Hampton Lacrosse: It’s Real

Originally published in Lacrosse Magazine

This is more than even Michael Crawford imagined.

Sure, he wanted something like it to unfold. A coach distributes equipment to 23 players. A two-hour practice. Players like him at historically-black Hampton University have the chance to learn and love the game the way he first did at St. Thomas More, an all-boys’ boarding school in Oakdale, Conn.

But Crawford could not have expected the president of Hampton, Dr. William Harvey, a business mogul whose office is decorated with framed pictures of him with U.S. presidents and other dignitaries, to send a letter last fall to the student body saying the university would add a varsity lacrosse program — or for it to actually happen just one year later. He never fathomed Under Armour gear, practice under the lights on Hampton’s new turf field or 6:45 a.m. workouts.

Or for him not to be there.

No, this wasn’t supposed to be the story. But as Hampton’s team motto says, “It’s real.”

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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No It’s the Aberdeen Blimp

Originally published on Baltimoremagazine.net:

Captain Jim was curious like the rest of us.

“I’m wondering what is up in the air!” Harford County councilman Jim McMahan, an Army veteran and former local radio host, said a month into a military project that sent a 250-foot blimp-like figure into the sky above Aberdeen Proving Ground. Weather permitting, it has hovered there at 10,000 feet for the last eight months.

People asking the same question have nearly gotten into car accidents on I-895 while staring at the sky. Or they’ve snapped pictures from passing aircraft, Camden Yards, or their back porch. In the modern judge of a topic’s newsworthiness, a pair of social media parody accounts, @BmoreBlimp and @AberdeenBlimp, also sprouted, though it’s technically not a blimp, but something three-times larger called an aerostat.

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Doesn’t Get Much Better Than Army-Navy

Saturday was my first Army-Navy game.

I didn’t play. I didn’t sweat, at least not to the point where it was noticeable. I didn’t parachute in like three men courageously did in a stiff wind during pre-game ceremonies. No, I just showed up to Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., along with roughly 10,000 others on Saturday afternoon, and watched what unfolded.

I took a few pictures on my phone, tweeted and wrote about the game afterward, but that story – while it described how Navy ended Army’s six-game winning streak in the series with a huge fourth-quarter rally – probably missed the bigger picture. And, no, not the Patriot League playoff race, although that is important. But how great the whole day was in general, and why can’t there be more games like this one?

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#Lacrosse is Trending: Social Media Effect on the Sport

Originally published in the October 2014 edition of Lacrosse Magazine:

On a drizzly Thursday evening in late May in Washington, D.C., two men stood side-by-side inside the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, relatively invisible to the cocktail party crowd around them at a pre-Tewaaraton Award ceremony. But if those lacrosse enthusiasts, friends and family just a shoulder-length away knew what social media account access was in a pair of pants pockets nearby, it’s easy to imagine people would have lined up for any number of requests. Just like the kids and fans asking for autographs with the five men’s and five women’s Tewaaraton finalists.

Albany assistant coach Eric Wolf’s smartphone is notified of any mention of the Great Danes men’s lacrosse team on Twitter. And with Lyle and Miles Thompson both finalists for college lacrosse’s highest individual honor, he said “it’s getting crazy,” as anticipation built for the ceremony that eventually crowned the first-ever co-Tewaaraton winners in the form of the two brothers.

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For Thompsons, It’s Faith, Family and Lacrosse

It seems appropriate to start this story about Lyle Thompson with him at a dinner table surrounded by family.

So there was Lacrosse Magazine’s 2014 Preseason Player of the Year and Tewaaraton Award front-runner, on a mid-November Monday night, sitting at a circular, eight-person banquet hall table at a charity event in Latham, N.Y., a short drive north of Albany. In his arms, the college junior held his 7-month-old daughter, Mercy. She stood on his lap and they looked at each other face-to-face. To their right sat Thompson’s 2-year-old daughter, Layielle, eating chicken wings handed to her by Thompson’s older brother, Miles. You know Miles, the one who runs alongside Lyle the best attack line in college lacrosse right now and maybe ever.

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Great Day to be a Tar Heel

Originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Lacrosse Magazine

The ghosts of North Carolina teams of the past quarter century — the talk of not winning the big game and why — were nowhere to be found at 4:35 p.m. on Memorial Day Monday in the visiting locker room at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Joe Breschi’s last dab, the Cam Newton-inspired dance that made the Tar Heels’ coach Internet famous a week earlier after the program broke a 23-year final four drought, brushed those bad vibes out for another generation.

“Dad’s like the dab guy now,” Breschi’s wife, Judy, said, standing nearby, with three of the couple’s four daughters in toe. They had all just spent time celebrating on the field of the NFL’s Eagles. “I cried … and I cried again,” 10-year-old Lucy said in a stream of consciousness to no one in particular.

Beneath the south end zone seats, a party raged. Most of the 46 members of the 2016 edition of the Tar Heels gathered in the center of the long room, doing a dance of their own, gyrating in unison to house music that would make most DJs proud. Equipment, sweaty white-and-Carolina blue jerseys and other garments were scattered about, soaked by the perspiration of North Carolina’s epic 14-13 overtime win against top-seeded Maryland in an instant classic title game.

“We just won the national championship!” Breschi said, as if he couldn’t believe it.

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Lasting Impact

“I’m 28 years old, and I’m worried about long-term brain issues.”

Those were the words from former Duke All-American midfielder and current Bryant assistant Brad Ross over the phone as he told the story of a post-concussion condition that has plagued him for more than three years.

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Absence of Mangold disrupts Jets’ offense

Originally appeared in Newsday (N.Y.). A deadline write-thru.

BALTIMORE — About 2 1/2 hours before Sunday night’s opening kickoff, with no other Jets players on the field, three-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold tested his sprained right ankle for about five minutes in front of team personnel near the east end zone of M&T Bank Stadium.

After going through a variety of drills to evaluate his agility, Mangold did not impress enough. He was ruled inactive and missed a game for the second time in his six-year career, spending it on the sideline in green sweats.

It’s hard to judge exactly how much Mangold would have helped the Jets’ offense, which was largely underwhelming in a 34 -17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But the offensive line certainly missed their leader.

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Ravens Beat Up Big Ben, Steelers

Originally appeared in Newsday (N.Y.) and on Newsday.com

BALTIMORE — The greeting Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin provided to his silent Steeler players as they entered the post-game locker room was indicative of just how dominant the Ravens were yesterday.

“Take it like a champ. Swallow it whole,” Tomlin said in the hallway, shaking players’ hands as they walked past. “Chew on it.”

The Ravens outplayed their division rivals and the reigning AFC champions in a season-opening 35-7 win at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore’s traditionally strong defense forced as many turnovers — seven, a franchise-record — as the Steelers had points.

Read the full story here.

Following the print and web coverage of the game, I was asked to join WNST radio in Baltimore to talk about it.