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RTK: 2020 Summer of None Paper Plate Awards

By Eric Witmer, 12/07/20, 12:30PM EST


As Monty Python used to say, “And now for something completely different...”

‘Tis the season, RTD faithful, so here’s the first of several gifts I’m placing beneath your tree…

To say that my two sons have inherited my love for the game of lacrosse would be an understatement. They grew up playing the game (of course!), but their passion grew out of their own experiences – besides playing as much as they could, they attended camps, worked summers during the heyday of the UOLL, and – not only worked, but were thrilled – to work score tables at the Oswego Lax by the Lake and Lake Placid Summit Classic tournaments. They followed the well-trodden path from high school to the D-III college experience, but then they followed a less traveled course – they made their own connections, with 3d Lacrosse, with international lacrosse, with box lacrosse, and with players and coaches and referees from all corners of the globe, both familiar and obscure.

Since then, Brian has gotten more ink in these RTD blogs than Eric; he’s the world traveler: he’s worked, coached, and/or played in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Israel… He wrote for Lax All Stars and Inside Lacrosse. Now he’s the head coach of the Czech National Men’s Team and produces his own podcast on Spotify, appropriately titled “Lost Baggage.”

Eric, on the other hand, has taken the more conservative route. Although he did trek over to Prague several years ago to play box lacrosse with his brother, most of his efforts have been within in the confines of the US... specifically, from his home base in Denver, CO. He has worked for Summit Lacrosse Ventures for five years now, and comes back to New York every summer to assist in the operation of a number of SLV tournaments – in Saratoga, Albany, and Lake Placid. He has written a bit for the SLV website, but until now, he has limited his story-telling to his closest circle of friends.

Looking for new Road Trip Dad content in this desert of fresh lacrosse news, I invited Eric to write something for my RTD series. He sent me this a few days ago, and I think you’ll find it refreshing, enlightening, and definitely entertaining.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Eric Witmer.

RTK: The 2020 Summer of None Paper Plate Awards

And so it has come to this….time for Simba to eclipse Mufasa, climb up there atop Pride Rock, and oversee everything the light touches. A passing of the torch. A royal coming of age. An over-dramatic opening to capture readers’ attention…

No, this is really the most efficient Christmas/birthday gift one can give: RTD (aka Old Man, aka Dan the Man, aka my father) has grown weary trying to create lacrosse content out of literally nothing, and has lit the Bat-signal asking for support. I guess this makes me Bruce Wayne? Let’s save Gotham, metaphorically, one anecdote at a time, shall we?

As you may know – I am Eric, second son of Dan and Sue, brother of Brian, purveyor of lacrosse tournaments with Summit Lacrosse Ventures. While we tried just about everything, the SLV crew was pretty worse for wear since we got into the thick of this mess in March. In fact, with the exception of youth league operations in CO, we only operated four days of lacrosse in the last 6+ months. Two were showcase days in Albany, and the other two were competitive games in Indiana just last month.

That’s it. That’s 2020 for ya. In relative terms, the grand-daddy of them all is one of our eight summer events, and lasts for seven days. This summer, we operated for just four days, with more than 60 days and 700 miles between programs. I bring up this comparison because, for the last five years, at the very beginning of Day Seven of The Big Event, a large conglomeration of staff members gather earlier than usual to receive prestigious awards from yours truly. Father Time (aka Coach Wit) gave us the idea before I went corporate, and Rich Gross (LP Staff Director/my mentor of the last 15yrs) has basically let me do with the tradition as I please.

Boiled down – we (Richie, Dan, myself, and a few other muppets, depending on the year) come up with inside jokes from the week that was, and write them on paper plates. But it’s more than that – if you’ve never been a part of it, you just might not understand. It’s more than that to the extent that when we cancelled Placid this year, my heart ached for the opportunity to hire, schedule, and eventually dole out backhanded praise on a Sunday morning via disposable plates.

While a prima facie silly idea, it means a lot to those who have come to love the Lake Placid Paper Plate Awards – so much so that, when the opportunity arose to hand out just three plates this summer, I jumped on it, and made the most of it. When the entire SLV staff (there’s four of us) gathered in Albany for the first-ever Northstar Showcase in August, I carpe’d the diem and made sure my teammates knew I loved them.

These are the Summer of None Awards, from the year that never was:

1. To Kevin A. Leveille – Sunday School Honor Roll

Turns out Kev might have the best ‘my dad smacked the crap out of me for wearing sandals to church’ story you have ever heard – and his defense couldn’t be more nail proof. The award might have been 30 years overdue, but over achievers deserve to be recognized regardless. The statute of limitations on ticking off your Dad doesn’t actually exist. Kev – if you read this, I support your open-toed style, just like the Big Man upstairs did/would/will when he pops back up.

2. To Ashley G. Murphy – Whose Endline Is It Anyway?

You know that show Undercover Boss? Well, the showcase was a little like that – we, the usual HQ crowd, were a little more involved in the drills, setup, movement, daily progression, health screens, etc. As fortune would have it, our fearless leader and CEO Ashley established the field boundaries with cones, but unknowingly marked endline corners at GLE instead of X yds behind the goal. A simple mistake we see every summer – but what made this more fun was we alerted Ash via radio what she’d done, and she proceeded to mark the other end in identical fashion. Is there additional humor to be found in Ashley’s past as a National Championship-winning GK, perhaps inferring she should maybe have greater familiarity with end lines? You decide.

3. To Blake Schierer – the Unadulterated, All-Time, Undisputed King of the Bubble

Blake is my manager, by rule of law, but he and I have also received ‘cutest couple’ awards at LP, and regularly match one another’s (in)sanity level depending on the day. We share a handful of traits and interests, but one thing no one on Earth can match is Blake’s ability to hurt himself when it is LEAST helpful. My first year with SLV, Blake broke his foot the Sunday before we flew to Chicago to work for two days in an absolute deluge, in November – he showed up to work Monday clicking down the hallway on crutches, and was gifted a wheelchair through the airport; I qualified for my Sherpa merit badge by shlepping close to 100 lbs of materials onto our giant Tylenol with wings. Another time he only had one contact lens in for something like 3-4 days at Placid and was effectively a Cyclops. I should make clear that we are all prone to these things – off hand, I almost removed my finger tip this summer about 36 hours before the showcase; I routinely smash my toes walking home around Mirror Lake, and as a guy who still runs in men’s league box and fields games as often as he can, there’s usually some minor issues with my own constitution. But this year, Blake declared himself untouchable as the king, and should indeed be placed inside a bubble, a la Jake Gyllenhaal in Blair Hayes’ timeless 2001 hit – Bubble Boy. Our awesome Northstar Showcase sponsor – Nike – sent the team new shoes, and we put them on for Day 1 as soon as Kev handed us the boxes. Fast forward eight hours to EOD and, as we kicked off our shoes to enjoy a job well done, Blake reveals to us blisters the size of walnuts on both his big toes. Blake may not have looked the gift horse in the mouth, but he did manage to be rendered borderline lame – from a new pair of shoes.

4. To Yours Truly

Me? Well, I’ve sadly forgotten what self-deprecating award I cooked up for myself, but luckily that’s why I have teammates with big brains! It was definitely something related to the fact I was missing a sliver of finger. After I joked about what award I’d give myself, the fearless leader of the squad and conqueror of corner cones herself nailed it – “Why not RTK – Road Trip Kid?” My jaw hit the turf – it was perfect!

Since we’d been high and dry all summer without events, I had made about a six-week run of getting out of Denver for the weekends with temporary roommate and SUNY Delhi HC, Sam Miller. We covered from the Badlands, SD to Silverton, CO, climbed a few mountains, camped out – we logged a lot of great miles in vehicles and on foot from June through August, and then I headed home for family matters the rest of the summer. I drove, of course, as I have my dog Frisco to care for, and tacked on what I believe to be my 11th drive from DEN to NY.

Ashley’s simple nod to both Dan’s established moniker and my constant acceptance of driving distances was so spot on, that it may lead to a regular feature here on RTD and To not only leech Dan’s love and ability to drive all day, but also a sweet TLA (three-letter-acronym) nickname, is more than I could have ever asked for.

That said… Safety First, then Teamwork. Drive Safe, World.

Eric Witmer