Bratton vs. White Made for TV
The Virginia-Syracuse showdown Friday night showcased everything that lacrosse needs to thrive in the national spectrum of sports entertainment: live, well-lit, high-definition television, packed stands and two star players putting it all on the line.
(Oh yeah, and a shot clock, but you never have to worry about boring, three-minute long possessions when the Wahoos and Orange play.)
Shamel Bratton versus Joel White was made for TV.
Rarely in team sports do the game's highest-profile players physically combat each other as Bratton and White did Friday. LeBron does not guard Kobe. Peyton does not call audibles with Brady breathing fire at the line of scrimmage. Crosby and Ovechkin make their moves on opposite sides of the ice.
These rivalries are more a matter of one-upsmanship than one-on-ones.
But lacrosse provides the ideal setting to let star players settle the score among themselves. Defensemen and long-stick midfielders have become fan favorites. Takeaway checks and yard sales are as celebrated as behind-the-back goals. Billy Bitter vs. Ken Clausen made for some great fodder leading into last year's Big City Classic. Paul Rabil vs. Brodie Merrill was epic in Manchester.
As for Saturday's Bratton-White throwdown, though Syracuse won 12-10 and ended the debate over who should be the nation's No. 1-ranked team, you've got to give the nod to Bratton. A week after Bratton served a one-game suspension for violating team rules, he violated the Orange for four goals. His first-quarter rocker dodge on White to set up a blistering left-handed riser was a thing of beauty. Syracuse goalie John Galloway was in perfect position to make the save, and still couldn't, that's how fast it came off Bratton's stick.
White had his moments, too. His wing play was a big reason Syracuse sustained momentum on faceoffs in the first and third quarters. A run-and-gun game feeds into White's strengths in transition.
It was fun to watch. Lacrosse needs more of that.