Lacrosse, or as it’s known outside of Canada, “Some game with sticks or something, I don't know”, is a sport that involves using netted racquets to move a small rubber ball. Because that's sort of boring, it also has a great deal of violence.

Another full house for this popular sport.

Just The Facts

  1. It's been played since around the 12th century, but hasn't been interesting since the 19th.
  2. There are currently two main variants of Lacrosse: outdoor (field) and indoor (box). There's also a women's version, which is followed almost as passionately as the WNBA.
  3. Lacrosse is mostly played in North America, because the rest of the world prefers Cricket as their official weird sport.

The History of Lacrosse

Lacrosse was first played by Native Americans long before the white man organised it into two of the least popular professional sports leagues in North America. The Mohawk called it Tewaarathon, which translates into "Little brother of war." The Mohawk weren't kidding around.

Modern outdoor lacrosse is played ten versus ten on a field that's about 100 by 55 metres. This is a slight downscale from how Aboriginals played it, with up to a thousand players a side on a field that could stretch between two villages, several miles in length.

Here we see a small game of Lacrosse taking place.

With that many people gathered to play one game it was not uncommon for a match to last for over several days. Passing and dodging opposing players were both thought of as tricky and dishonourable, so strategy was pretty much limited to "form a giant mob and hope for the best". Most players were probably just lucky to even come in contact with the ball. So if you ever play a game of lacrosse with your friends and it turns out that you suck, don't worry. Just tell them you aren't playing poorly; you're just being historically accurate.

Lacrosse was played for a number of reasons, including the settlement of tribal disputes, as training for war and also for religious purposes. And since nothing compliments religion better than gambling, betting on games was also quite common. On some occasions a player would even bet his wife or children, no doubt resulting in a few awkward family conversations when his team lost. So go ahead and bet your first born on the outcome of next year's World Series. It's an American tradition!

French Jesuits were the first Europeans to observe the game, and by the mid-eighteenth century it was being played recreationally in Canada, and later in parts of the United States. All sorts of boring rules were introduced, like limiting the number of players and shortening the length of the game, thus leading to the modern, much less interesting sport.

Lacrosse Today

Outdoor lacrosse is the slower paced of the two games, while indoor lacrosse is a faster sport played in much smaller arenas. The indoor game is the more popular of the two in North America, although popular is a very relative term when discussing lacrosse.

Both versions have kept some of the more violent traditions of their predecessors, as fighting is tolerated in lacrosse. This makes lacrosse the sport of choice for people who are too poor to go to ice hockey games but want more action than the sweaty hugging featured in the UFC. The exception is women's lacrosse, where fighting is banned so players and fans alike can focus on the exciting fundamentals and technical thrills of people waving sticks through the air.

The largest professional lacrosse organisation is currently the National Lacrosse League, a twelve team league that plays box lacrosse. It features beloved, storied franchises like the Washington Stealth and the Toronto Rock, which play all of sixteen exciting games in every thrilling season.

Washington's current logo, pending the outcome of a lawsuit by American Gladiators.

There is also Major League Lacrosse, a six team league that plays the outdoor variant. The league is rumoured to have fans, but these reports remain unconfirmed.

Finally, the outdoor version of the modern game is played internationally in the quadrennial World Lacrosse Championship. The United States has won eight out of ten tournaments and Canada has won the other two, while countries from Europe occasionally show up and lose terribly. It's kind of like an opposite version of the World Cup.

The thrill of international lacrosse, captured in the most exciting medium possible: stamps.

Today, lacrosse is enjoyed by people from all around the globe (read: bits and pieces of North America) and from all backgrounds (read: a mixture of hicks and rich people). As the game continues to grow it is set to become the most popular sport in the world by 2397.