Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It Was 20 Years Ago Today ...

TigerBlog can tell you exactly what he was doing 20 years ago today.

What he can't tell you is what he was thinking. He wishes he could.

TigerBlog's first day on the Princeton payroll was July 1, 1994 - 20 years ago today.

It's always been a difficult question for TigerBlog to answer. How long has he worked at Princeton?

Technically his start date was July 1, 1994. Of course, he had already been there for five years prior to that covering Princeton sports for the Trenton Times, so he's actually completed 25 academic years with Princeton Athletics.

So has he been there 25 years or 20? In terms of working there, it's 20.

For the last 20 years, he's had an office in Room 9, Jadwin Gym. For the last 20 years, he's had an office in a Division I basketball arena, something that makes people who work in skyscrapers in big cities somewhat envious when TB explains it to them.

In some ways, it's been a blink of an eye, these last 20 years.

In others, it seems like forever ago that Mark Panus, then Princeton's manager of sports media relations, told TigerBlog he was leaving his job. Panus was the football, men's basketball and men's lacrosse contact at Princeton, while TB was covering those teams at the newspaper.

When Panus said he was leaving, TigerBlog's first thought was that this would be a perfect place for him to work and the right job for him to have. He couldn't have been more right on either count.

Princeton did not have a Director of Athletics back then. Bob Mylsik had left the position, and Gary Walters had not yet been hired. In fact, one of TigerBlog's last-ever assignments at the newspaper was to cover Gary's introductory press conference.

It was Kurt Kehl who hired TigerBlog. Kurt back then held the title of Director of Athletic Communications, TB thinks. He knows that it is at Kurt's old desk that TB has sat for the last 12 years, after he took over for Kurt when he left to work for the Washington Capitals.

Most of the people who work in athletic communications started out in athletic communications. TigerBlog never did sports information at any other school before he came to Princeton. Instead, his background was strictly in writing obviously.

As a result, he's always had a bit of a different perspective on the field. Also, when Kurt first hired him, he chose him over a group of finalists that included only sports information people.

When TigerBlog first started at Princeton, he barely knew how to turn a computer on, let alone use a Mac the way it went to be used - even an early one. Chuck Sullivan, then a Princeton intern and now with the American Athletic Conference, showed him how, something that puts Chuck up there with TB's ninth-grade typing teacher (Mrs. Jacobson) and 10th-grade English teacher (Mr. Ridley, who taught him grammar) as the people who taught TB the three subjects he's used the most in his life.

TigerBlog wishes he could remember what he was thinking when he first started at Princeton. He's pretty sure he thought he'd be there for awhile, and 1994 TB probably wouldn't have been shocked to learn that it was the start of something that would still be going strong 20 years later.

What he wishes he knew was what he thought he was getting himself into, if he had any idea that Princeton would challenge him, mold him, educate him, make him better in so many ways. As Gary Walters has often said to him, TB has "a Penn diploma and a Princeton education."

The world of Princeton athletic communications has changed in every way since TB first got there. Honestly, if the profession had stayed the same as it was when he first got there, TB isn't sure he would still be here.

He couldn't have imagined what technology had in store for his chosen business 20 years ago today, when he was amazed by this brand-new mesmerizing tool that had just started to make it big - email. From that starting point, everything has changed, in so many new and exciting ways. Hey, in 1994, who ever heard of the word "blog" for that matter.

When TB thinks about his first 20 years here, he thinks about all of the great games he was at, all of the great travels he's had, all of the great experiences he has had.

If you pinned him down and made him say what the best games from all that time were, he'd come up with the 1996 NCAA win over UCLA in men's basketball, the 1996 playoff win over Penn in men's basketball, the 1999 comeback win over Penn in the same sport and the 2001 NCAA championship game win over Syracuse in men's lacrosse. Those would be the top four.

The next spot in his top five? That would be among 20 or 30 other great games, all of which he had a front-row seat for and saw from the inside, which made them way better.

TigerBlog has also worked with some great people, some of the best people he's met in his entire life. Some have come and gone and are now spread out around the country, and TigerBlog doesn't stay in touch with them the way he might have wanted to, though that doesn't mean that he doesn't think about them and remember the good times.

And some have stayed. Some have worked here for as long as he has and longer, and some have been here for much shorter tenures. It's a special, special group of people who do an incredible job.

If you think Princeton Athletics just happens, you're wrong. It's the people who work here - coaches, administration, staff, everyone - who make it happen, and it's been an hour to be a part of it.

And you want to know another honor for TigerBlog? The chance to be around the athletes here? That's been an honor that TB has never taken for granted and will never forget.

His list of favorite Princeton athletes is a long one, with those he loved to watch play and loved to see develop from the time they were freshmen until they graduated and in so many cases beyond, now for years and years later. And those athletes who weren't superstars but who were great people to be around, who did so many great things during their time at Princeton, who inspired TigerBlog to want to do everything he could to help them have a better experience while they were here.

All of them - superstar to those who hardly got on the field - showed TigerBlog all of the very best that intercollegiate athletics could be, and to them he is grateful for having had the opportunity to be around them.

Names? TigerBlog could give you a thousand of them he supposes, and so he'd rather not give any, for fear of leaving anyone out. He'll just say it started with the very first Princeton athletes he met - including a hockey/soccer player named Mollie Marcoux - and continues through this day, even as the athletes have gone from being a few years younger than he is to just a few short years older than his own children.

As he says that, TB can't help but smile.

When he first started to write bios for athletes, their dates of birth were not that far removed from his own. Then they started to be born when he was in high school. Then when he graduated. Then when he graduated college.

Now many of the current athletes were born after TB started working here.

Twenty years have passed. Twenty years ago today.

TB wouldn't trade a minute of it.

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