Is Arena Football Becoming Mainstream?
Consider the following:
2003 - Tony Stallings, a player for the af2 Louisville Fire won Animal Planet’s "King of the Jungle" reality show.
2003 - An episode of the ESPN show "Beg, Borrow and Deal 2" showed contestants trying to kick field goals at the home field of the af2 Tennessee Valley Vipers in Huntsville, Alabama.
2004 - Players from the AFL Los Angeles Avengers and the af2 San Diego Riptide were featured on the ESPN reality show "I'd Do Anything." Contestants had to return kickoffs without blockers against a team of current Arena players.
2004 - On MTV’s "The Real World – Philadelphia," cast members worked briefly for the AFL Philadelphia Soul, which is co-owned by Jon Bon Jovi.
June 2004 - An article published in ESPN The Magazine declared the Arena Football League to be the fifth major sports league in the country behind the NFL, NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball.
2004/2005 - On the WB Network show "Reba," the character of Van had a tryout with an Arena football team. In subsequent episodes, he made the team, was traded to Denver and eventually suffered a career ending injury.
May 2005 - The newspaper comic strip "Blondie" mentioned Arena football during a conversation between Dagwood Bumstead and the neighbor boy, Elmo. Elmo suggested that the only thing that would be more fun than Arena football would be Arena golf.
August 2005 - The af2 Arena Cup championship game was televised nationally on Fox Sports Network.
September 2005 - The af2 Amarillo Dusters were featured on the Discovery Times Channel show "Only in America."
September 2005 - An episode of "The Simpson's" TV show on FOX featured an Arena football reference. Bart’s friend Millhouse made several suggestions to his parents for a family outing. One suggestion was that they could go to an Arena football game of the (fictional) Springfield Stun.
February 2006 - EA Sports will release its first ever Arena football video game.
More AFL Mainstream Evidence
The Arena Football League has had major write-ups in the last few years in Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine and USA Today, to name a few, and the league’s national TV exposure on NBC and Fox Sports Network brings the game to millions of people around the country every week. Even the af2 is reportedly close to having its own national television deal.
You may not even be aware of it, but footage from a 1998 Arena game between the Grand Rapids Rampage and the Tampa Bay Storm has been showing up in various national TV commercials for the last couple of years. One is a Best Buy commercial where two guys are in the store staring at a wall of TV’s that are all showing the football footage and then one of them faints from the excitement. Another is an Aaron’s Rent to Own commercial featuring Terry Bradshaw. He is sitting in a reclining chair watching the same Rampage footage.
Add to all of this the fact that Arena football merchandise is sold around the country at Champs Sports stores and you have to come to the conclusion that the AFL is finally working its way into the national consciousness.
So, where will the Arena league be showing up next? Well, many Arena players have been featured as extras in movies such as the recent remake of "The Longest Yard." Could it be just a matter of time before a major motion picture storyline revolves around players on an Arena football team?
I’d go see that! Pass the popcorn.
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 Writer’s 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 “This Week in The World of Football.”