February 27, 2014

From the Editor: Don't Be That Guy (or Girl)

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

This column originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

There's an unwritten rule in most sports that you don't show up an opponent. Just ask Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback whose borderline taunting tactics in the NFC Championship Game — cupping his throat in front of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to say he choked and calling out 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in post-game interviews — galvanized an angry media mob leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Win gracefully. Take the high road. Act like you've been there before. These exhortations all reflect that unwritten rule.

But I'd like to take it one step further and say, more importantly, don't show up your teammate.

When I moved to Baltimore after college, several guys I played lacrosse with in college latched onto a post-collegiate team in the American Lacrosse League (ALL). We enjoyed the opportunity to continue playing in any capacity, but the ALL has legitimate talent.

In our third season, a fairly well known player from a fairly well known lacrosse family joined the team. He was good, but man, was he obnoxious. He was the type of attackman who would try to beat a triple team, get stripped and then groan because you weren't there to bail him out. He would bark out directions that made it seem like he was trying to orchestrate the team offense. But the translation was always the same: Get out of my way.

It got to the point that my friends stopped playing. How could one person suck so much fun out of the game?

As a defenseman and long-stick midfielder, I found I needed to have a good rapport with my goalie. Be supportive, communicative and upbeat, and I'll run through a wall for you. Throw your hands up after a goal or a missed outlet pass, and I'll shut down. And worse, you'll probably get into my head.

During one midweek ALL game in which neither of our goalies could play due to work obligations, we picked up an alternate with MLL and NLL credentials. After batting down a pass and shoveling the ball to him for a clear, I made the mistake of bolting for the substitution box rather than looking for an outlet. He sent a clearing pass over my unturned head and derided me for it. I had a terrible game. I knew I had no place being on the same field as a professional player, but he really made me believe it.

Today, while I still play lacrosse occasionally, I get most of my energy out on pickup basketball courts. There's one group comprised mostly of decent guys looking for the same thing as me: a fun, run-and-gun game to disguise the workout. Occasionally, I'll get on a heater and drain a few buckets.

But recently, there's this one guy that really gets in my head. He's a great player, terrific athlete and makes some unbelievable shots. But he's a jerk. If you miss a shot, he throws up his hands and rolls his eyes, worse if you turn the ball over. When I'm on his team, I'm awful. I'm heaving air balls from the free-throw line. When I'm up against him, it ignites me. I'm darting in and out of the lane, doing anything I can to shut him up.

Duke coach John Danowski, lacrosse's Zen master, has a "No Palms Up" policy. It demonstrates a lack of accountability. Moreover, it alienates you from your coaches, teammates and officials.

That makes more sense to me now than ever before.

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