It’s nothing like playing the trumpet
May 15, 2009Posted by james

I walked away from the game of lacrosse in prime of my athletic career following my sophomore year. I vividly recall the day I entered my coach’s office to inform him that I would not continue as a member of the lacrosse team. In fact, I told him that I would not be “matriculating” at the university, for the spring semester of my junior year. I was a spectator from a distance that year and I remember watching in frustration as the team finished with a 3 – 8 record. As painful as it felt to watch the season unravel, I know that my off the field issues in my personal life made it impossible to be down on the field.

After I played my last lacrosse game at Hofstra, I never picked up a stick, never played in a college alumni game, never again watched a college or professional lacrosse game. I played lacrosse from the 7th grade until that last game at Hofstra and that was it – I was done with one exception. A few years ago, I attended a Long Island Lizards professional lacrosse game to watch Vinnie Sombrotto play. One of my nephews was playing at halftime. I sat in the stands and watched Sombrotto – well into his 40’s - play the game I abandoned a long time ago. I left the game in the third quarter, I couldn’t watch any more. On my way back home to Manhattan, for the first time in my post lacrosse career, I felt a painful reminder – it was surreal – of how I abruptly left the game and never looked back.

In Bill Bradley’s book “Values of the Game,” there is a chapter called Passion where he describes the sights, smells and sounds that he loved about playing alone in his high school gymnasium. How grabbing the ball by the seams and the feeling of sinking ten in a row – which made him want to sink 15 in a row…and then 25 in a row – was the greatest feeling in the world. He had the passion for the game and I completely understand him.

My favorite part of the chapter is at the end. Upon reading it the first time, I thought of myself. Bradley cites a post game function in Chicago during the 1970’s where a gentleman approaches him and asks him if he really likes to play basketball. Bradley replies” Yeah, more than anything else I could be doing now.” To Bill’s response, the gentleman says “That’s great” and that he “knows what you feel.” He proceeds to tell him about his love for playing the trumpet. In fact, he was so good at playing the trumpet that he was part of a band. His band was very good, as well. They were so good that they had offers to go on tour and make records. All of the band members wanted to accept the offers except this gentleman. He said his father didn’t believe that type of career was secure enough and he agreed with this father. A transient life that involved traveling from town to town and without any guarantees of future gigs didn’t “fit into the life plan.” He ultimately gave up the trumpet for law school where he successfully graduated and became a lawyer. Once his law career began, he no longer had time to play on even an occasional basis.

Bradley asked him: “Do you like the law?

The gentleman’s response: “It’s okay. But it’s nothing like playing the trumpet.”