I was recently clued in to this article on the site Lacrosse All-Stars that calls for the retirement of No. 22 by the Syracuse lacrosse team effectively immediately.
Just in case you're unaware, #22 is the SU lacrosse version of #44. It's been worn by greats like Gary Gait, Charlie Lockwood, Casey Powell, Mike Powell and Ryan Powell. As I've said in the past, #22 has actually become what #44 always wanted to be, a beacon of greatness passed down from generation to generation, linking them all. Most recently, the number has been worn by Cody Jamieson and is currently on Jojo Marasco's jersey.
So, I didn't realize that retiring #22 the same way Syracuse has already retired #44 for football was something that needed to be discussed. However in the interest of fairness, state your case, Chazz....
‘Cuse, let’s move on from this need to bestow the #22 on anyone else. Besides putting unnecessary pressure on a kid (whether he feels it or not) to live up to that hype of that number, the reality is that he probably won’t. Plain and simple. Do you realize what MP did in that number? Do you realize the havoc he wreaked on defenses? Do you remember the damage he did to ankles and egos wearing #22? Have you forgotten the looks on defenders faces, after missed slides resulted in goals?
Basically, the argument is...no one will ever come along again as good as Mikey Powell, so why should we subject future players to that kind of scrutiny and expectation? There's a little something I can understand in there, especially when you throw in the other two Powells and some guy named Gary Gait. That's part of the reason #44 got pulled as well, because the idea that another player would ever measure up to the BrownDavis/Little triumvirate seems unlikely.
But of course, retiring #22 is an absurd idea. I've got my own thoughts that I'll get to but in the meantime, this rebuttal by Chris Rosenthall makes some good points.
Think about how quickly the landscape of college lacrosse is changing: a team from Denver made it to the Final Four. The University of Michigan is going D1 next year. Syracuse needs to do whatever they can to make sure they still get the top-level recruits, especially when you consider that they just missed consecutive Final Fours for the first time in over 30 years. This is no time to take potentially one of their biggest recruiting tools out of the equation, and I guarantee that somewhere in America, there’s a young lacrosse phenom who dreams of walking into the Carrier Dome with the #22 across his chest.
Now, here’s the thing: if you’re waiting for the next Mikey Powell to show up, get ready for years of disappointment, because yes, he broke the mold...But here’s the thing: I think most of us understand that. Come on, read that resume again. You know how many people in lacrosse history were four-time 1st team All-Americans? Four. Four-time attackmen of the year? Just him. So don’t bother waiting for the next Mikey Powell; just be glad you got to see that one.
Here's one difference between the Lax #22 and the FB #44 that's worth noting. The knock on 44 was that the hype was so big, so powerful that no one wanted to wear the number. Meanwhile, Jojo Marasco openly campaigned for the right to wear #22. He didn't get stuck with it, he desperately wanted it. He wanted to be judged against his predecessors and prove that he belongs among them. He has accepted that challenge and the fact that his SU career will be defined by whether or not he meets the expectations of a Syracuse #22. And I'm willing to bet there's someone just as eager waiting in the wings.
My problem with retiring numbers, and this is something I've said before in my disdain for the practice, is that it showcases just how short-sighted we can truly be.
There's something obnoxious to me about thinking that there will never be another Ryan Powell or Gary Gait. Just like the idea that there will never again, in the history of mankind, be another running back as good as Ernie Davis. I hate to break it to everyone, but, the era in which you lived was not the apex of all human history, to be remembered forever as the decade in which humanity peaked and athletic prowess was at its very finest.
There will always be amazing athletes. There will always be "the next great player." There will always be someone who comes along, sooner or later, that is as good or better than the guy you grew up with.
They've been playing lacrosse for a long time and they will continue to play lacrosse for a very long time. I don't think we realize things like that sometimes. We have to take a step back and think about our place in time. NCAA lacrosse has been around for 40 years and I'm willing to bet there's more than 40 still ahead of us. Chances are, most of the greatest players to ever play the game are still to come.
There will come a time when no one plays lacrosse, or football, anymore. One day aliens will descend on our planet to conquer us, we will build a robotic army to fight and defeat them, that robotic army will rise up and turn against us, we will enter into a civil war that will decimate the planet and we will then leave Earth to travel the galaxy in search of a new home. When that (eventually) happens, we probably won't take too many lacrosse sticks with us and, yes, the game will die.
However, I'm willing to bet that the time between now and then will leave just a wee bit of room for some amazing lacrosse players to matriculate at Syracuse University, don a #22 jersey and do amazing things while wearing it.