Image is Nothing?
Good morning, hope all is well!
When it comes to the lacrosse world, I’ve always kind of walked with one foot in and one foot out. I’m sure that in some ways, that’s hurt me a bit. I’ve probably missed out on some professional networking opportunities. I’ve probably missed out on getting to know some great people. On the flip side, it’s helped me to look at the sport as an insider, from an outsider’s perspective. It’s also helped me to stay grounded and humbled in a sport that, for some strange reason, seems to be loaded with a great deal of arrogance and false sense of entitlement. When we look at #GrowingTheGame (Shoutout to LaxAllStars.com) I think we are often very shortsighted. Consider this. The public image of lacrosse goes far beyond “rich White kids” now (in both a positive and negative way). On the positive side, lacrosse is now “new” and hip! Kids love it. Parents wish they’d had the opportunity to play when they were younger. It’s popping up in random TV spots. But there’s a negative side that often overshadows this. Media. Since graduating college (’05) there have been two MAJOR black eyes on the sport; one involving Duke University, and one involving the University of Virginia, two unbelievably high profile programs and schools. And there is very little, if any, press related to the positive things that people within the lacrosse community are doing. I realize that good press doesn’t sell. I also realize that generally, the people in the lacrosse community that are doing positive things, are not doing it for press. But the reality is that our sport desperately NEEDS good press, and there’s also nobody pushing it. Only the lacrosse outlets cover the good press, and nobody seems interested in pushing the positive press to larger media outlets; after all, we know that they aren’t seeking it out. The image of our sport needs a makeover.
Initially, this post was going elsewhere, but it seems more productive to talk about it from this angle. But just for a moment, let me bring you back to where this started. Friday morning, I was on a layover at BWI. I stopped in one of the shops and browsed the books. One that came to my attention was “Assholes Finish First” by Tucker Max. Now … I’d never heard of this guy, and I’m quite sure I am SUPER late to the party. I read the back panel, and nothing else. There were about 10 quotes from various people that had read the book. They alternated, essentially between “You’re hilarious. I love you!” and “You are a foul, disgusting human being, and I hate your guts.” Well, that in and of itself is interesting to me because I like to form my own opinions of people, and usually I fall somewhere in between on things like this. For example, (still having not read this or any of his books), I’m pretty sure that he’s admittedly on the over the top side of crazy, in a realm that I would not dare venture into. But I’m also willing to bet that if I heard one of his stories as an isolated “I can’t believe this happened to me” event in a friend’s life, I might laugh at some of them. I was informed that I should check out his website, and read some of the stories. So I did just that, Tuesday morning. I read one, and got a slight kick out of it, because I could see how this situation could play out, since it referenced him living in Miami, and … well, yea, this type of night could happen in Miami. It wasn’t terribly over the top, although it’s probably far from the normal night for most people. I figured I had wasted enough time, and needed to get back to work, so I only read that one. But I looked at the titles for his other stories and was able, using my deductive reasoning skills, that Tucker Max’s life is similar to watching The Hangover … Only, apparently this guy’s life is like that virtually every day. In fact, he’s making a living out of it. At least that’s what it seems.
So what does this have to do with lacrosse? Ironically enough, and similar to a lot of sites these days, there’s a little section where you can see how many facebook “Likes” he has. Out of the 10 profiles that showed up on the initial page, 3 were lacrosse players (who knows what age). Once I clicked to read the story, I saw 4 new lacrosse players (out of 10 profiles). In fact, just for kicks, let’s see how many pop up when I go to the site now ….. 3/10. NOW, it’s possible, of course, that there are only 7 lacrosse players following him, I found 7 on the first go, and the 3 that I just saw are three that I already encountered last time. But Tucker Max has over 405,000 “Likes” on Facebook. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot more than 7 laxers following him.
Humor is different to everyone. For example, I think Family Guy is hilarious. I’m sure some people find the complete opposite to be true. What I find disturbing, however, is that this type of drunken debauchery and recklessness is often celebrated openly among members of the lacrosse community, so it was not surprising to me to find that young laxers would be fans of this guy. And that’s not a good thing. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that truly successful high school football and basketball players that go onto play in college are not partying maniacs in high school. Somehow, in lacrosse, however it can be (and often) is done. That’s not to say all, or even most, high school lacrosse players are like that, but why are there so many? Why is it that part of the lacrosse camp culture for coaches to go out and get wasted each night? I personally have never worked a basketball camp that was like that. Why is it that much of the post collegiate lacrosse scene is centered around alcohol (after games, between games, during games sometimes)? Why is it that there are lacrosse players out there snorting coke, like it’s nothing (yes, I’ve played with plenty).
By no means am I knocking partying, or drinking. But whether we like it or not, Lacrosse and partying have almost become synonymous in the public eye. The sport has developed and proudly maintained an image of “partying bros” and we continue to embrace it, while at the same time claiming to outsiders that it’s a game of integrity. When introducing the game, it’s much tougher to have to fix the image, than to simply characterize it. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. And some of these things, I’m sure nobody really wants or cares to address. Some of the things I said are probably better left unsaid as far as the community is concerned. But our image is one thing that will never be fixed in the public eye, if we are not willing to admit to it and address it internally first.
That’s my word. Holla at me.