Monday, June 26, 2017

Lehigh Redux

The rain that came after midnight Friday, technically Saturday morning, was heavy enough and loud enough to wake TigerBlog.

There, in the darkness, TigerBlog listened as it fell - and as his mind filled with thoughts.

Among them - is his office flooding again? And how will this affect Miss TigerBlog's upcoming lacrosse tournament?

Ah yes. Another weekend, another club lacrosse event. As TigerBlog said last weekend, this is the 10th and final summer of club lacrosse between his two kids, and he'll be missing it when it's final over.

This past weekend was spent at Lehigh University. It's the perfect place for one of these events, with a lot of parking and a ton of grass field space.

TigerBlog has been there a million times, or so it seems, for such tournaments, with both of his kids.

Lehigh is an interesting place. The athletic fields are in their own contained area, and for all the times that TigerBlog has been there, he doesn't think he's ever seen the actual campus.

On the other hand, TigerBlog has been to so many Princeton games at Lehigh that he's pretty sure it's the non-Ivy campus he's been to the most with the Tigers - unless he's never been to the campus. The only school that's close is Rutgers. No, it's Lehigh.

When TB was there this weekend, he first drove past the parking lot where he parked back on April 11, when he was there for a Princeton men's lacrosse game, one that the Tigers would lose 15-10. That was one of the nicer nights of the spring, though a warm, no-jacket night - and quite a contrast to the time he'd been there two years earlier, 

MTB's games this weekend - there were four of them - were played on fields that were set up on either side of the football stadium.

TigerBlog is a big fan of Lehigh's football field, called Goodman Stadium. It has a nice grass area in one end zone where fans can sit - and kids can run around - and the concourse is packed with different food vendors.

At various times this weekend, TB found himself inside the stadium. It was essentially empty, and it wasn't lined for football at all.

Still, it's hard to stand in there without thinking about all the times he's been there for Princeton-Lehigh football games. All of them have been very early in the season, usually on hot days. They're always competitive.

As great as it is to watch a game from the hill or the stands, the best place is from the sidelines. TigerBlog has done radio from the press box, which is pretty high up, and simply watched from the sideline. He always likes to watch games from the sidelines, though he rarely gets the chance, but for some reason they seem to be better at Lehigh. Maybe it's because of the weather, and the fact that at that time of year, there's still a lot of green in the hills that are behind the stadium.

Ah, but TB can never talk about Lehigh without having one event leap to the front. You know what it is, right?

It happened a little more than 21 years ago. Does TB really have to tell you?

It was the 1996 Princeton-Penn men's basketball playoff game. TB wrote this back on March 9, 2016, the 20th anniversary of the game, just in case you don't remember or weren't paying as close attention back then:

Of all of the great little anecdotes TigerBlog has from his nearly 30 years at Princeton, perhaps his favorite is the one where Pete Carril was being badgered by a sportswriter after a Penn game at the Palestra.
The writer, by the way, was Brian Dohn, then of the Trentonian. TigerBlog was a big Brian Dohn fan, though he lost touch with him years ago, after Dohn left to go cover the Dodgers.

Anyway, Princeton had just lost to Penn in the final game of the regular season for its eighth straight loss to the Quakers. The outcome of that game left the teams in a tie for the league title and set up a playoff game for the NCAA bid five days later.

It also led to this exchange:

Dohn: "Do you think Penn has your number?"
Carril: "I don't believe in that."
Dohn: "But sometimes a team just has another team's number."
Carril: "Yeah, I don't believe in that."
Dohn: "Yeah, but maybe they just have your number."
Carril: "I'm telling you I don't believe in that."

At that point, another question was asked. This was from Jerry Henry, then of New Jersey Network.

Henry: "Coach, what can you do differently to beat them in the playoff game?"
Carril (looking at Dohn): "Nothing ... if they have our number."

That's a great one. So was the game itself. Princeton 63, Penn 56, in overtime. 

If you want to read the whole post, it's HERE.

If you want TB to sum it up for you, he can tell you that it was an extraordinary game, one that the players have often said to him means as much or more to them as the win five days later over UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

It also was the nigh that Pete Carril announced his retirement, something that TB saw before anyone else, when he came into the locker room and saw the solitary coach, holding the chalk that he had just used to scribble the words to his team on the blackboard there. TigerBlog knew his night was taking a dramatic turn at that point.

All these years later, it remains in the top three or so of nights TB has had at Princeton. And it was part of the most dramatic, and busiest, week he's had in all his time here.

When TB made a right turn past the lacrosse field this weekend to head back to the main parking lot, he drove right past the front of the building where it all happened on that frozen March night. Stabler Arena.

As he saw the words on the facade of the building, he was taken back in time to that night. And it made him smile, in a way that few of his memories can match.

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