By Maximillian C. Burgos | Contributing Writer
Going to watch the Philadelphia Soul at home was an experience to remember. After watching them play the Baltimore Brigade in a heated, down-to-the-wire contest, it seems like the Arena Football League has a unique element of entertainment to it.
Coming into the game, it felt like what any other professional game would feel like. There was a lot of hype, performances for the fans, and the teams where introduced, just like they would be in the NFL.
As the game got started, an immediate eye-catcher is that the offenses in the Arena Football League burrowed a lot from Canadian Leagues, with a wide receiver back deep to get a running start on the play. These running starts lead to some rainbow connections for quarterbacks on both teams.
With only a 50 yard playing field from end-zone to end-zone, there is a lot of scoring that takes place in these games. The offenses rarely depend on the run, making the pass-heavy league even more fast paced. There is not even an actual running-back. There is a full-back, he is just a glorified lineman that teams occasionally hand the ball off to.
Like many other professional sports, the AFL has many different sponsors. Many of these sponsors advertise heavily during the game and even use players in their endorsements.
During commercial breaks, the amount of fan involvement in the many challenges and performances that take place is actually pretty astonishing. Schools from all over Philadelphia and the surrounding areas got to perform musical pieces, dance, and partake in challenges, like the sword sprint.
Everything in the AFL experience is geared towards making the viewing experience as enjoyable as possible. Even though, the AFL does not have an enormous following, the lower-tier of the Wells Fargo Center was pretty full with the 9,487 people in attendance, so the viewing enjoyment must be appealing to a good number of people in Philadelphia.
The various promotions that the Soul offer fans to redeem at different restaurants is also very appealing to those who come. Soul fans can get crab fries in one location or a free burrito in another. The offers are truly worth the price of admission.
The players are for the most part very professional as well. Barring the small scuffle at the end of the tightly contested game, the players are better behaved then some of the ones we see in the NFL.
The fans of the game are also really into the experience. The announcer did not have much trouble hyping the fans up to support their team. In some instances in the game, it was hard to hear yourself think with all the cheering going on. When the Soul scored, the crowd would erupt with cheer.
There were rarely a time when the fans seemed not into the game. Though the Soul spent most of the game chasing the Brigade’s lead, the fans never wavered in support for their team.
At the end of the game, players sign things for fans and get to have a closer relationship with fans. The interview process for players and coaches a like went really smoothly, with both acting with the utmost professionalism.
At the end of the night, one could only wonder, with a sport so entertaining and fans so into the games, how is this sport not bigger? Maybe it has something to do with the sport’s age and low count of teams, but there is something special here.