A Tale of Two Heads:

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens describes the French Revolution's Reign of Terror: a    12-month period when the guillotine loped off 17,000 heads.  Fortunately, during the lacrosse head revolution of 2010, only two heads were chopped off. That is not to say it wasn't a serious revolution. It was. It just wasn't as gory.

However, what it lacked in gore, it more than made up for with guile, specifically, separating many who are reading this from their money.  Indeed, so much so, everyone involved in the sport would do well to read this, regardless of whether they see themselves involved or not.  This story  is a story about deception in lacrosse and those are good to know.

                                                                      * * * * * * * *

The story began in 2010 when the NCAA instituted rule changes on the legal dimensions for a men's lacrosse head.   The rule changes were a response to developments in plastic molding.  For the better part of a decade, lacrosse heads had become too narrow, or "pinched." The narrowness made it extremely difficult to check the ball out of someone's stick, giving what most considered an unfair advantage to the offense.

To make things even, the NCAA widened the legal dimensions for a college head, making it easier to dislodge the ball.  Here a critical point must be emphasized: only college players were affected by this rule change; everyone else could continue to play with the same stick.

As you would expect, those who played offense in college were not happy with the changes. They lost an edge on the defense but what upset them more is they lost their favorite heads.  These heads were STX's Proton Power and the Brine Clutch.  It shouldn't surprise anyone to know these two were responsible for the rule change, and many of the players had grown up using them. To say they found the NCAA's actions unsettling is not an understatement.  It seems crazy now, but at the time people were upset.

Alright, there are only a few more technical aspects to the story.  Before moving forward, the reader needs to know these three things about the Proton Power and the Clutch:

  • They were illegal only in the college game
  • They gave an offensive player a significant advantage
  • They competed neck and neck for the crown of "most popular head in lacrosse"

 When the rules changed, the one thing college players could take comfort in is a collegiate version of their beloved Proton Power, and Clutch would be coming out soon, so they waited. Anxiously.  In the end, all the nail-biting was for naught.  STX and Brine simply widened their heads at the appropriate locations to satisfy the new rules.  Here, though, is where things get interesting:

One would think if both companies made the same alterations, then the competition between the collegiate versions would be the same as it was for the originals.  But it wasn't, not by a longshot. Instead, one dominated the other and all because of one word, proving the adage in branding: it's all in the name.

While Brine named their collegiate version of the Clutch, the less than sexy Clutch X; STX named their collegiate version of the Proton Power the SUPER POWER.  It was genius.  At first SUPER POWER sounds a bit goofy, but it takes on a whole different color, in this case, green, after you answer this question: Who do you think would most want a SUPERPOWER?  If this is your answer: everyone who according to the rules didn't have to have one, then you are correct; and for this reason, what followed was nothing short of a comedy.

As College players worked on acceptance, every boy between the ages of 5 and 12 worked on their parents.  They didn't have to have a SUPER POWER because of the rules; they had to have a SUPER POWER because of the name; after all, who wouldn't go down to the store and buy a Super Power if they could.

And so, it continued, as college players mournfully discarded their Clutches and Proton Powers, youngsters gleefully chucked theirs into the trash.  While College players braced to compete without their edge, youngsters, unwittingly, embraced the loss of one.  But, mysteriously, in all this nobody stopped to point out what STX had done, and let's be clear about what STX did:

To their credit, STX through the magic of marketing fooled kids and ultimately everyone into believing the SUPER POWER was better than the Proton Power when it was the opposite.  We know this definitively.  Think about it: the advantage the Proton Power provided was so significant the NCAA changed their rules to nullify it. 

No college player would have ever relinquished their Proton Power had they not had to; and on the High School level, where they knew better, few did.  Hopefully, the person who came up with the name SUPER POWER is now working in a large corner office with a great view, because they deserve it.  The impact it had on the marketplace was extraordinary and long-lasting.

The Super Power didn't just convince people it was better than the Proton Power; it convinced everyone it was better than its rivals.  Kids who previously would have been tempted to buy a Clutch or a Clutch X were distracted.  In no time the Super Power banished its once proud rival and all its forms to the hinterlands of the lacrosse store; in case you're wondering, this is the bottom left corner of a wall of lacrosse heads.  

But don't feel sorry for the Clutch; because, before this story is over, like a character in a Dickens novel it returns to twist the plot. First, though, we must address the moral of the story: the moral of the story is last year's equipment may be better than this years. The story of the SUPER POWER proves this to the nth degree.  Knowing this can save the reader money and help on the field.

Lacrosse is full of gimmicks. Year after year some new-fangled "you got to have it" thing comes out; and odds are—you don't have to have it.  This story is by no means unique or specific to gullible kids.  Hype routinely fools kids to college players to pros.  It happens all the time.  Case in point: before writing this article, to cross the T's and dot the I's, the author visited a local lacrosse store. 

There, he asked a young sales clerk where the latest version of the Clutch X was. The clerk said, "I don't think we have one. I don't think we have anything Brine on the wall".  When asked: what the new best thing is, what is today's hothead? He had no trouble finding it.  "It's this right here. The Under Armour Command! I use it." A big smile and all kinds of superlatives follow, as to its excellence.

Below are two heads. There is no Photoshop involved. The backgrounds were made transparent, nothing more. 

The lime green head is the CLUTCH X, a product that couldn't be found on the wall but can be found online for $30.00 less than the white one, which is…the Under Armour Command 2.

The Clutch X is ancient in comparison to the COMMAND 2. These is two companies, Under Armour and Brine.  The lime green CLUTCH X is ancient, eight years older.   Is there a difference? Yes. But not nearly as much marketing in the industry would have you think.  The question is: does it make a difference? In other words, does the Command provide an edge the Clutch X does not?

When it comes to this question, RELAX I GOT THIS, and you can pick this shirt up in LAXLORE STORE for $16.99. It's a great looking shirt and a wonderful way to invest in your future lacrosse entertainment (if confused, read Kenny & clocks).  

Now back to the question: does the Command provide an edge the Clutch X does not?  The answer is yes, but again, not nearly as much as much as the industry would have you believe.  Also, this can vary from player to player.  The Command would better serve a dodger; a player who lives off the preferable side of an assist, well, he would do better with the Clutch X.  But this is all theoretical.  It's not definitive. Step into a lacrosse store and begin to discuss the differences and everything you can imagine and everything you can't come into the discussion.

Getting into all this isn't the point. Here is: plastic is plastic, and when a small piece of plastic must conform to set dimensions, then revolutionary changes will be few and far between.  It would be wrong to say everyone is hawking gimmicks in the industry. They aren't. Businesses put serious research into these little pieces of plastic, and often they do make a big difference.

Here is the problem, as a person who has been in the business for a very long time, it is tough to watch a young man, who wants to play the game you love, not be able to afford it.  Primarily, when they have been told "you've got to have this" when they don't, and this scenario was the inspiration for A Tale of Two Heads.

After the 2017 season, heads used on all levels had to comply with legal dimensions established in the college game in 2010.  However, between 2010 and 2017, heads with the dimensions of the original Proton Power and Clutch could be found, and typically they could be purchased for much less than the Super Power.  It just goes to show how much marketing can do. 

The "Tale of Two Heads" is a story told to countless boys and young men who came into a lacrosse store searching for equipment they could afford to start the game. They were set on the SUPER POWER, because all their friends had it, but after hearing A Tale of Two Heads, they were able to get a significantly less expensive head, which provided such an advantage it was made illegal.

If a person knows these lacrosse equipment oddities, then it can pay off big time on the field and in the bank account.  By the way,  LAXLORE STORE makes great efforts to make certain our readers are guided to purchasing the best equipment.  Check it out, purchase a t-shirt, and invest in your future lacrosse entertainment. 

Damien Begley
 

Writer, Player, Stringer, Fan, proud Head Coach of the DC Champion Wilson Tigers, self-described lacrosse enthusiast who ultimately can be held responsible for anything you read, see or hear on this site. To reach emmett@laxlore.com