Friday Flashback: ¬†American Football Association

In the late 70s and early 80s the American Football Association (AFA) attempted to be a professional football league to bring the gap between NFL seasons by playing football in the spring/summer.  The league operated from 1977-1983.  Most of the teams were located in the southeastern United States which made it quite a challenge to play during the hot summer months in the south.  The season started on Memorial Day weekend and ended in August to avoid competition with the NFL.  The AFA was pretty much a forerunner of the United States Football League (USFL) which started in the spring of 1983.   Although the AFA tried to be a “major league” alternative, it never evolved more than a semi-pro league with teams moving and folding often.  

The league attempted to gain some stability when they named former Washington Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer as the leagues commissioner in 1981.  He only lasted one season.  

Some of the most successful teams in the AFA were the Jacksonville Firebirds, Alabama Vulcans, Carolina Chargers and San Antonio Charros.  

Personally, I remember being able to tune into some Jacksonville Firebird games on a good night with clear TV reception.  Our local newspaper even carried the stories and league standings.  


Team of the Week: Columbus Lions

It apparently doesn’t matter which league the Columbus Lions indoor football team play in, they have a top-notch organization and talent to win.  They proved it again as they won the American Indoor Football (AIF) championship when they beat the West Michigan Ironmen 74-32 Saturday night in Columbus.

The Lions completed an undefeated season and won their second consecutive indoor title.  They won the championship in the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) last season.   When the PIFL folded in the offseason, the Lions moved to the AIF this season.

Their win over West Michigan had a bizarre ending when Ironmen quarterback Alex Carder threw his fourth interception of the game to Columbus defensive back Chris Smith late in the game.  Smith jumped out of bounds into the stands during the return.  An Ironmen defender drove Smith further into the stands and a fan attempted to punch the the Ironmen player.  Players emptied the benches and a brawl ensued.  When order was restored, the Ironmen elected not to continue the game with 4:08 remaining and forfeited the rest of the game in disgust.

West Michigan scored first on a 1-yard run by Carder to take a 6-0 lead but the Lions roared back to score 23 unanswered points to close out the first quarter with a commanding 23-6 lead.  

Columbus quarterback Casey Kacz finished with 23 of 34 passing for 286 yards and eight touchdowns.

It is unclear whether or not Columbus will remain in the AIF.  The AIF is not a very stable league and it might help the Lions to move to a more stable league such as the Indoor Football League (IFL) or a new league with better organization.

Friday Flashback: Atlanta Chiefs

With Atlanta getting a new professional soccer team next season, today we go back to Atlanta’s past experience with professional soccer.  You might be surprised to know that the first professional sports championship won by an Atlanta team was the first edition of the Atlanta Chiefs.

The first edition played from 1967-1972.  They won the title in 1968 when they beat the San Diego Toros.  Although they had success on the field, they lacked the fan support to last.  

The Chiefs were resurrected by Ted Turner in 1979 but was not the success on the field as the earlier teams although they did win the Southern Division title in their final season in 1981.

Some of the best players for the Chiefs were:  Jeff Bourne (18 goals in 1979), David Byrne (23 goals in the 1979-80 indoor season) and Brian Kidd (22 goals in 1981).

Oddly enough, fans were more interested in the Chiefs’ indoor teams than they were the outdoor version.  Atlanta was one of 10 teams that chose to participate in the North American Soccer League’s indoor season.  The indoor team had the best record in the league and their attendance of 5,069 for six home games was better than the league average.

Financial losses and lack of support doomed the Chiefs as they folded shortly after the 1981 season.

Hockey Champions 2015-2016 Season

It’s June and the ice has finally melted on the 2015-2016 hockey season.  I took a little more interest in hockey this year than in years past when my wife and I had the opportunity to attend some Nashville Predator games.  It was the first time she had been to a hockey game and my first exposure to the NHL.  We were at the first game to open the NHL season to watching the bitter end when San Jose eliminated the Predators in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.  

Here are the league champions from this season:

  • National Hockey League:  Pittsburgh Penguins
  • American Hockey League:  Lake Erie Monsters (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • ECHL:  Allen (TX) Americans
  • Federal Hockey League:  Port Huron (MI) Prowlers 
  • Southern Professional Hockey League:  Pensacola (FL) Ice Pilots
  • North American Hockey League:  Fairbanks (AK) Ice Dogs
  • Ontario Hockey League:  London (Ontario) Knights
  • United States Hockey League:  Tri-City Storm (Kearney, Nebraska)
  • Western Hockey League:  Brandon (Manitoba) Wheat Kings
  • National Women’s Hockey League:  Boston Pride

Team of the Week: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins claimed their fourth Stanley Cup in team history on Sunday night when they defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 to win the series 4 games to 2.  

Kris Letang broke a 1-1 tie at 7:46 of the second period which gave the Penguins the lead that stood up and added an empty net goal from Patric Hornqvist with 1:02 left.  

Penguins Goalie Matt Murray rebounded from his game 5 performance to stop 18 of 19 shots and made several big saves in front of Sharks’ fans who were in a frenzy to tie up the series and force a seventh game.  Pittsburgh was able to weather attempts from San Jose to capture the title.

Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy which goes to the Most Valuable Player in the NHL playoffs.  

Friday Flashback: ¬†1983 NBA Finals – Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This one was pretty sweet because I had been a fan of Julius Erving (Dr. J) for many years and in 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers finally put all the pieces together including Moses Malone at Center to finally dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers and win the NBA Championship.

This was the third meeting in four years in the NBA finals between these two teams.  The Lakers had won the first two meetings in 1980 and 1982.  In those series, the 76ers had no counter for Lakers’ center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.   In the offseason, the 76ers acquired Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets and he paid off for the Sixers as they won 65 games in the regular season and stormed through the NBA playoffs sweeping the New York Knicks (4-0) and dominating the Milwuakee Bucks (4-1) to advance to the final against the Lakers.  Malone was awarded the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the series.  

The Sixers swept the Lakers in the finals 113-107, 103-93, 111-94 and 115-108.  With 59 seconds left in Game 4, Erving completed a three-point play to give the Sixers the lead late in the game and claim his first NBA title.  

The 1983 championship was the second NBA title for the Sixers.  They have not won a title since then and have only appeared in one final in 2001.

The 1983 finals was the last to end within the month of May. 

This was the only championship not to be won by either the Celtics or Lakers between 1980-1988.

The song “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters was the celebration theme song for the Sixers’ title win.

Erving played four more seasons with the Sixers and retired in 1987.  Malone was traded in 1986 and played for five other teams, including another stint with the Sixers, until he retired in 1995 and was the last active former American Basketball Association (ABA) player.  He died at the age of 60 in 2015.

Billy Cunningham coached the Sixers for two more seasons.  He retired in 1985 with a record of 454-196.  His teams never failed to make the playoffs during his coaching career.

Team of the Week: Saskatchewan Rush

You might be asking what is a Saskatchewan Rush.   Is it that hairy creature wondering around in the Northwest (with some sighting reported in Villa Rica, Georgia)?

The Saskatchewan Rush is the team that has repeated as champions in the National Lacrosse League (NLL).  The indoor lacrosse team won the Champions Cup in front of 15,182 fans by defeating the Buffalo Bandits 11-10 on a game winning goal by Jeff Cornwall with 12 seconds left.   Cornwall scored on a dramatic breakaway on the play.  Click here to see the play

The Rush swept the series 2 games to 0.

The Rush overcame a 9-7 deficit in the final quarter.  The Rush scored three straight goals to take a 10-9 but the Bandits tied it up at 10-10 with 4:24 left to play.

Saskatchewan finished the regular season with a record of 13-5 then defeated Calgary 2 games to 0 in the semifinals.

The NLL hopes to expand to other cities next season.  Some of the cities being mentioned include:  Winnipeg, Quebec City, Montreal, Edmonton and Philadelphia.  Nashville has also been mentioned as a possibility so that the Georgia Swarm will have another partner in the Southeast.