Friday, March 7

Go Gladiators!

This Monday evening, I had the chance to attend the inagural game of Cleveland's new Arena Football League franchise, the Gladiators. I've written before about attending Arena League games, and this one was similarly entertaining from a football standpoint. only with fewer onside kicks and roughly 654 more penalties. Good time, big crowd, solid game, 61-49 win for the G-men.

I do have a few observations mostly unrelated to the football part of the spectator experience, but first one game-related comment. Every time an AFL club scores a touchdown they kick an extra point, just like in the NFL. The difference here is that the goalposts are far narrower and missed kicks are common (the Albany kicker missed 4/11 the first game I attended). Couple that with how incredibly easy it is to score from 2.5 yards out in the AFL (success rate would be about 3/4), and I think the average expected value of conversion tries would easily be greater. As with the NFL, however, AFL coaches aren't real... Editor's note: I almost wrote "risk takers," but choosing a higher-expected-value strategy does not really constitute "risk." This example only gives the appearance of risk - in fact, it's the opposite. smart.

ANYWAY, before the kick, the referee would announce, every single time, that the kicking team had reported their two end blockers, usually offensive linemen, as eligible receivers. This is incredibly stupid. For one, they never go out for passes, so it's pointless. Second, why not just automatically make them eligible on kicks and save the trouble? How hard would this be?

A strange thing during the game involved this old guy who worked as the TV fellow who informs the refs when the commercials are over and the game can resume. For some reason they made him stand on the field to do this, then afterwards retake his seat. This meant that every time play restarted, he had to jump back over the AFL padded barrier in the back of the end zone. Several times he didn't make it over on the first try, and the numerous leaps he made over the course of the game clearly wore him out. Poor old guy. Really, the refs wouldn't be able to see him just sitting in his seat outside the barrier and giving hand signals? Weird.

The title of this post, a sly Gladiator reference, results from the Q's constant attempts to entertain fans during every single second of non-football time. I'm not one of those self-styled "purists" who think that every rock song or promotional game is an affront to the integrity of the game, nor am I a geezer who finds any volume above 15 dB unpleasant, but enough already. They played a snippet of a popular song inbetween every single play; I liked many of the the selections (Led Zeppelin and the Beastie Boys tied with eight each by my unofficial count) but it was more exhausting than anything. If I want to hear 30 seconds of songs all night, I'll fire up iTunes.

Still, the songs weren't nearly as annoying as the stupid on-field games the Q and the Gladiators kept foisting on fans during TV timeouts. I don't mind that they kept having games, (though I find the whole concept to be generally pointless), but these games were incredibly stupid. I'll say this seriously: whoever was in charge of designing these contests of skill should be fired. Today. If you gave me a week off of work to come up with some fun audience-participation games to play, I would do 100 times better than whoever dreamed up these dumb non-events. And by "a week" I mean 5 minutes. Here are two stellar examples:

1) One team game involved two teams of two players each, located at opposing ends of the field (in Arena League, essentially adjacent to each other). One player stood at the 10 with the ball, the other stood on the goal line. The player at the 10 threw his teammate the ball, and the teammate had to catch it and run to midfield (i.e. the 25) and sit in a chair. That's it. Neither team completed the pass, but the one team's "receiver" ran to the chair anyway and was declared the victor. Seriously.

2) Later in the game, the Gladiators randomly brought out Cleveland Browns players Joe Thomas and Shaun Smith to compete against a couple of high school kids in an individual competition. All four contestants started on the goal line, then ran to midfield. There, each player had a set of crutches (?) awaiting him. The player had to pick them up and spin around 5 times. Not standing on the crutches, mind you, just holding them at their sides. I was petrified that Thomas would suffer a career-ending injury and end up actually needing the crutches. After the spins, the contestants ran back to the goal line. Game over.

I can't understand how they couldn't do any better than this. If the games are neat, I'm in, but with these I would have much preferred to just be left alone for a couple of minutes.

Besides the unnecessary in-game "entertainment," the Gladiators' opener was quite a success. I hope to check them out more this season.

No comments: