Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thank You, Craig Sachson

TigerBlog has two bad knees and one bad shoulder, and a large part of the reason why is also a large part of what has been his absolute favorite thing about working here all these years.

When he first started working here, TB was a lunchtime basketball regular. As time went on, he was faced with two realities: 1) his inside game wasn't working against 20-something football coaches anymore and 2) he was a terrible foul shooter, so when his team lost, he'd often be on the sidelines for the next game because you had to make a foul shot or two to keep playing if you'd been on the losing side.

He's not sure when or why he turned to squash, and he's not sure exactly how he and his colleague Craig Sachson first came to play lunchtime squash. He just knows that all of those matches that the two would end up playing against each other would become something very, very special to him.

When they first started playing, they didn't even know all the rules and etiquettes of the game. They assumed that the person who lost the previous game would serve first in the next one, because that seemed like it would be a nice way to play.

Eventually, under the watchful eye and encouragement of Gail Ramsay (still the women's squash coach) and Bob Callahan (the late, great former men's coach), TB and Craig became pretty good players. They were definitely fairly evenly matched, and week after week, often playing five times a week, they would battle it out on E level.

They would keep track of who won each day, and then whoever won more days in a week was the one who "Won the Week." The victor got nothing other than the satisfaction.

If they had kept score all-time, TB would guess Craig won around 55-60 percent of the time they played. It was, though, great exercise, great fun and great camaraderie.

TigerBlog thought they would play forever. They didn't, largely because of TB's two knee surgeries and creaky shoulder, which forced him away from squash and into riding his bike.

He also thought they would work together forever. They won't be.

Craig's last day at Princeton is tomorrow.

Craig Sachson was a 21-year-old sportswriter and recent graduate of The College of New Jersey when TigerBlog was in need of hiring interns 21 years ago. He called his friend Mark Eckel at the Trenton Times and asked him what he knew about Craig, because TB had noticed that the stories that Craig was writing were always good.

Mark's response was that "the kid never speaks." TB called him anyway, explained that he had a job for him if he wanted it and invited Craig up to campus to check it out.

He was an intern for two years and then, after spending two years at Cornell, was TigerBlog's first hire after he took over the leadership of the Office of Athletics Communications in 2002. Craig has been here ever since, and he has now spent 19 of the last 21 years working with TigerBlog.

Craig had no idea what athletic communications entailed when he first came here. Now? There aren't too many people anywhere who have done it better.

Or impacted more student-athletes.

Craig has been the sport contact for 12 of Princeton's 37 teams for the last 17 years. Those teams are: football, men's and women's volleyball, men's and women's squash, wrestling, men's and women's swimming and diving and all four rowing teams.

If you think about the size of those rosters and the years he's done this, there can't be many people who have been the person responsible for publicizing more athletes in the Ivy League, or maybe anywhere, than Craig.

And know this about Craig: He cared about every single one of them. He wanted to know them and their stories, so he could tell their stories best. Whoever they were. Whichever of his rosters they were on. He knew them all. 

And yes, he's an outstanding writer. And yes, he's done a great job through the years of going from a novice to an expert on everything that came up in the profession, from publications and media relations to the web and social media, to video production and podcasting.

The quality of his work has always been tremendous. His reliability has also been tremendous.

None of that is what actually defines him.

Nope. For TB, Craig is defined by the relationships he's created here, with the athletes, with the rest of the staff and especially with the coaches.

TigerBlog has never worked with anyone longer than he's worked with Craig Sachson. Now Craig is leaving, off to take a job outside of athletics, off to be able to take on a new professional challenge and give him a greater opportunity to be with his wife Jess and children Maddie and Mason.

College athletics is not an easy grind. Athletic communications is challenging in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the time required on the nights and weekends. To have someone do it for as long as Craig has is rare.

TB understands it. He told the people who called for a recommendation that they'd be fools not to jump at the chance to hire someone like Craig.

When Craig first told TB he's leaving, it didn't seem real. Now that his last day here is closing in, it's sort of hard to come to grips with it, to imagine Princeton Athletics without him.

TB will remember all kinds of things about Craig. He'll remember how he hired him in the first place, how much fun he made the office from Day 1 when he was an intern, how much he latched on to this place, how he started to build those relationships.

He'll remember his dry humor, his unbelievably dry humor, and all the times they laughed together. He'll remember the long conversations he'd have with coaches, who would sit in his office and talk about the smallest minutia of an upcoming game or the state of their program and do so with such great passion.

He'll remember how he followed the Philadelphia 76ers through their lean times, being on board with the Process long before anyone else was. He'll remember the time he came to see TigerBlog Jr. play youth basketball and leaned back against the wall, accidentally turning all the lights in the gym out.

He'll even remember FB Craig, the office nickname that he may have given himself for when the stresses of football season would bubble up.

He'll remember the great job he did covering Princeton Athletics, for sure. And he'll remember how, just like when he was an intern, he made coming to the Office of Athletic Communiations not a job but something fun.

Mostly, he'll remember those squash matches, hundreds of them, actually more like thousands of them, all of those hours when it was just the two of them on a court, talking, laughing, competing fiercely, as Craig pretended to listen to or care about whatever youth lacrosse tournament or game TB was boring him with.

TB can never thank him enough for all he's done here, all of the great work he's put in, all of the people whose lives here he touched and made better.

TB thought it would last forever. Now Craig is leaving. Like he said, TB understands, and he wishes him the best.

It's just that it won't be the same without him.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Craig has been my best friend since 1990, and I was the best man at his wedding. This was a terrific write up and encompasses what makes him so special. I'm still waiting for him to become the next Bob Costas, but for now, couldn't be more proud of him, everything he's done, and the person he's not only become, but the one he continued to be.