Tuesday, April 21, 2009
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Virginia Senators: Gridiron glory in less than a month?

Where do we begin with this one?

The fact that this whole endeavor was delayed because of a "dishonest commitment made by the league's primary investor?"

The fact that they're admitting that on their Web site?

The fact that the team is opening on May 17 -- May 17! -- and doesn't yet have offices here?

The fact that they haven't told us who the coach is?

Should we begin by rehashing the failures of the Dazzle? The Steam? The Vipers?

No, no, no. Let's try to be optimistic here with this Virginia Senators news. And besides, there's no comparison. At least we knew who those other teams' coaches were.

Let's begin instead with the ticket prices. Minor league sports, after all, are all about value. Their success hinges on offering a reasonable, family-friendly price.

Forty bucks?

HOLY HEAPIN' HUCKSTERS!

The story on the front page says they want to charge up to 40 dollars (and as low, if you want to call it that, as $10) for a ticket. In this market? In this economy? To watch a football game between ex-college players at Salem Stadium? Something called the United National Gridiron League?

Show us the $40 seat at Salem Stadium. And then excuse us while we laugh until we cry.

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Your take

They're just messing with us now. That has to be it, right? The people behind this new league -- who obviously couldn't decide whether they wanted to go the "National" route or the "United" path, so they adopted both -- must have seen how bad we've been about keeping teams in the Roanoke Valley. They obviously want to see how low we'll sink.

This is low. Almost as low as the ill-fated "New River Valley Rattlers" basketball squad of a few years back, which held a press conference in Blacksburg to introduce a team, a logo, a league and a general manager -- and then never played a single game.

Seems they didn't have players.

The Senators apparently have that problem licked. The league has held its draft already, and we're blessed to have gotten two former Hokies and three former Cavaliers on our team.

I think the key word there, though, is "former." Carlton Weatherford's a great guy and a tough fullback, but he doesn't have quite the drawing power he did when he donned the maroon and orange.

The Senators GM wants 4,000 to 5,000 fans to come to these games. Great. And I want to make Randy King's salary.

We'll see, I suppose. If Salem pulls this off, there shall henceforth be no argument that the problem luring fans is not a valley-wide issue but an indictment of the city of Roanoke and its management.

But more likely, we'll find that 40 bucks -- and even 10 -- is a little too much for a potential fan base that has a team thrust upon it less than a month before the season is set to begin.

Remember that "primary investor" who made the alleged "dishonest commitment" to the league? Maybe he's the smart one here.

He bailed just in time.

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