College Crosse is getting into the holiday spirit by making your favorite holiday specials into lacrosse stories! (Until we get the big bucks of Rankin/Bass this is, of course, in theory only.) Today, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas becomes a story about the 1998 Princeton Tigers.
We begin this story on Memorial Day Weekend at the Trundle household in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.
[Before we go any further, Junctionville, USA in the original special looks exactly like every other main street area in Central New Jersey. Given that Jules Bass went back and forth between Philadelphia and New York City all the time, he probably got the idea for Junctionville by hearing his New Jersey Transit train proclaim, "This station is PRINCE. TON. JUNC. TION. WHEN LEAVING THE TRAIN, please watch your step." (Emphasis is NJ Transit's.) For some reason Wikipedia is saying Junctionville is in New York, but my God it is the most Jersey town settled in the 18th century ever, so disregard that.]
Clockmaker Joshua Trundle is wide awake on this night. He reads "'Twas the Night Before Championship Weekend," but says in a sign of foreshadowing "If only I knew. . . ." The scene shifts to a mouse, Father Mouse to be exact, who is also up that night. He and Trundle are in "big trouble," so instead of telling the viewer what's wrong, he decides to start from the top. It turns out that all of the town's traditional inspirational mail sent to the Princeton men's lacrosse team has been sent back. Nobody was sure what was going on and felt that Princeton didn't want their letters anymore. It was time to get some answers!
Father Mouse decides it's time to call the Princeton athletics department, where a poor student manager who was trying to study for his big economics exam as well as get ready for the Tigers' trip that weekend answers the phone. Father asks, "What's the matter with Princeton?" referencing the letters that were sent back. The student manager says head coach Bill Tierney no longer likes Princeton Junction after a letter was posted in the Princeton Junction Register. After being hung up on, the family of mice rush to look at back issues of the paper to find the root of the problem.
Mr. Trundle comes into the mayor's office to propose a solution. To make Coach T happy again, Trundle shows off a model clock that plays the Princeton Cannon at midnight before the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four. The mayor puts to motion a vote on building a clock. The council all agrees (even McDevitt!) and construction for the clock begins at once.
Meanwhile, the mice get their mice hands on the letter to the editor that caused the disruption:
Bill Tierney is a fraudulent myth rooted in happenchance recruiting success. P.S.: The vaunted defense is a myth, too.
All of Us (LET'S GO RED!)
The mice realize there are LONG WORDS, which means it could only be one person who wrote it. THEIR OWN SON -- ALBERT! Albert says he won't write another letter to apologize because he feels he's right, in which Father Mouse goes on a tangent about how Albert only thinks with his head and that makes it hard to believe things he can't see or explain. [And my God we're not losing an ounce of irony saying this with a fanbase of a top five academic institution, are we? But yeah, GIVE YOUR HEART A TRY, ALBERT!]
So then Father Mouse takes Albert on a tour to show Albert how he ruined everybody's lacrosse season with his opinions, first going to some [orphanage/children's hospital/whatever heart-wrenching thing with kids we're going to] where all the kids are crying because Princeton's national semifinal game is going to be blacked out. Then Father Mouse and Albert see Davey Thomas, the best artist in school, on a generic Jersey Shore pier, who drew a picture of Jesse Hubbard when he thought Princeton cared. Instead, he dumps it right into the Atlantic Ocean. Albert, unmoved, think it's only the kids who are upset. Father Mouse then gets even more patronizing and displays Joshua's project to create the Princeton Cannon clock. Albert thinks the science behind clocks are cool. [CUE THE NICOLAUS COPERNICUS REFERENCES EVERYWHERE FOR THE REST OF THIS SPECIAL. I mean, Albert totally has a picture of Carl Sagan in his bedroom and watched the original Cosmos eight times and is probably the reason why he roots for Cornell, so no wonder he talks about Copernicus every two seconds.]
The day arrives where Mr. Trundle unveils his clock to the townspeople of Princeton Junction. But something goes terribly wrong when it has its initial run -- it breaks! So everyone in Princeton Junction hates him now and they return their clocks. They mayor doesn't even allow Mr. Trundle to fix the clock. So in the span of a week, the Trundles fall into poverty, and apparently that means the mice have even less to eat than the humans do. Things look very bleak, but Joshua tells his family on the night before the Final Four that they all need to have hope. [Cue that "Even A Miracle Needs A Hand" song (not related to the 2009 NCAA Lacrosse Championship game) and now you realize the decision to make the whole family blue-eyed and ginger-haired was not the best way to go.]
Albert is sobbing after that song and dance. We all think he's finally regretting the letter, but it turns out that when he explored how the clock worked he was responsible for breaking Mr. Trundle's clock! Father Mouse becomes patronizing again and tells Albert that he has to go and fix the problem he started. Albert agrees that he'll repair the clock by midnight for Coach Tierney. He doesn't know whether he really believes in Princeton's team, but [Copernicus this and Copernicus that] and he's gonna rapidly learn how to fix clocks and save the day (because fixing a clock is just like replacing shoelaces).
We then return to Father Mouse on Memorial Day Weekend Eve right when the clock strikes midnight. At first, nothing is heard but a solemn singing of the bridge of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and/or the first verse to Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" [lazy New Jersey stereotypes are necessary] by a small choir in the background. Disappointed that Coach Tierney is not coming after all, Father decides to go back to bed. But just as he blows out his candle . . .
. . . THE CHIMES TO THE CLOCK ARE NOW PLAYING THE PRINCETON CANNON! WITH SINGING OF THE WORDS TO IT ATTACHED SOMEHOW [because I guess Albert added a voice recording to the clock's gears or something]. The people all around Princeton Junction jump for joy upon the miracle that has come before them. Coach Tierney, who was driving his way up to Rutgers on the Turnpike to get some overnight preparation in, turns his car around and races straight toward Princeton Junction.
Mr. Trundle then recites a modified version of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" that talks about Coach Tierney totally wearing his cap and sunglasses indoors in the middle of the night, with a slight sunburn on his face and whatnot. And so Tierney comes into the Trundles to stuff the gifts of beating-Syracuse-in-the-semifinal in their stockings, then the triumphs-of-smashing-Maryland-for-a-third-straight-title are carefully placed under the lacrosse tree. [Oh, and the Trundles still look creepy with their blue eyes and orange hair.] As Bill Tierney leaves Princeton Junction, he exclaims "Happy Memorial Day Weekend to All, and to All a Good Ni.... THAT WAS TOTALLY NOT A FACEOFF VIOLATION BY DOING THAT WHOLE ROUTINE TO THAT TOWN, REF!"
[We're still not sure if this was enough to convert Albert into a Princeton fan. He probably decided to root for the Tigers until he hopped on the Powell bandwagon with Syracuse a few years later and his LONG WORDS incited a riot or something in 2002. Then, once Cornell got its act together again in the mid-2000s, he jumped ship again or whatever. But hey, at least the Trundles now make a nice living making clocks that play college fight songs and why yes Mr. Trundle's most frequent orders come from Alabama. ROLL TIDE!]