I’m really looking forward to the the beginning of next season, though in this case I’m not talking about college lacrosse.
What I’m referring to here is the debut, in October, of the second season of “The White Lotus”, the acclaimed HBO satire of privilege, exclusivity, and wealth.
More specifically, I’m looking forward to experiencing again Shane Patton, a character cited by the New York Times as exhibiting “a lacrosse stick of entitlement”.
Actually, this is a special kind of lacrosse stick, one that you’re not likely to find in the product lines of manufacturers like Maverik, Warrior, and STX.
Because this, you see, is a relentless lacrosse stick; the full context of the quote being “Armond’s usual blandishments are no match for the relentless lacrosse stick of Shane’s entitlement”.
So what exactly is the connection between Shane Patton (played by Jake Lacy) and the sport of lacrosse?
Is he a lacrosse player?
A lacrosse coach?
A diehard fan?
A spectator at a lacrosse game or exhibition, and/or one-time attendee at a weekend shooting skills clinic?
As it turns out, he’s none of these.
The character has absolutely no stated connection to the game in any way, shape, or form.
So the guy said to be wielding a lacrosse stick of entitlement–and a relentless one at that—has nothing to do with the sport.
In fact, the only apparent connection between the character and the sport is the Cornell hat that Shane sports in several scenes.
And yes, Cornell, as we know, does indeed have a lacrosse program.
But the Big Red also offers a number of other varsity sports that tend to be associated with things like privilege, exclusivity, and wealth, including—just to name a few—polo, crew, and squash (and I could’ve added equestrian had Shane been a woman on the campus).
So why did the Times reviewer (James Poniewozik) elbow his way past all these other sports denoting privilege to have a go at lacrosse?
(One reason might be his forced, self-conscious prose style; elsewhere in the review, he has Shane Patton also seeking vengeance in the form of his “pound of sashimi-grade flesh”.)
He could’ve accused Shane of having sashimi-grade entitlement, relentless or otherwise, which also probably would’ve characterized much of his Times readership.
But that would’ve meant passing up an easy victory.
Because the other, more compelling reason is that lacrosse continues to make itself such a convenient, tempting, and risk-free target and scapegoat.
Which leads to another, even better question.
Why Does the Lacrosse Community Put Up with This Crap?
Here’s an even better question.
Why does the lacrosse community—and by that I mean players, coaches, fans, podcasts, national publications and organizations etc.—put up with this kind of ridiculous scapegoating? Why aren’t we regularly calling bullshit on stuff like this review, and putting forward the case for our sport—and it’s a good one—more aggressively?
Why is the lacrosse community so passive in the face of gratuitous, misguided stereotyping and snark on the part of writers and commentators like Poniewozik?
Why can organizations and outlets like the Times, which deplore virtually any and all forms of stereotyping under the sun, continually get away with this?
And it’s not just gratuitous, catty asides like Ponwiewozik’s. It’s also the fact that in just about every published indictment of favoritism shown athletes, or excesses in the seeking and securing of college athletic scholarships etc. lacrosse yet again inevitably seems to come to the forefront as a ready, one-stop scapegoat.
Because no one mounts a consistent defense of this game.
No one, for instance, seems to be taking on the lacrosse=wealth=wasp=privilege=entitlement equation that unfortunately seems to be taken as a stipulated fact by far too great a percentage of those even aware of the game.
Is anyone pointing out, for instance, that in a number of traditional hotbeds for lacrosse, places like Long Island and Upstate New York, the sport is predominately a public high school game, with those public high schools being located in a lot of squarely middle-class communities?
If you’ve played college lacrosse you also know that you encounter a large number of players who were not, in anybody’s book, “to the manor born”. Do they represent all lacrosse players? No, there are still players who definitely seem to fulfill the popular stereotype—just as there are with every sport.
But the sport is also changing, broadening its player base, and, through outreach programs, actively seeking out players who decidedly don’t fit that stereotype.
The lacrosse community needs to continue widening both its geographic and demographic base; and we all need to do a better job policing the perceived stereotypical behaviors and attitudes associated with the game (as, again, is the case with just about any other sport).
But, on the other hand, we shouldn’t let stand the kind of ridiculous, misguided—and often, again, wholly gratuitous—bullshit cheap shots like the one taken by Ponwiewozik.
And by the way, “White Lotus” is really worth catching. But when you watch it in October, be sure to bring along your relentless lacrosse stick—and maybe an open mind.
David Parry is the founder and editor of LaxAcrossAmerica. A New York-based digital marketer and copywriter, he played Division 1 lacrosse as a walk-on at Brown.