As coach John Paul reminded us today, and literally every other day on Twitter, there are 143 days until the PLL has its inaugural face off. What better time to share some things I’m excited to see unfold this summer as it relates to professional lacrosse.
1. The Initial Success of the PLL
Pretty obvious first choice here, I think. You’ve got a flashy new league coming in and putting itself in direct competition with the old, established one. It wouldn’t be crazy to think we’re all anxiously waiting to see what the PLL will look like as the games begin.
You have Paul Rabil, arguably the biggest name to ever play lacrosse, leading the charge and behind him is a laundry list of All-Americans, Tewaaraton winners, and all-around tremendously exciting lacrosse players. How will this compare to what we’ve seen from the MLL for close to two decades? Will it immediately be a better product? Will there be growing pains? If so, what will they be?
If I had to guess, I’d predict the initial “struggles” will come as a result of the touring system the PLL is adopting. I do think it can work long-term, but you’d have to think there will be things to figure out at first. I’m curious to see how many fans show up in places like California and Texas (should they choose to go there). Both are up-and-coming lacrosse markets, but do they care about the professional game just yet?
Side note: The PLL is expected to make a formal announcement tomorrow with the locations of their games this summer. The Georgia State Stadium is expected to be one of them, which would make the QuickStick boys 1 for 1 on predictions. NBD.
2. What the Partnership Between the PLL and WPLL Will Look Like
It was announced this week that the PLL and WPLL (Women’s Professional Lacrosse League) will be partnering for the PLL’s inaugural season. The two leagues will play games at pre-determined locations, and they will host youth clinics as well.
The WPLL, which started last summer, is comprised of five teams from five cities/regions. What will be interesting to see is if these teams, like the PLL, will ditch the city affiliation in an effort to fully embrace the “traveling tour” aspect of the league. Additionally, in terms of ticket sales, I’m curious if fans will be able to buy a “weekend pass” sort of thing or if they’ll purchase tickets for the PLL games and WPLL games separately.
My gut tells me it will be the former, because I’d have a hard time seeing the benefit to the WPLL partnering with the PLL just to continue to sell their own tickets.
3. The Benefits of NBC Sports Broadcasts
First and foremost on this matter, who will the broadcast team be? Can we expect some in-depth sideline reporting from the likes of Pierre McGuire? Hockey will be in the off-season after all…
Seriously though, I am excited to see what this does for the popularity of the league and the sport as a whole. One of the largest issues the MLL had (and still has) is that their games were broadcast behind a paywall on Lax Sports Network. Partnering with a platform like LSN immediately eliminates the possibility of a casual sports fan that has never seen lacrosse scrolling through channels and landing on your product. I will never understand that business decision and I am so thankful the PLL partnered with a big-time, national broadcasting network.
Not to mention, this is a huge low-risk, high-reward get for NBCSN. If the PLL takes off and becomes a prominent professional sports league on the same level as, say, the MLS, then that’s a big ole W for NBC. I don’t know the exact finances that went into the deal, so I’m not sure what the rights sold for, but I imagine NBC won’t be going under if the PLL is somehow a flop. But, if it blows up in a good way? That’s like getting Tom Brady with the 199th overall pick.
4. How the PLL and MLL Will Adapt
We all saw the changes the MLL made this summer prior to the announcement of the PLL. They were going to enlarge the salary cap, expand rosters, etc. To most of us, this seemed like they were finally taking a step in the right direction for the sake of the players. Only to then find out it was for their own selfish reasons.
As the PLL finds its footing and the MLL figures out how to operate with out 80% of its biggest stars, look to see what each league will do to keep pace with the other one. I look at it like two competing gas stations right across the street from one another. If one drops their price per gallon one cent, you better believe the one across the street is doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter how much gas actually costs, it’s about surviving and advancing. Now that I’ve spent two sentences too many talking about gasoline and basic business practices, I’ll move on.
Bottom line, the MLL’s hand was forced last fall at the arrival of the PLL. My question is, will they punch back?
5. The Highly-Anticipated Final Season of Thrones