By Graeme Perrow
Wanna know what sucks about the NLL? Here's what sucks about the NLL. Bandits forward Sean Greenhalgh will miss the entire 2011 season because of something completely unrelated to lacrosse. According to Darris Kilgour in a Buffalo News article, "Greenhalgh has a new job. He has to put some time in before he can ask for time off."
This is nowhere near the first time a player has had to put his full-time job ahead of his NLL career. Toronto Rock goalie Bob Watson became a police officer this past year and was seriously considering retiring from the NLL because he wasn't sure he would be able to get enough time off to play. Luckily for Rock fans he was able to get the time off and changed his mind, but he still misses mid-week practices because of it. There are plenty of examples of players who have missed games and practices because of their job, and I'm sure there are other players who have missed entire seasons.
The worst part is that there's no blame here. You can't point to one person or one group and say "it's their fault", or make some change to the rules or collective bargaining agreement to fix it. You can't blame Greenhalgh for changing jobs; that decision is his alone, and is entirely based on what's best for him and his family. You can't blame his company for expecting their new employee to put in the required time before taking as much vacation as being a pro lacrosse player requires. Player salaries are not high enough for players to make a living from it alone, so they need outside jobs. But you can't blame the PLPA or the league for that because the league just doesn't make enough money for that to be a reality.
Perhaps this new deal with IMG will result in more exposure, leading to higher-paying TV deals and greater attendance and such, which will eventually lead to higher player salaries and eliminate the need for outside jobs. If that happens (and realistically, that's a big if), let's hope that it doesn't go hand-in-hand with higher ticket prices.
It would be nice to see NLL players able to be full-time pro lacrosse players but until then, we'll just have to live with the consequences of being a "fringe" sport.