Friday, February 6, 2009


Over the last few months we have covered some pretty important topics. This month however I would like to focus on something that is a bit less significant than social security or health care, but nonetheless important to many of us who live in Severna Park and its environs.

I speak of course of the sport of women's lacrosse. Before I provide you my thoughts on this issue and get everyone riled up I would like to state that all three of my daughters have played and benefited greatly from the game of women's lax. In addition some of the greatest coaches, and for that matter individuals I have ever met (all of whom will likely disavow having ever known me after reading this article) are students and proponents of the game.

But even if one takes into account the many positive aspects of the sport, there is no getting away from the fact that the game is in many respects sexist and demeaning to women. How so? Well consider the record for a moment. Women's basketball, save for the size of the ball, has the same rules as the men's game. Women's volleyball, save for the height of the net, has the same rules as the men's game. Women's ice hockey, save for the prohibition against body checking, again has the same rules as the men's game. Women's soccer and tennis have the exact same rules as the men’s versions. Does anyone sense a pattern here? All of the rules of the aforementioned sports, with some minor tweaking have the same expectations of women as they do of men. But in the world of women's lax this idea is sorely lacking.

Some years ago I coached a phenomenal young lady in Green Hornets lacrosse. In one particular game I watched her face dodge past 2 St. Mary's players, roll dodge away from another and then fire a bullet like shot right past the goalies head into the upper right corner of the goal. Suddenly there was a whistle, but to my amazement it was not to signal a score. "No goal" the official yelled, " that was a dangerous shot." Forgive me madam official I protested, " that was by no means a dangerous, shot it was a brilliant one"! After receiving my very own personal yellow card I calmed down, but I would never view the sport the same again.

Think about it, in a sport like lacrosse, the very term “dangerous shot” is oxymoronic. The point of the game is to shoot and score. Telling people to shoot, but not in a dangerous way, is so subjective as to be ridiculous. But those who love the game the way it currently is configured will say, “We don't have helmets, so we have to protect the girls from getting hurt.” Hello McFly! Why not give the players helmets, gloves and arm guards, and like the sport of women's ice hockey (one of our country's fastest growing sports) prohibit body checking, but allow them to play under rules similar to the men’s game.

But the inane rules of women’s lacrosse do not stop with the concept of "dangerous shots." Consider the rule regarding "obstruction.” This corollary, which sounds like it was dreamed up by an out of work Soviet Commissar, is meant to allow offensive players to have " free space" in their attempts to shoot at the goal. Again, in most sports the rules are structured to allow a defensive player to be able to prevent the shooter from having any " free space" whatsoever. Women’s lax is the only sport I can think of where an attacking player must be given room to operate. Finally there is the equally subjective “bubble rule” which dictates that “all legal checks must be directed away from a seven-inch sphere or "bubble" around the head of the player.”

So lets sum up. In this sport you can shoot, but not so hard that it might lead one to think it was "dangerous." You can play defense, as long as you leave enough " "free space" for your opponent to score. And you can "check" as long as you stay out of the bubble. Who designed these rules? Martha Stewart? The current regulations make for far too many games where an official has to blow her whistle more frequently than a traffic cop in Times Square on VJ Day.

My mother played basketball for Holy Cross High School in Washington D.C. in the 50s. During that era, certain players were not able to cross half court. But as with most things, women’s basketball grew with the times and today, rule wise, it is virtually indistinguishable from the men's game. What is preventing women's lax from doing the same thing? Those who love the sport claim that it is “unique, “ but keep in mind that uniqueness, in and of itself, is not always a good thing.

Look, lacrosse is the oldest sport in North America; numerous Native American tribes engaged in the sport to prepare for battle. If you want “bubbles” and “free space” go play croquet. Save for the body checks, lets let the girls play just like the men. Women lax players are not “little balls of fluff” that need protecting. I know from personal experience that they are incredible athletes who should not be limited by archaic and antediluvian rules and regulations. Women lacrosse players of Severna Park unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

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