June 3, 2007

My Time at the Lacrosse Final Four

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Okay, I know I’m over a week late in writing this up, but it was a very painful experience. I mean come on, you all saw how it happened, so can you blame me for still feeling torn up inside? Of course not.
Anyway, I feel I need to write this because I was actually at the game (Baltimore is only 45 minutes from my home in Bethesda, Maryland). Yep, I had a press pass and everything, just like a real reporter. I was there for two days, on Friday for the team’s practice and on Saturday for the game, so let me give you my view on the things that happened.
I went up to Baltimore on Friday. Unfortunately I misread the directions and ended up parking on the other side of M&T Bank Stadium from the press entrance, which isn’t a small distance. So after a long walk in what felt like 100-degree heat, I picked up my press pass (which misspelled my name Matt Wasserman) and entered the stadium. Duke was on the field practicing at this time, and there were a lot of cameras and reporters watching. This is when I started to develop my theory that this lacrosse final four was basically a gigantic apology from all of sports media to Duke for getting the whole rape case thing wrong. It’s the exact same situation as the 2007 Grammy Awards when they gave pretty much every award (probably including Best Metal Album, based on history) to the Dixie Chicks, recognizing that they were right all along about the war.
This theory only grew stronger after Duke left the field, as all the cameras and reporters went with them. Cornell entered to only a few cameras. Also, Jeff Tambroni soon found out that his team had 15 minutes less that they were supposed to have because Duke’s practice ran over. In addition, the M&T Bank Stadium grounds crew also felt this would be a good time to enter the field and remove several tables that they would have to set up again Saturday for the game. One groundskeeper told a spectator who was sitting on a table to move somewhere else, saying, “There’s 70,000 seats here,” to which I responded, “And none of them comfortable.”
There were two main highlights of the Cornell practice. The first was overhearing ESPN lacrosse color analyst Quint Kessenich trying to explain to someone on his cell phone how to pronounce his name (“No, it’s Kess-Nick…KESS-NICK…N-I-C-K…No it’s not spelled that way…”). The other was watching one of the coaches climb to the very top row of seats in M&T Bank Stadium and proceeding to heave balls onto the field where the Cornell players tried to catch them. I later found out that’s it’s called “skyball”, and it’s a fun drill the defense has been doing for a long time. Of course, they usually play skyball in Schoellkopf Field, which is much smaller that M&T Bank, so this should be “X-TREME skyball!!!” The only way it could have been more awesome is if the coach had a microphone to the stadium’s PA and he was yelling things like “300” and “mystery box.” (By the way, I think this should be a good time to say how much I like Max Seibald. It’s good to have a great sports athlete named “Max” that’s not a German boxer from the 1930s.)
Well, after the practice was over, I headed up to the press box and managed to guilt some people into letting me have some of their pizza. You see, while M&T Bank is next to Camden Yards and Camden Yards is near the nice, clean, restaurant-full Inner Harbor, M&T is in an area that has no restaurants.
Saturday, I went back at around the start of the Hopkins-Delaware game (which not only didn’t I care about, it was boring too). I wasn’t provided with a parking pass so I had to find my own. I got into a lot situated directly under I-95 full of kids playing catch with their lacrosse sticks, adults drinking, and college students drinking with their lacrosse sticks.
After Hopkins beat Delaware by a score of boring to crap, it was time for the main event. The stadium was full of Duke fans several groups of whom had the totally original idea of painting their chests with the letters “D-U-K-E” and an optional exclamation point. So the game started, things happened, goals were scored, and by the middle of the third period, Duke had a seemingly insurmountable seven-goal lead. I say “seemingly” because we all know what happened next. Everyone in the press box thought it was over. A cameraman for a Durham TV station actually left at this point, thinking it was over.
So then of course, Cornell manages to pull within one goal with time running out in the fourth. I’m so excited, I forgot about being neutral and started cheering for the Big Red. Give me a break; it’s not like I’m an important member of The Sun or anything. The reporters next to me are taking bets on whether the game will go to overtime or not. The cameraman comes back and is in total shock of what the score now is. Well, then Cornell ties it up with seventeen seconds left, to seemingly send it to overtime. I again say “seemingly” because we all know what happened next. I won’t say anything more about it.
Well that’s my story. I know I didn’t have too much stuff on the game, but we’ve all been through it before. And then of course, there’s the final game, where it was shown that this isn’t the Grammy Awards as Duke lost to Hopkins. Of course, later that week, the NCAA announced that they are giving all Duke players who were on the canceled 2006 team an extra year of eligibility. The NCAA did this despite these arguments to the contrary:
1) Duke canceled their season, not the NCAA.
2) This has never been done.
So yeah, people are bewildered as to how the NCAA gave Duke players this huge favor. Well let me tell you something: If Duke beats Hopkins, they don’t get that extra year of eligibility. Since they lost, it was felt they still needed an apology. This is it. Enjoy your “Best Hard Rock Performance” award Blue Devils! You really, really, have not earned it.