Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Other No. 3

The question leading up to the men's lacrosse Final Four was all about who could stop No. 3.

The consensus was that nobody could, and as a result, his team would run away with the championship.

As it turned out, everyone was right. It's just that they all had the wrong No. 3.

More on that in a minute.

This past weekend was TigerBlog's 19th NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four in 22 years, and as it always is, the event is one of his favorite weekends on the calendar. He offers his congratulations to Duke, who defeated Syracuse 16-10 yesterday to win its second title in four years.

The final is always on Memorial Day, and the significance of the day is never lost on those who are in attendance. It's a day to celebrate freedom - and a reminder that that freedom has come with a cost.

And, if the holiday itself fails to get that point across, there were a few other ways this weekend in which it was obvious.

First, there were the bomb-sniffing dogs that greeted the team buses before they were allowed to enter Lincoln Financial Field.

When TigerBlog pulled his car into the reserved lot inside the gates of the stadium, it was checked for explosives as well, with the mirror that goes under the car and with a search of the interior of the car. And with giant barricades that had to be lowered and raised as each car entered.

Actually, getting into the Linc was sort of like getting into the White House.

It's the world we live in these days, a world that has people who would put bombs in cars and drive them into crowded places, even at sporting events.

And then there are others who say, no, it's okay, it's not just about having an easy life, there's something more important out there. Those people go off to do something about it, and they do it so that the rest of us don't have to. And some of them don't come back.

And that's what Memorial Day is all about.

That's why TB always loves the moments before the start of each championship game, like the one yesterday, when a giant flag was unfurled on the field and players from both Syracuse and Duke helped participated, along with members of the military. Seeing the interaction between players who were about to play a huge game and members of the armed forces who do their work away from big crowds in big stadiums with big TV audiences was phenomenal.

As for the tournament itself, No. 3 was in fact the runaway MVP and No. 3's team was the runaway winner.

It wasn't Cornell's Rob Pannell, the No. 3 that everyone expected. Nope. Pannell's brilliant career ended with a five-goal, two-assist, 20-shot performance in the semifinals, when Cornell fell to Duke 16-14.

The No. 3 who ran away with the Most Outstanding Player - and who carried his team to the championship - was Duke's Brendan Fowler, who won 20 of 28 face-offs and had 14 ground balls. Because of Fowler, Duke was able to erase an early 5-0 deficit and sprint past the Orange with a 12-1 run.

At one point, Fowler won 13 straight face-offs. SU tried six different face-off men, including three different long poles, and nothing ever really worked until the game was way out of hand.

The first four games of the weekend (the two Division I semifinals, the Division II final and the Division III final) at the Linc were decided by a total of six goals. The Division I championship game matched that total all by itself.

Oh, and speaking of the Linc, TB couldn't believe how nice every single person who worked there was. Everywhere he went in the stadium he was greeted by cheeriness and smiles, which is somewhat the opposite of Philadelphia's reputation.

Those who think the face-off has too much of an impact on the game would point to a game like yesterday's as proof.  TB agrees to a point, but he wouldn't do anything to change the rules, like giving possession to the defense after a goal or something like that.

TigerBlog will remember the 2013 season as one that got away from Princeton in a few unfortunate moments, mostly against Syracuse and North Carolina. As a result, the Tigers had to watch the NCAA tournament, rather than play in it.

Next year? TB is already excited about the Tigers' chances, led by Tom Schreiber, who will be a senior, and a roster that loses only five seniors from this year. Princeton returns nine starters next year. Actually, the Tigers return 11, if you count Forest Sonnenfeldt and Tucker Shanley, who also return after missing this year because of injuries.

Ah, but that is nine months away.

This weekend? It was about the 2013 champion Duke Blue Devils.

And a reminder of what Memorial Day is really all about.

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