Monday, November 23, 2015

The Dillon Game

TigerBlog was watching the Jets-Texans game yesterday when he saw an aerial shot of NRG Stadium in Houston.

There, next to the modern home for Houston's pro football team stood the Astrodome, which was called "the eighth wonder of the world" when it was built in the mid-1960s. It was the first domed stadium, TB believes, and it served as the home of the Astros and Oilers for decades.

It was from the name "Astrodome" that the name for the first fake grass - or "Astrotuf" was born, as the new dome needed to figure out how to have grass grow, nor not have to grow, indoors. It was also where, in its later days, the fabled "Astrorats" ran free.

TigerBlog thought the Astrodome had long ago been torn down, but apparently that isn't the case. There it was, its unmistakable silver shape still alive, next to the much-larger new stadium.

TigerBlog watched a ton of games on TV from the Astrodome, most notably Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series, when the Mets outlasted the Astros in 16 innings to advance to the World Series. The building was also the home of one of the most famous college basketball games ever played, Houston's 71-69 win over UCLA in 1968, in front of 53,000 fans, at the time the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game.

There are so many stadiums that were staples of TB's youth that are no longer used. Most of them don't even exist anymore.

TigerBlog, for instance, was the only person who actually liked Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. And Shea Stadium.

But those are just two examples. There are so many that he never even went to but saw on TV all the time, like Jarry Park in Montreal or the old Boston Garden.

It's the nature of the beast. Out with the old. In with the new.

Princeton University is not immune to that.

Palmer Stadium stood from 1914 through 1996 as the home for Princeton football. It's incredible to TB how many people he works with now who never were in the old building.

Jadwin Gym opened in 1969 as a model of a multi-purpose facility. Today it's closing in on 50, and it actually looks pretty good for its age.

Among other things, Jadwin is the home of Princeton basketball. Before that, Princeton played in Dillon Gym, from 1944 until Jadwin was built.

Dillon still stands, right in the heart of the campus. It's the home of Princeton volleyball, so it's still been an intercollegiate venue all these years.

Mostly, though, it's the home of Princeton's Campus Rec, as well as the offices of, by TB's count, 13 Princeton teams.

As you probably know, intercollegiate basketball returned to Dillon Gym for the first time since Jadwin opened this past weekend, when Princeton hosted St. Peters.

TigerBlog's take on things like this is that he's in favor of trying pretty much anything new to see what happens. Back in 1999 - when the whole Y2K panic was in full force - Princeton played a New Year's Eve game at Jadwin against Holy Cross. Nobody really knew what to expect in terms of attendance on New Year's Eve in the afternoon. TB's take? Do it and find out.

The result was a crowd of 5,925. It was a great atmosphere.

So why not play in Dillon Gym?

The game was driven by head coach Mitch Henderson, who really wanted to do it. Maybe he thought it would a nice tribute to those who played there who are still close to his program.

Or maybe he just wanted to wear that jacket.

Dillon doesn't have the seating capacity it did back in the 1960s, and as everyone learned early on, bringing in new temporary seating wasn't possible.

And there were a lot of other issues to deal with. The Dillon game didn't just happen. It was the result of a lot of hard work, especially by people like Karen Malec in the events office and Greg Paczkowski and Jeff Graydon from the facilities office. And a lot of other people.

Once it was determined that the game could be played there, it was relatively smooth sailing.

So what to make of it? Well, the crowd at Jadwin was right on top of the court, and the building was mostly full. It makes for a different kind of experience.

Dillon isn't large enough to house most Princeton games, men or women. There are just too many people who come for the building to hold.

For one night though, it was pretty nice. It was easy for the students to get there, and there was a nice turnout. It was something of a party actually.

Plus Princeton got a win.

The Tigers opened the season with a win at Rider in which freshman Devin Cannady and junior Pete Miller had big games. The star Saturday night was Henry Caruso, who had a 25-point eight-rebound night.

Princeton isn't built around one player. It has a bunch of guys who play well together, and pretty much any one of them can be the one on any given night.

It's a good formula for success.

The Ivy League basketball season is way too early to draw any conclusions. Right now it's in the "enjoy the games, get to know the players, see what works and doesn't work" stage.

Next up is Lafayette Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving. Maybe attendance will be strong because people are home for the holidays.

Lafayette, by the way, also has a close win over St. Peters. And the Leopards are the defending Patriot League champ.

That game will be back in Jadwin, as are the rest of the home games. Hosting a game in Jadwin is way, way easier for the Department of Athletics.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't worth trying a game in Dillon

Or, perhaps, trying it again.

1 comment:

Nassau83 said...

"That jacket," which was truly spectacular on Coach Henderson, is the Class of '83's 25th Reunion jacket and rumor has it that he borrowed it from President Eisgruber, a member of the (Great) Class of '83.