Holler! This week’s HOT POT is fan-freaking-tastic!
Yesterday, we showed off the video of Kevin Durant playing at Rucker Park and asked what current lacrosse pro could do what Durant had just done. We don’t want to know who could just go out and dominate a Summer game, because Durant did so much more than that. He energized the crowd, performed at a high level, at a legendary streetball location, and he seems to have done it all while being a consummate professional. Fans mobbed him after shots, opposing players threw a lot of hand checks around, yet Durant just kept going… he made it clear that he was playing for the love of the game.
And I celebrated that. So much so that I wrote a long post and even offered up an Evo3 from Warrior Lacrosse to the reader who nominated the best lax version of KD. But one of the comments went off on a slightly different tangent… and it got me thinking.
These are some GREAT points! The two sports are incredibly different, not only in how they are played, but in how they are viewed, and how the athletes are treated. Before the MLL existed I got to play against Paul Gait at Placid. The Powells played there, Carc, Z, Billy Daye, Tom Ryan and a host of other living legends played there. You could go and match up with the best the world had to offer! But things have changed… at least a little!
Now we have the MLL. And the NLL is still going strong. The LXM is growing too, especially on the West Coast, and new pro box leagues are springing up in both Canada and the US. So what does this mean? Pro lax is growing, and becoming the real deal. The differentiation line between lax pros and amateurs is growing as well, so while we don’t have to ask it, we will: Is this a GOOD thing?!?!?!
I love pro sports… In general, at least. They represent the highest level of talent and team, and the athletes provide entertainment and countless watchable moments. These guys (and gals) are role models, whether they want to be or not, and they are lucky enough to be able to play a sport as their career. Lacrosse isn’t all the way there yet, but the sport is well on its way.
And this is where I get a little nervous.
As pro athletics get better, they obviously become more demanding. Players will get paid more, but will also be expected to dedicate more time to their teams, and less to the lax community in general. Think of it this way: Who has more time to Grow the Game right now; Paul Rabil or Tom Brady? TB has just come off a lockout, has more money than he knows what to do with, and yet PR is the one who does more GTG stuff for his sport. You simply can’t argue otherwise. If lax gets big like football, will Paul Rabil still give back as much as he does now? Would he even have the time?
As a professional sport’s stature is elevated, pro players are also less likely to compete outside of their league. Just look at the NBA and the US Basketball team. It got to the point where the US team basically had to BEG stars to come out and play. And then we lost. And it wasn’t because of a lack of talent. It was because these guys simply didn’t want to dedicate themselves to something outside of their pro team. They were tapped out. And this has happened in baseball as well as hockey. It has even happened in soccer, where playing for your country is the decided top honor. Could it happen in lacrosse? Does it already?
When someone like Kevin Durant plays at Rucker, it’s a big deal. It’s HUGE when he scores 66 points and just tears it up in the 4th quarter, but it’s big no matter what, because a pro has stepped down to play with the rest of us, even though Rucker is still an extremely good place to play.
When someone like say, Kyle Harrison comes out and plays at a place like say, Tahoe, it’s simply not as big of a deal as the KD event in Harlem. But only because we’re still used to it and perhaps a little spoiled. So right now, just seeing him at Tahoe is not going to be enough. He has to be almost magical for it to be special. But how far off are we from KH18 just showing up becoming a special moment? In my mind, this could happen in less than a decade.
Tourneys like Ocean City, Hawai’i, Placid, Vail and a couple others draw TONS of top flight players. This will continue, especially in Hawai’i, which is in the lax light fall, for a good amount of time, but eventually, the MLL and LXM will become big enough where players won’t show to the Summer events. And THAT is when our KD will emerge.
My guess is that a guy like Steele Stanwick, or Rob Pannell could be THE guy who does this. In 10 years, they will have been pros for 9-10 seasons, still able to play, and if they are still in shape, still able to dominate. The MLL could have as many as 12-14 teams and could be much more serious than it is now. But I could see either of these guys dropping out to get back to basics, and get back to just having fun. Another guys who could do this down the road would have to be Nick Galasso. He’s going to be a college lax legend I think, and just has the skills to get it done anywhere.
The days of matching up against some of the best players in the world are not over. But they are definitely ebbing. I couldn’t play in an LXM game, and I couldn’t even get an invite to an MLL camp. I don’t see those guys in “my tourneys” as much as I used to, and I haven’t guarded a player like Paul Gait or Mike Powell in YEARS. But they are still out there, it just happens less and less.
So while I’m praying for pro lax to succeed at every level, I’m a little sad to think we could lose that interaction between the BEST and your Average Joes. It helped keep the lacrosse community tight, but I believe we can keep that tightness, as long as the future pros show us the way, and continue to give back to the game as they have for decades. Unfortunately, down the line, they just might not have time.
IN OTHER NEWS:
– Bill Belichick’s Son to try out for Rutgers Football team after 4 years of lacrosse. Like Connor Wilson did at Wesleyan. Where Bill Belichick played lacrosse and football. Belichick also coached Weston Youth Lacrosse. So has Connor and his dad. Weird! | Providence Journal
– Westwood HS in Mass PUMPS OUT star women’s lax players. Seriously. | Boston Globe blog
– Burnaby Lakers just barely denied the 4th playoff spot in WLA Season. Wow. | Burnaby Now
– Geison leaves DeSales and goes to Elmhurt. College Coaching Carousel | DeSales Athletics
– ASA College becomes first JUCO lacrosse team in NYC! Very cool! | Laxpower
– 65 year old Australian Man still playing against the young bucks! UNREAL!!!! | Guardian Messenger
LACROSSE VIDEO OF THE WEEK:
The Crazy Cows show off the best helmet cam footage they got from the Kieler Lacrosse Meeting in Germany. Crazy Cows – MOooooooooo. These guys love techno, huh?