Team GOAT Honoring a Fallen Teammate
Plenty of summer club tournament teams are made up of groups of alums of one program or another, all suiting up for a weekend and hitting the field, sharing some stories of past glories and maybe a couple of post-game cold ones while they're at it. Teams like Burnt Orange (Syracuse) and Elder Statesmen (Hobart) are legends at places like Lake Placid and Vail, operating on that very principle (albeit at a ridiculously high level of talent as well).
Team GOAT, made up of former players from Conard High School in West Hartford (Ct.) doesn't have that pedigree, but they certainly have a great reason to take the field, honoring and raising money in the name of a former teammate who was killed in action while serving with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq.
GOAT was the nickname of Larry Philippon, who played football, lacrosse and ice hockey at Conard. After a high school career that saw honors for both lacrosse and hockey (he was a defenseman and a goalie, respectively), he enlisted in the Marines in 2003. In 2005 his unit was engaged in a heavy firefight near the Syrian border when he was killed by enemy fire. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetary just across the river from Washington, D.C.
In 2008, former teammates led by Brendan Frobel – who graduated with Philippon in 2001 – formed Team GOAT in the late Lance Corporal's honor to play at the annual Glastonbury Tournament near Hartford, Ct. In addition to playing in the tournament, there has been an annual fundraiser at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford, raising money in Larry's name for Operation Smile.
"It was a way to continue to bring everyone together like we did at the time of his passing, while doing even more than telling funny stories," Frobel told the Hartford Courant by email. "It was a way to pass on his character and love for the game to a younger generation, and a way to honor his sacrifice by playing the game he loved, as a team, in front of his friends and family."
Frobel said the opening day of the tournament will begin with a gathering at Philippon's parents' home to remember Larry, then it's off to the fields "to play as hard and with honor, the way Larry lived his life as a person and soldier."
It should be noted at this point that I actually went to Conard and played lacrosse with Larry, though I graduated two years ahead of him. We played a bit together but were never buddies – I think the biggest interaction I ever had with him was one time I yelled at him pretty hard for messing up a slide package in practice when he was a freshman.
Most of the folks that make up this team are people that I spent time on one field or another with, and I couldn't be prouder for the way they honor the game by remembering Larry's sacrifice and contributing to a charity that he would have appreciated in his honor. (According to that Courant article, the choice was made because Philippon would always tell his parents how happy he was whenever he brought a smile to a child's face during the war. Operation Smile raises money for cleft palate and lip charities in developing countries).
Team GOAT, Frobel told the Courant, is playing "for a reason that runs deeper than the game itself."