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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Importance of Major League Lacrosse -part 1

Pro sports make the US great. We have a virtual buffet when it comes to the professional ranks with everything from Major League Baseball to minor league hockey. For every NBA, there is a WBA; numerous leagues like the NAFL with NFL aspirations; a tiered minor league hockey system from the SPHL all the way to the NHL; an entire soccer pyramid comprised of many levels under the MLS; and countless levels and leagues of Minor League Baseball complimenting MLB.
Of course we have the NCAA, NAIA, and other college sports organizations to give more athletes a chance to play and for fans to enjoy. While some may argue that the competition is more exciting and meaningful in college sports, no one can deny that the level of play is far superior at the pro level. Plus, as great as college sports may be not every player is suited to go to college. Scholarships are limited as well and players are not able to earn financial or material compensation for playing college athletics. If college sports were the top point in athletics, the number of participants would decrease dramatically.
For proof, consider some of the biggest names in pro sports right now: LeBron James did not attend college. He went straight from high school to the NBA. Sidney Crosby played junior hockey in his native Canada before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins. Freddy Adu starting playing in the MLS at age 14! All three chose to play professional sports with fairly large paychecks rather than attempt financial aid to play at the college level. Many more examples could be drawn from most of the pro leagues, even though some may be stuck in the minors.
Why should lacrosse be any different?
Dave Morrow (founder of Warrior), Jake Steinfeld (Body by Jake), and a few other investors founded Major League Lacrosse in 1999. Play began in 2001 with six teams. The uniforms were gaudy at first and the league distanced itself the college game by adding the orange "grippy" ball, a shot clock, and the infamous two point arc. Some contend that the latter two changes degrade the game and make it too far removed from "pure" lacrosse. Others contend that the changes make MLL a more exciting brand of lacrosse on par with the top leagues in other sports (the NHL has rules that do not exist in college & junior hockey like the trapezoid). The shot clock tends to be the more popular of the two because it prevents slow-down offenses like the scheme run at Princeton. Action and high scores typically go over well with American audiences; these changes aimed to meet that criteria.
Despite the controversy of the new rules, MLL began to find an audience. Fans began to rally around teams and highly skilled college players (except for Mikey Powell) eagerly joined the player pool. As more talent flooded the league, the need for expansion became apparent. In 2006 the league added four teams to create a new western division. Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Fransisco were chosen among the many contending cities. Having professional laxers in town sparked further development at the youth level in the new cities. With a nationwide footprint, the league looked be a strong force in the future of the sport.
Only a couple of hurdles remained for the sport and the league to really take off...

Tribe 7