Friday, August 4, 2017

Congrats To Mark, And Also To Mark

TigerBlog begins the first Friday in August by congratulating a pair of Marks.

First, there is Mark Eckel. If you're a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, or a Princeton fan going back 20 or so years, then you know the name.

Mark has been a longtime fixture in Trenton area sportswriting, beginning back when he was a high school student at St. Anthony's, which became McCorristin, which became Trenton Catholic. There aren't many people who have spent more time involved with sports in the Trenton area.

Now his new home is in Myrtle Beach, in a condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He has officially retired.

Princeton men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon likes to talk about how he had every job on the coaching ladder, starting out as a volunteer, before he became a head coach and how valuable experience like that can be. Mark is the sportswriting equivalent.

He covered high school sports for a long time in the Trenton area. And Little League and Babe Ruth and American Legion and everything else. He had just moved up to cover some pro stuff, like the Flyers and Eagles especially, when TB first started in the newspaper business, back in the early 1980s.

The Eagles would become his primary beat, and he is an authority on how to cover an NFL team. He clashed with coaches, players, front office personnel and other media members, but there's not a person associated with the Eagles for the last 30-something years who doesn't have equal parts respect for and funny stories involving Mark during his tenure.

Well, maybe one person. Rich Kotite.

Mark has been a fixture on Philadelphia sports talk radio and television. He's written books about the Eagles. 

Mark also covered a ton of local college events, especially here and at Rider. He was on the Princeton beat for men's basketball and men's lacrosse during the glory days of the mid-1990s.

He was there the night Princeton beat Penn at Lehigh in the 1996 in the Ivy League playoff game for the NCAA bid, and he was there five nights later when Princeton beat UCLA in Indianapolis. It was his story after the Penn win that had the famous headline: "Princeton Wins, Carril Quits."

Back on that night, TigerBlog was the first one in Princeton's lockerroom other than Pete Carril, and TigerBlog was the first one who saw that Carril had written on the chalkboard that he was retiring. A few seconds earlier, before he walked into the lockerroom, TB had been talking to Mark, who outlined for him that he was writing two stories, a game story and a column on Gabe Lewullis, then a freshman who had a huge game for Princeton, right near his hometown of Allentown. Gabe, by the way, is an orthopedic surgeon today.

When TB came out of the lockerroom, Mark asked him if he was getting Lewullis for him.

"You're not writing about Lewullis," TB said.

Then, when Carril made his announcement to the media about his retirement in the next few minutes, Mark, seated in the front, turned around to look at TB and laughed.

Mark loved to cover Princeton. He's always talked about what a great change of pace it was for him from the Eagles.

He loved lacrosse, a sport he had no knowledge of prior to connecting with the Tigers and Bill Tierney. He loved Princeton basketball, and all of the coaches who followed Carril.

Some of TigerBlog's best memories of his tenure here have been the long road trips to and from Princeton basketball he'd make with Mark, and Tom McCarthy.

He's not the warmest and fuzziest guy you ever met. He is among the funniest. He's also loyal, and he's no nonsense. There's nothing phony about him, that's for sure.

There are no current Princeton athletes who have ever been interviewed by Mark Eckel. It's been awhile since he's been around here. He has to be in the top 10, though, of people who have written the most in newspapers about Princeton Athletics.

He's in the top five since TB has been around, that's for sure.

Congratulations to him.

And congratulations to another Mark, this one Mark Miyashita, who is leaving Sacred Heart University to become the head men's lacrosse coach at his alma mater, Canisius. Miyashita - Coach Sheets, as he is known - did a lot to help turn the Pioneers program around.

He's also done a lot for TigerBlog Jr. in his adjustment to college lacrosse and development as a college player and a college student. It's great to see him get his first head coaching chance. He's one of those guys you meet who just impresses you from the start with his demeanor, intelligence and passion.

Congrats to that Mark as well.

As for the rest of today, there are three weeks until the first Princeton game of the 2017-18 academic year. Three weeks. That's a bit insane.

And it's another summer weekend. Enjoy it.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind, and accurate, words.