Sunday, May 27, 2007

What kind of Mickey Mouse organization is the CIFL, anyway?

We got a little inkling of the craziness that is the Continental Indoor Football League a month or so ago when the owner of the local entry, the New England Surge, fired the head coach and hired himself.

Well, it looks like the Surge might be one of the best-run teams in the league. Last night they played former division leader Steubenville, and beat them 86-0. Only the team that lined up apparently isn't the same Steubenville team that took the field earlier in the season:
In a telephone interview during last night’s game, CIFL owner and president Jeff Spitaleri said Steubenville played its practice squad players who “haven’t played as much, if at all” because its regulars were injured or had left the team to try out for Arena Football League squads. Spitaleri said he wasn’t aware the Stampede had only 13 players.

According to Spitaleri, the Stampede’s regular quarterback, Ryan Maiuri, separated his shoulder last week and his replacement, Ali Grose, served as player-coach last night.

Asked how playing an entire team of practice squad players reflected on the league’s image, Spitaleri said, “It would have been worse not to play the game.”
This isn't the first time this season a team of replacement players has taken the field in the CIFL. On May 12 a team from Springfield, Mo. refused to travel to Stebenville for their game, so a team of replacements was fielded there:
"[Springfield co-owner] D’Lo [Brown] also needed new players, and we had a list of guys who had either played last year in this league or had been at tryouts for teams in this league,” said Spitaleri. “One of those players has a team’s worth of equipment, so he ended up taking the lead and helping us organize the new team.”

Ali Grose, who played with Marion last year and had been with Steubenville and Summit County this year, stepped up with his own equipment and jerseys....

Whoa! So Steubenville's quarterback, player-coach Ali Grose, was a Springfield Stallion just two weeks ago? What's really odd, is that the CIFL Commissioner stated two weeks ago that Grose and his then-Springfield teammates were permanent members of that team:

“People might call them impostors or replacement players, but that’s not true at all,” said CIFL Commissioner Jim Ballard. “Every one of those guys was listed on the roster and was under contract for the Stallions.”

Brown admits they weren’t the guys you saw last week or the week before, but they are the new Springfield Stallions....

So two weeks ago, Grose was a "new Springfield Stallion" and now he's a new Steubenville Stampeder. He's not the only one. The Telegram reported that Steubenville, which only brought 13 players to Worcester, "dropped to 12 when receiver Alonzo Grose limped off on the game’s third play." According to the May 13 article on the CIFL website, "the Stallions had their high point when Ali Grose connected with Alonzo Grose for a touchdown in the second half" of the Stallions' 66-8 loss at Steubenville.

So are the Groses the CIFL's resident traveling team? Need someone to show up to ensure that the game goes on and the home team gets their gate? Call the Grose family. CIFL founder Spitaleri may think that “It would have been worse not to play the game,” but the fans who shelled out up to $30.50 for a ticket to last night's game or $165 for a season ticket deserved better.

And the sports fans of Worcester who have seen one failed minor league after another deserve better.

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