Lacrosse is a sport that is unknown to many. While it is gaining some steam in terms of kids picking up a stick and playing, it is still in its infancy as far as publicity.
Turn on SportsCenter on any normal day. What do you see on the ticker to the left? I will tell you what you don’t see: anything pertaining to lacrosse.
Have you heard about the National Lacrosse League? It’s a box lacrosse league that’s played in what’s usually the offseason, from winter to early spring.
What about the Major League Lacrosse? It’s a field league played in the summers. It went from six teams to 10 and it’s back at six.
Did you know just about every single professional lacrosse player needs to have an actual job? If you watch a game on TV, you can actually catch the broadcasters occasionally talking about what the players do to earn a paycheck they can live off of.
The common answer to those questions is probably “No.” Why would anyone know about that? Lacrosse doesn’t get any kind of recognition it deserves. Women’s NCAA basketball gets more coverage than college men’s lacrosse. Sure, SportsCenter has had a play or two in Top 10 plays and maybe the National Champ gets five seconds of unenthusiastic congratulations, but when do you see lacrosse extensively covered on all of your local news channels and major sports networks?
When players are accused of being rapists and killers.
As a player, you live and breath lacrosse. The culture of the game really is like nothing else. But as far as what the “outside world” sees, it seems as though lacrosse gets nothing but a bad reputation that goes further than the strange sounding lingo (“Bro, he’s gonna be a sick FOGO in college”) and the stereotypical look (Gotta have the flow and rock the midcalfs).
Lacrosse is the “rich white kid” sport. Mommy and daddy buy them all of the best equipment from STX and Warrior and pay for them to go to Dematha, Landon, St. Mary’s, or Georgetown Prep so that they can make it to Hopkins, Syracuse, Virginia, or Duke. It’s the sport “with the net on the stick,” or, as some like to say, “hockey in the air.” But more than that, it’s the “play hard, party hard” reputation that seems to be sticking.
The problem is that outsiders don’t see the rest of the lacrosse world. The only time they are exposed to it is when there is a juicy, negative story eating up ink and paper and generating thousands of hits on websites and blogs. In the other major sports, you hear about “He’s a great guy off the ice/field/court.” Do you ever hear that about lacrosse? No, not unless you play, have played, or just have a love for the game and follow it. These guys are school teachers and lawyers who have to have seperate jobs instead of playing for a paycheck. They have a great love for the game that is put on display when they take time out of a job that pays their mortgages and bills just to play lacrosse. But no average passerby will ever know that. They will know it as the sport where those kids from Duke were falsely accused and charged with rape. They will know it as the sport where the one guy player was arrested and charged for the murder of his girlfriend, the lacrosse player.
When the Duke rape scandal came out, it was everywhere. ESPN had nice, long segments about it…daily. Any publicity is not good publicity, especially when you are trying to build a sport from the ground up.
As a player naive to this perceived culture, I still found myself strongly backing the accused players, as if it was a “we’re all in this together” kind of thing. No one seemed to believe them, particularly once it turned into a black vs. white issue. No one seemed to feel any sympathy for those three men, a lacrosse team, and an entire university once the accuser had been found to have lied about the entire thing. She put the individuals through hell, forever tarnished a team’s reputation, and, in a seperate incident, was arrested for attempted murder, assault, and arson.
The terrible has heavily outweighed the great, and the recent incident of George Huguely allegedly murdering ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love has done nothing to help. In something so tragic, it has again shed a negative light on the sport. Every update is on the news stations, and they are probably on ESPN as well. While it is deservedly put into the forefront of the media, it continues to show the ignorance of the rest of the sports world. No one’s acknowledging the good of lacrosse. It looks like it will continue to always just be the bad.
Casual sports fans will probably never know the significance of 22 or what the Tewaaraton is. They probably won’t learn what an Air Gait or a FOGO is. Maybe they can figure out what an ankle breaker is. But SportsCenter won’t be explaining it any time soon. Or even showing it.
It’s lacrosse against the world, and we’re losing.