Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. ― Mark Twain
--By Damien Begley
A tale haunts college lacrosse and Australia. It details a loss, the worst type: one you cannot replace.
It seems absurd to compare a nation and a sport, nevertheless other than the actors involved, in this case--- two beasts--- their stories are identical.
Here, though, is where the similarity ends.
While Australia agonizes over their casualty; college lacrosse fails to recognize one has occurred. For this reason, according to statistics, less than 15% of today's college lacrosse fans understand what they are looking at when they see this picture.
In Australia, it is the opposite. Every Aussie knows their story and can identify their beast.
The scientific name for it is the Thylacine (pronounced Thigh-La-Seen), but it is known to the world as the Tasmanian Tiger.
It is odd-looking, some might say ugly. But never say this to an Aussie or a Biologist. To them it is beautiful. As to why is a mystery. An unbiased opinion is the animal has three things going for it: neat stripes, a cool name and a doozy of a story.
We are here for the story. Here it is: the Tasmanian Tiger in the picture is Benjamin. Benjamin was found dead in his pen on the morning of September 7th, 1936.
The previous night a zookeeper forgot to put him in his enclosure. The consequences were severe: he froze to death. In the morning,when the zookeepers discovered the Tasmanian Tiger was dead, they threw it into the dumpster, treating Benjamin as if he was just another animal at the zoo. He wasn't.
Benjamin was the last of his kind, the last Tasmanian Tiger. And with his death, Australia lost an apex predator; and a 4-million-year-old beast was extinct. It was not a good day at the zoo.
Since then, people around the world have become obsessed with the creature. To the point where today one might say there are two entities: the Tasmanian Tiger and the obsession with it. The obsession is unbelievable in its potency. It consumes people causing intelligent, rational people to act irrationally. This article is a prime example:
Yes, you read that right. Scientists around the world are aiding Australia with their "De-Extinction Project." The aim of the project is to Jurassic Park the Tasmanian Tiger back to life, a sure sign of irrational thoughts and actions if there ever was.
Now, how all this relates to College lacrosse is probably a head scratcher for most, but it shouldn't be. It's a simple matter of human nature.
Life experience and perspective allows a person to see the world in ways they previously hadn't. This phenomenon is difficult to describe because it is entirely visual. Fortunately, the artist Picasso provides illustrations.
For instance, most people when they look at the image below see a number, but Picasso saw a nose.
And when you look at it from his perspective, it is a nose. Perspective is what the story of the Tasmanian Tiger provides. Once a person reads or hears it, images previously unnoticed will appear to them.
Astonishing, isn't it? Without knowledge of the Tasmanian Tiger, few people can see them. And those who can, undoubtedly have seen them before.
The scientific name for the beast is the Thylaxseen. But the lacrosse world has always called them Tasmanian Middies, or Tazzies for short. Old timers were shocked on May 28th, 2016 when they showed up Memorial Day weekend playing for Brown.
After all, everyone thought the beast went extinct decades ago; and yet there it was again running freely across the college landscape. The rumors were true: Brown had been pursuing a De-Extinction Program and what they had achieved was terrifying.
Whether a fan saw them or not, they could recognize there was something different about the 2016 Brown team. They played an up and down the field game at a blistering pace; it was frenetic, exciting and unpredictable in every way but one: fans loved it!
Many thought Brown's style was something new, something never seen before, but it wasn't. Quite to the contrary, their game was as old as the game itself and wholly dependent on Tasmanian Middies.
If you are among the 85%, who are unfamiliar with Tazzies, then you need to know this: the Tasmanian Middie is to lacrosse what the Grizzly Bear is to Yellowstone. Simply put, it is the ultimate apex predator of its habitat, and its habitat is the lacrosse field.
Their historical home range is enormous. Geographically located in the middle of the field, it stretches from goal to goal. The reason: Tasmanian Middies could play offense and defense equally well. What set them apart, though, was their stamina.
Playing frequently, on one run, both sides of the field multiple times, they created a dizzying up and down the field game that could sustain itself for 60-minutes. In short, the game was fast and mostly uninterrupted by substitutions.
Whether people realized it or not, the presence of Tasmanian Middies on the 2016 Brown team was the critical component to generating the excitement they provided, and that is what they did! Brown may not have won the tournament, but if there was a "Best in Show" award, well, they ran away with it.
Three words could be used to describe their game: pressure, pressure, pressure---their pace of play applied the pressure. By playing at a pace far faster than their opponents were accustomed to, the Bears made their competitors mistake prone and vulnerable to attack.
And while there were a lot of moving pieces to their game, there was only one indispensable piece: the Tasmanian Middie. For Brown these were two long poles who played offense and defense, thereby providing fast break opportunities with virtually every takeaway and stop.
In the end, on that day, it wasn't enough to beat the University of Maryland, but it was enough to create a ripple throughout the lacrosse world. Since then there have been Tasmanian Middie sightings all over the place.
The question is will the Tazzy ever fully return. After all, it takes a lot for an Apex predator to go extinct and it did. Therein lies the problem: it is impossible to predict because nobody truly knows why they went extinct.
As one elder statesmen in the game put it: "It was bizarre. One day they were here and the next they were gone. BUT THIS IS THE STRANGEST THING:
after they disappeared, nobody seemed to care! At least, not until the Pentagon showed up asking questions nobody could answer."
COMING SOON PART II:
The Big Bad Wolf