Thursday, January 28, 2016

Opening Weekend II

TigerBlog starts today with two small John McPhee stories, one of which involves Clay Kontulis of the men's squash team.

Let's start with John McPhee. In addition to being a legendary writer, Mr. McPhee is also an Academic Athletic Fellow for the men's lacrosse team. When it gets too cold to ride his bike outside, Mr. McPhee rides indoors with TigerBlog.

During a ride last week, TigerBlog relayed to Mr. McPhee that he had recently seen the two-point episode of "The Adventures of Superman" - originally aired in 1953 - where a company in the town of Silsby drills the world's deepest oil well, which goes more than 32,000 feet into the Earth.

And what happens? They drill down so far that they enter into a world of people who live in the center of the Earth, and they come up through the hole that's been dug to see what life's like on the surface.

They are smaller than humans, with giant heads and fur. They mean no harm, though the scare the bejeebers out of the people of Silsby - except for one little girl. Clark Kent and Lois Lane were in town to write about the oil well for the Daily Planet, and now Superman has to save the day from the vigilante townspeople.

Speaking of having the bejeebers scared out of you, TigerBlog was a little kid when he first saw this episode (on syndication, not in 1953) and he was scared out of his mind. And he got in trouble for telling his friend and neighbor Anthony Morelli that the little people would come up in his back yard and go into his house in the middle of the night, and Anthony's mother called MotherBlog to tell her that Anthony didn't sleep all night because he was scared.

Anyway, TB told John McPhee this story. McPhee is an accomplished, renowned (and self-taught) geologist, so TB asked him what the deepest hole ever drilled was. In North America, it's about 7,000 feet down.

And TB then asked him this: "Knowing what you know about geology, what's the odds that there are actually little people with big heads and fur living 32,000 feet down?" Mr. McPhee said he doubts it's true.

Then there was Tuesday. TigerBlog referenced something from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and it turns out Mr. McPhee has never seen it.

About the same time, a young man wearing a "Princeton Squash" Nike shirt walked by. TigerBlog asked him if he'd ever seen "Raiders," and he said he hadn't either. TigerBlog was shocked by that.

TigerBlog asked him his name, and he said it was Clay. When TB checked out the roster, he found out he was Clay Kontulis, a freshman from Connecticut.

Oh, and since most good stories always get back to this, Clay's dad Charles was a lacrosse player at Princeton in the early 1980s. Or at least, TB is pretty sure, since there was a Charles Kontulis who played lacrosse and Clay's bio mentions his dad is Charles, from the Class of 1983. It'd be quite a coincidence if they were two different people.

TigerBlog told Clay that both he and Mr. McPhee were longtime rec squash players. He also said that he wondered if, on TB's best-ever day, he could take a point from a player on the Princeton men's team. TB said he doubted it. Clay, being a polite young man, assured him he could.

TigerBlog hit a few times with the late Bob Callahan, the longtime Princeton squash coach. Bob would stand right on the T in the center of the court and effortlessly hit shots that TigerBlog to chase all over. At the end of any given point, Bob would say "that was great hustle" or something like that, after he won yet another point without ever having to move and TigerBlog could barely breathe or stand up.

Clay and his squash teammates are among the legion of Princeton athletes who are getting into the thick of their seasons beginning this weekend.

As TB said the other day, there are 31 events scheduled between Friday and Sunday of this weekend. That's an insane amount.

If TigerBlog is counting right, then 16 Princeton teams will be competing this weekend.

Of those 31 events, 11 of them are on Princeton's campus.

Each of the last six weeks or so has its own feel. There's the hit-or-miss of events in mid-December, when some teams play and others don't. There's Christmas, when nothing happens.

There's early January, with its feel of getting everything in before shutting down for exams. There are exams themselves, when there are athletes practicing or in the weight room but with their minds clearly focused on their academics. Their athletic pursuits became a great study break and, TB has always thought, keep them balanced.

And now there's this week. There are no more exams but classes haven't yet started.

There's an excitement and anticipation, almost like it's another opening day. In many ways, that's what it is.

A huge weekend. Opening weekend II.

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