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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Imperfect Game

Earlier this week, UVA men's lacrosse player George Huguely allegedly murdered former girlfriend and women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love in a private residence. Both students were seniors at the university. This incident has sparked an incredible fire within the college lacrosse community, as well as the sports world in general. As a (non-current) lacrosse player, this sparked an interest in me as well. SB Nation's Andrew Sharp wrote an incredible online article describing his take on the story and how he feels the culture of lacrosse- one of entitlement, chauvinism, and reckless abuse of alcohol and other substances- helped this happen. In many ways, he is completely right; however, the culture he so vividly details goes far beyond the realm of elite lacrosse programs.

Unfortunately, we live in a society of warped values and priorities, where the athlete takes precedence over a great many other people- the teacher, the civil worker, sometimes even the soldier. You see it even in high school, depending on where you go. For me, it was a huge public high school in Brooklyn, yet I still saw the popularity of the boys' lacrosse players and the football players. Even my own teammates on the girls' team loved them; meanwhile, many had personalities that were (at times) suspect. Thankfully, none of them were incredibly out of control, in part because they had a hard-assed coach with strict tactics (and three City Championships because of it), yet you still felt a cocky, holier-than-thou kind of air about them. You can imagine how much more magnified that kind of admiration is in a school with an even better lacrosse program- more money, more elite, more of a sense as a player that you deserve the world and more because you can throw a ball into a net past another person.

It's not unlike the world of junior hockey in Canada, a "boys will be boys" world where young girls are branded as "puck bunnies" whether or not they want a hockey player- and to some players, every girl wants them, even if they say no. Or take high school football in the South, where coaches pull all strings necessary so players with failing averages can graduate on time and receive scholarships to the best colleges. These young men are taught that they can do anything they want, have anything they want, and people will love them no matter what- and that mentality breeds trouble. It really isn't unlike a fraternity, as Sharp writes, where masculinity (and in many cases, misogyny and violence) reigns supreme. And apparently Huguely was fueled by this mentality when he allegedly took Love's life.

These kinds of cultures ruin what should be innocent fun for all. They take the focus off of a simple game and make it a world where you, as a player, are compared to a god walking the face of the earth. That pressure is unbearable for many, and it can corrupt anyone, which is why it's so important that everyone, not just players, coaches and staff members, gets involved and changes the face of all of these sports. It's not enough to make excuses. We have to show players, beginning at the youth level, that they are not invincible, and they cannot have it all unless they deserve it, in terms of both hard work and moral fiber. How to do that must be figured out soon.

(Examples of junior hockey and high school football taken from my reading of two books- Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport by Laura Robinson and Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, both highly informative and disturbing accounts of the culture of youth sports. I recommend them to anyone who wants to learn more on the subject. Also, if anyone has any books or articles to recommend, I'd be more than willing to take them into account.)

P.S. Rest in peace, Yeardley Love.


Kat Hasenauer said...

Great job! Right on point.


AngieOnTheNYIslesScene said...

Thanks, Kat! :)