Hal Wastes His Wages Lacrosse to bear

They say any press is good press, but try telling that to lacrosse fans. The alleged incidents involving the Duke Men’s Lacrosse team have thrust the sport and its players not so much into the spotlight but under the interrogation lamp.

One can no longer even utter the word “lacrosse” without being asked about the Duke situation, and as a longtime coach of the sport, I get it all the time.

ESPN, who generally ignores lacrosse until Memorial Day when they dust off Quint Kessenich for coverage of the Final Four, has gone so far as to take precious time away from its continuous coverage of Barry Bonds to address the Duke Lacrosse scandal (NOTE: The author acknowledges ESPNU’s somewhat regular lacrosse coverage, but who the hell gets ESPNU, let alone watches it? CSTV is better anyhow…).

Meanwhile, post-pubescent tools seeking some sort of hollow revenge against those who picked on them in high school are writing articles that generalize lacrosse players as nothing but “boorish” “Steve Stifler” types (Slate.com’s Dave Jamieson is an ignorant, gutless clown – at least when I write an article bashing a segment of the population I’ve got the cojones to run my e-mail address with it).

Of course, now that the DNA samples have reportedly comeback negative, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the story plays out.

As I mentioned in a 2003 column, growing up right outside of Syracuse in the land of the Iroquois and cradle of the sport (pun intended to those familiar with the game), lacrosse was everywhere and everything in my formative years. If you went outside for a catch, it was hardly ever with a mitt, and while I’ve matured enough to thoroughly enjoy the skill and thrill of baseball, it still doesn’t hold a candle that of lacrosse.

Attempting to fully explain the game in the space I’m given here wouldn’t even come close to doing justice. It’s billed as “the fastest game on two feet” and lives up to that boast with lightning quick passes that take the ball from one end of the field to another in no time and shots on goal that would make Marty Brodeur’s head spin. And the contact – let’s not forget the contact.

The most common reaction I hear from people who have never before seen the game is, “Are they really allowed to hit you like that?”

Nine times out of 10, the answer is yes. The speed, skill, smarts, strength and stamina needed to play lacrosse can make it appear to be an awesome, elegant orchestra of controlled mayhem when played well. And if you want to see lacrosse played well, you need look no further than right here in Hudson County.

The Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken plays some of the best men’s lacrosse in the country. Coach Byron Collins has completely transformed the program, formerly considered to be the red-headed stepchild of the Knickerbocker Conference, now ranked #10 nationwide in Division III. The Ducks’ next home game is April 22 at 7 p.m., when they face #6 Cortland State.

Stevens Women’s Lacrosse takes DeBaun Field (entrance at Ninth & Hudson) earlier that afternoon against Centenary at 4 p.m. A terrific sign for the future of lacrosse in Hudson County is that the school will also be host to the 2006 Women’s Division III Lacrosse Championships May 20-21. For more information, log onto www.stevensducks.com.

At the high school level, St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City has the lone Boys’ Lacrosse team in the county. Head Coach Peter Fusari has led the team to the state tournament over the past couple years, and hopes to continue the team’s growth this season. Home games are played at Fr. Keenan Field (Grand Street, between Marin and Van Vorst, Jersey City), and if you stick around after the varsity game you’ll get to see an angry, yet devastatingly handsome young man coaching the JV. For more information, log onto www.stpetersprep.org.

Lacrosse is alive and well right here in our backyard, not to mention the fact that Hudson County is full of fat, balding, out-of-shape semi-retired lacrosse players – many of whom never allegedly assaulted anyone. I invite any and all of them to check out a game this season and give back to the sport we love. It needs us now more than ever – SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LAX.

Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Hudson Current and websites in the New York Metro area. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at c_halleron@yahoo.com.

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