Say what? Lacrosse is the next big thing?

Lacrosse is the next big thing? Let me just cash my chips and tip my waitress. Lacrosse is the next big thing? I just canceled my Sports Illustrated subscription. Lacrosse is the next big thing? Look out Mexico, I’m moving in.

The April 25 issue of Sports Illustrated featured a nine, yes, nine page lacrosse story from Alexander Wolff. He described the sport as “the fastest growing” and “cool.” He might actually be right about the first part, off base with the latter, and completely wrong in his entire motive for his argument. Lacrosse is the next big thing? I believe they said the same for Ryan Leaf, Alex.

It has been hard to ignore the sudden manifest destiny of this Ivy-League concoction of athletics. For whatever reason, many westerners are ditching their old passions and picking up pool cleaners. While some time ago you could only see it on ESPN, usually between Syracuse and Virginia, now every campus is filled with teams – a nice recreational activity, but far from a large market moneymaker. Lacrosse is the next big thing? Not happening.

The popularity has been largely credited to ease and simplicity of the game. That might be a plus for those looking for a new athletic confidence booster, but definitely not for the sport itself. Simplicity lowers sporting value or to quote Jimmy Dugan, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.” If some little league drop out can get a lacrosse scholarship, you can’t call it the next big thing. If you can hand Reggie Bush a stick and two seconds later see a superstar, you can’t call it the next big thing.

Before the Lax nation aims their wickets and shuttlecocks at nonbelievers, realize that this sport doesn’t have the identity to gain attention from spectators beyond the East Coast. What is lacrosse anyway? They take a little basketball, a little soccer, some hockey, and a kiddy version of football and call it original. It’s like taking the entire top shelf, pouring it in one glass, and expecting everyone to slug it down. You might get the guy with “college” written across his black shirt to play ball, but most bar patrons will take one look and move on. Lacrosse nuts may call this game composite, but most others call it soccer with sticks.

You might also want to second-guess comparing your sport to hockey, Lax fans. That stock is isn’t exactly rocketing right now. Plus your sport is hockey sans ice, skates, speed, fluidity, skill, talent, toughness, tradition, and Lord Stanley’s cup. But who needs all of that? Everyone prefers watching the schoolyard version anyway, right?

I must admit lacrosse is an improvement from the last big thing … skateboarding. Believe it or not, that is the direction it’s heading. It was about 1995 when the rest of world drank the extreme sport Kool-Aid. It got its own Olympiad, its own marketing niche, its own terminology, and still you can’t walk through a supermarket without seeing “X-treme toothpaste.” Lacrosse is now the reflection of the new preppy takeover. They’ll start putting lacrosse sticks on Abercrombie models if they haven’t already. All these kids dressed like Kanya West with their pink polo collars stuck up will soon jump onboard. Lacrosse is the next big thing? It might be the next big fad, but not the next big sport. Say what you want Alex. Fill up my sports mags with lacrosse coverage. Take over ESPNU before football even starts. Tell me to dust off my old croquet trophy and compare me to Tiger Woods. Go right ahead. Lacrosse is the next big thing? Now you’ve gone too far.

Mike Roche
Sports Columnist in Shock

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