On Wednesday, George Huguely V was convicted of murdering Yeardley Love, and as soon as the news hit the wire (and even before), the media and online communities were abuzz with opinion and stories.
The majority of the stories primarily described Huguely as a lacrosse player, above all else, and there has certainly been a focus on that fact in general conversation across all major media outlets. One need only look at the opening paragraph of a recent Washington Post article for more solid proof:
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V was convicted of second-degree murder Wednesday and sentenced by a jury to 26 years in prison.
“Lacrosse player” is used as a descriptive term, and as we all know (or know now), that nothing makes it in to an opening sentence of an online mainstream media site’s story without good reason. It’s all about drawing in search engines and eyeballs, and it’s all done on purpose. So what does this tell us?
It tells us lacrosse has a more serious image problem than those of us on the inside might like to believe. An editor knew that “lacrosse player” and “convicted of … murder” would produce page views not only today, but for months and years ahead. This type of typecasting can resonate for decades. Huguely was purposefully described as a UVA lacrosse player, and not just a UVA student. Bringing lacrosse into the equation was a calculated move.
And this is how the “Lacrosse player” reputation resonates through greater society. If you were to ask people, who truly live outside of the sport of lacrosse, what they knew about game, they would probably mention two things if they knew anything about it: George Huguely, and the Duke Lacrosse Case.
If they knew a third “fact” it might be that Jim Brown played the sport, or that it was started by Native Americans, but I think it’s more likely that they would say something like, “rich, white kids play it, right?”. It’s also possible that they would point to the recent NCAA study where lacrosse players were noted as the heaviest drug and alcohol users overall.
Even good friends of mine, who KNOW I play lacrosse will say things like “lacrosse players are all entitled douche bags“. It’s like I’m not even factored into the equation, OR they secretly think that of me when I’m not around because I play lacrosse, and they’re friends with me “in spite of that”. It really is all about public perception.
On the inside of the lax world, we all know that these legal cases are not the rule, but the exception, and we are well aware that our sport is no longer available solely to children of means. However, public perception matters and persists for ages, and I’m not sure we will continue to see the growth we have, if we don’t address our public image as a sport.
Now a good part of a sport’s public image is reality, and another equally important part is perception by others, and in many cases they are not the same thing. The perception of lacrosse right now is that we have a problem, and you know what? The REALITY is looking like we have a serious problem as well. Sadly, this might be the first time I’ve truly admitted that.
In court testimonies, many of George Huguely’s friends said they “were planning on doing something” because they thought he might have a serious problem. I think it’s time to stop with the excuses. It’s time to stop with the defending of our sport. It’s time for us all to take a serious look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we’re going to help the “lacrosse culture” rise above it’s shoddy public image.
And this is where Trevor Tierney steps in, as a voice of reason. Trevor hasn’t followed the traditional media vibe of putting the blame on the sport of lacrosse itself, but he is NOT letting us, as lacrosse players and enthusiasts, off the hook.
In his post titled Huguely Trial Shows It’s Time For Lacrosse To Grow Up, Trevor keeps the focus on PEOPLE, and he doesn’t let himself off the hook either. I think that’s the most important part of all of this. He is advocating for personal responsibility within our sport. Calling for people to help others improve themselves, which will help us improve our overall community. He is advocating for true leadership.
I’ve read a lot about the Huguely case. There have been ridiculous articles that barely passed for bad blogging, there have been traditional media stories, and there have been cautionary posts like the one from Drew Forrester on WNST, in which the author feels bad for everyone. However, NONE of them capture the situation like Trevor Tierney’s post does.
Trevor might not be right about everything that he says in his amazingly open and honest article, but that’s not the point. No one is right about everything all the time. The point is that he is holding HIMSELF accountable, and trying to help others do the same thing. He’s looking at a serious issue by examining his own life, and then putting it all online for others to read.
Trevor tells his story a little bit. He talks about how he got out of control. He talks about how easy it was, and how drinking was so ingrained in the “culture” of the sport. Then he tells you why he changed – why he took a serious look at his life choices.
Trevor doesn’t get any benefit from sharing this personal information. It’s not a PR move. He’s just being honest, and his words should resonate with most of us, as we’ve probably seen and experienced some of this stuff firsthand ourselves.
Trevor says it’s easy to make excuses about how we operate and live our lives, but it’s a little more difficult to take an honest look at yourself and make changes. Trevor did it, and he’s willing to share his story with you in hopes of helping you lead a better life.
During a week of incredible sadness and loss, the least you can do is give his post a read. Then see if you can help make the lacrosse world, and perhaps the world in general, a better place. Give it some honest thought, and see where you wind up.
Props to IL for posting the full article even though Trevor calls for the pro leagues to ditch alcohol sponsors! Trevor says some pretty cutting edge stuff, and it doesn’t paint the lacrosse world in pretty colors only, so good for IL for posting it!
After reading Trevor’s post feel free to chime in with your thoughts below…
Does lacrosse have a culture problem? Is there a solution?
[Main image via USAToday.com]