Monday, October 31, 2016

Hello From Portugal

Hello from Portugal.

TigerBlog, and the rest of the Princeton men's lacrosse travel party, got to this Western European country yesterday morning after a somewhat eventful trip that started in mid-afternoon Saturday at the Caldwell Field House.

So where to start in the first Portugese blog?

With John Lovett, of course.

While the men's lacrosse team was packing and getting ready for its trip, Lovett was being ridiculous against Cornell in football. In fact, he was so ridiculous that TigerBlog couldn't help but think back to another big-time performance against Cornell, the one that Dick Kazmaier put up in his 1951 Heisman Trophy winning season.

Seriously. TigerBlog does not throw Kazmaier's name out there lightly. Lovett, though, was incredible Saturday.

His numbers:
* 10 for 11 passing for 194 yards and four touchdowns, including a 95-yard TD pass to Isaiah Barnes
* six carries, 47 yards, two more rushing touchdowns (he now has 14, five away from tying Keith Elias' single-season school record)
* two receptions, 19 yards, one more touchdown

That's seven touchdowns, which is a school record. And it's a 56-7 win for the Tigers, who will host Penn Saturday in a huge game.

Even from a few thousand miles away, TigerBlog still wanted to start with Lovett. And he knows how he wants to end today as well, and he'll get there shortly.

First, there are some details about the trip so far.

Let TB start with the flight. It was on TAP, the official airline of Portugal. It was on an Airbus 330, which may have been the biggest plane TB was ever on other than a 747.

It was an overnight flight, which TB doesn't usually do well with, because he struggles to sleep on planes. He even tried Tylenol PM, but that didn't do much.

And even for the short time that TB did manage to fall asleep, he was jolted awake by some of the worst turbulence he's ever experienced. The massive plane was tossed all over the sky for maybe 15 seconds or so, and then it went back to being calm - but those 15 seconds were white-knuckle stuff.

The first order of business after landing in Lisbon in mid-morning was to take a three-hour bus ride to the southern part of the country, the coastal region called the Algarve. Princeton's destination was a town called Monte Gordo, which is right on the Atlantic Ocean and right on the border with Spain.

There were two buses to take Princeton to the Algarve. Everyone on TB's bus was asleep except for him and John McPhee - and the bus driver - and Mr. McPhee was on top of pretty much everything to do with the Portugese landscape as the bus headed south.

The route took Princeton down a major highway, and there really were no population centers along the way. In fact, Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in the world and the site for the second half of Princeton's trip, accounts for more than one quarter of the entire country's population.

What there was plenty of along the way, though, was scenery. Trees, including Umbrella Pines, which are basically what you think they'd be. Hills. Brown patches of land, interspersed with greens. Those reminded TB of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, though Mr. McPhee thought they were more fitting for the Iberian Peninsula.

There were lots and lots and lots of grape farms, with, as Mr. McPhee said, slightly more than 99 percent of the crop will be used for wine. And eventually, there was the ocean, which became visible as the bus turned to the west.

After arrival at the hotel and check-in, it was off to what essentially was a practice for the Tigers. Once back in Lisbon, there will be three games against the English national team, who can be pretty formidible.

Before the practice, though, there was a clinic for a handful of local boys, whose ages turned out to be between 11 and 18. There were eight of them, to be exact, and none of them had ever held a lacrosse stick or seen a lacrosse game before.

As it turned out, they were pretty good for novices. A few of them could shoot with some pretty solid velocity. Zach Currier, Princeton's All-America middie, jumped in as the goalie, and he actually 1) was pretty good at it and 2) was forced to make some pretty tough saves.

After the boys shot around for awhile, it was time for Princeton to get to work on its practice. TigerBlog, as he watched, wondered who these boys were and where they came from.

To get his answers, he wandered up to three women who were sitting behind the field, which was a soccer practice field adjacent to the local soccer stadium. TB asked if they spoke English, and only one said she did.

She was there with her dog, whose name was Mina. And, as it turned out, two of her sons, who were among the eight boys.

The woman, whose name TB did not get, told him some awful stories about the lives of these kids, and others with whom they live in a local community center. Awful stories. About abandonment. About physical abuse. About having no money at all. And, in the case of one teenager who wasn't part of the clinic, one parent in prison for murdering the other.

And here they were, on a field with the Princeton men's lacrosse team. The players on the team are lucky. They have been immune from the kinds of stories that the woman was telling TigerBlog.

These international trips are fun for the athletes, and for those like TigerBlog who get to go. There will be some good lacrosse later in the week. There will be some sightseeing, and the chance to zipline from Spain back to Portugal. There will be food. There will be some nightlife. It's all great.

And yet what it's really about, TB hopes at least, is the idea that maybe Princeton's guys will take a step back and remember these eight kids with whom they crossed paths yesterday.

They're remember how much fun they had introducing them to the basics of a sport they've played their whole lives. They'll remember how they spontaneously cheered when one of the kids ripped a shot past Currier. They'll remember how the kids couldn't wait to throw on the "Princeton Lacrosse" shirts that the players gave them.

And maybe, just maybe, they'll think about the great gift they've been given, to attend a school like Princeton and to play a sport like lacrosse there. And maybe they'll never take that for granted again.

Yeah. TigerBlog is pretty sure that's the point of this trip.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello Tigers!
My name is Pedro Machado from the portuguese team Lisboa Gladiators Lacrosse. We were very happy and surprised to know that your team is in Portugal. It would be a great opportunity for our guys to watch some of your practices and your games against England. It would be a great learrning experience.

If it is posible we would like to know more about your schedule and were are the games going to take place? We would love to go and watch them, and give our support to the Tigers!

Sticks Up!

Pedro Machado