Football or a loud, raucous street party?

  • By John Sleeper / Sports columnist
  • Sunday, April 3, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

EVERETT – I’ve got to say that I’m on a serious roll these last couple of months.

I saw my first gray whale up close, along the Oregon Coast.

Perched on a bluff about 800 feet up, I looked downward to see an eagle, gracefully and powerfully soaring from treetop to treetop.

I went to the greatest concert of my uncomfortably lengthy lifetime – jazz guitarist Pat Metheny at the Paramount Theater.

Just where Sunday’s first-ever home game for the National Indoor Football League’s Everett Hawks fits among it all, however, I have no idea.

Is indoor football to organized sport what the boll weevil is to cotton? Or is it the best thing to hit Snohomish County since The Herald?

Try as I might, I just can’t decide.

It’s ear-bleedingly loud. You’ve got your fireworks, your light shows and your AC/DC. You’ve got your Hawkettes cheerleaders and your Hooters girls flinging Frisbees into the stands. You’ve got stray footballs flying into the throng – and you don’t have to toss them back.

It’s kind of a street party with refs and helmets.

Which is both good and bad.

First, the good.

It’s difficult to find fault with the players, especially considering they clear $200 a week. What the announced 3,538 curious fans saw Sunday at the Everett Events Center were some reasonably good athletes playing what appeared to resemble football – albeit in roughly the same way that foosball resembles soccer.

Possibly because defenses have little chance of bottling up offenses with any consistency, the hits can be notably brutal outlets of frustration. That’s especially so when ball-carrier meets wall.

Operating on the theory that more is better, everything from the field configuration to the rules obscenely skews the game in favor of the offense. Defenses exist only as objects of glorious exploitation and surplus humiliation.

Dick Butkus would be so steamed he’d take hostages.

Is it good or bad? It depends. Some crave pitching duels; some love home-run derbies.

The NIFL certainly is doing all it can to be fan-friendly. Players are encouraged to mix with the crowd as much as possible, and most are masters at PR. Kickoff-return teams line up with their backs to the rear of the end zone, and they take that chance to yap and exchange high-fives with delighted fans.

Following the game, they signed more autographs than Michael Jordan.

It’s all great fun.

Most of the problems Sunday concerned the bells and whistles.

Assorted glitches delayed the kickoff a full 21 minutes – for which the Hawks were flagged five yards for delay of game. As the scheduled kickoff time arrived, crews still were busy affixing pre-game fireworks on (ugh!) plywood. It took time, and then they didn’t even work.

Much of the production end of the game had a tossed-together feel to it, which should smooth itself out as the season goes on. Adding to the chaos: Crews had 13 hours to create an indoor football configuration after Saturday night’s Everett-Portland hockey game.

“I expected (glitches),” team owner and Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams said. “There were a lot less of them than we thought we would have. The staff worked very, very hard on the preparation. I think everybody who came today had a great time.”

Still, considering the time element, why was the entire team introduced to the crowd? Why not introduce the starting offense or starting defense? Eight trot out more quickly than 25.

Yes it was the team’s first-ever game, but believe me, the amped-up throng wanted to see someone become a smudge on the wall more than they wanted to know the name of the backup D-lineman.

By the time each player pranced out with his chosen gyrations and wing-flapping (which they all copied from the Falcons and Eagles really, really effectively), it was Wednesday.

Other minor hiccups: the national anthem singer wasn’t introduced until after she was done, and then she was mentioned twice; the pre-game house lights flicked on and off for no apparent reason; and more than a few fans were heard carping about the verbose, caffeine-fueled P.A. announcer, whose relentless, uncompromising homerism rubbed more than a few the wrong way.

Still, everyone seemed to go home happy, especially after a spirited exchange of punches led to the ejection of Everett’s Verna Owens and Wyoming’s Anthony Thomas.

Let’s hope they don’t face a $200 fine.

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