Friday, May 21, 2010

Quarter Century

TigerBlog Jr. had a lacrosse tournament in South Jersey last Saturday, and Princeton wasn't scheduled to play in the NCAA tournament until Sunday.

As Saturday was also the day of TigerBlog's 25th college reunion, things couldn't have worked out more perfectly. TBJ's tournament was in Moorestown, which is eight miles from Philadelphia, and so TB decided to venture over the Ben Franklin Bridge and check out what was going on in West Philadelphia.

By late afternoon, TB stood outside the bookstore on the Penn campus, attending his 25th reunion with TBJ and TBJ's friend Matt, your basic 13-year-old with size 13 shoes.

Specifically, TB stopped by to see his best friends from college, Ed Mikus Jr., Charlie Frohman and Paul Glay-zuh, as the many people from New York that TB knew would say his name.

Before everyone left, TB saw a few other people from his class, none of whom he recognized. Every now and then, Charlie would say "yeah, we saw so-and-so; you remember him," and TB would think "no."

A few days later, it dawned on TB that it was 25 years to the day from when he graduated from college. Twenty-five years. A quarter-century.

TB was okay turning 30. He was okay turning 40. He suspects he'll be okay turning 50. Somehow, the idea of having been out of college for 25 years was a little much.

TB ended up at Penn because BrotherBlog went there and it was basically the only college TB knew. Penn was one of two schools TB applied to (the other was Boston University), and he was going to apply to a few others when he got his likely letter from Penn. Knowing that he basically had a guarantee of admission, TB took the money that FatherBlog gave him for the remaining applications and bought records with them.

As an aside, "records" were black vinyl-type things that went on something called a "record player." They spun in circles while the "needle" was put on top of them, and the result was music.

When TB first went to Penn, he figured that he would end up as a lawyer (BrotherBlog actually did go down that career path). Instead, his junior year, the brother of current University of Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, with whom TB had a work-study job copying and collating reading assignments in the psychology department, got TB a job at the Trenton Times covering high school football.

That started TB down his actual career path, which has taken him to 11 years in the newspaper business and more than that in the athletic communications business.

Standing outside the Penn bookstore, TB was surrounded by guys who worked in business, venture capital, law, finance, medicine - all kinds of stuff foreign to TB's world.

On graduation day back 25 years ago, TB probably never imagined he'd spend more time in his life on Princeton's campus than he did on Penn's campus. And yet that's how it turned out.

While at his 25th, TB was asked by a few people to compare Princeton and Penn. He thought back to the time that he interviewed then-Penn president Sheldon Hackney, who had been the Princeton provost (just like the current Penn president, Amy Gutmann). When TB asked Hackney the difference, he said that Penn was an exciting, vibrant urban community and that Princeton was "bucolic."

He was trying to be funny. The differences between the two, though, are very real.

For starters, TigerBlog had no chance of being admitted to Princeton, but hey, let's forget that for a minute.

And yes, there are physical differences between Penn, located in West Philly, and Princeton, located in suburbia. And the student bodies are different, at least from what TB has seen in his two decades on this campus compared with experiences as a Penn undergrad.

But none of that is what leaps out at TB.

Princeton alums love Princeton. Penn alums have an affection for their alma mater, but it doesn't approach what Princeton alums feel.

Except for one time when he was making fun of some writers from the Daily Pennsylvanian, TB has never referred to himself by his class year. For that matter, none of the Penn alums that TB knows have done so. Also, TB has never used the word "classmate" to describe the people in his year.

At Princeton, those are staples for all alums. It's a great source of pride, one that supersedes anything TB has ever seen (or felt) for Penn.

Reunions at Princeton will be held beginning next week. The number of people who flood this campus will dwarf the number who were in West Philadelphia last weekend. In 25 years, TB has gone to Penn reunions twice - his 20th (because Princeton did not make the NCAA lacrosse tournament) and 25th (because TBJ was in South Jersey and Princeton played on Sunday).

There's something extraordinary about the way Princeton as an institution is revered by those who went here. TB can understand it from having been here so long only to a certain point, having never actually been a Princeton student.

And yet there he was, at his 25th reunion at a school at which he had a wonderful time and made some lifelong friends.

Was he wearing a red-and-blue striped shirt? A Penn fedora? Any of the stuff you'll see all over this campus next week?

Nope. He wore a Princeton hat.

TB loved the irony.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What, no "Hurrah for the Red & the Blue"? You couldn't at least give props to your alma mater as being in closer proximity to Gino's & Pat's (one of the true few selling features of the City of Brotherly Love)?

BTW, I hope you said hi to C. Harley, EMJ & the Great Glay-zuh for me.

jess said...

PU is very lucky to have TB. Pick any 'xx year you want -- you are a "classmate" to all for telling the stories so well... and in your Princeton hat no less. Go Tigers, TB! See you at Reunions.