April 19 is a relatively ordinary date on the local calendar. It is a Thursday, one of those days most of us have to get to before we really start anticipating the weekend and goofing off on Friday. There are no significant holidays either before or after, and it is too soon to be planning summer vacations. It is a ho-hum day.
Except … it might produce one of Petaluma’s most exciting sporting events of the year. It is not the Egg Bowl or a North Coast Section championship game. It is the Battle for the Paddle. The Battle for the Paddle is one of those made-up monikers we like to tag to athletic events that are significant, but lack a long tradition. In this case, it is the second lacrosse meeting each season between rivals Petaluma and Casa Grande.
The Casa-Petaluma rivalry is quickly becoming a tradition and stretches beyond high school back to the days when lacrosse was still a club sport. The success of the local teams on the club level had much to do with lacrosse becoming officially recognized as a school sport, and now the Battle for the Paddle usually has significant influence on the league championship.
I’ve often said that Petaluma vs. Casa Grande in marbles would be a big deal, but lacrosse is such an intense, physical game that it is easy to get caught up in the intensity and emotion of the contest. It is easy to see why lacrosse is such a favorite for young athletes to play. It is fast, physical and tactical, and the pace is unrelenting. Those same attributes make it an amazing game to watch. I still don’t know all the rules, but I learn more each game.
It is true that the sport isn’t as popular as a spectator sport as football or basketball. There was a pretty good gathering for the first Casa vs. Petaluma game, but most were parents or grandparents, with not an overabundance of students. In fact, there was only one spectator on the visitor side of the Casa field, and he was a photographer.
There is much competition for player and fans attention during the spring, but for pure fun and excitement, few — that includes my beloved baseball — can rival lacrosse.
The game has come a long way in a short period of time in Petaluma. It will never rival football or basketball as a spectator sport, but more can be done to attract attention.
That probably starts right here in these pages, with better coverage of the sport, so people realize how exciting it really is, and how good our teams really are. How many people know that Petaluma and Casa Grande play in the North Bay Lacrosse League that includes Petaluma, Casa Grande, Rancho Cotate, Cardinal Newman, Windsor and Sonoma Academy? How many people know that Casa Grande is defending champion of that league? How many people know that Petaluma is currently unbeaten in that league with a 4-0 record and Casa Grande is tied with Rancho Cotate for second at 2-1?
I need to be telling people about that success.
But the schools can do a better job of promoting themselves.
The Casa-Petaluma game is great, with a working scoreboard and an announcer who not only calls out the players’ names, but also explains the game. Still, there were no rosters available. Who are these guys?