If you haven't had a chance to watch last week's game between the Quad Cities Steamwheelers and the Green Bay Blizzard, you need to it. It was an instant classic, down to the wire, filled with excitement, wackiness and all you could ever dream of from an indoor game.
It was also kids day at the Resch Center and the first opportunity for a number of kids to really understand what indoor football means. Getting close to the wall and maybe getting a souvenir from a player, hearing the pads crunch in the tackles, being a part of that crowd going nuts when the Blizzard took the lead; all aspects of the sensory aspects of live sports that can be difficult to put into words.
And it was a great crowd too. Many of the fans weren't sure what to expect from Green Bay as they've won three close games with late scores or lost in absolute blowouts. But they won the week before in Quad Cities and had a chance to be 4-2 for the first time since 2005.
Those fans were treated to one of the most electric IFL games of the season, with big returns, huge sacks and both teams taking the lead in the final minute. Some of the plays were a little absurd and there was some extracurriculars happening in the first half, but for hockey-friendly Wisconsinites, it wasn't anything that would detract from the good.
The parents there also had so many great opportunities. Some of them remember the old AF2 rivalry being renewed after a long ten years. Others were happy to have a family event where the ticket prices weren't going to break the bank to bring the kids along. Even more got a chance to share the rich football tradition of the area in a new way to improve the cultural bond between generations. All knew how important a good memory like that could mean for fostering the relationship between parent and child.
If you weren't there and watched the online feed, the commentators did a great job of pushing forward the ambiance of the arena. It was a call that was honest and one that showed they were true fans of the game without being a homer. Between the late-game heroics and the play by play getting strained under all the excitement, it provided the perfect complement to what was on the field. The only negative is that watchers saw the post-game laser light show advertised and didn't get a chance to see it.
I'm not saying that the other franchises and other leagues don't have these opportunities and connections. Since starting to cover indoor football, I've had a chance to add a number of front office members and players on social media. They all respect and even cherish the times they read at local elementary schools and interact with kids at events. But when you pair this mentality with good arena staff and stellar gameday operations crews, it creates an environment where everyone can be a kid again.
This time I actually had a friend and his eight-year-old son attend this game. My friend is a blue-collar man and his wife served in the military. They have three children, but the youngest two stayed home with their mother this time.
It was both of their first experience's with the sport, and had already bought tickets for the matchup. Then he won front row tickets through a local business and got upgraded to the 15 yard line. Before the game they got to speak with some of the players in warmups and his son got a hug from BJ Hill. Another player told them about how close everyone got and how important it was for the game. Other players were just as happy to have them as the fans were to be there.
You pair that direct contact with a game like that and you create permanent, positive memories. They're memories that can remind you of big moments of your childhood, like that time your dad took you to see Jim Abbott pitch against the White Sox on your eighth birthday. Or it could give you the warm fuzzies when things aren't so good, reminding you about the love and care fostered by an experience like this.
If you think this might be reading a little too into this, I asked my friend how his son enjoyed the experience. This is what he said:
"(My son) was reserved at first, then followed my lead and got all into slamming pads and screaming. He was so pumped with that finish. As a dad that was the best part. Got a big hug and a thank you afterwards. That's all you can ask for."
All around, I'm pretty proud that I get a chance to cover, and therefore promote, this sport. It's a real opportunity for all to get out there and keep striving towards loftier goals, whether that is professionally or personally. Thanks Green Bay and Quad Cities for letting us feel like kids again.