Last July I wrote about my first lacrosse experience at a Denver Outlaws game. Afterward, I got an email from a friend who said "We have season tickets to the [Colorado] Mammoth, the indoor lacrosse team. You should come sometime." So I decided to round out my lacrosse education by hitting up the indoor game. And many of you are thinking, "Mike, you're writing about lacrosse again? Does this mean you're running out of sports to write about?" To which I reply, "Shut up."
When I went to the Outlaws' game, it was the Fourth of July and the crux of my hard-hitting journalistic investigation was to examine just how American the game of lacrosse was. Well, the National Lacrosse League took the outdoor sport and Americanized the bejeezus out of it. Swear to God, there is a hot tub full of women in bikinis for no reason whatsoever. I'm pretty sure that's what Lee Greenwood had in mind when he wrote that song.
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Walking in to the Pepsi Center, I was a little bit nervous because I noticed a number of fans carrying vuvuzelas and cowbells, two-thirds of The Most Annoying Noisemakers in Sports Triumvirate. And air horns are easily hidden in purses or coat pockets, so chances are there were a few of those too. This didn't bode well. However, I needn't have worried. Any noise these paltry things could possibly make was soon drowned out.
If Gene Simmons from KISS ever saw the pregame festivities of a Colorado Mammoth game, I'm sure he'd say "Come on guys, show a little restraint." Sure, I was prepared for the highlight video set to loud music, that's industry standard. But do you know what the Avalanche or Nuggets don't have? They don't have a dance team that's brought onto the field on the backs of Harleys. The "Wild Bunch" do their first dance routine before the lacrosse team is even introduced. Then when the Mammoth do take the field, there's so much flame and sparks that I was trying to remember if I'd ever read anything in the news about Astroturf igniting.
The pregame festivities are so unabashedly over-the-top, I was a little disappointed that when the mascot came out it was just a guy in a mammoth suit. I fully expected an actual mammoth to come running out of the tunnel. The University of Colorado has Ralphie, a live buffalo, run across the field before football games, which is cool. But how stinkin' sweet would it be if you had an animal charging across the field that was actually at one time extinct?! An animal that is the closest possible cousin to a dinosaur! (Maybe. I didn't pay real close attention in biology.) I'm pretty sure that if the Mammoth ownership had the means to clone an actual woolly mammoth, they would. Heck, it's probably already in the works now. Then they would strap a harness to him and have him pull out three hot tubs full of hot babes along with a stage with Guns N' Roses playing. And I don't mean the members of Guns N' Roses as they are in 2012, I mean Guns N' Roses from 1992 having been Quantum Leaped into 2012.
The pregame is this amazing and ridiculous blend of cheesy and awesome. I loved it.
The game finally got started after the roadies packed up all of the sound equipment and the dance team was airlifted off of the field. This particular night, the Mammoth were playing (was playing? There were many Mammoth players, but only one Mammoth) the Washington Stealth. Team names are getting lamer in the new millennium. Do you notice how many college teams are named the Tigers? Know why? It's a cool name. The name immediately brings to mind a fierce animal, a powerful force of the jungle. Nobody is ever going to complain if another team names themselves the Tigers. When I think of "stealth," I just picture some of the weirder looking jets the Air Force has turned out. And I guess the only stealth that Washington was going for was jerseys that looked too much like the Mammoth jerseys for a newbie like me.
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And perusing the names of the other indoor lacrosse teams, it just gets worse. The Edmonton Rush? Who wants to go watch a team named after the part of the day when traffic is crappiest? The worst one is the Toronto Rock. Someone thought it would be a good idea to name their team after a geological feature. Man, nothing gets me fired up more than thinking about a lump of granite, you know, sitting there. Plus I picture all sorts of dangerous goal celebrations if the fans up there decide the best way to celebrate a goal is to throw something on the field. Seriously, guys. Tigers. Eagles. Bears. Tried and true. Not lame. (Note: My wife just read this and pointed out that the Colorado Rockies and Denver Nuggets are also geological "things." Maybe so. But the Rockies run down the country like a backbone according to Sam Elliot, and gold nuggets are worth a lot of money. My point stands.)
Anyway, when the game got started I leaned over to my friends and asked, "What are the main differences between outdoor and indoor lacrosse?"
"Well for one, the indoor game is a lot faste-GOOOOOAAAAALLL!!!!!"
"Huh. OK, what else?"
"Generally there's more-GOOOOOOOOAAAALLLL!!!"
"You don't say. Anything else I should know?"
"Well the GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL will get GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLL with the GOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL in the hot tub."
Spoiler alert, the Mammoth won this one 13-11. Having never played lacrosse, it really isn't fair for me to criticize, but I was wondering what constitutes "good" goaltending. I just imagine after a game, all the teammates congratulating each other:
To other teammates: "good game....good game......good game..."
To the goalie: "You ... did some real nice things out there."
Here's a problem that I had with the scoring at NLL games: Yes, there's a lot of it, which is good -- don't get me wrong. But each goal is accompanied with the same enthusiasm as a hockey goal. Everyone jumps to their feet and the music starts up and high fives all around. Sure, when the Avs score and you jump up you might spill a bit of your beer on your shirt but, hey, you're excited and that excitement is worth that ounce of beer or two. But on a good night, the Avs score three or four goals. The Mammoth scored seven goals in the first quarter. That's a lot of jumping up and spilling. Between quarters I wrang out my shirt, got another beer and decided to calm down some.
If lacrosse is going to have that much scoring, I think they need to tone down the goal celebrations just a bit. A proportionate reaction would be somewhere between the Avs scoring a goal and the Nuggets scoring a basket. We don't bust out the Rock N' Roll Part 2 for every layup at a basketball game, do we? Those games would take forever.
I will say this about the scoring though: It makes the vuvuzelas a total non-factor. People only blow them after a goal and you can't hear them over the general crowd noise and music. I suppose the reason that people at the international soccer games make so much noise with them is that there are such long stretches in soccer without any scoring. They just blow on their little plastic trumpets to pass the time. But the Mammoth refuse to give you any idle time. It's all in-your-face all the time. Picture the episode of Itchy & Scratchy when they introduced Poochie -- if they actually all did make it to the fireworks factory.
Baseball is my favorite sport to attend. Baseball fans will say they love the majestic expanse of the green grass, the deliberate pace of a methodical game. There's time to pause and reflect. Well, indoor lacrosse wants nothing to do with any of that. When you go to a NLL game, there's something going on constantly; be it music, dance routines, t-shirt giveaways (sometimes all three of these things are actually just one thing. It makes sense when you're there). A couple of times I found myself thinking, "Can't they just let them play the game? Can't we just enjoy the game for the game's sake?" However, I think that would be missing the point.
I think the whole point of the Mammoth games is the ecstatic overload, the bacchanalian exultance, the......eh, crap, thesaurus.com just went down. Anyway, you get the idea. Nobody at a Mammoth game ever asks, "Are you ready to have fun?" It's more like "OPEN WIDE, HERE COMES THE FUN!" It's like The Hunger Games with less killing and more Mötley Crüe. My advice is to not overthink it. Just enjoy the crap out of it. Trust me, you'll have a good time. At least until they finish up that mammoth cloning. Then it'll probably be pretty dangerous.