Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Return of the AFL

By Dave Chamberlain

JULY 24, 2000:  If there's something Chicago lacks, by golly it's another professional sports team.

After all, we only have seven. And how is a sports fan supposed to get by on just two baseball teams, two hockey teams, a basketball team, a soccer team and a football team? Somebody's got to do something, and somebody is. Next year, Chicago will officially have a member of the Arena Football League. Perhaps you've seen the game, late at night or during ESPN's weekday programming, football played indoors on a 50-yard field and only eight (instead of eleven) men per side. Teams like the Iowa Barnstormers defeating the Grand Rapids Rampage by a very un-football-like score of 65-55.

Chicago had a team back in the AFL's debut season in 1989, the Bruisers, but they didn't last long. The game has taken off since, boasting more than twenty teams in the AFL--and a spin-off league, the AF2, which presently fields fifteen teams in small markets like Tulsa and Greensboro, and expects to expand to more than seventy(!) cities in the next five years. And arena ball even has a sprinkling of stars who have moved on to NFL fame (most notably, Kurt Warner of the Super Bowl champion Rams and back-up quarterback Paul Justin).

"The AFL, the All Fun League," says AFL commissioner David Baker, a mountainous, 6'9" 380-pound man, at the Chicago team's first official media luncheon, held last week at Harry Caray's Restaurant. And indeed, as the team's ownership is introduced (former CBS Executive VP Alan Levin and his son Peter, and Arthur Price, founder of Mary Tyler Moore Enterprises), the fast action and fan friendliness of the league remains the primary topic.

"We want to establish a place where it's affordable for a single mother to bring the family," Baker declares, and a quick look at ticket prices (the team will share Allstate Arena with the Chicago Wolves) proves that Baker's no liar. The most expensive season-ticket plan -- for the best seats in the house right on the "field" -- runs $355 per seat; the cheapest, $64. For single games, tickets will run from $6-$48.

With the team's first game set for April, 2001, there are still loose ends to tie. Like securing players, hiring a head coach, naming the team. For the latter, the AFL is holding a "Name Your Team" promotion, allowing Chicagoans to weigh in by either completing a form in the Daily Herald or logging on to the AFL's Website (arenafootball.com).

So what to name the team? Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Fire, Cubs, White Sox and Wolves are already taken, and Bruisers is lame. But the city is full of history and sports, and taking into account the team's status as the city's eighth team and Chicago's love for its own history, Newcity offers a suggestion:

The Chicago Eight.


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