Indoor football is underrated

Derek Harper, Columnist

Once the Super Bowl is over, people claim there’s no football until the NFL starts up again the following season. Yet so many people don’t understand that indoor football is real football, it’s just a different sized field with different rules. 

But when it comes down to it, it’s still real football, just a different style. 

One thing that indoor football brings to people in cities with a team is fairly affordable game tickets compared to the NFL. 

Personally, when Portland had a team in the now defunct Arena Football League (AFL) I was able to attend multiple games compared to the price of attending one NFL game.

There are three main leagues when it comes to indoor football. The National Arena League (NAL) is a regional league in the eastern United States while Champions Indoor Football (CIF) is a smaller midwest based league. 

The Indoor Football League (IFL), of which the Spokane Shock are in, spans from Spokane to Worcester, Massachusetts where the Massachusetts Pirates are located. 

The IFL is the biggest league among the three with teams sprinkled throughout the nation.

Caleb Bouchy, current Arizona State student with Cronkite Sports and Founder of Arizona Sports Box has family ties to the sport. 

His parents used to own the Orlando Predators while his uncle used to be a part owner of the Jacksonville Sharks.

“I think that’s just a huge stereotype, that everyone thinks this is a rip-off of the NFL,” Bouchy said.

When it comes to the indoor game, if a ball lands in the stands, you get to keep it. 

A lot of teams have interactive halftime activities such as youth sporting events on the field. Many teams allow fans to meet the players by having post-game autograph sessions. 

If a fan interferes, the fan interference penalty is simply replaying the down according to Columbus (GA) Lions majority owner Joshua Blair.

Blair explained how each team has community involvement and that usually the better teams have a lot more involvement than the teams that are just getting started. Communities are very involved with their team and the team is very involved with their community.

“When we have the halftime events, kids are all over the field. We’ve held I don’t know how many soccer games at halftime from local schools. We’ve also had flag football games held at halftime,” Blair said.

One thing unique about attending an indoor football game is how close you are to the action. 

If you’re in the first couple rows, make sure to have your head on a swivel, especially if you have food or a beverage. When players crash into or over the boards, you could have a player in your lap and have your food or beverage spilled all over. 

One aspect the wall creates is if a player has control of the ball in the end zone and goes over the wall, it’s a touchdown.

When Portland had an AFL team I was able to get close to the action and see fast-paced, high scoring games. We were entertained with pre-game introductions with motorcycles and halftime events such as a youth rugby match.

Compared to the outdoor game, a shorter field allows for fast-paced action and higher scoring. 

With how fast-paced games are, there has to be a running clock to keep games at a reasonable length. Teams can be behind by a small margin towards the end of the game, with as little time left as just around a minute or so, and come back to win.

Blair explained how the pace of the game is really the thing that makes the sport special because you can score on every single play of the game, including the kick-off, since there are no punts. 

A good quarterback can throw from one end of the field to the other. A team could be on the one yard line and throw a touchdown in the end zone. You can even be on one end of the field as far down as the one yard line and kick a field goal.

It was always entertaining at games in Portland when a player would run the ball from one end of the field to the other after the ball came down off the rebound net. 

Players getting hit against the wall and sometimes falling into a fan or flipping over the wall in the end zone for a touchdown was always exciting.

There’s also the deuce rule in the NAL and IFL where in the IFL if a team kicks it through the uprights in the final 60 seconds of either half, they get two points. In the NAL, the deuce rule is in effect the whole game.

Bouchy explained how despite the different rule changes between indoor and outdoor football, especially when it comes to the AFL, that it’s just a different style of football.

“Anyone that says that arena football is just a minor league compared to the NFL have just never seen a game or have been to a game,” Bouchy said.

Arena football games are unscripted when it comes to the game and even off the field. 

Bouchy explained how in games he’s been to, he could tell how the PA announcer wasn’t reading off a script when he was getting the crowd fired up. 

Similar to chuck-a-puck in hockey where fans throw soft rubber pucks at a target on the ice between periods, Bouchy explained how he’s seen fans throw mini footballs into the sunroof of a truck in the middle of the field at halftime.

He explained how teams have different traditions like the Arizona Rattlers who have something they call the concussion bomb where they play a bomb-like sound effect for every touchdown they scored. 

He said the Orlando Predators started kind of copying that idea as well during their AFL days before the newer Predators franchise in the NAL started up.

“It was just very loud and rowdy, it’s something I don’t think you’ll find in an NFL game, it’s just you can tell these people when it comes to game entertainment and experience, they’re just following off a simple script,” Bouchy said.

Even touchdown celebrations aren’t very creative in the NFL, but with the arena game you see teams coming up with the craziest of celebrations.

In college football and the NFL, towards the end of the game, teams can just kneel and run the clock out. But with arena football, teams must gain at least a yard or the clock will stop, and if you don’t get a first down, you turn the ball over. 

Bouchy explains how that’s a huge critical moment when a team is trying to win the game in the final seconds. He’s seen teams lose that way a lot, including during the AFL days when the Orlando Predators and Jacksonville Sharks went head to head.

When it comes to the community, Bouchy explained how during the off-season the team really makes sure they’re busy. If the COVID-19 pandemic weren’t going on right now, the prime focus for the Rattlers would be doing charity events.

During early spring and summer, he says other than indoor football the only other two sports going on are baseball and women’s basketball with WNBA having such a short lineup of teams. With the short lineup they have, their season isn’t super long, so this gives indoor football the ability to have more of a spotlight.

The number one sport here in America he explained, is football and having it year-round is the biggest benefit to it. 

Indoor football is a sport where those going into sports journalism, broadcasting and other fields can get their start in the sports industry. 

It gives fans something to go do on a spring and summer night. It’s truly something that people should give a chance and watch.