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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Delay of Game

Although I just started a new series, I have to put it on hold. Due to issues with the league office, I will now be spending my break time updating the game stats for the Valley Tigers on the league website. I thought that our website was a finicky beast, but it is downright user friendly compare to this mess!
I will pick up where I left off once I get caught up. I apologize. Thanks for your patience!

If I Was a Rich Man...

I am sure that some of my readers are getting pretty sick of fantasy-type posts. Unfortunately for them I am a creatively minded individual stuck in a cubicle job. That means all of this energy building up from boredom has to go somewhere. For those of you that enjoy those types of posts, here is another one!
Combining aspects of the MLL Expansion series and the Fantasy Land series, this post will discuss exactly how a Major League Lacrosse franchise could come to central Iowa if I found myself extremely wealthy. Luckily this whole post can be applied to an individual or group that may already be wealthy! So if you or anyone you know is a wealthy individual looking to bring professional lacrosse to Des Moines, pay attention!
I. Franchise Cost
Let's start with the most basic part of owning a professional lacrosse franchise: the cost. Although it seems to be nearly impossible to ascertain the actual cost of an MLL expansion franchise without contacting the league and making a serious inquiry, we can make some educated guesses based on previous articles. In 2006 the Boston Globe discussed the rising value of the MLL in light of its recent expansion. At that time league founder Jake Steinfeld planned to add two more teams in 2008 at $1.5 million each. Obviously that expansion did not happen; in fact, the league contracted four teams last year. The four expansion teams paid $1 million each, up from the $600,000 paid by the original six teams.
Despite the ongoing struggles of the league, it should be assumed that the value of an expansion franchise should be at least $1.5 million as Steinfeld stated in 2006. Even with the bad economy inflation is still occurring and the league's financial losses are continuing. Expansion fees are one way that sports leagues recuperate lost investment dollars. Since Toronto is technically an expansion team and not a continuation of Rochester, knowing what they paid would help immensely. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to find this information online. For the sake of argument, I will assume that the Toronto franchise was purchased for $1.5 million last year as a true expansion franchise.
As a potential MLL franchise owner, I have the option of plunking down a cool mil' and a half for a shiny new franchise that would be 100 percent mine from day one. Or I could go the route of the previously used. Remember, the MLL closed down four franchises last year (five if you count Rochester) due to the bad economy. While the resurrection of San Fransisco and Los Angeles seem somewhat inevitable, I am not so sure about Philadelphia and have no doubts about New Jersey. Both teams failed to find a suitable home throughout their existence; Philly even did a year on the road (like Chicago) in their final year. That means that there are two franchises that have a high probability for sale and relocation. Given Chicago's nomadic existence this year, there might be a third.
Determined to own an MLL franchise, I opt to purchase one of the dormant teams and move them to Des Moines. Knowing that a new franchise would cost more than an existing but unused club, at least $500,000 should be knocked off the purchase price. So my kind of bright, slightly dull, but new to me franchise (to be named later) clocks in at $1 million.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sometimes I Know What I'm Talking About!

Last week I posted about the Machine being a travel team this season. At that point we already knew about the games in Virginia Beach and Rochester. From there I speculated about the other cities that would be announced.On Thursday, the Major League Lacrosse website announced that the Machine will play in Pittsburgh during the third week of the season. They will host the Chesapeake Bayhawks at Robert Morris University. RMU is the city's lone NCAA D1 program and Joe Walton Stadium is one of the newest fixtures on campus.In the "Close but no cigar" column, the MLL also announced the location of the Machine's ninth game - Columbus, OH. I had predicted a game in Ohio, but I opted to go with Cincinnati over Columbus because the league already visited Columbus back in 2002. The Machine will host my beloved Long Island Lizards at Columbus Crew Stadium. On a side note, I had previously planned to attend the Week 9 game in Chicago. Once I secured tickets, I planned to hook up with some Lizards for beers after the game. Columbus is a lot further away and Ohio generally, but maybe I can still convince the wife to go. If the Crew are in town, I might be able to get in touch with an old friend...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seedlings Need Water to Grow

With the birth of the Valley Lacrosse Club came the first indications that lax can and will work in Des Moines. I was completely unaware of the then recently formed club when I launched this blog. It took about three months for contact between myself and the team to happen. I provided some water for the seeds to grow and the team is on its way to becoming a mighty oak.*

Continuing this metaphor, it is quite obvious that I envision a massive lacrosse forest covering the Des Moines metro and the state as a whole within the next 15 years. Even now while you are sitting here reading this, seeds are being dispersed across the state. A growing number of dedicated individuals are making like Johnny Appleseed and spreading the game. Their efforts are more valuable than my own and I appreciate every one of them.

A talented crop of Valley players will graduate at the end of this season. A few among them have committed to schools with existing MCLA programs and plan to continue playing from day one of their freshman year. Others are planning to take at least a year off of lax to focus on academics; many of them will probably not touch a lax stick during the academic year. But a few dedicated individuals have strong plans to introduce lax to currently vacant campuses. These individuals not only have my support, but they also have my utmost respect.

Starting a lacrosse program/club is a difficult thing; Ben Shoff definitely had some hurdles setting up the program at Drake. Being a freshman in college is no easy task either. Anyone that intends to do both - and these guys definitely can - is a hero in my book.
The potential for a second metro high school team is still very strong. A split between Waukee and Valley is the most likely considering the number of kids from each school on the current team.
Dowling stills hold potential, although right now it would probably be more of a "Des Moines Catholic" type team than a true Dowling team. Still there is strong potential for funding from parents and the school has a very competitive attitude overall. Setting up a team could be as simple as Valley winning the Nebraska League championship.
The city of Ankeny also has strong potential due to their competitive nature and desire to topple the western suburbs in every way possible. To get a team going in the northern 'burb, I just need to find somebody to carry and plant the seed. I am not saying that these are the only places that would work; they are just the most likely based on economics, history, and similar factors.


Something that bothers me - even if it does not necessarily hinder our growth - is the absolute lack of support from the local media. Sure the Register has covered both the Valley boys and Waukee girls to some extent, but only in the West Des Moines/Waukee special insert and not in the full paper. Online, both stories are buried. Nothing has been said of Drake starting a club. I find this odd because the establishment of a previously unknown sport - and the immediate success of the programs - surely seems newsworthy.

And the Register is not alone. None of the local television stations have come out to Valley's practices or home games despite repeated invitations and news releases. I have never even received a response from any of them. Admittedly I have never contacted the local sports radio stations, but will look into doing so in the future. But lacrosse is a game that has to be seen and not heard.
I am not surprised that the local media is unwilling to cover lacrosse. After all, they rarely cover the minor league sports teams in town at anything approaching a satisfactory level. Sure the Barnstormers and I-Cubs get some love, but when is the last time you heard about the Energy (despite their playoffs run), Buccaneers, or Menace? The Stars/Chops only got coverage when bad things happened like the infamous name change and subsequent suspension. Have you even heard one word about the Iowa Exposure Basketball League?** A whole minor league arises in Des Moines and not a single word anywhere...
Can we continue to grow without the support of our local media? Of course. Will I continue to try and force our way into the homes of residents via the papers and local channels? Of course. Hopefully we will get to the point where we can take out advertisements and/or put Valley lax team posters up around town. Anything to increase exposure is a good thing, but to do those things we will need funding. Hopefully some area businesses will sponsor teams in our summer league or at least allow fliers to be posted. Maybe we can even end up with some extra cash to buy some ad space. The future is ours and the boundaries are limitless.
*Not that I am claiming that a silly little website is the reason for the Tigers' success. I am merely saying that a recognizable web presence increases interest which translates into growth and sustainability. The real credit goes to head coach Zach Zielonko. Without Zach none of us would have had the opportunities that we have enjoyed over the last year or so. Thank you Zach.
**Granted their website looks weak and the league sounds sketchy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Morning Tiger Report - Week 4

After losing to Lincoln last Sunday, the boys faced hard practices all week to ensure that it would not happen again. With tryouts for a league select team being held on Wednesday and Friday, we recognized the hurdles ahead of us. Luckily it seems the boys were ready to work hard.
Game 1 vs Burke
14-10 Win
Wow. That is the only way to describe the first quarter of this game. Valley came out at full speed and played arguably the best first quarter of the season. The Tigers went up early and kept their foot on the gas. Knowing the threat that Burke posed, the boys kept their heads and maintained control throughout the first half.
The second half saw the entire bench rotate into the game. In fact, helmets had to be taken from the starters to force them to rest for Game 2.
The Tigers maintained the pressure despite letting their lead dwindle. Overall the team got a lot of good experience in this game and started the day on a high note.
Game 2 vs Westside
7-3 Win
If Game 1 was the best first quarter of the season, then this was the worst. The offense was beyond flat. Nobody passed; nobody moved. Selfish play and poor shot selection prevented a goal on six strait opportunities. To make matters worse, the middies kept failing to get back on defense which allowed Westside to grab an easy goal. As a result, three starters were benched for the remainder of the first.
The wake up call sparked D Griess, Arends, and Bostwick back to life. All three came out stronger in the second quarter and started the path towards on-field redemption. The defense began communicating better with captain Lozada barking slide orders while improving his marking. Captain Sundermann moved from his defensive spot to play LSM throughout the day in the absence of usual LSM McDougal, and proved to be quite effective.
As the game wore on, the Tigers found themselves and held Westside to three goals. As usual, D Griess took the scoring title as he grabbed five goals. Senior captain Bostwick scored the other two.
JV vs Creighton Prep
12-1 Loss
Due to Waukee's prom, the JV team headed into their first game with the shortest bench of the season. Complicating matters was the loss of JV captain and face off man Giles due to academic issues. Second line varsity middie Arends stepped up to round out the attack unit. With only two middies standing behind me, we started the game with Boyd at LSM.
Eighth grader Taylor made his debut in goal. Despite the score, Taylor looked solid and shows a lot potential as his confidence and experience continue to grow. Fellow eighth grader W Tornberg moved to LSM in the second half and owned the position.
Prep is a great team at both levels and the loss was closer than the scoreline indicates. Everybody played a strong second half but could not recover from gaffes made in the first quarter.
JV vs Burke
6-9 Loss
With W Tornberg now at LSM, the boys were ready to rectify their loss. All around play was tight and Taylor made some of the most amazing saves I had seen all day - from any goalie. Unfortunately a shot off the knee took him out of the game. Varsity attackman Stoakes stepped into the goal. Handicapping all of the goalies was the setting sun; each had to stare directly into it for half the game.
Overall the play was strong from everybody despite their obvious exhaustion. Defensively, the back line looked much stronger in this game. It was clear that the absence of senior Kaufmann played a role in the organization during both games.
Arends and JV captain Goertz played significant minutes in all four games but both still managed to win numerous face offs and then quickly switch to attack. I am truly grateful to everybody for stepping up and giving it everything they had in both games. They may be losses in the score book, but they were morale victories for sure.
Next week the varsity travels to Council Bluffs (undisclosed location at this point) to face the River City Black Knights for the second time this season. Game 2 will be a rematch with Westside. Following a bye week on May 1, Valley returns to Omaha to face Creighton Prep at home for the final game of the regular season.
The JV does not play again until May 8. They will also face Creighton Prep at home.
Coming off the heels of this weekend's games, Valley is second in the North Division with and 8-2 record. West Side Lax has them in a solid third place overall behind the two teams that beat them this season: Creighton Prep and Lincoln. WSL has this to say about Valley:
"Tough to believe this is first year of varsity lacrosse"
As long as we continue to play our game and execute the fundamentals, there is no reason to think that we will lose another game this season. The May 8th showdown with Prep will be very telling indeed. Before then Prep will face Millard West, Lincoln, and Blue Valley West (Kansas League). A loss to any of those teams could be enough to demoralize the Jays and give us an opportunity for redemption.

Tribe 7