How it should look . . .
I mentioned in the King’s-Oxbridge writeup that a confrontation occurred late in the game in the stands and I would write about it separately.
Full disclosure up front.
I DID NOT WITNESS the confrontation even though I was only about 30 feet away. I did hear some things but the only thing I can say with 100% certainty was the chant of the King’s students that started with about 4 minutes to go. I am pretty confident is saying an Oxbridge fan, whether parent or not, confronted the chant in some way. But that’s about it for 100% of what I know. I was in the press box but plenty of people were between me and the fracas.
Could I ask around and get plenty of input? Sure, but why go with a Rashomon-style likelihood of differing opinions when the actual details are really not that important? It’s not about WHO, it’s about having a frank discussion of why this sport does not need these storylines marring a wonderful event. For those not familiar with Rashomon, the term is used to define the unreliability of eyewitnesses to convey accurately what they witnessed. The term comes from the film of the same name directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1950. The film was a staple of liberal arts education in my college days.
I’ll also mention that I have come to know both head coaches well. Oxbridge HC Stan Ross has been a great source of information for me over the years he’s been down here, including his tenure with the Florida Launch, where he was generous with explaining to me concepts of offensive and defensive strategies. His program is a model for how to start from scratch and build a statewide juggernaut. King’s HC Jacob Webb, while I have not known the same amount of time, has also become a favorite of mine to talk to and I know he has great respect for what Stan has accomplished, even learning from Oxbridge as a way to create the program that has become a top one in the state this year.
I’ve come to know Oxbridge parents over the years and am just starting to get to know the King’s parents. I find the more I write about a team the more the interactions occur. No parent on either side has ever given me any grief or reason to be annoyed, and all have enjoyed the interactions with us at FLN.
Let’s think a little about the atmosphere in which this game occurred. First, it was a Friday night and I can tell the readers from past experience that Friday nights do tend to be a little more emotional because the attendees have mostly put their work weeks past them and know they are going to be able to enjoin the after-game more than during the week, and that does change the dynamic a little. It was an anticipated District matchup in a District that we know has a ton of quality and a low margin of error in making the FHSAA playoffs. King’s is looking for that next rung of respect and Oxbridge was looking to keep their place on that ladder.
Anticipation was HIGH, no need to undersell that. Both coaches knew it, both teams knew it and both fan bases knew it.
Let’s take a step back here for a minute and set another level of background.
There are certain sports where sportsmanship takes its’ place side by side with the result. Rugby comes to mind. Teams tend to gather after the game to unwind with each other. In Golf you are expected to call a penalty on yourself if no one else sees it.
I suspect that not a lot of attendees in the stands knows that Lacrosse was North America’s first sport. Nor would many of them know the origin with the Native Americans of the continent and the special place it holds to them.
It is SPIRITUAL to many of the tribes, hence the name The Creator’s Game. Although the religious background is not the same as King’s, it certainly is from the same spirit that King’s Academy holds itself out to.
As the game wound down, King’s took the three-goal lead with 4:06 to go and the students started chanting the old standbye “NaNaNaNa, NaNaNaNa, hey hey hey, good bye”. Never mind that PLENTY of lacrosse games I’ve witnessed have seen turnarounds in FAR less time, just ask Cardinal Mooney fans that.
And I’m sure they felt maybe a little sheepish when an unsportsmanlike penalty on King’s was called for celebrating the score improperly, with Oxbridge narrowing the score on the ensuing possession.
But when the final insurance goal was scored in the last minute, the chant was picked up again and for whatever reason, the reaction was more emotional this time.
Again, I didn’t witness what happened next.
So I’m going to assume that like in so many of these instances, it was spontaneous and got out of hand solely because the emotion of the game let itself out in the wrong way.
Instead of assigning blame, let’s take it upon ourselves to remember a few things to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I know that is wishful thinking but I remember something about appealing to the better Angels of our Nature, which was actually Abe Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address.
It’s really a simple concept in Lacrosse:
Step 1 – Understand this is a SPECIAL sport, it is not football, basketball, etc., it is a game played to HONOR THE CREATOR. You don’t have to be Native American to put this sport on a different pedestal, we face a subset of citizens who look down their noses at this sport, under plenty of misconceptions. Don’t give them any tinder to set the fire.
Step 2 – Learn to root FOR something, not AGAINST something. That’s as simple as understanding the difference between how the King’s attendees handled themselves at American Heritage-Plantation on Tuesday after LOSING and how the students decided to use a chant that would be seen as putting down the other side on Friday. One of my favorite sports memories was the 1979 Iona-Louisville basketball game in Madison Square Garden I attended (Jim Valvano was HC at Iona for this game and he wrote extensively about it in his autobiography). Iona is pulling away from the #2 team in the nation . . . and a team that would win the national championship about 40 days later . . . and for the final 3 minutes the entire crowd of 18,000 just stood and cheered Iona. No taunts, no Louisville stinks, etc., just applauding an effort they didn’t expect to see. I promise that the end of the AH-P loss will be remembered just as fondly 20 years from now by the players as anything from Friday night.
Step 3 – Parents, we are the adults here. I love the scene in the movie My Life In Ruins, when Richard Dreyfuss is asked to have fun and play the role of the Oracle and when faced by the two parents who want the Oracle to decide who was right about their daughter, simply states “Sometimes we forget as parents we are an example”.
If you think yelling out at referees or yelling at a player to ‘get him’, ‘hit him’, etc., is going unnoticed as an example to the kids in attendance, you’d better change your mind on that fast. If you can’t control yourself at the game on this why do you think the kids are going to behave any differently? And why would you think the kids would not mimic that disrespect with some of their own towards you? And don’t confront immaturity if it isn’t your child, just report it to your coach and let them work the back channels. I did that with an incident I caught on the video of a game two years ago, it works a lot better.
Let’s try to do better as a lacrosse community. It’s still HIGH SCHOOL sports. A championship is great, but a young man or woman growing into a great adult is far better.
Trust me, we’ll all feel better for it.