72 sports a day for field hockey
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Field hockey players might be the best athletes in the world. After all, what other game has you playing, well, 72 different sports a day?
Take Saturday's match against Western New England College, on the omniturf (read: bloody knees) of Jack Barry Field. MIT has a one goal lead, and is trying to score again on a penalty corner. The ball speeds off the endline toward one MIT stick. Another stick flashes quickly, sending the ball flying toward the WNEC goal.
But wait. The referee has blown his whistle. He signals, uh, traveling. TRAVELING? On the ball. I thought this was field hockey.
Perhaps he meant improper procedure. That's it. Motion on the line before the snap. First and 10 on the MIT 20 yard line.
Field hockey rules are without a doubt among the most confusing in existence, although any player will tell you that they are really simple, "once you understand them." Uh-huh.
Whistle blows here. Whistle blows there. I think the referees are playing Trivial Pursuit: Obscure Rules Edition.
Tweet. A WNEC player has just swung her stick wildly in the air. "Steeerike three! Yer outta there!" I say.
"High sticking," says someone on the sideline, full of knowledge of a deeper, kinder and gentler sort, I am sure.
WNEC gets a free shot.
Wait, I thought that swinging hard, hooked sticks wildly about was DANGEROUS!
Turns out someone on the MIT team advanced the ball with the wrong side of her stick. I see. Wrong side!? That's worse than hard. That's cruel and unusual. Some people (not I) can barely hit a tennis ball with either side of an oversized racket, much less dribble a small, very, very, very hard white ball with ONE SIDE of a small, very, very, very, hard stick.
Oh, I see. They're practicing for billiards. You know how you can only shoot with one end of the cue.
Hockey, the Encyclopedia Britannica tells us, has its origins in the lives and times of the Arabs, Greeks, Persians and Romans. Traces of the stick game can be found in ancient records of the Aztec Indians in South America.
The modern game evolved in England and its colonies in the middle of the 19th century. One form of the game had teams playing with a rubber cube. A rubber cube.
The powers that were switched to the preferred objet d'attention of today, the rubber ball, in the late 1800s.
Maybe they should have tried a small, plastic disk. Then they could have tried some version of tiddly-winks. Then, inevitably, tweet! "Ineligible receiver downfield. Penalty shot."
Saturday's game is nearing the end of regulation time and MIT is holding on to a 1-0 lead. The game will ultimately end in a 2-1 overtime loss for MIT, but now the emphasis is on defending the one-goal lead.
Susie Ward '92 intercepts a WNEC pass deep in MIT territory and slaps the ball upfield, clearing it away.
The referee has his hand in the air. I think he is going to call icing.