All right, the equipment has been put away. The carpet has been rolled up. The year-end review has been written.
My first season of covering the Buffalo Bandits is over.
I had plenty of expectations going in, and most of them came true. The players and coaching staff really are filled with good guys, and everyone was friendly and welcoming. Heck, Billy Dee Smith even offered to give me a Mohawk at the end of the season to fit in. One time I checked with Tom Montour to introduce myself and make sure an interview I did for an article was OK. "Man, that was the aces," he said about the story. Never heard that one before.
The game isn't boring at all. I'd like to see a little more fast-breaking when the opportunity presents itself, rather than the two-platoon set-up, but I understand why it's done that way. Teams want to get their best offensive players on the floor, so they don't take many chances.
The National Lacrosse League really does have a "we're making it up as we go along" quality to it, as I had heard. Franchises continue to come and go during the offseason, and it looks like there will be no let up this summer. The NLL is just terrible when it comes to injuries; teams don't even say when one of their players will be out for weeks at a time. ("We don't talk about injuries," one coach said.) I had to learn about a Buffalo player suspension through the transactions page of the league Web site. That's not exactly what the NFL would do.
The biggest surprise, though, came with the media coverage. There just wasn't much. I'm not talking about the lack of a television contract, which admittedly is a big minus. In Minnesota, the local newspaper doesn't send a reporter to games. The Newark Star-Ledger didn't cover a playoff game held in Newark by the Titans; indeed, the Titans seemed to be a little stunned to have a reporter at the arena for a game.
In Buffalo, it's a little better. Andrew from ArtVoice was a regular, and Steve came along to file reports from NLL Insider. They were friendly, appreciated faces. Otherwise, though, local radio and television stations were nowhere to be found during games. In fact, regional newspapers didn't show up either. The Turtle Island News did have a season media pass; that paper covers Six Nations news up near Brantford, Ont., and the Bandits have a bunch of players from up there. Granted, some electronic sports departments close down on weekends, and it's tough to cover a team when it practices once a week, 50 miles away in Ontario. Still, I was surprised by the publicity vacuum.
Here's my point: The Bandits had more than 17,000 fans at each game, on average, show up for home games this season. If 17,000 people do anything at once, isn't it news? You'd think so.