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Dom Starsia: Co-Champs...Yes!

By Dom Starsia, 08/15/17, 4:45PM EDT

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have heard and agree with most of the arguments that criticize the “participation trophy” mentality surrounding today’s youth.  However, when you are north of 65 years of age, any recognition hardware that involves physical exertion will land in an esteemed place on my mantle piece.

Let me back up.  I graduated from Brown in 1974, played almost 10 years of club lacrosse with Brine (Bob Shillinglaw, Tom Cafaro, Jeff Wagner…) until just about the time that I became a head coach at Brown and my middle child was born in the early 80s.  It seemed like we played the Long Island Lacrosse Club (Alan Lowe, Tom Postel, Stan Kowalski, Ron Fraser…) in the northern Finals almost every year, and I recall that the postgame fellowship was a valued element of the exercise.

I hadn’t played any lacrosse for most of the next 10 years when I received a call from my former Brown roommate and Mohawk Indian, David White.  He asked if I would be interested in playing on a team of Upstate N.Y., Native Americans and high school coaches in the master’s division of a tournament in Lake Placid that had begun play the year before.  I was now close to 40 years of age, but we were already in the Adirondacks at an annual family gathering.  I thought I would give it a try and joined a team called the “North Country Legends.”

The first game I played in, I recall so vividly thinking to myself, “Hey, I still got it.” Then, sitting on the sideline watching a game with other teams in our division, I was flabbergasted with the impression “Is that what we are doing?...oh, my god, that’s pathetic.” But, it turned out to be a lot of fun, a good bunch of guys. We won the division that first year, and I was hooked.  I played for most of the next 16-17 years until deciding that I didn’t need to get hurt approaching my 60th birthday.  I retired from playing, and it was almost as if it was traded for a week at the beach in Ocean City, Md.  Well, I got hurt in the surf at the beach that first year away, had my shoulder operated on and figured, “What the heck, if I’m going to get hurt at the beach, I might as well just keep playing lacrosse!”  So, I have played these past few years in the Ultra Grand Master’s (older than dirt!) division of 60 years of age and older.  Someone asked me what the play is like in this division, and I described it thus…there is a groundball off to the side, just a few feet away, let’s take a moment to consider our options and the possible consequences here before making a commitment.

I think most of us walk away (When we get to walk away!) from each year’s tournament thinking that we are going to get in better shape and be more of a force the next year.  Of course, that’s impossible as we get older, and each year’s difference in age with the younger guys in our division is actually measured in dog years!  I always thought of Brooks Sweet (going in to the National Hall of Fame in September) as a young boy, and he scored the winner against us in his first year in this oldest division in a January tournament in Florida.

This most recent Lake Placid Tournament was winding down in an eerily similar fashion to year’s past.  Our Legends team got through the round-robin play undefeated and was set to play the Cloudsplitter’s in the championship game.  Truth be told, the “Splitter’s” have dominated the division in recent years and beat us in exactly the same scenario in ‘16.  Just before the face-off, in what would have been the last game of the day, the skies opened and the fields were flooded and unplayable.  Talk of re-scheduling was drowned out by a (Legends) proposal to simply declare co-champions.  Let’s see now…no one gets hurt, both teams share a beer in the parking lot instead and everyone goes home a winner…no contest, co-champions it is.  And, if you drop the “co” in your recollections with friends, who is the wiser?  Finally, to my Splitter comrades….we would not have beaten you that badly.