Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015|2 a.m.
. In 2003, my bro and I participated in a Las Vegas Gladiators game at the Thomas & & Mack Center. It was the team’s inaugural period in Las Vegas, and we ‘d never ever before seen an Arena Football League video game.
We saw in astonishment as the very first few plays unfolded, as running backs and wide receivers sprinted to the line of skirmish prior to the ball was snapped and before ball providers were slammed into padded walls that appeared pulled from the Circus Circus midway.
After the first series, my sibling– a big NFL fan– asked, “Is anything illegal in this game?” Difficult to inform.
The Gladiators fizzled in Las Vegas, transferring to the Orleans Arena after that first period and to Cleveland in 2008.
The team that finally replaced the Gladiators, the Las Vegas Outlaws, moved in this year. Owned in part by Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil, the group has actually been beset by monetary issues. Weeks ago, the Arena League took control of the franchise, and the Outlaws’ paychecks because have been covered by the league office.
As we have actually learned, the rules seem ever flexible in the Arena Football League, even away from its half-sized stadium.
For example, the Outlaws got the playoffs this season, despite the fact that they lost seven more video games than they won. However recently, the league revealed it would fold the beleaguered franchise and stopped operations for the New Orleans VooDoo.
Rare is it that an expert franchise reaches the playoffs and subsequently is folded by the league’s governing body. But unusual is the league that sports a franchise owned by, and hence is a nifty marketing tool for, the venerable rock band Kiss. The Outlaws, with its Crue connection, were thought to be a practical competitor– if not opening act– for the L.A. Kiss.
Those who know the city’s professional sports history understand this sort of outcome is not so unusual in Las Vegas. The Outlaws are the 3rd AFL group to play in our city, and each has failed to move the chains, as it were.
A preferred story from one of those teams, the Las Vegas Sting, occurred when the Outlaws folded. It comes from a conversation I had a years ago with Steve Stallworth, now arena director at South Point and a former UNLV quarterback. The Sting played at the Thomas & & Mack from 1994 to 1995. Just like the Gladiators and Outlaws who followed, the team struggled to sell tickets for the 18,000-capacity arena.
The marketing team hired by the Sting included Stallworth, who for a time belonged to the UNLV sports marketing division; another former UNLV sports marketing wiz, broadcaster Tony Cordasco; and longtime Las Vegas radio personality Mike O’Brian. They developed a marketing campaign to distribute money– actual USDs– throughout Sting video games.
The Sting would award $100 for each point scored by the home team. After each Sting goal, a team representative would roll a big drum teeming with tickets to midfield and select a single stub. O’Brian, with his thunderous voice, called out the lucky winner. A spotlight wound around the arena as O’Brian intoned, “Section 107! Stand! Now Row R! Seat 18!”
As Cordasco said at the time, “It was drama, a huge buildup. It was outrageous.”
In their last game in Las Vegas, the Sting whipped the Arizona Rattlers 60-46 and handed out $6,000. Attendance was more than double the common count, however the team was offered and transferred to Anaheim.
The Sting now are a part of Las Vegas’ vibrant minor-league sports history. But when handing out free money– or making the playoffs– can’t save a team, what’s the point?
The Hooligans’ perplexing demise is a sign– from above or behind the cushioned walls– that we need a real major-league group in this city. Enough with leagues that are equivalent parts football and goofball. We have actually paid our dues, thrice over.