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Lacrosse Has a Stigma That is Holding it Back
There must be change. Lacrosse is a sport with more culture within it than almost any other in the world. Golf and skateboarding rival our game with histories that grew throughout time, but their images have been solidified for years. You wear a polo on the golf course and you don’t wear Thrasher if you don’t skate. Golfers don’t talk when others are hitting. Skaters don’t snake each other for chances at a ramp. There are rules within all sports cultures that should be obeyed.
Unfortunately, the “Bro Culture” infiltrated lacrosse after the game was modernized and taken away from its roots of Native American growth. Pinnies instead of shirts, long waving hair, light beer during the day, mid-calves, and “bro-ing out” became the norm. This lifestyle was popularized by none other than Brantford Winstonworth and Con Bro Chill (see below). Turning a sport of respect and honor into a privileged leisure game for douchey guys with a dip in and a trust fund was a sad move for lacrosse. This whole attitude and stereotype exploded with the Duke lacrosse scandal in 2006, and sadly we haven’t moved far enough away from this image in 11 years. Luckily, there’s still time.
What Did “Bros” Do To Lacrosse?
Lacrosse is a sport that was originally played to please The Creator. Bros made it a sport played to pass time in between brunch and a liquid lunch of Bud Light. Now, I appreciate bros and am guilty of falling into bro culture. Most players in the modern age are guilty as well, but that both is and isn’t the point. All players will mature, and those who go on to love the game as part of their life will understand the difference between bro culture and respecting the game. What we become guilty of that is terrible, it not trying to change the culture back. Most players who realize the error of their ways just look at the youth and complain about their immaturity. We often forget the true origins of the game and don’t turn around to teach younger players the lessons we might have learned later than we wished.
Lacrosse is depicted as the most relaxed, drug-fueled, and carefree sport in many outlets like TV and movies. A key example in Blue Mountain State paints Lacrosse as “so privileged” that it pains me. Just because the sport has many rich players doesn’t mean that every player was born in a gold-plated hospital with ivory floors. This creates a barrier around the game discouraging athletes from lower-income areas to try lacrosse. This stigma of wealth and whiteness in our changing game also excludes and forgets programs reaching out to inner cities, and the programs from Indigenous and Native reservations.
Don’t Forget Where the Game Comes From.
The true patrons and owners of the game are Natives and Indigenous people who, in my opinion, have had the game taken from them. They are constantly being overshadowed in lacrosse by a culture of waste and excess created once lacrosse began truly modernizing. This is even more aggravating and disgusting because of the poor conditions of many reservations in our country. Native Americans were displaced by settlers and then moved to reservations by the American government. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now Lacrosse is constantly portrayed as something that isn’t theirs and shown as “out of their reach.”
While they live in poor areas that focus on wasting almost nothing, the “Bros” draw all the attention and create a stereotype that generalizes Lacrosse. The most unfortunate part of this is that this attitude is the opposite of the original basis of the game. A game meant to be respected and revered has been flooded with jesters. Our only way to move forward and survive might be to turn back.
Does Lacrosse Have A ‘Happy Gilmore’ Problem?
If you haven’t seen Happy Gilmore, watch it. Happy is a hockey player turned golfer who takes his bro antics to the PGA. The antagonist, “Shooter”, wants to keep golf respectful and pure, yet Happy bests him barely changing his attitude. While it is a great movie, I have to say that Shooter really isn’t wrong. He wants to keep a storied game about respect within the original culture, but Happy’s “Bro” culture changes the game’s appearance. Spoiler: Shooter ends up cheating which is the worst thing you can do in golf, but he does make some good points in the film.
Players like Con Bro Chill did a very similar thing to lacrosse. Connor Martin is hilarious and at one point was my favorite player; but, I hate some of what he did to lacrosse. While he grew the game and created some great learning videos, his attitude of partying and “bro-ness” hurt lacrosse in the long run. Kids growing up should learn that lacrosse was created to teach young men life skills and honor. Kids shouldn’t relate lacrosse to getting babes and wearing a “FlowBucket.” This is the same mentality that Warrior tried to push that Mainely Mesh fought against. Lacrosse is a celebration, but it’s more like a baptism than a 21st birthday. It’s our duty to treat it accordingly and not further destructive depictions of lacrosse.
Be The Bigger & Better Person
This whole fascination with being cool by being “chill” detracts from the game. The game is literally a religious experience for some that many bros have reduced to a joke. This is not only unfair to Native & Indigenous people who watched this stigma of Lacrosse grow, but it also robs players of the real Lacrosse experience. Those who understand what Lacrosse is about truly about must reverse the damage. But who is to really blame for the erosion of Lacrosse culture? I can’t put it all on, Connor Martin, Duke, Warrior, or even Brantford. It truly isn’t one person’s fault. It’s a systematic failure to respect lacrosse for what it truly is. All sports have a Happy Gilmore, but you can’t say it’s all their fault.
Can We Blame The Bros?
While bros did so much to hurt lacrosse, it may not be fair to fully blame them. There are bros, like Happy Gilmore, in all walks of life, and they tend to ruin stuff. Fraternities have been disgraced by many bros over the years. Many music genres have been affected by bros. Even politics have been taken over by many-a-bro for poor reasons. But, bros come in and bro stuff up. It’s what they do. They bring that lackadaisical lifestyle of “broing out” into what you love, and then they might just ruin it. You can’t be mad at a fish for swimming so how can you be mad at bros for “broing?”
Those who are involved and who don’t succumb to “bro-life” agendas are who are to blame. Yes, that likely means you; and, yes, that means me. I was a bro, and truthfully in many ways I still am. But the difference comes from how I approach the game, and how I tell others to do the same. The difference is in growth and knowing what you know now.
A Time & Place
“Bro-down” outside of the game, and when you are in-between the lines leave that sh*t on the bench. Also, remember that a great coach of mine once said “the school seal is always on you” and take that to heart. By that, I mean that when you are off the field, keep your “Bro-down” on the down low. You wanna act like a fool? Go ahead and keep lacrosse out of it. The game deserves your respect and admiration, not stories of how many chicks you hook up with and how much your Dad makes. I don’t care what car you drive. I care whether or not you realize lacrosse is for the people and should be enjoyed by all.
Bro culture may be funny and infectious because it’s “cool” when you’re growing up, but is it helping our game? Or is it making us look like a joke? So when are you going to just grow up? Instead of getting colorful shorts and always talking about your “spoon”, why not get traditional and hit the wall instead?
How Can Lacrosse Help Itself?
Good news. It already is helping itself. Ambassadors of the game like Paul Rabil, Kyle Harrison, Matt Gibson (pseudo-bro with great intentions), and Joey Sankey are helping every day. You can also help each and every day. Simply getting better at lacrosse and having the right attitude will do wonders if you bring that around your team. Work hard and realize that while making the “All-Flow Team” is funny and cool, being an “All American” is way cooler. That being said, being good at lacrosse isn’t necessary to approach the game the correct way.
Share lacrosse with others the right way and make sure they know the history. After all, the history is my favorite part and probably the best part of lacrosse. Help others realize that the game is bigger than them and play for the love of the game, not for accolades or glory. If you are always trying to help others, be selfless, and improve the game for everyone you are doing it right.
Do Your Part And Make Lacrosse Medicine Again
Don’t pay attention to who has the best hair, don’t worry about who has the best gear, don’t pay any mind to who acts the coolest. Play the game with a passion and know the roots of our great game. That is the best way to help Lacrosse and help yourself. I recently was in a class about cultural acceptance when the professor said how bad Lacrosse is in modern society. She said that the game was exclusive to rich white players who knew nothing about Native American history and that all involved were ignorant “bros” who spent more time in the bar than the classroom.
I quickly interrupted her to explain that I played on a team with players from many racial and economic backgrounds. I told her how I was extremely passionate about Native American history, especially that relating to lacrosse. Then, I politely informed her about: The Thompsons, Kyle Harrison, Zed Williams, Myles Jones, Jim Brown, Goran Murray, The Bratton Brothers, Zack Miller, Warren Hill, Javon Miller, and others. Finally, I let her know that while there is an unfortunate stereotype about lacrosse players being rich white boys, it was her opinion that was most detrimental to the game. Her opinion was overshadowing those players listed above and putting their incredible accomplishments in the background. While she may have thought she was poking fun at or jabbing the “bros,” it was actually players of color and all those against the stigma that she was hurting.
Be A Brother, Not A Bro
Keeping “bro” culture alive only hurts those who are not bros. It is the same as any racial or economic prejudice/stereotype that exists. All it does it harm those trying to distance themselves and put everyone under the same label. Do your part to help end the cycle for the future of Lacrosse. Players don’t play for glory, big paychecks, or fame in our great game; they play because they can’t imagine life without Lacrosse. That is the stereotype that Bro Bible, TFM, Blue Mountain State, professors, parents, and fans need to be pushing. One of selfless love for the game and those around it, not one of cracking brews is a mesh excuse for a T-shirt. Act like a big brother for those who will play after you and make sure that the game they play is one of respect.
Where Does The “All Flow” Team Come In?
Here. All the Bro Bible “All-Flow Team does is keep pushing the bro stereotype. While there are awesome parts of Lacrosse that are outside of field play, sick flow shouldn’t be a pushed issue. I even think that the “All Flow” Team is funny and I’m not saying that it is a major issue. What I’m saying is that making this type of hype a mainstay in the culture isn’t good for Lacrosse.
Having long hair is a religious aspect of Native culture that is, to some degree. being appropriated by this attention to flow. It is just another piece of straw on the camel’s back. While flow is a lighter issue than other problems, it just fuels the fire. I am guilty of having flow, loving flow, and thinking it looks great too; so don’t beat yourself up or see me as Anti-Flow. I am Anti-Anything-Distracting-You-From-Lacrosse-Actually-Mattering. So grow you flow if you want. Let it rage. But never, and I mean never, let your flow or any other “Bro” stuff make you disrespect the game of Lacrosse.