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NLL All-Star Game
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It’s Time For The NLL To Get Real

The NLL is fun for a box enthusiast, but as a professional sports league, it is severely lacking from a potential growth perspective. And the funniest part of my whole theory is that I’m not even talking about changing the game itself. For the most part, the pro indoor lacrosse game is fast, physical, exciting, high scoring and well worth the price of admission. But all of the stuff that goes on around the game?  It screams amateur night and needs to be addressed. ASAP.

I’ve watched NLL games on livestream, and I’ve seen a couple on Versus. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the games on TV any day if I have a choice. The quality of the visual broadcast is usually much better, and watching a lax game on my large TV is just so much more visually stimulating than on my laptop. It feels like I’m watching something real. Well, at least until the game starts anyway.

We can start with the announcers since they are our first point of contact. They actually weren’t bad. They generally know what they’re talking about, and although you’re rarely seeing a big name sportscaster anywhere near the NLL, these guys are solid. I liked the recent Minnesota – Buffalo broadcast and feel like the guys did a good job of preaching to new fans while keeping more informed regulars involved. They didn’t dumb it down like Quint Kessenich sometimes does during college games, but they also didn’t use too much lax speak. And unlike some college games, I would imagine fans don’t generally mute the broadcasters. Okay, so the announcers have been, again, for the most part, a bright spot.

The pumped-in music during the game is ridiculous. I know, this is done for a lot of sports teams.

I recently went to a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden (Melo’s first game as a Knick vs. the Bucks) and they pumped music in there as well. I thought it was ridiculous. It’s always been ridiculous. The Knicks even had DJ Clue as the guest DJ for the game, which made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I came to see a basketball game, not watch some dope in extra baggy clothes, and a too big hat, spin crappy hip hop records.

Is the game not exciting enough? Then pump in music. But the NLL is exciting, and it doesn’t need that crap. This isn’t lingerie football and it isn’t the NY Knicks, who are a disaster of a pro sports team themselves.

Also, when they weren’t pumping in music, the game announcer was leading the home crowd in cheers. And he was very vocal about it. Is this not weird? Plant a fan to lead cheers. Find some crazy person (like the Jets firefighter in the NFL) and give him season tickets under the agreement that he show up and organize cheers. It’s more authentic, and it avoids the outcome of the game announcer being louder than the actual cheers he generates.  That made me laugh.  “#63, Take. A. Seat” being screamed by a game announcer does nothing for me.  I’d much rather see a couple guys in green spandex grinding up against the glass.  This is a pro sport, right?  Let’s not try to turn it into some totally manufactured spectacle, ok?  Same thing goes for speaker generated fast-clapping.  Totally awful.

NLL All-Star Game
The NLL All-Star game was televised too.

(Photo courtesy and Larry Palumbo)

Now the NLL hasn’t been on TV for a couple of seasons, at least in the US, so their broadcasts are decidedly NOT going to be A+ material from the get go.  And some of these teams, like Minnesota, are still trying to find their way.  I understand that.  That’s why I’m not saying the NLL is dead in the water, because they still have time to change and improve.  However, that change has to come soon, and the possible financial troubles of a couple NLL teams demonstrate this fact well.

There are those that say, “let the NLL be what it is. It is a league for box fans and F the rest of the sporting world if they don’t like it just the way it is.”

The mentality behind that ideology stems from a defensiveness about the game of box lacrosse in general, and I get that, but I’m not proposing that we change the game, just how it’s displayed. So you can shelf that theory right now, thank you very much.

The NLL is trying all of this “razzle and dazzle” to try to bring people into the games.  It’s why they have dance teams, it’s why they play music during the game and it’s why they have game announcers screaming at you.  But these 3 methods seem like a waste of time, talent and bandwidth to me.  Replace the dance team with team reps who will go out into the stands and talk lacrosse with people, give away T-shirts and interact with the fans.  It’s simpler, less cheesy and has the potential to build relationships with real fans.  But a full team of women who only dance a couple of times a game is a complete waste of resources and only a quarter to half of your fans are even remotely interested by them, if that.  No offense ladies, but some NFL teams don’t have cheerleaders.  NLL teams don’t need dancers.

The game announcers interfere with the broadcast of the games.  You can’t hear the fans cheer and the background voice behind the two broadcasters is nothing short of distracting.  The music being pumped in is less of an issue, but to me it reeks of a production, not a sporting event.  It just takes away from the legitimacy of the whole thing – kind of like NBA announcers saying Melo can play good defense when he needs to.  Just be honest, guys.  Melo can’t play D and the music is cheesy.  Buffalo scores to go up another goal and Minnesota plays Muse? Seriously? Not a bad song and the words make sense, but come on, this isn’t Broadway.

I’m glad to see the NLL on TV and I hope that the 2012 season gets a lot more play than 2011.  The short broadcast window for the 2011 season allows the NLL the luxury of practice for next year, and suffering through screaming game announcers and dance teams is still better than watching the games online.  But if the NLL doesn’t make some changes, it will just be one more lacrosse game on TV that is getting muted by the fans, and ignored by the potential fans.  It’s time for the NLL to get real.