I’M BACK F**KERS. After a few well-deserved weeks off (if I do say so myself) following my collegiate graduation, I’ve returned to the real world. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s time to get back to what I do best: write out my mediocre takes for the Thoughts From The Bench readers. This is why I write to you today.
Yesterday, I sat down and was mindlessly flipping through the channels when I came across something on NBC: the Premiere Lacrosse League (or PLL). Now, I never played lacrosse growing up, and I can’t even really consider myself a real fan of the game. Every other year, I’ll tune into the NCAA Lacrosse Championship, probably accidentally. While I always find it extremely entertaining, I never seem to consistently follow the sport. Regardless, I decided to tune into the newly formed PLL’s matchup between Chaos and Atlas (from what I understand, there are no city allegiances for these clubs). And you know what? I actually loved what I saw. So I decided to jot down a few of my thoughts.
The PLL is a Tour-Based League
Unlike most professional sports in the US, there seem to be no home-and-away competitions. In fact, like I said earlier, these clubs (there are six clubs as of now) aren’t associated with cities. Instead, these six clubs travel to a new city each week to compete throughout an entire weekend. This weekend, the clubs played at Red Bull Arena in New York. It’s sort of like the UFC in that the fans are expected to associate themselves with a certain player or club rather than their hometown team. From what I’ve heard, rugby has a similar setup. I personally think this is a genius move for a young sports league to pull. This way, the league’s attendance numbers can gradually grow since it’s a new location each week, meaning they can get the maximum number of fans showing up to a single venue. This will probably end up helping drum up publicity if the stands start really filling up.
These New Uniforms are Decent
It looks like Adidas has partnered with the PLL to become the official uniform provider for the the newly formed league. I don’t know much about lacrosse uniforms, but these are visually pleasing at the very least. They’re crisp and actually kind of look MLS-esque, which isn’t a bad thing. I think these attractive jersey designs will actually be key in attracting a new audience moving forward.
It Looks Like They’re Getting Major Companies to Sponsor the League
Capital One, Adidas, and Gatorade are just some of the companies I saw having ad space during the game I watched today. Capital One even had a patch on the Atlas jerseys. I think this is a sign that the league might actually get some decent traction going forward if it has some of these corporations willing to put their name on it. Upon further research, I also found that a major league investor is the Chernin Group, who also gave Barstool Sports the investment it needed to blow up the way it did. It seems like there is a definite opportunity for future investments as well.
I Still Don’t Understand Lacrosse
While the NBC broadcast did run through the rule changes from NCAA Lacrosse, they still didn’t do a good job explaining the rules of the game as a whole. I think this is one area where the less-than-casual fan (like myself) could really benefit from a new league. Broadcasts that start out with a quick tutorial for new viewers would go a LONG way for bringing in a new audience, at least for the first few years. Like, I’m pretty sure there’s offsides in lacrosse, but I literally have no clue what it looks like. Also, can you really just slash everyone with your stick if they have the ball? These are the questions new fans like myself need to have answered. There were a few new PLL rules I did love, however: the 2-point arc (kind of like the 3-point arc in basketball) is something my dumb brain can get behind, and apparently fighting IS allowed (what an awesome concept). Also, watching the frantic scrums (?) in front of the goalkeepers is awesome. It’s like a loose puck in hockey, total and complete chaos that the referees just look past. ELECTRIC.
The PLL Broadcasts are Using a Sky Cam (!!!)
Call me dumb, simple, or easily impressed, I love when the Sky Cam is used during Monday and Thursday Night Football Games. And guess what? The PLL broadcasts on NBC are using the same concept, which actually is brilliant. Instead of only using the traditional camera setup, like NCAA Lacrosse, they decided to include the airborne cable-run cameras circling the offensive zone as well. If you use the same concepts as a league that’s as successful as the NFL, you might have a recipe for success. I think this idea might be effective in bringing in a new audience. Plus, WHO DOESN’T LOVE THE SKY CAM.
There are In-Game Interviews with Players Inside Their Masks
This was maybe my favorite part of watching my first PLL game. Each game, the broadcast team selects three players to give a hot mic to. These mics are there so that the guys up in the booth can interview the players on the field in real time. This is an absolute FIRE idea. It seems like the league wants to give the audience the players’ point of view as well as what the commentators see up in the booth. The MLB tried this a season or two ago in spring training, but never really followed up on it. Also, there seem to be live mics inside the team huddles during time outs, which gives the audience a much more personal look into the game. It seems like the league is trying to be innovative, at the very least.
Bottom Line: I’m Intrigued
I’m not going to guarantee the PLL is here to stay. Lacrosse clearly isn’t an extremely popular sports, especially when compared to the Big 4 (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). However, what I saw during the PLL broadcast was EXTREMELY entertaining, fast-paced, and interesting. It sounds like they have decent funds coming in through sponsorships and investors, and they’re attempting to let the players’ personalities attract a larger audience. At the very least, I’d say that I’d watch it again for sure. It’ll be a slow process, but it seems like they have a decent recipe for success, coming from an outside fan’s perspective. But hey, I feel like I just sound like any other middle class white guy talking about lacrosse, so what do I know?