It’s no surprise that the Arena Football League is struggling. With just four teams currently making up the league and an average attendance of just of over 7,500 fans, things are beginning to look bleak. But this weekend, the AFL, currently in its 31st season, hit an all-time low when the Washington Valor beat the Baltimore Brigade 69-55 on Saturday, to win Arena Bowl XXXI at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. It was the first time this season the team was able to score more than 56 points in a game.
Washington, which is owned by Ted Leonsis who also owns the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards, might have just been the worst professional team to ever win a championship, finishing the 12-game regular season with just two wins. After starting the season, which runs from April until July, with seven straight losses and a record of 1-10 after the first 11 games, the Valor turned things around in the finale against the Brigade – a team that finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. Every team earns a playoff berth after the regular season and while the Valor lost to Albany in its July 14 playoff opener 57-56, since the semifinal round is a two-game aggregate, Washington remained alive and only needed to beat Albany by two points in the following contest to advance. And, thanks to a 47-40 win, the Valor earned a trip to the Arena Bowl which, ironically, is only determined by one game.
— Washington Valor (@WashingtonValor) July 29, 2018
Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson, who threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 42 yards and five touchdowns, was named Arena Bowl MVP, joining names like Jay Gruden and Richard Hamilton. Of course, there’s no asterisk next to the team’s name for how it won the Foster Trophy and the celebration ensued.
“I’m so proud of this group of guys,” Valor Interim Head Coach Benji McDowell told the Valor’s website after the game. “We fought the entire game. It was a championship performance from start to finish against a great Baltimore team.”
While that might be the standard answer from a coach after winning the championship, it’s laughable that a team so terrible – with a replacement coach – was the last team standing this season. It was the worst team to ever win the Arena Bowl and it could very well be the worst professional sports team that has ever gone on to win the championship. Right now, it appears that the AFL’s future might very well be in question due to evaporating teams and attendance, not to mention the inclusion of two new professional football league’s in the near future, and this would be a terrible way to end.