The Elite Indoor Football League walks the back alleys of professional arena football, where the shadows of bigger leagues stretch long and seem as black as night. In an occasional instance when it does step out, the lights from the main drag are but a momentary flash.
That was pretty much the case when the EIFL proclaimed itself the only coast-to-coast arena league only to see Sacramento Rush ownership crumble before ever kicking off, or when it went international by tip-toeing over the border to affiliate with the Lagartos Tamaulipas, whose operations were mysteriously shut down for reasons never communicated to Commissioner Bobby Dammarell. And that television deal? Not happening. You’ll have to eat your wild wings watching another tabletop channel.
Of the EIFL’s 13 listed franchises, eight are 0-0 and will stay that way for the balance of the season. They are “holding off,” according to a recent social media post by Dammarell.
The New England Bobcats, for one, are all-in, and owner Cynthia Hudson has now delivered a ‘look-at-us’ moment of her own too compelling to overlook. Through a partnership with Splash Media Boston, Hudson has rolled out a digital billboard campaign that will feature specific ads for each of her remaining home games. The billboard debuted this week, towering above Route 3 near the junction of Interstate 495 in Lowell, about 25 miles northwest of Boston, and sits high and large enough to be visible to members of the nearby New England Cavalry AAL affiliate should they ever have an arena they can drive to.
It’s also seen by 75,000 other motorists each week. That’s a savvy move for Hudson, a football neophyte who runs the Bobcats, a modeling agency, and a fashion magazine out of her home and has compared her team to the NAL’s Massachusetts Pirates just down the highway. Hell, why not? After all, they both now have billboard campaigns.
Hudson’s foray into pro football began a little more than a year ago when she bought the assets of the former New Hampshire Brigade of the now-defunct Can-Am Indoor Football League from former owner Tim Viens. For one reason or another, the mid-season deal didn’t come with uniforms and all her players walked. Funny, but this is not the only deal gone sour that has involved Viens, and Hudson’s lemon may well become lemonade.
Hudson reincarnated the failed Brigade franchise and brought it to the EIFL, along with a passion spiced by a shot of naiveté not yet diluted by the old guard of arena football. That move was a boon to her new league and may well gain them a step in their pursuit of the AAL.
Of course, pursuit is a relative thing and the AAL is a long train to chase. It’s powered by a half-dozen NAL-caliber teams, but simultaneously dragged down by an overloaded caboose filled with another half-dozen, along with three travel teams that include Hudson’s neighbors, the Cavalry, who spend numerous off-weeks in a lobbying campaign designed to convince me their 47-point drubbing in Richmond a fortnight ago was a close game.
Granted, there’s a marked talent gap between the AAL and EIFL. The two leagues have met only once on the field this season and it ended badly for the EIFL as the Jersey Flight steam-rolled the Western Maryland Warriors by 71. However, that imbalance may be short-lived if the AAL’s premier teams flock to better competition in 2019 and more EIFL teams take up Hudson’s cause.
Early indications are that they will.
Commissioner Dammarell, himself a franchise owner, and the Warriors’ Julien Robinson provide a steel backbone, and that’s what it is going to take to sever the weak links hat joined a league without the resources to deliver. No league that cancels as many games as the EIFL lives to see another season. Case in point: the 2017 Cam-Am Indoor Football League. Neither will the EIFL, but their best five are in the same zip code as the AAL’s worst half-dozen, and stranger bedfellows have existed.
So, no, Hudson didn’t buy enough uniforms to dress he full 21-man Bobcats roster and many players don’t wear the same jersey number from one week to the next. But somewhere atop Route 3 near the Interstate in Lowell, a sparkling new billboard serves notice to the AAL: the Elite Indoor Football League is gunning for you.