http://www.digitaljournal.com/sports/op-ed-the-arena-football-league-why-not/article/427054

Op-Ed: The Arena Football League, why not?

Posted Feb 26, 2015 by Vincent Gerace
In this time of year it seems people are always craving to fill the whole the end of the football season leaves. For many, the solution has been around for decades, the Arena Football League.
American football.
American football.
Wikimedia Commons
Well, it’s an interesting time for football fans. A time where many sit tied to their televisions watching the NFL Combine, or looking at highlights of their favorite team from the year previous. A time when we are void of football games and try to somehow fill the empty spot left by the conclusion of the Super Bowl. A time that others have tried to fill with spring professional football time and time again and others will make this attempt as well.
However, so many forget, or never give the due respect to the fact that spring professional football is already here. I am talking about the Arena Football League. Yes, the AFL, and for those who are AFL fans there is a true love and real passion for this version of America’s favorite sport. Yet, some still won’t give the Arena Football League the chance to win them over as fans. I wonder why that is.
Many say that the AFL is a gimmick. A gimmick? If your asking me, a gimmick does not last over 20 years, as the AFL has. Conceptualized in 1981 on the back of a manila envelope founder James Foster was inspired for the idea while attending an indoor soccer game. A test game was played in 1986 and following positive response, the AFL began in 1987. Sound people would credit this “gimmick” status to the rule changes that differ from the outdoor version of the game. However, let’s take a second to acknowledge that every football league has different rules than the next. The NFL and the college game don’t feature the same rules, and they are the two most supported football entities in this country. Just as that is the case, so is it that high school and college have different rules. Also, as this spring time football hangover sets in new outdoor leagues featuring ‘traditional’ play pop up to try and try to feed our football hunger but even those leagues differ in rules so why is this looked at as a negative thing by some and really only attributed to the AFL?
Consider the major rule changes that come with arena football. The field is about half the size in both directions, the goal post is smaller than typical, the field is bordered with walls (like in hockey but padded and no glass), and there are fewer players on the field. The substantially smaller field results in more scoring, which leads to exciting, high scoring match-ups, which accommodate a fast passed and pass heavy play style. Which is what the NFL is clearing trending towards and it becomes more pass friendly ever year, and the rules that hinder the defensive backfield only create more big plays and scoring. The smaller goal post makes the kicking game more exciting and is something we saw the NFL do in the Pro-Bowl and we can only imagine they will continue to tinker with this.
So, what the AFL all ready provides the NFL, the end all be all of pro football as some see it, is trying to mimic. The walls or “dasher boards” as they are called, help create opportunities for big hits, and the quarterbacks, the life blood of the indoor game, are actually allowed to be hit like football players. This is something the NFL is trying to take away that has fans in an up roar at “every roughing the passer” call an NFL referee makes.
While in the AFL those hits are legal and a thrilling part of the game.
With that we establish that in some cases the AFL has the NFL wants and what fans what in the NFL the AFL has. In addition to that, whatever a football fan wants, I assure you the game’s indoor variation has. Loyal fans, check. A great atmosphere, check. Exciting, high quality play, check. Great athletes playing at a high level, check. There are those who believe the last of the list is not the case, and the argument is, “If they are great athletes they’d be in the NFL.” Yes, the NFL is the cream of the crop, no one is denying that. It is also the only major pro sport without an affiliate minor league system. So if one can look at a AAA baseball player as a “great athlete” why not an Arena Football player? Is it because the football players doesn’t have an NFL logo stitched on his sleeve and the baseball player has an MLB one? Don’t be fooled, these are great athletes.
Also, there have been plenty of minor leagues that tried to tie themselves to the NFL as a feeder organization. The United Football League among the more recent to start and fold up shop with the North American Football League and others looking to take flight in the next spring or two and many others that never even got off the ground. All lucked wished to those new leagues but none before them have been able to make it work or hitch their wagon to the NFL train. The reason for this, I do not know, but I do know that through all of the that the Arena Football League has been a constant so whatever they are doing is working. They were even able to come back after a year long hiatus to reorganize their financial structure, a move many thought was a death sentence.
Let’s not forget about the countless players to make the move from the NFL to the Arena Football League. Kurt Warner is obviously the most famous and well known of these but there have been others who either needed to hone their skills or needed to put out more film to be noticed and the Arena Football League provided that platform.
So before we try to quench our thirst on a new outdoor professional football league to fill our spring time football void take a look at what we already have offered to us: a competitive, high energy, exciting brand of football to not only keep us busy in the NFL off season but keep us wanting more, because if you give the AFL a try it won’t be the last time.