We’re in Hungary these two weeks for a couple very important reasons. Chiefly, we’re here for a heavy-weight battle between the biggest and best national teams that the European continent has to offer. While it’s important to crown the king, this gathering is also imperative for each capable country to field its best players to show the rest of the see how they’ve progressed. Not only the wins and losses, but the authenticity of your roster, and how you conduct yourself on and off the field, combines to form a quasi-midterm report between World Games appearances every four years.
Most importantly, we’re here to have fun. All of us. The players, chiefly, but from the coaches, the organizers, the dedicated fans who’ve traveled the world just to watch, the wonderful volunteers that I can’t say enough good things about, and even the lowly Lax All-Star crew… everyone should be having a good ol’ time.
Last night we decided to take the passports, ages, and experience levels off the table, and just cut loose and have a good time doing what we do best. We put out the call at roughly noon that Lax All-Stars would be hosting a friendly pick up lacrosse game versus whoever wanted to show up. With a little help from one of the head organizers, Scott Neiss, we were able to get field time, lights, and even a referee.
We slated a scrimmage immediately following the final game of the day, Latvia versus Italy. As the game ended, I pulled two of the guys I had coached in Turin and asked if I could borrow their gloves, arms, and helmets. They kindly obliged, and handed the slightly saturated gear to me. I had borrowed gear from one of the Scottish faceoff guys, Josh, and a shaft from one of the Polish players, Tom, so these two sets of gear were available for two other players.
We had the Dutch National team’s coaches play, with long-time pro Neal Powless, and Cascade’s Ryan Demorest. In addition to Bruce Pirie of Uncommon Fit, Connor Wilson, and myself representing LAS, Artjom Merjasch suited up and to see if he remembered how to play the game as opposed to reffing it (he did). Andrew from Phantom lacrosse also joined the game, giving some additional field testing to Phantom’s pre-formed pocket device.
We’ve all played a while, our most notable additions to the game were the guys who haven’t played a while, or at all. To begin the game, we had our face off taken by Jack Voelker, our new favorite ten-year old whose birthday it happened to be. While he was the smallest player out there, to be sure, he wasn’t the newest to the game. We had two Dutch kids who have been working as volunteers borrow one set of the Italian gear, as they swapped gear to each other after every shift.
Our newest recruit had never played the game at all, however. We picked up Balasz, a volunteer with the tournament born and raised locally in Budapest. He had never seen a lacrosse game played live before this tournament started, much less played in one. We had a quick catch before the game, discussed the physics involved and the theory behind cradling, and then we tossed the baby bird out of the nest and let him go for it.
He caught a couple passes and picked up a contested ground ball, which is more than I can say for my own effort last night, much less my first lacrosse game ever. We scrimmaged the boys from Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England for two quarters, and then gave the festival team of Bulgaria a scrimmage for the second two quarters.
We couldn’t have done it without Bulgaria, honestly. They supplied defense to our strictly-offensive minded LAS team. In addition to bringing a very impressive goalie, Bulgaria also supplied some very athletic midfielders who kept the tempo of the game moving in the up-and-down style that made the game as fun as it ended up being.
It wasn’t a high level exhibition designed to show off the talent of the guys playing. It wasn’t about score or highlight reel goals, even though Connor refused to shoot anything that wasn’t behind the back or around the world. It was a game for fun. It was just an opportunity to get out there and run and laugh and throw the ball around with friends, both new and old.
Now I can say, in complete honesty, that I’ve played lacrosse in Hungary against Bulgaria. I’ve always wanted to say that, and I got to do so in the purest way possible – with 40 other lacrosse loving people from all over the world.