Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Pride Month

Today is June 30, which makes it the final day of Pride Month. 

TigerBlog thought that his colleague Mason Darrow celebrated by getting a dog:

As it turns out, Mason did not get a dog. That dog belongs to a friend of his. "I wish," is what Mason actually said. 

If you go to Mason Darrow's Twitter account, you'll see that he wrote on top "Used to be a gay football player, now just a gay Princeton ’17 #BeTrue"

You may recall that back in 2015, Mason Darrow came out as gay. There was a story about him on, which you can still read HERE.

This is what TigerBlog wrote afterwards: 

Even in 2015, when gay marriage is legal everywhere in the United States, when the idea of living a "closeted" existence seems silly, this is still big news. And it's not easy to do what Darrow did. It's not easy to put yourself out there like that, as "different." Especially in a sport like football.

Hopefully, in the nearly six years that have passed things have gotten a bit easier to do what Darrow did. Maybe having a month called "Pride Month" helps. Just last week, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. 

Darrow is not the only openly gay member of the Princeton Department of Athletics. There are several others, including coaches who are exactly the kind of people you want coaching your kids (and in the case of one, IS the coach who is coaching TB's kid). 

A year ago, during Pride Month 2020, Princeton women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer said this to US Lacrosse Magazine:

“I’m passionate about this as a human being. I’m passionate about it as a coach of young people. As a gay woman, it’s important to be a good role model and promote the concept of diversity and acceptance and to help create inclusive communities for all of our players. I know that inclusion is always part of our message. If you’re talking from the standpoint of coaches, I think it should be part of every coach’s message. Our teams are made up of people from different backgrounds — different socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, different races. I don’t know how you can have a great team unless you create an inclusive environment.”

That's a great message. Isn't that the exact message you want your child to learn from a coach? 

Certainly things have changed since Sailer was younger. And from when TB was younger. In fact, he was a freshman in college when his older brother told him he was gay. It was a difficult message to hear back then, and it was something that TB would never publicly admit to anyone for years after that. If anyone asked, he'd say his brother was "single" or "hadn't met the right person yet."

To be completely honest with you, writing that now makes TB chuckle at the absurdity of it. And it also reminds him that if it was difficult for him to hear the news, it had to be 100 times harder for his brother to say it about himself to others. 

As much as TB would like to think the world has changed, it's probable that the world isn't quite as accepting these days as he hopes. Still, there's no doubt that it's come a very, very long way. 

TB's biggest concern on the subject is that there are people out there, young people, who are still afraid to have to say the words to the people closest to them. TB's advice is exactly what Mason Darrow says: be true.

TB is glad he works in a department that welcomes its members to "be true." There has been special attention paid the last 30 days to Pride Month, but it doesn't end with the turn of the calendar. And nor should it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Oh So Close

Did you see the crash at the Tour de France the other day? 

It started when a woman who was holding a sign stepped out onto the course, apparently to get her picture taken. In doing so, she unwittingly got in the way of one of the riders, who then started a chain reaction that left at least two riders unable to continue for the rest of the month.

You can see it for yourself here:

That was nasty. The riders were lucky that more of them weren't seriously hurt.

TigerBlog can tell you that even at the speed at which he rides, which isn't anywhere near what the riders at the Tour de France do, there is almost no reaction time if some unexpected obstacle comes along. He was riding the other day when a car came over a hill and was across the center line by a few inches. The driver quickly went back to the other side, but TB figured that if the car came at him, there was absolutely nothing he could have done to get out of the way in time.

TB cannot imagine what it must be like to see the Tour de France riders up close. He's often overtaken by riders who are much faster than he is on the roads where he goes, and they seem like they're going lightning quick. What must the professionals be like?

On one of TB's recent rides, a woman rode up next to him. She and her husband live down the street from TB, and the two rode together for awhile. She can ride faster than TB, and it was something of a sprint for him to keep up with her - for about 15 miles. He was wiped out after that.

The women is a graduate of Butler, in Indianapolis. When she first mentioned that to TB, the first thing he said was the first thing everyone must say to her when they meet her: "It would have been amazing if that shot went in."

The shot he refers to, of course, was from Gordon Hayward, whose potential game-winning shot from half court against Duke in the 2010 NCAA men's basketball championship game hit the backboard and rim and did just about everything except go in. Had it fallen, it would have easily been the greatest moment in college basketball history. 

TB was trying to think of something similar in Princeton athletic history. It can't just be a buzzer-beater that didn't fall. It has to be something where the play itself would have been a one in a hundred play, and it would have to have been at the perfect moment.

The closest TB came to thinking of one was the ending of the 2002 NCAA men's lacrosse championship game. Princeton trailed Syracuse 13-12 with around five seconds to go. It would be Princeton ball, off a restart, just across midfield.

The ball was in the stick of Sean Hartofilis as play started again, and as TB remembers it, he almost made something huge happen. Maybe if there had been another second or two, which was the same as with Hayward.

That 2002 championship game, in which Hartofilis scored four times, saw Princeton fall behind 12-7 before rallying. The Tigers had won the 2001 title game against Syracuse in overtime, and Cuse had beaten Princeton in the 2000 game as well. 

Hartofilis, for his part, is one of the great clutch players NCAA men's lacrosse has ever seen. When he graduated, he was eighth all-time in NCAA tournament goals, and he seemed to be at his best when the stakes were biggest. 

When Hartofilis graduated in 2003, he ranked third all-time in goals in a career at Princeton with 126, trailing only Jesse Hubbard (163) and Chris Massey (146). Michael MacDonald, who had 132, is the only player in the last 18 years who has caught Hartofilis.

He's gone onto a career in movie making. His wife Liza, a Princeton women's lacrosse alum and also an NCAA champion, is a doctor who was featured as part of the "Tiger Heroes" series.

As for Sean Hartofilis, he had something of a Gordon Hayward moment long before Hayward did. 

Of course, Hartofilis, an all-time Tiger great, is known far more for the ones that ended up in the goal.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A Great Run

It dawns on TigerBlog, or at least it was told to TigerBlog, that there is some luck involved in making the U.S. team for the Olympics in track and field. 

You need to finish in the top three at the Trials. You have to also better the Olympic qualifying standard for that particular event as well.

There are athletes who come into the Trials having already bettered the standard during the year, possibly because they had the good fortune to have found themselves in a race in, oh, March or April where the weather was right, the pacing was perfect, the field was just strong enough - and the athlete was on top of his or her game. There are others who chose to go to a different race that same weekend that didn't have all of those factors in their favor in that moment, and so they came to the Trials not having met the standard.

Donn Cabral found himself in that situation Friday night in the steeplechase final. The veteran (he's 31 now, somehow) had not yet bettered the 8:22.0 he needed to in order to get to Tokyo, and so he had to run at a faster pace than he might have wanted to if all he had to do was worry about finishing in the top three.

Cabral led for six laps. Ultimately, he finished sixth in what TB presumes was his last go-round of an Olympic cycle. He'll be 34 for the 2024 Games, which will be in Paris. 

He's already been to the Olympics twice, and both times he reached the final in the steeplechase.

To give you a sense of what TB was talking about before about how there is a certain amount of luck involved and how much things can fluctuate race to race, consider this:

Cabral 2012 Olympic final – 8:25.91 (good for eighth in the final)
Cabral 2016 Olympic final – 8:25.81 (good for eight in the final)
Cabral 2021 Olympic Trials – 8:25.95 (good for sixth in the trials)

Think about that. There was a 0.14-second different between the fastest and the slowest of his three times, but they had much different outcomes. 

So where does this all leave Cabral? 

He's clearly one of Princeton's all-time best athletes. He was an NCAA champion in the steeplechase his senior year, winning that race by five full seconds back on June 9, 2012. In less than two months, he went from there to the Olympic Trials, to the Olympic semifinal and then to the Olympic final.

He repeated that trip four years later.

When you think of the very, very best male athletes Princeton has ever produced, all logic says it's a group of three at the top - Hobey Baker, Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley. The question is, who is fourth? There are a lot of options there.

Another question is who is the best Princeton male athlete since Bradley? Again, there are all kinds of possibilities. 

Then there's another question that TB has asked before. Who are the most successful Princeton athletes beyond Princeton? This is one of his favorite questions to ask.

First of all, you have to start out again with Bradley. In addition to what he did at Princeton, which was ridiculous in its own right, he also added an Olympic gold medal and two NBA championships. 

Who else? Chris Young is way up there too, with a World Series championship, an All-Star Game appearance, a Comeback Player of the Year Award and had a career that lasted 13 years. There's Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel, who won multiple lacrosse championships in the professional ranks and the World Championships. There are others, including NFL and NHL players, Olympic medalists, professional soccer players and others. 

Maybe TB will make a list sometime this summer.

If he does, you can be certain Cabral will be on it. His career has been something special and something extraordinary, and he's represented Princeton with great class with every stride he's taken internationally. He's done this in one of the toughest events on the track, and he's had success on the highest level that few Americans have ever matched.

If the race Friday was indeed his last chance, then Cabral had what can only be called an amazing run.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The First Weekend Of Summer

Don't forget. Donn Cabral runs tonight in the 3,000 meter men's steeplechase final at the U.S. Olympic Trials at 7:42 Eastern time.

For Cabral to make the Olympics for the third time, he needs to finish in the top three and run the Olympic qualifying standard of 8:22.0, something he's done many times in his career but has not yet done this year. 

In the least surprising Olympic qualifying news of the year, Ashleigh Johnson will be back in goal for the U.S. women's water polo team. Johnson, who has been named the best women's water polo player in the world on more than one occasion, won a gold medal with the U.S. team at the 2016 Summer Games.

And there you have everything that TigerBlog was going to say today. 

And that's all of 119 words, so he'll have to come up with something else.

He can tell you that one of the most annoying things to deal with in the world today is the automated voice system when you're trying to get a human on the phone in customer service. You've experienced this. The computerized voice asks you a series of questions, when all you want is to talk to someone. Also, the questions they ask don't lend themselves to the exact situation you need to address. 

In the end, you probably let out a few curse words and throw your phone across the room. Yes, many things can be handled online. No, not all can. 

What else? 

Okay, how about a bit more on Johnson. She deserves it, of course.

Johnson will be trying to join Caroline Lind as the only two Princeton women alums to win two gold medals. Lind won gold medals in women's rowing in 2008 and 2012. 

On the men's side, Princeton has had four athletes win multiple gold medals. Only two have done so in Princeton varsity sports. 

The first was back in the first modern Games, the ones in 1896 in Athens. There, Princeton's Robert Garrett Jr. won gold in the discus and shot put and silver in the long jump and high jump. Imagine what Fred Samara could have done with a guy like that.

Karl Frederick of the Class of 1909 won three gold medals at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, making him the only Princetonian ever to do so. Frederick's specialty was shooting, and not with a ball. He won the individual free pistol event and then two team events, the 30 meter military pistol and 50 meter free pistol.

The next two-time gold medalist was Hermon Whiton, who won gold in 1948 and 1952 in sailing. The other two-time gold medalist was Nelson Diebel, who won the 100 breaststroke and was on the winning 4x100 medley relay team in the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Oh, speaking of annoying things, how many calls do you get from a number that isn't in your contacts that is telling you about your car's extended warranty or some other scam like that? Some of them are pretty creative and convincing.

The down side is that 1) they're a pain and 2) it makes you not want to answer the phone from any number you don't recognize. This is especially problematic when you're trying to call someone who won't have you in their contacts, because they think you're just another scammer.

And that's 559 words. Is there something else TB can share today?

How about the fact that it'll be Princeton vs. Princeton tomorrow night in Baltimore in the Premier Lacrosse League. The game at 8 at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field matches the Archers, featuring alums Tom Schreiber, Ryan Ambler and Austin Sims and coached by former Tiger head man Chris Bates, against the Waterdogs, with Tigers alums Zach Currier and Michael Sowers, though Sowers is still unable to play after a vicious cross check to the back of his head after one of his goals in his pro debut three weeks ago.

The game can be seen on the NBC Sports Network and on Peacock. Another Princetonian, Ryan Boyle, will be the color commentator.

And to get past 700 words, TB will say that this is the first weekend of summer for 2021. He hopes everyone has a chance to get outside and do something fun, and that it's the start of a great summer for everyone.

And with that, have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Another Tiger Hero

TigerBlog is writing today with one finger that has a mind of its own.

It's the middle finger on his right hand, which means that letters like "I" and "K" are particularly problematic right now. He's also having a problem with commas as well.

The issue is something called a "trigger finger." No, it has nothing to do with weapons. 

This particular "trigger finger" has to do with having a knuckle get stuck due to some issue with a tendon that's being blocked. In TB's case, it's on an unfortunate finger, since once it gets stuck, it ends up getting unstuck by popping straight up when pushed, which, well, appears to give anyone in the vicinity the finger.

The solution was a steroid injection, which TB received yesterday. The problem is that the finger was numbed, leaving it with the feeling similar to having Novocaine in your mouth after a trip to the dentist. In other words, there isn't much feeling there now, which is making typing a bit of an adventure.

It can be caused by a bunch of different things, including repetitive motion, which fits in TB's case. Ah, the things he does to reach you every day.

The doctor TB saw yesterday was the second one he saw in this particular orthopedic practice lately. The first was last week, for an unrelated shoulder issue (this is from about 15 years of playing squash). That doctor told TB that the injection for the trigger finger is really painful. As it turned out, it wasn't.

When TB shared that with the hand doctor he saw yesterday, the response he got was classic: "Make sure you show him your finger on the way out." That's the kind of subtle humor the medical profession definitely needs. 

TigerBlog could never have been a doctor, for so many different reasons. Science was never his best thing. Blood definitely isn't. 

He does have great respect for those who have made it through medical school and then residency all the way to being a doctor. It's not easy. It's a great deal of sacrifice. And it puts those who can do it in a position to make a huge impact on society for the good.

TB is thinking about people like Vietta Johnson, the 2021 Class of 1967 Citizen-Athlete of the Year Award winner. She, like countless others, has used her medical expertise to bring health care to those who otherwise might not have access to it, here and in other countries.

The "Tiger Heroes" series has told story after story of former Princeton athletes turned doctors who have been invaluable in their contributions to society during the COVID pandemic and in so many other ways. The most recent story that TB saw in the series was of former field hockey player Shahrzad Joharifard, Class of 2005, who is now a pediatric surgeon in British Columbia.

You can read it HERE.

TigerBlog wrote about several doctors in his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton, and their experiences as athletes definitely helped them in their medical training. They also took a great deal from their own experiences with injuries along the way. Joharifard is no different:

I had three ACL reconstructions during my field hockey career, and rehabilitating from these surgeries in order to get back on the field taught me grit and resilience, attributes that were critical to surviving 12 grueling years of surgical training.

If you want to know what she's all about, consider this quote from the story:

I am a pediatric surgeon, which means that I operate on a wide variety of congenital and acquired conditions in tiny premature neonates all the way to burly 18 year old's. In addition, I have spent a good part of the last 15 years working in various capacities in sub-Saharan Africa, initially with the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a Princeton-in-Africa fellowship, and thereafter with a number of organizations in a dozen countries across the continent. Currently, I work with Partners in Health (PIH) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) to provide surgical care in conflict and post conflict settings.

Joharifard was a captain of the 2004 Tigers. She played on three Ivy League championship teams at Princeton, and she earned All-Ivy honors as a junior in 2003. The last game of her senior year, though, was one of the most excruciating losses TB has ever seen for a Princeton team.

It came against Penn, in a game in which the winner would get the Ivy championship. It was 1-1 until past the end of the second half, when the Quakers scored the game-winner on an untimed penalty corner. 

Maybe that loss helped drive her moving forward. TB has no idea. 

He does know that Shahrzad Joharifard is another of the alums of Princeton athletics who has gone on to reinforce that the values learned while being a Tiger never leave these Tigers, no matter where they go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Rooting Again For Donn Cabral

What are you doing Friday night at 7:42 Eastern time?

You should be watching the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. That will be the time when Princeton alum Donn Cabral runs in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase final. 

Cabral is a 2012 Princeton graduate. He is also a two-time Olympian in the steeplechase, and a two-time Olympic finalist at that, having finished eighth in the steeplechase at the last two Olympic Games. In fact, he is one of only six Americans who have ever finished in the top eight in the steeplechase in two different Olympiads.

Now at 31, he's chasing another shot at the Games. 

He took the first step Monday night, when he ran in the semifinal at the U.S. Olympic Trials. There were two heats, and the top five in each heat plus the next four fastest advanced to the final.

Cabral finished fifth in the first heat, nine-hundredths of a second away from the automatic qualifier into the final. This put him in position of having to watch the second heat and hope that no more than three runners beat his time of 8:24.14.

As it turned out, his time would have won the second heat by nearly five seconds. TigerBlog has no idea how the pacing of the two different races worked out or what any of it means for Friday night's final.

To reach the Olympics, a runner needs to be in the top three in the final and have run the Olympic qualifying standard this year. Cabral has not yet met the standard of 8:22.0 (his career personal best is 8:19.4). In fact, only five of the 14 runners in the final have already met the standard.

Again, TB has no idea how that plays into tactics and strategies for the final.

He does know that Cabral is one of the most impressive Princeton athletes he's ever seen. He once wrote this about him:

Anytime Cabral was around - running or just walking into the building - everyone gave him the "there he is" look. It's the rock star treatment. He's not a big man, and in TB's limited dealings with him, he's quiet. He seems polite, respectful. And driven, very, very driven. TB doesn't remember too many athletes who have competed here who drew attention to themselves simply with the sheer impressiveness of their training the way Cabral has. It's as if he's putting on a show for the people who happen to look out on the track when he goes through his workouts. TB has stood on the balcony and watched him, along with other people in the department, and muttered only "wow" as he went lap after lap, seemingly in a dead sprint the whole time. 

There are some things in sports that almost cross over into art, and the way Cabral has run is one of them. He had a meteoric rise as a steeplechaser, going from a novice to the NCAA champion his senior year of 2012 to the Olympic finals that year in London. He repeated that trip to the final in 2016 in Rio.

For all of that, perhaps the moment of Cabral's career that stands out the most to TB is the Heps cross country race his junior year, back in 2010. Cabral was sick that day and not supposed to run, but he competed anyway.

TB was standing near the finish line and saw Cabral as he came to the line. There was literally nobody else in sight as he headed for home, and he ran the final 100 meters or so in a sprint where he seemed to go faster and faster with each stride. It almost seemed like he was going to lift off the ground, he was going so fast. 

Here is how it looked:

Now he's back in the Olympic Trial finals. Qualify or not, he's still had an amazing career, one of the best ever by an American distance runner. 

And by a Princeton athlete. Where does he rank? Well, it's so hard to compare the apples and oranges of different eras and sports at Princeton, but there is no way he's not among the most elite athletes who has ever competed here.

Remember, he runs again Friday night at 7:42.

Make sure you tune in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Coast To Coast

TigerBlog has been living vicariously through Charlie Bagin and Maddie Plank the last few weeks.

He would have loved to have done what they recently finished doing. The two Princeton basketball players made their way from New Jersey to Washington State, all on their bicycles.

It's one of the coolest things TB has ever heard of. Think about that. You get on your bicycle on April 10 at the Jersey Shore. You touch the Pacific Ocean in Washington State on June 17.

In between, you have a lifetime of memories. It's incredible.

TigerBlog didn't realize they were keeping a daily blog on their trip until the middle of May. Since then, he's checked in on them regularly. 

They're not the first people to ride ocean-to-ocean. In fact they're not the first Princeton athletes to do so this year. Men's swimmer Matt Marquardt, who recently graduated and is headed to medical school, did his own trip, going from San Diego to Jacksonville.

As you are probably aware, TigerBlog is a regular bike rider. He can't imagine what it would be like to have covered that distance in that amount of time. 

There are certain things you'll always be able to say, no matter what happens. For the three Princeton athletes, they'll always be able to say they rode a bike across the country. Very, very few people can make that claim, TB supposes.

Because of the blog that Plank and Bagin were keeping, it felt like TB was riding along with them. The way they spoke about winds and hills and weather and backroads and more dangerous highways is something he could definitely relate to, and at the same time he can comprehend how daunting a task it is. 

Marquardt averaged more than 130 miles per day. Bagin and Plank averaged about half of that, but those are still extraordinary distances to cover day after day after day. 

Bagin and Plank rode for the fun of it and the adventure of it during their year away from Princeton due to the pandemic. They also rode for a bigger cause. This is from their blog, before they left:

We have also decided that we will be riding in support of NAMI and mental health awareness. The covid pandemic has only exacerbated the growing mental health pandemic that plagues hundreds of millions of people worldwide. A commonly quoted fact from 2019 states that about 1 in every 5 adults in the US had some sort of mental health illness, and about 1 in every 10 struggled with anxiety or depression specifically. Surveys taken in January 2021 show that about 4 in every 10 adults now struggle with anxiety or depression. SAMSHA, a mental health national hotline, saw their call volume surge almost 900% over the summer of 2020. 90% of suicides are due to mental illness.The stats go on...

I, Maddie, having struggled with eating disorder symptoms over the past few years, used the free time provided by quarantine to focus on resolving my body dysmorphia, excessive stress surrounding food, and unhealthy eating habits. I am eternally grateful to my family and friends, who gave me the confidence, love, patience, and support as I worked on my mental health. I relied heavily on the help of a dietician (who served more as a psychologist and friend) and sports psychologist to manage my symptoms and improve my quality of life.

I, Charlie, was not even aware of the concept of “mental health” until I got to college. Over the last four years I’ve learned a lot on the subject. I’ve read articles, watched videos, and attended lectures that addressed the topic. Most importantly, and most impactfully, I’ve listened to close friends and family describe their various battles with mental health. This is an issue that I hope can be discussed more openly in everyday discourse so that we can break down the borders of stigma and help people work through their struggles.

It was a great cause. And they did a lot to get the word out and to help raise some money along the way.

Whether they know it or not, they also are great storytellers. Their blog reads a bit like a John McPhee book, with first person accounts of their travels, the people they met along the way and the observations of what they saw. They talked about obstacles they faced. They talked about what they got out of it. 

Here is what Bagin had to say about the finish, at Rialto Beach in Washington:

It’s so hard to describe how I was feeling as we came to the end and reached the beach. Mostly thrilled, and a little relieved. It was also weirdly normal, too. This was the expected the outcome, basically never in doubt. It’s not like winning a big basketball game, where you dont feel the joy of victory until the final buzzer sounds. For the entire trip we felt joy. Each and every day was a minor victory in itself. By the time we reached the beach, we were used to winning. But wow, actually rolling the bikes onto the beach and touching the water was such a great feeling. I felt like I was in a dream.

They were more accurately in a dream come true. They had in fact finished their ride, and it was real.

He emailed them congratulations and jokingly asked if they were going to turn around a ride back now. Of course, their return was via airplane (Bagin has already flown back). That too must be fascinating. Imagine looking out the window knowing you had just ridden all that way. 

It is amazing.

TigerBlog couldn't be more impressed with them.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Story Of The Starfish Again

The story of the starfish goes something like this:

After a storm, there were millions of starfish who washed up on the beach. And there was a little boy who was throwing them back into the ocean one at a time. An old man walked down the beach and saw the boy and said "You're wasting your time. You can't possibly throw all of the starfish back. You're not going to make a difference."

The little boy looked at the man and then at the starfish in his hand and said "It makes a difference to this one."

TigerBlog has heard Jason Garrett tell that story more than once. It's a lot better when he says it than when TB writes it.

Garrett is one of the very, very best public speakers TB has ever heard. He's also one of the most energetic people he's ever met. When you add to that the longtime commitment to helping people that he and his wife Brill have embraced, you get an extraordinarily inspirational outcome.

All of that and more was on display Saturday at his Jason Garrett Starfish Charities Football Camp. It was a one-day event that brought more than 150 high school football players to Mercer County. The overwhelming majority of them were from inner-city high schools.

From the event website:

Jason Garrett Starfish Charities and AthLife Foundation teach the campers both football and life skills that will prepare them for the next season and beyond.  The purpose of the day is to inspire the student-athletes to excel on and off the field and to focus on having college on their radar screen.

The camp definitely focused on both of those areas, football and life skills. There were sessions on those life skills, there were 16 teams that played five football games each and there were motivational speakers who talked about their own experiences in terms of football and education. 

The lessons were clear. Yes, football is a great avenue for many of them to get to college. For almost none, though, that avenue eventually leads to the NFL, and so there needs to be a Plan B. And, most of all, the young men attending the camp were told that they are responsible for realizing that and executing that Plan B.

Those lessons came from Garrett and from the speakers he brought in, including a former Navy SEAL and longtime NFL players like Greg Comella and Miles Austin. There was also another NFL player, Spencer Conley, who spoke for 20 minutes or so before the championship game and, well, he definitely got his points across. In fact, his presence was simply stunning.

To put his camp together, Garrett reached out to the two constituents with whom he has the strongest ties. First, there were the players he's played with and coached in the NFL, and so there were many current and former pro players in attendance. 

The most in-demand one was Daniel Jones, the current starting quarterback for the New York Giants. When the last game ended (Jones was one of the coaches for the winning team), pretty much every player at the camp wanted to get a picture with him, and he stopped for every one of them.

The other group whom Garrett recruited was the Princeton group. Everywhere TB looked he saw familiar faces, some of whom are current Tiger coaches and others of whom were former players he hadn't seen in years. There was also head equipment manager Clif Perry, who was another coach with Jones on the winning team.

One of those former players was Jimmy Archie, an All-Ivy defensive back and key member of the 1995 Ivy League championship team. Another was Michael Zampardi, one of the first Princeton football players TB ever wrote about, back in his newspaper days.

There were plenty of others too. It was a great scene, with the way Princeton football jumps at the chance to help out one of its own.

As for Jason, he floated from field to field watching the games, greeting everyone, encouraging everyone, oozing positivity everywhere he went. It's what he does. He inspires.

In the end it was a great day for everyone involved. 

Hopefully it was more than just fun, though. Hopefully, it was a difference-making day.

One starfish at a time, right? 

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Dog Drama Of Athletic Competition

TigerBlog has been meaning to tell you about the dog show all week.

It was last Saturday afternoon when he was flipping around the channels and stumbled on the Westminster Dog Show. He's seen it before, the video of dogs while being paraded by their owners. 

This time, though, he saw something he'd never seen before. It was a dog obstacle course race. It was tremendous.

First of all, there were cameras placed strategically at dog level, including inside of a circular tube through which the canines appeared to fly. Here is video of Gabby, the winner.

By the way, Gabby confirms one of TB's beliefs about dogs: The shorter the legs, the cuter the dog. 

The dog obstacle course made for incredible television. There was the thrill of victory (Gabby) and the agony of defeat (the poor little dog whose handler slipped while running alongside of him and took him out on the way to one of the jumps). 

If you don't get the reference, it's from the intro to ABC's Wide World Of Sports (if you're TB's age, those words only make you think of one thing, and you know what it is). 

The next line is: "The human drama of athletic competition." This of course was more like the dog drama of athletic competition.

The dog who got knocked over stopped briefly, looked down on his handler and basically thought "Dude, what are you doing? Do you know how hard I trained for this moment? Do you know how many dog biscuits I didn't eat? How many naps I didn't take? Be better."

Anyway, it was awesome. It was a little like a slightly more athletic version of another TB favorite: dressage, or, as he calls it, horse dancing.

What else does TB have for today?

Well, David Rosenfeld, who had been the men's basketball contact in the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications when Justin Conway was a Tiger, had a follow-up to what TB wrote about how Conway, now a physician, is pretty tall for a doctor at 6-4.

Rosenfeld emailed TB to let him know that if he thought Conway was a tall doctor, then what did he think of another former Princeton men's basketball player, Zach Finley. You remember Finley. He was a 6-10 center from South Dakota.

Today? He's a 6-10 orthopedic surgeon in New Orleans. That's a massive change in climate, by the way.

TB also has been meaning to congratulate Eric Robinson for winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the World Hockey Championships. 

Robinson, who has established himself as a steady contributor for the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, had three assists in the tournament, held in Latvia. Robinson had a strong 2020-21 season, which saw him set career highs in goals (eight), assists (10), points (18), shots (75), hits (94) and blocked shots (16). He was sixth on the Blue Jackets in goals, eighth in points and ninth in assists and led the team in +/- at +6.

The U.S. team won the bronze by defeating Germany 6-1 in the third-place game. Robinson joins fellow Princeton hockey alums Jeff Halpern and Mike Condon as Americans who have won bronze medals at the World Championships.

Robinson was the captain of the Princeton team that won the 2018 ECAC title and advanced to the NCAA tournament. That 2018 team had one of the most dramatic postseason runs any Princeton team has had in the last 10 or so years, including winning the championship game 2-1 over Clarkson after the Golden Knights had tied the game in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

Robinson had 17 goals and 14 assists that year for Princeton. He's played 120 career NHL games now and has 15 goals and 15 assists, and he seems to be ready to make the next step forward in his career next season.

What else is there for this week? 

Oh yeah. TB meant to add something about John Allis, the Olympic cyclist who was in the Princeton Class of 1965. Allis cycled in three Olympic Games, the 1964 Games in Tokyo and then in Mexico City and Munich. On the plus side: He's a member of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame. On the down side: He spent 30 years coaching the cycling team at Harvard (just kidding, just kidding). 

When TB looked Allis up, he found out that he had played on the freshman soccer team at Princeton but gave it up because he thought he'd never get serious playing time. He turned to cycling for a different challenge, and he certainly found it.

And yeah, that's about it for this week. Have a great weekend - and Happy Fathers' Day to all the dads who read this every day. And, TB supposes, even to the ones who don't.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Last Time In Tokyo

Trivia question – Princeton currently has four men's rowers who will be competing at the upcoming Olympic Games. Those four will represent four different countries. Can you name the countries?

Meanwhile, as a follow up to what TigerBlog wrote yesterday about former men's basketball player Justin Conway, there's a story from 2006 that's worth mentioning.

The Winter Olympics were going on, the ones in Turin, Italy. The Princeton men's basketball team was getting ready to play a game, and the coaches and staff were watching the biathlon on TV. Nobody spoke for a few seconds, until then-head coach Joe Scott said this: "You know who would be great at that? Conway."

It's a statement on the high esteem in which Scott, and everyone with the men's basketball team then, held Conway. 

TigerBlog is a big fan of the Olympics. He's never been to the Olympics, but he thinks it would be really cool to go at some point. As he's said many times before, if he could go to any sporting event anywhere that he's never attended, it would be the World Cup final first and then the Olympics.

Considering he's never been to a Super Bowl or an NBA Finals or an NCAA basketball Final Four, that's a big statement.

He has been to a World Series game. It was in the 1983 World Series, between the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies. TigerBlog was a vendor at Veterans Stadium that summer, and he spent his time hawking soda, hot dogs and beer throughout the upper decks of the massive facility. The money was decent, and he attended more than 50 games that year, including the NLCS and World Series.

If you know TigerBlog, you might have trouble picturing him walking around a stadium, handling cash, interacting with total strangers, spilling soda and beer all over him. You're not alone. TB can't imagine how he ever did that.

Meanwhile, back at the Olympics, the Summer Games are scheduled to begin July 23 and run through August 8 and will be held in Tokyo. These Games were supposed to originally be held last summer but were moved back a year due to the pandemic.

It's the second time that Tokyo will be hosting the Games. The first was in 1964, and Princeton was well-represented at those Olympics. 

There were five Princeton athletes in the 1964 Summer Olympics, and three of them won medals, including two golds.  One of the golds was won, of course, by Bill Bradley, who captained the United States to the gold medal in men's basketball. Bradley also won the 1964 Sullivan Award as the top American amateur athlete. 

Jed Graef won gold in the 200-meter backstroke in swimming. TB once wrote this about Graef:

Jed Graef won the gold medal in the 200 backstroke in Tokyo, just a few months after he 1) won the NCAA 200 backstroke and 2) graduated from Princeton. Graef won the 200 backstroke in a time of 2:10.3, which was the world record at the time. He led a 1-2-3 American sweep in the event. Graef's Olympic teammate, Gary Dilley (who swam at Michigan State), set the Olympic record in both the preliminary round and the semifinals, while Graef had the second-best time in both. In the final, Graef edged Dilley by two-tenths of a second, while the bronze medal went to Bob Bennett (a USC grad), who was nearly three seconds behind. 

Seymour Cromwell won silver in the double sculls, finishing behind the Russians and just ahead of the Czechoslovakians. Tragically, Cromwell passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1977 at the very young age of 43.

He was a member of the Class of 1956. The next time TB is up in the Class of 1956 Lounge at Princeton Stadium, he'll make sure to check him out in the class photo.

Princeton was also represented by fencer Frank Anger and cyclist John Allis. Neither won a medal. 

The Olympic Games coming up this summer will have more than five Princetonians, and the final full list of Princeton athletes in Tokyo is not yet completely filled. 

It does seem like every day, another Princeton rower is selected. Most recently, that meant Tim Masters a member of the Class of 2015, who will row in the Australian 8. It is his first Olympic appearance.

As for the trivia question, you have Masters (Australia), Fred Vystavel '16 (Denmark), Nick Mead '17 (United States) and Tom George '18 (Great Britain).

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


TigerBlog spent some time yesterday going through the career of former men's basketball player Justin Conway. 

Interestingly, he briefly forgot Conway's first name. Maybe that's because his Princeton head coach, Joe Scott, only ever called him by his last name. In fact, Scott even once suggested that when the starting lineups were introduced, he should be called just Conway. 

"First name 'Con;' last name 'Way,'" Scott joked.

There have been a lot of great Princeton men's basketball players through the years. There haven't been too many whose story is similar to that of Justin Conway. Or, you know, Con-Way.

Justin Conway graduated in 2007. He was an All-Ivy League selection his junior year. He is one of three Princeton men's basketball players to win the Paul Friedman Award twice. That award is given to the player who does his very best every day in every way. He also won the team's Bob Rock Award. That is give to that member of the Princeton University men's basketball team whose energy, effort and enthusiasm made an invaluable contribution to the season.

Energy, effort and enthusiasm. There haven't been too many players who have brought more of those to Jadwin Gym than Conway.

What makes these honors even more remarkable is that he didn't play a second of varsity basketball until the middle of his junior year. Not one second.

TB got to thinking back about Conway's career when he saw the story on about Conway as part of the "Tiger Heroes" series. Conway is currently a sports medicine doctor in Beacon, N.Y., about 70 miles north of Manhattan. 

At 6-4, he might be on the tall side for a physician. He is not on the tall side for a men's basketball center.

Ah, but that's what Conway was at Princeton. Despite giving up size and weight every game he played, Conway was a highly productive center for those Princeton teams. His size and the effort he gave every second he was out there made him a Jadwin favorite. 

Conway was a junior varsity player at first. He made his first varsity appearance a little past the midway point of his junior year, when he played (and started) for the first time in a game on Jan. 29, 2006, at Davidson.

To that point, he'd never gotten on the court in a varsity game. He'd then start that game and the final 12 of the year, averaging 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds while playing nearly 35 minutes per night. He was voted honorable mention All-Ivy League by the leagues' coaches.

Princeton was 3-11 on the year before Conway was inserted in the starting lineup. The Tigers then went 9-4 with him as its center, losing that game to Davidson and then going 9-3 in 12 Ivy games after that. 

The season started with Conway uncertain if he'd ever get to play with the varsity. It ended when he scored 21 points and had six assists while going all 45 minutes in a 60-59 overtime win over Penn, who had already clinched the Ivy League championship before that game at Jadwin. Conway also added the game-winning basket with 2.5 seconds to play. 

"I never would have thought I'd ever be in that situation when the season started," Conway said after the game.

He would go on to start 22 more games his senior year while playing in 25. He averaged 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds while playing 29.2 minutes per game. TB reached out to David Rosenfeld, who was the Princeton men's basketball contact in the Office of Athletic Communications then, about Conway, and he said simply: "He never stopped trying."

That is so true. 

That same energy has led him to medical school and now to a career as a doctor. He shifted from sports medicine to working in a hospital and fighting head on against the COVID pandemic when it was at its highest point. You can read the whole story HERE.

TB loved this quote: 

Whether you're the leading scorer or a walk-on whose primary role is as a practice player, everyone plays a critical part in making the team successful. The same holds true in medicine - no matter your role, if all members of a patient's community of care are valued and empowered to deliver the highest level of care, that leads to the best outcomes for our patients and our communities.

That's him in a nutshell. A total team player, whatever his role. 

He's a Jadwin legend. It's awesome to see that he's doing such great things these days.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Riding Again For Derek

Zack DiGregorio turned 26 yesterday.

He's the oldest of Steve and Nadia DiGregorio's three children. He's also a Penn grad, though TigerBlog doesn't hold that against him. 

TigerBlog Jr. turns 24 this weekend. Here's a picture of TBJ and Zack:

This picture was taken when they were both ballboys for Princeton basketball. This game was played on New Year's Eve 2004.

TB most recently saw Zack this past Saturday, at the ninth Million Dollar Bike Ride, a fundraising event for orphan diseases. These orphan diseases are ones that don't afflict large numbers of people, and therefore they are diseases that struggle with having the resources necessary to try to fight them.

It's a big problem. The more that a disease impacts a large number, the more funding it can get to try to find a cure. When you deal with diseases that have such small numbers, those who are directly affected are almost left to themselves to try to make a difference. In the meantime, the disease is able to move along unchecked.

The DiGregorio family was thrown into the unfortunate world of orphan diseases, when Zack's brother and the middle DiGregorio child Derek was diagnosed with Ataxia-telangiectasia, a disease that attacks the immune systems and affects motor skills. It's a rough disease to try to combat, since it is so rare.

If anyone has made a difference, it's been the DiGregorios. Steve, or "Digger" as he's known to everyone who knows him, was an assistant football coach at Princeton before going on to be a very successful New Jersey high school football coach. In fact, this past year he was the Coach of the Year. 

He and his wife Nadia dove in headfirst to try to combat A-T, and they have been enormously successful in their quest. They have also enlisted the Princeton Athletics family for help, and those who have stood up is like a Who's Who of great Princetonians, including Jason Garrett, John Thompson III, Pete Carril, Howard Levy, Steve Verbit and so, so many others.

How much money have they raised for research and trials? Just short of $1 million. That's incredible. 

The bike ride each June is one of the highlights of their fund-raising efforts. In pre-pandemic years, it's been held in Philadelphia. The last two years, it was held at the home of Princeton head athletic trainer Charlie Thompson and his wife Sandy.

The ride itself went 17 miles. There was some rumblings of doing it twice, for 34 miles. TB and Zack rode together for awhile, and Zack mentioned that he would do the second 17 as long as one other person did. That almost was enough to get TB to do it, but instead he stopped after the first 17.

There was pre-race food and post-race food, donated by sponsors whom Nadia recruited. Of course she did. 

In a world that has been so isolated for so long, it was great to see people in person again, just like a year ago at Charlie's house. This time, there were other riders who were scattered in several locations, including one group in Israel.

It was a nice morning for a ride. It was great to have some laughs and some fun with people who haven't been able to hang out in person much. 

Digger, as he always does, spoke briefly about the event and about how much it means to him and his family. This is a family that has dealt with a lot and knows how to deal with adversity. The youngest son, Aaron, had a flat tire near the midway point, which meant about eight miles away from Charlie's house. That doesn't even register on the DiGregorio scale of adversity. 

As always, Digger became emotional as he spoke. He's as strong as it gets, with this fight and others that he's had to deal with along the way. He usually defaults to laughter, a deep, strong laugh. This time, he teared up a bit as he looked out at those who gathered there once again in the name of helping his son.

More than anything else, this is always about Derek, who will turn 24 this summer. He's sharp. He banters well. He likes to poke fun at people, and people in turn poke fun back at him. 

He greeted the returning riders from the sidewalk in front of Charlie's house, mostly with some of that banter, but with an obvious underlying appreciation and happiness to have these people in his life. Those people, in turn, find inspiration in everything about Derek, and everything about his family.

Derek's view is from a wheelchair, but few stand taller than he does. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Athlete Of The Week

There was a time when there was a poll on

Each week, there would be a new question, and fans could vote. At one point, it was used to select an Athlete of the Week. There would be a few candidates, and then there'd be a fan vote.

At some point, some member of the water polo team figured out how to rig the votes, so any water polo player would end up with a few million votes. After that, the poll became more of a general question.

You know who would make a great Athlete of the Week for this past week? Novak Djokovic. 

TigerBlog found himself watching a lot of the last two men's matches of the French Open, first Friday afternoon when Djokovic took out Rafael Nadal in an epic semifinal and then yesterday, when the Serb defeated 22-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets to win his 19th major.

He also became the third player ever to win all four majors at least twice each. The other two were Rod Laver and Roy Emerson, one of whom was once in the backseat of TB's 1988 Volkswagon Rabbit while another tennis Hall-of-Famer, Cliff Drysdale, was in the front. 

It's a good story. 

Meanwhile, back at Djokovic, he looked all the world to be wiped out early on, as he dropped the first two sets to Tsitsipas, who is 12 years younger. Djokovic had to be suffering from the after-effects of such a rough semifinal, and he hardly looked like he had the energy to make the big comeback after dropping the first two sets.

Instead, it all turned on a dime, when Djokovic broke Tsitsipas in the fourth game of the third set, after Tsitsipas held off four break points. On the fifth, though, Djokovic finally cashed in, and it was basically over after that. There was just a sense during that game that the winner was going to win the whole thing and that's what happened.

Oh, and to those who wrote that the Djokovic-Nadal match was the greatest ever, it wasn't. It wasn't even the greatest match involving Nadal, not after his 2008 Wimbledon final win over Roger Federer in just under five hours. And that doesn't even take into account matches like Borg-McEnroe in the 1980 Wimbledon final and the Connors-Krickstein in the 1991 U.S. Open.

One thing TB could not for the life of him figure out is why top-seeded Djokovic played third-seeded Nadal in the semifinals. Shouldn't the top seed and third seed been on opposite sides of the draw? They are in every other tournament TB has ever seen in any sport ever.

Still it was a great weekend of tennis. And Djokovic's performance was epic. Even the water polo people would have approved.

As for the Princeton Athlete of the Week, that honor belongs to Obiageri Amaechi. Yes, she was the only Princeton athlete to compete this past week, but she certainly made the most of it.

Amaechi qualified for the NCAA track and field championships in the discus after her performance at the regionals, and she competed Saturday afternoon in the final in Eugene. While there, she earned second-team All-American honors, making her a two-time All-American in the event.

As a freshman, she earned first-team All-American honors, when she finished seventh at the NCAAs. In that year, her seventh-place throw sailed 54.16 meters.   

This past Saturday, she did not match her placing from 2018, as she did not advance out of the first round of three throws. Interestingly, though, her throw that earned her 13th place, and second-team honors, was further than the one three years ago, going 54.83.

She also is the Princeton- and Ivy-record holder at 57.95, which she did during the 2019 Heps championship that she won. 

Amaechi was a von Kienbusch Award finalist this year, and she had a great career at Princeton. It was great to see her earn All-American honors.

The NCAA track and field championships are always the final event of the academic year for Princeton. This academic year, obviously, was different than any of the others that have preceded it.

Here's to a "normal" 2021-22.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Olympic Swimming Trials, NCAA Track And Field

So are these the 2020 Olympic Games or the 2021 Olympic Games? 

They're obviously being held in 2021. Then again, the Jets and Giants have obviously played in New Jersey for decades and still are known as the New York teams.

TigerBlog saw the logo for the upcoming Games, and it still says "Tokyo 2020." Will this change? These games, of course, were supposed to be held last summer, until the COVID pandemic pushed them back a year. 

Whatever they're called, TB is hoping they go off smoothly.

By the way, speaking of the Olympic Games, can you tell TB what they only five countries are who have participated in every Olympic Games in the modern era? He'll give you the answer at the end.

Yesterday, TB mentioned that Princeton will be well-represented in rowing in Tokyo. He also said that you have to go back to 1972 to find a year where there were no Princetonians involved in Olympic rowing. 

He also can't help but wonder how much different, if at all, Olympic rosters would have looked a year ago than now. There have to be athletes who were primed for 2020 who would have earned spots but lost them to younger athletes who had an extra year to prepare.

Even beyond that, there are some Olympic spots that are determined by Trials. There's no way they would have turned out exactly exactly the same a year ago as they are now.

The Olympic trials for swimming were a bit confusing this time around. They come in waves, and not the kind you see in open water racing. 

Wave I was an opportunity to qualify for Wave II, which is where the Olympic spots will be decided. That event is next week. The top qualifying times advanced directly to Wave II, and some of the Wave I swimmers were able to move on as well. The idea was originally to reduce the number of athletes who were gathered together due to COVID concerns.

The first wave was recently completed, and there were several Princeton men and women who competed. To be exact, it seems like there were six women and six men at the Wave I event, with three other men who are also in contention. 

Nicole Venema won the 100 butterfly at the Wave I event to advance to Wave II. As a freshman in 2019-20, Venema won three individual titles and was on one winning relay at the Ivy League championships, which Princeton won easily. She already holds five school records - one individual and four relays. 

You can read all about the women's Wave I trials HERE

On the men's side, HERE are the results for Princeton's swimmers. Raunak Khosla, who was the high point scorer at the 2020 men's Ivy championships, qualified directly for Wave II in four different events. This is also from the story:

Should Dylan Porges not qualify for the Mexican national team, he will compete in Wave II of the U.S. Olympic Trials. George Callanan is currently competing at the U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, where he aims to qualify on the 3-meter board.

Lastly, there is still one Princeton athlete who is competing this weekend in intercollegiate competition. Obiageri Amaechi has qualified for the NCAA championships in the discus this weekend in Eugene, Ore.

Amaechi throws tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 Eastern time. There are 24 competitors in the competition, and the top nine after three throws will advance to get three more. 

You can read more about Amaechi HERE. This is her third time in the NCAA championships, and she was a 2018 first-team All-American as a freshman. She's also the Ivy League record-holder in the discus, which she set while winning Heps in 2019, and that obviously makes her Princeton's record-holder as well. 

She is also a two-time track and field coaches association All-Academic pick. That makes for a great all-around resume.

And that's it for today. Have a great weekend ...

Oh wait. That wasn't the last thing for today. Here's the answer to the trivia question: Great Britain, Greece, Switzerland, Australia and France.

And now you can have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Rowing To Tokyo

Amy Richlin, in addition to being the first women's rowing captain at Princeton and the driving force behind getting the program started nearly 50 years ago, is also the answer to a trivia question. 

Who was the first woman to win the Class of 1916 Cup, given to the senior athlete in the highest academic standing at graduation.

Richlin shared the 1916 Cup in 1973 with cross country/track and field athlete Jim Isenberg. TB learned from a quick search that Isenberg almost won an Academy Award.

Seriously. The basic premise is that he was filmed running on the towpath and talking about his thesis work on general relativity as part of a 30-minute documentary that was produced on behalf of the admissions office. The movie ended up winning Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, except that Isenberg's part was eventually cut out and he ended up not appearing in it. 

He wrote about the experience in the PAW a few years ago. You can read about it HERE.

Isenberg also went on to get a Ph.D., his in mathematics, at the University of Maryland. His career has been spent as a professor at the University of Oregon, where he began teaching in 1982.

As for women's rowing, TigerBlog mentioned that first team earlier this week.

Those Tigers rowed in the 1971-72 academic year, and they won the Eastern championships in what for almost all of them was their first year ever with the sport. Their leader was Amy Richlin, who in the 1970-71 academic year had worked hard to get a foot in the boathouse and then later on recruited the women who would make up that first team.

Amy Richlin is small for a rower. Carol Brown, one of the athletes who had never rowed before but who in 1976 would win Olympic bronze, remembers seeing Richlin outside of Dillon Gym during an activities fair with an oar that was much larger than she is.

Today Amy Richlin is a classics professor at UCLA. She went from Princeton to earn Ph.D. at Yale, where she also rowed for a year.

Richlin was a transfer student into Princeton in 1970-71, after spending a year at Smith College, which is where she first learned to row herself. This made her a veteran among the early women rowers.

The women's rowing program has grown considerably since those early days. The Tigers have put together one of the best women's rowing histories of any school in the country, including multiple NCAA championships by the open rowers and IRA championships by the lightweights. 

The open rowing team is one of three that has appeared in every NCAA championship event. The lightweights recently won the 2021 IRA national championship.

In addition to those championships, Princeton has dominated Ivy open rowing. The league separated its women's champion from the Eastern Sprints in 2012, instead forming its own championship event, and Princeton has won six of the eight that have been contested.

There have also been Princeton rowers who have made an impact on the international level. Most recently, Gevvie Stone won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in single sculls, and she will be returning to the Olympics this summer in Tokyo in the pairs.

Stone will not be the only Tiger there. In fact, two more Princeton Olympians were announced yesterday. 

It was last week when the news came out that Claire Collins will be rowing in the 4s for the United States. Collins was a three-time All-American and four-time All-Ivy League selection who helped Princeton to four Ivy League championships before graduating in 2019. She also won the von Kienbusch Award that year as Princeton's top senior female athlete. 

Nick Mead, a 2017 grad, was also named to the U.S. men's team. He'll row in the 8s. 

Mead began his career at Princeton with a second-place IRA finish in the second varsity and then rowed with the first varsity for two thirds and a fourth. He won silver at the 2017 World Championships.

Then, yesterday, two more Princeton alums were named to the British teams. Hannah Scott, who graduated last month, will row for Great Britain in the 4s, which means there could be a matchup of former teammates there between her and Collins. Scott was a two-time Ivy League champion and a 2019 All-American.

Tom George was also named to the British team, and he will row in the 8s, which, again, means it could be Princeton vs. Princeton at some point. This is his the first Olympic Games for the 2018 grad, but he has been rowing internationally for several years.  

Once again, there will be plenty of Tigers in boats at the Olympics.

In fact, you have to go back to 1972 to find an Olympic Games that did not include Princeton rowing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Going Back To Lafayette, Louisiana

TigerBlog just finished a series on Amazon called "Keeping Faith."

The title character is a lawyer in Wales whose blissful life sort of falls apart around her. The three seasons are about how she deals with all of the adversity tossed her way. 

It's a really good show, with some pretty good villains and some interesting gray areas and moral dilemmas. The only downside is Faith's insistence on wagging her index finger and yelling "No!!" way too often.

TB finished the series the other night. Since then, he's bounced around a bit looking for a new one. He's also watched some of the NCAA baseball and softball tournaments. 

He was rooting for James Madison in the softball tournament. The Dukes made a great run, making it to one of the last four spots. 

On the baseball side, he was rooting for Fairfield. When he was at the NCAA men's lacrosse championships Memorial Day weekend, Fairfield was the host school. The Stags baseball team had recently lost in the MAAC tournament to Rider, who had the league's automatic bid.

Fairfield was 37-3 though. Would the school get the league's first at-large bid? The baseball selection show was on just before the men's lacrosse final. The brackets began to be announced, and the Fairfield people were holding their breaths. Eventually it came up - Fairfield was in.

And once in, the team gave a good account of itself, as Pete Carril often said. TB watched some of their games, including their win over Arizona State, who had beaten Fairfield in the first game of the regional. Fairfield made it to the regional final before falling to Texas, ending the season at 39-5.

The best game he's seen was Monday night. It was the winner-take-all game between No. 1 Arkansas and No. 19 Nebraska. 

The game was 2-2 into the bottom of the eighth. After loading the bases on a single and two walks, Arkansas brought a pinch-hitter named Charlie Welch to the plate. A graphic said Welch was 7 for 11 as a pinch-hitter. The announcers said he was "Arkansas' best pinch-hitter."

Arkansas' best? How about everyone's best. Anyway, before TB could do the match on what 7 for 11 makes you (.636), there was a wild pitch (the 11th straight ball between two Nebraska pitchers) and then just about the most massive home run you ever saw (6-2 Arkansas, which was the final). 

Welch is now 8 for 12 as a pinch-hitter (.667). In his post-game interview, he said that he asked the coach for the green light and that "I hit it pretty well."

Uh, yeah. 

One thing that really came through was just how much fun the Arkansas fans were having. It was a huge party. This was from the home run, which landed behind the people in the video.

The entire thing took TB back to his own experiences with Princeton's baseball team at the 2016 NCAA regional in Lafayette, Louisiana. It seems like the Arkansas fans and the Louisiana fans have a lot in common.

TB went back and re-read the game stories he wrote about the Tigers' games in the regional. Here's what he had to say after the opening game 5-3 loss to the Ragin' Cajuns.

If Scott Bradley wanted his Princeton baseball team to get the full NCAA tournament experience, then he couldn't have come to a better place than the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

There are four things that TB remembers most about that regional.

First, there was the weather. It rained a lot, and that messed up the schedule. Princeton would end up playing past midnight in its first game, which started about 28 hours later than it was supposed to.

Second, there was the Louisiana-Lafayette game night experience. It started with crazy tailgates, including one group that saw TB's Princeton stuff, leading one fan to say this: "we're going to kick your a-----, but first come eat with us." And TB had been warned about the seventh-inning stretch and how the crowd would sing and dance to John Fogarty's "Centerfield," and it was as wild as described

Third, there was the ball that Andrew Christie hit in the second inning of the second game, against Sam Houston, which itself was delayed seven hours by rain. Had it not been so hazy and humid, that ball would have been out easily, instead of caught against the wall, and Princeton's night would have been different. 

Fourth, and most of all, there was the game that Chad Powers pitched against Louisiana-Lafayette. Powers, the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year, went into the eighth, striking out eight and walking none. Only some timely ULL hits did him and the Tigers in. It was a great performance, and Powers was rewarded with some long applause from the home fans, who recognized a player worthy of their praise.

Anyway, TB was taken back to all of that and more while watching the Arkansas game. As he has said many times before, that trip to Lafayette was one of the best events he's ever seen during all his years with Princeton.

Has it really been five years already? 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The 1972 Eastern Champs

TigerBlog is currently putting together all of the photos he needs for the upcoming women's history book. 

To that end, he has gone through hundreds of pictures, trying to find the right mix. There is a lot of text written, and it needs the proper balance of good pictures to make it work.

Of course, the question is what makes a good picture? In the context of what is essentially a history book, the need is for pictures that take you back to the moment to help tell the story. In those cases, it's okay if they're not the sharpest color, or for that matter no color at all. 

Take this one, for example.

This is one of TB's favorites in the book.

The picture is of the 1971-72 women's open rowing team. It was the first varsity women's rowing team that Princeton had.

Specifically, this picture is from the 1972 Eastern championships, in Old Lyme, Conn. William Wallace, who covered a lot of Ivy League athletics in his day and himself a member of the Yale Class of 1945, wrote this in the New York Times:

The Northeastern crew that won the Eastern college sprint championships last Saturday is a big, brawny group, averaging 195 pounds in weight, 6 feet 3 inches in height. The Princeton crew that won a similar championship last Sunday went about 140 pounds in weight, 5 feet 6 in height, and was devoid of bulging muscles. The Princetonians were women and they rowed very skillfully, reflecting the three months of 1½‐hour workouts at 6:30 A.M., five days a week. The Princeton girls—it is impossible to call them Tigresses or Tigerettes — followed the traditions. They threw their coxswain and coach off the dock afterwards. They drank champagne and sang, “Going Back to Nassau Hall, to the Best Old Place of All.”

That's great stuff. TB, by the way, knew Wallace well from all of his years covering Princeton events, particularly football, before Wallace passed away in 2012. 

The story Wallace wrote about the race is fascinating for TB, in that nearly 50 years later, the thoughts of Princeton captain Amy Richlin and fellow rower Carol Brown were identical to what they told TB when he interviewed them last fall for the book. 

Both Richlin and Brown are quoted in Wallace's story. They talked about Richlin's flyer that helped her recruit the initial women who rowed for Princeton, including her famous quote of "The way I figure it you wouldn't be at Princeton if you liked to do things the easy way.”

TB emailed the picture to Richlin and Brown last week to get their help in IDing the rowers. For the record, here they are:

Cox Mary Wadsworth, stroke Margit Roos, 7 Amy Richlin, 6 Carol Brown, 5 Janet Younghold, 4 Cate Huisman, 3 Maurya Meenan, 2, Lindsay Poole, bow Cathy Bradley. 

Richlin also said this:

I forgot to say how IMPORTANT it was that, by our first spring as a recognized team, we had the WONDERFUL, DEDICATED, TALENTED Al Piranian as our coach, a truly great man who took us seriously from the get-go and coached us to that Eastern championship! ... He was the one who got up for our 6 AM practices before going on this job as an engineer. He was the one who drove that limo full of rowdy oarswoman, parked it when we stopped for a meal on road trips and put up with us singing 'Happy Birthday' to him at every one of those meals!

Brown went on to win an Olympic bronze medal in 1976. Richlin is currently a classics professor at UCLA.

The stories that they, and Youngholm, told TB for the women's history project were great. Reading the New York Times story confirmed that the three of them also have great memories.

You can read the story HERE.

If you didn't, here's how it ends (the answer is 1) yes, they do and 2) yes they did even back then):

Now that women are launched in crew, will they follow the men, not only in the traditions like betting shirts, but also in the heavy training and dedication required to win at the highest competitive levels?

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Two-Tweet Monday

TigerBlog has two tweets for you for your Monday.

The first comes from former New England Patriots Super Bowl champion linebacker Tedy Bruschi. It's a lacrosse related question:

The answer to that, at least from TigerBlog, is this: It depends who is being asked. Everyone has their sport preferences, and you can see that from all the replies.

TB, for one, remembers back to when he first started watching lacrosse in a serious way. The first goalie he ever saw play was Princeton's Scott Bacigalupo, who just happens to be one of the greatest ever to play the game and a quite deserving member of the Hall of Fame.

The memories that TB has of watching Bacigalupo are ones of being awed by how he did it. They are also of "who in the world would ever want to be a goalie?"

Well, fast-forwarding a little more than 10 years, and he found out who. His son, for one. TigerBlog Jr. started playing goalie in second grade and never looked back, playing the position all the way through his high school days and then for all four years at Sacred Heart University.

He played on summer club teams. He played box lacrosse in Philadelphia, teaming with Princeton's Michael Sowers and George Baughan to win the championship. In the first year in which he recruited Sowers to play with him, a year before Baughan joined the team, TB said this to his son that if TBJ got hurt, he'd be pissed, but if Sowers got hurt, then he'd be really, really pissed.

That is a true story. Oh, and he has another story about the time he said "pissed" on the radio. It was during a Princeton men's basketball game, back when he was part of a three-man team with David Brody and Rich Simkus. The half ended on a shaky call, and Pete Carril reacted in his usual manner. TB on the radio said: "And Coach Carril looks really pissed."

To that his partners said nothing. After a second or two of silence, TB said: "What? You can't say 'pissed' on the radio?'" To that, Simkus said, chuckling: "I guess you can since you said it twice." That was a long time ago. Nobody from the FCC came and told TB he couldn't do the second half or anything, so he figures he's good.

Anyway, his point is that 1) he still to this day has no idea how anyone can be a goalie in lacrosse, with that hard rubber ball shot at you at ridiculous speeds, 2) he has no idea how his son did it and 3) he can tell you first hand that it could be tougher being the parent of the goalie. That was always very, very stressful.

Okay, so here's the other tweet. It comes from Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley:

That is one of the more legendary plays in Major League Baseball in the last few decades. TB has seen the throw a million times. He did not realize until he saw the tweet Saturday that Bradley was the hitter.

He also saw another tweet last week saying how Bradley had been the catcher for one of Randy Johnson's no-hitters.

TB has said this before, but if you're not following Scott Bradley on Twitter, then you're missing out. Apparently, people have gotten the word too.

Bradley only started tweeting back in January. In basically five months, he has just short of 10,000 followers. Why is that? 

It's because his tweets are a combination of funny, insightful, educational and nostalgic. He gives you a great sense of what it was like to be in the Major Leagues, who the people were he learned from the most and who were some of the biggest characters he met. 

He also talks about the current state of the game and his philosophies, as well as what it means to be a college baseball player in general and specifically at Princeton. His account continues to provide great stuff on a daily basis.

Friday, June 4, 2021


Just when TigerBlog thought he had finished writing his women's history book, along came the women's lightweight rowers.

Princeton destroyed Wisconsin by 26 seconds to win the IRA national title last weekend on Mercer Lake. It was the 56th national championship for Princeton's women, with 34 team and 22 individual titles.

One of those other 33 team titles was won by the 2006 women's open rowing team. That boat featured four Olympians, three of whom won medals, including two-time gold medalist Caroline Lind. Even now, 15 years later, that boat has still produced an Olympian as Gevvie Stone is headed to Tokyo. Stone, who is also a doctor, won a silver medal in single sculls in 2016 in Rio.

You can read a very good account of the 2006 women's rowing team HERE, courtesy of TB's colleague Warren Croxton. 

TB's book also features Lind, Stone and Andreanne Morin, a silver medalist for Canada, along with 2011 Princeton rower Lauren Wilkinson, who is also Canadian and who also won silver. Lind is in a piece with Ashleigh Johnson, the two female gold medalists Princeton has produced. Stone, Morin and Wilkinson tell their stories together.

The 2011 team on which Wilkinson rowed also won the NCAA championship. The 2006 boat, though, was, as Warren's story suggests, "dominant."

TB has been asked many questions over the past few months as he's worked on this project, including what the single best team Princeton women's athletics has ever fielded was. He is very diplomatic when it comes to answering, but you can make a real case for the 2006 women's first varsity 8. 

There are others on the list. Without slighting anyone, there's the 2012 field hockey team, the 2002 women's lacrosse team and the 2013 fencing team, all of whom won NCAA championships. 

Of course, not all of the greatest teams in Princeton women's history won national championships. There are women's basketball teams in the conversation, for instance.

The list of the greatest teams will not include the 2021 women's lightweight rowers. It will be on the list of teams who had to endure the most to get the starting line, let alone the finish line.

Clearly, this championship for the Tigers was unlike any of the 55 that preceded it.

On the day that it was announced that Princeton would be suspending spring sports in 2020 and the University would be sending students home, the IRA rankings came out and had the Tigers ranked No. 1. Since then, the team went through a long, arduous, challenging road to get back out onto the water at all this spring.

TB spoke to three members of the women's lightweight rowing team yesterday: Annie Anezakis, Isabelle Chandler and Lauren Sanchez. Anezakis, by the way, spoke to TB before getting on a plane to return to her home in Australia.

They told him their stories of how they dealt with the shutdown in 2020, what they did to stay connected with each other from literally every corner of the world, what it meant to them to come back this spring, what they felt for the 2020 teammates who didn't get to pursue their national championship and what it was like when they won the race last weekend.

Lastly, he asked them what they think they'll take away from the entire experience and how COVID disrupted their college experience. What will they ultimately remember the most about it.

They spoke about it all. There were common themes throughout the conversations, especially about how they learned a great deal about themselves from the entire thing. The word "resilience" came up more than once.

Their national championship was a fitting end to the 50th year of women's athletics at Princeton. It won't be the end of the book, though. It'll be the prologue. 

For this team, getting to the start was as big as getting to the finish.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Unlikely Star

So here's something that's less than ideal for your good night's sleep in a hotel room.

For context, this was Saturday night, or, technically, early Sunday morning, at a hotel near Hartford, where TigerBlog was staying for the NCAA men's lacrosse championships this past weekend.

His room was on the first floor, all the way at the end of a long hallway, right next to the exit. He was peacefully sleeping when the alarm went off. It was at 2:44 a.m.

Was there a time in his life when he might have not stopped to get video evidence of the situation? Probably. Of course, he was never really all that concerned about the fire situation, since he was actually sleeping closer to his car in the parking lot than he was to almost any other spot actually inside the hotel. 

At first, of course, it was really startling. Who wouldn't be startled with that? It was actually the light more than anything else at first. 

Once he realized he should get outside, it was about 20 seconds before he was in the parking lot. He was not, of course, the only one out there. Not at all. There were a lot of people. He felt especially badly for the people with little kids who had been awakened in the middle of the night.

Everyone had the same question: Is this a real fire? Eventually the fire department showed up and assured everyone it was not. In all, he was outside for about 30 minutes. He has no idea what time he actually got back to sleep, but he was pretty tired the next day.

While he was standing outside, he was looking for his colleagues Justin Lafleur from Lehigh and Mark Bedics from the NCAA, neither of whom he could see. He texted them at 2:53, prior to when the fire trucks came by, to see if they were okay. Neither responded. He asked a guy standing there if he thought anyone could sleep through that alarm, and he said that maybe he could have, but his dog, who by that time was lying on the ground wiped out, definitely didn't. 

The next day, Justin (fourth floor) and Mark (eighth floor) told TB they never heard the alarm. Neither did anyone else not on the first floor.  Hmmm. Interesting.

That unfortunate episode notwithstanding, it was fun to be back at the Final Four. TigerBlog's first was back in 1992, which, not coincidentally, was Princeton's first of 10, which has also included six championships. 

This past week, Cody Chrusciel put together a video series for social media to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1996 championship and the 20th anniversary of the 2001 championship.

Princeton's six NCAA championship men's lacrosse teams were stocked with All-Americans and even Hall-of-Famers, as well as some who should be in the Hall of Fame. They all rose to the occasion, with huge moments from so many familiar names from those teams.

Jesse Hubbard? Game-winning OT goal in 1996. Ryan Boyle? Game-winning assist in 2001, also in OT. That was B.J. Prager's goal. Prager, like Jon Hess, was a Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Scott Bacigalupo was twice. Chris Massey. Sean Hartofilis. Kevin Lowe. The list goes on and on.

Of all the major contributions that Princeton got in those May runs, the most unlikely came from a young man named Pancho Gutstein. He was a backup goalie for his entire career, and he loved being a part of Princeton men's lacrosse. He was such a great teammate that he was voted a captain as a senior, in 1996.

And that would have been enough for him, until he was put into a 9-9 game in the semifinals against Syracuse with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. As TB watched the championship game Monday between Virginia and Maryland, he wondered if either coach would have had the nerve to do that.

Gutstein responded with four saves and no goals against, as Princeton defeated Syracuse 11-9. He then came off the bench in the third quarter in the final against Virginia after the Cavs took a 7-6 lead, and he allowed five goals while making eight saves in what became a 13-12 overtime win.

The goalie he replaced, by the way, was Patrick Cairns, who in 1997 became an All-American and an NCAA all-tournament team selection on a team that went 15-0 and won the second of what became three straight titles.

As for Gutstein, he made the 1996 all-tournament team. TB caught up with him a few days ago. It turns out he lives in Australia, where he oversees the Oceana operation for Puma. 

HERE is the resulting story TB wrote. 

The story is more than just a recap of the games. TB hopes that Pancho's personality comes through, and he has a very large personality. You don't need to take TB's word for it. You can take the word of his twin sister, Abigail, who was a two-time first-team All-American in lacrosse at Princeton, as well as an NCAA champion herself and a two-sport athlete who was also an All-Ivy field hockey player:

"My brother is one of the greatest people on this Earth," she says.

He remains all these years later one of TB's favorite Tigers. 

And one of Princeton's most unlikely heroes of any NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

RIP Frank Navarro

There are not a lot of coaches whom TigerBlog can think of off the top of his head who were the head coach at two different Ivy League schools.

Some do leap to mind immediately. For instance, there is Al Bagnoli, who is currently the head football coach at Columbia after having been the longtime head coach at Penn. Going back a bit in Ivy League football, there was also Bob Blackman, a Hall-of-Fame coach who was the head man at both Dartmouth and Cornell among his other stops.

Hmmm. Who else? 

As he's trying to think of other examples, TB came up with Leo Durocher, who managed the Dodgers and then the Giants (though TB realizes neither is an Ivy League school, or school at all for that matter). Still, it's the same basic idea, going from one team to a big rival. 

In fact, if you didn't know this, Durocher was the manager of the Giants in 1951, when they came from 13.5 games back to tie the Dodgers and then won the famous best-of-three playoff on Bobby Thomson's home run. He also managed the Giants to the 1954 World Series.

Meanwhile, back at the main point here, TB can think of a few Princeton head coaches who were athletes or assistant coaches (or both) at other Ivy League schools, including current head coaches Fred Samara (men's track and field), Cara Morey (women's hockey) and Chris Sailer (women's lacrosse), as well as former women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart. Going the other way, former Princeton men's basketball player and assistant coach Brian Earl is the current head coach at Cornell.

There have to be others, right? TB has to missing some obvious ones who were head coaches at two different Ivy schools. 

He learned, albeit for rather sad reasons, of one such person, who was the head coach at Princeton and another Ivy. That would be Frank Navarro, the former head football coach for the Tigers who had previously been at Columbia.

Navarro, who coached Princeton from 1978-84, passed away over the weekend at the age of 91. 

TigerBlog never met Navarro, though Navarro was the Princeton coach in the first game TB ever saw in Palmer Stadium, back when he was a Quaker, doing student radio. Navarro was also the head coach at Princeton for a much bigger game at the old stadium, the 1981 Princeton-Yale game that was named Princeton's best game of the 20th century.

That was the game where Princeton defeated Yale 35-31 on Bob Holly's last second touchdown run, after he'd thrown for a then-Ivy record and still-Princeton record 501 yards (with four touchdowns). 

"It's an outstanding day for Princeton alumni and students," Navarro said after the game. "They should have a victory against Yale every once in a while." 

At the time, that seemed like it might be asking a lot, as Yale had won 14 straight against the Tigers. Navarro had some other big moments as a head coach, including leading Wabash College of Indiana to the 1977 Division III national championship game.

His Ivy League record at Princeton was 23-23-3, which is interestingly eerily similar to his overall head coaching record of 99-99-6. His final game was a 21-17 win over Dartmouth, and then he announced his retirement at the football banquet that followed.

When he was hired, Navarro said this about himself:
"I'm the football players' man,", he said. "I'm here to do the best I can for them."

He was a football lifer, that's for sure. He played guard at the University of Maryland, including on the 1951 team that beat Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. He spent two years in the Air Force after graduation and then started his coaching career, first as the offensive line coach at Columbia before moving on to Williams as the freshman coach in 1956. 

He became the defensive coordinator at Williams, and the team had eight shutouts between the 1961 and 1962 seasons. He then became the Ephs' head coach, going 28-11-1 in five seasons before returning to Columbia, this time as the head coach.  

He and his wife Jill had eight children and 22 grandchildren.

TigerBlog joins with all of Princeton football in sending his condolences to the Navarro family.