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Rampage Feature: Surviving, Thriving Through 10 Years

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on Rampagefootball.com, Monday, September 11, 2006

The Grand Rapids Rampage will play their 10th season of professional football in 2007. To commemorate the historic season, the team recently unveiled a special 10th anniversary logo that you will undoubtedly be seeing everywhere in the coming months.

Highs and lows have marked the Rampageís 10 years in the Arena Football League. The Rampage took to the field for the first time in 1998 and a couple of players from that inaugural season are still with the team today. Sparky McEwen, who in 2007 begins his third year as head coach and director of football operations for the Rampage, was on the roster as a backup quarterback that year. Meanwhile, Michael Baker, also entering his third year as the Rampageís offensive and special teams coordinator, starred at wide receiver/linebacker.

Just four years later, in 2001, the Rampage won ArenaBowl XV in a game played before a raucous home crowd and a national television audience. McEwen was the teamís offensive coordinator that year and Baker, who was still a player on the team, was named the Rampage Ironman of the Year for the third consecutive year.

The last few years saw the Rampage struggle to achieve the success they built so quickly, however. Despite the teamís record improving in each of the last two years with the team still in the playoff hunt going into the final game of the regular season last year, the team failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons while posting a combined 10-38 record.

In spite of the teamís record in recent years, the simple fact that the Rampage are still around should be cause for celebration in itself. As McEwen, Baker and the entire Rampage organization prepare to celebrate a decade of professional football in the leagueís smallest market, it should also be noted that several teams in much larger markets have disappeared from the AFL landscape during that time.

The Houston Thunderbears, Milwaukee Mustangs, Oklahoma Wranglers and Florida Bobcats all folded in 2001. In 2002, the Toronto Phantoms ceased operations and, two years later, the Indiana Firebirds, Detroit Fury and Carolina Cobras folded as well.

While the Rampage have remained a fixture in Grand Rapids, several other teams have moved on to other cities and taken on new identities since 1998.

Following the 1998 season, the New York CityHawks became the New England Sea Wolves. Then, in 2001, the team moved to Canada and became the Toronto Phantoms eventually folding in 2002. The Portland Forest Dragons became the Oklahoma Wranglers in 2000 and subsequently folded in 2001.

The first regular season home game for the Rampage in 1998 was against the Iowa Barnstormers. The Barnstormers became the New York Dragons in 2001. Also in 2001, the New Jersey Red Dogs became the New Jersey Gladiators and then moved to Nevada to become the Las Vegas Gladiators in 2003. Following their ArenaBowl loss to the Rampage in 2001, the Nashville Kats moved to Atlanta and become the Georgia Force in 2002. A new Nashville Kats team appeared in 2005. Finally, in 2004, the Buffalo Destroyers moved to Ohio and became the Columbus Destroyers.

In all, six of the Rampageís 10 opponents faced during the team's inaugural season are no longer around.

In the sometimes turbulent world of professional sports, it is not always easy for teams to survive in the same place for very long. You can credit the Rampageís staying power on stable ownership, the city of Grand Rapids and especially the fans that have continued to support the team through the good times as well as the bad over the past 10 years.

Hopefully, 2007 will be one of those good years.


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