Memorial Day Monday always means the NCAA lacrosse championship game and today it was an overtime thriller that Syracuse won 10-9 over Cornell. It was the second straight championship for the Orange and their 11th overall. It seems like the sport is growing exponentially and the popularity and attendance of the NCAA championship would attest to that as more than 40,000 fans have been packing the stadiums on an annual basis. The question is, why isn’t professional lacrosse bigger and more mainstream in the U.S.?
I have never understood why professional lacrosse does not seem to work in this country. It has all the ingredients that a successful professional sport exhibits: It’s fast. It’s exciting. There’s some violence. There’s a fair amount of scoring. Several of the lacrosse hotbeds are close to some major markets. New York, D.C, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Charlotte. By all accounts, the pro lacrosse game should work, or at least be bigger than the current MLL. The Major Lacrosse League is anything but major. It consists of just 6 teams in some decent sized cities(including Washington, D.C.), but their average attendance is less than 6,000 per game. Am I missing something here? Give the MLL credit for at least having a television contract. ESPN2 will broadcast eleven MLL games in 2009 including the championship game.
As Marylanders, we all understand and appreciate the game of lacrosse and it’s something that many of us grew up with. That could be the major stumbling block as to the true lack of success of the game at the professional level. There are millions of Americans who know nothing about the sport, it’s rules and the nuances of the game. They did not grow up with it and have never seen a game. Of course the same could be said for professional hockey and that remains fairly popular and profitable, though nothing like it once was. It’s a real head scratcher when you compare the sports, because they are quite similar in nature and style, yet in lacrosse there is more scoring and it’s played outside in the elements as opposed to indoors on ice. Yet hockey commands much greater national attention and popularity in this country. Anyone know how come?
It will be interesting to see where the MLL is headed in the next few years and if real growth is possible. Trying to have a professional sports league withjust six teams seems to be a lesson in futility. Hell, even the MLS is looking at 18 clubs by 2011, and that’s soccer for crying out loud! Of course with soccer you have to consider that millions and millions of kids in this country play, so that is a built in advantage that lacrosse does not possess. It seems it may be a question that cannot be answered accuarately at this time, but keep an eye on the growth of professional (outdoor) lacrosse. To me it just seems to perfect a sport not to succeed.