From a talent perspective, arena football is stratified into four widely accepted tiers. A player going from the EIFL to the AAL – or from AAL to NAL, or NAL to AFL – is said to be “moving up.” Congrats are posted on league forums and off they go, never to return.
Culturally, however, the layering is simpler but far more contentious. You are either a professional or you are a semipro. Everyone agrees on that much. However, which teams or leagues belong to what layer is a question that cuts to the bone. Improperly label someone as a semipro, and you’ve got an enemy for life. It’s the scarlet letter of arena football that no one wants to wear. The problem is, most semipro players and teams don’t see themselves as such.
It’s not a talent thing or a monetary thing. You can be the best player on your semipro team, or the best team in your semipro league, but you’re still a semipro. It’s a stink that can’t be washed away with a paycheck or a trophy because it remains part of your fabric until you exorcise it. And to do that, you’ve got to clearly see the world and your limited role in it. Look, Skynet became self-aware in 1997 and nearly changed the course of mankind. Now it’s your turn to do the same and change the course of arena football.
So, in the spirit of the approaching weekend, we’re going to take a page from Jeff Foxworthy and let the players decide for yourselves what you may be. For instance, if you’re okay with your one optional practice a week because you can still beat the other guy who’s doing the same, go ahead and take that win but own up to the distinct possibility that semipro courses through your blood.
And if I’ve burned more calories sitting here at my keyboard than you do in that one practice, you might be a semipro.
If everyone on your roster played four years of college football when you add them all together, you might be a semipro.
If you play in a league where your opponent shows up with only seven guys asking for a “loaner,” and coach gathers your team to tell you he’s thinking of a number from one to ten, you might be a semipro.
If coach announces the travel roster by handing out 20 copies of Google Maps directions to help you and your teammates find the arena, you might be a semipro.
If you get the start on both sides of the ball because word got out about the head lice infestation in your boarding house and none of your teammates want to use your helmet after you, that’s another sign you might be a semipro.
If your game has a stoppage of play because a wayward soccer ball rolled in from the next field over, you might be a semipro.
When your owner tells you the rate is $50 per game and you both understand that’s what you are going to be paying him, then you might be a semipro.
If you can play PowerBall using the jersey numbers you wore during your last six games, you might be a semipro.
If mom missed your touchdown because she was in the game room playing Donkey Kong with the free tokens that came with her admission price, you might be a semipro.
If halftime adjustments consist of changing the bong water and assembling full pizzas from the leftover slices in each box, you might be a semipro.
Even worse, if your coach’s halftime motivational speech is to hit the bubbler quick and get your ass right back out there because he only has the field booked until 5:00, you might be a semipro.
If your quarterback taps out because he’s worried the bench guys are killing off the rest of the keg while he’s on the field, you might be a semipro.
If your coach puts himself in after said quarterback taps out because he still hasn’t “given up the dream” and needs the film, then you might be a semipro.
And most importantly, if you get butt-hurt because a couple of these items hit a little close to home, that is a telltale sign you are indeed a semipro.