Clarey Might Be Sleeping with the Fishes
I should have known something like this would happen when I tangled with the Lacrosse Mafia.
Maybe I’ve been in the South too long ‘— I forgot just how seriously people in the Northeast, and my hometown in particular, take the game of lacrosse. I’ve never gotten so many letters about a single story in my entire 10-year career. In the past week or so I’ve received dozens of them, some from people I haven’t seen in more than 15 years. However most of the dispatches, the overwhelming majority of them, expressed less than charitable estimations of my writing ability, my journalistic integrity, my social status in high school and my ability to attract members of the opposite sex.
We ran as many as we could fit, starting on page 20.
A little back story: After the allegations of rape by a hired sex worker against three members of the Duke lacrosse team, I had a hunch that there would be people from my high school back on Long Island on the roster. Duke loves their Long Island boys, especially the ones who can play lacrosse, and every year they stack their team with a modest helping of the varsity squad from Garden City High School, my alma mater.
I had a unique angle on a local situation, a journalistic honey hole.
The piece I wrote drew a faint line between the situation at Duke and the lacrosse culture in place at my high school when I was a student. Along the way I took a few shots at the town I grew up in (a time-honored literary tradition), the guys on the team (they were in the line of fire) and my old gym teacher (mandatory).
I also expressed outrage at the members of the current Duke team, the ones who were at the party that night and as a body refused to tell the Durham Police what they know.
And people are pissed.
Not at the Duke lacrosse team.
No, they’re pissed at me.
The first trickle came in shortly after the story was posted on our website (that’s yesweekly.com, folks) and by Friday had surged to’… let’s say a decent-sized wave.
Many of them helped illustrate my point about the privileged status of lacrosse players in my high school and at Duke University.
A man from Washington, DC asked me: ‘“Why are you defending un-educated, out of wedlock child bearing, strippers?’”
Alumni from my high school who played on the team and went on to Georgetown and Harvard disputed my claim of elitism in lacrosse. The Harvard man, whose father was one of my high school’s greatest teachers, went on to medical school. The other is an investment banker in New York.
Another boasted of his Manhattan penthouse and summer home in the Hamptons before saying, ‘“I think I am going to go over to the high school and rip shots at an empty net with my $10 wooden lax stick.’”
I can think of no more apt metaphor for privilege and elitism than taking shots at an empty net.
Many pointed out the positive influence of Doc Dougherty, my high school’s legendary coach ‘— and it should be acknowledged that he’s put more guys through college than Nike.
My favorites? The simple and dignified ‘“You, sir, are a no talent hack,’” and the one that ends with ‘“Sarkis Rules!!!!’”
Oh, they all hate me. Except for maybe Sarkis, who from what I understand is big on name recognition.
I’ll tell you a secret: I like lacrosse. And I still think there’s something sweet about the game, its speed and violence and brutal justice, the perfect weight of the ball and the mechanics of throwing it with a stick.
Another disclosure: I enjoyed growing up in Garden City, despite what my detractors will have you think. I made a lot of friends and many of the relationships have held over the years. Some friendships have been tested by my stance on the Duke lacrosse team, and for that I am sorry, though my stance has not wavered.
Hours before press time this week, lawyers for the Duke lacrosse players released the information that no DNA matches were found on the exotic dancer. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong had yet to file charges in the case, though he’s said he’s confident a rape occurred based on the woman’s injuries.
So where does that leave me, a man who’s stuck his neck out pretty far in defense of a woman who may have been lying, alienating his hometown in the process?
People who truly know me won’t be too surprised when I say I’m sticking to my guns on this one. For now.
Even before the DNA evidence was released, Nifong said he could build a rape case without it. According to the physical evidence, someone had sex with this woman, an assertion that is inconsistent with the lacrosse players’ story ‘— that she danced and left after a few minutes. A witness on the scene says she left the house and then went back in, corroborating her story. She left behind her purse and driver’s license, and her fingernails too. The racial epithets were real, too.
Lack of a DNA match does not mean nothing happened ‘— it means Nifong will have trouble proving who did it. And the cynic in me is bracing for an acquittal.
To comment on this column, e-mail Brian Clarey at email@example.com.