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Why I love the Indoor Football League and other Minor League sports

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An article by Mike Florio of NBC Sports I read this morning, just solidified why I love “Minor League” sports - especially the Texas Revolution of the IFL.

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Florio was talking about certain players getting what I would call “perks” for being who they are. He also made mention of an interview that one former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman DeMarcus Spears gave to “105.3 The Fan”, the radio home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Spears said...
You understand in this league (NFL) that your star players are going to have things come their way that most guys don’t.

When I sit in my booth, or just watch games of the IFL, I do not see this as a particular problem on the minor league level - Why? Because they are not “stars” (YET). But that really all depends on what your definition of “star” is.

Now when I say star when talking sports, everyone knows what I mean - guys that are in the “bigs”. That is not to say there are not “stars” on the minor league level, but I would bet anyone that, if you polled the Dallas Cowboys players - more than just the majority if not close to 90% of them would not know who Frankie Solomon Jr. is (unless they do know him personally). Same goes for any of the other great players that play for the Revolution or other players in the IFL. They would not have a clue. But - I am willing to bet Frankie and the other Revolution players know who they are. Same thing goes for the other players of IFL franchises.

But you want to know what I would really want to hear? ONE NFL STAR know about the players that play in this league. And I mean really know them, and not some producer giving him a crash course on who is good and who is not, before they go on an interview or put it in a teleprompter (Whoops just gave a away a “trade secret” - sorry). The things is, they don’t know or probability even care how great you guys (minor league players) are!

Now as I continue on, I don’t want people to misunderstand me. I am not saying, I do not want our players to go to the NFL and have a successful career in the NFL or CFL or other league that would not be considered minor league. In fact, it is totally opposite. I hope every player can make that dream come true.

In my many years of being a “minor league” sports fan, I have seen many players go on and make it to the “bigs”. My favorite example of this is just recently in the past six years, I can say knew Dan Bylsma when.

Now - for those who may not know who I am talking about, Bylsma is the current Head Coach for the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins. But before he went on to his current stint in the “bigs”, he was captain of the Los Angeles Kings minor league affiliate Phoenix Roadrunners of the International Hockey League (IHL). And man this guy could play! Wooo! I just loved the night in night out effort Bylasma and other players of the Roadrunners gave. It was all out - all the time. Bylasma played 429 NHL games. In the minor leagues he played 1,095.

I was a season ticket holder for six FANtastic seasons for the Roadrunners who played in an old run down, blue collar as they come, even by the early to mid 90’s standards, Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. The Roadrunners dismantled in 1997.

Those guys, including Bylsma, got my blood pumping. Same feeling as I get when I am watching an IFL football game. And I just know, I am going to get to say of some of the current IFL players, I knew these guys when.

That being said, I am not going to end up going to an NFL stadium to watch these former IFL players, because when they do make it to the "bigs", I will want to see them, and the only way to really see an individual play in the NFL is on TV with those high definition settings.

Last season a friend of mine asked me if I would want to go to the Dallas Cowboys game in Arlington. I politely declined, and said thank you for the offer. People have said to me Sonny - your nuts, why didn’t you go? Because really - if I am going to go and see a game, I want to go see guys with the drive of never giving up on their dreams, (although I know that some of those dreams will end right in those smaller venue places across the country). So if I actually go to see a game - I want to make sure I support someone (players) while they were trying to live the dream, even if it will only be on a minor league level.

Now as I write this - I tear up. I think it is because most players do not know the impact they have on my life. In fact - I can not even describe it in words. My wife told me “these players represent what you could not accomplish, but would have loved to try.”

I am under no illusions. I know my “talent” in the sports I loved was not good enough, even for the minor league level. But there is still something about minor league sports, even at the tender age of (cough) 47, that still gets my blood pumping when I watch it. I think it is mainly because the minor leagues still represents hope.

And although even some of the best players in the IFL will not make that final roster in the NFL and not able to sign that major league contract, I hope they all know they are big/major leaguers to me, and they do not need to sit in Jerry Jones’s “private suite” in order to know they are a star. And in my humble opinion, all these players on the minor league level are all stars in my book!

Now what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Probably nothing. I am sure that the goals some players have in this league are to be that guy who defies of the odds and makes it big in the NFL or CFL (and in my opinion the CFL is the “bigs”).

But for those who don’t make it, I just want you to know this. My favorite player of all time is one Dan Currie, a former left winger for the Phoenix Roadrunners (Don‘t worry, you probably have no clue who he is). He was only "good enough" to play in the “bigs” for a total of 22 games, and did not see the ice in 16 of those 22. I can only imagine his sense of pride, that he “made it”. Currie reminds me of that guy who, was not good enough to be that first guy taken in a pick up game (never mind and NHL draft), and then he was sitting on the bench and playing a few games in the bigs. Ohhh his blood must have been pumping when he got called into the office and the coach informing him four different occasions he was going up. And though it was for only a total 22 days, I can just bet it was like one “Crash” Davis said, “it was the best “22”days of his life!”

I guess what I am trying to say here, the minor leagues do mean something. The players mean something. So if your dream, or part of it was to make someone happy because of what you did out on the field, just know - you guys make me happy every time you step out on the field, win or lose!

And thanks to the coaches as well, who probably played on that level as well. That encouragement you give your players, the teaching of your players are more valuable than you think.


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