As this winter, straight from the ironic depths of heaven's fiery antithesis, comes slowly to an end, and the layers of snow and ice begin to recede from sidewalks and meadows and yards, there are probably more than a few parents of young boys who are -- perhaps unconsciously, perhaps, not -- filled with a bit of foreboding as the frozen blanket fades above the dirt and grass of a familiar rite of spring and summer.
Few things in America symbolize the rebirth of spring and the endless possibilities of summer like baseball. With all due respect to tradition and pasttimes and all that, it's the "endless" part of the previous sentence which stultifies many parents when it comes to baseball since being witness to a Little League baseball game with it's paint-drying pace and limited action potential is decidedly at odds with the modern times informed by constant access to nearly everything at nearly anytime.
It's not just the parents. In fact, the suffering associated with contemporary Little League is most endured by the players themselves. There once was a time when a few hours on dirt and grass was cathartic for young boys. With focus and patience and finite skills at a premium, baseball was accessible to kids of all sizes and talent. It was a respite from other sports where the action and clock were nearly non-stop. Now, such physical luxury hardly exists for our boys. After spending all day couped up in a classroom, sitting still and paying attention, with little-to-no recess or gym and mountains of homework and tests to prep for, free time is for going bonkers, getting your ya-ya's out, letting the eagle fly, NOT waiting patiently for a fly ball that may never come or a turn at bat every ninth slot. Boys today have to move-it move-it as much as they can. There's no time to waste.
This explains the rise of youth lacrosse in America. Referred to as America's "first game" as it was an invent of the continent's indigenous peoples, modern lacrosse has been a regional phenomenon in the suburbs and private schools of New England and down the Eastern Seaboard since the last half of the 20th century. The need for a fast-paced, physical game in this century has pushed lacrosse south and westward and into the cities. Today, youth lacrosse is played in 45 states and continues to gain traction as a high-scoring, high-skill, heart-pounding Spring alternative to the laconic reality of baseball.
The appeal of lacrosse extends beyond the aforementioned move-it, move-it factor. The gear rocks: helmets, sticks, gloves, chest and shoulder protection, elbow pads. The formal look resembles a modern gladiator. The informal look of hideous-patterned shorts must speak to young boys in a subliminal way since there is no other way to explain the appeal of such an aesthetic disaster. Seriously.
For parents, fashion-disaster aspect aside, there is an entertaining (and timed!) observation from the sidelines and worn-out little boys after games and practices. There's also the potential for scholarship since the promised land of lacrosse is the college campus, where the game has thrived since the '70s. And for parents of gridironers, more concered with concussions from the violence of football than comas from the boredom of baseball, lacrosse offers a high-impact sport to direct those interested in the physicality without the risk of cognitive damage.
It's a manifest of American modernity, of technology and testing and the other trappings of progress, that signals the fading of the American pastime as we look further to the past for a game invented by our land's original inhabitants that is needed now more than ever.
Cue music: "I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it..."
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