Many moons ago, my wife and I were on our honeymoon and had made a stop in the Bahamas. During a stroll, we came upon an overlook where we could see down into a small stadium where a game of cricket was being played. My wife asked me to explain what was going on.
I stared blankly for a moment. I am an avid sports fan and played gobs of sports growing up, even continuing into my adult years until my knees threatened to go on strike if I continued in a basketball league.
But I had no experience with cricket. So I said to her, “Um, well, you see, it’s, um … I have no idea.” We watched for a few minutes, and we kinda pieced together some of the game, but really felt like we were missing the nuances of a sport that has only been around for some six centuries or so.
Fast forward to this year, and I was reminded of that feeling when my son suited up for the first time to play lacrosse. I have never played lacrosse and neither had my son. I knew the gist of the game — zip the ball into the net. But when I stood by listening to the coach explain some of the intricacies of the game, I was reminded of the description of Whackbat in the movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” (Google it. You won’t be sorry.)
Again, the basic point is easy to grasp — score a goal. But I found myself not being familiar with plenty of the terms, which of course meant I had to fake it on the fly, in front of both my son and my wife. (Thanks, Apple! Because of an iPhone, I can subtly look up “What is a midi in lacrosse” and everyone will just think I’m checking work e-mail.)
I’ve enjoyed learning the game and certainly enjoyed watching my son learn the game. Here are a few of the things we’ve learned together:
- Pads don’t make you invincible. When my son first got his helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads and gloves, he was ready to run through a brick wall. I told him I couldn’t wait for him to get steamrolled. He seemed a little surprised that I was rooting for him to get splatted. On the first day of practice, a kid slightly larger than an antique armoire absolutely pancaked him. Once he peeled himself off the turf, he saw me smiling. “Why are you smiling!?!?!” he asked incredulously. “Because,” I said. “Now you know how bad it hurts to get hit, and now you know that pads don’t make you bulletproof.” He looks to avoid getting steamrolled now, which is a good move for someone small and quick.
- Lacrosse incorporates beating your opponent with a stick into strategy, which is kinda awesome. I definitely see why they wear big thick gloves — it’s like some of the kids are out chopping wood. And, apparently, that’s A-OK in lacrosse.
- Pre-teen kids get squeamish when they are told they have to wear a protective cup. Know how to cure that? One sacrificial lamb from the team. All it takes is the one kid who didn’t wear a cup to serve as an example to the others.
- Learning to speak clearly with a mouthpiece in takes some time. And when you add in unfamiliar terms, it’s certainly interesting from a rookie spectator’s point of view. Eventually, you figure out that “KWADUH! KWADUH!” is actually “Cradle! Cradle!” which makes sense after a while.
- The best weather for lacrosse is cold and raining. I base this on the scientific study in which 100 percent of the kids who showed up on a cold rainy night of mud running on a sloppy field played for an hour and a half with unbridled and uncivilized enthusiasm, and every one of them left filthy, exhausted and thoroughly pleased.
I’m glad my son is enjoying his foray into the game. And I’m good with that, because I’m starting to become well versed in lacrosse. As long as he’s learning, getting some exercise, and playing his hardest, I’m OK with any sport he wants to try. Except cricket. That one lost me.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.