Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fifteen year hiatus

It must have been about twenty years ago when I agreed to produce a web site for a local Junior A lacrosse team which my young brother was playing for.  The internet was not what it is today. The site was a bulky laborious one by today’s standard but quickly became the most substantive one in a league in which probably half the organizations didn’t even have a team site yet.

I photographed and interviewed the players and other team officials and began writing articles and attending the games in order to track statistics. The site was even featured in a national lacrosse periodical.

I kept stepping up to fill holes within the organization and the community at large. I became the team statistician, was appointed Director of Media Relations,  headed up fundraising efforts, produced the most voluminous game program in the league, served as timekeeper or ball boy on occasions and was soon elected Vice President. I served occasionally on the Junior A council and began touring the league watching games and posting game stories online under the pen name Blue (my dog’s name and my presumed nickname due to a misunderstanding). I was embraced by a small community of eccentric “internet reporters” and developed a following around the Ontario lacrosse scene. My game stories were then picked up and published on Ontario lacrosse’s premier web site which garnered thousands of hits daily.

This experience was important because it gave me some cred and confidence as a “writer” which I’d never before imagined I would become.

But aggressive parents, organizational politics and tribal delusion began to wear me out. I had a voice and thus became a target of the posturing and positioning of everyone with an agenda: mostly unhealthy ones. After five years I was burnt out and exited the lacrosse scene entirely. I didn’t even attend games as a spectator.

I have aged well though , and peace has worked its magic. It has dissolved bad memories and strengthened the good memories: Like the artfulness of the masterfully creative native teams I admired; the dazzling performances of so many great young players and their eventual promotions to the pro league; the road trips with lacrosse pals; the accolades from random spectators who spied my note-taking and asked, “Are you Blue?” The warm greetings of players who thanked me enthusiastically for my service to the team; and perhaps mostly: the amazing feeling that came from giving back to a community from which I once benefited as a youngster. I was astounded to discover that the joy of giving back was not just some platitude. It was precisely real.

Last Thursday night, after about fifteen years, I finally attended another OLA lacrosse game: A Junior B tilt between Scooterville’s Bengals and the visiting Thunderhawks. It was a joyful return. The junior B game appears to have evolved mightily in a decade and a half. I would have believed it a junior A match. What a treat to just enjoy the game without the shadow of diplomacy lurking over me.

The home squad jumped to an early lead and carried it comfortably until the end. The boys were all new to me of course though some had familiar names: like the son and the nephew of players (and coaches) I once knew in their prime.

Old habits die hard. I scribbled constant notes and swiftly began to glean the various roles, strengths and idiosyncrasies of each player who now seem ridiculously young to me at fifteen to twenty-one.

Afterward I had a beer with their general manager and coach, Mister D, who was a close associate years ago and has since won Ontario and pro league championship titles as coach and who earlier in the year sent me an email out of the blue to lure me out, without disguising his interest in getting some volunteer work out of me. I’m not ready to commit to anything and he was wise that night in not asking. But I know we’re both thinking about next season.

I do feel an urge though, already, to write about lacrosse again. It is sparked by a paternal inkling, as it was two decades ago though I did not understand it then. My inclination at the time was to write with players and parents in mind (though there were other followers). My artless policy at the time was to ensure that every player in the game was mentioned at least once in a positive light: some measure of praise for something done well; even if just a great pass or a faultless period on defense.

I think my reports would differ now though, for I am not much the same person, and that I would remain more neutral and noble and write more consistently from a non-partisan perspective; from the context alike the traditional native view. For lacrosse is an ancient game; a creative one; a game of collaborative rhythms; a game prone to serendipity; to beauty in motion. A game that, it was long ago said, was a gift from The Creator, and one to be played for His enjoyment.

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