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Wilson’s Wheelhouse: LXM, The Middle Path

12 - Published October 19, 2010 by in LXM PRO, Pro Lacrosse

At the end of last week I previewed the LXM PRO event that was going to take place in Jacksonville, FL aka LXM904.  I was optimistic that the event would go really well, but it turns out I was only partially correct. Like many things in life there were positives and negatives, and unlike some others have done, this post will try to address both sides of the coin.

InsideLacrosse‘s John Jiloty wrote up a “nice” post right after the LXM904 event was over and he made it sound like this was a hugely successful, unreal event with pink prancing ponies and rainbows for all.  412, on the LAS network, had a very different take on things (412′s first LXM post, 412′s second LXM post) and not only ripped the event and its promoters but also, like a doctor trying to get to a golf game, called the time of death for the LXM pretty early.

UNREAL photo via Inside Lacrosse and Daniel Goncalves. Just WOW.

Both of these reactions, from 412 and Jiloty, are severely lacking and just don’t give the game of lacrosse or LXM PRO their due.

Jiloty says the event was a success and that the “the game and the level of crowd energy was the best LXM has seen.” Let’s be honest here. There were 200 fans, awful seating options and a friend of a friend, celebrity-DJ “spinning tunes” DURING the game.  The lack of fans, lack of field planning and weak musical element are pieces of the story that Jiloty played off as positives or didn’t mention at all.  I get that he was covering the event for the LXM in some official capacity, but that does not mean that all semblance of journalistic integrity should be thrown right out the window.

Props to Jiloty for traveling to the game and for covering it all, however.  I certainly didn’t fly down there to cover the event and I appreciate his pictures and reporting.  I’m also aware that covering an event your organization has ties to is difficult, but I firmly believe that without more honest reporting IL is not only hurting itself, it’s hurting LXM too. And I just want the best for the game of lacrosse, above all else.

412 went with the old nuclear annihilation tactic and basically said that the LXM tour was dead in the water and that 904 was a total failure.  This is sensationalism, plain and simple, and I don’t think it is an accurate portrayal of the event in any way, shape or form.  The game was great in terms of action and competition (watch the IL highlights below), and just because the teams are wearing old Warrior uniforms doesn’t mean the venture is a failure.  While looking good is important to the lax community, flashy new jerseys are NOT the answer to any of the world’s problems, including those of the LXM.

There were additional flubs by both Jiloty and 412, but let’s get away from the hacks and get back to the facts, shall we?

The Good

The talent, the players and the actual game were all really good.  You can tell the guys are playing with passion out there and really enjoying themselves.  This is the LXM product at its most basic level, and it is extremely encouraging that they can attract the types of players they’ve pulled in so far for the events.  I was a little surprised that the LXM wasn’t able to get Casey Powell to sign on to play in this event since he is the new Dr. Lacrosse of Florida, but there was plenty of talent without him.

The players were also treated VERY well by the Tour as they were put up in a pretty swanky resort, Hammock Beach in Palm Coast, FL.  There was a mix of gear and helmets from older LXM events and for the most part, the colors matched up with the uniforms.  Some will argue that the mix of gear looks unprofessional, but I would disagree.  European hockey uses a gold helmet on each teams’ leading scorer so exploring the different helmet route could actually prove to be somewhat groundbreaking here in the States, even if LXM is doing it unintentionally right now.

The fans that did go to the game seemed to enjoy themselves.  For only 200 people being in attendance, you can hear some pretty solid cheers after the goals.  We’ll get to the promotion of the event later, but when the people that do show up have a good time, you’re on the right track.  I heard from some attendees that the game itself was good and again, the product on the field is one of LXM’s two strongest selling points.

The Bad

The event clearly delivered lacrosse-wise, but the lack of a real musical presence hurt it.  It’s questionable to bill yourself as a Music and Lacrosse tour and then show up with a DJ no one cares about.  I’m not saying she isn’t good, but she won’t draw people there like Wale did and she certainly won’t draw additional attendees if she doesn’t put on a show separate from the game. No one goes to see music during a sporting event. That just doesn’t make any sense.

The other negative is the lack of attendance and this can be tied to mistakes in location and promotion – and probably some bad luck.  The event was billed as LXM Jacksonville or LXM 904, but it actually took place an hour away in Palm Coast.  And the area code in Palm Coast is 386.  If the event is in Palm Coast, just say it.  LXM 386 is no worse than LXM 904.  Both are obscure area codes, and Ludicris is probably down with either one. In my opinion, a better Florida location would have been Boca Raton and the even could have been called LXM 561.  The water is right there, at least 4 HS’s in Boca have lacrosse (including nationally ranked St. Andrew’s) and a musical act would definitely agree to play there.  The theater in East Boca regularly draws big names.

The lacrosse community in Boca is also pretty tight-knit, so it would be easy to spread the word.  Kids in Boca watch the Hills and some of them live a pretty similar lifestyle so having Scott Hochstadt and the Ritz brothers at the event might have been all the draw that was needed.  The place would have been crawling with tweens and teens alike.  Trying to tie the promotion of the event to a HS lacrosse tourney was an interesting idea, but I think this shows that you need to tie the attendance of the event to the permanent population in the area.  Or you must make sure the bond between the tournament you are working with and your organization is air-tight and fully integrated.

Neither Here Nor There

This is not the end of LXM PRO by any means at all, and I’m glad they didn’t cancel the event at the last minute. Making good on a commitment to putting on an event, even if ticket sales are dismal, speaks to the true intentions of the LXM crew.  They want to put on a good show, be successful and spread the game.  They want to do it right, even if they make some mistakes here and there.  I can get behind that.  Of course I question some of their decisions, but that’s a luxury you have when you’re watching something from the outside.  I’m sure some of you out there question some of our decisions here at LAS and that’s fair.  It’s something we all do but so far, I really do respect the way the LXM has handled things.

At the previous LXM event in Philly, there was a fastest shot contest and supposedly, Ryan Cranston, a former D3 All-American from Lynchburg College in VA, hit 113 mph on the radar gun.  No proof, photos or video has been released, so I was really hoping that they would get that in this time.  Maybe they just held off until there was a bigger crowd.  Maybe he never really hit 113 mph.  Either way, the jury is still out and I hope we get to see that in the future.  Even if they’re just trying to create buzz with this, I think they’re on to something.

I still can’t tell 100% where the LXM is going. Are they trying to create something with longevity?  A tour that will go 8 months a year, every year?  All across the country and possibly the world?  Everyone has an opinion on its future, but I’ll admit I don’t really know.  I do think that by combining great lacrosse games with strong musical acts, there is a future.  That seems to be the direction that this whole thing is headed and if that’s where it ends up then it can be a great addition to the lacrosse and event culture landscapes.  On the other hand, if LXM PRO gets pulled in to the MTV-reality TV world, all is lost.  A show like that could be very successful financially for those involved, but it would do nothing to promote the game of lacrosse in a positive manner.  Watch some shows on MTV and then tell me I’m wrong.

What’s Next

Generally speaking, LXM PRO is in a pretty good place.  This last event (only their 4th one ever) certainly had its issues and it makes the next event that much more important, but this won’t be the end of things by any means. California, Texas and Philly were successes in that they built some momentum and helped create a story. Maybe Florida was a bit of a setback, but that should just refocus the LXM guys for success at their next stop in San Diego in January.  Their business plan MUST have accounted for at least one disaster of a show, especially in this economic climate.  Contingencies are planned, or at least they should be, so I have to believe LXM can weather Jacksonville financially.

Making sure a good crowd shows up will be more and more important now to prove they are for real. When they head to Las Vegas in March they could really do well with a stronger and heavier concert portion and beer sales for the older crowd.  If they host it in the suburbs then they are in Vegas for the wrong reasons because the lacrosse community is probably not there yet.  Kind of like Palm Coast, Florida.  Even with a concurrently running tournament, the chances of success are slim.  Team up with a casino and make it a real event.

With guys like Kyle Harrison being heavily involved, LXM has good people near its heart.  Kyle loves lacrosse, plain and simple.  For me, the mere fact that he is still involved with the venture means that they are on the right path.  If Kyle ever leaves LXM, my faith may be completely shaken, but as long as that doesn’t happen I’m still ready to believe.

This tour has only seen 4 events take place so far.  I’m not ready to call it a complete success because that would be dishonest, but I’m also not ready to watch the ship go down.  LXM PRO is a work in progress and personally, I’m willing to give it time to see where it goes before calling it one way or the other.

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