Contemporary Lacrosse Issues and Rhetoric Mirrors Old Timey Lacrosse Issues and Rhetoric

Mark Kolbe

I ransacked the archives of The New York Times and came away with some cool stuff.

There are worse ways to kill time than running through the archives of The New York Times. While a lot of the material is behind paywalls, a lot of really cool old stuff is available -- for free! -- to the public. Newspapers remain the best windows to history, chronicling movements, culture, political transformations, and the general tenor of society on a real-time basis. While the role of newspapers has decreased over the years -- which is tragic -- the importance of their archives remains unmitigated: The story of the United States of America -- and all its comprising parts -- are contained in these archives, including the history of lacrosse in this country and its domestic growth and development.

The three following articles were especially interesting to me, giving a little bit of a history lesson while also highlighting issues and rhetoric about the game that shockingly mirrors a lot of the issues and rhetoric that the modern game faces and adopts.

"The Growth of Lacrosse" -- September 4, 1886

Since that memorable 4th of July, 1878, when the first match game of lacrosse between United States twelves was played on Boston Common the game has spread all over the country like a prairie fire. It has radiated from Toronto and Montreal at every great and most of the smaller cities, and its course has only been stopped by the Pacific Ocean, for San Francisco has three clubs, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, New-York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stevens Institute, Lehigh University, Columbia College, Mount Pleasant Academy, Johns Hopkins University, Andover Academy of Brooklyn, and goodness only knows how many more schools, large and small, have lacrosse clubs.

* * * * *

In short, lacrosse has taken the English-speaking world by storm.

And it only took 130+ years for someone from the area of the dastardly-oppressive Pacific Ocean to win a national player of the year award at the collegiate game's highest level. By storm, I tells ya!

I also love the "goodness only knows how many more schools" line. You're a reporter for a newspaper; make some calls, dude.

"A Great Boom in Lacrosse" -- March 22, 1886

The immense advance that the game of lacrosse has made in this country is wonderful. A few years ago, outside of Canada, a lacrosse club was quite a new institution: now there is no State in the Union, with the exception of one or two Southern States, that has not lacrosse clubs in all its principal cities.

* * * * *

The Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, which comprises Princeton, Harvard, New-York University, Stevens Institute, and possibly Yale this year, has become part and parcel of the regular athletics in each college. Princeton is the present holder of the Oelrichs Cup, won in the tournament last Fourth of July at Prospect Park parade ground, beating the Druids of Baltimore. Lehigh University of Pennsylvania, the Polytechnic Institute, and Adelphi Academy, of Brooklyn, have teams, and there are about 10 junior clubs in this city, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The game will be played at West Point this season, at Lawrenceville School, near Trenton, and probably at the Naval Academy, Annapolis.

Oh, those pesky southern states. Always causing trouble, not wanting to put lacrosse clubs in your principal cities. Selfish jerks, obviously hating anything imported from Canada.

Other items:

  • What was keeping Yale out of the USILA club? Was there a feeling of, "Yeah, Yale's a fine place, but they drink scotch in their social clubs in New Haven, not brandy. They may not be USILA material. Better keep them on the 'Maybe' list until they get their act together. Plus, Harvard and Princeton aren't big fans of the Elis. Old secret society gripes and whatnot."
  • Princeton having a championship lacrosse team is not surprising. Old Lacrosse Money begets continued success. As for Harvard: Why isn't your deal like Princeton's deal? Get it together, Crimson.
  • I hereby make a motion to move this year's Championship Weekend from Lincoln Financial Field to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for a guerrilla Final Four. The benches and trash cans are out of bounds and hipsters having a picnic on the field of play are a recognized and accepted hazard.
  • The hell is a "Druids of Baltimore"?

"Lacrosse League Seeks Expansion" -- January 11, 1920

Extension of lacrosse to institutions where, up to the present, it has not been played as an intercollegiate sport was given impetus yesterday at the fifteenth annual meeting of the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League, which was held at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Syracuse was admitted into the league and Rutgers announced its intention of placing a team in the field. Efforts will be made to see if the game cannot be instituted at West Point, and action was also taken to encourage its adoption in high schools in New York, Boston and Baltimore.

* * * * *

Announcement was made that Penn State, though not a member of the league, would again be represented in lacrosse for the first time since the war's interruptions. A letter was received from Graduate Manager K.E. Davis of the University of Pittsburgh, who hopes to have the game established there next year, and who has the strong support of Glenn Warner, the football coach, in his plan to interest his college actively in the sport.

* * * * *

Possible changes in the rules of the game came up for long discussion at yesterday's meeting. Among the proposals was one to change the length of the halves from thirty-five to thirty minutes and to divide the game into quarters. There was also discussion of the advisability of having another referee on the field and of changing the regulations regarding the field limits. Decision in these matters was left to a rules committee.

I'm thinking that the old guard of the USILA didn't exactly love the addition of Syracuse to the association in 1920. In that season, as a first year member, the Orange were named co-champions with Lehigh and Navy, and in 1922 and 1924 Syracuse repeated the feat (splitting both years with Johns Hopkins and in 1922 with Navy as well). Syracuse would not claim another USILA national championship throughout the governing body's history. (In fact, the Orange's next title came in 1983, over 60 years after its first championship.)

As for the rule changes discussion, do you think it was as contentious as the debate that college lacrosse faced this last summer? I'm sure there was less email back in 1920, but were angry people sending paper airplanes filled with disgust about possible changes around adding a referee through the windows at the Hotel Pennsylvania?

"Dear Sirs,

I send this written correspondence, folded in airplane fashion, to you for your gentlemanly consideration. Should your body choose to add an additional referee to the field of play, my countenance shall change from disappointment to furious anger shant seen since the war. I believe in the rights of man to operate independent from the judging eyes of referees upon the lacrosse field, and an additional referee may limit my ability to bring a bolt-action shotgun on the field, masquerading as a lacrosse stick, to defeat my opposition in a noble and accepted fashion.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter, relative to the Second Amendment and my opportunity to commit small infractions concomitant with the law of the playground.

Always,

E. Andrews"

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