Friday, February 5, 2010

Jim Brown, Lacrosse, and Black Authenticity

Jim Brown is an alum of Manhasset High School, a hot bed of lacrosse for a very long time. “I grew up in Manhasset . . . and I had the best education you could get. I lived with some of the richest people in the country, but they were good people. I took advantage of that education and I used it to make myself stronger and make me more than just a big, strong athlete,” says Brown.In recognition of his induction into Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 83 event organizers had Manhasset native, All American Athlete, State Supreme Court Judge, and Jim Brown childhood mentor and patron Kenny Molloy (1919 – 1999) present the award to Brown at halftime (more on Molloy tomorrow). Brown won 13 varsity letters at Manhasset including one in lacrosse where he earned all star honors for three years. Coach Simmons introduced me to Brown in the elevator of the team hotel before the game. At age 48, Brown had being talking about returning to pro football and he looked like he was in playing shape to me. For me Jim Brown’s induction to the lacrosse of Fame gave me street creditability in black communities. When black folks questioned my black credentials and authenticity for playing “a white boys sport,” and they often did and still do, I would answer, “Hold up, Jim Brown played and loved this game too.” Thanks Big Jim for getting me out of a lot of heated conversations about playing our game.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Playing Varsity High School Lacrosse in the 1980s

Cole Bender, me my junior year (Fred Opie), Adam West behind me, and Matt Mitchell. Croton Point Park Field 1980.

It almost time for the start of high school lacrosse practice here in the Hudson Valley. This time reminds of my first year on the varsity team at Croton Harmon in 1980. The seniors I played with in my junior year were a hilarious bunch, especially Cole Bender and Josh Stark. They had a language of their own filled with nick names, expressions, and saying that was incredible to hear on bus rides to practice and on away games. To listen to them play the dozens (playfully bad mouthing each other and their families) would have us juniors rolling in laughter. And poor Mike Spotto, his classmates road that guy all season long giving him such a hard time but mike was a great sport and hung in there because he loved playing lacrosse and he was not a quitter. The entire bunch had a deep passion for the game of Lacrosse and they had allot of talent. Adam West for example, picked up the game late in high school, but the guy was such a phenomenal athlete that he was good for a couple of goals and assists every game—even after smoking a pack a cigarettes a day. And the rest of players like Matt Mitchell, Josh Stark, and Cole Bender had very good stick skills and a solid understanding of the game. Perhaps this teams greatest assest however, was toughness. These bad boys loved to hit and they took no prisoners; I always felt safe knowing they had my back.