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The Boys of August

By Rich Landriault, 07/28/19, 10:45AM EDT


Game three of the Western Finals... and beyond.

Friday night at the Six Nations Iroquois Lacrosse Arena:
The Jr. B Bengals took full advantage of late first period breaks, scoring two thrilling goals to tie up the must-win game. But even attending Bengals fans knew that the scoreboard did not reflect the true momentum of the contest, and when the Six Nations Rebels began pulling away in the second, some started making peace with the inevitable. There is no doubt that both teams are great and played great. But the Rebels had the slightest edge in a few areas which summed up to a near-invincibility. No doubt they are currently at the top of their game. I'll be quite surprised if they don't win the Founders Cup.
I have no notes from the third period from which to provide details. I abandoned my tools in order to cherish the moment: Two fine teams playing the best game on earth. As such there is no media award calculated, though I doubt I could have dispensed one anyway, and not twenty.
Afterwards, in the visitor dressing room, would one hear anger, I wondered. Complaints? Instead there was a quiet heaviness. And then the words began. Emotions were huge and unmaskable; the old-timers at the periphery of this circle still in wonder at the breakthrough that was finally made this year, and for some, an empathic glimpse into the experience of these young men of the inner circle; these boys of August; this band of brothers whose mission, they felt, was ended early. We can not entirely know their minds but the look in the eyes of the older players was something to behold. This was not the petulance of kids who did not get their candy. This was something of startling weight, as if a sudden deep mark was made upon them.  I have no mandate to report their mature and admirable words at such a personal occasion so I tread carefully here and hope I am saying enough and not too much.
For these junior veterans their burden may have little to do with failure and more to do with the breaking of a fellowship. I wonder had things gone differently and this team gone all the way to Winnipeg and ultimate victory, would the final scene, after the celebrations, have looked entirely different? There was an old saying when I was young, concerning gender in sports, which certainly rang true at the time: Men hug their teammates when they win. Women hug their teammates when they lose. Perhaps these things are not so simple now, if they ever were.
For many talented lacrosse players, Junior B is necessarily a stepping stone to bigger things, while still evoking authentic loyalty. Such players must find their own way of navigating the potential conflict. Thanks to dynamic affiliations we've had plenty of glimpses into the Bengals' future and it surely looks bright. It will be exciting to see how next year's roster comes together and what new challenges and dramas will unfold. But one thing is certain: this crew of 2019, this brotherhood, will be long remembered.