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Senate President Leads Fight for Lacrosse's Rights

Jousters at the Maryland Renaissance Festival / Courtesy Maryland Renaissance Festival

Jousting enthusiasts worried that making lacrosse the state's team sport would lower the stature of jousters like these sportsmen at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. (Photo courtesy Maryland Renaissance Festival)

By Adrienne Saunders
Capital News Service
Thursday, March 4, 2004

ANNAPOLIS - At least no one brought a horse.

But crimson capes, white lacrosse sticks and plenty of suits crowded a hearing Thursday on Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.'s bill to make lacrosse Maryland's official "team" sport, an idea jousters came to duel over, fearing it will dilute jousting's stature as the state sport.

Miller himself turned out to support the measure.

The Calvert Democrat doesn't have anything against Maryland's state sport - his great-great-grandfather won the National Jousting Tournament in 1876 - but he said both sports deserve recognition of their achievements, and he's just the one to bridge the gap.

"It's like Nixon going to China," Miller said.

Miller's bill would not oust the joust, but would add a new category of state "team" sport to the annals, joining a growing list of state symbols.

Maryland has a state cat, the calico; a state fossil shell, Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae; a state summer theater, Olney Theater; and a state horse, added last session, the Thoroughbred, among others.

Even committee member Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel, got into the spirit, bringing a lacrosse stick to the hearing.

But her display was nothing compared with Alice Blum's pink cone headdress and matching medieval gown, or Bruce Hoffman's red cape emblazoned with a gold lion.

Hoffman protested arguments that the lacrosse industry's economic contribution to the state warrants its recognition in the code. Industry representatives estimated that the 2003 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship alone brought the state $9 million.

"It's not about how much money you can make for the state," Hoffman said.

One witness, Mary-Lou Bartram, known in jousting circles as "the Maid of Bartram Manor," said most jousting demonstrations are done for free, and money shouldn't be a part of the debate.

"Some things are priceless. Everything else is MasterCard," Bartram said.

A staple at fairs and festivals throughout the state, jousting is a fund-raiser for many community events, including some in Miller's district.

Lacrosse did not lack for advocates, with one student running out of the hearing to make practice on time.

Jenna Hubbard, a senior at St. Mary's High School, traveled internationally to play lacrosse in the seventh and ninth grades. She told the committee the game gives young women the opportunity to develop self-confidence.

"Lacrosse has offered women all over the state a chance to compete, travel and experience the camaraderie of participating in a sport rich in tradition," Hubbard said.

Miller didn't have to leave as quickly. Though the General Assembly has been crammed with hot-button issues like slot machines, assault weapons and same-sex marriage, Miller stayed for the entire hour and a half of testimony.

Christ Church Parish in Port Republic relies on the draw of jousting's novelty to bring community members to special events, said the rector, the Rev. John Howanstine.

The consensus that made jousting the state sport in 1962 was a promise to the sport - one the Legislature should now keep, Howanstine said.

"Dance with the one that brung ya," Howanstine said.

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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