It’s hard to form a coherent thought about what’s going on in Major League Lacrosse right now.
For context, I’ve been involved in some form with MLL for seven years. Currently, I do the radio play by play for my home town Boston Cannons. I’ve wrote about the league from my previous website, In Lacrosse We Trust, and even covered stories about the league for Lacrosse Magazine, the Boston Globe, and NH Union Leader.
For as long as I’ve wanted to work in sports, MLL has been at the forefront of my thoughts.
Sports journalists aren’t supposed to openly root for any team. Given that I’ve grown up a fan of all the Boston sports teams, I think I’ve done a pretty good job not letting that carry over into my work.
I have been, however, openly rooting for MLL to succeed. To see it in shambles is heartbreaking.
The first MLL game I went to was the 2010 all star game in Boston. I saw a commercial about it on TV, and at 13 years old, begged to go. It was the same night as LeBron’s “the decision.” I didn’t care about that. I cared about Kevin Buchanan winning the freestyle contest.
After that, I began covering the Cannons. I went to another all star game, and a championship weekend. For the past two years, I’ve called games for the team I grew up as a journalist covering.
There have been a lot of people on social media who have wanted to ignore the recent MLL news about the Atlanta Blaze, or to just blindly support a league that has messed up an awful lot. I know how it feels to want to make it all go away. When I explain to people I work in lacrosse, and specifically cover MLL, and then they mock the league or call it names, it hurts. Because it’s my livelihood, but also it’s the lifeblood of so many players, journalists, and broadcasters I consider friends.
Every time I have to write about the failures of the league, from the player information breach, to the recent Atlanta lawsuit, to fans in Rochester losing their team, it hurts. I hate it so much, as all the issues off the field take away from the excellent level of play on it.
But lacrosse fans deserve to know what’s happening in the league they follow. Especially season ticket holders or anyone who invests money into the league. Is the team they support going to pack up overnight, a la Baltimore Colts? Are they being ripped off from watching games on a platform that has been disingenuous of how its been funded?
The product of MLL, and the NLL too, for that matter, is awesome. I’ve never heard of someone going to a game and saying the game sucked. I have heard people say they struggle to follow a league where they can’t get easy access, or just have too many headaches to comprehend.
The fact that MLL and the NLL has a crossover is still very confusing and it's even more difficult for new fans to grasp. I’ve been involved for seven years and I still don’t have a good answer as to why that is the case. There’s no reason there can’t be a way for players to play in both.
Lately, athletes are choosing the NLL, and I can’t say I blame them. Nick Sakiewicz has done a great job running that league and turning it around. There’s legitimate expansion markets, and the league has relayed information in an honest manner.
About three years ago, I thought the opposite. Then Lax Sports Network (which, for the record, I think hosts a lot of talented broadcasters and has some really good content) came around, and monopolized lacrosse media, specifically in MLL.
After that, commissioner David Gross said he was stepping down. 87 days from the end of the season, and that hasn’t happened yet. He was in Dallas this afternoon announcing the Rattlers relocation. There’s been no word of who is stepping in.
Then the information data breach, which might have been the worst of all, because that affected people not even with MLL anymore.
This ignores the countless shortcuts the league has taken in PR and communications, which includes the lack of permalinks on social media, player name typos in press releases, grammar issues throughout stories online, and overall difficulty even accessing digital content.
The NLL made a lot of corrections to clean up shop, and MLL has fallen perilously behind.
Everyone who cares about MLL wants to see it fixed, and I don’t think many people really want to see it buried. But ignoring these issues doesn’t make it go away. It just allows these issues to compound unchecked.
There’s a lot of talk in general of media being a watchdog on society. Sometimes it feels like lacrosse media has a tendency to be more of a gatekeeper, talking instead about who should get to cover lacrosse, who deserves access, and who’s opinions are valid. Constantly ignoring other journalists, not crediting their work, and trying to discredit people who spend full time hours on the sport isn’t growing anything, it’s just making a more divisive environment than already is there; and yes, lacrosse is already divisive enough. I could start in with how just one woman has a vote on the national college lacrosse media vote, but that’s another story.
If someone doesn’t follow the sport and jumps in and judges, yes, that’s an issue. But for lacrosse journalists who live and die with the sport, it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening, and relay that information to fans who spend money on and consume the sport and its products.
That means facing the harsh realities; MLL isn’t doing so great. That doesn’t mean we don’t want it to suceed and flourish. At least for myself, I want MLL to be one of the most watched sports in the world.
However, that will never happen if we ignore problems and pretend everything is fine.
MLL can do better.
We all can do better.