Tuesday, July 14, 2020

No. 22, Mollie Marcoux Samaan

Happy Bastille Day.

It was on this day in 1789 that the revolutionaries of France stormed the Bastille, a fortress/prison that was, more symbolically than actually, the epitome of the power of the Monarchy. Bastille Day was the turning point of the French Revolution, and now it's the major French national holiday.

For those who are wondering where "Les Miserables" comes into all of this French history, it was part of a different, and not nearly as successful, French Revolution. This one happened in 1832, when, just as in the musical, a bunch of young French revolutionaries tried to fight the entire French army, figuring that the rest of Paris and their fellow citizens would rise up and join them.

Unfortunately for them, that's not how it worked out. It was over in two days.

Victor Hugo wrote "Les Mis," the original novel, after he happened to be sitting at a cafe located between the French army and the students who were trying to topple the establishment.

This had nothing to do with Bastille Day, of course, but anytime TB can talk about "Les Mis" he'll try to take advantage of it.

"Les Mis" is one of his very favorite musicals ever. If he had to do a ranking of his top 10 of all-time, he'd probably have it no lower than three, and probably two.

Nobody is ever beating "Fiddler On The Roof."

Making lists of your favorites is always a fun exercise. People love to ask the question - "what's your favorite movie of all-time?" - and then respond as if you are either a genius because you said one they agreed with or more likely a fool for saying you liked THAT movie, whatever that movie happens to be.

In reality, such lists mean very little. You might hate TB's list of favorites. It's all individual choice.

TB has a good friend who doesn't like when people talk in terms of their favorites, and especially when they talk about their "top five whatevers of all time." He gets downright angry when he sees sportscasters on TV talk about who deserves to be in the "Mount Rushmore" of a certain category.

Obviously any list of superlatives needs to be taken with a grain of salt. TB laughs when he thinks of how many times he swore by the accuracy of a recruiting list when Princeton was highly ranked and scoffed at the silliness of such rankings when Princeton wasn't.

Then there's the idea of comparing generational things. Was that game in the 1960s better than the one in the 1920s or 1990s? That's sort of impossible to compare, right? But it's done all the time.

And then there's the whole element of ranking something eighth vs. ninth or 15th vs. 16th.

Back in TB's newspaper days, his old friend and mentor Harvey Yavener (like Pete Carril, Yav is still going strong at 90). Yav used to take every men's basketball team in every conference in Division I in the East and ranking them, top to bottom, about 65 teams worth. Then he'd get into heated debates over why he listed one random team above another random team.

With all that as a backdrop, TB got an email the other day from men's soccer coach Jim Barlow, with a link to a story on nj.com that ranked the 25 most influential people in New Jersey sports. No. 1 was a tie between Governor Murphy and Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano.

And there at No. 22 was Princeton's Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan. Here's what it said about Mollie:

22. Mollie Marcoux Samaan

Princeton led the way in New Jersey and nationally when it shut down its campus as the coronavirus took hold of the region in mid March. Will Princeton athletics set the tone in the state this fall? The Tigers remain a powerhouse under the athletic director, winning 65 Ivy League championships during her first six seasons at the helm -- a total that is 14 more than the next-highest school in the prestigious league. Last year: 24

In fact, for all of the success that Princeton has had on the field in Mollie's now six full year tenure, it's been what's happened since the COVID-19 situation came up that really has helped to define her leadership. In many ways, this is the toughest thing any Princeton AD has ever had to deal with, and it has not been easy for her.

TB can tell you that she aches for every Princeton athlete whose college experience has been disrupted, and she has worked as hard as she could to try to figure out what to do, how to do it, what the best course is. And even when there really is no best course, she has fallen back on the departmental values that she has always embraced to make the best of the situation and to provide vital life lessons to all of those involved.

Does that make her 22nd on the list?

To prove TB's point about the subjectivity of such rankings, No. 21 is one of the top high school football coaches in New Jersey. No. 23 is the GM of the New Jersey Devils.

Still, it's nice to see that Mollie's efforts are being recognized, and deservedly so (TB doesn't just say this because she's the boss).

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