Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Yav

In a world where news travels fast and there are countless ways to get your information, today is a good opportunity to salute a person who is still a reminder that it wasn't always so.

Harvey Yavener, the longtime sportswriter with the Trenton Times, turns 79 today. He still is writing and doing it in his own style, one that leans heavily on history and the more-than-occasional superlative.

Yavener, or "Yav" as he has long been known, has probably written more about Princeton athletics in newspapers than anyone else ever. He is closing in on 50 years of covering the local scene, first with the Trentonian and for the last 40 or so years with the Trenton Times.

And yes, he does have a love for Rutgers football and Rider basketball, but don't sell short his deep love of the Tigers. He has been closest at Princeton to Pete Carril, with a friendship that dates to when Carril first became the basketball coach.

Through his time around here, he has gotten to know all four Princeton athletic directors. He can tell you how he still isn't pleased with how Dick Colman was chased away as football coach in 1968, citing Colman's work in Africa and other humanitarian efforts in addition to his on-field success. He remembers vividly the events after Ron Rogerson's tragic death before training camp in 1987.

What has separated him from most sportswriters, especially those from era, is the way he embraced all sports from both sexes. To him, the significance of the event within the sport has always been what matters most, so a championship swim race would hold the same weight as a championship football game. A typical Saturday in the spring for him would start at the boathouse, continue with a lacrosse game and end with either softball or baseball.

Long before women's athletics found its niche on television and in mainstream press, Yavener was a champion of the women's teams here and at the other local schools. There is an army of former Princeton women's athletes who in their careers were interviewed by Yavener and by no other male sportswriter from any other paper other than the Daily Princetonian.

He has always been a character, traveling to events with his longtime partner Polly Bohus, with whom he has lived in Trenton since 1959 without ever formally getting married, another rarity in the day. For them, life has been at its best when they have been coming together to games, where Polly usually can be found in the upper reaches of seats reading her book and waiting patiently while Yav churned out another 25 inch story, and then went out to dinner at any number of their favorite restaurants in the area.

So happy birthday to Yav, 79 years strong. There's no other like him, that's for sure. Princeton is still lucky to have him.

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