Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let's Settle Er On Down There, Axeman

Brent Axe says Gary Gait is the lacrosse equivalent of Babe Ruth. That makes me laugh.

I think we all ("we" meaning those folks who follow Syracuse sports) appreciate the renewed enthusiasm that young blogger-cum-reporter Brent "The Axeman" Axe (apropos of very little, it is my understanding that the "Axeman" sobriquet was self-initiated) brings to the Syracuse sports coverage scene. He doesn't pull punches, his coverage has a little more bite and relevance than some of his ' brethren and his rundown has a little more depth than the standard fare (though his parlance is far less developed than the Wordsmith Laureate on staff, Bud Poliquin). And though it's nice to hear from someone so shamelessly enthused or angry about Syracuse sports because it gives the common fan a perspective they can more easily relate to than the soundbites and droll rundown of the regular coverage, sometimes he REALLY overdoes it. Yesterday was one of those times, and it had NOTHING to do with his coverage of the on-court game.

In finishing out his rundown of the events that amounted to the injury decimated Syracuse Basketball team rolling over an overmatched Colgate squad, the Axeman went over some of the notables in attendance. After dispensing with the usual rigmarole, Brent went on to talk about some former 'Cuse athletes in attendance and then made a very interesting comment:
"Also seated near DG (Darryl Gross) was Gary Gait and one of the Powell Brothers (I'm pretty sure it was Ryan). UPDATE: Scratch that. It was Casey.

Seeing Gait and Powell sitting together for a Lacrosse player like me would be like a Yankee fan sitting a row away from Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle."
Well then. That's interesting now isn't it? Gait and Powell a latter day Ruth & Mantle for those that count themselves members of the Lax family? I'm sorry Axeman, that's WAAAAAAY too overboard to let slide.

I played Lacrosse myself and actually grew up playing the Powell brothers, so maybe my perception of those guys is a little skewed but the only thing that Gait & Powell have in common with Ruth and Mantle is that they are all four white males and have been known to put down a drink or ten in their primes. I have all the respect in the world for Gait and Powell and grew up admiring Gait and watching his videos and whatnot, but unless I'm mistaken, those guys could walk around pretty much anywhere on earth and not get noticed. If not for Gary's absurd Silver Fox look and ever expanding paunch, I'm not sure you'd have recognized him last night. And Casey looks like any 30+ guy who's ever played lacrosse. A preppy looking white dude who still tries to pretend he could score 18 year-old ass (though in Casey's case, he probably has more opportunity to do just that than most of the rest of us). And in terms of ability, I'll grant you that Gait was the Godfather of the modern game and did things on the field that no one had ever done and Casey was arguably the most complete player ever to play the college game, but Casey wasn't the best player in his family (Mike was/is more talented) and maybe the third best player to come out of Carthage at the time (if Casey was Mantle or Ruth then Carthage's Jason Coffman who went to Salisbury St. is Josh Gibson. Coffman absolutely dominated DIII lacrosse for four years and looked more the Babe Ruth part than any offensive player of his era.). And though Powell was regarded publicly as the best player in the game, for my money I'd say John Grant was more talented, though a bit of a lazier "box style" player and therefore less complete. But I'm getting away from the point...

The point is (was) that even the cliche "the Babe Ruth of..." may not work here and to suggest that seeing to very mortal and relatively unfamous dudes sitting together makes you feel as though you are amongst royalty is a little absurd. There is no way that Bowling aficionados compare meeting Earl Anthony or Dick Weber (or Pete Weber for that matter) to what it must've been like to meet Babe Ruth nor do Poker players make the comparison when they meet Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan or Howard Lederer. I don't think you're gonna get $50,000 grand from even the most ardent of beach volleyball fans for a pair of signed Oakley's from Karch Karaly or Sinjin Smith. It's just not even close to the same to compare the level of celebrity and legend of your more secondary (or tertiary) sports to that of the legend of crossover stars like Mantle or Ruth. I don't care how big a hard-on those guys give you. You do hyperbole a discredit when you go that overboard.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe in 50 years I'll be telling my grandkids I played against Powell and books will be written and documentaries made, but I for one highly doubt it. Again, we appreciate your enthusiasm but you may want to take it down a notch. Gary Gait is much closer to Brent Axe than he is to Babe Ruth, big fella.


matthew said...

lacrosse - heaven forbid the sport wasn't dominated by rich white boys & their prep schools. comparing Gait or Powell or any lacrosse player* to any professional athlete in a major sport is a joke. lacrosse draws from the worst talent pool imaginable in the USA. I appreciate the pride the athletes have & it is a fun game...but right now it reaches out predominately to the least athletic sect in our society.

*(minus Jim Brown, Jim Thorpe & Bill Belichick)

drew said...

Tennis is drawing from the same talent pool....Andy Roddick? Are you kidding me? One of the many reasons why these sports will not catch up.

Luol Dang! said...

So you both are saying that rich white kids are less athletic than poor inner city kids? Racist pricks...

More to the point though, I'm not sure popularity of a sport is necessarily tied to directly to the athleticism of the people playing it. I'll give you that NBA, NFL & NHL players are likely more athletic than lacrosse players (and the growing number of great MLB players are increasinbly more athletic)), but some of the world's best athletes, arguably, are Olympians like Decathletes, and other than Dan & Dave, I don't think anyone will ever give a shit about them. And also, Tennis has shitty athletes when compared to the NFL, but I bet you more Americans would recognize Andy Roddick or Roger Federer before they recognized Shawn Merriman or LaDainian.

Lax will never become mainstream for a couple of reasons. One of them has to do with the current talent void due to the fact that the game hasn't made inroads into many of the athlete hotbeds like Florida and Texas. Another has to do with the historically solid baseball programs at major universities on the West Coast and South (the areas where the sport needs to go in order to go from a regionally significant sport to a nationally significant one) won't or can't (see Title IX) allow lacrosse to gain funding in their athletic depts. That kills the sport from a marketing perspective because even if the game sucks in those schools, the scholarships and marketing stage for those major universities would grow the game significantly. Lastly, lacrosse requires relatively expensive equipment in order to play it. At the very least you need a $100 stick, which is far more demanding than a $30 glove, football or basketball. That startup cost simply keeps people out of the sport.

Finally, Gary Gait could kick the shit out of Andy Roddick or Roger Federer. I don't care how rich and preppy we are, we are tougher than tennis pussies.

mrs. said...

you are the Babe Ruth of analogy Nazis