Brett Manney’s six-foot-three, 225-pound frame provides a formidable presence on the lacrosse floor for the Stealth but his most valuable physical asset, in terms of his ultimate career goal, is not his physique. It is his voice.
No, he’s not a singer.
Manney is an aspiring broadcaster.
While earning an English degree and playing field lacrosse at the University of Delaware, he was a play-by-play radio announcer and color commentator for the school’s football and basketball games.
``In my teens, I’d watch guys calling college football and basketball games and I always figured they had the best seats in the house,’’ he says. ``I like being part of that type of atmosphere. It’s an extremely difficult field to get into but it’s something I’ve really become attached to. Hopefully, I can look back 10 years from now and be thankful I went out on a limb and tried it.’’
The 23-year-old native of Newtown, Pennsylvania, is a little further out on that limb today in working for a company called SportsPower in the Philadelphia region. He’s writing weekly game previews on Division 1 basketball and putting together spotlight features on teams and players. He’s just added to his repertoire a podcast on university lacrosse. Add his weekend flights to wherever the Stealth are playing, and he’s a man who seems to be in constant motion.
``The expectations SportsPower has for March and April are pretty high so I’m going to be busy,’’ he says. ``I’ve got a hectic schedule but I enjoy it. They’re really co-operative with me playing lacrosse on the weekends. Everyone has been very supportive. I love going to San Jose to play lacrosse. I’m very fortunate. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would like to be in my position.’’
There are a lot of rungs on the broadcasting ladder to climb but he’s determined to make it all the way.
``With the experience I’ve gained so far and with my sports background, hopefully it’ll all work out,’’ he says. ``That would make me happy.’’
Manney was mainly into soccer in his youth. He knew little about lacrosse until a friend’s father suggested to his dad that he and his twin brother, Ryan, give it a try.
``We didn’t pick up a stick until after eighth grade,’’ he recalls. ``We caught onto the sport from there. In high school, I learned to like the game and the way it was played and thought I could pursue an education combined with lacrosse. When I went to college, I dedicated everything I had to becoming good at the sport. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at now.’’
While Brett plays for the Stealth and for the Washington Bayhawks in the summer pro field league, Ryan is successfully into real estate in New Jersey.
Manney was a star defensive midfielder at Delaware. It was an unsung hero’s role in that he wasn’t counted on to score goals but to prevent them. Doing the job well was a matter of pride. He has a similar role with the Stealth.
NLL superstar John Grant, who can’t play for the Rochester Knighthawks this year because he’s rehabbing from complications following knee surgery, preceded Manney as a Delaware star. Manney was the team’s captain in his senior year.
Doug Locker, San Jose’s assistant general manager, contacted Manney following the NLL entry draft last year. He wasn’t picked. He’d never played indoor lacrosse but Locker felt he had potential.
``He called me and the next thing I knew we were having a 35-minute conversation,’’ Manney recalls. ``He gave me the opportunity to try out for the team and I told him I’d make the most of it.’’
The Stealth signed him last September, and here he is _ running in the world’s best lacrosse league and getting better and better each week.
``Lacrosse is a great sport,’’ he says. ``I’m trying to continue to improve. I’d never played the indoor game before training camp so there’s a lot to learn.’’
The smaller playing area and the smaller nets are obvious factors in the adjustment from the field version.
``There’s the physical play, too,’’ says Manney. ``They let a lot more go in the indoor game, which is actually better for me given my style of play.’’
It takes endless work to learn how to handle the rolling picks opposing forwards use to dodge defenders but, with veterans such as Curtis Hodgson showing him the way, Manney is quickly picking up the techniques required in the indoor game.
``Communication becomes more of a factor as well,’’ he says. ``Music is constantly playing during the games so you have to make sure you keep in contact with your teammates.’’
There’s a lot of yelling going on out there.
``You need a good voice for broadcasting and a loud voice for playing lacrosse,’’ says Manney.
He says he appreciates the accepting attitude shown by his teammates, many of whom have played indoors their entire lives.
``My teammates are all great guys,’’ says Manney. ``Every week I’m in San Jose I learn something new. I’m like a sponge. Hodgson, Kyle Sorensen, Mike Kirk, Travis Gillespie and the rest of the defensive guys have helped me since Day 1. That’s huge. I couldn’t ask for better teammates.’’
The way Colin Doyle carries the captaincy is something to be admired, he says.
``I look up to Colin Doyle,’’ says Manney. ``I think he’s the best player in the league. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever played with. I have a lot of respect for him. You see the way he practises and plays and it makes you want to play that much harder because you don’t want to disappoint him or let him down.’’
He marvels at some of the finesse goals scored by Jeff Zywicki.
``I like going up against him in practice because he’s one of the best players in the league,’’ says Manney. ``Some of his goals are unbelievable.’’
Another player with a wealth of pro experience who has a Stealth leadership role is Cam Sedgwick.
``He always has something good to say when he opens his mouth,’’ says Manney. ``He’s a veteran guy who is really savvy.’’
The West Division standings are so tight that a string of wins can lift a team to the top, and a couple of consecutive losses can relegate a team to the basement.
``We didn’t expect to be where we are right now but there’s a lot more games to play,’’ Manney says of San Jose’s 2-4 start. ``The talent is here. A couple of times we had lapses where we didn’t play well and had to dig ourselves out of a hole but we’re definitely one of the best teams in the league. We know that. We just have to go out there and prove it.’’
If he could wave a magic wand, Manney would grant two wishes to the NLL.
``I’d like to see every arena full,’’ he says. ``As a player, that makes the games so much more fun playing, when you’re in front of a lot of people, and we need to have more games on TV. We’ve got to get the word out there that it’s a great game, and a great game to watch. With more Americans in the league now hopefully the sport will continue to rise and get the attention it deserves.’’
Imagine: ``This is Brett Manney and our NLL game tonight on ESPN has the sensational San Jose Stealth taking on the visiting Colorado Mammoth.’’
What an intro. Great voice. Great league.
~ Neil Stevens played box lacrosse growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he attended the same high school as did Stealth GM John Mouradian. Years later, as a sports writer for The Canadian Press wire service, Stevens began covering after NLL expansion into Canada in 1998 the home games of the Toronto Rock and the league in general. In 2008, Mouradian and Stevens were inducted into the NLL Hall of Fame _ John in the builders' category and Neil as a media honouree. At the age of 61, Stevens is now retired, but still covering Rock games and writing weekly NLL columns for the wire service for distribution to daily newspapers across Canada. ~