Monday, January 2, 2012

Remembering The Whitefish

There was a stretch back then when New Year's Day for TigerBlog meant brunch/lunch/dinner at the Zucker house.

The Zuckers featured a group of five kids separated by six years total, with the oldest sister Leigh three years older than TB and the youngest brother Ed (who played basketball at Rutgers) two year younger than TB.

In between are three more boys - Larry, Corey and Brad. TB first met Corey in the second- or third-grade range; he most recently saw Corey for lunch about a week ago, and rarely does more than a week or two go by before TB hears from Corey or vice versa.

The number of Zucker-related stories that remain seared into TB's brain - and heart - is too high to count or to relay here. Looking back, it would have made a great TV sitcom or Christmas movie (except that basically everybody involved was Jewish), and it was as close as TB came to a real-life version of Ralphie and the gang from Cleveland Street.

Even though the parents - Arnold and Dorothy - are both gone now, TB can still see their faces and hear their voices, and then he can't help but smile and laugh at the memories.

Their house was always open - literally, as the door was never locked - and it was almost never empty. It was the central gathering point for TB and his friends, a warm, welcoming place that seemed oddest when nobody was home.

Among the memories is New Year's Day, when people would trickle in and out, with food everywhere, mostly bagels and lox and whitefish and lunch meat. Football would be on the TV from start to finish, interrupted only by similar games on the front lawn, where a tree was nicknamed "Too Tall Jones" after the hated Dallas Cowboys' defensive lineman and where an oversized dog named Galliano was always on defense.

As a kid, TB was always fascinated with how the bowl games on New Year's Day (and there were only four of them at the time) would always have a graphic that said "Happy New Year" with the number of the new year on it. To TB, it was an affirmation that time had marched on.

Maybe because he knows those memories will be hard to top, TB isn't as enamored of the whole New Year's ritual anymore. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that there are too many bowl games and that the Zucker's brunch is all in the past.

The best game in Princeton Athletics in 2012 to date cannot be disputed, and it's Princeton's 77-61 win over Florida A&M from yesterday afternoon. Of course, it's the only Princeton event of 2012 so far and it will stay that way until a flurry of events this weekend and next, which in turn will be followed by the annual shutdown for first semester exams.

The best game in Princeton Athletics in 2011, according to TB and many others, was the win over Harvard in the men's basketball playoff game.

It's possible - likely, actually - that the second-best one was the men's basketball win over Florida State Friday.

TigerBlog turned on the radio for that one to hear that it was 27-8 Princeton. He then was busy for awhile, only to flip the game back on hoping to catch the end of the postgame show.

Instead, he got to hear the end of the first overtime and then all of the second and third ones.

Along the way, he texted John Sadak, who was doing the play-by-play, a few details about the 1994 triple-overtime win over Texas A&M in New Orleans' Christmas tournament. TB remembered that James Mastaglio went all 55 minutes in that game; he did not remember that Chris Doyal did as well.

TB does remember looking up a five overtime game that Princeton played in which three players went all 65 minutes.

As for the game against Texas A&M, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson "only" played 40 minutes, finishing with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.

The next day, Princeton didn't have much left against the home team in the final, a game memorable for Pete Carril's quote that while he did have players as tall as UNO, he "didn't go down to the docks to get them."

Meanwhile, back at the win over Florida State, in which both Ian Hummer and Douglas Davis went for 25 points, Princeton did more than beat the preseason No. 3 team in the ACC.

In addition, the Tigers scored a huge psychological victory, as Harvard earned a large slice of its current national reputation for its own win over Florida State earlier this season, back when the Seminoles were ranked No. 24.

While comparative scores mean almost nothing, it's hard not to realize that had FSU blasted Princeton, it wouldn't have looked good measured against the Harvard result.

With the new year here, the Ivy League basketball season is almost here. Princeton plays its first five league games on the road, including two before break Jan. 13-14 at Cornell and Columbia.

Princeton continues to linger in a long stretch of road games, a more-than-two-month journey that is interrupted only for this coming Sunday's game against the College of New Jersey.

By the time the Ivy League season heats up, the Princeton and Harvard results against FSU will matter little and the long road trip will be just a memory.

Still, for now, Princeton's win over FSU leaves TigerBlog with the sense that this team is pretty good, led by two big-time stars, an exciting young head coach and a strong supporting cast, all of whom should be feeling pretty confident right now.

1 comment:

CAZ said...

Sorry I missed this yesterday. I was just telling Cindy these exact stories of New Year's day brunch and football on the front lawn (you forgot the Jack Lambert tree)... Good times!

Thanks for sharing these memories and Happy New Year my friend!