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Old March 21st, 2008, 03:53 PM
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AFL 2008: Week 2: Chicago Rush vs Philadelphia Soul
After coming off a nice win in Week 1 over the defending AFL champion San Jose SaberCats, Week 2 brought us back to Allstate Arena to watch our Chicago Rush take on Jon "I'm a has-been rockstar but I think I'm a sports team owner" Bon Jovi's Philadelphia Soul.

Rush vs. Soul

It was Allstate Hand-Clapper Day, something that seems to happen every year. They gave us these plastic hand-clappers to make noise during the game... because you're in good hands with Allstate... get it?

Thanks Allstate!

It was a Sunday noon game, which are always a challenge when it comes to attendance. This was a tradition started when the AFL was broadcast on NBC and they wanted games on Sunday afternoons just like NFL season. It doesn't always work that well in most markets, however.

Allstate sideboard replaced last week's ad for "10,000 BC"

Maybe more AFL fans go to church vs. NFL fans... who knows? I have a feeling it has a lot to do with group ticket sales... Cub Scouts, church groups, etc. They obviously won't show if the time isn't right. Just a hunch.

Luckily, Chicago has consistently done a nice job of working to fill the stands for oddly timed games. In fact, the commissioner of the AFL, David Baker (i.e. Hagrid, because the guy is like this huge bulk of a man), recently talked to some folks at Forbes and mentioned that 6 teams in the AFL are profitable, with many being very close to that point.

Getting setup for the pregame introductions

In the back of my mind, I sort of think Chicago is one of those in the profitable column. They aren't flashy nor do they have all the bells and whistles of other franchises, but they tend to be consistently solid. Again, a hunch.

Jeb & Amy show off their hand-clappers

For reasons beyond their control, my parents were unable to join us for the game, so we brought our friend Jeb to enjoy the game with us. Jeb also works in the social services field, so her and Amy hit it off pretty well. We got to know her thanks to our involvement with our church's former-Upper Room service.

Our mascot, Grabowski, moderating a tug-of-war

The game itself was pretty painful to watch. We didn't play well at all. (We lost the cointoss... it was inevitable!) Our QB, who is like one of the oldest players in the league, threw the ball to the opposing team a few times. Maybe he's becoming colorblind or something. Not really sure. In any case, I sure was yelling at our team a lot.

Fun halftime show: A high school marching band

Things were looking up after halftime when we held them to just a field goal at the end of the 2nd Half, and prevented them from scoring with their possession in the beginning of the 3rd (in Arena Football, if you can win the cointoss, and score on back-to-back possessions at the end of the 2nd/top of the 3rd, that's huge!) But alas, it was not to be. Philly ended up kicking our butts, 49-60. Ouch.

Ref wears hard protective helmet...

So, when our team doesn't do well, I look for other stuff to check out. Which is why I took a look at the hats the head ref was wearing. Instead of a simple black baseball-style hat, he was actually wearing what was more like a hard batter's helmet.

The AFL has been experimenting with various things this year to better protect players and officials from concussions and the like (something the NFL hasn't really done yet). For example, they are experimenting with a device nicknamed the "Shockometer" that helps to warn athletic trainers and staff regarding a players' condition after a hard hit. They've also been trying to protect the refs more, as on an AFL field, there really isn't a lot of room to avoid players. Thus the hard helmet.

... but those white stripes have got to go!

But frankly, the implementation we saw... well, it was lame. Don't put white stripes on it and make it look like a baseball hat. It's not. That just looks silly. Remove the stripes! Better yet, give him something more mobile, like a hockey-type mask/helmet, sort of like what was worn by the camera guys back when the XFL had them on the field behind the players.

XFL: Note the camera guy in the back
(Source: ViewImages.com)

XFL: Camera guys were on the field in that league
(Source: ViewImages.com)

XFL: Note the helmet on the cameraman
(Source: ViewImages.com)

It's a great idea to protect the refs, but I think it can be done with a better look! I know there are probably issues with visibility and the like, so it's an idea that needs to be thought about a little. In the short term, just remove the white lines!

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Old March 21st, 2008, 03:58 PM
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Here's the full story on the AFL's use of technology to protect players from concussions and the like:
Indicator on AFL helmets to warn of potentially dangerous hits

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Arena Football League's 22nd season could be its most innovative.

The 17-team indoor league gets started Friday night with New Orleans at Los Angeles as the first of eight games. At two of them -- Dallas at Georgia on Saturday, and defending champion San Jose at Chicago on Monday night -- a device tentatively dubbed "Shockometer" will be placed on the helmets of several players.

A triangular piece measuring just more than 2 inches and featuring a little window with green and red indicators will be attached to the helmet. Its purpose is to warn trainers, doctors, coaches and players when someone has taken a dangerous hit, with the indicator turning red.

"We wanted to try to develop something that is fast and is an excellent warning system," said Dave Rossi of Schutt Sports, the world's largest provider of football helmets and faceguards. "It will not necessarily say this player has a concussion, but that he has sustained a hit that could lead to a concussion. It could give them warrant to say stop and take a closer look."

Concussions and their aftereffects, of course, have become a major topic in pro football. Any development that can help prevent such injuries would be a significant step forward.

So when the Shockometer debuts on 40 helmets this weekend, its findings will be eagerly anticipated not only in the AFL, but throughout the sport.

"At this point, we have come up with some prototype product we are using on the field during Arena League games to see how it works in game conditions," Rossi said. "It's not on the market by any means right now.

"What happens in a game is much different than what happens in lab situations. To be able to have a partner like the AFL that values this project as much as we do is fantastic. We can learn an awful lot and make this product as good as it can be before it's winding up on the field in widespread use."

Eventually, Schutt hopes to develop a product that is effective on all levels, from the pros down through the colleges, high schools and youth leagues. For now, the experiment will be limited to a few Arena League games each week.

"I can't wait to see it," said Dallas Desperados chief operating officer Shy Anderson, the chairman of the AFL Rules and Competition Committee. "My biggest concern in this deal would be to get through the first quarter and have a whole lot of red lights flashing, although that shows it's such a hard-hitting game.

"It definitely helps because we have had players get knocked out and we don't know how hard a hit they took. This will tell us if a player needs to be looked at further, whether that hit might have led to an injury."

So who gets the device during the games?

Mostly the positions most susceptible to big hits. Schutt will begin the testing with wide receivers, defensive backs, running backs and linebackers. They also will test some quarterbacks, although, as Rossi notes, the blows passers take are different because often the hardest come from making contact with the turf.

The Shockometer will cost about $30 when it becomes available on the market.

"Part of the intention of this is developing something simple, easy and cost effective so it can also be used at Pop Warner and the youth level," Rossi said. "One of the things you notice when you leave the professional and Division I levels is you don't have that medical expertise on the sideline. So this is something ultimately that will benefit the youth players, too."

Another innovation the AFL has approved for its season, which runs through the July 27 ArenaBowl in New Orleans, is the use of defensive communicators in helmets. Fans are accustomed to quarterbacks getting offensive plays through a speaker in their helmet, but no pro league has allowed defenders the same opportunity until now.

"I thought the defense not having the communications was more of a disadvantage to the team or more of an advantage to the opposing offense," Anderson said. "Coaches were shouting in the signals or signaling them by hand. Now the helmet communications will add to the secrecy."
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