May 2011 Archives

Lacrosse: Great Heritage, Now Varsity at U-M

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Lacrosse is a sport with a great heritage. It is a sport Native Americans played dating back to the 17th century.

If you ever want to shock hockey fans, ask 'What is the national sport in Canada?' Of course, the answer is lacrosse.

So, when Dave Brandon promoted men's and women's lacrosse to varsity sport status at Michigan this afternoon, I thought of the irony of the announcement.

In a day and age when the world is becoming more technology oriented and sports are growing with the new look of extreme action, mixed martial arts, Ultimate Fighting and the likes, lacrosse has become an integral part of this growth spurt. The speed of the game, the physical nature of the sport, the extreme look of its 'neat' equipment and continuous action make lacrosse a perfect 'retro' fit for the new age of participants and fans.

The number of participants and fans grows each and every year. In a time when universities are cutting sports, the men's college lacrosse programs have grown from 56 to 61 while the women are up from 79 to 90 teams in the last five years.

Television has to love this too. The new sponsors finding their niche with these sports along with a need for more content that can fit the screen have created a stir among TV executives. The game has a pace for modern day taste and lasts about two hours -- perfect for television programming.

What I especially like is the tradition and history of the game. The great All-Pro NFL running back Jim Brown is considered one of the true greats of football. He is also considered one of the true greats in lacrosse. He was an All-America football and lacrosse player at Syracuse.

Jim Thorpe excelled in the sport in the early 1900s, and arguments of the best in the game go on from there.

Personally, lacrosse probably even helped me in grade school. As long as an event was affiliated with sports, I could remember the date, the score, the meaning of the game, etc.

In 1763 in Northern Michigan, the Ojibwe tribe was under the harsh rule of the British. In early June, pretending to celebrate the king's birthday, Chief Pontiac used the game of 'lacrosse' as a trick to gain entry into the garrison at Fort Michilimackinac. As the soldiers came out to watch the contest as the Ojibwes played a game of stickball (forerunner of lacrosse) against the Sauk, a ball went into the fort. With the soldiers outside of the walls and Chief Pontiac's 'teams' gaining entry, a bloody battle ensued with the Ojibwe and Sauk taking control of the garrison.

To this day, I know this story. And on this day, it again surfaced in my mind.

This sport truly has an alluring spell to it. Now, Wolverine lacrosse fans will have the opportunity to welcome new fans as lacrosse continues to grow.

Good luck to both the men's and women's teams as they prepare to enter Division I varsity competition.

Line Forms Here for NCAA Softball

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My phone was busy this morning (Tuesday, May 17) with fans and friends calling me about the line forming outside the Michigan Athletic Ticket Office.

A few had concerns about the deadline for football tickets, and others were just curious as to why everyone was gathering. What they were told was probably unexpected. Today's line was for the Michigan softball season ticket holders as they made their way to the ticket office for their NCAA Regional tickets.

The line formed early, and the people waiting for these tickets were the fans who have appreciated the winning ways of the Wolverine softball team and know this might be the best sports value for the money in the Greater Detroit area.

The stats are easy to recite:

  • The 17th consecutive NCAA appearance for Michigan;
  • Jordan Taylor is one of -- if not -- the best pitchers in the nation;
  • Carol Hutchins has the most wins of any coach in Michigan athletic history;
  • The Michigan program was the first softball team east of the Mississippi to win a national title

And we could go on.

Still, stats alone don't bring fans to an event. The reason they come is simple: these games are fun.

In today's hectic-paced individual schedule, softball is played in two hours or less. Fans are right on top of the field. They can listen and get a feel for the game. And they are watching the best players in the game go against each other in a double-elimination tournament format.

Once a teams loses two games, it is out.

The site, the sounds and the atmosphere is college athletics at its best. The best reason is the top priced tickets are only $12 for a session.

This is the 10th straight year U-M will host an NCAA Regional. The public sale for the regional tickets begins Wednesday (May 18).

The Michigan action starts Friday night (May 20) when it hosts Western Michigan at 8 p.m. at the Wilpon Softball Complex. Notre Dame and Kentucky kick off the four-team tourney at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday beginning at noon, three games will be played. The NCAA Regional championship game(s) are Sunday starting at 1 p.m.

If you have never attended a U-M softball game, you need to go at least once. And with the weather finally getting better, this would be a great weekend to see for yourself why 2,000-plus fans will be out in force each day to enjoy one of the best collegiate events.

Go Blue!