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Monday, October 10. 2011
What is the first sport invented by Americans?
Baseball? Football? No - they are based on foreign sports. Both are quintessentially American, but neither can actually claim North American roots. Cricket, Rounders and Rugby are all British.
Volleyball? Basketball? No - both were invented here in the United States, but they are basically 20th Century pastimes.
Hockey? Eh? No.
The first American sport, and perhaps one of the oldest of all sports, is Lacrosse. It is an exciting game, nicknamed "The Fastest Game on Two Feet". Often high-scoring, it requires tremendous hand-eye coordination, and when played well it exhibits discipline which is often unmatched. Yet among all sports, it lacks broad US appeal. There are two major leagues, one indoor and one outdoor. Neither has caught on in a big way, and all the players maintain day jobs.
Lacrosse is believed to have begun in the 5th Century, in some form. Over the years, evidence of the game has appeared in what was Mesoamerica, The American South and as far north as Canada. However, it was most popular in the Great Lakes and Mid-American regions. To this day, the Six Nations Team (Iroquois) is consistently among the best international squads.
It spread through much of the North American region. While it was primarily used as training for combat, there was a spiritual quality to the game. The rules frequently changed, depending on how and why the game was being played. Often playing fields covered miles of territory and had hundreds of participants. The Jesuits sought to ban the sport, yet it survived and during the 1800's rules were codified and clubs formed.
For years, it's been primarily a Northeastern sport, popular in Upstate New York, Long Island, and the Mid Atlantic region. Until two years ago, none of the NCAA finalists had come from west of the Ohio River. Notre Dame changed that in 2010.
As a participation sport nationally, it is catching on. Eastern High School teams making swings through the South and West once used these tours to pad their records. Today, easy wins in those regions are harder to come by. Some western colleges such as the University of Denver are now considered difficult competition and regularly make the NCAA playoffs.
In my youth, I played soccer, an international sport which is still struggling to gain acceptance in the US market at a professional level. Soccer is the largest youth participation sport in the United States. After being exposed to Lacrosse, my interest in the sport grew, and I began to wish it had been available where I grew up. Sports are a very important part of youth and adolescence, helping to keep children physically fit and mentally acute. Participation in team sports also helps reduce delinquency rates.
My boys play lacrosse, and my alma mater, Syracuse, is a powerhouse at the collegiate level. As sports go, it will likely follow a similar path to soccer, struggling to match a professional audience size which mimics the big 4 here in the US. But if you have the opportunity to watch a game, and learn the relatively simple rules, you may find yourself enjoying something a little different and out of the ordinary. If you have children, it's a great indoor and outdoor activity that is seeing growth. It's also not very expensive. As one professional pointed out to the team recently "Nobody ever improved their game by spending an extra $100 on name brand gear. Buy what you need and what works, then spend time practicing."
Bulldogs, however, get very tired at early morning games.
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very similar to Hurling, it's interesting how similar many sports are.
Here in NC, we were taught by Duke University faculty that only Neanderthal, knuckle dragging, misogynist, racists play lacrosse.
Extremely popular hereabouts, for gals and guys. I'd say it might be considered the coolest sport to play in New England.
I played in high school. You do get roughed up quite a bit.
Yeah yeah. People keep arguing on the Mid American Conference board that lacrosse is getting more popular. That MAC schools should get lacrosse teams.
Except that I've been hearing this since it was featured in that Pepsi commercial, circa 1982.
Here in Md. it's very popular. It's cute, and if it's your thing, great. I think it's boring to watch.
Lacrosse is gaining in popularity almost everywhere. Admittedly its not a sport that is naturally attractive to Americans as is football, baseball and basketball. I refuse to mention golf as a popular "sport" because its not a sport but a hobby. :>)
Back in CT, we had four private schools with lacrosse teams and the public schools turned to lacrosse when football became so expensive and participation dropped. Strangely, lacrosse became more popular than soccer and up there, its just as important as the other major sports.
Interestingly enough, one of my neighbors, Marin Reservist no less, is very involved in local middle and high school lacrosse. Around here, football is king, but for those who can't, or won't, play football, lacrosse seems to be a popular alternative because he started out three years ago with two U-13 teams and now has a full scale middle school problem in two schools and three high school teams plus a U-9 and U11 feeder pool - and this is the really interesting part - two middle school girls teams.
It is catching on - I like the game myself - fun to watch.
It is a very quickly growing sport. The assistant coach here is a Marine. He runs the summer workouts for the boys and also has an early morning 'boot camp' for adults. The 'boot camp' is one of the toughest 50 minutes I've ever engaged, and he lets you do it at whatever pace is best for you.
I have enjoyed watching lacrosse since my days at Syracuse. It confused the hell out of me for years, but it is a sport that is quite deceptive - much harder to play than it looks.
The rough aspect of it seems to have been wrung out over the years. Finesse is coached more now. Every now and then, however, the boys like to celebrate 'jacking up' an opponent.
Syracuse a hot lacrosse school, as many readers may not know.
I went to school in football country - Death Valley and the LSU Tigers. I bleed purple and gold baby... :>)
Here in Orangeville [Ont. Can.] is a hot bed for producing lacrosse players for the NLL - See Toronto Rock.
We play in organized leagues here in the hockey rinks during the summer months. Hockey players use it as their summer training.
Jim Brown earned a letter in lacrosse. Syracuse has got cred.
I hate to sound like a recording, but weren't rape and pillage the original organized sports? With teams, home and away games, and celebrations for the winners, the whole modern sports thing was prefigured by ancient practice.
I was somewhat familiar with the sport having been born and raised in Massachusetts. I've raised my kids in the Chicago suburbs. It caught on around here in the early 2000's. There are enough high schools in Ill that have teams that they now have an official High School championship. My son played it in HS and College at U of I.
Sports Illustrated ran an article on how and why lacrosse has caught on with the youth nationwide. The second or third top reason why was because "mom and dad don't know the rules" and thus don't yell at the refs or the opposing coaches and players and don't coach from the sidelines.
I saw a Brown Biography with video of him playing lacrosse in college. Spooky, scary big fast and good.
He talked about how it was the sport he loved and he played football in the fall for the scholarship.
When the Norse said they were going a "Viking", there were several events. Rowing, fencing, axe throwing, and yes - looting, pillaging, and rape. It was an early version of the decathlon.
Well, that's true in some areas. Where I am, I've seen quite a few parents who are effusive in supporting their children's 'rights' on the field.
I will cheer my kids. I won't yell at refs. It's counterproductive and sends the wrong message to the kids.
Not knowing the rules does help keep the crazy parents down, though. I agree, it's a good reason why the sport has grown.
Hmm...you have a destructive and dark seam running through much of your commentary.
Those were, I suppose, 'sporting'. But I did specifically say American and clearly rape and pillage were imported to North and South America from elsewhere.
Here is a true story about Jim Brown.
I had a boss, 20 years ago, who was massive. Big, big, big guy. 6'6", I can't tell you how much he weighed, but clearly quite a bit. Also clearly very muscular when he was younger. Played lacrosse at an upstate New York college in the 50's.
He had to play against Jim Brown. His view was "I'm big, I can deal with this guy." So he gets out on the field and before too long Brown has the ball and is running full speed right at my boss. Boss tries to man up and take Brown down, teach him a lesson early in the game.
When he woke up, his teammates told him Brown had scored and they were down a goal, and would he mind heading to the sideline?
He told me all he remembers was the impact was not too different from what he thought getting hit by a truck would be like.
"Neanderthal, knuckle dragging, misogynist, racists" who can spell "lacrosse". Otherwise, they have to play Duke basketball!!
Great post. In addition, the women's game (with no "pocket" in the netting of the stick), tho lacking the real one-on-one roughness that makes the men's game so exhilarating, requires phenomenal skill in passing and ball cradling, and is a beautiful thing to see played well. [Confession - bias: our pup was on a national champ team and All-America]
I asked my son which game was tougher, and he replied "no question, the woman's. If you ever try to catch and throw with their sticks, you'd understand."
Today's men's lacrosse is much more skill based than it used to be. But the woman's game is all finesse and skill.
Congrats to your son. My in-laws had a neighbor whose son was on the last SU National Champion team. He had 2 rings. Wore them to his first job interview, on his dad's advice, and got the job. It's impressive to see.
On a side note, I happen to work with one of the Duke lacrosse kids. Can't name names, but let's just say he's not a bad kid at all and after I'd read the whole story and how that all went down, the Duke administration should be ashamed of themselves.
The kids - well, sure they took inordinate and poorly thought out risks. But they didn't deserve the treatment they received.