Thursday, June 29, 2017


TigerBlog got an email the other day out of the blue from his old friend Randy Neeff.

Do you remember when TB first wrote about her? It was back in 2014, after Princeton hosted Harvard in men's basketball.

You can read it HERE.

If you don't want to read it, TigerBlog will sum it up for you. Randy Neeff, back when she was 19 or so, had it all. Beauty. Brains (though she was going to Harvard, so maybe not). Zest for life. Everything.

These days, she sees the world from her wheelchair, the result first of a car accident and then later a fall while mountain climbing. Her body has betrayed her; that spirit will remain unbroken forever.

She's a marvel, Randy. When TB saw her for the first time in years, decades really, she had the same smile she did back when she was 19. She struggles to speak, but she's still sharp, funny, at times biting. She can't walk, and yet she is constantly looking for the next fun thing to do.

That was the context of her email. Get together. Find something interesting to do this summer.

Her vitality is inspirational. It also serves as a reminder of life's inherent unfairness.

Princeton Athletics is filled with wonderful stories of current athletes and alums who do incredible things, on fields and off of them. They win championships. They build enduring relationships. They serve the community. They achieve insane things in classrooms, writing thesis topics whose titles alone often confuse TigerBlog. They sing in shows. They dance in theater groups.

When they leave Princeton, they stay close, no matter where on this planet they are. They give back. They stay loyal. Wherever they are, they make Princeton Athletics proud, and they leave the people they meet awed that Princeton Athletics produces these kinds of alums.

TigerBlog has spent his career chronicling these achievements. He's followed many of them after they leave, and it's always great to hear their stories of how everything is going, with their careers and kids and all.

But as TB also knows, and as he sees in his friend Randy, there's an inherent unfairness to the world. All of the stories aren't always happy.

He's seen it in a lot of ways. From his mother. From Ann Bates. Bob Callahan. From friends who have similar stories to tell.

From his friend Digger, whose son Derek has battled a hideous life-threatening disease for most of his nearly 20 years that he's been alive. Every day becomes a battle.

And so it is now for two more Princeton athletic alums, women's soccer player Taylor Numann (Class of 2009) and her husband, former men's hockey player Sam Sabky (Class of 2011).

Taylor babysat for Miss TigerBlog once, a long time ago. MTB asked for about a year when Taylor would come and play with her again.

On the field, Taylor Numann was a first-team All-Ivy player. She also scored both goals - including one four minutes away from the end of the second overtime - in her last regular season game, a 2-1 win over Penn that gave Princeton the 2008 Ivy League championship.

Had the game ended in a tie, Princeton would not have won the league or advanced to the NCAA tournament. As the minutes wore down, it seemed like it would be a day of utter frustration - until she headed in Sarah Peteraf's corner kick.

These days, the Sabky's have a different opponent to worry about than the time on the clock in a soccer game. This time, it's another extremely rare disease, another one that TB has never before heard of like the one that attacked Derek, this one called Niemann-Pick Type A.

It has gone after the Sabky's baby son Purnell, with the diagnosis just before Mothers' Day. It's a horrific disease with an even more horrible deadline - life expectancy is no more than three years.

HERE is the Facebook page with more information. 

Not surprisingly, both the soccer and hockey alumni groups are rallying to help. It's what Princeton teammates do for each other.

HERE is the link to the gofundme page. You can see that there's already been a lot of people who have stepped up.

As TB understands it, there is a cure on the horizon. It's a race for Purnell and the Sabky's. They don't have a lot of time to wait for it.

Again, as TB said before, here is another example of life's unfairness. You never know where it's going to come from and where it's going to go next.

Or why. You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure that out.

Or you can do everything you can to try to help. That's the lesson that Digger and his family learned a long time ago.

The other lesson that they learned is that they could count completely on the Princeton Athletics family, who has been there with them the whole time. And now they're there with Purnell as well.

Every day is a battle.

Inside the unfairness, though, there can be some victories.

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