Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hobey In The Hall

TigerBlog saw a guy standing in front of a store talking loudly, apparently to no one in particular. Hidden, of course, was his Bluetooth, which meant that he was actually making a phone call.

Just then, a stranger walked by and said the best thing TB has heard in awhile: "It used to be easier to tell who was crazy."

Yes, it did. Back in the good old days, a person standing alone speaking loudly in front of a store would clearly be nuts. Today? You see it a million times.

You get out of your car and think the person standing there is talking to you, but instead it's a Bluetooth. In fact, it makes the non-Bluetooth person into the rude one for interrupting the other one's train of thought.

Think back, if you're old enough to do so, to a time before cell phones, before email, before the internet. On the one hand, it conjures up a simpler time, no? On the other hand, do you really want to get up and change the channel on the TV, or wouldn't you rather use the remote (not to mention the DVR).

Do you really want to go back to getting a busy signal? Or having to call up the movie theater to find out what time the show starts? Or pay cash at a toll booth?

These times are the simpler ones, at least in terms of making day-to-day life simplistic. Maybe it's because the pace was a little slower years ago that people recall such time with fondness.

Or maybe it's because you were younger and therefore had fewer responsibilities.

Whatever the reason, a little nostalgia isn't a bad thing every now and then. For TB, it means thinking back to the ’70s and ’80s. For others, it means thinking back further.

TB was flipping through the channels last night when he stumbled on a crime drama movie from 1949, one he'd never heard of before (and can't remember the name of now, though it wasn't bad). TB spent a little time going back and forth between that movie and "The Departed," which won Martin Scorcese his only Academy Award for Best Director (he didn't win for "Goodfellas;" TB will give you the answer to who did in a few paragraphs).

In a black-and-white movie with terrible special effects, 1949 came across as a long, long time ago. Still, watching the movie, TB wondered what life must have been like in 1949.

Did it seem modern? Cars were everywhere. World War II ended. Jet planes were starting to appear. People then must have felt like people today feel in terms of how far society had come.

Oh, and the answer to who won Best Director of 1990? Kevin Costner for "Dances With Wolves," which also won Best Picture. TB feels like "Goodfellas" was better.

Now, if you're looking for ancient history, how about going all the way back to 1918?

Specifically, go back to Dec. 21, 1918. World War I had ended six weeks earlier, but there was still room for one more casualty: Hobey Baker.

For those who don't know, Hobey Baker was a member of the Princeton Class of 1914, though he was already a legendary athlete by the time he came here from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire. In fact, Hobey played football, hockey and baseball in prep school, but the rules of the time meant that he'd only be able to play two at Princeton, so he chose football and hockey.

His career in both was so spectacular that he is the Hall of Fame for both sports. He led Princeton to the 1911 college football championship and the 1912 and 1914 national hockey championships, and he earned a reputation as not only a great player but also as one of the true gentlemen in sports history.

It was that combination that made him the most beloved athlete of the pre-World War I era. And then, he graduated from Princeton, and he entered into the second phase of his adult life, one marked by working in finance in New York City while playing in exhibition hockey games (there was no professional hockey at the time).

Baker struggled without the glory of athletics, but he found a substitute when he learned to fly. He flew in the war, but when that ended, he was faced with a return to his pre-war life. Instead, he died on Dec. 21, 1918 after volunteering to test fly a repaired plane, during which he crashed. His orders to return home were in his pocket at the time of his death.

Legend has it, of course, that Baker crashed his plane on purpose to escape a life without the glory of competition or war. Either way, his death was mourned throughout the country.

Today, the best player in college hockey each year receives the Hobey Baker Award, and Princeton obviously plays its games at Hobey Baker Rink. According to TB, Baker is one of the three greatest athletes in Princeton history, along with Dick Kazmaier and Bill Bradley.

Why bring Hobey up now? Well, yesterday Hobey Baker was named to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (he was born in Bala Cynwyd, and his family was a well-to-do Philadelphia family).

TB isn't sure why Hobey went in this year, as opposed to last or next or any of the other 92 since his death, but that's not the point.

For the record, Baker will be inducted in November with this class: Dick Allen, Hobey Baker, Elizabeth Becker, Tom Brookshier, Ron Hextall, William Hyndman III, Bobby Jones, Leroy Kelly, Lighthouse Boys Club (Lifetime Commitment), Tug McGraw, Jim Phelan, Mike Quick, Bobby Shantz, Ted Silary (Legacy of Excellence), Marianne Stanley and "Jersey" Joe Walcott.

It's easy to forget who Hobey Baker was and what he meant to Princeton athletics and to all of American sport, for that matter. After all, if you were, say, six years old when he played, then you're 102 now.

Still, his legend is a fascinating one.

And hey, thanks to the internet, anyone can Google him anytime they want.

1 comment:

CZ said...

As much as we all enjoy Dances with Wolves it's not even close to Goodfellas!

Now go home and get your shine box.