ANNAPOLIS - Maryland's athletes will be roaming the halls of
government Tuesday demanding that the Legislature decide which sports the
state should recognize as its own:
In previous years, jousters have shown no mercy with challengers.
They knocked down the duckpin bowlers in two General Assembly sessions,
1991 and '96.
- Jousting, which has held the honor exclusively since 1962.
- Or lacrosse, which was introduced to what is now Maryland by the
Iroquois Confederacy in the late 1600s, and whose fans want it named the
official team sport.
That reputation for a tough defense even led the Baltimore- based
Lacrosse Foundation to ask Del. Rosemary Bonsack, D- Harford, to withdraw
her lacrosse bill.
But Bonsack, who introduced the measure at the request of college
lacrosse players, is advancing.
"I think jousting should remain the state sport, but that there is
room for a team sport," Bonsack said. "There is enough interest and enough
concern that we can go ahead with a Maryland team sport -- we can
recognize and celebrate both."
The jousters are holding their ground.
Bruce Hoffman, president of the Maryland Jousting Tournament
Association, pointed out that there is team competition in jousting.
Therefore, there would be two official state team sports if the bill were
"We definitely oppose lacrosse as the state team sport," Hoffman
said. "The more state symbols, the less meaning they have. They should be
worthy of designation."
Steve Stenersen, executive director of the Lacrosse Foundation, was
careful to disassociate his group from any call to arms. In fact, he wrote
Bonsack a letter asking for a truce.
"We wanted to make sure before we go before the state Legislature
that the sport of lacrosse is prepared to unite as one effort," he said.
"This hasn't been achieved with this effort."
Then he began to sound like a combatant.
The object is not to unseat jousting as the state sport, Stenersen
said, just to win lacrosse a place in Maryland's trophy room.
"We feel that lacrosse has been ingrained in the state's history and
that it, too, deserves recognition," he said.
Stenersen added that Maryland is unique in recognizing a state sport,
and if one should be recognized, then it should be popular in addition to
having historical significance.
"Tens of thousands of people play lacrosse in the state," he argued.
"Outside the state, Maryland has been recognized as the home of lacrosse."
Bonsack believes the bill has a chance for a favorable vote from the
House Commerce and Government Matters Committee. But first, the battle
will be joined at Tuesday's hearing.
Copyright © 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism.