Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Remembering An Old Friend On A Day With Nothing To Say

TigerBlog has been procrastinating.

Why? Because he couldn't think of anything to write about.

It happens once every few weeks. Eventually he comes up with something. He will today, too.

TB has never missed his self-imposed noon deadline, and he won't today either.

Some weeks he has it all figured out in advance. This Monday. That Tuesday. That Wednesday.

Other times he has some things in his mind that he wants to talk about, and so he uses them as reserve.

Most days, though, something just sort of presents itself, either over his Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies or on the drive in or when he starts to look at the day's headlines.



With nothing jumping out at him today, TB figured he'd look back to see what he wrote about this time last year.

If you go back exactly one year, to May 15, 2012, then he wrote about how there were no more event meetings for the year. If you go back 52 weeks, to Wednesday, May 16, 2012, then there was a guest TigerBlog by men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, on the end of the Premier League season.

Perhaps inspired by the fact that Barlow wrote such a good piece, TB decided to ask the next coach who walked by to write a guest TB for him. That coach turned out to be water polo coach Luis Nicolao, which led to this exchange:

TB: Want to write a guest blog?
LN: Sure. Can I write about how great the Oakland Raiders' draft was?

TB isn't sure of which is more likely: the Raiders' draft class' dominating and returning the Silver and Black to prominence or Nicolao's writing a guest blog.

Intrigued, TB went back exactly two years and then 104 weeks to see what he wrote.

Back in 2011, the subjects were Princeton's league-record 15th Ivy League championship of that academic year and then how Sam Mulroy had inadvertently been named Ivy baseball Player of the Year, only to be told later it was a math error and then how Mulroy said that it was okay with him because he didn't want to win an award he hadn't earned.

In 2010?

The entry on this Wednesday was about how Princeton had locked up the Ivy League's all-sports points championship again. The entry on May 15? There wasn't one, because it was a Sunday. On Monday the 16th? TB wrote about how Princeton had lost a tough game to Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, to an ND team that would go on to lose in the championship game in OT.

The Princeton-ND entry centered around Chris Bates' comment that "the finality is hard to stomach," which remains perhaps the best commentary TB has ever heard about how harsh the end of college seasons can be, something that was true for both the men and women this year.

And in 2009?

On May 15, TB wrote about the next day's NCAA lacrosse quarterfinal between Princeton and Cornell and had a pretty good analysis of what might happen. He never would have in his wildest dreams thought that it was going to be Bill Tierney's final game as Tiger head coach and that Tierney would leave for Denver a month later.

That game, by the way, would be won 6-4 by Cornell. The Big Red led 5-1 at halftime, and Princeton then played ferocious defense the rest of the way, allowing only one second-half goal. Unfortunately, the Tigers fell short in a game that's in the top five all-time of outcomes that still bother TB (the men's basketball game against Michigan State in the second round of the 1998 NCAA tournament is first).

On the Wednesday of that week, TB wrote a more poignant piece about the death of Gary Pietruch, who was the long-time engineer at the studio for Princeton games on the radio. TB had talked to Pietruch a million times on his headset as he connected, checked levels and broadcast games, but he'd never actually met him.

Then, on that morning, TB had seen Pietruch's obituary in the newspaper. It was a shocking experience, one that TB remembers vividly.

He then sat down and wrote this:
TigerBlog spoke to him all the time and never once actually saw him in person. When TB stumbled upon the obituary, he was at a total loss for words. In fact, when TB first saw it and saw that he was 52 years old, the first thought was that it had to be the father, since TB would have guessed that Gary was much younger. Even after reading that he had graduated from Ewing High and was active on the alumni committee there and that he had then gone to Mercer County College and Temple, and even after seeing that it listed his passion as radio, TigerBlog didn't believe it was the same person.
There have been many occassions in the 20 years that TB has been broadcasting Princeton sports that there has been worry about the engineer. Will he show up? Will he be on time? What if he isn't? Then what? How are we going to get on the air?
With Gary, there was never any of that. In fact, during men's lacrosse broadcasts, we had developed a routine. TB would get to the location of the game and call in to connect the radio equipment. This would then enable TB to hear what was playing on the station at that moment.
Eventually, around 40 minutes before gametime, TigerBlog would call into the studio and ask for Gary. He was there, of course, 100% of the time. He'd always answer the phone the same way, with an elongated calling of TB's first name, starting high and then getting deeper.
We'd exchange a few pleasantries, and then we'd do a check of levels. Once that was done, he'd tell me that he was playing the open in 15 minutes or whatever it was, and that would be it. TB would put his headset on in 14:30 and then go when the cue was played.
During the games, TigerBlog would often hear Gary's voice through the headset, reminding him to take a station ID at the top of the hour or that we were getting either ahead or behind in breaks or sometimes even to comment on how the game was going. The only time TB even got remotely mad at him was when a two-minute break would be requested and Gary would only put on one minute of commercials. In the grand scheme of things, that's not quite a big deal.
TB could often imagine his sitting in the studio on a beautiful day, listening to a game that he often said he had never seen and knew little about. It's a pity that it took until reading his obit to realize that the studio was where he loved to be.
After reading Gary Pietruch's obit, TigerBlog felt like he'd lost a friend. Perhaps he was a friend TB had never met, but a friend nonetheless.

On a day when TB had nothing to say, there are worse things to do than remember Gary Pietruch.

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