People love to compare stuff. It’s as simple as that. When I was asked via Twitter why people compared the elite of the MCLA to top flight NCAA D3 ball, that was my answer:
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when people start comparing the LXM Pro Tour to Major League Lacrosse. Both organizations pay their players, both have sponsors, both are pulling from a similar talent pool, and both play at least some of their games over the Summer. Both are also blessed with some serious D3 talent.
It’s certainly tempting to compare the two, and then judge one to be superior over the other, and I certainly believe there are areas of overlap, including both league’s reliance on sponsorship dollars and assistance from lacrosse manufacturers, the high level of skill, and the limited number of team practices.
Now, if there really were two leagues out there, each with at least 6 teams, I think comparisons could actually be made, but even then it seems a little dicey. As things stand right now, I don’t see why we’re rushing to proclaim a winner here, or even why we would want to proclaim a winner anytime in the near future.
Let’s start with the basics. The MLL has 8 teams (two of them new in 2012) and the LXM PRO Tour has two teams. That makes a true comparison hard right there. In Pro league years, the MLL is like a 20 year old, ready to explore the world, and the LXM is 14, and getting ready for high school. This isn’t a knock on the LXM. Did you go to high school? You did? Almost everyone does, it’s a stage.
Like I said, the two are at very different stages, and the stages where they play their games exemplify this. MLL teams have a home field, whereas LXM teams are either East or West, and the home team depends on where the game is played.
That also makes comparisons difficult as the MLL is trying to breed local, consistent fans. Same MLL place, same MLL time. Fans for life. It’s the consistency approach. The LXM, on the other hand, is partnering with tournaments and events to help draw in crowds, but really, they’re bringing the show to the people, and trying to create fans of the LXM Brand. Two totally different approaches, and I don’t know that you can say one is “better” than the other.
And that goes for just about everything the LXM and MLL have to offer. Rosters in the LXM are more flexible than they are in the MLL, but that doesn’t mean we see more turnover in the LXM. Both LXM teams have more consistent and returning players than some MLL teams from last year, and less than others, so it’s an issue both leagues face, just differently.
The MLL has found an identity already, which makes sense as they’ve been around for over a decade now and running pretty smoothly. The league has found some pretty solid ownership groups, and most seem to be in it for the long haul. The sponsorship money keeps the league afloat (like it does for many pro leagues) and the fans seem to be increasing both in number and loyalty.
The LXM is still forming an identity, and still working out their partner relationships. They are trying new things, and going to back to old approaches that yielded solid results. The OC event was the only stand alone LXM game scheduled, and the fans still came to watch in the thousands. It kind of looked like the Long Island Lizards game I took in last Friday. The LXM is making progress, and if they can continue to find an identity, improve and stay consistent, I think they have a solid future.
Did I compare the two professional field lacrosse organizations in the post above? I guess I did, in that I showed how different they are, and how they both fill very different lacrosse needs. However, the deeper point I am making is that trying to decided which one is better is pointless. Arguing that one is amateur is short-sighted. Arguing that the other is the future of lacrosse is myopic.
More people than ever have the opportunity to see paid, post-collegiate lacrosse players play great lacrosse, and yet somehow, as a community, we seem to be searching for a way to tear one down or pick a side. Why? Between the LXM and the MLL, there are only about 200 Pros… do we really want LESS? Are we already at the stage where the two leagues are competing with each other for fans? Are we that desperate?
Both organizations have something to offer us, as well as major obstacles to overcome. Both are also still quite young. There was a time, only recently, when I remember my friends used to dream of a pro lacrosse league. Well, now we have two of them, and I’d recommend checking at least one out, especially if it’s close by, to everyone. It’s much better than just sitting back and waxing sophomoric.
Go in with an open mind, stop trying to decide which side you’re on, Grow the Game, and you might just be surprised at how much you actually enjoy yourself. Or don’t… and I’ll meet you on Twitter.