The regular indoor football season doesn’t start until March, but the AIFA tested the waters with a pre-season Kickoff Classic at the Coliseum tonight.
The crowd was announced at 4700 (or so), or about 4000 more than I expected. :) I guess there’s more of a market for indoor football than I expected.
Game play: Both teams basically got together on Wednesday or Thursday and had to play tonight. Combine that with pre-season rules limiting the defenses and it was a bit ragged, but not as loose as I thought it would be. Richmond certainly wanted to look at a few players… there were at least 35 players on the roster tonight, and I don’t think that’ll be the roster size in March… :) It was entertaining… certainly maintaining indoor football’s reputation as pinball on turf. 🙂
Officiating: Surprisingly good for this time of year – I don’t know if the AIFA has their own officials or if they use locals, but either way, this had to be their first game in a while. With one glaring exception, they were pretty much not noticeable. The one exception came in the fourth quarter, when an “all-star” lined up a direct helmet-to-helmet block on a Richmond player, came right under the chin, and knocked the Richmond player cold. Stunningly, the cheapshot artist wasn’t ejected from the game, even when he started yapping at the fans that they should put on pads if they wanted to complain. It was an exhibition game, and would have been a perfect place for the AIFA to make the point that cheapshots are not part of their game. They missed the point. AIFA league officials were at the game, so perhaps there’ll be discipline later. Otherwise, though, the officials were OK. It was humorous that the ref didn’t seem to really catch on to the fact that the visitors were “All-Stars”… he called penalties and timeouts on “Baltimore”, “Reading”, or nobody at all (just pointing at the blue-shirted guys).
Game presentation: EPIC FAIL. First, there were no programs. No roster sheets. No names on the uniforms. Basically, you were left cheering for the white shirts against the blue shirts. C’mon… if you have time to get uniforms on everyone, you have time to get programs together. That’s why I can’t tell you who the cheapshot artist was, or his victim, above. No clue. Sorry. The DJ, PA announcer, referee, field mic, and Henrico HS band were, at times, ALL competing with each other for the sound system (which, by the way, was down to the Coliseum’s usual low standards – that’s not the AIFA’s fault, though). Whoever was running gameday operations was lost. The clock started and stopped pretty much whenever (it was all but impossible to tell if the timekeeper knew AIFA rules)… the chain gang consistently put the chains at the wrong place, or were slow getting out of the way of game play (due to space issues in indoor football, the chain gang is on the field during play)… and in-game promotions were botched. They had several promotions planned for halftime… due to poor management, they wound up trying to run all of them at once in the last 3 minutes of the intermission… and delayed the start of the second half. I’d keep going, but I’m flaying a dead horse by now. With the experience of the Baltimore Mariners gameday staff available to them, you’d think the non-game elements would have worked better. Oh, speaking of the Mariners, for some reason, it was their season-ticket ad that kept running on the end-zone video displays… odd. Anyway, the Raiders’ gameday operations need some tending-to.
But the worst moment of all… the one that kind of deflated the evening for me, goes back to that 4th-quarter cheapshot. The Richmond player – concussed and out cold – hit the turf face-first. The genius training staff (not sure if it was Richmond or AIFA-supplied staff), after hovering over him for a few minutes… turned him over. They turned over a player who was at least suffering a concussion, and who may have had neck damage, while he was still semi-conscious at best. It gets better (or worse, I suppose). Despite the presence of two Richmond Fire EMTs, the training staff hauled the player to his feet and steered him in a guided stagger to the dressing room. Let that sink in. The trainers took a concussed and semi-responsive player and hauled him to his feet. There are words for that. Those words are “criminal negligence” (or, if you’re not willing to go that far, how about “termination-level incompetence”?). There was no use of a neck collar. There was no backboard. They simply – and I’m not exaggerating here – lost their patience and hurriedly got the player off the field without adequate care for his long-term health. They panicked, I think, because play had stopped for a while. There is no excuse for that.
Football is a violent game. I understand that. But you take care of the casualties. You don’t drag them off the field like a piece of meat.
So… on-field: OK. off-field: not so much.
Now that I’ve seen the Raiders, I’ll probably check out the Revolution on opening night in March at the Ashe Center. As noted in an earlier post, the Raiders and Revolution both open on March 13. I got the feeling tonight, from an informal sample, that not many people at the Raiders game knew that the Revolution exists. So it’ll be interesting to see how both teams draw opening night.