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As The World Reacts To The Huguely Verdict, Tierney Knows Best

george huguely

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.

TrevorTierney Denver Outlaws lacrosse lax

Trevor talks about his own demons.

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.

Check out Trevor’s FULL Article on TierLacrosse.com

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]

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

11 Comments

  • Great insight by both you, Conner, and Tierney. There definitely is a negative popular culture around the sport of lacrosse. I have constant friends telling me about the NCAA study on lacrosse players and drug and alcohol and it’s quite embarrassing. But the worst feeling isn’t about how they assume all lax players are “lax bros” but truly how when I look at my high school, that negative culture is becoming true. Kids are actually embracing how culture thinks of lacrosse players, and they’re enjoying it thinking it’s cool. There are some who still stay pure to the sport, and love it for the play itself. But the image of the ultimate lax bro is starting to truly become detrimental to the sport we love. 

    I don’t have any great ideas yet on how the lacrosse community can turn this around, but I guess that’s why we have LAS to talk about it, and Conner’s and Trevor’s article is a great start as well.

    • “This is a matter of practicality: I don’t think it’s at all useful, in the sense of being proactively protective, to point fingers at a group and say those kinds of boys (or men) do these kinds of things. Doing so both normalizes bad behavior and attitudes (like binge drinking or the disrespect of women) and creates a false sense of security. Avoid lacrosse players or entitled rich guys or guys covered in muscles who drink a lot, girls might think, and you’re safe.
      The real message to our daughters from the Huguely/Love tragedy out to be instead: avoid sick guys, whose problems manifest themselves in verbally or physically abusive ways. And if you’re not sure whether an angry outburst crosses the line, ask someone you trust. Preferably a parent. Assuming, that is, that your parent is able to recognize and acknowledge out-of-bounds behavior in the first place, which, unfortunately, isn’t always a given.”
      Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/02/24/the-lacrosse-murder-why-stereotyping-jocks-doesnt-keep-girls-safe/?iid=op-main-lede?xid=gonewsedit#ixzz1nLY30sll

  • Topping the drug abuse stats is not good, and partying correlates a little too well with being a college lacrosse player. 

    As much as I respect Tierney’s argument and advocacy for moderation, I don’t think temperance and advocating sobriety for everyone is going to solve anything. The more I think about it, I remember my first lacrosse practice ever, where my coach introduced me to rule 1, don’t embarrass the program. All young people party, and they’re not going to stop. A good image for the game, especially at the DI level, has to come from within every program; if you want lacrosse to have a good image then effectively enforce good behavior as a requisite for participation.

    To shorten a lengthy rant: I think that as the game grows, the privileged white kid thing will go fade, wealthy young people have always behaved badly since the dawn of time and they have no reason to stop and by growing the game we can normalize this. Alcoholics are everywhere, domestic violence is everywhere, and I respect the measures that the Hoos took to repair their image. I respect Tierney for getting personal as a highly influential lacrosse player and putting it out there that the real lacrosse community doesn’t want to be associated with alcoholism, domestic violence, and murder. 

    Sports are one dimension of life, especially for the intriguing, adventurous, social, young men that play lacrosse, and sobriety is never going to be a distinguishing character of the game. I offer the rule #1 solution that needs to be a core value of any team.

    • good question!

      the college coaches in general don’t seem to be that involved in this argument.  Perhaps they should be!

      But I have to say, Dom did a good job of cleaning up UVA afterwards.  Too little too late? perhaps.  But a start…

      what are your thoughts on this?

      • I think as far as his responsibility as a coach went, he completely failed in two respects. One, it is his job to keep his finger on the pulse of the team. That’s why you have captains and there should be open lines of communication there. If, as many players have said/testified to, they saw that Huguely had a serious drinking problem, Starsia should have been in a position to find out. As someone who has been a captain at multiple levels of the game, there has always been honest and complete communication between the captains and the coaching staff. Either Starsia did not foster such an environment, which I find to be highly unlikely given the kind of success that program has had, or he failed to adequately address the problems Huguely was having. Assuming at least some part of the problems that Huguely was having was communicated to him, which seems likely, Starsia failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Ignoring the Love part of the situation, extreme alcohol consumption on a regular basis is dangerous and damaging to an athlete and in turn this alone should have warranted significant attention from Starsia, to say nothing of everything else that was going on. He is certainly not responsible for Love’s death, but he contributed significantly to an environment devoid of accountability that Trevor saw as a major contributing factor in the circumstances leading to the murder. Trevor is remiss to not even broach the subject as it seems so obviously related to his overall message of accountability, something I wholeheartedly support.

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