Monday, July 13, 2009

Beach Bloggin'

With all due respect to Gary Walters and Shirley Tilghman, when you mention "The Boss" to anyone from the general Monmouth County area who grew up in the 1970s or 1980s – a demographic known as the "TigerBlog Generation" - the first thought is of Bruce Springsteen.

For those literally "sprung from cages on Highway 9," Springsteen belongs first and foremost to the Jersey Shore, a place where he began his career and where he still lives. Springsteen and the Jersey Shore are so connected that when he starts his live version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by saying "it's all cold along the beach; the wind's whipping down the boardwalk," there is no doubt about what beaches he is talking about.

As the first of two asides, the line "sprung from cages on Highway 9" from the song "Born to Run" refers to the circle that used to be on route 9 where Freehold and Manalapan come together. Years ago, the circle was replaced by a traffic light where the Freehold Raceway Mall is; all that's left of the "cage" is the racetrack itself and Jersey Freeze, an ice cream place that has endured and from which TigerBlog heartily recommends the brownie sundae.

Aside No. 2 is that Springsteen graduated from Freehold Borough High School, where people who lived in TigerBlog's neck of the woods used to go before Manalapan High opened. TigerBlog and Springsteen ultimately had the same math teacher in high school, a woman named Mrs. Behson who taught TB all he ever wanted to know about advanced algebra and trigonometry.

Getting back to the point, those in the TigerBlog Generation are almost universally Springsteen fans, and much of the reason why is the love affair that TBers have with the Jersey Shore. Oh, of course, there are nicer beaches in the world, but there is no place that quite has the personality of the 100 mile stretch that locals refer to as "down the shore."

TigerBlog spent last week at one of the many great shore towns that has a nice beach, as well as the classic Jersey Shore boardwalk. TB spent some of that time doing an informal study of colleges that were represented on shirts/hats/shorts/etc. For the record, TB went with Princeton shirts and a Georgetown hat.

It started when TB noticed a 15-year-old or so wearing a "Princeton 2006 Ivy League Football Champion" t-shirt and a 70-year-old or so wearing a very, very, very old Princeton hat.

The overwhelming winner in the merchandising category was, not surprisingly, Penn State, which must have had a 10-1 edge over the second place school, which also was a not surprising choice, Villanova.

From there, TB saw probably a hundred different schools. There was a couple who walked hand-in-hand down the beach, he in his "Murray State" shirt and she in her "Lafayette" shirt; TB wondered where they'd met. In the wouldn't-have-thought-it BCS category, there was a man who wore his Purdue hat every day to the beach.

There were some to-be-expected schools, such as North Carolina, Boston College, Michigan, UCLA, Texas, Florida and others like that. Then there were some completely random schools.

Among the ones that TB remembers are: North Texas (at the Jersey Shore?), Washington (TB used to have a great U-Dub hat), Savannah State, North Carolina A&T, Colorado College (thought of Guy Gadowsky), Tulsa (it's actually a very good school) and Cleveland State.

TB saw Army and Navy, but there were more actual Marines, as well as Old Navy shirts, to be seen. There were all kinds of N.J. and Pennsylvania state schools, including multiple Elizabethtown and Kutztown sightings. There was also a woman in a Richard Stockton State shirt, and it reminded TigerBlog of covering Trenton State-Stockton State basketball at Stockton back in the day. Stockton's gym had a walkway over the top of it, which meant that people could literally stand directly above the floor and look down. Stockton was also the last place that converted to phone jacks, so anytime you went there, you needed to bring acoustic couplers to send your story in a very old-fashioned way. Former TSC sports information director Pete Manetas had the only acoustic couplers left by the time 1990 rolled around.

As for the Philadelphia Big 5, Villanova was first, followed by La Salle of all schools.

As for the Ivy League, TB saw a man wear the same Columbia shirt every day (unless he had multiple versions of the same shirt), as well as shirts from Yale, Brown, Dartmouth and Penn (though it did say Penn Vet School). TB did not see a Harvard shirt all week.

That leaves only Cornell, and though TigerBlog did not see any Cornell shirts per se, he did see Cornell men's basketball coach Steve Donahue waiting to take his daughter on the Tea Cups. Donahue said he was heading out to recruit the next day; TB wished him luck, but not too much luck, on the trail.

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