An excited group of fans were active in the comment section of the 2014 MLL Draft’s YouTube stream. Excited and, well, easily distracted fans. The topic changed multiple times per minute and discussions covered just about everything you can imagine:
John Kissick: I haven’t heard quint say one thing about hop
Paul E. Dangerously: tell me this commissioner doesn’t look like the principal from billy madison
Jp Bennett: not sure how many will agree with me…I like the NLL, but the Bandits game just had 1,871 viewers and the MLL draft has 596. So which league is more exciting, NLL or MLL?
Henry Standard: Wait is mundorf not on CHA anymore?
Gavin O’Dell: guy with the yeng ling needs to get a grip
Basically, the commenters were saying anything and everything that came to mind. Rarely did one conversation topic stick, but when it did, it was usually about the LXM Pro Tour. Everyone wants a merger. Lots of people mentioned that they miss Kyle Harrison, Billy Bitter and Johnny Rodriguez. YouTube users who hadn’t been commenting much chimed in, claiming that a “super league” would be amazing.
Fans want expansion, and it looks like the league wants to grow in Atlanta. I’m not sold on Atlanta as a location for MLL. They have notoriously bad fans for their NFL and NBA teams. Recently, they [deservedly] lost their NHL team to Winnipeg.
[I was in Atlanta in March 2011. Just before a Thrashers game, I walked by Philips Arena. Of the fans walking in, only one had on a jersey. It was Rich Peverley, who had been traded to the Bruins earlier that season. That guy definitely bought his Peverley jersey for $14.99 on the clearance rack at Marshall’s three hours before the game. And yet, he was the most “diehard” fan there.]
Why would MLL be any different? Plus, if you add a team in Atlanta, then you should add another team to keep the league at an even number.
Here’s my idea: Add the two LXM Pro teams. Now Major League Lacrosse consists of 10 teams. Each team plays every team twice (once home, once away) for an 18-game schedule. The LXM Pro teams would have a different location for each home game, giving us 18 MLL games in non-MLL cities. Here’s an example of Team STX’s schedule:
Now imagine Team Maverik’s schedule hits up Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Calgary, Portland, Ann Arbor, San Francisco and Minneapolis. The Bayhawks, Outlaws, Cannons and other MLL teams would be accessible to these non-MLL locations. The league’s popularity in the south, the west coast and Canada would grow.
Maintaining the touring schedule would be tremendously beneficial to MLL. Major moneymaking events such as the All-Star Game and Championship Weekend could be played in the most successful cities – not in test markets. More of these non-hotbed areas would be tested throughout the season without missing an opportunity to cash in on the league’s main events.
Acquiring the LXM rosters would help ease the difficulties of expansion. MLL is about to have its most competitive season yet. New York, Boston, Ohio and Rochester filled just about every hole their rosters had this offseason. Expanding again will dilute the player pool. Although Tour rosters are not filled with MLL talent from top-to-bottom, they have a head start. Please, don’t make me sit through another season of 2013 Machine-caliber lacrosse. I just can’t do it, captain! I don’t have the power!
For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Tour is not a pickup game full of unnecessary stick tricks and a lack of hustle. These guys take the field to compete. Their intent is not to destroy MLL; rather, it is to grow the game. Chazz Woodson, who has spent time both in MLL and with the Tour, wrote an excellent piece explaining the Tour and its mission. I highly recommend reading it before knocking the Tour’s legitimacy.
The Tour operates under a set of values. Games are capped at an audience of 5,000 in order to increase fan experience. Every game is played in a different city. In the week leading up to a game, players often hold clinics for younger players in the area. The Tour is sponsored by Adrenaline, and its players use STX and Maverik products.
None of this has to change! Tour players will have to accept the 2-point line [which some have deemed gimmicky]. They’ll also have to play with a 60-second shot clock. But as far as ideals go, the LXM Pro Tour has to make very few compromises.
Not everything about the merge would be perfect, however. There are reasons why it hasn’t happened yet. Most of those reasons are green and have a dead president on them. The rest are green and have Benjamin Franklin on them. [Kidding… sort of.] Major League Lacrosse was co-founded by Dave Morrow, the owner and president of Warrior Lacrosse. For MLL to merge with the STX- and Maverik-sponsored LXM Pro Tour, Warrior would have to willingly forfeit its control of the professional lacrosse gear market.
Here’s my question to Warrior: Would it not be worth giving away a piece of the pie to grow the size of the pie? Allowing STX and Maverik to enter the professional lacrosse market would mean short-term financial losses for Warrior. Those losses would surely seem insignificant if a merge helped MLL reach a profitable level within the next decade.
A 30-team league with local and national television contracts will bake a much bigger pie than an eight-team league with YouTube broadcasts and Comcast SportsNet tape delays. The road to a profitable 30-team league is not through Atlanta. Don’t be fooled by the Charlotte and Chesapeake fans who make the trip to Championship Weekend.
If Warrior puts the best interest of lacrosse in front of its brand, then the sport will eventually make its sacrifice worthwhile.
Benefits for LXM Pro:
- Television contracts already in place
- Increased publicity (i.e. jersey sales)
- Players have the option to play NLL in the winter
- Be a part of league history through postseason play and statistical records
- Continue to grow the game on the west coast
- Play in front of hometown crowds (Harrison and many others are from Maryland. The Brattons are from New York.)
Benefits for MLL:
- Test out future markets without risk of financial loss
- Showcase all of the top talent in the sport
- Keep Chesapeake, Boston and Denver home games out of test markets
- Have a better idea of where and when you can expand
- Long-term financial gain
Downside for LXM Pro:
- More of a commitment
- Some players will be cut or moved to the practice squad (and replaced by current MLL practice squad players)
Downside for MLL:
- Short-term financial losses
- Compromise sponsorship deal with STX and Maverik
Have a question or idea for Joe? E-mail him at email@example.com! Include your first name and hometown. You could be featured in his next mailbag column!