The American Arena League may have lacked on-field entertainment value last night, but the after-hours party was a rowdy affair as the Atlanta Havoc and Cape Fear Heroes exchanged allegations in the aftermath of the Havoc’s forfeit to a joint effort between the Heroes and the 2018 graduating class of Buford High School.
For the Havoc, it was a series of unfortunate events dating back to the lease former Havoc owner Tim Viens signed with the Buford City School System, owners of the team’s venue. In an exclusive interview with Arena Football Insider earlier this month, Viens said the deal reached no-brainer status when the school system granted him full control over food and alcohol concessions, a rarity in arena leasing. While Viens gets a tip of the cap for finding a high school that wasn’t burdened by greedy beer and wine concessionaires, it would have behooved him to find one that wasn’t planning to graduate students because, in the end, commencement exercises a day earlier were the death knell of the Havoc’s unbeaten season.
Of course, the Havoc could have gotten help from schedule-makers who, when given enough rope to comfortably accommodate twelve full-time teams under the loosest of demands, still managed to hang themselves by booking the Havoc on commencement weekend. Nonetheless, fans and players rightfully discounted these constraints and expected a game Saturday, especially considering the Havoc were given back the keys at midnight and had 19 hours until kickoff to make it football-ready.
So, how did an otherwise innocuous event ripple into such a swell that rocked the AAL’s playoff boat? Turns out, the Heroes front office may have been doing some extracurricular splashing of their own.
Most teams don’t have to break down and re-assemble arena football venues in the middle of the season and while 19 hours may seem like sufficient time to nevertheless get the job done, most of us have never rolled out 14 separate 85’x15’ carpets nor installed 570 linear feet of dasher board. If we had, we may appreciate the job takes more like 20 hours to complete. Cape Fear’s front office certainly did and ran a banner on their live stream notifying viewers of the one-hour delay. At 7:12, they abruptly announced the game had been cancelled.
By then, Buford school system officials had inspected the field and cleared it for play with one caveat. The netting that protects the jumbotron in the center of this $21 million facility was not sufficiently taut, so kickoffs and long field goals would have to be placed at the far hash marks rather than in the center of the field. As Havoc crews were raising the second goalpost they got the word that the Heroes were backing out due to these adverse conditions. Players who made the six-hour drive from Fayetteville would return empty-handed: no football, no fun, no film. But the homeward trek was far different for Cape Fear’s front office, who got a much-needed dub in their playoff quest while leaving the rest of us wondering what the hell this league is all about.
The answer should be that it is about fan experience. At $15 for adults and $8 for kids, Havoc games are a great family entertainment value. And it should be about player development. Any film is better than none, and film against a quality opponent could be a launching pad to better leagues like [insert any name here].
What it should not be is some Count Olaf exploitation of the Havoc’s misfortunes, a chance to walk out of class when the teacher is late, the dogged pursuit of a cheap win as part of a subordinate mission to become champions in this lesser-than league. And it definitely should not be another egregious chapter yet in the biography of the most ignominious league in professional football. AAL leadership should have taken all measures to prevent this forfeiture, but as usual they’ve taken to their back closet to cover their ears in the darkness.
Rumors have primary owner Barbara Spigner disillusioned with the AAL and looking to resurrect the Supreme Indoor Football League as early as next season. If those prove true, she may have dealt a mortal blow to her closest competition in terms of both geography and talent. In the bizarre world of AAL football, one good death blow is worth risking the careers of 21 young men, right?
Yes, we are very concerned.
Fifty Yarder requested comments from both the AAL league office and Cape Fear Heroes ownership before expressing its views, but a full day of waiting is enough. After all, this is our take.