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Road Trip: Maryland-Hopkins Lacrosse

When it comes to most sports, Johns Hopkins is about the last place that comes to mind. When it comes to lacrosse, though, it should be the first


By Bill Syken

  NCAA Lacrosse Final
The Blue Jays have won seven NCAA lax titles.
Simon Bruty/SI

Going to a men's lacrosse game at Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins campus in Baltimore can be like deciding on a whim to go to a Phish concert. You'll find yourself surrounded by superfans deeply attuned to the minutiae of a subject whose basic elements remain a mystery to outsiders. Chris Tsien, who attends Hopkins games wearing a HOPKINS IS LACROSSE T-shirt, speaks for many Homewood regulars when he says, "Lacrosse combines the best elements of hockey, soccer and basketball." An absurd claim, to be sure, but the kind a man can feel forced to make after years of trying to explain himself to nonbelievers.

Hopkins has reason to be loopy over lacrosse because the school has played such a key role in the sport's history: In 1883 the Blue Jays were part of the first collegiate lacrosse league, and Hopkins teams represented the U.S. in Olympic exhibitions in 1928 and '32. Over 114 years of competition the Blue Jays have won all or part of 42 national titles, seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in '71.

While Hopkins is Division III in other sports, in lacrosse it stands eye-to-eye with the D-I big boys, taking on high-profile opponents such as Syracuse and Virginia. The Maryland-Hopkins game, which will be played for the 100th time on Saturday, is the equivalent of Michigan-
Ohio State in football. If you are a Hopkins student with any interest in sports, you learn what a first attack is, and quick.

And once you learn, you never forget; many of Homewood's 10,000 seats are filled with people who refuse to let go. Tsien, a corporate lawyer, class of '74, leads a group of about 20 fans who call themselves the Blue Jay Bananas (they toss fruit to deserving players after games) and who hit the road regularly. "Any game within 200 miles is a home game," Tsien says. Lloyd Bunting, a three-time All-America defenseman who led Hopkins to undefeated seasons from 1947 through '50, often attends with a group of teammates from those storied squads.

But the real Hopkins superfan is 93-year-old Franz Hartig, a spry former civil engineer who attends games with Jane, his wife of 63 years. Hartig, class of '29, took Jane to a Hopkins lacrosse game on their second date, in 1933. Back then she couldn't take her eyes off of the fancy hats and gloves the women were wearing. "I told her, 'I brought you here to look at the game,'" Hartig says, and then laughs. "Now it's changed. She's more of a devotee than I am."

So if you ever travel to Homewood, take note: The sport may not mean much to you now, but once you get into lacrosse, you're hooked for life.

5 Questions for ... Wes Craven

Fright king (see Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street), Johns Hopkins grad (MFA, '64) ... and a world-class sissy? That's what SIOC discovered when we spoke to the ex-Blue Jay.

1. On a scale of 1 to "really scary," how was your master's program at Johns Hopkins? "We read practically all the important postwar novelists, poets and a good deal of philosophy...and I wrote a novel that year. Not quite Nightmare on Elm Street, but intense."

2. How about the blue jay as a mascot? Not so scary, huh? "I'm a bird aficionado, and blue jays are a member of the Corvidae family -- all the smart birds; all the really rascally ones. That's a tad scary, no?"

3. A six-foot blue jay -- such as the Hopkins' mascot -- must score major bird-watching points. "For one, there aren't any blue jays in L.A. And then, you know, the six-foot part....So, yes."

4. Gimme your best college horror story. "I had a student challenge me to a boxing match. Scary. He was this giant farm kid with a discipline problem. I declined. I'm a lover not a fighter."

5. Then you're not likely a lacrosse fan, eh? "Lacrosse I found a little odd. I would go watch the guys run around and try to figure out the rules of the game. It seems to me the rules are keep possession of the ball and hit everybody with your stick as hard as you can. Scary."

-- Adam Duerson

Best Places to ...

Stay if you're lazy: The Inn at the Colonnade is within crawling distance of Homewood Field, directly across the street.

Kill five minutes: The Lacrosse Museum & National Hall of Fame is adjacent to Homewood.

Feel the charm city vibe: The Greene Turtle in Fells Point is a lax-friendly sports bar with a respectable crab cake.

Barhop: The Federal Hill neighborhood is the place to be. The Sky Lounge gets the job done.

Issue date: April 15, 2004

SI On Campus: April 15, 2004 issue 

Sports Illustrated On Campus, a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 72 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue, or click here to get the entire issue in digital format.

NFL Draft:
     The Sure Thing: Ben Roethlisberger
     The Tweener: Madieu Williams
     The Long Shot: Nate Lawrie
Road Trip: Maryland-Hopkins Lacrosse
Previous issue: April 8, 2004

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