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Feature: Surviving, Thriving Through 10 Years
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
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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