by Dave Franklin | Special to MCLA.us
NEW YORK – It's Saturday, May 16th, 9:41 a.m.
I haven't even put 20 words to paper yet and I'm already tearing up.
A little over a week ago, about 150 athletes should have been competing for an MCLA championships.
Was South Carolina going to repeat? Was Cal going to have a year of redemption? How was Texas going to do in the RMLC? Was Jeff Guy going to bring Grand Canyon back to Championship glory?
In D-II, how was the College of Idaho going to look this year after breaking out in 2019? How many UMLC teams were going to make it to the final four?
We will never know.
If not expressed previously, this is a labor of love for me. I was not a great player in college. I went to a small NCAA Division III school as a freshman and, honestly, being a bench warmer on the lacrosse team was the only thing good about my experience at that college.
Being at a 2,000-student liberal arts school in the northeast was intellectually and socially claustrophobic for me. The plan was always to play MCLA lacrosse at Michigan, Georgia, Florida or Colorado, but as my dad's favorite saying goes, “Man plans and God laughs."
If those words don't fit our current situation, I don't know what does, because COVID was not part of anyone's plans.
At any rate, in 2006, Emory University was dedicated to building a serious MCLA Division II lacrosse program and the timing and my grades allowed the transfer to work out. Even at Emory, I wasn't a star by any means – but my goal was not to be All-SELC, it was to win MCLA tournament games.
In 2007 all of that happened. Competing against Fort Lewis, Westminster and St. Thomas in Dallas was a life-changing experience for me and all of my teammates. With that, nothing brings me more joy than seeing student athletes of younger MCLA generations enjoy that same atmosphere..
Whether observing a team that makes the final four every season or another that breaks through to the tournament for the first time, it's electric to see the players and coaches soak it all up and it's almost equally as exciting to see and commentate the live theater as it plays out.
In 2019, the D-I final between a resurgent Cal program and the new kids on the block from South Carolina created one of the best matchups of all time.
St. Thomas lost the 2018 championship to North Dakota State in overtime and then was able to bounce back and take the 2019 championship over Dayton on the same field they had shed tears of sudden death defeat only 12 months prior.
After such a special spring in Utah, 2020 was poised to be even better, but it wasn't. Because it didn't happen at all.
I feel for the Gamecocks and the Tommies, who did not get to defend their titles. I feel for the consistent tournament contenders who believed this was a realistic title bound year.
I really, REALLY feel for the seniors for the few programs that were going to lead their programs to their first nationals appearance in 2020. It sucks really bad for all seniors – I get it – but somewhere out there, there is a senior lacrosse player, or many, that worked hard athletically, culturally, and even administratively (for 3-4 years maybe) with hope that a 2020 tournament appearance would bring all the work to fruition.
It's hard for me not to think about those athletes specifically.
It does not have to be national championship season for a team to have or feel it could have ‘their year,’ but at any rate, 2020 was a year for nobody. This season was stolen from players, coaches, administrators, families, fans and alumni just like a pair of sneakers were stolen from my NYC doorstep on Christmas.
Even for non-athletes, college seniors should get to walk and get their diploma on campus in front of their parents and enjoy the festivities of graduation. Freshman next fall should not have to start their college careers taking online classes or living/learning remotely.
Is the latter going to happen? I don't know. I sure hope not, but this is the world we live in. I'm confident things will be better next year, but honestly, I don't want to think about living in a world where the 2021 MCLA National Championships presented by New Balance in Round Rock isn't happening.
On that note, talking to coaches and players these last few weeks, words like "depression," "anxiety" and even "violation" came up a lot. Yup, those are normal feelings to have when you get robbed.
Further, this pandemic has affected a lot more than sports and I am sure there are members of our community who are not only hurt by the lost season but are struggling with work, finances and general wellness.
I graduated from college in 2008, which means this is the second recession that I am living through in my adult life. Unrelated too that, I suffered experiences a few years ago that caused me more pain than I ever thought was tolerable.
However, in my darkest moments I was always able say to myself, "This too shall pass."
The MCLA helped save my life. It was helpful when I was an immature transfer trying to become comfortable in my own skin at a new school. But more so, this organization was there for me as an adult in my 30's when times were tough.
After fighting off so much on a personal level, I found joy in being around this league, its players and its coaches again.
Announcing the games are my passion, but writing the stories, spreading the good word of the MCLA and giving these student athletes something to take pride in – to let these guys know someone is watching and listening and making sure others are taking notice also – that's what gets my juices flowing in this role.
When Emory made it to the Top 5 in the national rankings when I was a senior, we were all over the MCLA website and collegelax.us: stories, interviews, photos. We had a moment where we felt like kings of the campus.
Every MCLA athlete deserves an opportunity to enjoy that and I'm sorry for those who were robbed.
Despite the uncertainty, try and stay positive and active however you can. A lot of former college athletes easily fall out of shape when their careers are over and feeling bad while suffering loss can also lead to unhealthy habits.
If you are sad or angry about what was taken from you this year, try and think about all the good times from the previous years and start think about how you can replicate those emotions and experiences in the next chapters of your life.
Don't succumb to negativity. Again, this too shall pass.
Cheers to seeing everyone in Round Rock next May.
With Honor and Gratitude,