John McPhee’s doing a reading at Labyrinth tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if our esteemed Ferris Professor of Journalism walked in wearing a practice pinny and a backwards fitted. That is, judging by his recent writings: last month, he reported on ex-Princeton lacrosse coach Bill Tierney’s sudden move to Denver, and his latest book, Silk Parachute, includes a sprawling, 59-page dissection of the game, its origins, its stars, its stereotypes. It’s literally everything you (I) ever wanted to know about the sport, spun wittily in his trademark style. The piece, titled “Spin Right and Shoot Left,” follows our lacrosse team to an exhibition match in Manchester, with McPhee as the team’s Faculty Fellow — “an official position, not unlike shaman.” He packs in plenty of Tierney one-liners and some fascinating Tiger lax trivia:
In 1888, Princeton’s face-off man was Edgar Allan Poe. His granduncle (ibid.) wrote “The Raven.”
Throughout the article, McPhee comfortably slings lax slang such as “whip” and “FOGO,” like he wouldn’t sound out of place in the Cottage taproom (he is, after all, a ’53 alum of the UCC). His laxicon is most definitely up-to-date. At one point he modestly recalls his only season of competitive play, a postgraduate year (classic bro move) as a Deerfield Academy middie. Apparently the game caught him by surprise:
… after a close and raucous [basketball] game one Saturday night, a teacher came through the departing crowd, stopped me on my way to the locker room and said his name was Mr. Haviland, and that he was the coach of Deerfield lacrosse. He said come spring he would like me to try out for his team … I told Mr. Haviland that I had fiddled around with lacrosse sticks maybe ten times ever while I was growing up in Princeton, but I didn’t play lacrosse, did not know how to play lacrosse.
And the rest is history. Dude’s a lax bro at heart; you can tell by the way he writes about the game, all tangled in a certain wide-eyed poetry. All I’m saying is I might bring my (nonexistent) stick to his creative nonfiction class next spring. Provided I get in. At least now I know which sport to awkwardly allude to on my application.
(image source: goprincetontigers.com)