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2009 E-Lacrosse Feature: A lacrosse oddity

Now I've seen it all.

Lacrosse stays the same more than it changes. The roster names change, but we love a sport that has only afforded championship titles to five teams in 30 years. There are no big surprises, or so I thought until recently.

No, I'm not talking about how the Northwestern women's team actually looks better than it has in the past, which seems impossible but true. I'm not talking about the massive upsets of this young season, even though Robert Morris beating Penn State, St. John's and Hobart beating Georgetown, Bentley beating Adelphi, and Stevenson crushing Gettysburg are quite substantial as far as upsets go. I'm not referring to the unlikely streaks, like UMBC beating Maryland three times in a row and North Carolina continuing to drop ACC games even under the new leadership of Joe Breschi.

No, as odd as all those things may seem, this weekend I saw the truly amazing. I saw the most unlikely thing. It wasn't a selfless act of sportsmanship from a college coach. I said truly amazing and not utter fantasy. It wasn't a game with absolutely no rude fan/parent behavior. I'm still waiting for that one. If there's anyone more entitled than a NCAA lacrosse player, it's their parents. I am talking about the physically impossible.

I was at the Jesuit Lacrosse Classic at Georgetown Prep in Montgomery County, where if a thigh bruise looked like the Virgin Mary, someone would surely recognize her, but that's not it. This was somewhat mystical, but not quite as unlikely as one of those Jesuit teams from Missouri, Arizona or Texas beating Georgetown Prep on the stadium field. It drew the curious gaze and surprised laugh from the spectators but it wasn't a great play, although there were plenty of great plays at the tournament. It could have happened in any sport, but I've never seen it happen in any sport. It would make the SportsCenter highlights if it ever happened to NBA or NFL players, but it just never has. It was truly odd.

OK. I've made you wait so long that it may be anticlimactic, but I just wanted to clarify that it was not one of those things that, while different and unusual, sometimes happens in lacrosse. I have seen a couple acts of modesty from college coaches in my 30 years of experience. I have seen a couple parents of NCAA kids not completely self absorbed. I have, in fact, seen a game or two where the fans did not harass the referees. I've even seen a couple of upsets bigger than a Regis (Colo.) or Rockhurst (Mo.) win over Georgetown Prep. But I've never seen anything like this.

So here it is. An offensive player was driving with the ball and was hit by a defensive player. Both went to the ground as they collided. The whistle was blown. All of a sudden referees and players were surrounding the two on the ground as neither had gotten up yet. A hush rolled over the crowd as injury was assumed. But when the on-looking players spread out a bit, and the downed athletes were visible to the crowd, they were laughing. The referee was kneeling over his feet also laughing as he attempted to untie their shoes. I said that correctly. He was trying to untie both of the players' shoes -- from each other. Somehow as these two players collided, their shoe laces had become so entangled that they literally could not get up off the ground. Once the shoes were removed, the laces were more manageable, but by then the laughs had spread to the small crowd and even I, who has seen so much in this most predictable sport and haven't been surprised by anything in it for years, was smiling at the oddity we had just witnessed.

So, like I said, that might have been an anticlimactic tale, but in lacrosse, that's what passes as shocking. Only if some other team, outside of Virginia, Princeton, Syracuse and Hopkins wins the title this year will I have a story to top that one. And I am not holding my breath. We will all witness time travel or alien visitation before that happens.

March 17, 2009
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