monday memories / the sporting life: one of the boys, one of the happy people

i'm sharing some of my sporting life with you in this monday memories series. last week's story was about the politics of soccer ... 



my junior year of college, i had several guy friends who came to oregon from prep schools back east. with them they brought lacrosse to the left coast, a sport we hadn't yet seen out west. they didn't think they had enough players to start a team, so they recruited me and my soccer friend sheila. i guess they figured, she's tough on the soccer field, so she can play lacrosse with the guys. and they were desperate ... 

the whole season for me was a bit of a fiasco! 

we practiced much of the year in the rain and mud, and i learned how to wield a lacrosse stick, kind of. then the spring lacrosse season rolled around, and it turned out there were so many guys who wanted to play lacrosse, probably because lacrosse players were smart, cool, and extremely social. it ended up being a huge team.

at that point, i should have bowed out gracefully like sheila did ... but i guess my childhood desire to be equal in the [man's] world still needed to prove itself, so i wasn't about to quit the team. some of the guys, the really serious players, didn't want me on the team. my buddies were mixed, they wanted to have a strong team, but they also stayed loyal to me. 

there weren't many teams then, but we found a few to play against in oregon and washington. we had a couple of away games, and the lacrosse teams are so social that the opposing teams put us up for the night before or after the game in their homes. those lacrosse boys know how to have a good time! 

when i'd show up on the field in my uniform, it would create a stir in the opposing team. they didn't quite know how to handle me. you see, men's lacrosse is a VERY ROUGH game. completely different from soccer. more like hockey. that's why they wear helmets! 

or maybe it was the uniform my teammates got for me. we had to borrow jerseys from our football team, and i'm not sure who decided that 69 was my number. young men being young men, they thought it was hilarious. i was a bit naive, and was just glad to have a jersey.

so the opposing team weren't sure if they should hit me as hard as the guys, or if they should go easy on me. i think most of them were not as rough with me, thank god! not that i played much. i had field sense, but not great ball handling skills. plus i was scared shitless!

in our last game of the season, the college allowed us to play on our main football field. there was a huge crowd watching all those foxy lacrosse players. it must have been a pretty close game, since they didn't put me in ... until the very last few minutes of the game ... when the crowd started chanting "hil - la - ry! hil - la - ry! hil - la - ry!" so our captain put me in.

i think i touched the ball once in those last minutes and didn't do anything spectacular, but at least didn't flub up.

the crowd roared!

we won!

my favorite moment of that season was the post-game party at "happy valley," the home of the greatest guys on our team. i was one of the boys, but i was also one of the gang, one of the happy people gathered in that backyard.

i remember feeling so much love for those guys, for all of our friends, for those great people. so loved and accepted. so much a part of the group. right in the middle of it. not on the outskirts.

so much love at that gathering. and it wasn't just the beer talking, i swear. maybe it was the mix of sunshine and winning and finishing the season and beer and team spirit and love all mixed in together.

you could ask any of those guys and they'd tell you the same thing. it was magical. to be a part of a group, doing what you love, running around on a field, being with those you love. it doesn't get any better than that.


lessons learned: join groups with people you love. there's so much power in groups of like-minded folks.


the following year, sheila and i started a women's lacrosse team. much more gentle!