Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy 5778

According to that exalted Talmudic scholar known as "Wikipedia," the earliest that Rosh Hashanah can fall is Sept. 5. The latest is Oct. 5.

That puts the start of Rosh Hashanah this year at essentially the exact midpoint. This is interesting to TigerBlog, because somewhere, at someone's family celebration, somebody will be saying that the holidays this year have either come too early or too late.

This, of course, is a staple of the Jewish High Holy Days. They either come early or late, never on time, even if they come directly in between the earliest and latest they could by virtue of the calendar.

TigerBlog's people all over the world are celebrating the Jewish New Year, the start of the Year 5778. Among the other things that are guaranteed to be said is this: "We should only be together on wonderful occasions."

The holidays conclude this year with Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, a day of 24-hour fasting to atone for ones sins that begins Sept. 29.

TigerBlog has great memories of these holidays from when he was a kid. They were very serious for the late, great MotherBlog, who instilled in her two sons early on that these were days that were meant to be taken seriously and respected for their significance. They're a time of celebration and self-reflection.

Schools were always closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as they continue to be in pretty much every school district around here these days. In fact, TB was looking at the local high school football calendar and saw that most games have been moved off of Friday night to Saturday afternoon or night this week.

Even with school closed, MotherBlog did not permit anything other than whatever holiday-related events she had scheduled. There would be no playing outside when TB and BrotherBlog were little.

TigerBlog has gone to work on the holidays when there have been athletic events, usually football games. That will be the case for this Yom Kippur, which will be continuing during Princeton's home football game against Columbia on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

There are no Princeton Athletic events today. In fact, there are probably fewer athletic events on Thursdays than on any other day of the week through the years.

There is the first Ivy League event of the 2017-18 academic year tomorrow, when the two-time defending league champion women's volleyball team hosts Penn. That's a 7:00 start in Dillon Gym.

As of right now, six of the eight women's volleyball teams in the league have a better than .500 record, including Princeton (7-3) and Penn (5-4). This tells you exactly nothing about how the league race will play out.

The second Ivy event of the year will be Saturday, when the women's soccer team hosts Yale at 4. For this one, numbers can tell you quite a bit.

The Princeton women's soccer team is off to an amazing start to the 2017 season. The Tigers are 7-1-0, with the only loss by a 1-0 score last weekend to West Virginia, last year's NCAA runner-up.

Princeton entered the national rankings last week, and the Tigers actually jumped four spots to 16th even with that loss. What's more important, though, is the RPI numbers.

Princeton is ranked eighth in RPI, which is impressive enough. Then throw in some of the wins Princeton already has: North Carolina State (13th in RPI), Wake Forest (15), Monmouth (65), Villanova (89) and New Hampshire (90).

That's five Top 100 RPI wins already.

The next opponent, Yale, is doing some resume building of its own. The Bulldogs, who are 6-2-1 on the year, are 91st in RPI. Harvard, by the way, is 77th.

In other words, this is a huge way to start the league season. Doing it at home doesn't hurt.

It is very, very difficult in a sport like soccer, men's or women's, to run the table. On the women's side, it's happened only twice since Princeton's magical run in 2004 to the NCAA Final Four - by Princeton in 2012 and Harvard in 2013.

The only men's team to do so in the last 10 seasons was Princeton in 2009.

The point is that there is some margin for error, and the championship can't be won in the first game. On the other hand, when you play a single round-robin schedule, every game is huge.

A matchup of two Top 100 teams Saturday is a great way to start. Especially with no admission charge.

And happy 5778 to everyone. Hopefully there's some peace in the world to come.

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