Special Edition – Watching Live Lacrosse Again!
Dan Witmer | September 14, 2020
Hi, everyone. Road Trip Dad returns – for now.

I said I’d be back when lacrosse comes back. Well, I just watched my older son Brian play in a lacrosse tournament, and it felt great!

OK, it was box lacrosse.

OK, I watched his games streaming live on the internet.

And OK, the tournament took place in Radotin, Czech Republic, where Brian pretty much lives these days.

But as a Dad, it was every bit as awesome as watching the game from the bleachers (or sideline).

When I sat down to watch the tournament on YouTube, I didn’t plan on writing this blog, but once I saw him play, well, there was really no choice. My 23-week break from writing was over.

I can’t say that life has returned to normal in the Czech Republic, but they’ve been ahead of the US curve and this whole Covid thing since the beginning. Brian’s been in Radotin since the first week of January, and back around the middle of March he told us to start wearing facemasks before Dr. Fauci did; then he advised us to shop for longer durations before American shelves were swiped clean of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Ramen noodles. I learned pretty quickly that it wouldn’t hurt to listen to him.

Now, six full months later, there are few Covid restrictions in the Czech Republic. Kids are playing sports again, and schools are open. People wear their facemasks. Policies change from week to week, but there’s little protest and more cooperation… but I’ll try to avoid politics.

The Frank Menschner Cup is an annual box lacrosse tournament held each September in Radotin’s beautiful, iconic outdoor box. I was lucky enough to be there last year (see http://www.justlacrosse.com/19archives/blogs/witmer_myfirstmenschnercup.htm"), on my first trip to Europe, and this year, teams from all over Europe held their collective breaths to see if the tournament would go on as scheduled, or fall victim to Covid’s long litany of cancellations.

The bigger brother of the FM Cup, the annual Ales Hrbeskey Memorial held every April, also in Radotin, was cancelled this past spring, but Europe has opened up enough in recent months to allow the Menschner Cup to proceed. Ten teams from the Czech Republic and six other neighboring countries – Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Poland, and the Netherlands – competed this year. Americans, of course, aren’t able to travel overseas these days, but travel between many European countries is pretty much restriction-free.

Between the two annual tournaments in Radotin, Brian has played there maybe 10-12 times. Now he’s gotten his work visa and lives there; before the pandemic, he traveled around Europe to teach both box and field lacrosse. He was supposed to coach the Czech Men’s National Team at this summer’s European Field Lacrosse Championships, but that got postponed till next summer. Since the Czech Republic has opened up over the summer, he’s back to coaching local youth teams and making guest appearances in PE classes to teach the game we all love.

With the Menschner Cup getting the green light for the first weekend in September, Brian decided to skip building his traditional Clydesider and NOAFE teams, and instead helped register a “house team” that played under the name of “Prague Sports” (he told me that there’d been a team set of uniforms hanging around the bowels of the Radotin field house, and that’s what was printed on the team jerseys).

Watching him play again was a wonderful Dad moment. Brian’s had back pains for over a year, and he hadn’t played since last September – I think he took his helmet off and assumed a coaching role in his first game at last year’s Menschner Cup. In the past twelve months, he’s been to chiropractors, doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers, had an MRI, and even set up his own rehab apparatus over our pool last fall (I wish I had taken pictures). Just before this year’s FM Cup, he wrote that he had given his long-awaited comeback a cautious try. He texted, “I suited up and played last night. Everything felt fine. If I was wearing a dozen eggs I probably would still have 10, but I scored one and had maybe four assists” (the kid’s got a way with words!).

Look, I miss the lad. I hugged him good-bye 11 months ago, when he left the US last October. When his grandfather passed away in early July, Brian wanted to come home, but if he had flown back to be with family, he wouldn’t have been able to return to the Czech Republic…

His Prague Sports team went 3-3 overall, remarkably going 1-1 each of the three days. In a field of ten teams, they finished sixth overall. Not bad for a rag-tag team put together just for three days, wearing uniforms they found at the bottom of a storage closet...

Over the years, I’ve watched him play various box lacrosse roles. In his earlier days, he was a “transition” player, a defender whose specialty is pushing the ball from defense to offense. When his back was bothering him, he went through a brief phase where he limited his role to taking his team’s face-offs. Several summers ago when he was home, we were trying to get Oswego HS players to give box a try, and he even padded up and played goalie.

This time around, though, he played offense. According to the FM Cup website (https://fmcup.cz/), he went 3-5-8 in his six games, good for 34th place among the tournament’s leading scorers (yeah, the website is pretty comprehensive – points, saves, penalties, goalie changes, etc – plus all 30 games, youth exhibitions, and opening and closing ceremonies archived on YouTube – it’s all there!).

Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not writing this to brag about Brian – he’ll probably get mad at me when (or if) he reads this. No, I’m writing this because it felt that good to watch my kid play again.

He’s 30 years old now (how did that happen?). I know that parents all over the planet have missed watching their kids play the sports they love, and I feel for them all – parents and kids. Even now as the school year starts, high school and college athletes alike wonder about their future athletic careers; there’s just so much uncertainty.

But I’m writing because, for at least a couple of hours over the course of three days, it was almost like normal again. Not “the new normal” (a phrase I am stubbornly not ready to accept or adopt), but honest-to-goodness good old days.

How lucky am I!

As for my usual sign-off, my “Road Trips” these days have pretty much been limited to weekly treks to Walgreen’s, Aldi, and Price Chopper, but what the heck…

Drive carefully, everyone! Stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind.

- 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.