Wednesday, September 10, 2014

School Is In Session

TigerBlog was minding his own business yesterday when all of the sudden his windshield cracked.

It was a tad scary, followed by a tad annoying. After all, the car is less than a half-year old.

TigerBlog's old car, which is currently being used by TigerBlog Jr., had a cracked windshield. Actually it still does. TigerBlog cracked it in the middle of winter, maybe four or five years ago. The windshield wiper was frozen to the windshield, and when TB pulled it up, it snapped off, and the metal part cracked the windshield.

That crack was in an upside-down U shape. It never got any bigger or smaller, never changed in any way. So TigerBlog just left it as is.

This one? Forget it. First of all, TigerBlog doesn't remember having anything hit the glass. It just cracked. And like that, it made its way across the windshield, stretching from one corner out to the middle, and then up and down.

It looks like a smartphone after it's been dropped and cracks. Anyway, TigerBlog's morning will be spent trying to rectify the problem.

The morning of Princeton's student population will be spent in school. Today is the first day of classes.

TB remembers his first day of classes at Penn. His freshman dorm was in the Quad, the huge conglomeration of dorms that you'd see if you walked up Spruce Street past the hospital.

That morning a long, long time ago, he walked down Spruce to the Art Museum, across the street from Franklin Field, for his first ever college class, a political science class. All he remembers about it was that the professor was really dry.

But he does remember what happened before the class. There was construction going on on Spruce Street around 34th, and TB definitely remembers the smell of the tar they were using to fix the road. Like it was yesterday.

It wasn't quite yesterday, but two days ago, when he walked from Jadwin Gym to McCosh 50 for freshman student-athlete orientation. When he got closer to McCosh, he saw that the entryway that he normally would use was closed off, and he could smell that same tarry smell that he smelled all those years ago at Penn.

It must have been an omen for the start of classes, even if most of the parents of the current group of freshmen probably didn't even know each other yet when TB first smelled the pre-college tar.

TigerBlog has written basically every year about how much he loves to look around at freshman athlete orientation and wonder what's in store for all of them.

And he loves to project ahead to the senior awards banquet nearly four years away and wonder which of them will walk away with the biggest prizes, for having the best careers here.

They're all at the start of their road here, the members of the Class of 2018. Athletically, and starting today, academically.

It's that balance that led them to Princeton in the first place.

It was a big day for the school yesterday, when the U.S. News and World Report rankings came out, and Princeton was again ranked No. 1. It's easy for TB to take it for granted that this is the No. 1 university in the country and one of the very, very best in the world, since he's here every day.

But the truth is that there aren't many places like Princeton anywhere. And those who come here to compete are brought here by that combination of education and athletics. They want to be challenged in both arenas, and they come here for that reason.

When kids are little, they all basically start in the same place - kindergarten and youth soccer. From that beginning, some kids grow up to become super students. Others become super athletes.

Very few become both.

If you think of those two groups as a graph, then the intersection of the top of the two is a very, very small subset of the whole. That intersection is here, at Princeton.

It's not something that too many get the opportunity to experience. TigerBlog certainly didn't.

To those who are now starting down the path of navigating Princeton as students and athletes, TigerBlog wishes you the best of luck.

He also hopes that you appreciate how unique you are and what an incredible opportunity you have. And how there are thousands and thousands of others who would trade places with you in a heartbeat.

So today, school is in session. There's men's soccer at home tonight against St. John's. TigerBlog hopes to be there, if his new windshield cooperates.

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