Thursday, June 1, 2017

The 25th Reunion Tent

TigerBlog did three things back on April 14.

One was his taxes. Wait. Actually, that might not be true. Oh, not because he wasn't procrastinating. That's how he's always been. He doesn't think of it as "procrastinating." He thinks of it as "deadline driven."

And the deadline to files taxes wasn't April 15th this year.

Actually, he might not have done his taxes until that Monday, since they weren't actually due until April 18 this year, which was a Tuesday. TigerBlog wonders why that was.  

He gets that the 15th was a Saturday. And who wants to file taxes on a Sunday. Surely everyone had something better to do that day.

What was wrong with Monday the 17th, though?

Anyway, let TB start over.

He's sure he did two things on April 14.

First, he drove to Dartmouth for the Princeton men's lacrosse game the next day. And, he also wrote this in his blog:
Here is TigerBlog's mid-April lacrosse prediction: Maryland will win the NCAA championship in both men's and women's lacrosse. 

Then, six weeks later, his prediction actually played out.

In the interest of full disclosure, it wasn't his only prediction. He also said this just before the men's tournament started:
For the final, he'll go with Maryland-Ohio State. For the winner, he'll go with Ohio State. No. Maryland. No. Ohio State. Hmmm. 

So he was sort of right. It was Maryland-Ohio State in the final. He's pretty good at this.

Or is he? Let's just say he should have simply left it there.

This past Friday, he hedged a bit, when he gave these reasons:
1) Trevor Baptiste and 2) Bill Tierney. Maybe it's the fact that he spent 22 years with Tierney at Princeton, but TigerBlog will go with Denver. Especially if Baptiste wins face-offs the way he has been. 

As it turned out, Baptiste didn't win face-offs the way he had been, Maryland squeaked by Denver, Ohio State snuck past Towson and then Maryland was fairly dominant in the final, one day after the Maryland women also won the championship.

It was only the third time that a team has won both lacrosse championships. Actually, it was the second-straight year, after North Carolina did so in 2016. The only other time? It was 1994, when Princeton did so.

Shortly after the game ended Monday, TigerBlog tweeted this:
For TigerBlog, this was NCAA championship No. 22 and his 22nd in the last 25 years. He was there with Princeton in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. He's been there every year since as part of the official stat crew.

This past weekend was the longest one of them all, since the Division I semifinals and final were mixed in with the usual five games - Division I semifinals and final and Division II and Division III finals on the men's side. That was eight games in four days - including the Sunday marathon of the Division I women's final and the Division II and III men's games.

Yeah. It was great.

Each year at halftime of the Division I final, the NCAA honors the team that won the championship 25 years earlier. Each year TigerBlog would watch it and think of how many years it would be until it was Princeton who was out there.

The year would be 2017, the 25th anniversary of the first of Princeton's six championships.

TigerBlog has been around some great teams at Princeton, with some special moments. The most special to him has always been the 1992 men's lacrosse team.

Why? TB wrote about this once before, back in 2012. You can read it HERE.

Or he can give you the highlights.

TigerBlog had no idea what lacrosse was all about before he started covering Princeton lacrosse in 1990. Back then, Bill Tierney was the young coach of the team that was trying to make the leap to national prominence, and TB was on the sideline for all of it.

In 1991, the team lost a heartbreaking 14-13 triple-overtime game to Towson in the quarterfinals. The next year, the Tigers broke through, winning that first NCAA championship.

Tierney was the first lacrosse coach TigerBlog ever met. The players on the team - David Morrow, Justin Tortolani, Scott Bacigalupo, Mike Mariano, Kevin Lowe, Taylor Simmers, Scott Reinhardt, Andy Moe, Greg Waller, Ed Calkins and others - were the first players he ever saw play and got to know.

Before that, lacrosse was something they played in Baltimore and Syracuse and on Long Island, a game that was completely foreign to TigerBlog. Since then, lacrosse has come to be something pretty important for TigerBlog, and he has gotten to know all kinds of people in the sport who have become among his best friends.

And, of course, both of his children started playing at an early age.

His experiences with lacrosse have been among the most special in his life in so many ways, and they all trace their way back to that group of people.

It was chilly and cloudy back on Memorial Day 1992. There was rain in the area. Princeton would defeat Syracuse 10-9 in two OTs.

The weather was the same this past Monday, when TigerBlog walked around from one side of Gillette Stadium to the other, to where the 1992 Princeton Tigers had gathered prior to their appearance on the field at halftime. TB knew he was in the right place when he saw a tent that said "Princeton Lacrosse" on it.

The 25th Reunion Tent, as it were.

And there they were. The familiar faces. The ones who had meant so much to him when he was first starting out in the sport.

Had it really been 25 years? 

The first person that TB saw when he got to the tent was Calkins, a middie who is now the president of the Friends' of Princeton Lacrosse. Then there was Bacigalupo, as great a goalie as who ever played. And Morrow, as great a defenseman as who ever payed.

And Moe, who scored that game-winning goal. Greg Waller was there. TigerBlog congratulated him on keeping the career and season ground balls records from Zach Currier, who came within one of tying Waller's 1991 season total of 131.

There were others, too, including the team managers.

TigerBlog had to go before the tent got too crowded, since he needed to get back inside the stadium. By halftime, almost all of the team was there, together again out on the field.

(photo by Laura Devine)

Nobody TigerBlog has ever met does reunions (big "R" and small "r") like Princetonians. This was another example of it.

The bond that these people formed together is unbreakable. They came to Princeton to play lacrosse for a coach who exuded confidence when perhaps none was warranted, and then they accomplished the extraordinary, joining a team coming off a 2-13 season and four years later winning an NCAA championship together.

When they came to Princeton, TigerBlog never gave lacrosse much of a thought and in fact had seen one college game in his life, back when he was at Penn.

When they left, TigerBlog was hooked on the sport - and grateful to the guys who had hooked him on it.

Twenty-five years later, he still is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1) Emancipation Day in DC fell on the 17th this year, so that's why the tax filing deadline was pushed back to the 18th.

2) Leaving Franklin Field after the first semifinal 25 years ago (made even more interesting for having sat right in front of a group of UNC fans), I walked along the playing field and saw just how fast the Syracuse team was...just incredible speed. My thought was that the '92 squad had enjoyed a remarkable run that would likely serve as a springboard to further success...and maybe even a future national championship. Never dreamt that the future would arrive that Monday - right up there with the Men's Medley Relay NCAA championship in my book as a Princeton athletic achievement.