The 12 Months of Football Ė September
This Month in Football
The month began with a pleasant football surprise at my house. I discovered that my satellite TV provider had added a couple of new channels. One was the NFL Network that had previously been available exclusively on the DirecTV Satellite system. Another channel added was CSTV, College Sports Television. Both new channels were a total surprise to me. It was like Christmas in September. Earlier this summer my satellite provider added Comcast SportsNet-Chicago, which carries many CFL games. Towards the end of the month I also discovered that my satellite provider had also added ESPNU. So now I have a plethora of football games getting beamed into my home from outer space! Itís a thing of beauty.
On September 3, the third annual Detroit Football Classic was played at Ford Field. The game features two predominantly black college football teams and their marching bands. The idea for the game came from former Detroit Lions defensive end Robert Porcher as a way to showcase some of these smaller college teams. This yearís game featured the Division I-AA Hampton Pirates and the Jackson State Tigers. Hampton won the game 20-7.
September 8 saw the kicked off the NFL regular season with a Thursday night game between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots. The Patriots won the game 30-20.
A new indoor football league, the Great Lakes Indoor Football League, officially unveiled the third team for its inaugural season on September 15. The Battle Creek Crunch will play its home games in the Kellogg Arena. Battle Creek is only about 15 miles from where I live in Kalamazoo. The next day the league also announced its fourth team, the Marion (Ohio) Mayhem. The GLIFL already had one team in Michigan, the Port Huron Pirates as well as the Lehigh Valley Outlawz in Bethlehem, Pa. The league begins play next April and will feature teams of seven players as opposed to the usual eight players used by all the other indoor and Arena leagues.
It was also announced on September 21 that the Intense Football League is being resurrected. The indoor league debuted in 2004 with six teams all based in Texas and was around for just one season. The following year, one team, the Amarillo Dusters, joined arenafootball2. Four other teams joined the National Indoor Football League and one ceased operation.
On September 26, the Arena Football League conducted an expansion draft for its newest team, the Utah Blaze. The Blaze took 20 players during the 20 rounds of the draft. Their first selection was DS Kelvin Hunter of the Austin Wranglers. With their 13th pick they selected QB Adrian McPherson from the Nashville Kats. This was the third time that McPherson has been drafted by a team in the last year. He played for the Indian Firebirds in 2004 and was named the AFL Rookie of the Year. The team folded after the 2004 season and in October of last year, McPherson was the first player selected in a Dispersal Draft of Indiana players by the Kats. However, he never actually played for Nashville. He was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft back in April by New Orleans. He is currently the #3 quarterback on the Saints roster.
Two days later, September 28, the Arena Football League announced that the New Orleans VooDoo will not compete during the 2006 season. The New Orleans Arena, where the VooDoo play their home games, was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in late August. The teamís practice facility has also been taken over by the government for use in the ongoing hurricane relief operations. A Dispersal Draft will take place for players currently under contract to the team. VooDoo owner, Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL New Orleans Saints, said he will continue to employ the teamís administrative staff as well as head coach Mike Neu.
On September 30, the GLIFL announced its fifth team for the 2006 season, the Rochester (NY) Raiders.
School is now in Session
The theme for all of the football games I attended this month turned out to be, "Schools Rule."
On Friday night, September 9, my oldest son and I made the short drive north from our home in Kalamazoo to Delton, Michigan to see the Galesburg-Augusta Rams varsity football team play the Delton Panthers. G-A is the school that my kids go to. Galesburg was down 20-13 early in the third quarter, but came back to win the game 26-20.
As I sat there in the visitor stands that night, a couple of things occurred to me. One is that you really have to pay attention at a high school football game because if you miss a play, youíll probably never see it again. There is no instant replay in high school football, unless you happen to be taping the game yourself. Three local television stations in my area have Friday night high school football highlight shows, but they never seem to be at the games I go to.
Another thing that occurred to me that night was that there is also another aspect of high school and college football games that I really enjoy, and thatís the marching bands. Maybe itís the fact that I played in the marching band when I was in high school. Not only that, but my two brothers, my sister and my wife were all in the band as well. Three of my kids are also currently in the band.
No matter how small the marching band, they are always fun to watch. I counted just 40 members in the Delton marching band that night. Their show was short, just two songs, but it was still enjoyable.
The next day, September 10, the boys and I were in East Lansing, MI for a college football game between the Michigan State Spartans and the visiting University of Hawaii Warriors. Michigan State won the game 42-14. Hawaii wore their alternate silver helmets for the first time during the game. Michigan State is also celebrating its 150th season of football this year with a special logo painted on the field.
The Spartan Alumni Band performed at halftime. They played a couple of songs and then were joined on the field by the members of the current marching band. Between the two bands, there were 600 musicians on the field at one time! What an awesome sight! Attendance at the game was 74,043.
Hawaii head coach June Jones and his special teams coach Mouse Davis have a long history of coaching together. They were both with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 1982, the Houston Gamblers and Denver Gold of the USFL in 1984 and 1985 respectively, the Detroit Lions from 1989-1990 and the Atlanta Falcons from 1994-1996. Davis was also the head coach of the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League from 2001-2002 as well as the San Diego Riptide of the af2 in 2004. Former Atlanta Falcons head coach and television commentator Jerry Glanville is the Warriors defensive coordinator.
On Friday night, September 16, I took in another Galesburg-Augusta varsity football game, this time at home against the Battle Creek Pennfield Panthers. I got to watch my oldest son perform in the marching band during the pre-game and halftime shows. The G-A marching band has about 70 members. Also during halftime, about a dozen former G-A football players from the 1990 season were introduced. That was the year G-A was the state Class C runner-up. As far as the game itself, Pennfield had a 20-0 lead at halftime. G-A took the second half kickoff and put together a nice drive. They had a fourth and goal at the three-yard line but failed to get the ball into the end zone. Their only score came with just 50 seconds left in the game as Pennfield won, 27-7.
The next day, my oldest son and I were in The Big House. No, not jail. The University of Michigan football stadium. My nephew, who is a Michigan alum, offered me his tickets to the September 17 game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Eastern Michigan Eagles. It was my first trip to see a game in Ann Arbor and it certainly lived up to all the hype. Up until this game, the largest football crowds I had ever been apart of were at the Pontiac Silverdome where the capacity was a little over 80,000 for Detroit Lions games. The attendance at U of M that day was 109,511. We got to our seats about an hour before kickoff and watched both bands perform during the pre-game ceremony. At halftime, the U of M band performed a hilarious salute to the movie, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
It was impressive to see such a massive crowd doing the wave during the game, but I really got a kick out of it when they did it in slow motion! We also hung around after the game and watched both bands perform a post game concert on the field. Oh yeah, Michigan beat Eastern Michigan 55-0.
On September 23, I was back at Galesburg-Augusta watching the team and the band play. Because of a last minute change to the schedule, I got to experience a truly unique football event. Both the G-A varsity and junior varsity football teams hosted the Wyoming Lee Rebels in a rare high school football double-header that Friday night. The G-A junior varsity team lost to the Rebels 21-12. In the varsity game, Wyoming Lee scored the first points of the game to take a 6-0 lead. But after that, it was all G-A, who won the game 27-6.
The day after the G-A football double-header, the G-A band performed at the Battle Creek Invitational Marching Band Exhibition. The event featured 10 area high school marching bands. The bands ranged in size from around 40 members to almost 150. They were all great. G-Aís show this year features the music of The Doors.
Football games and marching bands have always gone together like Fred and Ethel or Lucy and Ricky. However, that trend has come to an end with the Detroit Lions. I havenít seen a marching band at one of their games in years, and I miss that. Up until the mid-90ís or so, you could always see a college marching band or a band from one of the larger Detroit area high schools performing at a Lions game. They would play the national anthem during the pre-game ceremony then form a tunnel for the team to run through as they took the field for the game. What a thrill that must have been for those high school kids to perform before 80,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome. My oldest brother played at two Detroit Lions games in the 1960s, once when he was in high school and also as a member of the Ferris State College marching band. In those days, however, the Lions played their home games at Tigers Stadium.
In 1947, another team, the Baltimore Colts, formed their own marching band. Today, Baltimoreís Marching Ravens are still performing.
Unfortunately, the only way to see a marching band perform is if you attend a game in person. You never see more than a few seconds of a marching band performing on TV, even during college games. Halftime on TV means in-studio shows, game highlights and lots of commercials.
But there is another pro football team that is trying to continue the marching band tradition. The South Georgia Wildcats of arenafootball2 also have their own marching band. When the Cape Fear Wildcats relocated from Fayetteville, NC to Albany, Georgia last season, a one-of-a-kind marching band was formed to perform at their home games. A marching band at an Arena game! How cool is that?
So, with six football games attended in September, the total number of games I have attended in 2005 now stands at 22. This was the most games Iíve attended in one month since April when I went to four games, three Arena Football games and a college football Spring game.
What will the month of October bring? Iíll give you a hint. It does not include a basketball, a baseball or a hockey puck.
Randy Snow covered the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League for ArenaFan from 2003-2008. He also covered the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. From 2004-2008 and in 2010, he was a member of the Arena Football League Writerís Association and, since 2011, has been a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association. Randy lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan but will travel just about anywhere for a football game or a great football story. He runs the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and hosts a podcast with his son, Adam, called ďThis Week in The World of Football.Ē