Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Birthday

TigerBlog's people atoned for their sins with a 24-hour fast yesterday.

Or at least in theory that's how it was supposed to go. FatherBlog? His take on it was a little different.

"I'll fast between meals," he told TB Monday.

TigerBlog isn't sure if his father was trying to be funny or that was his actual plan for Yom Kippur. He'd go with the latter if he had to guess.

For TigerBlog, a once-a-year 24-hour fast to atone for his sins is fairly normal. Yeah, he gets hungry. He gets a headache. Eventually the clock strikes 24 and he can eat again.

Explaining this to people who are not Jewish, though, is always met with horror, as if going 24 hours without eating - or drinking - anything is torture of the highest variety.

With sundown last night, the Jewish High Holidays were over for 2015, or 5776, if you're using the Hebrew calendar.

This appears to be a rare year, by the way, when the High Holidays came neither early nor late. As TB has said before, that seems to be how it works, as in "the holidays are so early this year."

And now that they're over, TigerBlog can look ahead to two different upcoming days, not quite holidays, and certainly not on the level of the High Holidays.

But big days nonetheless. At least to the two men whose days they are.

TigerBlog has always known when his father's birthday is, and he's always known when Ford Family Director of Athletics emeritus Gary Walters' birthday is. He just never put the two together until a few days ago, when he realized his father is 10 years and two days older than his boss of 20 years.

Within the next few days, FatherBlog will turn 80 and Gary will turn 70.

TigerBlog has always seen some real similarities between the two men.

They both came from humble beginnings, Gary from a blue collar background in Reading, FatherBlog from Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. As TigerBlog has written about Gary before: "Princeton is a place of privilege and in many cases old money. Gary Walters comes from neither."

FatherBlog? That wasn't part of his background either.

From their humble beginnings, they both made a lot of themselves in this world, through their own hard work and desire. It's a quality that used to be the defining theme of this country, by the way.

There are other similarities as well.

There have been a lot of times through the years when Gary has said something to TigerBlog and he thought that it could have come from his father.

They've both been shirt-and-tie guys in an increasingly casual world. They're both actually look somewhat younger than they are. You wouldn't think Gary is going to be 70 or FatherBlog is going to be 80. They both are very, very, very social people, both comfortable around large groups, both loving to be the life of whatever party they happen to be at at that moment.

There are big differences too. For instance, Gary is a Cape Cod guy, while FB is a travel-the-world guy.

The biggest, of course, is their educational background.

FatherBlog attended Hunter College in New York City very, very briefly. He's joked about having to take the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan for school and eating the lunch his mother made for him before he ever got off the train.

He left Hunter long before he'd ever earned a degree and has not been back to college since. Instead, he went down his path bouncing around a few jobs that went nowhere, to a two-year stint in the Army and finally, 55 years ago, to the insurance business.

Today, as he approaches 80, he still puts on a jacket and tie each day and heads to his office in midtown Manhattan. He still works essentially full-time. He shows no sign of ever wanting to give it up. He has no hobbies other than working, for one thing, other than perhaps his world travels, his card games and his love for eating.

Gary is a graduate of Princeton University, a member of the Class of 1967. He is a Princetonian through and through, having played here, coached here and been the AD here.

Maybe the only reason that Gary had that experience is because he was an exceptional basketball player, while FatherBlog's best sport was handball in Brooklyn. It was basketball that brought Gary to Princeton in the first place.

Of any time TigerBlog has ever heard Gary speak, his favorite moment was the one on the day he announced to the Department of Athletics that he was entering his final year as its head. He was speaking in Dillon Gym, in early September.

He mentioned that it was almost exactly 50 years and 50 yards from where his father had first dropped him off at Princeton, back in 1963, when Gary experienced a culture shock, one that left him unsure if he'd come to a place where he'd fit in.

Eventually, it became clear that he would do more than fit in. Through the years, he would first be an athlete on one of the best teams the University has ever fielded in any sport and ultimately as strong an advocate for Princeton's athletes as has ever walked on this campus.

It's a pretty good legacy to have.

Now he's turning 70. Now FatherBlog is turning 80.

Both men have mellowed a bit through the years, but not much - FatherBlog will be in the city today to go to work, and Gary will be happy to seize any opportunity to continue his crusade in favor of Princeton's approach to intercollegiate athletics and the role that it plays in the undergraduate and post-graduate educations of those who participate.

TigerBlog hasn't always seen eye to eye with both. He's had more than his share of disagreements through the years.

Now, though, as he writes about the two men, he's not thinking about those moments. He's thinking about two men whose lives have probably exceeded what they thought they would achieve when they were little, or maybe they always knew they would make something of themselves.

He's thinking about two men who were handed very little in this world, two men who have touched a lot of lives, two men who have made a lot of people laugh, two men who have laughed a lot themselves.

Two good men.

Happy birthday to both.

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