It was a night of triumph for South Florida lacrosse fans. The MLL came to town for the second straight year and for the second year running the fans were the big winners. And in some way, the second year tasted sweeter. Not because more fans showed up the second year, but because this event was a little more difficult to get up for. Not a nationally televised All Star game but a regular season game between two teams, from two different northern cities that most Floridians don’t take a lot of time thinking about. So what brought them out in droves last night? Quite simply the love of the game. There might have been a few Rattlers fans or Nationals fans in attendance, but for the announced crowd of 4,464 the vast majority came out because they were lacrosse fans. In what was a trial run by a local investing group to gauge the possibility of bidding for an MLL franchise it could only be called a success.
Fathers and Sons; Mothers and Daughters. Kids carrying sticks. And more kids carrying sticks. Passion to watch some of the best lacrosse they can see in person. Passion about this sport is really running deep down here. Do young kids bring a tennis racket to The SONY in Miami? Do young kids bring their 5 irons to the Honda or at Doral? A football to a Dolphins game? Not even the time-worn tradition of bringing the glove to the baseball game seems as prevalent today as how many kids bring their sticks to a lacrosse game. But bring they did and the players responded by autographing so many of them. Almost like a written contract between the two groups to cement a long distance relationship.
The weather inside the stadium was drawn from central casting, a smooth breeze that cooled off the stadium. One thing MLL/FAU learned from last year’s game was to play it smart and sell the tickets on the west side of the stadium, so all of the fans were in the shade; last year we all sat in the sun. That helped the crowd energy quite a bit as no one tired out.
And don’t think for a minute that the MLL front office wasn’t paying attention. Deeming last year’s event a big success the league was looking to see if that was a flash in the pan; this year’s test was passed with flying colors.
The two teams put on an excellent display of lacrosse, in a game that was important to both teams in chasing down a spot in the playoffs. Hamilton came into the game second overall in the league and they looked the part, taking an early lead and never relinquishing it. The closest Rochester got after the first quarter was 4-3 in the second, and Hamilton was able to extend and sustain the lead over the rest of the game, leading 10-4 at the half. Rochester never threatened in the second half as each time scored 7 times, with neither going on a sustained run.
The crowd reaction to the game was more an appreciation, almost like it was an exhibition. Neither of these teams had a local connection and it made it difficult for the crowd to choose who to back; so they backed no one but the individual efforts and the highlight reel plays. Give Boca its’ own team and sprinkle in a few Floridian-grown players (take note Florida fans – both Lake Brantley Bernhardt brothers and St. Andrew’s Lee Coppersmith were MLL draftees this past season!) and that dynamic will change quickly. I hope that the ownership groups looking at this market do step up to the plate and go for it. Something in the air last night tells me they won’t regret it . . .
I’ll leave the game recap to others; you can see it here:
Last night was about the future of lacrosse in this area and that future looks even brighter than the present.
Thank you Elev8 for producing and sponsoring this effort, and for Major League Lacrosse for giving them this opportunity. I will have an interview up with MLL Commissioner David Gross so that readers will understand how the application process works for a new franchise, as well as the strategic direction the league is taking as it looks forward over the next ten years.