What a way to start the summer of ‘23 for the Bandits with a National Lacrosse League Title!
And the celebration continues on June 15, at 5 p.m., in Alumni Plaza of Keybank Center with the Bandits official championship rally.
Use all the cliches you can think of, but it comes down to one word: Character.
From the stunning defeat last year in the finals to the injury-riddled regular season, each player on this Bandits team covered one another no matter the situation. They fought back from the jaws of defeat and still posted a league-best 14-4 record.
With time on my hands this week, driving through the straights of Iowa and Nebraska en route to my summer job in Colorado, I concluded that Saturday’s 13-4 win casts a mold of these Bandits’ greatness.
I believe Saturday night’s game was the best I’ve seen this team play.
An absurd realization of the above hit me when driving through bright green rolling terrain dotted with monstrous windmills placed like theatre seating on what was farmland.
The giant blades were rotating sequentially with air-moving swaths from ground to sky perfectly in unison.
With my driving speed and the brilliant sun flickering from the moving blades, I was caught right in the middle of this symphony, which was stunning. I felt the animation of movement in a seamless flow. There had to be 30 or more in this patch, all moving together to create power.
This group of Bandits worked together, shedding the agony of defeat from previous finals, and proved they were the best in this game.
Training camp ’22 was weaved with many players still wondering what went wrong in the Finals. Closure was needed, which took a while – right up to the first game of the regular season with a loss to Albany.
That loss was a cold hard slap of reality, and from that point on, the Bandits saddled up and never looked back.
After 33 weeks of hard work and dedication, the end result came before us last Saturday night with the most convincing victory of the season and the carry of the NLL Championship Cup in front of the loyal fans in Banditland.
I am humbled and honored to be a part of this team as a broadcaster, and the space provided here with weekly editions of Fast Break.
Every player possessed their own assets and contributed to the success. Dhane Smith was the bouillon added to this stew of dead-fast warriors. His postseason numbers were record-setting, and his hell-bent-for-leather pursuit was worthy of his MVP status.
The Bandits flag hung Saturday night behind the bench was Smith’s orchestration. It allowed players to share who they were playing for and a quick reminder of the “we can do this” attitude.
No more slumped bodies hanging in sorrow for the three previous championship games, 2016, 2019, 2022. No more tears and an attitude of failure. No more.
The championship won by this group of Bandits will be remembered for a long time, in line with the four others that stretch over 30 years. And more championships to follow I’m sure with this group. Performing in unison, like those windmills.
Thank you, Banditland.
Thank you, Bandits, and congratulations.
Have a great summer, everybody!