Friday, May 29, 2020

The Show Must Go On

Of all of the traditions at Princeton, TigerBlog's absolute favorite is the P-Rade.

It happens on the Saturday of Reunions, when the classes - led by the old guard - march through the heart of the campus in a sea of orange and black love and loyalty. It is a spectacle of such warmth and joy that even someone like TB - a Penn alum - can't help but get into the spirit.

The P-Rade has great history to it. This is from the Princeton Reunions website:
The P-rade officially began in the late 1890s, but it is actually the merged product of earlier traditions. Beginning in the Civil War era, alumni formally processed to Commencement Day dinner meetings. Then in 1888, Princeton and Yale University began scheduling one of their baseball games at Princeton on the Saturday before Commencement. Since this coincided with class dinners, alumni attendance was high and many classes formally marched to the game at University Field (located at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Olden Street). In October 1896, when the newly renamed Princeton University celebrated its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), 800 Princeton undergraduates and 2,000 alumni took part in a mile-long procession through the campus and town; most carried an orange torch or lantern, and many classes wore coordinated costumes. Stimulated by the grandeur and organization of this parade, in 1897 all returning classes first joined to march in order to the baseball game. By 1906, a written description of the annual event said, “The Alumni Pee-rade on Saturday afternoon was quite as spectacular as usual; the bands, banners, transparencies, uniforms and vaudeville features encircling University Field with color and noise.”

If you want to read the whole entry, click HERE.

TB never misses a P-Rade. He hopes that in another 27 or so years, he'll be able to see his daughter walk in her 25th Reunion P-Rade. That's a sweet thought.

Because he loves the P-Rade so much, TB will be watching tomorrow at 2 for the P-Rade online. He's not 100 percent sure what exactly it's going to entail, but it will make him think about what the actual P-Rade experience is.

The P-Rade comes on the final day of Reunions. The event would have begun last night, and the campus today would be jammed with people back to celebrate. Here's a good hint: Park near the Grad College.

Jadwin Gym especially would be rocking today, with basketball alumni games and BBQs and alums from basically every sport around.

The Friday fun always comes after the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet, which is always on the Thursday night of Reunions. The banquet is the result of months of planning and execution, and the day after always seems like the calm after the storm.

Everything is different this spring, of course. Still, the show must go on.

And so it did, last night, as scheduled. This time it was a video version, one that required a much different kind of planning.

Until two years ago, the banquet was held outside, as opposed to its new location in Jadwin Gym. In any of those years, a weather forecast like the one from last night would have been the source of great consternation.

The online banquet still served as the source for the announcement of the top departmental awards. The winners of the Art Lane Award for outstanding service to sport and society by an undergrad were Chris Davis of the baseball team and Grace Baylis of the field hockey team. The winner of the 1916 Cup for the top academic standing was Hadley Wilhoite of the track and field team. 

And then there were the winners of the top senior athlete awards, the von Kienbusch for the women and the Roper for the men. The 2020 winners are three of the greatest athletes Princeton has ever seen, and all three will be forever linked by what they accomplished here. And also for what might have been.

Bella Alarie, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history, won the von Kienbusch Award. The Roper Trophy was shared by Michael Sowers, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton men's lacrosse history, and Matthew Kolodzik, the wrestler who came back from what was supposed to be a year off to train for the Olympics to compete against Cornell - and help the Tigers end the Big Red's nearly two-decade Ivy title streak while winning their own for the first time in 34 years.

The COVID-19 situation means that there will always be some what-ifs for these three. Would Bella have led the women's basketball team (26-1 at the time) to the Sweet 16? Would Sowers have led the men's lacrosse team all the way (the Tigers were 5-0 and ranked second or third)? Would Kolodzik have won the NCAA title at 149 pounds?

There are no answers to these questions and there will never be. What there is, though, is an unquestionable legacy for all three.

And, as the events of this weekend show, the show indeed will always go on.

It's a sign of a resilience for Princeton Athletics and Princeton University that lends great hope that things will be back to normal again.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Banquet Night

After yesterday's lesson on the history of Florida State University, TigerBlog starts today with Les Horvath.

Raise your hand if you know who he is? He was the first Heisman Trophy winner in Ohio State football history.

Les Horvath was born in South Bend, Ind., which probably bothered at least one Notre Dame fan once he started lighting it up in Columbus before winning the 1944 Heisman.

The only problem, of course, is that Horvath was a 1942 graduate of Ohio State. So how did he end up winning the Heisman two years later?

In the World War II years, especially in 1943 and 1944, college teams had trouble putting together rosters because of the numbers of players who were overseas fighting. As a result, the NCAA passed a rule that said that graduate students could compete, regardless of how many years later it was, as long as they hadn't played four years prior to that.

As a result, Horvath, then an Ohio State dental student, was able to come back and play another year, since he had not played as a freshman. He then won the Heisman in 1944 before going on to a career as a dentist (first in World War II and then in California) with a few years of professional football mixed in.

The point?

The 1944 football season was barely a football season in many ways. Princeton managed to play seven-game schedules in 1943 and 1945 but only played three games in 1944 - against Muhlenberg, Swarthmore and the Atlantic City Naval Air Station.

There was still a Heisman Trophy winner though. Now, when you look at the historical record, it runs continuously from when it was first given in 1936 (including in 1951, when Princeton's Dick Kazmaier was the winner).

TigerBlog brings this up because tonight would have been the announcement of the Tewaaraton Award winners for men's and women's lacrosse. There will be no 2020 winners, though, because the season was cancelled in mid-March, way less than halfway through.

What would TB have done? He sees both sides, but he would have gone with awarding the trophy for two reasons. First, it creates the same continuous record. Second, a Princeton player would have walked away with it in a landslide.

TigerBlog attended last year's ceremony in Washington, D.C., and it was an awesome event. It also came on the same night as another awesome event, the Gary Walters ’67 PVC Awards Banquet.

The same conflict would have come up tonight had this been a normal year. Instead, there will be no Tewaaraton ceremony.

There will, however, be a Gary Walters banquet. It won't be in person in Jadwin Gym, but it will be held nonetheless, with all of the elements that make the regular one such a hit.

There will be the top senior awards. There will be student voices. There will be videos celebrating the entire senior class. There will be some laughs.

It all begins at 8 Eastern time tonight, and anyone anywhere can watch it. To view, simply click HERE.

For the first time, there have been finalists announced for the Art Lane Award (outstanding contribution to sport and society) and the Class of 1916 Cup (highest academic standing). There are, again, nominees for the von Kienbusch Award (top senior female athlete) and Roper Trophy (top male athlete).

You can see the finalists here: von Kienbusch, Roper, Art Lane, 1916.

The Class of 1967 Citizen Athlete Award winner will also be honored. This year's recipient is Wyc Grousbeck of the Class of 1983, a lightweight rower who has gone on to become the owner of the Boston Celtics and a very active civic leader in the Boston community.

The banquet has been an annual tradition for more than 20 years now. As with everything else in this  crazy spring, improvisations had to be made.

And so they have been, thanks to a large part by the hard-work of many of TB's colleagues. And because of them, the show will go on.

That's an 8 pm start tonight. It's another chance to celebrate Princeton's great class of 2020, a class whose careers did not end in a manner any of them could have foreseen not that long ago - and a class who will be even stronger down the road for having gone through this.

Before any of that, though, they all deserve the recognition that awaits them tonight.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Athletics At Princeton, An Encyclopedia

Did you know that the first year that Florida State University had a football team was in 1947?

At least that's the first year of year-by-year results on the school's athletic site. 

TigerBlog expected that year to be much earlier. Like 1926, which was the first year Miami had a football team. Or even earlier, like 1906, when the University of Florida first had a football team.

So what was going on with Florida State? It turns out it's an interesting story. 

Florida State was founded in 1851. From its website: Founded in 1851, it is located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state of Florida.

So why no football until 1947? Well, the school on that site was originally called Florida State College, and the school had a varsity football team in 1902, 1903 and 1904. Then there was nothing until FSU started up in 1947.


Well, in 1905, something called the Buckman Act was passed in Florida, which made a huge change in the way public higher education in the state worked. There were six state colleges at the time, and the Buckman Act created separate schools based on race and gender. Florida State College became Florida Female College, a school only for white women.

The act also created the State Normal School for Colored Students, which today is known as Florida A&M University and is one of the Historically Black Colleges. 

Florida State College remained all women until after World War II, when the number of returning soldiers who wanted to attend school on the GI Bill overwhelmed the system, forcing the school in Tallahassee to go co-ed again. It would not be integrated until 1962, however.

And that's why Florida State University didn't have its official football team until 1947. How did this come up?

Well, TB noticed that Princeton's year-by-year results for football start in 1869, with two games against Rutgers (a 6-4 RU win in the first college football game ever and then an 8-0 Princeton win a week later), and continue with a 6-2 Princeton win over Rutgers in 1870.

For 1871, there are no games listed, only a reference to informal games against the Seminary in which there were no records kept.

TigerBlog also has a book called "Athletics at Princeton," which is an encyclopedia of Princeton sports in the 1800s. It basically has a recap of every athletic event any Princeton team played in the 1800s.

Someone kept pretty incredible records back then.

TB has referred to the book in research many, many times through the years. It also makes for just fascinating reading, starting with the first paragraph of the introduction:

"I would much rather read this book than write the Introduction to it; for it is far easier to feel and recognize the Princeton Spirit in the records of athletic contests than to define and describe it in a prefatory way. But the choice is not left to me, and one thing at least the Princeton Spirit has always meant: when Princeton says to a son of hers 'Do this," he doeth it."

That was written by Henry Van Dyke, Class of 1883.

The book stretches more than 600 pages. TB was asked a question last week about something historical, and he knew the answer was in the book - which was on his desk on Jadwin's E level. So, he went to retrieve the book, and he 1) found the answer and 2) spent about two hours randomly reading stuff in the book.

Henry Van Dyke, by the way, had himself quite a life. He was born in Philadelphia, went to Poly Prep in Brooklyn, graduated from Princeton and the Princeton Theological Seminary and had a long career in education, writing and diplomacy. In fact, Henry's classmate Woodrow Wilson appointed him as Ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg in 1913, and he was there when World War I broke out in Europe and refugees headed to the two countries.

He also wrote a poem that was read years later at Princess Diana's funeral:
Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not. 

Interesting guy.

Anyway, back to the Florida State connection, the book mentions that in 1871, Princeton played games against "the Seminoles." That must be what the Seminary was referred to back in those days, as opposed to the actual Florida State Seminoles.

When TB saw that in the book, it got him to see when FSU first played football, and, well, now you know.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

15 Miles With Jim Barlow

TigerBlog was not where he wanted to be Sunday morning at 10.

Where he wanted to be was on I-95 on his way to Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field, to be exact.

That's where he would have been had this been a normal spring. It would have been Day 2 of the NCAA men's lacrosse Championship Weekend, and TB would have been heading to the Linc for one of his favorite days.

The Sunday of the weekend is always the day for the Division II and Division III championship games. They're a little more laid back than Saturday, which is the Division I semifinals, and certainly Monday, the day of the Division I final and the end of the grind.

The D-II and D-III games offer a chance to see teams that certainly could compete on the Division I level. No, they wouldn't make it to the final weekend, but they would certainly be able to hold their own against most teams.

The day of those two finals starts out with press conferences for the Division I finalists, and the athletic communications groups for both will be up in the press box, getting ready for Monday's game. There is a certain calmness for those games, except of course for the participants.

And there won't be as many people there to cover those two games Sunday, but those who do are the lacrosse diehards who appreciate the spectacle of the moment.

TB certainly does. One thing about the teams from the lower levels is that they usually outclass most of the teams they play, and they also play a lot of games. The result is a stat sheet with players who routinely put up numbers that aren't often seen in Division I.

TB has been the official scorer for every NCAA men's lacrosse Championship Weekend game from 2005 through this weekend. With five games per weekend and 19 years of doing it, that's a total of 95 games. This weekend would have put him at 100 as official scorer on the men's side (he's also done three women's Championship Weekend games as well).

Going back before his role as official scorer, TB had attended every Final Four from 1992 through 2004 except for the three years that the Princeton men were not in it - 1995, 1999 and 2003.

So yes, where TB wanted to be Sunday morning at 10 was on 95, heading to Philly. He'd be aiming to get to the Linc around 10:30, before the 15-minute or so walk from where the workers park into the stadium. Face-off for the first game of Sunday's doubleheader is always 1, but he likes to get there about two hours early to take in the atmosphere and get settled.

So where was he Sunday at 10?

He was arriving in the Jadwin Gym parking lot.

It's a place he's been a lot in his life and not a lot in the last few months, so much so that it feels a bit eerie to be there nowadays. It's been completely empty the few times TB has been there of late, as opposed to its usual fairly packed status.

What was TB doing there? He was meeting up with Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach. It was on a Zoom call a week or so ago that Barlow mentioned he'd been doing a lot of bicycle riding, so TB suggest they head out one day together.

That day was Sunday.

The two did the 15-mile ride around Princeton that TB learned from John McPhee. It's a great ride - not too many hills, roads that are mostly empty so two people can talk and ride easily. And that's what the two of them did.

TB goes back further with Jim Barlow than anyone else in the athletic department at Princeton. TB was covering high school sports in the 1980s, when Barlow was a star soccer player at Hightstown High School, before he went on to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the Ivy League before graduating from Princeton in 1991.

In fact, this makes TB wonder something. How many people have ever won Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors? Hmmm. TB will look that one up.

His first thought was Sabrina King, the women's volleyball coach, but she's only won the last two. She was not Rookie of the Year.

Barlow has always been a TB favorite. They've had a long-standing "lacrosse vs. soccer" banter that has always been fun, and they've shared a lot of experiences together through all these years.

Barlow replaced Bob Bradley, who went on to, among other things, coach the U.S. men's national team and become the first American to be a head coach in the English Premiere League. TB has always said that Bradley is the deepest thinker he's ever been around, not only as a coach but anyone at all. Barlow isn't far behind.

TB can't think of anyone he knows who doesn't like Barlow. He has a reputation of being the most honest person in the world, one who checks the NCAA rule book for any possibly unintentional minor infraction. He's ultra-competitive and laid back at the same time, in a way that reminds TB a bit of Bill Tierney.

His Princeton resume includes five Ivy titles and five NCAA appearances, the most recent of each having come two years ago. He is very much the embodiment of coach-as-teacher, and he's churned out two decades worth of alums who learned a great deal in his classroom.

As they rode on Sunday they talked about anything and everything - the current pandemic, people they both know, what the future might hold, times they'd been together in the past. There was a lot of good conversation mixed with a lot of laughing, and that's pretty much always what you get with Jim Barlow.

It wasn't where TB wanted to be at that time. Still, it was really nice just the same.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Championship Weekend

Anish Shroff, the ESPN announcer, wrote a piece for US Lacrosse in which he chronicled what last weekend's NCAA men's quarterfinal round might have looked like.

His last game of the weekend matched Princeton and Cornell, and he wrote what essentially was a small summary of how the game might have gone. The only thing was that he didn't say how it ended.

Instead, in his story, Anish had the score Princeton 19, Cornell 19, less than a minute to go, shot clock off, Princeton ball. And he just left it at that.

This caused TigerBlog to send him a message, asking him how in the world could he leave the world hanging that way.

TB will say this. If there had been a Princeton-Cornell game in the quarterfinals that was 19-19 for the final possession of regulation, that would have been an extraordinary scene. Also, TB might have been a tad nervous at that point.

Christian Swezey did a different take on the NCAA quarterfinal, or actually the NCAA tournament as a whole. Christian, another member of the lacrosse media, has put together a Table Top Lacrosse game, one that uses dice rolls and statistical analysis to project a play-by-play.

He's applied this to a hypothetical NCAA field, and last weekend he had Princeton over Ohio State in the quarterfinals. According to his game, Princeton is one of three Ivy League schools in the Final Four, with a semifinal schedule of Princeton-Cornell and Yale-Syracuse.

TigerBlog is 100 percent positive that Princeton would have reached Championship Weekend this year in men's lacrosse. He's also 100 percent positive that the Tigers wouldn't have been the only Ivy League school represented.

The best part of all that is that there is no way for anyone to ever prove him wrong.

This weekend would have been the NCAA championships for men's and women's lacrosse. It's TB's favorite annual weekend on the athletic calendar, with great memories of Princeton championships (nine of them between the men and women) and other years where Princeton was not represented but TB felt that they would be there next time.

Since the first Princeton men's NCAA title in 1992, TB has missed only three men's Final Fours - in 1995, 1999 and 2003. And in 2003, he was in the Carrier Dome for the women's championship, which Princeton won by defeating Virginia 8-7 in overtime, something that the women's team celebrated earlier this week.

And by the way, speaking of the women's 2003 final, TB wrote about how Rachael Becker DeCecco shut down Amy Appelt in the final seconds of regulation to force the overtime in the first place. The news came out yesterday of the newest of inductees for the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame, and there was Amy Appelt's name among the members of the class.

Rob Bordley was also on the list after an amazing career as the head coach at Landon, where he became one of five high school coaches ever to reach 600 wins. Bordley is a former Princeton men's player from the Class of 1970.

For every year since 2005, TigerBlog has been part of the official stat crew for the men's championships. This has always meant the men's semifinals Saturday, the Division III and Division II championships Sunday and the men's final Monday.

The Friday before, which would have been today, would have meant practices and press conferences for the competing teams, as well as troubleshooting and making sure everything was ready to go for TB and his colleagues.

All of those championship weekends have taken place in one of three venues - M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, which would have been the site of the one that would be starting now.

It'll be a very strange Memorial Day weekend for TigerBlog with no lacrosse championships. It'll be a strange Memorial Day weekend in general, as with everything else in the spring of 2020.

Next year's men's championships will be in Hartford, at Rentschler Field. It'll be the first time there, and the first time at a non-NFL venue since 2002, when Syracuse defeated Princeton 13-12 in the final at Rutgers Stadium.

Hopefully by next Memorial Day, things will be back to the way they used to be.

As with every other year, TB thinks Princeton will be there.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

AD History

The Gary Walters ’67 Senior Awards Banquet will be held a week from tonight, as it was originally scheduled to be held.

As with everything else in the Spring of 2020, it will be vastly different than what you're used to from years past. This time, it'll be all video, all online.

It makes for a completely different set of logistical challenges. TigerBlog has been impressed with the way his colleagues have pivoted away from what is ordinarily a huge undertaking to come up with something that hopefully will be very special for the Class of 2020.

The banquet is named, of course, for the former Ford Family Director of Athletics. Gary was the Princeton AD from 1994 through 2014, and his loyalty to Princeton dates back long before that.

Gary came from Reading, Pa., to Princeton in 1963 as a point guard in basketball. He would be a three-year varsity starter (freshmen were ineligible then), including on the 1965 NCAA Final Four team, and he would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated along with teammate Chris Thomforde in 1967.

Before he ever came to Princeton, Gary played for Pete Carril at Reading High School. He then played for Butch van Breda Kolff at Princeton, coached under Carril at Princeton, coached Bill Carmody at Union and generally is as big a piece of the Princeton basketball tree as anyone has ever been.

It's amazing to TB that there have been an entire generation of Princeton athletes who have competed here since Gary Walters was the AD. In fact, the last class of athletes who were here when Gary was AD was the Class of 2017, which means that the current seniors are the last group who will have even competed at Princeton with teammates who were here when Gary was the AD.

That's correct, right? For some reason, this is really confusing TB. If Gary left in 2014, then the Class of 2017 would have been freshmen then. And the Class of 2020 would have been freshmen when the Class of 2017 was seniors. So yes. That works.

The list of Directors of Athletics at Princeton is not a long one. Princeton has had five (or possibly seven, depending on how you consider them) actual Directors of Athletics since the position was formalized in 1941.

It wasn't until 1937 that the athletic department existed as a University entity; prior to that, it was an independent association with a separate board to oversee the day-to-day operations. Going way back, there were no coaches, just team captains who ran each sport.

Asa Bushnell was the last head of the board of the athletic association and the first person to oversee athletics when it became absorbed by the University, but his title was never actually "Director of Athletics." Bushnell, interestingly enough, was not an athlete at Princeton (Class of 1921), even though 1) he would go on to have one of the great careers in athletic administration and 2) the Ivy League football Players of the Year win the Bushnell Cup.

The first person to hold that distinction was Ken Fairman, who served as actual Director of Athletics from 1941 through 1973, a 32-year tenure that is the longest of any Tiger AD. Fairman was also the head basketball coach before he became the AD, but he played football at Princeton, not basketball.

Fairman also left Princeton to serve as an Army officer during World War II. During that time, Howard Stepp was the acting AD. Stepp, it turns out, was a fascinating guy who was the head coach of the men's swimming and diving team and then the University registrar for nearly 20 more after that.

Stepp also started the Polish Olympic program and found himself in Poland just as World War II began, forcing him to flee that country. What TB hasn't been able to find out about Stepp is if he actually attended Princeton, but he'll get to the bottom of that.

Royce Flippen, a football player and 1953 grad, was AD from 1973-79, and then Robert Myslik took over from 1979 until Walters arrived in 1994. Myslik, TB always thought, was on the soccer team, but it turns out he was a baseball player.

Since 2014, of course, it's been Mollie Marcoux Samaan. She played soccer and hockey at Princeton.

And that's the entire list of people who have been Princeton's AD.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Throwback To 2003

TigerBlog very vividly can remember back more than 17 years now, to a Friday afternoon in 2003, when he drove from Princeton to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

It was going to be a big lacrosse weekend for Princeton in Central New York.

The NCAA women's Final Four would be there, with a game Friday night between Princeton and Loyola, followed by the men's quarterfinal Saturday between Princeton and Syracuse and then hopefully the Princeton women in Sunday's championship game. Yes, it was a big weekend, and a convenient one at that.

For the record, the Princeton men lost to Syracuse 15-5 in the quarterfinals. The Princeton women defeated Loyola 5-3 in the semifinal and then Virginia 8-7 in overtime in the final.

David Rosenfeld, who had previously had two stints in Princeton's Office of Athletic Communications, was then the women's lacrosse contact at Loyola. For some reason, he rode from Princeton with TB and with Mark Eckel, then a sportswriter for the Trenton Times.

Why was David with us? Hmmm. TB can't remember that part.

TB flashed back to that weekend the other night, when the Princeton women's lacrosse team held a "Tiger Throwback" to go back to that Final Four. Chris Sailer, the head coach then and now, was joined by three players from the 2003 team: Theresa Sherry, Whitney Miller Nye and Rachael Becker DeCecco.

It was a really good event, and the players and coach all did a great job.

TB remembered a lot about the championship game, but especially the turnover that Alex Fiore caused (with help from Elizabeth Pillion) to get Princeton the ball back down one with less than two minutes to go, which then led to Miller Nye's tying goal. And then there was the OT, when Sherry scored what would be the game-winner (women's OT was two three-minute periods back then).

There were all kinds of rules that were different then. There was no shot clock (which explains why the scores were so low). There were no boundaries, so the player closest to the ball went it went out of bounds got the ball, regardless of who actually knocked it out. There were no man-down situations because of cards. Most amazingly, there wasn't a single eight-meter shot by either team in the championship game.

There was one part TB didn't remember, and that was the job that Becker DeCecco did on Amy Appelt in the final seconds of regulation in the final. The game was tied at 7-7 and UVa had the ball and a chance to win it, only to have Becker DeCecco completely wiped out Appelt, who isolated on her and counted the time down before going into her move, much like Michael Jordan would have.

Of course, Becker DeCecco was no ordinary defender. In fact, she remains the only male or female defender ever to win the Tewaaraton Award as the top player in college lacrosse. 

Still, if you talk about the 2003 NCAA women's lacrosse Final Four, you have to talk about the biggest story leading into it, and that was Loyola coach Diane Geppi-Aikens. Her team was the No. 1-ranked team in the country, and they were trying to win a championship for their coach, who was dying from brain cancer.

It was an awful story, but also an inspiring one. Here was Loyola, generating national news as it rallied around its courageous coach, who did not have much time left.

Geppi-Aikens, who was a revered figure in women's lacrosse, approached her situation with great grace and courage. It was not an easy position for Princeton to be in, since there wasn't a Tiger there who didn't respect what Loyola was going through and Geppi-Aikens' spirit.

As it turned out, Geppi-Aikens died a little more than a month after the game. TigerBlog admired the way Princeton approached that game, and the honor that Princeton brought to Geppi-Aikens and the moment.

As for the call Monday night, TB took some notes as he watched.

First, there was Sailer, who said that her team "didn't have a lot to defend; it had a lot to earn." This was reflected in its t-shirts, which said "Different Team, Same Dream."

He remembered Sherry's goal, but he didn't  remember the spin move that started her drive to the cage. He did remember that Sherry's goal, in the second OT period, gave Princeton its only lead of the game.

Sherry talked about how they learned to endure and be tough, and how those lessons apply in this surreal time. Becker DeCecco, who has done broadcasting now for ESPN+, did what most great players do - credited her teammates.

And for the last word, TB will go to Miller Nye. After the video ended and Princeton started to celebrate, she summed it all up perfectly.

"I get chills every time I watch it," she said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Women's Athletics ’82

TigerBlog would like to welcome his new readers from the Class of 1982.

For the second time this spring, TB was part of a Class of 1982 Zoom call related to athletics. The first one was about the 1981 football game against Yale, the one where Princeton won 35-31 on Bob Holly's touchdown run on the final play, after he threw for 501 yards, as the Tigers ended a 14-year losing streak to the Bulldogs.

That call was great. TB wrote about that one HERE.

The second one was this past Sunday night. This time it was a celebration the women athletes of the Class of 1982.

TigerBlog was invited to speak about Princeton women's athletic history. When he was first introduced, his daily blog was mentioned, and several members of the audience said they hadn't heard of it.

TB then told them where to find it, and hopefully they're here now. And as he said on the call, there are more than 3,000 you can catch up on if you like.

In all seriousness, thanks for reading. And thanks for including him on the call Sunday night.

TigerBlog can sum it up fairly succinctly. The Class of 1982 produced extraordinary women athletes, and those athletes have gone on to become incredibly successful beyond Princeton, all while staying really close with each other.

It doesn't get too much better than that.

Princeton won 20 women's championships in the four years that the Class of 1982 was on campus. The next-best total was 12, by Yale. No other school had more than six.

During their four years, Princeton's Class of 1982 swept the Ivy titles in outdoor track and field and swimming. There was no official indoor track and field championship until their junior year of 1980-81, and Princeton won that one and the next one.

There was no Ivy League champion in women's squash until 1983, but the women's squash Class of 1982 graduated with a record of 25-0 and three Howe Cup national championships.

The class saved its best for last, winning Ivy League championships in eight women's sports in 1981-82. Because of the success of the women's teams, Princeton in their sophomore year reached 10 Ivy titles, marking the first time in league history that a school had reached double figures. The second time was a year later with 11, and the third time was a year after that with 12 total.

TigerBlog is in the process of writing the history of women's athletics at Princeton, which turns 50 this fall. He'll be doing this in a series of stories, tracing how Princeton went from an all-male school to a national model for women's athletics and did so in a very short time.

To date it's been one of his favorite things that he's worked on here, and it's only going to continue to be more interesting as it goes along. The event Sunday night certainly contributed to the project.

The first women's athletic event in Princeton history was on Oct. 17, 1970, when Helena Novakova and Margie Gengler competed in the Eastern Intercollegiate tennis tournament (and won it). It was less than a decade later that the Class of 1982 arrived.

Women's athletics weren't quite in their infancy, but it was still a formative time for the program. Having the group of women who were on the call Sunday night built on the foundation set by the earliest pioneers and then set the stage for the amazing successes that followed, through to the modern era.

One thing that stood out on the call was the high percentage of multi-sport athletes in the group. There was a time when there were way more multi-sport athletes for both men and women, and TB often says when asked on the subject that there are fewer multi-sport athletes in eighth grade, let alone college, because of how the youth sports system almost demands specialization.

Still, the number of women who played two or even three sports was extraordinary. Even more so was the number of women who played a sport at Princeton that they hadn't yet played before they got there.

What it speaks to is their competitive nature, their drive, their ferocity. They spoke about how important their athletic experience was to them then and how much it has impacted them since. With the number of doctors and lawyers and other successes on the call, it's clear that the impact has been quite for the positive.

As with the football call, TB greatly enjoyed being a part of it and having the opportunity to hear them. And now to include them in the story of women's history at Princeton.

Their place is certainly a big part of the story.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Yo. Yo. Yo. Yo.

TigerBlog was riding his bike yesterday afternoon when he came across an intersection where he had the right of way and a pickup truck was coming to a stop sign at a T in the road.

There were no cars coming in either direction, and TB could tell the pickup truck was ready to pull out. The only thing he couldn't tell was whether or not the driver of the truck saw that TB was pedaling towards him.

And yes, as he said, TB had the right of way. He also had a bicycle, and the pickup truck, to quote the legendary Red Foxx, would "go over the bicycle one time, with nothing left over."

This gave TB two choices: stop, or keep going and hope that the driver saw him. Then TB saw a third option.

The driver side window was down, so TigerBlog had a chance to get the driver's attention. And what did he say?

"Yo. Yo. Yo. Yo."

The driver smiled and said he saw TB and waved him on. Whether he actually saw him or not before he called out to him, TB will never know.

A few moments later, back to his peaceful ride, TB was unsure why, in a potentially life-threatening situation where he needed to get someone's attention quickly, he turned to an imitation of Pete Carril.

Maybe it's because he's seen the Hall-of-Fame former Princeton basketball coach stop conversations, yelling, disagreements, loud drills in practice - pretty much anything - by saying firmly "yo, yo, yo, yo."

But what is ingrained in TB that led him to channel Carril at that moment?


This was a good weekend to get out and ride, or walk, or do something outdoors. As is tradition around here, April has become one of the coldest months of the year, and it sometimes lingers into May. Then, all of the sudden, it goes from 50 degrees, windy, rainy and raw to summer, as it did Saturday, when temperatures vaulted into the mid-80s. They reached the 70s yesterday.

Whatever happened to a whole month of spring days where it would be sunny, low humidity and highs in the 60s? 

Anyway, TB's ride yesterday started and ended at the College of New Jersey, which was Trenton State College back when TB was in the newspaper business. Other than Princeton, TB covered more games at TCNJ than he did at any other school.

He met great coaches and administrators there too. He saw some epic games, especially in football and men's basketball, and he never, ever covered a game - about 50 in all he'd guess - where another legend, TCNJ field hockey/lacrosse coach Sharon Pfluger coached and didn't win.

However many times he covered a game Pluger coached, she won. As in "whatever and 0."

There's a 1.8-mile circular road around the college, and TB starts his 11-mile ride on that road and ends it back there. As he rode there yesterday, it took him to his earliest days covering college athletics and how much he learned - especially about gender equity - from covering games on that campus.

His ride Saturday was different. For that one, TB did the 15-mile loop that John McPhee taught him around Princeton.

For that ride, TB started and ended in the parking lot of Jadwin Gym.

When he pulled his car into the parking lot, the first thing that happened was that someone honked at him. When he looked up, he saw his good friend Steve DiGregorio, the former Princeton assistant football coach and longtime New Jersey high school football coach.

Digger, as everyone calls him, is one tough guy. He and his family have battled against a rare disease that has threatened his middle of three sons, Derek, and Digger has had to plow through his own health issues as well.

TB hadn't seen him since before the COVID-19 shutdown, but Digger is looking good, and strong. He has long been a marvel to TigerBlog, as have all the DiGregorios.

After talking with Digger and his youngest son Aaron for a few minutes, it was time to ride. The first part of the ride took him across the campus, one he has been to a million times but one that he hasn't seen much of lately. As he rode, he went back to all of the times he'd been there, all of the things that he'd seen along the way there.

Like Jadwin. And Princeton Stadium. And Baker Rink And Class of 1952 Stadium. Or the Grad College. Or Dillon Gym. All of it. 

After he leaves the campus, the ride takes him past Springdale to the Institute for Advanced Study. Eventually it ends up back on Harrison Street and then back to Jadwin.

As TB made a left down FitzRandolph Road, he went past where his children went to nursery school a long time ago. When he looked to his right, he saw the new softball field and Clarke Field, and beyond that the football stadium.

And then it was back to where his car was, in the same parking lot he's been parking since the 1980s.

Funny, it looked a little different Saturday, and not just because it was empty.

It's because he wasn't really taking it for granted this time.

If anything has come of this surreal Coronavius spring, it's not to take anything for granted. Especially not someplace as beautiful as Princeton University.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Coal Miners' Grandson

TigerBlog has known Frank Sowinski for a long time.

He knew he was from East Hanover, N.J. He knew he was the Ivy League men's basketball Player of the Year in 1977.

For that matter, he knew that he was Princeton's second Ivy Player of the Year and second straight, after Armond Hill won it in 19767.

He even knew that Sowinski scored 1,133 points in his Princeton career.

He had no idea until he read yesterday's "Journey To Jadwin" entry about Sowinski, however, that both of his grandparents were coal miners in Northeast Pennsylvania. Or that he was moved to becoe the basketball player he became by Bill Bradley, and more specifically by reading John McPhee's book "A Sense Of Where You Are" on Bradley and specifically his senior year of 1964-65.

What really stands out in the book is Bradley's work ethic, in particular his routine of practicing thousands of shots from specific points on the court until he could make them from the feel of where he was, with, essentially, a sense of where he was.

McPhee, by the way, started his writing career with Time magazine and submitted several stories to the New Yorker in hopes of gaining a position there. He was finally accepted with "A Sense Of Where You Are," which started as a magazine piece and then grew into McPhee's first book.

For a young Frank Sowinski, that book resonated deeply, and it made him want to be the best player he could be. His climb wasn't an easy one, since he didn't make the varsity in high school until his junior year and that he was once told by a coach that baseball was his only chance of being a serious athlete.

The "Journey To Jadwin" series is five entries in so far, with stories about Spencer Weisz, Doug Davis, T.J. Bray and John Rogers prior to the one about Sowinski. You can read about Sowinski HERE and find links to the others on the bottom of the story.

The stories have all been good, and the pictures that accompany them have made them even better. There's even a picture of Sowinski in a Little League baseball uniform with the team name "TIGERS" across the front.

There's also a really good story about Sowinski's recruitment to Princeton and how Pete Carril came to see him play in high school after he caught the eye of then-assistant coach Gary Walters after he had a huge game one night. When Carril came to see him, Sowinski got in early foul trouble, but the way he encouraged his teammates while he was on the bench impressed Carril.

From the story:
“I played well for the time I was on the floor but got in foul trouble and had to sit down,” said Sowinski. “I remember my mom went up to Coach Carril and said ‘I guess you’re not interested in him anymore’ and I guess it was my behavior on the bench he liked. I was cheering my teammates on, I was trying to give advice to other people and he said ‘When I saw him on the bench, I wanted him more.’ That’s how it all started.”

That is completely something Carril would have said.

The story about the coal mining grandfathers is also very touching. Sowinski talks about how his two grandfathers grew up not far from each other and how their houses were right on the railroad tracks that took the coal out of Northeastern Pennsylvania, making the houses literally shake.

Sowinski's father went to college on the GI Bill after World War II, the story says. Then Sowinski attended Princeton.

He's had a long and successful business career. He's also one of the great champions of Princeton athletes, with a long tenure of service to the Princeton Varsity Club and the Friends of Princeton Basketball and a valued role as a supporter of Walters and now Mollie Marcoux Samaan as Ford Family Director of Athletics. The list of Princetonians he has helped is way too long to count.

He's a tall man, and a welcoming, friendly man. He always has a smile and a positive attitude, and he's one of the greatest success stories Princeton Athletics has ever produced. He is in many ways the embodiment of what Princeton is trying to produce - an Ivy League Player of the Year, an Ivy League champion and a man whose commitment to guiding the future generations of Princeton athletes and the loyalty he's shown the University are unwavering.

It was a really good story to read.

And it was written about a very deserving subject.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Beating Jordan

Have you ever heard of a comedian named Brian Regan?

TigerBlog had never heard of him until recently, when he stumbled on him on Netflix. He's tremendous.

TB's favorite bit of his is the "Me Monster" bit. It's hysterical.

The essential premise is that people are inclined to talk about themselves and are determined to top whatever story you just told. He tells a really funny joke about being at a cocktail party and bringing up how he had two wisdom teeth out, only to have "the four wisdom tooth people come parachuting in."

He concludes by saying that he wishes he had been one of the 12 people who have walked on the moon, as they have an untoppable story. His way of telling it is better.

See for yourself:

That's funny stuff.

Every one knows the names of the first two people who walked on the moon. The first was Neil Armstrong. The second was Buzz Aldrin.

Did you know that the third was Pete Conrad, Princeton Class of 1953?

Those 12 people are about the only ones who could top John Rogers, Princeton Class of 1980. As the "me monsters" are doing their thing, Rogers can calmly wait it out, only to interject his story.

"So I beat Michael Jordan in one-on-one," he could say.

And he did.

The story is a famous one. Rogers, a former Princeton men's basketball captain, played a game of one-on-one at a camp against Jordan in 2003.

After Jordan's career ended with the Washington Wizards (it's like whatever Tom Brady will do with Tampa Bay; nobody will ever remember it), Jordan had a series of camps for seniors, sort of like the baseball fantasy camps. Rogers attended, and he got to play in one of the games Jordan would play against the players at the camp.

They'd be one-on-one to three baskets.

Rogers, who played for Pete Carril and through pretty much hard work and dedication worked his way from a program afterthought to a starter and captain, went from Princeton to a career in financial services that saw him become founder and CEO of the incredibly successful Ariel Investments.

He is also a close friend of former President Obama, and he has worked with, and played basketball with, the former President many times.

TB had heard the story of how Rogers came to beat Jordan in the one-on-one game many times before. It's told beautifully in a story on the website The Undefeated, by Jerry Bembry.

You can read it HERE.

Jordan, of course, is back in the spotlight lately because of the ESPN series "The Last Dance," a 10-part documentary, told over five Sundays, about Jordan that focuses on the 1998 Chicago Bulls season, when the team won its sixth NBA title. Along the way it has been telling Jordan's complete story, from when he was a kid in North Carolina, through everything that happened along the way of his playing career.

As TB said in an earlier post, it's an incredible documentary, for many reasons. First, there's Jordan, the greatest athlete TB has ever seen. His story alone is compelling, and most of the events are familiar if you remember seeing him play. When they're told again in the documentary, they remind you of every one of them all over again.

Second, the access is insane. It's like cameras followed Jordan everywhere for years, not just in 1997-98, and all of that footage has just been sitting there.

Third, there are the interviews. Every time a story is told, you think to yourself about what the people involved in the story might say. Then they appear on screen - and they're all being so brutally honest about their memories and emotions.

It's great stuff. Unfortunately, there are only two more episodes to go.

So far the story about Rogers hasn't been in the documentary. The way the game unfolded was that Jordan was used to simply thumping all of the players at the camp, regardless of how good they'd been at basketball.

Now it was Rogers' turn, and he, well, TB doesn't want to ruin it for you. Let Jerry Bembry tell you the story. Or you can see it for yourself:

The first video TB had for you today will make you laugh.

The second one will make you smile.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Rocking Chair

TigerBlog has been at this for awhile.

It was back in September of 1983 when he first wrote a story for a newspaper. He had no experience and no idea what he was doing. He had a friend who worked as a sportswriter who told him that the paper was looking for people to cover high school football and would TB be interested.

Sure, TB said.

He also pointed out that he had never written a story before and would that be a problem? Nope, he was assured.

And so he was off to cover the game between Pennington and Academy of the New Church. It wasn't much of a game. Pennington won easily, breaking the school record for the longest winning streak in school history.

That was TB's start. Or detour, more accurately.

To that point, he thought he might end up in law school after graduating from college. Instead, as his friend said, "when you get the ink in your blood, you never get it out."

From that day on, TB was hooked on writing about sports. He'd spend 11 years in the newspaper business, eventually moving up from covering high schools to colleges.

He'd have great experiences and meet great people at the other schools he covered (Rider, Trenton State College, Mercer County College, Rutgers), but his favorite was always Princeton. There was just something about covering Princeton Athletics that worked for him, which is odd, considering, you know, he went to Penn.

In 1994 Mark Panus, who was at the time the Manager of Sports Media Relations (essentially the SID) told TB, with whom he'd worked for five years, that he was leaving. TB immediately jumped at the chance to take his place, applying and getting the job.

He remembers being asked on his interview where he thought he'd be in five years or 10 years. His answer was clear: working at Princeton still.

And that's how it turned out.

Five years. Ten years. Fifteen years. Twenty years. Twenty five years.

He's almost through 26 years of being employed by Princeton.

By virtue of having passed the quarter-century mark, TB was entitled to choose from a selection of gifts. This is something that you get to do when you are there for 25, 30, 35, 40, etc.

As TB looked through the available items, there was really only one he wanted.

The rocking chair.

Actually, TB has been wanting it for a few years, ever since he passed the 20 mark. And he had to wait until he got to 25. Well, he had to wait til almost 26, since he started shortly after the cutoff from last year.

He chose the chair in February. Then he sort of forgot about it - until it showed up in a very big box the other day.

The first thing he did was take the chair out of the box. The second thing he did was attach the rockers on backwards. The third thing he did was take them off and put them on the correct way.

That little misstep notwithstanding, the chair means a great deal to him. It's a symbol of all of the games, all of the experiences, all of the travel, all of the people he's met - and especially all of the athletes and coaches he's worked with during all of those years.

He can't begin to calculate how many miles he's driven to attend Princeton games - or flown for that matter. He can't even guess how many games he's gone to in those years.

He does know that he's seen Princeton play in eight different time zones. He knows that he's spent a lot of nights on the roads back from so many places, especially Ivy League locations. He knows that some of the very best people he's ever met he's done so solely because he worked for Princeton Athletics.

When he started there, he had no children. Now one is a college graduate and the other is a Princeton student.

It's been an amazing time. It's not what you think of when you think of a normal job and presumably the drudgery that can come with it.

It's been the opposite, a quarter-century of championships, big wins, some excruciating losses and a lot of laughs along the way.

And now he has the chair that represents all of that. He's prouder of that chair than he thought he'd be.

One day, according to the plan, the rocking chair will sit out on the deck of TB's retirement beach house, though not for many more years. When he sits in it, he'll remember where it came from - and the surreal spring when the games stopped.

And he'll cherish it always.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dr. Glenn Wakam

Until Sunday night, TigerBlog had never spoken to Glenn Wakam.

He was the public address announcer who informed the 9,483 fans at Princeton Stadium back on Nov. 14, 2009, that it was in fact Wakam who had intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter of a game against Yale.

At the time, Princeton was ahead 21-17 with six minutes to play. Wakam's pick set up a field goal, and the final was Princeton 24, Yale 17.

That was essentially the extent of TB's interaction with Wakam until the two texted last week and then spoke Sunday. Since then, TB has learned a lot about Glenn Wakam, and all of it has been impressive.

Glenn Wakam is now a surgical resident, in the fourth year of a seven-year program that will see him become a transplant surgeon. He is doing his residency in the Detroit area.

For almost a year he'd also been working some shifts in local community hospitals in their ICUs, doing basic patient care, to pick up extra money on nights and weekends. What happened next was not what he expected at all.

Into those community hospital ICUs flooded a bunch of COVID-19 patients, and suddenly he was at the center one of the largest outbreaks in the country. The experience accelerated his education, that's for sure.

TigerBlog has already written about other former Princeton athletes who are now doctors and who have been thrown into the fight against the virus. There was the story of Evan Garfein, a 1992 NCAA champion men's lacrosse player, and then Liza Hartofilis, who won a pair of NCAA titles (in 2002 and 2003) with the women's team.

Both Garfein and Hartofilis have been working in New York City. Garfein actually caught the virus, recovered and went back to work in the ER.

TB's fear in writing about Wakam was that he'd be writing the same story all over again. In almost any other case, that wouldn't be something he'd like to do.

In these days, he can't tell the story enough.

You have former Princeton athletes out there - beyond just these three - who are doing so much to treat people during these awful times. Every one of them is doing something heroic, even if they wouldn't admit it.

Their stories are all the same, and yet they're also unique.

In Wakam's case, he's the son of immigrants from Cameroon, his mother a doctor and his father a chemical engineer. He grew up in Southern California, excelled athletically and academically, came to Princeton and played four years of football (starting at cornerback on Bob Surace's first team) and then went to medical school at the University of California at San Francisco.

You can read the whole story HERE.

There other links at the top of the story, one that will take you to a podcast featuring Wakam in which he talks about an issue that he clearly has a great deal of passion for, the way that the virus has been disproportionately affecting minority communities, and then another link to a story he wrote that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Those are both worth your time.

This is from the NEJM story:
My patient’s wife arrives at the emergency department at 1:30 a.m., despite having been told she would not be allowed to see her husband. I go to meet her, and we discuss her husband’s continued decline. Unfortunately, in the middle of the conversation, a Code Blue rings from the overhead speaker for a patient in the ICU. I step away and find myself entering her husband’s room, where CPR is already in progress.
After 90 minutes of CPR, epinephrine, and defibrillations, my patient still has not regained a sustained pulse. I somberly call time of death. One of the nurses in the hallway has been in contact with the wife throughout the process and has informed her of the death; she now has the wife on FaceTime so that she can see her husband. When she recognizes him in the distorted image, she lets out a wail of sorrow. She is in the midst of her final goodbyes when I have to excuse myself from the room: another patient with Covid-19 is deteriorating a few rooms over.

This is what he's been dealing with. What they've all been dealing with.

Their stories are amazing, even if they are somewhat similar.

And as TB has said before, they're all heroic. They are the very best of Princeton Athletics.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Two Thumbs And A Send Button

Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog, is an information sciences professor.

He told TB an interesting story about a time he was talking about how in the Soviet Union, typewriters had to be registered and getting typewriter ribbons was nearly impossible. He said this prompted a very interesting, very serious question, from one of the students in the lecture hall.

"What," asked the student with the raised hand, "is a typewriter ribbon."

This led to a quick search of typewriter ribbons, which led to a YouTube video of millennials as they were handed an old manual typewriter and a piece of paper and had to try to figure out what do to make it work.

TigerBlog learned to type on a manual typewriter. When he went to college, he was the only one on his floor freshman year who had an electric typewriter. That's how old he is.

The millennials in the video couldn't figure out how to load the paper, or how to return the page from the right to the left. The bell that singled you were getting close to the margin scared a few of them.

When the video was over, Joe said, one of the students commented that "wow, back then you really had to think about what you wanted to say before you wrote it."

That could be among the wiser things that TB has ever heard.

The point was that making corrections on a typewriter was difficult. TB was lucky, because his electric typewriter came with built-in correct tape. No messing around with white out for him.

Since correcting typos (or simply changing your mind after you'd written something) was really difficult, you had to be sure about what path you were going down before you started to hit the keys. And then you had to be careful.

Hey, in that last paragraph alone, TB made three typos that he had to hit the "delete" key for to correct. Imagine if he had to go back and grab the correct tape or the white out every time he made one? He'd never get done.

The last paragraph featured only one typo to correct. This one is up to three. There. Three.

Now he's not even thinking about what he's writing, only about how many times he has to go back and hit "delete." This was a four-delete paragraph. Make it seven. He had three in that one sentence alone.

The global point about thinking about what you say before you write it is somewhat obvious in the modern context. It's easy to hit "send" before something is completely thought out.

Think of how much trouble people have gotten into because of that little issue. As TB says to Princeton's athletes, when he first started, to get yourself into trouble for something you said, you needed to first say something dumb and then you had to say it to someone who would then reproduce it in another medium. Now all you need is a phone, two thumbs and the "send button."

Of course, Princeton is fortunate to have the kinds of athletes it does, and so the good that comes of hitting "send" outweighs the bad by a factor of thousands.

Yesterday was one of the best days for Princeton and social media. It was Mothers' Day, and there were dozens of posts of Princeton's current players and alums and their mothers.

Here are a few of the really good ones:

The one on the bottom is Princeton men's lacrosse player Jacob Stoebner.

Those are great. There were so many others that were tremendous as well.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time in his life immersed in youth and club sports, TB can tell you first hand what sacrifices mothers make for their kids to get them to be able to compete at a level like Princeton. It's a sacrifice of love of course, and the memories that were created during those years will last forever.

They were times of a lot of joy, and it wasn't just because of the success or failure of a game or a tournament. They were major bonding experiences for families. For everything bad you've ever heard about youth sports and club sports - and there are many bad parts - there is no mistaking what they do for the people involved in them.

And so it's great to see Princeton's athletes thanking their moms yesterday.

They certainly deserved the shout out.

And to those who lost their moms? TB can relate, and no Mothers' Day since his own left him 26 years ago has been unemotional.

Gone, but the memories are still there. And they will never go away.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Bouncing Around

Are you bouncing off the walls during the quarantine period?

Today TigerBlog will be bouncing around a bit. Here he goes:

* Yesterday's entry talked about TB's favorite Ivy League athlete from another school that he's seen (but not rooted for, of course) in the time he's been at Princeton.

He wrote about Harvard men's basketball player Tim Hill, and he got some pretty good feedback about some others. Peter Cordrey, whose son Emmet was a men's lacrosse player who graduated in 2019, suggested his daughter Kyla, who played field hockey at Harvard. TB is guessing Peter, himself a Princeton alum and one of the top goalies in the history of the men's lacrosse team, probably rooted for Harvard in the games against the Tigers.

TB also got another person who said Jay Fiedler. TB hadn't thought of Fieldler actually, but he would probably have been 1A had TB remembered.

Fiedler was the quarterback at Dartmouth in the early 1990s. He was the Big Green quarterback for what has to be one of the five craziest games TB has ever seen, the 1993 Princeton-Dartmouth game on the final day of the season.

Both teams went into the game 5-1 in the league, a game behind unbeaten Penn, who was playing Cornell. To get a share of the title, the teams both needed a win and a Penn loss against Cornell.

The game in Hanover was close throughout, and Penn was actually behind Cornell, who was 3-3 in the league, for most of the game in Ithaca. This was also in the pre-overtime days, so a tie between Princeton and Dartmouth would eliminate both teams.

And, of course, the teams would end up tied 22-22 in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. As a result, both teams had to take chances they never would have in a game with overtime, or if a tie hadn't meant their championship hopes vanished. Picture teams going for it on fourth-and-long in their own territory in a 22-22 game late in the fourth quarter.

Dartmouth, who added to the fun by not having a placekicker (not a good kicker, but no kicker at all), eventually won 28-22. Fiedler threw for something like 220 yards in the fourth quarter, and Keith Elias ran for 188 yards on 38 carries. Both went on to long NFL careers.

* Speaking of people who are hard to root against but whom TB will find a way to do just that, Harvard hired TB's former colleague at Princeton Erin McDermott as its new Director of Athletics. Erin will take over for Bob Scalise, who is retiring after 20 years as Harvard's AD.

Erin will come to Cambridge from the University of Chicago, where she was the Director of Athletics for the last seven years. She came to Princeton as an intern and left 13 years later as the No. 2 person in the department.

Now she takes over at Harvard. TB wishes his friend and former colleague the very best - except when the Crimson are playing Princeton.

* Today is the 50th anniversary of when the New York Knicks won the 1970 NBA championship, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 113-99 in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks would add a second championship in 1973 and have not won another since.

In other words, it seems the Knicks can't win without Bill Bradley.

The seventh game of the 1970 NBA finals was the famous "Willis Reed" game, when the injured Knicks big man and captain came out of the locker room just before tip off and then made two medium-range jump (or hobble) shots and then came out of the game. New York's starting five that day consisted of players from Grambling (Reed), Tennessee State (Dick Barnett), Southern Illinois (Walt Frazier), Detroit-Mercy (Dave DeBusschere) and Princeton (Bradley).

Four of those five (all but Barnett) are in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Frazier had the monster game that night, with 36 points, 19 assists and seven rebounds. Bradley had 17 points, five assists and four rebounds in the win.

* TigerBlog isn't sure why, but he's always like Joe Maddon, the Major League manager. Maybe it's because he's someone in sports who is older than TB? Maybe it's the glasses? Maybe it's because he's usually been associated with underdogs.

Whatever it is, TB has always been a fan.

Maddon was part of a Zoom call with the Princeton baseball team earlier this week. Included on the call was Princeton alum (and World Series champion) Chris Young.

Here's his tweet about his experience:
* Finally, Happy Mothers' Day to all the Princeton Athletic moms out there, and all the moms, Princeton or not.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Answer Is Tim Hill

TigerBlog's statement from yesterday that there was no chance that there could ever be a Michael Jordan-type Ivy League athlete from another school who would be so mesmerizing that TB wouldn't be able to root against him or her, even when that athlete played against Princeton, drew two interesting emails.

The first was this: "Who, then, would be your favorite all-time Ivy League athlete from another school since you've been at Princeton?" That's a good question.

The second was this: "Understandable about not letting an athlete from another Ivy school get you to root against Princeton. But what about Brian Earl? A favorite Princeton athlete who now coaches against Princeton."

Also a good question.

The answer to the first is easy. Connor Fletcher, currently a senior at Cornell on the men's lacrosse team.

TB was Connor's first lacrosse coach, back when he and Connor's dad Dan coached together in Lower Bucks Lacrosse, when TigerBlog Jr. was Connor's teammate. That would have been when Connor was in third grade and TBJ was in fourth.

The team back then was called the Barrage, named by TBJ after his favorite Major League Lacrosse team at the time. The Barrage was TBJ's favorite because it had Princeton alums Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel, by the way.

TigerBlog couldn't help but think back to that when he saw that the actual Barrage had drafted Fletcher earlier this week. In fact, TB texted Dan Fletcher to remind him that it was the second time Connor had been selected by a team called the Barrage.

What? You're saying that Fletcher doesn't count because he's not just someone TB didn't know who played for another team?

Okay, how about Tim Hill, who played basketball at Harvard during the late 1990s and was a four-time All-Ivy selection, including first-team his senior year. Hill went 1-7 in his eight career games against Princeton, all of which TB saw in person, but he played really hard for every minute he was out there, which was usually every minute of the game.

TB went back and looked up the eight box scores from when Hill played against Princeton. One of the box scores, from Hill's freshman year, was cut off where the minutes would have been listed.

Of the other seven games, he averaged exactly 40 minutes per game. That's 280 minutes in seven games, plus however many he played in the other game his freshman year, with no fewer than 37 in any of those games. How many players have ever played more career minutes against Princeton?

He went all 45 of the one win Harvard had against Princeton in his career, when he scored 27 points, with only one made three-pointer (on two attempts) and 10 for 12 foul shooting. That was Hill in a nutshell. He was small (TB remembers that he was less than six-feet tall) but he loved to shoot floaters in the lane and draw contact.

He was easy to root for - even if TB never rooted for him. He can still, more than 20 years later, remember how annoyed he was that Princeton lost that game at Harvard that night.

If you remember the 1999 Ivy men's basketball season, that was the year that Princeton had the wild comeback win at the Palestra, winning 50-49 after being behind 29-3 at one point and 40-13 with 16 minutes left in the game. Penn, though, won the league title because the Tigers lost twice to other teams, once to Yale in a very strange game in which there was confusion as to whether a shot was a two or a three by the Bulldogs in the final seconds of the second OT in the game after the Penn comeback and then the one at Harvard.

As for that game at Harvard that night, Brian Earl also played all 45 minutes, as did Gabe Lewullis.

And yes, Brian Earl is an all-time favorite Princeton athlete for TigerBlog (as is Lewullis).

Rooting against Earl is not easy, but TB manages to find a away to do so when he's coaching against the Tigers.

He will say that's the closest he's ever come to rooting for someone else against Princeton.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Last Dance

TigerBlog had a Zoom call yesterday with the Office of Athletic Communications group.

The OAC has been meeting twice a week via Zoom this spring, each Tuesday and Friday. They've been good discussions, a blend of thoughts about content to be produced in the present and what the future might look like.

There are all sorts of topics that have come up, going in every conceivable way as it relates to athletic communications. These are challenging times for everyone everywhere in every walk of life, and the challenges others face far exceed the ones that TB and his colleagues do.

At the same time, there are challenges, and one of them is to come up with ways to keep people engaged during a spring without actual athletic events. The focus has been varied, with stories and video pieces on the athletes, on senior days, on nostalgia.

TB thinks his colleagues have done a great job, especially considering that they don't have the standard access to Jadwin Gym, the archives, their offices and the Levine Broadcast Center.

The calls have also been fun. It's good to see all of his colleagues, especially the ones he would be spending most of his time with on Jadwin E level.

As he thinks about the office suite in which he has not been in nearly two months, he hopes that nobody left anything in the fridge that needed to be thrown away.

The OAC call yesterday was scheduled for 1:30, only there was a meeting before it than ran long, meaning that one of the five people on the OAC call hadn't yet joined.

So what do communications people talk about with some time to kill?

Well, for one, it was who might have been the Athlete of the Week had all of the events that had been scheduled for the week been played. That was a good subject.

Each week the OAC staff chooses an Athlete of the Week. It's always a fun exercise, especially when people get a bit territorial about the athletes from their sports.

This week would have been such a week, what with all the teams who were competing and figured to be competing for high stakes in the last seven days.

What else came up?

Well, there was "The Last Dance." That's the Michael Jordan documentary series on ESPN.

TigerBlog has watched all six episodes to date. He's loved it.

Michael Jordan took TigerBlog to a place that no other athlete ever has. TigerBlog always, always rooted for Michael Jordan, even if it meant rooting against his favorite team, the Knicks.

It was weird. That's how good Jordan was. TB couldn't help but root for him, even if he really wanted the Knicks to win an NBA championship and Jordan singlehandedly kept them from doing so.

The documentary series has been great. The access, which is what makes any documentary the best it can be, is extraordinary in this case. The film from the 1997-98 season is incredible, and TB wonders why it has sat dormant for so long.

Also, the interviews are also excellent. It seems that anyone who figured anywhere into the story has been interviewed - and spoken with 100 percent honesty.

The emotions come across as genuine and raw, even from events now 30 years old in some cases.

It's definitely worth checking out.

By the way, Jordan is the greatest athlete TigerBlog has ever seen, let alone the greatest basketball player. The documentary showcases how different the NBA of today is compared to when Jordan played, even with thinking then that you needed a big man to win a championship, which is why the Trail Blazers passed on Jordan to take Kentucky's Sam Bowie after the Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon.

Also, the video from back then shows how much teams have gotten away from attacking the basket and now rely on the three-point shot. But that's a different story.

TB's point is that for him, no player who has played since (or before) is better than Jordan.

The whole "root for Jordan while he demolishes your favorite team" thing got TB to thinking. Has there been an athlete in the Ivy League during his time at Princeton who has had the same impact?

Has there been an athlete on any competing team who has been such a great player, such an exciting player, such a dynamic player, with such an awesome personality that he or she caused TB to root for that particular athlete to succeed, even at Princeton's expense?

Thinking. Thinking.

No chance.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Virtually Annoyed

This past Saturday would have been the Kentucky Derby.

The horse race, known as "The Run For The Roses," has been run every year since 1875. Even without the traditional first Saturday in May running this year, there are still plans to hold the event in early September.

That's good, because the Kentucky Derby is for three-year-olds, and you'll only be three once, as they say. All horses who were born in 2017, by the way, are considered three-year-olds this year, whether they were born in January or December.

TB saw a good quote about the race, from the president of Churchill Downs, where it's run. He was actually quoting someone else, but he said "if we have to have two horses on the track and two people in the stands, we will run this race."

TigerBlog grew up a few miles from Freehold Raceway, but he's hardly ever been to the races. He went to Liberty Bell Park Race Track once in college, and that track hasn't been there for 34 years.

He knows nothing about betting on horses. It's not his thing at all.

He does know that the Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race. It's a huge event, a huge party, and anyone he knows who has ever gone to it swears it's the greatest thing they've ever seen.

Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, did you see the virtual race of every Triple Crown winner that was on social media this weekend?

As has been the case with all simulated or virtual sporting events, TB felt some real emotions as he watched. He also felt the right horse won.

It's worth your two minutes to check it out.

Speaking of virtual sporting events, the selections for the NCAA men's and women's lacrosse tournaments would have been this weekend, after the Ivy League tournaments for both.

US Lacrosse did a virtual tournament on social media, and that ended with Syracuse as the men's champion and the women's champion (defeating Princeton along the way). The men's final matched the Orange and Virginia, a team that Princeton defeated 16-12 on the field in a real game back in February.

For the men's championship, TB sends out virtual congratulations to Pat March, who left the Princeton staff to coach at Syracuse this season.

There is another website that has done a computer simulation of every game that wasn't played in Division I men's lacrosse. With the end of the league tournaments, that site released its NCAA field - and Princeton wasn't in it.

What the heck?

When TB saw the Tigers weren't in it, he was actually a bit pissed. How could Princeton not be in? The Tigers were 11-3 according to the simulations, and they had a win over No. 1 Cornell.

That's not an NCAA-worthy resume?

Then, as always, he had to step back and remind himself that, you know, it's not real.

Had Princeton actually gone 11-3, and beaten Cornell, and beaten Virginia - and not gotten in the real tournament? That would have been completely crushing.

Fortunately, that real disappointment from a simulated event waned when he saw the "TableTop Lacrosse NCAA Draw" that was announced yesterday. This is a field of 17 teams that was selected by some people from Inside Lacrosse, and the tournament will now be played out via a board game invented by TB's old, old lax buddy Christian Swezey, with whom he goes back as far as he does with anyone in the sport.

Princeton is the sixth-seed in that tournament. According to the draw, Princeton would be playing unseeded Villanova in the late game Sunday (6) on Sherrerd Field.

That made TB feel better.

Then he took it a little further, and he saw that the winner of Princeton-Villanova was going to take on the winner of third-seed Ohio State and unseeded St. Joe's, for a spot in the Final Four. He thought the quarterfinal matchup could be two Philly teams if the two unseeded teams won, with the Final Four at Lincoln Financial Field.

Then he thought that was a reasonable draw for the Tigers, and he liked their chances to get to Championship Weekend. He also thought fellow Ivy League schools Yale and Cornell had brutal draws, with potential quarterfinal matchups against either North Carolina or Maryland (in Cornell's case) or Virginia or Penn State (in Yale's case).

Brutal. But hey, maybe three Ivies could have made the Final Four.

Then, again, he remembered it wasn't real, and that there is no tournament this year.


Monday, May 4, 2020

Softball Senior Day

TigerBlog rides his bike on several different paths, all of which are about the same length.

One of them takes him through a neighborhood that he will circle three times, on his way to his total of about 12 miles. Each lap around this particular neighborhood is about a half mile, so he's not there very long.

At times this spring the neighborhood has been eerily quiet, with nobody outside. It was the opposite of that Saturday afternoon when he rode through it.

He was about three-quarters of the way around the first lap when he started to hear a bit of a buzz. A few seconds later he peered down a cul-de-sac to see a large, social-distancing compliant group of neighbors who had gathered to watch a concert of sorts.

There, on one of the driveways stood two people, both with guitars and a mic stand, hooked up to speakers. They were giving a neighborhood concert.

Was this something they always did on the first Saturday in May? Maybe it was just an impromptu thing. Maybe it was somebody's birthday.

Whatever it was, the people in the neighborhood seemed to love it.

In the spring of 2020, you don't necessarily have the world you want. You have the world as it is. And you have to mold that as best as you can to make it fit the world you wanted.

And that brings TB to Princeton softball.

This past weekend would have been the regular season finale for the Tigers, with three home games against Dartmouth on the new field next to the baseball field. Add to that the fact that Princeton in 2020 had as good a chance as anyone to be playing for an Ivy League championship as May rolled around.

Instead, the season ended before a single Ivy game could be played. And now, instead of being on that new field - one that had not yet had a home game when the cancellation happened - the members of the team were scattered.

In fact, they were probably scattered more than most teams. There are 17 players on the softball team, and they come from 11 different states.

There are four seniors, and they come from four different states: Alex Colton from Texas, Caroline Taber from Connecticut, Allison Harvey from California and Megan Donahey from Arizona.

And there they were Saturday afternoon, not in their uniforms together but instead on Zoom, for a virtual Senior Day ceremony. They weren't together in person, but they were very much together nonetheless.

Princeton head coach Lisa Van Ackeren invited several members of the Department to join the call, and TB was one of them. He doesn't know any of the softball players individually, but you that didn't matter at all as he was still able to get a really good sense of the warmth and closeness that exudes from the team.

The theme of the event was "Legacy." It was a tribute to the program that has won more Ivy titles than any other team in the league, as well as the current seniors and the impact they have had on the classes that will remain, who will in turn impact those who follow.

Van Ackeren did a great job of making the event fun and upbeat, while also talking about the values of the team and Princeton Athletics and the hope that the players will take those values with them wherever they go.

There were great video tributes to each of the four seniors, with comments from the other members of the team included. Each senior spoke as well. 

The most touching part was when Jess Deutsch, the Associate Director, Student Athlete Services, presented the Kathy Kobler Award, "given annually to that member of the Princeton varsity softball team whose generosity, positive attitude, genuine consideration for others, and quiet energy makes her essential to the success of the team."

Kobler was a 1991 grad who played soccer and softball who died tragically young, after marrying Judd Garrett, the former Bushnell Cup winning football player. She left behind four children.

TB didn't realize that Deutsch had been Kobler's roommate, and Deutsch spoke very emotionally about her late friend before announcing the winner, who was Taber. It was a very sweet moment.

Lastly, there was Van Ackeren, who talked about the 2020 season of unfinished business, who talked about how they will all emerge from this with a great perspective on life, sports and the people they love. She implored each athlete to value every time they get to wear "Princeton across your chest and play the game you love." Don't blink, she told them, because "it goes very fast."

It went a lot faster in the spring of 2020 than any of them wanted.

As TB watched the concert in the cul-de-sac shortly after he had gotten off the Zoom, he couldn't help but think of how it was a perfect day for softball.

Maybe it wasn't the Senior Day they wanted, he thought, but it was a Senior Day they'll always cherish.

Friday, May 1, 2020

May 1

TigerBlog, like you presumably, has spent a lot of time on social media the last few weeks, especially accounts that are featuring Princeton's alums, athletes and teams.

He's seen all kinds of content, a great deal of which has been about those who have been combating the virus. There have also been many other ones that have featured ways to stay connected, spotlights on seniors and anything and everything that could be considered fun and interesting.

For instance, there was this, which offers you your first chance to get a Bella Alarie Dallas Wings shirt.

That looks pretty good, right?

Alarie, of course, wore No. 31 during her time at Princeton. According to the Wings' website, No. 31 belongs to Kristine Anigwe, a second-year player out of Cal, which left Alarie without her college number.

The roster on the website lists 16 players, including Alarie. Of those 16 players, nine, or one more than half, are listed as 6-3 or taller, including the 6-4 Alarie.

The ability to buy her new shirt was not that only appearance for Alarie on social media the last few days. She was also the latest person featured in the "Tig Talks" series with Cody Chrusciel.

You can see that here:

Every team has done its creative best on social media during these times. They have been great sources of connection for everyone involved.

There was this yesterday from the women's lacrosse team on Instagram:

Who is that?

It's Kate Mulham, who as it turns out was a baby model. Here's what she looks like now:

That's the same face, right?

When you see a picture of someone when they were a baby, one of two things happens. Either it's "Yup, completely unchanged" or "Nope, don't see it." There's no real middle ground on that. 

Princeton women's lacrosse was featured on the NCAA Lacrosse Instagram page as well. That was under its "Top Plays of the Year" segment.

It features a behind-the-back goal from Kyla Sears. The unseen assist, by the way, belonged to Katie Reilly.

Today was to be the start of the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments. The men's event was to be at Hofstra, and the women were to be at the home of the No. 1 seed.

The Princeton women had as good a chance as anyone to host. The men had as good a chance as anyone to head into Hofstra as the No. 1 seed.

Today is May 1, which would have been the beginning of what figured to be an extraordinary month for Princeton Athletics. Over the next 30 days, there would have been Ivy League championships and other postseason events across all of the spring sports.

Who knows what would ever have happened?

TigerBlog has tried to stay away from too much "what if-ing" as the spring as gone along. He's done some, especially on gamedays or on Fridays, when games should be rolling around.

In some ways, it'll probably be easier, especially for the athletes, once the last possible day to have competed has passed.

On May 1, it's hard not to play the "what if" game. And on this Friday, for the first time since the seasons were postponed, he isn't sure exactly where he would have been and what game he would have been watching.

Instead the surreal spring of moves along.

As it does, it's good to know there are ways to stay connected.