Miles and Lyle Thompson play lacrosse as a means of showing respect to the Creator.
The mythological god of their Iroquois culture is deeply rooted in the sport — which evolved hundreds of years before the United States even existed — from a symbolic representation of warfare between tribes into a means for Native Americans to get a college education.
In an interview last year, Lyle Thompson said lacrosse was “part of our religion; it’s a part of everyone on the Nation.”
On Thursday, the sport reciprocated by showing respect to the greatest creators in the land.
The Thompson brothers attended the Tewaaraton Trophy ceremony in traditional Iroquois clothing, and the only move cooler than that was for the selection committee to name UAlbany’s stars co-winners of lacrosse’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
It was an award of historical significance, since they were the first co-winners and the first Native Americans to win it, and was rendered unanimously by the 10 coaches on the selection committee.
The committee got this right on so many levels.
Jordan Wolf of Duke was the closest competition for the trophy, and certainly had a strong case.
The Blue Devils’ attackman is a high-scoring senior on the NCAA tournament winner.
Eight of the 13 previous Tewaaraton winners came from the rosters of national champions.
The Thompsons and their cousin Ty, who have played on the most explosive offense in Division I the last two seasons, didn’t even make the semifinals, as the Great Danes were knocked off in overtime by Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.
They also play in the America East, a weaker conference than the traditionally powerful ACC.
The committee overlooked these factors and gave the trophy to the guys who truly deserved it, anyway.
Lyle Thompson crushed the single-season Division I record for points, and Miles tied the record for goals, with 82, many of them off the stick of his impossibly creative brother.
More important than the numbers was the manner in which the Thompsons treated the sport with the reverence and respect to which they owe it.
The Thompson trio captivated the lacrosse world and beyond, crossing over into mainstream media through features by The Associated Press, New York Times, USA Today, ESPN, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and the CBS Evening News.
They put the spirit of lacrosse on full display, and by extension, the spirit of their people, which has its own profound rewards. There’s a joy to their game, and we’ve been fortunate to share it.
That makes me believe that they were named the most outstanding players in the country on Thursday for more than just goals and statistics.