Saturday night in Huntsville, Alabama, will be a milestone night for me.
Why will Saturday matter to me so much?
I am an af2 fan, and I have been for most of my life.
I went to my first af2 game when I was 13 years old. It was the first ever af2 game featuring the Birmingham Steeldogs and Tennessee Valley Vipers, and while I have since become an avid Vipers fan, at that time I was one of the Steeldogs biggest fans. For eight seasons I wore black and orange as proudly as it can be worn outside of Halloween night.
That night began one of the most important eras in my life. I was teased and ridiculed for being such a big arena football fan, but I couldn't help it! It was the most fun I'd ever had.
From Mar. 31, 2000 to Apr. 24, 2009, I will have attended 100 regular season arena football games.
Tennessee Valley vs. Florida will be extra special for me, and not just because of the bitter rivalry the teams have acquired over the last few years.
In 2000, I did not attend all eight home games for the Steeldogs, but I did get to see half of them. I saw the loss to the Vipers in the opening game as well as the loss to Pensacola. I did, however, see two wins that season: Arkansas and Tallahassee.
I was hooked. More importantly, since I couldn't drive yet, my dad was hooked.
At Christmas in 2001, he and I received season tickets! We attended all eight home games and one road game in Huntsville against the Vipers.
2002 was a great season for the Steeldogs, by far their most successful, as the team reached the conference finals. I saw each of the eight home regular season games and three away games. I was not there to witness the Steeldogs upend the Vipers for the first time ever, unfortunately, as it was a playoff game. I did, however, witness the beat down Peoria gave us in the Conference championship game.
The very next season was a dismal year as Montressa Kirby, who led the Dogs at quarterback in 2002, decided not to return in favor of coaching at his alma mater. I saw 11 games that season and it was by far the most fun I'd ever had.
The best season I took part in, past or present, came in 2004. I was graduating from high school and I was ready for the Steeldogs to prevail as the contenders we knew that they could be. And after witnessing a blow out loss at Bossier City, the Dogs came back to win eight in a row, including the first time I saw us beat the Vipers—the picture of the fan club after the game is still on my wall! I saw 14 games that season alone. The best trip, by far, was to Moline, Illinois, even though we lost by a country mile and they don't have grits there!
A bit later, the dreaded 2005 season came. We pretend this season doesn't exist in Birmingham and Tennessee Valley. The Vipers moved to another league to became known as the Raptors and Birmingham went 2-14 on the year. Nonetheless, I attended eight games that year, too.
In 2006 Tennessee Valley returned as the Vipers and back in the af2. The Steeldogs rebounded with a new coach and garnered a 7-9 record, losing twice to the Vipers who only won three games that season. I saw 13 games that season for the Steeldogs and four Vipers games.
2007 would be the year in which I saw the most games I have seen in one season. Attending with a few friends, I saw 14 Steeldogs games, four Vipers games and the Arena Cup Championship game.
Last season was a weird season for me. The Steeldogs didn't exist and I had moved closer to Huntsville. Therefore, I defaulted to the Vipers as my team. I saw ten Vipers games and one Tulsa vs. Lubbock contest.
Generally, I would not specify the 100 regular season games, since I've seen af2 playoff games, but I didn't catch that I had attended 100 games until now.
105 total af2 football games and Saturday night will mark the 100th af2 regular season game that I have attended.
Long live the af2, so that I might see 200!