Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Into The Light

This past August 5th was a Thursday. It was still nearly three weeks away from the start of fall practices for Princeton teams and just about a month away from the first games, which of course is now nearly six weeks in the past.

In other words, it was a long time ago.

Think of what you were doing on Aug. 5. The beach? The pool? Getting ready for vacation? Kids in camp? You weren't school shopping yet; there was way too much time for that.

In fact, Aug. 5 was 69 days ago. It was also the day that the mine collapsed in Chile, trapping 33 men 2,000 feet below the surface.

It would be 17 days before rescuers would be able to drill through into the emergency chamber where the men had taken up residence. In those first 17 days, the men had managed to make 48 hours worth of food and water sustain them, and when the first bore holes reached them, rescuers were at least able to send them necessary supplies to keep them alive.

Still, the men were told, it would be months before a hole large enough to get them out would be dug. And so they figured they were to be stuck in the ground until sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Instead, as TigerBlog writes this, the 14th miner is on his way up in the capsule, following the 13 who have already made the 15-20 minute trip. According to the plan, the last of the miners (and the two rescue workers who were lowered into the hole before the first miner was raised) will be out by the middle of the night tonight.

It's an amazing story on every possible level. The idea that they survived in the first place. The way they organized themselves into a society while trapped and how that kept them sane, a process that included switching on the headlights of the vehicles that they had there to keep them oriented to daytime and nighttime. The unimaginable conditions that they've endured, with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, very high humidity and of course no natural light. The rescue effort itself. The national pride that it is generating.

Think about the darkness itself for a moment. Imagine if you had to go 69 days without seeing a ray of natural light.

The miners long ago passed the record for the longest time trapped underground; nobody had ever survived that long in that kind of environment.

To see them on the video during their time trapped and now as their being rescued is inspiring. Maybe in their dark moments they was some sense of panic, some sense of doom, but it's never come out publicly.

Instead, these 33 men - 32 Chileans and one Bolivian - offer a chance for a little recharging of one's faith in the human spirit. The miners and their rescuers, that is.

TB has followed the story closely in amazement. One of the best pieces he read was on, a story about how one of the miners is a former pro soccer player in Chile.

TB cannot possibly imagine what it would be like to be stuck 2,000 feet underground like that. It would have taken him until, oh, Aug. 5 before he freaked out. Or maybe not. Maybe they just adjusted to where they were and made the best of it.

Still, 69 days is a long, long time. Since the mine first collapsed, those fall teams at Princeton have gone from summer vacation to fall practice to where they are now, which is in the heart of their seasons.

The men's soccer team is entering the stretch drive having won six straight games for the first time since 1989, when Bob Bradley was the head coach and current Tiger head coach Jim Barlow was the best player on the team.

More than just having won six straight, Princeton has scored at least three goals in each of those six games.

Has that ever happened before in Princeton's men's soccer history? Six straight games with at least three goals?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but not very often and not for awhile.

In fact, this is the fourth such streak in the history of a program that dates to 1938. Princeton actually reached at least three goals in seven straight games in 1942 and 1957 and did it in six straight most recently in 1977, 33 seasons ago.

The 1942 team went undefeated in the days before the Ivy League, and the 1957 team won the first league title awarded in men's soccer.

The 1977 team followed its six-game run by going 2-3 down the stretch, losing to Penn and Cornell to miss out on an Ivy title, though it did get an NCAA tournament bid.

And the 2010 team? It has six regular-season games remaining, including five in the ultra-stacked Ivy League, which is as competitive in men's soccer as it is in any sport.

For the men's soccer team, though, these are good days, a team that reached the NCAA tournament a year ago and is pushing for a return trip this year. It's also a team with as realistic a chance to win the league as anyone, and it's unlikely that any team will cruise through the league undefeated and possibly even with only a single blemish.

As for the rescue of the miners, it's as heartwarming a story as TB can remember. If the scenes of jubilant miners being lifted out of that capsule don't make you smile, it's possibly that you're made of stone.

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