you read this paragraph, you should know that TigerBlog has already written and deleted five other ideas he had. None of them were any good.

Some days, you don't have your fastball. You have to tough it out anyway.

And that's where TigerBlog is right now. No idea where to go. So how to get there?

Sometimes when he's in this situation, he'll go back a year and see what he wrote on that day. One year ago today, he wrote about Patrick Stevens, whose Twitter account says that he's a "media free agent covering college football, basketball and lacrosse, 140 characters at a time."

Patrick had covered four men's basketball games in the D.C. area in one day and wrote about his trip. TigerBlog followed up with the fact that two of the four games were coached by Princeton alums - Mike Brennan at American and John Thompson at Georgetown.

Two years ago on this day? He wrote about how good "The Drums of Thunder" were at Princeton's basketball game that weekend. The same group - TB believes they are fourth- and fifth-graders from Montclair, N.J. - performed at Jadwin at halftime of the men's basketball game this past weekend as well.

Their shows are tremendous. It's all percussion, and it has a lot of power and energy behind it. This year's visit added a new wrinkle, as the Jadwin lights were turned off in the middle, and the only light came from the drums themselves.

TigerBlog couldn't completely focus on the "Thunder," since he was doing a halftime interview with Mike Mahoney, his counterpart at Penn. It dawned on TigerBlog that Mahoney had worked with men's basketball coach at Northwestern and had been the athletic communications contact for women's basketball at Dartmouth when Courtney Banghart played.

Plus, Mahoney is a good guy. And TB didn't have anyone else to talk to anyway. As a bonus, Mahoney did a very good job as the interviewee.

It's not always easy being interviewed, not when you're the one used to asking the questions. That's certainly TigerBlog's experience.

TigerBlog doesn't really remember how many years it's been since he regularly did radio for men's basketball. He actually started doing radio before he worked here, back in 1989, when he worked with David Brody and Rich Simkus on WHWH. He did a lot of basketball radio for the next 15 years or so, or more really.

Eventually, Noah Savage, who graduated in 2008, approached TB about doing games on the radio, and TB said sure, he'd give him a shot. He had tried the same with Ahmed El-Nokali, who would have been an all-time great. As it's turned out, Noah is also really good, and he and Derek Jones make a really good announcing tandem.

This year, those two are doing radio for away games and just the Ivy League Digital Network - which has a much larger audience - for home games. TB is on with Patrick McCarthy for the home radio games.

The experience has been fun so far. And one thing that TB realized is that he really enjoyed all of the interviews he did at halftime through the years.

TigerBlog can only guess how many halftime interviews at basketball games he's done through the years. It's probably 200 or more.

There have only been a handful of times were he went into the game with a prearranged halftime guest in mind. Usually he just looks around at the crowd, figures out who would make a good guest and goes over and asks during a timeout.

For all of the times he's gotten guests for halftime, only one person has ever said no to him. Just flat out no. He's had others who have said they couldn't because they didn't have the time or their kids were there, but that's been rare. But only one person has ever just said "no," and he did so with such disdain that TigerBlog can still see the look on his face, more than 15 years later.

It was when Princeton was playing Maryland at the Verizon Center in the the BB&T Classic. As the first half went along, TB saw Robert Novak, who at the time was on a show called "Capitol Gang" on CNN, a show that MotherBlog had loved. In fact, she and TB would watch it "together," as it were, with MB at her house and TB at his. Then they'd compare notes. It's too bad they couldn't simply text each other back-and-forth during the show.

As TB saw Novak on the other side of court, he thought "perfect." Here he was, in D.C., and he would have a political commentator on at halftime.

So TB walked over to Novak during a timeout and asked him in his most polite voice if he'd like to be on Princeton radio at halftime. And what did Novak do?

He sneered "no" at TB. He didn't even look up at him. Just sneered.

TigerBlog has interviewed three governors, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Congressman, active professional athletes, active NBA coaches, retired Hall-of-Famers, University presidents, journalists, TV personalities, and pretty much anyone else from any walk of life who would make an interesting guest.

Robert Novak is the only one who ever said no.

When Novak died in 2009, TigerBlog thought back to that exchange, and that look still gave him shivers.

And there you have it for today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Walter Riggs' Tigers

TigerBlog fell asleep early in the third quarter of the Alabama-Clemson game Monday night.

He watched the first half, which he found to be fairly dull. At halftime, he watched a little of an episode of "NYPD Blue," a show that he probably should have liked more than he did, and "Saving Private Ryan," which TB considers to be one of the two best movies ever made, along with "Schindler's List."

He wouldn't call either a favorite, because they are both so hard to watch, but that's precisely why they need to be watched, so that the subjects of the two movies will never be forgotten.

As for "NYPD Blue," TB liked it but didn't love it.

As police shows go, he was much more into "Hill Street Blues," "Kojak," "Quincy" (that counts, right?), "Law & Order" and even now "Blue Bloods" than he ever was into "NYPD Blue," which is weird, because Sipowicz was basically the same character (also played by Dennis Franz) as Detective Buntz on "Hill Street," only with a bigger role in "NYPD Blue."

Oh well. There's no explaining why people get into one show and not another.

For instance, TigerBlog tried to get into "The Walking Dead" and couldn't. "Breaking Bad?" Devoured it (get it?). "Mad Men?" "Game of Thrones?" Never happened. "The Crown?" It fit.

Oh, and how did John Lithgow not win for his performance as Winston Churchill? That's absurd.

He's watched the first few minutes of a few random shows on Netflix and gone no further. He watched the first few minutes of a show called "Fauda" and was immediately hooked. He tore through the entire season in no time, and it was great - even with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles (it's the story of an Israeli special ops team and its pursuit of a terrorist who has been presumed dead).

Why Fauda? Why any show over any other show? Who knows. It would probably make a good thesis for a psych major.

As for the football game Monday night, when TB woke up, Clemson was down by three and time was running out. He's pretty sure he saw the last three plays, including the touchdown with one second left that gave Clemson the national championship.

It's hard to root for Alabama. It's like rooting for IBM or Microsoft. It's also hard to root for Clemson too. They're hardly an unheralded underdog.

On the other hand, it became easier to root for Clemson when TigerBlog checked something out. And so thanks, Walter Riggs, for your role in all this.

Riggs was the football coach at what is then the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina in the 1896 season, the first in program history. Before that, he had coached at and attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, which today is called "Auburn University."

Auburn has been the Tigers ever since it first fielded a football team, back in 1892. Riggs graduated from the school that same year. As for "War Eagle," that's Auburn's rallying cry, not nickname. On the Auburn athletics website, it says that "we are Tigers who yell 'War Eagle.' " Simple.

TigerBlog read a long time ago that schools in the South adopted nicknames of major Northern schools, which explains, for instance, why Georgia and Mississippi State became the Bulldogs - after Yale's teams - and why Alabama became the "Crimson Tide," after Harvard.

As for Auburn, it became the Tigers in 1892 after Princeton's Tigers. And when Riggs went to Clemson, he brought the Tigers nickname with him.

According to another reputable website, Wikipedia: "In 1896, football coach Walter Riggs came to Clemson, then Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina, from Auburn University. He had always admired the Princeton Tigers, and hence gave Clemson the Tiger mascot."

Hey, it's on Wikipedia. It must be true.

If all of that is true, then the game Monday night was really a relative of Princeton against Harvard. And Princeton won.

And hey, who wouldn't admire the Princeton Tigers. On the other hand, TigerBlog can't figure out what it was that drew Riggs to Princeton. He was born in South Carolina on Jan. 24, 1873 and died two days short of his 51st birthday. He had no connection to the North that TB can find.

By the time Riggs graduated from what is now Auburn, Princeton had played only one team in its history that wasn't a Northern school, and that was Michigan.

The home of the engineering school at Clemson these days is called "Riggs Hall" in his honor. Maybe he sat around and thought "I should invent the internet, and that would make it way easier for me to follow Princeton."

As an aside, the first season that football scores began to have point totals was 1883. The 1882 season at Princeton features scores like "Princeton 5g, 6t - Rutgers 0." In 1883, that score was "Princeton 20, Rutgers 0."

In the first four years of that scoring system, Princeton averaged 43 points per game.

In the four most recent years of Princeton football, the Tigers have averaged 34.1 points per game. That's an extraordinary number.

A championship number, actually.

Yup. The 2016 football season. Championships for Tigers, both Princeton and Clemson.

Somewhere, ol' Walter Riggs is smiling. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bella Ball

There's still a home phone line in TigerBlog's house, even though he never uses it.

Almost never, that is.

It was Sunday afternoon that the home phone rang. When the phone rings, the caller ID comes up on the TV, and this time, it was said "Quinnipiac University."

TigerBlog remembers when call waiting and caller ID first came out. This was long before cell phones.

Call waiting was basically the end of the busy signal. When TB was a kid, if you called someone on the phone and that person was already talking to someone else, you got what was prehistorically known as "the busy signal." This would be a beeping sound, one that indicated that the person was, well, busy.

You could, of course, call back as often as you wanted. As long as the person was still on the phone, you'd still get the busy signal. And, as hard as this is for young people to understand, there was no way the person on the other end would know that you were trying to reach them.

If you were trying to get in touch with someone for something important, the busy signal was highly frustrating. It would beep and beep at you, no matter how many times you called back. Finally, you'd hear the phone ring, which would cause you to say to yourself "about time" as the phone rang.

Then, along came call waiting. Instead of a busy signal, the phone would ring, and the person on the other end would get a beeping sound, which would make the immediately cut off the first conversation because, hey, it might be someone more important on the other line.

As for caller ID, TigerBlog told a friend of his in college that once that caught on, nobody would ever pick up his calls. It's possible that TB was right.

Yeah, the simple act of talking on the phone has changed radically through the years. For that matter, TB wonders how many text messages he sends for every phone call he makes. He may have to track that one day, but it's probably in the neighborhood of 100 to one or so.

Anyway, when TB saw "Quinnipiac," he narrowed it down to two things.

Either someone wanted to talk to him about the upcoming Princeton-Quinnipiac men's lacrosse game, which, by the way, is March 7, or less than two months from now. It's also Princeton's fifth game of the season, and the last of five straight home games to start the year.

And there's your men's lacrosse talk for today.

So yeah, it was unlikely that that was why Quinnipiac came up on his caller ID. The more likely reason was that someone was conducting a poll.

TigerBlog answered the phone, and as it turned out, he was right. It was a poll. About the current state of American politics.

TB's big objection to the poll was that the choices were limited. Do you agree or disagree or do you not have enough information? Well, TB has plenty of information, but he doesn't agree or disagree. He's somewhere in the middle. The man doing the survey wasn't interested in that answer.

The first question TB was asked was what he considers himself politically. TB answered "cynical."

The pollster did not laugh at that. It didn't seem like he had much of a sense of humor. On the other hand, it was a Sunday afternoon during the NFL playoffs, and he was calling randomly generated numbers and asking them 10 minutes worth of political questions.

Speaking of the NFL playoffs, the Giants lost. Just knowing that you were rooting for them because of TigerBlog more than makes up for the fact that 1) they lost badly and 2) their best player does everything he can to make you not want to root for him.

You want someone easy to root for? Try Bella Alarie of the women's basketball team, and not just because she shares a first name with TB's paternal grandmother, who was the shorter of TB's two grandmothers.

TigerBlog will give you two season stat lines:

Player A - 12.0 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 35 assists to 20 turnovers, 41 percent shooting
Player B - 12.0 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, 28 assists to 20 turnovers,  41 percent shooting

Those are pretty even lines, right? Player A has made 18 three-pointers, while Player B hasn't made one yet, which is part of the reason that Player A doesn't have a better shooting percentage.

But those numbers are eerily similar, right?

Player A is Alarie. Player B is Penn's Sydney Stipanovich. Alarie is a freshman who has played 14 college games. Stipanovich is a senior who was the Ivy League Player of the Year a year ago and is one of the most dominant inside players Ivy League women's basketball has seen in a long time.

Clearly, Alarie is making an immediate impact.

For all of the great players Princeton has had through this run of six NCAA tournaments in seven years, there has not been a player like Alarie. At 6-4, she is tied for the tallest player Courtney Banghart has played - and about 18 inches taller than TB's grandmother. On the other hand, she has the offensive skills of a guard (that she isn't primarily a low-post player probably explains the rebounding differential between Alarie and Stipanovich). She can shoot three-pointers or drive to the basket from outside the three-point line as the shot clock winds down and do both with ease.

If you wanted to see it all on display, then there was Saturday night's game against Penn, which the Tigers lost 62-57. it was 58-53 Penn with a little more than a minute to go when Alarie scored, came down the other end and blocked the shot of another first-team All-Ivy player, Penn's Michelle Nwokedi, and then drove to the basket to score to make it 58-57 with 26 seconds left.

Alarie finished the game with 17 points, more than any other player on either team. She earned Ivy Rookie of the Week honors for the fifth time this year, and she already has two Ivy Player of the Week honors as well.

Alarie is the subject of a current video feature on goprincetontigers.com. You can see it HERE.

And you can see Alarie and the Tigers at home this weekend, against Brown Friday night and Yale Saturday night. Actually, it's late afternoon, with 5:30 tips for both games.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winning Time

The Princeton men's basketball team pushed its lead over Penn to 21 four minutes into the second half Saturday, and over on the radio, where TigerBlog was situated, it was getting perilously close to garbage time.

You know. Game over. Lot of time left to talk. So find something to fill the time.

TigerBlog was doing the game with Patrick McCarthy, who continues to improve each time he does a game, by the way. Patrick is the son of Tom McCarthy, the veteran broadcaster who did a lot of Princeton football and men's basketball early in his career and now is, among other things, the Phillies' TV play-by-play man and a national voice for the NFL and NCAA basketball.

Patrick is a college senior, at The College of New Jersey. He was pretty nervous for his first Princeton game, back in November against Rowan. Was that really nearly two months ago already?

The Penn game was the fourth that TB and Patrick have done together.

Princeton was 3-0 in the first three games, with an average victory margin of 39.7 points. If you take away the 62-point win over Division III Rowan, it was still 28.5 for the two games.

In other words, that's a lot of garbage time.

When you're broadcasting, garbage time gets tricky. What are you supposed to do? As an announcer, you can feel your audience dwindling as the game goes along, until only those who really care are left. The game itself is no longer captivating, but at the same time, you don't want to turn your broadcast into a circus. That wouldn't be respectful of the players on the court.

Still, things can get a little looser.

For instance, Patrick is coaching a middle school boys' basketball team. On one of the earlier broadcasts, he mentioned his love of the box-and-one defense, something that TigerBlog hates. At the same time, TB will admit that that the box-and-one can definitely help you win middle school games, since middle school teams often have one dominant player. Stop that one player, and you'll be in good shape.

It's not something that usually works once you get past the middle school, which is why TB doesn't like it. You can also full-court press in middle school and cause held ball after held ball, something that TB saw when Miss TigerBlog was on her middle school team. The average elapsed time between whistles in those games was about six seconds.

Anyway, with Princeton up by 21, TB and Patrick began to talk about his team, which is 4-1. Before they could get any further into that, or talk about other things, a rather strange thing happened.

The game turned on a dime.

Princeton was up 39-18, in total control. Princeton wasn't playing its best, and certainly wasn't shooting its best, but Penn had made just one three-pointer, wasn't getting production from its two leading scorers - A.J. Brodeur and Matt Howard - and didn't really give the sense that it was capable of making a run.

Of course, that's exactly what happened next.

Turning the game on a dime, Penn went on a 26-5 run, turning the game into a 44-44 tie with seven minutes left. Timeout, Princeton.

Garbage time vanished. It was crunch time. Winning time, as it's known.

A 26-5 run is pretty astonishing. How many teams have lost a game in which they've had one? On the other hand, it wasn't quite as much as the 27-0 run Penn had against Princeton at the Palestra in the famous 1999 game, when Princeton led 3-0 before that monster run.

Penn would built that lead to 40-13 with 15 minutes left, but Princeton would come back to win that game 50-49. That's a win in a game in which Princeton allowed a 27-0 run. Again, that doesn't happen too often.

Meanwhile, back to the game Saturday, Princeton now found itself in a position that TigerBlog actually wanted to see. A tough league opponent. A night when the three-pointers weren't falling. How would the Tigers respond?

Let's be honest. There's no team in the league that can beat Princeton on a night when the Tigers shoot better than 50 percent from three-point range. It's possible any team in the league could beat Princeton on a night when the team is 3 for 19 from three-point range.

Possible, but not definite.

On the radio, TigerBlog told Patrick, a college pitcher, that Princeton was out there on a night when the team didn't have its best fastball. Now the team had to figure out a way to win using its other pitches, maybe locate better.

Out of the timeout, the ball went to Devin Cannady, the sophomore who just exudes confidence every time he touches the ball. Cannady took one step inside the three-point line to duck under a Penn defender and then calmly swished a 17-footer.

Then, after a steal by Spencer Weisz, Miles Stephens swished a three from the corner. Then it was Steven Cook, with a pair of foul shots.

Within 90 seconds of the timeout, Princeton was up by seven. Penn would never get closer than four again. The Tigers would win by nine, by a final of 61-52.

For Princeton, it was the best possible way to start the league season. Penn is an improving team, one that will certainly challenge for one of the four spots in the league tournament, which will be played on its home court. To get a win, a nine-point win at that, on a night when your strength was a weakness is not easy to do.

It also helps a lot more down the road.

Princeton knows that it can win a game when the threes aren't falling. That it can tough out the final seven minutes of a game against a team that had all the momentum on its side. That it can win a little ugly if that's what it takes.

Next up for Princeton is a pair of home games this weekend, against Brown and Yale. Then it's first semester exams. That doesn't leave a lot of time to focus on the game from the other night, but that's okay.

Some wins are impressive because of their beauty. Other wins are equally impressive for just the opposite reason.

Actually, make that more impressive.