Feeling the Rage – Fan Mode as Camp Breaks
Inspiration. Have you ever been inspired? Have you ever been so driven that you were willing to do ANYTHING to achieve your goal? I want to share with you something happening right now, TODAY, that has inspired me. And that thing is a brand new football team called the Evansville Rage.
On January 22, my life took a very cool little turn as I took the red pill to see how far the rabbit hole goes. As I was having an audition of my own for a chance to broaden my photography skills to football, 40-plus men came out to Metro Sports in Evansville to see if they had what it took to become members of the city’s newest professional sports team, the Evansville Rage, an indoor football team and new member of the CIFL. One week prior, the Rage had their first tryout near Cincinnati. And then a month later, February 26, there was a second tryout in Evansville where 30-plus guys came out, but only a couple were invited to stay in Evansville for the next two weeks for training camp which would begin the following day.
My small role in this story is that I am an avid sports photographer and I wanted to be even just a little part of this new team. I love photography and have loved football since I was a kid – I had pictures of the likes of Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Dick Butkus and others on my bedroom door and would say all their names before bed each night. As I have grown older, my love for football has grown and now I wanted to photograph this game I love and I wanted to meet new people in my new town. The regular season hasn’t even started and I am happy to say that I have already achieved those goals. Now there are new goals that include honing my football shooting skills (learning to get crisper photos and to anticipate big plays) and giving the team and fans alike exciting photos of THEIR team! The fact that my wife also has a role with the Rage makes this journey all that much sweeter. But, this is not about my wife or me, at least not directly. It’s more about the effect the past few weeks with the Evansville Rage has had on me.
When you think of football, what kind of people do you see? I’m talking about both fans and players. Think of all those folks and I’ll bet at least one of each showed up to tryout for the Rage. There were short guys, tall guys, skinny guys, big guys, fast guys, slow guys and the list goes on and on. I’m sure every one of you could have found someone you could pull for to make the team. Some of the players who tried out are natural athletes who have a gift. Others had to rely on heart, desire and sheer effort to have a chance at making the team.
I don’t have a lot of direct experience with professional sports – neither minor league nor major league. Sure, I’ve taken my camera with me to NBA and NHL games; but, I’ve never been a PART of it. I have enjoyed watching and learning about the business of building a new team. I have watched how different people react to the stress of making it all come together. I can tell you that budgets are plenty tight, especially in this economy that has been struggling for several years now. Hopeful Rage players had to pay a small fee just to tryout. I wouldn’t doubt that there were even a couple guys who had to take those last couple laundry quarters just to be able to afford their tryout fee. I certainly have more humility than I had going into this. I appreciate more what I have. I also have a greater appreciation for what it means to these men just to have a chance to make the team. And for what? Money? I highly doubt it. This is about MORE than simply playing professional football. This is a story of desire and the love of football and the reason I am inspired by the Evansville Rage players.
With a few days to go before the season starts, I have to say what an amazing experience this season has been already. I am loving doing my thing for the Rage, photography. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE in this organization has been friendly, cooperative and most of them even offer a smile when I point the lens their way. The Evansville Rage players are not here to make bank. Oh no, these men are here because they love football. Some of them may want that last hurrah before they accept that their knees can’t make it any longer or that their shoulders can only take a couple more hits. I never played football myself. But, I can imagine how it feels for these guys to put on their pads, strap on their helmets and step on the turf. Indoors or outdoors, football is football… well, except when it’s soccer. This is hard-nosed, only-the-strong-survive FOOTBALL!
As the Evansville Rage roster becomes finalized, I am learning some of the players’ different personalities and quirks. There are players who motivate and inspire their teammates. There are players who are more workmanlike and just go out and do their job. There are also players whose hearts have to make up for lack of size or football pedigree. This past Friday night, the Rage played their second and final preseason game, a win over the Kentucky Xtreme. It was a chippy game with the visitors getting in several hard shots on the Rage. But, our guys fought back and refused to back down. I believe that the Rage dressed 29 men for this game, several players having to share jerseys and gear come halftime. Think about teams you have played for – did you ever have to go into the locker room and put on the sweaty jersey from a teammate at halftime so you could get in the game for the second half? Not trying to gross you out – I simply want you to think about how much making the team means to these men.
For the regular season, it is my understanding that the Rage will dress only 19 and will include another 6 or so on the practice squad (if I get that right). This means that some of the guys we’ve been watching for the past couple weeks might not be at Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena this Saturday night for the season opener against the Indianapolis Enforcers. Instead, they may already be on their way home and that breaks my heart.
Heart. I have seen SO much heart in the past two weeks. Some people find it difficult to understand why others (especially guys) like sports. And others find it difficult to understand why we PLAY sports. It’s because of moments like this. You watch regular guys, many of them excellent athletes mind you, leave everything behind for awhile to play a sport for which their passion runs deeper than everything they know. They don’t know the word ‘quit’ and they leave absolutely every ounce of their being on the field. They sacrifice their bodies. They take risks. They do whatever it takes to a) make the team and b) win the game. These should probably be labeled a) and a) as I think both are right at the tops of everyone’s minds. Inspired yet?
Over the past couple months, I have seen players with impressive Big Ten football resumes, guys who played JuCo football, guys who are coaches, guys who drive cabs for a living, guys who may already know more about manual labor than the rest of us will ever know and also probably some guys on the other end of the spectrum who have flourishing new careers outside of sports who put everything on hold for awhile so they can have a chance to play the game they love.
Three qualities that I have seen from our Evansville Rage are desire, passion and HEART! These are the reasons I love this team and why I am inspired by our Rage players. Believe me when I tell you that they are most worthy of your adoration and support. City of Evansville, you should be proud to call the Evansville Rage YOUR team. If you are in the area, please come out to a game. It’s great family fun and every single player, coach and staff member will be glad you’re there. You can even hang out after the games to meet the players, YOUR Evansville Rage players.
You will see posts from me throughout the 2012 Evansville Rage season right here and I will post to Twitter (follow me at the little button at the upper right hand corner of this page) when I can. For game and ticket information, you should check out the Evansville Rage website (click here) or their Facebook page, what I have been calling the Rage Page (click here).
Come out and Feel the Rage!