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ArenaFan Travelogue: af2 Milwaukee Iron
posted on ArenaFan.com, Monday, March 30, 2009
With the Arena Football League on hiatus in
2009, I figured it was a good time to get reacquainted with the AFL’s
developmental league, arenafootball2. I have been to several af2 games over the
years and have always had a good time seeing new teams and new arenas. Past
trips have included seeing the Louisville Fire, Quad City Steamwheelers and the
Green Bay Blizzard. I also covered the af2 Fort Wayne Fusion during the 2007
With a new expansion team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this year, I couldn’t pass up
the opportunity to take in a game. The Milwaukee Iron was hosting the Iowa
Barnstormers in their season opener.
My oldest son, Adam, and I departed from our home in Kalamazoo, Michigan on
Friday morning, March 27 and headed for Milwaukee. We stopped in Chicago and had
lunch at the ESPN Zone restaurant. I had been there several years ago and wanted
Adam to see it for himself. It is definitely a “guy’s place” with HD TVs
everywhere showing non-stop sports. The food was great and we didn’t want to
leave, but we had a schedule to keep.
Once we got to Milwaukee we checked into a hotel and then went out to explore
the town. The first thing we did was drive past the Bradley Center, where the
game was going to be played later that evening. The arena is also the home of
the NBA Milwaukee Buck as well as the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey
League. Once we knew how long it would take us to get to the arena from our
hotel, we set out to see what else the town had to offer.
I had heard that there is a bronze statue Fonzie from the TV show Happy Days
somewhere along the river walk area in Milwaukee, so we headed for that part of
town. We never did find it, however, mainly because it was too cold to get out
of the car and walk around. The television channel TV Land commissioned several
similar statues that have been placed in cities where classic TV shows have
taken place. For example, there is also a statue of Mary Tyler Moore in
We returned to the Bradley Center later that evening and settled in for our
first Arena Football game of the season. In a pre-game ceremony, the numbers of
three players from the previous AFL team that had played in town, the Milwaukee
Mustangs, were retired. The Mustangs (1994-2001) also played at the Bradley
Center. One retired number was that of current Iron head coach Gary Compton, who
played wide receiver/linebacker during his playing career. The other numbers
were for quarterback Todd Hammel and kicker Kenny Stucker. Both Compton and
Hammel went on to play for the AFL Grand Rapids Rampage in 2002. Stucker was the
AFL Kicker of the Year in 1998 and is currently the Iron’s Special Teams
Assistant. Another Iron assistant coach, Madison “Mad Dog” Johnson, also played
for the Rampage from 2002-2003 and again in 2005. After the retirement ceremony,
nine-year-old Tallan “T-Man” Latz of Wisconsin, who is a nationally known guitar
prodigy, played the national anthem.
Once the game started, Milwaukee got off to a good start when WR Antoine Burns
recorded the first points in team history. He caught a 47-yard touchdown pass
from QB Shane Adler on the team’s opening possession giving the Iron a 7-0 lead.
Milwaukee led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and was moving the ball well.
But an injury to Adler late in the first quarter sidelined him for the remainder
of the game. Backup QB Tyler Donovan, from the University of Wisconsin, took
over and struggled throughout the rest of the game. Milwaukee was outscored
33-10 in the second quarter and trailed 40-24 at halftime. The 10 points that
Milwaukee scored in the second quarter were all in the final minute of play,
including a 32-yard field goal by kicker Alex Walls as time expired.
In the third quarter, Milwaukee failed to put any points on the board while Iowa
scored 20 to increase its lead to 60-24. The Iron defense stepped up in the
fourth quarter, holding the Barnstormers to zero points, while the Milwaukee
offense scored 14, making the final score Iowa 60 – Milwaukee 38.
I have been to many Arena Football games over the past 10 years and they all
shared one thing in common, lots of loud music. Usually it is 80’s or 90’s rock
or modern Hip Hop songs, but during the Iron game, I heard one song that I have
never heard at a game before. It was a snippet of the song Hocus Pocus by the
band Focus! If you are not familiar with this great rock song from the 70’s, go
to iTunes and look it up! Kudos to whoever is selecting the Iron’s music!
The Barnstormers are coached by John Gregory,
who was the original coach of the franchise from 1995-1999, when it competed at
the AFL level. He was named AFL Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996. Gregory is
also responsible for giving future Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner a
tryout with the Barnstormers and then signing him to the team. Prior to that,
Gregory was the head coach of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian
Football League. He led the team to a Grey Cup title in 1989 and was named CFL
Coach of the Year. When the Barnstormer returned as an af2 franchise in 2008,
Gregory returned as well. The Barnstormers have maintained their classic look
from the Kurt Warner era and with coach Gregory at the helm they could once
again become one of the top teams in their league.
It was good to be able to experience an Arena
Football game in person once again. The thought of going an entire year without
it was something I was not looking forward to enduring. Even though this was
af2, it had the feel of an AFL level game. The intensity of play, the enthusiasm
of the 5,238 fans in attendance and the overall game day production made for a
great evening of entertainment. The Iron and the rest of the af2 are doing a
great job of carrying on the game of Arena Football while the AFL gets its house
in order. I look forward to seeing both leagues’ competing on the gridiron once
again in 2010.
On the morning that we returned to Michigan, we
woke up to find that about three inches of snow had accumulated on the ground
during the night! After brushing off the car, we hit the road and headed for
home. Along the way, we saw many cars that were off the road and stuck in the
ditch. We also passed through some areas south of Milwaukee that were without
power because of the snowstorm. As we passed by the Six Flags Great America
amusement park in Gurnee, Illinois, I had to chuckle when I read the sign that
said, "Opening in five days!" Visibility was down to about a quarter of a mile,
so it made for a slow, white-knuckle drive all the way through Chicago and back
Overall, Adam and I had a great time in Milwaukee and I would not hesitate to
return there to see another af2 game sometime, perhaps even again this season.
But I think I’ll wait until the weather gets a little bit warmer!
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