Beat writing. A part of sports journalism that has been equal parts thankless and critical for decades. The beat writer is the person who an outlet hires to walk in lockstep with a particular subject, most commonly in the sports world. New York papers have beat writers for each major team in town, like the Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, Giants, and so forth. The beat writer covers the games, they know what’s going on with the players, they’re the go to source for information on a particular team. They also have a tightrope to walk in having to manage relationships with the team so that players, coaches, and leadership will speak to them and let them do their jobs, but also report honestly about a team. Social media prowess doesn’t matter here, writing chops do, since if you aren’t a good writer the people on your beat won’t take you seriously. Thoughtful words about your beat make the difference, not the memes. If the team is good, a story about what and who is making them go goes way further than a gif and 200 characters. And if the team stinks and/or the coach is doing a bad job, the beat writer must write that, and then go talk to the coach and team about it, which is not an enviable position, but that’s just how it goes.
As an extension of that dynamic, some beats are just more interesting than others. The players are better with quotes, the team is exciting and good, there’s a fun narrative developing around them, these are all things that make a beat a bit more fun.
This summer, the PLL is hiring a beat writer for each of the eight teams in the league. And they’re paying the people they hire. Seems like that second part should be obvious, but I can tell you from vast experience, legitimate paid opportunities to write about lacrosse are few and far between.
I will not be a PLL beat writer this summer, but the announcement of the positions got me thinking. If could pick the PLL beat I wanted, which team would it be? Who do I think would the most fun to cover?
And so, here we are. PLL beats, ranked:
The Dogs check a lot of boxes. They are the defending champs, which is a fun narrative to cover because it’ll stay part of the atmosphere all year, good or bad. Coach Andy Copelan will shoot your straight and have plenty of good quotes for you. There are also a ton of fun players to cover on this team, including Dillon Ward, Mikie Schlosser, Zach Currier, Jake Withers, and Eli Gobrecht. You get the Kieran McArdle narrative around following up his insane season. You get Michael Sowers Philly accent and he’ll have highlights for you every week. You get one of the bigger free agency additions in Jake Carraway. This is a very fun beat.
This is really like a 1A because the Chaos beat would be an absolute blast. You will get no shortage of gem quotes and back slaps that borderline break ribs from Coach Andy Towers. Players like Blaze Riorden, Jack Rowlett and Josh Byrne will make ridiculous plays, and are great in post game conferences. Any slow start storyline will be bolstered by their regular ability to charge into the postseason and beat the teams that experts pick as the favorites. They are attitude and fun personified.
Chrome would be great because you get Coach Tim Soudan, and the Soudo culture. There has never been a narrative that Soudo has really cared about. He builds his team, his way, with a specific players that he knows fit. He grabs Soudo guys. Sean Sconone is also good for a quote in post game, and this team has the storyline of possibly going without Nichtern this summer, and the continued growth of young stars like Logan Wisnauskas and JT Giles Harris. Can the Chrome challenge again, or will they have to battle possibly with the Rookie of the Year?
At this point, I want to make it clear that because a team isn’t ranked at the top doesn’t mean it’s a bad beat. A lot of the PLL beats will be good. We’re splitting hairs. Coach Nat St. Laurent is passionate and won’t, excuse the profanity, ever bullshit you. You ask how he feels about something, he’ll tell you. You get the very cool story of John Grant Jr joining as OC, and an immediate impact on the offense with Ryan Lee returning and Eli McLaughlin getting signed. Myles Jones looking for a bounce back year will be a story too. There might not be quite as many exciting player quotes, you’ll get plenty of the boiler plate stuff, as compared to some of the top three teams, but the narratives around this team and the coaching staff will make it a good time.
Cannons are here just out of sheer unpredictability. What in the world will the Cannons be this year? New coaching staff, several free agent moves so plenty of new faces including Marcus Holman, Matt Kavanagh, Jeff Trainor, Matt Rees, and others. I mean, Lyle is on the team. The beat that covers Lyle is a good beat. For me, part of what makes a beat fun is the presence of the occasional loose cannon (pun intended) in the press conference. Someone who sits down at the mic and just let it rip. Jeff Trainor was a ton of fun in post game media at the Championship Series, he’ll be a good one to speak to. I don’t know how many other of those types the Cannons have, but behind the scenes, where the beat writer does the heavy lifting, this could be a fun group.
Atlas have had a quiet offseason. After becoming a Romar Dennis led laser show at the Championship Series, the player movement was pretty quiet. Mike Pressler joins the PLL as the new Atlas HC. Steven Brooks did a great job in his stead at the Championship Series, and Kevin Unterstein joins the staff as well. The real joy of this covering this team will be regular interactions with Trevor Baptiste, who is fun personified. Dennis has also always been very candid and won’t sugar coat his feelings, making him a great player to cover because of his authenticity. His follow up to his Championship Series performance, along with Baptiste and the incoming number one overall draft pick, make the player angle of covering this team pretty exciting.
The storyline will be the big turnover. New faces in Mac O’Keefe and Challen Rogers. Manny is gone, Holman is gone, Ratliff retired, Ghitelman gone. Aughavin's mustache is gone. Guys will be in larger roles or new role, and they’ll have the story of seeing if they rebuilt offense outperforms the one that was loaded on paper but couldn’t quite get over the hump. Schreiber and Ament are still there, but I feel like this beat will be very bland, at least out of the gate. You’ll get to cover some all time greats, but finding the guy with the really good quotes might take some time.
To be clear, this is not because they are a bad team. Far from it. In a way, it’s because they are too good. In the mid 2000’s, the San Antonio Spurs were a title contender every year, and won multiple rings. They were a juggernaut, with several of the league’s best players. They were led by the Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan. And that’s what the Whips are. The Big Fundamental. Hit Singles. Ice cold, no mistakes, like Val Kilmer. That’s the Whips. Stagnitta is Gregg Popovich. You’ll get some good sound bites from him and he’ll shoot you straight even if he comes off as grumpy doing it sometimes. You’ll also get plenty of coach speak, run of the mill quotes that aren’t all that jazzy or fun. The Whips beat will be that of a contender, but it might dry.