Monday, November 14, 2011

Saturday With William

William Anderson was on his fourth bagel when Chuck Dibilio reached the 100-yard mark against Yale Saturday afternoon.

By that point, William had also had more than his share of those little brownie/mini-cake/cookie things, the chocolate ones with the sprinkles on top. Of course, TigerBlog had had his share as well.

TB's Saturday was spent first at the football game and then later at men's soccer and finally men's basketball. And William - age 9 - was with TB for all of it.

William is TigerBlog Jr's friend Matthew's younger brother. Since TBJ and Matthew have moved onto the high school ranks, they are no longer interested in - or eligible to be, for that matter - doing what they've done for the last six years or so, and that's be the ball boys at Princeton men's basketball.

William, a fourth-grader, was interested in being the next generation, and he had his debut Saturday night, when the new group really took over in force.

The only way for William to get to the basketball game on time, though, was for him to come with TB earlier in the day, since William's parents were tied up at a fall lacrosse tournament with TBJ and Matthew.

And so, the rather unlikely partnership for the day of TigerBlog and William was born.

TB is usually the public address announcer for football games here, but because the OAC is operating one person short for a few weeks, TB had to cover the men's soccer game at 3, or before the football game ended. As such, he pressed Bill Bromberg, the basketball PA announcer, into service for the football game as well.

As an aside, TB is pretty sure that Bromberg became the fifth public address announcer for a football game at Princeton Stadium, joining TB, the late (and better than great) John McAdams, Wendy Herm (that's right, a woman) and Ian Auzenne.

Anyway, TB arrived shortly after kickoff, with William in tow, of course, and stayed at football until just after halftime.

In that time, William was able to make a successful assault on the food at the Princeton Varsity Club reception, being held in the Class of 1956 lounge. TB did, as well.

William didn't watch much of the football game, instead choosing to sit at the tables in the press box from where the field isn't visible.

TB had warned William, like he does all people - kids or adults - who venture into the press box that cheering is not permitted there. In William's case, TB needn't have worried.

William is as stoic as any nine-year-old out there. He likes to laugh and he smiles a lot, but his smile and frown aren't much different. In short, he has the perfect poker face.

Perhaps the highlight of the day wasn't any of the three games but instead the walk from the football stadium to the soccer field, during which time William asked questions about what went on in each building.

Like his older brother Matthew, William has spent a good deal of time on the Princeton campus, but almost all of it has been in athletic venues. This time, walking around the campus on a perfect fall day, William was being quite inquisitive.

TB told William that Fine Hall is where math is taught, which led to this exchange:
William: "Math is my best subject."
TB: "Go in there and tell them to give you a problem."
William: "I don't know college math. I only know elementary school math."

William was intrigued by the appearance of the new chemistry building and wondered why there was the need to build another "science" building (neurosciences) when there are so many others.

He liked the concept of the dorms, so that the students who "don't live around here don't have to go back and forth every day."

He made fun of TigerBlog for not knowing what went on in a particular building, even though TB has worked here, in William's word, "forever."

To get William from soccer to basketball, TB enlisted women's soccer goalkeeper Kristin Watson, a student worker at football who came to Roberts Stadium and took William to Jadwin Gym, where he met up with the other ballboys and "a very nice lady," whom TB surmises was either event operations director Karen Malec or ticket manager Stephanie Sutton.

TB came to basketball after the soccer game, which would have had one of the most improbable storylines ever had Paola Iaccarino's header in the final two minutes not been snagged by Yale goalkeeper Bobby Thalman at the last second.

Iaccarino, a senior, scored his first career goal early in the game (the final one of his career), and he came torturously close to tying it at 2-2 late. Instead, it was a 2-1 Yale win.

Then it was off to Jadwin to watch the men's basketball opener and see William's ballboy debut, which included one time when William danced to the house music as he swept the floor.

William sat at one end of the floor with another ballboy, and a group of three - including Nick Bates, son of men's lacrosse coach Chris Bates - sat at the other.

TB thought back to Bobby Davidson, who was a ballboy long before he went on to play at the College of New Jersey. And to Zach DiGregorio and Lior Levy, who were the ballboys who got TBJ involved. And TBJ and Matthew, whose ballboy careers ended a year ago.

Eventually, William, Nick and the new generation will outgrow being ballboys also. For now, they're in their ballboy prime, and it's hard to imagine how kids in their age range can have more fun than to be part of a game the way they are.

When it was over, William said two words to TB that weren't exactly surprising - "I'm hungry." All TB had to offer at that point where Pop Tarts, which William happily snagged, even though he said he didn't like the S'Mores kind, which really meant he'd never had them before and was sold on his first bite.

With that, TB's eight hours or so with William came to end. He asked if he could have a pass to come back to the press box next year for football, because "the food is so good."

When it was over, TB was struck by the fact that he takes it for granted that he walks around the Princeton campus every day, which is something he shouldn't do.

It's an extraordinary place to be, whether it's one of the busiest athletic Saturdays in recent memory or just a quiet weekday in the summer.

It becomes even more remarkable when viewed through the eyes of a nine-year-old.

Wide eyes, indeed. Inquisitive ones. Innocent ones.

TB is pretty sure William had a good time.

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