If you turn on the TV and flip to a Sports Channel, there is a very good chance that the talking heads will be pontificating on the current debacle that is the NFL collective bargaining agreement expiration. The owners and players are billions, yes billions, of dollars apart and while I do think that the 2011 season will be played, smaller sports, like lacrosse, need to be prepared for the off chance that it doesn’t all work out.
I believe the NFL will fix the situation because they’ve seen what happened to baseball and hockey after lockouts. Have the leagues bounced back? Yes. But it wasn’t done the next year. It took time. And for a group of guys so concerned with money (the NFL), they should realize that long term losses could kill any short-term gains. It’s better for them all to just keep playing. But weirder things have happened. So what if the NFL didn’t have a 2011 season?
Owners would need to fill their stadiums with international soccer friendlies, college football games and maybe even lacrosse. If the MLL is smart, they have a plan tucked away called “NFL Goes Boom-Boom”. In this plan, they are able to rapidly move the MLL season to the fall at the drop of a hat and it would only be implemented if the NFL did not play. They should have spoken with TV stations and advertisers and have lined up credit for JUST this opportunity (should it ever come to pass) to make it happen the right way. If not concretely, then at LEAST in a provisional sense.
Play the games on Sundays and sell tickets for $15. The goal should be to pack stadiums, make it affordable and make it enjoyable. Promote tailgating, get as many ex-MLLers there as you can and just use the entire year to promote yourselves and get the MLL name out there. NFL fans would be extremely disenfranchised that their millionaire heros and billionaire owners care more about money than they do the fans. And who would be ready to step in? Lacrosse players working for less than minimum wage who just love the game, and who happen to play it at the highest level the game has ever seen.
The opportunity to step up when a trusted sport turns its back on its fans is a huge one. The chance to connect with local communities and build meaningful relationships simply could not be overlooked.
Now, even if the NFL did take a year off, they would, for sure, be back the next year. And the MLL would be forced back to the Summer (or Sundays in the Spring. hint.) but it would have picked up a lot of new fans who would migrate with it. Many football fans wouldn’t come over and many that did come over would go back. That is certainly true. But by the sheer number of NFL fans, even a small percentage would be an extremely meaningful boost for the MLL.
I don’t think the NFL is going anywhere, but on the off chance that they do, the MLL, and lacrosse in general, has got to be ready.
Photo Courtesy Lax.com