If there is a word to describe the press box during Bandits games it is “spacious.”
In fact, you could call it downright barren when it comes to actual media presence. Take away Bandits officials, public relations staff, and stat keepers and you have barely a handful of people munching on popcorn and ice cream sandwiches. You can hardly call the postgame press conferences a “media scrum,” and that includes a writer for team news releases.
So where is everyone?
Well, you can’t claim that they aren’t invited. At the media desk mixed in with my single game request are a handful of media passes for all the local television stations and their cameramen. Game after game they sit unused, and only when the postseason rolls around do they even consider stopping by to make use of them.
I suppose there are quite a few reasons for the lack of coverage, starting with the fact that the big organizations don’t feel it is necessary to be there. Lacrosse rarely makes it into the sports packages on television, and the scores are mere footnotes on local sports radio.
The perception there is that these games just aren’t in demand from their audiences, despite the popularity the team currently enjoys. The people in the stands don’t need to see it on the news, and my guess is that most assume there aren’t many other people who want to see it.
The Buffalo News always has a writer at home games, but that’s about it when it comes to mainstream coverage. No one goes on the road to follow the team, but at least a story gets in the paper the next day. The only other consistent presence is Artvoice, a Native American newspaper, and me. Occasionally there is a writer or two with an away team, but that’s very, very rare.
Another big reason for the lack of coverage: money. As things get tighter we get down to bare essentials as far as media coverage, and the NLL isn’t seen as essential by many. Does a television station or local paper pay a writer to produce a story, or do they throw together a summary and label it “Staff Reports” for free? Even if you are going to show highlights, do you really need to be there to call them?
The sad thing is that this causes quite a few people to miss out on a surprisingly strong product. The mainstream media can call attention to indoor lacrosse and increase interest even more; and for a “minor” sport the league sure does put on a show. It doesn’t hurt that the Bandits are a very good team, and for the cost of a ticket it seems the Bandits really do give fans their money’s worth.
Still, from a media standpoint the stories are there. The team has advertised their product and players as true “Weekend Warriors,” and that’s really what they are. Many of the players are local or just across the border, and almost all of them carry their own jobs during the week. The game stories are there to tell, but the human interest pieces are ripe, too.
What seems to be missing is the desire to cover it, and there’s not a whole lot the players can do about it. The question is how do fans make it known that they want these stories, and at what point does the media begin to listen? Do they really have an obligation to cover anything at all?