Opinion -

Art on TV Imitates Life on Lacrosse Floor

This past winter, I became immersed in a television show on FX called Sons of Anarchy or SOA. Two things about myself quickly: I’m not a TV guy and never have been but since I stopped playing and started having kids it has been non-existent. Motorcycles, Harley Davidsons and the biker scene have never been my bag. At the urging from a friend, I started with a show called Hung, about a Detroit area high school teacher and coach. This series of an ex minor league baseball player turned teacher and then being forced into other work when layoffs hit gets pretty funny. I obviously related to some of this show with my sporting background and the memories I've acquired. In this era of downloads I covered 3 seasons in short work. Then I started jonesing for something new. 

On past flights I had seen a couple of episodes of Californication and thought maybe I’d catch up with it one day down the road. That one day came last winter and resulted in watching five full seasons of writer Hank Moody’s non-stop bungling of his life tagging the parties and women that came along with his personal mishaps. Some of Hank's episodes I could relate to again from my 25 years of involvement in sports, essentially lacrosse. 

More often than not I found myself reminded of the time when ... and had to laugh or grimace. Of course, all stuff unmentionable in this form, but believable on my end. When you put athletes and women and alcohol in the same space crazy stuff happens. 

The last show that I got hooked on is a fictional look at a biker gang in Northern California struggling to keep pace with the modern era of crime while trying to keep things status quo in their little empire of a town. The first 4 seasons of Sons of Anarchy are full of all the twists and turns of a regular soap opera only it is criminal biker style. Inside the dynamics of watching this group of bikers I started to relate one more time to the team elements in sports and my history in lacrosse. 

“Family” is a term we hear over and over again in sports. Something of a status a group prides itself in achieving but it is possibly the most overused term in sports today. 

Families of 20 or more players with egos on a team bring many things to the party including dysfunction. Off the top of my head: jealousy, competition, favoritism, arguing, back benching, slander and denial. These things can be offset by honesty, sharing, communication, leadership, fairness, direction, transparency and a host of other positives. 

It's been my observation that in management and coaching you are held responsible for everyone’s personal experience and expectations and there is NO way you can make all 20 plus players happy. I repeat, no way. 

There is the way it would look if everything were perfect and then there is the way it is. So you have to resort to damage control in the heat of the battle on countless occasions when in charge. This is what I found myself relating to time and time again watching Sons. 

SOA is about a group of guys trying to accomplish a goal just like your favorite NLL /WLA/MSL team or any team in sports. They are all attempting to be on the same team but often they are conflicted in their direction inside the ranks of its membership. 

Do you think it’s any different for the Dallas Cowboys with a larger than life owner blurring the line for everyone involved? How about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox with the pervasive media and lofty expectations chipping away at them year after year? The pressure of winning in an NHL market like Toronto or Montreal has also brought about the worst in players, management and ownership alike when scrutinized every day of the year like have been. Remember Patrick Roy's last game as a Montreal Canadien? 

Yes, we are talking about a make believe show about bikers and their "club" but this team prescribes to many of the same rules and systems that sports teams adhere to and this gang runs into many of the same issues when its members (players) act out of turn and have different allegiances and forces at work within the same group and protocol. The "Sons" have some great highs when they succeed accompanied by crushing lows in losing their battles. Inside this is the drama created by the gang (team) and it is very reminiscent of my time in the NLL and the memories I have collected. 

The movie Platoon affected me the same way years ago when I was still playing. The struggles to get a platoon on the same page even though everyone wasn't a believer in the process. Srg. Barnes's speech about the machine breaking down struck me more than any coaches speech ever had. 

The message I’m trying to relay is that armies, biker gangs and sports teams are faced with similar challenges. Sports are NOT life and death situations, however, these similar challenges do bring out the like behaviors in the heat of battle and that's what I relate to viewing SOA. 

Players get addicted to the tension and the battle and the action. I know I did. It makes it hard to walk away and call it a day after you have given so much of your youth to the process of team sport and the game to game test of fortitude. Lacrosse is life and this article is about how I relate to the rest of the world through my lacrosse background. 

Competitive sports are an unbelievable learning ground for life’s lessons and pushing yourself towards goals. Setting standards and ethics about who you are and what you stand for and what rules you will play by to attain your goals is the journey. Sports reveal character and heroes, cheaters and villains. 

For all you retired guys, I'm suggesting you watch this show and give it a few episodes before you pass judgement. I'm already into a new season of Sons of Anarchy and again I'm getting my team "fix." 

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