Editor’s note: Blake Gaudet checks in to tell you about his experience at last Saturday’s Denver Outlaws game at Invesco Field in Denver, CO! For more photos of the game, click here.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I finally sprung for a cable package that included ESPNU, that I got to watch high quality lacrosse on a regular basis. When you live in Idaho your exposure to the higher-end game is limited to what you can find on television, and for a long time Memorial Day weekend was all we had. Thankfully ESPN’s coverage has picked up over the last couple of years, and now I get to add a couple of games to the DVR every week.
Despite the increase in college lacrosse viewing opportunities, however, the MLL has remained difficult to find on television (as Conner Wilson has pointed out numerous times), and so I’ve always been a little bit biased towards the college game. Early broadcasts of the MLL were shoddy, with cameramen who couldn’t keep up with the action and rules I wasn’t totally fond of. However, when I had the opportunity to take my high school guys to a Denver Outlaws game while attending the Denver University Team Camp, I couldn’t pass it up. When else are a bunch of kids from Idaho going to get to see that level of play close up? Furthermore, press box/sideline passes courtesy of LAS? Sign me up!
Let’s just get this out there right now – the Denver Outlaws put on a first class event. If they are an accurate representation of how the rest of the league operates, the MLL doesn’t have anything to worry about.
It might have taken seeing it live to bring me in to the light, but I absolutely love the pace of the pro game. The shot clock wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I had expected, and teams were still allowed to run their offense without looking like they were rushing. Honestly, I think most of the game would have been played at a high pace even without a shot clock, but seeing a sense of urgency from the offense for a full 60 minutes was almost an adrenaline rush. Nobody on defense could hide within the system, the goalies were constantly tested (and stepped up huge), and the quick pace to the game led to a number of hard collisions that you might not see at the college level. Television must slow the game down tremendously, because I was honestly shocked by how fast things were moving. In the end, the shot clock horn only went off around 4-5 times…non-factor.
Furthermore, it was amazing to see the dive shot back in action. Conner Martin had two in this game, both times he wrecked himself, and both times he buried the shot. I’m a goalie (an increasingly bad one but a goalie none the less), so I would be the first to cry foul if I thought the keepers were in danger, and honestly, that’s not what it looked like to me. It only made the game more exciting.
On a similar note, I can’t imagine ever stepping in-between the pipes when everyone on the field is that kind of shooting threat. Kudos to Jesse Schwartzman and Drew Adams, who made it look easy.
The atmosphere was also tremendous, as the Outlaws made great use of the facilities at Invesco. While I thought the place would look dead with 10,000 people in it, they were able to pack an entire side of the lower bowl and the fans created a ton of noise. It certainly didn’t look like an NFL contest, but there was enough energy in the place to make it feel like Invesco wasn’t too big for the team. Every dead ball meant some sort of contest going on up on the jumbo-tron, the promo videos shot by the team were professional grade, and of course there was a liberal use of Con-Bro’s “Arena.”
Finally, every member of the Outlaw’s staff that I came across was incredibly professional and welcoming. Up in the press-box we were offered media-guides, programs, and a number of other documents that would give us access to any kind of information one might need to properly cover the game. The staff on the field were loose but in control, constantly making sure there was something to keep the fans entertained.
In all, I have a new found respect for the MLL. It’s not that I ever doubted the talent that was on the field. Obviously this league is a collection of the best players in the game. I just didn’t realize that a game that had deviated so much from what I had become familiar with could be just as (if not more) entertaining. Congrats Major League Lacrosse, you’ve made a believer out of me.