It’s A Start….Who’s Next?

I was sitting here wondering just how the heck we are going to get this game some of the attention it needs.  Then along came a buddy, John Rowinski, with an email to the Globe and Mail about his frustrations over the lack of coverage for the 2009 Mann Cup.  With his permission, I have posted it here.  This is a start, and makes me wonder about how well an email blitz on the media would go over.  I have an idea, stay tuned.  For now, enjoy John’s rant. 

Oh and a nice touch mentioning in LITG as a source on lacrosse info :). Thanks John.

Tom, Stephen:

Woke up Monday morning, and as usual stumbled out onto the driveway to grab my Globe and Mail. As usual, glanced at the front section, poured my coffee and immediately sat down with the Sports section. I always read the Sports first on Mondays, but especially this time of year: baseball pennant races, NFL football starting, NHL training camps opening, wind down of the PGA season, U.S. Open tennis, auto racing, CFL football – if you love sports, it is pretty tough to beat this time of year for coverage.

Monday was even more important to me, since I knew that the Mann Cup was decided over the weekend. I had been tied up and not able to get to the computer on Saturday or Sunday. With the series out in B.C., I didn’t even know if it was decided in Game 6 on Friday night (couldn’t expect the late result in the Saturday Globe), or if the champion was crowned on Saturday in an exciting Game 7 finale.

The Mann Cup, guys, is the trophy given to Canada’s national “Sr. A” box lacrosse champion each year. It has been handed out since 1910 (a Toronto team won – about the same time the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup?). Many of the players vying for the trophy are also professional players in the N.L.L. (that is professional box lacrosse in North America) and M.L.L. (that would be professional field lacrosse). It is historic, and to those who are fans of the sport, it is pretty damn important.

Alas, on Monday, there was not a sniff about the Mann Cup final in the print edition of my morning Globe. I went to the office later and found out the results by going to my favourite on-line lacrosse forum (Brampton won game 6 by a goal to force game 7, then repeated as champions with an overtime victory on Saturday night). By checking later, I found out that the Globe did have on-line articles about the series, well down the list of stories under the “Other Sports” tab.

Now I do not mean to pick on the Globe in particular, but you guys will get my jab because you are my choice of daily rags. I am hitting Brunt with this note as well because: 1. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you as a sports journalist/columnist, and 2. Because you also work in broadcast media on Primetime Sports (with another favourite of mine, McCown). My beef is with Canadian sports media in general, and its nearly complete lack of coverage of a sport that still serves as one of our two “national games”.

I get the fact that, in terms of fan base, lacrosse is considered a “niche” sport. The question is why that is the case. Is it because people are just not interested in lacrosse, or is it because the media give it such low profile that it simply is not on the average fan’s radar screen?

Let’s compare to some of the other important sports stories covered by the Globe in recent weeks: obviously NHL, NFL, MLB, U.S. Open tennis, PGA Fedex cup tourneys all merit coverage. And kudos to you for continuing significant CFL coverage, even if a good number of us who are football fans really don’t care. We are also treated to extensive soccer coverage on regular basis. Recently, we get some news on cricket (takes what, three weeks to finish one match – that can’t be a “niche” sport?), and for months now daily profiles on Olympic sports/athletes.

Where does lacrosse fit on this spectrum? Well, consider again that it is the national summer sport in this country. That it combines the pure athleticism of a number of sports, with the requirement of fit athletes (unlike golf, baseball etc.), and at times brute force and toughness (too brutal, some say – well, they are uneducated about the game – and that does not seem to stop coverage of so-called “mixed martial arts”, crap in a ring in my mind, or hockey, or football, or baseball, or basketball… or any other sport with a physical component which at times boils over into unfortunate incidents). Or that, in the GTA, it is the only sport in which any Toronto-based professional team has won any award of significance in the last several years (the Toronto Rock with an NLL championship as recently as 2005, or how about the Toronto Nationals M.L.L. title last month which got a small paragraph worth of coverage?).

I myself am a relatively recent fan of lacrosse, really only becoming a devotee in the past 6 or 7 years. Now, even as a diehard hockey and football fan, I would rather go watch a mid-season Rock game at the ACC over pretty much any Leafs game, and even NFL football cannot match the excitement of a good lacrosse game. My once irrepressible interest in all things Blue Jays has been dying a slow death since the 1994 lockout, and I simply cannot watch an NBA basketball game for more than 5 minutes anymore. Those are your major sports – lacrosse does not even need to answer to the “lesser” games out there. The worst lacrosse game is a thousand times more entertaining than any soccer game I have ever witnessed (confession – I am in the McCown camp on the sport of soccer). Or how about the league du jour, UFC: two nearly naked sweaty men in tights rolling around on the floor trying to elbow each other in the face, connecting once a round or so? Think I would rather watch a guy fight off a body check and a couple of sticks, running full speed and contorting his body (while controlling a hard bouncing ball) for one of 50 shots on goal in a box lacrosse game.

I am hardly the most knowledgeable or even articulate proponent of lacrosse out there (see my friend Gary Mark’s website: www.lacrosseinsidethegame.com for a far better example), but I think the media in this country, and especially in the GTA (you are surrounded by lacrosse hotbeds such as Whitby, Peterborough, Brampton, Six Nations) could do a much better job giving our summer national sport the positive exposure that it deserves. And please spare me from the argument that, as a niche sport, there is not enough interest to justify any significant coverage. Just read your own articles about Olympic sports no one gives a rat’s ass about unless Canada has a chance at a medal in it every 4 years. The Rock have been known to sell out the ACC for home games, how many people are out at your typical biathlon? The point is that positive media attention can create an interest. I would like to think that “Canada’s National Newspaper” would be prepared to take some responsibility for similarly promoting a game with historic significance to this country. Hey, NCAA field lacrosse manages to make it into the national media in the U.S.

Please consider trying it. Get a reporter out to the Rock games when they start up in January. Run a profile on a Canadian playing NCAA field lacrosse. Brunt – you and McCown want a great, down-to-earth interview for the radio/TV program, grab a guy like Shawn Williams or John Tavares (the lacrosse player, not the NHL star-in-waiting) and have them on the show. You will love the experience.
Sorry for the rant guys, but it has been a long time in coming, and it boiled over for me yesterday. I am not going to threaten to cancel a subscription or streak the Globe editorial room if you don’t pay attention to lacrosse. I just want you to think about whether there is something guys like yourselves can do to help thrust lacrosse into the spotlight that its devotees think it deserves.

Thanks for reading.

John Rowinski

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9 Comments

  1. John ,myself and every other lacrosse fan out there owes you a debt of gratitude for this letter . I will use this tome as a blueprint for the ” rant” I plan on using when I toss my .02 in to the ring . Great idea Gary just name the day . Lets make this a huge part of our summer season wrap up show ..I am going to send this to the head of promotions for the Rock and the Nationals … Great Job…

  2. John,

    Ad much as I agree with your comments about the lack of overage on the Mann Cup I have more information on The Whitby Peewee4 team what does that tell ya

    The Rev

  3. That is telling – and we didn’t have enough time to get a peewee 4 website going this past season!

  4. Good, articulate and honest ‘Canadian’ type letter. Good stuff!

  5. John, I too tip my hat to you for saying what most lacrosse fans have wanted to say for far too long! I have sent a similar letter to TSN and Sportsnet and got no response. I too would be willing to take part in an email blitz on the media to get lacrosse the coverage it deserves as the GReatest Game on Earth.

  6. Great rant and an accurate complaint. I agree more should be done to make the media accountable for its lack of attention paid to lacrosse. Likewise, lacrosse fans should thank and offer support to media when it does do a good job promoting lacrosse. For example, the CBC radio sports guy John Hancock covered the Mann Cup quite well and at one point referred to the Mann Cup as a more famous trophy than the Stanley Cup, much to my 10 year old son’s delight. The point is, yes, give the Globe and others grief for ignoring lacrosse by all means but also give props to writers and broadcasters when they talk about lacrosse (and not just about lacrosse brawls …). I wrote Hancock and did just that. He also does a decent job reporting NLL scores. But he is in the minority, so more pressure on other media outlets is needed.

    • What Station is Hancock on ? Metro Morning in the GTA has someone else . Or am I mistaken . I wrote to the Sports Dept at CBC Toronto this morning.

      • Hancock is based in Halifax but does the sports for CBC Ottawa as well and other CBC outlets, I believe.

  7. Media Blitz. I like it. Count me in.


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