Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Legendary E Street Band

TigerBlog always thought Oates was the one who went to Owen J. Roberts and Hall was the one who went to North Penn. Actually, it's the other way around.

Either way, the singing duo of Hall & Oates identify themselves as being from Philadelphia, something they made clear on the recent HBO special from their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

TigerBlog has never been a huge Hall & Oates fan, though he's always somewhat liked their music. They're a B+ band to TB, one that has a bunch of songs that TB likes and would listen to if they came on the radio though wouldn't necessarily go out of his way to get.

He has never, for instance, bought a Hall & Oates album, and his iTunes has exactly one Hall & Oates song: "She's Gone." TB doesn't even remember how and why he has that one song.

Anyway, Hall & Oates were pretty good on the Hall of Fame. They were not the reason TB was watching.

Nope, that would be because of the next group inducted.

The E Street Band.

Not Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Just the band itself.

Named for a street in Belmar on which the mother of the earliest keyboardist (David Sancious) lived and where the band originally rehearsed, the E Street Band was in the spotlight on this night. Bruce was inducted a long time ago on his own, and now his backup band was getting in.

TigerBlog doesn't know the entire history of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though he thinks this has to be fairly unprecedented. An entire backup band that earned Hall of Fame status, without having the front man inducted at the same time?

Of course, if any group was going to be so honored, it would be the E Street Band. From its beginnings in Asbury Park, the E Street Band in all of its forms has been an integral part of giving Springsteen the unique sound that, coupled with his own nearly perfect skills as a songwriter, has made the group the greatest of all time in TB's opinion - and certainly the greatest live band of all-time.

If you don't think the E Street Band was a huge part of Springsteen's creative success, consider his music with the band and without the band.

Anyway, there was Springsteen on the HBO show, introducing each member of the band and telling a story or two about them. This was after the band had played the first of its songs for the night - "The E Street Shuffle," a song that has played 188 times on TB's iTunes.

The best part was when the telecast interwove the words of the band members during the acceptance speeches with video of each one as he/she played a solo on stage. Well, that and the tributes to the two members of the band who have passed away - Danny Federici and of course Clarence Clemons.

It was a great 45 minutes or so of TV, especially for someone who has been a fan of the band for the last 40 years or so.

In his current capacity in college athletics, TB couldn't help but think of this as the Hall of Fame induction of Springsteen's assistant coaches.

It's not easy being an assistant coach. The head coach gets the credit - and you get caught in the fallout if the head coach is replaced or leaves for a different position.

Assistant coaches spend their lives recruiting, scouting, coaching - and when the game ends, the head coach gets another win or loss, while the assistant coach stays at 0-0. If there is a postgame limelight, it shines on the head coach.

Princeton is blessed to have great assistant coaches. The program cannot have reached the levels it's reached without them.

With some notable exceptions, TigerBlog is pretty sure that most assistant coaches dream of becoming head coaches one day. Not all of them want everything that goes along with being the head coach, which is mostly the non-coaching part. Some just want to recruit and coach and not worry about all the external stuff.

For the most part, though, assistant coaches want to be head coaches.

TigerBlog wonders how many assistant coaches he's worked with during his time at Princeton and then how many of them actually became head coaches. The percentage is pretty small he thinks.

Some coaches are just in the right place at the right time and become head coaches at an early age. Others never get the chance.

Neil Pomphrey has been an assistant men's squash coach at Princeton for the last 20 years. He won the Marvin Bressler Award at the recent Princeton Varsity Club senior awards banquet.

As he spoke while accepting his award, Pomphrey painted a picture of life of a long-time assistant coach. In fairness, Pomphrey is one of the assistants who isn't looking to be a head coach; he spent his career as a physicist with the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

Pomphrey's talk focused mostly on the opportunity he's had to work with the players through the years. He also talked about what it's like to interact with them away from the matches and practices and the side of them he gets to see, on the buses, in hotels, on a day-to-day basis, when the great relationships that exist between assistant coaches and athletes are really cemented.

What he didn't mention was the fact that the athletes understand clearly what he - and all assistant coaches - brings every day to their lives. They provide everything - coaching, mentoring, advising, friendship, parenting (in loco, at least) and anything else that comes up.

Like TB said, it's not easy to be the assistant coach. The dream can be so tantalizing out there and yet in many cases unattainable.

And yet they're there, day after day, year after year, giving their all to their programs, and having to check their egos at the door the entire time.

And that was one side of what TB saw from the induction of the E Street Band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was an extraordinary moment of recognition - "tonight is about us, not him," one of them joked - for a position that doesn't always have that moment in the sun.

It's very much like what being an assistant coach is all about.

TB doesn't have a Hall of Fame to induct them into, so he'll settle for a thank you and a few words of appreciation.

Their impact on both Princeton Athletics and more important Princeton's athletes cannot be overstated.

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