Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life's Timeline

TigerBlog must have changed dramatically through the years.

To those he hasn't seen in, oh, 20 or 25 years,  he's become downright unrecognizable.

It started when he saw Mary Ann Tarr Saturday night, by the front door at Mercer Oaks, where the Trenton Select Committee was about to start its annual banquet.

Ah, Mare. An old TigerBlog friend, colleague at the Trenton Times, mentor, sister-figure, heart-of-gold Mary Ann Tarr. How long had it been? A long time, that's for sure. She hasn't changed at all. Same Mare.

TigerBlog couldn't help but smile when he saw her. She couldn't help but not know who he was at all. Her only interest was in getting his check.

Once TigerBlog said who he was, then she knew. Then she hugged him. Then she said she would "have walked right past him and never know who he was."

Then there was Eric Hamilton, the former football coach at Trenton State College, which is now the College of New Jersey. TigerBlog hasn't seem him in a decade or two either. Way back when, though, TB must have covered maybe 30 or 40 of his games. He was always a TB favorite, a coach who was successful, creative, funny, always accessible.

And there he was, looking exactly the same as always. TB went over to say hi - and got a blank stare. He had no idea who TB was.

TigerBlog "introduced" himself to Hamilton, who told TB that he looks "better than ever" now and that's why he didn't recognize him. TB wasn't sure about what that said about how he looked in 1990 or so, but okay.

It was an entire room full of familiar faces, some who recognized him, some who didn't. Barb Ardery was another who didn't. Her husband, Vince, was the longtime AD at Notre Dame High School and then later at Neptune High School. She also didn't know TB from Adam, until TB spoke. Then she said his name and said his voice was exactly the same.

TigerBlog has lived two somewhat different professional lives. There was his 11-year tenure in the newspaper business, and there has been his time here at Princeton. They overlapped a bit, but they have given him two totally different experiences.

This past Saturday night was a reminder to him of how special both of his experiences have been.

And if he forgot about that, Tom McCarthy reminded him.

Tom was one of the people honored Saturday night. So was Kathy Quirk, the longtime field hockey, girls' basketball and softball coach at the Hun School of Princeton and the mother of former Princeton men's lacrosse player Bill Quirk.

And Rich Fisher. Wow, did he give a speech.

Rich Fisher is "Fish." TigerBlog has known him for more than 30 years and has never called him anything other than that. Odds are strong that if you're a regular reader of TigerBlog that you probably also read something by Fish in your life. He's written for basically every publication in the area, and he's covered a ton of Princeton sports through the years.

Fish was honored for his contribution to sports in Mercer County. TigerBlog couldn't believe that he wasn't honored earlier than this.

Fish was funny. He always is. He made fun of Princeton much everyone, which was to be expected. He got big laughs, which was also to be expected.

Then he turned serious. He mentioned his three biggest mentors - Harvey Yavener, George O'Gorman and Joe Logue. All three would be in the Trenton/Mercer County sportswriters Hall of Fame if such a thing existed. They are all Mercer County legends.

Fish mentioned what he learned from each. From Yav, he learned to interview, to take a random game on some random night and find someone who can make it into a story worth writing, and ultimately reading. From O'Gorman - it's hard to spell out exactly what everyone has always called him, but let's go with "OHJ" - he learned about work ethic, though he could have learned that from Yav too, as neither ever took a day off.

And from Logue - always Mr. Logue, to TigerBog - he learned about the responsibility that goes along with writing a story about a high school age or youth age athlete and the challenge to give them something that will make them proud and that they will cherish later on.

He wrapped it up by saying that he was being honored for outstanding contribution to Mercer County sports but if there was an award for outstanding contribution to Rich Fisher, it would go to Mercer County sports. That was really well put. TB knew exactly what he meant.

Quirk talked about her husband Bill, the longtime AD at Hun. When they met, she said, "I thought he was a jerk and he thought I was a jerk. In other words, it was love at first sight."

There were seven honorees in all, but the main attraction was McCarthy - "Boog," to many in attendance, after former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Boog Powell.

Today Tom McCarthy is a wildly successful broadcaster, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies on television. He also does NFL football and college basketball, including the NCAA tournament, on Westwood One radio.

TigerBlog met him a long time ago, when he was an aspiring writer as well. And TB was there when Tom first started to get his feet wet in broadcasting, with high school basketball from Trenton High.

And when he moved on to the fledgling Trenton Thunder. And then on ESPN radio, and then with the Phillies on radio and then the Mets on radio, before going back to the Phillies and television.

For TigerBlog, the most special moments, though, were when Tom was the voice of Princeton football and men's basketball, from the mid-1990s and then into the early 2000s.

TigerBlog was Boog's on-air partner for much of that time. They traveled all over this country, putting together countless hours in the car and countless miles in the air. To this day, TigerBlog has spent more time on airplanes with Tom McCarthy than he has with anyone else.

Tom thanked the Trenton Select Committee, and then he talked about TigerBlog and how they met, how TigerBlog looked over his shoulder one day to tell him he'd used the wrong "there," or "they're" or "their."a

And from there, he talked about how special his own memories of their travels together has been.

After that, he mentioned many of the other people in the room, those who had been a part of his career and life. He told a priceless story about how he got his picture in the newspaper at a big event in New York City, when he was the "unidentified man" in the picture with Paul Newman and the CEO of K-Mart.

Eventually, once he'd traced the steps of his career, he said something extraordinary, at least to TigerBlog. You people, he said, "are the timeline of my life."

TigerBlog is happy for his friend Tom McCarthy. He aimed high, and he reached his goals. He's still the same person he was when he and TB would drive together for hours at a time back and forth for a Princeton game, or fly off together to places like Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, West Texas and even Hawaii. And any number of other locations.

He's still the same guy who used to broadcast Eric Hamilton's games for that matter, or who wrote about high school sports in the area. He's kind, funny, genuine and loyal. What more can you say about someone?

TigerBlog is happy to be part of Tom's timeline. He knows for sure that Tom is part of his.

As were so many people in the room Saturday, whether they knew it or not or recognized TB or not. So many memories came flooding back, so many great moments of so many years ago.

Thanksgiving is two days away.

TigerBlog's mind thought about that as he listened to the speeches. He's thankful for the opportunities he's had in his life to share so many great experiences with so many of the people who were there Saturday, and for so many people here at Princeton.

Life's timelines, after all, are not about the "where" and the "what."

They're about the "who."

1 comment:

D '82 said...

Beautifully written, TB. And don't worry about looking so different over the years. Getting old is never pretty. But it's better than the alternative.