Road Trip Dad - Fantasy Draft
Dan Witmer | July 15, 2013
Who would you pick to be on your team?

A few weeks ago one of my faithful readers and critics, Mike Brewster ’09, gave me a suggestion for an RTD column . . .

“Wit, I’d like to hear your take on creating the ultimate lacrosse line-up with studs from other sports…so for instance, would LeBron be a freak two-way middie? Would Ryan Callahan of the Rangers be a Raider? Probably would be tough to write about, but could be interesting…I know one thing – I’d take Bill Belichick as the coach . . ."

I liked the idea. The challenge wasn’t all that foreign to me; over the years teaching at Hannibal, I’ve written fictitious pieces about varsity lacrosse games between Hannibal and rival Cato-Meridian – two schools that don’t actually offer lacrosse. For the Hannibal team, I’d pick students who played other sports, and sometimes those who played no sports. I’ve also written pieces describing some of Hannibal’s female students participating in sports we don’t offer, like ice hockey, swimming and diving, and bowling.

So Brew’s suggestion had a trace of familiarity. Within minutes, I had the beginnings of my dream team. Having actually watched the NBA Game 7 championship last month, I couldn’t argue with his choice of LeBron James; I had to include this tremendous athlete on my team, too, and, well, midfield seems as good a place as any to play him. Brew and I are both die-hard Ranger fans, and team captain Ryan Callahan plays bigger than his body, game in and game out, and his knack for making defensive plays – as a penalty killer, as a shot-blocker – makes him a natural choice for short stick defensive specialist (we called ‘em “Raiders” at Oswego State – it was a lot easier to say than ssdm, but it’s not an original term; I stole it from Matt Hogan when he was coaching at the Naval Academy).

But who else would you pick? What if you had the entire pool of professional athletes to choose from, and you could pick whoever you wanted to be on your lacrosse team (no lacrosse players allowed)? It would be like on the playground, and you’re surrounded by pros from MLB, the NHL, the NBA, and the NFL… and you’re the team captain. Or you’re on center stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and your name has just been announced as having the next pick in the “Fantasy Pro Athlete Lacrosse League.” It’s your pick, and you’re on the clock. You get to choose.

I’ll name my full team next week. It’s mostly picked already – my son Eric and I took up Brew’s challenge the day he emailed the idea to me, and we have two very different squads. Eric chose to include former great athletes (Michael Jordan, Pele, etc), but I limited my roster to current pros, guys in the primes of their careers. Brew didn’t give us any rules; we just picked athletes that came to mind.

So, who would you pick? You’re probably going to need 15-20 players, and you might as well pick a coaching staff and maybe a GM, too…

Think about it this week; talk it over with your kids, your parents, your friends, or your co-workers. While I usually enjoy feedback to my articles, please do not email your teams to me this week – I don’t want to risk being influenced by your picks. Next week – after the reveal on July 25 – then you can email your teams to me, and maybe I’ll share some results with everyone the week after that.

I’ve had RTD readers tell me that I should create a “Comments” link, so people can respond and share their thoughts and reactions to my articles, but I’ve resisted, for several reasons. One, I have no idea what it would take to create such a technical mechanism. I’m guessing that my boss at Justlacrosse.com probably could set it up, but I’m still not going to ask him to, because, if it’s like most other comment sections I’ve seen, it allows people to remain anonymous, and I just don’t like that. I’ll admit that I enjoy reading the lacrosse internet “forums,” but I don’t like the anonymity of its contributors.

Besides, I do get some reactions; people do email me with comments and commentary after almost every article, and that’s enough for me. And also, quite honestly, I’m not looking for arguments, corrections, or disagreements. I like writing my thoughts, my stories, and my experiences, and I think there’s a decent-sized audience that enjoys what I write – and that’s good enough. But, to be clear, I truly do enjoy the feedback. I’ve heard from alumni I’ve lost track of, and complete strangers from out-of-state. I’ve heard from coaches, parents, players, and even referees, so I’m pretty happy with the system as it’s been. As they say, “If it ain’t broke…”

This week I sent in my 3dLacrosse player profiles from the Saratoga Springs Lacrosse Shootout and saw that they were on-line by the end of the week (see 3drising.com). For the coaches or team managers who sent me rosters and answered my questions via email this past week, thank you for your help; I hope you’re happy with what I wrote.

For my second and final 3dRising assignment of the summer, I drove down to Henninger High School on Saturday to watch the two younger divisions of the Nike Upstate Risings tournament (I guess the people at 3d figured that most of the “rising seniors” had already been seen by everyone).

The framework of grade-level summer competitions is fairly new to me; in the summer of 2009, my last summer recruiting at Oswego State, the people at the Top 205 Lacrosse Camp were just starting to feature separate camp sessions for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and other camps and tournaments – to my knowledge – followed their lead in the recent years that have followed. Recruiting camps used to target “rising” HS seniors, but with the dearth of early verbal commitments, the demand for lower, grade-level specific showcases has exploded.

And, since the dissolving of the Empire State Games, the idea of regional summer competition has stayed with people like Tom Hall, director of the Nike Upstate Risings format and former New York State chairman of boys’ high school lacrosse. This tournament has a simple format – four teams (from NYSPHSAA Sections III, IV, V, and VI) play three round-robin games. No playoffs, no all-star teams… just three chances to claim unofficial bragging rights in Upstate/CNY/WNY. And oh yes, there are three teams per region – a team of rising sophomores, a team of rising juniors, and a team of rising seniors – 12 teams in all.

In order to see the eight younger teams play, I tried to plan my day ahead of time. Games started on the hour, with simultaneous competition on the two turf fields at Henninger. While teams III and IV played, teams V and VI played. Five minutes after two games ended, two more games began. Players and their parents barely had enough time to move from field to field.

I had a decision to make – should I watch an entire game, or watch the first half of one game and then the second half of the other game? In short, should I watch three complete games, or six halves? No difference, you say? What if coaches subbed attack or defense units by half? What if goalies played just halves? I didn’t want to miss kids getting on the field, so I decided to watch entire games.

The problem was, if I watched entire games, I’d end up watching one team three times and the other three teams just once. Really! Try to sketch it out for yourself; I’m pretty sure I tried all possible combinations. You can either do it that way, or miss one team entirely, which wasn’t a justifiable option.

So, for the rising sophomores, I watched the Section III team play all three of its games; for the rising juniors, I watched the Section V team three times. I think Section V finished 3-0 in the youngest group, and I think Section III finished 3-0 in the older division. To be completely honest, I didn’t stick around to watch the oldest group.

I took notes, and I came home with about 12-15 names from each age group; I plan to write and send in my summary early this week, and I’m guessing it will be available on-line by the end of the week again. Knowing very few of the players I was watching, I am at the complete mercy of the accuracy of the distributed rosters. Hopefully there will be very few errors, but I’m wary of typos, misspellings, and last-minute roster changes.

That said, it was a fun day. I saw lots of familiar faces, including Section VI rising juniors assistant coach Tom Kincella ’87, varsity lacrosse coach at Iroquois HS; the aforementioned Tom Hall and son Geoff; and the “usual suspects” of referees Tom Abbott, Curt Lingenfelter, Steve Miller, Greg Norris, Spike Decker, Mike Branski, and others...

I also saw tournament administrator Chris Kenneally, current varsity boys coach at Fayetteville-Manlius HS and – as of last month – retired science teacher. I congratulated him on his retirement and learned that he had taught for an amazing 40 years! Forty! I’m considering retiring from teaching (in two years) after 33 years; I can’t imagine putting in seven more beyond that… Chris was the varsity coach at Bishop Ludden HS when I first met him back in the ‘80s; he was the coach of my Oswego State classmate, housemate, and fellow defenseman Bob Kelley ’82 as well as SUNY Canton transfer Tom Kincella ’87. And by the way, as if we really needed another piece of proof as to the tiny world of lacrosse and its huge reach, Chris’s wife was the delivery room nurse when our first son was born at Crouse-Irving back in ‘89. Somehow lacrosse entered the conversation while Sue was in labor… really!

Which brings us to this week… Not to rush the summer any, but Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament director George Leveille sent me drafts of the scholastic schedules to look over, so we must be getting close to August. He also promised open and other divisions this week, so I’m going to be spending some time going over the schedules and looking for conflicts or errors. Let’s see… 18 divisions times (approx.) 12 teams per division equals 216 teams… no problem! Fortunately, I don’t usually find many glitches – after all, George has been doing this for almost 25 years.

Brian flies from Denver to Maryland today to help 3dLacrosse run its FLG in 3D Summer Shootout in Bel Air next weekend. Eric coached his Oswego team in the 1812 JV Shootout yesterday at Sackets Harbor and takes his team to Henninger HS tonight for a ULA game. Just another week of the lacrosse grind…

Have a great week, everyone, and remember – who do you want on your team?

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu