This afternoon, the Arizona Adrenaline Arena Football team played their inaugural game at Tim's Toyota Center. There was lots of noise, enthusiastic cheerleaders and fans of all ages. The fact that the Adrenaline defeated the New Mexico Wildcats 66-21, just added to the excitement of the first-ever game for the brand-new team.
One person in the crowd was Manuel Kiss, a 15-year-old foreign exchange student from Germany. In Germany, Manuel is an avid soccer player, and is a defender on one of the best teams in Frankfurt. But, when he was offered the opportunity to attend an American football game, he jumped at the chance.
"I'm from Germany, from Frankfurt," Manuel explained. "I am a school exchange student from Frankfurt, from my school. Our exchange is with Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy. I am staying with family LaMaster."
It's true that sometimes Manuel has to think a bit before finding just the right wording, but for the most part, his command of the English language is excellent. He explained what it was like to attend today's Adrenaline game, "I went to a football play. Really different [from soccer]. I see the state match Arizona vs. New Mexico. I think it's a pretty cool sport, but not big for me. Big fun to watch. The stadium was really good, and really big, bigger than Frankfurt - the stadiums."
Agreeing that it was noisy, Manuel grinned. He didn't quite understand all that he saw, but that didn't matter much. "I don't know if this game was fast, because I've never seen before a football match. Maybe I could become an American football fan - I had a really good time. I got a t-shirt with autographs from the players."
Manuel went with some of the boys from his host family - Matthew, Philip and Tim LaMaster. Matthew, 18, a junior at Prescott High School, was on the varsity Badgers Football team last season, and Tim played for the Prescott Youth Football team. Philip, 15, a Northpoint student, doesn't play football himself, but has watched plenty of his brothers' games.
So, what did Philip think of the Adrenaline? Was this game a different football experience than he's used to? "Yeah, but it's a good thing," Philip answered. "Yeah, it's a lot more fast-paced, there's not as much waiting around."
Not planning to attend originally, Philip, Tim and Manuel were given tickets at the very last minute. "I thought it was fun that I was at the very first game. I'm really glad I went, because I just barely managed to get in at the last second. It was pretty sweet," Philip said with a nod. "It was a lot of fun, it's almost like going to a full, real NFL game, without nearly as much money spent in tickets. I'm a fan now."
And what was Philip's favorite part of the game? "The best part of the game was the beginning, when we hadn't really quite destroyed them yet, so the scores were even and everybody was really into it."
Philip told about having a German guest with him, attending the arena football game, and seeing the perspectives from different cultures. "My guest was Manuel Kiss, a foreign exchange student from Germany. It was really funny, like halfway through the second quarter, he looked at me and was like, "This is a lot of fun, and then he points to one of the players, number 20, I think, and he said, 'That guy could play soccer.' Manuel is a humongous soccer player."
Tim, aged 12, is an avid football fan and has played for 3 years in the Prescott Youth Football league. So, what was his reaction to the Adrenaline's first game ever? "I just came from the Arena Football game, and the team I was rooting for was the Adrenaline. I thought it was a very special experience."
When asked if he had fun, Tim replied, "I had more than fun, I had a great time."
But, Tim's observations were more than a fan's reaction to the game, he looked for some of the differences in the Arena style. "I haven't played this style that I watched, but for one thing, to get people out of bounds, you had to smash them over the wall. That's a huge difference. And when it was 4th down, they couldn't punt it, they could only kick it for a field goal. It was really fast-paced."
So, when he's older, would Tim like playing Arena football? "Oh, yeah," he said. And, when asked if he's an Adrenalines fan now, "Oh, yeah."
During the game, shirts were tossed into the crowd, and Matthew caught one and gave it to Manuel. At the end of the game, Manuel was thrilled to get it autographed by several of the Adrenaline players. Tim, who was wearing his jersey from last season, was offered a swap by one of the players, but he decided to keep his own shirt, and get signatures on that.
All in all, an extremely satisfying day for Adrenaline fans of all ages and nationalities.