Yesterday's NYT slobjob of professional laxer Paul Rabil argues that he represents "a different way to think about lacrosse players." He's a big shaggy-haired white dude who went to an all-boys Catholic school in Maryland. Wow, what a brogue.
"Can Paul Rabil Make Lacrosse Sexy?" asks the headline of the disturbingly long Thursday Styles ode to Rabil, Major League Lacrosse's reigning MVP. As if that's the sport's problem, first of all, but I digress. The piece features the usual shoehorned-in tangents and odd historical factoids that are practically house style for these sorts of things. But most grating are the lengths writer James Vlahos goes to to distance Rabil from the quirks of the very sport whose profile he is expected to raise.
Thousands of articles have been written about the lacrosse scandals of the last few years, but you only have to skim a handful to learn the stereotypes. Players party too much. They're prone to violence. They're entitled rich kids smashing mailboxes with their lacrosse sticks before blazing off in daddy's Ferrari. A sampling of recent headlines includes "Lacrosse Afflicted by Sense of Entitlement" (The Baltimore Sun) and "Lacrosse Breeds Awful White Kids" (from the sports blog Dueling Couches).
Lest you're wondering whether I'm just jealous that "Are The White Boys Of Lacrosse Predestined To Be Dicks?" didn't make the cut, the answer is obviously yes. But come on: blazing off in daddy's Ferrari? Who created that stereotype, Bret Easton Ellis? Think about it: a Ferrari would only comfortably fit like two dudes and their equipment, no bromo, whereas real lacrosse players prefer to "roll deep" whilst "getting after it." The getaway car would be mom's Navigator.
Except there would be no getaway car, because who smashes mailboxes anymore? Even assuming they do, none of these guys would ever compromise the sticks they spend so much time lovingly tending to, braiding and weaving like so many friendship bracelets, to vandalize mailboxes. They'd just piss in them instead.
"Mr. Rabil, however, doesn't fit the image of the unredeemable preppy," Vlahos continues, substantiating his point thusly:
His teammates are mostly clean-cut J. Crew types; one had shown up to practice on that hot August afternoon complaining about the difficulty he'd had finding a place to dock his boat. Mr. Rabil, with his shaggy, dark hair, cast-iron jaw and brooding eyes, looked more as though he'd rolled up on a skateboard.
"He's got a great swagger about him," said Steve Battista, a marketing executive at Under Armour. "He's done a great job of carving out a different way to think about lacrosse players."
What else do we know about this next-level athlete expected to turn the standard lacrosse world on its helmeted head?
He was born in 1985 and grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington.
LOL. And went to an all-boys Catholic school (motto: Gentlemen and Scholars), natch, before going to Johns Hopkins. He's "laconic," and seems friendly yet dull. He's sponsored by Under Armour and Red Bull. His personal style is described as "the opposite" of a new lacrosse-inspired clothing line by Michael Bastian for Gant featuring "fitted tweeds, striped rugby shirts and rakish scarves for fall scrimmages on the quad," but a photo of Rabil's closet betrays no shortage of stripes.
Vlahos compares him to Tiger Woods and Danica Patrick, but he's not some "fresh face" or societal gamechanger; he's precisely the norm. The more apt comparison Vlahos makes is to LeBron James: the only thing notably different about Rabil from his peers is that he is bigger and better than them, and becoming more famous. Maybe he represents an evolution, but it's certainly no revolution.
I'm splitting shaggy hairs here, I know, but it's lame that they feel the need to frame Rabil as some sort of novel divergence from everything you think you know about the sport of lacrosse, when in fact he is solidly, blandly, unremarkably smack dab in the middle of same. Why can't they just say so?
Can Paul Rabil Make Lacrosse Sexy? [New York Times]