ANDY THOMAS: A Memorable Day Of Blue and Green
Last Saturday, the Carolina sky was perfectly blue, and the grass on the field was emerald green.
This precursor to spring was an exciting one of those days not to be forgotten. But there was more green and blue, in the form of The Big Green from Dartmouth and Duke Blue Devils matching up in Duke's first lacrosse game in more than a year.
I was eager enough to be at the gates of Koskinen Stadium more than two hours before game time. I was excited because dear old Dartmouth was in town. But, really, I was even more thrilled to see the Duke lacrosse boys back in action. For them, it was like recovering from a long and terrible disease.
I say recovering because it will take a far longer time for them to free themselves from the apparent injustices put upon them by Mike Nifong, the Durham police and even Duke University itself.
I hold Duke President Richard H. Brodhead responsible, too, for unfortunately acting before he had all the facts of the "Duke lacrosse rape case" in hand. As a result of his trigger-happy reaction, several people were erroneously condemned to shame and dishonor.
Brodhead had the gall to show up at the game. Too little, too late, in my opinion.
Two of the accused players have been invited back to the Durham campus but have refused; one won't consider it until Mike Nifong is no longer DA.
The other student's parents are pursuing legal action against Nifong and Duke. The third accused lacrosse player graduated last year.
As for Nifong, I think his days are numbered as his peers and superiors have recognized the errors in his ways and surely hold enough against him to have him dethroned.
As I strode through the Duke athletic complex, with my Dartmouth sweatshirt and hat, I was greeted with a playful "boo" by several young tailgaters. Tailgaters at a lacrosse game? I quickly replied that I was just glad to see them (Duke) playing again, and the celebrants cordially agreed.
I was getting hungry, and the lady using the Duke concession stand for a party near the football stadium even said I could be her guest at a pre-game luncheon. Courteous, indeed.
I then walked by some more Duke fans, one of whom said, "Glad you came." I couldn't get over the good sportsmanship of these folks.
The stadium was surrounded by Duke, Durham and county police, with numerous "event" personnel in their yellow vests. I wanted to get into the place to chat with the Dartmouth coach, Bill Wilson, but was refused as I had no press credentials. Press credentials for a lacrosse game?
No one was allowed into the stadium until 12:30 for the 2 p.m. game. I was second in line, with a group of Dartmouth lacrosse parents who had traveled from mid-Atlantic and New England states to see their boys participate. There were about 40 of them, including other family members. Very organized and dressed in Dartmouth green lacrosse jackets. Many were staying over to see the Dartmouth-UNC match on Sunday.
I'm not sure whether it was because of the special reopening of Duke lacrosse or whether it is common for every game, but the fanfare impressed me.
First of all, there were nearly 7,000 people there. Standing room only. Duke had cheerleaders and a pep band, and players ran onto the field through a big blue tunnel that literally smoked as they emerged.
Now, I will admit that I'd never seen a lacrosse game in my life. The only thing I remember about the game was a classmate who played, coming to class after a game with Syracuse, on crutches and badly beaten up. He was about 5-feet-7 and slightly built. His injuries were the result of some rough play by Jim Brown, famous Cleveland Brown star.
It looks like a combination of hockey and soccer. The small ball is advanced by a basket on the end of a stick, and players wear helmets, padded gloves and hopefully chest pads. Opposing players can whack at each other with the sticks, trying to dislodge the ball as they race toward the goal.
At one point, Dartmouth was ahead by two goals over sixth-rated Duke. But Duke rapidly overcame the deficit and won, 17-11.
It was a great event, even if Dartmouth lost. Three-quarters of Dartmouth's squad are freshmen or sophomores, so they should be heard from in the future. Six Duke players are preseason All-American, including the coach's son, Matt Danowski.
The event was very civil, with no displays or protests by any faction having an interest in the soon-to-be bygone affair. It was a great Blue and Green day.
Andy Thomas lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com
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