Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Today is the first Thursday is December, which used to mean something much different for TigerBlog than it did today.

This particular first Thursday also happens to be the birthday of John Mack, the 10-time Heptagonal champion who would go on to work here for a few years after graduating before leaving for Northwestern.

TB remembers when Mack used to be able to run 400 meters in a little more than 46 seconds. TB has often asked Mack how far he could run in 46 second these days, assuming, of course, that he doesn't destroy his hamstring or something in the first five of those seconds.

Realizing that today was Mack's birthday, TB immediately texted his friend in Illinois and mentioned that he assumed that by now Mack must be older than TB is.

There was a pretty good Abbott an Costello bit in which Bud confuses Lou about how much older he is than a little girl:
ABBOTT: You’re 40 she’s 10. You’re four times as old as that girl. Now you couldn’t marry her, so you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, you’re 45. You’re only three times as old as that little girl, so you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, you’re 60. You’re only twice as old as that little girl.
COSTELLO: She’s catching up.
ABBOTT: Well, yes, yes. Now here’s the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age? Well?
COSTELLO: What kind of question is that?
ABBOTT: Answer the question.
COSTELLO: That’s ridiculous. What’s ridiculous?
ABBOTT: If I keep waiting for her she’ll pass me up.
COSTELLO: What are you talking about?
ABBOTT: She’ll wind up older that me. 

TB and Mack have gone through the same type of argument many times, and yet still, to this day, Mack has actually not caught up.

So anyway, happy birthday to John Mack. Jadwin Gym isn't the same place without him.

So that's what the first Thursday of this December means.

Previous first Thursdays?

For TigerBlog, for more than a 10-year stretch, the first Thursday in December (sometimes the second) usually meant getting ready for a trip to some exotic location for something that doesn't seem to exist too much anymore - the in-season basketball tournament.

And by exotic, TB means places like these: Green Bay; Milwaukee; Champaign, Ill.; Ames, Iowa; Fresno; El Paso; Muncie, Ind.; New Rochelle, N.Y.; East Lansing, Mich. and others.

Oh, and New Orleans. And Madison Square Garden. And even Honolulu.

They had very corporate names, too, like the Manufacturers Hanover Classic or the Oldsmobile Spartan Invitational or the Pepsi Oneida Nation's Classic or the First Bank Classic or the name of some hospital in El Paso, from which TB got a ghastly warm-up suit that had about eight colors in the jacket.

The in-season tournament was a huge staple of the men's basketball schedule, and TB used to love to see where he'd be going each year. Looking back on all those trips now, he's really grateful that he had the chance to be part of them, because 1) he got to see areas of the country that he'd never otherwise have seen and 2) Princeton won a lot more than it lost.

Brian Earl, now an assistant coach for the Tigers, was the MVP of four straight in-season tournaments, including one at Marquette that the Tigers won and where the team had to take two gigantic trophies back on the place, one for the team championship and one for Earl's MVP, and in the pre-9/11 days, the two trophies flew to Newark strapped into seats, instead of being checked or put in the overhead compartment.

TB isn't sure why those tournaments largely disappeared from the map. Maybe they were losing too much money. Maybe all of the preseason events wiped them out. Maybe the rise of the "mid-major" had something to do with it. Maybe the way the season starts earlier and earlier has had an effect.

Whatever it is, those tournaments were a lot of fun.  

TB would leave on Thursday (or sometimes on Friday) and would travel with Tom McCarthy, then the radio guy. There'd be games on Friday and Saturday and then a return Sunday.

Along the way, TB met all kinds of nice, interesting people who were working at so many of the schools where Princeton would go, or at the local media outlets that covered those schools.

Princeton has no in-season tournaments on its schedule this year. Iowa State, where TB went twice for tournaments, no longer is hosting one. Neither is Wisconsin-Green Bay. Or Fresno State. UTEP still is. TB hasn't checked all the others.

So for this Thursday, there is no trip in the offing.

Just the chance to wish happy birthday to a good friend.

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