Friday Flashback: All-American Football League

logoallamericanfootballleagueA decade ago, a unique professional football league was scheduled to kickoff its inaugural season with six teams.  The All-American Football League (AAFL) was founded in 2007 and prepared to start their first season in the spring of 2008.  The AAFL was an attempt to appeal to college football fans.  The league was set up as a professional league with a requirement that all players be college graduates.  The league had a big emphasis on Southeastern Conference (SEC) fans with five of the six franchises located in the southern United States.

The most unusual concept of the league were that the teams did not have nicknames but rather referred to their state.  The six original teams and home fields were:

  • Alabama (Legion Field, Birmingham)
  • Arkansas (War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock)
  • Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville)
  • Michigan (Ford Field, Detroit)
  • Tennessee (Neyland Stadium, Knoxville)
  • Texas (Rice Stadium, Houston)

aafl_logosThe league actually had agreements from college universities to use their stadiums for the spring months.  Each team drafted and/or signed players that graduated from the host state’s universities.

The AAFL Draft took place in Atlanta on Saturday, January 26, 2008. The first player selected overall was Zarah Yisrael, offensive lineman from Troy University, who was picked by Team Arkansas. The 2001 Heisman Trophy award winner Eric Crouch was selected with the third pick by Team Texas.

The league had planned to play a 10-game season for 2008, from April 12 to June 14, with all six teams to play in one division during the first season. The teams with the second and third best records in the regular season would meet in a playoff for the right to face the number one team in a championship game to be played on July 3, 2008. The AAFL released its schedule in October, 2007, with the April 12, 2008 games consisting of Alabama at Florida (at Jacksonville), Arkansas at Texas, and Michigan at Tennessee.

Shortly before the season was set to begin, the league announced it would postpone the start until the spring of 2009 but the league was never heard from again.  Various accounts about the demise of the league claims that financing of the league was indirectly tied to the $300 billion federally guaranteed student loan asset backed securities market; however, in August, the sub prime mortgage crisis hit and possibly affected the financial backing of the league.

It’s really too bad that this league didn’t make it.  I actually think a league where each state has their own team would be a good idea although I’m not sure it would work with college football fans if their teams weren’t properly represented but maybe a concept that features the state’s colors or flag as their team colors/logos might create some good rivalries.

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The State of Indoor Football

The indoor version of football is at a crucial point of its existence in my opinion. Whether it is called arena or indoor football, it has been with us since 1987 when the Arena Football League (AFL) gave us a Reader’s Digest version of professional football. Since then, dozens of leagues have come and gone. In the early years, other leagues were not allowed to copy the AFL’s version of the game because they had a copyright enforced which prohibited other indoor leagues for having the rebound nets and even using the term “arena football”. That copyright expired several years ago and other leagues sprouted up. Today, there are seven leagues in existence. They are:

• Arena Football League (1987)

• Indoor Football League (2008)

• Legends Football League (2009)

• Champions Indoor Football League (2015)

• China Arena Football League (2016)

• American Arena League (2018)

• National Arena League (2017)

Aside from the Legends Football League listed above, the other leagues are legitimate indoor football leagues. The LFL is a sad gimmick to exploit women players in my opinion.

The Arena Football League was once considered the major league of indoor football but the league is barely staying afloat as they began this season with four teams all located in the Northeast. The league once had 19 teams in 2007 as well as a minor league system known as AF2 which played from 2000-2009. The AFL is at a critical stage of their existence. The league recently named Randall Boe as their new commissioner last month and former Philadelphia Eagles’ Quarterback Ron Jaworski as Chairman of their Executive Committee. They have promised to being committed to the sport. There have been rumors that the league will expand over the next few seasons and possibly reclaim some of their best markets.

The Indoor Football League (IFL) looked like they were going to step in and take over as the sports’ top league when Arizona Rattlers, one of the AFL’s top franchises defected to the IFL in 2016. The IFL has failed to take advantage of the AFL’s instability with their own issues. On July 25, 2017, the IFL announced that only the Arizona Rattlers, Cedar Rapids Titans, Green Bay Blizzard, Iowa Barnstormers, and Nebraska Danger had committed to play for 2018. On August 30, the Sioux Falls Storm announced that they had joined the Champions Indoor Football League after winning six consecutive IFL championships from 2011 to 2016. The Storm was shortly followed by the Wichita Falls Nighthawks.

The IFL then attempted to lure the Bloomington Edge and West Michigan Ironmen from the CIF. The CIF attempted to sue the IFL, Edge, and Ironmen for leaving the CIF after the two teams had already signed league affiliation agreements with the CIF for 2018. The IFL then threatened to sue the CIF. The CIF then retracted their lawsuit with the IFL but also removed the Storm and Nighthawks from their 2018 schedule. After the IFL meetings in October 2017, the Storm returned to the IFL but the Nighthawks had to suspend operations. While the CIF dropped their lawsuit against the IFL, it filed for an injunction against the Edge and Ironmen teams from participating in the IFL for breaking the terms of their signed affiliation agreements. A temporary injunction from participation in the league was granted on January 31, 2018, with the court ruling determining that both teams had been offered bribes from the owner of the Arizona Rattlers to break their contract with the CIF.

The AFL also had the Jacksonville Sharks to defect to the National Arena League (NAL) in 2017.

Top Ten Indoor Football Teams:

1. Philadelphia Soul (AFL)

2. Arizona Rattlers (IFL)

3. Washington Valor (AFL)

4. Iowa Barnstormers (IFL)

5. Jacksonville Sharks (NAL)

6. Sioux Falls Storm (IFL)

7. Omaha Beef (CIF)

8. Baltimore Brigade (AFL)

9. Columbus (Georgia) Lions (NAL)

10. Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (NAL)

In the past two seasons, indoor football has lost some longtime franchises such as the Orlando Predators, Cleveland Gladiators, Spokane Shock and Tampa Bay Storm. The Tampa Bay Storm had a history of success on the field but often struggled for attention in the Tampa Bay Area. When I lived there from 2012-2014, I barely heard a word about the Storm and was very difficult to find any game stories in the local media.

With the AFL slowly sinking into the graveyard of defunct sports leagues, the sport of indoor football needs to get a grip of the situation now in order to save the sport. I think the sport can be saved.

Here are four ideas that I believe could save Indoor Football:

    1. Have a real partnership with the National Football League (NFL). In the past the NFL has had agreements with the AFL but nothing of substantial significance. It would solidify a strong foundation if the NFL subsidized the indoor sport and use it as a development league for referees, coaches and players.
    2. Unity of all the Indoor leagues. If you really want to strengthen the sport, I think the key is to play together. All the teams should be in the same league and then classified by market size. This “Super League” could be divided by classifications such as AAA, AA and A. This would also help lower travel costs and better create regional rivalries.
    3. Revise the rules. The current game puts a lot of emphasis on the passing game and is more of a quarterback league. The game should make the running game more of a part of the game. One way to do this would be to have one back in the backfield to start the play and one receiver in the formation with four linemen. Another idea would to make the field slightly bigger for arenas that would allow the space.
    4. Develop the game at the local level. This is something that has been a huge oversight for indoor football teams. Each indoor team should establish a local indoor league for high school and amateur players so they can get introduced to the game and possibly move up to the pro team. It would serve as a feeder system for the pro team to develop new talent.

Indoor football is a good, off-season alternative to fall football. It is worth saving and preserving. A few major changes are vital to keeping and growing the sport. The leagues have turned into nothing more than semi-pro football leagues with teams that come and go overnight. Stability is important and the sport needs to find it now.

Don’t Be A (Spiritual) Baby

Have you ever had the opportunity to take care of a newborn and a toddler? My wife and I are doing that right now. I can tell you that it is a whole new world. You get a different perspective on things from their point of view. You quickly learn what their ideas of an emergency are. If you can’t find the right cartoon or toy you’d better find it in a hurry. Believe me I have learned how to find it in a hurry.

I have been a believer all of my life so you might think I’m all grown up and mature spiritually when it comes to my relationship with God. I might as well be honest and tell you that I act like a spiritual toddler sometimes.

I’m sure God wants to tell me to stop acting like a baby because I act like one at times. If things don’t go my way I will sometimes have a temper tantrum and do you know it never works on God? He will just let me get the tantrum all done and let me see that it’s not going to work. It’s like the comedian who said his child was having a tantrum in a grocery store in the cereal aisle. He looked around and said “Where are your parents?”

I honestly try to be mature and learn from my mistakes but the child comes out of me. Some lessons I have to learn over and over again. One of those lessons that I constantly have to repeat is the importance of being patient. Sometimes I’m good at it but sometimes I can really throw a fit.

Although I have heard thousands of sermons, Bible studies and Sunday School lessons, there are still things I need to learn. Serving God is a lifetime classroom. I hope that I have graduated from pre-school. I’m really not sure what grade I would put on my current position.

I remember once I thought for certain that I was going to get a job in Pensacola, Florida. It all seemed to be falling into place and God was opening the doors for me to transfer there. I even knew someone on the interview panel so I was certain God was going to do it. I was shocked when someone else with less experience and no connections got the job over me. It was not what I was expecting or wanted. I took it very hard. I didn’t understand. I’m sure I whined and complained to God about it. Years later I was able to see how everything worked out. When I applied for the Pensacola job I was working with a co-worker who was very difficult. It turns out that he later moved to Tallahassee and would have become my supervisor. When I went a few years down the road, my eyes were opened and I had a lot of apologizing to do to God about it. He knew what was best for me. He wasn’t obligated to tell me why at the time. He was looking out for me.

So, yes, even with all of my experience, I still act like a child. I’m trying to do better about that.

If there is one childlike trait I have it is the childlike faith. A child believes in whatever their parent tells them. I believe God can do anything. Some have criticized me for that kind of faith – even Bible believing people. They say that God doesn’t work in ways I believe He can. I like the quote in the movie “Facing the Giants” when Coach Grant Taylor tells his team: “God can do whatever He wants to do, however He wants to it. And He chooses to work in our lives because He loves us.”

So let’s be spiritually mature adults while keeping some childlike attributes in trusting a God that loves us.

Titans Reveal New Uniforms and…

Under the category of “nothing to see here” the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL) had a big to-do about the “evolution” of their new uniforms. Aside from the clandestine-like leak of the information prior to the big reveal, it was basically insignificant changes.

Different font and some color changes with the biggest change from white helmets with the Titans logo to a dark helmet with the same logo.

I’m okay with it. Just not wowed by it.

Of course with all this hoopla about a uniform change I think back to a high school coach in Georgia who was once asked about his team wearing new pants color for an upcoming game. He said that he never saw a pair of pants make a play or tackle anyone. Same is true for these publicity stunts of uniform changes. I will have to give the Titans some credit for not doing something stupid like going to gold uniforms.

So will the Titans look pretty? Maybe. Will it affect the way they play on the field? Not at all. Those nice new uniforms will get dirty just like the old ones. No one will care if they changed to blue, black or periwinkle if they win a Super Bowl. No one will give credit to the new font or color variations.

I think back to some of the other NFL teams who had uniform changes;

Atlanta Falcons – I didn’t like the Jerry Granville era when the Falcons were all black. I did like it when they decided to alter the Falcon logo where the Falcons’ wings weren’t completely in a down flap.

Cleveland Browns – Yep, they made a change but no one noticed.

Denver Broncos – I loved the old look with the Bronco bursting through the D. I still have problems with the new look.

Miami Dolphins – Never likes the change and I don’t believe the team has been much of a winner since the change.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I go back and forth on this one. I liked the old Bruce the Buccaneer logo but not so much the orange.

Seattle Seahawks – Lime Green jersies. Need I say more?

So it remains to be seen how the Titans’ change will affect anything.

Professional Disc League Opens 6th Season

AUDL_01
Raleigh Opens With Win Over Tampa Bay

 

The American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) had the opening pull of their sixth season this weekend with two games on the schedule.

Indianapolis AlleyCats 24, Detroit Mechanix 12

The AlleyCats (1-0) are coming off an 8-6 record from last season and got off to a good start with a convincing win over the Mechanix (0-1).  Detroit is hoping to improve of last seasons’ 4-10 record.

Raleigh Flyers 27, Tampa Bay Cannons 22

The Cannons (0-1) challenged the Flyers (1-0) for the first three quarters before the home team Flyers pulled away at the end to win 27-22 in their opening night matchup. The Flyers have won five straight against their divisional rivals dating back to 2016.  Jacob Fairfax had eight goals in the game for the Flyers which was the second highest single-game total of his career.

The league begins the 2018 season with 23 teams divided into four geographic regions (East, Midwest, South and West).  The league lost the Charlotte Express and Cincinnati Revolution, the Jacksonville Cannons initially moved to Orlando and then landed in Tampa.  The Vancouver Riptide moved to Portland and will play in 2019.   The Nashville Nightwatch are under new ownership.

According to the AUDL website’s “Tuesday Toss”, here are the top five places to watch an AUDL game:

Austin
Long considered a great ultimate town, the Sol have quickly built up a loyal following of fans, making their home atmosphere among the best in the league. Plus, the Sol’d Out crew has officially become the greatest unofficial media outlet in AUDL history.

Washington DC
The Breeze have a new home in 2018, moving about four miles north from Gallaudet University to Catholic University. It’s reasonable to expect the fans to follow, considering that DC has steadily supported its team over the past couple seasons, in which the team has gone 20-8. Pregame concerts and lucrative halftime promotions have become commonplace for the Breeze, who count DC Mayor Muriel Bowser as a fan.

Los Angeles
Three words: Ace the Aviator. Without question, LA has the league’s best mascot. Ace is the perfect mix of entertainment and engagement, without overshadowing the game. Aviators ownership deserves a lot of credit for building a brand in a town that is overflowing with activity.

Madison
Speaking of building a brand, no team in the league has done so like the Radicals. Often, they are featured on local news alongside the Wisconsin Badgers or Green Bay Packers. As a result, Radicals players now get recognized more and more frequently around town. With a great home stadium, excellent concessions, passionate fans, and a fun and convenient postgame hangout destination, it makes all the sense in the world for Championship Weekend to return to Madison for the second time in three years.

Montreal 
Last year’s Final Four destination is certainly worthy of hosting another Championship Weekend down the road. Since the team’s inception in 2014, the Royal have delivered an exemplary gameday product, attracting fans and building a grand ultimate atmosphere. Their loyal followers are devoted to the home team, but appreciate of brilliant ultimate from either side. And their fans’ love can be attracted via great marketing, like when the Toronto Rush took the field wearing old-school Expos t-shirts last August.

This weekend’s games:

  • Saturday, April 7
    • Minnesota at Seattle
    • San Diego at Los Angeles
    • Detroit at Pittsburgh
    • Montreal at DC
    • San Jose at San Francisco
    • Atlanta at Tampa Bay
    • Dallas at Raleigh
    • Madison at Indianapolis
  • Sunday, April 8
    • Montreal at Philadelphia

Obscure Sports News (3/26/18)

nwhl
Riveters’ Goaltender Katie Fitzgerald leads her team to Isobel Cup championship

METROPOLITAN RIVETERS CLAIM THEIR FIRST ISOBEL CUP

 

Metropolitan Riveters 1, Buffalo Beauts 0

On their second shot of the game, the Metropolitan Riveters scored the only goal from Alexa Gruschow who put the puck in from a difficult angle after her first shot was blocked. After that it was a tense battle which saw both goaltenders turn away shots.  The Riveters’ Katie Fitzgerald made 28 saves and shut down the Buffalo Beauts late in the game for a 1-0 win.

Guschow was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

The Riveters finished the regular season with a record of 13-3-0 then easily dispatched of the Connecticut Whale 5-0 in the semifinals for their first appearance in the Isobel Cup final and dethroned the defending champs.

baltimore
Baltimore Holds Off Monterrey’s Late Rally for Three-peat

 

BALTIMORE BLAST WIN YET ANOTHER MASL TITLE

Baltimore Blast 4, Monterrey Flash 3

The Blast opened with a strong first half in front of a hostile crowd of 8,220 with goals from Vini Dantas, Andrew Hoxie and Daniel Peruzzi to a 3-0 lead at halftime.  After a goal from Monterrey’s Edgar Gonzalez, Juan Pereria scored for Baltimore to extend their lead back to a 3-goal difference at 4-1.  The Flash stormed back with two goals but the Blast defense was able to hold off the Monterrey rally to secure their third straight Ron Newman Cup title.

The Baltimore Blast have now won their 10th indoor title in team history.  The Blast have been in the finals in 13 of the past 16 seasons.

Goalkeeper William Vanzela was playing in only his second game after returning from injury and finished the night with eight saves and strong down the stretch to help the Blast protect their one-goal lead.  Vanzela needed only to make one last save in the final two minutes as the Flash brought on the extra attacker.

Jerusalem Big Blue Lions repeat as Israel Bowl Champions

 

Jerusalem1
Jerusalem QB David Abell MVP of Israel Bowl XI

The 2017-2018 season ended with Israel Bowl XI being played at Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem as the Jerusalem Big Blue Lions defeated the Petah Tikva Troopers 28-20 to repeat as Israel Football League champions.  The Lions also finished the season with an undefeated record.

Lions’ QB David Abell connected with Ezzy Jaski for 28 and 30 yard touchdown passes in the third quarter to give the Lions a 22-8 lead but the Troopers stormed back with two touchdown passes of their own from Avrami Farkas to Gideon Reiz.  The second touchdown from 62 yards with 9:23 left to pull within 28-20 in the fourth quarter.  The Troopers, making their first Israel Bowl appearance, had a chance to tie the game in the late stages of the fourth quarter; however, after failing to convert on fourth-and-10 with 1:44 remaining near mid-field, the Lions took over on downs to run out the clock.

Abell would finish the game with 122 passing yards along with a game-high 138 rushing yards on 14 carries. Abell was awarded Israel Bowl XI MVP honors.

Jerusalem finished the regular season in first place and easily defeated the Tel Aviv Pioneers 54-12 in the semifinals.  This was Jerusalem’s sixth Israel Bowl appearance.  They are 3-3 in Israel’s version of the Super Bowl.

You can watch Israel Bowl XI here on YouTube.

Scoring Summary:

  • First Quarter
    • Jerusalem – Jerome Wojtalik 2-yard run (PAT Run no good)
      • Jerusalem 6, Petah Tikva 0
    • Petah Tikva – Jonathan Curran 18-yard pass from Avrami Farkas (PAT Dani Eastman Run)
      • Petah Tikva 8, Jerusalem 6
  • Second Quarter
    • Jerusalem – Ezzy Jaski 28-yard pass from David Abell (PAT Nechemia Kaplinsky pass from Abell)
      • Jerusalem 14, Petah Tikva 8
  • Third Quarter
    • Jerusalem – Jaski 30-yard pass from Abell (PAT Kaplinsky pass from Abell)
      • Jerusalem 22, Petah Tikva 8
    • Petah Tikva – Gideon Reiz 28-yard pass from Farkas (PAT Run no good)
      • Jerusalem 22, Petah Tikva 14
  • Fourth Quarter
    • Jerusalem – Abell 21-yard run (PAT Pass No Good)
      • Jerusalem 28, Petah Tikva 14
    • Petah Tikva – Reiz 62-yard pass from Farkas (PAT No Good)
      • Jerusalem 28, Petah Tikva 20

 

2017-2018 Israel Football League Final Standings

  1. Jerusalem Big Blue Lions (10-0)
  2. Judean Rebels (7-3)
  3. Petah Tikva Troopers (5-5)
  4. Haifa Underdogs (5-5)
  5. Tel Aviv Pioneers (4-6)
  6. Mazkeret Batya Silverbacks (2-8)
  7. Beersheva Black Swarm (2-8)
  • Wildcard Round
    • Tel Aviv 28, Haifa 6
    • Petah Tikva 38, Mazkeret Batya 6
  • Semifinals
    • Jerusalem 54, Tel Aviv 12
    • Petah Tikva 46, Judean 30
  • Israel Bowl XI
    • Jerusalem 28, Petah Tikva 20