Editor’s note: What follows is an open and honest review of the 2012 Mardi Gras Lacrosse Tournament. This is the third installment in LaxAllStars.com’s tournament review series. The process is simple: the reviewer has a maximum of 10 points to distribute over 8 categories, making the highest possible score 10/10.
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I just got back from New Orleans where I played in my third straight Mardi Gras Tournament (Finals Video Highlights here). My brother lives down there and plays for the New Orleans LC, so I go down each year for the tourney, and I know it well! The tourney itself is a blast, and New Orleans is great as a city, but what brings me back year after year are the people behind the event.
I got to town late on Thursday night this year, and JetBlue informed me that my long sticks had not made it down. Evidently the TSA didn’t let them through because of some compound in the shafts. Interesting, considering I’ve flown with them before and never had a problem, AND I had a short stick in my checked bag which was made of the exact same stuff. Weird and inconsistent. I finally got to my brother’s hours around 1am and crashed for 7 hours without my long poles. We got up at 8am and went to line fields for the Friday games, which start in the afternoon.
For lunch we went to Liuzza’s to get sweet potato fries and roast beef po’boys. Being that we were in Louisiana, the food was absolutely amazing, rich, and unlike pre-game grub anywhere else. Pregame meal gets as big of a +1 as possible!
My accommodations were obviously great. Staying in a house is always awesome. But from what I heard, the hotels that most people chose were really solid, affordable, and right in the middle of all the action. Close to the fields (which are in beautiful City Park), smack dab in the midst of all the nightlife, and usually quite nice. Since it’s the week before Mardi Gras really gets crazy, rates are still reasonable. Location, location, location. New Orleans has it plenty of it. +1 for accommodations.
Do I really need to get into “off-field activities”? It almost seems too obvious. There are casinos, Mardi Gras parades, the french quarter, amazing restaurants, and so much more in this City, and that is really only the beginning. You can walk into a bar almost anywhere and find great live music. There are performers and musicians on the street busking and putting on great shows. The City is constantly abuzz. Ok, at 8am it’s pretty quiet… but that never lasts for long.
The parades are really where it’s at though. There is always such a good mix of entertaining floats, drumming bands, marching bands, dancers, cowboys (still don’t really get that), and a ton of great music on portable stages. As for obtaining beads, there are really only a couple of rules:
– Do NOT pick up beads off the street.
– Do NOT buy beads.
– The ONLY fair game beads are the ones you catch in mid-air when they are thrown from parade floats. PERIOD.
How do you get these beads? My tactic was to dance like a mad man, and add in a couple “woos”. My MC Hammer dancing even got me some black and gold beads with skulls on them that even my brother had never seen before, and he’s been in NOLA for 10 years. I think dancing gave me a much better chance at procuring good beads than flashing. No one wants to see that. Truly.
Off-Field Activities get a +2.
The actual lacrosse scene is also really good. But it’s truly unlike any other tourney scene in the world. On Friday afternoon the games start for the men, and they are usually pretty good, and pretty intense. If you lose Friday, you’re probably not going to play for the Championship, and that divides the Saturday games into two different types: games people want to win, and games where people want o have fun. In my three years I’ve rarely seen problems arise from this, and the focus is almost always on having a good time. The party vibe is alive and well, even at the fields, so the prescription to lax only gets a +.5 instead of a +1. I go for the lacrosse, and of course my local friends, but I’m not sure EVERYONE else is there for the same reasons! Lax is A priority, not THE priority.
When it comes to the talent at the tourney, there is a GREAT diversity. This year the Salt Shakerz were the top team, and they had a lot of former D1 and D3 players on their roster, some youth and legs, and a mean streak on defense, as well as 2 great goalies. Some teams were definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum, but everyone goes out and goes hard. If you bring a truly elite level team here, you can probably dominate, like the Shakerz did. The great thing is that there are usually teams from NC, WI, FL, TX, LA, MS, NYC, GA, TN and other locales, so you get to meet a great portion of the expanding lacrosse community. Talent variety gets a +.5 for Growing The Game.
People either love New Orleans or they don’t. I’ve yet to meet many lacrosse players who don’t love it, so even though the weather can be a little iffy, team satisfaction is usually pretty darn high. CJ Greene of the Shakerz remarked that they will DEFINITLEY be coming back in 2013, and that’s enough for me. I trust his unbiased judgment. +1 for Team Satisfaction.
A lot of tourneys offer clinics, or have youth games running alongside and it’s great to offer something for the kids. The MGLT offers something a little different though, and that is the opportunity to work and learn! This year we had a ton of kids from Rummel High School Lacrosse running the clocks, keeping score and helping out. They got to see first hand what it’s like to run a tourney, and they got to see some really good lacrosse right in their own backyard. There isn’t a ton of college lacrosse in NOLA at any level, so this is a great chance for them to see how former D1 guys play. They also get to heckle their own coaches, who usually play for the NOLC. +.5 for the kids! They get put to work, so it’s a little Newt Gingrich-y, but hey, it’s all in the name of lax.
When it comes to event execution, the NOLC does it all. Literally. They string the nets, line the fields, organize the beer truck, sell merchandise, set up the tourney party, fill beer cups, break down the tents and the tables, put balls out, search for balls, squeegee the fields when it rains, and the list just goes on and on. Paul Johnson and other NOLC guys put a TON of effort into this event, and it runs smoothly each year because of their passion and efforts. It’s something they do out of love, and it shows. +2 for Event Execution.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
All totaled up the MGLT gets an 8.5/10! Sometimes it’s cold or rainy or wet. Sometimes it’s sunny and 80. Sometimes teams show up shorthanded on Saturday because of Friday night. And sometimes you see an amazing game of lacrosse. Everyone leaves with a story, and the opportunity to experience the most unique American City is there for the taking. If it’s not on your lax tourney bucket list, it definitely should be.
If you don’t think the MGLT is a legit tourney, just ask Marc Bouchard (orange t-shirt above). He was this year’s tourney MVP (off-field) and he loves New Orleans. And Nutria. Watch out swamp rats!