Web Exclusives: Inky Dinky Do
a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary

March 7 , 2001:
Meadow Soprano's off to Columbia University
At least one alumnus laments Princeton's loss

By Hugh O'Bleary

Old Whitbridge was in one of his funks again.

A true son of Old Nassau, Whitbridge soars or sinks on the fortunes of all things Princeton. The basketball team loses, Whitbridge trudges onto the train the next morning and sighs dejectedly all the way to New York while staring at the sports section. No sooner had we talked him through the trauma of last fall's U.S. News and World Report college rankings - in which Princeton had been third - than he went off the deep end over the presidential election, which, as he pointed out bitterly again and again, came down to a Yalie against a Harvard man, with no Princetonians in sight. The recount debacle had cheered him some ("This never happened with Woodrow Wilson," he pointed out) and lately he had seemed fairly content.

But it was obvious yesterday that something had happened to chill his orange and black blood. He sat slumped in his seat on the Dinky, the Arts and Leisure section of The Times open before him. "How could this happen?" he said, as I sat down beside him. "How could this happen?"

"What?" I asked.

"Meadow's going to Columbia," he croaked. "Columbia."

I had no idea who or what he was talking about. Maybe the Lions had snatched some prize recruit the Tigers had an eye on. "What position does he play?" I ventured.

Whitbridge goggled at me.

"Hello?" he said. "I'm not talking sports, O'Bleary, I'm talking about Meadow. Meadow Soprano. It's the new season and she's going to be a freshman at - " He appeared to gag. " - Columbia." He sat in silence for a moment. "Why didn't we get her? She's from New Jersey!"

Now it was my turn to gape. "Let me get this straight," I said. "You're upset because the fictional daughter of a fictional Mafia boss on a TV show is matriculating at another Ivy League college?"

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of The Sopranos (HBO's critically acclaimed hit series, which is just starting its third season) but this was carrying things a bit far, even for Whitbridge.

He didn't even blink, though. "Princeton would have been the perfect place for her," he said. "We should have tried harder to get her."

Did we try at all, I wondered. And, if it comes to that, just how does a university go about recruiting a television character? I put the question to Whitbridge, perhaps a bit more sarcastically than I should have.

"Fuhgeddaboudit," he said. He looked like he wanted to have me whacked. I changed the subject then, but Whitbridge remained sullen for the rest of the ride. I found myself musing on the image of mobster-father Tony Soprano strolling around campus on Parents' Weekend, a big cigar clenched in his teeth. It occurred to me that Meadow, were she to come to Princeton, would likely do quite well. I mean, a professor gives her a bad grade, next thing you know he's missing office hours and they're out dragging Carnegie Lake for him. And you have to figure she's a lock for any eating club she bickers. Plus, think of the possibilities for Annual Giving: a suitcase full of unmarked bills for the development office, a couple of electron microscopes that, y'know, fell off a truck in Paramus for the physics department. I wonder if the mob gives matching grants.

I began to like this idea of the Mafia heiress at Princeton. Maybe Whitbridge was right. Maybe Princeton should have tried harder to recruit her. According to a (non-fictional) Columbia spokesperson, the university made no special efforts to land the high profile frosh. And HBO, it seems, would have listened to other options for Meadow.

"They just wanted to keep Meadow close to home," says HBO spokesperson Toby Becker, who insists that no one associated with the show has a Columbia connection. "She sure wasn't going to UCLA, for instance."

Fair enough. But Princeton's just as close as Columbia. Hey, maybe it's not too late to consider a transfer for Meadow. That would make Whitbridge happy.

I say Princeton make her an offer she can't refuse.

You can reach Hugh O'Bleary at "Hugh O'Bleary"


Hugh O'Bleary commutes to New York City from Princeton. He revels in his daily sojourn across campus to catch the Dinky. You can reach Hugh O'Bleary by writing him c/o paw@princeton.edu