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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do The Pro Lax Leagues Matter? Part 2

Even by removing LXM and MSL, we are left with two professional leagues. The MLL currently has six teams (though rumors are spring up about two possible expansion/reactivated teams this season). Four teams are on the East Coast and one team spent 2010 travelling across the country, with Denver by its lonesome out west. They play a full summer schedule from May through early August. The league is televised on ESPN2 and NBC Universal Sports; games are also available online through ESPN3.
The NLL has ten teams (Orlando folded over the summer). The teams are spread throughout Canada and the northern half of the United States. They play a full schedule during the college and high school field lacrosse season. The games are not televised, but are available online through the league website.
With very little overlap between the seasons, many players participate in both leagues. Neither pays what would be considered a professional salary. But both leagues do provide all of the players' gear as well as travel accommodations. They also give laxers an avenue to continue playing at the highest level after graduating from college.
But in the eyes of lacrosse "purists" the professional leagues are a step below the college game, especially the MLL. Critics claim that the two point arc and shot clock detract from the game and fundamentally change it. While both changes were made to increase scores (which apparently market research claims we love), both do successfully distinguish the pro league from the lower levels.
The shot clock forces offenses to move the ball and take shots; it also eliminates the offensive box and stall tactics. Unfortunately it has the unintended consequence of forcing hurried plays. The clock may potentially act as a defensive force as good team can capitalize on the hurried pace to force their opponents into sloppy turnovers. Strong transitional players like Brodie Merrill are key assets when implementing this strategy. Regardless, the shot clock is generally viewed favorably as it removes the college game's stalling (see Notre Dame vs Duke 2010 Championship game) and effectively speeds up the game.
The two point shot, on the other hand, is generally frowned upon. Although it rewards high powered snipers and can quickly turn around a losing team, the two point shot fundamentally changes the game. Powerful snipers like Paul Rabil and strong long poles like Brodie Merrill can own the two point shot and build an unbelievable lead as needed. Further, the two point shot artificially increases the score.

Still, many critics derided the three point arc when it was introduced to the NBA in 1979. That line was first tested in 1933. The NCAA experimented with the three pointer in 1945, but it was not adopted until 1986. Perhaps the lacrosse two point shot is simply ahead of its time...

Continue to Part 3

Tribe 7