LONDON — Is London really a city that never sleeps? If that is true, why aren’t any pubs open at 1 a.m. on a Friday night to show the Princeton-Creighton basketball game? When I planned this vacation to the U.K. in December, it never crossed my mind that it might conflict with a Tiger trip to the Sweet 16.
But no matter. Anywhere in the world, at any time, there is a home for the Princeton diaspora, and tonight it is at the home of my classmate, Dean Menegas ’83, in Hampstead.
Dean, who is president of the Princeton Association of the United Kingdom (PAUK) was ready for a big crowd of game watchers, stocking several types of beer, chips, and a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. But as tipoff approached, his wife, Christa Weil Menegas ’82, went up to bed, leaving just Dean and me to make up the Princeton cheering section. So the two of us settled in to watch the U.S. television feed, which was broadcast on the British cable channel, BT Sport. In this modern world, though, no one need ever watch alone. On my phone, I also had a running group chat with old roommates in Massachusetts, Florida, and New Jersey, while my Facebook feed was blowing up with posts from Tigers both attending the game in Louisville, Kentucky, and hosting watch parties of their own around the world.
This has been a great year for Tiger basketball fans in Britain, and for the PAUK. Princeton’s star forward, Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 is from Newcastle, and earlier this season, the men’s team played in the London Basketball Classic. The PAUK, Dean tells me, has hosted 13 events in the past year, including a visit by President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 in December.
When the game finally began, everything looked hopeful. After a cold start, we began making shots and pulled ahead, 37-33, with five minutes remaining in the first half. “Helluva game!” one of my old roommates texted,. “Definitely high tempo,” another replied. “We have a very tough team, fighters,” someone added.
Yes, we were down by four points at halftime, but fortified with IPAs and sugar, the prospect of another upset and a trip to the Elite 8 seemed very much alive. In the second half, though, as Dean and I sank deeper into his couch, shots that had fallen against Missouri rimmed out and rebounds that had come our way last week were grabbed by Creighton’s big men.
As the game slowly slipped away, I began scanning the shots of Princeton’s cheering section for anyone I knew. There is a quote I can’t put my finger on about the thrill of seeing one’s country’s flag flying in a foreign land. Seeing someone on British television wearing an orange “Hoagie Haven” T-shirt induces similar feelings.
Slowly, midnight struck for Princeton’s Cinderella season, though in London it was about 3:30 a.m. As we signed off the group chat and I prepared to call an Uber to take me back to my hotel, Dean presented me with a PAUK pin — an orange and black Union Jack with the club’s initials superimposed. And then, when the final horn sounded, these two alums stood in front of the TV in our Princeton regalia and sang Old Nassau — but softly, lest we wake Dean’s wife.
Know who really never sleeps? Princeton basketball fans.