“Oh, Brave New World..” a case for the PLL rule changes … and the fights, too

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Tempers flare on the field as the Chrome and Atlas scrap for a ground ball in front of the Chrome goal.

The Premier Lacrosse League just put the wraps on week three in their revolutionary new take on “the Creator’s Game,” offering competition amongst the most talented lacrosse players in the world, complete with some significant changes to traditional rules. Most notably, this modern take on the ancient game offers a 52-second shot clock, a field shortened by 10 yards and along with it, coverage by NBC. Included with this package are rulebook provisions (and penalties) for on-the-field fighting.

While the on-field action has been nothing short of exhilarating and the drama heightened (with multiple overtime contests and storybook finishes that have showcased the skillsets of the games’ premier talent) the product has not escaped some significant criticism from pundits and purists alike. Particularly, the on-field aggressive play, which has led to a number of in-game brawls, has earned the ire of several of the game’s most celebrated commentators.

Johns-Hopkins legend Quint Kessenich, who is (according to this longtime lacrosse fan) the most gifted commentator in the sport, had a particularly pointed response to this weekend’s on-field antics. From his Twitter account, Quint stated that “the glorification and exploitation of fighting and poor sportsmanship does not represent the values of the Creator’s Game.”

The “Creator’s Game” is a reference to lacrosse,  derived from the ancient Native American tradition of “Baggataway,” played by young braves as a rite of passage into adulthood and also in preparation for, you guessed it, warfare.

Granted, the modern permutation of lacrosse, when played at the high school and collegiate level, has strict rules precluding any on-field arguing-turned-fisticuffs that may result from high emotions as a byproduct of the competitive spirit.

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Three Chaos players take a seat in the “Sin Bin,” part of the multiple penalties arising from a fight during saturday’s game.

I have been following lacrosse for three decades, long before the PLL was a fancified notion. I clearly remember a bench-clearing brawl that resulted from the now-defunct Boston Blazers handing the Buffalo Bandits their first ever franchise loss during a National Lacrosse League (indoor) contest. That fight must have lasted a full five minutes. Yet no media personality voiced their rage, no outlet proclaimed their disdain for what took place that evening. Everyone was content to just “let ‘em play.”

This new version of the field game, the brainchild of brothers Mike and Paul Rabil, is intent on capturing the imagination (and viewership) of the nation. There can be no question that 18 seasons of Major League Lacrosse, with league contraction and dwindling attendance, failed to achieve this lofty and ambitious goal. Being a journalist in Las Vegas, where the fine line between sports and entertainment is often thin or erased and empires like the UFC thrive on the violent aspects of sports competition, I may be somewhat biased in my perspective. 

Yet the fact remains that the PLL has assembled the greatest athletes to ever step upon a lacrosse field and has shortened that field and sped up gameplay to hone the competitive spirit to a razor’s edge. These are the finest conditioned athletes the world of lacrosse has to offer, secured in league-approved protective equipment, who celebrate this new age of their chosen sport with youthful exuberance and admirable commitment for we the fans to enjoy.  So what to do when the occasional on-field fight is the result?

Maybe we should just let ‘em play.

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