Cattrano's Corner: The State of the MLL
Over the past few months, I have listened to the many cheers and jeers for Major League Lacrosse. Some people support the league, while others don’t. We live in America, and the very fabric of our society is the freedom to voice our opinion without prejudice or bias. Everyone has the right not to support the league, but what I don’t understand is why people are so quick to criticize the MLL and it’s place in lacrosse.
As a MLL player, but more importantly a huge fan of lacrosse, I am still trying to figure out why people want to see the league fail. This baffles me. Who are these people? Are 6 year olds picking up a stick for the first time rounding up a coup to overtake the MLL office in Secaucus? I highly doubt that. They now have a dream of playing pro lacrosse someday – something all professionals in the league never had the opportunity to dream of.
Are college and high school players looking for a reason not to play at a high level after college? Doubt it. A pro league might push more college athletes to play at their highest level.
What about the so-called lacrosse purists/traditionalists? Who are they, and if they love the sport so much, why don’t they want to see it flourish into something greater? Shouldn’t these traditionalists also recognize that the game they call "true lacrosse" was once played on a mile long field between Native American tribes to the death.
I love the "traditional" college game and I love the pro game. There is nothing wrong with enjoying and supporting both of them. If evolving lacrosse into something bigger means tweaking some rules to appeal to most Americans, instead of just lacrosse enthusiasts, so be it. I have no problem with that and I will continue to support the popularization of lacrosse even after my career is over. The MLL elite did not change the features of the game we have grown to love over many passionate years. There is still scoring, strategy, defense, goaltending, face-offs, fast breaks, ground balls, transition, clears, rides, etc. The addition of the shot clock, 2 point line and orange ball can only make the game more interesting at times, and easier to follow and understand for lacrosse and non-lacrosse fans.
Recently, the addition of a groovy, orange lacrosse ball has brought much debate. I’ll admit, I was very skeptical at first and was totally against it. Now, I am completely for it. It’s not like we are using a beach ball (I wish!) or a frisbee out there. It’s a color folks. That’s it! A color we can all see even better on television and in the stands. The tiny dimples on the ball add very little velocity, if any, and increase accuracy. No more "slippery balls" flying all over the place. Introducing the ball was not some big scheme by the MLL or Warrior to destroy the game. There was once a time when people laughed at titanium shafts and baseballs with stitches. Neither has ruined its respective game. No one knows if this ball will make a difference for years to come, but it is worth the try. After being skeptical for some time, my final verdict after facing a smooth, white ball for 18 years – I LOVE IT!
I feel the MLL deserves a fair chance at succeeding by all those who call themselves lacrosse fans. Sometimes I wonder if this tight lacrosse community we call family is divided into two.
I want the MLL to make it, and I am confident it will. Nothing happens over night. Would I love to play in front of 10,000 screaming fans each night? Of course, but I know that is not realistic for a league in its infant stages. That day of 10k fans will come though, and my children and all those smiling kids I coach at camps will have the chance they are already dreaming of – to play professional outdoor lacrosse. There will be more changes to the MLL over the next few years. Whether it is expansion, a fourth long-stick or a 50-point shot, each step will be carefully thought out, analyzed and introduced to ensure the greatest level of success for the pro game and the sport of lacrosse. Dave Morrow and Jake Steinfeld are not out to ruin the integrity of the game. If they were, the top 150 players in the world would not support and play in this league.
I play and support the league for numerous reasons, but most off all for my desire to help bring the lacrosse to a higher level nationwide. The league is still very young. You need to crawl before you walk. You need to walk before you run. Right now, the league is starting to get on its feet ready to take another step. I do not know how much longer I will be playing, but I know one thing, when I leave this game I will continue to support the MLL and any available option that allows the sport to develop and flourish throughout this great country……