What a day Saturday was. Took a trip down to Trenton to see the Harrisburg Stampede face the New Jersey Revolution at the Sun National Bank Center. It was an AIFA game in a town that has no indoor football team. The Revolution play in Morristown, NJ. It was a special showcase to give fans a taste of what they will be seeing in the 2011 season as the Trenton Steel will make their debut. I had gotten some assistance in finding some help for the day. A family friend, Sue Price had put in me touch with one of her friends which led to one of her friends. Turns out, there sons were going to go to the game with their father as the Harrisburg kicker is a cousin. Strange how that happened. So I had assistance from Frank and Bill Ferrari. I am showing how indoor football can be a viable football alternative to those who feel the NFL has priced them out.
We got down there around 3:15 and was very easy to get to. Was able to hear the first half of the USA vs England World Cup game. Guess a tie is better than a loss, more points. The Sun National Bank Center is is a bit smaller from the Izod Center and Prudential Center. It plays home to the Trenton Devils, the New Jersey Devils “AA” club. But still an ample sized arena seating 9,000 for a Devils game at capacity. But tonight it held just several hundred. Got some nice shots of the inside of the building. Had some early boom mic troubles but managed to get things in order. I am the kind of worker that goes non sop. Frank and Bill kept up with me the whole night. I know i have a tendency to keep going and not ask if anyone needs a break. I hope I did not run them too ragged.
Was able to get some words with the founder and President of the AIFA, John Morris. John also has partial ownership in the Richmond Raiders, Baltimore Mariners, and the Harrisburg Stampede. Harrisburg is where the corporate offices are located. We talked about how he got started in indoor football, what it takes to run a league and a team, as well as doing what it takes to keep the fans coming back for more. The Harrisburg team was also made the home team. The New Jersey Revolution had to be the visiting team in Trenton, NJ. Go figure. The visiting teams locker room was noticeably smaller than the home teams locker room.
The Rev It Up Girls came down for the game to cheer on the team. They did most of the cheering in the loading section behind the end zone and one show close to the end of the 4the game. They did not have much of a spot for them as they booked dance troupes and clubs, kids games and races, and other activities designed to entertain the crowd and kids. They made it very fan friendly with giveaways to help push the new Trenton Thunder. Would have been nice if they were given more time rather than one 90 second spot and some flips to cheer on the Revs.
They had Trenton Steel merchandise and players already signed and there to sign autographs. Was a great time to push the new AIFA team. Getting fans there to see the product for the first time and getting a first look at their new home team. There was a small issue before the game though. A couple of individuals who volunteer their time at the NJ Revolution’s home games came down to work the chains and 1st down markers. They wore their NJ Revs shirts. The facility people told them if they were going to do the chains they had to wear Trenton Steel shirts. They refused so they were then told they could not work and had to buy tickets. They ended up helping the team on the bench instead. At least they contributed to the team instead of sitting there. I understand they want to push the Steel, but they were still representing NJ.
After the pregame warm ups and singing of the National Anthem, the game was underway. It seemed between many plays they did competitions with the kids in the crowd. Skipping races, hula hoop contests, races, and other contests designed to give away AIFA footballs and Trenton Steel merchandise. Every time a ball landed in the crowd the fan could keep the ball. It was competitive in the beginning and the score stayed close. But before the half the Stampede opened up a 25 point lead. I have seen the Revs play some damn good ball, just need to focus more, step it up, and follow through. Coach Al and the coaches have a lot of faith in their players and know they can get the job done. Unfortunately, today the Stampede just made the better plays.
During the game we took shots from the players bench, the press box with no air conditioning, and from behind the end zone. Easier to move Around Mennen arena that the Sun Bank Center. A second cameraman, if I could find out at last minute, would have helped greatly. It sometimes hurts having the one camera and not getting enough angles. At intermission we walked around the arena and would to find out what draws fans to indoor football. What they get from their experiences at the games. In the second half the Stampede kept the lead and did not look back. Key interceptions, pass protection, and blocking helped Harrisburg maintain a healthy lead. The Revolution had the tools but did not utilize them. They did not bring all their heart into the second half.
The Stampede ran off with the game and a 96-44 victory. Many on the Revolution felt there was no need to run up the score. The Stampede did not care and just took advantage of every opportunity. Almost like they wanted to run the score up but that is just my point of view. Instead of running the ball the focused on deep passing towards the end of the game. More heated words between teams than usual. Lot of challenges between players and I think maybe a coach as well. The Revs thought they were getting the short end of the stick since the day began. But at the end of the game everyone shook hands and the fans came onto the field for autographs. The players signed footballs, shirts, posters, and anything the kids gave them. Everyone had fun and went away happy, that is the more important thing to remember. It was fun and entertaining for the whole family.
I am sure many of the fans there were parents of the kids that performed during half time, some were from Trenton checking the action out for the first time. All in all they would consider it a success. But like in most leagues, there is the business behind the entertainment. Turns out, the turf that was used is the turf the Revolution play on in Mennen Arena. Rob Tester paid to bring it down. Apparently it is owned by the new Massachusetts expansion team. They say they have the receipt to prove it. Also, the NJ owner Rob Tester says he can show proof of owning. I also heard it was taken by the former owner of the NJ team and never returned. Now Rob finds out it will be kept in Trenton for the Steel. I know, it can boggle your mind. The Revolution now may have no turf to practice on for the rest of the season. Two games left in the season so who knows what they are thinking now.
It seems there is are a lot of conversations with promises between teams but made to benefit certain teams and people. New jersey may not have the fund as other teams but they should still be treated fairly. It is not cheap to run a minor league team and Rob Tester is doing what he with with what he has. But there are two sides to every story and I will never know all the details from all sides. Everyone was pleasant to talk to and helpful. But I felt the same way in the wrestling industry. Everyone is nice and willing to help, but when it comes to business it is all about who benefits the few. Those in certain circles with certain power always rise to the top while others flounder underneath. Everyone is out for the same thing and it is survival of the fittest, or the shrewdest. But the businessman will always find a way to win out and make a profit.
Arena football does offer some hard hitting, high scoring football action. It is something worth checking out as the price is hard to beat. For some, it could be cheaper than going to the movies. There are so many leagues around the country it is amazing how many different teams there are. The AIFA, IFL, AFL, NIFA, CIFA, and many more. Many franchises are it cities that have no NFL franchise. Not a bad way to spend an evening.