When the UNC, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Duke, St. John’s and Notre Dame men’s lacrosse teams come together to play in a professional football stadium, you go and watch the games live.
Inside Lacrosse did a great job with the Big City Classic this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The second half of the day may have been dampened by rain, but it was still a blast. I’m going to give you my personal take on how the event went down.
For game coverage, check out our Big City Classic Game Photos, which also include recaps of the action!
MetLife Stadium was already abuzz when I arrived with 3 players from Eagle Academy (where I am a volunteer assistant) and Joel Taliento, another Eagel assistant. We parked close, and walked in through a sea of Don Bosco (NJ) lacrosse players, as they had played a high school game in the Stadium beforehand.
We made our way through the vendor village, checked out some gear, and then went to the Easton Lacrosse set up, which was definitely the most attractive. Maybe it was their location (separated from the field by 15 feet and an inch of glass), or maybe it was the fact that players like Mike Powell, Brett Queener and Sean Lindsay were there.
The Easton helmets were obviously nowhere to be seen, but the 75 or so sticks spread out across the room still made up for it. I’ve seen the Stealth stick a couple of times, picked one up, restrung two of them… but I haven’t had the chance to really play with one myself yet. And it’s still weirdly attractive to me for some reason. If Josh Rottman gave it a good review, I’ll probably like it. It just looks cool.
But forget the gear for a minute! By far and away the coolest thing was being able to introduce my players to Mike Powell. The kids hold him in an extremely high regard, and he took the time out to talk to my guys about lacrosse and how great of a game it can be. In 5 minutes, Mike Powell imparted a message I’ve been trying to teach them for months:
LOVE the game, work and play hard, and anything is possible.
Very cool to see that first hand.
The other thing that was really eye-opening for the kids was to be at field-level with the college players. Because the Easton set up was at field-level, we got to watch Notre Dame and SJU warm up nice and close. Some of the Notre Dame players are certifiable giants, but after meeting Mike Powell, I think the kids realized if you have great skills, size doesn’t always matter. Pretty awesome that my guys could learn so much about lacrosse in only about 15 to 20 minutes.
I had a press pass, so I could pretty much go wherever, but I chose to sit with the guys and take in the games from the seats. We were in a corner, close to the field, so when the action was at our end, we had a great view. The ability for the kids to see lacrosse from this angle is so valuable. I feel like their lacrosse IQs all went up 25 points.
When the play was at the other end, we often moved our eyes to the big screens, which showed the game from a TV angle. And that was another great way for the kids to learn. By seeing the game from two angles, spatial concepts were more easily picked up.
More than once I heard the question, “why didn’t he shoot that overhand?” and after certain successful goals choruses of “bounce shot!” could be heard from my group. Our goalie pulled hard for Duke and was gently trying to coax their goalie, Dan Wigrizer, to step to the ball more on low shots.
Our long poles (three were in attendance as more kids came with the Head Coach) really enjoyed watching CJ Costabile go to work and got to see the importance of good footwork and body positioning firsthand. The offensive players in this game were so talented, and yet both defenses pressed out with good one on one defense, while sloughing on the backside. It was great to see two defensive teams that really press and WORK out there.
Due to the rain, we didn’t stay for much of the UNC vs. Johns Hopkins matchup at all, which is a pity because it turned out to be one heck of a game! But let’s be realistic here… Freshman in high school need to be home studying or sleeping on Sunday nights, and not sitting out in the rain or in traffic. We hit the road early and hopefully everyone was home by 9pm!
In the future, I’d love to see Sunday events like this moved up in the day. If I had one complaint, that would be it. Okay, that and the awful $5 Dunkin Donuts coffee. I’ll pay $11 for chicken fingers and fries at a stadium. But $5 for coffee? Come on, MetLife.
On my way out I ran into Jerry Ragonese, a true lax aficionado, and it’s always fun to talk to JR about the world of the MLL FoGo. The guys always seem to be banged up and just battling, even before the season starts. What a crazy life! MLL training camp has started by the way, did you know that? I just strung up a head for Ryan Nizolek of LacrosseRecruits.com, so I know it’s true.
Overall, it was great to catch 2.15 NCAA Division 1 college lacrosse games in one day, in person and in a big time atmosphere. The Big City Classic seemed to run without a hitch, and a good number of people were on hand to take in all the games. Considering the weather, the Big City Classic was a BIG success.