A Pittsburgher rooting for a team from Cleveland? Yes I’m rooting for the Cleveland Gladiators to win Arena Bowl XXVII, so shoot me.
What’s not to like about this team? Here’s a squad that went 4-14 last year and turned it around to an impressive 19-1 just a year later. They may not blow teams out and there may have been some luck involved but the bottom line is that this is a team that plays hard, physical, arena football the right way and has been rewarded for their efforts this year.
It all starts at the top with 2014 Coach of the Year Steve Thonn and his staff. They coach to the final play, unlike some of their opponents this year, and will take advantage of any mistakes you make. This team believes in themselves and usually finds a way to get the job done. They play a mean brand of defensive football that relies on heavy hits and strong coverage and usually forces teams into making a few key mistakes.
Don’t sell the offense short though as they have several 2014 all arena performers in quarterback Shane Austin (2nd team and a former Pittsburgh Power player), Dominick Goodman (1st team), and a 2nd team all arena center Shannon Breen in the middle to protect the quarterback.
It’s amazed me as I’ve covered the AFL this year how much disrespect the Gladiators have gotten from around the league on the message boards. People want to sell this team short as if they aren’t real. Fans of teams the Gladiators beat still talk down on them to this day. Maybe they won’t win tomorrow against a juggernaut Arizona team playing in their 4th straight Arena Bowl. Maybe Cinderella’s night at the ball will finally strike midnight, but it won’t be because the Gladiators don’t belong.
I love rooting for an underdog and even in the midst of a 19-1 season, Cleveland remains the underdog, even in a game they are hosting at home for all the marbles. So yeah, even for just one night, I’m hoping the Gladiators pull it off and win the whole thing. Personally I’m tired of the National Conference bias around the league, I’m tired of hearing how no one can beat the Rattlers even though they lost three of their last four regular season games. I’m tired of seeing the same team win. It’s time for a change.
I’ll be there in person amongst a sold out Quicken Loans Arena to watch this game and I expect it to be a good game. So jump on the bandwagon for the last game with me. We can go right back to hating Cleveland when the NFL season starts around here.
Arena Bowl XXVII will air on ESPN with kickoff at 8 PM.
Photo Courtesy of Cleveland Gladiators Facebook