By Michael Bamberger, Inquirer Staff Writer
By day, Scott Growney is a lawyer at the old-line Philadelphia firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. As a lawyer, Growney draws up documents that are precise, even delicate. Every semicolon is given care.
By night, Growney is a professional lacrosse player for the fledgling Philadelphia Wings. In that role, he runs around the field willy-nilly in pursuit of a heavy white ball.
He loves both occupations.
Being a lawyer exercises Growney’s mind; lacrosse exercises the rest of him. Being a lawyer keeps Growney in three-piece suits; lacrosse pays for his socks.
On Saturday night, the Wings played at home, at the Spectrum. The Wings are members of the four-team Eagle Box Lacrosse League, which began last month. The other teams are the New Jersey Saints, the Baltimore Thunder and the Washington Wave. The teams have a six-game schedule; playoffs begin in March. The Wings are 2-2.
Box lacrosse differs from field lacrosse in two significant ways. It is played indoors, on a field the size of an ice-hockey rink, covered with artificial grass. And box lacrosse has six players on the field at a time, four fewer than in field lacrosse.
But the most significant difference is this: while field lacrosse is a highly physical game, going into a game of box lacrosse is like going into battle. In field lacrosse, checking happens occasionally and often results in a penalty. In box lacrosse, checking happens all the time, to all parts of the anatomy, and almost never results in a penalty. Whacking is part of the game, much to the delight of most spectators. But not all.
“I worry about him when he’s out there. How could I not? I’m his mother,” said Scott Growney’s mother, Dorothy Growney, who was at the Spectrum Saturday night. “When there’s a pile-up, I just hope that it’s not Scott who’s on the bottom. Scott’s father is a physician, so I always rest a little easier when he’s here.”
“Sometimes I worry,” said Anne Burch, Growney’s girlfriend, “but it’s always exciting.” Burch is accustomed to watching Growney play lacrosse. Her brother Bob is the sponsor of the Eagle’s Eye Lacrosse Club, the amateur lacrosse team with which Growney used to play.
The amateur game is relatively civil. “This box game is rough,” Growney said in the locker room after the game as teammates tended injuries. It’s the same locker room the Flyers use. “But it’s my idea of fun.”
Lacrosse has been Growney’s idea of fun for a while now. He was a high school all-American at Harriton, where he was a member of the class of 1977. As a senior Growney was elected captain and most valuable player. At Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, from which he graduated in 1981 with a degree in history, with honors, Growney was a Division III all-American in lacrosse.
These days, Growney leads a double life. While he makes it plain that his law practice is more important to him than his lacrosse practice, Growney takes his life as an athlete seriously. As a player in training, Growney watches what he eats, he works out every other day, and he goes to lacrosse practice once a week. The practices are in Baltimore, where a majority of the players live. The Wings are coached by Dave Huntley, who was a star player at Johns Hopkins and, after that, coached at Loyola, which is also in Baltimore. Many of the players have ties to Hopkins, which has long been a national lacrosse powerhouse.
While the commitment is significant, the compensation is not. Growney is paid $100 for home games and $150 for away games, plus expenses.
“We were told that they were trying to keep salaries down so that there would be money for promoting the league,” said Growney. “They’re taking a long view.”
But Growney’s not so sure he is.
“Even if you could make a living at this, and I think that day will come, I’m a lawyer first now. I’ve been through the bar exam, and going thorugh that was more nerve-wracking than playing before 10,000 people, which is nerve- wracking enough,” said Growney.
Growney, 27, is about 5 feet, 9 inches and 160 pounds, which makes him small by professional lacrosse standards. There are players in the league a half-foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. But few, according to his high school coach, Nort Seaman, have more energy.
“That’s the thing that separates him,” said Seaman, who is an assistant principal at Harriton. “In high school, when the other kids were getting tired, Scotty was getting stronger and stronger.”
Growney was energetic a decade ago, when he ran on the lush green grass of Harriton’s playing fields. And he’s energetic today, running on the tired, pale green mat the Wings are renting from the estate of a defunct professional soccer team.
For Growney to lead his double life, being energetic is a must.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, February 19, 1987)