As a fan of the NFL, when February comes around I am found scrambling to get up to speed with the NBA season already in progress. But in the recent years, I have fallen in love with another kind of football, known by its adoring fans nationwide as the AFL or the Arena Football League.
This offense driven game is played on an arena turf field which is half the size of the NFL field. The rules and makeup of this game is very intriguing and fans are always excited to attend the games. After all they get rewarded if a ball gets into the stands.
For me it’s hard to pick just one team as a favorite, because each team brings something to the table. Teams like Philadelphia Soul which is owned by John Bonjovi, the Colorado Crush owned by John Elway, Chicago Rush owned by Mike Ditka and Dallas Desperados own by Jerry Jones have all been playing at a higher level and are famous for their quarterbacks. The New York Dragons are famous for landing defensive backs and wide receivers in the NFL, while Orlando has had former Super Bowl Championship players on their team, as well having the 2007 Defensive Lineman of the Year promoted to NFL this year. To create even more excitement to the league.
Last season the Competition and Rules Committee voted on the most significant change, which was the introduction of free substitution, the so-called "Elway Rule". Previously, AFL coaches were limited to one substitution per position per quarter. Beginning with the 2007 season, coaches will be permitted to substitute players at will.
The reasoning behind the free substitution was to improve the overall quality of football in the league by giving coaches the freedom to put their best players on the field for every play of the game, and that teams will be able to select from a wider player talent pool when building their rosters. Traditional fans and players, however, believe the rule changes are the beginning of the removal of the "Ironman" (two-way offense and defense) style of play of Arena Football that the league has actively promoted for 20 seasons, and that removing the Ironman style of play takes away a key component of what makes Arena Football a distinctive sport over other versions of football.
To simplify the rules of the game, here is a breakdown: Four offensive players must be on the line of scrimmage at the snap. One offensive player may be moving forward at the time of the snap. Three defensive players must be in a three- or four-point stance at the start of the snap. Two defenders serve as linebackers called the mac and the jack. The mac may blitz from the side of the line opposite the offensive tight end. The jack's role has changed after new rules set in place by the league in 2008. The jack cannot blitz but under new, more defense-friendly rules, the jack linebacker may roam sideline to sideline within five yards of the line of scrimmage and drop into coverage once the quarterback pump-fakes. (Before this rule, the jack could not drop back into coverage until the ball is thrown or the quarterback is no longer in the pocket and the jack had to stay within the box designated by the outside shoulders of the offensive line, the line of scrimmage, and 5 yards back from the line of scrimmage).
So this year as we sort through the new faces on each team and rules changes, we will be left with one question, who will be this season's stars. Of course since the AFL training camps are finalizing their rosters, no one, except the coaches will know who will make the final cut. Since the games are played Thursday through Monday, it’s definitely a cure for those Monday mornings blues. So get your pop corn ready to watch players do their thing in turf, because I definitely feel that the AFL is a good enough replacement for the NFL.