GR On A Rampage

June 13, 2002
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ArenaBowl XV was the biggest thing to hit town since … well, maybe ever. In terms of excitement, the championship football game created more goodwill and good feelings than any other sporting event played here simply because the hometown team participated — and won.

This doesn’t take away from MikeNichols and his crew at the Farmers Charity Classic, which regularly garners plenty of TV coverage for the Senior PGA Tour stop, but the football game gave Grand Rapids a platform for a national broadcast TV audience on a Sunday afternoon and featured one of ABC Sports’ top crews, BrentMusberger and GaryDanielson

In short, it was a big-time, big-league event.

Musberger compared Grand Rapids — quite favorably — to the NFL’s Green Bay in terms of community support from a small population base. The Rampage will never be confused with the Packers, but just having the opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath with the NFL’s Titletown is a real coup.

And the architect of that coup is DP Fox and Rampage owner DanDeVos, who along with his wife, Pamella, also owns the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team.

The opportunity for Grand Rapids to step into the national spotlight actually started with the Griffins, when DeVos decided that rather than join the United Hockey League and compete against teams from small-sized markets (like Port Huron or Muskegon), he would align with the now-defunct International Hockey League and clash with clubs from Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.

While the Whitecaps and Hoops, who have been successful in their own right, were playing teams from Peoria and Quad Cities, the Griffins matched up against teams in major markets with major media coverage.

DP Fox’s DavidGreen said that if Grand Rapids were awarded a football franchise today, it probably would be in AFL2, a junior version of the Arena League that plays in the outposts to which the Hoops and Whitecaps travel, simply based on the area’s population.

But Grand Rapids already had a taste of the minor league big time, thanks to the Griffins, and the DP Fox folks knew how to facilitate a major sporting event.

That track record, and DeVos’ foresight several years ago, combined to give Grand Rapids some very positive national exposure.

  • Now for the fun. What was Pam DeVos doing with that cellular phone stuck to her ear for most of the game? She was either giving Danielson a run for his money as a color commentator, or she was calling in plays to Rampage Coach MichaelTrigg, a la Oakland Raiders owner AlDavis. If she was the one who suggested TerrillShaw as the primary target, then let’s give the lady some credit.

  • Last week’s goodwill spilled over to the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting when Thursday was proclaimed “Grand Rapids Rampage Day” in Kent County.

It must be that the county’s JimDay is a Rampage supporter, judging by the proclamation he penned that was read in honor of the Grand Rapids gridders.

The proclamation, read by Chairman SteveHeacock, started off calmly enough, but really picked up speed by about the equivalent of the second quarter.

To wit: “Whereas, the Rampage methodically destroyed their opponents one by one during the regular season, earning a 14-3 record and gained the coveted No. 1 seed for the playoffs thereby winning the home field advantage for them and the best fans in the world; and whereas the Rampage, led by AFL Coach of the Year Michael Trigg, and gun-slinging quarterback ClintDolezel, waltzed through the playoffs to the AFL Championship Arena Bowl Game on August 19, 2001, against the Nashville Kats; and whereas the Rampage, together with the 11,217 screaming fans in attendance and their many supporters at home, throttled the Kats in ArenaBowl XV, 64-42, and became the AFL Champions of the World …”

Whew! Looks like the commissioners were ready to strap on the pads and storm the field.

  • Trigg and some of the players were in attendance at the County Commission meeting and presented Heacock with an autographed Rampage helmet that was worn during the ArenaBowl. (Yes, chips and hairline cracks were evident on the gleaming black exterior.)

Even a little cajoling from those in attendance couldn’t convince Heacock to don the headgear during the meeting, however.

But he did crack a smile when reminded that the county’s budget and millage rates public hearing was scheduled for Sept. 13.

Maybe that’s when we’ll see the chairman in full gear.

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