Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Class Of 2018

If TigerBlog is remembering correctly, then the weather forecast for every Princeton graduation since he's been working here has basically been the same: cloudy, chance of rain.

Not enough rain for it to be a total washout. Just enough rain so that there is consideration given to moving the ceremony into Jadwin. There are emails and preparations and all, and then, at the last minute, the decision is made to have it outside anyway. TB can't remember one that was actually moved inside.

And then there's usually a little drizzle but nothing too serious.

Yesterday was the 271st commencement in Princeton history. If you rank them all in terms of how good the weather was, then TigerBlog would say that 2018 has to rank No. 1.

It was a perfect day for a graduation. It reminded TigerBlog of an old, old, old Doonesbury cartoon, where Zonker is watching the ceremony at Walden College and says "if I knew it was going to be this nice out, I might have graduated."

Joe Janes, the official brother-in-law of TigerBlog, is the incoming Chair of the Faculty Senate at the University of Washington. He will be the parade marshall at U-Dub's graduation this weekend.

As for Princeton's graduation, TB's favorite part is the recessional. He loves to watch the newly minted grads as they leave the area in front of Nassau Hall and head out to wherever it is they're going, knowing that they have made it through the top University in the country and now have joined the ranks of its alums.

The recessional yesterday was no different.

As with every other year, the area around the fences that separated spectators from graduates started to swell with coaches as the ceremony ended. A little at a time, the coaches would see their players, and they'd be greeted with hugs and high fives.

If TigerBlog could ask all of the graduates one question, it would be this: How would you compare who you are now with who you were when you first arrived at Princeton? He would add for the athletes - how did your athletic experience shape you?

When you watch them all walk out at graduation, they're all smiles, and they should be. They've come to the finish line. What you can't see is what has impacted them during their time here, the good and the bad.

Ah, but that's too philosophical for a graduation day, especially one when the weather is that good.

The first athlete to walk past where TB was standing was Junior Oboh of the men's volleyball team. When TB last saw him, he was receiving the Art Lane Award for contribution to sport and society at the athletic banquet last week. TB was sitting in the back at that event. Standing next to him, he looked a lot taller.

TB even went to the roster to see how tall he was. Turns out he's 6-7.

There were pockets of athletes who strolled past. Leslie Robinson of the women's basketball team. The men's soccer players. TigerBlog got a handshake Dan Bowkett - whom he'd never met. Women's soccer players.

The women's lacrosse team walked by and were greeted by their coaches, but then again, their head coach - Chris Sailer - had been greeting pretty much every graduate who walked by, congratulating them, wishing them well and telling them to go change their world.

The men's lacrosse grads were near the back, like they always seem to be. TigerBlog gathered them for a picture, like he does every year.

 They weren't the only teammates to take a picture together.

There were, among others:

That's men's lacrosse on top. After that, from the top down, that's men's hockey, men's soccer, women's open rowing, men's basketball, women's soccer, men's heavyweight rowing, men's track and field, women's lacrosse, women's hockey, women's basketball.

After the pictures were taken and the hugs were done, there was the reality that the Princeton experience was now over. It's a moment that seems almost frozen in time.

Not like the memory of a huge play, or a big win. More like the idea of not wanting to let go, like not wanting to take off the cap and the gown, because once they did, there was nothing else but that reality.

As the grads started to scatter, TigerBlog made the walk back to Jadwin Gym.

Along the way he passed by the entrance to McCosh 50, the site of the annual freshman athlete orientation. He couldn't help but smile when did, thinking about how far they'd all come from that day to this one.

Congratulations to all of Princeton's varsity athletes in the Class of 2018. And to everyone who graduated yesterday.

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