Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remebering The 1983 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament

Hall Famer Brad Katz
In 1983 I played lacrosse at Herkimer County Community College for Hall of Famer Paul Wehrum. I had earned first team Junior College All American the year before and thought that might help me gain the attention of the coaching staff at the University of Maryland where I wanted to continue my lacrosse career. I don’t believe one of my many phone calls to the Maryland lacrosse office ever made it pass the secretaries who screened calls; nor did any of the coaches return my calls. In contrast Coach Roy Simmons Jr. reached out to me. Coach's demonstration of genuine interest in me as person and not just an athlete made positive impression on me. I'll never forget seeing Syracuse beat Maryland in the NCAA quarter finals that year in the Career Dome. I went on to watch every one of the Syracuse playoff games in 1983 including SU's come from behind to win and first National championship. Shortly before the final game Coach Simmons sent me a scholarship offer which I gladly accepted. How the Lord orchestrated my scholarship to Syracuse, the defending national champions in 1983, is still a faith building memory to me.

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The 1983 NCAA Tournament:

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Hall of Famer Todd Curry

Todd Curry playing defense against John Hopkins' Hall of Famer Brian Wood in 1985

Todd Curry All Americans honors all four years at the cuse, midfielder of the year honors and was a 2 x national team player from West Genesee High school. We called Todd Bakey for his great head and shoulder fake. Todd came to cuse as a little skinny but he started lifting weights and gained definition and strength. Todd had great speed and a killer instinct you could see when he chased down an opponent on defense. In addition  Todd had a rifle for a shot and the ability to pick corners on the run with both hands. Todd made the National team his sophomore year, which I believe makes him the youngest player to do so. 

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Fred Opie Interviews Syracuse All American Todd Curry: [Listen Now 31min 36sec]

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Managing Fear

Fred Opie covering UNC Steve Martel
I will never forgot the lesson I started learning back when I played in my  first game as a Syracuse Orangemen. The game was against UNC and it occurred in the spring of 1984 at Loyola College in Baltimore. About 5,000. people filled the stands and surrounded the astro-turf field.  I found out that day that I could work through potentially paralyzing performance fear and do what need to be done. The same nervous feeling comes across me now before: asking someone I am impressed with a question, teaching a class, and delivering a lecture as an invited speaker. I loved playing sports and at some point when I hung up my cleats, I transferred that how to manage fear and nervous feelings to my vocation as a talking head. I also learned to fake it until you make it because most folks can’t tell you are nervous unless you tell them.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Navy's Syd Abernathy Part 3

West Point's Michie Stadium 
I had the honor to see Syd Abernethy play my senior year in high school in Croton and his senior year in college at the Naval Academy in a quarterfinal NCAA playoff game at West Point in 1981. Before that game, I had never heard of him. In addition, it was my first time seeing an African American in game, and one who clearly was one of the best players on the field and one who played my position too—attack. Many people don’t know I was an attackman in high school.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Navy's Syd Abernethy Part 2

Me playing attack against Suffern High School in 1981 in Rockland County, New York 
When Syd Abernethy enrolled in the Naval Academy, the school had a reputation for great attackman including Hall of Famers Jimmy Lewis (Uniondale 64-66), Jeff Long (Irondequoit 74-77), Brendan Schneck (Syosset 77-78), and Mike Buzzell (West Genesse 77-80). Abernethy continued that tradition going on to start at the attack position as a sophomore. After Schneck transferred to Hopkins to play midfield, Abernethy, Buzzell, and Dickie Wheman developed into a triple threat on attack before Buzzell graduated two years later. Abernethy would earn honorable mention All American honors his junior year, “the next year I just outworked everyone, coming to practice early and leaving late,” says Abernethy, and his hard work paid off. I asked him if he ever experienced racism during his high school or college playing days. “No, people in Baltimore knew lacrosse and my performance on the field spoke for itself and I never experienced it on the lacrosse field,” says Abernethy. 

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Navy's Syd Abernethy Part 1

 Navy vs. Hopkins game circa 1978 
Syd “the squid” Abernethy gained his nickname for his patented head and shoulder fake at the attack position that allowed him to blow by defensemen and score bunches of points during his lacrosse career. A lot of young players today of all stripes know nothing about him. I witnessed his game first hand and I think his story is important for serious fans and students of the game. A tall well-built attackman with powerful legs and blinding speed, Abernethy was born at John’s Hopkins University Hospital in 1958. He grew up in Annapolis, Maryland where he first played middle school lacrosse at the Key school and then later for a Hopkins’ lacrosse alum, Dave Roberts, at Annapolis High School located down the street from the U. S. Naval Academy. At Annapolis High, he excelled both at athletics and academics where he achieved high school lacrosse All-American honors. His brother, who was three years older than him, played as a walk on defensemen at the Naval Academy for Hall of Fame Navy coach Dick Szlasa. Syd received offers to play college ball at West Point, Yale, and Navy and he chose to follow his brother to Navy in the summer of 1977. More on Syd and the role he played as part of Navy’s triple threat offense tomorrow.

Navy Head Coach Rick Sowell on How to “Really Play Part 2:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Jim Brown, More than a Lacrosse

Front row: Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul Jabar. June 4, 1967 press conference given by the top African American athletes of that time in support of Ali’s opposition to the Vietnam War draft.
Growing up playing lacrosse in the 1970s and 1980s, I never saw Jim Brown play. What I knew about him was based on seeing him on myriads of NFL highlight films particularly as Walter Payton came ever closer to breaking Browns all time rushing records and from my Dad. “That Jim Brown is bad!” my dad would often say, impressed by Browns black cool style and black militancy as he destroyed one color barrier and stereo-type in American society after another. Brown refused to accept racist customs and submit to white privilege and my Dad admired Big Jim for that. He like Malcolm X, Bill Russell, Ali, Kareem, and the two brothers, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, who gave the black power salute during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Brown would not compromise his views for fear that it would hurt his career and pay check. I met Jim Brown in 1984 when we (Syracuse) played Hobart College the Div III national champions in 83 in Manhasset High School’s Lacrosse Day of Champions on the island, a great event. This coincided with Brown’s induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983. More on this tomorrow.

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