A Galaxy Without Stars
Hold still, this will only hurt for 1500 words.
MLL fans, I need to ask you a question.
Why don’t you like your MLL team?
No, not you Boston.
Not even you, Denver.
I mean, everyone else. Why don’t you like your team? Why don’t you care? There are 19 guys killing themselves on the field to entertain you every weekend and you don’t even go see them? The attendance of four teams has not only dropped from 2009-2010 – it has plummeted.
(Allow me at this juncture to reiterate my appreciation, admiration and affection for Major League Lacrosse; I’m not going where you think I’m going.)
Numbers wise you have to rule out Chicago. They have played their “home” games at rotating locales and their crowds depend almost exclusively on their [inappropriate adjective] local advertising. We’ll come back to them at the end. Average 2009 attendance: 2,569. 2010 attendance: 2,364
Toronto is now officially the most woeful defending champions in the history of not only the MLL but all secondary sports franchises in the history of the world. They make the 2005 Florida Marlins look competitive. But it’s cool because they tanked this MLL season on purpose to rest the Canadians for the world championships. They were totally strong enough to walk to the podium and snag their silver medals. Good plan. Average 2009 attendance: 3,846. 2010 attendance: 2,372.
The Bayhawks are in complete chaos. They have BEEN in a perpetual state of said chaos ever since what’s his name decided to go play guitar and Gary Gait decided that the MLL just wasn’t for him. No hard feelings for Gary, but when he left that franchise had no identity and was made up of the carcasses of other MLL teams and local hangers on that wanted to pick up chicks at the Greene Turtle by telling them that they were pro lacrosse players. I’m not even going to bring up the name change because it’s just too easy to bag on. Average 2009 attendance: 4,419. 2010 attendance: 3,835.
The Long Island Lizards are easily the most tragic of all MLL teams. The storied tradition of “Strong Island” and all of it’s pseudo-Jersey shore/Manhattan beach club opulence combined with the allure of playing lacrosse in culturally landmarked locations should make LI the biggest and baddest club in the league. But they’re not. They’re a defensive team that struggles to score and finds a way to effectively kill the shot clock and their fans enjoyment by running a one on one enterprising offense of futility. Average 2009 attendance: 4,303. 2010 attendance: 2,996.
That was fun. You took your beating like a man and I respect that. Now listen up, because I’m going to tell you why you lost your fans.
First, I’m going to tell you why attendance is a problem that Boston and Denver have never had. Oh sure back in the day the Cannons were more Scrappy-Don’t than Scooby-Do like they are now, but the blue collar attitude and playing style of the team drew fans that respected their hard work. Meanwhile, Denver has never met a fast break it didn’t like. Naturally people that have never seen lacrosse before like it when their team scores a lot. No one ever said lacrosse fans were complicated.
The difference between the rest of the league and Boston and Denver is not location. It’s application. Both of those teams have made consistent efforts to grow their fan base and improve their team. Whether it’s trading up to draft Paul Rabil or rolling the dice on Ryan Powell, both teams have made moves for big name players. Newsflash: fans dig that. Fans don’t dig an entire team made up from two local colleges. Fans also do not dig trading away all of their draft picks. Fans certainly don’t dig it when you constantly draft defensemen like you’re the Detroit Lions pick receivers. Fans also don’t like it when your entire team is comprised of only one nationality.
Neither Denver nor Boston has moved just for the sake of moving. The Cannons moved twice (Cawley to Nickerson to Harvard) to accommodate their fans, each time going to a larger and/or friendlier stadium. Denver has never moved. Long Island and the Bayhawks have moved more times than I can count, Toronto has played at two different venues in two years and even managed to relocate a few times when they were the Rochester Rattlers. Chicago doesn’t even HAVE a home stadium.
Red herrings. All of these arguments are Red Herrings. One of the Herrings even has a maple leaf on it. The real reason the four misfits can’t draw crowds is because they don’t have any stars.
This is more applicable some teams than it is with others, of course, but basically the absence of true star power put a hex on each seat in each team’s arena. Only those fans powered by nostalgia and lacrosse addiction have the ability to sit through games on the Island, the Bay, the wherever and the Canada.
You disagree. Good. I like it when you fight back; it occurs so rarely nowadays.
Toronto: You have one of the best players in the world on your team, as evidenced by his place at #6 on the scoring list with 32 points in nine games. You also have two of the most charismatic players at their respective positions in Geoff Snider and Brett Queener. The problem is that you have surrounded these players with a cast of characters more sordid than a Todd Solondz movie. Jordan Hall is your only other scorer in the top 25 and he only has 19 points. No one knows who plays defense for you. You let your coach bail on you to go to England in the middle of the season.
Chesapeake: Kyle Dixon, Peet Poillon and Danny Glading have all had great seasons. Problem is, no one would know it. You had nine guys playing in the All Star game. Can you name them all? I covered that game for Inside Lacrosse and I can’t name them all. Chris Garrity had one of the best starts in MLL history, but no one wrote about it. You fired John Tucker on a busy news day and replaced him with a youth coach.
Chicago: It would seem that my theory would fall apart with Chicago since you have some of the best offensive players in the league with the Leveille brothers, Matt Striebel and Chris Rotelli. But then I remembered that you wasted a pick on Casey Powell in the supplemental draft and can’t find a goalie who will play for you.
Long Island: Tim Goettelmann is ready to break the all time MLL goals record. That’s awesome. He’s averaged a goal and decimals a game for ten years. Matt Danowski is your best player and goes to the net every time he touches the ball like he’s Allen Iverson, and shoots 24% from the field like the Answer as well. Your goalie has the worst save percentage in the league aside from Machine-washed-up Mike Gabel. Your defense is your most marketable asset in a lacrosse league with a shot clock. But…you have this on your website: https://secure1.infinityprosports.com/virtual/longislandlizards.com/sites/200901/www/en/store/index.html?c=72
I – I like that? No…I LOVE that. Those are three of my favourite players in the HISTORY of lacrosse. Not the MLL – lacrosse as a sport. Jay Jalbert, Greg Cattrano and Pat McCabe? Seriously? Three of the best at their positions, no doubt. That’s the single smartest thing any MLL team has done this year. Throwback shirts. I don’t know what I would do for a Conor Gill throwback Cannons shirt, but I’m pretty sure it would be quite depraved and looked down upon by society. Yes, folks – all it takes to end one of my tirades is a T-shirt. I’m emotionally strapped and have a hair trigger, what can I say?
Long Island knows something that the rest of the franchises don’t – People come to see players, not teams. Denver and Boston have the following players on their rosters: 9 of the top 20 scorers. Two of the top three goalies (statistically) in the league. The top goal scorer and overall scorer in the league. The overall assists leader. I could go on and on. There’s also Rabil, Mundorf, Boyle, Westervelt, Poskay, Schwartzman, Seibald, Kippie, Reid, Bocklett – every one of them STARS in the MLL. Statistical, marketable and recognizeable stars at almost every position. That’s what it takes to win games and win fans in the 2010 version of Major League Lacrosse.
See you all think I write these articles to just straight murder players, coaches and teams. I don’t. I love the league more than anyone and I’m being betrayed by four of its six teams that clearly don’t care enough to run their franchises with any seriousness. I’m sick of the mistakes. I’m sick of the excuses. I’m alone in my criticism?
I’m not the MLL apologist you are; I’m the MLL champion you aren’t.