Monday, April 15, 2013

Thanks Bob

It was a typical spring weekend for Princeton Athletics, which means that it was a busy weekend.

The website had one story after another, as team after team competed, most more than once.

And yet TigerBlog can only remember one story from the last few days, and to him, only one thing happened this weekend:

Bob Callahan retired.

The rest is just a blur.

TigerBlog figured out a long time ago that the games will always be a blur. A very important blur, a very competitive blur.

The games are at the core of what Princeton Athletics is all about, especially for the athletes themselves, who only get to play for four years. To them, every weekend - like this past one - is one to be cherished.

TB loves the games. It's just that the people stand out more to him.

And few if any have stood out more than Bob Callahan, who has been the men's squash coach for 32 years. To TigerBlog, it's hard to imagine the department, let alone the squash program, without him.

TigerBlog never really imagined that Pete Carril would coach Princeton basketball forever or that Bill Tierney would coach Princeton lacrosse forever. His first thought when he heard that Callahan was retiring was to wonder if there could possibly be a squash team without him.

Callahan is in the middle of his battle with a brain tumor, and every time TB sees him, he has the same one-word thought: wow. To see how Bob has approached all of this for the last year, what other thought could someone have?

It's hard to fathom that someone fighting such a disease can be so upbeat all of the time. Not 99% of the time. 100% of the time.

And now he's retiring from his job as the men's squash coach. What's his legacy?

It's going to be all of the wins, all of the Ivy League championships, all of the teams that won national championships, all of the individuals who did the same.

Beyond that, though, it'll be how he carried himself during those 32 years, after the big wins and even the excruciating losses.

Simply put, there has never been anyone who has coached college athletics who has been more of a gentleman, more of a sportsman, than Bob Callahan.

If you don't believe that, then you should have been at Drexel back in October, on the night that Callahan was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame. You couldn't walk into the room without being knocked over by the genuine emotion, from his friends and colleagues and from his rivals as well.

When TB thinks back about Bob Callahan in the years to come, he'll remember seeing him at the big matches, days when Jadwin was jammed with spectators wedged into the squash gallery. And there was Bob, stopping, greeting everyone, thanking them for coming.

And then there are the times near those same courts, when TB would be playing squash, a sport that he was introduced to by Bob and women's coach Gail Ramsay, who were sort of like his squash parents, so proud that TB was making an effort to learn their sport.

There was 32 years of Bob Callahan, wearing his sport coat and tie on game days, and the same white shorts and sneakers on non-game days.

And now he's retired.

TB assumes Bob will still be around Jadwin, will still come into his office and talk lacrosse and pretend he actually cares about what TB is saying. He'll still be making fun of TB's squash game and basically everything else, with the same understated dry tone he always has.

And there will be men's squash next year at Princeton, led by a new coach, led by someone who walks into a situation where the bar has been raised pretty high in every possible way.

The man who raised that bar? He's also the most unassuming person who ever walked into the building as well, so he'll predictably poo-poo every nice thing that anyone says about him now that he's entering retirement, all while being embarrassed about the fuss.

So let TB embarrass him a little more.

TigerBlog loves going to the games. You can't work in college athletics if you don't.

Again, though, it's way more about the people.

And TB has never met a better one than Bob Callahan. Anywhere.

Here's to him on his retirement. May it be as long as he blessed Princeton as its squash coach.

1 comment:

Bill Tierney said...

No one can say it better than TB, but my twenty-two years at Princeton were blessed with knowing, befriending, and admiring Bob. When you think of 'Class' no one holds a candle to this man. Best wishes Bob.