April 28, 2008

Grand Rapids Victorious

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Apr. 25 -- WELL, THE DRAFT WEEKEND turned out to be a hell of a good time for a football weekend back in the Midwest. I did catch some of the draft commentary on the radio while driving about, but all-in-all I thought my trip made more sense. After all, what's more fun: going to actually watch football or listening to analysts drone on about drafted players, 95 pc of whom will be consigned to relative mediocrity over the span of their careers?

As readers may recall, my trip was financed through the Government's tax rebate scheme, which will soon arrive in my pocket. I can assure readers that I spent my tax rebate on goods and services that will directly help the economies of Michigan and northern Indiana. This included roughly $100 spent on tickets to two football games, sodas at the games, parking expenses and one $2 coaster emblazoned with the logo of the Fort Wayne Freedom. Additionally, I spent $144 on a rental car, $225 on hotel rooms and $99.75 on gasoline. Oh, and I spent $18.20 at Meijer for snacks and sodas for my road trip. Throw in meals and that adds up to $650 or so. So: mission accomplished. I spent my stimulus money and did it in a way that will help our most troubled states. I rule.

Oh, and the football was awesome. Not only did Grand Rapids win convincingly, so did Fort Wayne, so I went two-for-two in my football watching. Here, we'll discuss the Grand Rapids game, between the Grand Rapids Rampage and the Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League.

Grand Rapids is the one area of Michigan that is seemingly booming and full of economic vitality. There's plenty of activity going on, especially in terms of construction work, and the whole town seems to be doing all right for itself. The Van Andel Arena, its downtown venue, is a well-built and pleasant arena with convenient and inexpensive parking right across the street. I arrived at the arena about 5:45 p.m., about an hour and a quarter before the game got underway, and I was stunned at what I saw.

Outside the arena, a group of teenagers were painting their faces in the Rampage's colors, and chanting "Let's Go Rampage!" with an impressive fervor. A man noticed me standing outside the arena and asked if I had any extra tickets to the game, which stunned me -- either he was a scalper or thought I was one. Keep in mind this is arena football in Grand Rapids. When the doors opened at 6 p.m., the team cleverly had its cheerleaders at the doors passing out souvenirs -- which was a pretty clever idea, I thought. Also, the Rampage's cheerleading squad got a serious upgrade over the past year.

Fast forward to 7 p.m. and the arena was, if not full, pretty close to it. Attendance at the game was 8,102 and it certainly felt like it in the arena, where the crowd was boisterous and happy. My sixth-row seat at midfield gave me a great view of the action and I was in a section with some devoted football fans. Much to my surprise and amazement, there were two former Manchester Wolves players I noticed on the field. On Grand Rapids' side, defensive back William "Roc" Haith, a standout DB with the Wolves, was starting. On Kansas City's side, the starting quarterback was none other than D. Bryant, who was once a starting QB for the Manchester Wolves.

I couldn't believe it. Bryant apparently did quite well after leaving the Wolves and so got a boost up to the big league, but upon seeing him as starting QB, I was feeling pretty confident about Grand Rapids' chances. After all, Bryant was inconsistent in Manchester, so why should that change now that he's in the AFL? And I was right! Not only did he fumble the ball on the first snap -- resulting in Grand Rapids recovering the ball -- he threw two interceptions right after that, leading to Grand Rapids take a 13-0 lead. It was not Mr Bryant's night.

The best thing about the game? It was a true defensive battle -- at least on Grand Rapids' side of the ball -- and the team's defensive antics helped put the game away early. At halftime, Grand Rapids was up 41-17, and we would end the game up 72-38 -- with Kansas City's last touchdown coming in garbage time at the end. But the best part about the whole experience, I think, was the level of fan enthusiasm -- it was a fun time, and that added a lot to the game. So anyone in the greater Grand Rapids area who isn't presently attending the games should look into tickets -- it would make for a fun night out.

I am also glad to report that Grand Rapids now goes to 3-5 on the season, and with the win is actually getting itself into playoff position. Seeing the Rampage in the playoffs would be super cool, especially since the playoffs will be televised. As for Kansas City -- well, they're 1-7, so they have a lot of makeup work to do if they hope to make it to the postseason.

Highlights and the game recap are here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 28, 2008 11:42 PM | TrackBack
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