When I first started covering Bandits games, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I had exactly one prior experience in the press box, and that trip didn’t even produce a game recap. Things needed to change for this to work, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect what I do here.
Well, I’m three games into this little experiment entitled “journalistic integrity”, and I think it’s safe to say not much has really changed. I still write the same way I did before, I haven’t started to hate sports and loathe the games I cover, and my diet does not consist entirely of press box popcorn and menthols. So far so good, right?
Honestly, the only thing that has really changed about how I watch the games is the location. Suddenly the popcorn is free, the coke tastes a bit better, and eventually I have to form coherent questions to ask professional athletes and coaches. That last part has taken some getting used to, but there’s something really interesting about your questions being translated into good quotes. To be honest, it’s… fun.
Of course, I’m not on deadline. Not really, anyway. As long as I have something up by the morning no one is going to kill me. I don’t have a copy editor, I don’t have an editor ready to drop the hammer on me; and the only thing I really have to worry about is looking completely ridiculous while upstairs. The pressure really is off, and I think the stressful environment of a working press box has a lot to do with how writers come to view the sports they cover.
The biggest problem I’ve had thus far came on Saturday night. John Tavares is mentioned by many as one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time, but it wasn’t until Saturday that I had a chance to see why. He made one of the most amazing individual efforts I have ever seen in sports.
Indoor lacrosse is interesting because you can make changes for every possession. In theory, you can have a certain guy play just defense, or vice versa; but the changes need to be quick. That means that when there appears to be a turnover, a change has to be made fast.
In essence, that’s what happened on Saturday. With the score 1-1, the Bandits lose the ball in the corner and begin to change. Tavares doesn’t go, and instead he keeps up on the attack, literally diving into the corner to try getting the ball back. Suddenly he’s surrounded by four Titans, who are two-handing and whacking at both Tavares and the ball trying to get possession.
It’s very rare that someone does this to any level of success, let alone keep four players at bay. But somehow, amazingly, Tavares wins the battle. In desperation he flings the ball out to the open floor, and right at center is a Bandit waiting for it. It’s one of the best loose ball recoveries I’ve ever seen, but it only got better.
In the chaos of changes and trying to find the ball, the Titans leave Tavares open on the other side of the net. Tom Montour, the player who picked up the ball at center, throws a long pass over a diving defender and Tavares is all alone on the Titans goaltender.
Two dekes and a dive later, the ball is in and Buffalo leads 2-1. It was an incredible, spectacular play that warrants its own story and at least a YouTube clip, but this is all I could say about it:
John Tavares broke the tie at the 12:24 mark with a spectacular individual effort. While the Bandits were changing Tavares dove into the corner for a loose ball, fighting off four Titans while successfully scooping the ball to midfield. Tom Montour picked it up and sends a return lob to Tavares, who is left all alone and puts it by Vinc for the go ahead goal. He would finish with four points (2+2) on the night.
Now what I really wanted to do was what I did above it: rant and rave about John Tavares. What he did on Saturday was one of the single greatest things I’ve ever seen at a live sporting event, and the crowd reacted as such. The ovation following his goal was spectacular, and if lacrosse had a curtain call he would have taken one right then and there.
So if there is a true difference for me, it is that brevity is required. The opinions and feelings I have as a sports fan are always there, but there are just some things that require restraint. Instead of an elongated description of Tavares’ goal, my job would have been to come up with a question that gets a good quote about the goal.
It’s just a different world up there, and while it may take the fun out of some things, it’s an interesting exercise in being a sports fan. Being in the press box doesn’t take the fun out of sports, it just makes you think about them differently. So far that “different” isn’t bad, it’s just an interesting change of pace.