I’ll own up to it. I’ve done my time as a bench-warmer (but a first string bench-warmer, mind you. That bench was so warm, it could hardly handle it. Seriously, scalding). But this is unfamiliar territory… I’ve never sat on the bleachers as a spectator to my own team before.
What does it look like? Utter insanity. Total chaos. But that much I knew. Yes, women’s lacrosse is confusing and incomprehensible to the players as well. We don’t completely understand the rules, we just play by them… mostly.
Take a look at the photo above. What is even going on? Where’s the ball? Pretty hard to tell, even if you zoom in, right? Now imagine being a player on that field, full of adrenaline, excitement and panic roiling, vision criss-crossed by a queer eye bite-mask, running around like one of 24 chickens with their heads cut off trying to keep track of one tiny yellow sphere.
God, I miss it.
As a former player it was hard to sit on the sidelines and watch. I wanted to be out there with my team, supporting them. But I realized that being a fan is not so easy as it seems. Do you have any idea how hard it is to follow this pandemonium? I think it might actually be worse when you’re not in the thick of it. Snapping photos is almost a lost cause with a run-of-the-mill camera.
The field is huge. There’s so much going on at any given moment, that when you freeze one of them, it looks… well, absurd. The draw (think basketball jump ball) is the best photo opportunity. Two girls in center field, facing off for one ball after a whistle blow. Manageable. But after that instant, it gets messy.
The poor audience never seems to quite get what’s going on, constantly asking no one in particular what just happened, why the ref stopped the play, what the call was… questions that nobody among them ever has the correct answers to. Bless them for their effort, anyway. They still clap when something seems like it was good for their team, and jeer when the refs appear to have gone against their favor. A for effort. D- for accuracy.
I know there’s pockets of America where lacrosse is popular and people like and understand it. The Pacific Northwest is not one of them. The only thing that is universal is the scoreboard, and the scoreboard has never been a friend of the Wildcats.
But unlike the average spectator, I can see all the things the young team is doing right, all the effort they’re putting in, all the learning and improving happening in front of my eyes. Cliches and sports go together like peanut butter and jelly, and I am not one to turn down a good pb&j. So Cats Lax, keep your heads up:
It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
And you certainly play with heart.