Road Trip Dad – Bronze Pottery?
Dan Witmer | February 24, 2020
This week’s RTD blog marks my eighth anniversary of writing for JustLacrosse.com – boy, have those years flown by!

According to my records, this is my 431st Road Trip Dad piece (which is insane to imagine!), but more importantly, it was eight years ago this week that I sent my first article to my new boss at JustLacrosse. In my typical short-sightedness, I cleverly titled that piece “Road Trip Dad #1.” After about five or six weeks, my sagacious employer suggested I give the blogs individual titles, which implied I might want to start writing thematic pieces that each had a thread running through them from start to finish…

Uh-oh. What was I getting myself into?

But I made it work. The first three months were all about Brian and Eric’s lacrosse games the last year they were teammates at Brockport; I didn’t miss a game in 2012. I saw Brian’s first and only collegiate goal (at Medaille, on a weekday), and then I saw Eric’s first and only, too (at Cazenovia, also on a weekday). I tried to tailgate and bring the experience of college coaching to my conversations with other Brockport parents.

But before I knew it, it was the second half of May, and the boys’ season was over. Brian finished his NCAA eligibility, and it would be about eight or nine months before Eric would start the 2013 lacrosse season.

Um, now what? What do I write about now?

I changed the angle a bit, and wrote about the D-I playoffs and Memorial Day Weekend. Then I wrote about the New York State boys’ high school lacrosse championships, and then summer tournaments, and then Lake Placid, and then fall ball at Brockport, and, well, before I realized it, we started RTD Year Two.

By the end of Year Three, Eric was graduating. Nothing to write about, right?

Wrong. Fortunately for my writing career, Brian had found his way onto the roster of the Rochester Grey Wolves box lacrosse team. Road Trip Dad was back in business again!

In fact, looking back now, RTD took on even more meaning in the years after the boys were done with college lacrosse. Brian got an internship in Denver in 2013… road trip! All three of us volunteered to work at the 2014 World Games in Denver... another road trip! I volunteered at the 2015 Indoor World Games at the Onondaga Nation... (short!) road trip!

What started out as 15-16 road trips each spring to the campuses of Brockport, Elmira, St. John Fisher, Plattsburgh, Geneseo, etc. turned into much longer trips. Nova Scotia, Cornwall, Denver (a third time!), and Six Nations, Ontario. Then came the big ones – Australia in 2015, Israel in 2018, and then, just this past fall, the Czech Republic and Belgium.

Road Trip Dad indeed!

Basking in my success, I asked myself, “What is the traditional anniversary symbol for eight years?” Like, we all know 75 is diamond, 50 is gold, and 25 is silver… but what goes with eight years?

Well, readers, that’s why God invented Google. A quick little bit of research shows us that year one is paper, year two is cotton, year three is leather, and year five is wood (that’s right – wood!). And six is candy and/or iron (?), and seven is wool and/or copper (???). And if you are a smart reader, you have already figured out that the traditional eight-year anniversary symbol is bronze and/or pottery. Not bronze pottery. Bronze or pottery. Well, I went looking, but I didn’t find anything I want or need that’s either bronze or pottery, so I guess I’ll wait another year, when the nine-year symbol is pottery and/or willow (Wait, why is pottery listed for both? It just doesn’t seem fair!)…

So Happy 8th Anniversary to me – pass the bronze and/or pottery!

The question I hear from RTD readers most often is, “How do you come up with something new to write about every week?”

Well, if it isn’t from covering the places I’ve followed Brian and Eric to, then there’s my own coaching to fall back on – 28 years with the Oswego State Lakers, and now 10 with the Oswego High School Buccaneers. Plus 16 years of girls’ soccer at Hannibal, and 8 years of girls’ ice hockey at Oswego HS. Sometimes I feel like J.K. Simmons in the Farmers Insurance commercials: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two” (I think I just came up with another RTD article!).

Then there are the summer leagues, the winter leagues, and the fall tournaments… Tully, F-M, Sackets Harbor, and the TurkeyShoot. Sometimes I was recruiting, sometimes I was coaching the Bucs, and other times I was just coaching my sons’ teams.

Then came Lake Placid. I could write a book about my love affair with that place; in fact, I’ve probably written about 20-25 RTD articles about Lake Placid in the past eight years. I’ve played in the LP Summit Classic, I’ve worked score tables at it, and these days I’m on the administrative staff. I refereed there, and now I also work the Youth Summit Classic each summer. I witnessed the “Miracle On Grass” episode in 2018 (I didn’t come up with that phrase; I just used it as my article title). No shortage of material when I’m working up there twice a summer.

And yes, for the past three years, I’ve started wearing the referee hat a bit and, let me tell you, that gives me plenty of RTD material. Sometimes I hesitate when I consider writing about the players and coaches I’ve worked with (or against), but whenever I‘ve asked my official’s board for their go-ahead, they’ve always given it to me.

I’ve written – maybe too often – about the people I’ve been blessed to play for, coach with, and work beside… at camps, in high school, and in college. Sometimes I feel guilty dropping so many names, but I can’t ignore how fortunate I am to know so many of this game’s greatest people.

I’ve probably stolen ideas from great lacrosse writers like Dom Starsia, Pete Lasagna, and Bill Tanton – and sometimes I think they just might be stealing ideas from me. It’s all good, though; in my opinion, the bottom line is that there just aren’t enough people writing about this game.

I’ve written about the evolution of the game, its recent rule changes, and the expanding playoff formats for college lacrosse. I’ve written about Final Fours (even sat in the press box for one in 2018, thanks to LaxAllStars). I’ve been to many New York State championships, too. I worked for 3d Lacrosse for a few years, which allowed me to watch so many great lacrosse games when I had no stake at all in the games’ outcomes.

My boss insists that there’s no timetable for submissions, but I try to send him my weekly blog by Sunday night, in preparation for release on Monday mornings. If Sunday is busy, then I usually write on Monday morning. That’s how it’s supposed to go. But sometimes I do struggle for a topic…

If I don’t have a good one in mind (and, despite all the sources I just listed, that still happens way too often), I usually start worrying on Friday – but never until then. And then all day Saturday. If I don’t have an idea by bedtime on Saturday, I usually do some tossing and turning. If I still don’t have a topic by Sunday morning, then I really start to panic.

But more often than not, something clicks in my head between lunchtime on Friday and breakfast on Sunday. Sometimes I’m out and about and a topic will come to me. Other times, I’m in the shower, or lying in bed, or walking the dog, and – BLAM! – I get an idea. Inspiration strikes, and the next Road Trip Dad piece gets written.

To celebrate this monumental bronze-pottery occasion, I did my RTD thing and drove up to Montreal this weekend to watch my son Eric – who lives in Denver, CO – play with the Glasgow Clydesiders in the Chuck Baranowski Winter Classic – an eight-team box lacrosse tournament featuring teams mostly from Ontario, Quebec, and New York. I figured driving four hours to see my son who lives in Colorado was a reasonable way to spend some quality time with him... and I was right!

The Clyde has had teams play in Las Vegas, Prague, and the Onondaga Nation in the past five months, and when I got to Montreal on Friday, I saw a bunch of familiar faces and met some new players, too. The team struggled on Day One and went 0-2, but then rallied for two wins on Saturday. In Sunday’s final game – for 5th or 6th place in the 8-team tournament – they battled from start to finish, but the shots didn’t drop, and they lost 4-3. Besides having dinner with Eric and encouraging the Clydesiders from my spot on the bench, I also reunited with the only Canadian player I ever coached at Oswego State, Kris Clement ’10, who lives and works in Montreal. He stopped over to say hello between refereeing hockey games – so great to see you, Kris!

So, the argument could be made that some of my RTD blogs are better than others, and those who make that claim would be right, of course. But by and large, someone reads it, and then someone else reads it, and before you know it, I’ve finished another week.

And now – now it’s time to start thinking about next week.

Thanks for reading.

Drive carefully, everyone.

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.