Inside Lacrosse put out a very interesting podcast recently discussing issues revolving around Major League Lacrosse and all of the challenges it faces. The panel consisted of hosts Kyle Devitte and Chris Rosenthal from IL, Connor Wilson and Ryan Conwell from Lax All Stars and Phil Shore of New England Lax Journal. It was a good discussion with plenty of ideas and honest commentary. Here are my thoughts on some of the major topics discussed.
MLL is such a dichotomy in 2017. On one hand the league is really struggling with attendance, disgruntled players popping off on social media or not reporting to new teams after trades. But, my biggest pet peeve at the moment is star players missing crucial games without explanation. Atlanta’s Mark Matthews and Chesapeake’s Lyle Thompson both were scratched recently in games where their teams faced a must win situation. In both cases their teams lost a very close game. Thompson not playing probably cost the Bayhawks a playoff spot. Likewise for Matthews who was AWOL for The Blaze loss to Chesapeake.
On the other hand, the play on the field has never been better. Some players and teams are really emerging. Level of play certainly isn’t an issue the league faces.
US Lacrosse/MLL Synergy
The first topic that piqued my interest was the US Lacrosse/MLL dynamic. The panel pretty much agreed that these two organizations need to be working together. Currently that clearly isn’t the case.
Case in point being US Lacrosse holding World Team tryouts in the middle of the MLL season, during their All Star break. How does that benefit MLL? Can’t Team USA coaches get a feel of what they have by watching the MLL season? This would be similar to the way hockey and basketball is selected for NHL & NBA players.
Here are a couple of easy solutions that will help both US Lacrosse and MLL. First and foremost, no Team USA activities during the MLL season. Secondly, hold a series of games for the Team USA training teams versus MLL players and (or) teams. I would think players who were cut would love to play against Team USA. Make the games competitive, award prize money, have standings etc.
You can stage weekend events at different venues throughout the fall. These events can gauge interest in potential MLL expansion markets. You can also utilize the new US Lacrosse training center. For example, one weekend in Baltimore, Southern California and Florida. Obviously, other markets could host.
This is going to give Team USA much needed competition, it will keep MLL players busy in the off season and it will give content to Lax Sports Network. It should be a very high priority of US Lacrosse to see MLL become more successful .
In addition most MLL players will play a max of 14-16 games during the season. A pro lax player should be playing many more games than that. Playing another 4-6 games against Team USA will help improve the MLL player. Think about how many games a full time MLL/NLL player will play throughout a year. A top player can play between 30-35 times a year.
New Commish/ Media/TV
Speaking of LSN, that was also a good topic that was brought up by the panel. It tied in nicely to talk of a new commish and TV coverage.
The big take away for me was Connor Wilson doesn’t subscribe to LSN! Me personally I think LSN is worth the $10 bucks a month. They carry and archive all MLL games, show a fair amount of college games and a couple of studio/highlight shows as well. We can agree improvements can be made there, but it is off the ground and running. I would say that is a big accomplishment.
Another thing everyone could agree on was a need of a linear TV deal of some kind. This is why the hire of the new commish it’s so vital. He must have experience and the ability to land a TV deal of some kind. A Game of the Week package on a cable network is a must. This would be in addition to LSN and the Twitter games offered. LSN is a great service for the hardcore fan, many more games need to be available to the casual fan for free.
Accurate stats and press releases were also discussed as shortcomings for the league. No doubt MLL has some issues in the communications department. Phil Shore put it best when he said they need to “tighten up”.
Something I want to see now.
The playoff field isn’t set up, but we know the venues are known. A realistic goal for attendance would be 20k for the 3 games. Denver will be hosting at Peter Barton Stadium, the capacity there is around 2,500. I imagine the game will be a sell out. Can Ohio draw 5k for a playoff game?
How many will show up for the Championship Game? Would 10k be a realistic number? The venue is really interesting. I could see a team playing out of the “Star” if things go well.
I want to see new commish announced at Championship game. I am not going to hold my breath on that one though.
Enjoy the games.