Monday, October 31, 2022

Orange And Black Day

Happy Halloween everyone.

Is there a more perfect day? You can walk up to anyone and they give you candy. How great is that? 

One thing that's always bothered TigerBlog about this day is that the Halloween movies and episodes of TV shows always show everyone, especially teenagers, in the most perfect costumes. C'mon. Nobody ever has a perfect costume, unless there's a costume department to draw from before filming.

TB can't remember ever having a perfect costume, or even a really good one. Maybe that one year when he was a giant M&M. That's about it.

There really are few things better during the life of a parent than having little kids on Halloween. The anticipation of the day is tremendous, and then their sheer joy of accumulating candy is almost unmatchable. Plus, as a parent, you know that you'll be eating about half of it anyway. 

It's also a big day for the colors orange and black (see: Halloween double stuff oreos). Does that color scheme sound familiar? 

The Princeton campus was flooded with more orange and black than usual this weekend, as it was Homecoming. It was also perfect weather for a Homecoming Day football game between Princeton and Cornell.

The Tigers were favored and needed to win the game to take another step towards playing for another Ivy League championship in the final three weeks. The game was also Princeton's first since a big win over Harvard a week before.

So what happened? 

Well, Princeton hardly played a perfect game, but the Orange and Black's record, much like the orange and black holiday, remained perfect.

Princeton defeated Cornell 35-9 in a game that wasn't quite the blowout that it might seem. At the same time, it wasn't quite a squeaker either.

In fact, there was only one moment where it seemed like Cornell might make it a game, and that's when Matthew Jester turned in what might be Princeton's Play of the Year. It came in the third quarter, after Cornell had scored a touchdown to make the score 19-9.

The Big Red lined up to go for two, which made sense. Were it successful, it would have made it a one-possession game at 19-11. Instead, Liam Johnson tipped a pass to Jester, who caught it about five yards deep in the end zone. He started the other way, knowing he had more than 100 yards to go to turn two Cornell points into two Princeton points instead.

He was still about 90 yards away when he found himself about to be taken down by a Cornell offensive player turned defender. Not to be stopped, Jester simply hurdled him and then continued on his way.

When he reached the end zone, it was 21-9 Princeton.

That was sort of the theme of the day, Princeton defenders turned into ball carriers. The Tigers intercepted four passes, and that doesn't count Jester's play on the conversation attempt. Those four picks kept Cornell out of the end zone on one (Michael Ruttlen Jr.), set up touchdowns on two others (CJ Wall and Dawson De Iuliis) and resulted in a touchdown on the fourth (Johnson, who brought one back 89 yards for a score). 

The other theme for the day, or for the season, was the extraordinary gifts that belong to Andrei Iosivas. The senior wide receiver/decathlete caught 10 more passes for 155 more yards and two more touchdowns. He leads the Ivy League in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and his 111.1 receiving yards per game also lead the FCS.

Added all together, Princeton is now 7-0 for the fourth straight season. Princeton is also the last unbeaten team in the Ivy League, with a 4-0 league record that leads 3-1 Harvard, Yale and Penn.

The Tigers finish the year at Yale and home against Penn, but before that comes this weekend's home game against Dartmouth. That's the same Dartmouth who had been 7-0 each of the last three years, and the same Dartmouth that traditionally plays Princeton tougher than anyone.

To be perfect at this time of year is something not to be taken for granted, even if it's happened four straight years now. In other words, now November is arriving, every week becomes tougher and tougher.

Ah, but first there is the last day of October. Enjoy the candy. And don't worry if your costume isn't great.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Happy 100th

When he passed away in 1995 at the age of 95, Donald Griffin could say that he had personally met someone in every Princeton class dating back to 1858. 

His obituary referred to him as "Mr. Princeton," and who would ever argue that? He was the face of the Alumni Association for 60 years, and there currently is an award for excellence in management that is given annually at Princeton that is called the Donald Griffin Award.

For all the time he spent associated with Princeton University, perhaps his single greatest moment came exactly 100 years ago today. 

It was on that day — Oct. 28, 1922 — that Princeton defeated the No. 1 team in the country, the University of Chicago 21-18, in one of the most famous football games in the first 100 years of the sport. For starters, it was the first football game ever broadcast on the radio.

Then there was the matter of the significance of the game. The win propelled Princeton to the 1922 national championship, and the 1922 Tigers would be known as the "Team of Destiny."

The game at Chicago ended with an epic goal-line stand. Donald Griffin made the last stop, alongside the legendary Pink Baker. 

This is what Walter Trumbull wrote afterwards in the New York Herald: 

"After one of the most brilliant battles ever fought on a football field, Princeton, seemingly beaten, came back with courage which was superb and fighting spirit that flamed and crackled, to turn defeat into victory. The Princeton players will deserve their place in Princeton's hall of fame, for, in all the history of Princeton football, there were never men who accomplished more than did these men upon a foreign field."

As a sidelight, Donald Griffin's granddaughter Cynthia Griffin Ferris became a three-sport athlete at Princeton in her own right, and she is featured in TigerBlog's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton (click HERE for more information). When TB spoke to her for the book, she mentioned how her grandfather took her to Palmer Stadium when she was little to watch Princeton football and how she'd sit between him and Baker at the games.

Princeton had three more games after defeated Chicago in 1922 and had no let up. Fast-forwarding 100 years, another Princeton football is unbeaten, also with four games left in the season.

The 2022 Tigers bring a 6-0 record into tomorrow's game on Powers Field against Cornell (kickoff at 1). Princeton comes in off its 37-10 win at Harvard last Friday night in one of the best all-around performances Princeton needs to mirror the 1922 team and refocus after the big win.

In its last three seasons, Princeton has gone into Week 7 against Cornell needing a win to set up a showdown in Week 8 against Dartmouth in games that featured two 7-0 teams. This time, Princeton needs to keep winning as the Ivy race moves past the halfway point.

It's still possible for a late-season matchup of unbeatens, and that would come in Week 10 if Princeton and Penn both win their next three. It's way too early to consider that, though, as both teams have major hurdles left to clear before they can worry about that.

For Princeton, it starts against a Cornell team that is 4-2 on the year, 1-2 in the Ivy League. After that, Princeton is home against Dartmouth, at Yale and then home against Penn. None of those four are layups.

The Ivy standings right now have Princeton and Penn at 3-0, with Harvard and Yale at 2-1. Cornell and Dartmouth are 1-2 and looking to make the race more confusing.

This weekend starts tonight, with Yale at Columbia. Tomorrow's games have Penn at Brown and Harvard at Dartmouth in addition to the Princeton-Cornell game.

Will the 2022 Princeton Tigers match the perfect record of the Team of Destiny? There might as well be 100 years between now and the end of the season, before such conversations can happen in earnest.

First, there are four games to be played, and all four of them will be extremely challenging. 

It'll be Princeton-Cornell at 1 on Powers Field tomorrow. Today? Happy anniversary to the Team of Destiny.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Welcome To Crossover Season

Welcome to the start of those two most dreaded words: Crossover Season.

This Homecoming weekend on the Princeton campus, you can see the field hockey team play for an Ivy League championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and the women's ice hockey team play its season opener. 

If you want to travel a bit, you can see the Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City tomorrow and keep going up I-95 to Harvard for Saturday's men's hockey opener. 

That is the definition of crossover.

It only gets more intense in the next few weeks as more and more winter sports start and fall events get bigger and bigger. If TigerBlog is counting correctly, there are 10 Princeton teams who have regular season events this weekend: men's and women's cross country, men's and women's hockey, field hockey, men's and women's soccer, football, women's volleyball and men's water polo. There's also a wrestling Orange vs. Black scrimmage on Powers Field before the football game, and a men's golf event at Baltusrol, but those are not official intercollegiate events.

In two weeks, that number swells to 13, or probably 14. That's a lot of teams, a lot of athletes, a lot of events and a lot of behind-the-scenes work. 

For this week, it's 10.

It's also the first chance you have to see the women's hockey team in a regular season game, which also means a chance to see Sarah Fillier. Once she steps on the ice for Princeton, she'll join Bill Bradley and Ashleigh Johnson as the only two athletes ever to win an Olympic gold medal and then come back to compete at Princeton.

The Tigers, ranked 10th, host No. 4 Colgate (9-0) and No. 6 Cornell this weekend. The game against Colgate tomorrow night is Black Out Baker night. You can see more information HERE, including this: 

Princeton brings back the scorers of 48 of the team's 58 goals from last season, led by Maggie Connors (13) and Annie Kuehl (10).  Connors has 61 career goals, good for 14th in program history. A 20-goal season would lift her to eighth.

The Heps cross country meet is one of TigerBlog's favorite annual Ivy sporting events. The races take place tomorrow at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City, which is a great spot for watching the runners and enjoying the accompanying atmosphere.

The Princeton men are ranked 19th nationally and second in the Mid-Atlantic Region, behind Villanova. No other Ivy team is ranked in the Top 30, though Harvard was until the most recent poll. 

There is no Ivy League team ranked in the Top 30 among the women, though there are three teams ranked in the top five in both the men's and women's polls: Northern Arizona, Oklahoma State and BYU.

Princeton is ranked fifth in the Mid-Atlantic Region for the women, one spot ahead of Penn. In the Northeast Region, you have four Ivy teams ranked: Harvard (3), Dartmouth (6), Columbia (9) and Cornell (15). 

Another Princeton team that can win an Ivy title this weekend is the field hockey team, something that could actually happen Saturday, one day before the Tigers play their game against Brown (Sunday, noon, Bedford Field). Harvard hosts Cornell Saturday at 11 am; should Cornell win that game, Princeton would be assured of no worse than a share of the league championship and would have the league's automatic NCAA bid. Cornell took down Louisville, the No. 4 team in the country, in its last game.

Regardless of what happens in that game, Princeton gets at least a share of the title and a spot in the tournament with a win against Brown or next week at Columbia. Mathematically, at least, a four-way tie for the championship is possible, but there is no way Princeton missed out on the automatic NCAA bid with a win in either of the last two games.

Oh, and the feature story TB mentioned earlier this week will be up next week, instead of this week.

HERE is the complete schedule for this weekend.

Oh, and of course there is the football game Saturday at 1 against Cornell. TB will have more on that tomorrow, of course, including the fact that it's the 100th anniversary of one of the most historic moments in all of Princeton Athletic history.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

City Boy


TigerBlog has never been a city guy. 

He's always preferred a beach, or a river, or a big park. Cities are usually too dirty and too busy. 

There are exceptions, of course. To that list, he can now add Barcelona.

TB had never been to the Spanish city prior to last week's trip with the men's lacrosse team. The group started in Andorra, which he never knew was an independent nation (and has been since 1278). 

Now Andorra, that's TB's kind of place, with its mountains, lakes, streams, views and best of all, lack of crowds. TB probably walked a total of 20 miles or so in the four days that he was there, most of that uphill or downhill.

It was a week ago today that the team left for Barcelona. TB was apprehensive at first, since it's of course a huge city, one with a population of nearly two million. Would he like it there? 

The answer was a most decisive yes. In fact, it's vaulted to the top of his list of favorite cities, along with Dublin, which he went to on the men's lacrosse team's 2008 trip there.

Where to start to talk about Barcelona? 

The food was tremendous. The architecture is tremendous. You can walk down La Rambla, which is a center of culture, commerce and cuisine. You can walk through the 1992 Olympic venues. There are beaches. There are cathedrals. There's something for everyone.

One of the city's biggest attractions is the Sagrada Familia, a still-unfinished church that is the work of famed architect Antoni Gaudi. The team toured the cathedral and was overwhelmed by it.

There was also the bike tour of the city. The team was divided into three groups, and TB's group went off with a guide named Alvaro Garcia. And where is Alvaro from? Dallas. The one in Texas.

Alvaro moved to Spain with his wife and two children six years ago. He was running a travel business prior to Covid, and he's working toward doing virtual tours of cities around the world. He also runs these bike tours, beginning in the old city.

He took the group on about a six-mile loop. Along the way, there was a church that used headstones of Jewish dead as part of its building materials, courtesy of the Spanish Inquisition. You can still see the Hebrew names on the side of the church to this day.

There was another church that also had something visible on it. This time, it was a huge ad for Samsung. It's caused quite a stir in the city about its appropriateness, as it is helping to raise money to rebuild the building. 

Through the ride, Alvaro was the perfect guide. He spoke about the sites and their histories, but he didn't overdo it. He was engaging and funny. The ride was great.

At one point, the ride took everyone through a park that had a plaque for every gold medalist in the 1992 Summer Games. Alvaro asked the group to find the plaque for the Dream Team. TigerBlog added that Princeton had a gold medalist in 1992, swimmer Nelson Diebel, and that would be a good one to find as well.

That was easy. 

The team also made a stop at a school and spent two hours with a bunch of kids who had never seen lacrosse before. The players showed them the basics, worked with them, signed a bunch of autographs and answered a million questions. It was tremendous to watch how much everyone enjoyed it, players and children.

There was also the trip to Camp Nou, the home of the Barcelona soccer team. Princeton attended the game last Thursday and saw Robert Levandowski score twice in the first half as Barca rolled over Villarreal 3-0. 

The stadium seats 99,354, which makes it the largest soccer stadium in Europe. Barcelona's crowd is electric for the entire game, with flags, singing, a banging drum, chants and everything you'd expect from an event like this. 

It was a staggering scene, both before the game, as nearly 100,000 descended on the area around the stadium. Included in that was a rather interesting choice for the soup of the day:

It was craziness. For someone who has spent his life going to games, this one was something special.

Lastly, there was a park where the team practiced and played, and behind it was a beach and the Mediterranean Sea. It was a hot afternoon, with temps in the low 80s. When the lacrosse piece was over, the entire team went around to the other side of the fence, down to the beach and jumped in.

They splashed around, dove in and out and generally had an incredible 45 minutes or so. TB didn't jump in. He just watched. 

He's been fortunate now to go on four of these trips, and he's pretty sure that nobody who has been on any of them will ever forget them. What stands out the most and for the longest will be the moments like the one in the sea, where it was just a bunch of teammates who were thrilled to be together in someplace new, someplace amazing. 

Barcelona is such a place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A Tale Of Two Big Wins

Sometimes, you just have the right picture when you need it.

If you went to yesterday, you saw the story about the Ivy League weekly football awards. Princeton had two winners — quarterback Blake Stenstrom was the Offensive Player of the Week, and Ryan Butler was the Rookie of the Week — after the 37-10 win over Harvard.

For Butler, by the way, that's four times in six weeks that Butler has been the Ivy Rookie of the Week. Butler now has nine rushing touchdowns, ranking him ninth in the FCS in rushing touchdowns per game. He also has caught one for another TD.

And there was the perfect picture to go along with the story, a great shot of the two winners together. You can see it HERE.

Speaking of Ivy Players of the Week, Princeton field hockey player Gabby Andretta did not win — again. 

TigerBlog can understand. Andretta plays every minute of every game and pretty much never has any stats. In fact, she has started all 73 games Princeton has played in her career, and here is the entirety of her career stats: two shots, no goals.

Don't let that fool you, though. She has had a huge impact on every game she's played. It's just that it doesn't really translate into individual honors to play the defensive position she plays. 

Each time TB has nominated her for Player of the Week, he's written the same thing: impossible to quantify but always makes a huge impact.

She did it again Sunday against Harvard, in a showdown of Ivy unbeatens that figured to go a long way towards deciding the league championship. Princeton won the game 4-2, putting the Tigers in the driver's seat towards a league title (which would be the program's 27th) and the NCAA tournament automatic bid.

Princeton scored three times in the first 8:10 and then added insurance after the Crimson made it a 3-2 game in the third quarter. Andretta led a defense that held the Crimson to seven shots for the game, of which four came off a penalty corner in the third quarter that led to one of the Harvard goals.

That was one of two Harvard corners in the game. That's extraordinary. Harvard had 37 corners in its previous three games combined. 

If you count up the number of times that the ball entered the circle and how many times Andretta handled it when any miscue would have resulted in a corner, you begin to understand the impact that she has on the game.

With that win, Princeton improved to 5-0 in the league, with a game Sunday at home against Brown and then a trip to Columbia the Saturday after. The Tigers need a win in either game to clinch at least a tie for the Ivy title, and a win in either game would mean the automatic NCAA bid. 

By the way, TB will be posting a feature story on the field hockey program's remarkable Donovan family. Claire, a senior, is the last of the four Donovan sisters to play for the Tigers, and the family impact on the program has been extraordinary. 

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away from the field hockey game, there was the matter of Princeton-Stanford water polo. Princeton, ranked ninth in the country, was playing at No. 3 Stanford, a team that was 10-0 against the Tigers heading in.

Make that 10-1. 

Roko Pozaric scored with 13 seconds left to give Princeton a stunning 11-10 win over the Cardinal. HERE, by the way, is the stort TB wrote about Pozaric a year ago, before Princeton left for the NCAA tournament.

How stunning? Stanford's story referred to it as a "rare non-MPSF loss." Stanford is one of the gold standards of the sport of water polo, and by gold standard, consider that the team has won 11 NCAA titles and been the runner-up 11 other times.

To take down the Cardinal is a major accomplishment. Princeton is 11-1 now in the month of October and clearly playing its best at the right time. You can see the Tigers at DeNunzio Pool Saturday, with games against St. Francis and Iona. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Waking Up To A Big Win

On his final night in Barcelona, TigerBlog finally got to have paella.

Seafood Paella, at that. Paella, TB learned, is not really a big part of the cuisine in Barcelona, which is part of Catalonia, which would love to be its own country. It even has its own language, though as TB's guide on the bike tour of the city pointed out, Madrid would never allow it to happen. 

That, of course, doesn't stop the protesters who show up every day to scream for Catalon independence. And it doesn't stop the Catalon flags that have added a freedom star in the middle from flying everywhere.

The paella, by the way, was awesome. It's still Spain, after all.

TB will have some more about Barcelona, specifically about the soccer game, tomorrow. For today, though, he wants to share with you what happened when he woke up Saturday morning.

The men's lacrosse team flew home yesterday. TB came back a day earlier to be at the Princeton-Harvard field hockey game. 

As such, he had to head to the airport Saturday morning. The first thing he did when he woke up was to check his phone to see who won the Princeton-Harvard football game.

The game in Cambridge kicked off at 7 pm, which was 1 am in Barcelona. It ended around 4 am Barcelona time.

TB can't remember the last time Princeton played a football game that he either was not at, did not watch on TV or online, did not listen to the radio or at least did not check the LiveStats. That last one he did when Princeton shut out Penn 28-0 in 2016, when TB was last on a foreign trip with men's lacrosse. 

For this game, there was nothing. Just sleep, wake up and check.

It was a different experience.

Of course, he checked before he put on his glasses, and so he had to confirm it when he put them on. Yes, Princeton did dominate Harvard, winning 37-10.

There's a lot to unpack from this year's Princeton-Harvard game, starting with last year's Princeton-Harvard game. As you know, Harvard came away from that game thinking it had been robbed. Whatever side of the "should the timeout have been given" argument you land, the only thing everyone could agree on was that this year's game between the teams figured to be fascinating. Harvard, it seemed, had been pointing to this day for 52 weeks.

So what happened? Princeton played a dominating all-around game, especially in the second half, and ran away from the Crimson.

It was a wildly impressive victory on the field, and it was equally as impressive inside the helmets. That's where Princeton had to really be sharp and not get caught up in the emotions. 

Seemingly, that's exactly what the Tigers did.

Princeton put up 469 yards of offense and held Harvard to 303. The Crimson managed 10 points, none in the second half, and this after the team came in leading the Ivy League with 32 points per game. That's more than three times what Princeton allowed.

After scoring a TD late in the first half to make it 14-10 at the break, here was Harvard's second-half drive chart: punt, turnover on downs, turnover on downs, interception (Mason Armstead), interception (Michael Ruttlen Jr.).

This was Princeton's second half drive chart: touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, victory formation.

What more can you possibly ask for from a team? Keep in mind, all this happened in a game that matched two 2-0 Ivy teams, and added in that layer of leftovers from last year. 

The Princeton passing attack continues to be highlight reel stuff each week. Andrei Iosivas tied Dylan Classi with his third 100-yard receiving game of the year, and in fact one of then has been in triple figures in each of the last five games. 

Ryan Butler continues to look like someone who will make a run at some career records, as he ran for 80 yards, rushing for a touchdown (his ninth rushing TD of the year) and caught another TD.

Next up for Princeton is a Homecoming Day matchup with Cornell this Saturday on Powers Field. There were two unbeaten showdowns in the league this weekend, as Yale and Penn met in Philadelphia when they were also both 2-0. Penn won that one 20-13. TB watched the winning touchdown drive on his phone at baggage claim at Philadelphia Airport.

Down the road Princeton still has both of those teams and a Dartmouth team that always gives the Tigers trouble after the Cornell game. The season ends at Yale and home against Penn. There's a long, long way to go.

The game Friday night in Cambridge was a big step in the right direction, though. And it was about as impressive as it gets.

Thursday, October 20, 2022


TigerBlog was all set to tell you about the amazing experience he and the men's lacrosse travel party had at the Barcelona-Villarreal game last night.

Today's not the day for that, however. Not with the news of the passing of Princeton junior Misrach Ewunetie. Here is the University's official statement:

It is with great sadness that we share heartbreaking news about the death of Misrach Ewunetie ’24.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the Department of Public Safety have announced that Misrach’s body was found on campus earlier today. An autopsy will determine her cause of death, but they said there were “no obvious signs of injury and her death does not appear suspicious or criminal in nature.”

Since Misrach was reported missing on Sunday, the Department of Public Safety has been working closely with local and state law enforcement and does not believe there is any related threat to campus or the surrounding area.

Misrach’s death is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to her family, her friends and the many others who knew and loved her.

We are planning an opportunity for students to join together and remember Misrach. Information about the gathering will be shared separately when details are known.

We know this is an upsetting time for our community, especially Misrach’s fellow students. There are many people and resources on campus that are here for you. Members of the University community may contact the following resources for support, guidance and counsel:


Counseling and Psychological Services

  • Call 609-258-3141 during business hours.
  • After hours, contact the counselor on call by calling our main number 609-258-3141 and pressing 2 to speak with the counselor on call.

Faculty and staff


  • To speak with a licensed professional and begin counseling, call Carebridge at 800-437-0911. Counseling services are available 24/7.
  • Carebridge offers free, in-person counseling at the Employee Wellness Center at 350 Alexander Street on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Schedule your appointment online. Parking is available onsite.

All other inquiries should call the Princeton University Emergency Hotline at 609-258-7000.

Princeton is a close-knit community, and we mourn Misrach together.

My thoughts are with you all,

VP W. Rochelle Calhoun

As the parent of a recent Princeton grad, TB can't possibly fathom the pain that the Ewunetie family must be feeling. It's impossible to comprehend.

When TB went to yesterday, he found the lead story was of the passing of the great Ralph DeNunzio. He was a giant among Princeton alums, not to mention a real gentleman who had a huge kind heart and always a nice word. 

Ralph was 90 years old. You can read more about him HERE and HERE.

All of this comes one week after TB attended the funeral of 28 year old Brett Incollingo, who played high school lacrosse with TigerBlog Jr. and then played at Stevens Tech when current Tiger head coach Matt Madalon was an assistant coach and current men's lacrosse Director of Operations Drew Cottrell was a teammate. 

Brett was an intense athlete with a huge personality. TigerBlog saw him grow up and develop into a great player, not to mention a super nice kid from a great family. He was also about the best looking guy you ever hoped to see.

Brett took his own life for reasons that TB cannot understand. Whatever happened to Misrach, TB again can't begin to understand. Ralph was fortunate to have lived such a long and wonderful life, and yet learning of his passing still stung.

The other thing TB was going to write about tonight was the football game at Harvard. It's a very big game between Ivy unbeatens, to be followed tomorrow by another showdown of Ivy unbeatens when Yale goes to Penn. The game tonight kicks off at 7 and can be seen on ESPNU.

If you watch the game, enjoy it.

At the same time, though, please think of the Ewunetie family, the Incollingo family and the DeNunzio family. Think of the pain they're in, and share the sadness that they are all feeling today. 

TB will tell you about the Barcelona game next week. And he'll talk about the big football game too.

Today, though, is a day of sadness. It's not a day to try to understand or contemplate the unfairness. It's just a day to be sad, and to recommit to caring deeply about those you love. 

TB sends his deepest condolences to those who are mourning. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

What's Been Going On?

So here's a quick rundown of TigerBlog's Wednesday:

He and the rest of the Princeton men's lacrosse travel party woke up in Andorra, had breakfast and got on the bus to come back to Barcelona. Before departing, TB made sure to say goodbye to the amiable young man who worked in the hotel restaurant. His name is Gonzolo, and he is off for a week's vacation of his own on the Spanish beaches.

If you've been reading this week, you've read about just how incredibly beautiful Andorra is. TB cannot recommend visiting the tiny country enough if you appreciate nature's best handiwork. If you're a skier, go in the winter.

Okay, so it was about two hours on the bus, back into Spain and then towards Barcelona. Then there was a stop for lunch and then another hour into the city, where the first stop was practice and the second stop was a clinic and some quality time with the children of a local school. Then it was into the hotel and dinner, but not before basic lacrosse demonstrations, lots of pictures, all kinds of smiles and a chant of "Tigres, Tigres."

Today's highlight? That would be the soccer game between Barcelona and Villarreal tonight. The wildest sporting event TB has ever attended was a World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Costa Rica. He's guessing the game tonight will exceed that.

In the meantime, TB has spent a little time catching up on what's been going on in Princeton Athletics this week.

First, there was the women's basketball team and its No. 24 preseason national ranking. It's a first in Ivy League women's basketball history.

Obviously the Tigers will be without graduated Ivy League Player of the Year Abby Meyers, but everyone else is back, plus a highly regarded incoming class and some players who are back from injuries. The preseason ranking is yet another testament to the growth of the Princeton women's program over the last 12 or so years, to the point where it is now among the very best in the country.

Last year was an incredible one for the Tigers, who went 14-0 in the league, won the Ivy tournament, defeated Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament and lost by one at Indiana to fall just short of the Sweet 16. As ridiculous as it seems, opening night for Princeton is a little more than two weeks away, as the Tigers host Temple on Nov. 7 and then Villanova on Nov. 11.

Then there was the men's soccer team's 5-0 win over Virginia Tech. Walker Gillespie had himself a three-goal night, matching the three that Kevin O'Toole had a year ago against Harvard. 

Next up for the Tigers is a doubleheader on Myslik Field against Cornell, with the women at 1 and the men at 4. Those games are Saturday, TB should mention.

There's a huge field hockey game Sunday, as Princeton hosts Harvard in what you might have expected in the beginning of the year to be the showdown in the Ivy League. Going back to the 2017 season, Princeton and Harvard are 56-0 against the other six Ivy schools.

This year they're both unbeaten at 4-0, though five of those eight wins have come by one goal. But hey, unbeaten is unbeaten.

The winner of this game will need only to win one of its remaining two games to clinch the league's automatic NCAA bid, as well as at least a share of the championship. That was the case last year (and the three years before that as well).

Last year's game showed just how even the two were in 2021. Regulation ended 1-1. Nobody scored in 20 minutes of overtime. Harvard won in penalty shots. That was the margin that got the Crimson the championship.

TB will be at Bedford Field for that game, which starts at noon. First, though, he has two more full days in Barcelona, including the soccer game tonight. He'll let you know just how cool that game is tomorrow.

He'll also be talking about another big Princeton-Harvard game for this weekend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Take A Hike

The itinerary on the current men's lacrosse trip to called for "hiking," and it made TigerBlog wonder when a walk ends and a hike begins.

It was about three or four minutes after he and the rest of the group started to head up one of the mountains of the Pyrenees in Andorra for him to figure out the difference.

To say the "hike" was challenging is quite the understatement. To say that it was worth it would be an even bigger one. 

For as tough as this hike was, and it was really tough, the views were worth every moment of pain that went into it. This includes when TB found himself tumbling end over end on his way back down, until he came to rest flat on his back on the mountainside.

Even that was worth it.

And, even more than drinking water, the crisp air that swirled all around was rejuvenating. More than anything, that wind kept TB going, that, and he was just determined not to stop.

The hike started in a parking lot next to a ski lift, which would have been the easy way to get up to the top. Andorra is known for its skiing, and the team's head guide for the day, Pascal, takes skiers out in the winter.

Yesterday, though, it was still sunny and around 65 or 70 degrees, though TB, and everyone else, kept going back and forth between being hot (while hiking) and cold (anytime they stopped, the higher they want and the more the wind blew). Often TB knew he was one or the other, though he wasn't sure which at that moment.

The hike started at 1,900 meters and ended at 2,430 meters. For those who don't want to bother with the math, 2,430 meters is 7,972 feet. When TB looked at his phone after, it said that they had climbed the equivalent of 147 floors.

The first 10 minutes were the toughest. It was straight up, and TB didn't think he was going to make it for a while. One step at a time, he kept telling himself.

Eventually, at a plateau, there were a few ponies. They seemed friendly enough. Then it was back uphill. All the way the views just kept getting better. It's hard to describe. It was just mountain, with blue skies, and water. Crystal clear water. Crystal clear scenery everywhere.

The team came to a lake, called the "First Lake." The water was freezing, but that didn't stop about 10 or so players from making the jump in.

In all there would be three lakes. The next one was called "Middle Lake." The one after was called "Highest Lake." When the team reached Middle Lake, Pascal said that anyone who didn't want to keep making the tough climb up could go with one of the other guides on an easier loop. Nobody did (though TB couldn't help but wonder how many would have had only someone else gone first, but nobody wanted to be the first).

At Highest Lake, it seemed like that was the, well, highest point. Nope. Cesc, another guide, asked who wanted to go just a little further, to get a better look at the lake from above it. A little less than half the team did. TB went too. He figured what's a few more steps.

As it turned out, it was about another 30 minutes to get there. Cesc was right though; the view was spectacular.

Then it was time to head down. It wasn't as challenging from an endurance standpoint as heading up had been, but it was tougher on the balance. Eventually TB's gave way, and down he tumbled. At first he thought he'd be able to catch himself, but then he realized that wasn't happening. 

He's fine, though. Thanks for asking.

As he's been saying, the scenic beauty was impossible to describe. TB didn't want to miss any of it while he was concentrating on making sure he was still able to take another step. On the walk up from Highest Lake, assistant coach Chris Aslanian plopped down on the bed of a stream and just sat there taking it all in. 

He'd make it to the top, but he probably could have sat there for another few hours and not minded. 

Anyway, TB has done his best to describe it. He has to go pack for the early morning ride back to Barcelona, so he'll leave you with a few pictures.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Through The Bear's Eyes

TigerBlog wanted to get a member of the Princeton men's lacrosse team to do an Instagram takeover during yesterday's stage of the current trip to Andorra and Spain.

As he considered it, he knew he was looking for someone with personality and creativity, someone who would take it seriously but who would also have fun with it, someone who would give great insight into the team's travels in the perfect way.

It didn't take him long to come up with one name: Bear. 

That would be Bear Lockshin, who has followed Bear Altemus and Bear Goldstein as Princeton men's lacrosse Bears.

Lockshin is a junior midfielder from California. He checked every box TB had.

When he asked TB for advice, all TB said was "If you have to stop and ask yourself if it's a good idea to post this, it isn't."

Anyway, Lockshin was everything TB knew he'd be on the takeover. If you followed his posts all day, then you don't to keep reading (but you can anyway, of course). 

To catch you up:

Andorra is an independent nation and has been since 1278. It is tiny, to be sure, since you can drive from one end of the country to the other in about 30 minutes, but the people here are fiercely proud of their independent status. 

The country sits in the Pyrenees Mountains, with an average elevation of 6,549 feet. And Princeton has been experiencing that elevation in a, well, big way.

It started Sunday, when the Tigers went straight to Naturland (no "e") before ever going to their hotel. The first two hours in the park were spent doing the various attractions, all under the watchful eye of the Pyrenees, with their spectacular views.

Those attractions included a zipline, archery and a tall structure that was sort of like a 10-meter diving platform, only into a giant fluffy landing mat. The highlight, though, was the Tobotronic. This was something special.

It's basically a one- or two-person rollercoaster, one that winds and turns and loops around and down the mountain. It's a 12-minute ride to the top, and then the driver controls the how fast or how slow you go as you take off.

Yesterday, though, topped even that. 

First there was a trip to the suspension bridge that TB mentioned yesterday. Again this involved winding up the mountain roads, this time to an elevation of just about 7,000 feet.

By the way, Andorra is a major ski area, and though the temperature here has been warm enough that mostly everyone is wearing shorts, the snow will fall soon. When it does, the helicopters will take the extreme skiers to the very top of the peaks, at just short of 10,000 feet, and drop them off for their runs down. When the warm temperatures return in the spring, the snow doesn't melt quickly, and the area is famous for having skiers in shorts and even bathing suits who go for a run and then sit out on the deck by the pools at the resorts.

As the bus climbed yesterday, the village below disappeared further and further, until it was just a speck. Barely visible were the ski lifts that will take the less extreme up from the ski resorts.Even a helicopter that flew by was at a lower altitude. 

Then it was a walk up to the top, where the bridge came into view. It's only been open since June, and it serves no purpose other than being a tourist attraction, since there's nothing to do on the other side other than take pictures and then turn around and walk the 2,000 meters back to where you started. Still, as tourist attractions go, you can't really beat this one.

The views were incredible. It is hard to accurately capture just how amazing they are, but TB certainly tried.

And then, of course, there's the fact that you're walking on a grated metal bridge that's about 1,000 feet above a gorge, which means you can look straight down - if you dare.

When the team came back down the mountain, it was off to lunch in Pas De La Casa, which would have been worth it for the food alone, as the team basically split into two groups and went to two different restaurants, both seeming to get great reviews. 

Ah, but there was more. 

As it turns out, Pas De La Casa is the border between Andorra and France. In fact, if you walked about 25 yards down from where the restaurants were and turned left, you found yourself on a sidestreet that was about 30 yards long. At the end of the alley was a wooden walkway, with grass beyond it. The walkway is in Andorra. The grass is in France. The border is made up of a very, very, very small stream in between them.

That's Teddy Gutman on the left and Ben Finlay on the right, on the Andorran side. The guys behind them are in France.

Also by the way, Pas De La Casa is a starting point for one stage of the Tour de France, which climbs up the same mountain roads that the buses have been.

Up next is a big hike, also along the French border. The team leaves Wednesday to head to Barcelona. The highlight of the day won't be the three-hour ride back. It'll be the Barcelona-Villarreal game.

Football Thoughts From Andorra

Hello from Andorra.

TigerBlog flew out of Philadelphia Saturday evening with the men's lacrosse team, arriving Sunday morning in Barcelona. TB always struggles to sleep in anything that's moving, which is great for driving back from Ivy League athletic events late at night and awful for overnight transatlantic flights.

One thing he did accomplish was not overpacking. In the two days before the team left, TB was asked  about 20 times if he'd packed already.

Today is the day that the team will be doing its hike across the 2,000-foot long suspension bridge that is at an altitude of 6,000 feet and sits 800 feet over the gorge. Will TB be able to put aside his fear of open heights to do this? He'll let you know tomorrow.

He was able to do so when the team was in Portugal in 2016, when he amazed himself by ziplining across a river from Spain back into Portugal. That seems like it was a bit more intimidating than this will be, but he hasn't actually seen what's in store high up in the Pyrenees.

It was a really busy Friday night before the trip began. TB was at the lacrosse scrimmages on Sherrerd Field, watching the women play Rutgers and Monmouth and the men play Ohio State. In the middle there was also the football game against Brown on Powers Field, which TB watched on ESPNU.

The game was the first of two straight on Friday nights for Princeton, with a game in Cambridge against Harvard this coming Friday. The Tigers and Crimson are both 2-0 in the league on the season.

For TB, he'll be in Barcelona when that game is played. Kickoff is at 7 (also on ESPNU), which means that it'll be 1 am Saturday in Spain when the game starts. TB will have to simply check to see who wins when he wakes up.

As for the Brown game, the series has features scores like 56-42, 65-22, 48-10, 53-0 and 31-7 in recent years. This time, the Bears were much, much tougher, which TB likes to see, since he's a big fan of Brown head coach James Perry, who was the first offensive coordinator under Bob Surace at Princeton.

This time, it was a 35-19 final, after it had been a 14-10 game at halftime. The Tigers scored three second half touchdowns, all of which were things of beauty.

The first two were courtesy of Blake Stenstrom to Dylan Classi, who connected on two perfectly run routes and passes. For Classi, it was part of a huge night that saw him catch nine passes for 169 along with the two scores. He also went over the 100-reception mark for his career, making him just the 16th Tiger ever to reach that mark.

Stenstrom, by the way, threw for 258 yards and three TDs, including a first-half strike to AJ Barber for Barber's first career TD.

The third touchdown was the one that essentially sealed it, as freshman Ryan Butler broke a 49-yard run that was a mix of speed and power that was incredibly impressive. Butler finished with 98 yards rushing, the best game of his career to date. He also has eight rushing touchdowns halfway through the season, which puts him on pace to join some elite company if he can keep it going.

The Tigers had to withstand a 41 for 61, 339-yard night by Bears quarterback Jake Wilcox as Brown gave Princeton a game for all four quarters Friday night. If you recall, a year ago Princeton and Harvard went way beyond four quarters.

Do you remember that game? Did something happen? TB can't remember.

He's joking, of course. Last year was the five overtime game that people will talk about forever. This year's game can't possibly be as close, right? Can it? 

Maybe it can.

Who knows? TB is looking forward to waking up Saturday morning in Barcelona and checking the score.

In the meantime, he's going to go and try to muster up the courage to walk across this suspension bridge. He's going to guess he does it, though he can't guarantee he'll ever look down.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Friday Night Lights

You remember Julie Shackford, right? 

Of course you do. She was the women's soccer coach at Princeton for 20 years, and her 203 wins at Princeton are the most of any coach of either the men's or women's teams. She also was the national Coach of the Year in 2004 after leading the Tigers to the NCAA Final Four.

Do you remember Keegan Shackford? If you were at a women's soccer game from 2003 or so through when Shackford left in 2015, or at a men's or women's basketball game in that same time, you probably know Keegan, one of Julie's three kids. He was the one who was always on the move. 

Keegan was an otherworldly youth soccer player with a cannon for a leg. Somewhere along the line, he switched to football, and these days he's a redshirt freshman placekicker at Iowa State.

A week ago, he handled the kickoff duties for the Cyclones:

Not bad at all. It has to be a bit unnerving to kick off in front of 65,000 or so fans for the first time, no? For the record, he had four kickoffs, and none of them allowed Kansas to start past the 25.

You can see Keegan's next kickoffs tomorrow at noon, when Iowa State is at Texas. You can watch that game, because tonight you'll be watching Princeton-Brown.

Right? Of course.

Kickoff on Powers Field is at 7 for the first of six straight Ivy League games to end the season. If you can't be in Princeton (and it'll be a nearly perfect night for football), then you can watch it on ESPNU.

So what's at stake? 

For Princeton, it's a chance to move to 5-0 as the season moves its midway point. For Brown it's a chance to turn the league race on its head.

After this weekend, each Ivy school will have played half of its games, with all non-league games complete and every league school with two Ivy games under its belt.

Right now, there are two 2-0 teams (Harvard and Yale, who both have non-league games this weekend) and two 1-0 teams (Princeton and Penn, who plays Columbia tomorrow). Brown is 2-2, with a 35-28 loss to Harvard and wins over Central Connecticut and Bryan, with a loss to Rhode Island as well.

Brown, of course, is coached by former Tiger offensive coordinator James Perry, whose teams at first Bryant and now Brown have been known for their explosive offensives. The game tonight matches teams ranked first (Princeton) and second (Brown) in the league in passing offense.

Princeton's passing game has been led by Blake Stenstrom and his stable of amazing receivers, led by Andrei Iosivas and Dylan Classi, who are first and fourth in the league in both receiving yards per game and second and fourth in total receptions. Iosivas is also one of seven players in the FCS who averages at least 100 receiving yards per game.

Princeton is more than that, though. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the FCS in scoring defense (9.6 per game), as well as red zone defense and fewest first downs allowed. There are two teams in the FCS who allow fewer than 10 points per game. One is coached by Bob Surace. The other is coached by Deion Sanders.

To show you how good Princeton's defense has been and how much it's been a team effort, only one Tiger is ranked in the top 25 in the league in tackles (that would be Liam Johnson). You can't ask for more than that, right?

Princeton is looking to get to 5-0 for the fourth straight season. Want to guess the last time Princeton did that, get to 5-0 in four straight seasons?

Here's a hint: It was before Princeton had an actual coach (1904-07).

Tonight's game is the first of two straight on Friday night, as the Tigers are at Harvard a week from tonight. Before Princeton can think about anything Crimson, it has to put all its focus on Brown. 

Once again, kickoff is at 7, and the game will be on ESPNU.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

On The Road

If you're looking for TigerBlog next week, don't look in Princeton.

He'll be in Andorra and Spain, with the men's lacrosse team, which is getting to make an international trip for the first time since 2016. It'll be TB's fourth such trip, after going to Spain and Ireland in 2008, Costa Rica in 2012 and Portugal in 2016.

Back on the trip in 2016, TB put aside his fear of open heights to zipline from Spain back into Portugal. On this trip, there appears to be something to rival that:

Can he actually walk across that? He'll have to see.

That bridge is on the Andorra leg of the trip. Andorra sits between Spain and France in the Pyrenees and is one of six European microstates, along with Lichtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. For the record, TB has been to two of the other five — Monaco and Lichtenstein.

The Barcelona portion of the trip includes, among other things, the Barcelona-Villarreal La Liga game Wednesday. TB went to the Costa Rica-El Salvador World Cup qualifier on the 2012 trip, and he imagines this will be even cooler than that was.

The team leaves Saturday, after hosting Ohio State tomorrow night at 8 on Sherrerd Field in a fall scrimmage. It's a big day of fall lacrosse, actually, as the women will host two other New Jersey school, with a game against Rutgers at 4, a game against Monmouth at 6:30 and a game between Monmouth and Rutgers in between. 

There is also, obviously, a football game on campus tomorrow night, as the Tigers host Brown. Kickoff is at 7.

The game will be Princeton Football's first "Pride Game," which will feature the national anthem by the New Jersey Gay Man's Choir and former Tiger Mason Darrow, who in 2015 became the first openly gay college football player. Darrow will be an honorary captain for the game.

You can read more about the "Pride Night" activities HERE.

Other than the football game, and the lacrosse scrimmages, it's not a huge home weekend for Princeton. The women's tennis team will be hosting the Princeton Fall Invitational beginning tomorrow and running through Sunday, and other than that, everyone else is on the road.

If you're looking for a huge Ivy matchup, it's in women's volleyball in New Haven tomorrow night, where 5-0 Princeton and 5-0 Yale meet as the final two unbeatens in the league. Win or lose, Princeton can hardly afford to take Saturday night lightly either,  as Brown is currently 4-1.

From 2009 through 2019, either Princeton or Yale or both had at least a share of the league title. Last year, though, it was Brown who won the league. This weekend will begin to sort it all out, but there is a long way to go to see who goes to the NCAA tournament.

For one, this is a double round-robin schedule to determine the championship. For another, the NCAA bid will be determined by a four-team tournament at season's end.

Princeton has had the Ivy League Rookie of the Week five times this season, with Lucia Scalamandre the honoree each of the last three times after teammate Valerie Nutakor won it twice earlier. 

There will be a soccer doubleheader at Columbia Saturday, with the men at 3 and the women at 6. Both teams in both games need a win to get back into the thick of the Ivy League race.

The women's rugby team heads to Mount St. Mary's for a game Saturday between teams who are seeking their first win. The game begins at 1 in Emmitsburg.

Also Saturday, also on the road, the field hockey team is in Cornell as the Ivy League race starts to get sorted out as well. As the league schedule reaches its midway point, Princeton and Harvard are both unbeaten, while Cornell is 2-1. Every other team has at least two losses (Cornell's loss is to Penn).

Princeton is home against Harvard a week from Sunday. TB will be coming back from Spain a day before the men's lacrosse team to be at that one.

There is also cross country tomorrow, at both Van Cortlandt Park and Wisconsin, and the men's water polo team begins its fall break trip to California Sunday. 

And that's the weekend. Princeton teams, for the most part, will need to pack a bag — some for longer and further, than others.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Sad Anniversary

TigerBlog has never had anyone he didn't know come up to him and ask to take a picture with him.

As you know from yesterday, he did ask Billie Jean King to get a picture taken with him Saturday at the Princeton field hockey game. In fact, there were quite a few people who asked her for a photo, and she obliged every time.

What must that be like? TB could see where the person of whom the request is asked might be a bit wary. It says something about King that she was so open to it.

TB has never been into autographs. In fact, he's only ever asked one person for an autograph, and that was Harry Kalas, the legendary late Phillies broadcaster. When TB was a vendor at Veterans Stadium while he was in college, Kalas autographed his hat.

It seems like, in the digital age, getting a photo is way better than an autograph, unless you're a collector. 

Speaking of Billie Jean King, you know that she defeated Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" in May 1973 in a major moment for the women's movement. What you probably don't realize is that six months later, she and Riggs were on the 1970s sitcom "The Odd Couple." Riggs plays himself, and he hustles Oscar out of pretty much everything he has until Felix finds the one thing that he can do better than Riggs. Ultimately, they up the stakes for one last winner-take-all ping pong match.

This is what happens after that:

It's hilarious stuff, the entire episode.

For every show he's ever seen anywhere, his favorite remains "The Odd Couple," which ran for five seasons and 114 episodes, all of which are great. He has quoted line after line from the show throughout his entire life, usually to people who don't realize that the line is from a show, as opposed to some random piece of TB's mind.

One of the people who could relate and knew every line as well was Steve DiGregorio, at one time an assistant football coach at Princeton who went on to a long and highly successful career as a high school teacher and coach. Even after the man known universally as "Digger" left Princeton, though, he was very much a part of the fabric of the athletic department, with so many friends who were still there. He was a constant presence at games, along with the rest of this family, his wife Nadia and his kids Zack, Derek and Aaron.

TigerBlog became his friend in the 1980s and then became really close with him when they had offices down the hall from each other. At some point one of them quoted "The Odd Couple" and the other's eyes lit up.

When Digger turned 50, TB's gift to him was the entire Season 4 of "The Odd Couple." Digger called it the best gift he'd ever received, and TB believed him.

Digger, sadly, passed away at the young age of 60 after he fiercely fought several rounds of cancer. In fact, he passed away one year ago today.

Pretty much every day since, TB has been reminded of a line from "The Odd Couple" from something that came up in every day life. His first thought as always has been "Digger would love that." Then he realizes that Digger is gone. It's harsh reminder.

TigerBlog isn't the only one who has thought of Digger often these last 12 months. He's not the only one who misses him, who misses his laugh and dry humor, who misses his sarcasm, who misses his strength and courage.

He lives on in everyone whose life he touched. 

TigerBlog cannot wrap his head around the randomness of life sometimes. Georgie Buck lived to 96. Pete Carril lived to 92. FatherBlog is 87 and still going strong, even though he's never met a steak he wouldn't eat or a dessert he wouldn't order.

On the other hand, there was TB's mother, gone at 55. There was Ann Bates, gone at 43. You know this from your own family and friends and acquaintances.

Some live for a long time. Some don't. Maybe genetics play a part. Maybe other factors. But there's also a randomness to it, and unexplainable, often unfair randomness to it. In Digger's case, he only got 60 years.

TB would say that the point, then, is to value every day, value the ones you love, value your friends. You never know what could happen tomorrow or the next day or next year.

And so he leaves you today with what was Digger's favorite scene from "The Odd Couple." 


TB thought he and Digger would be friends long into their 80s and beyond. A year ago he was taken, from TB and everyone else.

He's gone, but he's not forgotten. He never will be. He'll always be cherished, and his memory will always be a blessing.

Love you, Digger.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Meeting Billie Jean

Imagine, for a minute, that you wrote a book on the history of physics at Princeton and got to give a copy to Albert Einstein. 

Or perhaps you wrote a book on the history of aerospace engineering at Princeton and had a chance to present it to Neil Armstrong? 

You get the point. And if you do, then you understand how TigerBlog felt Saturday morning, when he was able to present one of his books on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton to Billie Jean King.

During the week TB told a few people that he'd be giving his book to, in his words, "the most famous woman athlete of all time." Every single person responded quicky: "Billie Jean King?"

They all said it in a way that might as well have been: "Billy Jean King. Is there anyone else it could be?"

The answer, of course, is no. There has never been anyone who did more to advance the cause of women's athletics and women's athletic equality than Billie Jean King did back in the 1970s. And then there she was, the icon of women's athletics icons, at Princeton Saturday for the Princeton-Dartmouth field hockey game.

The short story is that she is a family friend of one of the players and she said she'd come to a game at some point. That point was Saturday.

She arrived slightly after 11 and met with the Tigers in one of the team rooms at Class of 1952 Stadium. She spoke for about 20 minutes, and were it not for that pesky game that had to be played, she could have talked for hours and never had anyone complain.

As she spoke, TB looked around the room and saw something that is a rarity these days. Not a soul was on her phone. Everyone was at attention, completely engrossed in what she was saying. She has amazing presence, for sure.

And what did she say?

She exhorted them to be in the moment. She asked them to think about a time they were "in the zone" and what that was like for them. She quizzed them on Title IX. She talked about her own career as an athlete, how she'd never heard of tennis until someone in fifth grade asked her to play and she said "what is that?"

She talked about teachers who made a huge difference on her back when she grew up in California. She mentioned how her parents had never asked her or her brother (Randy Moffitt, who pitched for 11 years in the Major Leagues with the Giants, Astros and Blue Jays) if they won or how their games went; they'd ask them how their day went and then let them tell them if they wanted.

As for Princeton field hockey, she asked about team culture. What is leadership? Are your team values clearly established?

More than anything, she left them with two of her philosophies: "Pressure is a privilege" and "Champions adjust." 

As she spoke, TB considered what a team comprised entirely of players born in the 21st century knew about Billie Jean King and what her impact had been on them. Whether they knew it or not, that impact was immense.

After she left, she went into the stands to watch the game. TB has no idea how many pictures she posed for, but there were a lot of them. 

Siobhan Devlin, the color commentator on ESPN+ for Princeton field hockey, wanted to meet her. A former athlete and coach and currently an official, Devlin referred to King as her "idol." She wanted to get a picture with her that she sprinted down at halftime and then sprinted back up the stands to the press box. When she got back, she was out of breath but beaming at the picture, and how nice she'd been about it.

Of course, TB was one of the people who asked to get a picture with her, and of course she obliged, just as she had for everyone else there. They had about a minute or so to talk, and she seemed genuinely interested in his book. 

The title of his book is "I Can Do Anything," which refers to the Helen Reddy song that was, along with King's win over Bobby Riggs in what was known as "The Battle of the Sexes," the most important mileposts of the women's movement. Before he gave the book to Tiger head coach Carla Tagliente to give to King along with a few other team gifts, TB wrote this in it: "To Billie Jean King, who opened the door to allow so many to walk through and show that she truly could do anything."

TB told her that as he researched it, almost every former Princeton athlete he spoke to who competed at Princeton in the 1970s or early 1980s referenced her in one way or another. She appeared to be flattered, and a bit embarrassed.

Now she's 78 years old. She walked slowly. She smiled easily. She loved talking to the players, and to anyone who came up to her. In all that time she never once talked about her own pro tennis career or took any of the credit for the movement that she inspired.

She didn't have to, of course. 

When you're the greatest, everyone already knows it.

Monday, October 10, 2022

D Plus

So what do the last 32 offensive drives against the Princeton football team's defense have in common?

You already know the answer, right? TigerBlog doesn't need to tell you, even though he will in a second.

First, he'd like to take a second to refer you to the feature story his colleague Warren Croxton wrote about Princeton defensive back C.J. Wall last week. It was on, but it might have gotten lost to you with all the football content that came along after it.

You can read it HERE.

This is what head coach Bob Surace had to say about Wall:

"Most of our athletes' careers don't completely point with an arrow up, but few have had the health and success roller coaster CJ had, and his ability to battle through the highs and lows shows the remarkable young man he is."

Meanwhile, back at those 32 drives, none of them ended with points. 

The Princeton defense has done some history making stuff here of late. Back in Week 2, Lehigh scored a touchdown on its first drive and then kicked a field goal on its second. 

Since then, it's all bagels. For the record, the 32 drives since the field goal have resulted in:

* 16 punts
* 2 fumble recoveries
* 6 interceptions
* 5 fourth-down stops
* 3 end of halves

That's pretty amazing defense. Of course, even though most of one game and then two full games after that are part of that streak, Princeton doesn't have any shutouts.

Princeton has allowed eight points the last two weeks, six of which came on a fumble recovery in the end zone (by Columbia) and two of which came on a defensive PAT (by Lafayette). And that's it.

Has a team ever done that before? When's the last time a team did not allow a defensive point in two games but had no shutouts to show for it? TigerBlog has no idea. 

And keep in mind, this is a defense that graduated five All-Ivy League selections, including four first-team honorees. One of those, Jeremiah Tyler, was also the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.

And yet, even with those holes to fill, the performance speaks for itself.

Princeton's most recent win was 23-2 over Lafayette Saturday in Easton. The Tigers allowed 206 total yards of offense and Lafayette never made it past the Tiger 25. Princeton had 20 different players make at least one tackle, eight who made at least three tackles and nobody who made more than eight. That's team defense at its best.

Wondering when the last time it was that a Princeton opponent finished a game with two points? That would be back in the final game of the 1933 season, when the Tigers defeated Yale 27-2.

On that day, Yale blocked a punt in the first quarter to take a 2-0 lead before Princeton scored the next 27, including a touchdown on a blocked punt return. When it was over, Princeton had finished a perfect season and was about to be named national champion.

As an aside, that Yale game was played on Dec. 3, 1933. 

Offensively against Lafayette, it was round-number Saturday. Blake Stenstrom was 30 for 40 passing (for 290 yards), and Andrei Iosivas caught 10 passes for 150 yards.

The win came in the Tigers' final non-league game of the season. Next up is a six-week run of Ivy League games, the next two of which are on Friday nights, beginning this week against Brown on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium and then the following Friday at Harvard.

The Bears will come to Princeton this weekend at 2-2 after a 27-20 win over Central Connecticut this weekend. Brown is 0-1 in the Ivy League, with a 35-28 loss to Harvard.

There are currently four teams who are unbeaten in the league: Harvard and Yale are 2-0, and Princeton and Penn are 1-0. Penn will host Columbia this coming weekend, while Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and Cornell all have non-league games. After that, it'll be five weeks of only Ivy games.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Christmas In October

So when is it too early for Christmas music?

Surely the first week of October qualifies as too early, right? Or do you listen all year round? Does anyone do that? 

When a Christmas song comes on TigerBlog's iTunes, he usually fast-forwards past it to the next song unless it's at least November. Today, though it's only October 7, he's going with two Christmas references.

The first is this:

TB will get back to you in a second about why he chose the Carol of the Bells. First, there's also this quote, from Princeton's Michael Ruttlen Jr.:

"That's when it became real to me, that I could go to the number one academic school in the country and play the sport I love. It was like Christmas when I got all the things I sought."

That Ruttlen quote is from a feature story on, written by Craig Sachson. You can read it HERE.

Meanwhile, back at the bells, if you're a Princeton football fan, you probably already know that the Tigers have a bell on their sideline. If you cause a turnover, you get to ring the bell.

Did you know that Lafayette has a bell on its sideline for the same reason?

Princeton plays its final non-league game of the season tomorrow at Lafayette, with kickoff at 12:30. Presumably, whoever rings the bell the most will have a leg up on winning the game, no?

Lafayette, also playing its final non-league game, is 2-3 on the year and 1-0 in the Patriot League. The Leopards are also 0-1 in the Ivy League, with a 12-0 loss to Penn. 

The rest of the Lafayette schedule to date has included a 6-0 win over a Sacred Heart team that defeated Dartmouth and a 24-14 win over Bucknell last weekend in its league opener. The other two losses are to Temple (30-14) and No. 16 William & Mary (34-7). 

 The Princeton-Lafayette series goes all the way back to 1883. The Tigers have a 44-4-3 advantage, including a 36-33 win in two overtimes in 2010. Who scored the game-winning TD for the Tigers that night? 

While you're thinking about that, TB will point out that the win over Lafayette was the first for Princeton head coach Bob Surace. Here's what TB wrote after the game:

The win was Bob Surace's first as Tiger head coach. The record for wins by a Princeton coach is 89, held by the very first Princeton coach, Bill Roper, so it's 88 to go to tie for Surace.

Fast-forwarding, Surace now has 68 wins so it's 20 to go to tie. He's now 68-45 at Princeton and 23 games over .500 after at one point being 18 games under at 2-20. If you take for granted that Surace has been consistently putting high quality teams on the field, keep in mind where he started. What he's done as the Tiger head coach is extraordinary.

Back at the overtime game in 2010, the winning TD was scored by Jordan Culbreath.

And now, once again back in the present, Princeton comes into this game off a 24-6 win over Columbia in its Ivy opener. The Tigers rang the bell four times in that game and now have 10 bells in three games, as well as a +2 per game average that ranks first in the FCS. Lafayette, for its part, also has 10 bells rung, with a +.8 per game average.

Lafayette has been a strong defensive team, even against the tough schedule. The Leopards lead the Patriot League in scoring defense at 18.0 per game and red-zone defense (68.4%). 

For Princeton, the defense is No. 1 in the FCS in red-zone defense (40%) and has allowed the fewest first downs of any team in the FCS. 

After this one, it's six Ivy games in six weeks for Princeton. Each Ivy team has played one league game and two non-league games to date, and Princeton, Penn, Harvard and Yale are the four teams who are 1-0. This week's matchups in the league have Harvard at Cornell tonight and Dartmouth at Yale tomorrow. 

Princeton will host Brown a week from tonight on Powers Field.