I was watching the warm ups of the UNC-Michigan State basketball game on Veterans Day and, as you probably know, it was being held on an air craft carrier. It was insanely cool. I can’t deny that. But being that I have an extremely lacrosse-centric world view, I also can’t help but ask the question, where could a lacrosse game be played that would just blow people’s minds?
Basketball has their aircraft carrier game on Veterans Day now, and hockey has the Winter Classic, where NHL teams play outdoors, sometimes in classic baseball venues, like Fenway Park in Boston. Michigan has also been known to host a killer outdoor hockey game or two. Two tennis stars played on a helipad in Dubai 700 feet up in the air. There are more examples. When it’s done once in a while, games played in improbable venues are a fantastic change of pace, and always good for the sport’s popularity. So how, and where, could lacrosse make this happen?
First, we need a game. And this is where we have a ton of interesting options. My immediate thought was to go with the FIL World Championships, because that game being hyped by the mainstream sports media (I sound like Sarah Palin, right?) would do a lot for International Lacrosse community, but since the game only happens once every four years, I’m going to have to rule it out. The next choice has to be the NCAA Championships, right? Wrong. For about five minutes, I was thinking it could work, but then I realized how special Championship Weekend already is, and I quickly changed my mind. Keep all the games together there. Ok, so Championship Weekend already qualifies as a cool event, but if it’s going to be a new event, we want something REALLY different, and really special.
We could go with the MLL vs. the US Team, or the MLL All-Stars vs. the LXM All-Stars, or it could be a double header of US-Canada field AND box on consecutive days… it could even be the men’s club field lacrosse championships. But when it comes down to it, none of those avenues truly present a compelling game. Sure, you and I will find it compelling, because we’re already interested in lacrosse. But I don’t know that any one of those match ups provides the level of interest needed to bring people in from the outside.
The match up that presents the most interest to me is the US National Team playing the Iroquois National Teamin field lacrosse once a year, every year. I love that the US and Iroquois play each other in box lacrosse each year in the Bowhunter Cup, and I like the Casino location. But in my eyes, the best way to bring in a large US TV audience is to go the field lacrosse route. It is the game more kids play, and in my opinion, it translates better to television. I don’t think the Bowhunter is going to leave the arena at Turning Stone anyway, and this should be a movable event.
The US – Iroquois game would be important for a number of reasons, and your average sports fan would definitely consider tuning in. I find the history of lacrosse pretty fascinating, but perhaps you’re worried that history won’t bring people in. I’ve heard this concern voiced before. But instead of leading with history, start with present, and work your way back.
“The Iroquois are a sovereign nation with a only single national team. And you know what? They’re really good! Watch them take on the powerhouse US at their own game, Lacrosse, in Central Park this Saturday at 7pm.”
(Ok, that location/time/day isn’t final, but it’s not bad, right?) ESPN just plugged that game in about 20 seconds, and I really think people would watch. Nike is all over the Iroquois squad, so there’s one major partner, and I’m sure NB would come along for a game like this as well.
The fact that the Iroquois are their nation’s only national team is really cool. But it’s even more interesting because it is their game, and their players are still some of the best in the world. Everyone loves a David and Goliath story, and when it comes to sports culture, this certainly fits the bill. US lacrosse is a machine, churning out scores of players. With the Iroquois it seems to be more of a part of life and culture.
The differences off the field are striking. And yet, on the field, it would make for a great game, and hopefully it would further galvanize the ongoing rebirth of field lacrosse amongst Native Americans. And the opportunity for the Iroquois to play their game on such a big stage pays respect to the game, and its history. I don’t think you could come up with a more appropriate set-up.
There are a great number of fantastic locations where this annual game could be held. I mentioned Central Park, and I was serious about that. It would be something of a logistical nightmare to get stands into central park and make all that happen, but if they can host concerts, they could host a lacrosse game. NYC also benefits from having something called the NYC Sports Commission, which brings sporting events to the City, so it’s actually not out of the question. Lacrosse on the great lawn in Cental Park? I’d check that out live or on TV, especially if the US were playing the Iroquois. It has storylines galore, a cool and unique location, and a whole city to draw from as a unique experience.
Even jaded NYers would check it out. It’s a strong contender.
But NYC might not be the end all, be all of locations. I think we can do better. Central Park was good, and it was green. We’ll be sticking on that nature kick.
Red Rocks in Colorado. Find a way to get that stage down, or construct a floating field on top of the lower seating portions. It has to be doable. The venue would be beyond unique, and the backdrop and surrounds are nothing short of astounding. It’s an amphitheatre so the acoustics should be on point, and the game would be loud and intense. Denver is a serious lax town, and it’s worth a trip for lacrosse fans located anywhere. Plus you’ve got JoJo War Drummer out in Colorado, so you know the scene is going to be bumping.
The location offers a completely unique experience, and an unforgettable experience for any attendee, or participant. It would be a great chance to connect new fans to the history of the game and put on what could quickly become THE lacrosse event of the year, every year.
Play the game on the fourth of July, play it on Memorial Day, or choose any other time of the year. Do it in the Spring or the Fall. I don’t know that it really makes a difference. If someone has a compelling case for a specific date, I’d love to hear it in the comments! This annual game would also need a name, so don’t let me down!
This is the kind of game, and approach to playing it, that could push lacrosse to a much larger general consciousness, and by having the Iroquios Nationals and the US Team play, it would be much more likely to happen the right way.
Got a different idea for a game? Different match up? Different venue? Let’s hear ’em!!!!
(Main Photo Courtesy Military Times)