All Fun League

This day had been a long time coming.

After stumbling upon the Arena Football league as a young kid one day on TNN (Yes The Nashville Network) it instantly became a sport I took interest in.

The only problem was, Pittsburgh has never had a franchise in my lifetime. The only time I got to enjoy this game was watching it on TV. Finally in 2011, I would get my chance with the establishment of the Pittsburgh Power.
My schedule of school, interning, and a bunch of other things made it difficult to get to a game. I finally was able to get out to Consol for their final home game of the year against the Arizona Rattlers.

If you are unaware of what the Arena Football League it essentially takes the game of football as presented in the NFL and flips it completely. With loud music, plenty of trash talking/ TD celebrations, and fast-pace play, it is very different from what is seen in the fall.

The Consol Energy Center could not be more suiting of a place for an AFL team. The ridiculous sound system the arena offers had my drink resting on the balcony ledge nearly shaking while rap music blared during warm ups. The entry the team had through fountains of sparks was pretty cool too.

The one goal of Arena Football is to be as fan-friendly as possible. They certainly did a good job of achieving this by bringing fans closer to the game than any other sport. Balls that get thrown into the stands are allowed to be kept by fans. There is no out of bounds so fans close to the front are literally inches from the field of play. The loud, and at times obnoxious PA announcer encourages fans to boo bad calls. After the game, AFL rules mandate that the home team be made available for autographs on the field right after the game. Little things like this make the experience unique.

The atmosphere the fans put forth is great too. Though roughly 7,000 fans were in the building (pretty good by AFL standards), the arena got loud while the team was on defense. I’d argue the sea of vuvuzelas and other noisemakers made it louder than the Penguins games I’ve been to at the new digs, even with the place half empty. You can’t go wrong with the $15 general admission tickets, though I question why a team would charge $180 for the front rows with such an inferior product. A good part of the seats in the lower bowl up close were empty.

As for the game, the rules have almost a WWE-like fix for the offense. Any penalty the defense commits results in a first down. The offense can have a man charging toward the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped, and defenders cannot twist while trying to rush the quarterback. Rules like this explain how the Arizona Rattlers scored 10 touchdowns in the 10 possessions they had on the evening.

Perhaps the biggest downfall the AFL has is the lack of talent. Back in its heyday of the mid 2000’s, it wasn’t uncommon to see teams with payrolls of $2 million. Now with player making just $400/game after the financial restructuring of the league, they can no longer attract the players they used to,. Tts days as the second best football league in America are over.

But flaws aside, I still found myself having a great time even though the league-best Rattlers crushed the Power. Yes, it may not be a perfect game, but it is different, and I like different. The biggest goal of Arena Football is to make sure it’s all about the enjoyment of the people coming through the turnstiles. Any organization that operates with that goal is a winner in my book.

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About suhlmann12
journalism student at Ohio University. Huge fan of Pittsburgh sports teams

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