I’ve seen a few Arena Football games in my time. Truth be known, I’ve probably seen more Arena Football games than I have seen NFL games (in person, anyway). The first that I recall was the Los Angeles Cobras, who played (someone). I don’t even remember the game much, except for the Pauus. You see, the Cobras had a player named Yepi Pauu on their team, and he was Samoan if I remember correctly (sources online say he may have been Tongan). At intermission, his family would come out and lead the cobra dance – unfortunately for the team, the Family Pauu was about the best part of their performance. They folded after one season, 1988. If you search Google for Yepi Pauu, you’ll be prompted to change it to Yeti Pauu. Go figure.
It so happens that I also caught at least one game of the Charlotte Rage. While the Rage lasted a whopping five seasons – from 1992 to 1996 – it was during 1996 that I saw the game. So at this point that I’m thinking I’m the death knell for Arena Football teams. And yes, there were others in there. These are just for dramatic effect, because I saw both teams during their final (or only) season. The Rage didn’t have the Pauus, so I can’t say what brought about their downfall, other than me. But I decided to attend my first indoor football game since that fateful night when I brought down the Rage in 1996. It was to catch the Carolina Speed on Saturday night. The Speed played their first season in 2007, which means we’ll have to see if 2008 is their last, now that I’ve seen a game.
It is probably worth noting at this point that this is not Arena Football. It’s not even Arena Football 2. This is the American Indoor Football Association. The differences actually aren’t a big deal, so unless you pay attention, you probably won’t even notice as far as the rules go.
If AF2 is the minor league of Arena Football, I don’t know what to call the AIFA. You probably won’t ever see these people unless you go to an AIFA game. The arena, such as it is, is small. The crowds are small – though ours was propped up a bit because it seems like just about everyone got in on a free pass – and the quality of the game is pretty poor. So why go? Well, the aforementioned free pass helped, though we didn’t know that we would have one until we pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car and a friendly person next to us offered said pass. Mostly it was because we hadn’t been. And there wasn’t anything else to do.
The prices are a bit high – even the cheapest seats in the arena are $10, with the mid-priced seats going for $15 and the highest ones for $25. That’s just a bit high, don’t you think? Most people would rather buy cheap seats for just about anything at $25 than the most expensive seats for the AIFA at $25 each. The difference in seats in the Cabarrus Arena – as nice as it is – for $25. I mean you’re talking a few feet of elevation here. It’s not like Bank of America Stadium, where that $15 gets you a seriously different view. At most, the price difference should be a dollar or two. Not $15.
As to the game – unfortunately, the Carolina Speed was completely outclassed by the Florence Phantoms. I won’t say that the Phantoms were that great, but they were outstanding against the Speed. Let’s face it – even their name and web site is better – it has actually been updated with the results of the game, while the Speed has yet to update theirs. But their play was just a ton better than the Speed on Saturday night. Take a look at the web site – if that is the field where the Phantoms play, they can just about fit more people in that small section of the bleachers than will fit in the entire Cabarrus Arena. That’s shameful.
There was one bright spot in the game – #19, Laroche Jackson (at least, that’s how he is listed on the roster) returned a kick way down the field, giving the Speed great position. Unfortunately, they couldn’t capitalize. Later, the Speed had the ball at the 2 yard line with first down. First down, I tell you! They still couldn’t score. Later, Jackson returned another kick to roughly the 15, and his pounding managed to weaken the defense until the ball popped loose, and the Speed fell on it in the end zone. Sure, he shouldn’t have fumbled, but hey – we needed all the help we could get. Finally, he scored one on a great catch late in the game. It wasn’t much, and the Speed lost by 20 points. But it would have been a lot worse if he wasn’t on the field.
About the best news is that at least it’s not the NIFL.