October 11, 2008

Non NFL/NCAA Football Update

The Pittsburgh Steelers
have a bye date this Sunday --
now what do I do?

Like the cold desert
gray before the sun rises
the weekend looks bleak.

I HAVE A love-hate relationship with the bye week in American football. There is no denying the bye week has its advantages; after all, it allows teams that have been beaten up in the weeks beforehand to recover from their injuries, and allows them to prepare for the hard weeks ahead. For fans, it also offers them a respite – as one colleague at the office said, it does relieve the pressure a bit from rooting for one's team; one can sit back and watch whatever games one wants without having a stake in the outcome. On the other hand, though, the bye week has its disadvantages too.

For instance, the bye week reduces the number of football games being played each weekend over several weeks of the football season. This consequently reduces the chance one will be able to watch quality football on television. Even worse, if the games are good, they will almost certainly involve teams one hates. This has put me in a situation where tomorrow, I have to ... I have to ... God! I have to root for Peyton Manning!

Bleah! Bleah! Bleah! I can't believe I have to root for Rocket Arm and his gang of idiots! But I must, because they're playing the one team in the league I despise even more than the Indianapolis Colts – the Baltimore Ravens. But since that thought is too disturbing to contemplate further – and the morons had best win, or I shall be quite cross – I thought of the perfect way to get around thinking about this until tomorrow afternoon.

Namely, I figured I'd write a post about all the other goings on in football – but football that's a level or two (or three) down the professional league pyramid. After all, up in Canada, the season is still going on strong and no one down here even knows it. (It might have helped if the Canadians had managed to secure a decent television deal, but that is neither here nor there). And although arena football will not start again until next spring, it's not like nothing is going on. There's even news a bit further down the league pyramid. Although I may be one of the few people in America taking note of this during the month of October, hey, someone has to do so. So why not me?

CFL UPDATE. You thought we had parity in the NFL. Boy.

OK, so dig this. There are eight teams in the CFL, right? FIVE OF THEM have nine wins – and five or six losses, depending if they've played so far this weekend. With records like that, it's understandable that these are the best teams in the league. But here's the real amazing thing – ALL FOUR teams in the Western Division have nine wins! All four!

Fortunately my team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, are one of the 9-5 teams, and are tied for first place in the division. Also, because of the CFL's “crossover rule” -- which is what happens when you have eight teams in a league – all four teams in the Western Division are almost certain to make the playoffs, barring the Winnipeg Blue Bombers going on a super hot streak and one of the western teams completely collapsing. We'll see if the Riders can gain an edge on Monday when they play the Calgary Stampeders. The Rant will be listening to the game at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time via CKRM-AM. The Rant would also like to take this opportunity to wish all of our Canadian readers a Happy Thanksgiving, which for some reason you celebrate in October. OK.

AFL UPDATE. There's little going on in the Arena Football League at this point. OK, there's nothing going on in the AFL. That's not unusual at this time of year. Keep an eye out for free agency, trades and other fun stuff coming up soon. Barring an absolute disaster, The Rant WILL go back home to Michigan yet again this spring to watch the Grand Rapids Rampage play.

AF2 UPDATE. I always find the off-season for the af2 more interesting. In part, this is because the af2, being a minor league, is a bit more fluid than the AFL. Not only do players get promoted (in some cases, all the way to the NFL) and relegated (usually out of football), there are sometimes team changes as well, as the league expands and contracts.

The af2 really is a fascinating case study for people interested in the business of sport. You can really see what makes teams succeed and fail by looking at how they run their operations. The Manchester Wolves, for instance, got profiled in Forbes a while back for their success. The Spokane Shock have also done fantastically well, as have the Iowa Barnstormers.

Anyway, the news so far is that we'll have at least one new team – the Milwaukee Iron – and perhaps more: a team in Buffalo could start this year as well. The league lost three teams at the end of 2008: in Daytona Beach, Fla., Lubbock, Tex., and Austin, Tex. This will make for some interesting times come spring, as I'm thinking the league will make divisional realignments as a result of team changes. But we'll see.

INDOOR FOOTBALL. I'm guessing we have a new contender for the league most worthy of the “af3” sobriquet. A merger of the United Indoor Football league and the Intense Football League, and the addition of some teams formerly in the Continental Indoor Football League, has created the new Indoor Football League. I love it. It's modern-era football with an old-time Twenties feel to it. It's so much fun to go to games like this – where players are striving for the big time, where local crowds turn out to support local teams, where families can actually see games without breaking the bank. It is nice to see a strong indoor league emerge in the nation's football-mad heartland.

Folks, here's what you need to know. 24 teams – most of these in Texas and the Great Plains, but also in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. Two teams in Alaska. Alaska. I love it! Two teams that have the same nickname – the (Alaska) Wild and the (Witchita) Wild. One team named the Ruff Riders – they're in Abilene. I'd buy a season ticket just knowing all that, especially if I could see a wild Wild-Wild matchup. It'll be interesting to see how this all turns out but I certainly wish these folks all the best.

THE BIG CONCLUSION. If you got this far, you get a reward! (Provided you're a man ages 18-34).

You see, as I close, I think it's important to turn our attention to ... well, this. Go on, give it a look! Unless you're at work. In that case, make a note of it for later. For those of you who are at work and can't click on the link ... well, it's the Lingerie Football League.

No, I am not joking. It is real. Articles on it have appeared in reputable news outlets. Games will reportedly air on cable television next year – and cleverly, on Friday nights, when no other football worth watching is aired.

Readers are correct in surmising this football league will consist of the following:

* pretty girls
* pretty girls playing football
* pretty girls playing football while not wearing much of anything

When the league launches – as it appears it will – it will be interesting to see how they handle things. For instance, I would think you would have to play in spring and summer, if only because there are teams in Chicago and New England, and as much as I like the idea of bad-weather football, that would be particularly uncomfortable for the players. I can't imagine the league would ruin things by playing indoors – that's just not football – but we shall see.

I am confident the league will realize the importance of quality football to win over fans. Yes, you may think I am joking, but look. I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. The team I root for famously fired its cheerleaders. Not only that, Pittsburgh fired its cheerleaders after one of them asked the team if the squad could wear racier outfits. So let's not underestimate the importance of smash-mouth blue-collar football played in really bad weather, because that's what the game is all about – no matter if the players happen to be pretty model-types.

That said, if they're playing games when the only thing else on television is baseball, and I'm single and not in a relationship, I'd be open to watching a game or two.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 11, 2008 11:44 PM | TrackBack
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