Imagine at the end of the summer, lacrosse was just about to start instead of it ending with the MLL Championship Weekend. Instead of battling in scorching heat all season, the athletes would have a true training camp and would be battling each other in cooler weather.
While it may be a possibility, would it be a good change for the sport of lacrosse? Would it bring more popularity and exposure as the sport tries to expand and become a sport where athletes are being paid enough that it is considered a full time job?
Let’s look at both sides of the coin here. First, here is why it wouldn’t be a good idea.
- 1. It would compete with the biggest brand in sports, the NFL
Starting the season at the end of the summer and heading into fall would, of course, mean that it would be competing against the most popular sport in the United States, the NFL. No one can touch the NFL in terms of its popularity. To get a look at what the MLL would be up against, let’s look at a tweet from sports business analyst, Darren Rovell.
His tweet looked at a Harris poll asking sports fans what their favorite sport was. The results? The NFL was first at 34 percent. The next closest? The MLB at 14 percent. Talk about a change in national past times.
With lacrosse essentially in its infancy, it would get swallowed up more than ever as it goes against the NFL and the beginning of both the NBA and NHL.
- 2. When would they play?
The current lacrosse season has its games on the weekends. Guess what else is played on the weekends? The NFL and college football. Every major TV contract knows that football is king and it would take the worst possible football game over anything the MLL could offer. College football dominates Saturdays, while the NFL does Sundays and Monday nights. It is also starting to take a hold on Thursday nights as well.
With lacrosse being so low paying already and most players having second jobs during the week, it would be very hard to get any of them to fully commit to the season and have them play on any other day than the weekends. There are already instances of players missing games right now and that is just as the summer starts. Imagine what it would be like at the end of summer when things are starting to ramp up in the quarter of the business world?
- 3. There is no breathing room between the MLL and NLL seasons
The MLL season goes from the last week in April until the last week in August. That’s essentially four months. Move that to the end of August and you are going right into training camp for the NLL season and comes very close to the NLL opener.
For the players who play in both leagues, there is no time to rest and recoup from any nagging injuries and the grind of the MLL. They would have to hop right into it and their play is likely to suffer as a result.
The reasons it is a good idea:
- 1. Less vacations means more possible viewers
Let’s face it, during the summer all of us are trying to soak in as much sun as possible and go to the beach as well. While we aren’t trying to turn orange, we do want to enjoy the good weather and by moving the season to the end of the summer you could create more viewers.
While I did mention that the NFL and college football would rule the television networks. However, if you move the sport to the fall, technically you should have the most amount of eye balls available because everyone has stopped taking summer vacations and all the young laxers out there are back at school. So moving the sport to the end of the summer would, in theory, create more of a possibility that people want to watch something else when their respective football teams are 0-6 and maybe they catch a glimpse of lacrosse. Which leads me to my next point…
- 2. New 24/7 sports networks are desperate for programming
As I eluded to earlier, lacrosse probably doesn’t even crack the Top 6 sports in terms of popularity. However, with the emergence of alternative sports networks such as FOX Sports, CBS Sports and NBC Sports, they are looking for any type of programming to get people to watch their networks. Heck, ESPN didn’t start with the NFL, NBA and MLB when it launched back in 1979. It showed literally anything. Cricket, sailing, billiards, you name it, it was on ESPN.
Well the same holds true for all the above mentioned networks now. When I scroll over these channels they have auto racing and some bigger sports but mostly nothing interesting. You don’t think they would like to put lacrosse on their programming instead of say, boat races? CBS does it from time-to-time during the summer, so I’m sure if it moved to the fall, those networks wouldn’t mind adding some MLL to their programming.
- 3. It would give college athletes a true training camp.
The college season officially ends on Memorial Day Weekend. For most of the schools though, it ends around the last week in April. By contrast, the MLL season starts the last week in April. That means that drafted collegiate athletes are being thrown right into the fire of professional lacrosse. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for the players if, you know, they went through a training camp with their actual teammates, just like in the other four major sports?
The answer is yes, 100 percent yes. While guys like Rob Pannell and Logan Schuss made it look like child’s play last season, there are still others that struggled. Take for instance, JoJo Marasco. The guy was a first team All-American at Syracuse and a Tewaaraton finalist. When he came into the MLL, he was a non-factor. He didn’t hit his stride until the final two games where he registered eight of his nine points. Moving the season back would allow the rookies to get used to the speed of the game and build continuity with their teammates.
While this change in season is all hypothetical, it does bring up an interesting discussion. However, as I stated throughout, the MLL would be wise to take advantage of the summer and compete against the MLB and its absurdly long season, than against the ever popular NFL in the fall.