June 17, 2007

Are You Ready, Weaver?

OK, SO LAST NIGHT I went out and saw the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Manchester's very own AA baseball team, play against the Erie Somethings-or-Other. I never did find out what Erie's nickname was, but it was Erie. For someone with Pennsylvanian roots, that's kind of all you needed to know.

Anyway, we won 5-1 after a killer 8th inning, but that's not really why I'm writing. Oh, no. The real reason I'm writing about the game is because it reached a new high (or low) in terms of meeting Kepple's Minor League Sports Promotion Yardstick, in which various in-game promotions are compared to the fake television shows in "UHF," Weird Al Yankovic's comedic masterpiece from 1989. The Yardstick's Gold Standard is none other than the infamous "Wheel of Fish" segment, viz.:

So you can imagine my shock when, during the first inning's intermission, some poor teenager was dragged out onto the field to play -- wait for it -- "Wheel of Groceries." Friends, I shit you not. There was a wheel, and they spun it, and said teenager won one of those pound-sized plastic containers filled with cookies. Yes, cookies. At this point, I was expecting Hiro-san to walk down the aisle of Section 101 carrying a box -- but instead, that was the end of the promotion, which I think all can agree was incredibly lame.

Switching gears, I may as well recap recent developments for the Manchester Wolves, Manchester's very own minor-league arena football team for which I have season tickets. I haven't blogged about this lately, due to scheduling reasons, but the long and short of it is that we're now 5-6. We won our last home game against Albany 47-35, but got beaten like a drum in last night's game against Florida. It was so bad that we got shut out in the second half. That's bad enough for regular football, but it's a special type of low for arena football.

Speaking of arenaball, I had the good fortune on my recent vacation to take in a big-league Arena Football League game. It was perhaps the best arenaball game I've ever seen. The Grand Rapids Rampage (Mich.) scored a last-second field goal to beat the Colorado Crush, 58-56. Not only was the game exciting the whole way through -- several kickoffs off the crossbar, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and so on -- I had a fourth-row seat and it was right at mid-field.

The quality of play in the AFL is noticeably better than in the af2, the development league in which the Wolves play. There were virtually no dropped passes, the kickers were more on-target and the players were more in tune with their routes and coverage. However, in terms of the experience of attending a game, the af2 is able to hang in with the teams in the senior league. Perhaps the best example of this may be found in comparing mascots.

As it happens, both Grand Rapids and Manchester have mascots named "Blitz." But as you can see, Manchester's Blitz is notably more friendly and pleasant than Grand Rapids' Blitz, a sadistic and demented-looking rhinoceros who looks as if he suffered a traumatic brain injury:

Plus, Manchester's dance team is better-looking and more accomplished than Grand Rapids' dance team, even though Grand Rapids' dancing squad wears naughtier outfits. (What's that? Yes, I know I should feel guilty for blogging that on a Sunday morning. I don't care).

However, Grand Rapids' involvement in the AFL does give it more resources. At the Rampage's next home game, according to the stadium announcer, the team was going to give away a new Ford Fusion sedan to one lucky fan. Now that's a promotion. Interestingly, that didn't have too much of an impact on the next game's attendance -- only about 5,000 fans showed up, compared to the 4,900 or so that were at the game I attended -- but I have to think that type of incentive would cause a lot of folks to show up if really marketed well. I mean, crikey, it's a new car.

One thing I wasn't too impressed with at the Rampage's game was the heavy use of indoor pyrotechnics at the beginning. As the home team took the field, each player was introduced with blasts of fire so fierce that I could feel the heat -- and I was more than 30 yards away! The home team crowd responded with plenty of cheers, but all I could think about was The Station nightclub fire and where exactly the nearest exits were. Perhaps my reaction was due to me living in New England, but I've long had the mindset that fire's not something to screw around with, even if controlled.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 17, 2007 08:37 AM | TrackBack
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