(Writer’s Note: This article was originally meant to be published back in August 2019 to also celebrate the 10 year milestone of The Art of Lax™)
Leonardo da Vinci has the painting of the ‘Mona Lisa’. Michelangelo has the statue of ‘David’. Milton Glaser has the ‘I Love NY’ logo. I think you know what I’m getting at here. But what do I have? I have a 10 year old story about the most noted piece of lacrosse art in my portfolio, and possibly in the lacrosse world, that most do not know, until now.
August 2009 had me and a few of my Brooklyn Men’s Lacrosse Club teammates, along with a few others, merely strangers, competing at the ‘War at the Shore’ tournament in Brick Township, NJ. I was also in my first year experimenting with ‘The Art of Lax’ which caught the attention of a lot of my teammates, back then. In my collection of art pieces, the best selling, or most noted piece was an image titled ‘Full Tilt‘.
I decided that, that image would be screen printed on shooter shirts as uniforms for our team, which was also called ‘Full Tilt’. It was the very first time I had my lacrosse art put on a piece of apparel that was to be worn during competition.
During that time of building The Art of Lax™, working in advertising and running my club lacrosse team, I was also coaching high school lacrosse in NYC. One of the other coaches was a person named Joey Kopito from Long Island who played at Stony Brook University. He possessed a lethal sidearm shot, which was seen in regular, post-practice target shooting contests. We became good friends and I asked Joey to join my team in competing at ‘War at the Shore’ that coming summer.
War at the Shore Lacrosse Tournament & Team Full Tilt.
The format for the weekend tournament was 3 games on Saturday for seeding purposes, and 1 guaranteed game on Sunday, which was survive and advance. Looking back, the overnight tournaments that require you to come back the following day are challenging as you get older. For me, the ‘War at the Shore‘ tournament wasn’t just another opportunity to play lacrosse, it was really an opportunity to showcase my new ‘lacrosse art venture’ which kept on needing the ‘right eyes’ in order to grow.
Along with another new player who was friends with Joey Kopito, we shared a hotel room together nearby Brick Township. Upon arrival on Friday night we all went out to dinner and went to sleep early to rest up for the 3 games the following day, Saturday.
The ‘Full Tilt’ team competing in the tournament was a bunch of misfits, looking back. We had playmakers, lunchpalers, grinders, goofballs and complete jokers. I don’t think we were the best group of talent ever assembled but it was a very entertaining group at the least, which in fact bonded the team. After our first two games, we were 1-1, needing one more win to get us a good seed for Sunday.
The third team we had to play was quite weak and for some odd reason, that I still do not know to this very day, I lost interest and didn’t feel like playing and had the other goalie play the entire game. Instead of relaxing and watching the game on the sidelines, I decided to take some pics with my Panasonic Lumix digital camera to upload on Facebook the following week. Because anything that you did, didn’t really happen unless it was seen on Facebook, right?
Taking the Shot.
My camera had a powerful zoom lens for a pocket digital camera, and a quick shutter speed, enabling rapid bursts of shots during the game. My goal was to try to take photographs of every player on the team and to let them know that it would be on Facebook at some point after the event. But of all our players on the ‘Full Tilt’ team, there was a player who was ‘ripping the twine’ a lot, causing him to stand out in my mind. I didn’t have my camera on some fancy setting, but I waited for this player to take his shot, so that I would take mine with my camera. I took the shot, pushed the preview button and zoomed in to look over it and wondered what if this would be a new piece of art? The pic was of Joey Kopito unleashing one of his many lethal crank shots on goal. I didn’t tell anybody just yet, but I knew I had to ask Joey’s permission first.
After the first day of competition we all went out that night at the many hangout spots on the Jersey Shore – the perks of overnight lacrosse tournaments. For some of us, it became a very long night.
We were all very slow to start our day and the fact that we had to play a lacrosse game at 9:00am didn’t appeal to us. Joey, who wore a knee brace, said that he tweaked his knee from the previous games but I’m sure it was the late-night antics from one hangout spot to another, that got the best of him. As we arrived to our field I told Joey of taking a good picture of him playing and asked for his permission to replicate into a drawing. His response was a simple: “Cool man, yeah.”
We lost that game real bad, but unless you were on a really good team that was racking up the points, most of the teams, or everybody else, just wanted to go home.
The picture that I took of Joey was made into a drawing – a shooting drawing – because that action scene was missing in my portfolio. I added motion and sequence because lacrosse is full of energy and constant movement. But while creating the piece, I thought it was just another piece of art done, or just added to the list, as I gave a print to Joey who called it in his own words, “really ridiculous, dude!” Little did I know that, that piece which was eventually titled as ‘Crank’, would become my signature piece – my masterpiece – and grew with a demand for that image.
Currently, the original drawing is owned by another former lacrosse teammate of mine named Chris Feehely, who also owns two other originals in, ‘The Founder’ and ‘Gear‘, which are hung up on his wall.
The Photograph & ‘Catching Lighting in a Bottle’.
I keep a framed print of the photograph that I took in my studio office. I think of it as ‘catching lightning in a bottle’ due the random and casual decision leading up to taking the picture, and then turning it into a well-known piece of art for a specific target audience.
In the past, I’ve tried to personally plan and create new art that would take over the ‘Crank’ image. I think that’s the strange mix of art and athletics speaking to me. And while I don’t know if my art will ever be considered, or get to the same caliber level as Leonardo, Michelangelo or even Glaser, the backstory of ‘Crank’ serves, to me, as a rare and unique example that sometimes the best things that you executed weren’t really or carefully planned at all.
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