By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
There are still a few production kinks to be worked out. The team announcer insisted fans wave their complimentary Titan towels with a fervor bordering on hostility ("Wave those towels! Is that the best you can do?! This is supposed to be New York City! Celebrate that goal!!"). And the mascot resembles a peppy, neon-orange Darth Vader. The Titans Dance Team was selected just two weeks before the first game (by an odd panel of judges that included Titans defenseman Matt Alrich, Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, former American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis, and Christie, captain of the Knicks City Dancers), and has only had time to learn two routines, though they plan to debut a third at Nassau Coliseum this weekend.
That said, the game itself is fast paced, energetic, and easy to follow, even for the uninitiated. Lacrosse evolved from a centuries-old Native American game, but Canadians put the finishing touches on the indoor version, and in its essentials it's extremely similar to hockey, with a little soccer and a touch of basketball thrown in.
As in the NHL, indoor lacrosse teams usually have a "goon"hockey players prefer to be called "enforcers," but NLL defenders don't get to be so pickywho'll fight opposing players when necessary in order to protect their more talented teammates and fire up the crowd. The best offensive players aren't supposed to fight, because their team can't afford to have them get injured or land in the penalty box, but for those same reasons, opposing teams are constantly trying to provoke Boyle and Powell. "You'll get gooned up, but you have to keep your composure," said Boyle, which led to the following conversation:
Boyle: You hope that your goon comes in and messes with their goon, and they goon each other out.
Powell: And you hope your goon is tougher than their goon. Or you will get gooned.
Boyle: Right, exactly. Because otherwise their goon's gonna beat up your goon, and then that goon's just going to keep beating the hell out of you.
"We don't have a certified goon yet," added Powell. It turns out that this is just one of the many interesting wrinkles that come with being an expansion team. Oddly enough, no one had volunteered.
The Titans won their home debut 11-9, a close, tight game that put their season record at 1-2"Everyone talks about how historic this game is," said Boyle, "but we just needed a win."and afterwards they endeared themselves to their newborn fans by staying on the field to sign autographs for more than half an hour. It's amazing how much goodwill an autograph can generate; kids who couldn't have named a single player on the team were thrilled beyond words. Powell estimated that he signed a few hundred, while Matt Alrich complained good-naturedly that his wrist hurt (passing teammate: "That's not from signing autographs!" Alrich: "I walked right into that one").
In their small, spartan locker room, down a long hallway from the Knicks' and Rangers' areas, the players buzzed happily about the game, the turnout, and the Garden crowd (which had included hundreds of friends and family members, as well as a wide selection of Roy Colesy's students). Everyone admitted to having some variety of "jitters" at the outset.
"This is my seventh year in the league and I actually had a bunch of butterflies," said Palidwor. "When I found out we were going to play our home-opener here, I was so excited, and so were the guys." Asked by bemused sportswriters if goaltending was more stressful than his weekday career, he smiled. "It's slightly more stressful, but at the same time, I play with live power, so . . . that can be stressful too."
They were still goonless, and the Titans would be heading back to their day jobs bruised, with ugly scrapes and burns from hitting the unforgiving playing surface, like something out of Fight Club.
In the same drab room where all Garden head coaches hold forth, Adam Mueller was asked if this game had been a "must-win." Welcome to New York, Adam. "My goal is to get these guys to compete in every game this season, and to limit their mistakes. We're still learning," he repliedsounding, actually, not unlike Isiah Thomas.