The True Meaning Of Lacrosse
Aug. 1, 2007
Lacrosse brings people together. Fans and players alike can get away from their problems for sixty minutes and converge for one common cause. For Rochester Rattlers defenseman Jack Reid, this is especially true. While in high school, Jack's mother, Macy, was diagnosed with cancer. Before succumbing to the disease after nine long years, Macy Reid and her family escaped through the game of lacrosse.
Jack committed to UMass to play for the Minutemen out of Glastonbury High School in Connecticut. Macy was in the midst of battling cancer, but many were not aware of it. "She had the cancer for a very long time," UMass Head Coach Greg Cannella said. "I was not aware of it until the last couple years. The family and his mom never wanted that to be a distraction."
It certainly didn't prove to be a distraction for Reid as he thrived in his freshman year. After starting his collegiate career as a reserve defenseman, he got the chance to start in game seven against Hofstra. On Hofstra's first offensive possession, the ball got loose and Reid scooped up the groundball, starting a memorable fast break. "A guy from Hofstra tried to hit Jack and he bounced off him," Cannella recalls. "Another guy came up and Jack split dodged and ran around him with the pole. At the time, Andy Shay was an assistant coach at UMass. We looked at each other and said, `holy cow, this guy is pretty good!'"
Jack continued to progress at the collegiate level, improving while his mother was still fighting. Despite being in treatment, Macy always found a way to support her son. "Ever since I started playing competitive athletics as a young kid, it became legendary how loud my mother was at games," Jack said. "You could hear her at a packed football stadium, across an open field, and certainly from the grandstands of Garber Field. She was always so loud and supportive of me and of the team that I was playing for."
UMass played Maryland at the Carrier Dome in the 2003 National Quarterfinals. Macy wouldn't miss it for the world. "My buddy was telling me that you could hear my mother screaming during the live ESPN broadcast at the Carrier Dome," Jack said. "There was a good sized crowd on hand, and her voice was distinct enough to separate her from the masses. And no matter how many times I slashed someone, you could still hear her yelling at guys that slashed me. She used to yell, `don't hit my boy!' That always made me laugh, as that was the kind of fan she was."
With a large family of three older brothers, a younger sister, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, the Reids were rarely able to converge in one place at one time. They had been hoping for a family reunion at the Final Four for many years; it finally became reality in 2006 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. They were hoping that they would be watching Jack play on lacrosse's biggest stage. Whether it was fate or sheer luck, it all came together in the end.
After finishing the regular season 10-4, the Minutemen began a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament. After edging Cornell, 10-9, UMass was off to play Hofstra in the National Quarterfinals. With eight minutes remaining in regulation and Hofstra up 10-5, it looked like the Reids would not be watching Jack play at Lincoln Financial Field. Fortunately, the Minutemen made a furious comeback, scoring five goals in eight minutes to force overtime. They won it in the extra session on a Jim Connolly goal. Fate was working its magic.
Around that time, Macy was faltering. After fighting breast cancer for the first four years, it had gradually spread into her liver, and she couldn't fight much longer. The Quarterfinals was the first game she had missed in years. "The Final Four provided a wonderfully positive and celebratory setting for the family to come together," Jack said. "It also provided a great opportunity for the entire family to be together at once so that my mom could tell us all in person that she was reaching the end of the line and only had about a month left to live. It was the toughest moment of my life, and I am just so thankful that the family could all be together to support each other. It was unbelievable, a miracle perhaps, that the event came to fruition and was able to bring the entire family together in one spot."
Reid didn't disappoint on the field, leading UMass to a thrilling 8-5 victory over Maryland to reach the Finals. Unfortunately, in the Championship Game, the Minutemen ran into one of the best teams in collegiate lacrosse history, the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. Despite tying the game at five early in the third quarter, the Cavaliers pulled away, winning by the final score of 15-7.
The weekend was more important than winning and losing; the Reids revealed the deeper meaning of sports when family and friends converge for one common cause. As Jack said, "It allowed the family to get together, and be there for each other. My mother was facing a difficult crossroads where she had to prepare her family for the outcome none of us wanted to accept."
Less than a week later, Reid was drafted by the Rochester Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse. With his tough, hard-nosed style of play, he quickly emerged as one of the better defenders in the league.
For the 2006 MLL All-Star Game, the league partnered with Cascade to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. Cascade made 40 limited edition pink helmets for the players to wear. After the game, they were auctioned off; it raised $19,010 benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
With Macy Reid's passing of cancer, the effort hit close to home. It meant even more since Jack currently works for Cascade. "For a company that prides itself on technological innovations in athlete safety, it was nice to see Cascade helping to raise funds for an organization equally committed to finding a solution to cancer," he said. "Every dollar counts in organizations like that. The fact that Cascade and the MLL were willing to support such a cause made me proud to be a member of both organizations."
Jack looks back at the situation, taking any positives he can. He has always been close to his father, John. "My father, from day one in my life, and from a lot earlier with my older brothers, has been one of the greatest fathers a child could ask for," Jack said. "He's very supportive, he cares a great deal about how his kids are doing, and that they're succeeding in life, learning life lessons, and doing the right things to make them honorable individuals."
Throughout his mother's fight, Jack has become even closer with his father. "Over the whole process, [my father] did everything he could for my mother, and for us," he said. "He shouldered a lot of the responsibilities of having to take care of her, me, and my younger sister at the same time. It's a very difficult job, and at the same time he was able to continue to work and support us financially as well. You can't ask for more than that. He really made the process bearable; he was there to support you at all times."
Looking back, Jack appreciates what the sport of lacrosse has meant. "Lacrosse was a great rallying point for the entire family throughout the process in high school and college," he said. "It was something that she and my father looked forward to; it gave them a great distraction. They really loved and enjoyed being able to go to the games and support the team and be part of the experience. They made some great friends throughout the years and lacrosse in general just became a great avenue for our family to be together; it gave us a positive and energetic event to help lift spirits up."
Jack emphasizes the importance of family in one's life. "Your family needs to be your pillar of support, and you need to be theirs," he said. "It's a great give and take when you have such a large family that is in each other's corners. So one thing that the experience impressed upon me was that I always want to be a family person, and I always want to care deeply for those close to me."
"I want to be able to support them when they're going through tough times, and celebrate with them when they're going through good times," he continued. "I know that they're there to do the same for me. I'm looking forward to the day when I can raise my kids and try to be there for them as much as my father was for me."
(Justin Lafleur is a correspondent for Major League Lacrosse. This feature story was not subject to the approval of Major League Lacrosse.)
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