JHU: We Want More!


I often hear fans and journalists claim that no other sports team has won so many championships as the New York Yankees. As a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, and a stickler for detail, that’s always raised my ire. JHU won its first men’s lacrosse title in 1891, and then won or shared another twenty-five before the inception of the NCAA tournament in 1971. Since then, the Jays have won nine more crowns (and come in second eight times) for a grand total of, yes, thirty-five. That’s a lot of championships.

Today, the perennial powerhouse was in the unusual role of underdog to Duke in the semifinals of this year’s tournament. Duke crushed Hopkins 17-6 earlier this season—that came during a stretch of 5-straight Hopkins losses—and was the overwhelming favorite coming into the tournament. Hopkins, however, seems to have Duke’s number when it counts. Its last two championships have come at the expense of Duke, in 1-goal games. Today’s contest followed that form. Hopkins was in full command of the more talented Duke team from start to finish. Huge credit goes to coach Dave Pietramala, who patrols the JHU sideline with the same ferocious energy that made him a dominant defensive force for Hopkins during his playing days. Imagine an angry Lawrence Taylor with a 6-foot metal stick: that was “Petro” in his prime. (Pietramala, according to the broadcast, has become best buddies with LT’s old coach, Bill Belichick.) In this game, Hopkins played aggressive, physical defense, and managed the game with patience on precision on offense, holding the run-and-gun Blue Devils in check. Duke’s players were clearly more talented (and the extra year of eligibility their seniors were afforded by the NCAA, due to the non-rape scandal, gave them an extra year to develop physically), and managed to keep the game close when Hopkins showed even the slightest weakness. In the last minute, down two, the Duke goalie abandoned his net, and the team was able to pull within a single goal. But they could not tie it up. The final: 10-9.

On Monday, Hopkins faces Syracuse for the championship. Hopkins-Syracuse is the Yanks-Sox of collegiate lacrosse. In 1989, these two played in a historic final, with Syracuse the 13-12 victors. Pietramala was the star of that Hopkins team, along with goalie Quint Kessenich, now ESPN’s excellent color commentator. Those two may have been the greatest to ever play their positions, but they could not hold down the Syracuse attack, in particular Gary Gait, the Babe Ruth of lacrosse. (During today’s game, when it was suggested that Hopkins midfielder Paul Rabil might be the best ever to play that position, Kessenich immediately corrected the record. It was a nice moment.) So, yes, I’ll be looking forward to Monday’s championship matchup. Go Jays!

For those not interested in lacrosse, I pose this question, which came to me when I was thinking about the exploits of Gary Gait. How many sports have a player who was definitively the greatest in their history, and can you name them? Ruth is the obvious choice for baseball. Basketball has Jordan. Hockey has Gretzky (or is there an argument for Mario?). Lance Armstrong? Does Tiger still have to catch up to the Bear?

7 comments… add one
  • Nice post YF. The last paragraph however started my mind racing. For male tennis it’s got be Federer; for NASCAR it’s the late, great Dale Earnhardt- “The Intimidator”; for the NFL.. naaa that would be a debate that would go on way too long and would require moderator intervention, J/K (not really).
    Seriously though, the question posed has a great tangent. If Alex breaks Bonds/Aaron’s HR record and secures himself a few rings before he hangs up the cleats, will he be known as the “greatest ever”? You alluded to Jordan earlier, and as of right now I regard him as the best ever too (yes, that includes consideration of Wilt the Stilt ); but 8 or 9 years or so in the future when Kobe Bean Bryant walks off that hard floor one last time; will I, or we, think the same? How about the the position of NFL QB only? I say Joe Montana as of now, but there’s this dude who plays for my most hated team in the League, and well… When Mr.Brady has decided to hang it up for the final time, the torch could be passed as well.
    I view it as a honor and a pleasure to be able to watch all these elite althletes in the present time. And in doing so, witness whether or not they will pass that threshold to all-time greatness, or finish as one of the handful of names that are always the “best ever

    bloodyank78 May 25, 2008, 6:52 am
  • I don’t think Federer’s there yet. Borg. Sampras. Laver. And what about Richard Petty in NASCAR? As much as I love watching Kobi play, I don’t think he’s reached the Jordan level. Jordan’s scoring average is still considerbaly higher, he’s got the 6 rings, and the major imprint on the sport/culture. Kobi’s just been a terrific player.

    YF May 25, 2008, 9:13 am
  • As an avid tennis player/viewer, I think Federer is absolutely the best. He’s only 2 titles away from tying Sampras’ record of 14, and he’s only 26. Sampras played until he was 31. He’s won 12 of the last 19 grand slams, something noone else has ever come close to doing. If you watch his matches he hardly ever even sweats during his matches.
    Now, I hate Federer and root against him whenever possible. But I do think he’s the best there ever was.

    Atheose May 25, 2008, 11:27 am
  • go hop. and sox. -A&S ’05

    pita May 25, 2008, 1:21 pm
  • Lance Armstrong was big recently (though mostly confined to the Tour de France), but Eddy Merckx is generally considered the best cyclist of all time: five Tours, five Giros, a Vuelta, and much more besides.

    Nick May 25, 2008, 2:11 pm
  • I don’t know about teams, but best sportsman ever?
    How about
    Don Bradman
    “…in order to post a similarly dominant career statistic as Bradman, a baseball batter would need a career batting average of .392, while a basketball player would need to score 43 points per game…”

    Dan May 26, 2008, 7:50 am
  • I don’t know much about lacrosse but when I attended USNA in the late 60’s people talked about Jim Brown as the greatest lacrosse player of all time. Is he still in the discussion?

    rick graham May 26, 2008, 1:57 pm

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