LXM Pro

The LXM PRO Tour Is Only Getting Better

LXM PRO Philly Philadelphia Rhamel Bratton Mike Powell
LXM PRO Tour in Philly last weekend.
LXM PRO Philly Philadelphia Rhamel Bratton Mike Powell

LXM PRO Tour in Philly last weekend.

The LXM PRO Tour has been getting mixed reviews both online, and in conversations I’ve had with a number of people in the lacrosse world, but the fact is that the LXM is still quite young, and when you look at the progress they’ve made, and lessons they’ve learned, their growth and improvements are quite impressive.  Let’s try to look at this fledgling pro lacrosse venture with a little perpsective, openness and honesty!!!!

Inside Lacrosse gives the LXM PRO nothing but great coverage.  They mostly showcase the good stuff and rarely, if ever, mention the bad.  This is SOP for IL.  412 has had major gripes with the uniforms from both past events and their latest event, but definitely seems to be coming around to the idea that the LXM is a good thing overall.  Again, pretty much SOP.  The guys over on 24SevenLax have also voiced some concerns (mostly surrounding promotion of events), but they also believe that the on-field product is exciting and worth seeing. As you’ll see in our new Lax All Stars Forums, plenty of LAS readers have their own views of LXM PRO as well. Lax people I talk to off the record love the idea of the LXM, but question how the tour can sustain itself, and wonder if the greater lacrosse world is ready for two pro outdoor options.

What’s really interesting, is that almost every single one of the questions asked above (except the concern about two leagues) was asked of the MLL when it started.  And they’re still here.  Yes, they definitely made some major changes, and had their own ups and downs, but the MLL is still around, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away.  So what does the future hold for the LXM, can the LXM exist for a sustained period of time, and are they making the right adjustments to see sustainable long-term success?

The LXM’s first ever event out in Orange County was really a huge success.  They pulled in some high quality players, got two sets of pretty good uniforms, custom helmets, ha some minor celebs in attendance, and had a pretty rocking after-party/concert.  The stands were packed and it felt like pro outdoor lacrosse was BACK in Cali.  The event really went off extremely well, which was good, but it also set a very high standard, and not every event after lived up to that level.  After a small grace period though, people then began to blast the LXM for a perceived drop in quality, and the Jacksonville event did nothing to help this perception.  Of course others acted like it was a total success.  But because it was still SO early… the rushed judgments were a tad unfair on both sides.

In the end, what we really learned was that the LXM would see failure along with success, and that as they grew, the goal had to be to cut back on the failures and increase the successes.  This is an obvious statement, but some pro leagues (like the NLL) seem perfectly content to just keep on their current trajectory of mediocrity (talking about the league here, not the players), so when a Tour or League is willing to really look at themselves and make some changes, it gives me more hope.  The LXM is definitely willing to do this, and all you need to do is consider their latest Philadelphia Event.

The teams were still called STX and Cascade, which makes sense, but their uniforms were clear plays to the local sports fan populace.  Team STX rocked the old school Philadelphia Eagles inspired uniforms, and Team Cascade wore maroon and white Phillies inspired gear.  They even went so far as to have custom helmet decals made, but unfortunately those were stolen, and never saw the light of the field.  Seriously.  If you see someone with those decals (below) on their helmets, you know they were stolen.  Messed up.

LXM helmet decals philadelphia lacrosse pro tour

Yeah, these decals went missing. Not cool whoever took them!

[Photo courtesy InsideLacrosse]

But the LXM didn’t just give up after the decals were pinched!  They must have gone to a hardware store and bought mailbox numbers to slap on the helmets in the place of the decals.  Did they look great?  No.  But it shows that even in the face of adversity, the LXM is willing to be creative and think outside the box.  And that really bodes well for the Tour.  Sure, it’s a pretty insignificant issue, but it shows that the LXM is paying attention to detail, and that gives me some majorly positive vibes.

The big takeaway here is that the LXM is actively looking for ways to get hometown sports fans more engaged in their offering.  They started this trend by bringing local players on to the teams whenever they went to a new City or area, but the uniform design and helmet decal ideas are another step in this direction.  I don’t personally think the old school look was, well, Old School enough, and I’m not sure the decals were totally spot on, but the effort and direction were DEFINITELY there, and this means good things for the future.  They’ve formulated an approach and are now tweaking their message.  I approve.  If they go back to Philly next time with powder blue uniforms with white and maroon trim, I’ll be sold.  I would also accept one team wearing Steelers colors and the other wearing Eagles colors.

The other positive thing to take away from LXM Philly was that Mike Powell came out to play.  The obvious portion of this positivity is that people love watching Mike Powell play, and the LXM gave them this opportunity.  But the less obvious positive aspect is that it gave MIKE POWELL a place to play, and he loves to play lacrosse.  Before you say, “but Mikey could play in the MLL if he wanted to”, let me just say this… I don’t think he wants to.  His video interview with European Lacrosse Magazine made this pretty clear.  He’s looking for something different, and less structured than the MLL, and the interesting thing here is that I don’t think he’s alone!!!

Guys like Kyle Harrison, Brett Hughes, Shamel Bratton, Sean Morris and Alex Hewit could all play in the MLL today if they wanted to.  But it seems like their focus is no longer 100% on being a player in a league, it is now just on playing the game, and the former is what the MLL seems to ask of their guys.  It’s more than fair of the MLL to ask these guys to dedicate themselves to an extreme level because they are trying to build something big, and serious.  But it’s also more than fair for great lacrosse players to want to do something a little bit different.  In Mikey’s interview above, he makes this point a couple of ways and in interesting fashion.

And the LXM provides this outlet quite nicely.  It’s flexible, with some guys playing all the time, and others only coming out for a game or two.  There are no serious coaches screaming at you or busting you over a fancy missed behind the back.  The only people that matter are one’s teammates and the people in the stands, and while both teams want to win, the real goal is to have fun and put a great product on the field.  It’s an interesting balance between Pro and Exhibition, and at this point in Lacrosse’s growth and development, it seems very appropriate.

The MLL will continue to get more serious.  More teams will be added to the league, teams will practice together more, the season will be lengthened, and eventually player salaries will start to climb back up.  But in the meantime, the MLL will have to ask its players to give more in the meantime.  And there are guys out there who want to give, but just not in the way the MLL has envisioned, and that’s actually a good thing!  It means the best players in the world will continue to have more opportunities to play, and not less.  It means that more people will be able to go and watch a pro game, and not less.  These are both great opportunities for the future of our sport.

The LXM still faces challenges.  They need to continually draw in good numbers and find a list of locations that definitely work.  Then they can continue to experiment in new locations every second or third event.  Excellent promotion goes hand in hand with site selection, and I dropped some ideas yesterday on how the LXM could benefit from an NBA lockout, and one of those ideas centered on getting LXM games on local TV BEFORE the LXM plays an event in their region.  This idea is doable even without an NBA lockout, but I mention it again today because local outreach is going to be really important for these guys.

And they’re going to need to be creative here.  When the LXM travels to Vegas, they can’t craft uniforms to play off of local pro sports teams, because there aren’t any pro sports teams there.  They could go with one UNLV themed team and one minor league baseball or hockey team, but that’s not really what Vegas is all about.  Vegas is about gambling.  So I’m kind of hoping that a casino will be the name sake sponsor of each team, and that people who are staying in either of these two hotels/casinos get free tickets to the game.  Casinos get promoted, the lax teams get names and color schemes, and hopefully some new fans are drawn in.  Or the Casinos could give tickets to all of their EMPLOYEES, and not patrons, and those off could go see the game for free.

I brought up Vegas because it’s going to be a VERY different event than Philly.  But it showcases a broader point; that the LXM PRO Tour needs to focus on each and every event like it’s their first.  They need to work within the region to build support, and find unique ways to ingratiate their new idea into the hearts and souls of potential new fans.  And if you look at the trajectory they’ve been on, and the recent changes we saw in Philly, it looks like that is just what they are doing.

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

10 Comments

  • I will never go to a LXM event. I like watching a professional league, in order to be a professional league there has to be something to play for, starting with a season and ending with a championship.

    The LXM is nothing more than a talented pick-up game. Great. Some talented guys play kind of hard, show off and what’s the score? O who cares, we just had a fun time out there today. That isn’t a professional league. This is no different, to me, than what the NBA players are doing during the lock-out; having charity basketball games around the country.

    I also have a problem with their locations too. They claim their goal is to help spread the sport and all that but why do they continue going to the same locations. Have they been to any states where lacrosse is just starting to spread? NO. Lacrosse is played at high levels in California, Florida, Pennsylvania and even in Texas. What about states in the midwest?! They won’t go there because they won’t get the hype and why is that? Because lacrosse isn’t huge there yet but is growing. However, if they want to spread the game, that is where they need to go.

    Lastly, I am not a huge uniform guy but these jerseys are worse than most summer league rec jerseys. Put some money into it and look legit. Maybe some team gloves etc. Allowing whatever just looks again like a pick-up game.

    Overall, LXM is a high talent pick-up game. Rosters change every game minus a few guys and at the end of the day who cares who wins because there isn’t a season, playoffs or championship. 

    • I think you’re right @89fa445e2f118354c2ecd932483244d1:disqus , at least on some of your points!

      I agree it’s not a pro “league”, and that’s why I always refer to the LXM as a tour.  It doesn’t have regular teams, 100% regular players and there are no playoffs, and no champion.  All true.  That being said, I would still probably go to a charity basketball game.  In fact, I might be MORE likely to go to a charity game over an NBA game.  But I’m sure that’s just me.

      When it comes to their locations, I’d have to disagree.  The LXM does want to grow the game, but they don’t want to do it in front of 150 people, so they still have to be picky about locations.  Also, this is only their second year, so maybe we give them some additional time on that point?  FLA, CA, TX, Vegas isn’t too bad, and to most people, NONE of those places are exactly considered hotbeds of lacrosse.  There is definitely some GREAT lax in those areas… but being a hotbed is different.

      I agree they need to try new places, and with 12 games lined up for 2012, it seems like they could see some new places.  I’d love to see NOLA, Kentucky, Oregon and Idaho added to the new locations list… guess we’ll just have to wait and see on tht!

      The uniforms WERE bad… but I’m saying that they are getting better.  And honestly, as long as everyone has the same jerseys and shorts on, I’m cool with it.  Teams being matchy matchy is not a top priority for me, especially not when I’m seeing an exhibition game.

      I guess it just comes down to this: will you go watch a good lacrosse game, simply because it’s a good lacrosse game?  I would say yes, it seems like you would say no.  But I can’t say who is actually right!

      • I can understand what you’re saying but after watching the highlights on Inside Lacrosse (link below), I wouldn’t call this a good lacrosse game. This again continues the whole pick-up game theme I feel. Defenses aren’t hitting, guys are able to take wide open shots. This is a great example of a summer league game, offensive oriented and that is NOT good lacrosse.

        http://video.insidelacrosse.com/video/view/115623101/lxm610-highlights-from-radnor-pa
         

        • from the highlight I might agree, but everything IL showed was a goal.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t hits, picked off passes, takeaways, saves, etc.

          It did seem like a globetrotters game on tape, but that was almost every goal.  There were still 47 minutes of play that were not what we saw.

          SO!!!!!  We need someone who was there to get involved in this conversation!

  • I was there.. Sunday was my fist LXM event. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. When Tom and I arrived we headed to Vendor village where about 70 kids stood in front of a stage listening to a (very, very loud) D.J, at one point I looked at Tom and said “Jesus, that’s loud, I feel old”! We ventured down to the field to watch the players warm up. As we passed the bench i mentioned that some of the players looked old. I’m such a hater, I can’t help myself. Ha. As they warmed up, I quickly changed my mind about the players looking like they belonged on Tom’s masters league. Long story short, these players played as hard if not harder than the college teams we watched the day before. I was shocked at the trash talking and hard hits I witnessed. This was a “real” lacrosse game. To make comments based in a 30 second highlight clip seems silly.

  • I was there guys and sadly I have to agree with the summer ball feel. There was ONE penalty called that resulted in a 1 min EMO the whole game for an illegal body check called in the 4th. While I did see some hard ball played at times (especially in the 4th) the players could pretty much drive on goal and not worry about someone putting them down. Guys were bombing the crease all day and using BTH and round the world shots inside. I enjoyed the game but LXM has a bunch of growing up to do and needs better logistics. Would have been nice to see a better fan turnout too. Not hating on LXM because I like what they do but when I go see pro ball I like to be able to have a team to root for.

  • Is this what we really want Lacrosse or Pro Lacrosse to be? Some guys who may have been good a few years ago and havent been playing competitive lacrosse, playing a few meaningless games a year? This is a glorified club game where the results mean less. And somehow they convince a few people to buy tickets to them. In no article have i seen attendance. Dont we usually base our opinions on pro sports, and particularly the MLL on how many people pay to watch, not by what the uniforms look like. People I know who attended these events say there were never more than a few hundred people there. And the only reason they came back to Philly was because thats where they thought their highest attendance was last time.
    And they say they will have 12 events next year but havent they said that before? Remember when their website listed 10 places they were going to go, but NEVER did? They were supposed to play in Vegas last year but only did a clinic instead because they didnt have enough players. It seems like these guys talk out of their a$$ and people believe what they say when they have never been right before.
    I fail to see how LXM is “good” for the game when they go to already established lacrosse areas, sell a few tickets to pay for guys who aren’t competing for anything. Do we want Lacrosse to be like the NHL, NFL or like skateboarding and BMX?

    • I hear ya!  But does the fact that it’s still only been about 12 months since the tour kicked off help them at all?  Does that buy them a bigger window of time to imrpove and win you over as a fan?

      What if they had 4 teams all out West in 2 years, played a season AND Tour and held a Champ game?  WOuld you be more interested then?

      I feel like it’s tough to say these guys were “good a few years ago” and leave the description of their talent at that.  What do the LXM guys need to do to prove that they are legit?

    • Phillylacrosse.com (http://bit.ly/nxqwdr) reported “thousands” attended the 610 event. I personally think that number may be over-inflated, but I didn’t take a head count either. I think a thousand might be more in the ballpark of what I saw in the stands, but that doesn’t include the countless kids who took part in the free clinics that might not have attended the game for whatever reason. Numbers aside, and unless you’ve already made up your mind, I think you should make your own judgement by coming out to see one of the games instead of tracking attendance figures to determine whether or not its an enjoyable experience.

      The MLL comparisons are fair and natural, but consider that the LXM has a full 1/3 of the teams that took the field last year in the MLL, 2 to the MLL’s 6. Consider also that the LXM doesn’t purport to be a league but rather a tour. Like I said in my article, if you can’t get past that, then there’s not much hope that you’ll ever come around to the LXM. Like Connor said, I think we all cut these guys some slack and see what kind of improvements are made. Vegas is on the calendar for all to see and we can all start a ticker to see if the 12 events actually happen.

      To your last point that you fail to see how the LXM is good for the game, I ask, how is the LXM bad for the game? Even if they went exclusively to hotbed areas, how does that hurt the game? The MLL has tried and failed in several locations and people seem to give them the benefit of the doubt. Why doesn’t the LXM get a similar shake? I give them credit for providing another lax event if even to the lax saturated areas. Seems to me that I wouldn’t take a chance on a non-traditional lax area until I proved that this thing had legs. As you pointed out, if the turnout were poor, there would be those that pointed to the attendance numbers (or lack thereof) as a measure of failure.

      All this being said, I appreciate your point of view and I know that it is shared with many. Perhaps this type of dialogue will make its way to the LXM brass and we’ll see some changes as they grow.

  • Awesome…they have a bunch of guys that washed out of the MLL because they were too old or couldnt cut it anymore to make a traveling mokery of the sport…this is such a joke

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