Monday, July 20, 2009

Twist Lacrosse - And Ryan Boyle

TigerBlog looked across the landscape at the Maryland State Fairgrounds and St. Paul's School in Baltimore, and everywhere he looked he saw the current state of youth sports in all its glory.

The occasion was the Summer Sizzle lacrosse tournament, held this past weekend in temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than the previous year's. It's an event typical of sports like lacrosse and soccer, in this case with a U11, U13, U15 and high school bracket and games spread over Saturday and Sunday.

It featured teams with catchy names like "Crease Monkeys" and "FuZe" and "T2 Storm" and "Shamrocks" and "Renegades." TigerBlog would have liked to have been part of the discussion when the people said "Let's call our team Fuse, but let's spell it with a z and then capitalize the Z.

Uniforms ran the gamut, with mostly bright, florescent colors seen everywhere. For the record, Twist, the team TigerBlog Jr. plays for, wore its unbelievable bright yellow uniforms and then defeated three Baltimore teams and a New Jersey team en route to the U13A final, where it fell to another Baltimore team, Looney's.

As an aside, TigerBlog approached one of the opposing players prior to the championship game to ask what "Looney's" stands for and was told it was a pub in Baltimore. TigerBlog then asked the U13 player for some ID.

The tournaments feature a game, a long wait, another game, another long wait, etc. The down time is as much fun for the kids as the games, with lacrosse-oriented merchandise complete usually with some big-name lacrosse types. Whatever the down sides of American youth sports are (and there was the requisite loud-mouthed coach and over-the-top parent to be seen, though they were far in the minority), there were also plusses everywhere: learning to compete, understanding there's always someone better than you, making new friendships, learning to work hard to achieve team goals.

Twist features a player named Matt Vetter, whose father's name is Brian Vetter. There is also a Major League Lacrosse player named Brian Vetter who was at the event this weekend but was no relation. The MLL Vetter showed up at one of Twist's games and yelled for the whole field to hear: "let me see you play like a Vetter." Matt, one of the top players on the team, did not disappoint. After the game, the MLL Vetter carried the 12-year-old off the field and then posed for a picture with the whole team. He exchanged email addresses with the Vetter family to send him the picture; it is likely that Matt Vetter will remember that moment forever.

Anyway, TigerBlog was walking along the Fairgrounds Saturday when he noticed Major League Lacrosse jerseys for sale. There were four, set up in a square in the display. As TB made his way around, he saw that the fourth one said "R. Boyle" on the back above its No. 14. Then he saw a younger sister of one of the players ask her mom if they could get it, because "Ryan Boyle is the cutest player in the league."

For those who don't know, Ryan Boyle is one of the best players in Princeton lacrosse history and now one of the best players in the world. He is one of the toughest Princeton athletes TigerBlog has ever seen, and he had (and still has) that unique ability to elevate the game of anyone playing with him.

Boyle also turned in what is probably the single most-impressive individual performance by a Princeton player that TigerBlog has seen when he willed the Tigers past Maryland in the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals. Boyle scored twice on total individual moves in the final 80 seconds, including tying the game with 12 seconds left, and then won it with another ridiculous move to set up Peter Trombino in overtime to send Princeton to the Final Four.

TigerBlog heard several people talk about Boyle over the weekend, referencing his eye black, his style of play and his club team (Trilogy Lacrosse). One of the Twist players pointed to a Trilogy coach and said that it was Boyle, but TB corrected him. When TB mentioned that he knew Boyle well and saw every game Boyle played at Princeton except for one, the player was almost in awe.

There was a time when a kid like that, from outside of Philadelphia, would only have been awed if TB knew Mike Schmidt or Randall Cunningham. Today, that same kid probably watches fewer than five baseball games a year but knows every big-name lacrosse star there is.

As for the jerseys, TigerBlog asked the guy selling them how many he'd sold of Boyle's, and he smiled and said business is good. He asked TB if he wanted to buy one, and TigerBlog asked him if he had any Matt Striebel's for sale.

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