TigerBlog was walking into Conte's last night for a meeting – and pizza, one half plain and half peppers/onions and one half pepperoni and half sausage – when he saw Marvin Bressler, the sociology professor emeritus and, how best to say it?, observer of all things Princeton athletics.
"How are you feeling?" TB asked.
"Did I say anything to insult you?" Bressler said.
About 20 minutes later, TB was sitting by the door on the Witherspoon Street side of the restaurant when none other than Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Pete Carril walked in. He started out with his usual greeting of an elongated "Yo."
TB was there with defensive coordinator Steve Verbit and former Princeton basketball player/coach and current Mercer County College coach Howard Levy, who joined former football assistant coach Steve DiGregorio for a discussion about helping DiGregorio (everyone calls him "Digger") and his son Derek, who is suffering from a rare disease called Ataxia Telangiectasia.
It's an awful disease, one that Digger and his family are planning to aggressively attack. As part of that, the group was discussing ways to promote awareness and raise money to combat the disease as part of what Digger is calling "Derek's Dream."
Beyond the talk of the disease and the fundraiser (set for the spring; more on it to follow), there was also time for laughing and telling stories, talking about former Princeton coaches and athletes. The meeting lasted more than two hours, and when it came time to leave, TB and Digger walked across the room to pay the check.
Carril and Bressler were still there, of course. Who knows how long the two, with a combined age of, oh, 165 or so, sat there, along with their third dinner companion, Woodrow Wilson School professor Hal Feiveson.
After a few goodbyes, TB asked Digger what he thought the percentage of time each of the three at the table had spoken, and he said "about 85% for Marv." It was probably a good guess, though if TB had to sit with someone who did 85% of the talking, Bressler would probably be the one.
Carril and Bressler go back decades (Bressler actually predates Carril at Princeton). They are a classic pair, with years and years of common experiences and memories. In many ways, the discussion at their table was probably an advanced version of the one that at TB's end (minus the talk of the disease), only with 30 or 40 more years of extra material to pick from.
What has always separated Carril and Bressler in TB's mind is just what they were doing last night - speaking. Their ability to speak, publicly and privately, is amazing. Perhaps it is a generational thing, dating back to a time when most communications were done face-to-face.
As time went by, the ability to communicate in so many other ways has grown and grown, obviously. Just as obviously, it is resulting in less and less face-to-face communication, which may mean fewer and fewer Carrils and Bresslers.
TigerBlog can think back to hundreds of things that Carril has said that have been fascinating; he cannot at the same time think of one good conversation he has had with him on the phone. TB has never exchanged an email with Carril. The same is true of Bressler.
Maybe that's why TB holds those two men in such high regard. It's so much easier these days to say "hey, i gotta go" and then follow up with an email or a text or a reference to a twitter page or whatever else is coming down the pike.
With these two, it's always been different. Speaking - just sitting in a pizza place and speaking - seems so easy, and yet more and more it's a vanishing art. Carril and Bressler (and for them to be at Conte's is to have them in their most natural setting, with something so simple as a pizza and beverage) are extraordinary at doing something that seems so ordinary.
It's one more thing this generation could learn from these two before it's too late.