Several years ago while we were still fairly early in the new millennium, and as the baby boomers climbed the age ladder into their MUCH later years, we began to hear some clamoring for an event even more senior than the oldest division at the time, the Supermasters. The Supermasters had already been in place for many years for the over 40 player set, and by the way, those over forty but not-so-much guys can still really run and have played some fantastically great tournament games in recent years, but that is a story for another story. Anyway, the years continued to go by and bye and many aging players could no longer keep up with the Gary Gaits and the Steve Govetts at the Supermasters level. These older lax junkies still wanted to play and compete, however. The beat naturally went on and in 2005 we got that ball rolling in Vail with an exhibition game for those players that were over the age of fifty, players who would not, could not trade their lacrosse stick in for a rocking chair or a cane.
This year, on Sunday the 26th of June we will host another groundbreaking game for participants that will all be over the age of 60. This holy single game event will happen at Ford Park. We are running out of division names, so we are going with “Zenmasters”, at least for now. “Pastmasters has also been suggested. We will see if the Zen grows and in the process pointedly proves the agelessness of a generation. I think we will want to keep the ambulance in close proximity to the field at Ford on that afternoon.
The Grandmasters (over 50) division was actually ‘born’ in 2006 with three teams in a round robin format. The original entrants included The Majestic Rockies, the Disciples of Norm, and Los Viejos. These three teams were made up of mostly veteran Vail Supermasters players that had passed the age of 50. By 2007, the Navy alums used their significant resources to form the Grand Goats team and the USA Stars had come on board as well, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the Grandmasters had enough teams to make for a bracketed championship format and had expanded to the very workable number of 8 teams. Mr. Boh/Nacho Mamas won the 2008 final, beating Middlebury 13-6, to take the first Grandmasters championship trophy back to Baltimore with them.
In 2011 the Grandmasters will once again feature 8 teams. Mr. BOH Lacrosse Club (formally Nacho Mamas) will be there again too, hoping to recapture some of the glory of 2008. This year Bob Musitano brings his Baltimore boys and looks forward to “being competitive and see where the chips fall.” MR. BOH follows a Maryland tradition of Lacrosse and National Bohemian Beer (Natty BOH) “HON”. According to Bob the Natty BOH tradition relates to an earlier time when they could drink and play like they were 20 years old. Oh well, the boy can dream. Natty BOH is a locally brewed Baltimore based beer that is firmly woven into the fabric of Chesapeake culture.
Eldest Statesmen will face off in Vail as heavy favorites, however. They come in hoping to make it 3-in-a-row at 8,000 feet. The first two championships were achieved with very convincing victories. They lapped the field as it were. The Statesmen began the back-to-back championships in 2009 with a very convincing 18-2 trouncing of The USA Stars. Last year’s Championship game was also somewhat lopsided, an 11-2 final game victory over Los Viejos de Adidas.
Many of the Eldest Statesmen players played their collegiate lacrosse at Hobart way back in the day when the Statesmen did pretty much nothing other than win national championships at both the Division II and the Division III levels of collegiate lacrosse.
The Statesmen return a formidable crew of Hobarters, both from the Jerry Schmidt as well as the Dave Urick Championship eras, a reign of two very legendary coaches. Schmidt, in fact, represents the only lacrosse player to ever grace the cover of Sports Illustrated back in the ‘60’s. Former Air Force coach and Hobart scoring machine Scott Petosa will bring his offensive skills back to altitude. Other hallowed names on this team will include William Stiles, a former Defensive Player-of-the-Year, Kevin Martin and Hans "der ageless one" Kaiser.
This Statesmen team may even be stronger than last year's championship team, with rookies aging up into the Grandmasters bracket such as Mike "Bones" Martin, Manhasset-bred Bruce Eckerson, and John "man-down" Sipher. This year's surprise guest from the banks of Lake Seneca is Hobart All-American goalie and current Colorado College coach Guy Van Arsdale. Guy’s presence is expected to keep things in order between the pipes by keeping the ball away from his goal net.
Perhaps some new old blood will come along and bring a stiffer challenge to this very talented team. They need a challenger, a team to step up and not just get beaten down. The Eldest have not played a closely contested game in the last two tournaments.
Los Viejos de Adidas will return as Los C2C Viejos, a team led up the hill once more by the venerable and incomparable Chip Flanagan, a man who has not missed many, if any, of the 39 Vail Shootouts, having played and coached at pretty much all levels of the lacrosse played here at altitude over those many years including both genders and multiple generations. The tournament is indeed lucky to have participants such as Chip. He has brought so much and so many to this annual summer lacrosse celebration. The tournament organizers are so grateful for the many that have come to Vail religiously an almost unbelievable 20, 30 or more times, and there are quite a few of those that still come and are still playing in this Grandmasters tournament. Chip’s teams always contend, and this year should be no different. Could this Texas based outfit bring enough to be the one that can provide a challenge for the Eldest?
Middlebury returns off a very convincing third place finish last summer. They dispensed with the 2008 champion Nacho Mamas in that third place showdown on the final day. The mostly once and former Panthers are fielding a big team this year. 27 guys will don the Middlebury jersey, including 6 friends who enjoy the Middlebury experience. It seems that more and more guys are finding time to get in shape after they turn 50. Captain Bob Sideli suspects that with the player’s sons and daughters heading off to college there is more free time on the weekends to rediscover the game of their youth. Bob is using round-the-clock gardening as his main training method. It will be interesting to see if that helps his team dig up a higher finish. By the way, Bob is pretty much the reason that we have such a deep Middlebury presence in Vail. They field teams in 3 major men’s divisions, and Robert has his hand in all of them with playing and or organizing. That’s a lot of emails I would guess.
The Gravediggers return after a fourth place 2010 finish, and are put together by one-time D.U. ‘legend’ and high scoring attacker George Rentz. According to George, Gravediggers “are looking older and grayer — if that’s possible”. The team is looking forward to seeing many of our old friends and nemeses in Vail.
The usual suspects that are part of this clan include attackers Drew Tyrie (Maryland), and Bruce Casagrande (Cortland); defenders Dave Devine (Cornell), Bill Spragins (St Lawrence), and Craig Smith (Cortland) will be in front of Chris Harkins (Cal – Santa Barbara) in goal. Colorado old-timers include Bob Kline (Colorado College), Steve Erickson (Colo School of Mines), Clem Williams and of course George. This team is ready to beat the aging whistle sound of Father Time.
The Princeton Notsoletes return, or at least that is what we hope. This team brings a few old Tigers from the Ivy League U. The most important part for this team is to bring enough players so that we don’t have to plug in any teenage staffers so they have a squad with enough to play a game.
The Navy Grand Goats are another team that reflects deep tournament origins. Navy guys have been playing on teams in Vail since the late ‘70’s, and they currently field a team in all 3 old guys divisions. This year’s edition hopes to climb out of the Grand cellar where they landed in 2010.
Rounding out the Grandmasters for 2011 is Colorado Lacrosse Club. Many on this roster are graduates of the Rockies Club, a long time Shootout Masters and Supermasters participant. This team is old, but like many in this Grand division, they are slow. Kidding aside, Rockie players have brought much love and supplied many lacrosse lovers to the sport. Many of these guys have had a lot to do with the incredible growth and quality of lacrosse in Colorado as coaches and mentors at programs all over the state.
So let’s do see where these aging chips fall. Live long and prosper Grandmasters.