Brodie Merrill: Here’s what makes lacrosse great

The Wings celebrate 11-10 sudden death overtime victory over the Bandits last Friday in Buffalo. (Philadelphia Wings photo)

It is interesting to examine lacrosse from the outside looking in. Try to envision the game through the lens of the general public. It is a complicated game! How many times do you hear questions like: “Lacrosse? Is that the game with those racquets?”

Trying to describe lacrosse and the landscape of the game to someone new to lacrosse is a bit of a challenge. You have indoor or “box” lacrosse that is predominantly played in Canada. You have outdoor lacrosse or “field” lacrosse that is predominantly played in the US (and quickly spreading internationally). You have boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, minor, junior, senior, CLAX, NALL, high school, NCAA, club, masters, international, NLL, MLL ...

The game has such a wide scope; lacrosse takes on so many different forms depending on who you are and where you are. The culture of the game is so different in different parts of the world. Did you know Prague has a strong “box” lacrosse following? They have an outdoor box in the middle of one of the suburban towns. When they hosted the World Indoor Championships, the entire town came out to watch, creating a European soccer-type of atmosphere.

It seems like every region has a unique brand. Upstate: tough, basic, fundamental; LI: skilled, loud, aggressive; Baltimore: smooth, finesse. The game is blue collar, it is white collar --depending on who you ask. It can be perceived as either preppy or barbaric -- and both would be right. 

For me personally, this time of year the worlds start to blend together. This week I will transition from playing in an NLL “box” game in Buffalo, where there were 16,000 crazy, passionate fans --to coaching my high school “field” team at The Hill Academy as we travel through Baltimore playing against some of the most prestigious high school programs in the US. The environment and the atmosphere of each experience couldn’t be more different.

The NLL game was fast, physical, intense and the field game will be controlled and strategic — a “gentlemen’s game” as Chris Sanderson would call it. All that said, both are still considered LACROSSE and regardless of your place within the game, everyone is connected.

I see this unique connection every time I travel. The reach of the game never ceases to amaze me. We take pride in the game like Canadians take pride in our comedians. To us, it means everything, to people on the outside, it means very little. We perk up every time we see the game on TV or in the mainstream. Lacrosse seems to be on the cusp of taking its place within the mainstream, which is really exciting, but also kind of like that cool indie band that makes it big.

Part of what we love about the sport is the underground nature of it. It hasn’t yet been tainted by the big money like the other sports. To this day, the best sporting event I have ever watched was in beautiful Victoria, B.C., in the packed old memorial arena watching my brother play in the 2001 WLA finals. That game had some of the best players to ever play the game under one roof -- John Tavaras, Colin Doyle, Pat Coyle, Curt Mawlasky, Dan Stroup, Dallas Eliuk, Kim Squire, etc. -- but received little coverage outside the local newspaper.

It was that cool band you happen to see in a small bar, before they make it big. It is another example of how far the bounds of lacrosse stretch. 

Lacrosse’s roots and history will always make us different. It is a game that has such strong meaning. So no matter where this game goes, or how big it gets, or what form of it you play, lacrosse is a release, it is medicine, it brings people together, encourages competition and community.

Look forward to seeing everyone at the Wells Fargo Center this Saturday as we take on the first place team from the West, the Washington Stealth.