For some of us, the pain of the dual tragedies of Yeardley Love and George Huguely is intensified by the fact that both children are so familiar to us.
Raise your hand if you have spent any part of your child's life caught in the lacrosse whirlwind that sweeps through Maryland each spring. And summer. And fall ball. And the winter indoor league.
It is something that ordinary civilians might not comprehend (though ballet parents or horse show parents might sympathize).
Lacrosse can be a toxic mix of parental ambition and peer pressure. And privilege.
The boys lacrosse team at Baltimore's St. Paul's School was disbanded for the 2001 season after one of the players took a video of himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl and showed it at a team gathering. It is believed that the girl had to leave the state as a result.
How could those players have possibly thought that was an OK thing to do? Privilege and the pack mentality of an elite sport might explain it.
Lacrosse is a white world, where the brass ring is entrance — and a scholarship — to a prestigious college or university. I watched as a troubled but popular African-American high school boy, who had watched members of his family gunned down, was recruited for the boys' lacrosse team because it was thought the sport, though he was completely unschooled in it, could get him into a college and save his life. Save his life!
There is lots of money in the lacrosse world, too. Money to pay for membership on travel teams and select teams. Money for camps. Money for private coaching. Money for out-of-town tournaments and hotels and meals. Enough money to support a 12-month sport. Money that is paid out for years and years. Only wrestlers might start younger than lacrosse players.
Look at lacrosse and you will see beautiful children who grow into gorgeous young women and handsome young men. Sometimes, I swear it looks like a beauty contest out there. Ms. Love, smiling at us from team and family pictures, was almost painfully so.
You will very often see brains, too. Lacrosse kids do not benefit from intense parenting only on the playing field. And they can go on to play at the best colleges and universities in the country.
And you will see alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Beginning at a young age, too. One of the arguments against your child starting on varsity as a freshman is that his or her exposure to the drinking habits of upperclassmen begins that much sooner.
If your child tells you that his lacrosse teammates don't drink, he is lying to you. And if you believe it, you are lying to yourself. You are not smart enough to outsmart the secret drinking plans of a lacrosse team.
If you are lucky, the drinking will be a phase that will pass, though it will take longer than you think you can stand. If you are not, the drinking will destroy them or someone they care about. Someone you care about.
Mr. Huguely and his family are the faces of that awful truth. He was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder in the alcohol-fueled beating death of Ms. Love, and he will likely serve 26 years in prison. But the Huguelys are not the only faces.
It was simply assumed that three members of the Duke men's lacrosse team did indeed rape a dancer at a drinking party in 2006, and it took a mountain of evidence — against a prosecutor believed to have prejudged the entire team — to exonerate them.
You will see tears, too, in lacrosse. Children often weep and wilt under the expectations of their parents and their coaches. Mothers cry silently when their children are judged too slow or without that killer instinct to score. You will see the angry tears of fathers as they pace the bleachers after a defeat. And I think the parents of the children guarding the net must stop breathing with each shot on goal.
You may be thinking that I am singling lacrosse and its players out for unfair treatment here. That you could make the same arguments for the pack mentality of football players or the ruinously competitive world of ballerinas.
But this is Maryland, and lacrosse is our sport, and these two young people were living the dream.
I believe that the families of George Huguely and Yeardley Love would trade all of those lacrosse dreams if they would simply wake up from the nightmares they are living now.
Susan Reimer's column appears in The Sun on Mondays. Her email is email@example.com.