The Changing State of the Game
By Brian Carcaterra
The scoreboard reads "Americans 14, Nationals 12." It is mid-way through the fourth quarter in Buffalo, New York. It’s the second to last game of the 2000 Major League Lacrosse Summer Showcase. I find myself picking the mud from beneath my cleats, when all of a sudden I realize what had just happened. I am out of breath and suffering from a painful throbbing sensation in my left elbow. My body is bruised and beaten and my mind has reached full exhaustion. I had just returned from my third trip downfield of the day, this time cashing in on a 4-3 fast break that led to a Chris Massey goal from Roy Colsey. Just as I finally begin to catch my breath, I notice Brian Voelker scoop up a loose groundball, bring the ball past midfield, dodge two attackmen and dish to Josh Simms who releases a 15 yard blast that deflects off my thigh and into the goal for a two point score. The scoreboard now reads "Americans 14, Nationals 14." Oh boy, here we go again! Thankfully, minutes later, after a couple of saves and a couple of goals we, the Americans, pull out the W in the best game of the Summer Showcase. It is interesting why the particular moments of the game that I have just described stand out so much to me. First of all, I am a goalie. Second, Brian Voelker is a defensemen. And thirdly, the final score was 18-16. If these facts do not surprise you then you are fully aware of the changing nature of the game of Lacrosse.
Of course the Major League Lacrosse takes a radical leap rather than a small step in the same eventual direction as the rest of the lacrosse. To be perfectly honest, I love this league and the product it produces. Being a goalie in this league is easily the most demanding position on the field. However, it is like no other challenge I’ve experienced before. Two point shots, only three poles, 45-second shot clock, and an open restraining box. It is truly a scorer’s game and again, I am a goalie. But, you know what? It is only a preview of what is to come for the rest of lacrosse.
How could I say that? Well the proof is in the pudding. The NCAA has just announced a 60 second shot clock for 2002. Within the last fifteen years they’ve reduced the amount of poles on the field from six to five to four. And it is only a matter of time before they eliminate the long-stick midfielder altogether. Not to mention the changes to the time limit on advancing the ball and substitution rules. The game itself is undergoing a radical change. For the people that cringe when they see a goalie run past midfield or a defensemen throw a butt-end over-the-head check, or a midfielder pass between his legs to an attack man shooting behind his back, you better get used to it. Because whether you like the direction the sport is going or not it is what ultimately what sells in America. It is the fast paced, high scoring, highlight reeling and hard hitting athletic action. Only in America could a sport like football reach its popularity while the world’s most popular sport, soccer remains in the basement. So the lacrosse purists might disagree with me and say lacrosse will never change merely for commercial and corporate success. I say that is exactly what college football purists said until New Years Day Bowls went from the Orange and the Sugar to the FedEx and the Nokia.
So my point is this, who knows where lacrosse could end up in the twenty-first century. The rapid increase in growth among the youth level not only in the perennially hotbeds, but in the "notbeds" as well, will lead to a much more diverse outlay of the participants. For example, youth and high school teams from states like Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, California and Ohio are all now participating nationwide in youth tournaments and competition camps, and achieving very high levels of success. Just imagine being able to tap into the wealth of athleticism that spreads across our nations landscape. Student –athletes can and will have so many more opportunities.
Secondly, the enormous growth of the Internet provides the necessary availability for the youth of America and all lacrosse-playing countries to read, watch and learn about their favorite players and teams. When I was growing up my family and I would trek up and down the East Coast watching my older brothers play lacrosse. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to watch a high level of lacrosse and absorb the great plays and experience many of the different personalities that comprised lacrosse. Now, if I miss a game I log on to E-Lacrosse to watch frame-by-frame action and read summaries of the game that I was unable to compete in or attend.
With this influx of availability the nature of the game is experiencing a revolution. The technology of the game and its resources has reached an unprecedented high. So with this in mind, tapping into all these resources will raise the level of play, expand the backdrop of our nations participation and eventually our country will embrace this game as one of our favorites. It is a very exciting time to be a part of it all, to say the least. We all love this game and we want it to be successful so instead of fighting the revolution lets embrace it and support the change that has engulfed this game.
I have been playing lacrosse for ¾ of my life. Over the course of that time I have experienced many changing influences. Whether these changes involved school, friends or pop-culture, lacrosse always remained a constant. Now as I settle into my life, and am able to reflect upon this great game, I can be nothing but pleased as to what direction the sport of lacrosse is going.
PHOTOS BY JOHN STROHSACKER
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