By Matt Peterson
It's Thursday, Sept 19th at 6:00 AM and I am hustling to my office to grab some things I left at work before I catch a direct flight to Las Vegas! I'm the captain and organizer of the Six Tribes Backyard All Star Lacrosse squad. We're a first-year team in the tournament but most of us have played together before in Vail, Placid or during the spring on Team AOL of the American Lacrosse League. Between packing at the last minute, traffic to my office and other eventualities, I miss the check-in time for my flight and am forced to catch a flight to Columbus, OH and then endure a 5 hour layover before a connection to Vegas departs. A misplaced checkbook costs me my first 8 hours in Vegas but after a quick tour of Columbus and the downtown Mall, I fly out to Sin City and land in time to make it to the Hard Rock Hotel's Circle Bar by 8:00 PM. I've checked into my hotel, the Crowne Plaza, and walked next door to the Hard Rock. I'm back at the Las Vegas Tournament for the second time in two years, having played last year for Mohawk International. This year I put together a team, convinced Six Tribes to sponsor us and even got Six Tribes founders Gerry Byrne and Bill Edell as well as Six Tribes employee Keith Gabrielli to come play on the squad. When I arrive at the Crowne Plaza, my teammates have already checked into the room I'm sharing and they're raring to go out. I'm stressed out after my travel day, haven't dealt with some team paperwork yet and just frazzled. I reluctantly join my hotel mates and go to the MGM Grand, but after 20 minutes, I bail out, heading back to the Hard Rock to take care of the team business.
I Got The Feelin'
I take a cab back to the hotel, collect my checkbook and walk down the block from the Crowne Plaza to the Hard Rock with a trio of sexily dressed women a bit in front of me. I catch up to them as we near the Hard Rock, their 4-5 inch heels making it easier to catch up to them. They look as sexy from the front as they did from the back and we walk in together and all head to the Circle Bar. I see teammates and am handed a drink before I can ask for one. I excuse myself to sign the team waiver form, pay our entry fee balance (the reason for the trip to the office at 6:00 AM) and settle in with my drink to relax. The trio of women soon walks up to our group, sits down next to us and starts up a conversation. All three are attractive, dressed to impress and quite friendly.
I meet some recent additions to the team including Nick Mas, one of two Hawaii lax players we picked up a few days before the tournament. I turn around to see how the trio of women is doing with my teammates. Cindy, the most flirtatious of the trio turns to me, smiles and says, "You lacrosse guys are so dreamy, you'll all so handsome, sexy and athletic." Welcome to Vegas!
I'm a Believer
An early morning breakfast and a few errands and the next thing I know It's 1:00 PM and our squad is throwing the ball around before our first game. I've handed out the new shorts and jerseys to the players and we look pretty sharp in the uniforms. Sin City is our opponent and our third seed should make this an easy game. It's not. Sin City plays well, we play poorly, and we're tied at halftime despite thinking we had a better skilled squad on our side entering the game. I score two goals off great passes from attack players, and my DC roommate, Tom Langan, has multiple goals and assists. Our defense plays well, with goalie Mark Grilo and defensemen Gerry Byrne and Brian Hahn anchoring the effort. In the end we win by one goal, 6-5 on a game-winner by Chris Anderson. We feel lucky to escape with a victory and I vow to make a few changes for the second game
After the game we pass out the rest of the team "swag". It's pretty sweet! In addition to shorts and jerseys, Six Tribes has brought flip-flops for everyone, orange Six Tribes visors, Six Tribes helmet stickers for the players. Guys are excited to be fully outfitted in Six Tribes gear. For putting the squad together, I also get a "How Ya Doin'" Batik print shirt. It's a rust color and very cool looking. Definitely a prime addition to the wardrobe.
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
Our next opponents are close friends of ours. The Mohawk International Lacrosse team, captained by John Rosa, won their first game also and we're going head-to-head in the second game. I played with this team last year and they've got a bunch of great guys on the squad including guys who've played for teams I've put together in the past. We make a few on-field adjustments, including moving two of our best players, John Madigan and Keith Gabrielli, into the attack rotation and we start moving the ball on offense much better after the first 5-10 minutes. The result is that after a close first half of 5-4, we pull away and win 11-5 or so behind excellent efforts by guys like Ross Showalter who won most of his face-offs, JP Sallese who scored and assisted, and Adam Cox who always seemed to be playing good, physical defense. Nick Masciangelo wins the team "game ball/Six Tribes condom" award for his all-out hustle and hard nosed play.
There's a strong field of women's teams at Vegas too.
Some Day Baby
It's good to go into the tournament party with a 2-0 start and an appearance in the semifinals the next day. Baby's is the nightclub inside the Hard Rock and they're throwing a party for the lacrosse teams. By the time I arrive, things are going well, with plenty of food left, everyone in good spirits and dressed for fun. I've already had some fun, including being stopped by the Las Vegas police in a car of four lacrosse players and a girlfriend of one of my teammates. No arrests to report, but we're told that the car's recent re-registration in California is not yet in the computer system. Thanks, and good to know!
The Las Vegas "Strip"
Two of my friends and I head out to Bally's to take in Super Diamond, a Neil Diamond "tribute" band. It's turns out to be awesome! Our tickets are right down front, the band is very tight and the "Surreal Neil" is quite talented and sounds exactly like Neil Diamond, including his inflection and audience interactions. My mom is jealous and wishes she was there when I call and tell her about it after the show.
Treasure Island at the Mirage and Surreal Neil at Bally's
We head to In & Out Burger for a late dinner and then to Rio to see the club at the top of the hotel. The moment we get to the top, I can see it's not my scene. I'm cranky and, a few minutes and meaningless conversations later, I split. A quick cab ride and I'm back at Crowne Plaza and asleep fifteen minutes later, it's been a long day.
The Six Tribes Backyard All-Stars
I wake up early on Saturday morning, get coffee, but forget to eat and I'm starving a few minutes before I show up for the 1:00 PM game against last year's winners, the Usual Suspects. Our team is straggling to the field and discussing the previous evening's exploits. One guy from the squad hasn't slept all evening or morning and looks pretty bad. The game begins and it's obvious that our squad is underachieving. We're sloppy, slow, tired and the Usual Suspects are out-hustling us for ground balls and playing aggressive defense. We're down 2-1 and turning the ball over, making bad passes and playing way too much defense when I call time out and launch into a rant in the team huddle. It seems to work as the very next play, we hustle to a loose ball, knock a guy down and pick up the ball. The team starts to play better and we're scoring, but with 10 minutes to go, we're down 2 goals. Fortunately the team doesn't panic or start to bicker. Instead we get the ball to our attack and finish two goals quickly to tie it up and score the go-ahead goal with 2 minutes left. We play out the last two minutes and edge out a one-goal victory because of great defensive efforts by Josh Rachman, Dave Wodynski and John Langan as well as key face offs by Anthony Lucchetto. The game is followed by a team get-together at the Hard Rock pool where the weather is perfect and so are most of the bikini-clad patrons of the Hard Rock. The pool area is definitely a highlight of the day, sipping frozen drinks with teammates and friends, getting some sun and enjoying the view.
E-Lacrosse's Tom Ryan on the Bahi Squad
Thank The Lord For the Nighttime
Saturday evening is fun as we start out at the Circle bar and then head to the Sahara for some low-limit gambling. I am winning at craps, but then get greedy and the luck changes. I walk away, down $100, kicking myself for not quitting when I'm $100 up. It's ok, we play for a couple of hours and we call it an evening around 2 AM. Apparently my buddies have had a great time at the Circle Bar from the whispered stories.
Sunday morning comes quickly, but by the time the 12:30 PM final rolls around, it's in the mid 90's and hot. Bahi and our team, Six Tribes Backyard All Stars are in the finals and there's a pretty sparse crowd gathered for the event. Neither team looks very sharp at the outset and it's tied 2-2 near the half before the Bahi team scores 3 or 4 goals in a row in the second half to take a lead. While the game is hard fought, a couple of late game goals by our squad including my goal with time running out doesn't erase the deficit. A 9-4 final score crowns Bahi as the champions and Six Tribes is runner up. As I score, a desperation stick-check leaves an imprint of a stick on my back that turns into a colorful bruise in the outline of a stickhead as a reminder of my score.
2002 Lax Vegas Champs - BAHI
Done Too Soon
The players with late night flights head to the Hard Rock pool for some afternoon relaxation and post-game beverages. The pool is still busy with Sunday afternoon Hard Rock people and the weather is perfect but it's a bummer to see some of my teammates leaving with afternoon flights. I head out to the strip to do some shopping and some sightseeing. I walk the length of the strip, taking in a fountain show at the Bellagio, a singing operetta at the Venetian, a animatronic "Atlantis" show inside the Caesar's Palace shopping area and I browse various shops along the way. Around 8:00 PM, three of my teammates join me for drink at the Treasure Island bar that overlooks a pirate ship battle. Then, we take in a volcano eruption at the Mirage before they head to the airport and I head to a buffet dinner at the Aladdin before my flight home.
The flight leaves after midnight, making it technically Monday. The flight is oversold and packed and I can't fall asleep on the red-eye, but I'm back at work at 9:30 AM the next morning with great memories of the trip, my teammates and a well-organized tournament. I send out a team email thanking everyone for playing and inviting everyone to make plans to do it again next year in what promises to be yet another great Vegas Lacrosse Tournament!
In case you were wondering, all the paragraph headings are names of Neil Diamond songs to give things that Las Vegas feel.
Matt Peterson is a player and the team organizer for the Backyard All-Stars, formerly Team AOL. He is a Director of the Vail Shootout and The E-Lacrosse Amsterdam Tournament and lives in Northern Virginia.
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September 30, 2002