'America's First Sport': The Syracuse Lacrosse Propaganda Machine?

Syracuse recently released a documentary connecting the school's heralded program with the sport's Native American roots. The film comes just two weeks after a New York Times piece revealed that the tide on the reservations might be turning against the Orange.

A little over two weeks ago, the New York Times published a front-page article about Albany's Lyle, Miles, and Ty Thompson. The attack trio, who all hail from the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, currently has a combined 113 points on the season. Jeremy Thompson played lacrosse at Syracuse, yet his brothers Lyle, the 2011 #1 overall recruit, Miles, the #6 attackman in the 2010 class, and his cousin Ty, the #35 attackman in the 2010 class, all went to Albany.

Syracuse University has a well-documented history of not only recruiting from the Native American reservations in upstate New York, but also recruiting the family members of former and current players. The Times' write up briefly covered the Thompsons' journey to Albany and further explored how the trio broke from tradition and attended Albany over the traditional destination for natives in the lacrosse world, Syracuse University. The article contained one particular paragraph that should have raised the eyebrows of Syracuse fans.

"As they were being recruited, though, the brothers began to feel like Syracuse was taking their allegiance for granted. ‘Syracuse honestly didn't recruit both of us too hard,' Lyle Thompson said. ‘I think they just expected us to go there.'"

Syracuse Lacrosse has a long history of bringing in Native Americans to fill the ranks of their team. However, when such a statement comes out on the front-page of a national publication, it raises serious concerns over Syracuse's future ability to recruit on the reservations. Is this a trend that is likely to continue?

This weekend, ESPNU will broadcast a Syracuse-sponsored documentary entitled America's First Sport. Although the film does not air until Saturday, Syracuse released the hour-long documentary on Cuse.com.

With great anticipation, I watched the film today, and it is definitely worth a look. While reviewing the history of the lacrosse, the documentary also covers every level of the game from high-school to professional and touches on both field and box lacrosse. The film's narrative focused on the Native American roots of the game. While coaches and players from several different teams are featured in the documentary, there is an overwhelmingly heavy presence of Syracuse coaches, players, and alumni. In addition, famed Syracuse alum, Mike Tirico, is the narrator.

Overall, I thought the movie was well done, and I recommend it to anyone interested in the origins of the game. That being said, the timing is a little curious.

Considering the film ties the Native American heritage of the sport tightly to Syracuse University, one can't help but wonder if this project was spurred by internal concerns regarding recruitment. While this theory may simply be speculation, the film, while informative, could easily be mistaken for SU lacrosse propaganda. Regardless, since the film intentionally focused on the SU/Native American recruiting relationship, America's First Sport's national television debut on Saturday is a step in the right direction to re-securing the recruiting pipeline to the reservations.


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