27 members of the Tufts men’s lacrosse team have been suspended for two games this season for inappropriate behavior displayed at a Tufts vs. Smith women’s volleyball game, which took place earlier this school year at Tufts.
The players involved have not been named yet, but for a team in most people’s NCAA D3 Preseason Top 5, this is big news. Actually, this is big news for any team, and really not the good kind, especially at first glance. On its cover, this looks like just another story of out of control lacrosse players, but once you start looking a little deeper, there does seem to be some silver lining.
The first positive in this situation is that the University, Athletic Department, and Head Coach, Mike Daly, have seemingly made NO moves to sweep this under the carpet. The event seems to have been addressed head on, excuses weren’t made, and apologies were offered. The players are even writing letters of apology to both teams, and both coaches.
The relatively quick suspension of a staggering 27 players speaks to how seriously Tufts seems to be taking this, at least from an external view. One has to imagine it is a blanket punishment if everyone received two games, but again, at this point, that is still speculation.
When the Tufts Daily asked coach Daly what would happen next, he spoke about growing and evolving, but wouldn’t comment on how this would impact their season. And you know what? I like that. Daly has put aside the issue of record and ranking, and is focusing on something else.
This story could change, as more details emerge.
For more on this situation, check out the story on Tufts Daily.
Of course this suspension brings up a bigger issue facing a lot of school today: Fan behavior on the sidelines. This is especially true at D3 schools, where fans are right on top of the action.
I played NESCAC lacrosse a decade ago, and home games were always great because we knew our fans would show up in force. There was a real home field advantage, and some of that definitely came from over the top fan behavior… And it was no different anywhere else I played. If students came out to cheer on their classmates in lacrosse, they would let the opposing team have it. I remember fans at Bowdoin, Bates, Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan being particularly “talented” with their taunts.
It was all part of the game back then, and I never thought twice about it. I had skinny little calves, and I must have heard every joke in the book about that. I was told how badly I sucked, and how Wesleyan was a school full of hippies and queers. There was some racist stuff, some socioeconomic digs, and more profanity than I could ever remember. Bates football players, Bowdoin hockey guys, everyone at Amherst and Williams, my friends at Wesleyan… it was everywhere.
Looking back on it today, in the light of this news, I still didn’t really see a problem with it. I still chalked it up to being “part of the game”, mostly because I, personally, didn’t really pay attention to it… and then I realized something startling (at least to me)… I was part of the problem.
I went to plenty of games at Wesleyan as a fan. I definitely cheered for the Cardinals, and I also taunted some of our opponents. I don’t remember crossing the line too much (what does that even mean?) but really, what good does it do to even yell, “you’re horrible!” at someone just because they play hockey for Trinity? Also, I’m almost positive I did cross the line sometimes, but have just blocked it from my own memory, out of shame.
The fact remains that a lot of people will go to sporting events and cheer against the opposition. I don’t think anyone will ever change that. But there is a level of bad taste that simply can’t be accepted, and I’m glad to see Tufts taking a stand, and doing so with their most well recognized team. With great power comes great responsibility, and I tip my hat to Coach Daly and the rest of Tufts, for trying to teach their guys, and for teaching ME, this lesson. It wasn’t something schools focused on when I was at school. It was accepted. Now, finally it’s not, and I’m with that 100%.
This isn’t about taking away free speech, or going after athletes. It is about setting a high standard in life, for all things, and holding each other accountable. It is what NESCAC schools are built to do. It is about evolving, and improving, and I for one couldn’t be more proud of how Tufts has handled the situation after it went down. We can be better, and Tufts setting this example puts us on the right track. Now we just need to follow it.