Lacrosse crown finally up for grabs

The Inside Stuff

March 25, 1991|By Bill Tanton

The distinguished looking octogenarian watching from the Carrier Dome press box as Johns Hopkins knocked off Syracuse, 18-12, in lacrosse Saturday night had the right perspective.

It was Roy Simmons Sr., who came to Syracuse University as a student in 1923 and is still there.

Roy Sr. coached the Orange from 1931 to 1970 and since then his son, Roy Jr., has been in charge of the lacrosse department, winning the last three NCAA championships.

Roy Sr. has seen it all. Unlike the spoiled members of the crowd of 10,936 who booed as Syracuse lost at home for the first time in 27 games, Roy Sr. understands that nothing lasts forever.

He knows that the Gait twins, Gary and Paul, and the rest of the 13 seniors lost from last year's three-peat team accounted for 70 percent of the offense. He knows neither Syracuse nor Hopkins nor anyone else goes on winning the championship permanently. Especially these days.

"Nobody is going to finish this season undefeated," said Roy Sr., who still critiques each game with his son over Sunday morning breakfast. "This year there are six or seven teams that could win the championship."

Going into the season barely a month ago, Syracuse and Loyola were co-favorites to win it all. Already they've both lost. Virginia beat Loyola, and Syracuse has now lost to Hopkins and North Carolina (a 10-3 defeat at Chapel Hill).

What we have this year is what lacrosse has lacked for the last three seasons -- a wide-open race that can, as Roy Sr. says, be won by any of a number of teams.

Virginia (6-0) and North Carolina (5-0) are at the top of the heap at the moment. That means things won't get any easier for fast improving Hopkins, which hosts Virginia this Saturday and visits Carolina the next.

One thing the weekend action showed was what has been said all year by former Hopkins All-America goalie Quint Kessenich, now an analyst on the lacrosse broadcasts on WITH-AM -- that Syracuse, minus the Gaits, etc., are just another pretty good team.

Losing these two games may be the best thing that could have happened to the Orangemen. The cockiness has been knocked out of them in the first month of the season. By the last month, which ends with the NCAA Final Four at the Carrier Dome May 25 and 27, they could work their way back to that level.

Hopkins' victory was a sweet one for the Blue Jays' first-year coach, Tony Seaman. When Seaman got the job at Hopkins last summer, Roy Simmons Jr. said his "worst fears had been realized." Seaman is described as Syracuse's "old nemesis" -- though, in eight years at Penn, Seaman was 0-9 against the Orange.

"This was sweet," said a happy Seaman as the Jays were cheered by parents and boosters at a post-game victory party in Syracuse.

* Baltimore's Pam Shriver has really come along as a TV commentator, a job that looms large in the future of the 12-year tour veteran. Her work yesterday on ABC with Cliff Drysdale and Arthur Ashe at the Lipton International Players Championships from Key Biscayne and her post-match interview with winner Jim Courier showed Shriver is as good as there is among the women at the tennis mike.

* A forerunner of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders as a football-baseball big leaguer was Clarence "Ace" Parker. A Duke product, Parker was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1940 and, at the same time, was playing shortstop for the Phillies.

I once met Parker during a Baltimore Colts NFL championship game. He may have been the most humble sports great I've ever met. Today, at 78, he plays golf almost daily in Portsmouth, Va., and sometimes shoots his age.

Before you decide Jackson is finished, be advised: On the day Jackson was drafted for pro football he told a bunch of reporters in a New York hotel ballroom he might play baseball. We thought he meant baseball instead of football, not in addition to.

We experts told the Heisman winner his Auburn batting average (.248) would not qualify him for major-league baseball. Then Jackson got a determined look on his face. "When people tell Bo he can't do something," he said, "that's when he does it."

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