That was the headline I wanted for this article, which I was imagining writing well-over a year ago. It was what popped into my head while I was watching the Rowan Club Men’s Lacrosse team huddle around the trophy that they had just won at the 2016 Fall Brawl Tournament in Severn Park, Maryland. It was such a satisfying moment for all of us who were there, as well as for the parents and alumni who heard about it. The team, unfortunately, hadn’t been victorious in the tournament until that year. So, taking the championship that year was a monumental stepping stone for the team.
Not only that, that tournament win was also an invitation for the good vibes to come. It also served as a lens to see the other victories to be had down the line. This was a new team. They had new legs and new sticks to put Rowan on the board and increase Rowan’s lacrosse presence on the map. I was beyond proud of this team, as evidenced by the group photo I used for the background wallpaper on my class computer for four months. It was just a moment I had been waiting for, and seeing them so happy that night reminded me of how much I really grew to love those guys. It wasn’t really my place to. Yet, when it came down to it, their victory felt like my own victory.
It was because I had invested so much of myself into them. It wasn’t just in a professional capacity, but also because I just found myself becoming friends with a team of endearing people. So, it was a personal venture as much as a professional one.
Of course, for what it’s worth, I didn’t think it would get this far in the first place. Life has a funny way of showing you just what you’re missing when you sit and look back on the memories of the past. Even though I may forget the complex details of the days that made such a journey possible, I know it wasn’t made out of nothing. In fact, the more I think back to the early days, the more clearly I can remember the color and even the innocence of the time. It was a meeting and a circumstance that could only be described as divine intervention.
I say that because becoming so involved with the team was the last thing I intended to do when I came to Rowan over two years ago. It wasn’t in my plan to get involved because I honestly thought the lacrosse players at Rowan were a little preppy and maybe even a little pretentious. I had just come from my own team at Ocean County College and had given much thought to playing on the club team at Rowan. My shallow judgements got in the way though. I’ll say it was a good thing that they did, because if I had thought a different way of the team, the past three years would have been a much different journey. It quite possibly could’ve been a similar journey to O.C.C. too, which would be counterproductive, beings that I came to Rowan for the sake of change.
It’s amazing how fragile time looks in reverse. I was aiming for change by coming to Rowan but I didn’t quite want it in the way it was coming. That change was coming at the same as when I was going to class that first day. I was walking on my way to “Online Journalism” and thinking about what to expect, probably thinking I already knew everything. Well, I also thought I could read a person by one glance, as I did with another young man who walked out of a house across the street from me, at the same time as when I was walking to class. He was a kind of short and slightly-stocky guy with a black t-shirt that had lacrosse sticks on it. I immediately started drawing conclusions as we both walked in the same direction down the street. I pondered what connections he must’ve had with lacrosse and how I kind of wished I could talk to him about it. I got to the point in my mind where I stubbornly concluded that he was probably too aloof or too self-involved to be friends with me….you know, as well as the fact he was literally just a random guy who just so happened to be walking at the same time as me.
That could’ve been where the story ended, but no, that scene was just a setup, among other things. I watched as that guy coincidentally (I’ll explain my thoughts on “coincidence” later on) walked into the same building I was about to go into for class. I was in for even more surprises when he came into the same exact Online Journalism class as me. I found out his name is Brian Mahoney and he was the social media guy as well as a goalie for the club men’s lacrosse team at Rowan. After some typical conversation between athletes and “do you know *insert possible, mutual-friend name?*” I came to conclude that it was nice having another lacrosse-head in the room. He was on the radio, television, and film side of the media, whereas I decided that I would be sticking with written journalism. Those were good skill sets to have going into this class, as well as skills we would get a chance to work on too.
The class was basically like a normal journalism class but with a much bigger emphasis on the multimedia aspects of online news sites. This meant like the picture usage, the videos, and overall interactivity of a site. As such, the main task of this class was in fact, for each of us in the class to create a blog, which we would be maintaining for the course of the semester. To emphasize the creative power of niches in journalism, we were given free-reign for deciding what the topics (or “beats”) of our blogs would be. So, I had the perfect opportunity to dive deep and run a blog about the things that interested me.
Only problem was figuring out what exactly interested me.
I honestly wasn’t sure what that was. I felt like I had spent so much time working and going to school, that I didn’t have too much time for hobbies. I tried my best to come up with a cool blog beat idea, but I was caught between too broad and not physically feasible. I had the inclination to create an ethics blog, due to my interest in philosophy. My professor told me that was too broad of a topic. I couldn’t imagine tailoring the idea down to a manageable beat. I thought about doing a music blog, but I had similar issues, beings that I would need a vehicle to get to concerts. So, I was kind of stuck and frustrated. After some long pondering and pride-squashing, I decided that I would take initiative with the sport that helped establish my identity. I was going to create a blog about those “preppy lax-bros,” that I had previously vilified. Oh, believe me, there was enough irony for a 32-man lacrosse team (as well as myself).
Well, as for the blogging aspect of this, let’s just say I wasn’t going into any of this as a genius web-designer or anything. I had little prior experience on the web like that, other than a blog I made for my Media Writing II class at OCC….a satire blog, which I used to make fun of ABC T.V. shows. I used the wrong site and it was deleted in a month. So, using a WordPress site was a new method with my old-man style of utilizing that new method. Well, whether I knew what I was doing or not, I started creating my lacrosse blog. I started coming up with cool names for one. I needed a name that was hip and memorable. Something that people wouldn’t be bored with in two seconds.
Coming up with a name went something like this (in essence)…
“Let’s see, so lacrosse players have face-offs….Rowan’s mascot is a Prof (owl-thingy)….face-off….Prof…I know!
I’ll call it “Face-Prof!””
Looking back now, I can see why professor emailed me back after I told him the name to tell me he thought the name was corny. Yet, I was determined to roll with it…and man, did I roll!
So, I inquired with Brian in class about my idea. The next thing I knew, I was going to the team’s first practice of the fall semester, the season and the school year. I even brought my short stick with me, I guess as a means of gaining trust or something. Kind of being a way to say I understood the game and I wasn’t just some kid looking for a grade. I went to that practice late at night at like 9:30 and waited for the team to come around to unlock the gate to the football field. Luckily for me, I went and put on a brave face so that I could talk to these guys. It wasn’t a big deal, right? I just had to explain to a bunch of lacrosse players I didn’t know that I was going to be running a blog about them. Easy enough.
I approached the young-man who happened to be the vice president for the team, a big, thick guy with a clipboard. I asked him who was the president and where I could find him. “He’s over there,” the man said, directing me to another guy, who was walking onto the field with his bag and a D-pole. This was the one and only Rob Zybrick, who most people just call “Z.” A strong-statured guy who just kind of radiated authority. After some nervous explaining, we cleared up that I would be following them for the class. Of course, my connection with Brian kind of helped too.
I was a little bit nervous about having to stay until 11pm, but I got to enjoy the company of lacrosse players again. I got to meet a lot of cool ones too, and most importantly, I found out that Brian has a seriously sick playlist. It felt like every other song was by Zac Brown Band. Anyways, after I discovered that the team wasn’t all that bad, I decided to stick around with this way of “reporting.” Since my class required me to cover the team and do different projects on them, being present at all of their practices would be crucial. This took some motivation some nights, especially when my walk to the football field was pretty far. I honestly didn’t mind it all the time though, because I got to learn more about this incredible group of guys.
As well as myself.
The next four months would tell the story of me becoming acquainted with the team, as well as my growing abilities as a journalist. Being in an online journalism class also required me to be moderately proficient with computers and other technology. This was fun, considering that most of the time, I labeled myself as being “computer illiterate.” Being with a sports team was something where a good camera or a phone with recording ability would be a monumental help. Of course, I didn’t have anything but my sideways flip-phone and a Microsoft tablet that I bought from a community college bookstore.
Throughout the class, I had to create audio clips, Q & A’s, photo galleries, videos, and a bunch of other cool stuff that turned out to be really difficult to accomplish on a tablet. I was ready to just go for it though, even if it meant taking fuzzy pictures at a home game and just hoping that my professor would see some merit in them. I got to utilize the voice-recording technology in my tablet as well, which came in handy when I got to interview Masta Zee himself (that’s Z’s other nickname) for a Q & A session. I got to sit down with him and find out what kind of leader he is, and from that point on, I really began to respect him for that. That blog post gave me a huge boost with site views, more than I would ever expect (about 190 views within the first 24 hours). Tell you what, that was the boost I needed too.
From there, I began envisioning the blog almost as a real, bona fide lacrosse blog. It was still the very beginning but I could really see a future for it. As such, I put together a roster for the team after modestly taking pictures of each player on the team with my bulky and awkward tablet. The first day of practice was a good press moment for the team, beings that they had a turn-out of about 60 kids coming out to try out for the team. By the time I got to take the roster shots, the team had just made their selection for their 32-man roster. So, that meant 32 names and jersey numbers for me to remember.
Among those I “had to remember” was a long-stick middie named Ryan Francisco. Also known as the team’s “hype machine” as per Mahoney’s nomenclature, Ryan just stood out as the most energetic guy on the team. Just this relatively short but strong LSM with a surf-shack kind of vibe to him. His goal was to become a math teacher and coach lacrosse at his high school, which also bred two other phenomenal players I met that year. Along with Ryan were TJ, and Alex, who both ran super-hard as middies and established themselves as dependable shooters. They, along with the team’s hardened string of attackmen and a few bulldozing middies really set the tempo in many games. I got to meet the computer science wiz, a middie named Chris Deck, who was just literally like a rhino on the field. Dan Berger was another one, a marketing major who had interests and hobbies that ranged from rugby to slacklining, along with lacrosse of course.
There was also Alex Mulholland, a face-off specialist who had to be one of the strongest, bulkiest, most carnivorous-looking middies I’ve ever seen. I sat down with him for a Q & A with him a little while after Z, and it was refreshing to find that Alex came from the same town as me. So, having a guy from home was pretty nice. Then, of course, you had the goalies, Mahoney and two freshman (both of which are about to be seniors next year). On defense were a couple of seniors (AKA “adults”) such as Z, then the big guy from the first night (known formally as “The Mizz”), Dwight Tucci with his injured knee-cap, and a finance-loving LSM named Ryan Fisher. As the season progressed, my respect for these guys did too.
As the semester dragged on (literally dragged on), I saw a lot of progress with the blog. I got to interview the then deputy editor for Lacrosse Magazine, Corey McLaughlin over email. That was an awesome experience, getting to learn from a professional in the field. I wrote about the breast cancer walk the team did every year (and the Zumba!). I learned about the team’s participation in the Fall Brawl tournament in Maryland as well as their annual hosting of the Lax for Donnie Tournament. The latter is a very moving and now, pretty personal event that I had the honor to cover during my time with the team. I’ll get more into that later. I’ll just say this, the story of Donnie and his legacy was something that really resonated with me. When I got to do my first article about the tournament, I learned about how to treat a story like his with respect. I wanted to be mature and professional but still compassionate toward those who would read it.
I later got to visit St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia for the team’s fall season ender against St. Joe’s and Temple. Those two teams were dominant powerhouses at the time, but I still could appreciate the feeling of being at a lacrosse game again. Despite having to film the whole thing with a bulky tablet, I really grew a newfound respect for this team. Rowan lost to both teams, but I was at a point where I didn’t want that to be the end of it all. I didn’t want to ride that wave halfway. Consequently, I interviewed a star attackman from the team who was about say goodbye to the team to chase after his career goals. They called him “Hollywood” but all I know is that after I published that article about him, the views for Face-Prof WENT STRAIGHT THROUGH THE ROOF!
I couldn’t believe it. Such a massive influx of page views and people leaving me comments about getting more views and stuff, I was in shock. By the end of the semester and the class, I had (roughly) about 1,400 views on the site. Stuff like that was huge for me because I guess I had lower expectations, but it just propelled my desire to stay with the team as they went into their next semester. The spring season was coming soon, and I was on the fence, but somehow still determined to stick around. I had grown to like Zybrick, Mahoney, Francisco, Mulholland, and all of those wonderful wackos who let me tag along that semester. When it was time for the spring season to start, my mind was determined. From that point on, I wouldn’t be doing it for a grade. I would be taking on this blog for the sake of my growth as a journalist, but most importantly, because it just kind of felt like where I belonged.
Once the weight of class assignments had been lifted off of me, I felt kind of free. Yet, I also kind of felt unsure and nervous, because I would be doing things based off what I learned from that class. It was one thing to pass the class but now I had different expectations on me. I had loose expectations from the team to give them a good medium for publicity, but I also had expectations of myself to be able to give them whatever professionalism I had. Yet, it would become a little tough at times. For the beginning of the semester, the team couldn’t use the football field because of the cold. So, the practices were held at an inside facility in the next town over. Which wasn’t too bad, because I got carpool with Zybrick and Dwight, but the toll of my spring semester began getting to me. A lot of the time, I couldn’t pay attention during practice because I was focused on reading the Bible for my Introduction to the Bible class. As such, my mind was often split.
The semester went on and the demands of classes got tougher. Papers were piling up and interviews for class articles were accumulating. That’s what you get for taking on 12 credits I suppose, but I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t sleep that much anyways. Well, whatever my circumstances, I still managed to get articles done for the team. These included an article on the return of Dwight after his knee injury was cleared to play. According to him, the dang thing just popped one day at a game because of bad footing during a shot the year prior. He read the article and told me thanks while I was getting food at Rowan’s mess hall. With that, I felt like what I was doing had meaning. Like it wasn’t going unnoticed and wasn’t for nothing. Confidence boosts like that got me fired up for when the team finally begun having real games.
That little space wasn’t terrible though, honestly. For an inside-turf field, they gave us a lot of space. I normally would sit outside of the field where the team was practicing. Luckily for me, I had a very nice, glass barrier stretching around the parameter of the field. This meant that 90mph shots would have more bark than bite if they missed the goal. The faulty phone signal was a little annoying and the heating vent behind me sometimes made weird noises, but altogether, I didn’t mind the switch.
Then, everything changed when the team was told that they would not be returning to the football field. For the rest of the semester, we would be going over the West Campus sports field……a giant swathe of grass in on the side of the road next to the highway exit and a huge farm. We had our reservation for after the rugby team’s practice and let me tell you, it was COLD! Such a flat land really just invited the whipping winds to bulldoze through all 34 of us. I was lucky enough to catch rides with Zybrick there too, and I held on for dear life when he made the sharp turns on that dirt road going to the field. No matter what mood these guys were all in, I made sure to be there and help with unloading the equipment from the cars. I knew it wasn’t really my role, but I still wanted to play a part. I was a journalist, but I was a person first. I became a journalist because I had a voice, not because I was looking for page views.
As a journalist, I had some more confidence going into one of the team’s first games, at Williamson College in Pennsylvania. It was a little easier, considering that I had just found my old iPod that a friend gave me for Christmas one year. The thing had a camera for shooting video and taking pictures and I was so ready to act professional. I mean, I filmed the game and posted it to YouTube like a pro…even the part where Mizz broke his head on the field and ran off. The game was awesome because the team won and everything. I certainly learned a lesson in resourcefulness though. Tell you what, throughout the whole experience with the team, I’ve really learned how to find an outlet on pretty much any field. Having electronics meant I had to scope out the field for places to charge. Usually, I’d watch the team watch me as I awkwardly wandered around for an outlet. I was a man on a mission! I also learned to use the bathroom before the game and to wear warm clothing.
I put out the pictures and posted the article about that game as well as one after it, and before I knew it, people were recognizing me for it. One of my friends from the rugby team asked me if I wanted to do blogging for his team, I happily declined. I basically treated it as if I would be cheating on the lacrosse team if I did. Those games flew behind me into the past, but I was about to get hammered by a whole month of nonstop lacrosse action….in Maryland, of course! Where else besides one of the lacrosse capitols of the East Coast? I didn’t completely know what I was getting myself into, but I tagged along, and before we knew it, we were driving past the gigantic battleship museum in Baltimore! It was awesome for me, just to be able to go on a trip (outside of NJ to boot!) like that. We stayed in a hotel where I was lucky enough to get a whole bed to myself.
I went along with the team to those games that weekend and did somethings I never thought I would. These included tagging along with the team as they won three games, which meant videos and pictures being uploaded while I was still in my hotel room. I stood through a massive wind gust that tore through the field the first night unexpectedly, with cherry blossom petals going everywhere. We even got to visit Washington D.C.! We walked around and saw the memorials, while the very-much-publicized Shiba Inu Club strolled around with their doggos and everybody else flew their kites. T.J. broke up a fight between two little birds that were trying to kill each other and we eventually got to stand in silence in the Lincoln Memorial.
The team had lots of fun the night before, but they wouldn’t let the eh hem, fun, get in the way of being serious about the games in the morning. I remember that for one game, we had to wake up at 7am. This didn’t stop some from going over to IHOP the night before or staying up working on blog stuff (eh hem). The morning game was absolutely freezing. Due to the cold, the game was limited to 30 minutes. The team inevitably won, but I had neglected my duty as score/shot record keeper (a duty I decided on myself). When I had to tell Mizz that I didn’t keep score or anything, he gave me a subtle look of disappointment and I felt it in my pride. I felt like I could’ve done so much better for the team. I decided that from that point on, I would work harder toward being what that team needed. Basically, I wanted to show that I wasn’t just there for the trip.
The team eventually lost that day to West Chester University that same day, but I went home to Glassboro feeling more-connected to the team than ever. Which was kind of bad in some ways (I’ll explain later). Sharing a car-ride back with a mad Zybrick and a silent SUV was awkward, but I felt more respect for Zybrick as a leader from that tournament. He showed me how much he had really invested into the team. He had a better idea of what it meant when the team succeeded, and what it meant when the team lost because of simple mistakes and lack of cooperation. It was hard for him to have to come back to NJ with a loss, as well as T.J., who ended up injuring his knee pretty good. With everybody in a funk, I knew that the best thing for me to do was to get to work…literally the night I got home, I went to a computer lab at Rowan and stayed up super-late to publish an article.
One little exchange from the D.C. trip really kind of gave me some reassurance though. I remember overhearing Mulholland saying that he had talked to a Princeton player and told the kid “yeah, and we have a traveling reporter too. And the guy just said “what?”” I don’t know, but the way Mulholland said that, “traveling reporter,” made me think “okay, so at least I’m appreciated. I’m in a unique situation and not every team gets this.” I went on to use that as fuel for the fire. I just wanted to make sure the team knew that I cared and I worked my butt off to give them the publicity they deserved. In some ways too, I still felt like I had to prove myself to them. So that I could feel like they took me seriously.
Yet, doing all of that was almost a contact sport in itself though. I remember well, one game when I was eating lunch in Rowan’s downstairs lounge, when I came to find out that the team would be facing Temple that day. I was absolutely not prepared, but I found that it was going to start in like five minutes to boot! It felt awful because I wasn’t too prepared and the team inevitably lost (although there was this really cool rip-goal by Billy Van Dyke from like 15 yards out, which made it passable). Yet, I just kind of felt defeated myself and had even more reason to fight harder…even if I was putting all that pressure to fight onto myself.
Enter “Orphan Kitten Phase.”
So, I really became hell-bent on putting my best self forward. This mainly meant that I would work harder than ever before. I had many nights where I stayed up until 1 or 2am at the computer lab, editing and putting together highlight reels. I would be content by the fact I had that time to myself. It was a lot to take on when I couldn’t focus on other things though, like the assignments I had to do. I felt like I was always racing around for the combination of my classes and the blog. It took me a whole week to write the Maryland article and I basically dreaded it because I was so stressed out. Yet, I wanted to show my dependability.
I was still working through some inner issues, which showed their ugly issues with this media venture. It was such a race, trying to get stay on the team’s good side by producing good content. I guess somewhere along the line though, I started confusing my journalistic subjects for friends. There, I said it. I got so locked into the process of being with the team that I inevitably thought we were becoming friends. I know that isn’t how it is supposed to be as a journalist, but I guess I was kind of placing my loyalty in the team because I had spent so much time with them already.
I remember spending a crazy amount of time working on a promotional video for the Lax for Donnie Tournament. I remember how disappointed I was when neither the team nor my friends were acting too excited about it. I put in all that work and it barely got any likes on Facebook. I also remember walking around Rowan’s Rec Center gymnasium for Relay for Life that year with the team. I began getting really frustrated and confused, because I wondered how wrong I had been for becoming attached to them all. I realized that I shouldn’t had expected any friendly ties with them. I was just the reporter. So, it just felt like I was at a crossroad for my future with the team.
It felt like my ties with Zybrick and Mizz and Mahoney and everybody else were all superficial and contingent on my performance. I still wanted to put my best effort out there, but I was beginning to see things as they were…or at least in a different light.
Then, the team finally hosted the Lax for Donnie Tournament and I got an inside glimpse of this awesome annual tradition for the team. Donnie was one of the team’s original founders from back in 2007. One night during Homecoming weekend that year, Donnie was murdered while walking around Rowan. Flash-forward eight years, the team found out about this cold case and decided to make a tournament in-tribute to Donnie. The idea was spearheaded mainly by Zybrick and Mahoney, because they along with others felt that Donnie deserved a respectful tribute in honor of him. They had the initial tournament the year before but knowing this made me feel honored to be involved. Donnie’s story touched me because it could’ve been my story. So, that morning, I woke up early and headed over to the big fields in Washington Township to help out in any way I could.
As to be expected, Zybrick was already at work when I got there. Part of my mind was on the tournament as a whole, while the other half spent time just wondering what was going on in Zybrick’s head. I tend to get concerned about people’s mental states, you know? Yet, when I got myself mentally ready, Zybrick had already beaten me to it. His mind was just dead-set on doing everything he could to make Lax for Donnie work that year. He and some others on the team had made such a connection with Donnie and his parents that making this a special tournament was a strong prerogative. More so, was making sure that this tournament was about Donnie and not about them. That focus of the tournament and the drive that the team had and still has to keep it alive, are what tailored my heart into the tournament as well. I watched the team lose in the tournament championship, but I took to heart what message the guys wanted to get across. Donnie wasn’t just another player who tragically got swept up into Rowan’s history. He was more than a name.
The story of Donnie grounded the team and reminded me as well that it could’ve been any of us. More importantly, was that Donnie had a legacy. One that the team has planned in advanced to preserve.
I later on found out that day that a friend of mine from home had passed away from an overdose. It created a stinging memory for me of that day, but I went to the funeral nonetheless. I missed a game that weekend, but I guess having that loss of a friend really kind of made me slow down. It made me want to care about people more, and I guess my investment with team became more apparent too. I remember how it felt as the year dwindled down.
I remember being at one of the last practices and talking to the club sports supervisor. I told her about how as a journalist, I’m really not supposed to grow attached to the people I cover. That’s true, but I emotionally told her with a smirk on my face that I had done that anyways. She was like (paraphrased) “Oh, is it like how you can’t bring an orphan kitten home and get attached to it?” Well, I think I said “yeah,” but looking back now, I’m glad I did. I knew everybody’s name, their jersey number, their hometown, their major, maybe what songs they liked, and what injuries or allergies they were dealing with. I remember telling a kid at Fall Brawl in Maryland (again, very paraphrased) “yeah, I’ve been following the team. I started it for a class and now I get to travel. The team gets media coverage and I get 32 friends!” So, it’s easy to see why I saw this as more than a hobby or a resume-builder.
Yet, it was coming to a close for that year. Before I knew it, there was only one game left. This last article wasn’t a final, but for that year, it was part of the finale. The team had its game against West Chester coming up and I was bracing for the change. After a valiant game with a little subbing confusion, I watched the team lose yet again to West Chester. It was hard to watch but I knew that one way or another, this team would patch up and get moving. That’s their style, you know? The “get up anyway” kind of attitude. Well, I listened to the seniors give their farewell addresses/speeches and inevitably gave my own to the seniors. A few days beforehand, I had went and developed some portraits of the seniors and slid them into magnetic frames. I gave these to the seniors as parting gifts and as a way of saying “thank you” for letting me tag along for the experience. We all headed to the cars and left the parking lot. I contemplated everything that had happened that semester while “Fire and the Flood” was playing on the radio. Yet, before all of that, I got to take a picture with Brian, who inconsequently was slated to be the next president of the club. Mike Conroy photobombed us and the memory was made.
In my opinion, the most prominent moment of this farewell was when I gave Zybrick his photo. I somehow managed to get the photo to him one day via an encounter with Dwight at the gym. I placed a note inside the frame though, in which I referenced Zybrick as my “friend.” The way he responded and reciprocated my words was a testament to what the future held. I no longer had an athlete to cover journalistically, but instead, I gained a trusted friend and ally. He wasn’t the only one either. Brian, Ryan, Alex, so many of them became people who I still keep in contact with to this day.
I didn’t want to quit though. I still had one more year of college left. So, after some decision-making and some hard-boiled planning….I decided that there would be a round two!! I would soon be referencing to Brian as “Boss” and rewinding my mind for that whole adventure all over again!
Well, you got this far in the article, I applaud you (even if you skipped every paragraph to get to this one). I’m not going to torture you with all of the awesome events that took place in my second and last year with the team. I loved it even more than the first, so, I will explain that I absorbed a lot more than good vibes. I went into a new semester of new players who had no idea who I was. Although I initially played it off as if I was actually a player (for non-narcissistic reasons, of course!), I knew I was right where I belonged. I was not only a veteran at this “hobby” of following the team, but I was also a super-senior in college. I was going to graduate in May of that year. So, I knew I wanted to give the team all I could without going crazy like the year before.
I had a similar process to my initial run though. I had the typical posts, like the “meet the officers” post, the roster, and the cancer walk article. I met every single new player, from an ace attackman with feet that could run on a razor, to a trio of young middies. I met a computer wiz attackman who was nice enough to bring me home a lot, as well as some super-strong defenders. There was a future doctor in the disguise as a FOGO, along with a wrestler kid who wound up pinning me at my own wrestling practice. Altogether, these guys gave me a lot of hope going into that season. It was simple and exciting, yet rattled my brain with anticipation. I knew something was going to have to be different, beings that the year before kind of hit a lot of bumps. I needed some reassurance that I wouldn’t be writing a lot of sad articles.
Then Fall Brawl 2016 happened.
Part of me expected something bigger than usual, given the team’s new legs. I just wasn’t 100 percent optimistic with a tournament victory. There was a reputation/stigma that got attached to the team, saying that “Rowan can’t finish tournaments.” Yet, I remember how much Brian adamantly wanted that trophy at Fall Brawl. We drove all the way down to Maryland yet again, and the team was not about to just go back to Rowan without a great story to tell. Looking back, I remember a few things. I remember Alex Chalef’s elbow getting hurt (and him declining from seeing the video I took of it happening). I remember the weird story of somebody’s concussion treatment tactics (which involved hitting his head again). I remember how badly I had to use the bathroom (lesson learned). Most importantly, I remember the moment when the team was watching the last seconds run out during the championship game against Virginia Commonwealth University.
After that last second, the whistle blew and Rowan had its first Fall Brawl Championship victory!!! The sun was going down and that field was covered in a shadow because of it. I was set that day on being as professional as possible. When the team started dancing while warming up, they tried getting me to dance too. I declined, as I felt I wasn’t really supposed to as a reporter. Yet, when that team got that trophy and started raising it up in the air, I couldn’t help getting emotional in a pretty unprofessional way. It was so weird though, because at one point, the people who organized the tournament brought out some shirts. They were probably like XLs, but I didn’t care, because one of the Rowan players gave me one. Now, I didn’t feel like I should’ve gotten one since I didn’t play or anything, but seeing the team cheering as I thought about it, I realized something. I realized that my bond with the team wasn’t an ordinary partnership.
I don’t think it was ever meant to be either. I mean, I remember one time during the school year my super-senior year, where I sat outside of a sports journalism class. I was so discouraged because I overheard the professor say to the class (paraphrased), “and don’t ever, ever, cheer for a team while reporting while in the media box.” I thought to myself “cheer?!! Well, I guess I messed up with that one.” I felt downhearted and convicted. I knew I had been doing that since I began with the team. I cheered for them at every game and a lot of the time, I was right there on the sidelines with them. If I was to evaluate my time with the team by journalistic standards, I failed in that aspect.
Yet, part of me didn’t care if I failed or not. I didn’t want to care what my journalism contemporaries thought. I didn’t care if my professors and my classmates or anybody else took upon themselves to look down on me for growing attached to the team. I wasn’t there just for the look of it anyways. God had me there for a reason, and a great one at that. I didn’t become a journalist to acquire a fancy, bulky resume and numerous accolades. I was with the team because we had already been through so much together. I rejoiced when they won, I felt pained when they lost. I laughed with them, and I felt the bitter silence with them. I bared whipping winds on those fields with them and endured 26 degree temperatures that froze the joints in my hip. I interviewed people with popped knees and a Marine Corp. veteran. I walked alongside the Reflection Pool and I met the parents of Donnie Farrell. I watched miracles unfold on those lacrosse fields.
You can’t tell me that it wasn’t something special.
All that came about from this team and everything that I learned from the experience not only built me up as a journalist, but as a person. I learned about not caring what people thought. I learned about diligence and stamina in the face of loads of work. I learned resourcefulness and most importantly, I learned why I am a journalist in the first place. It’s for people like those in that team, who worked so hard to get to that trophy. To finally get that traction and find hope in their season and beyond. I believe they wanted it for each other and they really wanted to see the team succeed. Throwing my “professionalism” to the ground, I got in with the team and cheered along while they lifted the trophy. I was not ashamed or embarrassed, I was proud of this team.
They were more than a beat. Check out this video I made before I said goodbye to the team last year.
I had formed such a special bond with this team that I was not about to regret in that moment.
Because we wanted the same things.
-Thank you to the entire team and everybody else who made Face-Prof Lacrosse, all those amazing experiences and those memories possible.