July 12, 2008

Everything Went Wrong, Then Everything Went Right

WELL, I CAN'T COMPLAIN about this year's Arena Football League season, even if it did come to a sad conclusion for me today when both my teams in the playoffs got blasted out of their athletic shoes. Ugh. It was bad enough when the Philadelphia Soul shellacked the Cleveland Gladiators, but it was even worse to see the Grand Rapids Rampage become the latest victims of the San Jose SaberCats.

Shit.

In any event, I have to give credit to both teams for getting as far as the conference championship games. These teams improved markedly over their performances last year, and provided me a lot of entertainment during these long months without traditional American football. But for now, I shall bid adieu to another Arena Football League season, and will look forward to its resumption in March.

READERS: Uh, last time we checked, there was this whole "Arena Bowl" taking place in New Orleans in two weeks or so, and --

Oh, please. It's the Philadelphia Soul against the San Jose SaberCats. It's the arenaball equivalent of the Indianapolis Colts playing the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Watching Super Bowl XLI was tough enough but I felt I had a duty as a football fan. Watching this would be downright impossible, particularly as I'd undoubtedly get exposed to air time that in some way, shape or form would involve Ron Jaworski. I'll pass. My guys fought hard but they got knocked out, and so it's time to regroup and focus on other matters.

Other matters like the AF2, I might add!

Up until 6 p.m. today, everything went wrong. After 6 p.m., pretty much everything went right.

I am proud to report the Manchester Wolves (7-7), my city's minor-league arena football team, ran roughshod over the lowly Mahoning Valley Thunder (3-11) this evening -- and did so from the word go. Much to my surprise, I might add. You see, earlier today, I had thought the game had started at 7 p.m., but looked at my ticket and saw the game time was listed as 7:30 p.m. Oh good, I thought: I have plenty of time to get to the game, so I'll take a shower and relax before I get down there.

It was such a nice night in Manchester that I decided to save myself $10 and parked on the city streets about six blocks from the arena, and very much enjoyed my walk. When I arrived at the arena, I was surprised to find the game was already in progress, and realized to my horror that I had forgotten the start time had in fact been pushed back some weeks ago. I poked my head inside one of the sections and found to my amazement Manchester had already gone up 19-0 -- no, 20-0! -- in the first half of the first quarter.

As one might expect, we won this game easily. The final score was 53-27, which is even more impressive considering the Youngstown squad only scored two touchdowns in the second half. The credit for this win must go mostly to our defense, which had a downright fantastic game, particularly defensive back Carl Brown. Our quarterback, James Pinkney, didn't have the best game -- one fumble, one interception. But he still played very well -- he was named the offensive player of the game -- and to be fair the whole match was kind of a tune-up for the next few weeks. It just had that feel, if that makes any sense; once Manchester got out so far ahead, our guys seemed to ease off the accelerator a little, and could do so without fear.

Certainly Youngstown did not seem to bring its best game, but then, they appeared to be playing with their C-team in place. Two of their players were on injured reserve. Oddly, four players -- and good ones, too! -- were listed on the team suspension list in our program. I'd love to know how that happened. Even more odd, their main quarterback got suspended by the league. Supposedly, according to The Vindicator of Youngstown, Ohio, the QB had been playing in a lower-level* indoor football league earlier this year, and apparently one can't do that and play for the af2 in the same season. (The Vindy sources this to the Thunder's latest quarterback, who "heard" that from some unnamed source, so take it for what it's worth. If true, though, that's stupid -- the af2 should use these leagues as a feeder system and take their best talent).

But that's neither here nor there. The point is we won and they lost. Even better, the other teams we needed to lose lost -- not one but two! Much to my surprise, the Albany Conquest (5-9) knocked off the Louisville Fire (7-7) and the Iowa Barnstormers (5-9) manhandled the Quad City Steamwheelers (7-7). This leaves three teams tied for the last two places in the playoffs.

I think we're seventh now. Or eighth. Christ, I don't know. But the important thing is that no matter what happens, if we win the next two games we are guaranteed a playoff spot. I think. Yeah. Strength of schedule. Or something.

Also, I am pleased to note that although it would have been great to see it on television, the Saskatchewan Roughriders somehow managed to defeat the surprisingly good Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the last minute of play at Ivor Wynne Stadium. That's in Hamilton. That's east of Kitchener and southwest of Toronto.

Anyway, dig this: It's like second and hopeless for the Riders on their own 42, and bang! -- Weston Dressler goes 67 yards on a pass play, and would have scored a touchdown had he not fumbled the ball before getting into the end zone. But this gave the Riders the ball on the Hamilton one-yard line, and as such it was not difficult for Saskatchewan to run it in for the score, putting them on top 33-28 with seconds left.

When I checked in on this game before I left tonight, it was Hamilton up 28-26 with a minute left in the fourth quarter. What a win. The Riders are now 3-0 and clearly the best team in Canadian football. Don't talk to me about the Argos or the Alouettes; the Riders are going to win the Grey Cup two years in a row. You know, it'd be great if I could watch the Grey Cup on television.

Anyway, that's it for now, but to recap: Grand Rapids, Cleveland out of AFL playoff chase; Manchester in AF2 playoff chase; Saskatchewan rules; and -- oh yes, it's just a few weeks to the NFL's pre-season. Sweet. And just think, I mananged to write an entire football-oriented blog post without writing about Brett Favre!

Oops.

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* Yes, there are lower ones, as Loyal Rant Readers know. The Rant recommends the CIFL for folks back home if they can't make it up to Grand Rapids.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 12, 2008 11:58 PM | TrackBack
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