Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Legends of lacrosse

The season is over. Not winter, nor spring. No, I'm talking lacrosse.

For the past thirteen springs, our household has bowed down before the god of lacrosse. We have bought equipment, we have taxied children to afternoon and evening practices and games, spent our weekends on the sidelines, brought coolers of gatorades and food ranging from snacks and pasta parties to full-out tailgates feeding fifty-plus young college men. We have sacrificed spring break for so long that I can't even remember what it was like to be able to visit relatives or plum locales in mid-April. 

Today the high school team ended its bid for the county championship, the club team finished a couple of weeks ago, and last week the college team fell in the semi-finals of the conference championship. If you are not a lax family, the previous sentence may sound like gibberish. But to us, these and other terms - checking, heads, shafts, crease, face-off, riding, long stick, and sideline - all have new meanings.

Lacrosse is the quintessential American game. The Native Americans played it throughout the East, from Canada and south to the Carolinas and beyond. It varied in form, and was often a form of battle between warring tribes. But it also produced some wonderful folklore.

My favorite tale comes from the Cherokee. In this tale, the animals challenged the birds to a game. As the birds took their places in the trees and the four-legged animals prepared themselves on the ground, two small mouse-like animals climbed the trees and asked the birds to join their team, explaining that the animals didn’t want them as they were too small. The birds found a piece of leather to attach to the legs of one, and created the bat. They took the other and stretched him, and created the flying squirrel. The two new creatures turned out to be valuable members of the team, and helped bring a victory to the birds.

The Cherokee called the game “anetsa” and tied a bit of leather to their strings in honor of the bat and the flying squirrel who helped them. Our boys and girls have lots of rituals too, including their “swag” such as socks worn a certain way, a band around the knee, hair ribbons and head bands for the girls; and they prepare as if for war, complete with war paint (blacking under the eyes) and war cries as they take the field.

For myself, I admit that between seasons I miss watching the grace, the speed, strength and agility of the game. But we can have a toss in the backyard. And now that I think of it, there are those summer tournaments…


  1. Yes indeedy. "Our" team lost the conference championship this past weekend too, and so we wait for next spring. Did you see that cool lacrosse documentary that ESPNU did on Sunday? I love the Cherokee tail you relay.

  2. No I have to look for it! Next year, indeed. Must have been an especially tough loss, given what Sam's team has been through.

  3. I have another week & a half of bowing to the god of lax :-)