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.

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