Arena Football Returns to ESPN
CHICAGO – The Arena Football League will make history this Sunday as AFL action returns to ESPN television for the first time since 2008.
On Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 3:00pm CDT, the Iowa Barnstormers travel to the Philadelphia Soul for an ESPN2 broadcast game which will be a “Homecoming Game” of sorts for the AFL.
“It’s good to return home,” Arena Football League Commissioner Jerry B. Kurz said. “The AFL’s return to ESPN speaks volumes of the hard work that has been put in and tremendous strides our sport has made over the last five years.”
ESPN was the League’s first national broadcast partner, televising live games – including the first two ArenaBowls – in 1987 and 1988.
On June 20, 1987, Arena Football fans listened to Lee Corso and Bob Rathbun call the action in the very first nationally broadcast Arena Football game on ESPN, as the Denver Dynamite defeated the Chicago Bruisers, 52-44, in overtime. Since then, ESPN televised a combination of AFL regular season and playoff games from 1992-2002 and again from 2007-2008. Additionally, ESPN on ABC presented the ArenaBowl for five years from 1998-2002.
“ESPN is the sports station for the world,” said Arena Football Hall of Fame coach Mike Dailey. “It is great to see the AFL back on the original sports network.”
Over the years, numerous accomplished analysts and reporters have been assigned to AFL on ESPN games, including Mike Golic, Kirk Herbstreit, Merril Hoge, Mark May, Brent Musburger, Ray Bentley, Stan Verrett, Marcellus Wiley, Holly Rowe, Jill Arrington and even current Pittsburgh Power co-owner Lynn Swann. Beginning in 2007, ESPN even had an exclusive window for weekly AFL games in prime time every Monday night on ESPN2.
“I have had so many great experiences at ESPN, but one of the most exciting was covering Arena Football,” ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge said. “It’s a fun, fast, exciting brand of football and I’m glad to see that it’s back on ESPN.”
Unique innovations to the Arena Football viewing experience began in 1994 when the AFL and ESPN placed live microphones inside the helmets of quarterbacks. Since then, fans have been treated to behind-the-scenes access into locker rooms, on-the-bench interviews, in-game playcalling, officials’ reviews and now, even helmet cam look-ins courtesy of Schutt Vision.
“The AFL has always prided itself on being the most fan-friendly League around,” Commissioner Kurz said. “Our television product has allowed us to take that to another level. With AFL games on ESPN television, our great fans will be able to experience Arena Football up close and personal like never before.”
The AFL’s fan experience is unlike any other in professional sports and the atmosphere of the ‘All Fun League’ continues to leave an impact on all involved.
“I have worked a couple of stints with the AFL, dating back to the Kurt Warner days, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had being involved in football,” ESPN Radio host Mike Golic said. “The game is fast-paced and highly entertaining – truly affordable football and a great fan experience, with the athletes being some of the best around. The AFL has been around this long for a reason – they get it from a sports side and an entertainment side. I hope to call some games again.”
Golic may get the opportunity, as ESPN and the AFL penned a multi-year agreement last December that grants ESPN rights to more than 10 regular season and postseason games on its television networks per year, including ArenaBowl and one conference championship game, as well as 90 or more games annually on ESPN3, ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network.
“Reuniting with a great partner like ESPN is a clear sign of the positive progress we have made over the past couple of seasons,” said Soul co-majority owner and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. “They are the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ for a reason and this renewed relationship validates our credibility, brings us more exposure and confirms what others outside of the AFL have seen with the recent efforts we have made to grow our game in a positive direction. We are excited with this partnership and happy to be teamed with an organization that shares our vision for the bright future of our sport."
Jaworski’s Philadelphia Soul franchise – which defeated the San Jose SaberCats at ArenaBowl XXII in the last AFL game televised on the ESPN Family of Networks – will host the Iowa Barnstormers at 3:00pm CDT this Sunday, April 27, on ESPN2. Ari Wolfe, Anthony Herron and Sherdrick Bonner will be on the call.
The Iowa Barnstormers return home on Saturday, May 10, 2014. Season tickets remain on sale, while individual game tickets can be purchased for any regular season game at the Wells Fargo Arena Box office or by calling the Barnstormers at 515-633-2255. For all of the latest Barnstormers information log onto www.theiowabarnstormers.com.
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