Monday, July 15, 2019

On The Mound

Were it not for the new rule that required a tiebreaker at 12-12 in the final set, it's possible that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic might still be playing at Wimbledon.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. Federer had two match points at when it was 8-7 in the fifth and couldn't close Djokovic out, but someone would have broken serve again and held their own to win. At some point.

This was the first year at Wimbledon that the rules called for a tiebreaker in the fifth set. In years past, it would have just gone until a player won by two games.

This time around, there was going to be a tiebreaker if the players were tied at 12-12, and that's exactly how it played out. Djokovic would win, ending the longest final in Wimbledon history at 4:57. That's just short of five hours.

Considering how long they played and how intense the stakes were (not to mention their combined age is 70), it was incredible to see how they were still moving at the end. 

It was obvious that this was destined to be remembered as one of the great matches Wimbledon has seen. The pressure on each to hold serve was immense, and they did so 22 times in 24 games in the fifth game.

On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of those games were held with no drama.

There was one thing that TigerBlog couldn't figure out as he watched it. He's vehemently anti-penalty kicks to decide soccer games, but he wondered why there wasn't just a tiebreaker at 6-6 like there is everyone else.

How can he have both of those viewpoints? They're sort of contrary to each other no?

Oh well. It was a great match.

Way back in the early 1980s, TigerBlog covered a few U.S. Opens when he was still a sportswriter. His favorite player from his experience back then was easily Martina Navratilova.

TigerBlog got into the newspaper business through his friend Jack McCaffery, who worked at the Trenton Times back then and now has been a longtime columnist with the Delaware County Times (and is the brother of University of Iowa men's basketball head coach Fran McCaffery).

Jack once took TigerBlog to a game he was covering at Yankee Stadium, and when it over, they went back to the parking lot to head home. As it turned out, the media shared the same parking lot as the players, and this was really TB's first time up close with so-called "famous" athletes.

It also turned out that Jack had left the lights on in his car and so his battery was dead. As he asked each player who came out if they had jumper cables, none of them could be bothered - until Lou Paniella came by and said sure, he'd help. Then he pulled his Cadillac up, hooked up the cables and got the car started.

Paniella, by the way, played 16 years in the Majors and won the 1969 American League Rookie of the Year.

That would be TigerBlog's favorite memory of the old Yankee Stadium, although perhaps techically he should admit that it didn't really happen in the stadium.

He's never been to the new Yankee Stadium, so he has no favorite memory. His favorite things that have happened there so far have been Scott Bradley's experiences at Old Timers' Day, especially this past year, when the longtime Princeton baseball coach was mic'd up for the occasion.

You can add tonight to that list, as Princeton head football coach Bob Surace will throw out the first pitch at the Yankees-Rays game. Surace will be joined by Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens for the pitch.

TB would think that it's not easy to throw a strike on a first pitch. There have certainly been some awful attempts at it through the years, efforts that have found their way to youtube.

As for Surace, he was a center at Princeton - an All-Ivy center at that. Teevens was a quarterback at Dartmouth, and in fact he and Surace are the only two ever to win an Ivy League football championships as players and head coaches.

Still, it would seem that a quarterback would have an advantage in this situation.

Either way, tonight's effort is for fun - and to help promote the upcoming game at Yankee Stadium between their two teams this November.

That game, Nov. 9, will be three days after the 150th anniversary of the first football game ever, held on Nov. 6, 1869, between Princeton and Rutgers.

This year will be a celebration of that anniversary throughout the college football world, and especially at Princeton, who played such a large role in the sport's formation.

And tonight will be a part of that celebration.

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