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My first AFL Game: An outsider look at Gladiators at SaberCats

Jonathan Willis
Tuesday May 26, 2015

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.

My guest for this week's game is an avid Cornhuskers' fan, a person who fondly remembers the Tommie Frazier/Scott Frost/Eric Crouch halcyon days for Nebraska. Having never been to an arena game before he knew to expect scoring, but 94 points in the first half shocked his Midwestern sensibilities. Worse, the plethora of points set his mind racing back to the Bill Callahan days in Lincoln.....a time no Husker fan wants to remember.

However, for the first time this season, a SaberCats home game was competitive. Unfortunately, attendance was not what it should have been due to the Warriors game being played at the same time. Seats started filling in midway through the second quarter with the basketball game in hand, but it was telling that one of the biggest cheers of the first half was when they showed the Golden State-Houston score on the Jumbotron during a break in action.

The first question he asked me wasn't about the crazy rules, or the net, or anything like that. His question was about the woman in the red dress that comes on the field when there is a TV timeout. If you've been to an NFL game before, you've noticed that during commercial breaks an official with a red hat steps on the field and only steps off after the commercials have run their due course. With the AFL, or at least the SaberCats, this role is filled by a young woman in a red dress that immediately struck my friend's eye.

My guest's next observation was how much the officiating favored the SaberCats. Anyone watching the game saw a pretty evenly called second half, but there was some hometown cooking in the first half of the game that helped the SaberCats stay afloat. My friend asked me if this is the norm across the league and I told him that homefield advantage in the AFL is akin to basketball, which is to say there are definitely some iffy calls benefiting the local team.

The highlight, or lowlight, of the night though was definitely the halftime show. In a league full of strange quirks and peculiarities, the halftime show was half talent show and half burlesque. A woman in a crazily patterned nude leotard attempted to shoot a target with a bow and arrow from her feet. Most others seemed entranced with the action but both of us were wondering what in the world was going on. Not only that, she BOLOed her first couple attempts before finally doing it. He asked me if this was a common halftime show and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Only in this league."

His final verdict? He wants to go to a playoff game, especially so if Arizona plays San Jose. The first half was too much and the second half wasn't enough, but I think the AFL has a new fan. Now some team just needs to sign Taylor Martinez.

Jonathan Willis is a lifelong sports fan currently residing in Monterey, CA. A small part of him died when NFL Europe was cancelled and now lives vicariously through the CFL and the AFL. He will always relish Brock Berlin throwing pick sixes both for the University of Miami and the Hamburg Sea Devils.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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