Book Report: War on the Floor
With the 2011 Arena Football League season fast approaching, I figured it was time that I finally got around to reading Jeff Foley’s book, War on the Floor: An Average Guy Plays in the Arena Football League, and Lives to Write About It. I have owned the book for several years but never read it until now. The book may have been published 10 years ago in 2001, but it is still relevant today and takes readers back to a time when the AFL was just getting popular.
Foley, a journalist at the time, appeared for one play in a pre-season game in 1999 for the Albany Firebirds. He played offensive specialist, but the ball was not even thrown to him during his one play on the field. Foley joined the team just before making the trip to Milwaukee to play in the game and really did not get to know anyone on the team.
However, that single play in a 1999 pre-season game was enough to inspire Foley to rejoin the team in 2000 and participate in the entire 18-day training camp that included playing in two pre-season games. He got to know the players quire well during that time and the book is a daily diary of what it is like to go though an AFL training camp. Albany went on to win ArenaBowl XIII that year.
Foley’s experience was similar to what George Plimpton went through when he wrote his 1965 book Paper Lion. Plimpton went through training camp with the NFL Detroit Lions and also played in a preseason game.
What I liked about the book was that it took me back to a time when the Arena Football League was just beginning to make a name for itself in the sporting world. The league was gaining in popularity each year.
Even though the book was published 10 years ago, many things still ring true today, from rookies desperately trying to make the team to veteran players trying to hold onto their jobs. Many players were separated from their wives, girlfriends and kids for the entire season because they lived in another part of the country.
Foley also recounts the night that the team received their championship rings from the previous season.
At the time, the league minimum salary was $600 per week with a $200 bonus for winning a game. Incidentally, 2000 was the first year that players were actually paid for participating in training camp.
Several Firebird players and other members of the team featured in the book went on to bigger abd better things in later years;
“Touchdown” Eddie Brown – an offensive specialist for the Firebirds, was named the Greatest Player in AFL History in 2006. The list of the AFL’s 20 Greatest Players was compiled in connection with the league’s 20th season. He went on to become head coach of the Fort Wayne Fusion of arenafootball2 in 2007. His son, Antonio Brown, is a rookie wide receiver/kick returner for the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers and played in Super Bowl XLV this past Sunday.
Ari Wolfe - was the Firebirds’ radio announcer in 2000. In 2010, he was featured as a sideline reporter during Friday night AFL games on the NFL Network.
Mike Dailey – the Firebirds’ head coach, went on to coach the Colorado Crush and led the team to an ArenaBowl title in 2005.
Raymond Philyaw – played quarterback for the Firebirds through 2003. He then went on to play for the Chicago Rush, Kansas City Brigade and Cleveland Gladiators. In 2010, he was playing for the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings until an injury ended his season. He finished the year on the team’s coaching staff.
Jeff Loots – played quarterback for several teams during his AFL career which lasted from 1994-2004. His last team was the Grand Rapids Rampage.
Derek Stingley – is the son of former NFL player Darryl Stingley. He went on to become the head coach of the af2 South Georgia Wildcats. This coming season he will be the head coach of the AFL New Orleans VooDoo.
The 2000 season would be the last in Albany for the Firebirds. The team moved to Indianapolis and became the Indiana Firebirds from 2001-2004. A new arenafootball2 franchise called the Albany Conquest replaced the Firebirds in 2002. In 2009, the team changed its name back to the Firebirds, but the team folded along with the rest of the af2 after the 2009 season.
So, if you are looking for an Arena Football League blast from the past, then this is the book for you! 2011 will be the AFL’s 24th season.
MORE FROM THE PAST
Jeff Foley’s original ArenaFan articles are still available on the web site. To read them, just follow this link.
You can purchase a copy of War on the Floor: An Average Guy Plays in the Arena Football League, and Lives to Write About It at Amazon.com.