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The Navigator

Come out to the arena for faux football at its best

By Rick Gershman
Published April 6, 2007


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Someone asked the other day why this column is called the Navigator. I realized I haven't explained that in awhile. The first and only time was the column's debut, some 18 months and 75-plus columns ago.

The notion was that we would use this space to help you navigate through the week's entertainment offerings.

Sometimes it's pointing out an event that's a little off the beaten path. Sometimes it's previewing a major concert, but providing an off-center perspective. No matter what, we always try to give you something different.

Along those lines, I present to you:

The Tampa Bay Storm.

If you've heard of the Storm, you know it's our local franchise in the Arena Football League. So you might be thinking, "Hey, that's not entertainment. That's a sport."

Not if you've seen it. To my mind and most others, arena football is far more entertainment than sport.

Especially the way the Storm plays it.

Which is why I can wholeheartedly recommend checking out the Storm, which plays the New Orleans VooDoo - and yes, capital "D," and no, I don't know why - Saturday evening at the St. Pete Times Forum in downtown Tampa.

Let's face it, the Storm could use the help. The team has started the season 0-5.

True, the Storm used to be good - it's coming off only the second losing season in franchise history. But this is a brutal way to kick off 2007.

But I don't want to get all "sportsy" on you. Here's what's great about arena football games: With few exceptions, no one could care less about the results.

Those exceptions? The players' families, possibly, and only the most freakishly obsessed sports fans. But really, arena football is just a goof.

Though I'm a huge fan of "real" football, I enjoy an arena football game now and then.

But only live. And only while enjoying several beers. And only in the company of friends. Who are enjoying several beers.

Plus, most seats are only 15 bucks, which means beer drinkers will probably pay more for refreshment than admission. It's a fraction of what you'll pay to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise raising its prices again despite coming off a 4-12 year.

As a colleague appropriately noted, arena football is "like one step up from kickball."

But kickball, at least, has a reason to exist. Arena football is a stupid concept with stupid rules and teams with really, really stupid names.

Disagree? Go ahead, defend the San Jose SaberCats, the Nashville Kats or the Grand Rapids Rampage.

And those are gigantic improvements over some of the defunct squads. Would you ever want to play for the New England Sea Wolves? The New York CityHawks? The Minnesota Fighting Pike?

And I'm sorry, but I'd vacuum leaves off city streets before I'd play a single down for the Portland Forest Dragons.

(If you're wondering how many of those names I made up, the sad truth is: none. They're all real.)

Still, the live arena football experience is entertaining. And the Storm is not only one of the league's longest-lasting franchises (in Tampa since 1991), it also was long one of its best.

The team does boast five ArenaBowl Championships, a term so silly I had to resist putting it in quotes.

But I'm sure it's a point of pride for someone ... somewhere ... somehow.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431. He posts online at http://blogs.tampabay.com/juice/.

 

If you go

Tampa Bay Storm vs. New Orleans VooDoo

Saturday at 7:30 p.m., St. Pete Times Forum. Tickets $15-$150. Visit www.tampabaystorm.com or call 301-6600.

 

[Last modified April 5, 2007, 07:24:28]


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