Thursday, April 20, 2006

I Play Lacrosse, I'm Not A Rapist

(Original air date: April 18th, 2006)

I started playing lacrosse my sophomore year in high school (I would like to point out, not an all-boys school). I was riding the pine on the baseball team, and my English teacher, Mr. Ronco, who was also the lacrosse coach, said he thought I could be good at it. So I gave it a shot. Next thing I knew, I was starting on the JV team. The next year, I was starting on the varsity. The year after that, I got a recruiting call from the coach of the NYU club lacrosse team (more on him at another time).

Lacrosse was unlike any sport I'd ever played before. Before long I was wowing people by twirling my lacrosse stick and managing to keep the ball firmly cradled in the mesh pocket. When people saw me carrying a lacrosse stick, they'd suddenly get real curious, "What is that? What sport is that?" I felt special. Like a member of an elite club. I felt cool.

And lacrosse took off. I almost felt responsible. Two years after I started playing, my hometown high school started a girls lacrosse team. My sister was one of the first to sign up. Soon it seemed like programs were popping up all over the Jersey shore. I was proud to play lacrosse.

I still am. But well. Those damn Duke kids had to ruin everything.

It started innocently enough. I was wearing a Michigan Lacrosse T-shirt. I wear lacrosse t-shirts a lot. Someone asked if I played lacrosse. So I responded, "I was on the NYU lacrosse team." Normally, their response would be "cool." But this time, it was "Oh, like those Duke kids."

No. Not like those Duke kids.

Even my family, while I was home on Passover, had to bring it up. "What do you think of those Duke lacrosse kids?"

You mean those Duke kids? Who happened to be on a lacrosse team?

And then today in the elevator, a collegue who knows I played lacrosse for NYU mentions the Duke lacrosse thing to me.

And I'm like, "Yeah, I know."

6 of the ten articles that first appear when you type "lacrosse" into the Sports Illustrated search engine are about the Duke kids. However, if you type in "Duke"... only four of the first ten are about the rape scandal.

And on Yahoo! if you type "lacrosse" they say "Also Try: duke lacrosse"

What's with that?

My point is, yeah, these accused Duke kids played lacrosse. But what happened has nothing to do with lacrosse. And I think its sad that the most exposure this sport has gotten, pretty much ever, is this negative story. So I want to set the record straight.

Most lacrosse players do not rape people.
Lacrosse players are not all rich, spoiled kids.
OJ never played lacrosse.
Just because I played lacrosse, doesn't mean I have some deeper insight into the Duke scandal.
There are other things going on in lacrosse that you can mention. Learn about it here. Get the latest stories here.

This whole Duke mess is terrible, and I do hope it causes colleges to increase their scrutiny of athletes' behavior in every sport. I just hope that lacrosse can someday make it into the mainstream news for something good.

UPDATE: I feel sick even linking to this article in Slate. But it's a perfect example of the stigma Lacrosse endures.

I said I felt like I was in an "elite club." That doesn't mean lacrosse is "elitist." When it comes to choosing sports to offer, most schools stick to the basics, because of cost reasons. Obviously, schools with more money can afford to offer more sports. One of those sports may be lacrosse. As a result, lacrosse tends to attract players who go to wealthier schools. Wealthier kids.

But that doesn't make the sport elitist. Lacrosse is not exclusive. Golf has its Augusta Country Club, which bans women and didn't even allow black people to play until after the 1960's. Baseball banned black people up until Jackie Robinson.

Lacrosse on the other hand, never excluded anybody. In fact, the game was created by Native Americans. It was picked up by French colonial settlers (who gave it it's name) and then played ever since by a mix of Americans who were introduced to it. By the way Slate asshole, many Native Americans still play the game.

Wanna go to a pro football game? Try affording a ticket. Pro lacrosse on the other hand, you can see on the cheap. Floor seats even.

I would love it if Lacrosse could expand its reach into schools throughout the economic strata. But funding for schools is low as it is. And while Lacrosse equipment has become a lot cheaper, it's still pricier than a baseball mitt. But does this mean that Lacrosse players are all spoiled snobs? As a guy who doesn't consider himself a spoiled snob, I don't think so.

I never did skoal. I saw a stripper once, in a Montreal club with my girlfriend. And I feel its absolutely indefensible that this Slate guy, and others, are condemning an entire sport and its players because of this Duke thing and what they themselves "percieve" and "assume." Last time I checked, Ray Lewis, who covered up a murder, won the NFL Superbowl MVP award. Barry Bonds, who consumed many, many illegal steroid drugs, is still in uniform. And Kobe Bryant's still getting endorsement deals. So don't say all Lacrosse players are assholes because of some Duke kids. There are athletes in every sport who act like assholes. And I hate Duke kids. So do most people who didn't go to Duke. It doesn't matter if they played lacrosse or not. Won't you secretly celebrate when J.J. Redick falls like a brick in next year's NBA draft?

Alright, I'm done.

UPDATE 2: No. You know what? I'm Not done. This guy on Slate cites "Steve Stifler" a FICTIONAL character, as an example of a lacrosse player. Um. Ok. Let's pretend this was valid. He neglect to mention that the Chris Kline character also plays lacrosse. And he turns out to be the most respectable person in the movie (even more so because he chose to stay away from "American Wedding"). How about him as an example of a lacrosse player? Oh, that doesn't fit into your nice little argument?

I'm sorry this Slate guy is still upset, after all these years, that an assistant lacrosse coach once made a bad joke to him. But that doesn't mean it's alright for him to be an anti-laxite.


laxer said...

right on

emmag said...

"But what happened has nothing to do with lacrosse." Except for the fact that they were at a party sponsored by the lacrosse team, attended by the lacrosse team, in a house where lacrosse players lived. The entire environment was lacrosse. Of course every lacrosse player isn't a rapist. But we do need to take a hard look at an environment that causes rape and violence against women. A society that uses sports to teach guys to be strong, powerful, in control, to "score"? That's fine, until these prized qualities are used to exert power and control over someone else, usually a woman. (Of course, it's not just sports, but guys are getting these messages from a variety of places, i.e. media, parents, friends.) Let's teach our guys to embrace more qualities, like respect.

papazao said...

only 3 players on the team were accused of rape and its unclear how many of the 47 teammates were at the house when the rape occured. is it fair to judge all 47 the same way?

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