I grew up enamored with one sport, and one sport only…
Not what you expected from a lacrosse article, no?!
Seriously, though - baseball was my one true love. I started playing tee-ball when I was 4 years old and never looked back. My first team was the San Francisco Giants (I was just happy to be wearing the uniform), then had stints on the Cardinals, the Mets, and the Dodgers. My dad bought me a “pitch-back” net, and I’d sit in the yard for hours - just me and the net. I played all the way up until high school before I realized my athletic ability would not take me to the promised land.
So, naturally, this lacrosse thing was brand new to me.
I broke down the story of how I got into lax in my article back in August, so I’ll spare you that explanation. But long story short, this sport has come to mean much more to me than I ever thought it would.
Three years ago today, lacrosse titan Paul Rabil - the undisputed greatest of all time - and his brother, Mike, founded the Premier Lacrosse League. It came at a critical juncture in lacrosse history; the MLL had been dwindling in ticket sales, fan engagement was at an all-time low, and despite a plethora of talent, players were not appreciated for the accomplishments they garnered. Enter Paul and Mike Rabil, who revolutionized the sport forever.
Paul (left) and Mike (right) Rabil. PIC: Aaron Richter
On October 22, 2018, the PLL announced its entry into the professional sports scene. Their press release made ripples in the sports community, and promised to be a revolutionary league:
Three years later, the PLL has seen exponential growth and has established itself as - quite literally - the premier league for lacrosse globally. They’ve explored new avenues for fandom and viewership, and have wildly succeeded.
This year more than any, the PLL made an impact on my life; both professionally, and out of pure fandom. Here were some of my favorite highlights from this past season on #PLLDay.
Chaos avenged the Whipsnakes
This was unquestionably the best storyline of the season. For those new to the PLL, the Chaos and Whipsnakes were the final two teams in the “Bubble” in Utah last year, as all of the teams (seven at the time) played a round-robin, shortened season in Salt Lake. The Chaos got off to a hot start, but 2020 MVP Zed Williams scored 5 goals in a single QUARTER to bring the Whipsnakes to their second title.
This year, Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden took a massive step forward in his career. Not only did he become America’s favorite goalie (and, if you’re a box lacrosse fan, you know him as an attack in the NLL), but he also won the MVP award for the first time in his career. Couple it with the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year Award, and you've got a hell of a story.
So, it was two transcendent MVP’s pitted against each other for the title. One sitting on the cusp on the dynasty, and the other looking to avenge last year’s loss in the championship game.
Blaze Riorden came out on top. A storyline for the ages.
Paul Rabil hung up the cleats
I recapped this in a blog a few weeks ago, but Paul Rabil retired as the greatest athlete lacrosse has ever seen. He finishes the all-time leader in professional lacrosse in goals scored, and sits atop the throne as the most recognizable name in the sport.
Paul has his work cut out for him, but he is living the dream right now. Got a new pad in NYC, meeting with NBC regularly to negotiate a streaming deal, and going on just about every talk show possible. What a guy.
There was a new PA announcer in town!
I had the opportunity to go on tour with the PLL for a few weeks as their PA Announcer. I’m grateful to Lindsay Anson of Van Wagner for selecting me to fill the shoes of Chuck Lott, who accepted gigs with both the New York Jets and Charlotte Hornets, and became synonymous with the PLL experience for quite some time.
It was Albany, then Philadelphia for the semifinals, and Washington DC for the championship. I met awesome people along the way, got to work in incredible stadiums, and made friends for life in DJ Mike Sincere and on-field host Jason Negron.
I got to voice a promo for NBC
And this exciting surprise, too!! I got a phone call from McKenna Crilley and Nick Bailey of the PLL’s marketing group to help with a “special voiceover project” when I landed in Washington, DC for the PLL Championship. Little did I know, that video would end up on NBC as the open to the broadcast.
About 70 takes later, we got it.
Huge shoutout to Nick Bailey for engineering a bulk of the video. An elite job.
Happy #PLLDay everyone! Let's buckle up and enjoy whatever comes next for this excellent league.