I’ve been back from the 2016 European Lacrosse Championships (held outside of Budapest, Hungary, in the quaint town of Gödöllö) for exactly three weeks now. Some of the great moments have already slipped from my mind, replaced by newer memories from my time back home. These older memories are likely lost forever. However, there are certain memories I don’t ever want to lose, so I’m writing them down below. This post is for me as much as it is for anyone.
I simply don’t want to ever forget some of the time I spent in Hungary, watching European Lacrosse at its finest. Here goes something…
Hungary Lacrosse Memories
Some EC16 Swag
I love my Grow The Game EC16 shirt from Uncommon Fit. It’s super comfortable and I wore it… a lot. Maybe too much? It still smells just a little. I also bought a sweet “Megamen Lacrosse” hat, and some other stuff, but the really amazing swag was either handed to me for free, or picked up in trade. My haul wasn’t huge, but it was high quality!
I traded a GTG shirt for a Sweden Lacrosse shirt. I love the grey color and yellow logo. It’s simple but classy. I also traded a big pile of stuff, including a helmet, for a pair of Wales gloves. I love the Welsh Nike gloves, and their logo, and I have way too much lacrosse stuff in general. To hand over a TON of stuff and “only” get gloves back? I’m 100000% good with it! The gloves are worth it, and hopefully it made the Welsh player’s day to get all that gear. Seriously, I don’t even remember what I traded away, but it was two armfuls of stuff. Loved it!
Max Bieber, my buddy from Germany, also gave me a German National Team Nike jacket, with their logo and his number on it. I had nothing to give him, but he just shrugged, and handed it to me anyway with a big smile. Next time I see Biebs, he’s getting inundated with gear. Note to self – find tons of stuff for Bieber!
JP from Finland was nice enough to give me a Finnish Lacrosse pin, which now lives on my UCFit hat’s brim. He tore up his knee early on, but spent the tourney representing Finland to the fullest, and handing pins out to anyone who would have one. His positive attitude through injury and love of the game was infectious and always welcome.
A Swedish Conversation
I was able to spend a good hour or two with three of the Swedish guys just talking lacrosse, Sweden, next steps, US politics, the current events of the day, and six or seven other tangental avenues. This was all well before the T-shirt trade. These guys were a lot of fun to talk to, withheld any judgement, and let me prattle on about all sorts of nonsense. I also did some listening, I promise. They had plenty to say, and it was great to hear another pointed and well thought out perspective on the world we all live in. It’s different for all of us, which is part of what makes these types of lacrosse events so special. Open communication is a blessing!
The depth of our conversation and what we discussed, or even how we felt about any of it, really is not relevant. What’s important here is that we were able to come together and have the conversation, openly, and without any sort of connection outside of lacrosse. The sport itself brought us together, but by the time we were finished truly communicating, and headed off in our own directions, I felt like I knew these guys so much better than I should have been able to, and in such a short amount of time.
While the “Swedish Conversation” stands out, it was not an outlier. I connected, and re-connected, with a lot of people over there, and it was all memorable. The bond that an event like this creates is undeniable.
I’ve encountered serious storms before. I’ve been in a capsized sailboat, caught in a squall, drenched to the bone in less than a minute, and seen buckets of water fall from the sky. Still, I had never seen anything close to what I experienced on the first day of the EC16 in Hungary. Actually, being upside down and underwater in that capsized boat was pretty close, but the boat self-righted so it was a quick, and thankfully only momentary, drowning experience.
Riding in a taxi from Budapest to Gödöllö on my way to cover Day 1, I found myself under water again, while still on the highway. This ocean existed in the sky, as it fell to the ground, all at once.
“Raining buckets” does not even begin to describe what my intrepid driver and I encountered, and I believe he only kept driving for fear that if he stopped, water would burst through the roof of the car. It may have been flawed logic, but when in Hungary… you roll with it. Semi-trucks, cars, and every other manner of vehicle did manage to pull over, and put on their hazard lights.
It didn’t help us one bit.
As soon as the windshield wipers had sloshed across the glass, the image in front of us was gone, replaced by nothing but a pond of water. You could see for maybe a split second. At its heaviest you couldn’t see at all. I don’t actually know how the taxi driver stayed on the road. When we pulled past a car in the other lane, it was there and then gone, in an instant, even if it was actually still only feet away. I literally did not think it was possible to rain that hard. I asked the driver if this was normal for Summer. He said nothing, but his look told me I had just asked a stupid question. It doesn’t normally rain like that anywhere.
It was a terrifying, awe-inspiring, and an unforgettable way to start the tourney off. I wasn’t worried about our super slow 5 Km/hour pace (seriously, 5Km/Hr) either, because you couldn’t play lacrosse in this rain. I wasn’t missing anything. The games would be delayed. Also, our slow pace, which felt like we were traveling at light speed (due to the fact that we couldn’t see anything but were moving forward just the same), was just fine with me from a staying alive point of view.
When we got to the town, the rain let up a little, and went to normal “raining buckets” status. I still saw a guy get knocked off his bike, and it wasn’t even windy. The RAIN knocked him off his bike. It was surreal. Why was he riding his bike in rain like that? It’s impossible to know and unforgettable to see.
There were a lot of great fans at the games, and most of the nations have their own cheers, many of which are fantastic. For example, both Germany and Austria sing a song where the country “is a door”. It’s infectious, even if Brian Witmer and I couldn’t ever figure out what was actually being sung or what “isadore” means. I think it’s something about love? No real idea to be honest, total guess.
One group that really stood out amongst the best was the cadre of about 8 Spanish fans, who brought their cheering alpha game to Hungary. Yes, there were only 8 of them. No, it did not seem like there were only 8 of them. They sang CONSTANTLY, and everyone was in on it. They spoke Spanish, made jokes about the game between the songs, yelled out some very loose instructions and encouragement, and then got back to singing:
“Es-ta partido, lo vamos a ganar! Es-ta partido, lo vamos a ganar!”
Esta is one word, but they chant it with a pause, hence the dash above. It still echoes in my brain, in a good way.
When Spain lost to Belgium in an OT heartbreaker, the Spanish fans didn’t skip a beat. The singing continued, the smiles were cheek to cheek, and the appreciation for what their athletes had given on the field was undeniable. All the fans were great, but the Spanish fans were simply something else.
The Glorious Final Game
The sun was shining, the stands were packed with fans and all the other teams, the atmosphere off the field was all cheering and party, and the action on the field was competitive, physical, skilled, and awesome to take in. People in attendance could not have asked for better weather, a better game, or anything else. It was a perfect culmination for the event. When it was over, people were just smiling. Like, everyone was smiling. I was too.
It was obviously a little sad at the end, as it meant the ECs were officially over, but everyone left satiated; they had enjoyed plenty of excellent lacrosse.
My maninal friend, Frenchie, first came in to my life 15 years ago in Perth, Western Australia. I was playing for the Wembley LC, and two days after my arrival in WA, we played the Bayswater LC, home of the notorious “Frenchie”. The Baysie guys were rougher than most, and one of them told me exactly what he thought of Americans on our first run down the field. GREAT I thought, people hate me already.
But they didn’t. Even the most ferocious guys on the field were quite friendly off of it, and welcomed me like I’ve never been welcomed anywhere else. One of the Bayswater guys, clearly a guy you didn’t want to tangle with on the field, was Adam Jorredestjorre, aka Frenchie. He didn’t have to go out of his way to be nice to me, none of the Baysie guys did, but to a man each and every one of them did just that, and they STILL do it each time I run into them at an international lacrosse event.
But Frenchie is different. Frenchie is… Frenchie.
Adam makes me laugh. He has a strong opinion, but an open mind. He’ll threaten to knock you out one minute, crack a smile in the next instant, and then kiss you on the cheek as he buys you a beer. He’s a teddy bear in a grizzly’s body. He’ll travel anywhere to help a new program, and he lives and breathes lacrosse. He was in Hungary coaching Denmark. Of course he was! While he plays like a mad man (for example, he has never worn arm pads, ever) he’s as solid a guy as you can meet when it comes to important things like friendship and honesty. The man is a beauty, in all of its Australian meaning. To be able to spend time with Frenchie and Brad Smith (another Baysie beauty) was an added bonus I didn’t even know I’d get. The fact that both were coaching Denmark, and I also got to meet our Danish writer, James Robertson, for the first time, all added up to a pretty Aus-tastic time. God, I miss Australia.
Chocolate Milk vs. Iced Coffee
The cantina in the dorm lobby served two iced drinks in boxes. One was a delicious chocolate milk, the other was a serviceable milky iced coffee. It was either that or 2 ounces of hot cafe tar in a plastic cup. I drank all three throughout my time there, and found the chocolate milk to be excellent, the iced coffee to be… acceptable, and the hot coffee to be downright terrible. I couldn’t stop talking about any of it, much to the chagrin of, well, everyone.
NO ONE CARES about your beverage selections, Connor.
When Bruce Pirie informed me that the chocolate milk was in fact disgusting, I was shocked. Of course Bruce had actually tried the iced coffee, thinking it was chocolate milk. Hungarian is a hard language to read and both came in boxes, I’ll give him that. But the cow pattern on the chocolate milk should have been a dead giveaway. I guess the picture of a coffee on front of the coffee should have been a good sign as well, but alas.
When Bruce did try the chocolate milk, he responded with “This is good”. And it was over. For some reason the image of Bruce taking a sip of iced coffee thinking it was chocolate milk and throwing it into the garbage immediately with a look of utter disgust on his face is just too good to forget, and I didn’t even see it. But I can’t un-see it. Oh, and Bruce doesn’t like coffee. Not one bit.
Latvian Bohemian Rhapsody
European Lacrosse teams, really the whole European Lacrosse community, loves to sing songs. Some are somber, others are nationalistic, while some are totally silly. There is also the referee’s song, a rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, which brings in hand signals and all other sorts of madness. I’m still trying to figure all of that out.
What will forever stand out from all of the singing (and there was a lot) happened on the last night. Everyone was getting a little loose, and all of a sudden a very loose Latvia rolls up, shirts off, and demands silence from the crowd. The team then launches into a very loud, relatively well done, version of Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen.
It’s a long and winding song, but the guys kept at it, stayed very loud and exuberant, and may have been the first group to ever scare a large group of people just by singing. The entire thing was hysterical and amazing to behold. This is not a knock on anyone else’s songs or singing, it simply an acknowledgement that the Latvian guys brought more passion and, I’ll call it “energy”, to their performance than anyone else. They also knew all the words and I was singing along with them from a nearby table. Facts.
The Pick Up Games
I only played in one pick up game all event, even though there were three of them (all 3 were the brain child of Brian Witmer’s mind brain), but the one I did attend was glorious. We got to play under the lights, with and against Bulgaria, as well as a University team from the UK. I got to play attack (always fun) with Neal Powless and Ryan Demorest, as well as Artjom Merjasch. Brian, Bruce and I can now say we have played in a game together. These are all friends who I enjoy sharing a field with. And we did it so in Hungary! Not bad at all. Artjom also gave me a book called “Hitman Anders”, which is quite good.
I also got to shoot a behind the back shot (or two or three – none went in) off the probable starter for Brown this upcoming year. He ate up one of my outside shots like popcorn. Everyone laughed at me for my pathetic effort. I laughed too. I did score on him once, but I think he was just feeling bad for me, so he let it go in. 1 for 12 ain’t bad! Scott Neiss handed out some snacks after the game, also walking on the field to do the same during live play. We laughed about all that too. It was a loose affair.
I was talking to Neal when the ball was on the other end of the field, and I mentioned the ribbon on his stick and how I had seen someone talk about that on a video, but I couldn’t remember their name. Neal said “oh yeah, that’s my dad, Irving Powless”. I’m also an idiot. I laughed at myself. What else could I do? I’ve never smiled so much playing lacrosse. Even when I threw a terrible one handed cross field pass which Demo had to chase after, I was smiling, and not because I had made Ryan run so far for nothing. The ball rolled out of bounds. He didn’t care either, or at least told me he didn’t. He smiled. It was all quite beautiful.
The above pretty much sums up the memories still in my mind from Hungary. Sure, there was late night editing, working all hours of the day, a ferocious sun, and plenty of other issues, but at the end of the day, that’s the stuff that’s melted away. What remains is a stockpile of positive experiences, memories I’ll never forget, and hopefully a small inspiration for someone else to go out and do the same thing.