Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Best Friends

As best friends go, TigerBlog Jr. couldn't have asked for much more than he's gotten from Matthew Anderson all these years.

TigerBlog remembers when he first heard the name "Matthew Anderson." It was when TBJ and Matthew where in fourth grade and TigerBlog had to make up rosters for Lower Bucks Lacrosse's 3rd/4th grade division.

When TigerBlog came across Matthew's name and saw that he was in the same elementary school as TBJ - back then, Lower Bucks drew from about 25 elementary schools - he asked if TBJ knew him. When TBJ said that Matthew was in his class, TigerBlog put him on his team - the Barrage.

That's where the two first became friends. Since then, they've played hundreds, thousands of hours of lacrosse together, much of it in Matthew's backyard or basement, along with Matthew's younger brother William.

They went their separate ways in high school but have remained remarkably close. They were on the same summer club lacrosse team for six years, and they've been each others roommates at lacrosse events at multiple colleges - often cramming a full semester's worth of mess into a two- or three-night stay. They've been part of way more wins than losses and together have learned to handle both ends of the emotional spectrum.

Matthew was maybe 12 years old when he zoomed past the six-foot tall mark, long before anyone else got there. He's always been the strong, mostly silent type.

Matthew is the best kind of best friend a father could want for his son. There has never been a minute where TigerBlog has had to worry about anything when TBJ said he was going to hang out with Matthew. TigerBlog has always stressed to his kids the value of being friends with people who will be positive influences in their lives, and it can't be truer than has been with Matthew. 

Miss TigerBlog, similarly, has a best friend. Hers is named Wiki. Okay, it's Victoria, but she's Polish and her name is in Polish, spelled Wikitoria, so TB has always called her Wiki.

MTB met Wiki when Wiki first moved to the house directly behind MTB's, back when they were both three or four years old. For the first few days they stared at each other from a distance of about 20 yards, eventually working up the courage to meet at the swingset in between them.

Since then, they've pretty much been locked together. Neither one of them is exactly the silent type.

Most recently, MTB and Wiki went to the Princeton-Cornell women's basketball game, where the only time they would get within three or four sections of TigerBlog was when they wanted money for food. Then they went to the Princetonian Diner, where they did a lot of giggling, laughing and eye-rolling. You know, it's what 14 year old girls do.

Ah, but TBJ and Matthew? They're guys. They don't make one-tenth of the noise that the two girls would. TigerBlog, as he has said before, has taken long car rides with the two of them and not heard a peep from either.

When they do talk, they mostly mock each other. It's what guys do.

The common denominator between the two friendships is a single word - loyalty. MTB goes to a public high school and Wiki goes to a private one, which is the opposite of TBJ and Matthew, but they stay loyal to each other always.

TigerBlog wonders if they'll still be friends 30, 40 years from now. TigerBlog had two best friends in high school. One he's still very friendly with, the other he hasn't seen or spoken to in decades.

He hopes that both of these friendships last. As is the case with Matthew, Wiki has been a great influence on MTB.

Wiki and MTB have come to games at Princeton for years as well, just not nearly as many as TBJ and Matthew have.

For four years or so, Matthew and TBJ were ball boys at Princeton men's basketball games. They came to almost every game at Jadwin Gym in those years, and they loved it. They shot around before the games and at halftime. They went out on the court during every timeout to mop up any loose sweat.

They interacted with the players, coaches and refs. TigerBlog Jr. once told an official during a timeout that he had made a bad call and might need to go back to "ref school;" TigerBlog is glad he got a laugh from the official and not a technical.

The night in 2009 that TigerBlog Jr. played the national anthem before a game against Cornell, Matthew was there to offer support in the way that only a best friend can - by saying "$20 says you mess it up."

They came to football games, lacrosse games, squash matches, hockey games here. Added all together, and they have probably been at more than 100 Princeton events together.

They were the classic little kids that Princeton Athletics has worked so hard to touch all these years, and TigerBlog can't help but think that they both got so much out of their experiences here. They got to see great role models in the Princeton athletes. They got to sit in venues that allowed them to be close to the action - or on the court for that matter. They saw first-hand the value of working hard at a sport and the opportunities that could be had to those who could play in college, all while getting an understanding that there are college athletes (Princeton's and others) who act with class and play to win but still play with what used to be known as "sportsmanship."

Multiply these kids out by all the ones who come here every year and get the same message, and there is one of the best things about Princeton Athletics. And it's why here in the Department of Athletics, there is such a push to make this a welcoming place for families and children.

Neither TBJ nor Matthew will be attending Princeton. Both will be playing college lacrosse. TigerBlog Jr. will be at Sacred Heart University; Matthew will be at Chestnut Hill outside of Philadelphia.

Why bring all this up today? It's because today is Matthew's 18th birthday. It's a big day, going from 17 to 18, legally becoming an adult.

So even though he's officially a man today and has locked like a man for years, TigerBlog will always remember what a great kid Matthew always has been. And what a great part of TBJ's life Matthew has been.

They're lucky they found each other all those years ago. Hopefully, they won't let go anytime soon.

Happy birthday Matthew.

And thanks for everything you've done.


Anonymous said...

SHU -- in Fairfield? Nice campus. You will be able to do twofers -- visit your son and shlep up the road to see P at Y contests.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Sounds like very responsible kids raised by parents that care and are involved in their lives.