The Final Four of men’s Division I college lacrosse will roll up and down the green turf of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia today, a Memorial Day Weekend tradition.
The game born centuries ago by Iroquois tribe athletes is still popular here in the Syracuse area’s Onondaga Nation and upstate New York. Yes, I live in one of the pockets crazy for lacrosse. But Syracuse University, a traditional college power, did not make this Final Four.
No, the Orange was defeated by Johns Hopkins, of Baltimore. Down in Maryland. The second pocket of power. Or maybe that would be Long Island. They’re the big three, anyway.
Johns Hopkins, the private school, will play Maryland, the gigantic state school, today at 3:30 p.m. Yes, Maryland, my Maryland, my alma mater.
Let’s refresh. I grew up on Long Island, where my high school, Ward Melville, was a Suffolk County lacrosse power. I’d play pickup lacrosse in the streets with my friends. I attended junior college in Morrisville, the years where my friends started a club team, and ran around with them throwing and catching. I transferred to Maryland, and covered the Terps team for two years for the campus daily, the Diamondback, and have followed the squad every year since my graduation in 1979. Even after I moved to Syracuse in 1983, when I started watching Syracuse games.
So count me among those excited about the Maryland-Johns Hopkins matchup.
In 1979, after my graduation, Johns Hopkins defeated the
Terps in the national championship game, in Maryland’s home Byrd Stadium, no less. I already was working as sports editor for the suburban Prince George’s Journal, reporting and writing objectively but crying inside nonetheless.
During my time living in Maryland, I made several trips to Baltimore’s Homewood Field to watch the regular-season contests between Maryland and Johns Hopkins. Hopkins fans, doctors and lawyers and preppies I assumed, would pin buttons on their coats that read rather proudly: “Eat, Drink and Beat Maryland.” I hated those buttons.
I must admit … The schools first met in lacrosse in 1895, and Johns Hopkins won 10-0. And the Blue Jays lead the series 71-40.
This season, Maryland moved from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. The midwest league, a power on football and pretty dang good in basketball too, is not in the axis of lacrosse influence. In fact, it needed to invite an outside member to join newcomers Maryland and Rutgers and holdover programs at Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State to have enough players to gain an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament for its champion. Johns Hopkins was that team. I watched on TV and stewed as Hopkins beat Maryland in the last game of this regular season.
The winner will advance to the championship game at 1 p.m. Memorial Day. Maryland lacrosse fans are ornery about the national championship. The last time the Terps won it is 1975. They’ve lost seven title games since.
Oh, by the way, Notre Dame plays Denver at 1 p.m. today. They play lacrosse in Indiana and Colorado, too.
All three games will be televised by ESPN2. If you’ve never watched lacrosse, you might want to turn it on for a moment or two. It’s got the speed of hockey and the collisions of football. The ball is white, the field is green, and the goalie wields a really big stick.
Here’s the link for the Johns Hopkins photo.
If you’ve ever watched a lacrosse game, what do you think of it? What’s the best button slogan you’ve ever seen, and why do you like it? What fan group gets your goat the most, and why?</strong.