(Author’s note: We will be leading off this re-boot with another sad story in our local lacrosse community, just adding to a miserable 2020 for the sport, and that will be up later today but I needed to get a few things off my chest before we get to it.
Also, if you sent in a Recruit Commitment questionnaire that hasn’t been published yet but your choice has changed please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s been a lengthy time between posts as I made the decision that there really wasn’t any point in handling the last 3+ months as if things were normal.
We’ve received plenty of content from our contacts and I’ll spread that over time.
Suffice to say that what happened the last few weeks and months means we are entering a new period in our country and anyone who shares a public forum will likely have to think deeper about the cultural landscape. This is a lacrosse web site, not 60 Minutes or Fox News or CNN. I don’t expect anyone to come here for political analysis or cultural insight. You have plenty of places to find that elsewhere. Ironically, the last FLN Facebook post on May 11th was a twitter video featuring Drew Brees talking about why lacrosse is his favorite sport to watch and a month later he’s at the middle of a controversy. ESPN has been focusing substantial broadcast time on current issues and their ratings have tanked.
In the past I’ve highlighted some good stories about minority participation, particularly with Immokalee and John I Leonard showing how they embraced the challenges we all know exist in this sport for those without deep pockets. It’s all our hopes that minority participation continues to grow in the sport. But there are no guarantees no matter how much we want that to happen. After their two most successful seasons in program history, JIL was not able to field a team in our abbreviated season due to lack of players.
I was watching during the break some old video of Hobart-Syracuse games from the 80’s and was struck by a curious fact. There was one game where FOUR of the Hobart players who started one of those games was African-American (including Tim Clark, who spent time as US Lacrosse’s Director of Diversity) and that included ALL THREE Middies that started.
I can’t remember (except for the ESPN Hampton broadcast) another Division One team in recent years starting the same number of African-American players. Maybe those out there could correct me but even if there were one or two I’d be surprised. In the pre-365-day focus of kids on our sport it was not unusual for an athlete to pick up lacrosse as a freshman in college and become quite a player later in his or her career. That is almost unheard of today. This is not just our sport, how many top athletes can anyone name that picked up a sport in college and became a significant contributor? Maybe an Antonio Gates or a Tony Gonzales becoming top notch tight ends after being known for basketball careers in college? Herschel Walker and bobsledding . . . but that came after he retired from football and Herschel is a complete freak of nature.
And that has had an unintended consequence about our sport. What happened in my day in college (Hobart had numerous examples of latecomers becoming effective lacrosse players) means opportunities lost. And as the arms race by parents and coaches for year-round commitment of youth to be able to find a slot in a Division One roster continues it’s current path it pretty much guarantees money becomes more important. A kid who does not need financial assistance and can contribute to a D1 program is worth their weight in gold. Statistically that will not favor the minority athlete.
And we also have one very big battle still to confront and that is how to determine what fairness will be? Will it be judged based on opportunity or result? That’s not a small thing. I’m kind of a financial historian and the 2008 financial crisis partly occured because of that debate (the details are too much to go into here).
I don’t have the answers and it’s likely that not every sport is going to find their way. We could start with some simple courtesy and remember what I wrote about after the King’s-Oxbridge game. The Golden Rule might seem old-fashioned to many today but it’s a good start to build on. Treat others like you want to be treated yourself. Language is an important part of that as well as our own personal assumptions. Counting to 10 when angry doesn’t hurt. And don’t assume your side is right all the time. If you disagree with someone talk it out like adults instead of this ridiculous social media clown show.
And always be welcoming to anyone who shows interest in this sport. The roots of this sport are to be celebrated and defended, and not to run away from. We might not be the most diverse on the field right now but we can be the most inviting to those who want to try it.
Okay, soap box time is over.