Tuesday, May 27, 2014

420 Minutes Of Lacrosse

TigerBlog watched seven men's lacrosse games at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore this weekend.

He was there for the Division I semifinals Saturday, the USILA Division III North/South all-star game and then the Division III and Division II finals Sunday and then the USILA Division I/II North/South all-star game and ultimately Division I final yesterday.

That's a lot of lax.

Add it up, and that's 420 minutes of lacrosse in three days.

And yet for all of that, the single best moment of the weekend came not during one of those games but instead during a timeout in the first half of the DI final between Duke and Notre Dame.

The M&T public address announcer asked, in honor of Memorial Day, that all those who had ever served in the military please stand up. And so all over the stadium, sections that had a hundred or more people in them were now dotted by one or two people here and there who stood up.

To TigerBlog, it was a really telling moment.

It's a nation of freedom, freedom to do what you want, even to go watch 420 minutes of lacrosse in three days. It's a nation of opportunity. It's a nation where one's dreams are pursued, where each person can, regardless of any other factor, choose what road to follow.

For most, that means going to the right college, finding the right career, earning the most money, having the best, easiest, happiest life, the kind of life where all of one's needs are met.

For the one or two per section, it meant standing up to defend the right of the rest to do what they do. And maybe you're like TigerBlog in that you respect those in the military and what they do, even if you don't necessarily think about what they're doing day by day and the sacrifices that they make every single day, not to mention the ultimate sacrifice each is willing to accept simply by joining up and wearing the uniform.

And there they were yesterday, on Memorial Day, being recognized. None of them asked for the acknowledgement. Some stood up quite sheepishly, almost embarrassed by it.

The huge screens in each end zone flashed from section to section, picking out someone here, then someone there. They were younger and older. They were mostly males, but with a handful of females. This went on for the length of the timeout, probably close to two full minutes, and the ovation got louder with each person who came up on the screen. And the people on the screen cheered and clapped, not in the self-serving way that is so common these days but in recognition in turn of what, TigerBlog wondered. Their country? Those who hadn't come back with them? The people who applauded them?

The entire moment gave TigerBlog chills. It is again now, as he thinks back to it.

As for the lacrosse, TigerBlog was wildly impressed with Tufts, who beat Salisbury in the Division III championship game.

TigerBlog's job, as it was for the 10th straight year, was to be part of the official stats crew (he's in it for the free shirts). During the Division III game, he couldn't help but notice that one of the Tufts players had just scored his 53rd goal of the season, which TB immediately knew would have tied Jesse Hubbard's single-season Princeton record for goals scored.

On the 2014 Jumbos' team, that was good enough for fourth place. Not all time. Just for this season. There was another player who had 80 goals - 80?, who has 80 goals in a season? - another with 73 and another with 65.

The Division II title was won by Limestone, whose coach J.B. Clarke was a former Loyola assistant and who seemed to be a ridiculously nice man.

On the Division I side, TigerBlog wanted Denver and Bill Tierney to win, and the Pioneers made it close in their semifinal against Duke before falling 15-12.

TB got little right in the way of predictions for this one, but he did correctly pick Duke over Denver in one semifinal and then Duke to win it all. In the end, Duke was a pretty solid pick in that the Blue Devils were simply the best team, which made the final 11-9 victory for the Blue Devils acceptable to TB.

Notre Dame made a run at Duke in the fourth quarter and like Denver got it a one-goal game at one point, in the case of the Irish very, very late in the fourth quarter. It helped the ND cause that for all of Duke's great players, the best one on the field - at least yesterday - was Notre Dame freshman middie Sergio Perkovic, who scored five of ND's nine goals.

His fifth came in the final minute and made it 10-9, but Duke won the all important face-off and then scored an empty-net goal when ND goalie Connor Kelly was out chasing.

TigerBlog had hoped this year would have been Princeton's year. The first person he saw when he arrived in Baltimore Saturday was Tom Schreiber, who unfortunately was there not to lead the Tigers but instead to accept his many awards as the USILA All-America reception Saturday morning. Fellow Princeton senior Jack Strabo was there as well, accepting his award as a USILA Scholar All-America.

So maybe next year in Philadelphia. Maybe next year the Tigers will be back. TigerBlog will be.

So will Duke, he assumes, as the Blue Devils try to become the first team to win three straight championships since Princeton did from 1996-98.

The men's lacrosse championships are one of TB's favorite annual sporting events, maybe even his favorite. It's not just the lacrosse; it's the event itself.

At halftime during the Division III game, TigerBlog looked out of the stat booth to see a gentleman looking back at him. The two began to talk, mostly about what team the gentleman was watching, what he thought of the game, that sort of thing.

Eventually TB asked him where he went to school. The man said he was Princeton alum, Class of 1964. Jim Winn was his name. He went from Princeton to Washington & Lee law school. He'll be back on campus this weekend for his 50th reunion. Look for him in the P-Rade, he said.

That too was one of the best moments from M&T Bank Stadium this weekend.

There were 420 minutes of lacrosse, but not all of the fun was watching the games.

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