In a story that ran in Sunday's Baltimore Sun (and here online), Inside Lacrosse editor John Jiloty was quoted expressing doubts about the LXM Pro lacrosse tour. Jiloty was actually discussing criticism he had heard from others in the industry, not expressing his own opinion of the operation. The Sun (and I) regret the confusion.
Jiloty was one of the first people to write about LXM Pro and the West Coast lacrosse movement. He authored a cover story for the December 2010 edition of the magazine that lauded the group for the work it had done to grow lacrosse.
LXM Pro has only expanded its efforts since then, and Jiloty still believes strongly in Kyle Harrison, Xander Ritz and others who are leading the operation. My story made it seem otherwise because of a few unartful sentences.
Here's what happened:
When I spoke with Harrison, the former Hopkins star, he was very honest about his experience playing in Major League Lacrosse. Frustrated by having to travel so far for games, he sought a different way to continue focusing his career on lacrosse. That's when he and others on the West Coast decided to start a tour based loosely on traveling extreme sports tours.
But Harrison -- and later Xander Ritz -- explained that their ideas were not immediately accepted by some leaders in the sport. Lacrosse people are passionate. They also see a great opportunity ahead. The sport, they believe, is primed to take off and become popular outside of traditional enclaves. There are factions within the community who have different ideas of how best to capitalize on the growth, and certainly there was some level of concern that growth in the west was being spearheaded by a group of twenty-somethings who talked of rock concerts during games and made appearances on MTV reality shows. Leaders in the industry worry about the sport's image because two major national stories -- the Duke lacrosse scandal and George Huguely's murder of Yeardley Love -- created so much negative press.
As I continued trying to report the LXM Pro story, I was unable to find critics of the league willing to speak. I very much wanted to show all sides of the issue, but I found the lacrosse community difficult to navigate. And while there's certainly a debate going on within that community about the merits of LXM Pro and the only established pro outdoor league, Major League Lacrosse, a lot of the discussion comes down to what so many things eventually come down to: money.
Any sort of "rivalry" between LXM Pro and MLL exists because one group of manufacturers -- including Baltimore-based STX -- backs the former and another company, Warrior, sponsors the latter. But MLL commissioner David Gross has mostly stayed quiet about LXM Pro, which has not been shy about trying to attract top players and advertisers (i.e., direct money away from MLL.)
Unable to find someone from outside LXM Pro who might be able to put the operation in context, I called Jiloty. He's as well-sourced as anyone covering lacrosse, and understands the history of the sport. He filled me in on his thoughts about LXM Pro.
"It really has been a positive for lacrosse," he said. "The feel is different, it's more organic, but that's what these developing areas need."
I asked him about the resistance that Harrison and Ritz said they felt from the lacrosse establishment. That's when he explained that others worried about the fact that the game's top players were no longer playing in a single league, and that others had expressed some concern about the LXM Pro model, which has the same two teams playing over and over without any sort of season or playoff.
Here's what I wrote from that exchange:
Lacrosse insiders worry that the schism between the two most significant pro outdoor lacrosse movements could hurt the sport's growth, said Inside Lacrosse magazine editor John Jiloty. There's also concern that players like Harrison and Sam Bradman, a Salisbury University alum who signed with LXM Pro after being named national player of the year in 2012, won't be in top form if they're chosen to play for the U.S. national team when Denver hosts the 2014 World Championships.
"It's tough to get behind the competitive format," Jiloty said. "Having two teams playing each other over and over instead of working through a season and building toward a championship, playing meaningful pressure games, there's some question whether that's best for an athlete."
I should have been more precise. Despite being the editor of a publication called Inside Lacrosse, I wasn't using Jiloty as an insider, but instead as someone who understood the discussion going on within the lacrosse community. The beginning of his quote was not him saying it's tough to get behind the competitive format, but instead relaying to me that some of the traditionalists in the sport look at the idea of a tour and dismiss it out of hand because it's not a typical league format. He doesn't think it matters much where the players play, and pointed out that Harrison and Bradman were both sharp in a recent scrimmage with the national squad.
After reading the story from a fresh perspective Sunday, I realized that I said something I didn't mean to say and ended up making it seem that Jiloty believed something he doesn't believe.