Friday, August 31, 2012

Back To School

TigerBlog was checking out at the Staples store the other day when a man in his 60s or 70s got in line behind him.

The older gentlemen had only one item, Post-It notes, and as he looked around at the chaos everywhere in the store, he mentioned to TB that he had "picked the wrong day to come here."

The entire store was filled with people getting school supplies, a process that as much as any screams to kids the reality that summer is almost over.

The average kid figures to like summer vacation way more than school itself, and yet every kid seems to love both the shopping for school supplies and the first day of the new school year. The second day of school? That's when it all really settles in.

The Staples store had kids in every grade level, from the littlest ones up through high schoolers.

When TB was a kid, he has no memory of approved lists of supplies that the school would mail out. He just remembers getting some notebooks, some pens and moving on with life.

Maybe there were these comprehensive lists back then. There definitely are now.

It becomes an obsession to find the exact binder, the exact pencil sharpener, the exact everything listed on the sheet of paper. And this is done while everyone else is doing the exactly same thing.

TigerBlog Jr. actually started school earlier this week, and TB was at "Back to School Night" already. Miss TigerBlog - and most kids - start after Monday's Labor Day holiday.

Classes at Princeton don't begin until Sept. 13.

Athletics, though, begin today.

It's the start of a brand-new athletic year, one that begins with men's soccer, field hockey and women's volleyball on the road and women's soccer at home for the Princeton Invitational.

The home portion of the athletic year begins when Colgate takes on Hofstra on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium at 5, followed by Princeton and Wake Forest at 7:30. Wake was a Final Four team a year ago.

The start of a new year is always exciting.

In about 10 months, TigerBlog will write the 2012-13 athletic year in review story. How will it unfold?

How many Ivy titles will Princeton win? What team or teams will come out of seemingly nowhere to have a huge year? Who will be the top individuals? What will be the top event of the year?

Each year has its own story to tell, its own feel to it. The uncertainty about what path an entire athletic program will take for a given academic year as that year starts has always fascinated TigerBlog.

One of his favorite stories is from back in his newspaper days, when he'd go to the athletic kickoff luncheon at Trenton State College and hear the school president make the same prediction each year: "I predict," he'd say, "that every team in every sport will go undefeated."

Obviously that didn't happen there, and it didn't happen here. But it does show the optimism that surrounds everyone when a new year begins.

There's also the cautionary side to it. Princeton has won the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship 26 straight years, including by one point a year ago. Princeton has had a team or individual win a national championship each of the last 41 years - including three a year ago (Donn Cabral in the steeplechase, Jonathan Yergler in fencing and men's squash).

Will those streaks survive another year?

When you work in college athletics, as TB has said a million times before, the games are the best part. And there is something completely exciting about the start of a new year.

If you don't feel that excitement for Day 1, you're in the wrong business.

No comments: