How great was the first ever D.C. Armor indoor football game played at home last night?
Okay, think about the best sporting event you've ever been to. Maybe it was a really great game you went to in college. Maybe it was your first time seeing your favorite pro team in person. Maybe it was even seeing the Giants upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl, or Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal at the Olympics last summer, or Ali beating Joe Frazier in Manila.
This was so much better than all of them.
And the reason it was so great had very little to do with anything that actually happened on the field. The whole event had a hokey, circus-like atmosphere. It was professional sports done on a shoestring budget. Ideas that would get someone fired and barred from the building at Redskins Park were evidently embraced wholeheartedly by the Armor. And it was awesome.
Here's the recap:
-- When we got off the Metro at the Stadium-Armory station, we were surprised at how big the crowd was. There was even a scalper on the sidewalk offering to buy extra tickets. "Holy crap," I thought, "this is an incredible turnout! Thank God I got the tickets ahead of time instead of trying to buy them at the door!"
Then I realized the United were playing at RFK, right next door. The Armory was practically empty. Which was obviously bad for the Armor, but great for the fans.
-- The team's mascot was a knight. Not just any knight. A knight on loan from goddamn Medieval Times. Yes! That Medieval Times! So he'd go back and forth between rallying support for the team and shilling for his other employer.
-- The woman who served as the on-field announcer, introducing people like the cheerleaders and a so-called "special guest" from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (no one from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission should ever be referred to as a special guest) and handling all the contests fans played to win stuff throughout the game, had a nearly-indecipherable Southern accent, and was a big fan of the word "uh."
-- The Armor's head coach would occasionally start dancing on the field when there was a slow moment. When's the last time Zorn did that?
-- The guy running the clock seemed to have dozed off and left it running after an incomplete pass once or twice. (At first I thought this may have been one of the many weird rules of indoor football, like how if the ball goes through the goal posts on a kick-off, the kicking team gets one point. But other times when there were incomplete passes, the clock was stopped.)
-- Pop quiz: Which team had more players booed during the introductions before the game?
A) The visiting team
B) The home team
If you said A, good guess, but wrong. Since this was the first home game, I'm not sure what some of the Armor's players did to draw the ire of their own fans, but I guess they're locals who are somewhat well-known and somewhat disliked by the people in the stands.
-- After a ball went off the field early in the game, the announcer informed the crowd that if you recovered a lost ball, you got to keep it. It very quickly became obvious that this was a terrible idea.
Not surprisingly, it was mainly little kids who would go after the balls, and they were fucking fighting over them. And because balls were constantly going out of bounds (there are no nets set up for extra points or field goals, so every kicked ball automatically becomes a souvenir), there were a lot of balls to fight over. It was like tossing bread crumbs into a group of hungry pigeons.
One of the first balls that went off the field, about five or six kids got there at the same time, and none of them would let go of it for a good minute or so. Another ball was kicked high into the stands, and a small kid was there all by himself to recover it, but an army of other kids kept rushing up the stairs towards him. If one of the parents hadn't shouted at them, they were going to jump him for it. There were about a dozen other scuffles after that one.
Another out-of-bounds pass came towards the stands, where a guy tried to catch the ball in one arm, while holding a baby in the other. He managed to do so, and received a round of applause from the relived crowd, that had been horrified just a moment before. (It was, sadly, the best reception of the entire night.)
This business with the balls is not a lawsuit waiting to happen. This is several lawsuits waiting to happen.
-- You know the cheerleaders in The Replacements? The Armor cheerleaders weren't that explicit, but there did seem to be a lot more...er...gyrating than you typically see from dancers in your more high-profile sports leagues.
Also, since there were no sidelines, when not on the field dancing, the cheerleaders were forced to stand on the public walkway around the field where fans could walk right by them, talk to them, leer, whatever.
-- As for the game itself, it was surprisingly good. I mean, not good in the technical football sense. But certainly, it was entertaining. Neither team is in any danger of losing any of their players to the NFL, but that's part of the charm. At one point, the Reading Express had something like three botched snaps in a row. There were multiple sacks. There were even more penalties, especially of the off-sides variety.
But the players were surprisingly into it. I would have thought there'd be a certain lethargy; a sort of, "Fuck it, it's just semi-pro ball" attitude. But the players were easily as enthusiastic as those on any NFL team. More importantly, the fans were into it. I probably had as much fun watching this game as I did the last Redskins game I went to, all for about a quarter of the cost. I highly encourage anyone who loves football--or at least, a good sideshow--to check out a game. I'm definitely going to go to at least a couple more this season. The June 6th game against the Baltimore Mariners should be really good, assuming some Baltimorons make the trip down.
If I had one suggestion for the Armor, it would be this: Don't take yourself too seriously, and don't do anything to "class up" the current D.C. Armor experience. If anything, make it even more absurd. More anything goes. People generally aren't going to be motivated to come out and watch indoor football played by a bunch of guys they've never heard of, but they'll come out in droves to watch a real-life version of the Flint Tropics.