Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Weekend In Ithaca

Of the roughly 25 inches or so of snow that fell in the Princeton area the other day, TigerBlog saw approximately zero of it.

Well, not absolutely zero. He saw a few flakes as he made his way out of town Friday.

And where did he go to get away from the winter weather? Where would anyone go?


Yes, that Ithaca, the home of Cornell University. The place where there was almost no snow on the ground.

TigerBlog had some completely non-Princeton Athletics-related business at Cornell Sunday. The only problem is that if he didn't leave Friday, he would never have gotten there.

So off he went Friday night, just as the first of the flakes began to fall.

TigerBlog has been going to Ithaca since the Big Red played basketball in old Barton Hall, which is now the home of Cornell's indoor track and field. It's a giant facility - it looks like you could park a few dozen 747s in there - and it used to have a basketball court tucked into one corner.

Since then, TB has been there countless times - all to see Princeton play something. Until this weekend.

TB's original plan was to leave super early Sunday morning, drive up and come back, all in the same day. He's done that a lot.

Instead, the snow changed all that.

TigerBlog stayed in the Hotel Ithaca, which is on Cayuga Street by the Ithaca Commons and at various times has been, TB believes, a Ramada and a Holiday Inn. TB is pretty sure that he's stayed there more than he has any other hotel in the world, though he'd say that the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon, N.H., is up there too.

Once he got out ahead of the snow, the only problem then was what would he do to entertain himself in Ithaca for an extra day? Go to games, of course.

Well, and to a place called The Nines for pizza. He asked the only Ithaca native he knows - Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux - for a food recommendation, and she came up with The Nines.

It's in Collegetown, which is right next to the campus. TigerBlog recommends the deep dish pizza. And sit facing the dumbwaiter that keeps sending the pizzas down from the kitchen upstairs.

Cornell was home Saturday in basically everything. The Big Red had a basketball doubleheader against Columbia and a hockey doubleheader, with the women against St. Lawrence and the men against Harvard. There was also a home wrestling match against Lehigh.

TigerBlog went to the two basketball games and the hockey game.

He walked into Newman Arena, the home of Big Red basketball, in the third quarter of the women's game. The first two people he saw that he knew were Jeremy Hartigan and Julie Greco, from Cornell Athletic Communications. They knew he'd be there, so there was no real surprise in seeing them.

Barry Leonard was another story.

Barry is the longtime voice of Cornell football, basketball and lacrosse - the Dean, as it were. He had no reason to expect to see TigerBlog in Ithaca, and in fact he did a double-take. Then he shook his head and said asked a one-word question: "context?"

And so TigerBlog explained what he was doing there.

TigerBlog also saw Dave Wohlhueter, the longtime SID at Cornell, the one who was the main man of Ivy League athletic communications when TigerBlog first started at Princeton. It's always good to see The Heat.

As TigerBlog watched the games Saturday, he tried to remember how many times he's seen a game that involved two Ivy League teams in which neither was Princeton. Or even Penn, from back when he was a student.

He didn't count games in Ivy League lacrosse tournaments in which Princeton was playing other game. Or if there was another game on the campus where Princeton was playing, like the time he walked over to see Tim Bennett (another Ivy sports information veteran) at Yale softball after a Princeton-Yale lacrosse game.

No, just a game between Ivy teams without Princeton in the same neighborhood.

He can only think of one time. It was March 16, 1991.

Princeton played Villanova in the 1991 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome (so Princeton was sort of in the neighborhood). Even now, 25 years later, that game still bothers Princeton.

The Tigers had lost to Georgetown 50-49 in the 1989 tournament and 68-64 to Arkansas in the 1990 tournament. The 1991 team - led by senior Kit Mueller and with Sean Jackson, George Leftwich, Chris Mooney, Matt Henshon, Chris Marquardt, Matt Eastwick and Mike Brennan - went 24-2 in the regular season. TigerBlog really wanted to see Princeton win that game.

Instead, Lance Miller - TigerBlog hates him to this day - made a tough shot with two seconds left to give Villanova a 50-48 win. TigerBlog was in the football press box at the Carrier Dome - it was the only available phone line to immediately send a story postgame - so he saw the end of the game from about 80 yards away.

To this day, that loss ranks in the top five, maybe even top three, of Princeton losses, though not the very top one. That is the 1998 second-round loss to Michigan State.

Anyway, on the way back from Syracuse, TigerBlog drove with former Princeton athletic communications duo Kurt Kehl and Mark Panus, and athletic trainer George O'Neil, who then was with the men's basketball team but who has been with men's lacrosse for a long, long time.

The four stopped at Cornell and saw Cornell-Harvard men's lacrosse. TigerBlog isn't sure why they stopped, though Panus is a Cornell alum. And he does remember that they got a flat tire on I-380 in the Poconos just after sundown.

Anyway, that's the only other game TB remembers, until the ones Saturday.

It was nice to the see the Cornell people TB knows. And the pizza was great.

And there was no blizzard. Just a lot of "you came to Ithaca to get away from the bad weather" lines.

1 comment:

Bob Slocum said...

As a longtime local and Cornell alum I appreciate your kind words about our area.