Since July 8, I have been experiencing the best week of my life. Jeff, Connor, Mark, Tanner and I are all in Denver, CO, for the World Lacrosse Championships. Staying in a beautiful apartment overlooking downtown Denver.
We have experienced about 12+ hours of lacrosse a day for the time we’ve been here. It has surreal watching the players I grew up idolizing, Paul Rabil, Ned Crotty, Marcus Holman, and the reason I wear number 3, Rob Pannell.
Thursday night marked the most hyped game of the tournament in my mind. Since the Iroquois Nationals were locked out of the Manchester games back in 2010 they have been quietly and methodically planning for this exact moment to dethrone the USA.
I am lucky enough to possess the most powerful piece of plastic at this event. My personal golden ticket that gets me to the sidelines where I can watch my idols play the game we all love. My media pass.
OK It might be an orange ticket, but I can’t see colors. Having this around my neck gets me down to the sideline where I am brushing shoulders with Quint and Carc while they are on ESPNU. This is the real deal.
For some reason I love watching teams warm up. I usually get to any major sporting event about an hour before they start, besides Vandal Football. I always compare myself to the players I looked up to, their pre-game routines fascinate me. Then I always end up trying to replicate their style in to my game.
Before every game in this tournament, Team USA has chosen a player to carry the American flag on to the field. That player was a guy I watched all of the time when he wore number 22 at Duke, Ned Crotty.
The Japan and England game was in overtime so team USA stayed on the sidelines for a while. You would think that they would be hooting and hollering getting pumped up for this big game, but I saw nothing but focus in their faces, and heard only silence. The Japan game ended with Japan winning in overtime and it was time for team USA to take the field for warm ups.
I saw the ESPN crew and various photographers start inching their way onto the field to try and catch the team storming the field with the American Flag. They were all set up around midfield, but I knew I needed to get closer. I headed to the restraining line to get a good wide shot of the team before they took the field.
I looked down at my camera and was happy with this shot. I was going to go back to the sidelines as to not get absolutely trampled by these mountains of men. But I didn’t see anyone else moving, so I decided to stay put and pray for my life, much like Paul Rabil is doing in the picture above, but a less manly version.
The events that transpired next can only be described as the most exhilarating moment in my life. The team took off in a full sprint right and the charge was coming right toward for me. My heroes, idols and most respected stars were grazing right of my sides on their way to warming up for a very important game to clinch the one seed in the Blue Division.
I choose to believe that All-World Goalie, Drew Adams, was looking right at me for this picture. I could not even imagine looking to take a shot knowing he is in the cage. Drew looks relaxed, but his counterpart Jesse Shwartzman was incredibly focused because he started this game and stood on his head.
I’m not sure what caused Kyle Harztell to make this face, but whatever it was it worked for his game.
Holding the Iroquois offensive fire power of Cody Jamieson, Zach Miller, Randy Staats, Lyle, Miles, and Jeremy Thompson to 5 goals in 80 minutes is something to be very proud of.
While all of these world class players blew by me, I could feel their energy flow through the crowd of players. The silence and focus they possessed on the sidelines were a thing of the past, Paul Rabil and Ned Crotty were a blur and I’m surprised the camera caught them. Every player was letting out a battle cry that would make Mel Gibson in Braveheart shriek and tremble in fear.
Watching, seeing, and feeling the presence of the guys I look up to in the lacrosse world was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I am not even part of the team and I could tell just by the guys being around me for a split second, that they would do anything for each other on the field.
The intensity from taking the field carried over to the national anthem with Paul Rabil showing of his hops.
Rob Pannell almost had a record night, netting 7 goals in the game. He let out this battle cry after the first goal of the game.
The 18-5 win for the USA clinched the Blue Division title and a bye in to the semifinals of the tournament. Going undefeated in group play is only step number one in team USA’s quest for world lacrosse domination.
The next few steps will pan out in the coming days and I personally could not possibly be more excited.