It was somewhat difficult to watch the Arena Football League in its 2010 season. Oh, the production was top notch and the feed on the NFL Network was beautiful every time. The action was as great as I’d remembered it; after just a year off it was easy to recall everything. But there was one small issue: no SaberCats.
When the AFL took a “break” for the 2009 season and the financial fallout ensued, the SaberCats were right with everyone else: inactive. Then the entire assets of the AFL were purchased by the new league and play was set to resume in 2010, but without the San Jose SaberCats.
It was a successful season, the games were entertaining and ArenaBowl XXIII was exciting, high-energy and fast paced. NFL Network carried the games and drew some eyeballs. ArenaBowl XXIII was shown in several countries and did well on both live and tape delay programming. The Spokane Shock took home the championship by beating the Tampa Bay Storm to the tune of 69–57. Now though, the Shock will have some more competition with the new divisions and the re-emergence of the one and only SaberCats. They are now division rivals along with the Arizona Rattlers and the Utah Blaze in the National Conference’s West Division.
They’ll get things going in March, and SaberCats fans should feel confident about their team, regardless of the fact that they’re getting into the action a year late after a two-year hiatus. When San Jose joined the AFL as an expansion team in 1995 (along with Memphis, St. Louis, Hartford and Des Moines), they immediately attracted a lot of fanfare and HP Pavilion in San Jose drew good attendance for the league. 49ers great Jerry Rice handled the first coin toss of the SaberCats’ regular season, and they were destined for greatness.
In that opening season, the SaberCats posted a positive record with eight wins and only four losses, becoming the first team in professional sports history to capture a division championship as an expansion team. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs that year, but the bar was set and expectations were high. They went on to capture the division seven more times and came away with three championship ArenaBowl victories to their credit. Oh yes, expectations are indeed high. On the official SaberCats website, 45% of the vote on a poll regarding expectations are saying championship. 11% are thinking around .500 is acceptable for the first year. 42% are just happy that they’re back in action again.
The very same Spokane Shock that just took home their ArenaBowl championship will travel to HP Pavilion to take on the SaberCats on March 11th, the AFL’s kickoff date for the 2011 season.