Lacrosse is the sport of the future. Lacrosse is ready to explode. Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the world. Lacrosse is the best sport in the world.
I wholeheartedly believe all of these statements are true as do all those who truly love this game, but people in the lacrosse community have been saying them for decades. These have been the taglines with big lacrosse announcements for years, but lacrosse has yet to fulfill these statements and have its true breakthrough moment to become something bigger in the eyes of the sports world. It is still an afterthought to most major sports media and to sports fans in North America as well as the rest of the world. It is still the butt of jokes on social media claiming lacrosse is not even a sport.
Something drastic has to happen to kickstart the next era of lacrosse.
Luckily for the lacrosse community, there are people like Paul Rabil and his fellow pathfinders who are willing to take the ultimate risk to bring lacrosse to new heights. Lacrosse is North America’s oldest sport. It is about time it became one of its most popular.
This past October, the experiment that lacrosse needed was announced. The Premier Lacrosse League will be shaping the future of this sport right before our eyes as it plays its inaugural season this summer. Six teams of the best lacrosse players in the world will be playing not only to win the league’s first championship, but to help create thousands of new lacrosse fans and the next generation of players. From the start, one of the PLL’s slogans has been “We The Players” as Rabil and all of the players who will be playing this summer have been united in this venture created by the players for the players to usher in the next era of lacrosse. An era where it is viable for professional lacrosse players to make a living from the sport after so many years of working other jobs so they are still able to play the sport they love.
The Premier Lacrosse League has not played a single game yet and there has been more media coverage and support from lacrosse and non lacrosse fans alike than possibly ever before in the history of the sport. The announcement of the PLL and the subsequent news releases in the past months have had lacrosse consistently be a regular headline on national news outlets and on social media. Lacrosse has not been in the news as much as this probably since the unfortunate events of the Duke Lacrosse Scandal and the murder of Yeardley Love. The PLL is providing a long needed positive representation of the sport in the media that is already raising interest in the league and the sport from people not familiar with lacrosse.
Their innovative marketing strategy of slowly releasing team names, rosters, game locations, sponsors, jerseys, and all kinds of clinics and events for this summer has had the lacrosse community eating out of the palms out their hands. It has drawn some of the biggest investors and sponsors a lacrosse league has ever had in the Raine Group, the Alibaba Group, NBC, and Adidas. The impressive venues, partnerships, and even jerseys have other sports fans taking notice and genuinely being interested in watching games this summer. The PLL college draft on NBC Sports itself drew more than 150,000 viewers at 2 am. The games that will be broadcast on NBC and NBC Sports could potentially draw the largest TV audience ever for a lacrosse game.
Of all the implications and the possibilities that the PLL will bring with it this summer there is one that is more important than the rest: hope.
It brings hope that lacrosse will become a major sport. It brings hope that people everywhere will watch lacrosse for the first time on NBC and become fans. It brings hope to college players that are not ready to put down their stick that they could one day make a living from lacrosse. It will inspire young kids all over the world that one day that could be them playing professional lacrosse on TV as they watch their heroes and then run outside to play wallball for hours and hours.
The PLL at this time remains an experiment and we will know the results after the season is over in September. We have seen what happens when a chance is taken on a new professional sports league after seeing what happened to the Alliance of American Football . Could the PLL suffer the same fate?
No, for the sake of the lacrosse community the PLL cannot fail and from everything we have seen so far it will not fail. It will prosper. The stakes have been raised for professional lacrosse across the board. If anything the PLL is a wake up call for the NLL and MLL as it has garnered more attention, sponsors, talent, and higher salaries in the two years since Paul Rabil started planning this experiment than they have in the decades they have existed. The entire lacrosse community, myself included, are anxiously waiting to see how successful the PLL will really be and if its competitor the MLL can keep pace as this is truly could be the big moment for our sport to finally get the respect that we all know it deserves.
This will be the most interesting and important summer of lacrosse ever as starting on June 1 the next era of lacrosse begins.