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Traveling With Eli: Syracuse Lacrosse Road Trips in the 1980s

Here is the 84 team photo courtesy of teammate Dave Desko. Click it and it will enlarge. I am # 2 in the photo.

So here I am excited about playing UNC at Loyola College in Baltimore, my first Division I lacrosse game against a team I grew up watching. In fact I patterned the stick I played with my freshmen year at Herk (white STX Sam Head, traditional pocket, and wooden shaft) after what UNC defensemen used during their back to back NCAA Championships in 81 and 82. I saw UNC play in the lacrosse day of champions at Manhasset High School on Long Island my first season at Herk in 82. Now here I was 48 hours before the game backing my gear to travel and actually suit up against the Tar Heels; I felt both excited and intimidated wondering if I had gotten in over my head. Back in those days, Syracuse Lacrosse traveled to away games on a chartered bus. Now I understand that it has become standard practice for the team to fly to games. Still the chartered bus represented a radical change for me after two years of travel to away games at Herk in 16 passenger vans that the coaches drove. Away games at SU my first season meant traveling with what coach Roy Simmons Jr. (Simmie) called his “Iroquois medicine man” Eli. Eli lived on the Onondaga Reservation about 30 minutes from campus right off of US 81. He had to be in his late 70s early 80s when I met him. Eli, as we all called him, was a soft spoken dignified man who loved the game. The guys on the team treated him like the team’s elder and sage making sure he was comfortable and had everything he needed for the long trip down 81 south to Baltimore. I believe the story goes that coach grew up watching his Dad’s SU teams play against a team of Iroquois that included Eli. In his day Eli was both a terrific player and stick maker. He may have been the person that made the old wooden sticks for SU players before the introduction of plastic heads like the players use when I played and now. Eli traveled to every game my junior year; his failing health prevented him from doing so my senior year. For more on history of the Iroquois and lacrosse, see: http://www.uslacrosse.org/museum/history.phtml

Traveling with Eli Part II and Native American Culinary Culture

The Morehouse Dress Code Is Nothing New