Monday, April 5, 2010

Miles And Miles

When Pete Carril was the Princeton men's basketball coach, he drove a university car, a big blue Oldsmobile that TigerBlog assumes was part of his contract. When Carril retired in 1996, that car was moved to the Department of Athletics motor pool.

Through the years, TigerBlog spent a great deal of time in the old Olds, which was nicknamed "the Hall of Fame car." After that, there was a maroon minivan, as well as some Ford Tauruses and then some other cars before the department phased out its fleet of vehicles in favor of reimbursing for miles or renting as needed.

Ironically, TigerBlog used to ride on the bus for Princeton men's basketball during his newspaper days, largely because 1) Carril said it would be okay and 2) because TB could write his story while Carril spent his 45 minutes in the lockerroom after the game and just plug in the quotes afterward.

Princeton owned two buses back then and had at least one full-time bus driver, an amiable guy named Steve Gandy. TB remembers with great fondness traveling with those 1989-94 teams, especially the trip back from Dartmouth after the 1991 team finished its 14-0 Ivy regular season, a trip that ended in the Jadwin Gym parking lot with the entire team chanting "Steve is the man" to the bus driver. Among TB's other memories include seeing Carril violate all of the rules listed above the bus drivers head, all at the same time, including "standing in the stairwell" and "talking to the bus driver while the bus is in motion," while of course smoking his cigar (in violation of another).

When TB first came to work at Princeton, he began to drive, largely because the team would leave on Thursday night for Friday/Saturday weekends and TB didn't want to miss "Seinfeld." Eventually, it just became way more convenient to drive and not have to be dependent on the team's schedule.

Through the next few years, most of those trips were spent with Tom McCarthy, and often with Mark Eckel of the Trenton Times and radio man Ed Benkin. As they say, those were the days.

TigerBlog pulled out of the Gillette Stadium parking lot Saturday evening at 6:15, after Princeton's men's lacrosse win over Brown in the New England Lacrosse Classic. It was just TB and TigerBlog Jr., who had made the trip, and it would be nearly five hours before the two made it all the way back.

As long rides go, there are worse times to make them than when the NCAA men's basketball Final Four is just starting, as Butler-Michigan State and Duke-West Virginia would unfold on Westwood One during the trip. The only tough part was having to continually find a new station to listen to the games on as the car continued south and would find itself out of range of the ESPN affiliate in, say, Providence.

As an aside, TigerBlog, like 99.9% of the world, is rooting for Butler in tonight's game, though in TB's case, it's not just the whole underdog factor. TB did some research into Butler and found out that it was named for a 19th-century abolitionist named Ovid Butler, has fewer than 4,000 undergraduates and has plenty of on-campus housing.

Oh, and we all know who the only team to beat both Duke and Butler during the season was, right? Indeed, it was Georgetown. Speaking of the Hoyas, as the Butler-Michigan State game was starting, TigerBlog Jr. remarked that the man doing the color "sounded a lot like John Thompson." TB had to explain to TBJ that there actually was another John Thompson, the father of the John Thompson TBJ knows, and that the guy on the radio was the other John Thompson, who by the way had been a pretty good coach in his own right.

Somewhere along the way, TBJ asked TB how many miles he thought he'd driven going back and forth to Princeton sporting events, and it got TB to thinking. If you factor just the times driving, as opposed to going on the bus, it adds up something like this:

* probably 10 years worth of Ivy road trips, which according to mapquest is 705 miles to Harvard/Dartmouth and back and 466 to Yale/Brown. The Cornell/Columbia trip was usually made up and back to each, rather than Princeton to Cornell to Columbia and back. If you figure that, it's 50 miles to Columbia and 221 miles to Ithaca. Add those up, and it's 14,420 miles for those trips. In the last six or so years, TB hasn't made too many of those trips, but he's gone a few times. Let's add two more for each, so it's another 2,912 miles, or a total of 17,332 just to Ivy road trips. Add the 90 miles to Penn and back each time, and it's around 18,500. Non-Ivy trips? Let's say another 3,000, for a total of 21,500?

* football is probably around 15,000 miles.

* lacrosse is probably closer to 20,000.

* other sports are probably 2,000.

Added together, and that's around 58,500 miles driving to and from Princeton sports events. The circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles, which means TB has basically driven twice around the Earth at the equator in his time traveling to Princeton events.

If you want to figure out how much time that is, take 58,500 miles and divide by, what, 70 miles per hour, to be safe? That's 835.7 hours, which translates into 34.8 days.

Much of that time has been spent in the middle of the night, riding past the same landmarks time after time, stopping at the same places to eat time after time. The favorite eatery, of course, is Rein's Deli, with its main location off exit 65 of I-84 in Vernon, Conn., just between Hartford and the Mass Pike, as well as its satellite location off I-91 in Springfield, Mass.

As for the other day, TigerBlog Jr. and TigerBlog talked about the usual stuff you'd imagine. What to eat. Which way to go. How long until we're in the next state.

The basketball games would be on for awhile and then a switch would be made to the Train CD, which consisted of the new album ("Save Me San Francisco") with some old favorites added, including "When I Look To The Sky," "Save the Day," "Meet Virginia," "Calling All Angels" and "Drops of Jupiter." TBJ does a pretty good falsetto on "Parachute" from the new album, and he could pretty much listen to "Hey Soul Sister" four or five times in a row without getting tired of it.

When not listening to the games or the music, the conversation went to areas like lacrosse - both Princeton and youth - school, family, how much driving through Connecticut stinks, friends, youtube, whether Subway is better than a local pizza place for subs, history, whether it would be fun to be a kid growing up in New York City, geography, anything.

TBJ would offer a line from "Family Guy" and start cracking up; TB would come back with a line from "The Godfather" or "The Odd Couple" or "Animal House" and crack up again.

The sun set early in the trip, and it was pretty late by the time the car rolled down the New Jersey Turnpike. Duke pulled away from West Virginia early, which meant a full-time switch to Train.

Eventually, the car reached its destination, getting there 10 minutes short of five hours. Hey, driving that far after it's been done so many times could get tedious, what with the never-changing routes and sights and such.

Looking back on this particular trip, driving back from Massachusetts with TigerBlog Jr., TigerBlog considers it among the best 4:50 of his life.


Anonymous said...

Great blog today. As suggested by your reference to "Seinfeld," sometimes the best essays are about nothing in particular. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, all tied up with some touching color about a father treasuring time spent with his son. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Nice story!