Friday, February 08, 2008

They run around with bare legs and bash each other with sticks

Many years ago, I took a trip to Toronto to visit some friends and explore a new city. Toronto was a great city, cosmopolitan and with an almost-European feel. During my few days there, I went to the museum of Modern Art, the Science Museum, and Medieval Times. I climbed the CN Tower. I shopped with one friend, danced with another, and took a group photo showing off my muscular legs that I sent to Dan before we met in person that caught his attention (luckily, he likes the ladies with the gams). One evening, my friend Reanne told me some of her friends had tickets to a lacrosse game that night, and would I like to go?

At that point in my life, I'd only attended two professional sports events - both baseball games - and didn't realize there was such a thing as professional lacrosse. I knew absolutely nothing about the game. We got to the arena and it turned out the tickets were for a private box, complete with free snacks and drinks of an adult nature. More than anything, I thought it was really cool that I got to hang out in a box.

The game started, and I watched halfheartedly, expecting it to be a hurry up and wait sort of event like baseball or football. But the action was immediate and compelling. Here were two teams of guys with day jobs, wearing a minimum of safety equipment, running like crazy, tossing a tiny ball between nets on the ends of sticks, and quite frequently, happily, and legally beating on each other with those sticks.

I was enthralled. This was way better than watching any sports on TV, far more interesting and exciting than baseball, and I could ogle the bare athletic legs of the men on the field. Legs! Beating with sticks! Scoring was exciting; the goalies were very talented and every score was a singular victory, yet it was more interesting than hockey because there were more scoring opportunities. It was a really fun experience and I was still hyped up from the energy of the crowd and the game when we went clubbing later that night.

I kind of forgot about lacrosse by the time I came home, because I've never been a fan of sports of any kind. In January of 2004 we were invited by Dan's parents to attend a pro lacrosse game in Denver. We went to dinner beforehand and ended up in seats at the very top of the stadium. It was "free beer and hot dog" night, and I gave mine to Dan because I don't drink beer or eat hot dogs. The team was relatively new to Denver, so as the game was played, the display monitor above the field flashed lacrosse terms and definitions and told us about different field positions and different sorts of plays, which was really helpful to all of us because none of us were especially familiar with the game. Again, I enjoyed the fast pace, the legs, and the cross-checking. Unfortunately, Dan and I both ended up with food poisoning the next day (we suspected the ranch dressing from the restaurant) so the fun evening was marred by the evaculation of the contents of our stomachs.

Last week, Dan asked me if I wanted to go to a lacrosse game. "I can get us tickets for ten bucks each, since they're doing a promotion with my school," he told me. (Legs. Action. Sticks. Legs.) "Sure!" I responded. It had been quite a while since we'd been to a professional sporting event (the races in Louisville didn't count) and I was looking forward both to seeing the game and observing the fans, since that tends to be my favorite part of any professional sports contest.

Game night was last night, so we met for some Illegal Pete's (mmmm, burritos) at 6:15 and then walked over to the Pepsi Center. We ended up with great seats in the lower level behind one of the goals, and were close enough to the field to see most of the action without needing to watch the game on the monitors. The game was very well-attended (announced attendance was nearly 16,000 people) by a young crowd. Lacrosse tickets are far less expensive than hockey or basketball tickts, so it stood to reason that the lower price might appeal to younger people. The Mammoth have been in Denver long enough that people seem to understand the game pretty well. Now the team has cheerleaders (not especially talented dancers, but they've got impressive abs and a lot of enthusiasm) and the crowd got really loud and excited. The Mammoth's record this season was 4-0 before last night's game, and everyone was cheering them on to another victory (against the Portland Lumberjax. Boo!)

The game was every bit as exciting as I'd hoped, and for the first time at a pro game of any type I felt truly as invested in the outcome of the game as the rest of the crowd. It was really, really fun to forget about the rest of the world, to not think about work or weddings or the election, to just lose my self in the athleticism and great legs on the field in front of me. I cheered, got revved up by the crowd. I even briefly contemplated the idea of becoming a derby girl when I saw the Denver RollerDolls in the hallway before the game - I'm strong, coordinated, and in good shape - but it would be a big commitment and would also mean accepting a certain level of risk of injury. Also, I don't have nearly enough tattoos or piercings and am not interested in dying my hair. But they looked really cute in their short skirts and leg warmers.

The Colorado Mammoth won their fifth game of the season 15-11. The game was great and so was the crowd. I let the energy of the win, the enthusiasm of the young boys with lacrosse sticks in the hallways, the satisfaction of the crowd convinced of their role in the team's victory carry me down the stairs and outside through the cold Colorado winter night.

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