All we are saying is give lax a chance

Mohegan - If you are too open minded, the old line goes, your brain will fall out. And yet the ultimate success of the state's newest professional sports franchise is about open-mindedness.

The lacrosse folks, who in some outposts could outnumber the Teamsters, will probably show up to watch the yet-to-be-named team coming to Mohegan Sun Arena in December. But will the rest of us?

You know. Us. The masses whose lexicon doesn't mix in much laxicon. Those of us who think an "attacker" is Jack the Ripper and not a position on the field. Those of us who see a kid with a lacrosse stick instead of a baseball glove and think "Communist!"

Are we, the people who subscribe to the same theories and swear by the same omens about sports - that lacrosse is barely a niche - going to follow the advice we give our kids all the time: just try it and see if you like it?

I'm in.

Why not?

It's not like our corner of the world is some thriving metropolis. We act a little daffy here sometimes, like we have more going on than Times Square. It's our lack of choices, really, that lured the ownership group of the erstwhile Philadelphia Wings to give Neon Uncasville a chance.

"We loved it in Philly," Mike French, the president and owner of the franchise said at Wednesday's news conference inside the casino's Cabaret Theatre. "It's a crowded market. It was hard for us to be relevant. Here, we will be relevant. There's a WNBA team and a lacrosse team.

"Plus," he said, "it's the intimacy of the venue. The back and forth contact, high scoring ... to see if from so close in (Mohegan Sun Arena) is going to be an unbelievable spectator experience, versus being in a big, 20,000 seat arena."

Indoor lacrosse, or what the in crowd calls "box" lacrosse, seems to adhere to our society's burgeoning fixation with entertainment and violence. Grown men in a confined area running at each other (and allowed to hit each other) with sticks delivers just enough video game to be a smash hit. (Literally).

"We do have rules," French said, "but it's not a game for the faint of heart. We do crosscheck, but you have to do it from the side. You can't hit a guy from behind. It's a physical game. It's rock 'em sock 'em. Occasionally, there's a little bit of a skirmish. The game's always been that way. A lot of the players are fearless. A lot of them, I wish they'd wear more equipment."

This is also going to be a test case for the Sun, who have made the WNBA franchise work for the last 12 years, despite it being a largely regional team. Translation: It's ours, not necessarily Connecticut's. Newspaper coverage, or lack thereof, from points farther away from Mohegan Sun suggests the greater distance from the casino, the less people care.

Women's basketball, in many of our hearts for the last 20 years, can survive here being regional. Lacrosse cannot. This will be a marketing challenge. It's a nice sound bite for the TV news to suggest that everybody's kid is playing lacrosse. It's a more perilous leap to assume all the moms and dads will drive to Uncasville to watch it.

"We think there will be a lot of synergy between basketball and lacrosse for us," Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's chief executive officer, said Wednesday. "We'll have multiple sales opportunities, additional group sales opportunities, multiple platform sponsorships and the ability to expand the data base."

Etess said Mohegan Sun plans to increase its sales staff. That's a good thing. Because all of Connecticut, all the way to Fairfield County where the game is religion, needs to try this.

The good news: There are nine home dates (not 40) and they're all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

So the challenge is there. We mock what we don't understand. But if nothing else, the Mohegan Tribe, who has brought the nation to our previously comatose corner of the world, has earned much respect.

Maybe lacrosse is really Brussels sprouts and we hate it. Or maybe not. But can we try it first?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

Twitter: @BCgenius


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