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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The Portland Lumberjax's first season came to an end on Saturday night during a first round playoff game against the Arizona Sting. I wound up with a pair of tickets, compliments of my company, which somehow wound up with a few dozen seats in the 100-level. An associate and I, along with a coworker and his son, were the only ones that showed.
Why all the empty seats? Well, as far as I know, lacrosse is a game traditionally played by reluctant grade school students and teenage girls that couldn't make pre-varsity volleyball or softball. From an outsider's perspective, it's a hard sell. Nevertheless, more seats were filled during Saturday night's match-up than during the Blazers game I attended a few weeks back.
And those in attendance were loud. Autzen Stadium has a reputation for being one of the loudest stadiums in the NCAA but I've never left a Ducks game with my ears ringing. Free "balloon bangers," compliments of the US Army Reserve, were available at the Rose Garden's front entrance. The crowd spent most of the game banging them together while screaming. Adding to the decibel level, the Garden's PA system cranked out a nonstop barrage of metal classics during game play. Caught up in all the lacrosse fury on display, the kids sitting behind me hit me in the head with their balloons no less than a dozen times. Lousy %$%!@ brats.
Then there was the game itself. I played lacrosse a few times during gym in junior high but I don't remember having to wear football gear and being allowed to pound the living hell out of the opposing team. From what I remember, the game involved a lot of missed passes and all around frustration. Lacrosse requires players to somehow catch an object slightly larger than a golf ball in a net. Not only did the teams on Saturday night manage to catch passes 95% of the time, they did so while risking serious bodily injury. Early in the fourth quarter, one of the Sting players managed to corner a Lumberjax, slam him up against a wall, turn him upside down and essentially power slam him head first into the field.
For this flagrant foul the player earned himself a trip to the "Sin Bin" instead of a heavy fine and a multi-game suspension. If this were hockey, the Bin would be called just what it is, a plain, old penalty box. I've never been to an NHL game but I'm sure a penalty also involves the crowd screaming "TAKE A SEAT" while the opposing team's mascot dances around maniacally on the overhead monitor. If not, it should. The power slam earned the player a two minute time-out.
All told, it was like Dodgeball or Baseketball come to life. With minutes to go before the first quarter face-off, the Lumberjax's mascot rolled out to pump up the crowd on an SUV loaded with cheerleaders wielding chainsaws and axes. Standard fare for any given sports franchise, lumber equipment notwithstanding, but, c'mon, for professional indoor lacrosse? And with only the slightest bit of irony? Later during a time out the cheerleaders danced to the White Stripe's "Seven Nation Army" while waving nets.
To keep the adrenaline going, a commentator who looked like Dave Attell popped out in-between quarters to breathlessly interview players on the sidelines. One such example from after the first:
COMMENTATOR: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GAME SO FAR, MAN?!!
RANDOM PLAYER: Umm, if we stick to it and keep together as a team there's no way they can stop us.
COMMENTATOR: ALL RIGHT! WOOOOOOO!
After a late game comeback that even had me screaming like a diehard fan, the Lumberjax lost 11 - 14. Despite getting kicked out of the playoffs, the team won their division and, by all accounts, had a successful season. If the Blazers leave Portland will indoor lacrosse suffice as a replacement?
Of course not but I'd still trade the Lumberjax for a major league baseball franchise. Or at least until the MLB allows players to take their bats with them after infield hits to bash the first baseman.