Monday, August 31, 2020

Princeton's First Bushnell Winner

Jason Garrett, the current offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, was the second Princeton football player ever to win the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

That was in 1988. 

The Bushnell Cup was first awarded in 1970. Of course, Ivy League football began in 1956, and there were All-Ivy League teams from the start. For that matter, there were All-American teams back in 1889, or 101 years from when Jason won the Ivy Player of the Year Award and 100 from when his brother Judd did so as well.

So why no Ivy Player of the Year from Year 1? It doesn't make much sense. 

How about other sports? The first year of Ivy League men's basketball was also 1956-57, and there was no Player of the Year until the 1974-75 season. 


Even weirder, there was no Player of the Year until then, but there was a Rookie of the Year five years before that. TB will have to find out why.

In men's lacrosse, there was no Ivy Player of the Year until 1974. In baseball there was a Pitcher of the Year in 1977 but no award for player or rookie until 1993. 

Again, why?

Anyway, Jason Garrett was the second Princeton football player to win the Bushnell Cup. Who was the first?

You know it wasn't Cosmo Iacavazzi or Stas Maliszewski or Ron Landeck, because the award didn't exist in the 1960s.

Here's the stat line for the first Princeton winner: 1,041 yards on 214 carries with 16 rushing touchdowns.  

The year was 1974. The player was Walt Snickenberger.

In addition to being Princeton's first Bushnell winner, Snickenberger is an a rather exclusive club that you probably don't want to be in, though it does speak to your individual greatness, In Ivy football history, only six players have won the Bushnell Cup on teams that did not have a better-than .500 league record.

Only four players did so before the league went to an Offensive and Defensive Bushnell winner in 2011. The only other Princeton player besides Snickenberger to be in that club is quarterback Chad Kanoff, who won the award in 2017.

Snickenberger's name is all over the Princeton football record book, among the all-time leaders in areas like rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards. Among other things, his 3,173 career rushing yards are the sixth-best total in program history.

Walt Snickenberger came to Princeton from Ithaca High School. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the same high school that sent, among others, Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan to Princeton. 

In addition to winning the 1974 Bushnell Cup, Snickenberger was a two-time first-team All-Ivy League selection and a 1974 first-team All-American. That does make him the only Ivy League player ever to be a first-team All-American from a team without a winning league record.

Again, that suggests a player who was extraordinary.

Walt Snickenberger passed away earlier this month at the age of 68.

From his obituary:
In his sixty-eight years, he wore many hats, from scholar and standout athlete, to loving husband, proud father, dog lover, and most recently, adoring grandfather.

TigerBlog also learned from the obituary that Snickenberger was married to his wife Wendy for 37 years and that they had three children, all of whom became college athletes: Alex, who played golf at Boston College; Mark, who played football at Hamilton; and Sally, who played field hockey at Vermont.

TB doesn't think he ever met Walt Snickenberger. He has seen his name in the record book for football for all these years, and he knows what a great player he was. 

There was something he didn't know about Snickenberger until he learned it from the obituary. In addition to being a three-time letterwinner in football, Snickenberger also lettered three times in hockey. 

This got TB to wondering if that had ever been doing before. He knows of athletes who played football and lacrosse, or football and baseball, or football and track and field.

But football and hockey? This had to be unique, right?

Then he realized how obvious the answer was. Hobey Baker and all.

Baker, of course, was only 26 when he died shortly after World War I. Snickenberger was 68. They both were gone way too young.

TigerBlog sends his condolences to the Snickenberger family, as well as all of his friends and teammates from Princeton.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Bronze To Silver

Today TigerBlog goes back to 1896 and the first modern Olympic Games in Athens.

If you looked at the list of all-time Princeton Olympians on at any point prior to yesterday, you have seen that Albert Tyler was listed as having won a bronze medal in the pole vault in 1896. 

Instead, it was called to TB's attention that Albert actually won silver. TB was able to confirm this in a few places, including the Alumni Weekly.

Tyler's silver medal came on a vault of 10 feet, six inches. That vault, by the way, obviously wouldn't have come close to scoring points at the most recent outdoor Heps meet, for men or women. 

One thing the change in the archives does it give Princeton more silver medals than any other kind at the Olympics. Since those first Olympic games, Princetonians have won 19 gold, 24 silver and 23 bronze medals, after it was listed as 23 silver and 24 bronze before yesterday.

Albert Tyler was a member of the Princeton Class of 1897, and he also played football and baseball while in school. A native of Franklin, Ohio, Tyler went on to become a teacher at Lawrenceville School and Haverford School. He died at the age of 73, in 1945.

In his research to find out whether Tyler was a silver medalist or bronze medalist, TB came across a first-person account Tyler had written about the first day of the Olympics, and primarily about fellow Princeton Robert Garrett, who won the gold medal in the discus and shot put and the silver in the high jump and long jump.

Such a four-medal sweep of those events today would be impossible, though it does suggest that Garrett might have made for a pretty good decathlete, though there was no decathlon in the Olympics until 1912 in Stockholm. 

Extra credit goes to those who know who won the gold medal there.

Anyway, here's what Tyler wrote about the first Olympic discus competition, which also apparently corresponded with the first time Garrett ever touched a discus:

The efforts of the English novices were ludicrous. Garrett had practised a little during the forenoon; but he had not even seen a discus before to-day. Consequently, you may imagine our joy when the American competitor's first hurl was 27 metres 53 centimetres. The Greeks almost tied themselves in knots in preparing for a throw, and then suddenly stretched out, and the discus sailed through the air. The best Greek threw 28 metres 51 centimetres. Garrett' s second and third tries were unfortunate, the discus first flying crooked, and the third time dropping from his hand as he pitched. But Garrett's first effort was sufficient to secure him a place in the finals. His two opponents were native Greeks, and one of them was the champion for many years of discus-throwing. The other Greek was a famous weight lifter. Both were men of magnificent physique. The Greek champion, in the finals threw first and scored 23 metres 88 centimetres. Our champion, Garrett, followed with 28 metres 72 centimetres. The third man was so provoked at Garrett's success that he was only able to throw 27 metres 48 centimetres. The champion of Greece then threw the discus 28 metres 95 centimetres, and the other Greek hurled it 28 metres. Then came the final effort, and we all held our breath as Garrett carefully prepared for the throw. By this time he had caught the knack of hurling the discus, and had complete confidence in himself. He put all his energy into the last cast, and as the discus flew through the air the vast concourse of people were silent as if the structure were empty. When the discus struck there was a tremendous burst of applause from all sides, and we joined in it with right good will. The applause of the Greek champions, however, was decidedly feeble. The throw was measured, and the announcement was made that Garrett had thrown 29 metres 15 centimetres, and had beaten the Greeks at their own game.

That's great, right? 

By the way, the winner of the 1912 Olympic decathlon was Jim Thorpe, though he was stripped of his medal because it was determined that he had taken money to play baseball, which made him a professional instead of an amateur. There was a time when the Olympics were strictly for amateurs.

Today Thorpe and Hugo Wieslander of Sweden, who became the winner when Thorpe was disqualified in 1913, are both officially considered gold medalists, as the IOC reversed the decision in 1982. 

Wieslander, to his great credit, refused to accept the gold medal, knowing that he'd finished 668 points behind Thorpe, who died in 1953 never having had his medals (he also won the pentathlon) returned.

And there you have it. TigerBlog got through the entire day without mentioning that today would have been the first athletic event of the 2020-21 academic year.

Or sort of.

Anyway, it's the last weekend of August. Have a great one.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Welcome, Class Of 2024

TigerBlog's lucky number, for now at least, is 2313.

That was his number for jury duty this week. He had to log on each day after 4 pm to see if juror number 2313 was being called in.

For Monday, jurors 8-197 had to go in. When he logged on Monday evening, it said that no jurors had to go in Tuesday. When he logged in Tuesday, it said that no jurors had to come in for the rest of week. 

And, on top of that, it meant that your jury duty service was fulfilled for three more years at least. 

TigerBlog, being TigerBlog, immediately thought of how many times Princeton played a football game that ended 23-13. It's just how he's wired.

The answer, if you're wondering is one. There's been one 23-13 game in Princeton history.

That came in one of the biggest seasons in Princeton history, the undefeated 1964 season. That season went unmatched for 54 years, until the 2018 team went 10-0.

The 23-13 game came in Week 2 of the season, in the Ivy opener against Columbia. The 1964 Princeton team was so good defensively that those 13 points were the second-most the team would allow all season, with the 14 that Yale would score in a 35-14 Tiger win the most.

Only three times all year did Princeton allow double figures (Cornell scored 12 in the final game of the year, a 17-12 win). In fact, Princeton had more shutouts (four) than it had double figures scored against it.

As TB has said, this will be the first fall without Princeton football since 1871. As much as that stings, there will be Princeton football, and all of Princeton Athletics, again.

The Class of 2024 is not having the start to its college experience that it would have wanted. This applies to every member of the Class of 2024 pretty much everywhere by the way.

The incoming group traditionally gathers in McCosh 50 for student-athlete orientation shortly before classes begin. With the change in the academic calendar, TB isn't sure where the orientation would have landed in a normal year - but as everyone knows, this is not a normal year. 

As a result, the orientation was held yesterday, via Zoom. Between incoming athletes, as well as coaches and administrators, there were more than 220 people on the call.

The goal was to informative and welcoming, while introducing the newcomers to the traditions and values of Princeton Athletics. In that way, it was no different than any other of these orientations.

It's easy to take for granted that everyone knows what you know, but that's usually not the case. As it relates to the call yesterday, or any year where there are all of the new athletes in one place together, TB always assumes they know how great the history of Princeton Athletics is. The reality, though, is they probably do not, and so it's good to remind them.

The orientation also fascinates TB each year because of the great variety of sports represented. Each incoming athlete has a unique story of how he or she came to be sitting in McCosh 50, or watching on Zoom, and the story of how one became a swimmer and another became a fencer and a third became a football player is always amazing.

And then there's also the point that the entire athletic class will not gather together in one place at the same time too many times in their Princeton careers. There's the orientation. There are a very small amount of social events. And there is the senior athlete awards banquet, the Gary Walters PVC Awards Banquet to be exact.

As always, TB wondered what their experiences would be. Who would be All-American and All-Ivy? Who would be hurt more times than not? Who would set records? Who would be four-year starters? Who would wait until senior year to get a chance for playing time and make the most of it?

Again, they'll all have their own paths from here to the finish line.

And now to that he added in the uncertainty of when they'll all get to compete for the first time as Tigers. They're walking into college under the COVID cloud, and it's put everything on hold for now. 

But make no mistake. That cloud will lift, and there will be bright days ahead for them. 

They will get their chances, and TB can't wait until they do.

For now, though, the best he can do is say Welcome to Princeton. It's great having you as part of the tradition. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Whale House

Craig Haley used to write for the Trenton Times, and much of what he covered by the end of his time there involved Princeton football and basketball.

TigerBlog can't remember when he left the beat, but Craig has been one of the leaders in covering college football on the FCS level for a long time. Recently, he sent an email out saying that, even without the usual FCS season to be played in 2020, there would be a one-time Top 25, as if it was back in March or so and whoever was going to be playing would actually be playing.

That poll was released yesterday.

Not surprisingly, North Dakota State was the No. 1 team in the preseason. For that matter, it's also not surprising that the Bison received all 147 first-place votes.

No Ivy League team was ranked in the Top 25. There were three league teams in the "others receiving votes" category, with Dartmouth, Yale and Princeton tightly bunched.

For full disclosure, they went in that order, at what would have been 31st, 32nd and 34th. The competitive side of TB doesn't like to admit that Princeton was the third in the group, even if it's a hypothetical ranking for a season that won't happen.

As TigerBlog has mentioned before, this will be the first fall in which Princeton has not played an official varsity football game since 1871. The Tigers played in 1869 and 1870, all against Rutgers, and then played Rutgers again in 1872. 

In 1871, there were only unofficial games against the Seminary, and those aren't counted in the records.

Between 1872 and 1877, Princeton added games against Penn, Columbia, Harvard and Yale, and Tiger football was off and running.

Now it's taking a pause, along with much of the country, due to the COVID-19 situation. 

There will still be football this fall, presumably, and there will still be Princetonians to root for, at least on the professional level.

As of now, Princeton has five players on NFL rosters. In a normal year, they'd all be well into the preseason, hoping to make a big impression there to secure their roster spots. Instead, there is no preseason, only the coming season openers in a little more than two weeks.

There's also a Princeton connection in the NFL coaching ranks, one that is far easier to root for this year than in year's past. 

That, of course, is Jason Garrett, the 1987 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year as Princeton's quarterback. He set records back then that still stand at Princeton, including lowest career interception percentage.

If you followed his career at all, you know that he spent a great deal of time as a player (winning two Super Bowls) and ultimately head coach with the Dallas Cowboys.

Ah, but that's all in the past. Now he's back where he should be, in New Jersey, as the offensive coordinator for the Giants, the team he rooted for as a kid. 

If you're looking for the definitive story about Jason Garrett, then click HERE and read Ryan Dunleavy's piece from the New York Post earlier this week. There's a lot in there in general, and there's a lot in there from Princeton head coach Bob Surace, a teammate with Garrett at Princeton.

In fact, Surace was the center when Garrett won the Bushnell Cup. That's like catching a great pitcher. 

The story in the Post includes this:

“There’s an old-school mentality to Jason,” Surace said. “He and his dad both have a way of making you feel like they believe in you. He makes average football players feel great.”

What Surace said there is so true. It's a trait of the best coaches, and it's something TB has always said about Bill Tierney, the Hall of Fame lacrosse coach who won six of his seven NCAA titles with Princeton.

When you're around Jason, you can't help but get swept up by his energy and passion. It's just something that oozes out of him, and it inspires the people around him.

One of the best parts of being in the job he's had for the last 30-plus years is that TB has heard some of the greatest public speakers out there. The way some people can capture a room is so impressive, and there is a very short list of people TB has heard through Princeton Athletics who stand out more than any other.

Pete Carril is one, but in a bit of a different way, as he is more of a professor than an orator. His words have always carried great weight, even if he wasn't a booming physical presence in the room. 

Dick Vitale, though not a Princetonian, spoke at halftime of a Princeton-Wake Forest men's basketball game at the Meadowlands in the 1996-97 season, and TB had never felt anyone dominate an audience like that. 

Jason Garrett is just as good, as good at it as anyone TB has ever heard. He has the presence. He has the enthusiasm. He has the message. 

And, like the very best of them, everything is coming straight from the heart.

Anyway, read the story about Jason and his family. It's really good.

And root for him this fall. 

It's never been easier.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Going Back - Oct. 25, 2004

This is the second installment of the new "Going Back" series, in which TigerBlog is "going back" to games that predate the blog itself to write what he might have written had it existed.

There will be one per week, though not always on the same day of the week. 

A week ago, on Wednesday, he wrote about the 1996 Princeton-UCLA NCAA tournament men's basketball game. You can read that one HERE.

One issue that TB has is whether or not he should be saying that the date is the one the game was actually played or the date the blog would have been posted. He's going with the day it would have been posted. 

For this week's "Going Back," he's not sure what date that would have been. Would he have written this the Monday after it was played, or the Tuesday after, going with the football game Monday. Princeton lost that football game to Harvard that year, so he thinks this would have been the blog for Monday, Oct. 25, 2004:

TigerBlog stood at the scorer's table at Lourie-Love Field and wondered if this was all his fault.

Of course he didn't actually think that. Still, was there something karmic going on there? 

Here was the Princeton women's soccer team, ranked ninth in the country, averaging nearly three goals per game, the 26th-best total in Division I. And here was the pregame story TB had written, the one that pointed out that Princeton hadn't scored a goal at home against Harvard since 1992, more than a decade earlier.

That was five straight shutouts at the hands of the Crimson on Lourie-Love Field.

Certainly that streak would end on this night, right?

So what that Harvard came into the game ranked 26th in Division I in scoring defense? This was a Princeton team that was rolling, having outscored its opponents 31-4 to date and having put up 11 goals in the last three games.

Princeton's goal would come early, and then the floodgates would open. That's what TB thought at least.

Former Princeton men's basketball coach Bill Carmody used to call it "The Whammy," which is sort of the concept of a jinx taken to another level. Was TB guilty of The Whammy?

Shot after shot flew at the Harvard goal. None of them went in.

Princeton was dominating - but could not score. But Harvard did, getting one late in the first half, and it was 1-0 Crimson at the break.

There was something else in the pregame story. A Princeton win would start to open up the Ivy League race. A Harvard win would tie the two teams for first place.

TB was starting to feel uneasy. Something just felt off about the whole night. That's how sports work sometimes. There are just some of those nights.

Was this going to be one of them?

The second half started - and it was more of the same. With each shot that didn't go in, Princeton added to its overwhelming edge in the stats, but not on the scoreboard. And TB got more and more antsy.

Was there really a reason why Princeton couldn't score against Harvard?

Then there were 15 minutes to go. And then 10. And then five. And then two. Still 1-0 Harvard.

Princeton had a 20-6 edge in shots to that point. And nothing to show for it. This was going to sting.

Ah, but then a sign of life. Kristina Fontanez fed the ball into the area to Diana Matheson, who was trapped by three Harvard defenders. The ball then squirted to Emily Behncke, who took one dribble to her left.

Wait. She was free. Would this be it, finally? Yes, it would. Behncke's shot was well-placed, settling into the net and touching off a wild celebration. 

Tie game, 1-1. With 41 seconds to play.

It was like the clouds lifted and the sun began to shine on Lourie-Love, even though it was nighttime. 

Oh, but it was far from over.

The game went to overtime, and then into a second overtime. Harvard had an incredible chance to end it when Brittany Meeks, who had scored her team's goal earlier, suddenly found herself one-on-one with Tiger goalkeeper Emily Vogelzang, who didn't hesitate. In Vogelzang's words after the game "If I sat back, it was going to be a goal," and so she didn't, instead charging out to Meeks and smothering the shot.

It was three minutes later when Diana Matheson took the ball and played it to the right side to Behncke, who crossed it past the Crimson goal to a wide-open Esmeralda Negron on the backside. Negron knocked it in, giving her a fourth career overtime goal, moving her within four goals away from the school career goal - and way more importantly making it a 2-1 final.

Just like that, Princeton went from a team that was 41 seconds away from being in a first-place tie with Harvard and wondering if that early-season momentum was gone to a team rolling to an Ivy League championship and wondering what might be ahead for what could be a special postseason run.

If it does come to that, Princeton will look back to Behncke's goal in the last 41 seconds of regulation and then Vogelzang's save and Negron's game-winner as the turning point of it all. 

On a season that has already had its share of special moments, none has been more so than what happened Saturday night on Lourie-Love Field. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Endless Summer

TigerBlog may have jury duty this week.

He won't know until after 4 each day if he'll have to go in the next day. The website gets updated with the numbers of the potential jurors who need to report the next morning after 4.

TB checked it yesterday, and there was a pretty good distance between the numbers called and where his is. It'll be interesting to see what happens as the week goes along.

Does it stay in the order that it's going in? Does it start randomly at some other number? How many numbers are issued each week?

TigerBlog has had jury duty twice, though he's never actually been on a jury. His first time around was back when he is the newspaper business. He came close to being seated on the jury then, in a civil case, but the lawyer for one of the parties dismissed TB without even asking him a question. 

Does TB not look impartial? 

His other experience saw him head into the courthouse at 8:30 am to watch the video they show the potential jurors. Then it was sit around until they call numbers, only no numbers were called - or going to be called - that day, so they sent everyone home around noon.

They also said that those 3-plus hour satisfied the jury duty requirement and that nobody would be called again for three years. When TB got the summons this time around, he was a bit confused at first, since he thought he didn't have to go back for three years and it wasn't three years yet.

Only it was. In fact, it was June 19, 2017. How does he know this? Does he have a diary, or a calendar? 

No. He wrote about it of course. You can read it HERE if you're inclined to go back a little more than three years.  

Now it's August 2020, so he's eligible again. Will he have to go? He'll keep checking every day at 4.

What if he gets picked for a huge case and gets sequestered? Will they allow him to ride his bike and blog? 

Hopefully it doesn't come to that. 

TigerBlog was speaking with men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon last week, and they both remarked that the summer of 2020 feels like it's lasting longer than other summers. That's where the college athletics calendar piece plays in to things.

TB has always thought - and written about here - the notion that the seasons all have their own unique feel to them, as work is wildly different from one month to the next. In fact, TB could tell you the date with relative ease based solely on the feel of how work is going.

It's been that way ever since he started in the newspaper world, which come next month will have been 37 years ago. Each year around this time he'd say he was going to do it for one more 12-month cycle and then get a "real job," only he never did. 

Come June, the academic year would end. Come late August, it would gear up again. That's 37 straight years of that.

This year, there will be no fall sports, and there will therefore be a much different feel than he can now remember.

Seriously. The last few weeks, when he's thought about what the date is, he's been off by weeks. It's felt like July, not August. Early July at that. 

Only it isn't. It's late August. 

And that would usually - always, for the last 37 years, actually - have meant that this would be game week.

The first athletic events of the 2020-21 academic year (by the way, that is so ridiculously hard to say) would have been this coming Friday. And it would have gone from there.

All of the fall teams would have been back on campus, practicing, getting ready for their season openers. And now, because of the virus, that won't be the case this time around.

When the spring season was first shut down, TB got caught up in the whole "what would have been going on now if it had been a normal season" vibe. He gave up on that after a short while. It's not important what might have been, only what is, and what is in this case requires a lot to handle. 

He won't be doing it this fall either, with a few exceptions. One of them, for instance, will be Oct. 10, when Princeton would have been at Army in football.

And another one is this week. It's eerie, how it just feels so much earlier than it really is. 

The athletics clock is stopped, back in July. For now, it's an endless summer.

Hopefully, though, it's the only summer that will ever be this way. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Guest TigerBlog - David Rosenfeld With His Own "Going Back"

TigerBlog made an offer earlier this week as part of his newly named "Going Back" series about Princeton events that predate the creation of this blog.

The offer was for anyone to submit a story about their own recollections and memories of Princeton games. He hopes readers take him up this.

The first response he received came from his longtime friend and former colleague (that's way better than the other way around, right?) David Rosenfeld, who at one point was the Princeton men's basketball contact. David hasn't worked in Princeton for more than 10 years, but he has remained a huge fan of the Tigers.

Here is his "Going Back":


It was the Monday before Thanksgiving, in 2004. The No. 1 song on the Billboard chart was “My Boo” by Usher and Alicia Keys, which I just had Alexa play for me so I might remember it (I didn’t). Speaking of technology that can spy on you, the iPhone was still three years away.

And the Princeton basketball team was in…you guessed it…Wyoming.


We played a game there, and it was a good one. More on that later. But it was quite a ride to even make it to Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming.

We left the Philadelphia airport on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Denver at night. The plan was to bus it from there to Laramie, a trip of a bit more than two hours. We never made it.

Upon reaching Cheyenne on Interstate 25, you then head west on Interstate 80 to Laramie. We headed west, but were stopped by the State Police. An 18-wheeler had spun out in the snow, and the road was closed. Would be for a while. This wasn’t New Jersey; there was no way around it in 6,000-foot mountains, and the weather was bad.

It was late, approaching midnight probably. We turned around and found ourselves driving through downtown Cheyenne looking for a hotel. I believe sleeping on the bus might have been discussed. Somehow, we found a Holiday Inn. After some pleading with the front desk, our group of 20 or so squeezed into six or seven rooms.

The short trip to Laramie a few hours later on a sunny Sunday morning was uneventful. It’s beautiful country—God’s country, some would say. Sadly, God did not help us with the officiating the following evening.

Wyoming shot 45 free throws, we shot 15. Three of our starters fouled out. Still, it was a great game. Neither team led by more than seven points, and we forced overtime with a late free throw. Scott Greenman, now an assistant coach at American under former Princeton player and coach Mike Brennan, hit a three-pointer to force a second overtime. Unfortunately, the Cowboys won the game at the free-throw line in the last five minutes.

I learned a lot about our new coach that trip, though I knew Joe Scott a little bit from his time as an assistant coach at Princeton in the 1990s. This was only his third game as head coach after coming back from Air Force in the spring. Air Force and Wyoming are in the same conference, the Mountain West, which was likely why we ended up getting a home-and-home with the Cowboys.

At one point late in the game, Will Venable was at the free-throw line when radio announcer Dan Loney mentioned that Venable was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the team’s most recent game, against Syracuse. Venable missed and Scott turned to Dan, sitting at the scorer’s table right next to the bench, and screamed something about a jinx. It was then that I realized that Joe was superstitious about free throws—he never watched anyone shoot one—ever—always turning his head or doing something to avoid it.

 For all his sideline histrionics and his intelligence (he graduated from Notre Dame Law School), Joe is a normal guy, a dude who grew up in Toms River on the Jersey Shore with a dad who sold pizza on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

When I tell people about the “glory” of working in college athletics, I often refer back to this trip—specifically, where I rested my head every night. Saturday in Cheyenne. Sunday in Laramie. Monday in Denver. Tuesday back home. Wednesday and Thursday in Baltimore, celebrating Thanksgiving with family. Friday back home, since we had a game at Lafayette Saturday afternoon.

That 2004-05 season, despite a strong start, was a disappointment. Our gritty play in tough situations, like Laramie, became easy to forget as the conference losses piled up. Still, our Wyoming adventure was unforgettable, even all these years later.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

Going Back

So TigerBlog was happy enough with how the first installment of his series on what he would have written for events that happened prior to the start of the blog.

If you missed it, he wrote yesterday about the 1996 Princeton-UCLA NCAA tournament men's basketball game. As he said, he had three choices in mind for the first one, and he thinks he went with the right opener.

You can read it HERE if you missed it. 

TB especially liked the part where he wrote of Sydney Johnson and Mitch Henderson that they were like having two more coaches on the floor. The idea of sneaking in something to each of these entries that ties it together to the present is pretty appealing, though it does need to be subtle like that.

He also said he had no name for the series yet. Then he received this comment:

Steven J. Feldman '68 said...
How about "Going Back" for a title for your series? That would not only be an appropriate name for your series but also work in one of Princeton's most iconic sports fight songs "Going Back to Nassau Hall."
That's a great idea. TB is going to borrow it.

Each time he writes one of these entries - and he's committing to one per week to start at least - he'll have the title of "Going Back" and then the date the blog would have run had it existed. 

Plus, the whole "Going back to Nassau Hall" part is great, even if he's been whistling the song pretty much non-stop since he first read the comment.
As TB started to make a list of possible events to write about, it grew from way past the original three. Many of these games were from before he was born, so he'll have to figure out how to handle the normal TB way of writing about his own experiences in covering a game, but he'll figure that part out.
It's funny, too, because back in 1996, for instance, he never would have dreamed of writing a story after the game about his perspective of the last 2.2 seconds. It was unheard of then.
Of course, also back in 1996 there wasn't even a yet, so TB didn't have to write any kind of story after the game that night in Indianapolis. His time was spent solely on postgame media responsibilities - and he still didn't get back to the hotel (which was connected to the RCA Dome) until around 1 am. 

It was a completely different world then. That's why the series is compelling to him. It's not just the stories. 
For the one yesterday, the fun part was going back - as it were - in his mind to that night in the RCA Dome and remembering what the postgame was like and then imagining what he would have done if there had been a webpage and a blog. 

Speaking of going back, he also got this comment this week:
D '82 said...

TB, a couple years ago, you were gracious enough to respond to my suggestion that you list several categories of Princeton athletic events: greatest wins, biggest comebacks, worst losses, et cetera.

Might I offer an idea which sounds similar, but may yield a different answer from you:

What Princeton events have made you happiest? The single best column you've ever written described your emotions when you entered into the statistics software the first ground ball your daughter picked up in a Princeton uniform. The ability of your prose to weave a sporting moment with a parent's joy and pride was on full display. Which other events have made you happiest? It might be a repeat of your answer to "greatest wins," but I suspect not.

And if that resonates with you, how about List 2. What events have made you angriest or saddest? If that works for you, then proceed to List 3. What events have been most thought-provoking? Not just an emotional experience, but a cerebral one.

Those are three great lists. TB is definitely going to dive into those. 

Obviously, or perhaps it would be better to say "sadly," he has the time to do those kind of things now. He'll have his first list up next week at some point.

He'll also have to come up with some guidelines and definitions about the difference between events that make him happy and simply greatest wins.

Before he does all that, and before he starts to think about what to include, he can say one thing definitively: the next Princeton event, whenever it is, will definitely be near the top of the "happiest" list. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

TigerBlog, March 15, 1996

As promised earlier this week, TigerBlog is embarking on a once-weekly venture to write a piece on a game that happened before this blog was born in 2008. 

At least he's going to try it anyway. Today is the first. He doesn't have a name for the series or anything. Maybe he'll come up with one. Maybe not.

Either way, he actually thought of three possible games that he could use as the first for his new series. Even now, as he's writing this intro, he's still not sure which of three he'll go with, but hey, he better make up his mind soon.

Also, the invitation is out there for anyone who wants to try his or her hand at doing this. All you have to do is let TB know and then write 700 or so words about any game you'd like.

And he's figured out which game to go with, so here it is:

TigerBlog ... March 15, 1996

TigerBlog was kneeling near where the baseline and sideline came together, opposite the Princeton men's basketball bench, at the RCA Dome last night, with somewhere between two and four seconds to play in the opening round game of the NCAA tournament between the Tigers and UCLA.

A few moments earlier, Steve Goodrich had threaded a perfect backdoor pass to Gabe Lewullis, who converted the layup to put Princeton up 43-41. At that point, Andrea Joyce, the CBS sideline reporter, told TB that she needed to grab Pete Carril as soon as the game ended - if Princeton won. 

As such, she and TB settled down on the far side of the court, so that they could immediately get to the coach should Princeton indeed hang on. It was either going to be one of the greatest moments in Princeton Athletics history, or one of the biggest heartaches. There would be no middle ground.

It had been quite a few days for Carril and Princeton basketball, that's for sure. It was less than a week ago that Princeton defeated Penn 63-56 at Lehigh in the Ivy playoff for the automatic NCAA bid, ending an eight-game losing streak to the archrival Quakers in the process.

And when it ended, that was hardly the biggest story. Nope, that came when Carril casually scribbled "I'm retiring. I'm very happy" on the old blackboard in the Princeton lockerroom after the game. TB was the first person to see what Carril had written, and he immediately thought "well, the large gathering in the media room has no idea what's about to happen."

And now it was only five days later, and here was Carril, in Indianapolis, trying to prolong a career that had seen him win 513 games and 13 Ivy titles in 29 years at Princeton.

It didn't start out looking all that promising for the Tigers. They were down 7-0 at the first media timeout, when it seemed like it was going to be a long night in Indy.

But then Princeton tightened. And UCLA, the defending NCAA champion, couldn't adjust. 

Princeton hardly played a perfect game, far from it. The Tigers shot 37 percent for the night and just 4 for 15 from three-point range, but what they did do is keep UCLA from ever getting into anything resembling a rhythm. 

Even when the Bruins built a 41-34 lead with five minutes to go, nothing seemed out of hand. And then UCLA's Kris Johnson missed a gimme, and Sydney Johnson answered with a very long three-pointer, and suddenly it was a four-point game. 

Then Goodrich tied in on a reverse layup off a pass from Chris Doyal, and now it was 41-39. And then Doyal came up with a steal, and the ball ended up in Mitch Henderson's hands. And then Henderson bounced a pass perfectly to Johnson - the two of them are like having additional coaches on the court - and Johnson made it a 41-41 game.

For the next three minutes or so there was a lot of sloppiness - and some good fortune for Princeton, as Cameron Dollar missed a pair of foul shots after an intentional foul call, and then Goodrich rebounded another Bruin miss (the Bruins shot 8 for 21 in the second half), giving the Tigers the ball and a chance to take the lead.

And take the lead Princeton did, as Lewullis made one fake cut and then doubled back, creating just enough space for Goodrich to slip the ball in. And the freshman Lewullis didn't miss, putting the Tigers up 43-41.

With how much time left? Good question.

UCLA advanced the ball across midcourt, though it's not really clear when a timeout was called and where the ball was at the time. And so the officials went to the monitor.

It ended up being about a seven-minute delay until the game resumed. Originally, there were 1.3 seconds on the clock, with UCLA to trigger sideline out of bounds on the Princeton end. It was clear that Lewullis' shot went in with 3.9 seconds to go. It was also clear that the timeout came before 1.3.

During the long discussion, TB stayed glued to his spot, along with Joyce. She never took sides, saying that she was hoping Princeton held on or anything, but it's clear that was what was in her heart.

If that's what was in her heart, then there was TB's heart, which was racing. And there was this nagging voice in his head that kept saying "if UCLA pulls this out, that's really, really going to suck."

Again, there would be no middle ground. Elation or total devastation. There would be no other option.

Then the clock was set to 2.2 seconds. Another timeout, this time by Carril.

And finally, finally, it was time to play. TB could barely watch. The huge crowd would tell him what happened anyway. Other than a few UCLA fans - including Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller, a Bruin alum - the entire crowd of nearly 30,000 was pulling loudly for the Tigers.

No, he figured. He'll watch.

And so he did. And the ball went into Toby Bailey, the hero of the 1995 NCAA title. And then he spun and got himself free and put a shot up from the baseline.

And it hung in the air forever. TB has never seen a shot take longer to figure out if it was going in or not.

And then ... it didn't.

Final score, Princeton 43, UCLA 41.

This game will be talked about forever in NCAA tournament circles. It instantly takes its place as one of the signature games in the history of the tournament and in Princeton history. 

More importantly, it advances Princeton to the second round, against Mississippi State.

Most importantly, Pete Carril gets to coach another game.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Brea Griffiths, An Incredible Story Of Survival

Back from 2002-04 TigerBlog was the Office of Athletic Communications women's soccer contact.

That was a pretty good time to be the contact for that team. The Tigers in that stretch won three Ivy League titles and went to three NCAA tournaments, and in 2004 they won four NCAA games to reach the Final Four, the only such time in Ivy history.

It was a team loaded with star players. Now, as TB thinks back to those teams, he can still come up with one word to describe each player.

Diana Matheson? Smooth. Esmeralda Negron? Unstoppable. Emily Behncke? Graceful. Maura Gallagher? Crafty. Janine Willis? Tenacious. 

When it came to Brea Griffiths, he might have used this word: Indestructible.

That's how she played. She started 71 of 73 career games, and was just a force on the Princeton backline. She wasn't the fastest player on the team, but she let very little make its way past her to the goalkeepers. 

As it turns out, that's probably a really good choice for her. No matter what life through at her in an effort to destroy her, she just pushed back, pushed through and never stopped fighting.

And, for sure, she had some big holes to climb out of along the way. Huge ones. The kinds that many people never escape.

In fact, as one of her best friends and former teammates said, "There were weeks and months where I wouldn't have been surprised to get a phone call with really bad news."

In a nutshell, Brea went from being a two-time All-Ivy League selection and two-time captain of one of the best teams Princeton Athletics has ever produced to getting a master's degree from Yale to being a three-time mother - and then having it all fall apart for her.

Her health started to deteriorate after she ran the 2007 Boston Marathon, and it started her on a more than a decade run of pain and anguish, both physical and mental, starting with the idea that no doctor could really put a handle on what was wrong with her, other than she was essentially allergic to pretty much everything.

Eventually she had to leave her children and spend time essentially homeless in the deserts of the American West, in search of the purest air she could find to get all of the toxins out of her body.  

TigerBlog wrote about Brea's story yesterday. You can see the entire feature HERE.

TB spoke with her last week, on a Zoom call from her current home, in her mother's basement outside of Toronto. Brea had shared a bunch of pictures with him, and you can see them in the story. Essentially they show you just how far down the disease dragged her and then how much she's bounced back, without any real explanation for why as well.

Also for the story TB spoke with two former women's soccer players, Brea's classmates Sylvia Morelli Vitousek and Catherine Byrd Jeydel, also by Zoom. Catherine, who was known simply as "Byrdie" on the wonen's soccer team, lives in Norfolk, having graduated from UVa law school. Sylvia, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, lives in California. 

Both are married (Sylvia to another member of the Class of 2005, former men's volleyball player Sean Vitousek). Catherine has three children, including a 10-month old daughter who was the fourth person on the Zoom call. Sylvia has one daughter, with a son due in two months.

It was great to catch up with them. And through the conversation, it was clear just how much they cared about their teammate, how worried they were about her and now how thrilled they are that she's come so far back.

What also stood out was how the Princeton Athletics experience guides them still, and how much it meant during this entire process.

Here's a quote from Catherine Byrd, or Catherine Jeydel actually:
"The mentality you have to have, whether you’re training in the preseason or trying to retrain your body in the desert, is that you have to be committed. It’s hard. Every step along the way challenges you and gives you reasons to quit. Maybe it doesn’t seem worth it. You have to stay the course. I used to say ‘close your eyes and run’ during our fitness test. I would say that to Brea. When it gets hard, close your eyes and run and you’ll get there. Close your eyes and get out of your body’s way. Let your body take over.” 

And then there's something Brea said:
There were moments where I said ‘this isn’t how it’s supposed to be,’” she says. “I kept telling myself that I was a Princeton soccer player. I’m resilient. I’m tough. I never wanted to believe I was a weak person who couldn’t make it. I had that identity, of being a Princeton athlete. I held onto that. The real me is strong and tenacious and powerful. And hard-working. I had to hold onto that. I had determination and motivation.

That's what Princeton Athletics means to the people who compete here. That's what Princeton Athletics means when it talks about the educational value of competing for the Tigers. 

It never goes away. The lessons learned competing for Princeton. The teammates and friendships made. They stay with them forever.

There's a lot more in the story about Brea. And here's a spoiler alert: It has a happy ending.

So yeah. Indestructible. 

It's the right word for Brea Griffiths.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Coming Attractions

TigerBlog called his brother yesterday, and when he answered, he said quickly "in the supermarket; I'll have to call you back."

This begs the question of why BrotherBlog answered in the first place. If he couldn't speak, why not just call TB back when he could.

In the end, that's what happened anyway. So what does it say about contemporary society when you answer the phone to say that you can't talk?

Also, do you leave voicemails? Or do you simply hang up, since the person can see that they have a missed call from you?

Way back in prehistoric times, before cell phones and even answering machines, the person you called couldn't know that you had, so you could call them back a hundred times until they answered. 

Speaking of BrotherBlog, he also texted TB a picture of the two of them from when they were kids and asked him to guess the year. TB was off by one, but it was still an early 1970s classic. That was back before you could take 100 pictures on your phone and keep the two you wanted.

In other weekend news, TB was reading the "Green Alert Blog" and saw that his good friend Bruce Wood had mentioned something about an episode of "The Adventures Of Superman." It was a TV show that ran in the 1950s and that both TB and Bruce saw in syndication as kids. 

Bruce told TB a story about time he met one of the two actresses who played Lois Lane and acted out a scene with her. TB countered with the fact that he's never been as scared by anything he saw on TV or in the movies as he was by the two-part episode of "The Adventures of Superman" where the little creatures came out of the world's deepest oil well.

It's been just short of exactly 10 years since TB wrote this here:

For sheer scared-out-of-your-mind fictional terror, though, nothing TB has ever seen compares to the episode of the old TV show "Superman" when the Mole Men came out of the giant oil well.The basic premise was that the world's deepest oil well is drilled in a small town, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane head off to check it out for the Daily Planet. What nobody realizes is that the well was dug so deep that it entered the home of the mole men, who are short and hairy with giant heads. Anyway, the mole men come up through the hole into the town, where they terrorize the locals (inadvertently). Eventually, Superman saves the day for everyone, but not before one of the mole men is shot, the rest of the mole men break out their special weapon to get revenge and ultimately the well is destroyed by the mole men after they return to their hole.After the first time TB saw it, he got in trouble because he told his friend Anthony Morelli from down the block that the mole men were going to come out in his backyard that night, and Anthony never got to sleep. Even this very day, TB got the chills a bit from seeing a picture of the mole men after a quick search.

TB stands by that. And he's even seen "Silence of the Lambs" and when Jason came out of the lake in Friday the 13th.

Bruce's blog covers Dartmouth football, of which there will be none this fall. Like TB, he needs to come up with a constant stream of content, and he's done a very good job of it to date. 

TigerBlog salutes everyone who has come up with good content since the pandemic began. 

For TB, he's been thinking about some things he can come up with during these difficult times. He's come up with one idea that he thinks might be good.

Beginning this week, TB will, once a week, write a blog about an event that occurred before this blog existed. He's write it as if it was the day after that particular game.

He'll also write it as if he had been there, whether he had or not. At least he thinks he will. He'll have to see how that part goes.

In the meantime, he'll be writing about games he was at, or games he wishes he'd been at, even if they predated not only the blog but also his own birth. 

If nothing else, it should be fun. He's also inviting any reader who wants to write about a game he or she was at to do so, and he'll run those as well. If you want to do that, you don't have to write it as TB, and in fact he'd prefer first-person accounts, as opposed to what would be considered a game story.

Yeah. This will be fun.

He'll start this week. He's not sure yet which game it will be, but he'll come up with one. And then another one next week. 

He can't guarantee they'll be on the same day of the week each week. But there will be one per week going forward, at least until he sees if it's working and if it's being well-received.


Where to start? 

 Ah yes. He has it. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Conversation With Sue Bird

TigerBlog has shared with you the long walks that his colleagues Warren Croxton and Andrew Borders went on during the Ivy Step Challenge.

Today, he'll mention another Office of Athletic Communications member, Elliott Carr, who among other things is originally from Australia. Also, he's about 6-6, so one of his steps would cover more than Warren's or Andrew's.

The Thursday OAC call yesterday was pushed back from its originally scheduled morning time until 1:15, because other Zoom calls forced some rearranging. And so it was at 1:17 or so that Elliott mentioned that when he was 12, he saw Sue Bird and the U.S. women's national basketball team play against the Australian team.

The Americans won, though Elliott said it was a pretty close game.

The Australian women, by the way, have won three Olympic silver medals and two Olympic bronze medals, and they've medaled at five of the last six Olympiads. They've never won the gold, but the Americans have - a lot of times.

Women's basketball didn't become an Olympic sport until 1976, and the U.S. has won eight gold medals in the 11 times the sport has been contested. The Soviet Union won the first two, in 1976 and 1980, and the U.S. have won eight of nine since.

The only time the U.S. hasn't won in that time was in 1992 in Barcelona, where the Unified Team won. That team was comprised of 12 of the 15 former republics that had made up the USSR and now are independent countries. 

For each of the last four Olympiads, Sue Bird has been on the winning US team. Before that, she won two NCAA championships at UConn, where the team went 114-4 during her four seasons. She's also mixed in three WNBA championships, which gives her the whopping total of nine major championships.

In fact, that number grows considerably when you add in her five Russian national league and five EuroLeague titles. 

And none of that takes into account her individual resume, which includes things like being an 11-time WNBA all-star, a five-time first-team All-WNBA selection, a Honda Sports Award and a Naismith Award, as well as being the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft in 2002.

She is clearly one of the absolute greatest women's basketball players of all time.

Her playing career is winding down now, and she will turn 40 in October. How would she have reacted on the OAC call when Elliott mentioned that he'd seen her play when he was 12?

Judging by how she came across earlier in the day, when she was the guest on a conversation hosted by Princeton basketball coaches Carla Berube (herself a UConn grad, though before Bird arrived) and Mitch Henderson, she would have laughed.

Bird spoke and answered questions about all sorts of subjects, ranging from social justice and sexuality to her basketball career. If TigerBlog had to pick one word to describe how she came across, it would be this: "Likeable."

Okay, he'll pick two. "Likeable," and "genuine."

She talked about the advice she would give her younger self (it was either Abby Meyers or Carlie Littlefield, two current Princeton women's players, who asked the question), and she said she would take better care of herself physically, including things like nutrition, hydration and sleep, which had to make Jason Gallucci, the head of the Princeton Tiger Performance program smile.

She also talked about having to be true to yourself in all areas, how team sports have no room for phoniness. 

Mitch, by the way, did a series of podcasts a few years ago that were really impressive. He would be a great sports talk host on TV or radio when his coaching career ends. 

The event with Sue Bird was one of several that Mitch has had so far, including one earlier with Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. There will be others to come.

It was really good to hear Sue Bird speak. And it was nice to see her be so likeable and genuine. 

Of course, there's certainly not enough of that these days. 

To see it in someone so accomplished makes it even better.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

It's Princeton, In A Walk

Imagine that you walked out of Jadwin Gym and then started to head - on foot, mind you - to Route 1 and then all the way up Route 1 to the New Jersey Turnpike.

That's a long walk. But then imagine that you kept going on the Turnpike all the way to the George Washington Bridge. Who would do that? 

But you don't stop there. You keep walking, all the way to the Connecticut state line. Then you can stop.

Or, by contrast, you walked out of Jadwin Gym and went the other way, down Route 1 to I-95 and then to Philadelphia. And then you walked to the Pennsylvania state line. And then you kept going, all the way through Bucks County down through Center City Philadelphia and then to Lincoln Financial Field.

Then you could stop there.

If you did the first walk, you'd cover about 77 miles. If you did the second, you'd go about 56. 

And that's how far TigerBlog's colleague's Warren Croxton (77) and Andrew Borders (56) walked in four days last week as part of the Ivy Step Challenge that TB mentioned earlier in the week. 

The final leaderboard did not include individual winners, but TB has a sense that they were 1-2. That's how they appeared on the daily leaderboards over the weekend, and who would walk more than that? 

Their extraordinary mileage led Princeton to the win in the Ivy Step Challenge, taking first in both total steps and average total steps by those who participated. In fact, Princeton had more than one million total steps more than runner-up Cornell and nearly 2,000 more average steps per participant than runner-up Cornell.

Princetonians actually walked more steps than the third, fourth and fifth place finishers (Brown, Yale, Columbia) combined. 

Sounds like total Ivy titles won a bit.

It all reminds TB of an old Rodney Dangerfield joke - "my doctor told me to walk 10 miles a day for two weeks. I called him and said I feel fine but I'm 140 miles from my house."

In all seriousness, that's an incredible amount of walking. TigerBlog rode his bike (that didn't count in the challenge at all) each of the four days and didn't go 77 total miles. 

In fact, TB's colleague Chas Dorman asked Warren if he had put his phone (and the walking app) on his dog and let the dog just go crazy. But no. Warren and Andrew both produced proof from their app that they actually had walked all those steps and miles.

So congratulations to Warren and Andrew, and to all the walkers from all the schools. 

And thanks to all of the Campus Recreation people - Princeton's is led by the ultra-capable Jess Ward - who organized this. Just figure out a way to include bikers next time.

As for Warren and Andrew, they're both celebrating birthdays this week. As TB remembers it, the Office of Athletic Communications has had a lot of people work there who were August birthdays.

At one point, there was someone who worked in the OAC whose birthday was August 1, and the person who replaced him when he left was also born on August 1. How many times has that happened?

The person who replaced that person was born in August, one day before Andrew, who replaced her. If Andrew ever leaves, the job description should include "must be born between August 1 and August 15."

Meanwhile, in other OAC news, there are two calls each week to discuss content and strategies during the pandemic. Like this blog, the larger OAC challenge is to keep telling stories and keep everyone - athletes, coaches, fans, parents - connected. 

And that means coming up with compelling content when there are no games and no students on campus. It's as challenging as anything has been in TB's long tenure here.

Given how much the pandemic has disrupted the experience of the athletes, it's the least that the OAC can do, to try to make them know that they are still valued and still Princeton Tigers.

To that end, there are all kinds of plans. 

Hey, if you have guys who can walk from here to Connecticut, not having events won't stand in the way of content.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Catching On

TigerBlog was scrolling through Twitter yesterday when he stumbled on this gem, which he remembers from when it first happened:

That's incredible, right? 

Imagine you're broadcasting a game from the outfield, and you need to maintain your focus on the call as you start to realize that the baseball is heading directly towards you. At no point does he get frantic, even as everyone in his vicinity does.

And he catches the ball one-handed. That has to be one of the greatest moments in broadcasting history, no? 

As you probably remember, Tom spent a lot of years broadcasting Princeton football and men's basketball. His son Patrick is also a broadcaster, and his work includes Triple-A baseball in addition to the work he does with Princeton.

Could Patrick have made that catch? 

On the flip side, imagine the shame Tom would have endured had he dropped it? This was, presumably, a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and he came through. 

Very, very impressive.

Tom is back on the air these days with the Phillies, broadcasting from an empty Citizens' Bank Park, whether the team is home or not. That has to be a bit odd too, broadcasting from that large of a venue when it's empty.

There will be no Ivy League athletics this fall. There will be no Division II or Division III sports either. Most of Division I has already said that those leagues won't be playing either this fall.

The Power 5 conferences are making their own decisions now, and rumors seem to change almost hourly as to what the future of their seasons will be. The announcement came yesterday at 3 in the afternoon that the Big Ten will not be playing football this fall, and almost immediately came the question of whether or not Big Ten schools could play in other leagues if they play on. The Pac 12 followed shortly after with its own announcement.

It's a crushing situation for everyone. TigerBlog knows people who play college athletics at all levels (or who have kids who do), and they're all dealing with the disruption of their experiences.

In the meantime, there are professional sports that are underway. And the NFL is determined to play as well.

Princeton has five players in NFL training camps, and there is a sixth who figures to join a team once his off-season injury heals. It's a remarkable part of the Bob Surace record at Princeton, the way he has been able to recruit players who can help him win championships here (three in the last seven years) and then have them able to make the jump to the NFL.

Of the five currently in training camps, two are looking to establish themselves as they enter their second year with their teams. Both of them - Jesper Horsted and Stephen Carlson - went from wide receivers on Princeton's 10-0 team in 2018 to NFL tight ends who started the season on the practice squad a year ago.

Carlson was activated one week earlier than Horsted, and they would both finish their rookie season with eight receptions and one touchdown. 

TigerBlog emailed their respective teams, the Bears (Horsted) and Browns (Carlson), looking for an action shot of each, and they both sent him pictures of their touchdown receptions. 

Scratch that. Great pictures. 

See for yourself:

These are guys who know how to get the ball in the end zone. At Princeton they combined for 44 touchdown receptions. Their NFL TDs were obviously not easy.

As is with the case of undrafted free agents, it's hard to establish yourself in the league. Both are competing with multiple tight ends for the few spots available, but then again, both are the kinds of guys who make a really good impression. In fact, they already have.

Carlson is in the same training camp (Cleveland's) with rookie UFA Kevin Davidson, who was Princeton's quarterback a year ago, when he set an Ivy League record for touchdown passes in a game with seven. One thing you can't help but notice about Davidson is that he has a major league arm and can make every throw.

The quarterback before Davidson was John Lovett, who was a two-time Bushnell Cup winner and who led Princeton to wins in the final 13 games in which he played. Lovett spent last year on the injured reserve list with the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he got an up-close view of life as an NFL player and then ultimately a Super Bowl championship. This year, Lovett is in training camp with the Green Bay Packers, where he will try to make the team as a do-everything back who can run, catch and throw.

Caraun Reid is the veteran of the group. Reid, who was an All-American and a member of the 2013 Ivy title team, is with the Jaguars, his fifth team. 

Interestingly, he's a defensive lineman with as many career touchdowns as Horsted and Carlson combined.

Seth DeValve is the injured Tiger alum. Another wide receiver turned tight end, he has as many TDs in the NFL as Reid, Carlson and Horsted combined.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Old Lax

You know what's more expensive than you would think?


TigerBlog added up how much he's spending just on grapes, and it's extraordinary. It's around $120 a month, just on grapes. 

What the heck? Who would have guessed how much grapes cost? 

Of course, TB eats a lot of grapes. He likes to pretend their M&Ms. 

Now he has to cut back a bit, so he's going to decrease grapes and increase cantaloupes, which are more affordable. The problem with cantaloupes is that TB has no idea to tell a good one from a bad one in the supermarket. 

In other money news, TigerBlog wanted to watch the Premier Lacrosse League semifinal game Thursday night between the Archers, which has two Princeton alums, and the Chaos, which went 0-4 during the one-week "regular season."

The problem is that the game was only available through the league's streaming package, and it cost $20. There was no single-game option, and TB hadn't purchased it yet, which meant that he had to shell out the full $20 for the season and only get the one game.

Then he thought back to all of his experience with NCAA quarterfinal games and photography, especially a long time ago, in the pre-social media days. He was always wary of those games, since if Princeton won, then he'd want to get a lot of pictures from the Final Four (of whatever sports it was) and if Princeton lost, he wouldn't really want those pictures once the year ended.

The same thing applied Thursday night.

If the Archers won, TB would simply have watched the championship game Sunday. If they lost, he'd be annoyed he spent the $20.

As it turned out, the Archers lost 13-9, ending their season one game short of the championship game. For TB, it was a $20 savings.

He did watch the final. It was the last lacrosse game of the year, so why not, right? 

The Whipsnakes won their second straight PLL title with a 12-6 win over the Chaos, who led 6-3 after three quarters and trailed after a four-goals-in-48-seconds span to start the fourth quarter.

And congratulations to Max Tuttle, a midfielder with the Whipsnakes and a teammate of TigerBlog Jr.'s at Sacred Heart.

If he wanted to watch lacrosse this weekend, he did have the option of the 2006 Princeton-Virginia men's game, which ended up on the ACC Network Saturday. 

Maybe the most interesting part for TB was trying to remember who wore any specific number in 2006. He did pretty well in retaining the roster.  

TigerBlog remembered two things about that game. First was the colossal rain that fell all over Princeton Stadium that day before the game. The second was the 20-save performance of Alex Hewit in goal for the Tigers.

Princeton ended up losing that game 7-6, despite how good Hewit was. 

What TB didn't remember was that Virginia's team that day was loaded with future coaches. Both Ben Rubeor (who coached the Atlas in the PLL) and Matt Poskay (currently the head coach at Montclair State and formerly the head coach at Wagner) scored goals in that game (as did current ESPN commentator Matt Ward, who had two). UVa's goalie that day, Kip Turner, is a Virginia assistant coach today.

Rubeor, by the way, is also the head coach at the Thayer Academy, which is the alma mater of Princeton's former four-year starting goalie Tyler Blaisdell.

What's really interesting to TB as he looked back at the 2006 Princeton season is the scores of the games that year. Princeton finished the year 11-5 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals.

Only once in 16 games that year did Princeton play a game in which both teams reached double figures in goals. In eight of those games, neither team reached double figures, and in 12 of 16, neither team scored more than 11.

If you contrast that with the last 16 games Princeton played (five this year, the last 11 of the 2019 season), then there were 12 games in that span where both teams reached double figures and one where neither team did (a 9-8 loss at Rutgers a year ago).

In only one of those 16 games did neither team score more than 11.

This isn't an accident. College lacrosse has had a nearly complete overhaul of the rules related to timing and pace of play with the goal of, well, goals. It's clearly paid off. And yes, having Michael Sowers certainly helped the cause of offense, but it's a differently played game now.

TB could see it from watching the game on TV. It just looked different.

Of course, TB loved the way the game was played back then too. It was fun to watch it again - except for the outcome.

Even 14 years after the fact, it was still a tough one to take.

Monday, August 10, 2020

One Step At A Time

If there's a word that TigerBlog should be able to type without giving second thought, it would be "Princeton," right?

How many times has he written that word without giving it a thought, let alone a typo?

Princeton. Princeton. Princeton. There. That's three times. 

The word "Princeton" has been part of the password for this blog for awhile, and for some reason he just could never type it correctly when he was logging in. It's the only time that he struggled with it, in the password.

He put up with as long as he could, until now, when he's finally changed it. Why not? Life's too short to be frustrated by your log-in.

Now that he can easily get going, he'd like to talk about his Office of Athletic Communications colleagues Warren Croxton and Andrew Borders.  The two of them have just been dominant in the Ivy Step Challenge.

The event is essentially what you think it would be. 

All eight Ivy League campus recreation departments got together to create the challenge, which has been open to any students, staff, alums, basically anyone with an affiliation for that particular school.

The rules were simple. Participants simply had to track their steps and submit them at the end of each day. The school with the most total steps would be the winner.

The goal of course was to promote fitness. It did discriminate against TigerBlog, whose fitness comes from riding his bike.

That's okay. Warren and Andrew more than picked up the slack for the OAC.

In fact, on Day 3 (Saturday), they were 1-2 for Princeton in steps, with 51,059 for Warren and 46,260 for Andrew. With those two at the top of the leaderboard, Princeton started to build a big lead over Dartmouth and Brown.

The contest ended at 11:59 pm last night, and the official winners were to be announced early today. 

Of course, TB's competitive side loved to look at an Ivy League leaderboard, any leaderboard, and see Princeton in the No. 1 spot. 

And to have Warren and Andrew in the 1-2 spots? That made it even better.

The great thing about college sports is that there's something for everyone. If your thing is Power 5 football and basketball, that's great, but that's not all there is.

For TigerBlog, it's always been about the Ivy League, and to a certain extent, other similar leagues, where the difference between "student" and "athlete" isn't too great, with apologies to great number of Power 5 athletes who take the school part seriously. 

Of course, there will be no Ivy League athletics this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Will there be any college sports, any college football? That remains to be seen, as even as the middle of August rolls around, there are more questions than answers.

The news for Princeton Friday was that no students would be on campus in the fall. It was another setback for the students, whose Princeton experience has already been quite disrupted in ways that nobody could possibly have ever imagined even six months ago. It was another brutal decision that had to be made by the administration, who has had to time and again now make those kinds of decisions that are the last thing they want to have to make.

Perhaps the best lesson here is from the Ivy Step Challenge. When the situation looks overwhelming, take it one step at a time.

There are better days ahead. And stay positive. 

That's certainly the message that has come from Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan through this trying time. Stay positive. 

It's obviously not easy. There are difficult choices that need to be made. The best-case scenarios right now aren't what anyone wants them to be.

Again, there are better days coming. And TB still has the same thought he's had this whole time, that there will come a time in the lives of everyone who has been a part of this when they will realize that they were tested and forced to respond, and that because of that they learned something important about life, and about themselves.

And there will be Ivy League athletics again. And the competition will be great.

For this weekend, though, it was Warren and Andrew in a walk. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Princeton Pros

So apparently the Minnesota Wild of the NHL have a rescue dog that they've named "Hobey."

Hobey, despite no ability to actually do any of his own social media, has just short of 7,000 followers on Twitter.

Hobey is of course named after Hobey Baker, the Princeton Athletics icon who played hockey and football before graduating in 1914. Baker died shortly after the end of World War I when a plane he was flying crashed in France.

Today the award for the top player in men's college hockey each year is named the Hobey Baker Award. As you probably know, the rink at Princeton is the Hobey Baker Rink.

And now the Minnesota Wild have a dog named Hobey.

And, recently, Hobey was the recipient of some Princeton gear.
He's a good-looking dog.

Hobey the dog is enough to get TigerBlog to officially announce that his favorite NHL team will now be the Minnesota Wild, with the exception of any team that has a Princeton alum on it. Also, TB's allegiance is to the Princeton alum, not the team, so if he changes teams, TB's allegiance changes as well.

To be clear, TB is rooting for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Eric Robinson and the Dallas Stars and Taylor Fedun.

The NHL is currently in its restarted playoff format. It's a bit confusing and all, but it's fun to have hockey in the middle of the summer.

Princeton alums have been busy in the world of professional sports of late. You can follow how they're doing in the weekly "Princeton Pros" update that appears on

The weekly piece updates Princeton alums in Major League Baseball, the NHL, the WNBA, the Premier Lacrosse League and the National Women's Soccer League.

That's a lot of alums. And that doesn't take into account the NFL, which should have quite a few Princeton players.

TigerBlog thought this was a great tweet from the women's basketball staff off a zoom call from the other night:

That's a lot of really good basketball players on one screen shot. Or two. With the Princeton women's basketball team, you can never fit all the good players on just one screen shot.

The WNBA season is featuring two Princeton alums, Blake Dietrick of the Atlanta Dream and Bella Alarie of the Dallas Wings.

If you go to the WNBA website and look for player stats, the default setting seems to be alphabetical by player's first name. If it comes up like that for you, then you'll notice that Bella and Blake are separated by only one person, Betnijah Laney, a Rutgers alum.

Going alphabetically, Bella has seen her minutes go up considerably. After playing 12 minutes total in the first two games, she averaged 22.3 for the next three, including being on the court at crunch time. She has not yet become the offensive force that made her the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history, and it has to be an adjustment not just for her but for all players who were the feature of their team's offense in college once they get to the pros. Hey, Bill Bradley had to do the same with the Knicks.

Still, she did go from two points in her first two games to 16 in the next three. She has also shown she can be a strong WNBA rebounder, with nine in the game against Chicago the other night.

What Bella has done seamlessly in the WNBA is continue to block shots, including four against Chicago. In fact, she was tied for third in the league in blocks per game after five games.

As for Dietrick, she has been as solid pro player for the Dream, playing 20-plus minutes per game and bringing solid play at both ends and court leadership when she's on the court. She had her career high of 13 points against Las Vegas on July 29.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Late Show

So TigerBlog actually did stay up all the way to the end of the Premier League Lacrosse game Tuesday night.

And it didn't start at 10:30. It started about 10:45, not until the New York Rangers-Carolina Hurricanes game ended on NBC Sports Network before it.

That was okay for TB, since at the same time the hockey game was winding down, so was "A Few Good Men" on one of the other channels. TB put it on just in time to hear Lt. Weinberg say he had to head out to Andrews, which meant that it was only a few seconds until Colonel Jessup took the stand.

TB is reasonably sure he would have watched that scene even if it had overlapped with the start of the game. Maybe not if it overlapped with overtime or something like that, but hey, as movie scenes go, it doesn't get too much better than that. If ever.

That's another topic for another day, though.

The game, which ended close to 1, was a playoff game between the Archers and the Atlas. It was the third of the three elimination games Tuesday, and it set up the semifinals tonight.

The Archers feature Princeton alums Tom Schreiber and Ryan Ambler. Both of them would make huge contributions in the game Tuesday night, which their team would win 11-9.

Schreiber finished the game with three goals and two assists and essentially took over in the first half, when the Archers built an early lead that proved to be an insurmountable cushion. Ambler had two points, an assist on one of Schreiber's goals and then the late goal to make it 11-9, shortly after TB said he thought Ambler was about to score.

As TB watched the game, he retweeted some of the highlights of the Princetonians on the Princeton men's lacrosse Twitter feed. Then he noticed that someone else was tweeting and retweeting as well, including this gem:
The person who did that is TB's colleague Chas Dorman. He was wise to include Boyle in the tweet.

Ryan Boyle is another Princeton alum. He is also one of the greatest players ever to play at Princeton, a two-time first-team All-American, and his Tiger legacy includes an assist on the game-winning goal in the 2001 NCAA championship game (Princeton's sixth title) and then what is probably the best individual three or four minutes TB has seen from a Princeton athlete in the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals, a 9-8 OT win over Maryland.

Boyle scored two unassisted goals late to tie it, one with 1:55 to play and then the other with 12 seconds to play. He then assisted on Peter Trombino's goal in the overtime to win it.

TB's headline after the game: "Boyle Wills Princeton Past Maryland In Overtime And Back To The Final Four."

Boyle's quote after game: "The thought that this might be the end of my career never entered my mind."

Of course, this isn't to be confused with the goal that Boyle scored with four seconds to play in the 2002 quarterfinals, giving the Tigers a 14-13 win over Georgetown. TB's headline from that one: "Final 0:04." It's his best headline ever.

Boyle went on to a long career in professional and international lacrosse, and he's one of the very, very few players to have won an NCAA Division I championship, a professional outdoor championship (in his case Major League Lacrosse; the PLL is in its second year) and a World Championship. 

These days Boyle has emerged as a great lacrosse color commentator. He has done games on ESPN and in the studio, and he is in Utah with the PLL for the two weeks of games there.

His style as a broadcaster is basically an extension of how he was as a player, which is also an extension of his personality. He is either the most laid-back intense person TB has ever met, or the most intense laid-back person TB has ever met.  

Boyle's go-to emotional responses to things like incredible plays or bad decisions are either a small chuckle or a quick sentence of incredulity. At all times during the broadcast he appears to be having fun, even well into his third game of the day, as was the case Tuesday.

Going a bit deeper, though, he broadcasts like he played. He sees everything, with no detail unnoticed, and his mind puts the dots together faster than anyone else's.

This is especially noticeable on replays. Often times broadcasters will watch a replay and either wait for the replay to unfold to say what is at that point obvious or say something definitive that the replay then shows isn't exactly what happened. In Boyle's case, the play happens and then he'll say something like "you'll see what set that up is this ..." and then the replay shows him to be correct.

It's an incredible talent to have, to see a game that clearly and then be able to quickly articulate what you've seen to the audience. He also has a great balance between explaining the game to viewers who might not know lacrosse while not overdoing that aspect for those who are serious lacrosse fans.

Boyle's next games are tonight, as the Archers take on the Chaos at 8 Eastern (NBC Gold Package) and then the Whipsnakes and Redwoods at 10:30 on NBC Sports. The final is Sunday at 12:30 on NBC.

That's 12:30 pm, not 12:30 am.

Either way, if the Princeton guys are playing, TB will watch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Finally, The Answers

TigerBlog felt like a little kid again last night.

Why? Because he wanted to watch a game on TV that started at 10:30 at night. He's usually either asleep by then, or about to be.

When he was a little kid, of course, there were always games on late at night that he'd want to stay up and watch. He'd either try to last until way past his bedtime, often fueled by a nap, and his record in those situations was pretty much perfect - he never made it to the game he wanted to see without fallig asleep.

The game last night was the one between the Atlas and Archers in the Premier Lacrosse League elimination round. The Archers feature Princeton alums Tom Schreiber and Ryan Ambler.

Could he make it past midnight to watch it? Should he take a nap during the day?

Of course, there are big differences between watching the game last night and watching a West Coast game in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The two biggest are 1) there was no school to go to the next day and 2) he could simply watch it this morning when he woke up, though that would mean not checking any messages or social media until he rewatched it.

As an aside, TB sometimes thinks it would be interesting to see how he would have reacted to what are now commonplace words and phrases before they became so. For instance, had you told him when he started at Princeton that one of the best ways to reach his audience would be through a "blog," he would have had no idea what you were saying.

The same applies to this sentence: You don't have to stay up to watch the game because you preset YouTube TV to DVR it, but you will have to avoid text messages and social media from your iPhone.

And with that, here are the trivia questions, and now the answers, from last week:

* Princeton basketball, between the men's and women's programs, has won the Ivy League Player of the Year award 20 times. That list of 20 includes one three-time winner and three two-time winners.

In all, there have been 15 different Princeton basketball players who have won the Ivy League Player of the Year award. How many of those can you name?

It took TigerBlog awhile to figure out the math on that one, but it adds up. There have been 11 players who on its once (so that's 11), and then a three-time winner (that takes it to 14) and the three two-time winners (which makes 20).

So the question requires 15 different names.

Answer -
men (11): Armond Hill, Frank Sowinski, Craig Robinson (twice), Bob Scrabis, Kit Mueller (twice), Sean Jackson, Sydney Johnson, Steve Goodrich, Brian Earl, Ian Hummer, Spencer Weisz
women (4): Addie Micir, Niveen Rasheed (twice), Blake Dietrick, Bella Alarie (three times)

* Princeton had 11 players score a touchdown during the 2019 football season. How many can you name?

Answer -
Graham Adomitis, Jacob Birmelin, Dylan Classi, Collin Eaddy, Trey Gray, Andrew Griffin, Andrei Iosivas, Sam Johnson, Zach Keller, Zach Kelly, Ryan Quigley

* Before the Coronavirus pandemic ended the hockey seasons, both the Princeton men and women won their last games, both in the ECAC playoffs, on overtime goals. Who scored the goals?

Answer -
Women: Mariah Koepple
Men: Mark Paolini

* Princeton has had five players between the men and women score overtime goals in NCAA championship lacrosse games. Name them.

Answer -
Women: Theresa Sherry
Men: Andy Moe, Kevin Lowe, Jesse Hubbard, B.J. Prager

* The two oldest individual outdoor men's track and field records were set  in 1982 and 1983 by the same athlete. Name him (extra credit for the events).

Answer -
Augie Wolf (discus, shot put)

* One Princeton softball player has a career batting average of better than .400. Who is it? (Hint, she graduated in the 1980s).

Answer -
Linda Smolka (.411, not too shabby, and she had a .446 average as a senior)

* Who was the first Princeton men's soccer player to win the Ivy League Player of the Year award?

Answer -
Current head coach Jim Barlow

* Princeton has had 11 field hockey players who had at least 100 career points. Can you name them?

Answer -
Michelle Cesan, Allison Evans, Kirsty Hale, Ilvy Friebe, Amy MacFarlane, Hilary Matson, Ryan McCarthy, Mollie O'Malley, Katie Reinprecht, Clara Roth, Kat Sharkey

* Two Princeton women's volleyball players have reached at least 500 kills in a season. Name them?

Answer -
Rose Kuhn and current head coach Sabrina King, both in 1998

* Who holds the Princeton baseball record for career home runs? Hint - it's not Mike Ford, who hit more last year with the Yankees than he did in his entire Princeton career. Second hint - the home run record holder also holds the record for most career punts by a Princeton football player, which is a relatively fascinating double.

Answer - Matt Evans