Editor’s Note: In this week’s installment of Brown State Blogging, Alex Jones talks about the start of the Brown University Men’s Lacrosse season, but he also covers a really cool and interesting topic: Getting to Know the Game – The Iroquois Nationals! And don’t miss Brown practicing in the snow as they prep for UMass!
Hello readers, I’ll start off this post by asking two very simple and VERY cliché questions:
– What does lacrosse mean to you? and,
– Why do you play the game?
I understand these are very loaded questions, and I would assume they would elicit a very wide variety of answers. But I think in the end, it just boils down to the moments when you have the most fun playing. Which further boils down to what you are the best at doing, because we all know almost everyone loves what they are good at.
It’s different for everyone though, and after getting to know my teammates pretty well on the field, I think I have a good grasp of what they love about the game. For midfielder George Sherman, I think he loves using his high lacrosse IQ, slick stick and blinding “Greenwich Grin” to distract and outsmart defenders for goals. Sophomore attackman Sam Hurster enjoys those moments when he gets to display his crisp stick-skills and newly learned box-lacrosse techniques and sees spectators quietly whisper on the sideline, “whoa, that kid must have totally played in Canada last summer! And what uber sick calf/flow combo!”
For defensemen Sam Ford and Roger Ferguson, I would imagine it’s the feeling they get when they cruise down the field in transition, ignoring all open offensive players along the way, in order to (un)necessarily shoot what they call a “Biiig Choppa”(high bounce shot). Sophomore net-minder Will (Jimmy) Round has explained in vivid detail that he plays for that moment when the pure, unadulterated confidence courses through his veins like a glorious flood, elevating him to a level of goalie play never before seen, where in his heart he truly believes that he is likened to brick wall of absolute shot stopping power. Those were, of course, all his words, and none of mine.
As for myself, seeing that my strength as a lacrosse player lies in my legs (much) more so than in my stick, I play for the moments when I get a chance to get all the way up to speed with the ball, hearing the wind whistle through the helmet, along with my heart racing in my chest. And if I get an assist? Great. A goal? Even better, as it would probably bring my overall shooting percentage up to a resounding 0.00012%. That is, however, just what I think the game is all about. As the Brown Men’s Team learned on the night of February 17th, for the Native Americans who created the game we all hold so dear, the game of lacrosse is about so much more than most people know about.
Coach Tiffany, in honor of his hometown of Lafayette, New York, and the Native Americans he grew up with, scheduled our third and final scrimmage against the Iroquois National team. The night before, Oren Lyons, who is one of the head chiefs of the Onondaga Nation, spoke to a room full of lacrosse players and other interested listeners in a University sponsored event. Mr. Lyons, being an 83-year-old man, has seen a lot in his day, and knows the game of lacrosse well.
His soft-spoken, stream-of-consciousness speaking style captivated the audience and inspired us to take full advantage of his question and answer session after his speech. He explained that lacrosse in the Native American lands is known as a “medicine game”, meaning they play for the benefit and good fortune of whatever or whomever is decided on by the elders of the tribe. The game, as a result, takes on a very spiritual essence, of which I’m sure very few modern players are even remotely aware of.
What was perhaps even more interesting than the origin of the game were the anecdotes Mr. Lyons shared with us about playing lacrosse back in his day. He played under conditions that modern lacrosse players could not imagine, like goalies playing without helmets, and sticks taking a year to be made. In one story, Mr. Lyons, being a goal-keeper, explained that he played against a shooter from a rival Native American team who had apparently accidently killed two goalies by hitting them in the head and throat with shots. Why this particular player was not instantly banned from the game for life is a mystery, but Mr. Lyons, ever the brave
goalie, stepped into the crease, only to take an outside blast to the chest breaking two of his ribs. He miraculously finished the match, but not surprisingly admitted he was “not every effective”.
It was an interesting and much appreciated experience to hear Mr. Lyons speak about lacrosse, but that was not his only message to us on that night. Coming from a Native American tribe, Mr. Lyons and the rest of the Onondaga community are very connected with, and conscious of the earth and it’s health. Mr. Lyons spoke to us about global warming, and the effects he has seen, mainly that for the first time he can remember, there was barely any snow in the Northeast in February.
He implored us to be aware of the changing environment, and make changes in our lives to help preserve the earth. He drew an analogy between humans and animals in the wild, simply stating “There is no mercy in nature”, meaning that if you do not
adapt or change to adverse conditions, then you will soon face the consequences of it. And trust me, when an 83 year old Native American man at a podium is basically saying Adapt or Die, you listen. It was very interesting to see a person so simply and
forcefully address such a hotly debated topic like Global Warming in a very real, non-political way.
After getting to know the Iroquois and the origin of the game, we got the unique chance to actually play Native Americans in their own game on our home-turf. The Iroquois were a great team that thrived on unpredictability. They were creative and slick, and were not afraid to take chances and go for the home-run pass. This did not always work into their favor, as they had several turnovers, but when they connected on their chances, we were both the victims and gracious spectators of some stellar lacrosse. The Iroquois executed one fast break that so far has been the coolest play I’ve seen all year.
Off of a faceoff, the short stick created a 4v3 fast break, drew the man, lefty backhand flipped it to the point man who quick-stick-
behind-the-back dumped it to the low attackman, then quickly dished it across for the easy crease dump. It happened so fast no one really knew what to do but clap. We eventually went on to a victory, but throughout the game and after, a deep mutual respect resonated on both ends, and we of course went on to take advantage of a photo opportunity and piles of pizza.
Changing gears though, we had our first real game this past weekend at Quinnipiac, where we pulled out a 12-7 victory. The game was exciting, and while sloppy at times on both ends, it also featured some electric transitional play and hard-fought competition. Freshman Nick Piroli, who I call the Silent Assassin, because I’ve heard him speak four times this year total, could not have asked for a better collegiate opener, scoring three goals on some pinpoint shooting. Dan O’Brien, who decided not to play with the team last season made a triumphant comeback, putting up five points and shooting two for two. Dan is further proving the case that taking a year off of lacrosse and not practicing actually can make you even better at it.
While those two were the predominant point scorers, the two game balls, assigned by Coach Tiffany, went to Tommy Capone and Clay DelPrince for their efforts at the faceoff ‘X’ and defensive end, respectively. Clay had the game-changing play of the game, where he checked a Quinnipiac player’s stick out of his hands at the top of the box, picked it up for a straight fastbreak, made everyone think he was going to bring the ruckus on the run, then at the last second dished it to the point man who then made the final look to Dan O’Brien for the low shot and goal. Needless to say I totally lost my mind.
Building on that momentum, we held a healthy lead for most of the game, eventually closing it out for the much needed first win.
Next Sunday it is on to UMASS at home, which will be a game that will define our season early. After their hot start, to earn a victory against them would definitely have some people talking about us, and what college lacrosse player doesn’t want
that? A post will come soon after that game with some game details!
HUGE thanks to Brown University student photographer, Sam Rubinroit!!!!