In the megalamaniacal world of arena football where franchise owners speak in go-big terms but deliver go-home results, Bobby Dammarell is the exception. As EIFL Commissioner, his is a more proletarian mission to find overlooked talent, get it on film, and ship it to the next level. And as owner of the EIFL’s defending-champion Southern Steam, he keeps to the fields he tills, undeterred by the visceral need for former CFL backups and NFL practice squaders who are lusted after by his American Arena League counterparts.
Now, as spring approaches summer and AAL teams are more truant than a high school senior on Skip Day, Dammarell’s harvest may be at hand.
After two more cancellations last weekend, the AAL has failed to fill the bill five times this season. That doesn’t even count games cancelled due to snow and loose netting. And there’s more to come. The EC Torch and Florida Tarpons have already flipped off the lights, leaving three teams without opponents, and the Rochester Kings are scurrying to find someone to play in their last game this Saturday. That opens the door for understudies like Dammarell and his EIFL peers. The question is, can they deliver?
Dammarell has already demonstrated that short notice is no problem. When the Tarpons cancelled their game against the Georgia Doom two weeks ago, he assembled his team on the fly and got them up to Skull Island with only four days’ notice, patching his own complement of ten players with a collection of ten others, many from the Tarpons. Sure, they lost by 66, but that’s a nail-biter in the AAL. Nor was it the point.
Given that Doom games are broadcast by DSBN Sports and aired on YouTube, Dammarell introduced the arena world to players like DT Reggie Givens, who was in QB Luke Collis’ face – not to mention tackle Everett Burns’ head – all night, and the pesky Theseus Jackson, whose blocked PAT earned several Doom special-teamers a tongue-lashing. The Steam showcased a home-grown O-line anchored by tackles Arthur Fell and E.J. Clowers, and a receiving trio of Terrell Pinckney, James McCloud, and Kobe Williams that was enough to make DSBN play-by-play czar Russell Deese put down his sweet tea and take notice on more than one occasion.
But the real beauty of the EIFL is in bringing us those Invincible moments. Short notice cost Dammarell his first- and second-string QBs, so that left his 18-year old son Bodi, who just completed his GED, available for the trip. The younger Dammarell took advantage, throwing a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first half before suffering an injury, but he returned late to finish what he started.
“He is a prime example as to why I started this team,” Dammarell said of his son. “To help guys that have lost their ride for one reason or another.”
There’s no indication any fellow owners will follow suit and that would be a foregone opportunity of the highest order considering the weakness of the AAL’s bullpen of affiliates. The Maryland Warriors’ Julien Robinson was one EIFL owner who stepped up early, providing the opposition for the Jersey Flight’s home opener back in April, but his schedule filled and he is no longer available. Unfortunately, the remaimder of the league seems to prefer MAIFL or semi-pro opponents.
And in the most paradoxical of all standoffs, the EIFL’s New England Bobcats and AAL-affiliated New England Cavalry lie only 45 minutes apart but the two ownership groups prefer locking horns on social media rather than in the Bobcats’ 3,500-seat arena that idly counts the days until hockey season returns. Each is content with a shortened schedule while upwards of 60 players sit very much off-camera.
The travesty in New England is a scary reminder of how far into the outfield those feeder league bullpens can be. It takes guys like Bobby Dammarell who grab a bat and crowd the plate to make this system work.