Blogs | 5/9/2012 9:18:00 AM | John Gurtler
Another hard drive back down the QEW from Toronto, wondering what went wrong in Buffalo’s 7-6 East Division Semifinal playoff loss to the Rock on Saturday night.
At least it was a sunny, Sunday morning that brightened the way on a barren highway, illuminating the brilliant green that draped the landscape, signaling that spring is officially here. To further mellow my mood, I put a Joni Mitchell CD in.
Let the reflections begin.
In my 30 years covering team sports, you would think I’d be able to make an easy transition from an abrupt end of a season to the next project. No, it’s always a letdown. More so this year than any of my other nine seasons covering the Bandits. I really thought they could win it all. I pushed all my chips to the center of the table. All-in.
I am in sales. I should know better. I asked John Tavares in a pregame interview on Saturday night: “If any of the players come to you for advice on how to handle the emotions of a playoff game, what would you tell them?”
“Don’t get too high and don’t get too low,” Tavares replied. “Try to find a balance within your game. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”
That is the best piece of advice anyone could ask for, no matter if you’re in sales, digging a ditch, walking the boards as an actor in a play, or 60 stories up going beam-to-beam on a construction site.
Down by a goal with seven seconds left in regulation, I could see that calmness in Tavares as he broke free from the “flying V” formation late Saturday night. Arching to his familiar position out on the floor, just off to the right and facing Rock goaltender Nick Rose, Tavares wound up and threw a high-heater. With just 0.8 seconds left on the clock, in the blink of an eye, the ball was spinning down the black twine inside the net. Tie game, 7-7.
Not so fast.
Any time a goal is scored with under two minutes left in regulation, it’s automatically reviewed. In the heat of the moment, the entire press row was clamoring about the clock, matching the picture-in-picture of the play and the digits ticking down.
With all the attention on Tavares and the timing of his blistering shot, the crew chief was also looking for feet in the crease. Reviewing Buffalo’s six-on-four rush, created by an empty Bandits net and a holding the stick penalty on the Rock, the slow-motion replay indeed showed a Bandits player in the crease when the ball went in.
Game over. Season over. A smack on the face as a reminder of the way the Bandits year has gone.
After a strong training camp here in Buffalo, the 2012 version of the Bandits appeared to have plenty of scoring power, a strong and experienced defense, good transition, and solid goaltending. There were even a few surprises with players that did not make this year’s team at first.
Expectations were high and the first two games did not disappoint.
But then the wheels started to wobble, with one game turning into six without a win. And the question arose – would they win again?
And here this team was loaded with talent and great chemistry.
The last quarter of the season proved that the Bandits could play consistently and, at times, brilliantly.
But the game of runs caught up with the team in their first-round playoff loss to the Rock.
“Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.”
Just like in years past, there was unbelievable fan support again this season. The Bandits led the NLL in attendance for a fourth straight year. Thank you for all the support.
We’re always looking to improve, so please let me know what you would like to hear on the radio broadcasts in terms of player profiles, interviews and general coverage. For the last couple of years, we’ve done a half-hour pregame show, which includes a comprehensive talk with the coach and a player.
Have some ideas about the types of features and interviews you would like to hear in 2013? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One person to single out for an extra dose of thanks this season is Scott Fleetwood, the statistician for our broadcast team. For the last handful of years, Scott has done a terrific job of keeping track of the game, which is amazing considering how fast the indoor game moves. His dedication, like so many others behind the scenes with the Bandits, simply amazes me.
Kudos to the tireless efforts of equipment managers Ted Cordingley and John Craig, who always keep everything in line; head athletic trainer Dr. Sherri LaShomb and her supporting cast; and Bandits Director of Lacrosse Operations Scott Loffler, for his constant control of the team, logistics, player appearances, clinics and nonstop promotion of the game on the amateur level.
And again, thank you Bandits fans!
Wait til’ next year.