My first AFL Game: An outsider look at Shock at SaberCats
This season, Jonathan Willis will be taking someone who has never seen an Arena Football game before to a San Jose SaberCats home game to gauge their thoughts on the sport, the play, and the atmosphere in the arena.
For the SaberCats fifth home game of the season, I brought my friend Stephen, who had never even heard of Arena Football before he met me. Stephen is the first guest I have brought that spent a significant part of his youth abroad and it was interesting to get his take on the game. Despite mostly growing up in either Virginia or the UK, he adopted the Raiders for his favorite NFL team so I figured taking him to a game against two teams that didn't like each other would be right up his alley.
Unfortunately unlike last week, the game was like the SaberCats first three home games of the season and was never really in doubt. However this didn't matter much to Stephen, who had his eye on one of the numerous side attractions in San Jose... the SaberKittens. Like other AFL teams, San Jose has a ton of things to do to keep people occupied aside from the main event. It ranges from the usual (Free t-shirts, Pizza giveaways, Kiss Cam) to the more unique (Planking competition and The Fist-Pump Cam).
Writer's Note: For the life of me, I have no idea why this is so popular in San Jose, but whenever the Fist-Pump Cam comes on people lose their collective minds and the arena gets just about as loud as it does during fourth downs for the visiting team.
Stephen also became the second person I have brought to have had no idea that the SAP Center was primarily a hockey stadium. Maybe this is just surprising to me though since I try to go to as many sporting events as I can, but quite a few people seem to think that each sports team has their own individual stadium. I told him that the SaberCats shared the stadium with the Sharks after he had noted that almost all the seats in the upper level were empty and only the two big concession stands at the opposite ends of the club level were open.
As far as AFL standards go, the game was very low-scoring. I told my guest to expect around 100 points and the teams both came woefully short. Thanks to San Jose's usual solid defense and a surprising great effort from Spokane's defensive line, both offenses were held from reaching their full potential.
The game did have some intrigue at the end though. The SaberCats had the ball up 23 with less than a minute left and only needed to run out the clock to ensure victory. However, after Spokane blew through its time-outs, San Jose moved from running the clock out to scoring the cover touchdown and eventually got it with no time left. It sounds as if the reason behind this was the animosity between the two teams.
As for Stephen, he enjoyed one more unique AFL experience. After the game was over, we stuck around so he could talk to the cheerleader that had caught his eye. He chatted her up and after he got her to sign his hat asked if she would sign her number on there as well. She told him politely that he'll have to go to more games in order to get her number and I think that he just may.