Briefly: Rush vs. Slaughter? (or: “Steve McMichael, Friggin’ Genius?”)

21 02 2010

Allow me to quote directly (and completely) from Dave Kaplan and Fred Mitchell’s Around Town column in the Chicago Tribune today:

Steve McMichael, coach of the Indoor Football League Slaughter, has issued a dare to the Rush of the new Arena Football League.

“I want to challenge them to a game or a scrimmage,” McMichael said Friday during a news conference to announce that former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon is among the team’s new owners. “I think it would be great for Chicago. I know (one of) their owners, Mike Ditka, (whose favorite charities are) Misericordia, the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation … the money can go to that.”

When was Steve McMichael granted the wisdom of Solomon? I always thought he was recommending cleaving infants in two because he was bughouse crazy. But perhaps he was… crazy as like unto a fox? On the other hand, if the infant AFL wants to keep the IFL as a satellite, AAA league, the Rush had better only accept this game if they think they can win.





$6.1 Million Had Better Buy You the URL

18 02 2010

Good morning, Arena Football fan(s?)!

As of Tuesday, www.arenafootball.com was still like Colonial Williamsburg, if everyone who was paid to dress up like Goody Witch-hunter and Goodman Wimple decided “fuck it, let’s go get a beer and a Nissan Versa” and never returned. “Ah,” one might say, visiting this well-preserved ghost town, “so this is how Arena Football lived when Vesuvius exploded.” You had to go to something stupid like http://www.arenafootballone.com to fail to follow what on earth was going on with the clumsy, fawn-like stumbling of the new league. Yesterday, however, ARENA FOOTBALL DOT COM RETURNETH! With a snazzy graphic! They can hire graphic designers! You can even, if you are so inclined, play the game “Which of these teams were conceived in the last 3 months, last several years, or the Bronze Age?” (Hey, Rattlers, your logo just broke its hip falling down in the shower.)

STEALING IMAGES AGAIN: WE ARE OFFICIALLY "BACK!" (Note: not actually Back)

Stealing Graphics again! It's like we never stopped blogging!

You would also do well to note the partnership with the NFL Network, as well as the fact that the design of the Tulsa Talons looks like it has a dorsal fin, which can only mean: EAGLESHARK.





IT LIVES (Bon Jovi-less, and Distinctly Lacking Grudens)

16 02 2010

Perhaps you’ve noticed a subtle buzz around the water cooler; there’s a spring in your step, the source of which you can’t quite identify. The sun shines a little brighter, and strangers smile at each other in the street.

This is probably because olympic curling starts today in Vancouver.

Also, hey: the AFL is back! We don’t even have to call it Arena Football One (1) anymore! According to sources (a profootballtalk.com post forwarded to us at least twice), the old nomenclature was used on a conference call from the league. WOOOO. AIN’T NOTHIN’ STOPPING US NOW!

Albany, not part of the league, don't worry

Rising! Like a phoenix! Or a Firebird! Whatever!

We were going to wait until this clusterfuckery ended, and there were some actual games to be played, or data to be massaged, or characters to be assassinated, but whatever. There was a conference call! Kosar and Ditka are back! It’s a war! Indoors! On the floor! Petit four! Esprit de corps!

Who’s involved?

South Division: Alabama (Huntsville – space camp!) Vipers, Jacksonville Sharks (Al Pacino-coached), Orlando Predators (Now with Zero Grudens),  Tampa Bay Storm (Brett Dietz!)

Southwest Division: Bossier-Shreveport (LA) Battle Wings (served with a side of bleu cheese dressing), Dallas Vigilantes (Dr. Dolezel bought the name Desperado for his own perpetual use, thank you), Oklahoma City Yard Dogz (I will never use this name), Tulsa Talons (formerly the Pittsburgh Phlanges)

Midwest Division: Chicago Rush (Wooo! We’re getting the band back together!), Cleveland Gladiators (Wooo? We’re getting the band back together?), Iowa Barnstormers (Look, it’s not like Kurt Warner’s doing anything), Milwaukee Iron (Wooo. We’re getting the band back “together.” With Ringo’s kid playing the drums.)

West Division: Arizona Rattlers (I wonder if the money-back guarantee’s still good), Spokane Shock (more like shocked to find themselves in Spokane, am I right? Oh, let’s just get through this), Utah Blaze (who are currently holding open tryouts, and that’s really the only news of use on arenafootballone.com)

Conspicuous by their absence: Jaws/Bon Jovi-owned Philadelphia Soul, only the current Arena Bowl Champions; Grudens; ESPN (Hooray? The NFL Network?); San Jose Sabercats and ol’ LazerQBVision; actual useful data.

On the other hand: football games, starting April 10. -ish.





We review “Big Fan”: they sent us a screener!

11 01 2010

"Big Fan" - it's about football, sort of!

It’s been a while since we’ve had any hot-off-the-presses news regarding that good ol’ redheaded cousin nobody likes to talk about, the AFL, but we recently received an offer to take an advanced look at “Big Fan”, last year’s well-reviewed but barely-seen dark comedy starring Patton Oswalt. Since we’re both fans of free stuff, and JM’s been playing over here as of late, we said “hell yes”.

“Big Fan” follows Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt), a die-hard New York Giants fan that has diddly-squat to live for. When a chance encounter with his hero, the G-Men’s star linebacker Quantrell Bishop, goes seriously wrong, Paul ends up in the hospital and Bishop is benched, and the Giants’ playoff hopes start to fade faster than a Plaxico Burress touchdown route (provided he hasn’t shot himself in the leg,  been arrested, or jailed). Paul decides he’s coming down with amnesia, in the hopes Bishop will get to retake the field, the Giants have a better record than the Eagles, and his rival sports talk caller, Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport) will have to eat a plate of crow.

Commence the tried-and-true POINT-COUNTERPOINT:

POINT: STORY: JM: “Big Fan” is a typical indie feature – small in scope. So small that a movie about a giant Giants fan does not feature a lick of on-screen sport. Oswalt is the ultimate outsider, so far removed from the team he loves he’s forced to watch games in the Meadowlands parking lot. This, however, is to the film’s advantage. By keeping the stakes low and not going with the obvious Hollywood plot turns, “Big Fan” feels frighteningly authentic, which makes the relatively small stakes feel big and black-comedy end note all the more visceral.

TC: ADDENDUM: If there had been ONE MOMENT of football action, the story would’ve collapsed. We only are able to experience the despair and joy and hope and pathos through watching Oswalt’s reactions. We’re obligated to trust his reactions, because we get – at best – snippets of play-by-play. And more stunningly (to me): Oswalt succeeds in doing it for us. I never for one moment went “Well, this is unbelievably overboard.” This MAY be due to the fact that I’m a sports fan, and have (recently, as a matter of fact) lived and died with a team’s fortunes. Mind you, I didn’t get the crap kicked out of me by Cory Wooton (as they say in Spain: El Espoiler!) but still: it’s scary how we’re able to say to ourselves “there but for the grace of God go I.”

PATTON OSWALT, ET AL, POINT: TC: If I have one complaint with the performances, it’s that Patton Oswalt’s character is dumped into a pastiche of random Jersey/Staten Island stereotypes. So, you have this nuanced, tortured character hanging out with pretend people. With the exception of his pal, who’s a nicely affable, if dim, fellow.

Let us now discuss my favorite Patton Oswalt performance: any time he’s crafting/delivering one of his radio-call-in rants. I think I said while I was watching the movie that it reminded me of high school speech. But it’s actually the obsessive crafting of a comedy bit. It makes complete and total sense, and makes Oswalt the perfect choice. I could watch him assemble and deliver his rants all day.

JM: EXTRA POINT: I agree, Kevin Corrigan, the house-party host from “Superbad” among other stuff, is amusing as Oswalt’s dimwitted partner in fandom. His family members are somewhat generic, but I’d argue Oswalt’s performance and character keeps those stereotypes in check. Michael Rapaport is fun as the quintessential asshole fan of your rival team.

On Oswalt rehearsing his call-in rants: yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. The call-in scenes illustrate both the gross inadequacies and blind fanaticism of our protagonist. His passion is hindered by his propensity to mix metaphors and trip over his own words, which isn’t helped by the thin walls separating his bedroom from his mother’s. There’s been a quiet buzz among the critics and online community that Oswalt’s performance could make him a dark horse Oscar contender, and likewise the widened field for ten best picture nominees could give “Big Fan” a chance for wider exposure.

Which brings us to our final

POINT: OVERALL IMPRESSION: JM: I was thrilled to finally see this flick. It played in Chicago for one night at the Music Box (where I also missed a Q&A with writer/director Robert Siegel and Oswalt) back in October, and despite a strongly positive critical reception the film didn’t see a wider theatrical release after it’s initial tour. “Big Fan” is a simple story told with uncommon grace. Aside from being both a riveting drama and occasionally laugh-out-loud dark comedy, we’re given a chance to reflect on what it means to be loyal to your team, and how our teams can bring us together or drive us apart. Oswalt’s expressions when watching the final game of the regular season are priceless, and the lengths he’ll go to for the Giants are all the more bleakly comic when we consider how far removed he is from his team.

TC: Oswalt is riveting. End of line. A nuanced, graceful, subtle film, handled delicately but not fluffily. If you’re a fan of sports, you know this. And if you’re not a fan of sports, this is just scary. My main criticism is I have no idea if the last 25 minutes of the movie is buy-able if you don’t follow sports. I think it might read as just pitiful and crazy to people who haven’t expended inappropriate amounts of emotion rooting for laundry.

It nails the critical fact that the players that fans root for, obsess over, and think they know are so far removed from their fans that they may be a different species. It’s a movie that grips you, and does its work without hammering you over the head. You aren’t embarrassed enough for Oswalt to stop rooting for him, and he’s not so pitiful you feel distanced from him. Somehow it walks a tightrope for, what, 90 minutes? 110? How long was this movie?

JM: 87 minutes.

It’s a jim-dandy of a little thriller/dark comedy, and is certainly worth checking out when it’s released on DVD this Tuesday.

“Big Fan” was written and directed by “The Wrestler” scribe Robert Siegel, and stars Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, and Michael Rapaport. We regret to inform you that no Eagles fans were hurt in the making of the film.





The Michael Vick Dilemma

13 07 2009

So you are running a brand new football league made up of NFL retreads and undrafted college players.  You are planning on playing games on Thursday and Friday nights during the NFL season and you are trying to develop a fan following and bring people into stadiums in this troubled economy.  What do you do to try and make a statement, try to eke out a spot in the ever-increasing world of sport?  Well, there is a very interesting option that may or may not come into play.  Michael Vick was drafted by the Orlando franchise.

This brings up a very interesting question.  Is the media circus that is guaranteed to follow Vick good or bad for the league?  First, it is nowhere near a done deal that Vick would come play in the UFL.  He comes off of house arrest for the dogfighting charges sometime this month and the NFL commissioner will be making a determination if Vick is going to be suspended further.  If he is suspended by the NFL, the UFL commissioner would also need to make a ruling if he would be able to play for them.  Then there is the issue of Vick himself, if he even wants to come play in a “minor” league.  But that’s not what we’re talking about today.  Today, we look at the fundamental question of if the UFL should let Vick come play for them.

One thing that Vick brings immediately is publicity.  There is no question about that.  I can see the headlines right now: “Disgraced star to play in upstart league” and so on.  But with Vick would most certainly come a lot of negative publicity.  I’m sure that the PETA folks are going to be all over him, regardless of where he ends up playing.  Does the UFL really want that kind of press?  I think so.  For an upstart league, any publicity (with a few exceptions) is good publicity.  I don’t think that Vick will end up playing in the UFL.  For Vick, this could be an opportunity to show an NFL team that 2 years away from the game (in prison) hasn’t taken away from his abilities.

I have a hunch that Roger Goddell will let him back and the circus will follow him to the big leagues.  For the UFL though, I think they would love to have a chance to let him bring some attention to their league.





If you have a draft and nobody knows about it, did it really happen?

19 06 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present you with the latest in a long line of “minor league” football– The UFL!  The United Football League is planning to kick off their season this October with franchises in New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Billing themselves as a developmental league is not a bad plan, but competing with the “sanctity” of High School football by playing on Thursday and Friday nights may not be the best idea.  They did apparently get a national TV deal with the Thursday night games appearing on Versus.

To give them some credit, they did start off with some big names to coach their teams.  Jim Fassel will take the helm in Vegas, Jim Haslett will coach in Orlando, longtime Defensive Coordinator Ted Cotrell will be in New York, and in San Francisco… What’s that…?  It’s a Denny Green sighting!

So last night, the UFL decided to get together behind closed doors and have themselves a little draft.  They didn’t tell anyone when they were going to have their little secret get-together to divvy up has-been/never was NFL players and college grads who weren’t going to get a sniff in the NFL to begin with.  Retread coaches and retread players, sounds like a recipe for some fantastic football action! Probably the best known name to come out of the draft is former Chicago Bear and St. Louis Ram Adam Archuletta.  There had been some chatter that J.P. Lossman and Michael Vick would be involved in the draft, but it was not to be.  Denny Green had some interesting choices.  He loved coaching Larry Fitzgerald so much with the Cardinals, he drafted Larry’s little brother Marcus to play for him in San Fran.  He also picked our favorite AFL superstar Brett Dietz to play QB.  I can picture the first press conference.  “Brett Dietz is what we thought he was!”  Good times!

Over the next couple months as more players and more details about the league come out, be sure to tune in here for all the latest and greatest on the UFL.  After all, with College Football and the NFL, there certainly isn’t enough football going on in the fall!





Guest Post: Exploring the CIFL: Minor Minor-League Football

6 04 2009

Yes, the AFL is twisting in the wind, and despite rumors the league will return in some form for 2010, what is the wacky-indoor-football fan to do in the interim? One of our regular readers, known to you as Mr. jcompton, caught a CIFL game and filed the following report.

 

Football with seven men? This is madness!

Football with seven men? This is madness!

 

What’s an AFL fan to do this year? Why, avail himself of the hometown, expansion, second-tier indoor football team playing down the road, of course! Up in Madison, Wisconsin, we’re fortunate enough to have a new indoor team, the Wisconsin Wolfpack of the CIFL. The CIFL is better known as “The league with the Chicago team currently fielding a bunch of ex-Rush guys slaughtering the other seven teams.” I was part of an intimate gathering watching the Wolfpack beat the Rock River Raptors, 50-23.

I don’t know precisely how or why the Wolfpack got started, but I do know that their playing field used to belong to the Pensacola Barracudas, a defunct AF2 team. The AF2 logo is still at midfield and the Barracudas logo is still in the end zone. They’re a bit smudged, like somebody spent a few minutes scrubbing at it with turpentine, then said “This is second-tier minor league indoor football—why am I breaking my back?” and gave up.

At a generous guess, I’d say there were maybe 1300 people in the stands, in a stadium with capacity for 10,000+. It’s hard to say whether this being Final Four night hurt ticket sales, as the stands looked pretty empty in the photos from the Wolfpack’s only other home game to date. The fans in the stands were certainly thinking basketball, though—when the PA announcer broke the news of Michigan State’s win, he got arguably the biggest roar of the night. (Big Ten solidarity?) In any case, I got fine seats just walking up to the box office window 20 minutes before kickoff.

Read the rest of this entry »








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