The months of September and October on the sports calendar have always been dominated by college football, the NFL, and the MLB playoffs, but this year will be a little different.
Typically by the end of August, the MLL Champions have been crowned and the last important lacrosse game to be played is the Mann Cup, the Sr. A box lacrosse championship in Canada, which usually is finished in the second week of September. However, this year there are two professional field lacrosse leagues, the MLL and PLL, and both leagues started their seasons after the college and NLL seasons concluded at the end of May. As a result, professional field lacrosse will be on TV all the way until the MLL Championship on October 6th.
Is this a good or bad thing for lacrosse?
This a problem the sport has never had to face, but professional field lacrosse will be on NBC and ESPN for another month and hopefully continue the amazing success both leagues have been having reaching new audiences.There have been more eyes on lacrosse than ever before between the national broadcasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network, free live streamed MLL games, and the millions of impressions the PLL and MLL have received on their social media. Players from both leagues are regularly finding themselves on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays.
With the playoffs and championships coming up as well the quality of lacrosse will get even better, but what will happen when the PLL and MLL have to compete against college football, the NFL, and the MLB to get fans to tune in?
A casual sports fan, who maybe has been enjoying watching lacrosse on NBC, flipping through the channels will still probably choose to watch a rivalry college football over a PLL playoff game. Even diehard lacrosse fans are used to being able to turn their attention to these other sports because lacrosse is usually done before September. It might be difficult at a party with friends or family to ask to change the channel from a football game to a lacrosse game.
The attendance at the rest of the PLL and MLL games in September and October might suffer as well. For example, the PLL’s first round playoff games in Columbus, Ohio fall on the same weekend Ohio State plays Cincinnati at the Horseshoe. Ohio State football is like a religion in Columbus. How many fans will show up to the PLL games instead of watching OSU football?
I did a little research to see what might happen.
On Saturday September 29th, 2018, 110,889 fans packed into Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes beat Penn State 27-26. At the same time less than 3 miles away at MAPFRE Stadium, where the PLL will play, the Columbus Crew MLS team still drew 12,441 fans to their game. It didn’t matter that OSU was playing. The Columbus Crew fans decided to go to that game instead because they love their team and they love soccer.
This is what gives me hope that it won’t matter whether there will be other big sports events going on at the same time as the PLL or MLL games. Lacrosse fans will still show up to the games and watch them on TV because that is what they want to watch. All of the new young fans of the PLL and MLL will want to watch the games and their parents will surely make sure they get the chance.
Most importantly, games like the PLL Championship on September 21st will be at 2:30 pm ET on NBC’s main network before any major college football games. Maybe people having a barbeque or sitting at a bar waiting for the game they want to watch to come flip the channel to NBC. They see that the Championship game of that PLL league they keep hearing about on the news is on. Maybe they watch and maybe they even become lacrosse fans.
The MLL Championship in Denver on October 6th is at 1 pm ET on ESPN2 right in the middle of several NFL games, but it could still get a good crowd in the stands thanks to the Denver Broncos playing later in the day in San Diego. Denver’s rabid lacrosse fans should be able to come in full force to watch the Championship and if the Outlaws are playing in it then the crowd could be massive even in October.
Having pro lacrosse go later than it ever has before will be weird this first time around, but in the years to come watching the PLL or MLL Championship in the fall could become a new tradition on the sports calendar.