Friday, December 11, 2015

The Holiday Party

At one point during last night's Department of Athletics Holiday Party, TigerBlog looked out across the room and saw his current and former bosses dancing.

The Ford Family Dancers, as it were.

Turns out, they're both pretty good. In the case of Mollie Marcoux, the current Ford Family Director of Athletics, that's not too surprising.

In the case of the Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus, Gary Walters, well, that's not quite what TigerBlog expected. TB does have to admit it, though. Gary can move.

For the most part, though, it was a young crowd out on the dance floor. And by young, TigerBlog means single digits. If the current generation of Princeton's athletic department has a wallflower or two, the next generation looks like it was born to dance. There was an army of them out there dancing to the music, at least after they got done in the bounce house.

Nobody better embodied this youth movement than Chase Dubuque, the son of wrestling assistant coach Joe Dubuque. How does a kid his age (apparently he's 8) learn to dance like that?

TigerBlog figures in the Dubuque house, it's hurry through dinner and homework and then let the dancing begin. It was a real family event, with Chase and his parents out there.

TigerBlog is not a dancer. It is not his thing at all. He doesn't like it, and he's awful at it. That's a bad combination.

Because he's so bad at it, he has a real appreciation for those who are good at it. And for those who aren't but are willing to put themselves out there, something TB has never wanted to do.

That's why he has to tip his cap to Ryan Yurko of the business office, who finally, finally worked up the courage to get out on the floor. And to John Bullis, video dude, who at one point was the only man who was dancing.

TigerBlog has been to more than 20 holiday parties. Last night's was the best one yet.

Maybe it's because it transitioned to Jadwin Gym's lobby, after spending quite a few years at the boathouse. The lobby at Jadwin gave the party more room and a much bigger dance floor.

Or maybe it's because, children notwithstanding, the Department of Athletics appears to be getting a bit younger. and with that comes more energy and more, well, life.

TigerBlog has been to all kinds of holiday parties. At one, Gary had asked TB to write Christmas jokes, which he dutifully did. They were good ones too; TB could have made them work. Gary? He didn't get so much as a chuckle. So what did he do? Threw TigerBlog under the bus, that's what, saying to the crowd "hey, he wrote them."

There were holiday parties in restaurants. One was at the top of Fine Tower, and it was interrupted by a fire alarm that caused the building to be evacuated. There was one that had a 45-minute slideshow celebrating the 250th anniversary of the University. That would have been back in 1996. There were many, many, many that featured a gift exchange. You know, somebody gets a gift and then the next person gets to either take that one or choose an unopened one.

The party last night basically said "the food is here, the drinks are over there, the dance floor is there, go have fun." It was simple, and it worked.

TigerBlog has spent a lot of time with a lot of the people who were there last night. They go to meetings together. They go to games together. They pass by each others offices and say hey and get back to work. They play basketball together at lunch. Or they go out to eat.

Most of the time, they're focused on the day's tasks. And the big picture of putting successful teams on the various playing fields.

TigerBlog thinks that people who work in athletics are united with a fairly strong bond, one that comes from being a collective group that is charged with representing the University against other colleges. It makes everyone who works in that group a member of the team - the "team around the team," Marcoux calls it - rather than a bunch of individuals who are just doing a job.

As a result, having a night like the holiday party is a chance for that team to be together in a way-more-relaxed way than normal. And it makes that bond even more obvious.

For TigerBlog, there were several highlights of the party.

One was a chance to see Mike Cross, himself a veteran of several Princeton holiday parties, before he left to be the AD at Bradley and now is at Penn State. He's back in town to see women's hockey tonight and tomorrow.

Cross has been gone from Princeton for six years. He quickly pointed out to TigerBlog how different the campus looks, even on the walk from Baker Rink to Jadwin.

Another highlight was seeing Kristen Callahan, who gave TB a reminder that not everyone he'd want to have been there was able to be there. Kristen is the widow of Bob Callahan, the longtime men's squash coach, who passed away in January. Bob fought brain cancer hard, and he fought it with grace and class and humility.

In death, Bob was an inspiration. In life, he was one of the absolute best people TigerBlog has ever met. Kristen and TB got to spend a really nice few minutes talking about Bob; it made TB smile and tear up, all at the same time. Bob would have laughed at that.

There were other nice moments too. Hey, anytime there's the chance to see water polo coach Luis Nicolao as Santa Claus is a nice moment.

Mostly, though, it was the chance to spend time in a casual, happy, festive setting with a group of people who work really hard together all year round.

They're good people. They're dedicated people. They're the kind of people you want to be around for all that time, as everyone tries so hard to make Princeton even more of a special place, to make Princeton Athletics even more successful, to give the athletes an even better four years.

Princeton Athletics is something special. It's not just because of the history and the winning teams and all of the on-field success.
It's the people. All of them, who together make up Princeton's Department of Athletics.

And, as last night showed, it's a group that knows how to have fun at a party.

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