Monday, January 30, 2006

I went to a truck pull and an Arena Football game broke out.

Best story of the morning - NPR's "Morning Edition" (David Kestenbaum) talked with folks in N'Awlins about a timeline of the Katrina flooding. It was compiled by a crime scene investigator looking at the time clocks stopped in flooded "dead spots" (the places where dead people were discovered). This has lead to definitive reports being somewhat revised and debated as it undercuts alleged defenses of the levees. Even the Industrial levee gave way long before water running over the top of a levee ("overtopping") would have knocked out a trench and caused the levee to fail. Bad designs everywhere, loads of liability to spread around. Scary accurate reporting. The kind I expect from NPR.

Over the weekend I tested out a low-brow, questionably-talented sports League. I owed my friend, Sockie, some sort of sporting event to settle a bet from our NFL pool. An Arena Football League game was my idea. The San Jose SaberCats vs. the Utah Blaze. Arena Football's got more sexual tawdriness and none of the self-awareness or occasional restraint seen in the NFL. They use a smaller field and have modified the rules to encourage much more scoring. They use cushioned sideboards to contain the action like in hockey and give the bloodthirsty fans the thrill of collisions that sound much worse than they are.
A crowd of nearly 14,000 weirdos including us mostly filled the place. The overly-featured cheerleaders (the SaberKittens) line both end zones, even when the offense is looking to score on the goalline. Cannonfire and other audio assaults pour over the crowd constantly. A handful of facepainters and strangely-dressed suburban rebels sat in the best zones for inadvertent TV coverage fame.

We bought scalped tix outside and ended up in the 6th row on the 20-ish yard-line next to a creepy Dad with binoculars trained on the SaberKittens while his 8-year-old-ish son tried to make sense of the confusing spectacle. On the other side of Sockie sat a hefty pair of high-fiving, freakishly-involved fans. People in the rows ahead of us acted as if they somewhat knew each other, like they'd met last season at a truck pull and lapsed into this poorly-trained posse. This was the Season Opener, and the SaberCats are next going on a 5-week string of Road games. Ouch - hard to build a fanbase that way.

Making the roster of the SaberCats is either a nearly last stop on a fading route (ex-NFL QB Stoney Case played in the 2nd Half) or a hard way to make a living for a young guy. Everyone on the field vamped like they have all the goods necessary for the jump to the NFL. Well, aside from the size, the speed and the superhuman talent.

The game started on a high note. Quite literally. An amazing National Anthem by a hefty African-American trumpeter that put a lump in even the grittiest throat. But that high lasted just 2:30 into the First Quarter. The SaberCats threw one to the corner of the endzone and the receiver held onto the ball as he crashed into an un-cushioned metal guardrail. He was on the ground amidst a swirl of medical and stadium personnel for the next 20 minutes. If there was any buzz in the place, it was dead after that. Oh sure, everyone did their best to fake it. They had a "Kiss Cam" play on the 4-sided center-ice scoreboard to hilarious (and humiliating) effect. The Blaze were a complete mess. Hell, we even stayed in our seats until just before halftime. But this game had lost us at "hello", the SaberCats went on to lose as expected, and I can say with assurance that I'll never go to another Arena Football game. This League should be put into a bag with a snake, and thrown into a swirling river. Amazingly, the AFL is celebrating their 20th Season this year. They may give dozens of good-hearted strippers a few easy shifts a few times a month. But they're not helping anyone with this crap.

Here's hoping that Bob Woodruff comes out alright from his injuries suffered in Iraq over the weekend. Rock on.

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