Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

TigerBlog can't remember in what class he first read the novel "Candide," or even if it was an English class.

It might have been senior year of high school English, in Mrs. Danielson's class.

He had American literature as a sophomore with Mr. Ridley, where he was first exposed to "The Great Gatsby" and "The Catcher In The Rye," two of his five favorite books, as well as some Hemingway, two Arthur Miller plays and something by Steinbeck, not to mention one of the two most practical things he ever learned in school, grammar. The other, by the way, was ninth-grade typing, which was done on a manual typewriter.

Junior year meant English lit with Ms. Nastaj. That was Shakespeare and "The Canterbury Tales" and that kind of stuff, which never really appealed to TB. As for Ms. Nastaj, TB's level of respect for her grew throughout the year and then really grew when he got to college and beyond, when he had a much better appreciation of what it was she tried so hard for 10 months to get across in her classroom, which was basically to think for yourself.

Mrs. Danielson's class was world literature, including some fascinating stuff, including a study of the Bible as literature. And "Candide." TB thinks. Because it could also have been in a world history class as well.

No, he thinks it was world literature.

As an aside, TB would rank all three in the top five of teachers he had in school, and that includes four years at Penn.

Meanwhile, the title character in "Candide" was a simple little sort who thought "all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Sort of an optimist, ol' Candide was.

Anyway, he stumbles across El Dorado, a utopian city where the streets are paved with gold. TB's memory is a little fuzzy on this part, as he hasn't read it in more than 30 years, but he either gets tired of utopia or someone explains to him that because everything is perfect all the time that it becomes mundane and he can no longer appreciate it.

Oh, and somewhere in there he says that someone must clearly be the happiest person on Earth because "he is above everything he owns," to which he is told "the best stomachs are not those that reject all foods."

Meanwhile, the part about not appreciating utopia has long resonated with TigerBlog. He thought about it again Friday as he wandered back and forth between field hockey and women's soccer, which were the first home games of the 2013-14 academic year at Princeton.

What made him think of Candide? The weather.

It was perfect. No, it was beyond perfect. It can't get any better than the weather was here Friday night.

And if it was like that all the time, would TigerBlog appreciate it? Or does he need a cold, rainy February day or a 95-degree, 85 percent-humidity day in July to enjoy Friday night to its fullest?

Whether it was the weather (homophones can be fun), both games had big crowds, despite the fact (or possibly because of the fact) that they were played at the same time, about 100 yards apart.

It would be a good weekend for both teams, as each won Friday night and then again later in the weekend, also at home.

The field hockey team had a great 3-1 win over Duke Friday night and then a we're-the-defending-NCAA-champ-everyone-is-coming-after-us-because-beating-us-would-make-their-year win over Fairfield Saturday.

Princeton outshot Fairfield 12-0 in the first half - 22-6 for the game - but had to fight off the Stags 4-3. That's what happens when people come after you that hard, which is what happens every game when you won the NCAA title the year before.

As for women's soccer, the Tigers beat Richmond 2-0 and Army 3-0, with three of those five goals from freshman Tyler Lussi and the other two from junior Lauren Lazo.

A year ago, when Princeton went 14-4-1 and 7-0-0 in the Ivy League, Jen Hoy had 18 goals, while Lazo had 11. With Hoy now a graduate in the professional league, the biggest question was if Princeton could come close to replacing her production; Lussi, through two games, seems to be the best bet for that.

Beyond just the wins Friday, the games themselves were great events. There were kids everywhere, and both facilities looked great, even with the construction still ongoing at Bedford Field.

As TB said Friday, events like those offer a great opportunity, especially for kids, to see all that is positive about intercollegiate athletics.

Neither game disappointed.

The season is under way around here.

It got off to a great start.

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