An intense Big Ten lacrosse semifinal game quickly devolved into a Hopkins OSU brawl with about 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter last night. At the time, OSU was up 5-4, but after the fighting ceased, Hopkins would come back to win the game 6-5. Hop earned a “statement win” near the end of the season, and advances to the Big Ten championship game against Maryland on Saturday. And yes, the main image photo is from 2014. I still like it.
Innumerable Twitter users, and sites like Deadspin, posted video of the fight almost immediately, and from there the outrage machine took over, and steaming hot piles of take were bandied about from almost all corners of the internet. Some people just focused on the win and what it meant for Hop, and brushed the fight off entirely. Others got angry at Deadspin for making a joke about lacrosse player’s names. Still others picked sides, and somehow decided that one of the teams was valiant, while the other was the villain.
Woah 👀 pic.twitter.com/YpYXwlACGz
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— Dan Aburn (@Dan_Aburn) May 4, 2018
Now I’m sorry to have to say this but – apart from Dan Aburn, what in the heck is wrong with all of you????
Woah is right.
Now, if you think this is an outrage post about outrage, you’re wrong. I’m not outraged at all. Outrage connotes some element of surprise, and this does not surprise me – Not the fact that it happened. Not the coverage. Not the reactions. None of it. Outrage is not the right word. Disappointment is.
That brawl, and it was a brawl – don’t minimize it by describing it as anything other than that, was embarrassing for our sport. There were no winners, there were only losers. There is no way around that fact. Sure, the Deadspin article’s title and premise were both weak, and yes, outsiders will paint us with a privileged brush and poke fun at our sport, but do we really want to get defensive and lash back out at people who are standing on rock solid ground right now? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a huge mistake.
As a sport, I really think we need to be better prepared to take the heat when bad things happen.
I hear the words “character” and “accountability” thrown around a lot in the lacrosse world. Coaches love these words, and so do the media-based experts of the game, or trainers of young athletes. You hear these words uttered in broadcasts and see them written in articles, and coaches always work them in to interviews when they talk about their program. So my question to pretty much everyone right now is – where is our character now? Where is the accountability? Why are we so focused on how our sport is PORTRAYED, instead of how our sport regulates itself, or what it actually does when the chips are down?
The brawl last night is a perfect example.
I’m not going to go after the young men in the game. While they were the ones involved, and I don’t condone what happened, I can still realize that this is a huge game, and that emotions can get the better of anyone. I too was an overly emotional 21 year old once. It wasn’t a great moment for either program, but it’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and I doubt it will be the last. For the young men involved, I hope this can be a learning experience. Again, I don’t condone this type of behavior, but I do realize that in the real world it can happen. Bad things happen. That’s just life. HOWEVER, it is also very important to look deeply at how we, as a community, react to these bad things.
And that is where the true disappointment lies.
In Hopkins’ recap of the game there is no mention of the fight. OSU has nothing up on what happened. Neither team issued a real statement or any additional info. An OSU fan website just matter of factly states there was a fight. The NCAA put up a story on the game, but they focused on the amazing game winning goal, which is fair, because it was an amazing goal… I just feel like something else happened in that game too. While the headline calls it a brawl, Gordon Dixon described the fight as a “scuffle”, where two players were ejected from the game for their roles. Finally, a note somewhere on some sort of ejection or penalty. IL’s Patrick McEwen also called it a “scuffle” and noted the ejections. Jordie was just like “whatevs bro, Fbomb“. Twitter users across the sport stood up to chastise those making jokes about lacrosse, without even realizing they were now part of the joke that the blind mob portion of our sport has become.
People can say and think and write whatever they want, but from my point of view, no one really cared about the brawl except for the fact that their video of the fight ripped from BTN had been shared 1000 times.
It seems like the lacrosse world wants to minimize what happened here, and just “move forward”. We’ll take the page views, but not the consequences. All the good, and none of the bad! Tell me, when does this approach ever work over the long-term, and for a sport that is trying to climb the ladder and grow?
It seems like a pretty crappy plan if I can be totally frank.
How were only two guys (one from each team) ejected here? Watching the short video there were at least four or five players on each team who clearly deserved to be ejected for throwing punches and their actual roles in the physical altercation. Maybe a couple more guys will be suspended or get in trouble. It’s possible. But if you stop and think about it, a really big rule was broken here, and by a LOT of players. Answer this question – how many players (from BOTH teams) left their benches to engage in this? The honest answer is almost all of them.
I think it’s great that the coaches broke it up quickly, and got right into the middle of it. They handled the moment itself really well, and I applaud both staffs for that wholeheartedly. Credit where credit is due as this could have been a lot worse. I also understand why bench players want to stand up for their teammates. It all makes sense. BUT at the same time, what does it say about these programs that their players chose to engage in this in the first place? We all make mistakes, and some pushing and shoving happens, but this went far beyond a little pushing and shoving or standing up for a teammate. These teams engaged in something more than that, and when it started, it almost took off and got totally out of control. If there are players on a roster who think it is ok to leave the bench area during a scuffle, then the fact remains that something is not right, and those acceptable scuffles can turn into unacceptable brawls. This one did just that.
I can look past a true scuffle with a number of players who are actually on the field. I can even look past two active players getting tangled up and taking things to the next level. That can all be explained by “the heat of the moment”. But being the third man in to a fight where blows are being thrown? Or leaving your bench to engage in a physical altercation outside of the scope of the game? Those are not “heat of the moment” things. Those are bigger problems, and they need to be treated as such. A very clear line was crossed, when the heat of the moment was left behind and mob rule took over.
Now, I’m not asking or proposing that both teams drop their programs, or forfeit all their games, it’s nothing even close to that. But if the only result of this Hopkins OSU brawl is the ejection of two players from that game, then we’re failing ourselves here, and letting our own players and programs off the hook too easily.
I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m not going to tell Nick Myers and Dave Pietramala, or the ADs at either school, how to run their programs. But I do think this situation deserves more focus, less defensive posturing from everyone in the lacrosse community, and a whole lot more character and accountability.
You can brush off my perspective as “uninformed” because I played and coached D3 lacrosse, or you can call me a beta male, or use whatever other form of derision you need to make yourself feel good, but you know I’m right. You know that people calling out Deadspin for their joke, but those same people not calling out these programs, are focused on the wrong things. You know that if the only result is two game expulsions then justice was not served, and it’s not even close. You know we are making excuses, and not addressing what is important, by simply “moving forward”. You know if this were your team, or your kids, deep down you would be embarrassed to your core. We all KNOW all of the above. The ones with character, those who believe in accountability, will be the ones who can admit it. The rest of it is all false. ALL OF IT.
Bad things happen. The answer is not to simply brush them off, but to take an honest inventory and then move forward WITH PURPOSE. That is missing here, at least right now. If we want our game to grow, and do so sustainably, then this is the path. If not, if we are content with what we have, then carry on and forget everything I’ve said. We can be just like everyone else, and ride the wave of the lowest common denominator.
At this point, it’s up to you, but how we react to this stuff is what can make or break our sport and it will have a lasting effect on our game. Know that too. Violence and brawls killed the broader popularity of lacrosse once before, it can happen again, and it seems that as a community, we simply do not care. I hope I’m wrong here, but I fear that I’m not.