A State Sport Is Hooey (but Make It Lacrosse)

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

Which Of These 3 Should Be Maryland's Official Sport?

December 29, 1991|By Ed McDonough

Let me say right up front that all this talk about a state sport is just so much hooey.

We're in the midst of a recession, state and local governments are reeling and a plethora of important issues -- taxes, land use, and aid to counties and cities among them -- will be on the table when the General Assembly convenes next month in Annapolis.

Why, with so many important issues floating around, must our legislators have to play around with the idea of replacing the state sport?

The state sport is jousting.

So what.

A few years back, fans of lacrosse tried to get their sport made top dog.

Big deal.

Now, a duckpin bowling group has hired a public relations firm to mount another challenge to jousting.

Who cares?

Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of taxpayer dollars will be spent on this drivel --printing of the bills plus the time and cost of having legislators attend hearings and debate the issue -- with absolutely no tangible value to anyone, except for the egos of the winners.

That said, it'sa foregone conclusion the General Assembly will be dealing with thistrivial issue, so I might as well get in my 2 cents worth. I've saidmy piece as a taxpayer; now I'll have my say as a sports fan.

Lacrosse should be our state sport.

It's as Maryland as the Orioles, black-eyed Susans and the Preakness. (Until recently, in fact, a clublacrosse game was played in the Pimlico infield on Preakness Day.)

The Lacrosse Hall of Fame is in Maryland, at John's Hopkins University, a school synonymous with lacrosse excellence.

As Gene Brown, dean of the county's high school lacrosse coaches, notes, where else would you find a a school like Hopkins -- a non-scholarship, DivisionIII school in football and other sports, but among the best DivisionI lacrosse programs?

Some of the best men's teams in the country at all levels -- NCAA Divisions I and III, junior college, high school and club -- are from this area.

Aside from the Philadelphia area(the clear home of the country's top women's teams), Maryland's female lacrosse players are among the best around, too.

It is a game of at least some national appeal -- what with college teams as far away as California -- but with its modern roots in this area.

Yes, itreally is a different version of a game first played by Indians in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada.

And it's also true the first games played before paying crowds were in New York.

But from the early part of this century, the Maryland area has been home to many top collegiate teams, and the rosters of the better teams in other parts of the country usually have been peppered with Marylandnatives.

"The MSA (Maryland Scholastic Association) is probably the best high school lacrosse league in the country in terms of competition," Brown said of the league that features Baltimore public and metro area private schools. "They'll even agree with that up in New York."

And some reasons are obvious why lacrosse should be the statesport ahead of duckpin bowling and jousting.

For the record, I did bowl for a couple of years in a duckpin league, but a variety of job and family complications have ruled out that form of recreation forthe last decade or so. And I will admit duckpin bowling has one slight advantage over lacrosse -- it really was started in Baltimore.

But unlike lacrosse, which is played throughout the Northeast, MiddleAtlantic, upper Midwest, Rockies and West Coast, duckpin bowling is limited to the Baltimore-Washington area, Connecticut and Rhode Island and, more recently, a few scattered areas of Wisconsin.

Its hardly as broad-based as lacrosse.

Jousting? Surely you jest.

Its appeal is limited to a relatively small group of horse aficionados andusually is seen by no more than a few hundred spectators at various fairs, picnics and outings around the state.

It's interesting to watch and probably fun to do if you have the patience, but who, outside of a small circle of competitors, keeps track of who the really good jousters are?

Clearly, lacrosse should be the state sport -- if we need one.

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