Photo courtesy Lax.com
The MLL wasn’t the only lacrosse going on in Boston this past weekend. The Red Bull Baggataway event was also going on, and I have to say, I’m still more than just a little confused. The action itself did look pretty awesome, and the overall premise is actually pretty strong at first glance, but when I watched the video, read the rules, and then watched the video again, I had some major questions. And then I may have had a revelation. Or not. The jury is still out on that last one. Read on to get the full picture. Rabil was there wearing his hat!
The idea here, from what I can tell, is to play a somewhat changed up version of lacrosse that gets back to the games roots. Hard boundaries, padding, offsides, and faceoffs are all pretty much eliminated, or at least greatly reduced, and there are no substitutions either. Halves are 15 minutes long and after a goal the goalie picks the ball out of the net and clears it to restart play. Oh, and did I mention there are no creases? Yeah, there are no creases.
For a full list of the rules and set up, you can check out RedBullUSA‘s page on the Baggataway event. To watch the video of the first day highlights, head on over to Lax.com for the video highlights. Ok, now you’ve read the rules and seen the action. Oh, you want photos too? Fine. Also, head over to Lax.com for that. So now you know as much as most people know. Do you have any questions? I definitely do!
Why was there so little checking? This is NOT a complaint. I’m just curious. I read the rules, and from what I could see, checking was the same. Stick checks, body checks, it was all legal. But almost no one did it. Yes, this one guy has blood on his face and clearly got hit it in the head, but you see very little of it in the video. Sure, it’s a highlight, but people were still playing defense, weren’t they?
One possible reason for this is that there were simply tighter rules called than were posted online. After all, the pre-tourney promotion was nil, and I had never heard about this tournament (and I definitely would have gone up for that!) before it happened. So maybe it was more of an event than a real tournament. And maybe the rules were actually a little tighter than Red Bull posted here. There has to be fine print, right? It’s possible.
A second answer is that the players involved just weren’t that good. I don’t buy that for one minute. It’s clear these guys can ball at a good level. Next.
Another possible explanation is the idea that people not wearing padding will be more cautious players, and whether that is because they know they could get hit the same way later or because they are merely holding back in a vein of self interest and protection is immaterial. The concept is that people who are less protected are more cautious than people decked out in head to toe with body armor. A friend of mine who made the switch from pursuing an NFL dream to pursuing a US Team Rugby dream remarked on just that. He more or less said, when the pads (and more importantly, the helmet) come off, things change. You can’t fly in to a pile or a man with total reckless abandon. Well, you could, but it would probably kill you. And that makes all the difference in the world.
But really, think about it… if you are playing D on someone and you hit them in the knuckles a couple of times, you just KNOW they’ll do the same to you when you get the rock next. So it does act as a sort of check and balance. And then there’s the guilt. Most people won’t admit it, but they do feel guilty when they slash someone. At least a little. When there are pads on, not as much. But when you see the guy’s hand swell up, and remember he has to go to work on Monday, just like you have to do, then guilt comes in to play a bit more. It has to. Doesn’t it? I’d imagine if the MLL used these rules, the violence would ratchet up a notch or two.
The last possibility in my mind is that pockets were too deep and sticks were too narrow to make stick checks really effective. It seems like most of the guys playing were using VERY modern sticks with narrow throats and deep mesh pockets. This makes stick checks hard already, but when you’re holding back (as outlined above), it makes it almost impossible.
So I would love to see some additional changes made to the rules, and I think this would really improve the flow of the game. First of all, GET RID of offset heads! Everyone should have to use an old non-offset head at a bare minimum. And if they’re trying to get back to the roots of the game, then everyone should also have to use traditional stringing. Why not? We’re changing major rules here already, so why not go full bore?
Speaking of full bore, let’s keep it going and get away from all this technology! Everyone has to use a WOODEN STICK! They’re still being made and will only cost you around $150, which is much less than a new elite head and shaft will run. It would be a great way to get some cash flowing back to Native American reservations as well, as sticks can be bought from a couple of different places, including Mohawk Lacrosse on the Akwesasne Reservation on Cornwall Island, between the US and Canada.
Here’s something they shouldn’t change: I’d love to see them keep the soft ball! No one wants to see a guy die from being hit in the chest with the ball, but we also don’t want to see guys diving out of the way when shots are taken from the outside. So the softball is perfect. AND if Red Bull got rid of the offset sticks, a soft, lighter ball still allows for greater stick fakes and moves. So no offensive precision would be lost from the regular field game!
Now, one of things that I find most interesting indeed is the possible impact this could have on the sport of women’s lacrosse. Weird, right? But hear me out. There have been talks of adding a helmet to the women’s game now for years. But only recently have they picked up steam. If this version of the men’s game increases in popularity, and is shown to be as safe or safer than the padded version, the women arguing against helmets could see a HUGE boost in their position.
Their anti-helmet position is strong already. Proponents of adding helmets say that they will reduce concussions, while lacrosse helmets are not even DESIGNED or REQUIRED to reduce concussions… but people believe what they want to believe, and that is not always the truth. So maybe, just maybe, a move in the opposite direction will convince them that more padding can actually result in more injuries, because the impact simply increases, and no amount of padding can save someone from that.
If men, with full checking, actually see a lower rate of head injuries and concussions WITHOUT helmets, it could flip the sports world on its now less protected head. The more I think about it, as long as it’s done right, Baggataway style of lacrosse could be GREAT for the sport we all love. It seems to be free-flowing, everyone has to be a two-way player, and you HAVE to be in top shape to play effectively. It gets back to the roots of the game, and even promotes the sport in a more cost accessible way (no pads = $300 less to spend for families!), and it really takes a man to play it. Very cool stuff and I hope to see more of it. Maybe next time will be on a first hand basis. Hey Red Bull, call me!