Brett Hughes, a championship weekend veteran, has never taken the whole experience in because he has been usually playing in the games. This year he got to enjoy it from a fans perspective. Brett gives us his take on the games, Baltimore, the fans and the growth of the sport.
What happened at Baltimore this weekend was pretty special for me. To be real, this is the first time I’ve been back to a Final Four that I was not playing in… Much too late, but I’ve always had a game or another obligation so it was so great to see the culture around the sport from a view other than the field!
The sport is growing, and growing at a perfect rate! The UVA vs Duke game was as exciting as just about any lacrosse game I have seen (Hopkins vs UVA brings back a memory) but what I thought was wild was the scene around the city and in the parking lot. After signing at the Universal/STX tent just off the grounds of Raven stadium (Brine had the rights to the prime spots but ours generated plenty of traffic) Steve Brooks, Kyle Harrison, and his cousins and father all went on a little tour of the scene. On top of running into a few familiar faces like Mike Powell, Tony McDevitt and Kenny Nims we got to watch the event grow before us… There were stages set up with hosts calling for the Kyle Dixons, and Bill McGlones of the world to come up and hand out free swag for the eager kids… (Free stuff at a lax event is like blood in the water… Kids are just set on anything free.)
Steve Brooks and I walked up to Camden Yards and noticed that from Uncle Ray Lewis’ house to, the Iron Man, Cal Ripken’s palace the strip was able to get any fan excited about our sport. The parking lot scene was typical and impressive at times. From something that looked like the Kentucky Derby (even pastel colored clothing to boot) to a backyard family style cookout you had everything. It seemed like the energy of the games was getting even bigger than when I played… New sponsors coming up big, Red Bull was bound to get involved and they were in full force to say the least, with bizzaro military truck turned mobile dj booth on wheels, the party happened be where this over grown boom box on wheels parked.
When the games calmed down and the night heated up from Fed Hill to the Power Plant the place was silly, lacrosse fans, good bands, a sick DJ at the LXMPRO Launch party and to the taverns and restaurants all around the Inner Harbor I didn’t just see a lot of lax attire and sticks… I saw people smiling.
Here is why I find that very telling. Go to Disney World at 8pm and watch the groups and family leave… They do not look like they are rolling out of the “happiest place on earth”. It’s more like they got put through a Disney tornado and are staggering back home. Last night after close to 12 hrs straight of sun and lax people were still ready to make the most of the day and the scene and the company… I’m not saying the Final Four is the happiest place on earth, but I will say I got back to the stadium at 9am for the next day of games… And those lots filled right back up and the festival continued.
Give it up to the sport and its fans. If you haven’t been to the Final Four, you have to go. Next year I’ll build an itinerary with some friends for families, for college kids, and for anyone else who wants to go. The event is built for anyone who loves the game. Lacrosse fans asked me about my 501c3 constantly and I already have received a lot of emails from interested fans. It says something about our community… They care about the sport and the people trying to do more for it… From the standards STX and ESPN to the innovators like Red Bull, LXM, and a NPO like Lacrosse the Nations… People want to be involved and soak up the weekend. Next year let’s make Baltimore an absolute 3 days celebration… Make plans now, haha!
Brett Hughes played defense at the University of Virginia. Brett, current LXM PRO player, was an All-American and a National Champion. He currently resides in Sunny LA where he runs Lacrosse the Nations. Lacrosse the Nations is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that uses lacrosse and the universal language of sport to bring unity and hope to difficult and impoverished communities worldwide. Visit Lacrosse the Nations for more info. Brett will be a monthly contributor for LPG.