Coyotes Speed Past Wranglers to Victory
By Christopher Bond,
5:00PM, Thu. Jun. 26, 2008
In a game more known for personalities and mascots than "X"s and "O"s, there is more of an opportunity to get to know athletes and their fans on a level rarely seen in sport. I decided to watch the Wranglers vs. Central Valley Coyotes game, which was in Fresno, Calif., at Third Base, a bar in Austin, because there are typically Wranglers fans in abundance. Normally, the pool tables are turned into eating and drinking tables for fans, while chairs are set up for everyone to relax. But this time was different.
As I arrived, I grabbed a drink (water, of course) and headed over to the party. To my chagrin, there were only three Wrangler fans. I asked them how we looked so far since I arrived after the start of the game, and the look on one woman’s face told it all. She was frustrated because the Wranglers couldn’t bring the score closer than 7 points. As I watched the Wranglers and Coyotes trade touchdowns in the second quarter, one man said: “When we are on, we are on. You can see the talent, but they aren’t playing very well right now.”
Regardless of how the team was playing, these three fans seemed so positive that you would think we were watching the New England Patriots win another Super Bowl. Their passion showed in abundance as they cheered when Austin did well, but became upset when the team didn’t. “You know we really like Kamau Jackson,” the woman stated. “We sit three rows away from the Wranglers’ bench. During the first game, we noticed Kamau giving the players water during a time out, and I asked him if he gets paid extra for that? Kamau said he’s just trying to help and then offered us water! We were Kamau Jackson fans from that point on.”
The frustration was understandable as the Wranglers pulled within 7 points after halftime and then held the Coyotes to get the ball back. On the next play, John Roberson fumbled a reception, and the Coyotes returned the ball to the one-yard line. Central Valley punched it in one play later to put the lead back at 14. Seeing the wasted opportunity, the fans let out collective sighs as if to say, “We were so close.” With Wranglers quarterback Andy Hall throwing an interception with only a few seconds to play in the game, the three Wrangler fans could only be left to ponder “what if.” If it makes them feel any better, the Wranglers are still in first place.
The more I watch Arena Football, the more I have begun to realize that it’s like sandlot ball, which many of us played as kids: with quick passes to the side, quarterback sneaks from midfield, and deep passes seemingly occurring every other play. It’s got to be hell for defensive-minded coaches, as I don’t think the phrase “defense wins championships” has ever been brought up in an Arena League locker room.
I guess we’ll figure that out as the season progresses. What I do know is that hardcore Wranglers fans out there, who have the up-most confidence in their team, won’t give up on them any time soon. “The Wranglers have been in Austin for five years,” the woman’s husband stated before leaving that night, “and we have been fans since the beginning of time.”