June 24, 2006

Seats Right on the … Well, 25-Yard-Line, Anyway

SO YESTERDAY I splurged and spent $38.50 on a third-row seat to watch the Manchester Wolves, my city’s minor-league arena football team, play against the Louisville Fire, one of our divisional rivals in the arenafootball2 league.

I’m proud to report it was money well spent. For one thing, the third-row seat gave me an excellent vantage point whenever the Lady Wolf Pack dance team took the field to perform. For another, I gained a newfound respect for arena football, a sport which people often mock but actually has a lot going for it. As Loyal Rant Readers know, watching the Wolves is part of my grand strategy to watch football on a year-round schedule, and I'm pleased to say the af2 portion of the strategy works.

But let’s review the game itself for a moment.

Sadly, the Wolves lost, and the final score of 59-49 doesn’t accurately reflect Louisville’s domination of the game. Rather, it reflects the stupidity of the Louisville coaching staff, who ordered an on-side kick not once, not twice, but FIVE TIMES during the game. If Louisville had actually kicked the ball deep on those tries, they’d likely have punished Manchester on defense, or at the least burned time from the clock while preserving their lead. Not that they faced much of a threat in that regard, though.

You see, our offense had trouble with a capital T. Near the end of the first half, it looked as if Manchester would finish up having scored just ONE touchdown during the first thirty minutes. Since the arena football pitch is just 50 yards long (excluding the endzones), and there is no punting in the game, I thought for sure I was witnessing an ignoble moment in arena football history. However, it was at the end of the first half when the game’s most exciting play took place.

Manchester had come out to kick a field goal from thirty yards or so. This is a moderate distance in American football to kick the ball through the uprights, and one would think it would be a cinch to make the kick in the arena. However, there’s a catch – in arena football, the uprights are roughly the size of the exhaust port Luke Skywalker needed to hit to destroy the Death Star. As such, one must kick the ball straight and true, because there is practically no room for error.

In any event, our kicker was a little bit off to the left, and the ball bounced off one of the large endzone nets. Whenever a ball hits the net, though, it is considered live – and somehow, a Manchester player managed to run down the field and recover it in Louisville’s endzone for a touchdown. It was an astonishingly cool play. The halftime score was 24-14, and Manchester was still in the game, at least for a while.

Even though the game was a bit of a bust, the entire atmosphere made it a fun night out, even if the “family fun” was a little overboard. I was sitting right at midfield, and in a section with fellow football fans, so that provided plenty of opportunities for discussing the play. Also, there were these two guys in the front row who were all decked out in Wolves clothing and had face paint and – most amazingly of all – had a “DEFENSE” sign at the ready.

Anyway, here’s the recap:

MOST SURPRISING CHANT DURING GAME: “DE-FENSE!”

MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: Man triumphs in pizza-eating contest, wins free pizza

MOST INVENTIVE HECKLER’S REMARK: “Look at that Florida State education at work!”

MOST CRINGEWORTHY PLAY: Louisville receiver tries to make catch, goes over the wall pads and onto the concrete floor. Of course, the field itself is basically concrete, but still.

MOST INEPT PLAY: Man at half-time has chance to win $10,000 for a school by making field goal kick; tee-based kick goes just 10 yards, on the ground. Man roundly booed.

MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE: Lady Wolf Pack dance team

SECOND MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE (tied): Manchester Wolves DB Brian Mance recovers blown field goal for a touchdown. Also, using only chopsticks and a soup spoon, I successfully eat a giant bowl of pho at the Vietnamese place on Elm Street. It was amazing pho, too.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 24, 2006 12:27 PM | TrackBack
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