Friday, June 30, 2023

Through The Years With Fred Samara

So TigerBlog went back through the archives to see all of the times he'd written about Fred Samara through the years. 

It's been a lot, way more than he could actually read in one sitting. 

He found this from 2015: 

The longtime Princeton men's track and field coach and former Olympic decathlete was asked yesterday if he'd read the blog, and he responded that he only reads it when he's in it. How, TigerBlog asked him, does he know if he's in it if he doesn't read it?

There was this from when Fred turned 70 three years ago:

And so that leads to this sentence, one that TB never really imagined he would ever write: "Fred Samara, TB joins Mike Tyson in wishing you happy 70th birthday."

 If you're wondering on the context, click HERE.

There was this random thought (and this was in 2018, so add five more years worth): 

How many people Fred Samara has worked with here?

Back in 2011, TB apparently had just finished watching a "Rocky" marathon and recalled how "Rocky" had won Best Picture at the 1977 Oscars:

"Rocky" was honored on March 28, 1977, or just before Peter Farrell came to Princeton to start the women's track and field program and Fred Samara came to Princeton to help oversee a men's program that had been around for just over 100 years by then.

What else? 

 Well, going all the way back to 2009, there was this discussion of holiday cards:

About 75% of the cards that TigerBlog receives are of vacation shots or somewhat informal posed shots through the year. The rest are a little more obviously posed, but they aren't exactly over the top or anything. Then there's the card that men's track and field coach Fred Samara brought in last winter to share. It was sent by his old Olympic decathlon teammate Bruce Jenner, and it showed Jenner and his family, which, as pretty much anyone with a TV or a computer knows, includes the Kardashians.

TB could do this all day. Maybe he'll do it again later in the summer.

For now, he'll finish up today with what was a Guest TB on Samara from back in 2019. The author? Well, turns out he's now the Ford Family Director of Athletics, John Mack, who was a Roper Trophy-winning track and field athlete under Samara. 

Enjoy what John had to say back then. And have a great weekend: 

Gerald Ford. That is the answer. What’s the question? That’s easy. “Who was the President of the United States when Fred Samara began his coaching career at Princeton?”

By now, the numbers of Coach Samara’s legendary career are well known to TigerBlog readers, but as with any great coach, the numbers do not tell the full story.

I was recently asked what makes Coach Samara so special. To me, there are three things that make Coach Samara the best college track and field coach in the country.

First, Coach Samara has a competitive drive unmatched by anyone that I have ever known. That drive is part of the reason why, passed 70 years of age, he still maintains a regular workout regimen and looks as though he could step into a pair of spikes and compete at any moment.

I can remember being a freshman on the team and seeing Coach’s competitive side up close and personal during a pickup basketball game one day after practice. No matter the contest, he hates to lose. (Sidenote: This basketball game ended with my being blamed for a major knee injury suffered by an assistant coach. But that is a story for another day). To know Coach Samara is to know his relentless drive not just to win championships but also to dominate the competition. His competitiveness is contagious. As an athlete on the team, you never want to disappoint him, and you know that only your absolute best will win his approval. He sincerely cares about each of his athletes and wants to see them perform at their absolute best.

As routine as success has been for the Princeton men’s track and field team under Coach Samara’s leadership, he never takes it for granted and he is never satisfied. At every Heps championship meet, he chases victory as though he has never won a title. The turnaround time between championship meets in cross-country (November), indoor track (February) and outdoor track (May) is relatively short. Whether the previous meet brought the thrill of a championship victory or the rare disappointment of falling short, Coach Samara is a master at hitting the reset button and helping prepare his athletes to mentally and physically pursue another championship. If you saw the video of his comments after Sunday’s Heps win, you may have noticed that, while celebrating the win, Coach’s thoughts quickly turned to winning the upcoming outdoor championship and completing a Triple Crown. This is Coach Samara in a nutshell. He is able to genuinely savor victory in the moment while remaining focused on continuing the pursuit of excellence.

The second thing that makes Coach Samara such a great coach, and a great leader, is his focus on the team concept. Track and field is a sport that, by its nature, centers on individual athletic performance, Coach Samara manages to create a true team environment.

It begins at the very first team meeting in the fall. As he stands in front of the 60 or 70 athletes who will make up that year’s team, he sets the course for the season and lays out the team’s primary goal:  Win the Heps Triple Crown. Coach Samara builds a team not by relying on his own experiences and coaching credentials, though, to be fair, it would be understandable if he did. Instead, Coach focuses on the team’s history of success. He is always ready with the story of a memorable meet or of a former team member who made their mark on the program. He has always believed in sharing the accomplishments of athletes like Augie Wolf ’83, Steve Morgan ’87, and Ugwunna Ikpeowo ’96 far more than sharing his own achievements. As a team member, these stories create a deep appreciation of being on the team and it makes you hope that, one day, you too can contribute in a way that Coach will talk about to future team members.

On Coach Samara’s squads no one is bigger than the team. I can remember more than one road trip where team members who were late getting to the bus at Jadwin Gym were left behind. Each time, the individuals who were left behind found a way to get to the meet and compete. They did so because they understood that they owed it to the team, and to Coach Samara, to get there. In a sport where most team members do not practice together on a regular basis, and you may not interact with Coach Samara on an every day basis, it is this dedication to the team that binds everyone together.

The last thing that makes Coach Samara such a legendary coach is that he attracts and inspires greatness. Many athletes come to Princeton with great skills and talents, while many more become great during their time at Princeton. Regardless of how you come to the Princeton men’s track team, Coach Samara inspires you to believe not just that you can be great, but that you should be great. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

From The Steward's Enclosure

TigerBlog approached the entryway to the Steward's Enclosure at the Henley Royal Regatta yesterday with the purple badge he needed for admission.

He wore a light summer suit, with a striped purple shirt, a purple tie and a Panama Jack hat. His suit jacket was draped over his shoulder as he walked through the gate.

"I'm sorry," the woman at the front said in her flawless British accent, "but gentlemen must have their jackets on at all times in the Enclosure."

Welcome to Henley, an event unlike anything TigerBlog has seen before. It's a combination of one of the best athletic events in the world and Princeton Reunions, with a party atmosphere surrounding ferocious competition. 

It's not quite a regular regatta, either. It's a single-elimination format that begins with a fairly random draw (the Stewards can make small corrections after the fact), where each participating crew has its name written on a piece of paper that is then drawn from a championship trophy.  

If you win your race, you advance to the next round. If you lose, you're done. That's it. 

The races themselves are head-to-head, in two lanes, Berks and Bucks. There is no buoy marker between the lanes, so boats can be disqualified if they drift too far towards the other boat in the race. 

The rowing is held on the River Thames, at a spot about 45 minutes outside of London. Both sides of the river are framed by tents, enclosures, fans, food, bars, bands of all kinds and anything else that creates the vibe. 

Everything at Henley is about tradition. The event dates to 1839, and other than the addition of women about 50 years ago, TB supposes very little has changed here.

Princeton has sent boats from all four of its teams to Henley this year. They are mixes of a few of the varsity boats from this past season, when the Tiger lightweight men and lightweight women won national championships. 

The schedule for the next day is announced at the end of competition each day. The racing starts early in the morning and runs through around 7 pm, with two breaks: one for lunch and one for tea. What else would you expect? 

Princeton had four crews row yesterday, and two of them advanced. One was the men's "A" boat, which defeated Cambridge for its second straight win in the Temple Cup group, which is the highest collegiate bracket. The Tigers are off today before tomorrow's quarterfinal round.

The other Princeton winner was the men's 4-, which defeated the Radley Mariners and the Tideway Scullers' School in the Visitors' Challenge Cup.

The distance is a little further than the standard 2,000 meter American college distance. The starting line is pretty far out of view, though there are as many groups partying there as there are as you get closer to the finish. Why, TB asked one of the stewards, would you want to be at the start? The answer was something like "because they don't care about anything other than eating and drinking."

As the races go along, a PA announcer keeps the crowd updated on who is ahead, by how much and with how many strokes per minute at that particular juncture. Eventually they come into view of the Regatta Enclosure, which has no dress code, and finally the Stewards' Enclosure, which, as TB learned, does have a dress code. The cheering gets louder and louder through the end regardless of whether the race is close or not.

Each boat that enters the river is cheered onto the water; each boat that comes off is cheered off, win or lose.

The racing itself is great. There are boats from all over the U.S. and Europe, and the elite of the elite row here. 

TigerBlog spent a lot of time with Marty Crotty, the head coach of the men's lightweight team at Princeton. Marty, himself a national champion when he rowed at Princeton in the 1990s, gave TB a tutorial on Henley, what to expect from the racing and what to expect from the parts around the racing. 

It was also good to see Lori Dauphiny, the women's open coach. To them, Henley is pretty much heaven.

Beyond that, though, there is everything else. TigerBlog watched, what, maybe seven or so minutes of racing in all as he checked out the Princeton boats? The rest of the time is soaking in the experience.

Of any place TB has ever been, the absolute, unquestionable, without a doubt best people-watching ever is at Henley. Maybe 90 percent of the men in the Regatta Enclosure are in suits and ties, and as you know, 100 percent of the men in the Stewards' Enclosure are as well. There are jackets like TB was wearing, but the overwhelming majority of them are colorful reminders of Princeton's Reunion jackets.

The rules for women? No dresses above the knee in the Stewards' Enclosure. Hats are also required.

And oh are there hats. There are the ones that Queen Elizabeth liked to wear. There are hats that make you think of "Downton Abbey." There are hats with feathers of all colors. There are what the British call "fascinators," which looks like you have a bird who is sitting on top of your head. There are big hats and little hats and everything in between. There are derbys and top hats and straw hats — and even a few cowboy hats.

Pretty much everyone is dressed as if they are attending a wedding. Everyone matches perfectly.

The majority of those in attendance are British, with the requisite quick British humor. You can talk to anyone. You can sit with anyone. It doesn't matter that you've never met them before. In about 10 minutes, you'll know everything about them.

That's how it works at Henley. 

It's not easy to win, but it is easy to make friends.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Retiring Fred

If you're a former Princeton track and field athlete or even a fan and you'd like to say something about Fred Samara, email

TigerBlog was at Charles deGaulle Airport in Paris when he got a message from his colleague Chas Dorman.

Something big was happening at Princeton, and Chas wanted to talk about it. Hmmm. What could it be? 

TB's first guess was actually the correct answer. When he called Chas, he learned officially that Fred Samara was retiring.

The day had to come sometime, right? He couldn't coach Princeton track and field forever, could he? 

Well, no, though if anyone could coach a team for eternity, it would be Fred Samara. As it turns out, his tenure at Princeton would be 46 years.

No other coach in Princeton history has coached more athletes than Fred Samara. No other coach in Princeton history has won more championships than Fred Samara. 

Think about that.

Which of those is more important? 

The numbers of both are staggering. Samara coached Princeton to 51 different Heptagonal Ivy League team championships, and his athletes won a total of 502 individual or relay titles. There were also six Olympians and 10 NCAA champions, the last of which was this past winter, when Sondre Guttormsen won his third pole vault national championship.

That's wild stuff, right? 

As for the number of athletes, well, that's a tough number to count. It's safe to say that no other coach is even close.

TigerBlog has never heard a track and field athlete who griped about Samara. He was their coach, and he was their mentor, teacher, leader, advisor, supporter and anything else. 

He's a man of incredible strength, both physical and mental. That's the word TB would use to describe him. He looks strong. He gives off a strong vibe. His voice is strong. He's a strong man.

Like all great coaches, he set the standard for his athletes high and he then he worked as hard as they did to help them achieve their goals. 

TigerBlog has known Samara for more than 30 years. If you asked TB's late colleague Harvey Yavener to tell you who the greatest coach he ever saw was, he wouldn't even flinch. He'd say Fred Samara. In fact, TB did ask him that question and he did respond without flinching.

If Samara in his 50s, 60s and now into his 70s looks like he could still score points at Heps, imagine what he was like in his teens and 20s. He was, in fact, a multiple time All-American at Penn, not to mention a 1976 Olympic decathlete. 

He came to Princeton a year later, starting on the same day that Peter Farrell began as the first women's track and field head coach at Princeton. Peter tells the story about how Fred told him on that first day that he didn't figure to stay at Princeton very long, only he tells it in the way that Peter tells stories, which is to say hysterically.

As it turned out, Fred outlasted Peter at Princeton by seven years. TB first met them in the late 1980s, and having the opportunity to watch them coach side-by-side for all that time has been one of the best parts of all of TB's years here.

To watch them on the track in the afternoon was to see what the intersection of education and college athletics was supposed to look like. They were always teaching, always helping, always challenging – and never lowering their expectations. 

It's what Samara did until his very last day as Princeton's coach. You don't have to ask any of the male athletes he coached at Princeton. Ask Deborah Saint-Phard, the 1988 Olympic shot putter from Princeton, who prepared for the Games by working under Samara. She wouldn't have gotten there without him.

He's mentioned to TigerBlog a few times in the last few years that his tenure was nearing its end, but it was difficult to think about from TB's point of view. If that's the case, imagine how much truer that is for all of those alums.

Where does Samara rank all time among Princeton coaches? Was Yav right? Maybe. You could certainly make a case that he is the best. You can make the same case for maybe at the most six others, so no matter what, Samara is a huge part of Princeton Athletic history.

All that is for another time.

For today, there are congratulations to be offered, for a tenure that has been nothing short of amazing, from a man who is equally as amazing. 

Princeton has been far better for having Fred Samara here all these years.





Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Off To Henley

TigerBlog flew from Warsaw to London Saturday evening on British Airways.

Apparently, only BA, as it's called here, is allowed to land directly over the city. Luckily for TB, he was seated by the window on the right side of the plane and so he got to see every major London landmark on descent into Heathrow. It was gorgeous.

Oh, and here's a question for you. On the flight from Paris to Warsaw last week, TB was supposed to be by the window on the small jet, which had two seats on each side of the aisle. When he arrived at his row, there was a boy about 12 by the window, with his mother and sister across the aisle. The mother asked TB if it would be okay if the boy took the window seat. 

Now, TB had paid $20 to get his seat in advance. What would you have done? What do you think TB did? Of course he let the boy have the window, and he said nothing about the $20.

The flight into Heathrow had three seats on each side of the aisle, and TB shared a row with two teenage boys. As it turns out, their names are Tytus and Bartek. They're Polish best friends, Tytus age 16 and Bartek age 17. 

The sportswriter in TigerBlog asked them a bunch of questions. and as such he learned all of the following: They were on their way to see Tytus' aunt, who lives in Southampton, for 12 days. They are finishing up high school next year. They both are apparently really good football players, the European variety, which is to say soccer. 

Seeing as they were Polish, TB assumed their favorite player would be Robert Lewandowski, who plays for Barcelona, which he assumed would be their favorite team. Wrong on both counts. They liked Christian Eriksen, who plays for Denmark and Manchester United. 

They have never seen the American version of football, which TB found hard to believe. They'd also never seen lacrosse, which was easier to believe. TB showed them a few clips of Princeton lacrosse on his computer, and they both immediately wanted to play.

They asked TB what he did, and so he explained what his job was. Whether they were serious or not, they said they'd like to read some of his stories, and they left him their email addresses. He'll be sending some along, then.

While the boys headed to the south of England, TigerBlog stayed in the London area, first to see "Wicked" on the West End Sunday (it was great, though it's not quite the same without Princeton's own Sam Gravitte as Fiyero).

Today and tomorrow? TB is off to the Henley Royal Regatta. Held on the River Thames, Henley is the oldest regatta in the world, having begun in 1839. For that matter, there can't be many sporting events, if any, that are older.

The format is a head-to-head, single-elimination one. Crews compete in a variety of events, but once you're lost, you're out. The draw for each event is done randomly, with names written on pieces of paper and pulled from the Grand Challenge Cup.

Princeton has a long history of competing at Henley, including four women's lightweight boats a week ago. The competition that starts today will include representatives from the men's lightweights and women's open, both of whom won national championships this spring, and the men's heavyweights, who finished third. 

There are all kinds of different combinations of Tiger rowers and events. For a full list of who is competing, you can see THIS story.

TigerBlog is excited to see this event. Henley is a place of great tradition and traditions, and the atmosphere figures to be both energetic and also stuck in time a bit. That seems like a fun combination.

If that's how TB feels, imagine what it must be like to be a rower in this event. As he said, Princeton has a long history at Henley, and it has to be something really special for anyone who competes here. This isn't just rowing against other colleges, by the way. There are some colleges who will row, and there are many racing clubs. 

Also, this is the Thames. It's the same river where Cambridge and Oxford have their annual race. It doesn't get any more special in racing than to be here.

TB will report in on his experience later this week. For tomorrow, there's another subject that requires everyone's attention. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

Two Emotional Days In Poland

The town that Kalman Preiss called home for the first 27 years of his life is called Kutno.

It sits a little less than two hours northwest of Warsaw and about an hour north of Lodz. When Kalman lived there, Kutno was part of Russia.

Today it's a quaint, historic town in Poland. This past Saturday, TigerBlog became the first member of his family to return to the town that Kalman, his great-grandfather, and Beckie, his great-grandmother who was born in Warsaw, left in 1899. 

The town has a lovely walking street in the middle, with fountains in a park at one end and outdoor restaurants that were filled on this cool early summer afternoon. The people were incredibly friendly. Everyone TB stopped to talk to made him feel welcome. He didn't find anyone who spoke English, but he communicated through Google Translate, going from English to Polish and then having them speak to him by going from Polish to English. 

About an hour earlier, TB had been driving up from Lodz, where he had been staying. As he saw the first signs for Kutno, he smiled. He even got out of his rental car on the shoulder of the road after making a U-turn to take his picture with the sign at the outskirts of the town. 

What would his life have been like had Kalman never left, he thought? What if he too had been born here and lived here and was one of these people he was talking to, if he was the one who spoke no English, who never had been to America, who never had seen a Princeton Athletic event?

Then he thought back 24 hours earlier and remembered what would have actually happened had Kalman not left here. Kalman died in 1949 of natural causes. Had he stayed in Kutno, he would have been murdered, along with every other member of his family, a few years before that.

TB told you Friday that he was in Poland and said he would tell you today why. There were two reasons. The first was to see Kutno, to get a sense of where his roots were. 

The other was to see the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, to remind him that he would have had no roots had Kalman not left.

Why did he leave in 1899? Who knows. About one-third of Kutno was made up of Jews when he left. Maybe he feared what the Russians might do? Maybe he thought there'd be better opportunities for him, as a tailor, in America.

Whatever the reason, his instinct was live-saving. By 1939, the Jewish population of Kutno was 7,709, still around a third of the town. Once the Nazis conquered Poland to start the war, a Jewish ghetto was set up in Kutno, at the site of an old sugar factory. In early 1940, all of the Jews were forced into that small space, with little to no food. The camp was liquidated on March 19, 1942. Those who made it through there alive were sent to the Chelmno extermination camp.

TB found the remains of the ghetto Saturday, where some of the original buildings still stand. Those buildings were nowhere near enough to house nearly 8,000 people, and most of the ghetto was outdoors, where the Jews were forced to live with no shelter against the harsh summers and frozen winters. 

All 7,709 of those Jews — every single one of them — was murdered in the Holocaust. Not one Jew in Kutno, or for that matter, not one Jew among the 125,000 in the county, survived. Among those 7,709 from Kutno were three other branches of the Preiss family. 

Standing outside the fence looking in and reading the small plaque dedicated to those who died there was haunting. FatherBlog was born in 1935. Had the family stayed, he would have been one of the ones who died there, along with the rest of his family.

That was one of the more overwhelming moments of TB's trip. It was not the most overwhelming, though, even with how personal it could have been.

TigerBlog woke up early Friday and made the nearly three-hour drive south from Lodz to the outskirts of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. As his GPS guided him to the parking lot at Birkenau, the last mile or so took him through typical European suburbia. There were houses that were a little smaller than those in America, but they were definitely nice and well-maintained. Two blocks away was a house with a child's swingset in the front yard. One block away was a driveway with a basketball court. 

On the next street, everything took a turn for the ominous.

TigerBlog has, through the years, developed a few traits from the two jobs he's had, as a sportswriter and an athletic communications person. 

The first is the ability to maintain at least some neutral distance from an event. Whatever emotion he's feeling, no matter how much he's wanted Princeton to win, he could never cheer or change his facial expression, and he could count on one hand the number of times he's deviated from that in all these years.

The other is to take an emotionally detached view of the proceedings in front of him so that he could write about them as effectively as possible. He always looks for little things, subtle things, turning points in games, habits of coaches or athletes that they might not even recognize themselves. To that end, he's not always in the moment of what he's seeing. He's more processing it in his head to chronicle later.

Through the years, he's been to places like Gettysburg, Manassas, Dealey Plaza in Dallas — even Normandy. He's been awed by these places. He has been humbled to be someplace where such historical events, with so much death, occurred. 

He has never had the feeling he had Friday. It wasn't the same kind of overwhelming emotion. It was something much deeper. It was chilling. It was hard to even consider for a moment that what he was seeing, what he was experiencing, was based on real events.

TB's default to moments that are wildly emotional is to make a joke. He didn't dare do so at Auschwitz. He saw a young woman in his group who was wearing an "Arkansas Softball" jacket. Arkansas played Princeton last year and Harvard this year in the NCAA tournament. TB didn't dare look her up or talk to her about it.

TB was supposed to start at Auschwitz I, and not Birkenau, which sits three kilometers away. His ticket was for a tour with an English guide, starting at the time he walked up to the Birkenau gate, so he just jumped on with another group as soon as he heard the guide — a woman named Ivana — speak in English.

There were three main camps and 48 satellite camps in the area. The nearby houses that TB drove past on his way in are occupied by Poles whose families owned the land before the war, when the Nazis kicked them out. As Ivana said, they wanted no witnesses to what they were doing.

TB recognized the entrance to Birkenau. There were train tracks that ran into the camp, under a brick archway. On the other side of the archway was a stone platform. That's where the infamous Selection took place.

Jews from all over Europe had been loaded onto box cars, 70 or 80 to a car, with no food, no water and only a bucket for a toilet. Depending on the distance traveled, it could take a few days or as many as 10 or more to reach this end of the line. Not everyone survived the trip.

Those who did were divided into two groups on arrival. About 20 percent, those who were deemed by a Nazi doctor's glance to be able to do slave labor, were sent through gates into the concentration camp. The other 80 percent were sent directly across the tracks to the gas chambers. That was it. 

The gas chambers at Birkenau could be used to murder 1,500 people at a time. The victims were told they were going to have showers and be fed and processed. Within minutes, they were dead, their bodies moved to the crematoriums. Eventually, the killings overwhelmed the crematoriums, and bodies were moved to the fields nearby to be burned outside.

Ivana took the group of 15 through the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoriums, which had been blown up by the Nazis just before the Soviet Red Army arrived on January 27, 1945, and liberated the camp.

After that, the tour went through the Birkenau barracks, where between five to eight people slept in small spaces, with a top level, a middle level and then the lower level, which was the stone floor. They worked 10 hours a day, and their meals consisted of coffee or tea in the morning, soup made from rotted vegetables for lunch and a small piece of bread and one small piece of sausage for dinner. That was it.

When that group finished the tour of Birkenau, TB took a shuttle to Auschwitz I to do what was supposed to be the first part of the tour. He joined in with another group — his tour guide this time was named Christopher — that was just starting out. First up was an eight-minute movie, available in nearly 20 languages.

The movie alone was enough to gut-punch any visitor. The filmmakers had taken modern-day video of the places around the camps and then folded in pictures of the exact same spots from the war. You'd see the railroad tracks as TB had just seen them, and then you'd see them slowly fade back to 1942 or so, suddenly filled with hundreds of people on the platform, most unaware that they had only minutes to live.

At one point, the narrator said something TB had never considered: "Most of the people you see in these pictures," he said, "spent less time here than you will today."

After the movie, it was out into the courtyard, where TB first saw the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign. It means "work will make you free," but as Christopher said, the Nazis had no intention of setting anyone free.

Christopher took the group through Auschwitz, which began as a prison/concentration camp for Polish intellectuals, Soviet prisoners, Roma Gypsies, homosexuals and some Jews — as well as anyone else deemed as unfit to join the Master Race. They lived there under the same horrific conditions that the slave laborers who made it past Selection at Birkenau did.

Auschwitz I did have the gas chamber where Zyklon B, an insectisde, was used for the first time, against some Poles and Soviets, 500 people in all. It took hours for them all to be killed. The Nazis then sped up the process, not to be more humane but to be more efficient and be able to murder at higher and higher quantities.

Christopher also showed the group the area where scientific experiments were performed on prisoners and also the cells that were used for punishment.

There were only 200 people who ever escaped from the camps. That's 200 out of 1.3 million. When one did escape, the Nazis would murder 10 or more in retaliation.

Christopher told the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who volunteered to replace someone else and be murdered by starvation along with 11 others in a room so cramped that nobody could sit down. The man he replaced was named Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish soldier; he lived to be 93.

There were two places in the camp where picture taking is forbidden. The site where Kolbe and so many others died was one of them. The other was in an area where there were stockpiles of human hair that had been used to make cloth.

One area where you could take pictures was that first gas chamber. The only rule there is that silence must be maintained. 

TB took photos throughout. Anyone he spoke to at home asked him not to send them, because they'd be too disturbing. They're right. TB took pictures of the portraits on one of the walls, of men and women who were prisoners in Auschwitz, all of whom died. These were pictures taken by the Nazis when they arrived to keep a record, something that would eventually be replaced by branding numbers on forearms. When TB was little, he remembers seeing a few people who had those brands. 

In each of the portraits, the person staring back at TB looked ashen. He looked at nearly 1,000 of them. There was only one that had the slightest hint of a smile, one that TB would like to think was in defiance. 

He took pictures of the case which was stocked with shoes collected from those who had been murdered after Selection. There were thousands of them. Each one was heartbreaking; the worst heartbreaks came from the littlest ones.

When TB got back to his rental car when he was finished, he felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. How could he now go and get something to eat or drink after seeing that? How could he listen to music in the car? How could he laugh, or think about where he'd be going next? 

All of those people in the camp who died? They never had those chances.

Maybe the only solace TB could think of was the possibility that all of those resources that went into the Holocaust detracted from the Nazi war effort at the fronts. Perhaps that helped shorten the war. 

How could anyone go through all that and not be affected by it? You can't.

Between 1940 and 1945, at least 1,300,000 people, of whom 1,100,000 were Jewish, came to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of that number, less than 200,000 were not murdered in the camp. Of that group, most were sent to other camps and likely were killed there. Just before the Soviets arrived, the Nazis marched 7,000 weak and starving prisoners 70 kilometers to get away, leaving behind only those who were already too sick to move. None of those 7,000 survived. 

There are fewer Jews alive today than there were in 1939. That's anywhere in the world, not just in Europe.

Before he left, TB found Ivana and asked her how often she gives tours. The answer was usually one per day, but sometimes twice. How could she stand to see that much misery every day, TB asked her.

Ivana is Polish. She has blue eyes. Christopher is also a Pole. He also has blue eyes. Are either of them Jewish? TB didn't ask. For that matter, there were three young men on the second tour TB took, on the Auschwitz side. Two were from Wales. One was from Ireland. They looked like any three Princeton athletes off of any Princeton team.

TB asked them why they had come to this place. They were on vacation — holiday, they call it — and were taking trains throughout Europe. They said that this was someplace they felt they had to go. Were they Jewish? TB didn't ask them either.

It doesn't really matter, does it? 

Ivana told TB she does this for a simple reason. She wants everyone who comes through the camps to learn as much as they can from her and then tell as many people as they can about what happened there. 

That's what TB wanted to do today, even if he didn't really talk about Princeton Athletics and even if he said way more than he usually does. Forgive him for that. This was a very personal two days.

It's impossible to sum up the emotions he's felt, especially those of Friday at Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

All he can do is repeat that he's never experienced anything else close to what he felt there. 

TB was asked by quite a few people, including those in his family, why he wanted to go there in the first place. His answer was always the same: "no idea." He still doesn't know why. Like the 20-somethings from Wales and Ireland, he just thought it was something he needed to do. 

You can read about it. You can watch documentaries and movies. 

It's not until you stand there, on that platform, or walk under the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign, that you get a real sense of the place, the site of the largest mass murder ever committed, — a place that punches you right in the face, stuns you, drops you to ground and, TB assumes, leaves you a bit staggered forever.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Hello From Poland

TigerBlog is completing something that he has never done before, that he almost surely never will do again and that he thinks few of you have ever done yourselves.

What is it? 

This morning he's waking up in a fourth different country in four days. He told you it was unique.

If you're keeping score, he woke up in the United States Tuesday, England Wednesday, France yesterday and now Poland today. That's quite a week, no?

What is he doing in Poland? He'll go more into depth on that next week.

He flew out of Newark Airport Tuesday morning to Heathrow. There were two highlights of this flight.

First, he watched "John Wick" on his in-flight monitor. It was definitely not lacking for action. 

Second, he was seated at the window. The middle seat was taken by an older Indian woman who spoke almost no English, so there was no opportunity to chat. Ah, but there was a man sitting next to her on the aisle, with whom TigerBlog had no contact for the first four hours or so.

Eventually, TB got up to use the bathroom, as did the man on the end. Not shockingly, TB was wearing something that said "Princeton Lacrosse" on it. What was shocking was the question the man asked.

"Princeton Lacrosse? Do you know Bryce Chase?"

Uh, yeah. Turns out that the man was Colin Hill of the Class of 1963, a classmate of Bryce's, who has been a staple of the Tiger lacrosse program since then. Hill, in fact, had just celebrated his 60th Reunion, along with Bryce.

Next up was the Chunnel train to Paris Wednesday morning. That's a pretty fascinating way to get from one of the world's oldest cities to another. 

The trip takes a little more than two hours. There's a tunnel that's been built under the English Channel, which is somewhat hard to fathom while you're sitting in a train that's whizzing through it. 

When TB arrived in Paris (where he'd never been before), he was greeted by Brother Blog and Joe, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog. They had been there for a week on vacation, so TB made a special trip over to see them.

The three of them began to walk over to the subway, only to find it completely jammed. Picture getting on the busiest subway train in New York City and then double that. It was ridiculous.

BrotherBlog made it on the train, but TB and Joe did not. Now what? TB texted his brother, though his brother didn't have any international roaming. When they got to the station where they had to change to a different train, and there was BB, standing and waiting. TB told him that in years to come when he tells the story, it'll be that they both abandoned him on the train, though for now he'll stick to the truth. It was only BB who left. Then again, BB is the only one of the three of them who speaks French.

The apartment that they rent in Paris is about a five-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. Having never seen it before, TB was amazed by its size and dominance of the area. It was clearly an incredible feat to build it in the 19th century, and now nearly 150 years later it remains a phenomenal site. Yes, it's a bit touristy and all, but seeing it was awesome.

After that was another subway ride to Notre Dame and a walk along the Seine, before dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. It didn't not disappoint.

Of course, one of the themes of Paris is eating, and so there was also breakfast in a cafe yesterday. Omelettes, what else? 

Then it was back on the subway out to Charles DeGaulle and the short (though quite turbulent) flight to Warsaw. TB then rented a car and drove to his hotel in Lodz (which was more harrowing than the flight, given that the speed limit in mph was 87), where he will actually spend two nights — unless he decides to drive across the border into the Czech Republic to go five countries in five nights, though probably not.

London is five hours ahead of Princeton. Paris and Poland are six. With that, it's hard to keep track of everything that goes on at night back in the U.S., because it's all happening in the middle of the night. Also, none of TB's TV apps work in Europe. 

As such, he was unable to watch the opening game of the men's lacrosse World Championships Wednesday night, when the U.S. beat Canada 7-5, with a goal from Michael Sowers and two assists from Tom Schreiber. If you're watching those games, the international rules are wildly different than the U.S. college game, most notably with no shot clock.

The other thing TB couldn't watch was the NBA Draft last night. He knew he'd have to wait until he woke up to see if Tosan Evbuomwan got drafted. As it turned out, he wasn't, though he immediately signed with the Detroit Pistons.

It's a perfect starting point for him and his wide-ranging skillset. Yes, he'd prefer to have been drafted, but still, this is a great moment for him and for Princeton basketball.

In the meantime, it's TB's first day ever in Poland, or anywhere in Eastern Europe, for that matter. He'll explain why next week. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Draft Night

As you know if you're a longtime reader, TigerBlog is not a huge fan of the NBA and NFL Drafts.

The hype that leads up to them coupled with the hit-or-miss results make them the most overhyped things in sports. Factor in the immediate grades that go along with them from sportswriters everywhere who swear up and down about this pick's being an A and that pick's being a D while offering opinions on players they have never seen play and probably hadn't heard of until a few weeks ago makes it even worse.

Usually the NFL Draft is the rougher of the two, since so many can't-miss high picks don't pan out and so many others who were picked lower become great players. You can't help but shake your head and wonder how people whose jobs depend on getting it right get it so wrong. 

Ah, but the 2005 NBA Draft might have been an all-timer.

Chris Paul is the leading career scorer out of that class, and he was taken with the fourth pick. You know who the second leading scorer out of that draft class was? 

Hint - He's one of the most fascinating players in league history.

Here's another hint - He's not one of the first six picks, who were these guys:

1. Andrew Bogut (decent pro)
2. Marvin Williams (average)
3. Deron Williams (eh)
4. Chris Paul (Hall of Famer)
5. Raymond Felton (Knicks' fans everywhere just cringed)
6. Martell Webster (below average)

Last hint - He was the 45th pick.

The 2023 NBA Draft is tonight, complete with a prospect — 7-4 Victor Wembanyama — about whom TB  saw this written: "His ceiling is as one of the 10 greatest players ever." That seems to be optimistic.

TB's main interest in this draft, like all Princeton fans, is in whether or not Tosan Evbuomwan is selected.

There aren't too many two-round mock drafts, as opposed to the floodgates of first-round mock drafts. The ones that TB has seen that do include a second round have had Tosan anywhere from the middle of the second to undrafted. 

Should Tosan reach the NBA, he'd become the second Princeton player to do so in the last few years, after Devin Cannady did so. Cannady has proven that he can score on that level, and who knows where he'd be were it not for the major ankle injury he suffered one game after a career-high 17 points for the Orlando Magic.

Cannady and Evbuomwan are not the same kind of player at all. Cannady's strength is long-range shooting, something for which he has pretty limitless range.

Evbuomwan has a much broader skillset. He can dribble, pass, create his own shot and defend. He can also shoot from the NBA three-point line, as he showed at the NBA Combine in Chicago this spring.

That, of course, followed a senior season in which Evbuomwan led the Tigers to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, becoming a household name along the way. His story of coming from England, his late start in basketball and how Princeton associate head coach Brett McConnell recruited him was one of the most told during the tournament.

Drafted or not, Evbuomwan is at the start of a professional career that figures to last a long time. The best bet is that he ends up either selected in the second round or not but signed to a two-way NBA/G-League contract either way. After that, he'll have every chance to prove himself, just as Cannady did.

If the NBA doesn't work out, then he can play as long as he'd like in Europe. 

The second round will be more exciting than the first round tonight for Princeton fans. Maybe Tosan can go 45th, just like ...

... the great Lou Williams, who was taken right out of high school in 2005.

No player in NBA history has ever scored more points off the bench or played more games off the bench than Williams. His 15,593 points rank second behind only Paul from his draft class.

Williams announced his retirement last week. He played in 1,123 regular season games in his career, and he started only 122 of them.

Good luck to Tosan Evbuomwan tonight. And, regardless of tonight, during the pro career he's about to have. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Opening Face-Off

Think you'll be thirsty tonight? 

The place to be is the Ivy Inn on Nassau Street. Why? Because of the guest bartender. 

Howard Levy, a player and coach with the Princeton men's basketball team and currently the head coach at Mercer County Community College, will be behind the bar from 6-8 this evening as part of a fundraiser for his Vikings, as all tips will benefit the MCCC Foundation for athletic scholarships. 

In addition to his basketball successes, Howard is also a lawyer. He's passed one bar exam in his life; tonight you can see first-hand if he passes another. 

Once you're done with Howard, you can head home and watch the opening game of the World Championships of men's lacrosse. The 10 days of the tournament starts tonight at 10 Eastern time on ESPNU with what in all likelihood will be a preview of the championship game July 1, as the United States meets Canada to kick things off.

The tournament is being held on the campus of San Diego State, with the game tonight and then the semifinals and final to be played in the new 32,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium. The remainder of the games will be held either in the 6,000-seat Torrero Stadium or on the adjacent fields.

In all, there are 30 countries who are represented, and they are split into six groups of five each. The U.S. and Canada are obviously in the top division, along with Australia, England and the Haudenosaunee. 

The lowest division, by the way, has Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Peru and Korea. 

The teams in the lower divisions will play each other and then play off to move up in the world rankings. The top two teams in the top division are assured of quarterfinal spots, where they will be joined by the winners of the playoff round that features the rest of the top division and teams from the B and C divisions.

The first World Championship of men's lacrosse was held in 1967 in Toronto, where the U.S. defeated Australia in the final. The next event was in Melbourne in 1974, when the U.S. defeated England in the final.

Since then, it's been an every-four-year thing, except for this tournament, which was delayed a year post-pandemic. The U.S. has won 10 and been the runner-up three times, never failing to reach the final. 

Canada has reached the final nine times, winning three. The math says that the U.S. and Canada have met in nine of the last 11 finals, including six straight. The two rivals have split the last four championships.

The two are also overwhelming favorites to get to the final again, and that is where the trouble comes in for TigerBlog. 

Princeton is represented by three players in the tournament, two for the U.S. and one for Canada. Tom Schreiber will literally be "Captain America" as he is known, as he will be one of the three U.S. captains, and he is back after scoring the game-winner with one second left in the 2018 final in Israel.

Making his international debut with the men's national team is Michael Sowers, Princeton's all-time leading scorer. Sowers was also the leading scorer on the U.S. U-19 team that won gold in 2017.

On the other hand, there is Zach Currier, who will again be on the Canadian team. Currier and Sowers are teammates in the Premier Lacrosse League on the Waterdogs, and they won the championship last summer. Currier has also been a champion in Major League Lacrosse, the National Lacrosse League and the indoor World Championships.

How can TB root against any of those guys? 

There is nobody more competitive that TB has ever met than Zach Currier. The way the 2018 final ended, with a few questionable calls that went against Canada that enabled the U.S. to get the possessions that led to the tying and winning goals.

The game tonight kicks it all off. There will be 107 games in all, and they can all be seen on either an ESPN network or on ESPN+.

So as a reminder, if you're in the Princeton area, then it's the Ivy Inn with Howard Levy from 6-8 and then home for the lacrosse game.

Knowing Currier the way TB does, he assumes that the Canadian has not forgotten what happened. He'll certainly be doing what he always does, which a little bit of everything in the way no other player in the world can right now, but with even more of a chip on his shoulder than usual. 

And knowing Howard the way he does, TB would guess the big man isn't going to be watching, so he'll have to offer an inducement — say, $100 to the scholarship fund from TB if Howard watches the lacrosse game. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Moving Days

Once again, TigerBlog wants to thank Zack DiGregorio for the great job he did yesterday with his recap of Jason Garrett's Starfish Camp at Princeton from this past weekend.

One thing TB would add is to second what Zack wrote, which is that hearing Jason tell the "Story of the Starfish" is extraordinary, no matter how many times you've heard it.

TB wrote yesterday that he had to get Zack to write about the camp and he'd share with you today why that was so. The reason is that he had to take a bit of a side excursion to Ohio to "help" his daughter move from one apartment to another.

And by "help," he means that he did all the heavy lifting while she went to work. He told her to make sure everything was packed, and he would move it by himself. It seemed like a smoother way to do things. 

To accomplish this, Miss TigerBlog rented a U-Haul van, one that TB went to pick up first thing in the morning. When he got there, he was next in line, though the wait lasted longer than he envisioned it might have.

Why? Because there was a man at the counter who was having an extended, and for his part a rather unfulfilling, conversation with the U-Haul guy. The issue? The man had rented his truck online but didn't have the credit card he used, and the U-Haul guy would not give him his truck without it. 

Back and forth they went, neither willing to budge. TB, for his part, understood the policy, and he respected the way U-Haul guy was keeping his composure while not moving at all. 

While he waited, TB noticed a display with a product called the "Forearm Forklift," which presumably makes it easier to carry heavy items. There was a picture on the front of two people, a man and a woman, who had the aforementioned Forearm Forklift in use as they carried an industrial sized dryer. 

Eventually, a resolution was reached. U-Haul guy cancelled the original reservation and made a new one, and no-credit card guy used his debit card to pay for it — though not before he had to pay a cancellation fee. 

Now it was TB's turn at the counter, and of course the first thing he said was that he had rented a van online but he didn't have his credit card with him. Would that be a problem? Everyone in the store laughed except U-Haul guy, at least at first.

It took three trips to move all of MTB's stuff between the two apartments, which are about 15 minutes apart. It took a little more than six hours in all. 

That was the first of his two moving experiences of late. The other one was yesterday morning, when he moved from his existing office into a different one in the same office suite. In all, this will be his fifth office at Princeton, running his career numbers to five different offices and 11 different titles.

In fact, the suite on the Jadwin E Level has six offices in all, and TB will now have set up shop in three of them. 

TB doesn't have much stuff in his office. He is the opposite of a hoarder. There were, though, a bunch of things on his desk and his bookshelves that he hadn't gone through in a while. 

There are also a few boxes filled with old photos of Princeton Athletics through the years. They've been sitting on his floor for a few years, and TB always says he needs to go through them. One day he will.

He glanced at them a bit yesterday. Just doing that took him back to a lot of memories. He's not sure he'll be able to go through all the boxes, since just looking at a handful of those pictures took longer than moving all his stuff.

He'd say he was at about 90 percent of the games represented on the games in the boxes. Each of the pictures he picked up brought him back to that game day and made him remember a certain detail or two about them. Once he gets fully immersed in them, he'll be in there for days. 

Oh, and one more thing about moving, from the one in Ohio. MTB had the usual kind of stuff, and her old apartment was filled with bags and clothes and furniture and all. Some of it was heavy. Most of it wasn't. 

At one point, he moved two big plastic bags with bedding in them. When he picked them up, he noticed a few things underneath them that he hadn't realized were there. 

Among them? There were two lacrosse sticks, both with "Princeton" on the side, and her old Princeton lacrosse goggles.

They were a reminder of what his daughter did in her four years at Princeton to get to the position she now has. TB smiled when he saw them, with a combination of pride and awe.


Monday, June 19, 2023

Guest TigerBlog - Zack DiGregorio At The Starfish Camp

For reasons that TigerBlog will get into tomorrow, he was unable to be at the Jason Garrett Starfish Charities Play It Smart Football Camp at Princeton Saturday. In his place, TB turns over the floor today to another Penn alum whose heart is really part of Princeton.

Zack DeGregorio has been a big part of the camp, not to mention a universally well-loved part of the Princeton Athletic fabric. Here are his words about Jason Garrett's Camp:


The 21st annual Jason Garrett Starfish Charities Play It Smart Football Camp looked like it was going to get off to a rough start. Ahead of the Dig Deep Fund Run, named for late football coach and the author’s father Steve DiGregorio, thunder, lightning, and pouring rain looked like it was going to cancel the run. But, as always seems to happen with this camp, the skies cleared 30 minutes before the run and, to the sounds of Princeton basketball great Bobby Scrabis’ band playing us out, we were able to run through campus and raise money for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). 


It kicked off a week where Jason and Brill Garrett brought 325 high school football players to Princeton’s campus from the tri-state area to find one “starfish.” I’ve heard the story 1,000 times (I believe this was my 17th camp as a ball boy, player, now a coach): Jason is sitting at Brill’s graduation (she’s class of 1988, and he’s class of 1989) and the speaker tells a story about an old man walking down the beach and he comes across a young man walking along the shore throwing starfish back into the ocean. Eventually the old man catches up to the young man and asks him what he’s doing. There was a storm last night and the tide is going out, explains the young man. If the starfish don’t make it back into the water, they’ll dry up and die. The old man responds, confused. “The beach goes on for miles and there must be thousands of starfish! You’ll never make a difference.” The young man reaches down, picks up another starfish, throws it back in the water and says “you’re right, but I can make a difference to that one.” 


To hear Jason tell it, the story hit him like a ton of bricks. After the graduation he and Brill, agreed that, if they have had the ability to give back in a big way, it’d be with that story in mind. So, when Jason was playing in the NFL, Jason Garrett Starfish Charities was born and along with it, the camp and its mission. The camp would bring these kids to Princeton University to play football, but the goal of the camp was to get one kid to look around the campus and say “You know what? I could do this. I belong at a place like this.”


The camp is the highlight of my year and has always been veritable who’s who of Princeton football of the last 35 years. Before the Dig Deep Fun Run, I got to catch up with Brian Barren, a great Princeton player and current president of the Cleveland Guardians. I coached with former Princeton captain Jimmy Archie all day on Saturday. After camp, I spent time talking to Miami Dolphins fullback and two-time Bushnell winner John Lovett about everything from mental illness to whether or not he would be the greatest lacrosse player in the world if he tried. 


But, while it’s rooted in Princeton Football and Jason’s college teammates, the camp always has NFL talent on deck for the kids. This year, Giants QB Daniel Jones and WR David Sills IV were on hand to coach the kids, as well as former NFL players like Chris Simms (now Jason’s coworker at NBC Sports), Babe Laufenberg and Jerome Henderson. Beyond that, Admiral Bill McRaven and his wife Georgeanne have become mainstays at the camp every year, as well as former Navy SEAL Scott Rathke. NBC Sports producer and inventor of the yellow first down line on your football broadcasts Fred Gaudelli is always there, and so is former Cowboys assistant and current Browns defensive line coach Ben Bloom. Freddie Santana, a former Play It Smart camp MVP, and his Teach for America roommate Jared Gourier are two of the most impressive people I have ever met and have become integral in helping Jason and Brill shape the camp and the programing for the campers. 


This year also featured a distinct Princeton Basketball twist. Thanks to Jason’s relationship to Coach Carril and Howard Levy, Friday night’s welcome dinner featured a panel about Coach Carril and his leadership style with some of Carril’s greatest players: Brian Taylor, Joe Scott, Bobby Scrabbis, John Rogers, Howard Levy, Craig Robinson, and Armond Hill. Coach Carril often held court at these Friday night dinners before the camp, picking a spot at a table while the room cycled through the seats next to him as he told stories and somehow never ran out of beer. This time, it was the panel of Princeton basketball legends telling stories about Coach and the bonds he helped them forge (I believe in the 45-minute panel discussion, Howie and Craig told each other they loved each other at least twice). 


The next morning, with 325 high schoolers in front of him on Power Field at Princeton Stadium, Jason kept coming back to the same word: opportunity. This was an opportunity for these kids to learn not just about football but also about life from people at the top of their fields who had taken time out of their lives to be with them, to try to convince them they belonged at a place like Princeton. Opportunities were all around them, he said, and they had to make the choice to take advantage of them. 


I really think that word is the camp in a nutshell for me: opportunity. I’ve been coming to the camp since I was young, and every year, it’s an opportunity to see some of my favorite people—people I have looked up to for as long as I can remember. People from whom I’ve been able to learn so much at different stages in my life. People I am incredibly lucky to call friends. For as long as I can remember, I have always strived to be one of the people who sit at the front of the room on the Friday night before the camp, where a room full of the people I love and respect the most want to pick my brain about leadership or the world or something I accomplished. 


You might have noticed that, in this post about a football camp, I have not written a single thing about the actual football games played on Saturday—and that’s the point. Football is just the vehicle by which all these coaches are trying to reach these kids and plant a seed of belief in them so that it can grow into belief in themselves. So, after a long day of games and life skills, all the coaches and their families gather for Contes pizza, beer, and music in Princeton Stadium, bragging about their wins and ranting about their losses on the field. But they’re also talking about their wins with the kids—who went 1-4 but had a linebacker picking his teammates up all day and encouraging them to keep fighting? Who asked one of their coaches for a phone number or an email? Who had a different look in their eye at the end of the day?


As the sun sets, some head over to the Tap Room to keep the party going, while others have to head to their hotel or catch a flight home. Goodbyes at the camp can take anywhere from 15 minutes or an hour and a half (as was the case for me), which, to me, is the mark of a great group. No matter how long it takes, though, they always end with an enthusiastic “see you next year.”


Friday, June 16, 2023

Easy Choices

While he was at the NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four, TigerBlog was asked how many league championships Princeton had won during this past academic year.

The answer, he said, was 16. Of course, he added, to find the time before that when Princeton won 16 league championships, you have to go back all the way to ... last year. 

If you're wondering, here are your 16 league championship teams from the 2022-23 academic year at Princeton: field hockey, men's cross country, men's water polo, women's volleyball, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's indoor track and field, women's fencing, women's swimming and diving, softball, women's open rowing, women's lightweight rowing, men's lightweight rowing, women's water polo, men's golf and women's tennis.

That list, by the way, does not include men's lacrosse, who came in second in the league during the regular season but then won the Ivy League tournament.

That's an extraordinary number of league champions. Given the fact that Ivy League schools compete for a championship in more sports than pretty any other league, it's hard to imagine too many times that anyone has won 16 league titles, let alone 16 in consecutive years.

At the end of pretty much any year, whether it's the academic year or calendar year, TigerBlog likes to look back on the previous 12 months and talk about what the best moments were. Even in years with amazing accomplishments, it's not always easy to pick out the single best one.

This year? 

Princeton had an NCAA pole vault champion and NCAA wrestling champion. It had national championships in men's lightweight and women's lightweight rowing. The women's water polo team reached the NCAA semifinals. The list goes on.

The biggest story? Of that, there can be no doubt.

It was the men's basketball team's run to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. 

In all of TigerBlog's time here, he can't remember when a Princeton team — and its head coach, about whom TB wrote his back in March: "From the time his team had finished off Missouri last Saturday to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 until tip-off Friday night in Louisville, Princeton head men's basketball coach Mitch Henderson gave a master class on how to represent an institution." – did more to drive school spirit than this year's men's basketball team. This team did more than that, since its impact extended well beyond the campus.

Even now, any time TigerBlog talks to someone new while he's wearing something that says "Princeton" on it (which is often), the first thing they want to talk about is the Sweet 16 run.

It was extraordinary just to beat Arizona in the first round, in a game that was nailbitingly tense throughout. To come back and polish off Missouri two nights later the way Princeton did, taking control from the start and never looking back, was even more amazing.

And just like that, Princeton was in the Sweet 16. It only takes two wins to get there, but those are two really, really difficult wins to get. 

TigerBlog would suggest that the honor of having the Princeton Athletics Play of the Year is a relatively easy choice this year as well. TB first thought of this back in October, when he saw Hannah Davey's 60-yard or so pass that set up Grace Schulze for the first goal in what became a 4-2 Ivy-winning victory over Harvard. As he watched it unfold, his first thought was "will that be the play of the year?"

As it turns out, it's way up there — but not in the top spot. 

That play also came during March Madness, only this time it was on the women's side. The Princeton women defeated North Carolina State 64-63 in the opening round of the tournament, giving the women an opening round win in two straight years.

The Tigers trailed in this one 63-55 with five to play. Along the way, the Tigers had a 1 for 24 shooting stretch (yes, that's not a typo) while NC State had a 17 for 22 stretch of its own. And yet Princeton was still in the game.

Princeton got a three from Grace Stone and another three from Kaitlin Chen to make it a one-point game with less than a minute to go. It was still that way when Princeton got the ball back on a steal by Stone with just 11 seconds left. 

Out of the timeout, Stone then drained a three from the corner. Ballgame. It was an extraordinary shot, one that was put up with complete confidence, and which splashed through while barely moving the net. 

That was the play of the year. It would have been so in pretty much any year, to be honest.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Make That 26th

TigerBlog starts today with Nate Ewell. 

Way back when, or in the 1990s, Nate was a student-worker in the Office of Athletic Communications, and a great one at that. He was also a Spirit of Princeton winner as a senior in 1996.

These days he's the Vice President for Communications and Content for the Vegas Golden Knights. Actually, make that the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.

TigerBlog rooted for the Golden Knights, solely because of Nate, of course. TB texted Nate during the second period of Game 5, when the Knights were up 4-1, and said that he was going to sleep but congratulations. 

He figured that it wasn't premature. In fact, it wasn't. Vegas won 9-3. 

Princeton has produced more than its share of great professional and international athletes. It's also produced more than its share of great professionals who work behind the scenes for those athletes and teams. 

Nate is one of them. After a long career of working in college athletics, especially college hockey, Nate got his chance with Vegas. Now it's paid off with a Stanley Cup championship, which could not have happened for a nicer person. 

That's where TB wanted to start today. 

Next up is yesterday's entry.

First, to those who contacted TB to talk about their own experiences at the DMV, thank you. It is a rite of passage, no?

Next, TigerBlog made a bit of an error when he said that Princeton was locked into 23rd in the final standings for the NACDA Learfield Directors' Cup. As it turns out, that is not quite accurate. 

By the way, the Directors' Cup attempts to measure the top overall athletic programs in Division I, Division II, Division III and the NAIA. Points are awarded based on postseason participation and success. 

Stanford has clinched the Division I title, as TB said yesterday. In fact, the overall Cup winner was to be determined by the winner of the Stanford-Texas Super Regional deciding game between the two, and, well, if you didn't see how that ended, make sure you go and check it out.

The Division III winner was Johns Hopkins, which has won the Cup for the first time ever. 

The Division I standings on the NACDA website that were updated yesterday said "final," but clearly they're not, since the College World Series for baseball doesn't start until tomorrow. TB's mistake was the assumption that the points for baseball were awarded for all of the teams other than those who are still playing in Omaha.

As it turns out, that wasn't the case. All sports have been counted except for baseball.

If TB is correct, then, Princeton figures to move down three spots. Teams get 25 points for reaching the tournament, which means that Oklahoma State will go from 775 to 800, one point ahead of Princeton, who finished with 799.

The other two teams who will pass Princeton are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both of whom picked up enough points from the baseball tournament to move ahead of the Tigers. 

As such, that leaves Princeton in 26th. None of the other schools behind Princeton, even the ones who are still playing in the CWS, can catch the Tigers.

Once again, this is just TB's calculations. The official, final standings won't be posted until after the CWS ends. 

This will also mark the third time since the Directors' Cup began in 1993-94 that Princeton will have back-to-back academic years of being under 30 in the final standings. The first time was 1994-95 and 1995-96, when the TIgers finished 29th and 23rd. The second time was 2000-01 (24th) and 2001-22 (21st).

That 21st-place finish in 2001-02 was the best Princeton had ever had until last year, when the Tigers finished 18th overall. 

Assuming that TB is correct, even with the three-place drop, finishing 26th is still pretty amazing. The Tigers will once again be the highest finishing non-Power Five school, let alone FCS and Ivy League. 

It may seem like just another ranking, but it's not. There are no style points. There are no built-in advantages for Power Five schools. 

There are only points you get for how you do in the NCAA championships.

To finish the way Princeton consistently does? That's worth celebrating, whether it's 23 or 26. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Today, 2.0

Welcome to Version No. 2 of today's entry.

The first one, which was all written and ready to go, combined TigerBlog's experience at the Division of Motor Vehicles yesterday with what was supposed to be Chris Sailer's appearance on "The Today Show" this morning. 

Ah, but then TB got a text from the producer, who said that the segment with Sailer, about the growth of women's lacrosse, as well as the resulting safety concerns that come along with having a much more aggressive and athletic game, was being pushed back a week. If you had your device's set to see Princeton's Hall of Fame former women's lacrosse coach, well, change it to next Wednesday.

As they say, that's show biz.

The only issue is where does that leave TigerBlog for today. He had to delete about 400 words about Sailer and 'The Today Show." So now what? 

There was still the part about the DMV. What to go with it? 

And then he got an email about the updated NACDA Learfield Directors' Cup standings. Some days, the stars just align.

Princeton is currently ranked 23rd with only the baseball College World Series left to be played.

Also, did you see how Stanford reached the CWS? The Cardinal defeated Texas in three games in the Super Regional, and the winning run came home in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 on a routine pop up to right center that both the Texas centerfielder and rightfielder lost in the lights. It was excruciating.

As it turns out, Stanford is in first place in the Cup standings and has clinched the overall title. Texas is in second place, but a win over Stanford in that game would have put the Longhorns ahead of the Cardinal, and nobody could mathematically catch them.

Princeton is the only FCS school in the top 38. It's also the highest-ranked non-Power Five school, again. It was a great athletic year for Princeton, to be sure. 

TigerBlog will have more on that tomorrow and Friday. For the rest of today, here's his adventure to the DMV yesterday:

TigerBlog's number yesterday was F815.

And what is the meaning of this? Does it have something to do with Princeton Athletics? Does it have anything to do with sports in general? 


It was his number at those three dreaded letters: DMV, as in, Division Of Motor Vehicles.

His driver's license was set to expire Sunday. He received a notice in the mail reminding of this fact back in March or so, and of course he did nothing about it. In fact, he forgot all about it until last week, when he was clearing out his backpack and noticed the form he needed to fill out.

TB has a Pennsylvania driver's license. Interesting, he has a Penn driver's license but no Penn apparel, even though he went to school there, but he digresses.

In Pennsylvania, you have to fill out the form, send it back and wait for the picture card to arrive in the mail. In the meantime, you can print out a temporary license, which is valid for 15 days. 

To be compliant, TB did that, and shortly after hitting submit realized that his temporary license and real license now both expired on June 18. And the picture card might not arrive for 15 business days, which meant after the 18th.

And so it was off to the driver's license center yesterday morning. It was an hour well spent. He walked in the door and was asked what he was trying to do. Once he explained, he was handed a small piece of paper with "F815" on it. Wait for your number, he was told. 

Okay. Easy enough. He sat down in one of the chairs and waited. And waited. Different numbers were called, all beginning with either "A" or "E." Where were the "F" people? Finally they started to get their due. 

Once "F815" was called, TB stood up. It was his turn to bask in the glory of having his number called, just as so many others had before he got his chance. He was sent to Window 5, and then Window 1 and finally Window 2 — but he eventually left with his new driver's license. It was at Window 1 that he had his picture taken. The women said to look at the blue dot and "smile if you want to," which of course he did. Then she said he could take another one if he didn't like that one, and he said "it's perfect," to which she said "you haven't seen it yet."

Of course, he couldn't help but wonder why he had to fill out the form online and why the picture card gets mailed if you can just walk up and do it anyway. Why not fill out the form online and upload a photo and then have the license sent in the mail? 

He has four years to worry about that for next time, when he's pretty sure he'll forget to be proactive once again. Somebody remember to remind him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Riding For Derek — And Digger

TigerBlog pulled into the parking lot at Penn Park around 6:20 Saturday.

That's 6:20 am, by the way. If you got to Penn at 6:20, you know you were up early. What could get TB out of bed so early on a Saturday morning?

It's more of a who than a what. It's Digger.

Steve DiGregorio, the former Princeton assistant football coach, passed away nearly two years ago now, and yet TB could still hear him as the alarm went off at 4:45. "Get up. It's for a good cause."

And yes, it is. And so yes, TB did.

The occasion was the 10th Million Dollar Bike Ride, an event that raises money for Orphan Disease research. One of those orphan diseases is Ataxia-Telangietasia, an awful disease that attacks the nervous system and the immune system.

Like all orphan diseases, A-T is very rare. It's so rare that anytime TigerBlog has mentioned it to anyone, that person has never heard of it.

Unfortunately, it's one that long ago made its way into the DiGregorio family, back to the day that Steve and Nadia's middle son Derek was diagnosed with it when he was around 10 or so. Today Derek is closing in on his 26th birthday, and his fighting spirit is the defining quality of this entire effort to combat the disease.

How could you not get up early to ride a bike to try to help?

The DiGregorios, from Day 1, dove into this fight. They have drawn on the extended Princeton family, including Jason Garrett, Howard Levy, Steve Verbit, John Thompson III and any number of others who have given their time, their resources, their support and their love.

It wasn't until Year 2 of the bike ride that they heard about it, and since then it's been a regular part of the fundraising efforts. For the past three years, the ride has taken place at the home of Princeton's former head of athletic training, Charlie Thompson, as the event was remote. 

This year, the group was sent back to Philadelphia by a combination of three facts: 1) that the event organizers insisted on having it done in person, 2) Charlie and his wife Sandy retired and moved to Newport and 3) nobody asked the people who bought Charlie's house if it would be okay.

The ride begins and ends near Penn Park on the Penn campus. The riders were sent off to the sounds of the theme from "Rocky," which of course is perfect for Philadelphia. 

Several roads are closed that help the riders get through to the Philadelphia Zoo and then out onto Kelly Drive before swinging around and coming back. TigerBlog rode with Levy and Andy Golden, another longtime supporter of the DiGregorio's cause and the chief investor of the Princeton endowment. They did a little more than 13 miles, which made for some pretty good conversations and a lot of humor.

Derek's brothers Zack and Aaron rode, as did Levy's three kids, Lior, Mia and Noa. Nadia and Derek stayed back under the tent at the start/finish line. 

All that was missing was Digger. TB thought back to the first time he rode in one of these events, the first time he got up before 5 am to get down to Philadelphia in time for the check in and the ride.

When he got there, the first two people he saw were Digger and Zack. He joked with them that this would have been the perfect practical joke — be there at 6:15 or so on a Saturday morning for a charity bike ride, only to get there and have nobody be there. 

Yes, it would have been perfect. It would also have been perfect to have Digger there once again, in body. He was certainly there in spirit.

He was there when TB got himself out of bed. He was there when he got to Philly. He was there during the ride. He was at the table after the ride, when everyone was relaxing and joking around.

It's impossible to be a part of this and not think of him at all times. Even from another world, his fingerprints are still all over the efforts to help his son. It's tragic that he's no longer here, but knowing who he was and how he was does take some of the sting away.

Eventually, it was time to take off. As he was leaving, TB said his goodbyes, the last one to Derek. 

"Be good," TB said.

"I don't want to be," Derek said.

Yeah, that's Derek.

From his wheelchair he spews sarcasm and humor, aimed at pretty much anyone who crosses his path. He's a DiGregorio through and through. 

He's also the strongest, bravest and most inspirational person TB has ever met.

Monday, June 12, 2023

More Congratulations

TigerBlog starts today with congratulations to his friend and colleague Warren Croxton. 

Warren, who has been a part of Princeton's Athletic Communications efforts for seven years, was named the College Water Polo Association SID of the Year. According to the wording of the award, it is given to an SID who: “has achieved notable excellence in the field of water polo communications during the past academic year.”

Warren is clearly deserving of any recognition he ever gets. He puts his heart and soul into every team, every athlete, he covers and always has. 

Warren covers both water polo teams and publicized both of their runs to the NCAA tournament, including a semifinal berth for the women. He also works with football, women's basketball and all four rowing teams, all of whom have enjoyed great success on his watch. 

Oh, and he also covers baseball. He saw first hand how Princeton went from seven wins a year ago to a third-place Ivy League finish and a spot in the Ivy League tournament championship round. If you asked him where he'd have liked to have been this weekend, he would have said with the Tigers at a Super Regional.

So congratulations Warren. Keep up the good work. And one day the Sixers will win the NBA title again. Hey, he'll always have 41-33 (you know, the Eagles' Super Bowl win over the Patriots).

Speaking of Super Regionals, there aren't too many baseball games that will have a better ending than Game 1 of the Duke-Virginia series Friday afternoon.

Virginia was down 5-4 with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Jake Gelof, he of the 23 home runs this season, launched a shot to deep left center. Deep, deep left center. Deepest left center. Would it carry? If it did, then it was a 7-5 UVa win. If it was caught, then it was a 5-4 Duke win. 

In the end ... it was caught, up against the wall. Duke wins. 

Now Virginia had to win Games 2 and 3 to advance to Omaha. What happened over the weekend? Virginia 26, Duke 6 in the next two games combined. Gelof, by the way, went 4 for 10 with a home run and five RBIs in those two games.

The field for the College World Series is shaping up. The final eight teams will meet up in Omaha beginning Friday and running through either June 25 or 26th, depending on the outcome of the best-of-three championship series.

When it ends, the 2022-23 athletic year across all of college athletics will be over. As it stands, all that is left is Division I baseball, and the eight teams who play in Nebraska are the only eight still playing.

For the record, Virginia, Florida, Oral Roberts and Texas Christian will make up one of the brackets. Wake Forest became the first team in the other bracket, and the top-ranked Demon Deacons were then joined by LSU.  Southern Miss-Tennessee will play Game 3 of their regional today, and Stanford and Texas may or may not be playing a Game 3 today (TB didn't stay up late enough to see who won Game 2).

The athletic year for Princeton ended Friday night, when the last Tiger competed at the NCAA championships in track and field. Fittingly, the season ended with an All-American performance, as sophomore Nicholas Bendtsen finished 16th in the 5,000 meters to earn second-team honors.

Bendtsen, by the way, is the younger brother of another former Tiger track star, Chris Bendtsen, a Heps cross country champion who was part of the winning 2011 Penn Relays 4x1-mile team (along with Donn Cabral, Kyle Soloff and Mark Amirault). Then are not related to Amanda Berntsen, a former Princeton women's basketball player, though their last names are certainly spelled uniquely similarly.

Bendtsen ran a 14:22.79, leaving him almost two full seconds ahead of the 17th place finisher. A day earlier, Kate Joyce finished 22nd in the women's javelin.

And with that, another year had come and gone. 

The next one is 74 days away. It'll start, as it always does, with women's soccer, which kicks off on Friday, Aug. 25, at 7, on Myslik Field against Roberts Stadium against Monmouth. 

A week later, field hockey, men's water polo, men's soccer and women's volleyball will start, and the cycle will start again.

Friday, June 9, 2023

A B Roll Stroll

Chris Sailer will be on "The Today Show" next week.

It's possible that TigerBlog will be as well. Chris is a definite. TB? He may "end up on the cutting room floor," as he was told by the segment's producer, Lauren Dunn.

Wouldn't that be a shame? 

TB feels like he really got all he could out of his role, which was technically "B Roll," as in a staged shot to be used to supplement a feature. TB's job was to walk with Sailer and have a casual conversation while pretending not to realize they were being filmed by the cameraman named Pete Kavanaugh, who was about five feet away.

Kavanaugh, by the way, is Australian, and an amiable Australian at that. He's never seen lacrosse, but he has been a competitive field hockey player in his home country and was very interested in the American college game. TB invited him to come to a Princeton game this fall, and he was excited about that idea. 

This whole adventure started last week, when NBC sent an email about interviewing Sailer at Sherrerd Field as part of a piece for the show that would focus on the growth of women's lacrosse and the increasing speed and physicality, and therefore risk for injury, that the sport has seen in recent years. 

Because his colleague Chas Dorman was away, TB stepped up to be the Princeton contact. And so it was that he was at Sherrerd Field yesterday morning at 8:30, waiting for the NBC crew to arrive and set up.

The original idea was to set up on the field, except that was kayoed by two things. First, there was the air quality due to the Canadian fires. Second, there is a new artificial turf field that is being installed on the adjacent Bedford Field, and so the field would be hazy and noisy.

Instead, the group — Lauren, Pete and a sound man named Ricardo — set up inside the team room at the far end of the facility. It was enclosed and quiet which made it perfect.

Stephanie Gosk, the on-air personality who would interview Sailer, arrived around 10:30 or so. It turns out she was a Phillips Andover grad, and so she knew a few former Princeton athletes, including former men's lacrosse player Jon Malkiel and women's ice hockey and lacrosse player Whitney Rogers, who is married to Jon.

When Chris arrived, they had about a 30-minute conversation, which presumably will be part of a much smaller piece. After the interview was over, there was the matter of the B Roll. 

Stephanie and Chris walked on the field, and then the producer asked TB if he would walk with Chris as well, on the concourse this time, so that the Princeton women's lacrosse banners could be seen behind them.

Talk about something, they were told. And so they talked about the coming rules changes to both men's and women's lacrosse.

This is TigerBlog's first year on the NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee, and the group held its annual meeting earlier this week. If you know TB at all, you already know how much he enjoyed spending three days talking about pretty much every area of the men's lacrosse rule book.

The rules cycle is a two-year one, and this year was a non-change year for the men, but there were still great discussions and some new guidelines that were passed that would go into effect for this coming season.

Specifically, there are two. The first involves a slightly expanded use of replay. The second is a player safety issue in which a player whose helmet comes off has to leave the field.

This is a rules change year for the women, though, and there are some major proposals on the table. First and foremost is that women's lacrosse is looking to go from a 12-person game to an 11-person game, with 6v6 below the restraining line.

There are also increases in time-serving penalties and what equipment might be worn, as well as some other recommendations. 

The way the process works is that the rules that are submitted by the rules committee then go to the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Committee, which has to formally approve them. The lacrosse meetings for PROP are on July 19.

So that's what TB and Sailer talked about on their B Roll stroll. Maybe TB ends up on the cutting room floor. 

Or maybe, just maybe, he steals the whole show.