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The Boston Globe Is Drunk But It Isn't Blind

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So, The Boston Globe sent some lady around the greater Boston area to try and write a culture piece about lacrosse. This is surprising for two reasons:

  1. As the Red Sox aren't a lacrosse team, I'm surprised that anyone at The Boston Globe dedicated publishing space to a sports item that has nothing to do with whining about fried chicken and its scientific impact on clubhouse chemistry and losing streaks.
  2. I was under the impression that The Boston Globe wasn't a middle school newsletter. ("Johnny's mother bought him the coolest sneakers! <3!!!!")

If you haven't read the piece, you can click the link up there to make your head melon grind to a halt and question the velocity of humanity. If you'd rather skip ahead to watch the Internet do what the Internet does best -- shred things to bits until the story becomes about the author and not the subject -- you can check out Grantland's carpet bombing or Deadspin's "The story sucked but that's probably because lacrosse sucks" diatribe. The general consensus from everybody with access to a computing machine was that McKim's piece was a steaming pool of monkey piss that painted with too broad a brush, but here's the thing: She did actually capture a segment of the lacrosse population.

I mean, you really can't argue with the fact that "Lax Bros" exist; it's just a matter of volume. What I consider a "Lax Bro" and what you consider a "Lax Bro" are probably different things, which likely leads to the consequence that we see a different percentage of "Lax Bro" behavior in and around the game. Now, I'm not going to get on a stump and argue whether the culture is something that the game should breed. (My personal beliefs in this conversation are about as important as which unicorn finished in the money in the great unicorn beer pong tournament.) Rather, I want to address the reactions I saw to the piece from The Boston Globe.

The majority of comments that popped up were that McKim's truncated ethnography was bunk and that the culture of lacrosse -- at any level -- wasn't even close to what was presented. To that argument, I counter with:

  • Look at all the lacrosse websites that are dedicated to gear, culture, and lifestyle. These sites continue to exist -- and, according to Alexa, do fairly well from a traffic standpoint -- because there is a market for such material. If the "Lax Bro" identity wasn't as strong as it is, this cycle of feeding the beast with the superficial and the beast wanting more of the superficial wouldn't exist.

And it's not just the web that's pushing this "Lax Bro" culture (to whatever degree you determine). It's also coming from other angles -- from equipment and apparel manufactuers (who have exploited this phenomenon to the point of exhaustion and are arguably the biggest perpetrators of developing the characterization); from a portion of established professional and collegiate players; from a portion of high school players; ad infinitum. It's a tiered and intertwined relationship, and while folks eventually grow out of it, it's going to exist until the movement-makers decide otherwise.

I honestly believe that the parents, kids, and other individuals that McKim interviewed in the piece truly believed the words that came out of their mouths. These are impressionable people, even if you try to develop an excuse that they're receiving the wrong impression. It would've been nice for McKim to show a broader picture of those involved in the game, but that wasn't the point of the piece (which was only to highlight a segment of the game's acolytes). To me, the ire around the piece shouldn't necessarily be directed at McKim for writing the piece, but rather to those that have influenced the individuals that were illustrated in the article. Those are the folks that are creating the culture, even if the effects aren't as originally intended.

McKim wrote a pretty dumpy article, but pieces of it stand strong in reality. You may or may not like it, but it exists.