As the Philadelphia Eagles gear up for the start of the regular season, the city’s other pro football team is a day away from competing in another title game.
That’s not a typo. The Philadelphia Soul, one of six teams comprising the Arena Football League, hope to capture a fourth championship on Sunday, a feat no other professional sports team has accomplished here.
And yet there probably won’t be a lot of people watching them take on the Albany Empire in ArenaBowl 32.
Arena football has a small fanbase, in part because there aren’t a lot of teams, but also because it generally plays second fiddle to almost everything else in the spectator sports landscape.
Especially in Philly, where the four major sports — football, basketball, baseball and hockey — command considerable, typically die-hard attention.
“It’s hard to think [arena football] is anywhere even in the top 25,” said sports economist Victor Matheson.
He’s right. Finding people who follow the Soul, let alone know the team is competing for a championship, isn’t easy.
That makes Jeffrey Myers a rare breed. He’s followed the Soul for nearly a decade and plans to watch the ArenaBowl with his wife on Sunday. He likes that the games are fast-paced.
“If you blink an eye, you can miss a touchdown. It’s very entertaining.” Myers said.
Not everyone agrees.
West Oak Lane resident Mark Hackney said he’ll probably watch some of Sunday’s game, but only because it’s the championship. The “low-level” team just isn’t on Hackney’s radar for the rest of the year, he said.
“Football season is usually from September to January. You got the arena football and that’s later in the year. It’s warm out. It kind of throws me off,” Hackney said.
Willow Grove resident Sharron Taylor loves sports, especially college football and the Eagles. She said she’s heard of the Soul, but that’s about it.
“I don’t know the particulars of the game, “ Taylor said. “But I could always support a Philly team no matter what. I always got room for Philly.”
The game kicks off in Albany at 8 p.m. on Sunday. It will be broadcast on ESPN 2 and 97.5 FM, the Fanatic.