Editor’s Note: the rest of the LAS crew heads over to Budapest, Hungary for the 2016 Euro Championships early this week, but Brian Witmer is already there, and reporting back on what he has seen so far. For amazing coverage from Budapest, check back on the EC2016 page on LaxAllStars.com, Subscribe to our YouTube channel for videos, and watch full games on LaxSportsNetwork!
Brian Witmer’s Live Look: 2016 Euro Championships
I’m in Budapest. What an excellent sentence to speak/shout/scream from the soviet block style dorm balcony here at St. Steven’s College in the Gödöllö region of the city. Over the next ten or so days I’ll be attempting to scribe every story that comes my way. I’ll have tales of personal journeys, quick and easy reads about the misfortunes of travel and the wonderful way of the road, as well as lacrosse driven coverage and recaps of games here at the European Championships.
If you’ve clicked on the link, and read up to this far, odds are you’ll be clicking on another link with us here at Lacrosse All-Stars. If I am so fortunate to have you as a reader again, I would just like to say thank you in advance. In exchange for my gratitude, I hope I can have your understanding. Please understand this; these articles are not about me. These games are obviously not about me. While I am so amazingly fortunate to attend and experience this wonderful event, and I will undoubtedly have stories to recall the rest of my life, it’s not about me.
The coming days are about a game that has crossed an ocean and has brightened the lives of thousands in the same way it has done back in North America. This first week of August is about the growth and expansion of our family. We welcome old friends back to the table, and in the same breath invite our new neighbors to sit right beside us without anything but excitement and appreciation for having them as part of our ever-growing and rapidly expanding family. It’s about the love between the game and it’s players.
From that same love we give thanks for the thousands of brothers we’ve all been so fortunate to find across the world that otherwise would likely never have existed in our lives. This week, and all the weeks forever on down the road, is about our community and our wide open arms. That’s what this is about.
Thoughts like these, as well as bright and brilliant future of this game abroad in Europe and beyond, occupied the bountiful hours I had on my flights over late last week. After a couple days in DC with college teammate and great friend Nate Thomas, I took a bus up to NYC for a few days to hang out with another college teammate and equally great friend Brendan Wall, as well as meeting up with the man himself Connor Wilson.
I departed JFK bound for Budapest via Berlin, and I don’t really remember most of the flight. I had a very… fabulous Italian seatmate on the long haul from JFK, and a wonderful gentleman named Sal from Dubai on my fifty-minute commute from Berlin to Budapest. I showed a couple pictures and clips of lacrosse to Sal on my phone, and upon learning that sixty other countries have lacrosse, as well as programs in Turkey, Israel and the beginnings of a program in Qatar, he asked when lacrosse would make its way to Dubai.
Maybe the UAE is next on my list. Hell, they might actually pay!
I wandered around the Budapest airport like a lost puppy for a little while, looking for someone to pick me up, as I hadn’t really arranged anything. I met up with some of the Irish guys by chance, who quite generously offered me a ride to Gödöllö when the rest of their team arrived. I would’ve graciously taken them up on their offer, but that wasn’t for another four hours or so, and a German player, Lars, who had been on the same flight from Berlin, offered me the last spot in their taxi in half an hour. I still owe Lars a couple hundred of whatever this currency is. I just remembered that. Now it’s in printed text forever.
The first days of my trip have been relatively quiet. Teams are slowly but surely rolling in one by one, getting in some valuable practice time before the games begin. When I arrived, the Irish and Germans were in the process of arriving, with the Polish already in attendance as well as the Swiss, elements of the Russian team, as well as the Hungarian home team.
The atmosphere is light. The feeling is quite similar to when you’d move back into your college housing and you were waiting anxiously for all of your old friends to move back to town and the excitement to make new friends and you just couldn’t wait for “classes to begin”. I guess that isn’t that far of a stretch.
I am on a college campus, I cannot wait to see all my old friends from Italy, the Czech Republic, Scotland, and the rest of my scattered acquaintances throughout Europe. I’ve already caught up with my Polish compadres and it was good to see the familiar faces of the Swedish and German guys I’ve met over the years at the Ales Hrebesky Memorial.
Practices have been fairly light in accordance with the relatively dense humidity. It is comfortable to be outside, but any real activity, even walking to go watch practices, causes you to perspire. Athletes are returning to the dorms completely soaked from head to toe, and the railings of the soviet-era dorms are colorfully adorned with practice gear and pads. The Swiss even have a flag hanging from one particularly patriotic balcony. Ten points to Switzerland.
Scrimmages dot the schedule over the next few days, as well as the remainder of the arrivals coming in
leading up to the opening ceremonies. I know how excited I am to see these games, I can only imagine being one of these players. Some having been on such long roads to get here since Denver, with some who were cut from those rosters but have improved since. The demeanor around the dorms is very friendly, but make no mistake, you can quite literally smell the competitive nature of these men and the work they’ve put in.
My jetlag is merciless, even with half a dozen “go to sleep” sodas with Polish Assistant Coach Drew McCaleb at the local, I wasn’t able to sleep longer than three hours. And of course, once I had finished a delectable breakfast at the sports hall, I got heavy-eyed and passed out for five hours. It’s a good thing I’m here a couple days early in this regard, as I’m hoping I’ll be completely adjusted to the time change before the games begin.
I’m excited about the 2016 Euro Championships. Sometimes I forget I’m excited about it. Then I’ll be sitting in the lobby and I’ll see a jersey from the Hungarian national team walk by. And then I hear a couple guys speaking French. And then I hear stories about Russian spies at a practice. Then it hits me. This is real. This is really real. Just because you’ve been around the block once or twice doesn’t change that. This is real, and I’m so unbelievably excited for these 2016 Euro Championships games.
So are you, or else you wouldn’t have read this far.