In February of 1999 Jake Steinfeld, CEO of Body by Jake Enterprises founded the first ever outdoor professional lacrosse league, Major League Lacrosse (MLL). This event most certainly changed the game of lacrosse forever.
In the summer of 2001 the league had its inaugural season. Six teams representing Baltimore, Bridgeport, Long Island, Boston, Rochester, New Jersey, all respective lacrosse hotbeds, competed in a thirty game regular season that concluded with a seeded tournament.
In an attempt to attract attention from those who were not already die-hard lacrosse fans, the MLL used an adapted version of the NCAA lacrosse rulebook to make the game more "visually appealing." Some key differences that stuck out included: a shot clock that was installed to speed up game play. Goals scored from a certain distance were worth two points rather than one. The league even experimented with a modified version of the face-off.
In the early days of the MLL (still just two years ago), the gimmicks that were designed to attract a new type of fan extended past the field. The MLL strayed close to the façade that the XFL or even WWF put on. Advertising the raw carnage you would observe at a professional lacrosse game rather than the complexity and elegance the sport used to be known for.
This was necessary of course, and I support it. It is hard to keep a professional sports league afloat without a large dedicated fan base. The MLL certainly has a dedicated fan base, but the truth is not many people play lacrosse in comparison to football or soccer.
This bold move of altering the classy game of lacrosse so some chump with the attention span of someone who adores Stone Cold Steve Austin can get a kick out of it came as a shock to many veteran lacrosse players. And it often deterred them; many choosing to watch the tradition and character that came with the college game rather than the "new" style of lacrosse.
But die-hard lacrosse fans need not worry; the MLL is only going to help the cause. It may be young and immature, but it is accomplishing one of its main goals; facilitating the growth of the game across the nation and around the world.
The MLL certainly has potential. Lacrosse is without a doubt a visually appealing game, and right now at the high school and college level it is growing faster than any other sport. Though, Steinfeld has to make sure he doesn't scare his faithful fans away in his attempt to really kick this sport off.
Steinfeld has recently enlisted a number of experts to find this happy medium that will keep loyal lacrosse fans onboard, and at the same time attract new fans to the game of lacrosse.
He is most definitely on the right track. The MLL has recently made strides in spreading the word about itself with the main goal of supporting the growth of the game. A monthly periodical completely dedicated to professional lacrosse, FUEL Magazine was recently launched. Some sports networks on the east coast broadcast a MLL game of the week, and every game is webcast so even someone in Australia can check it out.
Once the MLL gets enough money, its number one priority should be establishing expansion programs in these areas that are not traditionally known as lacrosse hotbeds. The MLL has been probing the US to find the ideal city to plant a program by holding exhibition games and clinics in areas like Texas, California and Florida where organized lacrosse is growing but is still in its relative infancy. This is great for the game because kids who are just learning the game have an opportunity to see something they may not ever see in their careers; a real game of lacrosse.
Eliminating the gimmicks that the young MLL has tested out should also be on the top of the list, and as lacrosse grows more and more across the US, this goal will become more realistic. But again, this period is necessary, if the NFL and every other professional sports league did not toy with their rulebook they might not exist today.
The young MLL has already had a huge impact on the growth of lacrosse, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. As the MLL helps the game sprout up around the country, its fan base will only grow larger. As long as Mr. Steinfeld and his colleagues play their cards right, the MLL championship weekend might someday be as eagerly anticipated as the Super Bowl or March Madness.
Lincoln Fischer. Senior sports writer Lincoln Fischer was born in Manhattan, New York on May 1st 1985. He presently lives in Takoma Park with his mother, father and sister. His father, Craig, is an editor for Pace Publications, which produces a number of newsletters related to criminal … More »