The Albany Empire validated the city’s return to the Arena Football League on Sunday night, running over the Philadelphia Soul 45-27 to win ArenaBowl XXXII in front of 12,042 crazed fans and a national TV audience on ESPN2.
The victory came 10 days shy of the 20th anniversary of the Albany Firebirds’ AFL championship in the same building.
What the Empire did on Sunday night was bigger than you could ever measure. Albany and professional sports haven’t had the best relationship over the years. Just a couple years ago the Times Union Center’s main tenant, the Albany Devils, packed their bags and took a 140 mile trip southwest to make their new home in Binghamton. This wasn’t the first pro sports team to leave our town and it certainly won’t be the last.
The move came just after the TU just finished their $19 million renovations and a facelift to the front of the arena. The brass were left scratching their heads and they quickly needed to get another tenant to fill the void that the Devils would leave.
When the Empire were first announced, I was one of the ones that thought they were just a gimmick that wouldn’t last more than a season. A bandaid for the TU that would just stop the bleeding until the next big thing was announced. What I saw on Sunday was none of that.
I saw my city rally behind something and come out on top. There’s not too many times when we have a common interest in Albany. Being a smaller market in the northeast it’s hard to find large groups of people that rally behind the same thing. We are all different fans of professional sports franchises, but Sunday we all had the Empire.
It brought me back to my childhood when my family would go to Firebirds games. I used to get chills when that Van Halen piano started playing for the player introductions. Sunday, those same chills came back and 11-year-old John was let loose in that building and having the time of his life.
I joined Brian and Chrissy in the Morning on 107.7 GNA this morning to talk about the ArenaBowl and my experience.
That night will love forever and I’m just thankful that I was a part of it. And that I had Jack following me around with a camera to document every second. I hope you enjoy the vid half as much as I did making it.