Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Friday Night At The Fireside

TigerBlog has stayed in some beautiful hotels in his life.

He's been able to open up the shades and look out over the ocean, or to a sweeping view of a major city, or any number of other incredible sights.

This past Friday night?

He opened up the shades of Room 205 to look out at a parking lot, one that still had snow drifts in it, and beyond that to Interstate 89. The parking lot, by the way, was mostly empty, though there were three buses parked neatly alongside each other on the far side.

The location was West Lebanon, N.H., which could only mean one hotel - the Fireside Inn.

TB supposes it was designed to give off a ski-lodge feel. And it does have a fireplace in the lobby, and some old-fashioned wood interiors. It might not be a great hotel, but it is not without its charm.

And its history.

If you're a Princeton athlete of the last quarter-century or even longer, odds are good you've stayed at the Fireside. It's been the go-to place for Princeton teams, and teams from other schools, when they've gone to play Dartmouth.

TigerBlog can't remember the first time he stayed in the hotel, and he isn't sure how many nights he's stayed there in his life. It's very possible, though, that TigerBlog has stayed in the venerable Fireside Inn more than he has in any other hotel in his life.

When TigerBlog first started covering Princeton sports, the Harvard-Dartmouth men's basketball swing meant a night in the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, right on the Charles River, and a night in the Fireside. Princeton teams long ago left the Hyatt Regency (those are really nice hotels), in favor of the hotel above the Mass Pike that has at times been a Sheraton, a Radisson and is now a Crown Plaza, TB believes. Or for the Newton Marriott.

At Brown it used to be the Comfort Inn by the Ground Round in Pawtucket, before the Courtyard by Marriott. There was a Holiday Inn at Yale, but TB only stayed there once or twice. He's stayed in the same hotel for every trip to Cornell, but most times he goes to Cornell he goes up and back the same day.

Dartmouth, though, is a little too far for that. And so it's the Fireside, every time.

TigerBlog was there Friday night, ahead of the men's lacrosse game at Dartmouth Saturday. Princeton won 16-6, after trailing 5-3 at halftime. A year ago, Princeton beat Dartmouth 7-3 after trailing 3-0 at halftime, which means that in the last two years, it's been Dartmouth 8-3 in the first half and Princeton 20-1 in the second half.

After the game, he told head coach Matt Madalon that the Tigers should just skip the first half of Princeton's game against Dartmouth next year.

It was a strange game in that Princeton executed pretty much how it wanted in the first half but just didn't convert shots that it normally did. The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country in team shooting percentage at .373 and then shot 3 for 25 in the first half. After intermission, that sort of turned around, as the Tigers went 13 for 27.

The win did not clinch a spot in the Ivy League tournament for the Tigers. There are still two weeks of three Ivy games remaining, which means there are 64 possible outcomes for the ILT. Princeton would reach the field in 61 of the 64.

The only three scenarios in which Princeton cannot reach the tournament include losing both of the remaining games, against Harvard Saturday on Sherrerd Field and then at Cornell April 29.

By the way, TB would like to thank his friend CU'77 from laxpower.com for doing all that work. TB and CU'77 connected via email a few years ago, and he's become one of TB's favorite Big Red fans.

TigerBlog will probably have some more men's lacrosse stuff for you later in the week.

For now, he wants to go back to talking about the Fireside.

It's not a five-star hotel or anything. At various times, TB has been there late at night when it's been hopping, with dancing and music and other events.

It went through a bit a rough stretch, but it seems to have been fixed up nicely of late. It certainly looked that way Friday, when the hotel had a bit of a newer, cleaner feel to it.

Princeton men's lacrosse wasn't the only team staying there Friday night.

There was also Brown softball, Brown baseball and Cornell men's tennis. The Brown baseball players and Cornell tennis players - who came on a smaller bus - were already there when the Tigers arrived, and the softball team pulled into the parking lot at pretty much the same time as the Princeton bus.

One thing the Fireside is famed for is its breakfast buffet. All four teams were there Saturday morning, eating and preparing.

It was a better trip for the Princeton and Cornell men's teams than the two from Brown. Cornell would beat Dartmouth in the tennis match, but the two Brown teams would lose seven of eight in two days.

As for Cornell men's tennis, it went to Harvard Sunday and knocked off the Crimson as well. TB has no idea where the Big Red stayed in Cambridge.

TigerBlog has written before about the camaraderie of college athletics that can born on the long bus rides that the teams make. The time on those bus rides may seem insufferable, but they really are a big part of what college sports are about.

So are the nights in the hotel.

As TB said, if you've been a Princeton athlete, you know what he's talking about with the Fireside. Hey, just thinking about it probably makes you smile.

As TB also said, the place does have its charms.

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