Cultural Bias #76 – The Morgan Lacrosse Story

The players were black. The sport was white. (Its roots, Native American) The coach, an administrator who never applied for the job but was assigned to oversee the team, was Jewish.

From this improbable beginning, this hour-long 2008 PBS film (Netflix) tells the inspiring story of some early 1970s students at Morgan State University, a historically black school in Baltimore, who decide to start a lacrosse team. To add to the racial tensions, the very setting posed a significant challenge. After all, if there is a city in America that means lacrosse, it’s definitely Baltimore. These guys seemed to sense that if they could make it there, they could make it anywhere. Then again, they never deamed how far they would go.

With old uniforms and odds-and ends equipment – Did I mention improbable beginning? – they opened in 1970 with a respectable loss to a community college. From there, they rose… and rose… to be ranked among the nation’s top-25 teams in four of the next five years. Their finest hour came in 1975 in a game considered by some to be the greatest upset in the history of NCAA sports when they toppled then #1 ranked Washington & Lee University at W&L. (The Generals had not lost a home game in three years.) I mean, now that you’ve got your arms around the improbable beginning theme, move on to improbable endings.

The film utilizes photos, clips, and interviews with the players, now middle-aged. One of them is Miles Harrison, the team’s first star, today a Baltimore doctor. Harrison notes, “When we left Morgan, we said that our sons are going to take this to the next level.” The film ends with Harrison standing in an audience in 2005 proudly snapping a camera. He’s taking pictures of his son, Kyle, who is up on stage. Kyle, a midfielder at Johns Hopkins, another Baltimore school where lax is a big deal (Excuse me while I take my tongue out of my cheek.), has just been announced as the recipient of the Tewaaraton Trophy (The lacrosse Heisman) as the nation’s best NCAA player. Nice.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld