Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Athletic Communications"

If you call TigerBlog in his office, he will answer the phone by saying two words: "Athletic Communications."

That is unless, of course, he doesn't already recognize your number in the caller ID. Then he'll just say "hello," or possibly "hey" or "yo." Or, possibly not answer the phone at all, depending on the number.

TigerBlog remembers when he used to be in the newspaper business and covered Princeton sports. When he called then, or when he was in the office here and others would call, those who worked here then answered the phone by saying "Athletic Communications," so he figured he would do that as well when he started working here.

When he was at the newspaper, he would answer the phone by saying "sports," and then he would hope it wasn't someone who was calling in an obscure result that he didn't care in the least about.

The majority of calls at the newspaper were from people who were calling in a result of a game, usually a high school event. When TigerBlog took on the task of reporting TigerBlog Jr.'s results to the local paper, he found that the system of "call and hope someone who cares answers" had been replaced by "log onto website and fill out reporting form."

Oh, and TigerBlog forgot all the other calls that would come into the paper. Those would be the "my paper didn't come today" calls. He would get those on Sunday mornings, when he would go into the office to write a college football or basketball column (because he needed access to the AP wire, because there was no web yet). For some reason, the phone would ring to the sports department instead of circulation on Sunday mornings.

Sadly, TB was of little value to those who did not get their paper.

TigerBlog isn't sure how his colleagues here at the Office of Athletic Communications answer the phone. He's probably heard them 10,000 times each, yet it doesn't really stick in his mind.

Or, for that matter, how does anyone else here answer the phone when it's a number they don't recognize on caller ID.

At one point, Kurt Kehl, who had TigerBlog's job before TB did and who was the one who hired TB from the newspaper business, debated changing the name of the office from "Office of Athletic Communications" to "Office of Athletic Public Affairs."

TigerBlog even recorded a new voicemail for the office, referring to it as the "Office of Athletic Public Affairs."

Back then, the main number for this office, whatever it was called, was 609.258.3568. Kurt used to like to put a period instead of a small dash in phone numbers, and TB has stuck with that. He likes how it looks.

At one point, if you called that number, you'd be greeted with TB's voice as it gave you about eight or so options, including speaking to someone in the office, getting a directory of coaches, being transfered to the ticket office, that sort of thing. Back then, menus on voicemails were becoming big.

Now? They're infuriating, especially the kind where you keep going from one menu to another by pressing "1" for this and then "3" for that and so on. The ones TB hates the most are the ones where they ask for your account number (always followed by the "pound" sign) and then the person picks up and what's the first thing asked? Right. Account number.

Anyway, when TB first started working here, the only office number was the 3568 one. Eventually, the phones were equipped with that number and another one, which became each person's direct line. The problem then was that when 3568 would ring, the same person would always end up picking it up, since most of the rest of the office didn't want to have to deal with whoever it was on the other end.

TigerBlog has also answered the phone a lot here and had the first words out of the other person's mouth be "you're probably not the right person." In that case, the person has been right about 95% of the time, though it never stops them from wanting to be connected to the right person. They figure they have a live person, so that person will listen to their issue.

Let's see. Eventually, "Office of Athletic Public Affairs" didn't stick. And 3568 went away. Now each person has a direct line but no common line. And TigerBlog is still saying "Athletic Communications."

Not even "hello, Athletic Communications." Not even "Princeton Athletic Communications." Just "Athletic Communications."

There was a time when TigerBlog would get more than 1,000 voicemails each month. Now? He gets about 10.

One of the great advancements around here has been the fact that if someone calls, gets no answer and doesn't leave a voicemail, TigerBlog gets an email saying he has a missed call from that number. This leads to never having to worry about who was calling when he can hear it ring but not get there in time, though it does have the awkward moment of having to call a strange number back and explain who it is. Or worse, a number that TB should recognize but doesn't.

What's the point of all this?

Well, TigerBlog was recently asked if there is anything that happens in this office exactly the same way it did when he first started working here all those years ago. As he thought about it, this is what he came up with.

The way he answers the phone. Unchanged in more than 20 years.

Everything else, top to bottom, has changed.

Hey, the phone is ringing. It's a number TB doesn't know, with a 212 area code. Maybe he'll finally do it. Say something different.


"Athletic Communications."

It's okay to keep one thing the same.

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