An Ethereal Day at the Game's Biggest Gathering

By Gary Greenbaum

Baltimore - I've just been here for a little over a day and as I try and gain some perspective on the experience, I would like to share my experiences so far. I knew I was entering uncharted waters on my way into Baltimore on Friday night. Can you picture yourself driving into Los Angeles for the first time, examining some of the billboards that hover over the 10 freeway near the Staples Center and there…….jumping out at you was a full size billboard with just one message….STX Lacrosse. That's what happened to Zeke and I as we entered the downtown area. Right then and there, I knew that this weekend was going to be something special.

As we journeyed deeper into the downtown area, the lacrosse fever got more and more intense. When Zeke and I checked into the hotel, at midnight, the lobby was literally crawling with adults decked out in tee shirts and hats that either boasted of their collegiate lacrosse pedigree or advertised the programs that their children were involved in. Kids wielding sticks of all sizes and colors were parading through the hotel sporting jerseys of their favorite teams, not Lakers or even the Baltimore Orioles. I'm talking the Syracuse Orangemen, the Hopkins Blue Jays and the Virginia Cavaliers. If you happened to be a foreign tourist visiting the states for the first time, you would have probably thought that lacrosse and not baseball was our national pastime. For me, it was easy. I was in lacrosse heaven.

This was, in fact, lacrosse Woodstock. Instead of the Yasgur's farm there was Ravens Stadium, instead of the rock groups there were lacrosse teams and instead of musicians like Santana or Country Joe there were athletes with names like Johnny Christmas and Josh Bergey. No, the only thing that was the same was the weather and just like 1968, the rain did not dampen the spirits of the players or the spectators. It was as if it added another dimension to the games reminding me of some of the intense snowy NFL championships that I went to in New York as a kid.

And despite the unbelievable caliber of play that I was witnessing, nothing quite put the stamp on the experience like the post game celebration I was lucky to attend after Johns Hopkins beat Syracuse in the first semi-final game. I had hooked up with Brian Carcaterra, Hopkins alumni, three-time All-American and last year's varsity coach at Beverly. We joined the other Hopkins alumnae at a tailgate party at Ravens Stadium before the game. After the Hopkins victory, we journeyed back to the parking lot. You can imagine the scene. Hopkins hadn't been to the championship game in twelve years. In a school as rich in lacrosse tradition as Hopkins, that is an eternity.

Carc: a huge fan and new Rochester Rattlers Keeper

There were alumni all about, both before and after the game, that ran the gamut from 2002 graduates to those who probably graduated in the thirties. Some were former players, some were fans, some were children and some were grandchildren. But all were caught up in the emotion of the victory. And then it happened. I was totally blindsided as the first Hopkins player appeared, cleaned up from the battle that had just ended. As he waded through the crowd, humbled by Monday's task that lay ahead, he made his way to his parents who he hugged with a grip that was both gentle and firm as he fought the tears that began to swell in his eyes. The procession continued. Randomly, more of his teammates entered, some still in their uniforms both soaked with sweat and covered with the muddy residue of the contest. But the one thing that struck me was that not one of them was gloating. They weren't there to boast of about their individual or team stats. They just stopped by to thank everyone for their support, tell them that they were okay and that they were heading back to prepare for Monday's war.

You may wonder why I haven't included any observation on the games themselves….the hard shots, the precision passes or the great saves. You can get all of that in the papers or on the internet. What you can't get are the moments that touch your heart, as a former player, coach or especially as a parent. I can only say that this has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I truly hope that many of you will avail yourselves of the experience in 2004. Have a great summer!

Gary Greenbaum is the Director of Lacrosse for Beverly Hills, California and President of the Pacific Coast Lacrosse Association.

May 29, 2003

What are you doing this Summer?

June 26-July 5 at Towson University