If you’re like me, you read a press release last night about Maverik Lacrosse joining up with the LXM Pro. Here’s the gist: Maverik has signed on to sponsor one of the teams, called Maverik United, which will be replacing Team Solé for 2013-14, and facing off against Team STX, at each LXM PRO event.
Ok, that was really easy reporting, and I summed up the press release, and the fact that it had been released, in exactly two sentences. Aren’t you glad we’re not a copy and paste source? Me too.
Now let’s get to the interesting stuff, and start asking and answering some of the questions we know are being thrown around in people’s brains!
Which Maverik Guys Will Go LXM?
When STX stepped in to the LXM, they brought over some of their athletes to the venture. Kyle Harrison made the switch, and got involved at a high level in the LXM, but other guys like Brendan Mundorf stuck with the MLL, and were eventually dropped as sponsored athletes. At the very least, he no longer shows up as an STX athlete.
Now, when you look at STX’s athlete page, it’s only Kyle, Sam Bradman, Max Ritz, and Matt Russell. All of the are LXM players for Team STX. Gone are guys like Mundorf, Steven Brooks, Brett Hughes, and Joe Walters. I’m willing to bet that STX adds to this crew from their LXM team, as they have done already with Bradman and Ritz. Brattons? Graham Gill? Brendan Porter? Who knows?
Maverik is a little different, simply because they have a much larger player pool right now. Here is a list of athletes that currently show up as sponsored players on Mav’s homepage: Billy Bitter, CJ Costabile, Chris Bocklet, Jovan Miller, Peet Poillon, Chris Eck, Joe Cinosky, Drew Adams, Kyle Sweeney, Johnny Christmas, Kip Turner, Brian Karalunas, and Dan Hardy.
Christmas currently plays in the LXM PRO, but outside of that, most of the other guys are hardcore MLLers. Bitter is a face of the league right now, but the press release does mention that he will be joining Maverik in the LXM next year. So that’s something.
But will other guys make the move as well? Costabile is a rising star in the MLL. Bocklet is Mav’s poster boy right now. Miller is a huge draw for kids. Drew Adams might be the best MLL keeper right now. Karalunas is a stud for New York… will any of them jump ship and join up with the LXM PRO, like Bitter is going to do?
I can’t say with any definitive clarity, that yes, some of these guys will leave the MLL, but it’s hard to think that at least couple of them won’t. What is more valuable to Maverik? Photos of Jovan Miller decked out in Warrior gear playing in the MLL? Or a photo of Jovan playing in the LXM with Maverik across his chest? To me, the decision there is pretty clear.
What I find most interesting is that no one is really talking about it. The Press Release ends with this sentence:
Be on the lookout for some big announcements regarding the signing of more influential top professional players who truly want to play and serve the game the right way.
No other media source did anything with that. Really? Ok then, let’s move on.
How Will MLL Players React?
Maybe that’s not fair, as only one or two guys have even responded to the announcement… but at the same time, the few reactions I have seen so far have not been super positive. Brian Spallina’s comment summed it up pretty nicely:
Spallina’s comment is most likely in response to this non-sequitor line in the press release:
LXM PRO is professional lacrosse done the right way for the right reasons.
I’m not 100% sure what that means, but when you combine it with the earlier mentioned quote from the presser, it begs the question: is someone doing it the wrong way? Are there wrong reasons? How is the LXM really so different from the MLL? If I were an MLL guy, I might take umbrage with that line as well. It just comes across as more than a little backhanded.
The reactions to Spallina’s Twitter comment were also pretty engaging, which is partially my fault. What can I say, I like to stir the pot, especially when it’s this delicious:
Seems like everyone out there (Ok, five people) wants to see an MLL vs LXM game in some way, shape, or form… And I must admit that I am in love with Kevin Proctor’s suggestion that they use NCAA rules and sticks. I mean, warum nicht? (That’s German for “why not?”, I think. Thanks BP!). Greg Gurenlian thinks it would be a bloodbath. But I think he’s a little biased. He still might be right, although I’m not sure about that.
Will an LXM vs MLL game ever happen? OF COURSE NOT! That would require competing entities to work together in a substantial way, because our sport is big enough to support divisive practices… oh wait, it’s not. Oh well. Maybe next year?
A MLL vs LXM game seems incredibly unlikely, even though it could be great for both leagues. Fans can hold on to hope for now, but that’s about it. I’ve spoken with both sides on this issue, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen, for a number of different reasons. That could change going forward, and I sincerely hope that it does, but for now, it’s a non-starter.
Of course, THAT would be doing things the right way for the game, but whatever, right!?
Who Partners With The NLL First?
If the two field lacrosse groups won’t work together, who will be the first to partner with the NLL?
Yes, I know that box lacrosse is different, but to think that fans can not enjoy both is insane. Not everyone will pull over from field to box and vice versa, but some will, and that would help ALL of the pro lacrosse leagues grow their base. Let’s face it, if you can follow a 162 game baseball season, you can follow around 32 games spread across two pro lacrosse leagues. The Lacrosse Network broadcasts games online for free. It’s not that hard.
Part of the reason that I bring this up, and why I’m including it here, is that I have heard some interesting rumors about sponsorship in the NLL, and how it could be in flux. It’s definitely in flux if Reebok drops Lacrosse! Nice catch, 412. For now, let’s keep it all hypothetical as the rumors could still be nonsense in the end:
If the current sponsor were to go away, who would step in? It seems like Warrior, STX, and Maverik are the companies making moves in the pro world right now, so that could be an option, and could draw either the MLL or LXM much closer to the NLL. But what if a newer lacrosse company, like Easton or Nike, decided to get involved? Could a better partnership emerge there?
All I know is that the number of pro lacrosse fans out there isn’t huge, so if the indoor league could partner with a field league, the crossover potential seems viable. Who will make that happen first? Will it ever happen at all? With two field leagues out there, each looking for an edge, it makes sense that a serious and open partnership would be explored.
Speaking of partnerships…
Will Cascade Stay In the MLL?
This Summer, the MLL opened up its sponsorship doors to other companies. I haven’t heard of anyone major signing up to get involved (major like another gear manufacturer), but actually I’m more interested to see if Cascade sticks with the league after their exclusive contract ends next year.
Warrior obviously makes its own helmets, and you figure they HAVE to be dropping an updated version next year, right? With all the helmet work this year and last year, it only makes sense to update the helmet. Is it a coincidence that Cascade’s MLL exclusivity runs out then as well? Probably. But it does seem to suggest that we could see Warrior helmets in the MLL, possibly as early as next Summer.
If Cascade has to re-nogiatate to get back in, and has to pay the same fees that every one else pays, I’m not so sure they’ll stick around for that. It just doesn’t seem to fit in with their past business practices. Cascade usually pays in product, not dollars. So will things change? Will they stay if they have another viable option, like the LXM PRO?
At this point, only time will tell.
At the end of the day, Maverik’s sponsorship move to the LXM makes sense, and in the long-term it should benefit both parties. The LXM has another lacrosse company involved, which improves outside perception as well as in-community marking efforts. Maverik now has a location where their pro players can be Maverik players as well.
The West Coast will see some even more excellent lacrosse players get involved with the pro aspect of the sport out there, and Maverik will continue their relationship with Adrenaline, and push for West Coast influence.
I also don’t think that this move will hurt the MLL in any way. The sheer number of top quality players vying to get into the MLL is staggering. The league might lose guys like Bitter, Miller, Costabile, Sweeney, and others, but there are guys ready to step in and fill the spots right away. This is no crisis for the MLL.
The big question I have remains, and it was here before this news emerged: Is This Good For The Game? Do two league splitting the efforts of one community help or hurt lacrosse? Is this a viable long-term option? Is there something better out there? Could there be something better?
And to answer the above, I’m not sure either way. Both the MLL and LXM have a lot to offer. I’m just interested to see how it all plays out. My hope is that it helps the game grow, and doesn’t fracture the community. That is the only truly right way, and if that happens, then I’m happy.