Shining Armor: Joel Gamble, Last Remnant of D.C.’s Arena Football Experience, Signs NFL Deal
The Cleveland Browns announced yesterday they'd signed free agent tight end Joel Gamble.
Local arena football fans — and I'm sure both of you know who you are! — will be rooting for Gamble to keep the dream alive.
Gamble spent time last year with the D.C. Armor. The Armor played one season at the D.C. Armory. One real quiet, real horrible season.
Far as I can tell, the franchise, affiliated with the American Indoor Football Association, never officially disbanded or relocated or anything. There was never any announcement from the Armor's owner, Corey Barnette, from league officials, or from the squad's landlord, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, about what was going on with the team.
No, the Armor just didn't come back this year. And the world kept turning!
Looking back at the bluster at the team's inception in October 2008, the Armor's silent disappearance is kinda giggly.
“It's a ten-thousand seat arena," Barnette said "It's a phenomenal environment. It's a huge playing facility, but not so much that it would overwhelm a mid-sized crowd.”
Alas, the building totally did overwhelm the crowds that actually showed up for Armor games, a mob that on TV looked to number in the dozens. The squad didn't draw 10,000 people on the season, let alone for one night.
“The D.C. Armor will fit beautifully in our league," added league co-founder Michael Mink at the time. "Washington is a fantastic sports market with a huge population base from which to draw.” Or, in the Armor's case, to not draw.
I don't give Dan Snyder much credit for making smart business decisions, but here's one: In 1999, months after buying the Washington Redskins, Snyder purchased the D.C. market rights from the indoor football confederation known as the AFL shortly after buying the Redskins. Snyder even registered a trademark on a team name for the squad — the Washington Warriors. OK, that's the dumb part. But, here's the smart decision: Snyder never formed an arena team after shelling out the franchise fee. Had he not just eaten that fee, Snyder would have surely had a another Six Flags-style flop on his resume by now.
Gamble, who spent some time on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad last season, now has a chance to become the Kurt Warner of the D.C. Armor.
Terms of his contract with the Browns weren't announced. But if he makes the NFL team, he will be making more each week than he made with the Armor for the entire season. Every Armor player, and every player in the AIFA, was paid $200 per game plus a $50 win bonus. Players even had to pay their own way — $50 admission — to attend the Armor’s first tryout.
Before coming to D.C., Gamble played indoor football for the Tennessee Valley Vipers, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, and Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings.
I love listing minor league team names. I also like that the Armor was named after the building the team played in. Kind of like Bad Company having a song "Bad Company." The courts may take away Snyder's "Redskins" trademark protections, so"Washington FedExers" could be in the mix of new team names if he could squeeze a few more sponsor dollars out of it. If Ted Leonsis, who is under pressure to rename his squad, follows that path we'll soon be cheering on John Wall and the Washington Verizonians.
Little long, for sure, but anything beats the crap out of "Wizards."