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Coach Flip Naumburg's Journal
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Actually it was Friday to Wednesday, July 6, 2007 Wednesday 7/11, 2007
BACK IN THE 19'S
My son Jordan is seven. He asks me many questions, mostly "How fast does that car go?" but other stuff too. Having a conversation with him is great, but I must always prepare for the 'kabluey' part, which means he has had enough of intelligent talk, that he has blown up the current 'focus' and that primal screaming as an activity or chasing George with a Popsicle stick is now the subject in his brain. Anyway, whenever he asks me about stuff from back in the day he will ask "Was that back in the 19's?" For some reason this cracks me up every time.
I ALWAYS DANCE WITH THE ONE THAT BRUNG ME no matter how painful it might be -
The Philadelphia Phillies are in town (Denver) and I am about to go see them play the Rockies at Coors Field. It is the scorching time of the year. Sometimes I am amazed at my own loyalty to a team from a place I haven't lived in more than 40 years. It is more like ridiculous.
DOESN'T IT ALSO MEAN THEY HAVE ENDURED?
I was just reading an article in Sports Illustrated about how this Phillie franchise will become the first team in any sport to lose the staggering total of 10,000 games in their history. I have personally felt the pain of plenty of them. Last night, for example, I felt like I was being tortured as the Phillies methodically proceeded to lose a game that they once led by 6-1. Even though the game went extras, you could feel the pain a comin' way before the hammer came down. How can the same agony always feel so intensely new?
JUST A LITTLE CRUSH LASTS A LONG TIME
There is symmetry to my relationship to the Phillies. After all I fell in love with them during their still record 23 game losing streak in 1961, and the hopelessness of future fandom was further framed by the September of 1964 when the boys in "P" pulled off the greatest pennant race collapse in the history of pennant chases, allowing the Cardinals to play and beat the Yankees that year in the World Series.
STICK IT TO ME, BABY
I carried my lacrosse stick with me everywhere, including on the airplane until I was about 40 years old. During that time I have had some great one on one experience with the game and my stick of the given era, and by the way, for years my stick of choice was the Flip strung Brine Superlight 2. There weren't 20 new head styles back in the 19's for each season as there are now. Head models and molds were very expensive to develop then. The STX Excalibur head was a strong market shareholder for I would say 15 years. Now the heads come, go, and are mostly obsolete in two years.
They have had mesh pockets for almost ever, but back in my day no one used them. Everyone had more or less what was called Traditional style stringing for his pocket. I have seen all manner of strange things in those pockets and holding them together, like pipe cleaners used for shooting/throw strings. Not exactly the Mikey Powell styles of today, which have less of almost everything. They are now pretty much lighter pockets in streamlined heads on practically weightless shafts.
AND ALL THAT STICK
When I started playing the game of lacrosse for real at C.C. I became obsessed with the stick itself and I was fascinated by the mechanics of ball in the crosse as well. I had a wooden stick left over from high school, but plastic was new and all the rage. I went from wood, rawhide, and gut and onward to plastic, polyester, and aluminum in a heartbeat. I started learning how to make the pockets almost immediately, but many players still did their own then. However, many also were not wanting to string their own at the time the disco era was ushering itself in, and many sought others to make pockets for them. It wasn't too long before I was 'that guy' on my team.
In general science was indeed something weird for me, as in I didn't ever get whatever it was 'they' were talking about. God knows how I passed high school physics (Thank you Dr. Littell, wherever you are).
The physics of the lacrosse stick beckoned to me from almost day one, though. In college and after I had the great resource of old Doc Stabler, because he had a basement full of lacrosse stuff I could use in my 'lab'.
I started to think about this game and the stick constantly when I was at Colorado College. Perhaps I was hoping to major in lacrosse. Maybe I did. That would no doubt be considered to be extremely liberal arts.
Things like arc of a throwing stroke, ball under spin and over spin, and centrifugal and centripetal forces all of a sudden fascinated me and as long as I didn't have to think about the big technical words that usually came along with it. I knew for sure that I wanted more, more knowledge and greater understanding of the science of the game of lacrosse.
GETTING THE HANG OF IT
The fact was that I didn't know many of the game rules of lacrosse for years. I could have if I would have read the rulebook once or twice for wisdom and understanding, but no, thank you, I saved all that for later, much later, when I was coaching. However, I did stare at those pockets endlessly right from the start. I put them together and took them apart. I never did the same thing twice. It was always a search for new and better.
THE WHOLE ShTICK AND NOTHING BUT THE STICK
I wrapped my handles/shafts with everything from friction tape to rawhide looking for the perfect blend of feel and balance. I was and am big on balance and centering of ball in pocket. Absolute symmetry never concerned me then because form has always followed function in my mind. How something worked was far more important to me than how it looked.
So anyway, somehow the stick spoke better to me than a human ever could about 'the way things worked' in the world, and I guess in many ways when all is said and done lacrosse in general has been my "metaphor" for life and most things within it ever since I first found that to be a possibility.
WHERE TO NOW, ST. PETER?
I was literally in the neighborhood and I walked into the Brine factory in Milford, Massachusetts in about 1986, eager to show my lacrosse brilliance to the MAN. Out of nowhere, and blah, blah. Wow, I was surprisingly immediately granted an audience with The Peter Brine. He took me to lunch, albeit not much of one. This was a dream come true. Unfortunately he was not as impressed with me as I was impressed with me, and he described my pocket as something akin to spaghetti. I was not deterred. After that I went home to Santa Barbara and spent more than the next six months trying to retool my pocket concepts into something more attractive, alluring, and marketable to players than a bowl of pasta. This is how the Rock-it Pocket came to be. It became a better pocket than the spaghetti one because I finally learned the importance of symmetry. The one side of the Rock-it Pocket is, in fact, exactly the same as the other. I also learned in that process that I was not building pockets for just me, not if I wanted to sell them. To market a product one must step outside of themselves.
As a sidelight, within a year Brine was trading on some of the ideas I had so eagerly and naively imparted to Peter that day we met and during the weeks and phone calls that followed. I thought they were going to make me some kind of consultant. He/they did not. This inspired me and the Rock-it Pocket company even more. I guess my glass was always half full then. For the record Peter Brine was always good to me and even visited me a couple of times when I lived in California. He sold me heads real cheap until he no longer owned the company.
ALL IN ALL YOU'RE JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL
I believe that to become a great lacrosse player one must spend serious personal time with his stick, and with the game, too. There is no substitute for this element. It is not enough to just play catch with your buddies and go to practice. One can become good that way, but he can never be great because there would be too many things that he would not know at that very critical moment when he would need that perfect amount of awareness that only comes from spending personal time with the game.
A big part of that time for me as well as many others was and is a thing simply called the wall. This is pretty much using any surface made more or less of concrete (smooth and hard) and at least partially vertical to play rebound catch with. I have spent a great deal of my personal individual lacrosse time on some kind of wall, and I was always searching for new and better walls, too, where I could throw the lively rubber lacrosse ball in more creative ways. I sought always to do something more exciting or "off the wall" with that ball that so fascinated me. The wall has much to teach a lacrosse player.
AROUND THE HORN
One of the first sort of off-beat 'walls' that I found where I was able to do some different things with the lax ball was inside an old silo or water tower base that was up on a mesa overlooking Colorado Springs. I'm sure there are condos there now. Anyway, this thing had only the base left because it was concrete. The rest had surely been ravaged by weather or maybe torn down way earlier. The girth of it was huge. The game was to get the 'heliodrome' effect by going inside the circle throwing the ball as smoothly, at just the right height on the top of the wall, and as hard as I could so the ball would run around that inside wall like the motorcycle in a barrel thing from some kind of old Elvis Presley carnival movie. As I remember, after much effort. I only actually made the ball roll on the upper edge and all the way around once or twice ever, but those times were celebrated by me as great personal victories.
BESBOL BEEN BERRY BERRY GOOD TO CHICO ESCUELA
Garrick Olsen was my good friend in college. He played on the baseball team and had a cannon for an arm. They (baseball team) used to have workouts near us (lacrosse) from time to time. He used to hit lacrosse balls to me before practices started with these new fangled aluminum baseball bats they were starting to use in college in the 70's, and it was amazing to see the contact between aluminum bat and hard rubber lacrosse ball (more fun without physics). So Garrick would hit these humongous fly balls, and I would chase them down and catch them with my lacrosse stick like it weren't no big thing. They would go up like a rocket, look like a pea in the sky at the peak, and they would come down like bullets. This was a cheap but big thrill for me. If I tried this now I would trip, fall on my face, and break a rib before I took three steps. More on that later, but who says one (I) can age gracefully? There is nothing graceful about being too old to do what you love to do.
OUT OF MY GOURD or LOVE THAT BLOCK PLAN
I was an anthropology major at Colorado College, but the truth is that it was the archeology field trips and camping and swimming naked with girls (or was that camping and swimming with naked girls?) that I really liked. On my first extended dig I built a lean-to shelter complete with a soft and sandy floor near the desert dry riverbed where I spent six weeks until the great Cimarron flash flood of nineteen seventy whatever wiped it out and also sent us running for the hills during one endless night of torrential rain. Before its untimely demise this half-structure that I semi-built with very local components had many of the comforts of home for that day and was dubbed "The Casbah" by some of the female 'diggers', and they even made my roommate and I a MASH styled sign to hang near the entrance.
I will never forget my outdoor 'condo' in Baca County, Colorado, and spending almost eight weeks straight, outside, and with the same 27 people or whatever was an awesome learning experience. The social and in-the-field studying memories are vivid, but hundreds of miles from a lacrosse field I also still found a way to play 'ball' in the semi-arid high desert plains, mesas, and floors of Southeast Colorado/N.E. New Mexico/Oklahoma Panhandle/Texas/Kansas border area.
There were 5 states within like 12 miles where we were. It was a yet untamed, small, but awesome country. Coyote packs, antelope, and rattlesnakes were part of everyday life there, and I remember one girl, Kinzie, that sort of had a 'thing' for tarantulas and we would often see one on her arm.
No matter how 'far out' I got in life, lacrosse never got far away from me, and an archeological dig would prove to be no exception. There were no other lax players from the team on this dig, but I of course did take a few sticks with me and never had trouble getting someone to play catch with in the 'compound'.
After a short time on this extended field trip where we uncovered some of our American anthropological history my skin had become plenty red and I had metamorphosed myself as much into an actual Indian (excuse me, Native American) as this balding (even then) white boy ever could. My ponytail took many wraps to hold its skinny ass in place, but it was what it was and it did hang down. I was all about the role-playing as the hunter-gatherer boy in moccasins. I'm sure I had quite the look going for me on the old archeological dig, but image definitely wasn't exactly everything for me.
When I think back on it, the smallish 'lacrosse' part was of utmost importance to me. Even there amongst the artifacts left over from the migrant lifestyles of two thousand years before, and even six months out of lacrosse season I had to be working at getting better somehow as a lacrosse player. That truly was a great passion for me, to always find and place some kind of structure and discipline amongst the mish mash that was and in many ways still is my life.
In the fall, which is when we went on these digs, there were these things called stink gourds growing all over the place where we were. Like melons they sort of matured in September. Like squash they grew on vines squirming and worming all over in the brown dirt in the flat areas. These gourds were mostly just about ball-sized. They were lighter than lacrosse balls, but they rolled in the pockets and all that. For my purposes they were disposable lax balls.
DEFINITELY A WIN-WIN
I would fill my backpack with about 40-50 of the little stinkers that I had hand picked and then I hiked up to the 'highest' mesa top nearby our camp headquarters. I would do this usually after dinner. I was on the dishwashing crew, so by the time I got up there sunset was always close or happening. This was a singularly personal experience for me. I do not remember sharing it with anyone else. Everyone else usually went to watch Drew Castlebury blow up the day's garbage in the big hole where we burned it every night.
When I got to the 'table top' of ground on top of the mesa with my pack I had already exercised nicely and the enchantment of the southwestern evening had filled my senses, but now I had all these gourds to hurl, too, oh joy. I could throw them as far, as fast, or as accurately as I was able with no consequence to my actions. I never would have to chase these things no matter where I chose to launch them, and that is what I mostly did. It was hard not to simply loft them as far and as high as I could, and then to watch them sink, seemingly endlessly, down into the canyon below. Talk about true lacrosse freedom, this was it, but to me it was also always working on my game.
LIFE IS A BEACH
I think I learned much in college. I don't know if it is good or bad that most of what lingers is related to lacrosse. In my senior college year my friend Jeff was randomly headed off to Northern California for spring break. The Spring Break of yore was not what it is now, but they had already 'gone wild' in places like Daytona, Palm Springs, and Cancun. That sort of naked-in-the-streets, Mardi Gras thing was not really my style, though, although I did go to Mardi Gras once, and all in all I preferred my Super Bowl experiences. So anyway I jumped into his Sirocco or some kind of '70's early non-bug type of VW Beatle with my pack, my sticks, and my 120 pound all white mutt (Great Pyranees + lots of other stuff/ son of Ollie) named Bear and off we went to the, for me, exotic beaches north of San Francisco and a most memorable spring break.
There was no one on this trip that I bumped into that had ever played lacrosse, yet it was one of my most profound 'inner game' lacrosse experiences, and I could not have 'done it' alone either. What made this so great was the beach itself and its perfect 'conditions' over several of the days I was there.
LIKE A DOG
I think I might have been a Golden Retriever in another life. I always liked the ball, chasing it, catching it, diving for it, whatevering it. I think the beaches of Marin County California appealed to this part of me at just the right moment. I didn't know it yet, but I would tune in and turn on real quick once I got there. The beach was wide and straight and long. The hard part of the sand was wide, too, like a field, and it was so hard that you could bounce the lacrosse ball fifteen feet into the air no problem. A little above the 'playing surface' was a shelf of white sand that was always soft and warm beneath your feet.
There were the winds to contend with, and they were almost gale force at times up there, even on a perfectly nice, fogless day. This was not your basic Southern California thing. There were seals and birds working the area, and you might say it was a scene just teaming with life.
The ocean is, by the bye, the enemy of the lacrosse ball, and therefore one of the opponents I was playing as it were. It (tidal waters) wants to eat them. The ball seems willing for the sacrifice, too, and once it is out of sight in the Pacific Ocean you can pretty much forget about it. This was and is no joke. Loss can happen very quickly and of course I never carried more than three balls or whatever, and of course in those days you couldn't go to Sports Authority or anywhere else to buy a lacrosse ball. That store was somewhere back east in the '70's. One must always take a "like a dog" approach towards loose balls headed for seawater. One must be ready to 'give it up' to save the ball.
THE PERFECT FIELD IS A BEACH?
So, here I was playing the beach. I wasn't just playing on the beach. This was a new and great thing. Everything was barefootin', too. No shoes and 'playing' lacrosse, how cool was that? I would do things like roll the ball as fast as I could on the hard sand and it would roll on and on and slowly head down towards the water as it went and I would sprint after it, trying to chase it down before the ocean ate it. I think you need to have somewhat of a dog-sized brain to find this kind of thing fun. I had that.
I would throw the ball as high and as far as I could into the teeth of the wind and then run in an effort to catch it as the breeze tried to bring it back to me. I played catch with two guys who never played before on those precious beach days, and when they missed the ball or whatever I would go after it for them to either keep it from going in the water or just so that they would not get tired of playing and want to quit. Even when they did get tired I kept inventing new ways and games to play with self and stick in this perfect playground. I was manic, like a dog, and I literally could not stop playing. The possibilities for playing the game of lacrosse came to be endless for me out there at Point Reyes, California that spring. It was truly a one time in a lifetime thing, at least it was for me.
The conditions were indeed perfect and the whole experience was sort of like the 'big wave' thing because I am not the greatest swimmer or surfer. What I always liked most about the beach, with or without lacrosse, was the beach itself, as in playing in the sand with the waves out there somewhere beyond me, sounding and looking beautiful and spectacular while shining and glowing with the sun.
ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL, SANTA BARBARA STYLE
I know I have been going on and on here, but I might as well finish my little trip down memory lane. I lived in Santa Barbara for twelve years before I came to Fort Collins. I went to the beach a great deal and at all times of the day. One mostly full moon lit night I was taking a late night stroll on the beach in Montecito (rich Santa Barbara) and I came serendipitously upon the fruits from a sea wrecked orange boat or something like that. The sand was absolutely littered with oranges that had been beached by the ocean. There was no backpacking, there was no limit, my ball supply was simply endless. I stayed there half the night catapulting these oranges with my lacrosse stick and early (late 80's) Rock-it Pocket as far back into the sea as I could. I was working on my game alright, but I was now 37 or whatever, so maybe we were just self indulging a little teenie bit..
CHEAP THRILLS ARE JUST THAT or LOVE IS LETTING GO
When I went back the next day for more, the market had closed. For some strange reason (tide?) there was not an orange to be found in broad daylight. I guess this was another one of those once in a lifetime deals.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BUNS
There was (is) this great surfing point and beach south of Santa Barbara called Rincon (rincon=bend en espanol). This is a famous surfing spot. I think you get a really long ride on each wave because of the way the point is shaped, so when the surf is up the riders flock there. There is a nice beach there, too, and down on one end is the nude beach, and I'm not kidding when I say nude beach. There were always hundreds of all brown skinned volleyballers, etc of all shapes, ages, and sizes and locally this was naked beach Mecca I guess.
On the other side of the nuders, however, at the very edge of the sandy beach was this 'perfect' sea wall, which occasionally I had to have, or should I say just wanted to spend time there in a lacrosse way. This precluded thoughts of personal nudeness. I had limits after all. Lacrosse is NOT to be played naked. You get naked later fur sure, but I wanted to be 'supported' at all times when I played lacrosse of any kind.
By the way, the reality of it all is more likely that I was gawking at them bare assed folks far more than they ever noticed that I was in fact WEARING PANTS!
THE NAKED TRUTH
This wall was a beauty for the lacrosse ball dynamics. It curved up and out of the usually wet sand and continued to roll until it flattened out 8 or 10 feet up above the normal sand line. You could throw the ball and make it go straight up, way high, fun to catch. You could throw it low and hard and make it come back higher or right on your stick if you hit the curve just right. This venue also had the added drama of the water being close and the waves were coming up from behind so catching the ball in the air was paramount. This was another one of my favorite 'fields', but I never really got comfortable going past the nude beach with shorts on. I wonder why?
HEY, LET'S GET SOME DAY GLOW
I got some more, but I'm only going for one last one. A long time ago when I was still living in California, well before there were glow-in-the-dark lacrosse balls in stores I had a dream. I spent several days meticulously 'putting' day-glow paint on one white lacrosse ball. Each day I let the paint dry completely and then the next day I added another coat. I had this coaching idea to put players in a dark room like this one we had back at CC, and to keep it all black so they could see nothing but a glowing ball. This would keep their "focus" where it needed to be, thought I. This ball painting was the first stage of my experiment.
Finally the ball was deemed ready to go. So, my friend Paul (no lacrosse experience, but a great artist) and I went out to play some midnight catch. We took flashlights to recharge, but first I put ball in a headlight for a time to get it roaring before trotting out to the moonlit beach. Man, did it start brightly. I just about wet my pants with excitement. It was glowing. I mean you couldn't just see the ball, it was like all you could see. At least it was for about five minutes until all the paint came off and once again IT was just another ball. Oh well, boy's got to have a dream, and I will say that for those few minutes that ball was much brighter and stronger than those cheap ass ones you can buy now. It was big fun.
HE'S NO FUN HE FELL RIGHT OVER
So it was fun running through some thoughts of my somewhat off-beat glory/Hippie in the wild days.
Then, while basking in the past, I went and broke my personal no compete rule. I played a little pick up soccer with the company employees and the family on a field like 20 yards long with a switchback road on either side, as in it is small. I was matched up with my seven year old. Everything was cool. Nothing can happen here, right? Wrong! Within minutes I hit the ground like a beached whale, my ribs ached, and five days later it still hurts to breathe and I couldn't do the pretend bungee jump thing on the trampoline with Jordan in Winter Park earlier today. I need to keep my priorities straight at all times and never fall off this wagon.
GOD, GIVE ME THE STRENGTH
Unfortunately I know the physics now involved with me and competing. I must not do it. It is a commandment, and besides I hate the thought of counting backwards down from 100 as I lie on a gurney with somebody in a mask looking down at me.