Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Year In Review Part I

Every year at this time, TigerBlog goes through a list of the top moments of the previous 12 months in Princeton Athletics.

Each time he does it, he's amazed at a few things.

First, it never seems possible that another year has come and gone. Second, if you went back 12 months, you would have no way of knowing what the top stories were going to be.

It's part of the great charm of Princeton. You never know which team is going to step up and have a season for the ages. It could be, and often is, anyone.

TB also seems to mention in his Year in Review stories that another great part of working at Princeton is that each year brings a large number of great moments from which to choose. And, he adds, this is something that nobody at Princeton ever takes for granted.

Those two things are even more relevant as 2020 comes to a close.

One, even in an abbreviated athletic year, Princeton still had some great on-field moments, even if they all happened in slightly more than two months. Second, if there was anything that came out of 2020, it's that nothing should ever be taken for granted.

There's no doubt at all as to what the top story for 2020 was, in Princeton Athletics and everywhere. It was, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as he thinks back to it, TB is still shaking his head at how quickly things went from "normal" to "completely shut down." 

In very short order, there were 11 Princeton events on Saturday, March 7, including the last two regular season basketball games, a stunning overtime win by the men's hockey team in the ECAC playoffs and another huge performance by the men's lacrosse team.

There were six more events the following day, including an amazing OT win by the women's hockey team in the ECAC final. 

TB was at the women's lacrosse game at Stony Brook that Sunday. He went to the team's postgame tailgate afterwards. He had plane tickets for Jacksonville for the team's upcoming trip there.

It all seemed so normal. That was Sunday.

There were still some other events contested as the week started (women's golf and men's and women's diving). There were also, beginning that Monday, some rumblings.

It started with the idea that fans might not be permitted to attend the Princeton-Penn men's lacrosse Ivy League opener that was coming up Saturday. That was Monday afternoon or so.

There was a coaches' meeting Tuesday - where everyone gathered in the Jadwin Zanfrini Room, all maskless - to update the situation, including the news that the Ivy basketball tournaments had been postponed and that no fans would be allowed at any events. Other winter teams, including both hockey teams, were getting ready to get on buses for postseason competition.

By Wednesday, Princeton president Chris Eisgruber was in Jadwin Gym, meeting with the entire athletic department to break the news personally that all athletic events for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year had been postponed. Nobody was permitted to sit within six feet of anyone else at that meeting.

It was shocking. It still is as TB thinks back on it.

In a blink, the unimaginable had happened. TB would never have guessed that he was watching his final Princeton athletic event for a long time when he was at that women's lacrosse game that Sunday. 

Since then, Princeton Athletics has worked tirelessly to maintain the education and social connection that binds the students and teams together. It's been one hurdle after another, one more time where the answer had to be "no" instead of the "YES!!!" that everyone wanted to scream.

TigerBlog will be back tomorrow with a list of the top on-field moments from 2020. Hopefully it serves as a reminder of what it's always been like.

Before that, though, he does want to take a moment to salute all of the members of the Department of Athletics, all of his colleagues, all of whom have done so much these last nine months or so to support the athletes, to be there for each other and to be involved in the communities that needed the help so much. 

And he especially wants to salute all of the alums who have worked on the front lines and done as much as they could to fight the virus up close. 

This wasn't even remotely close to the year that everyone wanted or expected or became used to, but it's been the year that everyone has been forced to deal with and accept. 

TB's colleagues have shown their remarkable true colors through all of it, and he considers himself as fortunate as he ever has to be one of them.

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