December 30, 2009

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This article appears in the December issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Best of 2009
Male Player | Female Player | Male Performance | Female Performance | Male Coach | Female Coach| Game | Comeback | Breakthrough | Look | Mainstream Moment | Fan


'09 Rewind: Look, Mainstream Moment, Fan of Year

LOOK OF THE YEAR

Custom eye black, such as Ken Clausen's "WB 23" in honor of former teammate Will Barrow, has become a trend in lacrosse and other sports.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Eye black has been used for centuries to reduce the glare of the sun. An old-school Pop Warner coach might take a Zippo to a cork and rub the resulting char under a young lad’s eyes. It doesn’t hurt to smear a little “warrior paint” for that glare into your opponent’s facemask.

But when did eye black become a fashion statement? Mainstream sports fans could point to Reggie Bush rocking “619” (his home area code) and “S-E” (for southeast San Diego) on national TV while at USC.

We, of course, have Mikey Powell, who popularized upside-down triangles — a trend transferred to women’s lacrosse by Kelly Kasper.

In time, char gave way to grease and grease gave way to black tape. Athletes have turned their faces into bumper stickers for their teams, causes, memorials and beliefs. With eye black’s adhesive evolution, we’ve sworn off all functionality. According to the Archives of Ophthamalogy, the grease sticks help reduce glare. The stickers? Not so much.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming. (Or was the sun in our eyes?) In a 2007 interview with CNBC, Peter Beveridge, the CEO and president of eyeblack.com, cited lacrosse as a potential growth sport for his business. Visit the site and search for “lacrosse,” and you’ll find over 30 templates for lax-themed eye black — including specific teams and manufacturers.

Some numbers bear deeper meaning.

Virginia defenseman Ken Clausen wears the initials “WB” and the number “23” under his right and left eyes, respectively, in memory of former teammate and Cavaliers captain Will Barrow — whose suicidal death in November 2008 shocked and saddened the Charlottesville and lacrosse communities.

No matter how you stick it, looks like custom eye black is here to stay.

HONORABLE MENTION

Flow (a.k.a. Lettuce)
Here’s an excerpt from “90% of Lax is in the Flow,” a 14,000-plus Facebook fan page: “Ask anyone that is anyone, and they will tell you a laxer's abilities are directly correlated to his hair's flow. There is a fine line between a player's hair being too short and neat and a player that has entered into the dreaded realm of overflow. This group was made to celebrate those that find the perfect middle ground and allow their hair to be great.”

You didn’t think Paul Rabil won Player of the Year based on skill alone, did you?

High Socks
The retro-style, athletic-socks-pulled-over-calves look is no longer reserved for your gym teacher. While its resurgence has receded somewhat in the men’s game, Team USA and former Northwestern star Kristen Kjellman has all the girls rocking it.

Crazy Shorts
Granted, the kilts have become sleeker, but they’re still kilts. Girls are finding new ways to individualize this old look. Wave One’s “Crazy Shorts” have turned athletic undergarments into an optical illusion with their magic eye-like designs.


MAINSTREAM MOMENT OF THE YEAR

We’ve gone from “where in the world is Matt Lauer” to “what in the world is Matt Lauer doing.”

Credit Nicky Polanco with the assist.

Polanco and several of his teammates on the Long Island Lizards joined “The Today Show” on Rockefeller Plaza for a segment with anchors Lauer and Meredith Vieira, weatherman Al Roker, and news anchor Ann Curry on Aug. 4. Polanco talked up the sport to the NBC viewing audience (largest among on-air morning shows), then split up the crew for a shooting contest before a spirited crowd of kids and cheerleaders.

The best moment may have been Lauer’s playful stick check of an unsuspecting Vieira. If only it had been a live game.

HONORABLE MENTION

“Toe to Toe”
The feature film by director and screenwriter Emily Abt, about two D.C.-area high school teammates, earned praise at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

LXM Pro
Scott Hochstadt, who US Weekly photographed teaching lax to Lo from “The Hills,” helped engineer this lax-meets-concert festival scheduled for SoCal on Nov. 21.

College Lacrosse 2010
Some delays pushed back its targeted September release date, but it also allowed the clamor for lacrosse first Xbox Live Indie game to grow — more than 48,000 fans on the game’s Facebook page.


FAN OF THE YEAR

There’s no mute button for Taylor Muto.

No matter where you go on today’s lax-loaded Web of social media, you’ll find this 16-year-old attackman from Huntington Beach, Calif.

He lists lacrosse as his occupation on MySpace.

His Twitter handle? TaylorPlaysLax.

You can see videos of him going top shelf on a game-winning goal from the wing on his YouTube channel, wclax41.

Check out Lacrosse Magazine’s Facebook page — Muto’s all over it.

You might even recognize Muto’s mug as a repeat appearance right here in our print rag. He told the story of an attackman who scored with his shorts around his ankles and won a prize from adidas for his winning response in June’s edition of our “Sideline Chatter” question-of-the-month series. (The question that month: What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve seen at a lacrosse game?

LM made it a point in 2009 to engage its readers more. Be on the lookout for more such features in 2010.

Meantime, here’s to you, Taylor Muto — keep it up.

HONORABLE MENTION

Joey Myers, Stephenville, Texas
What major college should add lacrosse as a varsity sport? All of them. What feature must a lacrosse video game have? Tons of unlockables, customizable elements, simple controls and, maybe, a storyline about a bullied kid who turns into a lax star. A regular in our “Sideline Chatter” series, we always look forward to Joey Myers’ insight.

Alan Miranda, Alexandria, Va.
Men’s lacrosse or women’s lacrosse? Why can’t it be both. No matter where the lax lies, Alan Miranda is following us on Facebook, LaxMagazine.com and Twitter. He waited with bated breath for updates on the U.S. women’s team in Prague. When we broke news on the U.S. men’s team in November, he commented, “23 checking out of heartbreak hotel.” Looking forward to keeping Alan posted from Manchester next summer.

Jenny Wirth, Pittsburgh, Pa.
We wound up calling Syracuse’s miraculous goal in the NCAA championship game the Foxboro Flip. Jenny Wirth chimed in with another gem for this wild play: the Orange Dreamsicle. Wirth is also a frequent entrant to our “Gear Up” series. Keep trying Jenny, and thanks for contributing.


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