If you were to ask me what I love about the Lancers, I would probably launch into a passionate soliloquy on the joys of padding up and hitting people. I’d also probably round up this speech with a joke about how my sister used to beat me up and that football helps me exorcise these childhood demons. But then once this tepid humor was out of the way, I’d tell you that in second place are the close bonds I’ve formed with my teammates over my four years as a player.
And so it was, this summer, that I set out to cash in these friendships and enjoy the network of hospitality that spreads coast to coast throughout America:
This adventure began in the otherworldly Pacific paradise of Hawaii, where Lancers legend Scott Tan was to be married. Myself, two ex-players, QB/RB coach Panayiotis Christoferu and veteran QB Will Szymanski descended on Waikiki to celebrate the union. We roamed around the island of O’ahu, running routes on the beach, enjoying some spectacular seafood and reveling in the Aloha Spirit. The happy couple exchanged their vows in a picturesque garden, where we teary-eyed Lancers consolidated our reputation as Britain’s most emotionally in-touch football team (#RealMenRealFeelings).
My next stop was a brief stint in Dallas, where I stayed with the gun-totin’, God-fearin’, majestically bearded Matt Gore. When his playing career was cut short by a vicious knee injury, Gore stepped up and coached the offensive line, imbuing it with his Texan ferocity and earning a portion of the glory that came with our first ever winning season. With only a little time to spend, we wasted none. Gore escorted me around the city, showing me its world class barbecue and the George Bush Presidential Library, all the while debating with me furiously.
My next host was the one-term wonder, Joe Summers, in Kansas City, Missouri. He graciously welcomed me into his family home, fed me KC style barbecue (Texas takes the crown, but KC knows how to get busy with the ribs) and took me to see the KC Royals. He even saved us from a perilous flash-flood which struck downtown, navigating his car through great torrents, seemingly unperturbed.
We then set off together for Ann Arbor, in the great state of Michigan, where Will Szymanski was waiting for us. The stay here could essentially be boiled down to sports and comfort food, much like Will himself. Second only to his passion for the Pats (and I hope the Lancers), is his adoration for the Michigan Wolverines and thankfully he was able to share this with us. We woke up frightfully early on the morning of their season’s first game, scoffed a diner breakfast, then set upon drinking. We perambulated through the streets of Ann Arbour, watching the marching sea of yellow and blue as it gravitated towards the Big House. Unable to buy tickets before the game began, Joe and I collected ourselves in a nearby bar. But the gods of football saw our misery and graced us with seats for $20 apiece from two students, too drunk to use them themselves.
We made it to our seats by the second quarter and I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the place. It housed approximately 785 times the number of fans that were in attendance at our last varsity game, each and every one of which were adorned in the team colors. Perhaps it’s because we were no longer accustomed to college level drinking, but we were unable to follow the swaying double-image of the teams on the field and so, embarrassingly, stumbled home at half time.
My penultimate stop found me in Boston, staying with Scott and Ashley, the newlyweds. Scott was mostly busy in the MIT lab, working on some world-changing technology, so Ash and I explored the city together, ogling art and eating pizza. Bidding farewell to the happy couple, I traveled up into the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, to squeeze in one more Lancer wedding. Joining me again were Gore and Szymanski, to test how the altitude impacted our tolerance and to debate a little more, though mostly to witness ex-RB Jerod Coker wed his bride Emily. Sadly, little evidence remains of Gore’s bombastic dance-floor maneuvers that night, but those who witnessed it have it seared into their memories.
Any Lancer would attest to the fact that we are an abnormally close-knit team and I’m grateful for every chance I’ve had to train and play alongside these men and women. I’ve cherished every opportunity to meet with them (whether helmet-to-helmet or mind-to-mind) and I look forward to hitting them again at this year’s Old Boys’ game.