This week’s title is a reference (aka rip-off) to the Jimmy Buffet tune “A Pirate Looks at 40,” which included the lines:
“Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late.
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder.
I'm an over-forty victim of fate,
Arriving too late, arriving too late.”
Well, forgive me, but this old-school coach/player/fan/father/referee/writer can empathize with the good-ol’ beloved leader of Parrot-heads everywhere. You see, somehow, the calendar says I turn 60 years young tomorrow, so bear with me while that starts to sink in…
Ah yes… 1960. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States; JFK was elected some 11 months later. According to a little bit of quick Google research, the average American home cost $16,500, a loaf of bread was 49 cents, and gas was 31 cents a gallon. Stamps were 4 cents, the average life expectancy was just 69.7 years, and tuition was free at SUNY colleges and universities.
I’m so old that, when I learned to play lacrosse, it was with a wooden stick.
I was fortunate to grow up on Long Island, where just as many kids played youth lacrosse as their friends played Little League baseball.
My three scholastic coaches – junior high, JV, and varsity – were all fairly young Cortland State grads who, whether they knew it at the time or not, were tremendous examples of that college’s famed “Cradle of Lacrosse Coaches.”
I bought my first lacrosse stick – with a plastic head – when I was about 12 years old, and if I remember correctly, it cost about $32. Short stick or long, I used wooden shafts throughout the end of my college career.
My college coach was a Cortland guy, too – and he went on to hire me as his replacement.
“Yesterday it was my birthday;
I hung one more year on the line.
I should be depressed; my life’s a mess,
But I’m having a good time.
I don’t believe what I read in the papers.
They’re just out to capture my dime.
I ain’t worrying, and I ain’t scurrying;
I’m having a good time.”
“Have a Good Time” by Paul Simon
I’ve been blessed with many, many great lacrosse memories, shared with many, many great friends, teammates, coaches, and players… Paul Mizer being named Oswego State’s first USILA All-American in 1985, Greg Peel playing in Oswego State’s first USILA North/South Game in 1994, our first ECAC bid, and two years later, our first ECAC championship in 1996. The team and assistant coaches surprising me with an on-field celebration for my 100th career win (they had the … ahem… confidence to bring the plaque to Geneseo that day, and they gave it to me right there on the field after the game). Jason Hawthorne being named Oswego State’s first (and only) USILA Academic All-American in ‘02. Twenty-five years of lacrosse camps, and getting myself adopted into the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament family…
People, places, stories, and memories enough to write a weekly lacrosse blog for the past eight years. Not bad for a kid from Long Island making his living and raising his family in Upstate New York.
If I’m 60, that means my kids are getting older, too. In fact, Brian just turned 30, and Eric celebrated his 28th birthday in November. Seems like just yesterday they were playing in winter leagues at Hopkins Road in Liverpool, then varsity lacrosse at Oswego HS, and college ball at SUNY Brockport…
And the travels? I’ve driven to the Grand Canyon, and I’ve driven to Nova Scotia. I’ve been to Australia, and I’ve been to Israel. I’ve been to the Onondaga Nation, and I’ve been to Six Nations. I’ve volunteered at the 2014, 2015, and 2018 World Games, and I’ve (unofficially) coached box and field lacrosse in the Czech Republic and Belgium.
I’ve served as the NCAA site rep for D-II and D-III playoffs on the campuses of Cortland, Ithaca, RIT, St. Lawrence, and LeMoyne. I’ve been to 35 of the past 37 NCAA D-I championships.
I’m not bragging; I’m just telling what that dash means… you know, the dash that fits in between the year you’re born and the year you pass away… the proverbial dash on the headstone.
“Here I'm singin' happy birthday;
Better think about the about the wish I make.
This year gone by ain't been a piece of cake.
Everyday's a revolution;
Pull it together and it comes undone,
Just one more candle and a trip around the sun."
“Trip Around the Sun” – Jimmy Buffet
So, what’s next? I’m headed down to Philly for LaxCon 2020 this weekend, and later in January I’ll probably take an Oswego team (or two) to the Power Sevens indoor tournament in Albany. In February I’ll reconnect with some Laker alums in Tampa and visit other lacrosse friends while I’m in Florida. Then it’s March and Buc Lacrosse season. At the end of June I’ll work a couple of tournaments for Summit Lacrosse Ventures.
A July trip to Ireland for the U19 World championships and then maybe Poland for the European Lacrosse Federation championships is in the works. No plane tickets yet, but hopefully that will take shape soon. If that happens, I’ll get back home just in time to get up to Lake Placid for Summit XXXI.
I’m reminded of an “old” song by Tim McGraw – 1999’s “My Next Thirty Years”:
“I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age;
End of an era and the turning of a page.
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here.
Lord, have mercy on my next thirty years.”
Yes, the age of 60 appears to be a little daunting but, ultimately, I plan to blow right by it and just keep doing what I’ve been doing. Perhaps more than any of all these other songs, Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” has become my anthem these past ten years; bring on those years, those speed bumps, and closed doors…
“If you think it’s your time, then step to the line,
and bring on your wrecking ball...
C’mon and take your best shot; let me see what you got.
Bring on your wrecking ball.”
Kinda summarizes my feelings about hitting the big six-oh… C’mon, senior discounts. Whatchu got, knee and/or hip replacements? Baldness? Heck, I shave my head every year just to raise money; I ain’t afraid of you!
Happy New Year, everyone! Please, put down that cell phone and drive carefully.
- Dan Witmer
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.