By Steve Guglielmo | 4/4/12 2:00 PM
By Steve Guglielmo
More than ever before, lacrosse is becoming a national game. Though it was once confined to hotbeds like Maryland, Virginia and New York, the game is rapidly expanding in popularity. Evan Washburn is one of the game’s most recognizable faces and is a key driving force behind that popularity. This season, Washburn will host “Inside the MLL” on CBS Sports Network and provide analysis each week for the CBSSN national game of the week.
Growing up in Annapolis, MD, Washburn was a gym rat. “I grew up playing all sports,” says Washburn. “I have been playing lacrosse since I was six years old, when I looked like a little bobble head doll running all over the field.” However, as he grew up, Washburn’s attention began to focus on basketball. “I always played lacrosse and I loved it, but basketball was the biggest rush for me,” he says. “I always assumed that I would play basketball in college.”
Washburn’s devotion to basketball would pay huge dividends for his lacrosse career. “As I got into high school, I began to see where lacrosse could take me and I kind of shifted my attention toward lacrosse,” he says. “I think playing all those sports, especially basketball, made me a much better lacrosse player because so many of the fundamentals and concepts are the same. I learned to play defense without a stick in my hand, playing basketball. When I got to use a pole, it almost didn’t seem fair.”
Washburn’s talents brought him to Delaware University where he became an All-Conference defender for the Blue Hens and played an integral role in the school’s 2007 Final Four run. In 2008, Washburn served as a co-captain for the team and seemed ticketed for the MLL before tearing his ACL in the final game of the season. His affiliation with the game would not end there.
“I remember watching ESPN when they would only show the Final Four and thinking about how cool that was,” says Washburn. “Even if the game was being played right down the road from me at Bird Stadium in Maryland, I would rather watch the game on television. Seeing lacrosse get national coverage was awesome and something I didn’t think possible growing up.”
When Washburn tore his ACL, he decided to shift his focus from playing professionally to a career in sports broadcasting. He took a job with Comcast Sports and began to work his way up in the company, eventually carving out a role covering the Baltimore Ravens. “I started out covering the NFL, but once I was in Baltimore, I began to do some lacrosse coverage as well. It was exciting to bring the game to a broader audience,” he says.
This season, Washburn will be in millions of living rooms across the country, as the host of Inside the MLL and the CBS Sports Network color analyst for all 14 nationally televised games. “My goal is to bring the fans closer to the game,” Washburn says. “Inside the MLL is a great way for fans to get a full recap of the weekend’s action. It isn’t just highlights; fans will get analysis and keep up with the big story lines going on throughout the league. It is also a great way for fans to keep current with the six teams that aren’t part of the nationally televised game that week.”
Expanding the game to a much broader audience is not a responsibility that Washburn takes lightly. “I’m honored and excited to bring this great game to a more national stage,” he says. “I have family in Kansas and Ohio and ten years ago they didn’t have any idea what lacrosse even was. To think that they can watch the best lacrosse players in the world every weekend is great. They have come to love it. Lacrosse, and especially MLL, is a game that I think really translates well to television. It’s so fast and so exciting. It is so great that the league has made such a concerted effort to get the game out there nationally, because I think that the popularity is going to skyrocket.”
To ensure that the game is informative as well as entertaining, Washburn meticulously prepares during the week. “I start working on my boards on Monday,” he says. “I outline the teams that are playing and the different story lines that are going on. Then I go back and re-watch each team’s previous game and make notes of anything that jumps out at me. That information fills out the guts of the board. I also have a huge network of MLL players and coaches that I utilize to discuss what is happening across the league and find out where the stories are. If you can practice all of it during the week, by game time it’s second nature.”
For Washburn, covering MLL has brought him closer to the game than ever before. “I have always wanted to work in sports broadcasting, but the more lacrosse I can do, the happier I am,” he says. “Lacrosse is the biggest sport in the Maryland area and I am looking forward to making it the biggest sport nationally.”
The 2012 MLL All-Star Game will feature the best lacrosse players in the world, all one one field and will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.