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Physicality VS Violence, In Lacrosse

Today I am going to write about Physicality VS Violence, in lacrosse. Physicality and violence are two very, very different things.

Today I am going to write about Physicality VS Violence, in lacrosse. For those that don’t already know this, physicality and violence are two very, very different things. It’s why there are two different words in our language, each with different definitions.

Physicality VS Violence, In Lacrosse

In lacrosse, Physicality is the toughness and contact that makes our sport so very appealing to many. Everyone loves a good physical contest. “I’m going this way” versus “No, you’re not”. Everyone loves to see the lumber dropped by a defensemen switching on the pick, followed by a heavy shoulder driving the flashy dancing attackman to the outside, or into the mud.

Everyone also loves to see an open field dead-even race to a ground ball consummated with a shoulder to shoulder collision to contest the possession of the priceless ground ball that could lead to transition or that game-winning possession. All the bumping, hitting, and checking. It’s all good, and a great part of the game.

Rochester Knighthawks Georgia Swarm NLL 2016 Photo: Micheline V Physicality VS Violence
Photo: Micheline V

Violence, however, is a stain on lacrosse, as well as modern sport as a whole. We’ve all seen cheap shots, we’ve all seen fights, and we’ve all heard that ridiculous comment in the huddle where someone volunteers to attempt to ‘take-out’ the best kid on the other team in hopes that an injury will change the outcome of the game.

Nothing sickens me more.

“Well, we aren’t as good as Timmy from the next town over, so let’s slash him in the knee or clean him out with a high, late hit after he shoots.” Yes, let’s assault a young man in hopes that he won’t be able to play the game he loves, in hopes that his absence will allow us to win. The word that comes to mind is cowardly. And this is where it really gets interesting…

Fight New York Lizards vs Denver Outlaws Photo Credit Jeff Melnik July 9 2015 Physicality VS Violence

In our most violent moments, all I can think of is cowardice and immaturity. This article is in fact in response to the monstrous, illegal, and uncalled for hit in this week’s Mammoth Vs Roughnecks game, but it’s not really even about that hit. It’s really about something a lot bigger.

Why do we like lacrosse?

Is it because of the beautiful creativity on offense that must overcome tough, physical punishment from a defense? Or is it a primitive bloodlust and we really just want to see grown men at the peak of their athletic careers having their bodies destroyed and maimed. Sure, he might never walk quite right again, and maybe he will be unable to remember his beloved wife’s name before he’s sixty, but golly, it sure gave you an advantage on the floor and Deadspin put it up online!

Doesn’t that seem like the antithesis to something that has the word “sport” in it?

Is there room for fighting in box lacrosse? I find myself marred in hypocrisy. Do I believe that players policing themselves is a natural way to keep everyone safer on the floor? When done correctly, yes, I can see it working. Does that sometimes involve sticking up for your teammate or yourself? Of course. Can that result in a fight in the heat of a play? I lean towards the grotesque word of “sometimes”.

Bilic-Smith-Fight-NLL-2016

Do I believe that at the first whistle two guys should be dropping helmets and gloves for any reason? No. Pre-arranging a fight or sending the goon off the bench to do the team’s dirty work is just thuggery and I believe it to be antithetical to the mission of sport.

The WILC declared that there was to be no fighting at the world indoors. I am not aware of each individual player’s reaction, but the only objections I saw were stupid comments of Facebook from guys who like to hide behind words like “purist” and “old-school”… Which is great and all, we thank you for helping start get the ball rolling for the greatest game on Earth to become as popular as it has, but there’s a new school in session. Finesse, speed, intelligence, and unrivaled creativity are kings of the castle. The goon is going the way of the dodo, and I prefer it that way.

Simply stated, there’s a much better product out there than blood. It’s called Lacrosse!

Canada vs Iroquois Nationals WILC 2015 Finals Jeff Melnik (4 of 43)

If you thought those WILC games were anything less than top notch, you’re just flat out wrong. Fighting wouldn’t have made any of those games any better, and I’d rather see some big angry Canadians and Iroquois guys getting in each other’s faces and pushing and shoving a little bit after a heated play AND THEN PLAY THE NEXT PLAY instead of sitting in the box for the next couple minutes with only a couple mediocre punches to show for it. Guy A and B are pushing a shoving and exchanging kind words after the whistle… great! Now let’s see A roast B to the goal or B put A on his back with some damn-good hard, physical defense.

Anyone can fight, I’m not impressed. Show me defense, that’s significantly harder to demonstrate.

The argument for fighting indoors versus no fighting outdoors confuses some, but I find myself
begrudgingly supporting the OCCASIONAL fight in the heat of battle indoors strictly for the reason that A) boards exist and B) goalies are a lot more vulnerable to injury due to immobility and diving in the crease and thus they need more protection than the referees can offer.

Curtis Dickson Calgary Roughnecks Toronto Rock NLL 2016 Photo: Brad Watson

On the contraire, there is still a lot to be said for the fact that the WILC via the FIL, as well as the entirety of the field lacrosse community, has pretty unequivocally made it clear that fighting just isn’t allowed… and SOMEHOW, everyone plays by that rule.

Fighting exists in box lacrosse because we let it, and don’t think for a minute that if there were the same consequences for fighting indoors as there were outdoors that fighting would be even a fraction as common as it is now.

Fighting in box lacrosse exists because we let it exist, which is saying something. Are we trying to promote one of our professional leagues on the platform of amazing goals and high scoring games? Or are we trying to sell the masses on the premises of “Hey, we have fighting! You like fighting? Violence? Blood? We’re just like hockey, please come watch our games and let us be popular like them!”

Which is pathetic. Not that I believe that is the NLL’s marketing strategy, but I haven’t heard anything thus far decrying that hit or stating literally anything otherwise. We’re a small sport, and I wish we were bigger, but it being bigger means that we’re attracting that heavy-set balding guy yelling “YUUURRRR!! F*** ‘IM UHHHPPPP” (please use South Park ‘took yer jerbs’ voice), I’d rather have an empty seat and sell twelve less beers that night.

This is leading my train of thought to ‘where are we going with this game’?

I think we’re bound for greatness.

Canada Wins WILC 2015 Over the Iroquois Nationals

Lacrosse isn’t going anywhere but more towards the main stream. Are we going to hang our hat on mind-boggling goals and brilliant creativity? Or are we going to sink to the cheap sell of fighting and career-ending assaults?

Lastly, in a blanket response to all the Facebook commenters begging for more fighting, hitting and calling today’s officiating too soft… I have two words for you:

Be. Quiet.

Appreciate the beautiful sport of lacrosse for the game itself, and if you want blood and abject violence, you can always watch MMA or WorldStar.

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