Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Mystique of Arena Football



The Mystique of Arena Football

By Chino Kafuu
The Daily Magi
December 25, 2069

Arena football is a variety of gridiron football played by the Arena Football League (AFL). It used to be a proprietary game (the rights to which were owned by Gridiron Enterprises) but the patent expired in 2007. The game is played indoors on a smaller field than American or Canadian outdoor football, resulting in a faster and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in 1981, and patented in 1987, by James F. Foster, Jr., a former executive of the National Football League and the United States Football League. Though not the only variant of Indoor American football, it is the most widely known, and the one on which most other forms of modern indoor football are at least partially based. Two leagues have played under the official arena football rules: the AFL, which played 22 seasons from 1987 to 2008 and resumed play under new ownership in 2010, and arenafootball2, the AFL's erstwhile developmental league, which played 10 seasons from 2000 through 2009.

While attending the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) All-Star game on February 11, 1981, at Madison Square Garden, Jim Foster came up with his version of football and wrote the rules and concepts down on the outside of a manilla folder, which resides at the Arena Football Hall of Fame. Over the next five years, he created a more comprehensive and definitive set of playing rules, playing field specifications and equipment, along with a business plan to launch a proposed small, initial league to test market the concept of arena football nationally. As a key part of that plan, while residing in the Chicago area, he tested the game concept through several closed door practice sessions in late 1985 and early 1986 in nearby Rockford. After fine tuning the rules, he then secured additional operating capital to play several test games in the MetroCentre in April 1986 and the Rosemont Horizon Arena in February 1987.

The next critical step for Jim Foster was securing a network television contract with ESPN and an initial group of key national corporate sponsors including United Airlines, Holiday Inn, Wilson Sporting Goods, Budget Rental Car, and Hardees Restaurants. As the league's founding commissioner, (1986–1992) he established a league office with a small staff in suburban Chicago, and with addition of some much needed additional investor capital, was ready to launch the Arena Football League. On June 19, 1987 the Pittsburgh Gladiators hosted the Washington Commandos in the first league game after a two-week training camp for all four charter teams in Wheaton, Illinois.

AFL football operations and training was overseen by veteran college and pro head coach, Mouse Davis, the father of the famed "run and shoot" offense, (which became the basis for the high scoring arena football offense still in use today). The other two 1987 teams were the Chicago Bruisers and the Denver Dynamite, (the ArenaBowl I Champions). As the AFL grew into an established league with close to 20 teams, it defined itself as a major market pro sports product and welcomed Commissioner C. David Baker, (1996–2008). A now-financially strong team ownership roster includes NFL owners, as well as major names in the entertainment world. The growth and establishment of the AFL as a major market league spawned a developmental league that Foster also helped co-found, a minor league called Arena Football 2 (af2), in 2000. The league was set up to operate in medium size markets around the U.S. where it has enjoyed continued growth under the guidance of af2 President, Jerry Kurz. Other people have started their own indoor football minor leagues. These leagues do not technically play arena football or use the proper name "Arena Football" which is a registered trademark, because of the patent on the rules (specifically for the rebound nets, and related rules) that Foster obtained in 1990 (which is actually held by Gridiron Enterprises, Inc. of which Foster is one of three partners). The other two partners are Chicago based lawyers Bill Niro and Jerry Kurz, who in early 1987 joined Foster to help secure the patents on the Arena Football game system and re-establish the Arena Football League in early 1990 as a franchised league after successfully removing a small group of limited partners for multiple breaches of the limited partnership agreement that was the basis for operating the AFL during the 1988 season. The patents expired in 2007.

Some AFL players have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL, most notably Kurt Warner. Warner played college football at University of Northern Iowa and then the Iowa Barnstormers, taking the Barnstormers to ArenaBowl X in 1996 and ArenaBowl XI in 1997. Tommy Maddox would revitalize his once-undistinguished NFL career with the AFL's New Jersey Red Dogs for one season before going on to the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL and eventually return to the NFL for five seasons, winning a Super Bowl ring before retiring. Others include Anthony Armstrong, Oronde Gadsden, Lincoln Coleman, Adrian McPherson, Rashied Davis, Jay Feely, Rob Bironas, Antonio Chatman, Mike Vanderjagt, and Paul Justin. Former Arena League MVP, Jay Gruden (brother of Jon Gruden), went on to coach the UFL team, Florida Tuskers, and is currently the head coach for the Washington Redskins. Although Eddie Brown, who would be voted in 2006 as the greatest player in AFL history, never played in the NFL, his son Antonio Brown was a starting receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2013.

Los Angeles Avengers player Al Lucas died, from a spinal cord injury, on April 10, 2005 in a game against the New York Dragons. Although it might be attributed to the rough style of arena football, the tackle, during a first quarter kickoff, was not very different from those in stadium-played American football. Lucas was 26 years old at the time. It is the only fatality in the history of the Arena Football League.

The only fatality in the history of af2 is Bakersfield Blitz FB / LB Julian Yearwood on July 19, 2003 during a game against the Wichita Stealth. Yearwood came out of the game in the first quarter after blocking a field goal attempt allegedly claiming that he wasn't well, collapsed, and was later pronounced dead at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita after medical personnel worked to resuscitate him. As a result, the game was abandoned in the first quarter with a 7-7 score. Both teams were credited with a tie in the standings.

No comments:

Post a Comment