Bizarre or just unfamiliar?
Jan. 19, 2015
by Ivan Raconteur

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I had the television on while I was doing laundry and some other chores around the old bachelor pad.

I chanced to catch part of a lacrosse match conducted under the auspices of the National Lacrosse League.

This surprised me, since I didn’t know we had a National Lacrosse League.

I was vaguely aware of the sport of lacrosse as something Native Americans used to play before Europeans showed up to spoil their fun.

I was also aware that lacrosse has recently been gaining popularity in some schools.

Despite my ignorance, it was clear that the sport has some enthusiastic fans.

The cameras often cut to the crowd during breaks in the action, revealing hordes of smiling and dancing spectators.

Watching the game, as I periodically passed through the lounge, was a surreal experience.

The announcers’ commentary reminded me of listening to a room full of women discussing interior decorating. Many of the terms they used were familiar, but I frequently hadn’t the faintest idea what they meant in the current context.

To my untrained eye, it looked like a cross between other sports, mainly hockey and basketball.

The game is played with five guys in the field and one goaltender on each team.

There is a 30-second shot clock, and an over-and-back rule.

Play seems to begin with a face-off, and the object is to get a ball into a net.

Each player has a sort of stick with a net at the end, and these sticks are used to handle the ball.

They are also, apparently, used to beat on the guy who has the ball to try to knock it loose, but it wasn’t really clear what the rules were about that.

It sure seemed like it would make it more difficult to shoot or score with opposing players swatting at one with their sticks.

There is also body checking, so it is a physical contest, as well as one that requires a lot of endurance, coordination, and skill.

It seemed like a rather fast-paced contest, with a lot of scoring, which made it interesting.

I felt bad for the goalies. Players were hurling the ball at them at frequent intervals, from all over the field, and to my aging eyes, it seemed awfully fast.

Being a curious individual, I looked up the league’s media guide later, and was shocked to learn this is its 29th season.

Apparently, either I haven’t been paying attention, or the league has had rather limited exposure.

There are nine teams in the league. The local team is the Minnesota Swarm, founded in 2005.

The Swarm’s uniforms resemble bumble bees with attitude.

Apparently, professional lacrosse is a cross between box lacrosse – favored by our Canadian brothers – and field lacrosse, which is more popular in the US.

Games are played on hockey rinks, with artificial turf laid over the ice to make it easier to run in lacrosse shoes, or whatever sort of shoes one wears to participate.

Players who commit infractions are sent to the penalty box, resulting in a power play for the opposing team.

This didn’t seem to be much of an advantage for the Swarm the day I tuned in, because the Colorado Mammoth scored several short-handed goals while I was watching.

Games consist of four 15-minute quarters, and the action is nearly nonstop.

Teams play 18 games during the regular season, which runs from January to May.

I’m not sure if I will actually become a regular viewer of lacrosse. Rugby and football are more my speed. But it did provide an entertaining interlude, and I’ll probably at least check in periodically to see how the Swarm is faring.

My lacrosse experience reminded me that sports, like many other things in life, may seem bizarre at first if they are unfamiliar to us, but they may seem perfectly normal if we take the time and effort to learn more about them.

It seems ridiculously simple, but sometimes we forget that if we understand things better, we may even discover we like them.

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