Tuesday, July 24, 2012

That's 133

TigerBlog needed more than seven hours to get from Princeton to Amherst, Mass., this past Friday. It's a ride that should take less than four.

He then spent his weekend surrounded by a group of people who also trudged through heavy rain and traffic and took seven, eight, nine hours to get to Amherst. As the weekend progressed, it became more and more obvious that the entire group had become obsessed with finding the best possible route back to avoid a repeat of the traffic nightmare.

Should it be 91 to 90 to 87 to 287? Maybe 91 to 84 to 684? Maybe 91 to 95? No way. Nobody would want to go on 95 in Connecticut if they didn't have absolutely have to, right?

TB's own route was 91 to the Merritt Parkway to the Hutchinson River Parkway to the Cross County to the Saw Mill to the Henry Hudson and then down to the George Washington Bridge, and he guaranteed that anyone who went that way would not run into traffic. As it turned out, he was right.

After awhile, TB refused to talk anymore about possible driving routes, figuring it would all take care of itself. As he heard more and more talk about how to get back - including various printouts off of mapquest.com - he couldn't help but laugh at it all.

TB has driven on 91 hundreds of times, back and forth to Dartmouth. For all of those times, he'd never gotten off at the exit that goes to Amherst, and he'd never been on the UMass campus before.

It's an interesting town, Amherst, with a road that leads in that is sort of like Route 1, with strip malls and fast food places and the requisite Target/Best Buy/Home Depot area. After that is the UMass campus itself, followed by a small road that goes up a hill into downtown Amherst, which is what you'd expect from a New England town famous for its liberal arts college.

And speaking of Amherst College, TB went on that campus as well, lured in by a sign that said "Power Squash," which turned out to be the name of a camp and not a new form of extreme squash played on ice or something.

The contrast between the sprawling UMass campus and the pristine town center and equally pristine Amherst College is somewhat fascinating, especially since they're all essentially on the same street. TB can't help but wonder what the dynamic is during the school year, with one having a 1,700 student population and 11% acceptance rate and the other with 27,000 students and a 66% acceptance rate.

Amherst isn't that far from the Western Massachusetts town of Gill, another place that TB has never been. He does know a family from Gill, though, and one of them set an interesting record this past weekend.

Matt Striebel, who played soccer and lacrosse at Princeton before graduating with two NCAA championship rings in 2001, had two goals and two assists as the Rochester Rattlers defeated the Charlotte Hounds 14-5 Saturday night.

The greater significance is that it was the 133rd Major League Lacrosse game for Striebel, which is the league record. In American professional outdoor lacrosse, no player has played in more games than Striebel.

Part of his record comes from the fact that he had the good fortune to be starting his professional career at the same time that MLL was beginning.

And while Striebel isn't the greatest player in MLL history, he is way up there on the list. Way further up there than anyone might have imagined back in 2001.

Striebel was an All-America at Princeton, but he clearly became a much better player as he moved into his 20s and 30s. His career now is reaching its end, but he is still among the elite midfielders in the world.

It took TB about five seconds of being around Striebel to realize that he is one of the most personable, outgoing, funny, happy people on the planet.

It took him a little longer to figure out how great a player he is.

Often, when a player holds the record for games played, it's because he was able to hang on longer than anyone else.

In Striebel's case, his resume includes NCAA championships, MLL championships, World Championships, MLL all-star games, goals, assists - all of it.

His record of games played is significant, but that's not what ultimately will define his career.

No, Matt Striebel's legacy will be as one of the greatest American lacrosse players of all time.

No comments: