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Having come out in support of Chief Illiniwek, I figured the least I could do, from a karmic perspective, was go out and see professional lacrosse. The expansion National Lacrosse League Shamrox began play this season at the Sears Centre out in Hoffman Estates, and what better night to make the trip than at the end of Saint Patrick's Day? Make no mistake: lacrosse might be a tribal American sport, but the tribe the Shamrox appeal to is native Americans--especially suburbanites--of Irish descent. They announced a crowd of more than 8,000 for the Saint Patrick's night game, and it didn't seem padded, not with most of the crowd dressed in green shirts, if not green wigs or faces. Consider that tickets ranged from $15 (soon sold out) to $35, and that's impressive, especially with families filling most of the seats.
Nevertheless, the play wasn't up to the price; in fact, it was sort of bush league. The scoreboard clock wouldn't work, so they suspended the game in the second quarter for a premature halftime--what was this, junior high basketball?--and picked up play with 7:26 left in the 15-minute second quarter for an extended second half. Still, the fans didn't seem to mind, not with bewigged girls performing Irish dance as halftime entertainment (hands down, the best I've seen since Prince at the Super Bowl). And while the play sometimes had the look of a game of kick the can at a three-year-old's birthday party--especially with some of the 'Rox wearing black socks with their black shorts--as in all sport some character quickly came through. The 'Rox newly acquired Kevin Leveille displayed a wicked long shot--all torque in the shoulders and midsection--to score a couple of goals, and Scott Evans of the visiting Rochester Knighthawks had an array of weapons, finishing with a "swim" move (a la an NFL defensive lineman swirling his arms to get past a defender) to free himself and bounce the hard rubber ball between the legs of Chicago goalie Brendan Miller for what turned out to be the game-winner in a 15-12 finale.
The game even produced its own lingo, with one fan yelling, "Hey, you guys look flat-footed out there!" The play was easy enough to understand--it was basically hockey on turf, complete with penalties and power plays--but I can't say it made me a convert, and when I tried it again, watching Sunday's game on TV courtesy of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, it didn't translate to home viewing, even as the 'Rox beat the New York Titans, 12-8. That only improved the expansion team's record to 4-8, and the sport remains an acquired taste even at its best. It's a wonder they score as often as they do with the goalies padded out to look like Terry Jones's Mr. Creosote in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, so I suppose there's some skill to it, but I suspect they'd do just as well playing to the south-side and suburban Irish by importing hurling to these shores--the shores of Lake Michigan, that is.