R.I.P. Ironman Football
For more than two decades, Arena Football was defined by great two-way performances by the likes of Barry Wagner who excelled on offense, defense and even on special teams. After the league abolished limited substitutions, the way of the Ironman was placed on the endangered species list between the Irrawaddy Dolphin and the Isabel Giant Rat.
For the first two seasons (2007-08), Ironman football was still championed by the likes of Dallas' Will Pettis who continued the legacy of great play on offense and defense (and special teams in his case). When the league returned in 2010 after its financial collapse after the 2008 ArenaBowl, the Ironmen of indoor football dwindled to miniscule numbers. The 2010 Ironman of the Year, WR/LB DeJuan Alfonzo, statistics were horrible. He didn't even make his first offensive catch until Week Nine and got his first receiving touchdown in the regular season finale.
This year, I've been on a soapbox preaching that he was the worst Ironman winner in the league's history. It pains me gravely to say this, but: Mr. Alfonzo, I'm sorry. You're not the worst Ironman of the Year winner anymore.
On Monday, August 8, 2011 at 4:46 PM Eastern Time, ironman football officially died when the league announced that for the first time in the league's 24-year history that the Ironman of the Year was a player that didn't play both offense and defense. The league went against its own definition of what the term "ironman" means as defined on page seven of the 2011 AFL Record & Fact Book -- ironman "signifies participants playing both offense and defense."
Unlike 2010, there were a few ironman options for the league to choose from for this award like Pittsburgh WR/LB Lonnell DeWalt, who caught 45 balls for 489 yards with 21 TDs and two 2-point conversions. Defensively, he had 53.0 tackles, four interceptions (one returned for a TD), four pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
Instead, the league opted to forget the history of the award and its own definition of Ironman and give it to someone that only played offense and special teams on the AFL's worst team. This is the first time that someone that didn't play defense won the award. It's also the first time since 1991 that a player from a team with a losing record has won the award.
This isn’t meant in any way to take away from the season that New Orleans VooDoo WR/KR P.J. Berry had, who the league gave this tainted award to. Berry's a fantastic receiver and returner that played for the worst team in the league this year. He was the only reason to watch the three-win VooDoo, but to give this award is akin to a slap in the face of legendary ironmen like Barry Wagner.
The 2011 All-Ironman team was just as bad as Berry getting this award. Just six players were listed on it with five being one-way guys that were returners. The other, Orlando's Marlon Moye-Moore, played offense at the goal line just a few times on the season with six rushes for three yards and four touchdowns.
Forgotten by the league were players that played both ways like DeWalt as well as Arizona's Jason Geathers, Georgia's Benji McDowell and Kansas City's Bradley Chavez. These four played significantly on both sides of the ball and were key players with each of their respective teams. Each should have been placed on the All-Ironman team, but for some reason the league completely ignored these ironmen.
The Ironman of the Year award needs to be abolished. Moreover, Monday's Ironman announcement was the final nail in the coffin.
Andy Lopusnak is an 11-year AFL front office veteran, spending time with the Tampa Bay Storm, San Diego Riptide and Grand Rapids Rampage. He works as a statistician for NFL and college sports for CBS Sports and is a freelance photographer. Lopusnak received two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of South Florida and has been a fan of ArenaBall since its inception.