Only in Philadelphia would a team win a championship and then have to wait almost two years to raise their banner.
But due to lockouts and financial troubles, which have become increasingly prevalent in even the smallest of professional sports these days, the Philadelphia Soul, once headlined by their rockstar owner and legendary president, sat idle for an entire season, perhaps wondering if Friday night would ever come.
But when it did, the defending Arena Football League champions, were met with a humbling experience. The lights, the dancers, the theatrics were all there, ready to pay tribute to a remarkable season in the summer of 2008.
However, as the lights came down and the Soul came pouring out of their giant inflatable football helmet, there was one thing missing — a crowd.
The reality of the Arena League is this: the players care, but there isn’t a fanbase. It’s a different audience every night and by-and-large it’s people who can’t afford tickets to the real show — the NFL.
However, that isn’t all bad. While not everyone knows the players or even the rules, there is something special seeing kids and families getting the opportunity to enjoy football.
After the opening kick, as the game became exciting a new energy swept through the Wells Fargo Center air. Not because of a burning passion for the team but because the fans were genuinely being entertained by the action.
We all know the situation with the Eagles. You’re going to have better luck getting into the Oval Office during a national crisis than The Linc on a Sunday. And even if you do get you and your family some tickets, the chance your young ones leave without a whole new set of vocabulary is just about none.
The Soul provide the same atmosphere the Phantoms did during their run at the Spectrum. And like the AHL, the game is very real and very entertaining. Having a 50 yard football field has it’s quirks, but the hitting, the intensity and even the talent are all present.
The game stands on it’s own. It isn’t a knock-off of the way the sport should be played, rather an adaptation. It’s fresh and fun.
You have to look at the Soul as different. You can’t go in expecting the same buzz that surrounds the Eagles. But for the right person, different is better.
And the Soul certainly provide an exciting atmosphere. Whether you were one of the two nuns taking in the opener from the front row (yeah, really) or the 10-year-old kid at his first football game, everyone in the sparse opening night crowd (a reported 12,893, if you count employees cheerleaders and players, then add 1,500, maybe) seemed to enjoy themselves, even despite a 51-48 Soul loss.