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For the love of the game
Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala is quick to point out that as important as the program is to the university, there are far more critical elements to Johns Hopkins than 50 young men playing in front of 8,000 people at Homewood Field.
Still, to grasp the relationship between Johns Hopkins and lacrosse, a simple game of word-association will likely do the trick. Walk down to Baltimore's Inner Harbor on any sunny spring day - the kind of day that draws those 8,000 fans to Homewood Field - and ask people what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they hear the name "Johns Hopkins."
A great deal - perhaps half - will say "lacrosse."
At an institution of global preeminence in medicine and public health, offering more than 250 majors in nine different schools with undergraduate and graduate programs spanning the widest possible range of higher education, it is the time-honored devotion to a game first played by Native Americans, that makes playing and watching lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University different than at any other school in the nation.
It's easy to look at the 179 First Team All-Americans, the 44 National Championships, the nine NCAA titles and the 39 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Numbers alone, though, can't paint a complete picture of how deeply integral lacrosse is to the Johns Hopkins University community. This dynamic must be experienced first-hand.
Homewood Campus on gameday is different than any other lax-loving community. The Nest, the only dedicated student section of its kind in the lacrosse world, greets visitors as they enter Homewood Field from the main campus. The band, directed by Conrad Gebelein for some 57 years, takes its ceremonial place just behind the team - a raucous reminder of the hundreds who have played lacrosse here in the past. Glance up at the press box and the top level is occupied by ESPNU - yes, Johns Hopkins is the only lacrosse team in the nation with its own exclusive national television contract. Quite simply, at no other school in the nation is lacrosse the premier sport.
Pietramala, who is known now as one of the game's greatest coaches, was himself one of the greatest players ever to suit-up for the Blue Jays. He was named the nation's best player in 1989 and was a member of the 1987 National Championship team. He has two more NCAA Championships in his trophy case as a coach from 2005 and 2007.
The powerful legacy of Johns Hopkins is not burdensome for current student athletes. Instead it is relished - they know that beating Duke or Maryland is all part of saving the world.
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