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Gladiators Host Salute the Troops Nught

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on ArenaFan.com, Sunday, May 19, 2013


Saturday nightís game between the Cleveland Gladiators and the San Antonio Talons in Cleveland was about more than two teams trying to improve themselves in the AFL standings. It was also about saying thank you to the men and women who serve in our nationís military.

When I looked at the Cleveland schedule a few months back and decided that I wanted to attend the game against the Talons, I had no idea that it was going to be Salute the Troops Night. As a military retiree, I always enjoy taking advantage of such events.

Checking the teamís official website before I left home and began the four-hour drive to Cleveland from my home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I was happy to learn that I would be admitted to the game free of charge that night. Upon arriving at the Quicken Loans Arena box office, all I had to do was show my military retiree ID card to receive a free ticket to the game. I then paid for a ticket for my youngest son, who had made the trip with me.

They were also offering dollar hot dogs and dollar soft drinks at the game, so the night was made even more affordable, not just for me, but for everyone in attendance. The first 2,500 fans were also given a small American flag upon entering the arena. On the field, the Gladiators wore special camouflage jerseys that were auctioned off for charity after the game.

One thing that I found truly impressive at the game was the videos from deployed soldiers overseas in Afghanistan that were shown throughout the game. They taped messages from their deployed location and proclaimed their support for the Gladiators team. We have all seen similar videos from troops proclaiming their love for their team during NFL games, but I truly enjoyed seeing the troops showing their love of the AFL.

As for the game, a crowd of 6,919 fans were in attendance and were treated to some great action on the field, but ultimately, they went home disappointed by the final score.

After coming off the bench last week to help lead the Gladiators to a 53-50 win over the Chicago Rush, quarterback Chris Dieker was given the start against the Talons. But Dieker was injured in the first half after being slammed to the ground by a Talons defender. He was replaced by previous starter Brian Zbydniewski. The Gladiators defense kept it close until the fourth quarter, but six interceptions by Zbydniewski led to the Talons cruising to a 57-33 victory. The Talons improved to 4-4 on the season.

The Arena Football League has always marketed itself as fan friendly and affordable, and I, for one, appreciate events like Salute the Troops Night and leagueís association and support of the Wounded Warrior Project.

NEXT WEEK: The Gladiators (2-6) travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday night, May 25, to take on the Pittsburgh Power (2-6) in an Eastern Division matchup at 7 PM. The winner of the game will be in sole possession of second place in the division.


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