We continue to mourn the effective end of the Arena Football League today after their announcement that the league was folding and declaring bankruptcy. We fondly remember spending a few evenings in Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines, watching Kurt Warner throw touchdowns to guys we’d never heard of as the Barnstormers proved you can have a terrible team name and still succeed in the world of professional sports.
But one Arena Football team isn’t taking the bad news lying down. The Grand Rapids Rampage, which sounds like a bad neurological livestock disease, are “committed to putting a team on the field.” Guys, that just sounds like practice but with the nice uniforms on.
MLIVE.COM has the story of one team charging on despite, well, everything:
The Grand Rapids Rampage are committed to putting a team on the field in the future, regardless of the status of the Arena Football League, Rampage Chief Operating Officer Scott Gorsline told The Press this morning.
“Anything’s possible. We’re open to ideas to putting Arena Football back on the field. It could take any number of different forms,” he said. “We haven’t given up hope.”
That’s fine and good, but the tough talk doesn’t match the reality of the situation, which included a compensation system in its death throes even before the league ceased operation:
The league has missed numerous deadlines since March to ratify a new four-year collective bargaining agreement it had reached with the AFL Players Association. Terms of that agreement called for a nearly 50-percent reduction in the salary cap and reduced health benefits and insurance to the players.
On June 1, the AFL abruptly terminated all benefits to players.
The league also failed to reach a consensus on approving a new centralized business model despite announcing in May it had reached a plan to put the AFL on track to relaunch in 2010.
Right. So the team’s committed to going forward, it’s just committed to doing so while paying the players in pennies, candied corn, and handfuls of Legos.
Here’s the deal: there’s been no talk from the labor side about “getting the band back together,” as it were. It’s pretty obvious that the gutted compensation structure made it literally not worth the players’ while to risk life and limb playing ball.
That’s not to say that the owners owe it to them out of fealty to the concept of sport or anything stupid - if there’s no middle ground where both sides make money and protect themselves, then there’s no middle ground and that’s all there is to it. But you can’t get the other side to come to the table with empty rhetoric about commitment. It might excite some fans briefly, but that’s a hell of a lot less than the league needs now.