Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Pennington-Academy Of The New Church Game

TigerBlog figured he'd go to law school at some point when he started college.

He got detoured along the way by a fairly random set of events. Try to keep up here:

* BrotherBlog also went to Penn, two years ahead of TB. He had a job in the psychology department as a freshman and sophomore but then moved to the Office of the General Counsel his junior year when the woman he worked for in psychology went there.

* When TB got to Penn, he took BB's job in the psych department. The job was mostly making copies of reading assignments, especially for grad students. This was before the internet, obviously, but also before the copy machine could collate and staple, so TB was the collater and stapler. This usually involved making however many copies were necessary (say, 50 of a 25-page paper) and then laying them down on the floor one page on top of the other. It was tedious.

* TB worked with someone who was a graduate assistant coach on Penn's men's basketball team and a recent grad. Today he is the head coach at the University of Iowa. His name is Fran McCaffery.

* TB became friends with Fran, and his older brother Jack, a longtime sportswriter in the Philadelphia area. At the time, Jack wrote for the Trenton Times.

* At one point, Jack asked TB if he'd like to cover some high school football games for the newspaper. TB said he had no experience in writing, none, but Jack said it didn't matter. And so TB said "sure." That's how he got his start.

So to review, TB got his writing start at a daily newspaper in Trenton despite never having written one word before and, for that matter, never actually having been to Trenton before. He got the job because he was friends with someone whose brother was a sportswriter in Trenton, and he was only friends with that person in the first place because his own brother's random work-study job had gone from the psych department to the OGC's office and he was able to replace him. 

Say, for instance, that BB had stayed for four years in the psych department. Then what? TB wouldn't have met Fran, which meant he wouldn't have met Jack, which meant he wouldn't have gotten the job at the Trenton Times.

TB has thought back to this fairly often in his life. Where would it all have left him? Law school?

Or maybe there would have been a different intervention of fate that would have led him to a completely different world. So where would he have been in 2020? 

College athletics? Probably not. Although maybe. Who knows? After all, TB's undeniably best professional skill is his ability to write. But maybe that never would have come out.

Is it possible that TB is a financial genius and never found that out? Or, if not a banker, maybe a great baker? 

Anyway, he spent six years covering high school sports before moving up to cover colleges with the great Harvey Yavener in 1989. It was from that point that he first started covering Princeton Athletics, and he came to work for Princeton when a job in the Office of Athletic Communications opened up in 1994.

Even then, there was a bit of fate involved. Bob Myslik had left Princeton and Gary Walters had not yet started, so there was no Director of Athletics around to give approval on the hiring. Gary has joked to TB through the years that had he been there, he never would have hired a Penn alum to work in his communications office. Was he serious?

The first game TB covered for the Trenton Times was a high school football game between Pennington School and the Academy of the New Church. It was played on a pristine field in Bryn Athyn, in Bucks County.

TB was right. He had no idea what he was doing. But hey, he pieced it together, even writing a reasonably coherent story that he probably has stored away somewhere. 

He remembers going back to the newsroom after the game, writing the story and giving it to the copy editor, a man named Harry Chaykun, a classic newspaperman himself. TB proudly stood over Harry's shoulder while he read it, and when he was done, TB waited for the judgement. 

None was forthcoming, and so TB initiated the following conversation:

TB: "What did you think?"
Harry: "I'm still awake."

Even now that makes TB laugh. Once he got to know Harry, he realized that was about the biggest praise he'd ever get.

Anyway, everything that has come since professionally for TB started there. All of the great experiences he's had at Princeton, first as a sportswriter and in all the years of working here. All of the great people he's met. All of the legendary athletes he's seen. All of the epic games. All of the championships. All of the travel.

All of it started at Pennington at ANC.

Why bring that up now?

Because that game was 37 years ago today. 

Happy anniversary, fate. Thanks for everything.

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