Couple of Sports, Events

Wichita Wild Football Game – Wichita, KS

Americans love football. We love it so much that we have leagues during our other leagues’ offseasons. We’ve got youth leagues, high school leagues, college leagues, professional leagues, semi-pro leagues, amateur leagues, EXTREME leagues, indoor leagues, and even a number of women’s leagues. Attach the word “football” to anything in this country (unless you mean the OTHER football), and Americans will be interested. So yes, while this may be our 4th football game that we’ve covered (High School, Boise St., Nebraska, and Green Bay Packers), we know that you’ll be interested.

This time we went indoors at an Indoor Football League (IFL) game between the Wichita Wild and the Allen Wranglers in Wichita, KS. The IFL might not be as popular or well known as the Arena Football League (AFL), but it’s second only to the NFL in terms of number of teams, and aside from a few rule differences, they’re basically the same thing.

The IFL made news prior to the start of their season when the Allen Wranglers struck up a deal with former All-Pro and Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Terrell Owens. Owens became part owner in the team, in addition to a six-figure contract. After missing the previous NFL season due to a torn ACL, Owens plans to use the IFL to showcase his talents in a game setting in hopes of persuading an NFL team to sign him during their offseason. This marks one of the first, and definitely most notable, attempts from a former NFL star to use an arena/indoor team to try to get back into the league. In the past players have used teams in the AFL or IFL as a springboard to the NFL (most notably Kurt Warner, Rashied Davis, Jay Feely, Rob Bironas, Mike Vanderjagt, and Fred Jackson), but not the other way around. It will be interesting to see if this will become a trend, a soft landing place for veteran players still trying to hold on, or will be a one time occurrence.

As for the game itself, it looks and feels like football, but with a few important differences. First off, it’s played on a field the size of a hockey rink with a 50 yard playing field and two 8 yard end zones on each side.┬áDepending on the venue, the end zones may be rectangular (like a basketball court) or curved (like a hockey rink). Heavy pads are put over the hockey dasher boards that line the playing surface. The game is played with 8 players per side, but just like regular football, the yards to gain and point scoring system is the same. The goalposts are 10 feet wide by 20 feet tall, are 10 feet above the ground, and in the IFL they usually hang from the arena ceiling. Field goal kickers can be vitally important indoors, as the shorter playing field brings about one of the other main rule differences: NO PUNTS. You either go for it on 4th down, or try to kick a field goal. Coaches can stand on the field behind the play as well, and the padded dasher boards are not necessarily out unless a player gets pushed into, or sometimes over, them.

And just like football on the 100 yard field, there are hits, sacks, great passes, even better catches, and exciting plays. But what makes the indoor game the most different is the quickness of it all. It’s almost all passing plays, and because of the short field, it’s mostly short, quick passes that march the ball down the field. The quarterbacks have to fit the ball into some very tight windows, because there’s not really much room for error. The short field and no punting rules also means tons of scoring, and as well all know, lots of scoring makes fans happy no matter what the sport. The average team scores nearly 40 points each game in the IFL, and the scoring seems to almost be non-stop. Defensive stops become crucial to victory, but great touchdowns with spectacular catches are happening all over the place.

As fun and exciting as the on-the-field action was though, it was an off-the-field story that took center stage that night. The much anticipated appearance of Terrell Owens was all for not. Unbeknownst to fans, his contract allows him to skip out on road games if he desires. Tons of fans in Dallas Cowboys #81 jerseys and other Cowboys apparel were left wanting, but sadly T.O. has only participated in a couple of away games this year, one in Colorado on his own volition, but the other visits were preempted with fully paid airfare, accommodations, and $20,000 paid to Owens. Opposing teams were asked to pay the price for Owens attendance, or run the risk that he might not show. A confirmed attendance would mean a swell in ticket sales and overall profit from the game, or they could be left with less than they started, paying one opposing player more than their entire roster’s game day salaries.

In the case of the Wichita Wild, they gambled and lost, deciding not to give in to Owens’ demands, resulting in a no show. Adding insult to injury, the Wild then went on to lose the game to the Wranglers 61-48, leaving them winless on the season after 4 games. But their moral victory resonated with fans, who were happy that their team didn’t give in and pay for him to come to Wichita. Even Jackie felt appalled when I told her that his contract only stipulated that he plays in home games. “Well that’s not fair,” she said. “It’s a team sport, you’ve got to be part of a team, like everybody else.” And isn’t that one of the reasons why we love football? No other sport has more players on a team than in football, so it can be argued that football is the quintessential “team” sport. An individual player can take over a baseball game as a pitcher, or dominate a basketball game going 1-0n-1. But in football, you need at least one other person on your team to help on any given play to be successful.

But whatever the team may be, or whether it’s outdoors or indoors, the result is clear: we Americans really love our football.

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