Mundane Monday Night Brings Embarrassment On National Stage
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Storm (4-3) took the Southern Division lead in Week 8 in the league's version of Monday Night Football over the hapless Kansas City Command (0-6) 63-46. But of course, a comedy of errors, a few utterly hilarious comments, and a shameless promotion gone bad later, all that was left from this one was a bunch of things to laugh about a league that is getting worse and worse with each passing week.
Commissioner Jerry B. Kurz came on the television in the fourth quarter of the game and had some flattering quotes to say about the winless Command. He told the AFL nation watching on the NFL Network, "Kansas City is still in the hunt. They are playing well [with a] new quarterback under center. I think Matt Gutierrez is a quarterback of the future here, and is doing a great job."
Oh yeah? At the time, Gutierrez was just 18-of-37 passing. He finished the game 24-of-48 for 229 yards with five TDs and two INTs, and that was after going 4-of-5 for 25 yards and a TD in garbage time on the last drive of the game. Gutierrez also had a rushing touchdown.
And the Command are playing well? They scored 46 points in this game, marking the first time this year that they had scored more than 40 points in a game this year, and the only reason that they reached that high is because the Storm were laughing too hard at the fact that they had just scored 35 points in the fourth quarter.
Four words describe this…
Look, I know that the Commissioner can't come on TV and call a spade a spade, but this is disgraceful. The game was 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, and it took six drives for the Command to score a touchdown. Gutierrez is a waste. He was a free agent at the beginning of the season for a reason, and he replaced Nate Davis and Steven Gachette. Davis has already been with the Orlando Predators as well and was cut just a week later, while Gachette is with the Allen Wranglers of the IFL and only just became a starting quarterback this past week.
Speaking of the IFL… There were six turnovers in this game, two fewer than the eight that the Preds and the Philadelphia Soul combined for to start this week in the Sunshine State on Saturday night. The most turnovers in an IFL game this weekend? Six. Now, turnovers aren't always a product of sloppy play, but here in Tampa Bay, there were three fumbles in a span of just four plays, and two of the fumbles were basically unforced errors that were just sloppy.
And then of course, it was even more hilarious when the NFL Network ran a promotion for the AFL Field Pass, and the banner that was shown at this point included a shot on your TV screen that said, "Click here to learn more." Great. Just what I'm going to do… Click on my TV screen to sign up for AFL Field Pass. Brilliant.
It was a sin that this game came on the same night that Sylvester Bembery, Stevie Thomas, and George LaFrance were honored on Legends Night, and the great Lawrence Samuels, one of the best Ironmen in the history of the AFL had his No. 22 retired by the Storm. There were only 7,345 in attendance, the worst crowd in the history of the team.
And sure, I already hear the excuses that you AFL torch bearers are going to use for this one. "But it was a Monday night!" and "But the Tampa Bay Rays were playing at Tropicana Field at the same time!" And? In 2008, just four years ago, nearly to the date on May 5th, the Storm had 14,491 in attendance to see the team lose to the Chicago Rush. By the way, that Tampa Bay team was 3-5 at the time and really had very little to no chance of getting into the playoffs. This Tampa Bay team is likely going to be in the second season and will probably be hosting a playoff game if this keeps up.
And why do I keep harping on this? Because as I said right at the top of this article, things are getting a heck of a lot worse, not a heck of a lot better. The attendance this week averaged just 7,296 fans, and there is definitely no excuse for the best teams not hosting games. Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Jacksonville, all teams that are in the Top 5 in average attendance hosted games this week, and the Milwaukee Mustangs had their best crowd of the last two years with 6,689.
Play is getting sloppier. There were eight turnovers in Orlando. The Preds became the first team in the history of the league to blow two leads of 20+ points in the same season. There were 24 penalties in San Antonio. There were three turnovers on four plays in Tampa Bay. Iowa was shut out for a whole half of football and was outscored 42-0 in that stretch. And my personal favorite, we had Bryan Randall, fresh out of the IFL just last week, start a game for Pittsburgh. By the way, Randall went 28-of-44 for 309 yards with five TDs and two picks, numbers that were a heck of a lot better than a lot of the other stiffs that were playing quarterback this week.
Randall became the 27th different quarterback to start a game this year in the AFL through just eight weeks of play. We already know that Chris Leak is likely to be the 28th next week for the Predators when they come to this building to take on the Storm in Week 9.
Had this game been played four years ago, the Tampa Bay Times Forum would have been packed to the gills, even on a Monday night, just to see all of those legends of the team out there.
I sit here in the place formerly known as the Ice Palace and look at all of the retired numbers… #76 Al Lucas, #24 Tracey Perkins, #78 Sylvester Bembery, #22 Lawrence Samuels, #25 George LaFrance, #7 Jay Gruden, and #20 Stevie Thomas… These are the real players of the Arena Football League, and these are the men that built this league and the ones that kept it going for the first 21 years of its existence.
Not Matt Gutierrez. Not Steve Wasil. Not any of these players that were on the field on Monday night, in fact. Tom Kaleita was the most experienced AFLer on the field with this being his fifth year in the league. He is the only player on either side that played in the "old AFL." If you add up the years of experience of the 42 active players that played on Monday, you had a total of 40 years of service in the AFL. If you take the four men that were the "Legends of the Storm" that were announced, there were 51 years of AFL experience.
And you want to know what is wrong with this league? Just think about that stat for a second. Four guys that are retired AFLers put in a combined 51 years of service to the league. The entire 21 man roster on both sides combined featured just 40 total years.
Sorry to the AFL. This isn't going to cut it. It's getting worse. It's not getting better. Matt Gutierrez isn't the future of the AFL. But of course, if this keeps up, it is highly unlikely that there is going to be a future of the AFL either.