The Premier Lacrosse League released their matchups this week to go with the locations and dates on the calendar. So fans are that much closer to knowing everything they need about the weekend the PLL will be in town. At this point, all that’s really left to learn is the broadcast schedule. Which games are on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and then streaming on ESPN+ is meaningful. The PLL has stars, and has fan favorite teams, which just by extension means they are more likely to be on broadcast than others. That is always a good conversation point in preseason. Moreover, consider how the NFL releases their schedule before each season. Those primetime games come out and they all look great…until the season starts. Then that game in Week 6 between two games who went 12-5 a year ago but started this year 1-4 doesn’t look so good. The PLL TV schedule can have the same dynamics, and it’s an interesting discussion to see what games are where, and what games could possibly be flexed from one viewing option to another. With them all in the same place and with the same production crews, it’s not hard to flex games.
We also got to see start times. And we have some west coast games this year, which means lax after dark. WAY after dark. In Seattle on Friday night, the Atlas face off against the Cannons at 11:30 pm EST. That’s a late evening. But I think this is a critical piece of data for the PLL. Every year, the PLL decides what markets to return to. For a while, it can be done just on testing and vibes. Let’s see how we do here or there, and so forth. But sooner or later, it’s business decision time. You can do those test weekends and look at the results. If you are facing off in Seattle at 11:30pm EST, and as a result, nobody on the east coast stays up to watch your game, maybe TV ratings that weekend are poor. You consider trading that off if you pack the building and crush it on tickets. But if you don’t…you need to think about how much you like the #growthegame aspect of all this vs the business. If nobody watches on TV when you’re in Seattle, and the fans out there don’t buy tickets, you can’t go to Seattle anymore. It’s just lighting money on fire. If the PLL comes to a city near you, and you want them to keep coming, buy tickets, and bring as many friends as you can. PLL isn’t coming to the market because it’s fun and might be cool. They’re coming to find out just what the fandom is like. It’s why they don’t go back to Atlanta much anymore. It’s a place that always pounds the table for the PLL to come, but when they do, the stands are empty. If you want PLL to come, pack the place. Give them a reason to keep coming. These late night games are markets that will have to do that, because they might not have the burgeon of “tickets were medium, but the ratings are awesome when we play in Baltimore” type thinking. Like Bob Sugar, famously the antagonist in Jerry Maguire, said, it ain’t show friends, it’s show business. Now for the matchups themselves that should be best:
1. The Championship Rematch. This is the case in any pro sport. We want to see those two teams that played for the title a year ago back on the field as soon as possible. In this case, Chaos and Waterdogs actually meet twice, which is a good thing. They first meet in Week 1 in Albany. Albany has become sort of a de facto Chaos town. They’ve adopted that team and it feels like a home game for them there.While It’s a common move to have the title rematch early in the season in pro sports whenever possible, this could be a bit of a letdown. NLL overlap still exists. So if Buffalo and/or Seattle get to the NLL Championship, some player availability may be in doubt. The overlap this year is much less severe than last year, basically it’s just week one that could possibly be affected barring injuries or players taking further rest. But it’s possible the first rematch will be with “incomplete” rosters. Good news though, they again in Seattle, which is the second to last week of the regular season. So by then, everyone is back from NLL, everyone should also be back from World Championships, we’ll have a playoff picture shaping up, and the defending champ and runner up will be somewhere in it that I’m sure will be intriguing.
2. Atlas/Chrome. The Championship Series title rematch. You might think this can’t be that big a deal because it was just a Sixes event, just a week, wasn’t all that important, all that jazz. I actually think this rematch is meaningful. It doesn’t have the same heft obviously as the title rematch. But after that last game of the Champ Series, there was genuine elation from the winners and obvious pain for the losers. You could see it on their faces and hear it in their voices. It shouldn’t be surprising. The game was an absolute battle. I said it after the event, but if you saw these players up close afterwards, you’d recoil at what their bodies had been through. Colin Heacock’s shoulders and arms looked like he had just fought Cocaine Bear. You can’t pour that much of yourself into something for a week straight and not carry around the sting of losing, or joy of winning, for a while afterwards. Atlas players looked like they felt like they had something to prove, and that they believed they were the better team. Atlas and Chrome play just once, in Dallas. I won’t be surprised if it has a little more juice than other regular season games. I hope Romar is in the lineup and lets it rip. I hope all those Championship Series guys are out there, and they pick it up on the field where they left off in DC. This game could be a gem.
3. Woods/Whips. I’ve said this before, but you can’t force a rivalry. You can’t just decide it’s a rivalry when two teams play because it would be cool if there were more rivalries. It doesn’t matter how hard or how much you post about it. It doesn’t matter if we all think it should be one. The only people who can decide it’s a rivalry are the teams themselves, and they spend a long time curating it. It has to happen on its own, and it takes years. Years of close games with heartbreaking outcomes, physical plays that push the line between being in the course of play and maybe just because it feels good to hit someone in that uniform, bigtime moments that get burned info the memories of fans and still get talked about, it’s a very delicate cocktail of things to really create a meaningful rivalry. In its short existence, the PLL has spawned one real rivalry. Redwoods and Whipsnakes. And it’s a real rivalry now. They played a one goal game last year in the regular season. They split the regular season games in 2021, then once again it came down to a one goal game in the playoffs. They played an instant classic playoff game that went to OT in 2020. The title game in year one still might be the best PLL game ever played. When they play it’s always great, it’s always physical, you’ll get huge moments, it’s electric and must see. This is the best regular season game of the year. They play once, in Columbus in Week 3.
4. Chaos and Archers. They play once, also in Columbus. Ohio is sort of the early leader for one of the best weekends so far. The Chaos locker room is a place with a foundation in trust, loyalty, all in, us against the world mentality. Yes, it’s probably fair to say that about most PLL locker rooms, but there’s something about the culture of Coach Towers that just cranks all that up to 11. You join that team, you are all in on that team. The Chaos have yet to add a free agent from another roster to their team this offseason. Not one. Their group is their group, they’re as ride or die as it gets. With that in mind, getting traded or sent to the player pool is one thing. But willfully leaving that locker room to play somewhere else is probably not going to be well received. Yes there are business decisions to make and the Chaos had a lot of free agents to bring back. But players on that team made allowances and worked with the staff to keep the team as intact as they possibly could for a reason. The Chaos boys will be out to give Mac O’Keefe and Challen Rogers the worst games of their careers that day. The game that most likely has “free agent grudge match” vibes is this one.
5. Your locals. For me, that’s the Connecticut weekend. Chaos/Atlas, Archers/Redwoods, Cannons/Chrome, but the doozy is Whips/Waterdogs. Andy Copelan at Fairfield U, with Connor Kelly on the field, is a must see, regardless of matchup, as last year will show you. But outside of the CT market, check for when players are back in their home markets. Cannons and Redwoods in Denver will be great, because there are so many players connect to that area on those teams. Asher Nolting is from Colorado, Wes Berg went to Denver, John Grant Jr is an Outlaws legend and coached there, and so forth. This doesn’t being the same type of energy as other matchups on the list. These are “man it’s fun to be home” type games, which are not quite the same as “man, I want to destroy this team” matchups. Still fun, but in a different way.