A hero is defined by dictionary.com in a couple of ways.
“A person noted for courageous acts of nobility of character.”
“A person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.”
In sports, specifically in lacrosse, a hero could be the player that comes through in the clutch with the game winning goal in overtime or the goalie that makes a critical save at the right time. At the end of the day, there are also heroes all around us whether they are fire fighters, police officers, emergency workers, parents, siblings, friends, doctors, and teachers.
On the Riptide, there is a player who is a true everyday hero and although it’s not necessarily because of what he’s done on the lacrosse field during his outstanding career. In the case of defenseman Mike Manley, he is a hero for what he does in his full-time occupation as a New York State Trooper.
As the Riptide get set to hold “Hometown Heroes Night” this Saturday when they play the Georgia Swarm at NYCB Live (7:30 pm Bleacher Report Live and MSG+2), being labeled a hero is a moniker that Manley is a bit reluctant to accept.
“I don’t consider myself a hero by any means,” said Manley. “The heroes are those men and women that died in the World Trade Center, they’re the people that rushed into save other people and everyone that has died in the years following 9-11. Those are the true heroes and those will always be the heroes.”
On Saturday night, the Riptide’s community partner will be the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation (www.tunnel2towers.org), a 503(c)(3) organization named after Stephen Siller, a Brooklyn firefighter who lost his life saving others on September 11th, 2001.
As fans arrive at the Coliseum, they will be welcomed by a flag and there will be an arch with two fire trucks from the Uniondale Fire Department outside “The Barn”. At halftime, the Riptide will be honoring five local heroes and they will be accompanied by the Nassau Police Bagpipe Band.
It certainly will be a special night for the Riptide franchise as they honor these heroes.
“We have so much and honor for those guys and also for the families that are still be affected from 9-11,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “That holds true to this day. They’re battling out there, some in the hospital and some retired and some have lost loved ones. It’s certainly an emotional time for anyone and you can’t help but really feel in your heart for New York and Long Island and the state of New York.”
Ironically, Manley won’t be available to play for the Riptide on Saturday night but it’s for a good reason. He’ll be protecting his community working out of Troop E in the Rochester and Canandaigua area in Western New York patrolling all of the interstates. On a daily basis, he handles domestic disputes, larcenies and major crimes and does whatever he can to protect his community.
But in Manley’s mind, what he does for a living doesn’t make him a hero even though the very definition of what he does makes him one whether he likes it or not.
“I go to work every day and I put the uniform on and its something that I signed up to do and I do it with a smile on my face every day,” said Manley. “It’s those men and women that have lost their lives in the line of duty that I consider true heroes. When people thank me for my service, I don’t find it strange or weird by any means. It’s something that I signed up to do and it truly is my pleasure to serve my community and put this uniform on.”
There is one part of the job that Manley admits he doesn’t like and that’s when he goes from being a “hero” to being the “bad guy.”
“We enforce vehicle traffic laws,” said Manley as he started to laugh a little bit. “That’s where people always look at us as the bad guys because we have to hand out some tickets.”
After spending a whole week in uniform as a state trooper, Manley, when he is not on duty protecting his community, spends the weekends in a different type of uniform as a lacrosse player. He inspires his coaches and teammates both on and off the field.
“We were fortunate to get him,” said Thorpe who selected Manley in the 7th round of the NLL Expansion Draft. “Based on his work commitment, that comes first with his duty to serve so he’s pretty much been able to play when he’s able to and he’s not protecting the streets. Certainly, the guys do look up to him. He’s a veteran guy and we certainly appreciate what he does, not only for our team, but for the state of New York as well.
The 31-year old is currently in his sixth National Lacrosse League season and also plays for the Chrome Lacrosse Club outdoors in the Premier Lacrosse League. Manley was the third overall pick by the Rochester Rattlers in the 2012 Major League Lacrosse Draft and was taking by the Philadelphia Wings in the fourth round of the 2012 NLL draft.
He grew up Penn Yan, New York, a small village in Yates County ono the north end of Keuka Lake. If you’ve never heard of Penn Yan (I didn’t before I started working on this story), Manley doesn’t want you to feel bad about it. In fact, when he was playing in high school at the Penn Yan Academy, which by the way has a great lacrosse program, an alum of the school stopped by one day to talk to the team and summed up what happens when you tell someone that you’re from Penn Yan…
“Penn Yan is right on Keuka Lake…beautiful lake.”
“Oh yeah Penn Yan has a hell of a lacrosse team.”
“And the third one is where the hell is that?”
“It’s an absolutely beautiful area,” said Manley of the town that he grew up in. “It’s a small town. It’s a very tight-knit community and a very supportive community.”
Manley was a five-year letterman at Penn Yan Academy before going on to play college lacrosse at Duke. Growing up, he would go to see the Rochester Knighthawks and when he had the chance to play for the Knighthawks last season, many people from his community came to see him play.
When he was a fan of the Knighthawks, one of the players that he has a chance to see his current coach in action.
“I watched Regy (Thorpe) play,” said Manley.
This season, Manley, Thorpe and the rest of the Riptide are trying to navigate their way through an expansion year. With a record of 1-11, there hasn’t been much success in the win column, but each week there are indications that this team is making progress.
“Those W’s are hard to come across and it’s hard to win in this league,” said Manley. “I’m just proud of my teammates and the coaches. They put their best foot forward every week and keep moving forward and getting better every week. That’s something to build on. The guys just keep competing every week.”
And what better way to continue building the Riptide franchise than for the team to be inspired but what will take place on “Hometown Heroes Night” Saturday night at NYCB Live. There are so many heroes among us in life and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Mike Manley is a hero because he serves and protects his community.