Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Fantastic Effort For Julia Ratcliffe

TigerBlog has watched more than just the Princetonians in the Olympic Games.

He has, for instance, continued to be amazed by the equestrian events, particularly the dressage. He's referred to it in the past as "horse dancing," and he's not 100 percent sure that he'd consider it sport as much as art. 

Still, it's difficult not to get caught up in just how amazing it is to see the rider and the horse in such amazing sync. It is, definitely. art.

Oh, and speaking of the equestrian events, did you see that Jessica Springsteen competed for the U.S. team in the jumping? The last name is familiar, right? And yes, that's The Boss' daughter (can you name the Springsteen song where he sings about the boss' daughter?)

Jessica Springsteen's first Olympic event was the individual event yesterday. The top 30 advanced to the final, and she finished tied for 31st. She'll be back in team jumping later this week.

TB also liked the introduction into these Games of the mixed relay events, in swimming and in triathlon. He especially enjoyed the mixed triathlon, a four-person event with two men and two women who all do a swim, bike ride and run, all of which are way shorter than an Ironman. It was really entertaining. 

TB watched the men's 10,000 meters the other night. That was an incredible race, won by Ethiopia's Selemon Barega, by 0.41 seconds over Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda. The bronze went to another Ugandan, Jacob Kiplimo, who was another 0.25 seconds back. Still, having three runners finish a 10,000-meter race with .66 seconds of each other was astounding.

There have been races where runners seem like they have a medal wrapped up, only to be caught just before the finish. What are these athletes thinking as they approach the tape? What must go through your head when you're that close to a medal?

This came up in the women's 800. Great Britain's Jemma Reekie looked all the world like she would win bronze, but she was caught just at the wire by American Raevyn Rogers, who would take third by nine-hundredths of a second. That's a rough one to lose. The gold was won by the USA's Athing Mu, followed by Great Britain's Hodkinson, a 19-year-old who smashed a 26-year old British record to win silver.

When it comes to British record-holders, TB is much more interested in the woman in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Lizzie Bird. The Princeton graduate, Class of 2017, runs this evening Tokyo time (8:00 Wednesday night) or this morning in New Jersey (7 am). In England that's noon. 

Bird qualified for the final, which will have 16 runners, which is itself an incredible accomplishment. She follows Donn Cabral, who reached the final in the last two Olympic men's steeplechase events, and she was one of two Princetonians to run the steeplechase at these Games, along with men's runner Ed Trippas.

Speaking of incredible performances in Tokyo, Julia Ratcliffe finished ninth in the women's hammer throw yesterday. Interestingly, the eight-place finisher was American DeAnna Price, who finished one spot ahead of Ratcliffe in another event, the 2015 NCAA finals, where Price was No. 1 and Ratcliffe was No. 2. Ratcliffe was the 2014 NCAA champion.

Like Bird, Ratcliffe is also her nation's record-holder in her event, in her case for New Zealand. Ratcliffe's performance in Tokyo was extraordinary. Reaching the final in any Olympic event is something to be wildly celebrated. Doing so in your first Olympic appearance for a nation that has not had great success in the event is an even bigger deal.

TB remembers when Peter Farrell, then Princeton's women's track and field coach, first mentioned Ratcliffe, shortly before she arrived at Princeton. Farrell said she'd be an NCAA champion and an Olympian, and now he's been right about both. TB had never heard him speak that way about any recruit of his. To that, in fact, you can add Olympic finalist. 

So this morning it's Lizzie Bird's turn at the Olympic finals. These are very exciting times for Princeton.

Oh, and the Springsteen song? It was 4th of July, Asbury Park (one of TB's absolute favorites), where in the second chorus he sings:

Oh, Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us
This pier lights our carnival life on the water
Running, laughing 'neath the boardwalk
Ah, with the boss' daughter

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Preseason All-American

Today is Tuesday, which means it's the day that Julia Ratcliffe throws in the final of the women's hammer at the Olympic Games.

It also means that you're one day away from Lizzie Bird in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final. As TigerBlog wrote yesterday, it's extraordinary to see these two women, teammates in the Class of 2017, excelling at such an elite level.

Ashleigh Johnson is still competing at the Olympics as well. She is chasing her second-straight gold medal in women's water polo, and if she gets it, she'll join Caroline Lind as the only two Princeton women who have achieved that feat. 

Seguing away from the Olympics for just a minute - or more accurately for a few hundred words - yesterday saw the announcement of the Stats Perform Preseason All-American football team. Stats Perform has had several names, but it's mission has never changed - it's an outlet devoted to covering the Football Championship Subdivision, of which Princeton is a member.

TigerBlog has a vote in the Stats Perform weekly Top 25. In his time as a voter (which means the 2019 season), he has only ever voted for one team in the No. 1 spot, and that has been North Dakota State. This time around, it's much more wide open after the COVID fall and then spring season.

He does know he will be voting for Sacred Heart somewhere in the poll, and not just because his son went there. The Pioneers, who had an outstanding spring season, are led by first-team All-American running back Julius Chestnut, who put up huge numbers in not a huge number of games this past spring.

As TB watched Chestnut play for Sacred Heart this past spring, he got the feeling that it's going to be harder and harder for schools on the FCS level to keep stars like Chestnut, with the ability for FBS teams now to swoop in now via the transfer portal. 

Actually, that's just one way in which the college athletic landscape, especially in football, is heading into uncharted waters. The fallout from it all will be fascinating to watch.

TB wrote last week about how the Ivy League is the most stable league in all of college sports. This is just another example of that.  

Speaking of the All-American teams, Princeton's own Jeremiah Tyler was named to the Stats Perform preseason third team. That's about right for Tyler for the preseason. The postseason? Well, he's certainly gotten better each year he's been at Princeton, and he was really good to start with, so that tells you something.

Tyler was a second-team All-Ivy selection on the unbeaten 2018 team. In 2019 he was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy pick and one of two finalists for the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. He's certainly a favorite for both of those honors again.

He's also a favorite of anyone who follows Princeton. He has to be. He plays with such ridiculous joy and such obvious ferocity. He's a pleasure to watch play the linebacker position.

Off the field, TB has never seen Tyler where he is not smiling. Widely. Ear to ear. He has a big personality, and he is clearly a leader on the team.

Princeton obviously did not play in the 2020 season, which was the first time since 1871 that there was no Tiger football season. The 2021 season is just a few weeks away now, and you can accurately say that the opening kickoff is next month. 

Tyler is not the only really good player the Tigers will have this season. There are holes to fill from graduation two years ago, and of course there is no quarterback who has started a game on the roster. 

Still, this Princeton team figures to be like the Princeton teams Bob Surace has put out there in recent years. It figures to be an Ivy League championship contender. As Gary Walters would say, there is reason for "cautious optimism" this August.

Of course, it is just that. August. Early August for that matter. 

Jeremiah Tyler is a deserving preseason All-American. He knows as well as anyone that such an honor will mean little when the games start. Then it will be time to prove it all over again.

Monday, August 2, 2021

On To The Finals

Someone who has been working for olympics.com certainly did his or her homework. 

If you look at the profile of Julia Ratcliffe, it mentions this nugget:

She began athletics as a hurdler in New Zealand. At age 12 her father bought her a hammer and began to coach her.

And to whom does the site give attribution? None other than TigerBlog himself. It was in a blog he wrote about Ratcliffe back in March, when Ratcliffe finally broke through and beat the Olympic qualifying standard in one of her last opportunities to do so. That standard - 72.30 meters - had haunted her for five years after she narrowly missed it prior to the 2016 Rio Games.

From that early introduction as a hurdler, Ratcliffe finally became an Olympian - in the hammer throw. And she made the most of the chance.

Ratcliffe has had many other impressive achievements in the sport before she ever reached the biggest stage. She had an all-time career at Princeton, winning the NCAA title in 2014 and finishing as runner-up the following year (to current USA Olympian DeAnna Price).

Perhaps most impressively Ratcliffe has the 134 best hammer throws in Ivy League history. That gets more insane every time TB writes it.

She made her Olympic debut over the weekend in the first round of the hammer, representing her native New Zealand. To advance, she needed to either throw 73.50 meters or be among the best 12 in the qualifying round to advance to the final.

Her first throw of three was her best, traveling 73.20 meters. It was just short of an automatic qualification, but it did leave her fourth in the first group. If fewer than eight from Group 2 threw it better than 73.20, then Ratcliffe would be on to the final Tuesday.

As it turned out, only two in the second group beat her. As a result, Ratcliffe is headed to the final round, which will be contested tomorrow at 8:35 pm in Tokyo, or 7:35 am in Princeton. TB is pretty sure that's also 10:35 pm in Hamilton, New Zealand, Ratcliffe's hometown.

Lizzie Bird's hometown is St. Albans Herts, in England, about 20 miles outside of London. It'll be Wednesday night at 8 in Tokyo, or noon in St. Albans Herts, when Bird also competes in the Olympic final in her event.

It was an extraordinary half hour or so for Princeton women's track and field Saturday in Tokyo. You can actually say it was an extraordinary half hour for Princeton women's track and field athletes who graduated in 2017.

First it was Ratcliffe who made her bid for the final in the hammer. Even before the second hammer group was finished, Bird - Ratcliffe's teammate and classmate - ran in the third and final heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

To reach the final, she needed to either be in the top three in her heat or have one of the next six fastest times of all the runners in the three heats. And speaking of heat, they were running in heat that was just short of three digits. That is not ideal running weather.

Despite that, Bird had an amazing performance, running 9:24.34 and finishing fifth in her heat. Her time sent TB immediately to the other two heats, and a quick check of those times revealed that Bird was also headed to the Olympic final.

For Princeton, that's three straight Olympic Games in which an alum has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. Rising senior Ed Trippas ran for Australia in the men's steeplechase earlier in these Tokyo Games. Want to get to the Olympics in the steeplechase? Come to Princeton.

Bird was a two-time Ivy League Heps steeplechase champion at Princeton, as well as a Heps cross country champion. She has grown into one of the very best steeplechasers in the world.

Now the two former teammates will be in the Olympic finals, one day apart in Tokyo, going for medals for two different countries but united together as always as Princeton teammates and classmates.

As TB said, it was an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton women's track and field. 

Actually, make that an extraordinary few minutes for Princeton in general.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Princeton Proud

TigerBlog had one overriding emotion as he watched Ed Trippas run the steeplechase at the Olympic Games yesterday.

Pride.

How can you not be proud to be at a place that can produce that level of athlete while at the same time not compromising on its academic integrity? How could you not feel pride in a place that enables its athletes to achieve at the highest level possible. 

That Trippas did not advance to the steeplechase final hardly mattered. He gave, in Pete Carril's words, "a good account of himself." He also very much gave the appearance of being someone who is not yet through on the international stage, let alone on the Princeton stage.

Trippas is Australian. He finished 11th in his heat, which had 15 runners in it. 

His time was 8:29.90, which was 10 seconds off the pace he ran to qualify for the Olympics in the first place. TB knows enough to know that comparing times is a difficult thing to do, since all races tend to pace themselves differently.

Still, his time of 8:29.90 would have been good enough to earn him third place at the NCAA championships this past May, when the winning time was 8:28.20. Trippas, who begins his Princeton cross country season in a few weeks, will be very much in the running, as it were, for that steeplechase title next spring.

Will he be back in the Olympics in three years? Is there any reason to think otherwise? 

And again, as TB said to begin with, it was just such a great feeling to watch him compete on that level. It's the same feeling that every Princeton fan has to have been feeling all week as the 18 Princeton athletes in Tokyo have been doing their thing.

It's been extraordinary to watch them, just as it is in every Olympic Games.

Trippas did not win a medal this time. Tom George, a member of the Class of 2018, did win a medal, a bronze in the men's heavyweight 8 rowing final with Great Britain.

As you probably know, Princeton was represented by three alums in that six-boat race, and the three alums competed with three different countries. 

George, rowing in the third seat, and the British boat finished with a time of 5:25.73. The UK squad was in second at the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meter marks before finishing third.

The other two Princetonians in the race were Nick Mead, Class of 2017, who rowed with the American boat that finished fourth, one full second behind the Brits. Tim Masters, Class of 2015, and the Australians finished sixth.

George became the second Princeton men's rowing alum to win a bronze medal in two days, following Fred Vystavel, who came in third in the Danish pairs boat. Vystavel was in the Class of 2016.

So far George and Vystavel are the two Princetonians to have won medals. There are still others competing, and it's very, very likely that Ashleigh Johnson will win a medal with the U.S. women's water polo team, even after the loss to Hungary in group play. 

Johnson and the Americans played the Russian Olympic Committee team overnight. The women's quarterfinals begin Monday.

Princeton also has three other athletes who compete today. Sondre Guttormsen, who will be a sophomore this year, goes in the first round of the men's pole vault, beginning at 8:40 pm Eastern. Guttormsen is on the Norwegian team. Nathan Crumpton runs for American Somoa in the 100 meters later tonight as well.

Elize Stone fences for the U.S. team in the women's team saber competition. That begins at 9 pm tonight, whicih is 10 am Saturday in Tokyo. 

It's great to see the Princeton athletes who win medals. There have now been 61 medals won by Princeton athletes all-time at the Olympics.

More than that, though, it's about what TB started with today. It's about an institution that is about excellence from top to bottom, in everything it does. It's about an extraordinary group of young people who have worked so hard to pursue their Olympic dreams and now they are living them out, having done all of this while competing academically with the same sort of success. 

If that doesn't make you Princeton Proud, then what will?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Extraordinary Races

TigerBlog starts by sending his heartiest congratulations to Fred Vystavel, Class of 2016, on winning bronze in the men's lightweight rowing pairs at the Olympic Games.

There are few achievements in sports that can match winning an Olympic medal. TB has long believed that there has to be greater joy in winning bronze than gold or silver, since you've come so close to not medaling at all after all of the hard work that got you there. Coming in fourth has to really sting.

Vystavel and his partner Joachim Sutton (a graduate of the University of California) finished a solid third in the race, five seconds behind the winners from Croatia, more than three seconds behind the runners-up from Romania but also .55 seconds ahead of the fourth-place boat from Canada.

Vystavel's bronze gives Princeton 60 all-time Olympic medals. It also ensures that Princeton has won at least one medal at every Summer Olympic Games going back to 1960 other than the 1996 Games and the 1980 Games (which the U.S. boycotted).

As TB said, it's something extraordinary, and all of Princeton salutes Fred Vystavel.

Speaking of Olympic rowing, TigerBlog has finally learned the difference between "rowing" and "sculling."

It's actually pretty simple. In sculling, each person in the boat has two oars. In rowing (sometimes called "sweep rowing"), each person in the boat has one oar.

Claire Collins was on the United States four in rowing. Hannah Scott was on the Great Britain four in sculling. Both Princetonians helped their boats to finish first in the "B" final, or seventh place overall.

The next question for TB was whether or not a good rower is automatically a good sculler and vice versa, or are they completely separate disciplines. He found a story from 2017 on a website called rowperfect entitled "Sculling Makes Sweep Rowers Faster."

Regardless of that specific answer, it appears that Princeton also makes rowers faster. At least these Olympic Games say so.

The final Olympic rowing race will be contested this evening Princeton time and Friday morning Tokyo time (9:25 tonight Princeton time, 10:25 am tomorrow Tokyo time). It's the men's heavyweight 8, and it could be as fascinating an Olympic event as Princeton Athletics has ever seen.

Why's that?

There are six boats that have reached the final. Of those six, there are three different boats who have a Princeton alum among the eight rowers. 

That is simply extraordinary.

Tom George, Class of 2018, rows for Great Britain. Tim Masters, Class of 2015, rows for Australia. Nick Mead, Class of 2017, rows for the United States. 

The other three boats in the race are from Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. 

Princeton rowing has alums who have won medals in the same event for different countries on one occasion. That was back at the 2012 Games in London, where Caroline Lind won her second gold medal with the U.S. women's 8 and Canadians Andreanne Morin and Lauren Wilkinson won silver in the same race.

There have been several times when Princetonians won medals as teammates. Most recently, Susie Scanlan and Maya Lawrence won bronze in women's team epee fencing at the same Olympics where Wilkinson and Morin won their silvers.

Going back, it's happened three other times, all in hockey, though not all on ice. Gerald Hallock and Robert Livingston won silver in ice hockey in 1932 in Lake Placid. Did they have any clue what was going to happen there 48 years later, when the Games returned to the small town in upstate New York?

Four years later, in the German town of Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1936, Frederick Kammer and Malcolm McAlpin won bronze in ice hockey. At the infamous Summer Games in Berlin a few months later, Paul Fentress and Elwood Godfrey won bronze in the other hockey, men's field hockey.

And now there's a chance for some more Princeton history. Three rowers, three countries - all Princeton alums, all rowing for Olympic medals. 

That's a can't-miss event.

Also today in Tokyo, Ed Trippas runs in the semifinal round of the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. That race is set for 8 pm Princeton time, so again, that's actually Friday morning at 9 am in Tokyo. 

Trippas, of course, is a rising Princeton senior who will be running cross country in a few weeks for the Tigers. First, though, there's the matter of the steeplechase at the Olympics, where Trippas hopes to make it three-straight times a Princeton runner has reached the steeplechase final, after Donn Cabral did so in 2012 and 2016. 

Trippas is Australian. Another Princeton alum, Lizzie Bird, will run the women's steeplechase for England Saturday.

And once again, you can follow all of Princeton's Olympians HERE

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Long Live The Ivy League

If Gevvie Stone has rowed her last Olympic race, then she went out in a way befitting one of the most accomplished Princeton athletes of all time.

Stone and her partner Kristi Wagner finished fifth in the double sculls A final in Tokyo yesterday, or technically today, as the race was on Wednesday midday local time. Stone and Wagner were fifth in the race at every split.

It's been quite a run for Stone, who had hoped to compete in the 2008 Games, made it for the first time in 2012 and won the B final in singles, came back in 2016 and won silver in singles and then made it all the way for a third Olympic Games this year. 

She did all this while also somehow attending medical school and completing her residency. It's a remarkable story (and one that you'll be able to read in the TigerBlog's upcoming book on women's athletics). 

If Stone has three more years of world class rowing in her, she can match the achievement of Princeton's only four-time Olympian, Anne Marden, who won silvers in rowing in 1984 and 1988 after making the team for the first time in 1980, when the U.S. would boycott the Games in Moscow, and then again for the final time in 1992 in Barcelona, where she'd finish fourth.

Stone wasn't the only Princetonian to row yesterday in Tokyo. Among the others, Hannah Scott (Great Britain) and Claire Collins (United States) rowed on boats that won their B finals to finish seventh overall and Fred Vystavel rowed for Denmark in the semifinal of the lightweight men's double sculls. 

Of course, there is more going on in the world of sports than just the Olympic Games. There is, for instance, the current upheaval in the world of college athletics. 

If you've taken some time away from the Olympics, you know that Texas and Oklahoma have applied to leave the Big 12 and instead enter the SEC. The reason for this, of course, is money.

Right now, there's a Power 5 in college athletics. The Big 12 minus Texas and Oklahoma figures to be in major trouble, which would lead to a Power 4, with the rest of the Big 12 schools in search of the best possible landing spot.

There is also the possibility that the Big Ten would absorb much of the Pac 12, forming another super league. It's crazy times in the world of college realignment.

When TB was a kid, there was a great league called the Southwest Conference. There probably was nobody back then who could have imagined that the league would fall apart, but that's exactly what happened. The league was formed in 1914 and made it all the way to 1996 before it disintegrated, largely because Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech moved to the Big 12, which used to be the Big Eight. 

Since then, nothing in college athletics has really been all that shocking. The Big Ten, which had always been a Midwestern league, added schools from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The ACC added Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt and Louisville. It got to the point where it was really hard to remember who was where.

And every time this happens, TB only has one thought: "Long Live The Ivy League."

The Ivy League is the only league that has remained unchanged since the day it was formed. There were eight schools then, back in 1956, and those same eight schools are still there today. Come back in another 100 years, and those eight schools will still make up the Ivy League.

When TB saw the news about Texas and Oklahoma, he immediately felt badly for all of the people who work at the Big 12 whose jobs suddenly were in danger, through no fault of their own. Besides that, the biggest downside of all of the movement is that way it all destroys traditional rivalries.

And that's one of the things that makes the Ivy League so special. Its rivalries, which go back in some cases nearly 100 years before the league was formalized, are not going anywhere.

It makes TB glad to be a part of a league like that. 

The Ivy League is like no other league in so many ways, and pretty much all of them are for the good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Happy Hamsa

And there's a winner.

Not a medalist. Still, this is a winner. You want to see sheer, complete, Olympic joy? Then you have a winner with Princeton's Mohamed Hamsa:


That's Hamsa, a rising Princeton junior who is competing at the Olympic Games for the second time. Hamsa won two individual foil matches to reach the quarterfinals, and the photo came after he won his Round of 16 match over Andrea Cassara of Italy. 

That is a tremendous, tremendous picture. 

Hamsa might not have won a medal in the individual foil, but he certainly had an impressive run.

What else can TB tell you today about the Summer Games? Well, there's this. You know who would be very helpful to have around during the Olympics?

Former Princeton men's lacrosse player Sam Bonafede. And why is that, other than he's one of the nicer people ever to wear a Tiger uniform?

Well, the answer is that Bonafede can identify the flag of every country on Earth. And so when the Olympic results are listed with the competitors name and the flag of the country, Bonafede could simply tell you which one it is without having to look it up.

For instance, he'd be able to tell you the flag with the solid red stripe over the solid white stripe over the solid blue stripe is the Netherlands. He could tell you the flag with the solid red over solid white over solid red is Austria.

And that would have been very helpful to know when it came to the women's cycling road race.

Did you see this story, the one about the women's cyclist who thought she won the gold medal and started to celebrate?

It turns out that she was actually second, not first. She said she felt "gutted" to find out she hadn't won. TigerBlog will get back to that.

The rider's name is Annemiek van Vleuten, from the Netherlands. TB had to look up the flag, because Bonafede – who by the way is a recent honors graduate of the University of Chicago law school – wasn't around to simply point to it and say "the Netherlands."

The winner was Anna Kiesenhofer, from Austria (again, same flag issue). She was one of five riders who broke away early and then never stopped breaking away, so much so that nobody in the field even noticed that she wasn't around anymore. 

The race was 87 miles long, and Kiesenhofer won by 75 seconds. That left van Vleuten in second, as opposed to first, even though she thought she'd caught all of the riders who had left the pack.

The person you really feel for is Lotte Kopecky of Belgium, who finished fourth, as opposed to third, if she thought van Vleuten had won. If that wasn't bad enough, Kopecky finished that 87 mile race a mere a mere tenth of a second behind bronze medalist Elisa Longo Borghini. 

Kiesenhofer, by the way, can relate to numbers big and small, as she has a doctoral degree in mathematics (after earning her master's at Cambridge). Her dissertation was entitled: Integrable systems on b-symplectic manifolds. TB has no idea what that means.

It wasn't as busy a day at the Olympics for the Princeton contingent there as it has been so far. 

Ashleigh Johnson and the women's water polo team from the U.S. made it two straight wins with a 12-7 victory over China. That game was played when it was still Monday in Princeton. 

There was also the women's epee fencing team event and a U.S. team that includes Princeton grads Kat Holmes and Anna van Brummen. As you recall, van Brummen defeated Holmes in the NCAA epee final in 2017 after both had been teammates on the 2013 NCAA team championship team.

The Americans fell to the Republic of Korea in the quarterfinal round. 

Today is a very busy day for Princeton's Olympic rowers, with six of them on the water. Fred Vystavel, Class of 2016, rows in the A semifinal for Denmark's pairs. 

And then there is Gevvie Stone, a 2016 silver medalist in single sculls who goes for a medal in the double sculls final. Stone's race is at 8:18 pm Eastern time tonight, so Wednesday morning in Tokyo.

And once again, you can follow all of Princeton's Olympians HERE.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Tokyo Time

TigerBlog finally figured out the answer to this burning question: What time is it in Tokyo?

It turns out that Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of Princeton, so an event that is happening at noon in Tokyo is taking place at 11 the night before in Princeton. Then throw in that the Olympics website has everything in 24-hour military time, and who can tell what is happening when?

It's been an interesting start to the Games. The drama has certainly built for two prohibitive favorites from the United States - the women's soccer team and the men's basketball team, both of whom lost their openers in somewhat shocking fashion. 

It also took the U.S. until Day 2 to win its first medal. TB read that the last time there was a Summer Olympics in which the United States did not win a medal on Day 1 was in 1972 in Munich. 

Meanwhile, another prohibitive favorite is the U.S. women's water polo team, which is led by Princeton alum Ashleigh Johnson. The first time TB flipped on the Olympic coverage, he saw Johnson in goal as the U.S. rolled past the host Japanese in its first game. 

The Americans  played their second game against China at 2 pm Monday, Tokyo time, which means that it started at 1 am Monday Eastern time and therefore is already over. The Americans won 12-7.

It's already been a busy Olympic Games for the 18 Princetonians who are competing there. Of that group, all but five – all of whom are entered in track and field – have already been in action.

In addition to Johnson, Princeton has also had its athletes compete in fencing and rowing. 

As far as the rowers go, Kathleen Noble competed in single sculls for Uganda, where she grew up, and in doing so she became the first rower ever to represent that country at the Olympics. That alone is a tremendous feat. She has given a good account of herself as well, improving with each race through the repechage and now rowing in the E final.

Two other women rowers, Hannah Scott (Great Britain) and Claire Collins (US) will row in the B finals after making their way through the repechage as well.

Princeton will be represented as well by four men's rowers, all of whom will row Wednesday local time (meaning tomorrow night Princeton time). Fred Vystavel, who is rowing for Denmark, goes in the lightweight pairs A/B semifinal.

Gevvie Stone has rowed twice in the double sculls and has one more race to go, this time in the A final Wednesday, which really means tomorrow evening in this country. Stone is one of the more extraordinary people TigerBlog has ever interviewed, by the way.

She's an emergency medicine doctor. She's an NCAA champion. She's a three-time Olympian now. She's also an Olympic medalist, having won silver in 2016 in the single sculls.

How many people out there can say that they've gone to medical school, won an NCAA title and been a three-time Olympian, along with an Olympic medal? The list isn't quite that long, TB would guess.

Stone's partner in the doubles sculling is Kristi Wagner. A little bit of research revealed two things about Wagner. 

First, she enjoys bicycling, especially if "the destination includes ice cream or donuts." Second, she's a Yale grad. That's quite a boat, with Princeton and Yale against the world. 

Stone and Wagner reached the final by finishing third in their semifinal, beating fourth-place France by 1.5 seconds and finishing behind three seconds behind the Netherlands and two seconds behind Canada. The three qualifiers from the other semifinal are Lithuania, New Zealand and Romania.

Do the qualifying times matter when the final starts? Are they an indication of anything that will have an impact on this race? TB doesn't know. 

He just knows that he'll be rooting hard for the Americans, even if there is a Yalie in the boat.  

As always, you can follow everything about Princeton's Tokyo athletes at the special goprincetontigers.com section on the Olympics, which you can access HERE.

Friday, July 23, 2021

#TigersInTokyo

 You know who is the happiest person TigerBlog knows right now?

That would be Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog. And why is he so happy? Because the Olympics are starting (and, presumably, because he's married to TB's brother).

TigerBlog isn't sure he knows anyone who likes the Olympics more than his brother-in-law does. He's all set to watch endless amounts of Olympic coverage, both on the American networks and on the Canadian network, since he lives in Seattle and can get CBC.

TigerBlog is into the Olympics too.

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2021 Olympics from Tokyo are tonight, a little more than a year after they were supposed to begin. These Games will be different than any that have come before them due to the Coronavirus pandemic - for starters, these are the first-ever Olympics to be held in an odd-numbered year. 

There will also be no spectators permitted, and there will be rules for the athletes and coaches in terms of arrivals and departures from the Olympic Village. Even the presentation of medals has been affected, as the traditional placing of medals over the athlete's heads has been replaced by a contact-free method.

It's not going to have the same feel that it's always had. But it's still the Olympics, which are the largest sporting event in the world. And for athletes who have trained their whole lives for this opportunity, they might miss out on the frills but they're still laser-focused on the opportunity.

His second-favorite part is watching all of the events that aren't on in primetime and seeing athletes who are mostly anonymous compete in sports you rarely get to see. His favorite part is watching the Princetonians.

There are 18 of them who are competing in Tokyo (not 19, as TB originally wrote after miscounting). They will be representing nine different countries - the U.S., Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, American Samoa, Uganda, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand - and they will all be taking a piece of their Princeton experiences with them.

They range from a member of the Class of 2007 (rower Gevvie Stone) to three current Princeton students (steeplechaser Ed Trippas, fencer Mohamed Hamza, pole vaulter Sondre Gottormsen). 

Of the 18, four have competed previously in the Olympics and two have won medals. Ashleigh Johnson, of course, won gold with the U.S. women's water polo team in 2016 and is favored to do so again, which would match Caroline Lind for the most golds by a Princeton woman. Stone won silver in 2016 in single sculls, and she is back this time in the pairs event.

The other two returning Olympians are Hamza and Kat Holmes, both of whom fenced in 2016.

There will be no shortage of Olympic coverage from Princeton Athletics. If you haven't already seen it, go to the "Tigers In Tokyo" page off the main website. You can access it HERE.

There is a lot of information there. It has the complete list of the athletes (and the four coaches) who are in Tokyo. It has schedules of when they compete. It has bio information.

It will constantly be updated as well during the Games themselves. You can also find information on social media and, obviously, here with TB.

In fact, the first Tigers have already competed, as Stone and Hannah Scott rowed their first round matches yesterday. Kathleen Noble, who will row today, will be the first rower ever to represent Uganda. In addition, Holmes has her first individual epee match tonight. 

Maybe the best picture TB has ever seen of a Princeton athlete is the one of Gevvie Stone from 2016, with her medal around her neck and the American flag held over her outstretched arms. The look on her face is one of sheer joy, incredible joy, the kind of joy that very, very few athletes will ever experience. 

It was captured perfectly in that photo. Will there be another such picture of another Princeton athlete this time around? TB certainly hopes so. 

In the meantime, it's time for the Olympics, which means once again time to root for the Tigers who will be there. 

Let the Games begin.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Olympic Fencing

TigerBlog's main rooting interest in the upcoming Summer Olympics is in the 19 Princeton athletes who will be competing there.

This, of course, includes fencing. It's a sport in which Princeton has been quite successful through the years on the Olympic stage, and it's a sport in which Princeton will be well-represented again when the Tokyo Games begin in a few days.

Princeton fencing and the Olympics go back to Henry Breckinridge, Class of 1907. Breckinridge won bronze in team foil in the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. In fact, it was Breckinridge who won the deciding bout in the third-place match against Great Britain.

In addition to being an Olympic medalist in fencing, Breckinridge had quite the interesting life. Beginning in 1913 at the age of 27, he was the Assistant Secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson, another Princeton alum, until he left to actually fight in World War I as a battalion commander. Among the battles he fought was the Meuse-Argonne, where nearly 27,000 Americans died.

He went to Harvard Law School after Princeton, and he spent much of his life in law, including for the Lindbergh family during the ransom negotiations after the baby was kidnapped. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate from New York in 1934 and entered Democratic Presidential primaries in 1936, with little success.

The next Princeton fencer to win a medal was Tracy Jaeckel, who won bronze in team epee in 1932 in Los Angeles. Jaeckel, from the Class of 1928, was an IFA national champion at Princeton. After graduation, he went into the family furrier business before opening a haberdashery in the Virgin Islands. He was also the president of the Virgin Islands Fencing Association.

A haberdashery, by the way, is a fancy way of saying a men's clothing store. There are probably way worse places to run a business, fence and live than in the Virgin Islands.

There have been quite a few Princeton Olympic fencers – 12, to be exact – and there have been four medal winners, all in team events. The most recent two were teammates in the Olympics but never teammates at Princeton.

Maya Lawrence was in the Class of 2002. Susie Scanlan was in the Class of 2014. They were teammates together at the 2012 London Games, where they upset Russia, the gold medal favorite, in the bronze medal epee match.

Scanlan came back to Princeton after winning an Olympic medal and was a member of the 2013 NCAA women's fencing championship team. 

TigerBlog spoke to both of them for the women's history book that he's written (it's at the publisher now), and their stories were among the most fascinating. Scanlan spoke about what it was like to compete at Princeton after winning an Olympic medal. Lawrence spoke about her introduction to the sport and how her mother got into it after she did.

TB stumbled on a story in the New York Post earlier this week about a brother/sister fencing duo. Khalil Thompson is on the U.S. men's team as an individual and in a team competition, and his sister (Kamali) is an alternate on the U.S. sabre team (she's also an orthopedic surgery resident).

There are two interesting parts of this story. First, the Thompson's are from Teaneck, N.J., which is also Lawrence's hometown. In fact, her mother became the fencing coach at Teaneck High School and coached the Thompsons.

Second, one of the four Princetonians who will be fencing in Tokyo is about to start medical school, Kat Holmes, is likely headed down the orthopedic path as well. 

Holmes is making her second Olympic appearance. Her former Princeton teammates, Anna van Brummen and Eliza Stone (both of whom were NCAA individual champions at Princeton), are making their first, as is Egyptian men's fencer Mohamed Hamza.

For Hamza, these are his second Olympic Games, as he fenced in 2016. He's trying to do what Scanlan did, which is to win an Olympic medal and then return to compete for Princeton, which he will do this winter as a junior.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Mary's Dress Sways

TigerBlog read a story in the New Yorker by Princeton alum David Remnick (a John McPhee protege, by the way) about one of the lyrics in what might just be TB's favorite song of all time.

The song in question is "Thunder Road," the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band classic. The lyric is in the second line.

The song starts: "The screen door slams. Mary's dress ..."

Is it "waves," which is what TB has always thought? Or is it "sways," which is what it says in the original lyrics Springsteen wrote, not to mention in his autobiography?

This is what Remnick's story is all about. It's a really well done piece, which you can read HERE.

Can a dress wave? If it can wave, it can sway. And has TB really been getting it wrong for 40 years? Hmmm.

From the story, TB learned there is a website that specializes in lyrics that are commonly said wrong. It's called "kissthisguy.com," and it's named after a Jimi Hendrix song where he sang "kiss the sky."

The more TigerBlog considers it, the more he thinks it is "Mary's dress waves." If anything, the lone line in the song that is hard to figure out is "there were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away." But hey, TB will have to go with "sways" from now on.

The piece itself was about the glimmers of positivity that can found on the internet in a sea of negativity. Remnick starts out by talking about what the internet was supposed to be versus what it has become:

The Internet is an uneven contribution to the human prospect. We know this now. The wide-eyed evangelical era of “information wants to be free” is long in the past, and we can safely argue that the Web has deepened the ugliest fissures of society, winnowed our attention spans and heightened our anxieties.

He's saying a lot in one paragraph.

There aren't that many people who still work in college athletic communications who predate the rise of the internet, but TB is one of them. He often thinks back to what it used to be like, how much different everything was and how the easiest of tasks now used to be so arduous back then.

He goes down this road a lot here. He's written about it so many times before that you've probably committed it to memory.

If you haven't, it goes something like this: 

There's a part about how sports information used to consist of arranging media placements and mailing releases and pictures out (TB is now flashing back to the mailing football headshots, like 75 of them, to the late great Kathy Slattery at Dartmouth for her game program). There's a part about how long it used to take to place one photo into a box in an old desktop publishing program called "PageMaker," which was in version 2.0 or so when TB first started. Ah, those were the days.

Speaking of those days, TB can still remember how long it took to drag files around onto storage cartridges that he'd have to set up on multiple computers, set to "share." It took hours and hours and hours. 

Sure, there was a charm to it and all. It would have driven TB out of the business long ago though had it not changed.

TB has also written about the need to stay current. Who ever would have foreseen anything like social media back in the 1990s? Or, you know, a blog.

So yes, David Resnick is right. The internet hasn't necessarily become the information superhighway it was billed to be, and oh is he right that it's destroyed attention spans. But hey, it has its good points.

It's made it so easy to check on song lyrics, and other stuff, especially when you need to know where else you saw that guy in the show that's on now who looks familiar.

And athletic communications. That too. 

So what's next? Who knows? It's always been fun to try to look ahead, and it's always been fun to then implement that.

Of course, it's also fun to go back to the old days. The very old days, technologically speaking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

An Aussie Writes About An Aussie

For some reason, someone on the Office of Athletic Communications call the other day mentioned that the five members of the team should have a 100-meter race.

Of the five people who make up the OAC, TigerBlog is by far the oldest. He has 18 years on the next oldest member, and he is probably 22 or so years older than the average. He also has two surgically repaired knees.

Despite that, the general consensus was that TB would finish either second or third. He doesn't see it.

There was unanimous opinion that the winner would be Elliott Carr. TB would be willing to wager somewhere in the neighborhood of everything he owns that Elliott would win (provided he didn't do something like throw the race to collect everything TB owns).

Elliott is a former college basketball player. He stands about 6-5 or 6-6 and is young and athletic. There's no chance he loses. 

TB? Maybe the others in his office think he'd do okay because of how much he rides his bike, but that would be losing track of the fact that he rides his bike mostly because his knees are shot. 

TB and Elliott did 15 miles around Princeton last week. TB is pretty sure Elliott could have sprinted away from him any time he wanted except for one reason. Only TB knew the route they were taking. 

Still it was fun to ride with him. He's, alliteratively, an amazingly amiable Australian, and his story is an interesting one, of how he came to the U.S. for college, attending Clarke University in Iowa. His bio on Clarke's webpage mentions, among other accomplishments, that he played Australian Rules Football and won the conference shot put championship in high school. He was also a starter and Academic All-Conference selection at Clarke.

It was Elliott who wrote the story on goprincetontigers.com about another Australian, steeplechaser Ed Trippas. In case you haven't seen the story, you can read it HERE.

Elliott did a great job of capturing Trippas' story. What Trippas did this past June 29 was nothing short of amazing.

Trippas, running in his final opportunity to reach the Olympic qualifying standard and secure a trip to Tokyo, knew he had to better 8:22.0. What was his time? A shocking 8:19.60. 

It was more than just a successful run against the standard. It was the third-fastest steeplechase time ever by an Australian and a time that would have easily won the NCAA championship this past June - by nearly 10 full seconds. 

That time was the 10th best ever run by an NCAA steeplechaser.

Trippas will get a chance to run in Tokyo. He'll also get a chance to win an NCAA title, since he's going to be entering his senior year at Princeton after these Games. 

When you read the story, you'll get a real sense of who Trippas is. You'll also get a really good sense of what he's gone through to get where he is.

There are also some great pictures, especially the one of him as a very young track athlete. And the one of him with three other members of a relay team from when he was still very much new to running. 

In that one, he has a medal around his neck. Will he have an Olympic medal? That's asking a lot, but his time in June lets you know that anything is possible for him. 

The very first event of the track and field portion of the upcoming Games is the semifinal for the men's steeplechase. It will be contested on Friday morning, July 30. The final will be held three days later, on Monday evening. 

As you probably remember, Princeton has had an alum in the final of the men's steeplechase at the last two Olympic Games, where both times Donn Cabral reached the final and finished eighth. Cabral was an NCAA champion in the event his senior year of 2012.

Will Trippas be able to duplicate those successes? He's going to get the chance, largely because of the astonishing race he ran back in June. 

Here's his quote from Elliott's story:

I got on the line and it was an all or nothing situation where I had to run 8:22.00 or faster to make it. Fortunately, I ran 8:19.60 and qualified. It was a pretty special moment.

Yes, it was pretty special. 

And now he has a chance for a few more of those moments.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Mollie's Party

If you stood on the patio at Forbes College Friday afternoon, then odds are you had to be sweating. 

If you ventured inside, it was much cooler. And there were donuts. Usually, when it's hovering near a hundred degrees, air conditioning and donuts are the easy winner.

On the other hand, the woman of the hour was standing outside, near where DJ Darius was playing music. The woman of the hour didn't move off of her spot for the entire time TigerBlog was there. She didn't have to. Everyone came to her.

It made TB think a bit of what might be his favorite line from "Goodfellas." It's near the beginning, when Ray Liotta is just starting to give the lineup of who's who in the movie. It's when the audience first meets up with Paul Sorvino, who plays Paulie. 

Okay, the two aren't really all that close. But there was at least some similarity.

For starters, Paulie from Goodfellas was the boss. So was the women of the hour, the soon-to-be-former Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan. 

Also, everyone was coming to see Mollie. She didn't have to, well, move for anyone. That's where the similarities end. You know, because Paulie was the boss of a mob family and all.

The occasion was Mollie's farewell party. By now you almost surely know that she will be leaving Princeton soon to become the commissioner of the LPGA. It's a job that she will be perfect for, given her love of the following things: 1) the value of athletics, 2) the ability to contribute to the growth of athletic opportunities for girls and women and 3) golf.

She leaves Princeton after seven years as the head of the Department of Athletics. TigerBlog could give you a long list of her accomplishments in those seven years, including an overwhelming number of championships, facility upgrades, the growth of the Princeton Tigers Performance initiative and wild successes in fundraising and endowment.

Those are all great achievements. They are not what TigerBlog thinks about first when he thinks about Mollie. What she's always been about are the people. And that has always started with the athletes.

“The mission of Princeton Athletics is to prepare our student-athletes to achieve, serve and lead in all areas," she said recently. She believes that firmly, by the way. That was the motto she created when she arrived, building off of "Education Through Athletics" to make her own stamp. She'd later create another foundational piece of Princeton Athletics when she coined "Be A Tiger" as a way of encapsulating the values of the department.

There isn't an athlete who competed at Princeton in her time who hasn't benefited from her values and her initiatives. She's touched them all, whether they met her directly or not. 

She also leaves a mark on the people with whom she worked, both those who were part of the department she ran and those she met elsewhere at the University. There were plenty of both represented at the party Friday.

Her greatest strength is possibly her ability to relate to people. She has others. She has a proven history of learning quickly, of overseeing successful operations and building on that success, of establishing organizational expectations and insisting that her people meet them.

But above all that, it's likely that her success has been, as TB said, to relate. To everyone. It makes people want to give their best effort, since they are made to feel by the person in charge that their contribution is valued.

And so one by one, everyone went over to where Mollie was, in the shade, to say hello, and presumably goodbye. It hasn't been easy for her to make this decision to leave Princeton, where she played soccer and hockey before heading into the business world at Chelsea Piers and then coming back to her alma mater in 2014.

In typical Mollie fashion, she made time for everyone. 

There were hugs. There were good wishes. There were memories. There were laughs.

It was a perfect send off for this particular boss. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

One Week Away

TigerBlog has gotten into watching the Tour de France on TV.

He's watched the last few days as the riders have gone through climbs that have taken them to elevations of 7,000 feet, pushing onward through 10 percent upgrades. It's amazing stuff to watch, especially for someone who is a regular bicycle rider himself.

He couldn't even dream of getting close to making it a fraction of the way up the mountains that these riders make look routine. There's a separate championship for the King of the Mountain, and that might be more impressive to TB than who wins the overall title.

The event began on June 26 and runs through Sunday, and there have been two days off in the middle. The riders will cover a total of 2,121 miles, with a shortest one-day distance of 17 miles and the longest one-day distance of 154 miles. There are 12 different days where the riders go at least 100 miles

One thing that is clear from the TV broadcast is that there is almost no separation between the fans and the riders when they come by. The first stage of the race, you might recall, was interrupted by one fan who wandered a little too far out onto the road and took out a bunch of riders, resulting in injuries (the riders) and an arrest (the spectator).

In the stages that TB has been watching, the spectators have stepped out to hold up signs and yell encouragement, and they've even tapped riders on the back as they've gone by.

TB still hasn't come up with a favorite rider. He's more fascinated by the endurance and willingness to put yourself through something like that. 

The broadcasts have been on NBC Sports Network. As the riders go along, there are also ads that scroll to promote the upcoming Olympic Games. The opening ceremonies are just one week away, beginning July 23 in Tokyo.

The Olympics have been delayed a year by the pandemic. They will also not have fans in venues, again because of COVID. What is left is a made-for-TV event, one that will dominate the sports scene for two weeks.

Princeton will again be well-represented at the Summer Games. The Tigers have, by TB's count, 19 athletes and four coaches in Japan.

Princeton has an amazing history at the Olympic Games, dating back to the first modern Games in 1896. Prior to 2021, Princeton has been represented by 114 athletes who between them have made 159 total appearances. There have been 19 gold medals, 24 silver medals and 24 bronze medals.

One of those gold medalists is Ashleigh Johnson, who led the U.S. team to the championship in the 2016 Games in Rio. The U.S. is the heavy favorite to win again, which would allow Johnson to join Caroline Lind as the only Princeton women to win two golds.

Gevvie Stone is back in 2021 as well. It's her third Olympic appearance, after not medaling in London in 2012 and then winning silver in single sculls in 2016. She's rowing in the doubles this time around.

Should Stone and/or Johnson get another medal, they'd join a short list of Princetonians who have won multiple Olympic medals. Lind obviously did so, as did Nelson Diebel in 1992 in swimming (golds in the 100 breaststroke and medley relay). Rowers Doug Burden (bronze in 1988, silver in 1992) and Anne Marden (silvers in 1984 and 1988) are the other two who have done so in the last 70 years.

There are all kinds of great stories for Princeton at the upcoming Games. There's Kathleen Noble, who will row for Uganda, the country in which she grew up. There is a strong fencing contingent. Of course there are the two steeplechasers. There are Princeton athletes representing nine different countries.

As has been the case in all recent Olympiads, Princeton Athletics will be telling all of those stories. There will be daily updates, a social media presence, photos and of course entries here to read. TB's favorite events in the Olympics are the ones in which Princeton athletes compete.

And that all begins in one week. It's been a delay of a year, and it might not be the Olympic experience that normally exists. But it will be the Olympic Games, and so once again, that means Princeton will be there.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Seven Head Coaches, One Lockerroom

There are two follow-ups from yesterday's story about Peter Farrell and the 1988 4x800 relay team that finished seventh in the NCAA indoor championships.

First, TigerBlog mentioned that Farrell (cross country and track and field), Chris Sailer (lacrosse) and Susan Teeter (swimming and diving) are the only three who have coached a Princeton women's team for at least 30 years. TB said that "there are a lot of championships between those three."

He was asked what that exact number was. If you're talking Ivy League championships, the answer is 59, which is extraordinary. That's 27 for Farrell (nine cross country, nine indoor and nine outdoor), 17 for Teeter and 15 for Sailer, who is the only of three still active.

The other follow-up is what Farrell said about the women in the picture. Here is the picture again:

Farrell referred to the group as the "Mohair Express," as in "they had Mo' Hair than anyone else. Hey, it was the ’80s."

Hey, even TigerBlog had a lot of hair in the 1980s.

Speaking of pictures, TB finally was able to locate one from the 1990s. It came courtesy of Chuck Yrigoyen, who went from Princeton's Office of Athletic Communications to the Ivy League to being the commissioner of the American Rivers Conference, which until 2018 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

As an aside, when TB saw the conference had renamed and rebranded itself, it made him think back to when Chuck joked about how the Ivy League should rename itself "The Big Ivy." 

Chuck has spent 13 years as the commissioner of the league. To most people around here, it's hard to think of Chuck without first thinking of the Ivy League, for whom he worked for 19 years, or Princeton, where he worked from 1983-89 (and where TB first met him). TigerBlog replaced Chuck's replacement, Mark Panus, when he made the shift from the newspaper business to Princeton's OAC.

TB recently received a text message from Chuck, who said that he was sending a bunch of old Princeton men's basketball stuff TB's way. Most of it was from the Princeton-Georgetown game, the classic first round matchup from the 1989 NCAA tournament.

There were some other things in the package. One of them was this picture:

This is, of course, the iconic moment when Pete Carril announced his retirement to a stunned Princeton team after the Tigers defeated Penn in the 1996 Ivy League playoff game. It was five days before Princeton defeated UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

TigerBlog was the first person to see the words, and he knows he made sure there was a picture of it. This was before people could simply use their phones to take pictures, so TB had to track down either the office camera or a photographer. 

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the lockerroom that night at Lehigh (and all of that season) is that there were six people who would at some point be the Princeton head men's basketball coach and a seventh who would be an assistant coach and then an Ivy League head coach.

There was Carril, obviously. There were the three names on the blackboard, all of whom became the head coach. There were three players on the team who became head coaches as well.

Sydney Johnson was the 1996 captain. He'd coach Princeton after Scott, who took over for Thompson, who took over for Carmody. Johnson, when he left in 2011, was replaced by Mitch Henderson, the current head coach. Brian Earl would be a Princeton assistant before becoming the head coach at Cornell.

All six who would coach Princeton have coached in the NCAA tournament, five of whom did so with the Tigers. Scott, who did not reach the NCAAs in his three years at Princeton, did lead Air Force to the NCAA tournament after winning the 2004 Mountain West Conference. Air Force, by the way, would play at the same regional that year as Princeton, as both were in Denver. 

And all seven of those guys were part of the 1997 Tigers. And the 1996 Tigers as well. 

How many other teams have ever matched that legacy? 

No wonder those Princeton teams were so incredible.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The 1988 Women's 4x800 Relay Team

TigerBlog might not make the best eyewitness if it ever comes to that.

When he rides his bike, he usually listens to his iTunes. It amazes him how many times he can't remember the song he just heard when a new one comes on.

Okay, maybe that's because the music is just in the background as he rides along, so he's not focused on it. What happened with the picture of Peter Farrell from the other day was downright concerning to TB.

He was looking for a picture of Peter that he described as "a black-and-white picture of a male coach with two athletes." It turns out is was a color picture with four athletes. Oh well.

How would that translate to the witness stand?

"Can you describe the photo in question?"
"Yes, it was black and white and had Peter Farrell with two of his athletes from the 1980s."
"Are you sure?"
"Definitely."
"Is this the photo?"
"Yes."
"Is it black and white?"
"Uh, no."
"Can you count for the court how many athletes are in it?"
"One. Two. Three. Four."
"So that's not two, is it?"
"Yeah, no."

Case dismissed.

You'll have to forgive TB, but he found the actual color picture while he was watching "Law & Order."

His inability to remember details like the picture or the last song he heard astonish him, since he has a great ability to remember small details of games he was at 30 or even more years ago (not to mention song lyrics and lines from TV shows and movies). Maybe someone can do a senior thesis on this.

Meanwhile, here's the picture to which TB was referring earlier:

Peter Farrell, of course, spent 39 years as the head coach of women's track and field at Princeton. The picture was taken in Oklahoma City, after the 1988 NCAA indoor track and field championships. 

The four athletes are Laura Cattivera, Nancy Easton, Meagan Dewey and Becky Wells. Their time was 8:50.55, which wasn't as fast as the four ran at the ECAC championships a few weeks earlier. That time was 8:48.58, which stood for 23 years as the school record (and now stands fifth all-time).

By the way, TB got the time out of the Daily Princetonian archives of March 21, 1988. The lead story in that issue, which was 33 years ago? Well, it was about a proposal to build a highway between Route 1 and the Northeast Corridor train tracks that would go 17 miles from North Brunswick to Lawrence. How'd that turn out? 

Also by the way, if you're relatively new to the Princeton area, Route 1 used to be a lot worse, until the elimination of the traffic light where Nassau Park Boulevard is now located.

Cattivera was a five-time individual Heps champion, in addition to her success on the relay. In fact, she won 1,500 and the 3,000 at the outdoor Heps in 1989 making her one of two Princeton runners to win those two events in the same Heps (Elizabeth Levy in 1977 was the first; Liz Costello won both events, but not in the same meet).

Easton won two individual Heps titles. Wells won one. 

As for Farrell, he won 27 Heps championships as Princeton's coach, nine each in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. He led the Tigers to "Triple Crowns" – a sweep of all three Heps crowns in the same academic year – twice, in 1980-81 and 2010-11. 

How many coaches have won Triple Crowns in the Ivy League? Two. Farrell, and Princeton men's coach Fred Samara, who has won so many that TB has lost track (actually he's won nine of them).

His resume includes coaching 182 Ivy League individual or relay champions. Farrell's tenure is the longest for any coach of a women's team in Princeton history.

In fact, only three people have ever coached a Princeton women's team for at least 30 years – Farrell, current women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer (entering Year 35) and former swimming and diving coach Susan Teeter (33 years). There's a lot of championships between those three, by the way.

TB found the picture to include in the women's history book. He texted Peter to have him ID the photo.

It's always great to talk to Peter. And TB's sense is he could send Peter a photo of any athlete he ever coached at Princeton and he'd be able to ID it.

TB could do pretty much the same thing. 

Just don't ask him what the song before this one was. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Again With The Penalty Kicks?

Penalty kicks? Again with the penalty kicks? 

Does this sound familiar:

Yes, it's dramatic and exciting and all, but it's an awful way to decide a game. It's not that dissimilar from deciding a tied basketball game by a free throw shooting contest. Actually it's worse than that. The biggest problem is that a team can play to get to PKs and then take its chances. You would have to play a much different game if you knew that no matter, you couldn't win without a goal.

If it does, it's because TigerBlog wrote it during the 2018 World Cup. After watching the Euro Championship final Sunday afternoon, TB again says the same thing: PK's are an awful way to decided a major championship.

He understands them in theory. In the knockout round of a tournament like the World Cup or Euros, a team can't be expected to play an indefinite length of overtime and then have to turn around and play again in the next round a few days later.

On the other hand, the impending PKs hover over these games almost from the start. Coaches have to make late changes conceding that they're going to penalty kicks, rather than trying to win the game in the flow of play.

The worst part, though, is what TB wrote three years ago. You would have to play a much different game if you knew that no matter what, you couldn't win without a goal. When there are looming PKs, nobody wants to take a risk, for fear of being countered. 

It takes a great event like England-Italy Sunday and turns it into a disappointment (though the announcing team of Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman was as good as it gets, and Twellman sounds a lot like former Princeton player and head coach and US National team coach Bob Bradley). Yes, the drama is insane. No, TB would not want to be one of the people who has to take one in a situation like that. 

But in the end, all it does is ruin a great game. Keep playing, and someone will score. And, TB assumes, they'll score in the 30 minutes of extra time (or the last 10-15 minutes of regulation) if they know they have to score to win the game.

Still not thrilled about the way the game ended Sunday, TB reached out to Princeton head men's soccer coach Jim Barlow to see if he likes having penalty kicks decided knockout games in major events. Even as he sent the text, TB knew what the answer he'd get back, and that's in fact what happened: 

"I didn't like it for the Michigan game."

That game was back in the 2018 NCAA tournament. Princeton played at Michigan on a snowy night, and the game ended up 1-1 through regulation and overtime. Who would advance? It would be decided on penalty kicks.

Usually, penalty kicks consist of five attempts per team. This particular night saw it extend for 14 rounds before the Wolverines won. 

That night might not have gone the way Barlow would have wanted it to, but he's put together an extraordinary career at Princeton. A member of the Class of 1991, Barlow was the 1987 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, the 1990 Ivy League Player of the Year and the 2018 Ivy League Coach of the Year. He is the only Princetonian ever to achieve that trifecta.

Barlow enters the 2021 season with 188 career wins. That ranks first all-time at Princeton, already by a wide margin.

Where does it rank in the Ivy League? Barlow is currently in third place.

The all-time record is 251, set by Brown's Cliff Stevenson, who coached the Bears from 1960-90. Stevenson's total was one win more than Penn's Douglas Stewart, who won 250 games from 1905-43. It makes you wonder what Penn soccer looked like in 1905.

As for Barlow, his 188 wins mean that he's won more games in the last 30-plus years than any other Ivy League men's soccer head coach. He enters this season 12 wins shy of 200, which is a lot of wins in college soccer.

The 2021 men's soccer schedule, and the rest of the fall schedules, will be released soon.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Remembering Susan Magod

Marvin Bressler, the original Princeton Academic Athletic Fellow, used to say all the time that the best teachers are the ones whose lessons continue to resonate, inspire and inform long after the student has left the classroom.

Gary Walters, the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus, was one of Bressler's students. From all the times that Gary has referenced something he learned from Marv, it's clear that Bressler was himself a great teacher.

One of Gary's biggest beliefs is that coaches should be considered teachers and that athletic venues are extensions of classrooms. To use Gary's word, athletics at Princeton are "co-curricular."

TigerBlog has always agreed with what Gary said on the subject. He's seen it up close for a long time, the value of "Education Through Athletics" and everything that it represents. 

TB has spoken to many Princeton coaches on the basic topic. One of the most astute comments he's heard came on the subject of senior athlete surveys.

What would be great to see, the coach said, is a survey with all of the same questions that was given to the same athletes five years or 10 years or 25 years down the road. What more have they taken way from what they learned as undergrads through their athletic experience that they couldn't appreciate in the moment? How has it impact them years and decades down the road?

TB doesn't need numerical data to know that the answer is a simple "a lot." He's spoken to enough former athletes who said just that, about how much the things that may have bothered them as undergrads came back around to be among the most formative moments of their lives. To be honest, it's one of the best things about Princeton Athletics.

Pete Carril, who turned 91 this past Saturday, always said that he couldn't overvalue the importance of a player who had an outstanding high school coach. Another Princeton coach, referring to a player who had come to college clearly lacking in fundamental preparation that hampered that player's ability to reach the fullest potential as a Tiger, said, clearly in jest, that the player's high school coach "should be taken into the town square and flogged." That might be a bit overstated, but the point was made.

TigerBlog himself was not a college athlete. His strength has been in writing, as you may have surmised by reading this every day.

TB was fortunate. He had four really, really good English teachers in high school. One of them was Susan Magod.

Mrs. Magod was TB's teacher for freshman English and then for a creative writing class, as well as his homeroom teacher his senior year. She was a great combination of caring but stern, warm but demanding, maternal but tough, encouraging but critical. In many ways, in thinking back on his time in her classroom, TB would compare her persona to his longtime former Princeton colleague Inge Radice. 

Her last name was pronounced "MAY-god," which she made clear on Day 1, by saying "... as in 'May God help you if you mispronounce my name.'" She was a smaller woman, but she had a way of imposing her will on the classroom.

TB had recently reconnected with her, tracking her down to send her a copy of his book when it came out last year. It was a way of saying "thank you" for the role that she had played in helping develop TB's interest in writing. He and Mrs. Magod spoke on the phone, and she was so appreciative that he had reached out. She checked back in later to let TB know that she enjoyed what he had written.

TB received a text message early yesterday from his friend Corey, with whom he goes back to long before high school. It was a link to Mrs. Magod's obituary, after she passed away last Thursday at the age of 79. Here is part of what the obit said:

Throughout her life Susan maintained a reverence for the power of the written word. She was an avid reader and upon retirement participated in many local book review groups. 

Mrs. Magod was married for 57 years. She had a daughter and two grandchildren. And, you can add, a legion of former students like TB who took so much from the experience. 

For TB, those lessons resonated long after he was no longer her student. He thought back often through the years to things that he had learned directly from her, and he's very, very glad he had a chance on their phone call a few months ago to thank her for that. 

TB was so sorry to hear of her passing, and he sends his deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Whatever impact TB has had on Princeton Athletics, Susan Magod deserves some credit for as well.

Friday, July 9, 2021

A Congratulations, A Videoboard And A Birthday

TigerBlog has three things for you before you go enjoy your summer weekend.

The first is a congratulation to Jeff Halpern, an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Princeton graduate (Class of 1999) won a second-straight Stanley Cup Wednesday night when the Lightning closed out Montreal in five games.

The series wasn't overly dramatic. The Lightning won the first three games before Montreal got one back in overtime to push it to a Game 5. This came as good news to, of all people, Tampa mayor Jane Castor, who said that she hoped her Lightning lost Game 4 so they could win it at home.

It was the kind of thing politicians rarely say. It opened her up to be mocked if somehow Montreal had come back to win it all. In retrospect, she said before the fifth game, it would have been better if the Lightning had swept.

All worked out well for her when Tampa Bay won the game Wednesday 1-0. The only goal was scored by rookie Ross Colton, who is from, of all places, Mercer County, about 10 miles away from Princeton, in the town of Robbinsville.

It's a pretty good run for Mayor Castor's teams. The Lightning has now won back-to-back Cups, and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last winter. The Rays made it to the World Series, where they were knocked out by analytics, er, by the Dodgers. 

Halpern, by the way, shared the 1999 Roper Trophy as Princeton's outstanding senior male athlete with basketball player Brian Earl and football/baseball player Matt Evans.

Next up is the new videoboard at Sherrerd Field. 

It's pretty nice. It jumps out at you from the parking lot. The color is incredible. The size is impressive, at 28 feet tall and 44 feet wide, which makes it the largest at any Ivy lacrosse facility.

TB saw it in use for the first time when he did the PA for the women's lacrosse intrasquad games in the spring. It adds so much to the atmosphere at Sherrerd Field, and there is no fan who will not be awed by it.

The addition of the videoboard is just one more reason to be excited about the spring of 2022 for Princeton men's and women's lacrosse. As you know, TB doesn't really need any additional inducements to be excited for lacrosse season obviously, but he really is looking forward to seeing the board in action.

So that's two things.

The third thing is that tomorrow is Pete Carril's 91st birthday. Here is part of what TB wrote about Carril when he turned 90 a year ago:

Carril is a Princeton University icon, someone who long ago elevated himself beyond just the normal status of even the most successful coach. He was as much a sociologist as a basketball coach, someone with an innate sense of human behavior and an ability to see right through to a person's core in moments.

There haven't been too many people TB has ever met who have left a mark on him the way Carril has - and TB isn't even one of his many former players. If being a sportswriter who covered his teams and then his final sports information contact has made this sort of impact on TB, what must it be like to have played for him?

From his vantage point, TB has spent hours and hours with Carril in the office, on the bus, in a car, on airplanes, in hotel lobbies. He's laughed with him. He's shared championships with him. He's been there with him for some of his greatest moments as a coach. He's heard him give some of the most inspirational speeches he's heard.

He's also been screamed at by him. The details aren't important, but it's very, very intimidating. 

When TB first started doing this every day, he jokingly said that at the times he couldn't think of anything to write, he could simply tell funny Pete Carril stories and never run out. That remains true. 

Today is not the day for that though. Today is a day to wish him a happy birthday, a happy 91st birthday to be exact. 

Hopefully he has a great one, and many more of them. He is, as TB said, an icon around here.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

5.83

TigerBlog learned something new yesterday related to Princeton football.

The information came courtesy of Jordan Becker, the secretary for the Class of 1982 and an alum of the Princeton University band and WPRB, not to mention a lawyer. 

As you might remember, TB yesterday wrote about the football schedule for the 2021 season, which starts 10 weeks from Saturday. If that doesn't get you fired up, what will? 

TB wrote about how Princeton will be playing at Monmouth and how a game in New Jersey not on the Princeton campus has been something of a rarity for the Tigers through the decades. 

Becker emailed him to point out that the 1978 Princeton-Rutgers game was not played on the Rutgers campus but instead was played in Giants Stadium. TB didn't realize that. 

Becker would know - he played with the band that day. By the way, the title of Becker's senior thesis was "The Flawed Lens: Television's Perception of the Vietnam War." That sounds pretty interesting.

Giants Stadium was almost brand-new in 1978 after its opening two years earlier. The first time TB was there was either in 1977 or 1978. He's positive about a few things: 1) the opponent was the Cardinals, who at the time were still in St. Louis, 2) he sat in the second row in one of the end zones, 3) the Giants won and 4) he thought the stadium was amazing.

He remembers a warm, sunny day, except the 1977 and 1978 home games for the Giants against the Cardinals were in December. Oh well. Maybe it was just warm for December. It was definitely sunny.

Rutgers beat Princeton 24-0 in that 1978 game at Giants Stadium. Two years earlier, the Scarlet Knights went 11-0, defeating Princeton 17-0 that year. In between, in 1977, Princeton lost 10-6 to Rutgers. Both of those games were at Palmer Stadium.

So too were the games in 1974 (a 6-6 tie) and 1975 (a 10-7 Princeton win). For that matter, most of the games in the Princeton-Rutgers series were played at Princeton.

Princeton's only touchdown in the 1975 game came after a 16-play third quarter drive that ended with a one-yard run by quarterback Ron Beible, who sadly passed away more than 10 years ago. Princeton didn't score again, but the Tigers dominated possession time in the fourth quarter, keeping Rutgers from any chance at tying or taking the lead.

While the subject for the second straight day is Princeton football, here's a trivia question for you. Who ranks 1-2-3 on Princeton's career list for average yards per rush?

Coming in at No. 3 is Dick Kazmaier at 5.3 yards per carry. Kazmaier, of course, won the 1951 Heisman Trophy. In second place is Keith Elias, a longtime NFL player who averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Who is No. 1? That would be Tiger senior Collin Eaddy, who has averaged 5.8 yards per carry. 

Eaddy has 1,838 career yards on 315 carries, which actually equals 5.83 yards per carry. Elias, with a program-record 4,208 yards on 736 carries, which is 5.72 per carry.

There is a woman named Shelley Szwast who has taken pictures for Princeton at a bunch of events, especially men's and women's hockey and men's and women's lacrosse. She's also shot some football games, and she sent TB a photo of Eaddy that she'd turned into something resembling a painting. It's pretty good. See for yourself:

 That's pretty good.

Eaddy enters his senior year 11th all-time in rushing yards at Princeton. He needs 57 yards to tie the great Cosmo Iacavazzi for 10th. At his current pace, that's 10 carries for Eaddy.

Eaddy has improved his rushing total each year, going from 376 as a freshman to 663 as a sophomore (when he was an honorable mention All-Ivy League pick) to 799 as a junior (when he was second-team All-Ivy League). If he matches that total of 799 yards this coming year, he'd have 2,637 yards and go from 11th to third all-time at Princeton, trailing only Elias and Judd Garrett.

As with everything else to do with Princeton football, TB is looking forward to seeing Eaddy again this fall. He has quietly put together an outstanding first three years, and he has already put himself in position to be mentioned with names like Elias, Garrett and Iacavazzi.

That is quite impressive stuff.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The 2021 Football Schedule

The Princeton football team has played more than half of its all-time games in the state of New Jersey. 

In fact, for awhile there, the Tigers played about 90 percent of their games in New Jersey, since almost every game for a few decades was a home game. Can you remember the last time Princeton played a football game in the state of New Jersey that wasn't on the Princeton campus?

TigerBlog can. It was in 1997, the year of the construction of Princeton Stadium. The Tigers played eight away games and two neutral site games that year, one against Fordham at the College of New Jersey and the other against Yale at the old Giants Stadium.

How about before that?

TigerBlog didn't have to look it up to get the correct answer. For a long time, Princeton had only two Division I football teams, Princeton and Rutgers, and their rivalry dated back quite a long way, back to the very first football game to be exact, back in 1869. The answer is Rutgers, though the overwhelming majority of the games in that series were played in Palmer Stadium.

So that begs the next question. When did Princeton play a game in New Jersey that was not either on campus, in 1997 or at Rutgers? Think about it for a second.

TigerBlog brings this up because the 2021 football schedule was released yesterday. The Tigers open the season Sept. 18 at Lehigh, with the home opener a week later against Stetson. 

Here are your notes on those two games: 1) Lehigh is an awesome place to watch a football game and 2) Princeton's game against Stetson was supposed to bring former Tiger head coach Roger Hughes back for a homecoming, only Hughes left Stetson to become the president of Doane University in Nebraska. Hughes is a Doane alum.

The Ivy for Princeton will be Oct. 2 at home against Columbia in a game that will be televised on NBS Sports Philly and SNY in New York City, as well as ESPN+. 

The following week is the third non-league game. That one is at Monmouth, which is why TB was wondering when the last time Princeton played away from home but still in New Jersey. 

Princeton and Monmouth have met once, in the unbeaten season of 2018, when Princeton won 51-9. Do not be fooled though – Monmouth is a very, very good team. The Hawks have played in the last two FCS playoff tournaments and figure to be a preseason Top 25 team. That should be a very good game.

Also, Monmouth has a great facility. And it's not too far away from the Long Branch beachfront, which means there are all kinds of really good places to eat in the area.

Oh, and the answer to the trivia question? It was also in the ’90s - the 1890s, when Princeton played at Lawrenceville in the 1896 season. The last time Princeton played a game in New Jersey against a college team? At Stevens Tech in 1886.

After the Monmouth game, Princeton will have six straight Ivy games, only two of which will be at home. Those two are against Harvard (Oct. 23) and Yale (Nov. 13). 

There will a game at Brown the week before the Harvard game. There will be back-to-back Friday night ESPNU games at Cornell and Dartmouth after the Harvard game. The season ends on Nov. 20 at Penn.

What kind of team will Princeton have in 2021? It should be a good one, a team with as good a chance as any to compete for the league title. That's the program Bob Surace has built at Princeton now, with a team that is built to win every year. 

The proof is in the numbers - Surace has led the Tigers to the Ivy title in three of the last seven seasons.

This should be an extremely tough, and somewhat unpredictable, Ivy League football season. Because no teams played last year, there are large numbers of players who took a year off and two classes of younger players who have yet to see game action. 

Beyond all of that, though, there is just the excitement of another football season that is just around the corner. Fans will be in the building. Games will be on the field. 

TigerBlog, for one, can't wait for the kickoff.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Zero To 10,000

Raise your hand if you ever covered a football game at Upsala College?

TigerBlog did. Upsala was a small college in Essex County, about 45 minutes north of Princeton. They were called the Vikings. At least that's what TB thinks they were called.

Upsala closed in 1995. Before that, it was a regular football opponent of the College of New Jersey, which was then called Trenton State College. Back when TB was a sportswriter, he covered a lot of TCNJ football, including games at Upsala.

It was a small campus. It had a nice little field. It was a nice place to watch a game.

Upsala was the alma mater of his late friend Tony Persichilli, with whom TB worked at the Trenton Times and who later worked at the Trentonian as well. Tony Perch, well, he was quite a character. 

TB called the paper one day quite a few years after he left, and Tony answered the phone. This was an actual conversation:

TB: "Tony, what's new?"
Tony: "New? Nothing. I'm still sitting in the same chair I was sitting in the day you left. Probably wearing the same shirt too."

He was a good man, Tony was. And he loved the city of Trenton like few people ever have. He was taken way, way too soon. 

TB didn't realize that another person from his newspaper days also went to Upsala. That would be Fred Hill Sr., the long-time baseball coach at Rutgers. Fred Hill Sr. passed away two years ago at the age of 84.

This is a quote from Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs from the Rutgers release after Hill's death:

“Fred Hill was more than a hall of fame coach, he was a hall of fame person.” Those are the truest words that could be said about the coach, who was known to everyone as "Moose."

Fred Hill Sr. was a great baseball coach. This is from his obit:

Hill’s 1,089-749-9 career record — including the 147 games he won on the diamond at Montclair State University, where he was also the school’s head football coach — ranks him among the 40 winningest coaches in college baseball history. Hill guided Rutgers to 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 regular-season conference championships and eight conference tournament titles.

What TB will never forget about Coach Hill is something seemingly minor. TB covered some Rutgers baseball when Hill was the coach, but hardly what you would consider a lot. Still, any time TB ever saw Fred Hill Sr. through the years, at basketball games, luncheons, anything, he always greeted TB by his name. For some reason, that always stuck with TigerBlog, that someone he didn't know well and who knew a million people took the time to remember his name.

TB found out on Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley's Twitter feed that Fred Hill Sr. was an Upsala grad. 

As you know, TB is a huge fan of Scott Bradley's Twitter feed. TB has written about it several times in the last few months, though never before January. Why's that? Because it didn't exist yet back then.

Now, a little more than half a year later, Bradley's feed has more than 10,000 followers. To be exact, as of yesterday, he had 10,521 followers. He'd only tweeted 467 times and was only following 256 people. 

That's building a substantial following in a very short time and doing so in a way that suggests that people are drawn to what he has to say. And why wouldn't they be? He's smart. He's thoughtful. He goes deep into issues of baseball on all levels.

He has something to say. He says it intelligently. People respond.

Imagine that. 

It actually gives TB hope.

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Well-Spent Fourth

There were three must-see TV moments for TigerBlog yesterday.

The last two were back-to-back on Turner Classic Movies. They were two of his all-time favorites, both somewhere in the 20-50 range on his best hits list. 

First, at 5, was "The Music Man." How can you go wrong with Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill? Or Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian? And even with Buddy Hackett as he sings "Shipoopi?"

Seventh-six trombones? Til' there was you? Great stuff.

After Professor Hill whipped the band into shape, it was time for the Fourth of July standard, "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

TB has written this before about the James Cagney, who stars as George M. Cohan:

The movie stars James Cagney as George M. Cohan. Cagney, if you're TB's age or older, was probably known more for his roles as a gangster in the 1930s and 1940s, which are classics, and yet he also was able to mix in a role like the one as Cohan, which was all singing and dancing and lighthearted comedy. It's hard to say if James Cagney was better in all of those gangster movies or in "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Either way, he's an A+ in both. For wholesomeness? It's hard to beat Cagney as he sings and dances his way through one breezy show tune after another, all while reaffirming his patriotism and love of country in a time of World War.

Ah, it's a great one. Between the two movies, that's nearly six hours of wholesomeness.

Then there was the third thing TB wanted to see yesterday. That was a lacrosse game that began at 12:30.

It was the Premier Lacrosse League Sunday game between Archers and Whipsnakes, who are probably the two best teams in the league. There are a lot of Princeton connections between the teams, as well as a big one on the broadcast too.

The Whipsnakes feature Chris Aslanian, Princeton's Director of Men's Lacrosse Operations, and Mike Chanenchuk, who was the 2010 Ivy League Rookie of the Year at Princeton. The Archers feature Princeton alums Tom Schreiber and Ryan Ambler, and the coach of the Archers is Chris Bates, Princeton's former coach. One of his assistants is former Princeton goalie Brian Kavanagh. 

On top of that, Ryan Boyle, a Hall-of-Fame player who led Princeton to the 2001 NCAA title and is Princeton's third all-time leading scorer and the fifth all-time leading scorer in professional outdoor lacrosse, was the color commentator on NBC Sports Network. Boyle, by the way, is a great announcer. As TB has said before, he does exactly what you're supposed to do as a color commentator, and that's make the viewer feel like he's sitting there watching the game with you.

There are two Princeton alums on the Waterdogs. One of them is Michael Sowers, who has been out since Week 1 after a late hit to the back of the head. The other is Zach Currier, who continues to be amazing in every game he plays. Most recently, Currier had three goals, four assists a caused turnover and seven ground balls in a 19-16 loss to the Redwoods. There aren't too many players who have ever played lacrosse who can put up numbers the way Currier can and who can impact every piece of a game the way he can. On top of that, he's just plain fun to watch, with his effort and tenacity alone.

The Archers-Whipsnakes game was very good. It was back and forth, and each time one team seemed to get up by a goal or two, the other rallied. The Princetonians all made their marks in the game. In the end, the final was 15-14 Whipsnakes, on a goal in the final minute. Perhaps the teams will be the last two standing come September 19, when the PLL championship game is played.

Lacrosse. Two great musicals. That's a pretty good Fourth of July.  

Oh, and fireworks too. TigerBlog is not a huge fireworks fan. They're fine, but he doesn't love them.

Whatever makes a great Fourth for you, TB hopes you were able to have a happy and safe one.