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The 12 Months of Football
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Sunday, June 26, 2005
For me, there is no such thing as an off-season
from football. I have been a huge football fan for a long time and, over the
years, Iíve followed many different football leagues at all different times of
the year. I have always lived by the philosophy that "I never met a
football league I didnít like." Other sports like baseball, basketball
and hockey have never really interested me the way football does.
In the past 20 years or so,
there have been ample opportunities for diehard football fans to see games
throughout the year, and that is still true today. However, there are still
those who think that "football season" begins in the fall and ends
with the Super Bowl. Then they go into a deep funk for several months wondering
what to do with themselves until "football season" starts up again. I
feel sorry for those people.
For several years now I have been following the traditional fall football
seasons and then transitioning right into the Arena football season without
missing a beat. And with many football offerings in the spring and summer, there
is always some sort of football being played somewhere.
But when I attended the Grand Rapids Rampage season opener back in January, I
realized that I had achieved a unique personal milestone. I have now attended a
pro football game in every single month of the year!
I also recently realized that I have a very good chance of doing something truly
unprecedented. Itís possible that I could attend a football game every month this
year! Iíve already attended football games from January-June, so attending
a game each month in 2005 is definitely possible. By doing so, I would prove
that "football season" never has to end, if you donít want it to. I
have already compiled a list of games that I want to attend through the end of
the year. The list includes a couple of NFL games, a couple of college games,
some local high school games and even my first college bowl game in December.
After that, the 2006 Arena season will be kicking off again.
Seeing a game every month this year would not be possible, however, if fans all
over the country had not embraced and supported the concept of springtime
football over the years.
A Brief History of Spring Football
Spring football has been around almost continuously since the early 80ís. It
all started in 1983 when the United States Football League debuted. Living in
Michigan, I followed the Michigan Panthers, who played in the Pontiac Silverdome
and won the USFL title that first season. The first spring football game I ever
attended was a Panthers game in April of 1983 against the Chicago Blitz. I also
saw the Panthers play the Arizona Wranglers in March 1984. In March of 1985, I
even traveled to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ and saw Doug Flutie, Herschel
Walker and the New Jersey Generals take on Doug Williams and the Arizona
Outlaws. The USFL played in the spring to avoid competing with the NFL, but
folded after the 1985 season because of financial problems.
In 1987, another spring league debuted, the Arena Football League. It started
out small, only four teams and a
six-game regular season that first year, but
look how it has grown since! I had been aware of the league since the 1990ís,
but it wasnít on TV very much in those days, so I didnít see many games. I
attend my first Arena game until June of 2000. It was a game between the
visiting Tampa Bay Storm and the
Grand Rapids Rampage. The Rampage lost that
game 74-54, but I was hooked! I became a Rampage season ticket holder the very
next year and was there with my kids when they won ArenaBowl XV in August 2001.
The league now has a national TV contract and, during this past
season, had 17
teams that played a 16-game regular season schedule. Eight teams advanced to the
playoffs and this yearís ArenaBowl championship game was played in Las Vegas.
The league even has its own developmental league, known as arenafootball2 (af2),
which debuted in 2000 and currently has another 20 teams. 2006 will be the
AFLís 20th season.
The NFL caught spring fever too in 1991 when they established the World League
of American Football. There were 10 teams initially, six in the US, one in
Canada and three in Europe. The league was suspended after just two seasons, but
was brought back in 1995 with six teams, all in Europe. Today, the league is
known as NFL Europe.
There have also been several other spring football leagues over the years
including the Xtreme Football League (XFL) in 2001. Current indoor spring
football leagues include the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, and the
National Indoor Football League (NIFL), which came along in 2001. Two more
indoor football leagues also made their debuts this year, United Indoor Football
(UIF) and the Atlantic Indoor Football League (AIFL).
I attended my first af2 game in May of 2002 when I took the kids to see the
Louisville Fire play the Quad City Steamwheelers at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
(My family and I just happened to be visiting friends in Kentucky that weekend)
Then in July of 2004, the boys and I saw the Green Bay Blizzard host the San
Diego Riptide at the Resch Center in Green Bay. I covered that game for ArenaFan
because the team did not have an ArenaFan columnist of their own. (See related
ArenaFan Green Bay story)
In recent years, womenís football leagues have also become increasingly
popular in the spring as well as in the fall. Yes, I have even taken my sons to
a couple of womenís football games as well.
The Canadian Football League is not a spring league, but their pre-season begins
in June and the Grey Cup championship game is played in November.
One thing is clear. Whether itís played outdoors in the snow on a 110-yard
field with 20-yard end zones and 12 players on a side, like they do up in
Canada, or indoors on a 50-yard field with eight players on a team, people just
My 2005 Football Year in Review (so far)
As you can see, Iím no stranger to following football wherever and whenever
itís played, but this year has the possibility of setting a new standard, even
for me. Even since the Rampage season ended in May, I have continued to attend
football games. Ironically, every one has had some sort of connection to the
My football year began on January 28 when I attended the Grand Rapids Rampage
season opener against the Arizona Rattlers. I went to two more Rampage home
games in February, one in March and three in April. In mid-May, I traveled to
the Windy City to see the Rampage take on the Chicago Rush at All State Arena.
The following week I was back at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids for the
Rampage regular season finale against the Los Angeles Avengers.
In the midst of the Arena season, I even found time to attend a college football
game in April, the Western Michigan University Broncos Black vs. Gold spring
football game in my hometown of Kalamazoo. The Black team won 17-10. Western
Michigan is a member of the Division I-A Mid-American Conference. [Rampage
Connection] Current Rampage WR/DB Josh Bush went to WMU and is still the
schoolís all-time leader in punt return yardage.
On May 28, my sons and I went down to Indiana to see the Fort Wayne Freedom, of
United Indoor Football, play the Tupelo Fireants at the Allen County War
Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne. This was the second time we had been to see the
Freedom play. The first time was during their inaugural season in 2003 when they
played in the NIFL. [Rampage Connection] Jeremy Dutcher, who played wide
receiver/linebacker for the Rampage in 2004, now plays wide receiver/defensive
back for the Freedom. Dutcher also played for the Freedom in 2003. The Freedom
won the game 45-20 and remained undefeated this season with a record of 9-0.
On June 11, the boys and I went to Canton, Ohio for our first AIFL game. At the
Canton Civic Center we watched the Canton Legends lose a close game to the
Johnstown (Pa.) Riverhawks, 61-55. [Rampage Connection] Former Rampage
assistant coach Brian Young is now the head coach of the Legends.
Of course, while we were in Canton, we had to visit the Pro Football Hall of
Fame as well. On the way home to Michigan the next day, we made a side trip
through Ada, Ohio, home of the only factory in the country that manufactures
Wilson footballs, the official football of the NFL. It was a Sunday, so the
factory was closed, but someday Iíd like to go back and take a tour when
itís open. Maybe I can buy a couple of factory rejects at a discount or
In case you think that the Legends game was the only football be played that
particular Saturday in June, think again. The NFL Europeís World Bowl XIII
championship game took place earlier that day in DŁsseldorf, Germany. The
Amsterdam Admirals defeated the Berlin Thunder 27-21. Also that day, there was a
special CFL pre-season game played in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the first time
called "Touchdown Atlantic." The game featured the Toronto Argonauts
and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and ended in a 16-16 tie. The following day,
ArenaBowl XIX was played in Las Vegas. The Colorado Crush beat the Georgia Force
On June 25, I went to see a National Womenís Football Association playoff game
between the Southwest Michigan Jaguars and the Columbus Comets. The Jaguars were
hosting their first ever playoff game at Otsego High School, just north of
Kalamazoo. They won the game 20-14. [Rampage Connection] Jaguars running
back Angela Edwards tried out for the Rampage in December 2003. She made quite
an impression on a lot of people with her athleticism at the open tryout,
including me. Edwards was the leading rusher in the NWFA this season with 1,617
yards and scored 27 touchdowns in just eight regular season games.
So, 2005 is half over and Iíve already attended over a dozen football games
this year, thatís an average of two games per month! Not bad for being
footballís "off-season" donít you think? And itís not like I had
to travel all that far to see some of these games, either. Most of them were
within a few hours drive from my home. Only the Canton Legends game required an
overnight stay so far.
In just about all of my football travels over the years, my kids have been right
there with me. They love the game, too. Football has been a great family bonding
tool and has given us the excuse to go places and to see things together that we
never would have otherwise.
The CFL season is now under way, and with the high school, college and NFL
seasons starting up in the next few months, my chances of seeing a football game
every month this year seem pretty darn good. Football is always in season, if
you just know where to look.
To be continuedÖ
List of Football Games Attended So Far in 2005
Jan 28 - (Arena) Arizona Rattlers at Grand Rapids Rampage
Feb 19 - (Arena) Austin Wranglers at Grand Rapids Rampage
Feb 27 - (Arena) Columbus Destroyers at Grand Rapids Rampage
March 13 - (Arena) Chicago Rush at Grand Rapids Rampage
April 3 - (Arena) Nashville Kats at Grand Rapids Rampage
April 9 Ė (College) Western Michigan University Spring Game
April 23 - (Arena) New Orleans VooDoo at Grand Rapids Rampage
April 30 - (Arena) Colorado Crush at Grand Rapids Rampage
May 15 - (Arena) Grand Rapids Rampage at Chicago Rush
May 21 - (Arena) Los Angeles Avengers at Grand Rapids Rampage
May 28 - (UIF) Tupelo Fireants at Fort Wayne Freedom
June 11 - (AIFL) Johnstown Riverhawks at Canton Legends
June 25 Ė (NWFA) Columbus Comets at Southwest Michigan Jaguars
July 9 Ė Canadian Football League Ė The Saskatchewan Roughriders will take
on the Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the Toronto
Skydome. [Rampage Connection] 2005 Rampage quarterback Michael Bishop has
returned to the CFL for another season as the Argos backup QB. This is
Bishopís fourth season with Toronto, who won the Grey Cup last year, and the
team is looking to repeat again in 2005.
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