The new Arena Football League took a giant leap foward last Friday when it made a return to ESPN. No, the Philadelphia Soul didn't beat on the Iowa Barnstormers (save that for next year). The big step was seeing arena football highlights - any highlights - on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Night.
The particular highlight in question was Mervin Brookins' 56-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Brookins, who plays for Spokane, caught the ball off the net, brushed off a would-be tackler at the 4-yard line and kept on truckin'. The Shock beat the Chicago Rush 63-49 to secure home field advantage throughout the postseason.
It's also interesting to note that Brookins plays for the best team in the league. No, not Philadelphia (save that for next year.... maybe). He plays for the Spokane Shock. Spokane. As in Gonzaga Bulldogs. College basketball. Except we're talking arena football here, and the boys in blue know how to get it done.
Spokane is sporting a 13-2 record in this first year of the reincarnated Arena Football League. And while Spokane may have played last season in the af2, the AFL little brother league, they're taken over the role as King of the Hill in the AFL. Spokane has systematically beaten the big dogs of years gone by: Chicago, Arizona, Jacksonville, Orlando, Iowa, Cleveland. You name the team, they've beaten them this year, and they've beaten them with a first-time head coach who looks like he's all of 25-years-old.
Arena football will never draw the huge crowds of the NFL. Heck, it won't even pretend to be football, really. But it is a sport because ESPN said it was last Friday night when they showed Mervin Brookins run a 56-yard kickoff return in for a touchdown against the Chicago Rush.