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Let me first say that I am a huge sports fan. I love rooting for Cleveland-based teams more than anything, but all sports get some of my love. So with that in mind, remember that I am an advocate of sports in general. I think all sports deserve coverage, but the correct coverage for that sport. That is why I wanted to write this article and discuss how the coverage of lacrosse on TV needs to change for our sport to improve.
You Get Better at Lacrosse By Watching the Best
Some of the best debates in sports are comparing players from different generations of the game. Elway or Marino vs Brady or Manning. Jordan vs LeBron. Comparing Wayne Gretzky to Ovi and Crosby as they try to reach his greatness. Now there are easily some great comparisons and debates that can go on about professional lacrosse players, but there is a huge difference.
When we get to actually watch most players play they are in college. College lacrosse is incredibly fun to watch, and the talent always gets better, but there is something missing. We often don’t get to see the very best players match up against each other because of the number of teams. As fans, we also get stuck with many games every year that aren’t close in competitiveness because the leveling playing field is still quite unlevel. New teams are getting much better and making the tournament more interesting, but only 10 College Lacrosse Teams have won in 45+ years.
Watching college lacrosse on TV in or out of the NCAA Lacrosse tournament is a good way to get better. There is just a better way to get better and that is watching pros. After all, you really get better from watching the best.
So Let’s Watch Professional Lacrosse On Tv…Oh Wait
As far as my professional lacrosse watching background goes I didn’t have great access to games growing up. Even living in Ohio where there was a pro team most of my high school career, games weren’t really on TV. An Ohio Sports channel would put up a portion of their schedule, but the 5 or so games a year wasn’t good enough. It still isn’t and MLL Lacrosse nor NLL Lacrosse are almost never on any actual TV channels.
Now I am no stranger to this thing we call the “Internet” and I am aware you can get games on random sites, well randomly. That still isn’t good enough. Most kids (and pros for that matter) don’t have the time or know-how to scour the web for games. There is the main broadcaster of MLL lacrosse, LSN (Lax Sports Network), but let’s wait a sec to talk about them. If you really want to watch professional lacrosse, your best bet is going to the game or face time someone who is at it.
Even this past week ESPN had lacrosse on TV but it was the U13 National Lacrosse Championship. It was a fun game to watch and a great experience for those kids that I am jealous to death of. But all it did was make players angry. Fans of the pros wanted to watch the pros. Pros wanted to watch the pros. Kids that didn’t care as much about the pros only were jealous that it wasn’t them playing there in Colorado.
I think that this even will do a lot for youth lacrosse and the future, but in my opinion, it was misguided. College lacrosse owns Memorial Day and gets great ratings. So why let Youth Lacrosse own the 4th of July when there could be pro game? A rematch of last year’s championship on the following 4th of July? I think people might tune in more for that than a summer ball game with a running clock.
So Let’s Make It So We Can Watch Professional Lacrosse On TV
Well, how exactly do we accomplish that task? Let me tell ya! ESPN recently showed that their trend of viewers for college lacrosse is way up. 43% in one year up 2015-16, with growing markets around the country. That means that the audience is there for the games, it just isn’t being given what they want. ESPN could easily allocate space for College Lacrosse on TV & Major League Lacrosse Games on TV instead of reruns of the same PTI or giving Steven A Smith a 2-hour show. I don’t think that ESPN will actually go for putting on too much more collegiate lacrosse (or any pro lacrosse for that matter), but there are many options.
CBS Sports doesn’t have the rights to NBA games so why even bother with summer coverage of trades/free agency when they could reach a whole new market with lacrosse? They are covering pro-fishing and weight lifting though, with what I imagine are dismal ratings. There are chances to include lacrosse all over their network that seem to be filled with sports even fewer people watch. They are covering the MLL All-Star Game which is huge for lacrosse, but that is just scratching the surface for them.
FOX and TBS along with ESPN and CBS dominate the baseball coverage over the summer; but, they all are competing with local broadcasts over national broadcasts. Local fans drive far more traffic to games than a national audience percentage wise, so why not toss local MLL & NLL fans a bone every now and again? I imagine that it could not only do quite a bit of good for the growth of lacrosse but also diversify their audience.
I honestly think that including some lacrosse, even if aired after the game, could really improve the viewership of both parties. Fans want to watch lacrosse and channels want viewers. Excluding playoffs, the ratings for the MLB are dropping regularly with the exception of the Royals and Cubs (understandable), which means there is a need. That need could possibly be filled with lacrosse, but it might not be the right time yet.
When Is it Going to Happen For Lacrosse?
Soon. This past year the NLL and Twitter moved games to a viewable platform within the app. I loved it and watched more NLL than I ever have before, all the way through the playoffs. I think that is what lacrosse is going to use to reach more fans overall, and it will help lacrosse make it onto TV.
The accessibility of having Twitter with lacrosse anywhere is really great and allows the most fans to watch. By doing the same with the MLL I’m sure that the interest will grow enough to push for TV time. If the push doesn’t work then at least the games are on Twitter right? I’d rather be watching lacrosse than not watching lacrosse after all, just like all players.
But All Players Don’t Watch Lacrosse
Sadly that is true. This is a reality because of the lack of coverage. However, it is a sadder reality that the coverage we have is terrible. Lax Sports Network is a major disappointment when it comes to actually serving those who want to watch. I am not a subscriber to their channel and doubt I will ever become one if they don’t change their ways.
First off, the fact MLL players have to pay for a subscription is garbage. Professional Lacrosse Players Salary aren’t comparable to most athletes, and now they would have to pay to watch themselves? The only reason I imagine LSN does this is because of how few people actually subscribed for the season. They probably figured that players would pay to watch themselves, but $80 a year isn’t exactly a deal.
I can’t get myself to pay Netflix prices for some Blockbuster VHS product, can you? The channel is mainly replaying from years past or repeats of the show they put on the day before so why bother? I only know two people with a subscription, and neither of them chose to buy it but received it as a gift. They also are not happy with his “gift” they received. Poor video quality, laggy streams, but for that price? I don’t see too many fans joining. Doing what they are doing to pros? I encourage fewer fans to join.
So What Do I Do So I Can Watch Lacrosse on TV?
My best advice for anyone looking to watch more pro lacrosse would be Youtube, Lacrosse Film Room, or even Paul Rabil Experience. I’m sure the success of this year’s NLL/Twitter partnership will help the future, but for now, just learn. Youtube always has old games, training videos, player insights, and way more all for free. There are clips uploaded every day that can help you if you take some time to look.
While Lacrosse Film Room is a Youtube channel, it’s likely the best we will ever see for lacrosse. Constant highlights and breakdowns of film from different levels that you can pick through. There is never a dull moment on that page and the content is unbelievable. There is also a Twitter you should follow, and an Instagram too. All free.
Finally, the Paul Rabil Experience is what Paul Rabil is doing to better the game. He openly shares his routines and habits for being the best to his subscribers with lots of fun included in his content. While his service is not free it is rather radical compared to what most professional athletes do. He is purposely exposing all that he does to the world with the intent of helping, rather than hiding. And while it may cost $75 a year, the quality is A1 and more directed that that of LSN. I’d argue it is an amazingly better deal even though it is only $5 less.
These sources may be all we have right now, but take full advantage. There is plenty to learn from each one and you accessing these resources creates data that can convince companies to sponsor lacrosse on TV more often. If we can prove that we will watch and that we truly want it, there is no reason we shouldn’t get it. Grow the game a little bit and you’d be surprised how much it will keep growing.