“Casey Powell should not be able to make it through a meal at a restaurant without someone coming to his table and asking for an autograph.”
Last Friday, Michael J. Fensom of the New Jersey Star-Ledger published a descriptive article on Casey Powell – The Man, The Myth, The Legend. In it, Fensom talks about the false facade of being a pro lacrosse player, exposing the fact that only a few pros make lacrosse their fulltime jobs.
Casey Powell is one of the lucky ones. He supplements his small pro-level income with endorsements and his own lacrosse company, which gives him the opportunity to really make lacrosse his life. Yet, Powell still walks the streets of New York and into Madison Square Garden to suit up for the Titans without being noticed. He’s got LeBron James status in the lacrosse community, but outside it no one recognizes him. This is the reality of the sport – it has not yet reached it’s pinnacle.
Fensom goes on to talk about youth participation numbers and how they’ve grown 500% since 1999. He writes tells of US Lacorsse’s survey that found lacrosse to be the fastest growing sport on the high school and collegiate levels. And then he shows why lacrosse IS on the rise: Community members are going above and beyond their call of duty to help grow the game.
The most prominant community members are pro’s like Casey Powell (and his brothers Ryan and Mikey) and Ryan Boyle, Powell’s Titan teammate and former standout from Princeton. In many ways, guys like these set the pace. They have the opportunity to stand up in front of a crowd every day and share the love. Fensom depicts this exquisitely.
Towards the end of the article, Fensom asks Powell & Boyle about their mission for lacrosse. To me, the answers he gets are reassuring of my previous points:
“We definitely see ourselves as ambassadors for the game, and I don’t know if everyone across professional sports takes that role as seriously as we do,” Boyle said.
“We certainly enjoy playing and love the professional aspect of it, but we definitely see ourselves as conduits trying to grow the game to the point where maybe the next generation of players is playing in a different economic level, whereas we didn’t get the opportunity to.”
Powell feels that day isn’t too far off. With the strides the sport has taken over the past decade it may not be long before he — or the next Casey Powell — is a household name.
“I think there will be a day when we look back and say, ‘Hey, we were the pioneers and we went out and played the first pro game in Florida (the Titans’ season opener Jan. 3, a 15-14 loss to the Toronto Rock). Remember when we started lacrosse in the new (arena) in Newark? We played the first pro game in New York City history.’
“All these things we’re doing now are bullet points for the future of the sport. It’s exciting to be a part of. We know we may have missed out on our big chance, but we never expected to make a living off this game, and we’ve been able to do that.”
In no other sport would you see this so evidently – the best pros talking about breaking barriers and taking the game to new levels. It shows passion, true love for the game and best of all, promise. Promise of a better day. Right President Obama?