I attended my first Major League Soccer game this past weekend. From the moment I stepped into the stadium, I couldn’t help but dream that I was walking into Qwest field to watch Seattle’s pro Lacrosse team play an intense Saturday night game.
The lower bowl was PACKED to the brim with soccer fans… chanting, screaming, jumping up and down, waving their Sounders scarves and wildly anticipating the start of the game.
As we grabbed seats in the Sounders General Admission section behind 1000 drum beating, flag waving, green clad soccer nuts I blurred my vision a little. I saw flags attached to lacrosse sticks, teams running 4v3 drills on the field for warm-up, players getting amped up to perform on a national stage. On my way home I started feeling a little depressed. Would this deep desire of my lacrosse crazed heart ever be realized? Can the game of Lacrosse as we know it today pack a stadium filled with fanatical fans? Can Lacrosse truly BE a mainstream spectator sport?
Lacrosse As a Mainstream Game?
According to this 2008 article (which I Google’d) there are a 4 main factors to the growth of lacrosse..
- Increased visibility in the National Media. (Joenandez’s take- ESPN and a handful of “sports package” channels??? I don’t quite know about this one)
- Development of a Professional League (J- That dropped its two most important “growth” franchises last year)
- Growth of new High School and College Programs (J-True)
- Growth of Youth Programs. (J-True)
I don’t want to poke too many holes in this theory because being the fastest growing sport is certainly a good thing…BUT how fast does it NEED to grow to become mainstream? Are we on path for an NBC broadcast contract in 2045? Is that acceptable? When the economy starts turning back around, do we get the San Francisco and LA MLL franchises back? Should we all be content with steady, fast growth? I for one, am not. I daydream of what it will take to hit that tipping point where Lacrosse is an overnight success, where the growth goes from steady to exponential. I also believe it will start with a Groundswell… we just have to enable it.
Unfortunately, I’ve made the official decision not to hold my breath. At current growth rates, it just doesn’t seem plausible to expect a sudden meteoric rise of Lacrosse coverage in mainstream media. Symptom: existing professional lacrosse organizations struggling to find profitability, not to mention closing franchises (San Francisco/Los Angeles) that had the greatest likelihood of expanding the reach of the league. I’m a big fan of this game, but no longer will I go to sporting events and thinking “man, wouldn’t it be cool if this was a lacrosse game right now?”. It’s just not healthy.
1+1 = 2. Change the equation
When it comes to individuals, I’ve seen lots of interesting and innovative thinking around expanding the visibility and reach of lacrosse. I have no doubt that the tools are there, but like I’ve said before, the brute force effort of many individuals will keep lacrosse on it’s snails pace march towards mainstream adoption. Something needs to happen, something dramatic, something new. In the current era of overnight success startups and web-services with 1000% YOY growth, I can’t help but hope and dream. At some point, we need to come together so 1+1 equals 3. Someone please talk me down from this ledge.
-Joenandez Follow me on Twitter
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