Thursday, November 19, 2020

And The Horse You Rode In On

In yesterday's edition, TigerBlog mentioned a photo he'd seen recently of Princeton's 1980 football captain, offensive lineman Mark Bailey.

It was a great picture. Bailey, covered in mud and grass stains, is about to pancake a Columbia defender. In the second before the block is thrown, Bailey is laser-focused on the target, with a scowl on his face visible under his helmet.

For today, TB offers two more pictures. 

First, there's this one:

The player is Peter Smyth, a men's lacrosse player from the Class of 2012. He was a shortstick defensive midfielder and a face-off man.

Smyth's best game as a Tiger, or at least most important, was the 2010 Ivy League tournament final. That was the first year of the Ivy League tournament, and the championship game matched Princeton and Cornell in Ithaca.

Even though it was May, there were snowflurries before the game. 

Princeton had lost three excruciating games to Cornell between the 2009 season and the 2010 regular season. In order, Cornell had 1) knocked off the Tigers in their first game since being ranked No. 1 in 2009, 2) defeated Princeton 6-4 in a brutal NCAA quarterfinal game in 2009 and 3) defeated Princeton 10-9 in the 2010 regular-season finale to deny the Tigers an outright Ivy title.

The rematch in 2010 came a week later in the tournament final. Princeton trailed big early, as it had in the other three games as well, and it was 6-2 Big Red at the break. It was Smyth who helped spark the second-half comeback, going 8 for 12 on face-offs and helping the Tigers to a 19-8 ground ball advantage in the third and fourth quarters after Cornell had won 14 of 15 ground balls in the second quarter alone.

Jack McBride eventually won it 10-9 with one second to go in overtime. It was a great moment in Princeton men's lacrosse history.

As TB thinks back about Smyth, he remembers him as a kid who had a great spirit, a very outgoing kid, one who seemed to always be upbeat. 

In fact that leads him directly to the other picture he wanted to share today, because no matter what, TB will never be able to think about Smyth without this:

That's Smyth on the horse. You want some context?

The picture was taken during the 2012 men's lacrosse trip to Costa Rica. If TB is remembering the timing correctly, the members of the team had just finished refurbishing a community center on a very hot, very humid morning. 

The center was located a few yards from a beach. When the project was finished, everyone relaxed for a little lunch. 

Shortly after that, Smyth arrived, on the above-pictured horse. So did one of his teammates - TB thinks it was Jeff Froccaro. They'd rented them on the beach.

It was pretty funny. It was also about the last thing TB expected to see, Smyth as he rode off the beach back to where the team was on a white horse.

TB and Smyth were emailing yesterday, and Smyth told him something truly extraordinary. Smyth, to whom TB will always think of as a kid himself, will be the father of a son in a few weeks. 

So too, Smyth said, will his teammates Matt Doherty, Tyler Moni and Zach Drexler. That's four people that TB remembers as "kids" who will be having kids of their own.

Smyth referred to them as a coming midfield unit and joked about the Class of 2041. His father Fran, a Princeton lacrosse standout himself and a member of the Class of 1982, probably made similar jokes when Peter was born.

TB congratulated Smyth and then gave him some of his best advice about diapering baby boys. Even as he typed out the words, he was sort of shocked about how he was having this conversation with Peter Smyth.

Then again, he shouldn't have been.

It's what Princeton Athletics are all about. One of TB's favorite things about his time here has been when he does hear from those who have come through the programs he's worked with, and it's always good to hear from them, whether it's been a few years or a few decades

Teammates. Coaches. Apparently staff as well.

Once you're on the same team, you're always on the same team. 

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