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Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing Commish

At the youth, collegiate, and professional levels, it's clear that the sport of lacrosse has expanded beyond its normal comfort zone in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States. Lacrosse is booming at the youth and high school levels nationwide. Major League Lacrosse formalized the Western Conference in 2006. Three GWLL teams made the NCAA tournament this past year. Jacksonville U. is adding a D-I team in the coming years. With all these stars aligning, I did some playing commissioner with a mythical expansion of MLL. Actually, I put this together almost a year ago, before such occurrences as the Philadelphia [sic] Barrage's home-away-from-home season revealed a) potential expansion target cities and b) the harsh reality that they are likely goners from the City of Brotherly Love. I'll address that in the post. But for now. My quite-generous expansion (to 16 teams) and explanations behind the teams I've added.

Northern Conference
• Boston Cannons
• Chicago Machine
• Long Island Lizards
• Rochester Rattlers

Southern Conference
• Carolina Crosshairs*
• Dallas Barons*
• Virginia Militia*
• Washington Bayhawks

Eastern Conference
• Cincinnati Copperheads*
• Delaware Riders*
• New Jersey Pride
• Philadelphia Barrage

Western Conference
• Denver Outlaws
• Los Angeles Riptide
• San Francisco Dragons
• St. Louis Archers*

So my expansion teams:

-Carolina Crosshairs:
Why Carolina: OK, so a little is because I'm a shameless homer, but it's a spot that MLL has identified, playing a game this year in Cary. The collegiate success of UNC and Duke only adds to the appeal in the area.
Why the Crosshairs: Carolina's got a rich military history, ranging from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg. Plus the US Marines are a sponsor of MLL.

-Dallas Barons:
Why Dallas: Another location identified by MLL, who played a gamein Texas Stadium this year.
Why the Barons:The obvious tie-in is oil barons, but it works from a nobility standpoint as well.

-Virginia Militia:
Why Virginia: Specifically Richmond, where my mythical team resides. It's far enough from the Bayhawks in Washington, a growing lacrosse-rich zone, and not far removed from UVA. That said, MLL's match in VA Beach makes the Hampton Roads area an option as well.
Why the Militia: A similar military tradition, specifically with militia organization.

-Cincinnati Copperheads:
Why Cincinnati: Lacrosse is growing in Ohio in general, and a franchise in Cincy could capitalize not only on the home state, but also on Kentucky, which features D-I Bellarmine in the college ranks.
Why the Copperheads: Historically, copperheads were northern--including just over the Ohio River--anti-war symathizers to the confederate cause. More appropriately howerver, a copperhead is a bad-ass venomous snake indigenous to the Eastern United States.

-Delaware Riders:
Why Delaware: I told you I'm a homer! But statriotic motives aside, Delaware is a lacrosse-heavy zone in a state that doesn't currently have any major league teams of its own. Further, with the Bayhawks moving to DC, those in northeastern Maryland were left without a team to call their own--home games in UD's Delaware Stadium could serve this population as well. And with the Barrage on their way out, this team could be the mid-Atlantic's golden boy. In addition to naming the First State, Delaware could double as a reference to the Delaware Valley.
Why the Riders: Commemorating Caesar Rodney's famous ride from Dover to Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote that would lead Delaware to vote for American Independence in July of 1776.

-St. Louis Archers
Why St. Louis: It's a major midwestern metropolis, and another one of the spots identified by MLL.
Why the Archers: C'mon. St. Louis. The Arch. Admit it. You love it.

As I mentioned, Philly leaving gums up the works a bit with the teams I have slated. No matter--let's bring in the Portland Rippers, repping Rip City, for the northwestern crowd. It'll shake up the division a little, but that can be fixed. Besides. It's all in good fun.

DCI needs a TV deal

Thesis: DCI's Summer Music Games should be regularly televised, preferably on a college sports network.

Disclaimer: While I'm a band dork to the gills, I am not now, nor have I ever been or do I ever plan to be, in the camp that believes that marching band or drum corps are sports. True enough, I post marching content on a sports site but that's because I talk about both in my blog. And the fact is, several sports networks (I'm looking in your direction, worldwide leader) play non-sports content on a regular basis. That said, some facts to support my statement:

-With the addition of Fan Network, DCI and its member corps are used to providing content throughout the summer and broadcasting entire shows.
-College sports channels, by their very nature, are starved for new content throughout the summer months.
-72% of DCI corps members are full-time college students (so says DCI)

Seem like a natural pairing to anyone else? Because it sure does to me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Cream Rises to the Top

Last weekend, in Orlando, FL, Carolina Crown accomplished something they had never done before: They defeated the 9-time World Champion Cadets in head-to-head competition, resulting in a gold medal. Later in the week, in Mississippi, they did it once more to prove it wasn't a fluke. The victory in Orlando, combined with a stellar summer record and a little luck of the draw, made them the headliners of tonight's DCI San Antonio, where they will face off against all of the activity's finest. This summer--and particularly this past week--has shown that judges are starting to catch onto what fans have seemingly known for years: Carolina Crown is legit and here to stay.

Crown has long been a fan favorite--formalized last year with the Spirit of Disney Fan Favorite award--and a favorite of mine. I remember falling in love with them and their 2005 show at DCI Orlando, and I don't remember if it was directly related to me being a shameless homer (I knew by that point that I was moving to NC) or because they are that damn good. Chances are it was a combination of both. They've been one of my favorite corps (along with Santa Clara Vanguard) ever since. The last two off-seasons have included moves that I believe are strong steps in the right direction: Already a hornline powerhouse, Crown brought in Lee Beddis as percussion caption head prior to the 2007 season to beef up the drumline. Beddis joined a team that ultimately put forth Triple Crown, the Fan Favorite, Classic Countdown, and ultimately 6th place--Crown's highest ever placement in Finals--show. This past off-season, when DCI rules expanded corps sizes from 135 to 150, Crown used the opportunity to add power to their already stellar hornline, including the much lauded and unprecedented 16 tubas. Part of the result is that this year's show "Finis", at least so far, has been kicking ass, taking names, and perhaps more importantly, pleasing fans all summer long. Because I'm a fan of DCI and Carolina Crown, I'm going to STRONGLY recommend that you check out your local live show or join the DCI Fan Network to get a full glimpse of the show, but for those that care to get their faces rocked off on the cheap, rumor has it that the show is available on a popular video sharing site whose name rhymes with Moo Boob.

This summer I intended to get my drum corps fix early and, at the urging (and they REALLY had to twist my arm) of some fellow drum corps fans and friends of mine, headed down to Columbia for FirstBEAT. Because I was traveling with band directors and other staff members, I actually got the pleasure of attending a clinic series that Crown put on prior to the event. If I didn't love them already, this certainly would have turned me. All of the clinics were led by Crown staff and moderated by their director, Kevin Smith (with whom I had the pleasure of having dinner while trying not to be Stan). The part that really got me is that the corps is focused, starting from the very top, on providing an unmatched experience for their students and for the fans of the activity. Their COO even so much as said that winning the fan favorite award meant more to them than a gold medal. And with that attitude, I see both in their future. Give 'em hell, Crown!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Just Let Your Soul Glo...

So as is absolutely no surprise to anyone who reads this, I'm a Philly sports fan. As such, I'm pleased, essentially in a reflexive manner, that the Soul are headed to Arena Bowl XXII.

Now, do I follow arena football? Not a lick. Do I even watch arena football? I may pause for a few minutes on my way to something else. But will i be riding hard with the Soul on their way to the championship? YOU'RE GOT DAMN RIGHT.

And I sense--no, I KNOW--that I'm not alone. Such is in the DNA of a Philly Sports Fan. While primary allegiances are likely to any or all of the 4 major sports, if it's stamped Philly, it becomes something into which to pour your heart and, as it were, soul. It makes just some guy into a diehard Phantoms fan. It makes Joe Average a Barrage aficionado. (both of the previous have multiple championships in their respective sports, I'm required to mention) Hell, it turned some of us into rabid supporter of Smarty Jones, before he too fell shy of the glory as we've watched so many do before and since. It doesn't matter--sheer love of the city (or in of our cases, the Delaware Valley as a whole) puts these teams near and dear to the heart.

So give 'em hell, Soul. Warm up the championship parade route for October. And February. And June. And... ah, hell, you get it. And if you don't, you never will.
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