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I've Got a Secret.
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2004

by Bill Hogan


 
 

Pssst, hey buddy, do you like sports? Fast paced sports with a lot of action, speed, scoring and bone crunching hits? When it comes to the fastest sport on two feet, you don't know what you're missing. Please allow me to enlighten you.

No, no, no, I'm not talking about hockey – they play on skates, not feet. Besides, too many two-line passes and offside calls slow down the pace of the game. Nope, wrong again, it's not soccer – there's excruciatingly too little scoring in a soccer game. Nah, it's not football, there's no huddling between action in this game and it can't be basketball - where a slap on the wrist sends a player to the foul line.

 
 


I'm talking about the oldest of all North American sports. A game played hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. If you live east of the Mississippi River and north of Augusta National, you probably have an idea as to what sport I am referring. If not, let me give you a hint: there's a city in Wisconsin with the same name.

It just occurred to me that somebody somewhere will read this and think "wow, there's actually a sport called Milwaukee?" No, but there is a fascinating sport called lacrosse. Unfortunately, it's as hard to find on the sports map of the United States as La Crosse is on your travel atlas.

I can't figure out why a sport with such tremendous regional appeal isn't more popular nation wide. If you ever sat and watched a lacrosse game, you'd probably want to see more. If you ever played in a lacrosse game, you'd be hooked for life.

For those of you who are thinking "I saw a lacrosse game once, I couldn't understand what was going on," here's a tip: The team that has the ball is trying to score a goal. The team that doesn't have the ball is trying to take it away. It really is that simple.

There are fast-breaks, unsettled situations, tactical playmaking, pin-point passing and acrobatic shot making by the offense. All the while the defense is doing everything in there power to keep the ball out of the net. Stick checks, body checks, kick saves and knock the wind outta ya till you cry for mommy hits.

All you need to do is sit back, enjoy the action and wait for the announcer to yell "he shoots, he scores!" You're not going to learn all there is to know about lacrosse by watching one game. But then, you didn't learn algebra, flatten your gut or quit smoking in 60-minutes either.

This Memorial Day weekend the NCAA Men's Division I Lacrosse Championship will be played in Baltimore, Maryland. The semifinal games will be televised on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 29 starting at 11:30am. The finals will be broadcast on ESPN at 2:30pm on Monday, May 31.

If you can't make it to M&T Bank Stadium – home of the Baltimore Ravens – to join the record crowd of over 40 thousand lacrosse enthusiasts, be sure to catch the action on television. You won't be disappointed.

Johns Hopkins, winner of seven national championships, will be the hometown favorite to get to the finals and compete for their first championship in 17 years. Powerhouses Syracuse and Princeton – which combined to win 13 of the past 16 championships – will be there as well.

Syracuse attackman Michael Powell may be the best offensive lacrosse player ever. He does with a lacrosse ball what Wayne Gretzky used to do with a hockey puck. There's a good chance you'll witness something spectacular.

If you need another reason to watch, here it is: the United States Naval Academy is making its first trip to the semifinals in 23 years. The Midshipmen have never won a national championship, but have as good a shot as any of the other three remaining teams.

Navy was able to advance this far into the 16-team tournament by displaying tremendous discipline and suffocating opponents with a tenacious defense. The qualities you like to see in our country's future military leaders.

Unlike the Syracuse, Princeton and Johns Hopkins players, the seniors on this Naval Academy team will soon be going off to war. Watch them play this weekend and give them their due.

Lacrosse is a great game to watch and an even better game to play. It's a shame that it's the best kept secret in sports.

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