As beer-soaked revelers celebrated Canada's come-from-behind 17-14
upset of Australia three days before the final of the quadrennial
World Lacrosse Championships in Toronto last week, one fan of the
genteel but ungentle sport voiced his congratulations to the winners.
''You've just earned the honor,'' he said, ''of getting your butts
kicked by the Americans.''
Ah, but the Canadians had a rallying cry: ''Remember 1978!'' That
was the year Canada rebounded from a 28-4 battering in the
round-robin to beat the / U.S. 17-16 in the championship final in
Stockport, England -- an upset, lacrosse followers say, of nearly
epic proportions. It was the first and only game the Americans have
lost in the World Championships since they were inaugurated in 1967.
Not coincidentally, the Americans in Toronto last week focused on
that same historic defeat. ''That's what we were just talking about
-- 1978,'' said veteran U.S. midfielder Jim Darcangelo of the
Maryland Lacrosse Club after Thursday's practice. ''This is the same
situation. We beat them badly the first game (21-11 on July 20), and
now we've got them again.''
Consider the lesson learned. On Friday the U.S. broke open a 5-3
game with an eight-goal rally through the second and into the third
quarter to beat the Canadians 18-9 and win the gold medal. Afterward,
the Americans took a victory lap around Varsity Stadium, brandishing
the World Shield to the cheers of the crowd.
''It's tough when you're supposed to win it,'' said U.S. coach
Dave Urick. ''I get a little annoyed when people think being the
favorite takes away from winning, but it really shouldn't. This is a
Through the four-team round-robin tournament, the U.S. had
outscored its opponents 89-40, reestablishing its domination of the
sport. ''Nobody even comes close to the Americans,'' said England's
coach, John Bardsley, after his last-place squad was beaten by the
U.S. 32-8 on Wednesday. ''It felt like 1939 and we were Poland with
the Germans at our borders. They had tanks, and we defended with
The heavy artillery on Friday came from a most unlikely source --
Darcangelo, who scored three goals, his first of the tournament. For
the week, recent Virginia grad Roddy Marino tied Australian Jeff
Kennedy for the scoring lead with 22 points.
Though lacrosse is the national sport of Canada, it is the
Americans who are preeminent. The best players join the college
lacrosse powerhouses -- notably Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Virginia,
North Carolina and Maryland -- then go on to very competitive amateur
''The other countries, particularly the Aussies and the British,
aren't used to playing the real fast pace,'' says Tom Flatley, a U.S.
assistant coach in 1978 and the head coach in 1982. ''And the
Canadians play box lacrosse (an indoor game on a smaller surface)
more than field. It takes a whole different set of skills.''
That much was evident throughout the tournament. The American team
moved the ball with rapid tic-tac-toe passing, reminiscent of the
great Soviet hockey teams, and were tough defensively. ''It's hard
to point to one particular skill that sets us apart,'' says
Darcangelo. ''It's just field sense, seeing things that the others
Unfortunately, relatively few people ever see lacrosse. It is
among the last of the unsullied amateur sports, one that retains many
of those old-fashioned notions of fairness, friendship, and
competition for competition's sake. Most of the players at Toronto
were in their mid-20's. They included ice-truck drivers,
chiropractors and stockbrokers.
Then again, the tournament wasn't so much a competition as a
festival, a grand reunion of old lacrosse hounds. The lacrosse
fraternity is small yet rabid, and the daily beer parties -- often
staged in the Varsity Arena adjacent to the stadium -- went long into
the nights. The Aussies finished third in the tourney but maintained
their proud tradition of domination in suds consumption.
The U.S. players didn't lag far behind but kept their eyes -- no
matter how bloodshot -- on the mission. ''These are the greatest
lacrosse players in the world,'' said Urick. ''Nobody can take that
away from them.'' END