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My Reno Express Experience

The Reno express are a new indoor football team based in Reno Nevada. They play their home games at the Reno Events Center. They started play this year in the brand new American West Football Conference (AWFC). They are the first professional indoor football team in Reno since the Reno Barons. 

Some interesting facts about the league and the Reno team are: 

            -Most of if not all of the teams are owned by the same person

            -There are only 4 teams

            -After being unable to join 2 different leagues the Idaho Horsemen owner created this league

            -The Reno Express had to change their logo because it was too similar to the Round Rock Express logo

            -The first coach for Reno left after 5 games

I have known about the Reno Express and the league almost since its creation. I have wanted to go to a game for a while now. I finally made it out to a game last Saturday. I decided to take my girlfriend and go to the game. I didn’t know what to expect. Apart from watching a few Arena Football League games in the past I don’t have any experience watching the sport. I might have gone to a Bakersfield Blitz (of the old Arena Football League 2) game, but if I did I don’t remember. 

My Experience

I got to the game and to no surprise staffing (security, ticket scanners, etc.) was minimal. They only had a handful of cheer leaders. It was general admission. There might have been a little over a thousand people there. We got there right after warm ups. I don’t know if they even did warm ups to be honest. They were still putting the boards together when we showed up. The intros were interesting because they listed off every home team player.

The level of play is what I expected. Reno’s lineman couldn’t snap the ball the way the quarterback wanted it all night. The boards where made out of plywood. The boards had foam padding on the outside (typical for arena football). With every big hit the boards would move. The padding wouldn’t stay on the boards. They kept falling off. I think every piece of padding fell off the boards at some point during the game. The turf also wasn’t the best and kept coming up. 

I think the rate of players getting injured was a little high. There were a handful of players who got injured and dint come back to the game. At one point a player from Reno was down and wasn’t getting up. So, another player from Reno picked him up and carried him off the field. I think that that was the highlight of the game.  

Reno Express player carrying off injured team mate

Two of the linemen almost got into a fight multiple times. It started when one of them grabbed the other one’s facemask and was dragging him for a couple of yards. There was no call on the play. At one point a player from Idaho grabbed a Reno receiver and basically bear hugged him 

so he couldn’t get the ball. The Reno player then slapped the guys helmet and said something like “good job” really sarcastically. 

One of the linemen from Reno went down and wasn’t getting up. A handful of staff went over to check on him. He couldn’t get up on his own will. They basically had to wait for him to get up to continue the game. When they did get him up it looked like they rushed to get him off the field. 

When Idaho scored a controversial touch down, one of the Reno coaches got a penalty for getting in the ref’s face about it. The Idaho player ran into the boards (which is out of bounds). He then handed the ball off to one of his team mates. That team mate would run it in for a touchdown. 

Towards the end of the game one of the Reno players was close lined into the boards. He wasn’t getting up. It Looked really painful. He didn’t have the ball when he was hit. This led to both teams (who were already upset at each other) to clear the benches and get in each other’s faces. Even one of the Reno coaches was out there getting in different players faces. 

What I liked

It was very entertaining. The quality of play wasn’t that good but what was going on during the game was very interesting. Hearing what the players where saying is always fun. Kids where throwing balls back and forth with players at halftime. Every time the team scored players would run down the sideline and throw shirts into the crowd. Watching the padding fall off of the boards and seeing them try to fix it was entertaining for me. I was also creating my own fun by yelling and cheering when no one else in the whole crowd was. The kicker for Idaho was about to kick a field goal after a touchdown. He had missed the one previously so I yelled don’t miss. He missed. He went like 1-5. 

What I didn’t like

I didn’t like how the announcer wouldn’t shut up for two seconds to let the ref talk. I didn’t know what half the penalties were because of that. The refs microphone was also down too low. 

I think the announcer did a poor job too. He wasn’t very excited for most of the game. Most of what he was saying sounded off to me. He wasn’t doing a good job at getting the crowd engaged in the game. He even called Reno by the wrong name at one point. To me it just seemed like he didn’t have a lot of experience or knowledge in what he was doing. 

When The game started it was really quiet. Almost none of the fans were making noise. At one point, I looked around and it looked like me and my girlfriend where the only ones really enjoying the game. 

They didn’t really do anything for their promotion. 

Would I recommend it?

I would. If you want to have a good time and you know what you are getting into then it can really be enjoyable. That being said you really can’t go watch a game just for the football. The product on the field isn’t good enough for that. That being said its still enjoyable because of everything else that’s going on during the game. I would recommend going with a group instead of solo. 

What needs to change at the Reno games?

Number one thing need to be the field. They need better turf. They need to secure the padding better to the boards. Do that and things become 10 times better. 

They need to work on their promotions. Mentioning the theme of the nigh a couple of time during a game isn’t a promotion. It was first responder’s night. They could have given out tickets to first responders and their families. They could have given out t shirts. They could have had a giveaway just for first responders. Almost anything would have worked. 

Don’t introduce every individual player during the intro. It takes up too much time. 

Get a new announcer. Very simple but it could be the most important thing they invest in off the field. 

Get more cheer leaders. That’s not too hard, is it? 

A couple of other suggestions to become more marketable in Northern Nevada are change the colors. Reno shouldn’t have red as a primary color. Get better people to run social media. 

What does the AWFC need to do to be successful?

This league has a very low budget feel to it. It reminds me a lot of the old West Coast Hockey League (WCHL). When that WCHL started out most of the teams were owned by one person like this league.  The way that league found success was by finding new owners so that all of the teams weren’t owned by one person. That meant more money going to each team. More money means better players and fan experiences and an overall improvement to the quality of the league. I think this would be the best direction to head in for the AWFC. The money received from selling teams could also go into creating new expansion teams. 

That’s more of a long-term plan. Something that they need to do in the short term is be more marketable. All of the social media (from what I have seen) does not look professional. They should be live streaming games on a major social network (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter). They need to get as many major sponsors as they can. Just simple things that can make the league as appealing as possible to casual fans. 

The league is currently doing alright. I like the attitude the league has. It knows what it is and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. It’s not trying to compete with other leagues. I think this league is comfortable with being what it is. I think that the AWFC is comfortable with being a smaller market league. I think that with a few changes and the league can be extremely successful.

Part of those changes would include rule changes. My first purposed rule change is the lengths of the quarters. They are currently 15 minutes. I would suggest shortening them down to between 10 and 12 minutes. An alternative to this would be to have 20 minute halves instead of quarters. My second purposed rule change is a none stop clock until the 2-minute mark. At the 2 minutes mark, there would be a 30 second timeout. Following the 30 second timeout the clock stops at the end of every play. The execution to this being when players are injured and when teams call time outs. My last purposed rule change would be that teams have to go for the 2-point conversion. The AAF did this. I think it would work really well in indoor football. 

What do I think the future of indoor football should look like?

I’m ending this blog on kind of an odd note. I want to talk about what I think the direction of indoor football should be. The sport continues to shrink in popularity. Most leagues now only have a handful of teams. My idea would be to unify these leagues under a single national championship.

The idea is pretty simple. Be like the NCAA. The NCAA has conferences, indoor football has leagues. There are currently 8 indoor football leagues according to Wikipedia. These leagues would act as the conferences. For this to work leagues would only have up to 16 or so teams. I think that would be fine considering that most leagues are smaller than that. 

The season should take place during the NFL off season. Teams play 1 or 2 preseason games. Teams then play home and away with every team in their league. The top 2 teams in each league would play in a championship bowl game. The winner of that game would play in the national playoffs. The national playoffs would be a series of bowl games leading to the national championship. There would also be other tournaments and bowl games for teams who did not make the national playoffs. 

It’s simple but I think it will help the sport grow. I think leagues would expand. I think new leagues would be created. I think it could get to a point that the sport has as many teams as NCAA div.1 football. That’s just an idea. 

If you made it to the end of this post then thank you. Let me know what you think in the comments. 

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